Hippo Manchester
December 8, 2005

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Theater: Proud of the Peacock

Nashua-based group puts theater in the hands and hearts of children

By Robert Greene    rgreene@hippopress.com

Peacock Players, based at the 14 Court Street Theater in Nashua, is all about the kids.

You will very rarely see an actor on stage who is older than 16, yet somehow they pull off doing characters who are much older.

Christa Tsechrintzis, executive director of the group, said the plays are challenging and the young actors are well-trained. The result is, she said, is a theater experience that is enjoyable to the people on both sides of the curtain.

So, whats up?

Well, weve been working on the Christmas play, A Christmas Story. Its based on the movie, with Ralphie and the BB gun and youll shoot your eye out. [A Christmas Story opens at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 and runs through Dec. 19. Tickets are $10-$15. Find out more at peacockplayers.org or call 886-7000.]

How long have you been with the Peacock Players?

I was hired two years ago as resident producer. They had an artistic director at the time and he left. I was promoted to executive director a year ago, a year and a half ago maybe.

What is your theater background?

Basically it was a hobby. I did a couple of independent films. And then I started working with Girls, Inc., which is an after-school program, and enjoyed working with kids through there. And then I saw the add for this job and it just kind of combined theater, working with kids and kind of a business aspect as well, which is what my degree is in. It combined everything.

Do you still act and direct and that kind of thing?

Im still involved with a theater group that is mostly improv and we travel around to schools and perform, Id say, realistic situations that teens face. We do a performance and then we talk about it with the kids. Its called Matter of Fact, based in Lowell, Mass.

So the executive director thing is your full-time gig and all else is in your spare time or a hobby?

Yes, Id say it is more than full time. I try to keep my hand in, at least with the group I perform with, because I find it important.

So, essentially what attracted you to Peacock was the chance to do theater with kids?

Yes, that is basically what we do. We have a summer production that we involve the parents with we call it a Family Production and the parents get to act on stage with the kids. But other than that its just kids performing throughout the year. Occasionally, well have an adult acting class but the main focus is the kids. And the education we have classes for kids 5 and up, all different types of classes that was really the draw for me. I was on the board of directors for the Lexington Players at one point before I came here, so Ive worked with adult groups as well.

Do you end up working with a lot of the same kids or do you get a lot of new faces?

Each show is open audition, so we do find that sometimes the same kids get cast. But pretty much with every show there are new kids that come in as well. Theres an audition process and they find out what we are all about and then they get addicted and just really want to do shows here.

And then they go on from here to do high school plays and college theater ...

Yes, a lot of our graduates, at least from the two years Ive been here [have continued in theater] ...  The first summer we sent two kids to [New York University], one to Juilliard .... So, its impressive. These kids are very talented. Some of them keep on doing theater and go further with it in their schools as well.

Have any Peacock kids made it to the movies or television yet?

We have a couple of kids here who have done some things extra work, commercial work. One of the kids went out to California to try out during pilot season, and he might do that again. Its not really the focus, were not here to train them to be superstars. Were here for their education and if they go on to do it, its their choice. I mean, Id love for one of them to hit it big and send us a big fat donation check. That would be great.

Are you pretty much the biggest childrens group in Southern New Hampshire?

I believe we are. I would consider us the biggest. There are different groups. There is the ActorSingers, which has a teen program, but their focus is their adult shows. The Palace Theatre actually just started doing some interesting shows with its teen group recently. They just did Les Miserables ... actually they seem to be doing all the shows weve already done. They are up there. But for some reason the kids just seem to be attracted to our group. There is just something about it, they just love being here. We get all the most talented kids in the area.