It was such an honor for me to attend the opening night of John Patrick's A Bad-Year for Tomatoes at the Phoenix Stage in Naugatuck. As I sat in my front row seat I realized how many shows I have attended at this wonderful hometown theatre in the two years since it opened. I have seen a small fraction of the 200 performances at this young stage; I only missed the first show Bleacher Bums (although I saw a short preview of it during the ribbon cutting ceremony). I have attended every show since then at least once, and many times once to write my review and a second time to enjoy it with my group of coworkers. Of course I appeared in all eight performances of The Last Supper as well.
Partner Ed Basset, who was smartly dressed in order to serve as house manager, has probably seen more of the 200 performances than just about anyone. He was obviously very proud of this accomplishment as he announced before the show. He covered all the upcoming events and why the night was special.
The audience included some actors that have appeared on the PSC stage and volunteers who have helped to dress it. Many relatives of A Bad-Year for Tomatoes cast member sported black t-shirts with the show's logo. Volunteers passed out bags of free and endless popcorn as well as buttons with the Phoenix's orange phoenix logo. Partner and photographer extraordinaire Sharon A. Wilcox was snapping many photos and partner Agnes Dann, stunning in a lovely wrap dress, mingled with the large audience. She mentioned to me that tickets for the Dave Diedrich concert are selling fast and will have to be limited due to the size of the venue. I am looking forward to attending this concert so close to home.
After the show, one young patron waited at the stage curtain with his program in hand in hopes of getting an autograph from his favorite actor. Daniel R. Willey graciously complied. A lovely reception followed the performance and all were invited to stay and mingle with the cast of this show. As I lifted my glass in a toast to "200 more," I was struck by how impressive this milestone is for the volunteers and the partners of the Phoenix Stage Company and how fortunate I have been to be a member of "the family."
Mr. Bassett shared that the upcoming Every Christmas Story Ever Told has been cast and that he will be in it. I found out from sound effects guru Brian Elser (who auditioned) that the other two actors will be Ian Diedrich and Rob Richnavsky. In a twist of interesting casting, Mr. Bassett will play both the Grinch and Santa. During intermission I also got the inside scoop on the upcoming Naugatuck Teen Theater show from Nolan Cummings, the son of John Cummings ("The Sheriff") who had appeared on Backstage with Johnny O that morning with his dad. Teen Theater will be presenting Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing directed by Kathy Cook at St. Michael's Parish Hall in Naugatuck. The show opens on October 27 at 8:00 and runs through the following weekend, with Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm.
Next season at the Phoenix will include an original play by Mr. Bassett called Murder at the Prop Table. This show was selected as a finalist for Best Overall Production of a Staged Reading in the Planet Connection Theatre Festival in New York City. Phoenix Stage Company also published a call for new one acts and full length plays and musicals. The One Act reading committee is busy at work with over 300 submissions to date; Mr. Bassett opened submission number 309 that afternoon. Because of the amazing response, they have actually decided to add a second One Act Weekend in November of 2013 to accommodate more One Acts.
They published the call for new full length plays and musicals in August and have received 95 plays and three musicals for consideration in the 2014 season. The deadline for submissions is May 2013. I have been asked to be a part of a monthly reading group that will meet at Phoenix once a month to read a play (or two) and apply a score based on a matrix they have established. I am so looking forward to reading these submission and having a hand in picking the winners. I might even audition for one of them, but with four musicals coming in the next season, I think my chances are pretty good of achieving my goal of being a pit singer.
Congratulations to Naugatuck Valley's Community Theatre on reaching a major milestone in such a short time. I am confident that you will be celebrating 400 in no time and I will once again be cheering in the front row. Look for my review of this very funny play very soon.