Lemon Punch Theatre Lab hosts first in-studio production!

We’re delighted to share our first boutique performance in the 14 Cedar Street studio space, November 4 – 6!

Deborah Baker rehearsing her monologue, DANCER.

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

THE REVOLUTIONISTS slays at The Firehouse Center for the Arts!

Mary Sapp and Orlik Guzman in The Revolutionists. Photo by Tim Gurczak.

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!

Mikayla Bishop in The Revolutionists, Photo by Tim Gurczak.
Branwyn Ritchie in The Revolutionists. Photo by Tim Gurczak.

Welcoming 2022 at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab!

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!

Lemon Punch Theatre Lab has reopened!

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!

Another Zoom success for Lemon Punch Theatre Lab!

“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!

virtual theatre marches on

Post-show applause with some of the cast and audience of Lemon Live 2.

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.

Moving in new directions, with Lemon Live!

Chatting in Zoom with three of the Lemon Live playwright/actors! Clockwise from upper left: Pauline Wright, Matt Cogswell, me, and Scott Sullivan.

Hello, friends. In this amazingly stressful time, I’m taking comfort and even finding joy creating theatre through my studio. Lemon Punch Theatre Lab, via Zoom!

I first pivoted to Zoom pretty quickly in late March, just to remain connected to my colleagues and Lemon Punch students. I had no expectations and was not at all sure how the new platform would work. It sure has its quirks! But since then, I’ve hosted two free microplay festivals, taught two multi-week classes and one movement workshop, and have now spent almost 6 weeks developing the Lemon Live New Play Festival, volume 3, which will go up on Zoom July 31- August 2. The Lemon Live team is brilliant, funny, and incredibly resourceful–we’ve produced two lineups of 7 short plays, for a total of 14 new works that challenge our idea of what Zoom theatre can be. For more information, or to book your tickets, visit the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab “box office.”

During this play development process, I asked one of the playwrights, Haley Dunning, if she’d like to co-direct one of her pieces with me, and it’s been extremely fun to collaborate! She asked me one day for some pointers, and I came up with a list that sums up my approach to theatre directing, and leadership in general, pretty well. So I want to share it with you!

We all need to lead with “what’s working,” rather than, “this isn’t working for me.” If we receive too much negative criticism and no highlights of what is good, we may throw out all of our work, get confused and lose confidence. So I try to always lead with what is working—often actors don’t even realize it, so it’s important to draw their attention to their successes.

In acting, as in writing, we don’t want to simply evoke static emotional states. We want to see/hear real people doing things. Acting is doing. So I talk a lot about thinking in verbs rather than adjectives. Instead of, “She needs to be more sad here,” you might say, “Could you try to mourn the loss?” Or, instead of saying, “I think she’s defensive,” you would say, “I think she might try to defend herself.” You might follow that up by saying, “Hmmm, how do we defend ourselves? What verbs are embedded in that? Does she attack someone? Does she blame another person? Does she deflect attention from herself?” Verbs keep the performance realistic and interesting.

Ask your actors/writers/designers questions. You may have all kinds of ideas about improving the scene, but until you know what your collaborators are thinking, you can’t shape your ideas to suit their frame of reference. Also, in listening to their response, you will learn more about your own ideas and might see ways to refine or improve them. Lastly, when people feel listened to first, they are often more relaxed and willing to listen to you back.

Set a calm tone. If you are frazzled, acknowledge it. If there’s something you don’t know, say, That’s a great question, I will find that out for you! Actors get nervous when they feel the director isn’t calm. The director doesn’t need to have all the answers right away—in fact, they shouldn’t, if they want to foster collaboration and exploration. But you can model a relaxed, interested response to challenges that come up. For example—oh, if we all turn off our cameras in Zoom, something weird happens?! That’s interesting! I will sort that out and get back to you on we’re going to handle that.

Remember that it’s only a play. While many of these scripts give us the opportunity to explore serious topics and feelings, ultimately we are not working not he COVID vaccine or defusing a bomb, so we should give permission for people to be less hard on themselves. We maintain a foundational level of respect and consideration for each other’s time and talent, but we don’t push people when they are uncomfortable. If it’s not fun, why make theatre? Keeping the play in perspective helps you create and maintain an upbeat rehearsal space. And we all need that right now!

So, those are my tips for directing, and for life right now. Give me a holler and tell me what works for you in the studio, whether it’s live in-person or on Zoom!

Lemon Live Microplay Fest a success in ZOOM!

On March 31st, 13 playwrights and 12 additional attendees took part in the LEMON LIVE MICROPLAY FESTIVAL, which set the challenge to write a 150-word, 2-character play on some aspect of this coronovirus moment. It was joyous to be together, virtually through ZOOM, and the plays were both moving and hilarious. The event was also a great way for me to explore the cool features and unique challenges of making theatre that is live in time but spatially fragmented and mediated through a standardized platform. Just in time, too, since I’m kicking off my Advanced Scene Study class in Zoom on April 12th! A huge round of thanks to all the playwrights, readers and audience members. Thank you for helping us keep theatre alive while keeping ourselves and the community safe! Visit Lemon Punch Theatre Lab to learn more.

theatre in the time of coronavirus

Hello, everyone. Like the rest of the world, I have been following the news of the pandemic with an eye towards understanding responsible courses of action. It is now clear that it would not be safe to resume face-to-face classes at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab any time soon. Please stay tuned for the all-clear signal to re-join me in the Lab!
In the meantime, I have been inspired and moved by the many performing artists who are finding ways to stay connected and creative online. So, I plan to roll out some free online activities that people can try with me while we wait out this period of separation. To begin, I am borrowing an idea from the Dramatists Guild:
Call for Submissions to the LEMON LIVE MICRO-PLAY FESTIVAL!
To connect, to share, to vent, to mourn, to laugh, please write a 2-character play of no more than 150 words. The theme should be anything related to this coronavirus moment. In keeping with the Dramatists’ Guild guidelines, please write lines that could be read by people of any age, gender, background or circumstance, without rehearsal.
The deadline is Monday, March 23 at 5 pm!
One play per writer, please.
The LEMON LIVE MICRO-PLAY FESTIVAL will be held Tuesday, March 31st at 7 pm, online platform TBA. ***In-studio, truly LIVE performance to be scheduled as soon as safely possible!
Send your submissions in .doc or .pdf format to Leslie, with the subject heading “LEMON LIVE” followed by your last name.
Please include your full name and preferred contact information in the body of your message.
I look forward to writing and reading with you!
Be well and stay tuned for more virtual theatre from LPTL!

busy busy busy!

We’re shaking’ booties at the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio!

I feel neglectful of this blog because I’ve been so busy developing, promoting, and teaching classes at my new studio! Please know that all is well, and if you’d like to see what’s happening over there–and even join my newsletter’s mailing list–you can visit my studio’s website HERE!