Highwood’s latest show spoofs a theater production run amok

Cast members of Highwood Theatre’s ‘Play On!’ look at scripts. COURTESY PHOTO Cast members of Highwood Theatre’s ‘Play On!’ look at scripts. COURTESY PHOTO  If there’s anything tougher than comedy, it’s pulling together the production of a comedy in two weeks.

Especially one that involves a lot of physical, as well as verbal, comedy.

That’s the task that fell to the young performers, in grades 7-12, in Highwood Theatre’s Summer Active Intensive program. They’re presenting Rick Abbot’s “Play On!” Highwod’s final production of the season and the only non-musical play the theater is producing this summer.

Rick Abbot is one of several pen names for prolific playwright Jack Sharkey (1931-1992), who published 83 plays under his own name and four others.

The conceit of “Play On!” said artistic director Matthew Nicola, is that while a theater troupe rehearses for – and later puts on – a comedy, disaster follows. Disaster that audiences can laugh at.


Highwood Theatre presents student productions of musicals ‘Godspell’ and ‘My Fair Lady’

Students rehearse for the iconic musical “Godspell,” one of two Highwood Theatre summer productions. COURTESY PHOTOStudents rehearse for the musical “Godspell,” one of Highwood Theatre's summer productions. COURTESY PHOTO  Summer may be overall slow, but Highwood Theatre is gearing up for two student musical productions.

First, there’s “Godspell” – this year’s Musical Theatre Intensive program for seventh through 12th graders.

The show, with concept and book by John Michael Tebelak and music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, brings vaudevillian elements and diverse musical styles to a contemporary take of the Gospel of St. Matthew.

Henry Gottfried, an actor who appeared in the first national tour of “Bright Star” and the TV production of “Peter Pan Live!” is directing.

“This seemed like a stretch of the muscles,” he said.

It’s also new for Gottfried to be directing kids this age.

“But young actors are pretty gung-ho” he said. “Because this is summer camp, these kids have chosen to be there.”


Highwood brings student production of "West Side Story" to Siena School

Angel Soriano (left) and West Remy star as Bernardo and Riff, heads of warring gangs in “West Side Story” at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTOAngel Soriano (left) and West Remy star as Bernardo and Riff, heads of warring gangs in “West Side Story” at Highwood Theatre.  COURTESY PHOTO  Initially, Hellen Cabrera De Oliveira auditioned for The Highwood Theatre’s all-student production of “West Side Story” for reasons other than the show itself.

“What appealed to me is how they wanted to make the production in the round, and how we would have master classes with Broadway performers Nick Blaemire and Cate Caplin [affiliated with Highwood],” said De Oliveira, who previously was a dance captain for “James and the Giant Peach” and a young boy in “All My Sons” at the theater.

However, artistic director Matthew Nicola said all the actors became “completely entranced” by the 1957 musical, arguably one of the most beloved to come to Broadway. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the show pits the love of two young people from different backgrounds against warring ethnic gangs in New York City, with inevitable tragedy.

Presenting what he calls a “timeless piece” has “always been in the back” of Nicola’s mind. “I was just looking for the right time to do it. It has been an amazing journey.”


Recluse embraces life at world’s end in Highwood Theatre’s ‘Soon’

Cast of student actors – in rep with adult pro production – of ‘Soon’ at Highwood Theatre.  COURTESY PHOTO Cast of student actors – in repertory with adult professional production – of "Soon" at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  It was a dream come true. When Nick Blaemire and his half-brother, James Gardiner, were only 22, they opened a play on the Great White Way.

“We wrote a show called ‘Glory Days,’ which Eric Schaeffer was kind enough to produce at Signature Theatre,” said Blaemire. “The next year the show went to Broadway.”

Although “Glory Days” closed on opening night, he called the experience “one hell of a ride.”

Since then, the theatrical jack-of-all-trades has appeared in a few Broadway shows, and in the off-Broadway revival of the musical “Tick Tock Boom!”

When Signature presented his musical “Soon” – for which Blaemire had written the book, lyrics, and music – It “was among the most joyous times of my life,” he said. “Signature has been my home away from home.”

“Soon” is now coming to The Highwood Theatre, reflecting the season’s theme of “Off Your Rocker.” The play also constitutes Highwood’s fifth annual Open Source Festival – redefining the conception of traditional nights at the theater, said Matthew Nicola, artistic director.


High school senior sees her dystopian play open at Highwood Theatre

IMG 2350 copy dog must die 1Cast of five rehearses Highwood’s ‘The Dog Must Die’ COURTESY PHOTOMadison Middleton began studying at The Highwood Theatre at age 11, and, in her words, “has never left.”

Now nearly 18, she is not only a senior at DC's Fusion Academy but also a budding playwright who is about to see her second production open at Highwood.

That production – “The Dog Must Die” – is a dystopian drama that questions what happens when concrete columns have been built above ground to house and save society because life on earth is no longer sustainable.


“School of Rock” gets local run while on Broadway

schoolofrockcast copy photoWill Valdes, lead in ‘School of Rock,’ surrounded by his students.   COURTESY PHOTO  Sometimes you get an offer you can't refuse.

When the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation approved The Highwood Theatre's request to license "The School of Rock," even though it is still playing on the Great White Way, moving forward was a no-brainer.

"It was a unique opportunity to do a Broadway show," said Kevin Kearney, the theater's executive director who is co-directing the show with Dylan Kaufman. "We're part of a select group of youth theaters and schools who received the licensing."

But aside from the opportunity, "School of Rock" is also "the perfect show for Highwood," said Kearney, who saw the musical four times on Broadway and "loved" it.


Chekhov-inspired comedy opens Highwood Theatre’s season

Vanya Pub 11 1 copyThe cast of Christopher Durang's comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” now playing at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Richard Fiske admits to being an adrenaline junkie.

He fulfilled that need in the past by serving as a U.S. Navy officer for 27 years, then as an engineer and diving and salvage engineer, also for the Navy.

Now he gets that fix onstage.

For over six years, he’s performed as an actor in the D.C. area. “I get to do fun stuff and be different people,” Fiske said.

His current role is Vanya in Christopher Durang’s comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” the production launching Highwood Theatre’s 2017-2018 season. The play also stars Margaret Condon as Sonia, Rachel Varley as Masha, Thomas Shuman as Spike, Kecia Campbell as Cassandra, and Amber James as Nina.


Learning to overdose on the theater in a perfectly good way

greek tragedy and comedy masksIf you like “theater writ large,” the place to be over the Labor Day Weekend is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is hosting the 16th annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival.

More than 60 theaters from the metropolitan area will present open rehearsals, concert readings, and workshops of new plays often still in the development phase.

Montgomery County is well represented, with at least eight of its theaters participating.


On stage in Downtown Silver Spring with Black Box and Highwood Theatres

IMG 8458 copy highwoodThe cast of the Highwood Theatre production of “Into the Woods.” COURTESY PHOTO BY HIGHWOOD THEATRE   Downtown Silver Spring has become a hub of activity, featuring stores, restaurants, and various forms of entertainment, ranging from a skating rink to movie theaters to outdoor concerts.

It’s also the home of two live theatres.

The 140-seat Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, located at 8641 Colesville Road, is home to four theatre groups, which perform there regularly as part of the Theatre Consortium of Silver Spring. But the community-owned building also rents out space for one-night engagements and limited runs, giving the opportunity to new artists and arts organizations to put on fare as varied as plays, set lists, improv comedy, open-mic and dance concerts, said Jonathan Ezra Rubin, managing director of the Consortium. There’s even a pole-dance competition on August 12, produced by the Titans of Pole.

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