Pendragon revives play seen as ‘timely, relevant’

August 16, 2019 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise - For its final piece of the summer, Pendragon Theatre is putting on The Foreigner, a play about people’s reactions to a stranger. 

Written in 1983 by Larry Shue, the play takes place in rural Georgia in the 1980s and revolves around a British man named Charlie Baker. Baker is invited on vacation with his friend Sgt. “Froggy” LeSueur to an aging fishing lodge owned by Betty Meeks, an old friend of LeSueur. The trip is meant to be a change of pace for Baker, whose wife is ill, but he quickly finds himself immersed in the lives of those in the lodge.

Through lies and deception, the perception of Baker is different to each person he meets. He works to change his surroundings and become an interesting person by supporting and encouraging his new friends.

But everyone misunderstands him — sometimes for the better, but not always, according to director Allison Studdiford, who is now directing her fourth play for Pendragon.

As a foreigner, Baker at times faces unwanted attention.

“It’s a very timely, relevant show,” Bouchard said.

The plot takes twists and turns, bringing in relevant historic details that eventually lead to the understanding of who people are and what their real intentions are, although not everyone comes clean.

This is the third time the Pendragon is putting on “The Foreigner,” in part as a celebration of the theater’s 40th year.

“‘The Foreigner’ has been one of the most popular plays the Pendragon has ever done,” said Pendragon Artistic Director Kimberley Bouchard.

The play will likely surprise the audience with several twists and turns, according to Studdiford.

Studdiford said many of those who will see the play have likely seen it before, and some might even have seen it at Pendragon.

“I was delighted to be asked to direct this timely show. In times such as these, comedy and entertainment have their place of importance,” Studdiford wrote in a director’s note. “They serve to bring people together to share an evening, some laughter and the opportunity to be moved by someone else’s story.”

Betty Meeks owned the old fishing lodge, which is the setting of the play, with her husband until he died. The audience learns that the lodge was not a hunting cabin because her husband had seen enough guns during his time at war, according to Studdiford.

The play is meant to be a social commentary. “How do we treat the other?” is the question being asked of viewers. Some treat Baker with malice while others simply don’t understand him.

Shue, the playwright, is best known for writing “The Foreigner” and “The Nerd.”He served in the U.S. Army at Fort Lee, Virginia, from 1968 to 1972. After he jumped into theater, Shue died at age 39 in a commuter plane crash. - Kevin Shea

Pendragon’s sexton: Kent Streed has filled many roles during his more than two decades at the theatre

May 4, 2019 - Adirondack Daily EnterpriseKent Streed’s closet is unlike any other.

Most people might have a few pairs of shoes, workout gear, a set of formal clothes for weddings and funerals, and that flannel an ex gave you seven years ago that you just can’t seem to get rid of.

Streed has military uniforms, Victorian-era dresses with Bertha necklines, tricorne hats and bumblebee costumes. There are hundreds of pieces, and the ones that don’t fit on the racks are stuffed into boxes and large plastic bins. The wardrobe is organized, for the most part, but Streed said it could use some work.

“We occasionally get a few a students in here, organizing the clothes for community service,” he said. “A lot of the time they end up just trying on a bunch of the stuff.”

Streed has been a staple of the local theater scene since 1995. It’s hard to say what his job is at Pendragon Theatre — staff Jack-of-all-trades would probably be best. He likes to call himself a sexton, the person who looks after a church and does everything from ring the bell to dig graves. Streed directs, helps design sets, stitches clothing, checks emails, answers the phone and chases out the occasional squirrel. Before the start of shows, you’ll often find him handing out blankets to the audience.

“I refer to them, and I’m not trying to be derogatory here, as the Coumadin Crowd,” he said. “So if they’re on blood thinners or something like that and you keep the air conditioning at the industry standard, someone under the blower could be freezing. I hand out the blankets in the winter and in the summer just to make sure that people are comfortable.”

All in all, he has worked on more than 150 shows in the area.

Streed, who was born and raised in Iowa, said he came from rather basic beginnings. His father was a carpenter, and his mother was a stay-at-home parent who occasionally sold Avon makeup and fragrances in the 1960s. He said his interest in the stage was sparked by the Old Creamery Theatre, a playhouse his parents used to take him to in the summer. It was built in the remains of a creamery and seated fewer than 100 people. The sets were minimal, but Streed said that’s what helped the acting come alive.

“We saw ‘Death of a Salesman,’ and there was a kitchen table, a couple of chairs and off to the side maybe two twin beds,” Streed said. “We saw ‘Of Mice and Men’ there, which was basically with no scenery, maybe a bale of hay to sit on, a couple of stools.”

This style of close-quarters theater thrilled a young Streed.

“The acting was just so attractive, and there was such kind of a neat experience to be in that small of a theater that close to the actors,” he said. “Those experiences were just so incredible. It’s one of the reasons that ultimately drew me to Pendragon. It’s that kind of small, ‘Well, we’ll make it work; we’ll sweep the floor’ feel. I think there’s an innate capacity in the way people were more than willing to sit around a campfire and listen to a story and fall for it entirely. So I think doing theater that kind of relies on that impulse — the less-is-more sort of work.”

For an upcoming Pendragon show, Streed said he has to be a little more grandiose with the set design than he has before. The show is “Native Gardens,” which focuses on two neighbors vying for the best garden.

“It’s big. I’ve got to figure out a way to interpret this show that fits our space,” he said. “You know a lot of the theaters that have it done recently had huge budgets, so buying $2,000 worth of silk plants and flowers is nothing to them. That’s probably what we have to work with for both set and costume.”

Right now, Streed is working on a production of “The Hundred Dresses” based on the children’s book of the same name by author Eleanor Estes. It tells the story of a young Polish girl who just immigrated to the United States. The other kids make fun of her for wearing the same faded dress to school every day. That play also involves extra prop work because there will be 100 dresses on stage at some point.

Outside of Pendragon, Streed is often called upon by the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid school districts to take care of costuming for the student plays. He recently worked with Kim Weems and Tom Dodd for Lake Placid High School’s production of “Tuck Everlasting.”

“He can squeeze a dime until it melts, but also take a scrap of fabric and turn it into the most beautiful costume you’ve ever seen,” Weems said of Streed in a previous interview. Streed said he likes that approach — getting thrifty and creative.

“Years ago when I was working in Cohoes, I needed to make some hats for a production where these women were all singing about pastries. So I cut up a bra, used some coffee filters, and then I found a red pompom and glued that on top, and there I had my cupcake hat. You’ve got to look around, and see what you can do, and be inspired by that.”

The costume isn’t everything when it comes to acting. You actually need the talent and skill to pull off being another person. However, Streed believes a good wardrobe can make the actor more in tune with the character — make them step out of their own body and become someone else for a while.

“When an actor can look at themselves and say, ‘OK, I really look like I’m a part of this world,’ that means I’ve succeeded, and then they will succeed,” he said. “Years ago when I was in graduate school, working on ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona,’ I had to make a costume for a maid. She was a very calming figure. The actress playing her had just got done doing ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and playing Lady M in the Scottish play, so her focus was elsewhere. I brought her in for a fitting. All the costumes were based off playing cards. She gets into the two of diamonds and goes, ‘Now I know who I am in this world.'” - Griffin Kelly

Guys on Ice comedy returns to the Pendragon Theatre stage

January 28, 2019 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise-  Brenden Gotham and Lucky Cerruti zipped up their one-piece snowsuits — snug and warm.

Gotham’s was red and black with a purple chest, kind of making him look like the winterized version of a NASCAR pit crew member. Underneath he wore a shirt that said “Education is important, but ice fishing is importanter.” (Gotham teaches at a public school for a living.) Cerruti’s suit was shiny cobalt blue with reflective safety stripes running down the front and back.

However, the two weren’t gearing up for a day of snowmobiling. They were getting ready to stand and sing under a bunch of stage lights.

“We’ve also got gloves and hats and boots, so it gets pretty toasty up there,” Cerruti said.

Pendragon Theatre will perform Fred Alley’s “Guys on Ice: The Ice Fishing Musical” Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The show will run from Jan. 25 to Feb. 24.

The musical follows the endearing friendship of Marvin and Lloyd, two North Country average Joes who may have some personal struggles but can always enjoy a day of ice fishing, watching a hockey game on the boob tube and drinking beer — lots of beer.

“It’s a wonderful little snapshot of two friends at an important juncture in their lives,” director Kim Bouchard said. “These guys reveal a lot about who they are, their love lives, their relationships. There’s also a lot of fun stuff about ice fishing, too.”

Pendragon originally performed the show during Saranac Lake’s 2017 Winter Carnival with essentially the same production. One character, Ernie the Moocher, has changed, but Bouchard, Gotham and Cerruti all return. Cerruti is a former student of Gotham’s at Lake Placid High School, and he now lives in Manhattan.

“It’s not often that I come up here to do a show,” Cerruti said, “but given the opportunity to work with the same people, I couldn’t say no.”

The show was written about two guys from Wisconsin, but because both the Badger State and the North Country are cold places where people like to drink beer, plenty of local color and upstate references were added to the script. The musical takes place on Lake Colby in Saranac Lake. Marvin and Lloyd bond over the Montreal Canadiens instead of the Green Bay Packers. A couple of random names like Onchiota, Tops and Stewart’s are thrown in there as well.

“There is one interesting change that I think locals will get,” Bouchard said. “In Wisconsin, where the play was written, they talk about flathead minnows, but when you talk to people up here, they call them fathead minnows. So it’s like we’ve got the real scoop on ice fishing.”

“Guys on Ice” is like a merger of a traditional straight play and a musical in that it has songs, but it takes place in one setting — an ice shanty.

“It’s a pretty spacious ice shanty,” Bouchard said. “When people see it, they’ll be jealous because most ice shanties are a little tighter. It’s all contained in one space, but within that space, they do a lot.”

A change of lighting, the movement of a milk crate and the unfurling of a Canadiens flag makes it feel as if the setting has changed as the actors go from scene to scene and song to song.

One of the ongoing jokes of the show is that Marvin and Lloyd tend to drink a lot of beer. It’s not like Drunk Shakespeare, where the actors actually get intoxicated. Gotham and Cerruti said that’s a good thing.

“It probably wouldn’t be awesome,” Cerruti said. “With the amount of beer these guys drink, it would go off the rails real quick.”

“We would have to drink four beers in about eight minutes for one part,” Gotham added. - Griffin Kelly

Pendragon relocation on its way to moving forward

January 22, 2019 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise - Now coming up on its 40th season, Pendragon Theatre has signed an option to purchase a new space downtown and was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the state — bringing the theater about halfway to its goal, according to Associate Artistic Director Kim Bouchard.

“Our most optimistic would be to try and do it at the end of 2019, but certainly by spring of 2020 to have stuff really underway,” Bouchard said. “Once they get started, how soon can they finish? And I must say I don’t know. But it would be wonderful to get in there by 2020.”

While she has hope for opening up with an inaugural Christmas show in 2020, Bouchard said realistically summer 2021 is what to hope for.

A big factor in the timeline is the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The state will award $9.7 million in reimbursement funds for a group of proposals a coalition of village government and local stakeholders submits to the state. The theater is asking for $2 million. According to the preliminary project list, the estimated cost for the theater is $6.5 million.

Awards for the DRI are usually announced sometime in the summer.

“We’re about halfway,” Bouchard said of the theater’s fundraising. “We still have some heavy lifting to do in terms of reaching out, looking for more grants and foundations. … So we’re looking forward to launching the next layer of capital campaign, where we’ll be soliciting more donors and patrons to help us.

—-

More space

But it’s not as simple as buying and moving into the former home improvement and grocery store at 56 Woodruff St. With the new construction and renovation, the new space will be a 15,000-square-foot building. Their current space is around 7,500 square feet.

“The plan is to build a new theater space in the front of the existing building,” Bouchard said. “Some of it is thinking about renovating the existing building and also building a new portion of it which is going to hold the new theater.”

This will offer more shop space for scenery, costumes and props, more dressing rooms and bathrooms, and space for larger audiences.

“We’re just going to have much more space,” Bouchard said. The theater plans to grow into this space by increasing the technical ceiling on their productions.

“Right now, the space is pretty limited, and the ability for us to do technical, interesting anything kind of more technical side of theater is limited because we just don’t have the height or the depth of theater to be able to really be able to do more with scenery, lighting, even sound.”

The lobby of the new space is also planned to be a venue in its own right. There will be room for live music, tables, and food and drink offerings — hoping to look somewhat like what the Syracuse Stage in Syracuse offers in its lobby, Bouchard said.

She said the Pendragon’s current spot at 15 Brandy Brook Ave. will be kept as a rehearsal and teaching space, open to other users for educational events.

Education

Bouchard said she hopes that with this increased capability, more people interested in the technical side of theater will turn out to be involved as interns or students.

“One of the areas we really want to expand in is both the educational side,” Bouchard said. “So offering more educational opportunities. … Working with St. Joe’s (St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers), particularly with their veterans program.”

In addition, Bouchard said she’d like to see a partnership with the Adirondack Center for Writing to involve local playwrights in the theater.

New leader

Location changes aren’t the only big changes coming to Pendragon. Bouchard, also an associate professor at SUNY Potsdam in the department of theater and dance, will take over this summer as executive artistic director. That position is currently held by Karen Lordi-Kirkham.

Lordi-Kirkham was named to a two-year directorship in Dickenson College’s Humanities Program, in Norwhich, England, beginning in July. She previously spent summers in Saranac Lake while living during the school year in Pennsylvania, where she taught at Dickenson.

Bouchard has been in contact with the Pendragon for the last 24 years.

“I first got to know Pendragon back in 1995 when I came here,” Bouchard said. “I thought, who is this theater company that does ‘Waiting for Gadot’ that’s up here in the Adirondacks? So at that time was when I met Bob Pettee and Susan Neal, who were the founders of Pendragon.”

Pendragon is now coming up on its 40th anniversary. Its first show under its current name was in 1980, “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams.

“There are children right now who are participating in our productions, who are coming to see shows, who are going to be involved in the summer season in Camp Pendragon — those young people are going to be here in 2059,” Bouchard said. “So that sense of that we’re part of a long history of Saranac Lake, we’re part of the long history of the arts in Saranac Lake, is really — it just feels like a really good thing.”

Bouchard will direct the ice fishing musical “Guys On Ice” Jan. 25 though Feb. 24. - Jesse Adcock

Pendragon opens The Turn of the Screw Friday

 

November 19, 2018 – Adirondack Daily Enterprise - A rich, supercilious mystery man, a spooky old house, two beautiful but enigmatic children, an innocent, friendless young governess and plenty of eerie apparitions. Pendragon Theatre extends the Halloween season this year with a special presentation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, opening this Friday, Nov. 2, and running through Nov. 18. According to the Chicago Critic, this adaptation by Jeff Hatcher is “a riveting horror thriller that leaves audiences at the edge of their seats.”

“The Turn of the Screw” features Pendragon veterans Donna Moschek as the governess and Christopher Leifheit playing the all of the other parts, from an aged housekeeper to a young boy. According to the play’s Director Tara Palen, “We have preserved Hatcher’s intention of working with as bare a set as possible, and no props are used, save for one. It is all about the actors. I feel this heightens the tension. There is nowhere and nothing to hide behind or depend on. They are up there with no net, so to speak. And the audience is forced to use their imagination to accept one actor playing multiple parts as well as one of the characters, Flora, being invisible. The audience becomes an active participant in the production.”

Palen adds that “the definition of the phrase ‘turn of the screw’ is ‘an action that makes a bad situation worse, especially one that forces someone to do something desperate.'”

“People have debated over Henry James Turn of the Screw for years. Is it a ghost story or is it a story of the mental unraveling of a straight laced Victorian governess? This adaptation by Jeff Hatcher preserves the ambiguity of James’ intentions by leaving it up to the audience to decide. My actors and I had to mine the script for clues and come to our own conclusions in order to work with the same intentions. The tricky part is presenting it and still walking the line of ambiguity, tipping our hands here and there for the observant audience member to pick up. If we have done our job right, there will be hearty and heated discussions on the ride home!” 

 

Draft design unveiled for new Pendragon Theatre

July 9, 2018 -Adirondack Daily Enterprise — The Pendragon Theatre has stood at 15 Brandy Brook Ave. for 37 years, but after nearly four decades of dramas, comedies, summer camps and holiday specials, the theater now has plans to relocate closer to this village’s downtown area.

Recently, Pendragon revealed its preliminary design for the new theater, which would feature more seats, plenty of space for rehearsals, a larger gallery and more bathrooms.

“The new theater gives us the ability to improve the level of theater that we bring to local audiences,” said Holly Wolff, president of Pendragon Theatre’s Board of Trustees.

The site of the new theater was announced in April. It would be at 56 Woodruff St. across from Nori’s Village Market. The site was most recently home to the Newman & Holmes glass, paint and flooring business, which closed its doors in May 2017, but a lot of people around here tend to remember the building as the old A&P grocery store, which was there for three decades. The theater would use the current building space and make additions as well.

Wolff said the new facility is expected to cost about $6 million, which would be raised mainly through private donations and grants, some from the state Regional Economic Development Council process. The designs Wolff referenced to are preliminary and can still be changed, and the Board of Trustees plans to present the final design to the village Development Board in spring 2019.

Pendragon’s board has had the idea of moving closer to the downtown area for years. Two studies, including the village’s Arts and Culture Master Plan written up this past spring, suggested the move. The board looked at numerous sites before settling on 56 Woodruff.

“Everybody knows we initially looked at the Madden’s garage on Main Street,” Wolff said, “but it turned out to not be viable for historic preservation reasons.”

Wolff said being closer to downtown shops and restaurants would increase traffic into the theater.

“Anne Sterling down at the Left Bank Cafe once told me she had 20 people in her place on a Tuesday night who said they were going to see a show at Pendragon,” she said.

Wolff said the instance at Left Bank would be more likely to occur once the theater moves.

When it comes to the current theater on Brandy Brook Avenue, Wolff called it careworn.

“It has served the arts community very well over time,” she said, “but it no longer supports the professional theater we’ve seen in the past and would like to continue to produce.”

Wolff listed off some of the functional problems with the current theater.

“There are only two bathrooms for a 130-seat theater,” she said. “That can create long intermissions because people are waiting on line.”

The new theater would add about 50 seats and more bathrooms to accommodate larger audiences.

Wolff continued commenting on the current location, “There’s a single dressing room for males and females; 30 years ago that would’ve made sense but not today. The office is also a wing of the theater, so it’s pretty much unusable during rehearsals, which are most days.”

In terms of structure, Wolff said the current theater needs roof and insulation maintenance, and those repairs could cost nearly $1 million. Also, Pendragon doesn’t own the parking it shares with the Adirondack Park Pet Hospital. Wolff said the lot is not the most welcoming for new customers.

“It’s rutted, and there’s always a big puddle after it rains,” she said. “It’s not attractive to people who haven’t been there before and does not indicate the quality of what goes on inside.”

In the current theater, there’s an area near the box office dedicated to showcasing work from local artists; however, it’s small — only a few feet of space along two walls. The new facility would have more room for this, Wolff said.

“It’s another vehicle for artists to display and sell their work,” she said.

Possibly the most important change, Wolff said, is that the new theater will be open year round. The summer is normally the busier time for the theater, and there are a couple of other shows throughout the year. With the new facility open every season, Wolff said they hope to start more after-school courses, master classes and college programs in association with nearby universities such as SUNY Potsdam and Plattsburgh.

“It will be a technically advanced facility to train future actors and stage workers,” she said. “It’ll also help reduce underemployment.”

Underemployment is unwanted part-time work that doesn’t correlate to a person’s skill set. Imagine a college student who graduated with a theater degree and is highly skilled in set design, but can only find a job at a fast-food restaurant. Pendragon currently operates with a small staff of full-timers. Wolff said the new theater can possibly bring on three more full-time and two part-time employees.

Wolff said it took swaying every one of the trustees to go ahead with the project.

“I took the advice of a former trustee,” she said. “There has never been a project in Saranac Lake that has not had people challenge it, but if you have a good project, just keeping going forward with it.’ Eventually, a number of people who were critical are now supporters. Some people have joined the board specifically because of this project, not because they’re big theater fans but for the economic development for Saranac Lake.” - Griffin Kelly

Her Kiss is on His List: For Pendragon Theatre’s 2018 summer season, the accent is on fun. What could be funnier than two guys creating the ideal woman for one of them to love?

(June 20, 2018) Lake Champlain Weekly  - The humor of Norm Foster’s raucous comedy, The Love List, which opened Pendragon Theatre’s 2018 summer season and runs through Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m., stems from a premise that is clever if somewhat “un-fortuitous” now that we’ve entered the #MeToo era.
    Bill is a middle-aged statistician living in an untidy basement apartment whose wife left him for being “too boring.” On the night of his 50th birthday, Bill is taken to dinner by his longtime BFF Leon, a published novelist. When the guys return to Bill’s humble abode, their talk soon turns to the birthday boy’s nonexistent love life.
Leon pulls out a piece of paper and challenges Bill to list the Top Ten qualities he wants in a woman. It turns out Leon has visited a dating service run by an old gypsy woman who promises to find a mate matching the list’s attributes. Despite Bill’s skepticism and his natural reluctance to fill out something purporting to be a “love list,” the two friends manage to come up with 10 qualities that suit Bill. Leon leaves with the list, to be turned in “just to see what happens,” and Bill nods off at his desk.
    When he awakes, who should appear at his door but—voilà!—Justine, an attractive, professionally coiffed woman who behaves as if they’ve been in an ongoing relationship and soon demonstrates that she meets every criterion on Bill’s list, qualifying her to be the woman of his dreams. Was Justine paid and put up to this by Leon after an intense prepping session? Or is she the fulfillment of the gypsy’s promise? And what’s the significance of her being named “Justine”? Magic is in the air of Bill’s vapid, compartmentalized living space, and complications ensue.

Real vs. Magic
Being something of a “muggle” myself and therefore leery of the introduction of magic on stage and elsewhere, I found The Love List to be one of those plays that requires the suspension of disbelief whether you’re willing or not. However, if you put aside any pretense of finding deeper meaning in it, this boulevard (or dare I say “below-street-level”) comedy is sheer entertainment in the hands of its first-rate cast.
    John Nicholson made a big splash in his Pendragon debut a few years back as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (opposite, I should add in the interest of full disclosure, Kathleen Recchia, my wife, as Willy’s long-suffering wife, Linda, and seen most recently in the Adirondack Stage Rats’ production of Kimberly Akimbo), and he was downright magisterial as Salieri in Pendragon’s 2016 production of Amadeus. Here, he lends solid support as Bill’s mostly supportive friend whom, we eventually discover, has a few mid-life crises of his own.
    Joanna Tyler, who is making her Pendragon debut, turns out to be a real find. According to her bio, her earliest recollections of going to the theater are of Pendragon, having grown up in Saranac Lake before heading out to Oregon to earn a BFA in Theater and pursue acting. That experience is now redounding to Pendragon’s benefit. The role of Justine is nothing if not that of a chameleon. Once Bill and Leon decide the list needs some adjustments, Justine is constantly undergoing personality changes and Ms. Tyler handles these transformations, including some rapid-fire ones, with effortless skill.
    If the evening belongs to anyone, however, it is to Bob Andrews’s Bill. Mr. Andrews has given numerous stellar performances at The Recovery Lounge/Upper Jay Art Center, including as a lizard in Edward Albee’s Seascape (opposite his wife, the effervescent Peg Wilson, who will tackle the title role in UJAC’s upcoming take on Kimberly Akimbo) and in such comic-dramatic gems as Richard Dresser’s Below the Belt. One of the emphases at UJAC is on a more naturalistic approach to acting, particularly as espoused by playwright David Mamet (think the opposite of “Method” acting as taught by Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler). Mr. Andrews seems to have “gotten it.” In The Love List, he delivers a performance that’s a knockout for its sustained “low-key-ness” and its honesty. Having known Bob for some 20 years, I wouldn’t say he’s playing himself but perhaps an extension of his self. As Bill, Bob doesn’t seem like he’s “acting”; he just seems real.

Casting Local
The Love List was this year’s “Patrons’ Pick” among plays given offseason readings that audiences then vote on to see one fully staged. The play also kicks off what Pendragon Executive Artistic Director Karen Lordi Kirkham promises will be a season of “fun.”
    “I did want to do a season with more comedy in it,” she said in a phone interview. “We’ve had some heavy plays in recent years.
The Love List was the only comedy among the Patrons’ Pick choices, and the fact that it was the one chosen suggests that people wanted something lighter.”
    Another criterion that the play met was its small cast. The Patrons’ Pick opens the summer season, and therefore all the plays that Ms. Kirkham chooses for playgoer consideration have smaller casts. “Not every show we do has to be for three actors,” she said. “[This year] both
Sense and Sensibility and I Hate Hamlet have larger casts. But since the first show takes place in June, we try to cast it locally because our actor housing is not available until the end of June.”
    It also helps to have a locally based director, as
The Love List had in Allison Studdiford. Primarily an actor, Ms. Studdiford has now directed two shows for Pendragon and co-directed a third. “It’s great for her to be able to explore that part of her artist self,” said Ms. Kirkham. - Fred Balzac

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Pendragon presents winning plays at Young Playwright Festival Saturday

April 26, 2018 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise - The winning plays of Pendragon Theatre’s Young Playwright Contest will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 28 as a series of readings and fully realized productions. The show is free and open to the public.

Last fall, Pendragon put out the call to middle and high school students to submit original one-act plays and musicals on a subject of their choosing. The plays were due in February and a panel of judges made up of writers and theatre professionals voted for their favorites. The first place plays are being fully produced and the two runners up will be presented as script-in-hand readings.

In the high school category, both winners are from Tupper Lake High School. First place goes to Emily Burns for her play titled The Judgement, and the runner-up is Noah Cordes with his play Sir Ringer, the Singer. The first place middle school submission is Rats, the Musical by Eleanor Crowley, Ruby Smith and Juliana De Chavez with runner-up going to Anneliese Dramm for the play Hey Diddle Diddle. All students attend Saranac Lake Middle School.

Performers in Saturday’s festival include Sarah Dalton, Joanna Tyler, Terry Kemp, Sunita Halasz, Jason Brill, Joe Larabie, Annie Smith, Niklas Dahlen, Max Gole, Schuyler Cranker, Amy Coddington-Burnett and Keith Tanner.

According Tara Palen, Pendragon’s Managing Director, “It is always such a joy for us to work with young people in our community and get them interested in theatre. The Young Playwright’s Festival is an event that we eagerly look forward to hosting every year. We hope folks will come out and support all our budding writers by seeing the production and readings of our top picks.”

A reception with refreshments follows the performance. Admission is free and open to the public.

 

Pendragon Kicks off The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

December 4, 2017 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise — Everybody remembers the gold, frankincense and myrrh from the Nativity story, but people tend to forget the part when the angel of the lord punches the shepherds and Mary smokes a fat cigar.

This holiday season the Pendragon Theatre will perform The Best Christmas Pageant Ever adapted from the short story of the same name by Barbara Robinson

The play revolves around Beth Bradley’s church’s Christmas pageant. Normally the show is cute and mundane, but after the usual director, Mrs. Armstrong, breaks her leg, Beth’s mother, Grace, must take over the production only this year things aren’t so cute and mundane anymore when the rough and obnoxious Herdman kids decide to join in the performance.

Director Kent Streed, who’s been with the Pendragon Theatre for over 25 years, wrote in a press release, “They are that wild and rowdy family we’ve all been fearful of… and fascinated by. They are an unruly, thieving, cussing, cigar smoking, lunch stealing family and their participation in the traditional Christmas pageant means just one thing. The manger will never be the same.”

Ten-year-old Sam Clark of Saranac Lake plays Claude Herdman, an unconcerned child who’s constantly chewing a wad of Hubba Bubba gum and blowing large bubbles.

“He’s a bad kid,” Sam said, “and I fool around during the pageant. It’s kind of weird to be in front of a big audience, but I’ve done it before.”

Sam’s 8-year-old sister, Kasey, who plays Heidi Clark, added “at first, at school, you’re so nervous. Then you go out there and do it, and it’s so fun doing it.”

Kasey and Sam’s mother Brandy plays Mrs. McCarthy, one of the holier-than-thou church ladies.

“We do our best into conning [Grace Bradley] into doing the Christmas pageant,” Brandy said. “We’re successful, but then we criticize the mother.”

This is the first time Kasey and Sam have ever performed at Pendragon Theatre, but Brandy portrayed American singer, actress and beauty icon Mae West in the theater’s 2002 production of Dirty Blonde.

Pendragon performs a holiday show every year. In the past they’ve done A Christmas Story and Christmas Cat and the Pudding Pirates, among others.

“Usually we end up doing A Christmas Carol, but I was so incredibly sick and tired of doing that,” Kent said laughing. “I was looking at a brand-new musical version of [‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’] that just opened maybe two, three years ago. It’s a lot of fun, but I looked at it and said, ‘You’d need a musical director; you’d need a choreographer.’ The show itself, I think, ran maybe two hours, which is way too long, I think, for the holiday season. So I said ‘OK, let’s just shift over to the straight, non-musical version.”

Robinson originally wrote The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in 1971 as a short story. It was the only piece ever to be printed twice in McCall’s Magazine, a women’s publication that ran from 1873 to 2002. The story became so popular that Robinson adapted it into a children’s book. Then she wrote the screenplay for the 1983 film and also oversaw the production of the original stage show.

“The expression is, ‘It is herding cats,'” Kent said. “With 17 kids in the show, that’s a lot of taekwondo lessons, a lot of guitar lessons, a lot of holiday concerts and dance lessons. It’s been a little hard, but other than that it’s been a blast.”

Kent also said the kids have been off-book and have committed their lines to memory since the second week of rehearsals.

The holiday shows at the Pendragon Theatre have gotten more popular, according to Kent.

“A lot of community members are involved in the show,” Kent said, “so a lot of their families come to see it. It’s just nice to have an outing every holiday season. We also get a lot of vacationers who come up and see the show as well. That’s why we’ve extended the show in recent years till after Christmas. We used to stop the show before Christmas, but these holiday titles sell and entertain up to the New Year’s.”

Kent said The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has had the regular speed bumps every production has, but overall he’s enjoyed rehearsals.

Humanity Interrogated in Pendragon's "1984"

 

August 26, 2017 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise - Straight from the pages of a high school reading assignment to the stage at Pendragon Theatre, “1984” is a thought-provoking theatrical adaptation by Michael Gene Sullivan of George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel.

The play uses the interrogation of its rebellious protagonist, Winston Smith, to reveal the events leading up to him being questioned by Big Brother and denying that ignorance is strength, war is peace and freedom is slavery.

The godfather of the paranoid, grim, big government stories, which are practically a genre unto themselves, Orwell’s tale was published in 1949 but still has powerful messages relevant in modern government and society.

“‘1984’ has been brought up a lot,” said Karen Lordi-Kirkham, the theater’s artistic director. “This whole idea of double-speak, the idea of what is truth, fake news. It’s kind of in the air right now.”

Smith is a fake news writer, re-writing old articles to match Big Brother’s new “truths” when he gets caught up in secret societies and government conspiracies, bringing him to his interrogation at The Ministry of Love.

A disembodied voice leads the questioning with four party members following and acting out his memories of the past. With few props and a lot of dialogue, the play quickly delves into Smith’s relationship with a woman named Julia, the highly-controlled world of Oceania and even the interrogators doubts.

“It starts out super orderly and clean and they are always sitting together; it’s mechanical,” Director Mason Wagner said. “And by the end, it’s all sloppy. They are everywhere and they are at each other. The cleanliness is gone from them and they are infected with Winston’s humanity.”

The interrogation is a battle between humanity’s need for freedom and government’s need for submissive order and fanatical patriotism, which Julia describes as “sex gone sour.”

The frustratingly legalistic party members have Smith outnumbered in this battle, but they soon are questioning their loyalties and actions.

“I want everyone in the audience to know that in a world where this kind of government exists, it’s not just evil people who do bad things, it’s everybody,” Wagner said. “And how complicit can we be in that, and when do we put our foot down and say, ‘I can’t do that to my fellow man.'”

Pendragon will bring “1984” to schools in the area, providing a visual dimension to the staple of high school literature classes. Wagner wants students to draw parallels between the fictional universe and their own lives, looking at the role of government, the importance of thought and their own humanity in a new light.

While currently another adaptation of “1984” is causing Broadway theatergoers to vomit and faint, Pendragon’s torture scenes are tamer. This certainly does not mean it is an easy play to watch. Christopher Leifheit as Smith screams, panics and turns red as he is interrogated for his “Thoughtcrimes,” a sight that elicited audible, disturbed responses from residents of St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center, who sat in on Thursday night’s rehearsal.

Though the bleak world of Oceania is not kind to Smith, there are pockets of comedy and romance throughout the performance that lighten the grim mood and provide a break from the play’s heady themes.

A gripping evening of relishing in the human spirit, “1984” interrogates the audience to confess their own “Thoughtcrimes” and celebrate their criminal mental activity. - Aaron Cerbone

Review: Deathtrap is a tale to confuse and question

August 4 2017 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise - Assume nothing; everything is permitted.

The motto of a fictional assassin group could double as the motto for Pendragon Theatre’s new play, Deathtrap, which premieres at 8 p.m. tonight. 

The first scene of Deathtrap warns the audience not to predict. A shock reveal in Thursday night’s dress rehearsal elicited gasps from the audience, showing that the warning had gone unheard and will likely be ineffective to those who see it through Aug. 20.

Deathtrap, written in 1978 by Ira Levin, imitates itself. A script for a play lands on the desk of Sidney Bruhl, a washed-up playwright played by Jordan Hornstein. The script is titled Deathtrap.

From then on, “Deathtrap,” the script, is used as a tool and an omen. It serves as a desired tangible — like the one ring in “Lord of The Rings.” It is the destroyer of free will, and it is the blank check upon which countless characters hope to cash in to fulfill their greed.

The play continues its likeness in popular entertainment with the violent franchise “Saw.” Like “Saw,” the play consists of few characters — five to be exact — and also takes place in just one room, although nicer than the murky basement setting of “Saw.” The similarities continue as the death toll is high, which is not unexpected when an entire wall supports an arsenal of medieval weaponry including a crossbow, a mace and a battle ax. But this thriller differs in its comedic aspect, of which there is none in “Saw” and plenty of in Deathtrap.

This play excites one’s inner detective, tickles one’s imagination, evokes laughter and forces out a gasp or two.

When you enter the cozy, well-lit Pendragon Theatre, transport to Westport, Connecticut, and prepare to meet a cast including an elderly couple, an eager student, an exotic psychic and a lawyer — not much to say about the lawyer.

The wild trip that forces audience members to second-guess themselves ultimately boils down to one question — a question that plagues reality TV show participants, quiz show contestants and society in general: What would you do to be rich? - Kevin Shea

Pendragon Brings A Midsummer Night's Dream to Dewey Mountain

July 20, 2017- Adirondack Daily Enterprise - Viewers of the Pendragon Theatre’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will watch the classic William Shakespeare comedy in the appropriate setting for the Bard’s dream-like and nature-centered play — the woods of Dewey Mountain Recreation Area.

The play will begin at Dewey’s lodge at the base of the hill. Mimicking the events of the play, viewers will follow the characters as they venture into the “magical woods.”

“It is taking [the play] quite literally, where it happens,” costume designer Kent Streed said. “It is an interesting dose of realism.”

While the hike is no trip to the summit, it will require a bit of walking uphill about an eighth of a mile to where a stage has been built in a tranquil clearing.

“In the story, the lovers flee into the woods,” said Pendragon Executive Artistic Director Karen Lordi-Kirkham, who also plays Titania, queen of the fairies. “The audience follows the lovers, with fairies leading them up to the platform.”

The wooden platform sits in a lush canopy of leaves with sunlight piercing the tree cover, softly lighting the stage. As the sun sets, the shadowed atmosphere and back-lit trees highlight the mysterious spirits on stage. Musician Janet Spahr will score the play with an eerie metallic drum called a handpan.

The stage, though ideal for this production, has long been the plan of Jason Smith, the owner of Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, which manages the mountain.

“We casually discussed having a platform in the woods, a destination in the forest that would provide a meeting space,” Smith said.

Smith wanted a place for children in Dewey’s Outdoor Explorers day camp to play and perform on the trails. Lordi-Kirkham has aspired to do an immersive version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for years. When Smith mentioned his plan a little under a year ago, they started collaborating on the project to prepare the play for an outdoor performance.

“These kinds of partnerships in this area are important,” Smith said.

The children of Outdoor Explorers are already enjoying the stage by jumping, dancing and eating snacks on it after they hike around on the mountain.

“The kids have been doing their puppet shows on the stage,” camp instructor Sarah Knapp said.

The 15-by-18-foot platform is ideal for picnics, being only a short trek from the lodge and keeping everyone out of the mud. The Saranac Lake area has seen over 16 inches of rain since the beginning of May according to Weather Underground. The high rainfall has soaked the mountain and caused mud, erosion and puddles all across the trails.

“It has been one of the wettest years in 14 years of running [Dewey Mountain],” Smith said.

Dreary weather has not disheartened the actors and actresses, though. They are ready to perform regardless of the mud and enjoy the weather, no matter how wet it gets.

“We were halfway through a run the other day, and a thunderstorm happened,” Kirkham said. “The adults were all trying to hide in the trees, and the kids went out in the rain playing and laughing. Some of the older ones joined in and everyone just had a good time.”

The rain has made working on the stage and trails a longer endeavor than anticipated, but the stage is set and the trails are being filled with wood chips to cover the mud.

Smith is now maintaining trails heading into the forest theater himself but had help from local BOCES students. During the school year, students prepared the stage and seating area on Dewey, moved trees and milled lumber for the wooden stage. Now a permanent fixture of the mountain, the stage will be available for use by Dewey’s camps and visitors as well as any other performances looking for natural staging in the woods.

For “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” benches seating 40 to 50 people will be used, and playgoers are encouraged to bring their own camp chairs.

To accommodate viewers who would like to see the play but do not consider themselves mountaineers willing to brave the mud, the theater will also do an indoor performance of the play 7:30 p.m. Sunday, in the Pendragon Theatre.

Ten outdoor performances will take place throughout the rest of the month and into early August, with most starting at 7 p.m. (July 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, and Aug. 2 and 3) and two matinees at 2 p.m. (July 23 and 30.)

Tickets cost $10.

Bring a chair, boots and bug spray (or a love potion), and prepare for a walk into the mysterious woods, led by Shakespeare’s comedic characters.

Pendragon Theatre presents James and the Giant Peach:

A Spectacular Romp for All Ages

 

July 15, 2017- Adirondack Family Time- Magical things are happening at Camp Pendragon Theatre! Wonderful, mystical things that will pull you right into a fun-filled world where insects talk, peaches are houses, and evil aunties get their just rewards in the end. This year's production of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach had us laughing and clapping, and wanting to be adopted by a spider, a grasshopper, and a ladybug.

I'll admit that I've only read Roald Dahl's book, James and the Giant Peach. I've never seen the movie or the musical. How does one make a giant peach with human-sized insects come alive on stage and be funny, warm and loving? Come see this year's performance of Camp Pendragon Theatre's Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach and you'll find out. Director Matthew Sorensen shares with us an imaginative world where adventure is just a wish away.
This production is rich with talent from incredible vocals and dance numbers to gorgeous costumes and full-size puppets. The cast ranges in ages from 7th grade to rising college freshmen.This isn't just a children's performance; it's a witty romp for all ages.Director Matthew Sorensen and Assistant Director Annachristi Cordes have managed to pull a powerful performance from each actor as they journey from an English orphanage to an ocean crossing in a giant peach. Musical Director Elizabeth Cordes has fine-tuned these musical numbers to a professional level while the simple setting enables actors to fill the stage with creative dance numbers choreographed by Terpsie Toon.
James (Andrew Scanio) is small and innocent, befriending a grasshopper (Noah Cordes) and a ladybug (Kirsten Denis) while in the English orphanage. Creative rod puppets flitter around the stage. Shade puppets (Shane McNeal) and masterful lighting by Kent Barrett create a mystical atmosphere as James struggles to conquer his nightmares about losing his parents.
James is shipped off to his only living relatives Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge, a pair of conniving, pickpocketing scam artists waiting for their next mark. Aunt Spiker (Sarah Dalton) and Aunt Sponge (Kendall Davison) are hilarious. Their cockney accents and costumes add just a touch of evil to their dodgy ways. They are a perfect villainous team exploiting James and anyone else unfortunate to get in their path.

Jameson Batt as the Ladahlord/Narrator adds the perfect amount of levity throughout the performance. He pulls us into the pages of the book with a wink and smile while belting out some great tunes.

James meets the Ladahlord and is given a magic potion to help him escape his awful auntie situation. He spills the potion creating a giant peach. After the evil aunties turn the fruit into a sideshow, James discovers a door inside the peach. He enters an imaginative world where insects share their feelings and protect each other despite their differences.

The costumes throughout the production are gorgeous. Annachristi Cordes and Sasha Van Cott have created peach-hued, multi-patterned pieces that easily allow the actors to change between multiple characters.

Marvelous and amazing things await the fearless James inside the peach. Human-sized puppets take the stage. I can't choose a favorite. The genteelly-bred Ladybug (Kirsten Denis) soothes James while Spider (Lexi Valentin) nurtures him. Grasshopper (Noah Cordes) is the adventurer while Earthworm (Mitchelle Jensen) quakes with fear. Natalie Orman's Centipede is unforgiving to all humans. The puppets are wonderful, allowing each actor to draw the audience into this imaginary world.

Don't wait for a rainy day to see this production. It's only here for a short time. There are plenty of one-liners and wonderful songs that will have you laughing and humming along. Let yourself go and stumble into a world where grasshoppers tap-dance and family is what you create. Enjoy! 

 

Pendragon Theatre's DISGRACED: A Mind-Blowing Rollercoaster of Emotions

 

July 1,2017- Adirondack Family Time- Ayad Akhtar's DISGRACED opened at Pendragon Theatre last night to a packed house with an audience that twisted into multiple directions from laughs to gasps. DISGRACED is an emotional rollercoaster  that tugs at heartstrings, and questions ideals while handing out racism, colonialism, and Islamophobia at the audience's feet.

There is nothing color-blind about Akhtar's play and Director Kimberley A. Bouchard's cast drives that point through with pinpoint accuracy. Each character is pinned to his/her skin color, ethnic traits, or cultural differences.

The play opens in the Upper East Side Manhattan apartment of Emily Hughes-Kapoor (Mackenzie Barmen) and Amir Kapoor (Anthony Michael Irizaary). Emily is an artist searching for her breakout piece experimenting in her husband's cultural Indian patterns. He is a mergers and acquisitions lawyer  working toward making partner while scrubbing that very ethnicity.

Scene, lighting, and sound designer Kent Barrett uses elegance and texture through materials, lights, and sound to create the sophisticated dwelling of this Upper Eastside couple. The mirrored wall is a powerful weapon as it reflects the emotions of the Kapoors and their guests throughout the performance.

Barmen's Emily is riveting as the white wife who brushes off her husband's fears as a post 9/11 Muslim in the States. Barmen drives her character with just the right touch of naivety. All stereotypical blonde and blue eyed, Emily has married into her husband's Islamic culture through her art, but not enough to convert. She wants to just choose the beauty and complexity of the Islamic patterns without the complexity of the religion and culture.

Kapoor can't escape his past. He has changed his last name and his social security to distance himself from his past. He lies about his motives and a drunken confession opens up how his family's own racism shaped him.  His nephew Abe (Lucky Cerrutti) chastises him for not being truthful to his heritage.

Cerrutti plays Abe like a card shark, not letting go of his whole hand at the first meeting. He is saying all the right things, encouraging his Aunt Emily to have the infatuated Kapoor meet with an imprisoned Iman. After a paper mentions Kapoor and his law firm as representing an alleged terrorist, Kapoor structured life spins out of control.

Irizaary as Kapoor, making his Pendragon debut, is brilliant, plain and simple. One moment he is confident attorney, but in a flash he is the religiously persecuted. His movements are exacting and words precise. He draws the audience into his drama, whether its rage, deep sorrow, fear, or passion for what he can't explain.
The height of the production brings two couples connected through work to the Kapoor's apartment for a dinner party. Isaac, a Jewish art curator (Tyler Nye) has eluded to an art show featuring Emily's work while his African-American wife Jory (Meredith A. Watson) harbors a secret that she has been made partner over Kapoor at their law firm. Stereotypes are aired, argued, and defended. 

Meredith Watson's Jory, making her Pendragon debut, adds levity to an awkward dinner party. Watson portrays Jory with such expressiveness that the audience is belly laughing with her one moment and gasping in shock the next. She pulls at the heartstrings while still pointedly putting Kapoor in his place. She is powerful, yet vulnerable as she takes each conflict in stride. 

Tyler Nye's Issac is rigid and overbearing, but who waxes poetic in regards to Emily's upcoming art show. He drops his words like fireworks, blasting Kapoor when he berates his Jewish culture.  Issac's agenda becomes clear later when his affair with Emily is revealed.  

There are too many layers to express all that happens throughout Pendragon Theatre's production of DISGRACED. The one thing to say is that this show should not be missed. Bouchard has pulled together a brilliant cast who are able to blend the darkness of human nature with basic human compassion. The audience is left reflecting on assumption made and acted upon that can't always resolve our differences.  - Diane Chase

Pendragon Theatre’s FICTION: A Brilliant Shell Game of Truth and Fiction

 

June 16, 2017 - Adirondack Family Time- Steven Dietz’s FICTION takes the Pendragon Theatre stage by storm in its opening summer production and Patron’s Pick.  Director Allison Studdiford brings this ensemble cast of three together for an elaborate shell game of truth and fiction.

The play weaves between past and present as the audience learns how Michael Waterman, now a popular writer and his wife Linda, a college professor, met at a Paris café. Michael (John Nicholson) and Linda (Leslie Dame) set the play’s tone from the beginning with a lively debate over the best rock n’ roll vocal performance of all time. The timeline shifts to the present where Linda is teaching a fiction class and using her one published work as the text for her students instead of her husband’s popular “made for the big screen” books.  
The play is a chess match with each character’s move changing the direction of the game. When Linda receives a terminal diagnosis, she offers her journals for Michael to read when she is gone. Her dying request is that she be able to read Michael’s journals as well.

Mary Olin's minimalist scenic design allows the play to easily transition between timelines from a French cafe to the Watermans' living room. It's Kent Barren's lighting which sets the tone. Moonlight glows through sheer curtains strengthening the fluctuating timeline. Blues and purples wash over the actors in moments of melancholy. Kent Streed always brings reality to any performance he is tasked with costuming. He has draped the actors to match their personalities with simple options such as Linda's tightly buttoned sweater or Michael's leather jacket.    

Leslie Dame brings a heart-wrenching performance as the terminal Linda. Dame’s Linda is, on one hand, rigidly academic while lecturing her students or on the other, mournfully stoic as she suggests that a diagnosis should be given in meals left to eat rather than weeks left to live. Later we are even gifted a young joyful Linda just beginning her writing life.

When Linda sits to read Michael’s chronologically organized trunk of journals, she specifically chooses the year that he attends a writer’s colony. Drake Colony is also the place where she had attended and finished her one acclaimed novel. 

Nicholson’s Michael easily shifts from the present day earnest popular author to a loose-limbed, cocky, unpublished writer as his journal entries come to life on the stage. 

A love triangle is introduced, but the characters are intertwined on many levels through their relationships and their written words. When Abby Drake (Tara Palen) welcomes him to the writer’s colony, the audience is pulled in one direction. What will be revealed in the diary or what will be assumed? 

Palen’s Abby is a brilliant addition to the emotionally packed stage. As Linda reads aloud her husband’s diaries, Abby first falls off the journal’s page as stiff and unemotional. Depending on whose journal or memory is being read aloud, Palen easily shifts from damaged girl to intellectual to outrageously funny.   

Without revealing the whole plot, Studdifeld has pulled together a multitalented cast able to pull on our heartstrings. This “push-me-pull-you” play has us questioning from the beginning what journal entries were real and what was just an elaborate work of fiction.  - Diane Chase 
 

Get Hooked on Hilarious Guys on Ice, an Ice Fishing Musical Comedy

February 10, 2017 - Adirondack Family Time -At first glance a musical about three guys in a shanty, ice fishing on Lake Colby may feel like worlds colliding. But in the cold of winter, Pendragon Theatre’s production of Guys on Ice wards off any chill with its clever songs, fish tales and friendship. Don’t let this fast-paced adventure into friendship and fishing be the “one that got away.” 
This musical had the audience laughing in our seats, whether we were fans of fishing or not. If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on in those lake ice shanties or are just looking for a fun escape,
Guys on Ice is the perfect wintery mix. Director Kim Bouchard has altered this musical comedy to be lightly peppered with local interest. She has this trio heating up the stage in this working-class comedy, which highlights the simple things in life.  
The set, designed by Kent Streed, is an ice shanty and a character in itself. Decorated with license plates, antique ice tools and Big Slide Brewery stickers, the shanty serves as a hide-away, tavern, and confessional. Streed also designed the costumes and props. He pulls in subtle touches from snowmobile chic to wearing every possible layer. Marvin (Brendan Gotham) sets the tone for an earlier morning fishing excursion when he asks his friend Lloyd (Lucky Cerruti) to be in the shanty when he is featured on a cable TV fishing show.

Gotham, last seen in The Community Theatre Players’ The Little Mermaid, plays Marvin flawlessly as the innocent, easy-going guy who is pinning all his dreams on this one life-altering experience. Marvin wants to become the guy on TV, who gets the girl and is able to leave his mill job.

While Marvin hopes his fame will give him the courage to ask out the check-out girl, Cerruti, (a part of the 2016 Adirondack Lakes SummerTheatre Festival and Pendragon’s A Christmas Carol) creates a jaded Lloyd who is having trouble on the home front. That is the underlying story glossed over with quick one-liners, belly laughs and catchy tunes. Gotham and Cerruti are having a blast on stage and it shows. Cerruti is a magician of closing the jokes with clever glances and head turns. Gotham’s character is wild and free in the ice shanty. It’s his safe space where he can shed inhibitions, dance and become anything. They bring the audience along for the ride whether is an “Ode to a Snowsuit,” an Elvis impression or trying to hide beer from Ernie the Moocher.

Ernie (Christopher Leifheit last seen in Pendragon's A Christmas Carol) swoops in and out of the ice shanty borrowing bait and beer. Leifheit, with ukulele in hand, adds the perfect touch of comedic relief. There is even a nice intermission game show that keeps us wanting more.

Does Marvin become the star of his own show or just the star of his own life? How will Lloyd celebrate his anniversary or is it on ice? Who gets the girl? All those answers and more are yours for the taking at this witty song and dance into the world of fishy puns and “Guys on Ice.” - Diane Chase

 

Pendragon Theatre’s A Christmas Carol Is the Perfect Mix of Holiday Spirit

 

December 22, 2016- Adirondack Family Time - You don’t have to believe in Santa or even celebrate Christmas to walk out of Pendragon Theatre’s A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens knowing it’s never too late to make change for the good. Director Kent Streed pulls together a stellar cast for this classic tale of redemption and generosity.

Kudos to Kent Streed who wears many hats in this classic production from set and costume designer to director. His light-handed approach allowing the simple message that everyone can make a difference and help others, is paramount this holiday season. The sets are simple blacks and greys, allowing the audience to focus on the actors’ motion. The gauze backdrop transforms into a busy London street, a window into the future or a snowy evening sky.

Narrator Christopher Leifheit and Fiddler Alicia Bodmer set the tone as we are transported back to Victorian London where Ebenezer Scrooge (Burdette Parks) callously works his clerk (Paul Van Cott) on the night before Christmas. Parks’ Scrooge is so stingy in action and deed that even his extremities are tightly curled. He barks and rages when it comes to charity and holidays.

That evening Scrooge, visited by the ghost of his long dead partner Jacob Marley (Dylan Van Cott), finds that he too “wears the chains I forge in life.” Bonnie Brewer’s lighting, wisps of fog along with Van Cott’s haunting tone create an atmosphere of dismay.  

Streed strategically uses young actor Morgan Olsen in the role of The Ghost of Christmas Past. Olsen’s angelic face and stoic actions help to drive home the message that "happiness given is as great as if it cost a fortune." 

Through whirlwind trips through Scrooge’s past, we are shown glimpses of how he began to honor money over charity, friendship and love. There are many poignant vignettes throughout the One Act play. The quick exchange between a lonely child Scrooge (Galen Halsaz) comforted by his younger sister Fan (Lilly Grace Kipping) jerks at the heartstrings. The holiday delight the Fezziwigs (Peggy Orman and Barry Ramsey) share with their staff remind us to look for happiness in even the smallest things. By the time Christmas Past shows us a grown Scrooge (Lucky Cerruti) we see glimpses of the miser who so easily discards love for mere pennies.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Stephen De Hond) sweeps into Scrooge’s room and interacts with the audience highlighting all of Scrooge’s missed opportunities. De Hond’s Ghost is a jovial spirit bringing Scrooge to Nephew Fred’s house where he hears how family and their friends pity him.  At stop at the the Cratchett house, where money is scarce and love is abundant, is where Scrooge learns that even a deathly ill Tiny Tim finds hope in the every day.   

It’s not all hauntings and hard lessons learned. There are touches of comic relief throughout the performance. Look for cartwheeling Fezziwigs, cackling old cronies, an adorable cast of children, an off-key guest (Joy Cranker), of course Topper (Dylan Van Cott) and a hesitant businessman’s (LuckyCerruti) encounter with Scrooge. These and many more incidents pull giggles from the audience.

Even though we may all know how the story plays out, we are all routing for Scrooge to choose a generous path. Parks’ Scrooge unfolds before our eyes from a rigid old man to a jovial well-wisher, who has us believing that people can change if given a chance.

There are only a few more chances to see Pendragon Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. If you need a reason to go then go because it’s a chance to face our own ghosts and be given a second chance. Go because of this talented cast. Go because it’s an opportunity to share live theatre with family and friends. Happy Christmas! - Diane Chase

 

REVIEW: Beth Glover Shines in Pendragon Theatre's The Glass Menagerie
 

August 29, 2016 - Adirondack Family Time - I have only read The Glass Menagerie and now after seeing Pendragon Theatre's latest offering, I am wondering why I’ve waited so long to see this performance. Perhaps I was just waiting to see this stellar performance directed by Pendragon Theatre Executive Artistic Director Karen Lordi Kirkman. Pendragon Theatre’s The Glass Menagerie is a heartbreaking tale of family strife and desperation. Kirkman has brought together a fantastic cast and crew that has the audience giggling one moment and gasping the next while taken through Tom’s memory of his flawed family.

The four-character play is told from the past perceptive of Amanda’s son Tom Wingfield (Miles River Willow) as he relives a memory when he struggled to become a poet while working at the local shoe factory. Tom steps into the action as his memory comes to life.

Tijana Bjelajac’s clever set allows the actors to change scenes through their action. A loading dock morphs easily into the Wingfield’s parlor with a few shifts of metal boxes.  The set reinforces that this story is Tom’s selective memory where certain elements, like the dining table or glass menagerie is represented in color with exact details while other segments are colorless, vague and unimportant.

Willow (seen in Pendragon’s Arcadia and Seagull) plays Tom with all the bitterness of a man trapped in a life of obligation. While out for a night of movies or drink, Tom uses every excuse to escape his family. With shoulders curled and fists clenched, Willow drives home the disappointment of a life unfulfilled. While his own father has taken off to parts unknown, Tom is left to take care of his mother and invalid sister. His mother Amanda Wingfield (Beth Glover*) is a genteel southern belle regaling her children about an exaggerated past filled with “17 gentleman callers” and how their father was a disappointing choice.
Beth Glover as Amanda is brilliant. Glover, most recently seen in the Broadway national tour of Cinderella as the Wicked Stepmother, pulls from her own Mississippi roots to fill the stage with southern charm as she wages a last ditch campaign to marry off her recluse, shy daughter Laura (Liv Paulson). Glover draws the spotlight to her with each drawl whether she purses her lips in disappointment or clasps her hands in childlike glee. Amanda’s children are her life and when Laura fails at business school, Amanda feels the only security left for her daughter is marriage.

Kent Streed’s costumes accentuate the personalities of each character and the family’s limited funds. Kent adds subtle touches like Amanda’s worn shoes, Laura’s oversized sweater and Tom’s working class clothes to drape them all in desperation. 

Laura is overshadowed by her mother in every way. Liv Paulson is small compared to the taller Glover and uses her stature to further emphasize the domineering nature of the mother/daughter relationship. Paulson’s Laura limps across the stage and meekly hides behind the imaginary world of her glass figurine collection. She is as fragile as her glass collection. Tom and Laura use different techniques to defy the dominating Amanda while supporting a delicate family balance.  

Tom manages to do something right, in the eyes of his mother, after inviting a co-worker, Jim O-Connor, back to the house as a possible suitor to Laura. Amanda pulls out all the southern hospitality in the hopes that new cushions and a roast will cure their financial woes. Unbeknownst to all, Jim O’Connor is Laura’s high school crush and that revelation comes with consequences.  

O’Connor, played by Dylan Duffy, has a small but pivotal role. Duffy’s O’Connor seems at first to be a brash young man, but we are able to see him as more Tom’s conscience as the story unfolds. Tom uses the electric bill money to join the Merchant Marines so he can leave and find adventure while O’Connor questions his integrity. Duffy’s expressive face also lets the audience in on the joke when O’Connor realizes he is being set up with Tom’s sister. 
Without giving away the ending, this story has elements that will resonate with everyone, where memories are flawed and actions are picked apart and questioned. When the lights finally go up we are exhausted and invigorated from this trip down memory lane.  

You won’t want to miss this one. Get your tickets to Pendragon Theatre to watch Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie while they are available. This show will sell out. Glover is a gift that I hope continues to grace the Pendragon stage for years to come. Enjoy! - Diane Chase
 

 

Baskerville: A Delightful Romp from Beginning to End!

Aug 09, 2016 - North Country Public RadioBaskerville by Ken Ludwig, now at Pendragon Theatre, is a hilarious re-telling of the well-known Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles. Using only five actors and with a clever and very funny production style, the play manages to hit every point of the original story.

Director Anita Montgomery, a long-time Pendragon alumna now a well recognized Seattle based director, has put together a strong and fast-paced production. The technical aspects are remarkable and the well-balanced cast equally adept at the accents, the style, and the comic timing.

The set, co-designed by Kent Streed and the Director, consists simply of a platform, 2 raised platforms stage right and left and an entrance stage right all backed by a scrim with shadowy arches. There’s plenty of fog making for a wonderfully shivery opening. Kent Streed’s costumes and wigs are exceptionally good, especially considering the incredible number and speed of the changes. Special kudos to backstage dressers Will Gray and Sarah Benamati.

Bonnie Brewer’s lighting is very effective, particularly in the moor scenes. I can’t say enough about the excellent sound, designed by Miss Brewer and Director Montgomery. From the opening to the dénouement it’s terrific, and contributes a great deal to the production.

Now to this accomplished cast. Jonathan Whitney is a first rate Holmes. He’s very athletic and, unlike the usual craggy Holmes, could play a Sigmund Romberg hero. His long legs are perfect for sneaking and bounding. As Watson, Tyler Nye alternates appropriately between being stalwart and being confused. His Watson is unusually three dimensional.
Matt Stapleton is very good in a number of roles, particularly as the stalwart Sir Charles. Rachel Kemp, the lone female in the cast, also plays a number of roles effectively. She’s a good physical comedian and sits down in Act II with a hard-to-believe move. I lost count of Michael Ring’s characters and lightning-fast changes. Suffice it to say he’s a riot with great comic technique tinged with slapstick, but never crosses the line into caricature.

Director Anita Montgomery has done a masterful job to staging, from props handed on by a disembodied arm, to sleeping on a train, to a terrific storm scene on the moor. It’s easy to go over the top with this material, but she’s managed to create controlled mayhem. Here’s hoping she returns again to Pendragon.

If you haven’t been to Pendragon this season, or even if you have, don’t miss this one. Baskerville is a delightful romp from beginning to end.

On a scale of one to five the Pendragon Theatre production of Baskerville gets five pine trees. For North Country Public Radio, I’m Connie Meng.

 

Pendragon Theatre's Amadeus is Divine

July 22, 2016- Adirondack Family Time -My thirteen-year-old daughter sits in the Pendragon Theatre audience with me madly reading the program to learn a bit about the play Amadeus, before the lights start to dim. I bring her with me as a lover of history and music. She grasps that the main story is a fictional account of the rivalry between two classical musicians, Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. It's later on that she learns rumor and innuendo are just as fatal as murder. 

I’ve watched the 1984 Oscar winning movie based on the Peter Shaffer play, but I’ve never seen the stage production. The differences are vast, as the play's action draws us in and allows the audience to be involved in the process. A poignant story of artistic brilliance, jealousy and destruction is brought to life through the powerful performances of the entire cast under the direction of Kimberley A. Bouchard. Amadeus is an emotional rollercoaster that ended with us both in tears. 

John Nicholson, last seen as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, plays Salieri with the perfect mix of self-righteousness, resentment and vengeance. The story opens with an elderly wheelchair-bound Salieri, still holding onto his bitter rivalry with a deceased Mozart.

Bonnie B. Brewer’s lighting triggers shifts in moods from forbidding darkness to mischievous lightness while Tijana Bjelajac’s simplistic set design transforms us to 1800s Vienna with ease. It is Cathy Mason’s brilliant costume design that truly allows us to enter the court of Austria’s Emperor Joseph through rich brocade fabrics and elaborate Baroque-style wigs.  (Some wigs are works of art themselves, intricately fabricated from paper.)
Nicholson’s Salieri fills the stage with an exaggerated sense of importance as he steps back in time to rage about the infantile genius known as Mozart. Nicholson brings so much emotion to Salieri whether it is hate or disbelief.  Salieri is all pomp and circumstance, weaving tales of his own discovery and path to the royal Viennese court. When he is finally at the pinnacle of his career, married only to advance his career and widely respected, his self-worth is challenged by the musical prodigy Amadeus (Tyler Nye).

Nye takes the stage by storm as Amadeus Mozart. Nye’s Mozart is callous and juvenile, glibly tossing out improvements to Salieri’s work. With each high-pitched giggle or exuberant outburst, Nye paints Mozart as a destructive, impulsive youth.

Salieri reflects on his chaste, “good life” and sees Mozart as a “creature” that needs to be destroyed even though Mozart produces music that is straight from the Divine. 
“Goodness is nothing in the furnace of art,” rages Salieri. He uses that realization to systematically damage his rival all the while playing Mozart for a fool. Intertwined with all the drama are the Ventis, played superbly by Rachel Kemp and Emily S. Wanamaker. From the opening act, the two women weave tension and intrigue through their gossip. They mock and mimic Salieri’s insecure thoughts, taunt Mozart’s decision to marry Constanze (Liv Paulson), a marriage disapproved of by his controlling father or stir mischief with their tales.

Liv Paulson is truly riveting as Constanze. We watch her grow from giggling young girl to betrayed wife and destitute mother. Her pain becomes everyone’s agony as we watch the story unfold, with no control over the final outcome. 

The rigid rules and gossip-mongering of the Austrian Royal Court are perfectly portrayed by Count Orsini-Rosenberg (Jonathan Whitney), Count Gottfried Van Swieten (Jordan Hornstein), County von Strack (Josie Good), Emperor Joseph (Ryan Tracy) and Salieri’s servant (Will Gray). 

Salieri continues to undermine Mozart with destructive advice, but finally discovers that even in death Mozart’s musical genius lives on. Mozart is immortal while Salieri fades into obscurity. 

When the final bow is taken, my daughter wipes the tears from her face and ask why? Why would someone destroy another person? Why would someone pretend to be friends? Why didn’t Salieri appreciate his own success? Why? 

Amadeus runs about 3-hours, but every emotionally-charged minute is worth its weight in gold. The last Pendragon Theatre performances are July 22,23,26,27,28,30 at 8 pm and July 24 at 2 pm. - Diane Chase
 

 

Review: Pendragon Theatre's Art

June 2, 2016 - Adirondack Daily Enterprise- Pendragon Theatre’s production of Yasmina Reza’s Art takes a comic and poignant look at the very nature of friendship as an unexpected purchase threatens to destroy the camaraderie between three grown men.

When Serge (Peter Wilson) purchases a seemingly all-white painting for $100,000, Marc (Burdette Parks) cannot believe he would make such an acquisition. Marc informs their mutual friend, Yvan (Jordan Hornstein), of the act, hoping to enlist Yvan in his campaign to deride Serge’s decision, but Yvan becomes caught between the two as their debate about the definition of art builds to the possible destruction of their friendship.

The play, translated by Christopher Hampton, examines the subtle unspoken acknowledgements that lie at the root of many relationships, and what can happen when those roots are ripped up. Despite its seemingly intense subject matter, it’s funny, with much of its humor coming from the use of asides spoken directly to the audience detailing the inner thoughts of its trio of characters.

Parks, who also directed the show and designed its set, shows a clear understanding of the material. His Marc both envies and despises Serge, and he spends much of the play trying to reassert his former role as the alpha male in their group. To Marc, Serge’s purchase is a personal insult, a slap in the face of the (imagined?) shared aesthetic and ideals on which their friendship was founded. Have they outgrown each other? Were they ever friends at all? These are the questions the play grapples with, and Parks’ comic timing keeps the audience laughing even as they wonder if the trio will survive the painting.

Wilson’s Serge illustrates some of the problems that can creep into friendships that cross socioeconomic lines. While Marc and Yvan live modestly, Serge, a dermatologist, is clearly better off financially, a detail his purchase seemingly flaunts. Wilson’s Serge both desires Marc’s approval even as his acquisition declares that he no longer needs it. Wilson alternates between the assertive and the defensive, giving the audience the sense that even he is not certain he made the right decision.

Hornstein nearly steals the show as Yvan. While Parks and Wilson carry the bulk of the tension, Hornstein is free to pinball between the twin poles of their personalities, asking questions like, “So if we hate each other, why do we spend time together?” His Yvan simply wants everyone to get along and support each other, something neither Marc nor Serge seem capable of doing any longer. Hornstein is manic at times and somber at others, and his animated, inspired performance truly shines on the stage.

Parks and Assistant Director Allison Studdiford deserve credit for bringing the play to life while challenging the audience to reflect on the reasons lurking behind their own friendships and relationships: are your friends your friends because of who you are, or because of what you do for them? It’s an interesting question, one that deserves further examination, to be sure.

Parks’ set design, which features the three characters’ New York apartments, works well, allowing seamless transitions from one scene to another. Bonnie Brewer’s lighting design accents the characters’ asides, letting the audience know when Marc, Serge or Yvan step out of the action for a moment to address them directly. It’s a fun theatrical device that is deftly handled.

Art features performances that will make you laugh even as you feel uneasy about why you are laughing. Is an all-white painting “art?” Are your friends truly your friends? Do you define who you are by your actions, or how the people around you respond to them? Art may just help answer some of those questions.

Art will run at Pendragon Theatre through June 19. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.pendragontheatre.org.

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Pendragon Theatre

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