“Powerful Artistry” in Progress! Be sure to SAVE THE DATES for Into the Woods: November 17, 18 & 19
By Ellen Davis
The Horace Greeley Theatre Company is hard at work. Rehearsals have begun for “Into the Woods” which is scheduled for November, 17th, 18th and 19th. I hope you all come out to see how talented our students are. They are singing, dancing and acting. They are building sets. They are creating costumes. They are assistant directing. They are playing music. They are working tech. They are designing hair and makeup. I got a sneak peek. The kids sound amazing and it is truly a joyous atmosphere. Recently I had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming year with Horace Greeley’s Theater Director Jonathan Gellert. Here’s what he had to say.
Ellen Davis: I think “Into the Woods” is such a wonderful ensemble musical. Why did you choose it?
Jonathan Gellert: I’ve have wanted to direct “Into the Woods” for many years and have always held off because, although it provides a uniquely large number of roles, it is not written with an ensemble. It is very important to me to have at least one show a season that provides an opportunity for every student who wishes to perform. That said, I decided pretty early on last year that “Into the Woods” would be the best show to start off this year for a number of reasons (the cast breakdown–the challenge provided by the material – the timeless message) and I have been looking for ways to involve more cast members in as much action as the production will allow.
ED: It must have made you feel great to see how many kids auditioned? There seems to be some wonderfully talented students.
JG: There are 22 students in “Into The Woods” who are completely new to Greeley Theater and 15 of them are Freshmen. It absolutely makes me and the rest of the Performing Arts department feel great to see those numbers and to be working with so many excited and motivated young artists.
ED: You are starting your second year at Greeley. How’s it going so far?
JG: As I start my second year at Greeley I am incredibly optimistic about the future of this program. Chappaqua is such a special strong passionate community that is uniquely devoted to the arts and Greeley is an extraordinary place, full of bright, hardworking and talented students. I will do everything I can this year and in the years ahead to give this school and community the program that it deserves.
ED: What can we expect this year from the Theatre Repertory company?
JG: The Actors in the Repertory Theater class are learning “Linklater”–that is they are working carefully and thoughtfully to lay the foundation of grounded connected performance. Linklater work and work inspired by Kristen Linklater is a staple of every major theater training program in the English speaking world. It is an advanced training that requires serious focused work and does not offer immediate gratification; however, if the exercises are approached with professionalism, maturity and diligence then they are an investment in truly powerful artistry. We are going to take this work and apply it to our first project which is an evening of the short later experimental plays of “Samuel Beckett”. These works explore stillness and motion, silence and stream of thought and light and darkness in beautiful ways. These short plays also provide tremendous challenges for the student designers in the class. The designers in the Repertory Theater class are being mentored for this project by Charles Kirby –a professional scenic designer based in NYC. Second semester the Repertory Theater class will work on more naturalistic scene work and designers will create models and renderings. We will then work together to create an original piece.
ED: What other productions are on tap?
JG: After “Into the Woods” the next production on tap is “Peter and the Starcatcher.” This prequel to Peter Pan is in my opinion one of the most exciting new plays in the last 20 years. It has just become available for licensing and is being produced widely in many theaters, universities and high schools. The original Broadway cast had only one female but I plan to cast the production of 12 principles and up to eight additional ensemble evenly between male and female. I am also lucky to be good friends with two members of the original cast and have been promised that barring out of town work, they would be very happy to come and work with us here at Greeley. The next production will be an evening of three plays by Thornton Wilder. Before Wilder wrote “Our Town” he experimented with form and created a number of profound, original short works. These works play with time and space as they capture the universals within the everyday interactions of people going about their lives in early 20th century America. Finally, Springfest this year will once again offer an exciting opportunity for playwrights and directors to present their original works.
ED: Please let everyone know when “Into the Woods” will be performed and when tickets will go on sale?
JG: Into the Woods will be performed November 17th at 7 p.m., November 18th at 8 p.m. and November 19th at 8 p.m. Tickets will be on sale by the last week in October.
ED: What would you tell a student that is curious about the theater program?
JG: I would tell a student who is interested in the Greeley Theater program that we offer a place here for you to stretch, grow, take risks, and explore. In addition to our full production schedule, design and technical students have an opportunity to learn stagecraft from the ground up and for those who exhibit the dedication and drive, to assume leadership positions in set construction, lighting, sound and costuming.
The Theater program offers acting classes at every level, beginning with Acting 1 that lays a solid foundation of improvisation and play which will help you to get more and more comfortable on stage; Acting 2,3,4 which will teach you a solid acting technique; Repertory Theater which is designed for the serious student to take on greater and great challenges and Play writing and Directing class which culminates in our annual festival of new work. There is a place for you here at Greeley Theater!
ED: Please feel free to add anything you would like included.
JG: “Love the art in yourself–not yourself in the art” is central to my philosophy. I deeply believe that this quotation by Konstantin Stanislavski–the founder of modern acting training is at the heart of a healthy and safe environment.
Ellen Davis writes, produces and directs video content. She is also a Friends of Greeley Theatre board member.