Previewed by Gail M. Burns, April 2004
A group of young women and men, all alumni of Drury High School and the Drury Drama Team, have come together to create a new community theatre group, Mill City Productions, a collaborative, non-profit effort featuring theatre veterans and enthusiasts of all ages. They will stage their first show, an evening of one-act comedies, on April 16 & 17 at 8 p.m. in the parish hall of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Summer Street, and on April 29 & 30 at 8 p.m. at Drury High School.
MCP was designed to create a place for local people of all ages with a variety of skill levels to gain experience in theatre. Co-founder and group president Elizabeth “Liz” Urban noticed that although there are many opportunities in Berkshire County for professional actors, there were few places where people just starting out could test the waters and learn skills they needed to advance.
“Lots of Drama Team alumni have returned to work with the Team once they return to north Berkshire after graduating from college,” said Urban, who along with fellow MCP member and fiancé Tim Mangun holds a degree from Skidmore, “Drama was huge when we were at Drury, but now there aren’t enough kids involved. MCP plans to develop outreach programs with the local elementary schools and the middle school to get younger kids involved in the theatre so that they will already be excited about the arts once they get to Drury.” MCP may tour a production of Schoolhouse Rock or You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown to local schools in the fall.
Len “Doc” Radin, director of the Drury Drama Team, is thrilled that his hard work with the young people of north County has created this new initiative. “I cannot wait to see my alumni on stage!” Radin said, “What can be more satisfying for a theatre teacher? I feel like the Drury Drama Team gave birth to a baby theatre. Considering the talent and energy of these Drama Team alumni, the play has got to be outstanding.”
MCPs first production will showcase short pieces written by Christopher Durang and Daniel MacIvor. The evening of comedy and free refreshments, entitled Cheap Laughs, Free Eats, will feature a Durang monologue Mrs. Sorkin developed and performed by Drury teacher Jackie DeGiorges, and two one-act comedies, Durang’s Wanda’s Visit directed by Kate Merrigan, and McIvor’s This is a Play directed collaboratively by the cast. Actors involved include Urban, Mangun, Marissa Carlson, MCP Vice-President Mike Grogan, and DeGiorges.
“Wanda’s Visit is a relationship play and the comedy is all in the writing,” Urban said, “Whereas the comedy in This is a Play is broadly physical.” Though the humor in these plays will appeal to a wide range of people, some material may not be suitable for children under 13.
The MCP folks are thrilled to have settled into their new “home” at St. John’s, and were busy making improvements to the playing space on the second floor of the Parish Hall building the evening The Transcript visited.
MCP wants to present works that reach a broad audience, and that involve large, multigenerational casts. Open and non-competitive auditions will be held for future productions and will be announced on their Web site which Mangun developed. They plan to make the performances accessible by keeping ticket prices low. Admission to their first effort is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
“We really want to make auditions as fun and as comfortable as possible,” Grogan said.
“Fun is really important to us in every aspect of what we do,” Urban added, “We want the actors to have fun and we want the audience to have fun.”
DeGiorges is the only “older” adult involved in this first production, a trend she also started while working with the Drury Drama Team. “I really enjoy acting and I wanted to get involved, so I would take any roles they needed an ‘old lady’ for, but then I always felt guilty taking a part away from a high school student. Here I can participate freely as an equal.”
DeGiorges worked on her monologue Mrs. Sorkin on her own and then brought it to MCP for consideration. “We all gave her some helpful suggestions, but she really did all of the work herself.” Grogan explained.
Next up for MCP is a joint production with the Drury Drama Team of Rob John’s Living with Lady Macbeth directed by Grogan and presented at St. John’s in early June. The Team presented two performances of this play at Drury back in February, and will be taking it to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska in June 21-27.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2004