I came across this great video produced by the Oyster River High School media department, whose students gave me loads of time and play and demonstrate my masks in front of the camera. Remember what masks meant to us pre-COVID? Hopefully we’ll return to that type of play soon. Enjoy watching! Leslie Pasternack from ORTV on Vimeo.
Happy September, all!
I’ve had the great fortune this summer to begin a new collaboration with Laura Cleminson, founder of the Pre-Dead Social Club, a Seacoast, NH-based organization whose mission is “to make having compassionate conversations about death and dying a bit easier, less burdensome and more tenderhearted before it’s too late.” It’s a fascinating group, and I suggest you check out the site to see all the events in store. But, for the next two weeks, I’ll be on deck leading the PDSC’s DEAD-LINES, a Creative Obituary-Writing Workshop!
I’m sure I’ll have more to share with you about this whole experience, but in the meantime, one preparation I’ve made to lead this workshop is to write an obituary myself . . . for my first clown character. I was casting about for a subject to write about that felt pertinent and emotional but not too vulnerable, and I also happened to be reviewing digital footage of my year in clown school. I realized, Blue is dead, and I mourn her. So I marshaled my skills to tell her story, truthfully, but with a bit of humor. Enjoy! And I’ll report back to you on the workshops after their done.
BLUE: An Obituary
The feisty, mercurial clown character known as Blue was declared officially dead on April 27th, 2023, after a decades-long decline spent mostly out of the spotlight.
Blue was born fully-grown in the spring of 1995 in Blue Lake, CA, at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre. The exact date is unknown, as her birth was multi-phasic and included several abandoned makeup designs. In her heyday, Blue was known for her daring-to-the-point-of-reckless acrobatics, which often surprised audiences distracted by her curvaceous frame. Blue sported a vertically striped baby-doll dress worn over flowered bloomers and a gleaming teal unitard that screeched “80s fitness craze” at the top of its thrift-store lungs. Yes, tights from thrift stores are somewhat sketchy, but Blue was unafraid of where that thing had been. She was unafraid of so much in the early days.
Blue’s brother Max was her partner in art, with their career-making performance arriving in the summer of ‘95, just months after their joint birth. In “Maximum Blue,” the pair danced jitterbug and viciously laid hands upon one another: Blue clawed Max in the privates, and he responded by bashing her face into the wall once, twice, then one more time. As for so many siblings, this violence hinted at disturbing erotic undercurrents, to the delight of Blue Lake audiences.
After that giddy summer, Blue found herself the proud owner of both lumbar and cervical injuries that only worsened in the coming years. When acrobatics became too difficult, she allowed herself to be mostly subsumed into the mask character, Brighina. Brighina’s use of speech allowed Blue to perform less extremely physical performances, although she still danced. Indeed, Brighina’s greatest work, Clean Room, which expanded on the themes of love and violence within the family unit, was greatly served by Blue’s mischievous facial expressions and poignant gestures of the wrist. But it was hard for Blue to see her contributions go unacknowledged as Brighina’s star rose, and she fell into a depression that never really lifted.
Throughout the aughts, Blue periodically attempted comebacks, pushing herself through grueling training sessions which resulted in additional injuries and debilitating pain. Hobbled, she attempted to practice acceptance and content herself with watching from the wings or the audience as other artists ran, jumped and flew. But, in the back of her mind, Blue repeatedly thought, “Once I’m better, I’ll be back up there.” This delusion persisted until April 2023, when rheumatologist Daniel Kunz pronounced her death sentence: “You cannot do those things anymore. Ever.” Within the span of an hour, Blue had died, in a flood of tears in the overheated car, still parked in the lot behind the hospital.
There is archival footage of Blue at the literal peak of her powers, standing tall on the shoulders of her brother, Max. She reaches out her arms, elbows hyper-extending as she strains to grasp an enormous rainbow-colored lollipop suspended from the ceiling. When Blue finally plucks it into her hands, her astonished grin is so wide that her teeth resemble fangs ringing the black cavern of her mouth. With shining eyes, and with syrupy stage blood staining her lips, arms and hands, Blue’s joy swirls together all the pleasure and all the pain of the moment, until they are indistinguishable. You can see her eyes dart to the audience and hear the laughter rise and rise. And then, as she leaps to the ground, you hear the applause.
That’s me as Blue with my partner, Chris Whalen, as Maximum Damage.
By request, I’m bringing back my Zoom Playwriting Workshop for four weeks this fall, and it’s already fully enrolled! I’m delighted to keep Lemon Punch Theatre Lab arrive via internet, especially as Zoom helps us stay connected to artists outside the NH Seacoast. In this case, I’ll have two Providence playwrights and three from Massachusetts, woo!
My plans are afoot to also bring some in-person workshops to various venues in the greater Portsmouth area, so so please stay tuned. Also, I’ve got a new collaboration brewing with the Pre-Dead Social Club. Creativity marches on, in forms both familiar and totally new. I will share more ASAP! EMAIL ME if you have an idea or request for an acting or writing workshop or if you’d like to explore private coaching. Happy August!
After a glorious final month of classes, we’ve closed the door to the Cedar Street studio.
Many thanks to our students, theatre collaborators & audience members for your support over the past four years!
Stay tuned for news of workshops and events later in the year,
as Lemon Punch Theatre Lab continues to make space for play.
Here are some of the many memories we’ve made over the past four years . . .
Carol Raiche sported her hoodie for Escaped Alone rehearsal,
and James Grillo surprised me by showing up to perform in ourStory/Creature/Scene showcase in his LPTL tee!
I confess that one reason for starting my own business was to rock some merch! Who doesn’t want a snug sweatshirt with a cool logo? And who doesn’t want their life’s motto on a t-shirt?
But back to the beginning . . .
Way back in 2019, leading warmups for Scene Study class!
Brad Ritchie and James Grillo getting intense in a scene from True West.
When the pandemic hit, we all scrambled onto Zoom and learned new skills!
I had to learn quickly how to produce Zoom classes and performances, turning my home office into a command station. But it was hugely gratifying work, and, together with colleagues existing and new, Lemon Punch produced three Lemon Live Festivals, one evening of lengthier staged readings, and a brand new one act that I created with Pam Battin-Sacks and Steve Sacks,
I’ll Be Right There.
And I give a huge shout-out to theatre KAPOW‘s Matt & Carey Cahoon for inspiring me and sharing tips for creating the best virtual theatre experiences!
Peter Leonard-Solis was a Lemon Live actor who really worked the Zoom frame, and who happily continued to play with us in the studio after re-opening!
One of my new online colleagues, playwright and actor Matt Cogswell, worked with me throughout the Lemon Live festivals and into a series of Physical Comedy classes. He even joined us for Improv last month!
I was delighted to “reunite” with him in the real world once the studio reopened and we could go back to the theatres. Other colleagues from this time period whom I continue to cherish include the women of the Blue Cow writers’ group in Providence.
Here’s a picture of Mary Sapp & Orlik Guzman in a chilling scene with the guillotine. Photo by Tim Gurczak.
I also had the joy of using the Lab to rehearse two New Works shorts and two main stage shows for The Firehouse Center for the Arts. in 2022, I directed Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS.
Branwyn Ritchie as Charlotte Corday. Photo: Tim Gurczak
Mikayla Bishop as Marie Antoinette. Photo: Tim Gurczak
Last fall, we installed smart lights and reorganized the space to create a performance venue for Story/Creature/Scene.
***This is a good time to acknowledge that “we” often means “my husband Paul,” who often had the brightest ideas and always went up the ladder for me when I needed him! Thanks, Paul!
I taught myself QLab, so I could run sound cues from my computer. Meanwhile, I ran lights through my iPad. What a world!
This crash course was helpful later when I designed my own sound for Trifles & Escaped Alone. It’s amazing what you can do with the aid of YouTube tutorials!
Deborah Baker co-devised a solo piece with me, Holding Sway. It was a lovely process of brainstorming, co-writing, and choreography.
Carol and James kicked theatrical butt in a short play I wrote for them, You Are Here. They were hilarious, eerie, and extremely playful!
Peter brought his clown out of Zoom and into the Lab in Ophelio Wakes Up.
Photo by Justin Lahue, scenic design by Justin Lahue, lighting by Ben Bagley.
Last but far from least, it was a great joy to rehearse Trifles & Escaped Alone in the Lemon Punch studio, a setting enhanced by two exquisitely written texts performed by two dynamic casts. John, Steve, Dan, Rebecca, Pam, Sally, Barbara, Carol & Becky, it was an enormous privilege to work with you and watch you perform–every single time!
Huge thanks to Pamela Battin-Sacks & Steve Sacks,
who co-produced this show with The Firehouse. Great work, my friends!
Like Boris, I have more mischief planned in the coming months!
Thanks once again to all those students and colleagues who brought your artistry to the Lab, and to our audiences and supporters.
Best wishes in your work and play.
See you again soon!
We’re delighted to share our first boutique performance in the 14 Cedar Street studio space, November 4 – 6!
STORY/CREATURE/SCENE is a workshop performance in the intimate setting of the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio. This lineup of shorts includes a story of a girlhood experience and the marks it left behind; an eerie encounter that shifts the ground beneath two friends’ feet; and two Creature turns that culminate in an unforgettable meeting! Featuring performances by Deborah Baker, Peter Leonard-Solis, James Grillo, Carol Raiche and Leslie Pasternack, all the scenes and stories are original and were developed collaboratively. Running time is approximately 60 minutes. GET TICKETS HERE!
***Masks are strongly recommended to protect the performers and we will have masks at the door it you need one.***
Questions? Contact Leslie@lesliepasternack.com or (603) 321-8550
I’m thrilled to have directed Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS at The Firehouse Center for the Arts this winter! It opened last Friday to a packed and rowdy house, and the cast absolutely owned this comic drama about women making history during the French Revolution. Orlik Guzman, Branwyn Ritchie, Mary Sapp and Mikayla Bishop are a dream team. Each woman combines dynamic physical presence, a phenomenal voice, spot-on comedic timing and profoundly moving emotional nuance into their work in this piece. The design and stage management crews are also top-notch, so the whole show looks and sounds beautiful and really sweeps you along. I could not be more proud. And there are four more performances to enjoy!
For tickets, visit the Firehouse website HERE!
Phew! What a year, yes? I’ve wound up classes and coaching at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab for 2021 with tremendous gratitude to the students, audience members and friends who cheered us on as we kept the lights on in the studio, while hopping back on Zoom when COVID exposures threatened. Like many performance and training venues, we are adopting a hybrid schedule as we approach 2022. I are staying hopeful, but remaining careful as I lead the Lab into the new year!
First off, I’m delighted to announce that I’m directing Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS for The Firehouse Center for the Arts! That show opens on March 11th, and I’ll be hosting many of the (COVID-protocol following) rehearsals in the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio. This is what the space is for–to create art!!! I haven’t held rehearsals there since January 2020, so this makes me extremely happy.
Next, I’m expanding my Thursday pay-as-you-go offerings in January and February by alternating my successful and filled-to-capacity “Not-So-Cold Readings” with “Between the Lines” classes, which will focus on all the physicality that fills our scenes in and around the text. All in-person class participants must be fully vaccinated and agree to follow the Lab’s “COVID-safer” policies, which include staying home if you are symptomatic and being ready to pivot to Zoom if the situation requires it. This fall, we moved to Zoom for two classes following a possible exposure, and we also happily used Zoom one stormy night when we thought it was unsafe to drive! It’s great to have a new tool to help navigate the winter season.
Last update: I’m rolling out a Zoom-only Scene Study class in January for some folks who wanted to stay tucked in at home. And before we know it, spring will come, and hopefully we can all breathe easier as we continue to make and enjoy theatre. Best wishes to all!
On June 1, Lemon Punch Theatre Lab reopened our studio space at 14 Cedar Street in Amesbury for fully-vaccinated students! This month, we are doing one-on-one coaching, and we plan to bring group classes back in-person in August, after a much-needed break! We are also continuing to teach acting and playwriting via Zoom. Stay tuned for news of future in-person and Zoom offerings!
Here’s how our sunny, air-conditioned space looks this week:
And here is our sanitation station–we also have our own handicapped accessible bathroom inside the space!
We hope you’ll join us soon for in-person theatre making! Be well and stay safe!
“I’ll Be Right There” was a huge success! Thank you to all those who attended!
On February 20th and 21st, Lemon Punch Theatre Lab presented two performances of our original play, “I’ll Be Right There,” and enjoyed two marvelous post-show discussions. Steven Sacks and Pamela Battin-Sacks knocked their roles out of the park, and Martha Douglas-Osmundson led our conversations with insight and joy.
Here are some of the awesome comments from our audience:
“Felt dynamic, even in Zoom! Forgot that I was watching a play!”
“A heartfelt slice of life, and so refreshing.”
“Your play grabbed you in the beginning and never let go.”
“Mesmerizing. Kept me right there the whole time.”
We also received many fascinating comments and questions about the process of writing current events into our work and the particular challenges of performing in Zoom. These explorations will continue throughout the spring in a variety of classes and workshops.
We’ll see you again soon in the virtual Lab!
Here we are in October, still struggling to make our way forward in the midst of the COVID pandemic and an extraordinary time of political and social upheaval. Those of us who make and love theatre crave it more than ever. So the work continues, and I’m extremely grateful to have a virtual platform to keep Lemon Punch Theatre Lab alive online.
In July and early August, my explorations of Zoom theatre culminated in the third Lemon Live Festival, with 14 new plays ranging from two to fifteen minutes. This was a rehearsed, produced, ticketed event with four performances over three days, with large and responsive audiences cheering on a stellar group of playwrights and performers. In the weeks since, I have been teaching a constant succession of playwriting workshops, acting classes, and private coaching sessions, the fruits of which will roll out as more events in November and then after the first of the year.
I don’t know when I’ll be welcoming you back into the studio at 14 Cedar Street. But all this Zoom activity is helping me pay the rent on that space, which helps sustain that wonderful building full of artists. I will keep that connection alive as long as I can. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy, protect your good cheer, and please consider joining us in Lemon Punch Theatre Lab, the online play space.