But will it play in New Hampshire?
Yellow Taxi’s next show is a balancing act; NH fights for national festival spot
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
First produced in 1990, The American Plan, by Richard Greenberg, beams attention at an era when your path was chosen for you. A wealthy Jewish widow, her daughter and their maid are spending the summer in a Catskill resort in 1960 when a young man enters the daughter’s life. But information about him is withheld, and the arrival of another man causes significant changes.
Presented by Yellow Taxi Productions March 1 through March 4, The American Plan explores “the way people were sort of trapped in their box” regarding their social identity in 1960, Artistic Director Suzanne Delle said. Yet that makes staging it a challenge.
Initially Tajoura Davis of Manchester, an active community performer, was resistant to debuting in the professional Yellow Taxi troupe as the black maid in The American Plan. Davis didn’t want to play that stereotype, Delle said.
“I said ‘Well, I need someone who’s not going to make it a stereotype,” Delle said.
“In lesser actors’ hands you’d have one-dimensional characters. It’s my job and their job to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Delle said. It’s pivotal to the play that “the box that their characters are put in doesn’t become all that they are.” The Yellow Taxi founder is back in the director’s position for this performance, after acting in YTP’s The Countess in the fall.
Portsmouth area actor Joshua Moore is debuting with YTP, through open auditions, although Lindsey Duso of Washington, D.C., was recruited to play the role of the daughter. Delle said Duso could portray the vulnerability required. Delle directed Duso as Lady Macbeth while they were classmates in an M.F.A. directing program at Catholic University in D.C. Duso spent January with a Shakespeare company in Lenox, Mass., and Delle convinced her to stay through February for The American Plan. Duso is also teaching adult Shakespeare classes at YTP and a children’s Shakespeare vacation camp.
Andrea Defeo of Nashua plays the mother. A Nashua Theater Guild regular, Defeo worked backstage and as assistant director at YTP before this role. Her German language skills have been an asset in her role as a German Jewish émigré and Holocaust survivor, Delle said. Shawn Crapo of Manchester rounds out the cast.
Because of the play’s thematic content, Delle recommend only viewers over age 13 attend.
The American Plan runs Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3, at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, at 2 p.m. at the Stockbridge Theatre, 5 Pinkerton St., Derry. Tickets cost $20 ($15 for seniors, $10 for students) and are available through theatermania.com.
Picking up the slack and hoping for the best
Not since 1989 has a New Hampshire community theater production been sent to the biannual American Association of Community Theater festival, but that hasn’t stopped the state from hosting the feeder New England Regional Festival of Community Theatre whenever duty calls. And that’s quite often, according to David Murdo, chair of the event, to be held March 3 and 4 at Concord City Auditorium. Adjudicators will chose one of the five participating productions to send to Charlotte, N.C., in June to compete nationally.
Ghostlight Theater Co. of Salem and the Milford Area Players were chosen from ten participants in the fall at the NH Community Theatre Association festival to represent the Granite State. Western Massachusetts sends one group, while two productions represent eastern Massachusetts. A Maine participant backed out, organizers said. Rhode Island and Connecticut often participate but will not this year, and Vermont is not usually involved, organizers said. Former NHCTA treasurer Jerry White explained it’s difficult for companies to keep a production together between festivals because of life changes of the cast. Murdo said there is no monetary prize or stipend for the regional competition, so many groups can’t afford it.
Ten regions participate in the national AACT festival — nine in the U.S. plus overseas military and dependents. The southeast sends two productions, and whichever other region has the highest number of participants can send two so 12 productions participate nationally, taking part in workshops, parties and receptions as well as performances. International festival representatives attend AACT’s festival to invite U.S. participants, said White of Amherst. His wife Patricia serves as an AACT board representative for Region 1, New England. Music and Drama Company of Londonderry made it to the AACT festival in 1989 for staging Pvt. Wars, for which they were invited to compete in Dundalk, Ireland, she said, but no New Hampshire group has advanced to the national level since. However the biannual regional has been held in New Hampshire for the past ten years, Murdo said, mainly because no one else wants the legwork. Two years ago it was held at Saint Anselm College, and four years ago at the Audi.
The 2007 New England regional is hosted by the NHCTA and the New England Theatre Conference. Mary Britt, the president of the AACT board, will travel from Florida to serve as the out-of-region adjudicator. Wil Kilroy, professor of theater at the University of Southern Maine, and Suzanne Ramczyk, professor of theater arts at Bridgewater State College, are the other judges, Jerry White said, explaining it’s important that the judges are not familiar with the entries. On Saturday, Kilroy leads a workshop called “The Acting Techniques of Michael Chekhov” at 9:30 a.m., and Ramczyk leads a directing workshop at 10:45 a.m. Groups perform for an hour each, starting at 12:30 p.m. each day. The public is admitted to all events for $10 each day with tickets available at the door.
Murdo’s philosophy is that a festival isn’t just a competition for best production. “It’s basically a report card for the organization.” The adjudicators give a ten-minute critique after each one-hour performance, which will be taped. “In a way, it can actually help the groups to expand and become more professional even though they are amateur,” Murdo said.
I Hate Hamlet performed by the Milford Area Players starts off Saturday, followed by Agnes of God by Arena Civic Theatre of Greenfield, Mass., and One Flea Spare by Ghostlight Theatre Co. of Salem. Graceland from Wellesley Players of Wellesley, Mass., and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress will be performed by Quannapositt Players of Reading, Mass., Sunday.
Visit nhcommunitytheatre.com for more information. The Audi is at 2 Prince St., Concord.