Waking up the theater
NH actress directs Derryfield production
Adam Coughlin firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lindsay Devino is no stranger to acting success. As a high school student she won two NH Theatre Awards and she later attended the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York City. Most recently she completed the NETworks National Tour of The Drowsy Chaperone and starred in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of the same show. Now she is stepping off the stage and will see if all her skill can be passed on to young actors.
Devino is co-directing (with Tim Hackney) the Derryfield Repertory Theatre presentation of The Drowsy Chaperone at The Derryfield School Theatre, 2108 River Road in Manchester. Described as a musical within a play, The Drowsy Chaperone, first produced in 1998, is a homage to the musicals of the 1920s.
“It is a huge challenge,” Devino said. “I don’t have a lot of directing experience.”
What she does have is an intimate understanding of a Tony-award winning production that has not been performed in this area before. This is why when the Derryfield Repertory Theatre, which is led by Devino’s mother, Laurel, chose this production, Devino seemed like a natural fit to direct — especially since she not only performed the show many times, but truly loves it. Having such intimacy with the performance can, however, make her job a bit more difficult.
“It is tempting to make suggestions to the kids based on some of the performances I’ve seen,” said Devino. “But I want them to make their own choices. A lot of the characters in the musical are stock characters like a ditzy blonde or a burly gangster. It is a great experience to see what each actor brings uniquely to the roles and characters.”
While Devino wanted the actors, who are high school and college aged and include Nashua residents Jacqui Grilli, John Barsoian, Rachel Chazanovitz and Mike Morrissey, to have creative flexibility, she also knew that, because The Drowsy Chaperone is so silly and fun, productions can make it a caricature of itself.
Not wanting this to happen, she took the cast to Oqunquit to watch their professional counterparts perform. Devino said it was a great experience for the kids, who got to peek backstage and meet Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame.
Kressley starred in the role of the Man in the Chair, who is sitting in his modern apartment when he puts on his favorite record, the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. Suddenly, a musical bursts to life inside the apartment.
“The show is a love letter to musical theater,” Devino said. “Going into it without knowing anything is the best way to go. It is so much fun and there are so many surprises. The style of the show belongs to The Drowsy Chaperone and to The Drowsy Chaperone only. It’s vaudeville but with really clever wit.”
Devino uses wit and patience to work with the actors and she said it can, at times, be a struggle because she has performed the musical so many times herself. But she is a firm believer that actors are not only born great but can be taught over time. Devino said she had great teachers when she was younger and wouldn’t be the same actor today without their influence. She hopes to pass some of those skills down to her young pupils.
“What is beautiful about acting is that you never reach perfection,” Devino said. “You can always continue to work on it.”
The work off-stage is also helping Devino on it. She said watching the audition process, noting what choices the other actors make with a character and just being so totally involved with the production is educational and is helping her as an actress.
So far one of the highlights of her career was the nearly year-long national tour for The Drowsy Chaperone. Devino said one of her favorite cities was Madison, Wis., but the overall best part of the tour was seeing new audiences react to the musical for the first time.
“I really hope New Hampshire audiences come because it is such a unique theatrical experience,” Devino said.