Monday, August 27, 2012

Multi-Generational Cast Takes to the Stage

Multi-Generational Cast Takes to the Stage

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater and Connecticut Heritage Productions are joining creative forces this holiday season with a co-production of A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel.  The play will perform at Oddfellows Playhouse from December 6-15A Civil War Christmas received its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven in 2008.  The play is by Paula Vogel, with music by Daryl Waters.

“One of Paula Vogel’s original sources of inspiration for writing this play was to create a truly, unique American Christmas production.  So many of our standard holiday cultural pieces are imported from other countries – A Christmas Carol, the Nutcracker and so forth,” said Peter Loffredo, artistic director of Connecticut Heritage Productions. 

The play, directed by Loffedo, will feature a multigenerational cast of actors from the community.  The play is set in Washington, D.C., and along the Potomac during a Christmastime near the end of the Civil War. Vogel weaves together notable historical facts and figures with fictional characters and events to explore the celebration of Christmas and the state of our nation during wartime.

Oddfellows and CHP have joined forces on various projects in the past including Higher Ground: an original play dramatizing the long struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality, and the Connecticut Valley Student Playwrighting Competition.  They approach this production with the goal of bringing together various perspectives and members of the community to explore the theme of life in wartime and an examination of our celebration of the Christmas holiday.

“Oddfellows and CHP thought this was a great production to approach with a multigenerational cast because of the age range of characters in the play.  There is a lot to learn as an actor when you are portraying a character your own age, rather than someone 20 or 30 years older.  Equally as important is the different point of views that a cast with different life experiences brings to a production.  It is important that we teach our young people different points of view on the world and on our history as a nation,” said Oddfellows’ Executive Director Matt Pugliese

Auditions will be open to all members of the community and will held be at Oddfellows on September 18 & 19 from 7-9pm.  Auditions will consist of readings from the script, and a prepared acapella song - such as a traditional carol or "happy birthday".

Connecticut Heritage Productions was founded in 1981 under the artistic direction of Peter Loffredo.  Its initial project was the documentary film William Gillette: A Connecticut Yankee and the American Stage.   The documentary, which features rare film footage, interviews, and re-enactments from the works of William Hooker Gillette, was six years in the making.  It had its public debut at the Wadsworth Athenaeum on June 6, 1986, and its television debut on Connecticut Public Television on July 11, 1994.  The film set the tone for CHP's early focus:  the development of new plays by Connecticut playwrights by means of the staged readings of works in progress.  During this period, Connecticut Heritage Productions also produced An Evening in the Theatre of William Gillette, which featured a revival of Gillette’s The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes; Chasing Rainbows, a new musical; and a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie.

Since then, CHP has presented over 100 stage productions including Faith Healer, The Price, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?   Equus, The Lion in Winter, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and Body & Sold. Connecticut Heritage Productions' mission is to inspire, nurture, and sustain an appreciation of the performing arts by entertaining, enlightening, and connecting our audiences to the ever-changing sensibilities of our times.

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the American Savings Foundation, the CDBG Scholarship Program, the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, the CT Department of Education, Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund, Elizabeth Carse Foundation, the Fund for Greater Hartford, the George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, the Irving Kohn Foundation, the J. Walton Bissell Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex United Way, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Middletown YSB, the National Endowment for the Arts, Northern Middlesex Cable Advisory Council, Pratt & Whitney—Middletown, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, the Stare Fund, Stop and Shop Foundation, Thomas J. Atkins Foundation, Triple Frog, LLC and WESU (88.1FM).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Support from Middlesex United Way

Oddfellows Playhouse is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from the Middlesex United Way for $36,510 in support of the Neighborhood Troupes/Arts Explorers program and the Children's Circus of Middletown.

Middlesex United Way has been a constant and generous supporter and partner of Oddfellows Playhouse, and the August 3rd performance of The Circus of Science was a perfect example of how they help children and their families each and every day.

Over 120 children from this community participated in this extraordinary summer program, learning a variety of Circus skills, engaging in non-traditional forms of physical activity, and learning to work together as a group to create a piece of art.  Daily students spent over two hours outside running, jumping, stilting, juggling, and much more, while making new friends and gaining life skills.

The Middlesex United Way is an important partner in making this happen.  This year, 72% of students who participated in Circus received financial aid.  The funding Oddfellows receives ensures that all students, regardless of means, are able to participate in this program and have access to high-quality, arts-based summer programming.  It is important for students, especially when school is out, to have the ability to continue growing and engaging in physical and enrichment activities.

On behalf of all the students, families, and staff who benefit from this support, we thank the Middlesex United Way.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Oddfellows Announces Programming Overhaul for Fall

Oddfellows Playhouse is pleased to announce its Fall 2012 Programming.  The youth theater, which provides afterschool and weekend theatrical programming, is excited to unveil a large overhaul and upgrade in its programmatic offerings.  Oddfellows’ programs use theater as a vehicle to build essential life skills, while exploring highly educational and artistic theatrical material.

“We asked our families and students for input on what Oddfellows was offering them and what they wanted to see added,” said Executive Director Matt Pugliese. 

One of the biggest changes in the Playhouse schedule is a switch from eight week to six week class sessions.  Instead of three trimesters of classes during the year, there will be four 6 week quarters.  “There are still 24 weeks of programming during the school year, but hopefully the six week course schedule fits better into families’ busy schedules,” said Pugliese.  Fall Session 1 runs for six weeks from September 17 until October 27.  Fall Session 2 runs for six weeks from October 29 through December 15.  Winter and spring session will follow, beginning January 28. 

Another effort to accommodate families with multiple children is an increase in simultaneous class offerings on weekday afternoons.  Classes are offered from 4-7pm Monday through Thursday for students K-8.  “We saw how popular Saturday morning classes were with families with multiple children.  It took a lot of logistical coordination, but nearly every afternoon, a parent can drop off their children for an hour or more and have a program at every school age level.” 

There are also more classes that explore areas outside of traditional acting.  New class offerings focus on musical theater, improvisation, circus skills, audition coaching, directing, technical theater, and playwrighting. 

Classes for the Little Fellows (ages 3-4) include Fairytales and Folksongs, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! and Dinosaur Adventures.  First Act (Grades K-1) offer Creative Drama courses themed around children’s books and adventures such as Harry the Dirty Dog, Angelina Ballerina, and The Paper Bag Princess.  Story Starters (Grades 2-3) encourage creative expression and promote confidence, self-esteem, and communication.  Once a week classes focus on skill building, while classes that meet twice a week short productions put those skills into action.  Short productions include Dr. Seuss Stories and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Kids Company (Grades 4-5) is the stage that students begin to focus more on skills and techniques.  These courses help develop the next set of vocal, physical and emotional skills.  Short productions of Connecticut Ghost Stories, The Polar Express¸ and The Nutcracker!  Sweet! will be offered.  A class in the Fundamentals of Musical Theater is offered on Saturdays.

The Junior Repertory Company (grades 6-8) offers skill based workshops throughout the week. A musical theater dance class on Wednesdays helps students build around dance and acting as storytelling devices.  Musical Theater Cabaret will put together select complete numbers on Saturdays.  The Junior Repertory Company will present a full production of Huck Finn by Eric Coble, Adapted from the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  Huck Finn flees the claws of "civilization" for the freedom of the mighty Mississippi, only to find himself running from mobs, getting shot at, stealing gold, digging escape tunnels and dressing as a woman. And perhaps his greatest adventure: unexpectedly finding his own moral compass in a world of corruption and hypocrisy.  This highly-theatrical adaptation, directed by Lorra Webb, is the second of Coble’s work produced at the Playhouse, following 2006’s Gold in the Bones. 

The Teen Repertory Company (grades 9-12) is an opportunity for adventurous, committed teenagers to experience cutting-edge theater in a supportive, challenging and non-competitive environment.  The company takes on mature, thought-provoking work with bold energy and high artistic standards.  Skill building classes and private coaching are available as well.  Courses in directing and playwrighting are featured this fall.

The season will begin with a “historical” piece by John Heimbuch, William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead: A True Account of the Zombie Plague of 1599, that will take the stage in November.  This play from the NY Fringe Festival takes place backstage on the opening night of Shakespeare’s Henry V.   Dealing with drama behind the scenes becomes more complicated when an afflicted madman enters the Globe and attacks.  As the affliction spreads through London, the Globe is placed in quarantine and the survivors within must fight for their lives.   This production is being produced by the generous support of Beverley and Tony Bellisio.

“This play is fun.  That is what initially drew me to it.  But the genre of horror is a reflection of our society, and it says a great deal about where our fears are today that we have become recently fixated on zombies and the risk of some pandemic outbreak.  During the Elizabethan era, the term “afflicted” was used synonymously for madness, illness or even demonic possession.  This play is about the fear of others,” said Pugliese.

The holiday season brings a new holiday offering to the stage, with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration.  The play, directed by Peter Loffredo, is a co-production with CT Heritage Productions, and will feature a multigenerational cast made up of Oddfellows’ Teen Rep company and CT Heritage Productions.   The piece, which received its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre in 2008, tells the story of a Christmas Eve in Washington, D.C. in 1864.  Vogel weaves together historical fact with humanizing detail and inventive fiction to explore the celebration of Christmas and our nation during wartime. 

Auditions will be Tuesday September 18 and Wednesday September 19 for the fall shows, and Tuesday January 22, 2013 and Wednesday January 23, 2013 for the winter/spring productions.
For more information about the 2012-13 season, or to purchase tickets, visit

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Circus is Here!

For 24 years, the Children's Circus has entertained audiences at the beginning of August.  Tomorrow - the Circus is back in town!

The Circus of Science
Friday August 3, 2012
Macdnough School
66 Spring Street
$5 Adults / $3 Students & Seniors

This year, Oddfellows is asking everyone to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Amazing Grace Food Pantry.  Bring a lawn chair and enthusiasm to Macdonough School and enjoy the spectacle.

Photo by Andy Szegedy-Maszak
The 24th Children’s Circus of Middletown: The Circus of Science will perform at 5 PM on August 3 at 66 Spring Street in Middletown.  Parking is limited to street locations, so carpooling is recommended. The Macdonough School lot is reserved for handicapped and elderly patrons.  Tickets are available at the door and are $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.

The Children’s Circus is made possible by the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the Middlesex United Way, Stop and Shop Foundation, Peter Abare-Brown and Courtney Antonioli and Oddfellows Playhouse’s many generous supporters.  For more information, call (860) 347-6143.