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Volume 38 Issue 15 • Aug. 7 - 13, 2008
now in our 38th season

Tremendously Wonderful Newcomers:
the TWN's Resident Company

by Zoe Kirsch

Have you ever been in two shows while directing and choreographing another?  Well, I confess...neither have I.  But Joseph Gilmore, seasoned actor, Rhode Island native, and Theatre Workshop of Nantucket Resident (TWN), has.  For him and the rest of this summer's Resident Company, multitasking is a fundamental element of showbiz.  And thanks to their task juggling, eight new shows are coming to stages near you! 

Jordana Fleischut, Producing Director for the TWN, explains that the TWN's summer 2008 expansive repertoire makes Nantucket a “performing arts destination.”  First-rate theater site Nantucket certainly is: “In one week, you can see an improv show, professional comedian Kevin Flynn and friends, and Dino, a tribute to Dean Martin featuring Tony Messina.  Then, there's the main stage comedy Blown Sideways through Life featuring the hilarious Pam Diem.  Coming August 20th, Moon over Buffalo features a cast of eight famous island actors...” Fleischut continues.  And wait, there's more!  “The musical Grease, featuring the TWN Resident Company, opens at Bennett Hall August 7th.  Two children's shows, Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid, will be performed as well.”  Fleischut guarantees “at least three different performing arts options a week from July though October...That's what it's all about!” 

Why did the TWN need a Resident Company to help out in the first place?  (This is just the second year that the TWN has had one.)  “Well,” Fleischut says, “We struggled because we needed to grow to meet community demand.  TWN sought to provide youth programming that inspired, enriched, and entertained.  We needed a dedicated and talented crew of professionals to propel youth programming and the musical theater division of our theater company.  We also needed to upgrade, improve, and tighten up the technical elements... that required a full-time production stage manager.  In addition, we needed a costumer, set dresser, and hair and make up designer added to the talented resource pool to bring a show to fruition.  Several years ago, there was a lack of programming options for kids, teens, and families.  We asked ourselves, 'What should we do for those visiting Nantucket for a short time?'  Now, thanks to this dedicated Resident Company force, as well as wise scheduling, we've created a plethora of programming.  It challenges the performers and provides opportunities for Nantucket kids and teens.”

Fleischut and her team traveled far and wide to find candidates for the Resident Company.  “We attended the NETC's (Boston), Straw Hats (NYC)  and the SETC (Tennessee.)  Then we held auditions in Nantucket to complete the group.  From the 1500 people we saw, 15 were selected,” Fleischut says.  Thus, the Company is comprised of both Nantucketers and talent from across the nation.

Talented they indubitably are.  Fleischut explains that the Company is a group of “Quad-threats”:  “They can sing, they can dance, they can act, they are beautiful inside and out and love to work with kids and teen as mentors.  They also have great work ethics and positive, can-do outlooks on life.”    

Although most Resident Company constituents are tackling multiple projects at a time, Nantucket isn't all work and no play for the Company actors, who are enjoying the island.  “I've been able to see more hip spots this time because I'm on island longer than I was last year,” says Joseph Gilmore. 

At daily TWN rehearsals, members of the Resident Company bring attitudes that reflects their artful way of blending the serious and the jolly.  At Grease practice, for instance, each takes his profession seriously, whether it be acting, directing, or stage managing.  But lighthearted silliness abounds, evident when actors break out into giggles between takes. 

It's a pleasant balance that works.  The residents' acting flows naturally.  The director gives directions clearly and calmly.  One-liners tickle the small audience assembled, provoking laughter.  The actors rehearse in front of candy-colored  truffula trees left behind from Seussical Jr. the Musical.  It doesn't matter, though, because their performance stirs the imagination, evoking a 1950s style bedroom or diner where there isn't one.  Even without costumes, scenery, and lighting, the show looks spectacular.  Needless to say, the actual performances will be tip-top.   

How is the Resident Company simultaneously so silly and so successful?  Constituents bring “lots of energy to shows,” Gilmore relates, his face breaking into a wide smile.  The reason behind the enthusiasm is clear: these performers love what they do! 

“It's very creative, so you get to play with movement and character choice,” Tara Harrison, Grease choreographer, explains of her profession.  “That's what I enjoy most.”  In live performances, the performers' energy is contagious.  Whether theater-goers attend Pinnochio or The Little Mermaid, they'll surely leave the theater hummin' and boppin' along.

The Resident Company share their love of the dramatic with not only audiences, but also with local teens and adults who make up TWN cast ensembles.  Fleischut elaborates, “We have a conservatory program in Grease where each Nantucket kid is matched with a professional actor from the company.  The actors serve as mentors to the kids.”  The residents have also “directed Seussical the Musical, giving thirty Nantucket kids a chance to shine and an audience of over 1500 the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful show,” Fleischut continues.  Last, but certainly not least, the Resident Company “ will do a week-long Shooting Stars performing arts camp at the Boys and Girls Club, mentoring up to one hundred plus kids for a week and culminating in a musical show.  The kids will also be allowed to see performances of Pinnochio, The Little Mermaid and Grease for free through the club.  It will cultivate the kids' appreciation for the performing arts.”

The TWN's Resident Company has truly enabled Fleischut to meet her goal of “sustain[ing] the programming opportunities we have built for our youth... continu[ing] to help them grow an appreciation through exposure and enriching opportunities in performing arts of all disciplines from comedy, dramas, thrillers, and more on our main stage, to musical theater and children's theater.”  And show caliber isn't sacrificed for quantity:  “Each work is produced and presented with high quality standards,” Fleischut affirms.  “This pays off: audiences recognize the quality and are coming back and bringing their friends with them.  Simple business principal—we do great stuff, and we do it well.” 

Want to get in on the fun?  Call 508-228-4305 or visit theatreworkshop.com to get tickets.  Like Joseph Gilmore says, “These performances are a great way to relax in the AC for a couple hours with awesome entertainment.  Plus,” he quips, “With live theater, you never know what will happen!”
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