Category Archives: theater

‘Best’ bet of the season — Holiday show must go on at Triumvirate

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Gladys, played by Charli Byrd, performs her superhero rendition of the Angel of the Lord, disrupting the Christmas pageant that director Grace Bradley, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom, is attempting to stage.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Gladys, played by Charli Byrd, performs her superhero rendition of the Angel of the Lord, disrupting the Christmas pageant that director Grace Bradley, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom, is attempting to stage.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and said unto them —

“Shazam! Out of the black night, with horrible vengeance, the mighty Marvo!”

At least, that’s how it goes when Gladys Herdman plays the angel in the annual church Christmas pageant. She’s the youngest of the herd of six Herdman kids. Altogether, the brood is more unruly, ill-mannered and wild than anything that would eat out of a manger.

“They’re basically raising themselves, they run amok, they’re hoodlums, they smoke and they curse and they bully the other kids. They’re really terrible children,” said Kate Schwarzer, who’s directing “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at Triumvirate Theatre this weekend.

In the show, the pageant is a staple church tradition of the Christmas season, but the usual director is out with a broken leg, leaving eager but inexperienced Grace Bradley, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom, to take the helm. Her enthusiasm, patience and optimism know no bounds, until the Herdman kids decide to participate and bully their way into the lead roles.

“So, Imogene has volunteered to be Mary — I’ll just write that down. Now, what other names can I put on my list? Janet? Roberta? Alice, don’t you want to volunteer?” Bradley says, as other kids are too intimidated by the Herdmans to speak up.

Gladys, the youngest Herdman, played by Charli Byrd, is convinced the Angel of the Lord is a superhero, and regularly sends rehearsals off track with her dramatic outbursts.

“I know a name! I’d call it, ‘Revenge and Bethlehem!’” she shouts.

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Melodrama in the making — Kenai Performers’ drama club entertains dramatic education

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Holly Berry, played by Brittany Gilman, bursts with hope that her love interest, Randolf the bowlegged cowboy, can save their town of Mistletoe from the villainous Rolland N. Dough.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Holly Berry, played by Brittany Gilman, bursts with hope that her love interest, Randolf the bowlegged cowboy, can save their town of Mistletoe from the villainous Rolland N. Dough.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

“The most wicked, the most dastardly, the most evil, the most despicable villain of all time.”

The dastardly villain of reference would be Rolland N. Dough. A name and title like that, and audience participation to boot, can only mean one thing — melodrama.

Specifically, the Kenai Performers’ youth drama club performed “Rollin’ in Dough in Mistletoe” Saturday at Soldotna Creek Park. The play joined music, hot cocoa and cookies, singing, a visit from Santa and the lighting of the Christmas tree in the city’s second annual Christmas in the Park celebration.

This was the first public performance of the newly formed Kenai Performers’ youth program. The drama club is for grades six to 12 and meets Monday evenings during the school year. Sally Cassano, Kenai Performers board president, said the club involves everything from onstage performing to backstage set building.

“I’ve wanted for a long time, and so has Terri, to come up with a program for kids, like an after school-type of program, much in the spirit of Boys and Girls Club, that sort of thing, where they have something to do and they’re learning from a young age. Things like theater vocab, theater etiquette, theater everything,” Cassano said.

Board member Terri Burdick also runs the drama club, and directed “Rollin’ in Dough in Mistletoe.” Because nothing says Christmas like dastardly villains and damsels in distress, set in the Wild West, no less.

“I love melodrama and it kind of shows,” she said. “And as I was looking through Christmas scripts this melodrama just said, ‘Terri, this is it.’ And I liked that it has the Christmas song lyrics in it because it makes it funny and just fun.”

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A new stage —  Land donation allows theater group to build permanent home

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Kenai Performers have staged shows wherever they could find space throughout the group’s 40-plus-year history, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Kenai Central High School this winter. The city of Kenai is donating a parcel of land for the group to build its own theater.

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Kenai Performers have staged shows wherever they could find space throughout the group’s 40-plus-year history, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Kenai Central High School this winter. The city of Kenai is donating a parcel of land for the group to build its own theater.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” But after 45-plus years of performing, here, there and anywhere space could be found, the Kenai Performers want a corner of the world for their own stage.

With a vote by the Kenai City Council at its meeting April 15, it looks like that might happen. The council voted unanimously to authorize the city manager to work on a donation of about two acres of land to the nonprofit organization, on which it can build a theater.

“I was very pleasantly surprised. I’ll admit I shed a tear,” said Sally Cassano, board president of the Kenai Performers.

The organization has rented several locations over the years, currently the old Peninsula Athletic Club next to Subway on Kalifornsky Beach Road. And it owned a building in Kenai for a couple of years, on the corner of North Spruce Street and First Avenue. But pre-existing buildings haven’t met the theater organization’s unique needs — for performance space, lots of storage, a lobby, areas for technical equipment, and the bathrooms, parking space, safety systems and other requirements for facilitating large crowds.

“Right now we’re just spending so much on storage and rent. And it was difficult in the old building, as well, because once we got in there the stipulations on us for getting to be able to hold a group of people in there were really too much. We didn’t realize the air exchange system and things like that,” Cassano said.

So the group has been looking to build, but land in the city was out of its reach.

“The price of land is skyrocketing, and we were looking at down K-Beach but then it kind of removes us from Kenai,” she said.

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Coat of charms — Production of ‘Joseph’ has colorful treats up its sleeve

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai Performers cast of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” rehearse the finale number Monday. The show opens Friday in Kenai.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai Performers cast of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” rehearse the finale number Monday. The show opens Friday in Kenai.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Some might be familiar with the Biblical story of Joseph. In a nutshell: His brothers are jealous of his favored relationship with their father and get him shipped off to slavery in Egypt, where his skill at interpreting dreams lands him a position of power with the Pharaoh. Famine drives his brothers to Egypt to seek aid and Joseph must decide whether to help/forgive them. (Spoiler — he does.)

It’s one of the classic Bible lesson stories of the importance of love, responsibility and forgiveness. And dancing camels. And that Elvis was king of more than just rock and roll. And if you want to beg leniency for someone facing execution, do it to a reggae beat. And that subtlety is overrated in a world where neon tie-die and disco music are available.

That’s the Kenai Performers’ interpretation of the story, anyway, as they stage the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this weekend and next.

“I’ve always loved the show. I thought, in the middle of winter we needed something colorful and warm and sandy. And that’s what we got,” said Terri Zopf-Schoessler, director and choreographer.

Someone not familiar with the show might think a retelling of a Biblical tale set in the desert involving attempted fratricide, exile, slavery and famine might be a depressing affair. Take the hint from “Technicolor” in the title. “Joseph” is an all-in experience — all colors, all styles of music, all singing, all the time.

Joseph holds court in his new role of power in Egypt.

Joseph holds court in his new role of power in Egypt.

“It goes from country western up to jazz to just crazy ’70s kind of music, disco, reggae, and all that stuff,” said Lester Steward, who plays Joseph. “It’s a very good, clean, fun time. It’s a great story, very entertaining, especially for children, it’s got bright colors and it’s really fun singing. Plus it really is a great message, about being confident in yourself. And even though things get you down, you have to believe in yourself, and any dream will do.”

 

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Tradition’s center stage in holiday season plays — Triumvirate presents Christmas classics

Photos courtesy of Triumvirate Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge (Allen Auxier) is led to some self-realization by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Terri Burdick) in Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Photos courtesy of Triumvirate Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge (Allen Auxier) is led to some self-realization by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Terri Burdick) in Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For the most part, holidays are celebrated through tradition. But nothing can stay the same forever.

Twinkling lights updated to LED bulbs. Family connections kept up through eCards and video calls. Turkey dinner made with maybe a little trans fat, but no less love.

This month Triumvirate Theatre serves up two helpings of traditional shows with a dash of newness for first-time audiences.

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will be performed one more weekend, as dinner theater Dec. 19 and 20 and just the show Dec. 18. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” opens this weekend, Dec. 12 and 13, and will be performed again Dec. 26 and 27. Both are staged at Triumvirate North, five miles north of Kenai on the Kenai Spur Highway.

Both were chosen for their nostalgia factor.

“We’ve done ‘A Christmas Carol’ several times, but I’ve always wanted to do it in a bigger way, and our new theater provided the opportunity to do that,” said Joe Rizzo, who directs the play. “So ghosts could appear magically, and we could have more room to build a more impressive set — that type of thing.”

Dickens’ story, of businessman Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation into a more generous person through visitations by his old business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, was itself a mix of old and new at the time it was published, in 1843. Not only were Christmas trees and greeting cards new conventions, but the happy ending of Scrooge’s redemption helped restore some festivity and merriment to a season that had been marked by Victorian-era somberness. Yet the point of the tale — encouraging kindness and helping those less fortunate — was a reminder then as it still is now.

“I like the fact that the message, even though it was written over 150 years ago, is something that we still have around us today,” Rizzo said. “When Scrooge says, ‘Are there no prisons, and union workhouses,’ where people can go who are poor and destitute? We still hear those same types of things today — aren’t there food stamps, don’t my taxes go to pay for housing, why should I give to charity at this point? So I think the message is still very relevant, which is that everyone is part of the human race and we all have to help each other out.”

And yet, the play transforms a bit every time it’s performed.

“I think there’s always a different interpretation every time I’ve done this play. Even if I use the same script, actors bring a different interpretation to it,” he said.

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A vote for satire — Triumvirate’s election-year “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” set to spoof

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It’s down-to-the-wire time as Nov. 4 approaches. Campaign signs dominate the landscape. Election rhetoric is omnipresent. Speeches are being perfected. Images are being tweaked. Digs and jabs at opponents are being sharpened. Song-and-dance routines are being polished. All the last-minute stops are being pulled out to catch attention.

That’s not only the case for candidates. The performers of Triumvirate Theatre’s “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” political satire show are rehearsing their lines for Friday’s opening night as frantically as a candidate in the homestretch of the election.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

It’s hard to say which is funnier at this point — the sketches as written, lampooning some of the biggest quirks, quips and personalities of this year’s election season — or the sidebar comments made while preparing them.

“Am I supposed to be screaming because I’m getting attacked by a bear, or because someone wants me to go on Sound Off?” said Chris Pepper, seeking clarification during a sketch where he plays Thom Walker, the one-time Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate, trying to survive in the literal wilds of Alaska as well as the political wilds as a third-party candidate.

“Wait, are you going to talk like you’re on helium the whole time?” director Joe Rizzo asked Dan Pascucci, playing, at that moment, an agitated Matt Wilson, KSRM’s general manager, berating news director Catie Quinn for not being able to drop her Australian accent in pronouncing the radio station’s call letters. A “My Fair Lady,” “Wouldn’t it be loverly” riff ensues.

“Yes,” Pascucci replied. “I’ll probably pass out, but it will be hilarious.”

Triumvirate has been doing “Lame Ducks” every other year since 2006, creating each show from scratch to parody whatever is making news, raising eyebrows and rolling eyeballs that election year. The actors onstage poke fun at people on the local, statewide and national stage, and the donations of humor are doled out evenly between the parties.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

“Humor is the highest value, not the politics,” Rizzo said.

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Nothing mild about these manners — Kenai Performers serve up laughs in ‘Leading Ladies’ dinner theater

By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

A drawing room, in the Victorian era, was a grand room of the house, as prim as it was proper, used to receive and entertain special guests, all the while adhering to the strictest manners.

A drawing room comedy, however, turns all that on its ear — to the extent where one might as well stick a banana in the ear, for all that manners matter. The prim-and-proper setting only serves as juxtaposition for ridiculously premised, heavy-on-hilarity, sight-gaggy farce. The style is as funny as it is incongruous, and “Leading Ladies,” by Ken Ludwig, presented as dinner theater by the Kenai Performers, does not disappoint.

“It’s the old-fashioned drawing room comedy — men in dresses, I mean, seriously,” said director Terri Zopf-Schoessler. “They are willing to dance in pumps and wear costumes with wings and run around stage in braziers filled with rice. We can’t stop laughing at ourselves. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve directed.”

Two down-on-their-luck British actors are on tour in America and happen to see a newspaper article in which an elderly heiress is looking for the two long-lost offspring of her deceased sister. The actors hatch a plan to present themselves as dear old — emphasis on the old — Aunt Florence’s nephews, only to realize in the nick of plan-B-hatching time that she’s looking for her nieces.

“They have a trunk full of costumes and a tremendous need for a million dollars each, so they decide to go as Maxine and Stephanie, and, of course, fall in love with real girls as they’re dressed as women. So they’re trying to woo real girls and make costume changes and ingratiate themselves to Aunt Florence at the same time,” Zopf-Schoessler said.

To find two such willing performers to tackle the men-seeking-women-while-playing-women parts, she recruited two of her now-graduated drama students from Skyview High School — Jacob Coreson and Daniel Rozak. They now are all grown up, requiring some ingenuity by costumer Chris Cook, who has ended up on a first-name basis with the “very sweet man who answers the drag queens’ costuming website phone,” who shipped a pair of size-18-wide black pumps for Coreson to wear, Zopf-Schoessler said.

But coming up with the costumes is only half the battle. Getting the guys used to wearing them is another matter entirely.

“‘How do you put on these hose? How do you walk in these heels? My back aches from this brazier! And lipstick, how do you get this crap off?’ They have learned a lot of respect for what women go through,” Zopf-Schoessler said.

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