Village Theatre Announces New Leadership

Adam Immerwahr of Washington DC’s Theater J named Artistic Director; Laura Lee of Seattle’s ArtsWest named Managing Director.

ISSAQUAH, WA (July 8, 2022) – Village Theatre today announces Adam Immerwahr (Washington DC’s Theater J) as its next Artistic Director and Laura Lee (Seattle’s ArtsWest) as its first-ever Managing Director. This news comes after the 2021 announcement of 43-year Executive Producer Robb Hunt’s planned retirement, and a national search led by Village Theatre’s Board of Directors in conjunction with Management Consultants for the Arts. Both leaders begin their work with Village Theatre this month. Their hiring marks a new beginning for Village Theatre’s leadership, moving from a single leader to a dual leadership model with a Managing Director and Artistic Director.

Board President Jill Klinge said, “The Board of Directors is thrilled to have Adam as our new Artistic Director. Along with his deep love of musical theatre we were impressed with his ability to envision the classic musical theatre canon in new and innovative ways. This combined with his passion for producing new works, made him a perfect fit for Village Theatre. The Board is equally impressed with Laura and her experience in theatre administration, her strong marketing and financial management skills, and her knowledge of the Puget Sound’s performing arts community. Adam and Laura were chosen from an extensive list of qualified candidates and as a team bring a unique energy, experience, and vision to Village Theatre and are positioned to steer the organization soundly into the future. We are excited for our community of artists and patrons to meet our new ‘dream team!’”

Adam Immerwahr comes to Village Theatre from Washington DC, where he served as Artistic Director of Theater J, the nation’s premier Jewish theater, for the past six and a half years. He has previously served as the Associate Artistic Director at McCarter Theatre, a Tony Award-winning theater in Princeton NJ, and as Resident Director of Passage Theatre in Trenton, NJ. Adam’s producing credits include new plays and musicals by some of the nation’s leading writers and directors. As a director, Adam’s work has been seen across the globe, from Aspen to Zimbabwe. 

Laura Lee is an arts administrator and advocate that brings passion, energy, and kindness to her work. She offers over 30 years of non-profit service, strong financial acumen, fifteen plus years of marketing, PR, and fundraising experience – last with ArtsWest, and previously with her own sports production company.

Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr said, “I am humbled and honored to be the next Artistic Director at Village Theatre. Musical theater was how I fell in love with theater as an art form, and I’m thrilled to be returning to it. Over the past four decades, Village has become a leader in arts education, in the development of new musical theater, and in creating productions that delight and enthrall its audiences; I know we will continue to build upon that incredible legacy. I look forward to partnering with Laura Lee, the staff, and Board to ensure that Village is a welcoming, caring, and equitable home for our audience, our artists, and all who work with us.”

Managing Director Laura Lee said, “I am so incredibly excited to be joining Adam Immerwahr, the Village Theatre Board and Staff, and the broader Village Community at this pivotal moment in the history of this theatre. As a passionate lover of musical theatre, a believer that theatre needs new works to stay relevant, and as a mom and theatre administrator who knows the power of arts education, I am so honored to be joining this organization. I am extending my gratitude to both Robb Hunt for his many, many years of service and to the Board for recognizing the skills and varied experiences that I will bring with me to Village Theatre. I am both humbled and energized by the privilege and responsibility that comes with this position.”

Outgoing Executive Producer Robb Hunt shared, “I’m grateful to our Board and leadership staff for the time and care they put into the search for our new leaders. I am excited that we have found such an outstanding team in Adam and Laura and would like to offer my congratulations. I look forward to working with them during this time of transition and cannot wait to see what the future will hold for our artists, our staff, and our patrons under their leadership.”

ABOUT ADAM IMMERWAHR

Adam Immerwahr (Artistic Director) comes to Village Theatre from Washington DC, where he served as Artistic Director of Theater J, the nation’s premier Jewish theater. He has previously served as the Associate Artistic Director at McCarter Theatre, a Tony Award-winning theater in Princeton NJ. He is also the former Resident Director of Passage Theatre, in Trenton, NJ. Adam has served on the producing team of multiple productions that have transferred to Broadway and Off-Broadway, including the world premiere of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Tony Award for Best Play). Other notable producing credits include Fiasco Theater’s Into the Woods (McCarter Theatre, The Old Globe, the Roundabout, the West End, national tour); the original developmental production of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy (a subsequent Broadway production garnered six Tony Award nominations); and the world premieres of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville and A Comedy of Tenors, Stephen Wadsworth’s The Figaro Plays, and Tarell McCraney’s Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, as well as world premieres by Edward Albee, John Guare, Marina Carr, and Will Power. Directors whose work he has produced or associate produced include Roger Rees, Nicholas Martin, Rebecca Taichman, Tina Landau, Des McAnuff, Sam Buntrock, Liesl Tommy, John Doyle, Mary Zimmerman, Stephen Wadsworth, Phylicia Rashad, John Kani, Amanda Dehnert, and Aaron Posner. Adam has directed at some of the top theaters in the country, including The Public and Theater Row (both for Summer Play Festival), Ensemble Studio Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, McCarter Theater, Cleveland Play House, Theater J, Passage Theater, Luna Stage, Hangar Theater, Bristol Riverside, and many others. Internationally, he directed the African premiere of The Convert (nominated for Zimbabwe’s National Arts Medal). He serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of the Alliance for Jewish Theater, and is an inaugural member of the Drama League Director’s Council. Adam is a graduate of Brown University, where he studied both Theater and Renaissance/Early Modern Studies.

ABOUT LAURA LEE

Laura Lee is an arts administrator and advocate that brings passion, energy, and kindness to her work. She offers over 30 years of non-profit service, strong financial acumen, fifteen plus years of marketing, PR, and fundraising experience – last with ArtsWest, and previously with her own sports production company. Over the past nine and a half years with ArtsWest, she turned her attention to the care and comfort of the company, the rebranding and solidification of the financial and administrative processes, marketing, fundraising, HR, facility and production support. Prior to the COVID shuttering, subscriptions grew 300%, contributed revenue over 65%, and the donor base was vastly broadened. During her tenure, ArtsWest became a Small Professional Theater with the Actors’ Equity Association, took full ownership of their building, and retired all debt. As the founder of Production Sports, Laura was the first to bring elite, international, network-televised events to Everett, WA with 2008 Skate America. This event was followed by further Olympic-level competitions both with US Figure Skating and USA Gymnastics. She provided media and PR supervision at the 2009 World Figure Skating 

Championships and the 2012 US Olympic Diving Team Trials. She is proud to have established a sports legacy within Everett and Snohomish County. Laura resides in Monroe, WA with her husband and her dog. She is a mother of four children, who are now grown and flown.

ABOUT THEATER J

Theater J is a nationally-renowned, professional theater that celebrates, explores, and struggles with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. Their work illuminates and examines ethical questions of our time, inter-cultural experiences that parallel our own, and the changing landscape of Jewish identities. As the nation’s largest and most prominent Jewish theater, they aim to preserve and expand a rich Jewish theatrical tradition and to create community and commonality through theater-going experiences. 

ABOUT THE EDLAVITCH DCJCC

Theater J is a proud program of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC). Guided by Jewish values and heritage, the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center engages individuals and families through its cultural, recreational, educational, and social justice programs by welcoming people of all backgrounds to connect, learn, serve, and be entertained together in ways that reflect the unique role of the Center in the nation’s capital.

ABOUT ARTSWEST

ArtsWest is a vibrant center for both theater and visual arts located in the West Seattle Junction. This 149-seat theatre provides a unique setting for audiences and artists as stories of human emotion unfold in an intimate space. Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s 2012 National Theatre Company Award, and winner of multiple Gregory Awards, ArtsWest has produced work by such varied playwrights as Dominique Morisseau, Henrik Ibsen, Annie Baker, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Taylor Mac, and David Henry Huang. ArtsWest produces artistic events that provoke conversation, incite the imagination, and use live theater as a powerful agent of change. 

Behind the Scenes: Creating The Looks of Sense and Sensibility

An Interview With Costume Designer Danielle Nieves and Wig Designer Kaleena Jordan

Danielle Nieves and Kaleena Jordan

Tell us about your relationship with Jane Austen’s novels: are you a fan? Either way, how did you prepare to begin this show? Did you read or watch anything in particular?

Danielle Nieves (DN): My first exposure to Jane Austen was the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film (Keira Knightley). I know I’ll be publicly shamed forever more for this comment but I like it more than the BBC miniseries. Yes, I will see myself out. Since then I have read and enjoyed many Austen novels and films in my own time. There’s something wonderfully escapist about her stories and the pastoral genre has always been close to my heart having lived in Vermont for a time. To prepare for this production I watched the 2008 BBC Sense and Sensibility mini-series and the enchanting 2020 Emma film. But the 1995 Sense and Sensibility will always hold first place for me in the adaptation canon. Who doesn’t adore Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon?

Kaleena Jordan (KJ): I grew up reading Jane Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice then eventually fell in love with the hairstyles, costumes, and filming locations of the movies. Currently living in the countryside of the UK, I have fallen in love with Bath, United Kingdom (Austen’s once-upon-a-time home) and have taken advantage of many weekend trips there for inspiration in creating my designs for our production of Sense and Sensibility. I have also spent many hours visiting museums, looking at their paintings and statues in both London and Paris to further gain inspiration and research for my designs.

Sense and Sensibility is a “classic-modern mashup.” How did you decide which elements to keep classic, and which to give a modern twist?

DN: I had worked on Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice and Little Women so I was familiar with her modern script adaptations. There’s a lot of humor in the pacing, people acting as dogs, and general absurdities that lend themselves well to modern elements. I also took cues from period-modern mash up shows such as The Great and Bridgerton which have both helped to popularize the blended genre. [Director Jes Spencer] immediately knew she wanted props such as cellphones and other anachronistic details so I took that prompt and embraced the combination. Jes and I spoke about wanting the “gossip” characters to have the most contemporary features and the named characters to live in a period-esque world. I started with period-based silhouettes and from there incorporated modern fabrics such as sequins and accessories like sunglasses.

“The goal was to achieve looks that were both comical and beautiful!”

-Danielle Nieves, Costume Designer

KJ: I started period hairstyling at the age of 15 under the mentorship of veteran Wig Master Doug Decker who instilled the hair shapes, features and specifics of every period. With this strong background and understanding, I was able to maintain elements of this late 18th century shape while also branching out with modern elements as desired. Some modern twists are seen with Marianne’s pull through braid and its accented colored hairbands, or in the pearl bobby pins in Elinor’s very period hairstyle. Our director Jes had visions and characteristics in mind for each character such as glamorous, strict, carefree, creative, hopeless romantic (just to name a few) which helped inspire me on who to make tidier and more in line with a traditional period, and who to have more modern takes on them.

How much did you work together (costumes and wigs) to create a cohesive look, and how does that process work?

DN: Typically the process for wigs begins a little later than costumes but the wig designer, Kaleena, and I both started together at the beginning of design discussions. The early conversations ensured that our designs would complement each other and we were able to flag challenges that might arise for either department. Kaleena was proactive about checking in and incorporating details that enhanced the overall design with elements such as pink hair streaks to match a pink gown, or harmonizing colored gems with costume hues. Communication is key and I will take a note from Kaleena’s book on her incredible diligence to connection and collaboration.

KJ: Every job and team handle the process of creating cohesive looks differently, but Danielle and I individually created mood boards then shared and vocalized elements of each look and emphasized what stood out for each character to us. We utilized our brilliant Costume and Wig teams to bring our visions to life and then would check in throughout the process about adding or removing things such as texture, color, patterns, and accessories!

“If we ever had an element that would affect the other, it was always discussed and resolved with the utmost support of one another, often agreeing that more sparkle was a great answer!”

-Kaleena Jordan, Wig Designer

Once the designs have been created, how much are you involved in the rehearsal process? What about once the show opens?

DN: As a costume designer I am usually present for meetings, costume fittings, and tech, but not typically rehearsal. If I happen to be available I love dropping in on rehearsal to see how things are developing! It is important to keep updated with the rehearsal reports and checking in with the director. It helps to be proactive about adapting designs to changes that happen during the rehearsal process. For example – maybe an actor plays a new background character or has to assist with a transition which makes their previous costume change too difficult. By keeping up with notes and communicating we can address various needs early on so that the final costumes support the evolving production. When a show opens I am off contract and typically off to the next show! Opening is a bittersweet celebration as I have to leave a close knit team that just spent about 14 days together morning till night. However, I look forward to collaborating with the same folks on different productions and I take the finished show’s joy and experiences with me onto the next.

KJ: After designs are finalized, remote weekly communication with Village’s Resident Wig Designer and his team are had to allow them to build every wig custom to our actors’ heads. I give directions on specific hair colors, hair texture, density, parting locations, and how I want the hair to lay or move and so forth. The wig shop builds all the wigs in around 3 weeks, wet roller set the hair and style them to the designs in preparation for a fitting with the performer. I begin becoming more heavily involved in person once our wigs are built, styled and ready for their fittings. Throughout these weeks, the Stage Management team, director and I are in communication via video calls and emails about various choreography or blocking that may affect our wigs and styles. The final three weeks before we open I am involved every day giving final input, adjustments and practicality of the design lasting through daily shows with all the elements of costume changes, choreography, accessories, and quick changes.

What is your favorite look in the show?

DN: This is a tricky one! It’s certainly an easy escape to say “all of them” but I’d have to say Lady Middleton. This costume is worn by three different people and Jes’s directive was for the look to “take up as much space as possible”. In my research I had come across fashion plates with Michelin Man-like sleeve rolls and so I took that to an extreme for this costume. I live for comedy and every time an actor wore this in a fitting room they found the most hilarious ways to manipulate the costume and their bodies in a muppet-like way. My next favorite is the alligator stole that is worn by Mrs. Ferrars.

KJ: This is a hard one! There are definitely elements of every wig that that bit is my favorite color, or favorite style, or fit. Overall though it’s an equal toss up between Marianne’s thick beautiful soft braid or Elinor’s timeless and elegant blonde updo with pearls in it.

Sense and Sensibility plays in Issaquah February 1-March 12 and in Everett March 17-April 9, 2023.

The “Sonic Choreography” Behind Cinderella: An Interview with Musician Olivia Hamilton

Bassist Olivia Hamilton plays in the orchestra pit for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Village Theatre. We asked her some questions about her experience as a pit musician.


Let’s start with some background. What’s your “origin story” for becoming an orchestra pit musician?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family. Everyone sang and played instruments. Music is part of how we tell our stories, so the idea of contributing to collective and co-creative storytelling by playing in an orchestra pit just made sense. Academically, my study of theatre and music were always paired as well. Shakespeare was a huge part of my upbringing, he had songs all over the place. I’ve studied voice most of my life and found that I enjoyed luxuriating in the voice as an instrument. Really sinking into what tone and diction could do to enhance emotion and facilitate story. Playing bass feels very similar 🙂 So when it came time to really choose a path in college, I leaned into the instrumentalist’s side of things. There were a ton of shows and experiences that influenced me growing up, but we would be here forever if I started listing them, lol. 

We often get to see “behind the scenes” of an actor’s rehearsal. What does the rehearsal process look like for a musician?

Usually the ensemble rehearsal process for instrumentalists is much shorter than for actors. For Cinderella, we had two orchestra rehearsals (about 8 hours total of rehearsal) before we joined the cast. And because this was a new orchestration, we didn’t have everything ahead of time like we usually would. For this show, we were getting new and revised pages basically up to opening. 

Normally an instrumentalist would get the book several weeks before the first rehearsal and we do most of our part learning in the privacy of our own studios (there is a ton of unpaid prep that goes into performing for instrumentalists. Really for all performers). Then there are usually two Orchestra rehearsals, the goal of which is to put everything together and nail down things that you can really only do in the context of an ensemble, like articulations or collective dynamics. This is also where we get to learn each others’ tendencies and personalities as players. That thing that felt mundane in your practice at home might be incredibly playful once everyone gets in the same room 🙂 

After the orchestra rehearsals, the pit joins the cast in either a sitzprobe or a wandelprobe (or some combined version) a sitzprobe is where the cast stays in place (sits) and sings through the music with the band. A wandleprobe is where they move and sing. That first day with the cast is always so exciting! Once that happens, the pit is integrated into the show and tech commences. 

Okay, you’ve rehearsed the show and now it’s time for performances. What happens when you’re mid-run and a musician needs to go out? We hear about understudies, swings, and standbys for actors—but what does that look like for a musician?

If a musician has to call out, a sub (substitute player) is brought in. Usually we know ahead of time if there are dates that need to be covered, so the sub can have a training session where they observe the show from the pit and some time to learn the book on their own, but it will happen where a sub will get called in last minute and have to sight-read the show at the performance. Subbing is its own skill set. You have to prepare the book on your own with no rehearsal with the ensemble and then just show up and play. It’s a fun challenge! I love getting to drop into an already established ensemble and flow with everyone. It’s very present, very in the moment. 

We’ve heard that, for Cinderella, you’re the only musician (bass) who belongs to two different sections: strings and rhythm. What’s that like? How do you split your focus?

There are actually a lot of us who play with different sections at different points. For example: the French horn is sometimes a brass, sometimes a wind, sometimes with the strings. Each of the four Reed players function in different ways throughout the show. One of the really cool things about musical theatre is that it is really truly chamber music. Even in a 16 piece (which is large for a pit these days), every player is utilized very effectively to create a huge sound. That means that we all have to be aware of who we are dancing with when. That’s a big reason I love playing in pit orchestras: it’s a big dance.

You have to know when to lead and when to follow, feeling the resistance in the frame of the sound and leaning in or countering as is appropriate. You get to hear and feel the nuances of your colleagues’ playing and interact with it in real time. That’s how you get deep sexy groove and joyous effervescent waltzes 🙂 If I’m doing my job correctly, it never feels like splitting focus. It feels more like connected conversation and yummy sonic choreography. 

There are a lot of different musical themes in the Cinderella score. What do you think of that approach? Which theme(s) do you particularly look forward to playing each performance?

I think using themes in musical theatre is an effective storytelling technique. It gives anchor points and is great shorthand for what can become rather complex in terms of emotion and context. It also provides a common vocabulary between the audience and the performers. 

In Cinderella, I really enjoy how this orchestration treats “The Sweetest Sounds.”

What are your other musical tastes? Which musicians are you listening to right now (e.g., are on your Spotify Wrapped list)?

I’ve been on a bit of a metal kick lately. In general, my musical tastes are pretty eclectic and a lot of my listening during the week is driven by what gig prep I’m doing. That being said, I’ll always make room for some James Jamerson or some Led Zeppelin. 

How many pencils are on your music stand (and why)?

Currently? Seven. Plus two highlighters and a pen. Before I leave the house in the morning, I usually stick a pencil in my hair. During the rehearsal process those pencils just ended up on my stand and I forgot to take them home. At some point I realized that I had five pencils on my stand light 😂 I made a post about it on IG and said that people should bring me pencils to add to the collection when they come to see the show. So far I have added two this way, but there is plenty of room for more! The pencil menagerie will continue in Everett. 

Cinderella plays through December 30 in Issaquah before moving to the Everett Performing Arts Center Jan 6-29.

“Bigger Than Hula Hoops!”: A Visit to the Prop Shop

An Interview with Prop Shop Manager Rachel Bennick (they / them)

How long have you worked at Village Theatre?

I have worked at Village Theatre since 2018. Little Shop of Horrors will be my 23rd (I think) show I have been the prop leader on.

Describe a day in the life of the Prop Shop.

The best thing about props is that you are always doing something different! Depending on the show and what phase of the build we’re in our days can be pulled in very many directions. So this one sort of hard to answer without first quickly explaining the structure of the Prop Shop.

In my role as Prop Shop Manager I act as the prop leader, shopper, set dresser and occasional prop design! So, first I figure out a general list of what the show needs (though this changes throughout the process as new things come up in rehearsal!), then I gather as much information as I can about what each item wants to look like and how it needs to function (if it’s fake, if it needs to work, if it needs to be danced on, if it needs to be super light, etc). Then depending on the item, either the scenic designer has provided a drafting of what they would like built, or I find reference imagery and run it by the design team and my crew will build off of that and make a rough measurement. On top of that, I do the prop shopping — so I get the supplies my crew needs to build items, and also source and buy everything that’s not custom builds. For example, I’ll buy a table for my crew to cut in half and make it narrower by a foot, or the Paint Shop will paint it to look like it’s been out in the rain for 40 years.

The amazing and wonderful assistant prop leader/ shop foreman/ Head Prop Artisan Chloe tends to be more focused on things that are right now, so she is the one who monitors the daily tasks and make sure everyone has something to do. She lets me know if there are any materials we need for a project, checks in with rehearsal, and takes care of our prop stock. She generally makes everything run smoothly and wonderfully.

Then our awesome and talented prop carpenter Joslyn tends to take on the bigger built props and trick items, generally makes all things wood and metal, and is responsible for all of our custom furniture.

Then we have a team of stupendous over hires who come and work with us from time to time, bringing in a variety of different skillsets.   

Audrey II: How are the plants operated, and what sort of caretaking is needed to ensure that all four puppets work properly?  

There are four puppets. The first one is like a sock puppet with the puppeteer hidden. The second one is operated by Seymour as he wears a pretty cool fake arm to disguise him operating it. The third one is a head that fits over the puppeteer’s head and arms and is operated like Mama Shark. The 4th one is a big plant head with a counterweight behind it on a pivot, with the puppeteer sitting in a seat inside of it. There are handles connected to the head’s structure so he can make it look left or right, and there is a system of pulleys throughout so that the plant can open and close its mouth. It is a very physical endeavor, giant shoutout to our fabulous puppeteer John David Scott and his understudy Vincent Milay.

What other props make an appearance in Little Shop of Horrors?

A fabulous antique dentist chair along with a custom fabricated vintage dental cart tray. Orin really has a cool set up and all it cost him was an arm and a leg!

Also unsurprisingly so many flowers. I know it’s a florist shop so you would expect a lot of flowers but we’ve been making floral arrangements for days (in between shattering pots, a custom fabricated “refrigerated” flower case, a curtain of vines, fake meat chunks connected together with fishing line, a molded and cast fake hand, a cash register from 1941, half a sandwich, and more prop-y stuff like that).

What’s coming up in the season that you’re excited to share?

We are super excited for some of the first looks that we have had at Sense and Sensibility. It’s looking like the Prop Shop and Paint Shop are going to get to be having a BLAST! It is so pretty so far and we haven’t even started building it yet. And personally I am ecstatic to get to be a part of bringing HOW TO BREAK to the stage, I can genuinely say that that script is one the only ones to make me cry in I can’t even remember how long.

Photos courtesy of Rachel Bennick and Madeleine Stephens.

Shing-A-Ling, What a Creepy Thing To Be Happening…

A Brief History of Little Shop of Horrors

By Jeanette Sanchez-Izenman

What is Horror Comedy?
“The Horror Comedy, a sub-genre that sets blood, gore, and screams
right next to gags, prat falls and laughs, is one of the most interesting of
these mixed categories to study, because we get to see the diametrically
opposing effects of horror (fear, repulsion, anxiety) and comedy (happiness,
laughter, pleasure) play together in real time.”
—V. Renée in “How Does Horror Comedy Work?”

Horror Comedy is a form that combines horror with parody, spoof, and black comedy.
In literature, its origins go back to Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Contemporary pieces like The Evil Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Cabin in the Woods
exemplify the form, relying on over-the-top gore and characters existing within a world
turned upside down without seeming to be fully aware of the danger around them.

The Film and Literary Roots of Little Shop of Horrors
In 1959, Roger Corman and Charles B. Griffith paired up to write and direct the film A
Bucket of Blood.
Finding they wrapped the movie early and still had two days on the set, they created the script for Little Shop of Horrors over a drunken night at a bar. Griffith said in an interview that he asked Roger Corman, ‘How about a man-eating plant?’ and Corman said, ‘Okay!’ By that time, we were both drunk.” The original film did not feature music.

It is likely that three literary works inspired this wicked little tale: H.G. Welles’ “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid” (1905), John Collier’s “Green Thoughts” (1932) and finally, a gem by Arthur C. Clarke, “The Reluctant Orchid” (1956). Each seems to contribute something to the monster that is Audrey II. In Welles, she attacks her keeper and nearly kills him. In Collier, we see the head-shaped blossoms after she digests her victims, and in Clarke, we meet a Seymour-like Hercules who tries to use the murderous plant to do his bidding.


Audrey II Flourishes in a Musical
The musical version of Little Shop of Horrors premiered off-off Broadway at the Workshop of the Players Art Foundation on May 6, 1982. It was one of the first musicals Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas) composed. Howard Ashman, who also wrote the book, directed the musical when it moved off-Broadway to the Orpheum Theatre on July 27, 1982. Little Shop of Horrors received critical acclaim, winning the 1982-1983 Drama Award for Outstanding Musical, the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and the Outer Critics Circle Award, among others. The musical did not appear on Broadway until a revival in 2003 at the Virginia Theatre.


The musical was turned into its own film in 1986, starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray. The film featured an alternate, happier ending to the musical, as preview audiences did not respond well to the original musical’s dark ending.

Now, Little Shop of Horrors is one of the most popular theater pieces for high school, community, and professional theatres across the country. Audrey II would be proud to be infiltrating the world through this musical!

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS’
CINEMATIC INSPIRATION

Some pieces that would have inspired the original movie Little Shop of Horrors and exemplify Horror Comedy at its best include:
1925 Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde
1930 The Cat Creeps
1944 Zombies on Broadway
1948 Abbott & Costello
Meet Frankenstein

1959 A Bucket of Blood

Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Lizabeth Scott, and Carmen Miranda; Super Skyway Drive-In Ad (1966) Allentown, PA; The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski.

HORROR COMEDY IN FILM
1960s—1980s

The trend of Horror Comedy continued through the 1960s and eventually influenced some of the splatter horror of the 1970s and 1980s. Films began to contain more original plot lines (as did the film Little Shop of Horrors when it was released in 1960). Examples include:
1964 The Comedy of Terrors
1966 The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers, Or Pardon Me,
But Your Teeth Are in My Neck

1968 Spider Baby
1972 Beware! The Blob
1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
1986 The Little Shop of Horrors

KIDSTAGE Parent Profile: Meet Heather

Meet Heather, one of our long-time KIDSTAGE parents. Her two children Aresa (age 18) and Eliot (age 15) have both been a part of the KIDSTAGE program since they were five years old. They participated in many programs both on and off the stage. Read about Heather’s experience with KIDSTAGE below.

Heather with her two kids, Eliot (L) and Aresa (R)

Q: What do you love about being a KIDSTAGE parent?

A: I love the confidence that doing a show nurtured in both my kids. Aresa’s first production was The Little Mermaid, and my husband was the lighting designer. During tech, I stopped in to bring him food. Parents aren’t allowed in tech, so I was sneaking back out when I caught site of my shy, nervous daughter standing tall, confidently working through a scene. She was nearly unrecognizable in the best way possible.

Being in a production provides students an early opportunity to make decisions, to manage themselves. They are expected to know when to be on stage, take care of their costume pieces, and find their light (literally and metaphorically). It’s amazing and translates into life skills we want our children to possess.

Q: What do your kids love about being KIDSTAGE students?

A: They love the responsibility they are given. It’s rare teens get to be in charge, but working backstage and writing shows puts them in the driver’s seat. It makes them feel valuable and integral to the success of a show. When you are key player in a major scene change, you are important, you matter.

Q: Why is the KIDSTAGE program valuable?

A: The tagline says it all and my whole family is living proof of it — skills for theatre…skills for life. My husband and I were also KIDSTAGE kids. I use the skills I gained in being a costume designer for three summers in my youth every day in my job as an accountant. KIDSTAGE was the first time anyone trusted me to make a plan and execute it, manage a budget, and to truly have others rely on me in a way that mattered beyond a school grade.

Q: How has the KIDSTAGE program impacted your teens’ career interests?

A: The summer of 2020, my daughter took a KIDSTAGE TV screenwriting class over Zoom. She wrote a TV pilot and a show bible with five other students. It was absolutely life changing for her. She has since written the pilot and show bibles for two of her own television shows and written a musical through KIDSTAGE Originals with three other students. Aresa is currently applying to college for screenwriting.

Q: What is one of your favorite KIDSTAGE moments?

A: The look of sheer joy on Eliot’s face after he auditioned for his first show. He’d worked so hard to learn his monologue and song, and the closer it got, the more nervous he became. But the pride and joy that showed on his face leaving the audition was amazing. It was a safe zone to show himself and he felt great.

And now seeing that same little kid drone on in minute detail about how he learned to weld the frame for a scenic flat during his internship…it’s the same pride and joy for him and for me.

Q: Why should families consider enrolling in KIDSTAGE classes?

A: KIDSTAGE classes give kids a chance to let go of the “shoulds” and the “supposed tos.” It’s a chance to let them be free and curious and try themselves out. Young or teen alike, kids need a place to be brave and needed. The very nature of theatre provides that. A kid doesn’t need to be destined for Broadway to get real and tangible benefits from KIDSTAGE classes and productions.

For more information about Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE program, visit VillageTheatre.org/youth-education.

Subscriber Story from Mike and Jen Godsey

Why does Village Theatre matter to you?

Village Theatre brings super high quality theatre to a local community in a way that is really uncommon.   Not only do we enjoy getting out to see some of the classic musicals or shows, but Village Theatre always brings compelling new works to the stage, and as patrons, we get to watch as they develop, starting sometimes with readings at the summer festival, and culminating years later with mainstage productions! This is a super exciting thing to experience, and one that is a really good “bang for your buck” in entertainment dollars!

What impact has Village Theatre made on you?  

We have been able to enjoy so many aspects of Village Theatre together as a couple, not just the shows together but so much more.  Through things  like back stage parties, the Festival of New Musicals, the Holiday Cruise, etc. we have met some really great people, and feel so much like we are part of a community, not just individuals going to a show. This includes staff of Village Theatre, the artists and writers, as well as other patrons. It is hard to describe how special this community is!

Any favorite memories you’d like to share? A favorite show?

Our favorite show was probably Les Misérables, which was such a fantastic show, in every aspect. Our favorite memories from all the shows though, would have to be the cast of Beauty and the Beast, especially Bobbi Kotula and Nick De Santis. Such a fun show and the cast absolutely nailed their characters!

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Village Theatre KIDSTAGE Summer Independent Program

A behind the scenes look from KIDSTAGE Director, Brayden James about their experience Directing Head Over Heels at Village Theatre KIDSTAGE in Everett.

What is your name, and your role in the show?

My name is Brayden James (they/them), and I was the Director for Village Theatre KIDSTAGE’s Summer Independent production of Head Over Heels in Everett.

Why did you apply to be a director with KIDSTAGE Summer Independent?

A big reason I applied to direct was that I wanted more experience. Directing is something that I want to do professionally, and the KIDSTAGE Summer Independent Program gave me an avenue to get some amazing hands-on experience producing a show from the ground up! In addition, I wanted to create space within the KIDSTAGE program for Queer and BIPOC youth to both thrive in the production/design process and showcase their excellence onstage. I also wanted to share with audiences the beautiful history of drag, ballroom, and queerness in all of their forms! The Head Over Heels cast and crew was made up of predominantly LGBTQ+ and POC students, which I was very intentional about when hiring members of my production team and casting the show.

What was your favorite thing about directing for KIDSTAGE Summer Independent?

My favorite part of the process was working with my OUTSTANDING production team and cast. Big shout outs to all of my designers, my direction and management teams, and my cast. We had limited resources to work with, combined with several production hurdles we had to overcome and we still made some MAGIC baby! And that is what doing drag is all about.

If a student is interested in submitting a proposal for KIDSTAGE Summer Independent, what advice would you give them? What advice would you give them if they were selected for the program?

  1. Know. Your. Show. Research the history of its run, characters, even the actors performing in the show. Read the script (obviously) and make sure that it’s a story you want to be telling. 
  2. Have a clear vision. This goes hand in hand with the last one! Once you know the show, decide what you want to do with it. It sounds obvious, I know, but I’m serious! Decide early on what moments you want to happen/what references you want to make. As an example, for Head Over Heels I knew that I wanted the story set in a non-descript drag bar between the years 1985-1990 and that I wanted to showcase drag and ballroom. 
  3. Know your timeline. I had a 5 week rehearsal process for Head Over Heels, which (for a show of this size) is exactly just enough time. Make sure you can actually get all of the work you need to get done…well…done! My direction team and I pre-made an entire rehearsal calendar with what we wanted to do on what days of the week about a month and a half before our first rehearsal. Making a rough rehearsal calendar and revising it as you move along will absolutely save you several headaches. 
  4. Know your resources. We had limited resources provided to us for Head Over Heels and we had to get creative when building elements for the show. We thrifted a LOT and tore up old clothes and resewed them. We used scrap wood from local warehouses and old set pieces. Things of that nature! Whatever budget/space onstage/time you think you’re going to have, always be prepared to work with less.
  5. This is a Summer Independent, emphasis on Independent. All of the work done in the workshops, in the rehearsal rooms, on the stage, is entirely done by the team that you hire/cast as the Director. Make sure that you feel good about the people working for you and supported by them!

Bringing summer to the stage: Sankofa and set design in Mamma Mia!

Charles Murdock Lucas, Scenic Designer for Mamma Mia!, gives an insider look into designing a unique version of Mamma Mia! for the Village Theatre stage.

What should audiences keep an eye out for when they see Mamma Mia!?

“Audiences should watch for how a collection of relatively simple set pieces are used to create many different locations within the world of the play.”

Trina Mills, Lisa Estridge, Be Russell in Mamma Mia! (2022) by Angela Sterling.

How is the theme of “Sankofa” represented visually in the set?

“In addition to the Sankofa bird symbols that are carefully included in the spaces that belong to Donna, the sweeping shape of the set itself represents a journey forward while looking back to go forward.”
What is Sankofa? Learn more

Can you describe the process of combining a disco theme with the 1990s Greek Islands setting?

“Traveling to other places is one of the ways that humans grow and develop. Music is also a kind of travel, an internal journey that takes you outside of yourself and connects you with other people. The combination of ABBA’s music with this story create a rare alchemical reaction that on paper, shouldn’t work at all, but in practice, this show delivers happiness to audiences again and again.”

Christian Quinto & Varinique “V” Davis in Mamma Mia! (2022) by Gabriel Corey.

What has your experience been like designing with the Village Theatre team?

“I have been touched and impressed by the way that Faith and the whole Village Theatre team worked to create an inclusive sense of community and artistic generosity on the production.”

What has been the most rewarding part of designing for Mamma Mia!?

“For me, this show represents an exuberant and joyful return to in-person performance design – an adrenaline shot of pure joy delivered to the community.”

CHARLES MURDOCK LUCAS is a Scenic and Projection Designer based in San Diego, CA. His designs include: Sofia National Opera and Ballet (Bulgaria), Daejeon Arts Center (Korea), The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and Skylight Music Theatre. He is the Head of Scene Design and Projection Design at SDSU. Work exhibited: 2019, 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. He is also the Program Director for Opera Hack sponsored by San Diego Opera and OPERA AMERICA. Murdock is a member of USA Local 829.

Shabazz Green, Nathaniel Tenenbaum, Varinique “V” Davis, & Mark Emerson in Mamma Mia! (2022) by Angela Sterling.

Bringing the Peanuts to life: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown Choreographer Cy Paolantonio on Creativity and Play in Rehearsals.

We asked You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown choreographer, Cy Paolantonio, about her vision to make the “Peanuts” come to life on stage.

All of the characters in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown are kids, and yet the adult actors embody youth so well. How does your choreography lend itself to youthfulness?

“When I’m choreographing, I really like to set aside a bit of time at the beginning of the rehearsal period to gather the artists and lead workshops, which tend to be tailored specifically to each project. These workshops become the building blocks for the choreography I will teach, and the sort of “North Star” for any movement vocabulary we develop as a team. Before any movement began, I gathered our Charlie Brown cast in a circle and led them in a prompted round robin exercise. The theme was childhood. Each person was to say the first word that came to mind, without thinking about it. The word eventually expanded to a sentence, the sentences expanded to forgotten stories about our youth. It was incredible to see how each artist really sank into this exercise to tap into that childlike state. I believe that in order to truly embody a character, you must allow your mind to unselfconsciously reach into its depths to unlock things you might’ve forgotten. This allows for creativity to flow, and for the artist to feel they have permission to let these memories inform their movement vocabulary. I was never interested in a mock childlike way of moving. Most young children haven’t yet learned how to compose themselves physically, to self edit…movement is a pure extension of being in the moment and feeling what you feel, wanting what you want. I’m so glad that the choreography was an extension of that.”

Tell us about the rehearsal room – where else did the cast and crew find a sense of play?

“Our incredible Director, Jimmy Shields, had the brilliant idea of setting aside 30 minutes for recess most days. This sort of free choice play time was where anyone in the room (or even in the building) could select from an exciting array of childlike activities: Legos, blocks, puzzles, jumping rope, hula hooping, basketball, coloring and sticker books…there was something for everyone. We even enjoyed one day of recess outside. Some folx tossed a football around, some tiptoed along the train tracks, others practiced cartwheels in the grass. How great is that?”

Many iconic moments make an appearance in the show, including the Peanuts theme “Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi! What other iconic Peanuts moments are present onstage?

“My wonderful Associate Choreographer, Nehemiah Hooks, and I had checked out about 20 Peanuts books from the library between the two of us. We studied these and watched many documentaries and cartoons together. Our goal was to identify what made Peanuts recognizably Peanuts. While we knew our version would be its own modernized thing, we wanted to honor certain iconic stylings: the way Lucy leans and lounges on Schroeder’s piano; the direction Snoopy lays down on the doghouse with the head to the left and legs to the right; the turned out feet; the exaggerated angles of the body. And of course, we’d remiss to do this show without incorporating be those quintessential dance moves from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.”

You’re next on stage as a cast member and Dance Captain in Mamma Mia! What has it been like moving from choreographer to cast member at Village Theatre?

“I am so thrilled to jump into Mamma Mia! as a Performer and Dance Captain! It really is such a blessing to be able to have this much variety in my career. 

While I believe these various job titles have transferable skills, being a cast member requires a whole other set of muscles, endurance, and patience than being a member of the Creative Team, which usually requires a good chunk of planning, preparation, and problem solving. 

Being an actor requires more bodily energy whereas choreography requires more of my brain power.

As far as being a Dance Captain goes, I think having a Choreographer’s brain really sets me up for success when it comes to my duties: keeping track of who goes where when; maintaining the integrity of the movement; making adjustments for understudies/swings and injuries; and being an advocate and go-between for the cast and other departments.

The best part though? Creating characters, wearing fun costumes and wigs, and inspiring the next generation of artists!”