Hello, all. I have been lured out of the shadow cast by my mother’s death to take over direction of Michael Kimball’s Duck and Cover at the Player’s Ring, where it will run September 4-20. This marvelous, award-winning show about an American family grappling with wars domestic and foreign on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis was last seen at WEST and I’m honored to be working on it now. Stay tuned for more details, I’ve got homework to do for tomorrow night’s rehearsal!
Even better, my actor Eliot Johnston was nominated for Best Actor for his performances of Bernard One, Bernard Two and Michael Black in A Number! Congratulations to us, and huge thanks to everyone involved in both shows, and to our audiences (and patient loved ones) for all their support.
I have a feeling we are each dark horses in this race, but it is marvelous to know that the panel thought so highly of our work in 2014. As they say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” I will let you know how it turns out!
Kudos and deepest thanks to Robert Macadaeg and Eliot Johnston for their masterful performances in my production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number. Kate Quisumbing was my Stage Manager extraordinaire, Meghann Beauchamp designed impeccable lights and sound and Michele Macadaeg gave invaluable help with costumes. We had great houses that surpassed my expectations for such a peculiar, offbeat little show. And we were extremely well reviewed! This was a deeply satisfying directing experience for me and I’m sad to let these characters go. Best wishes to all, and I hope to work together soon. Next up for me: “Saving Portsmouth: The Preservation Crusades of Miss Dorothy Vaughan”!
Read the review of my production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number here. So proud of Eliot and Robert! So thrilled to watch the final three shows this weekend!
I’m having a great time directing Robert Macadaeg and Eliot Johnston in Caryl Churchill’s A Number, a tight little thriller about cloning with gorgeous, spare language and unforgettable characters. It’s part of ACT ONE’s Beyond Festival.
These guys are fabulous actors and each is a joy to work with in his own way. Eliot seems pure sweetness, with an amazing emotional transparency to his characterizations, but his hidden superpower is his spot-on Hannibal Lecter impression. Robert is usually smooth, sarcastic and intellectual, and then he slips into character and hands you his heart. Both are smart and bold with the choices they are making on stage. I’m excited to open next Friday, October 3rd so audiences can finally meet these guys (Eliot plays three people, so there’s a whole little family for you to enjoy). Visit ACT ONE’s website for information and tickets for A Number.
Then, in late October I start rehearsing “Saving Portsmouth: The Crusades of Miss Dorothy Vaughan” with Kent Stephens’ STAGE FORCE for Strawbery Banke. I play the title character, who was an eccentric local force who lived to be 99 years old. Yep, I aint the young romantic lead this time around:
I will play Dorothy from her young adulthood through her “hag” period (to cite Kent’s script), but somehow I don’t think it’ll come across as glamorous at any stage! This show starts November 7th, I’ll let you know how it’s going when we get closer. . .
Happy autumn to all!
ACT ONE’s Festival 2014 starts next week with Norm Foster’s MENDING FENCES opening on August 7th! I’m really excited by all the great plays and concerts we’ve put together. This year the Festival is in two parts: Summer Festival and Beyond Festival. I’m working behind the scenes and at box office for the Summer Fest, and then I’m directing Caryl Churchill’s A NUMBER, which opens October 3rd.
I’m over the moon about A NUMBER, which will star my dear friends (and exquisite actors) Robert Macadaeg and Eliot Johnston. But there’s lots to see before then! So visit the new ACT ONE site at http://actonenh.org for all the details! See you soon at WEST for Festival 2014!
What a fantastic spring for ACT ONE and MSIM! In March, we gave a great presentation at the Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. In April I traveled to Greenfield, MA to lead the student veterans of Greenfield Community College in their own reading from Make Sure It’s Me. Then, in early May, I received a call from Ron Snow of the Brain Injury Association of NH, inviting Stephanie Nugent and I to their annual conference the following week. Why? To be presented with the Ellen Hayes Award!
BIANH’s Ellen Hayes Award is granted each year to the individual or organization who has done the most to advocate for and improve the lives of the brain injured and their families. We were chosen for our work on ACT ONE’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh event series, which consisted of eight traveling presentations and fifteen fully produced performances based on Kate Wenner’s play about Traumatic Brain Injury in the military. Through MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh, we reached over 800 audience members across New Hampshire and into Massachusetts, including civilians, veterans of several generations, military family members, and health care providers. Our presentations included the creation of the TBI Fact Sheets, created in collaboration with veterans service providers and sponsored by the American Red Cross and BIANH.
At the award presentation, BIANH president Laura Flashman shared extensive and glowing observations of our work: “The difference in making a good production into a great production is the knowledge of the subject matter. Leslie embedded herself in as many TBI-related commissions, collaboratives, and events as humanly possible. While admittedly a greenhorn in the beginning, she dedicated herself to learning as much as possible about this invisible wound. She spent countless hours visiting day centers, neuropsychologists, and speaking directly to veterans. Leslie’s smile is infectious, her passion is obvious, and her motives are full of sincerity and caring.
“While most of us saw Leslie in the forefront, her partner Stephanie was quite often behind the scenes. After seeing the final production in Portsmouth, it was obvious that Stephanie’s theatrical production talents are immense. When you put two amazing people together on a project like Make Sure It’s Me, the results change lives.
“Thank you ACT ONE for your tireless efforts on Make Sure It’s Me, and for helping to break down the barriers caused by Traumatic Brain Injury in New Hampshire.”
We are deeply thankful to BIANH for this recognition, and for their support throughout the implementation of this successful performance outreach series. We look forward to continuing to serve our state in the seasons to come, in various ways. So stay tuned!
Hey, all! The snow is not yet gone and I’m hitting the road already, sharing ACT ONE’s traveling presentation based on Kate Wenner’s MAKE SURE IT’S ME. This Wednesday, March 19th, we’ll be at the Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. Click here for an article from yesterday’s Concord Monitor about how we’re raising awareness about Traumatic Brain Injury affecting combat veterans and their families. My Executive Director Steph Nugent and I will be joined for this presentation by retired Navy Corpsman Nick Tolentino, former Marine Angela Molihan, and actor and MSIM supporter Paul Yarborough. Register to attend by writing to Ron “at” BIANH.org. Huge thanks to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire for sponsoring this event!
Then, on April 10th, I’ll be leading members of the student veterans group of Greenfield Community College in another version of the presentation I shaped just for them. I was invited to GCC because Joshua Carnes is a student there–he’s the multi-talented photographer and Army veteran behind the images ACT ONE uses for our posters and TBI Fact Sheets. (His original photos accompany this post.) I’ll be joined there by MSIM playwright Kate Wenner and several of the veterans service providers I’ve met during this journey. . . and I’ll be sure to report back! For info on the GCC event, call 413-775-1868. I’m delighted and humbled to have the chance to bring so many people together around this powerful issue, using such a powerful script. So, if you are going to be in Concord or Greenfield, give us a look!
Phew, where did the end of 2013 go? Like many folks, I spent the holiday season rushing about between blizzards, visiting with family while dodging second and third helpings of dessert. Also, there’s the issue of a new, boisterous voice in the house:
But, in addition to such chaotic fun, I do have a few exciting theatre accomplishments and upcoming events to report.
My trip to the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord, MA reunited me with my former student Brian Boruta, who is now doing a marvelous job directing the Performing Arts department of this impressive organization. I performed CLEAN ROOM in the new “Downstage” space, and I also gave a three-hour workshop on Clowning to high schoolers. The workshop was a blast–what an intelligent and courageous group of young performers they were! I warmed them up with a few minutes of Brighina and Stupino, who laid out some basic concepts and got them talking and laughing. Then I just set the exercises in motion and watched the kids unfold. I love this work. . . you see brand new characters with physical mannerisms, postures, walks, and burbling sound tracks emerge in just minutes and then grow and refine themselves over the course of an hour or two as they interact with other creatures. It’s extremely empowering for actors of any age to discover that they don’t always need to be picked by a director to play a role written by a playwright in order to make theatre. All you need is your own self, no matter what physical shape you are in or how fluently you speak. And it allows us to let go of the pressure to look pretty or confident or sexy as we explore the more truthful realms of goofy and even grotesque. Love it! The kids seemed to really enjoy it, too, and they were courteous to me and each other. Kudos to Emerson Umbrella for inspiring such professional, joyful creativity in these young people.
So, that revived my love of workshop teaching and I hope 2014 will bring more of that! Stay tuned.
I rounded out 2013’s CLEAN ROOM work with a surprise invitation from Bill Humphreys to be interviewed by him for airing on Portsmouth Public Media TV, the local cable station for Portsmouth, NH. I brought my masks along and we had a fun and finely detailed conversation about acting, mask technique, and the process of devising CLEAN ROOM. That segment will air sometime soon, so again–stay tuned!
Lastly, MAKE SURE IT’S ME marches on in March, up to Concord, NH! The Brain Injury Association of NH is bringing ACT ONE’s traveling team to do a beefed-up version of our library presentation at the Red River Theatre on Wednesay, March 19th from 5-7 pm. The event will include a pre-show reception and talkback. Admission is free, but please register by visiting: http://www.bianh.org/awareness1.html
I have another MSIM opportunity in the works, and Steph Nugent and I have been hard at work crafting Festival 2014. So I look forward to sharing more news with you soon. Be well and stay cozy!
Well, it’s finally here, the moment when I can say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED after the successful conclusion of MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh–part 1!
ACT ONE’s 2012-2013 season included TWENTY-TWO events inspired by and based on Kate Wenner’s play about Traumatic Brain Injury in the military:
- a meet-the-playwright teaser event last October at WEST
- a full reading of the script at Portsmouth Public Library last November
- FIVE library presentations in March and April
- FIFTEEN performances of the world premiere production at WEST in June!
Angela Molihan as SSG Annie Nichols and Christian Maurice as HM Jackson Cantrell
We hosted 590 audience members for the WEST production, and more than 200 for our teaser and library events–that’s a total of 800 people who participated in MSIM/nh!
Our audiences included military veterans of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, and even WWII. Post-9/11 veterans were offered free tickets and all others were offered discounts. Many took us up on our offers–over 12% of our audience claimed veterans’ tickets. But even more told us they had served but wanted to pay full price to support our mission of serving military families coping with blast-related TBI. So the actual number of veterans who came to watch, to learn, and to share their stories and opinions with us was closer to 15%. We were delighted and humbled to host so many who had served, as well as their family members.
Kim Holliday as Sandy Ames
We also met audience members living with brain injury, or working in the health care or teaching fields where they advocated for the injured. We spoke with numerous concerned civilians who said we made the news reports they had been hearing for years suddenly come alive with meaning for them. I personally received so many hugs, so many hand shakes, and so many confidences from brave, struggling people of all backgrounds that it was difficult to take it all in. But we knew from the very first MSIM/nh event that we were doing important work and it was affecting people in positive ways.
Alissa Cordeiro as Angel Rodriguez
Well, our community is not letting us off the hook now. ACT ONE has been asked by our audience members, and the NH National Guard, and the NH Commission on PTSD & TBI, and the Military-Civilian TBI Collaborative, and numerous other organizations with whom we’ve come to partner with in the past year and a half, to please continue this work in some fashion in the year to come. And so we are putting plans in place to do just that, by expanding and refining our traveling presentation to reach the far corners of our state (and maybe beyond?). Playwright Kate Wenner is collaborating with us on all aspects of this effort, and I will keep you posted on our development process and event schedule.
To read more about all things MSIM/nh, and to see more great pictures, visit the MSIM/nh page. Thanks again to all of you for joining me and ACT ONE in what has been an extraordinary theatrical outreach initiative. Stay tuned. . . and in the meantime. . .
Come see some great theatre at WEST during ACT ONE’s Festival 2013!