Press Room

The Eagle Theatre’s Ted Wioncek joins Network 1901’s Modern Mouse Radio to talk “Noir” and Theme Park Theatre

Disney has inspired a new generation of entertainers. Ted Wioncek is creating a new experience called Theme Park Theater, an 4D/Live Performance hybrid show and their first show, NOIR, premieres in Sept. 2018, so I wanted to pick at his brain to talk about his influences, his path to making this show, and what he sees as the future of this new “theme park theater”.

Listen to the Podcast here via Network 1901’s Modern Mouse Radio

 

 


Spotlight On: The Making of Eagle Theater’s NOIR

From Broadway World – August 27, 2018

I caught up with Eagle Theater’s Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III who’s about to bring a “world premier” event to the Eagle Theater.

Pati Buehler: Ted, you premiered a live ‘trailer’ if you will, of NOIR at the first ever Jersey Fringe back in 2016. I was among those who first enjoyed the creativity of this mix of live action and film interaction. Please tell us how this concept originated with your co-writer Tim Rinehart?

Ted Wioncek III: Traditionally, the transaction between audience and storyteller mirrors that of the following; sit back, relax, and enjoy! Ultimately, you are being asked to play the role of spectator. But, what if I told you that we could take you inside the story? Not one or two steps closer, but three and four? That is what Theme Park Theater possesses the power to do; transform live entertainment by putting you in the center of the action!

In 2016, I pitched the idea for a film noir satire. The hook, as you mentioned, was to seamlessly blend live-action comedy with three-dimensional cinematography, using interactive in-theater special effects to fully immerse the audience.

I was still in the thick of developing the concept when I first approached Tim Rinehart to star as the lead. Little did we know that he would end up being the one and only star of this comedic tour de force. Tim and I first worked together in 2009 on a production of M*A*S*H. I was instantly drawn to his uncanny timing and knack for portraying a multitude of characters. But, what surprised me most was when he walked into rehearsal, having re-written three-quarters of the script. This is not a common practice, nor is it really acceptable. But, strike me down if he didn’t have some mighty fine suggestions!

Soon after approaching Tim to play the role of the PI, he asked if he could take a stab at writing some dialogue. I agreed, however, decided not to let on that I was planning to create this as a 3D/4D experience. The next day he sent over twenty-pages of a classic noir satire with all your favorite stock characters and tropes. I laughed so hard that tears streamed down my face. Rinehart’s writing is snappy, full of laugh-a-minute one-liners and hysterically absurd plotlines. I felt as though I was reading a Seth McFarland take on The Maltese Falcon! There was only one hitch; I could hear Tim’s voice in every role. I called him immediately and told him that we would agree to use his script, if he agreed to play all the roles. There was about thirty seconds of silence on the other end of the phone. I think he was waiting for the punchline.

As we developed the script, we both agreed to continue to work on the story as if it were a true multi-actor play. We suspected that this process would ensure a more natural and fluid script, with no outside influences. While the concept came first, the experiential aspects would come much later, long after the plot and characters had been fully developed. It was not until the final draft of the script was approved that we embarked on an adventure to instill the first piece of Theme Park Theater.

PB: Tell us more about the collaboration with the Innovations Factory, which has been part of the Eagle’s productions in the past.

TW: Innovations Factory (IF) is a core of theming artists dedicated to experiential storytelling through medium advancing technology. This collective includes designers from all discipline and backgrounds; set designers, lighting designers, prop designers, sound designers, scenic painters, engineers, carpenters, etc. Their talents are especially unique. Everyone has their own department yet have the ability to cross over to another area of expertise. These trusted and versatile individuals are responsible for our more whimsical flights of fancy.BWW Spotlight On: The Making of Eagle Theater’s NOIR

The name itself derives from a question that seemed to follow this band of illusioneers into every single brainstorming session; What if? What if the walls could move, what if the stage could rotate, what if we provided a scent-sensory experience?

When I pitched the concept of Theme Park Theater to a few of the inhouse IF members, they immediately rolled up their sleeves and began discovering how we would bring it to life. Research and development have been monumental on NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller. Whether it be shooting on green screen, 3D projection, in-theater 4D special effects (mist, bubbles, seat sensors, surround sound), or musical scoring… this team has been up for the task!

Since the inception of IF, we have received a plethora of interest from emerging artists on how they can join. The answer is somewhat elusive. Anyone with a vast imagination who believes that live entertainment has only begun to scratch the surface is a viable candidate. We look for artists that ask more of their art. No one goes into the arts because they long to do the same thing day in and day out. So, why produce work in this manner? We look to keep it fresh by having fun because we are always in a constant state of discovery!

PB: Having seen the Eagle’s ability to transport moving ‘sets to suit the scenes and cast members appearing and disappearing into ‘closets’ in past productions such as Frank Wildhorn’s “The Civil War; The Musical”, “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Little Women”. What prompts you to ‘push the envelope’ in your choice of direction and how have audiences received these creative choices?

TW: I think it is important to refrain from being innovative for innovations sake. Sure, you can be an innovator by nature. It can be part of your brand. It can help you plus-up an experience. But, it must always come from within the story being told. Each production you mentioned was innovative out of necessity to tell the story in the most powerful and heartfelt way possible.

Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Designer and President, Joe Rohde, stated in the Afterword of David Younger’s Theme Park Design & The Art of Themed Entertainment, “To have a profession, one must have something to profess.” I have always felt that it is my personal responsibility as a creator to expand the medium by any means possible. As a storyteller, the audience experience should always remain paramount. We tell stories in hopes of forming a connection… a bond. If I can help strengthen that connection by “pushing the envelope”, why not? If you’re not going to push the envelope for your audience, then for whom are you pushing?

PB: Many people are aware of your passion… ahem… obsession for Star Wars and everything Disney. What are you trying, and successfully I might add, to achieve with these creative ideas and what’s next for the future of the Eagle?

TW: Haha… caught. I guess I’m as subtle as a Death Star blast to Alderaan, huh? What, too soon? I grew up as a proud card-carrying member of the Lucasfilm Ltd. Official Fan Club! Even my Instagram user name is inspired by droids… two or three! Admittedly, the first childhood memory I have is exploring Walt Disney World and Universal Studios with my family. Heck, even my favorite sports team was the Harlem Globetrotters! Throughout the years, my love of exploring new worlds in the form of live entertainment would never waiver. Rather, it manifested in a dream of creating new worlds in the form of live entertainment. In many ways, all that we have achieved has led to this moment, this new brand, Theme Park Theater. But, it takes a group of brave and inspired individuals to say “yes” before you can turn that dream into Realityland.

As for what is next… I can only assure you, it won’t be more of the same!

 


 

NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller Opens September 12!

From Theme Park University – August 25, 2018

Recently I learned about a new satirical theater show that not only pays tribute to theme parks but parodies it as well! On September 12, 2018 Noir: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller opens at the Eagle Theater in Hammonton, New Jersey. This completely original show will simulate a theme park 3D/4D experience in a regional theater and it sounds fantastic!

I recently got a chance to chat with the creative director of Noir, Ted Wioncek, about what the process has been like creating this one-of-a-kind production. He even shared some exclusive production photos and storyboards of the process! Enjoy!

Tell me a little about the show and why did you choose this topic: It has always been my desire to expand the medium of live entertainment, with an emphasis on experiential theater. That is what Walt Disney did in his own way; He took the medium of cartoon, known for gags and gimmicks, and gave the world Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a heartfelt story with an arc so palpable, audiences, for the first time, would feel empathy for an animated cast of characters. Empathy is a gateway emotion of making the audience more than just a spectator. In a similar vein, this new brand of live entertainment, Theme Park Theater, uses immersive and interactive in-theater special effects to put the audience in the center of the story.
I chose film noir as our foil because it is distinctly stylized. The more rooted the genre, the more opportunity it presents for metatheatrical undertones. Satire, on the other hand, allows you to paint with broad strokes a wide range of hijinks and hilarity. I do believe the most effective satirical material derives from a place of adoration. We found humor in the tropes we appreciate most.
What kind of in-theater effects are you utilizing for the experience: NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller is a one-man comedic tour de force. Throughout the entirety of the production, one actor portrays over ten outrageous characters as he interacts with himself on both stage and screen. This live-action production features 3D projection and 4D immersive and interactive special effects, including; wind, mist, scent, bubbles, seat sensors, and more!
What other similar shows inspired you to create this: I am heavily inspired by Walt Disney, the Imagineers of past and present, and the entire theme park industry at large. The Themed Entertainment Association has done such a magnificent job at cultivating and celebrating this wonderfully supportive community. Naturally, everything from Captain EO and ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter to Muppet*Vision 3D and Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies has helped bring this art form to the surface.
But, perhaps what has left the most profound impact on has been the audience itself. Audiences have a way of making it clear as to what they want. As an Artistic Director, I have had the fortunate opportunity over the years of sitting in the back of the house, night after night, production after production, observing response. I have witnessed firsthand what engages them, draws them in, and brings them to the edge of their seats. The audience, unbeknownst to them, has provided vital information. In this case, they have presented us with the key to dazzle each of their senses and delight them to their very core.
What has the process been like creating the show? In 2015, as I was still developing the concept, I reached out to Tim Rinehart to play the role of Jack Sloan, the world’s worst private detective. Having worked with Rinehart on several projects, I knew his impeccable comedic timing and a knack for portraying a multitude of characters would fit this endeavor exceedingly well. I told him “I’m looking to create a film noir satire… you’re my PI.” He said he was interested and asked if he could take a stab at writing a bit of sample dialogue. I agreed, however, never let on that I planned to create this as a 3D/4D experience. The next day I awoke to a full twenty-page treatment of a classic noir satire. The tonality was spot on. I called Tim immediately and told him that we would agree to use his script if he agreed to play all the roles; the detective, the femme fatale, the girl Friday, the fall guy, all of it. I think he may have thought I was joking! But, after some convincing, we set a plan in action.
Regarding further development of the script, we agreed to continue to work the story as if it were straight, intentionally kept Rinehart out of the loop on Concept and in-theater effects. Our hunch was that a stronger script would arise should it be written as a multi-actor piece, with no outside influences. By doing so, any additional theatrical elements would only heighten the narrative. The experiential aspects would come later, long after the plot and characters had been developed. This approach allowed the writer to write and remain honest to his intent. It also allowed us to illusioneer elements that would work naturally with the source material, rather than shoehorning.
After the story was fully developed and approved, we took pen to paper and began to transform it into a piece of Theme Park Theater.
The process of creating NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller been exhilarating. The backstage warehouse of the Eagle Theatre has been transformed into a green screen film set and production elements have undergone intense research and development. The last two months have been spent on set, filming the on-screen scenes and characters. Today, we are in the studio recording VO of the PI’s inner monologue, which he outwardly argues with throughout the show. In a few days, we will be implementing an original score with a jazz quintet. Next week, we are onto the stage!
What have you learned along the way?
I have learned that my job as the creator is that of a storyteller. Not just for the sake of presenting something in front of an audience, but for everyone involved in bringing the art of show to life; from designers to investors. In many ways, the most important part of my job is assembling the proper team to tell this story. When you tell the story correctly, you naturally guide everyone to sharing in one collective vision. We suddenly all know exactly what the piece is, wants to be, and speak one universal language. Only then can we form an assembly line of endless possibility.
What do you hope the audiences take away from the show? I had just turned five the first time I visited Walt Disney World. I remember riding Pirates of the Caribbean seven times in a row and having a plethora of vivid dreams, starring The Haunted Mansion’s Madame Leota and the Pepper’s Ghost illusion, for years thereafter. I can still close my eyes and recall exactly how it felt to encounter these majestic lands for the first time. I’ve come to realize that these are my first true childhood memories. Almost thirty years later and these visions continue to inspire me to this very day. That is what I truly wish to create for an audience, escapism; a world so viscerally intoxicating that it gives your imagination permission to set sail and never return. A part of me always knew I wanted to spend my life creating worlds that may not last forever, but whose memories would never fade.

NOIR: The 3D/4D SemiCinematic Satirical Thriller To Provide A Theme Park Experience At Eagle Theatre

From New Jersey Stage – August 11, 2018

Eagle Theatre’s upcoming Original World-Premiere production introduces a new brand of live entertainment, Theme Park Theater. NOIR: The 3D/4D SemiCinematic Satirical Thriller, performed live on-stage and on-screen, features 3D projection and 4D immersive and interactive special effects, including; wind, mist, scent, bubbles, seat sensors, and more. The production runs from September 14th – October 14th.

In 2015, Eagle Theatre Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III founded the Innovations Factory, a core of theming artists dedicated to experiential storytelling through medium advancing technology. This collective would grow to include many of the same artists and designers responsible for Eagle Theatre’s special effects featured in their mainstage productions, including; motorized mechanical walls, rotating stages, scent-sensory, walk-through exhibits, and mechanical winches.

Wioncek, a member of the Themed Entertainment Association, states “IFologists work together to form an assembly line of endless possibility.”

In 2015, Innovations Factory set out to create a film noir satire that would seamlessly blend live-action comedy with three-dimensional cinematography, using theatrical techniques to immerse the audience.

Wioncek states, “Our original truncated “Proof of Concept” version debuted at the 1st Official Jersey Fringe Festival. In a matter of one month we developed a narrative, completed filming, and loaded all the special effects equipment we could fit into the backroom of a local art studio

The first incarnation of NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller received immediate praise and attention from creatives and critics alike.

“Lines formed outside the venue and wrapped around the block, while additional performance were added. It was clear to see this “Proof of Concept” was proof enough,” states Producing Director, Ed Corsi.

This fall, NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller will receive a World-Premiere at Eagle Theatre. The backstage warehouse of the theatre has been transformed into a green screen film set, while interactive special effects have undergone intense research and development. In addition, NOIR: The 3D/4D Semi-Cinematic Satirical Thriller is a one-man show, starring comedic stage veteran, Tim Rinehart. Rinehart startles over ten roles, interacting with himself on-stage and on-screen throughout the entire comedic tour de force.

Wioncek concludes, “We’ve put the individual in the center of the action. No longer will you watch entertainment… you’ll live it. Theme Park Theater is for everyone.”

 


 

‘The Last Five Years’ depicts a struggle onstage but Eagle Theatre’s fortunes are soaring

From NJ.com – June 13, 2018

 

Eagle Theatre’s latest production is “The Last Five Years,” the innovative musical that follows one couple as they fall in and out of love during a five-year period. That’s somewhat ironic as the theater’s fortunes have only gone up in the same time frame, producing director Ed Corsi said.

“It’s grown in leaps and bounds,” Corsi said, ticking off changes that include becoming a professional Equity theater, offering year-round programming, doubling the number of season pass holders from 700 to almost 2,000 and drawing talent directly from Broadway. “We announced the 2019 season in May and the sales are through the roof. … Five years ago, we never would have imagined this.”

“The Last Five Years,” which runs through July 1, is the third of five shows in the Eagle’s 2018 season. The theater was launched in Hammonton — the “Blueberry Capital of the World” with a population of about 15,000 in Atlantic County, about 30 miles from the Jersey shore — in 2009. It’s housed in a building constructed in 1914 as a silent movie theater and later used as a laundromat, storage facility, club house and church before being renovated about 10 years ago. It seats about 155 people.

Corsi was introduced to the theater in 2010, when he was an actor with a traveling company that was ending a tour at the Eagle with its production of — wait for it — “The Last Five Years.” When the theater hired Corsi’s troupe for another production, Corsi deepened his relationship with the theatre and the non-profit’s Board of Directors. He joined the theater soon after and, with artistic director Ted Wioncek III, set about turning the Eagle into a premiere regional theater.

The Eagle team used social media to draw audiences to its full-scale productions, which included world and regional premieres. They were so successful that they were among a dozen small businesses to be serve on Facebook’s inaugural National Small Business Council five years ago. The council now counts 60 businesses as members.

“Social media has played a huge role in our growth,” Corsi said. “We recently started another business called Social Eagle, assisting other area businesses with their social media practices. Facebook Inc provides us with materials and advance information to help these businesses. This has been monumental and allowing us to take our theater to the next level.”

That growth didn’t go unnoticed: The grants began flowing in in 2015, with the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism awarded the theater a $21,000 grant for marketing. That same year, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the New Jersey State Council for the Arts sent more than $30,000 to Eagle. The State Council’s grant committee noted that the theater “plays an important role in the Town of Hammonton and is raising the profile of the community, which is a significant benefit.”

The theater, Corsi said, has received “unprecedented grant and loan package from the (U.S. Department of Agriculture), as well as funding from the town of Hammonton and the Wyncote foundation.” The USDA has a Rural Develoment Agency which provides financial supports to essential facilities in rural areas. Such grants usually go to institutions like hospitals and schools. That an arts organization received funding, supporters said, was a tribute to the theater’s place as a community gathering place and as a promoter of Hammonton.

With the audiences came the accolades, including 10 nominations for Theatre Philadelphia’s Barrymore Awards for Excellence and dozens of BroadwayWorld award Nominations and wins. In 2016, Discover Jersey Arts announced that readers had voted the Eagle their “Favorite South Jersey Theatre” in its annual People’s Choice Awards. Most recently, Wioncek and Corsi received an N.J. Theatre Alliance Award of Excellence.

Upcoming events include the third year of the Jersey Fringe Festival. This is the only Fringe Festival in the state.

“Thousands of people will come into town the first weekend in August to enjoy multiple productions and various venues within walking distance, as well as a large outdoor party-like environment,” Corsi said. “Last year, in year two, we welcomed almost 2000 people into town that weekend.”

The Eagle’s Innovations Factory will debut “NOIR: The Semi-Cinematic 3D4D Satirical Thriller” during Fringe. Corsi describes the show as “equal parts film, theater and theme park.” It aims to blend live-action comedy with three-dimensional cinematography for an explosive effect on screen and stage. The theater would like to move the production to New York.

But first: “The Last Five Years,” the show that introduced Corsi to the Eagle. It’s one of his favorite musicals, he said, which is why he twice starred as the male lead in professional productions.

“The music is some of the best music written for musical theater. It’s heart wrenching, affecting and beautiful,” Corsi said. “When i saw it off-Broadway, I’d never saw anything like it.”

Jason Robert Brown’s musical, which is based on his own failed first marriage, is a “He Sings, She Sings” story as the show’s only characters, Jamie and Cathy, detail the rise and fall of their relationship. But there’s a twist: Jamie tells their story in chronological order. Cathy tells the story backwards. The two actors interact on stage only once: four minutes mid-show in a scene showing their engagement and wedding.

Upcoming events include the third year of the Jersey Fringe Festival. This is the only Fringe Festival in the state.

“Thousands of people will come into town the first weekend in August to enjoy multiple productions and various venues within walking distance, as well as a large outdoor party-like environment,” Corsi said. “Last year, in year two, we welcomed almost 2000 people into town that weekend.”

The Eagle’s Innovations Factory will debut “NOIR: The Semi-Cinematic 3D4D Satirical Thriller” during Fringe. Corsi describes the show as “equal parts film, theater and theme park.” It aims to blend live-action comedy with three-dimensional cinematography for an explosive effect on screen and stage. The theater would like to move the production to New York.

But first: “The Last Five Years,” the show that introduced Corsi to the Eagle. It’s one of his favorite musicals, he said, which is why he twice starred as the male lead in professional productions.

“The music is some of the best music written for musical theater. It’s heart wrenching, affecting and beautiful,” Corsi said. “When i saw it off-Broadway, I’d never saw anything like it.”

Jason Robert Brown’s musical, which is based on his own failed first marriage, is a “He Sings, She Sings” story as the show’s only characters, Jamie and Cathy, detail the rise and fall of their relationship. But there’s a twist: Jamie tells their story in chronological order. Cathy tells the story backwards. The two actors interact on stage only once: four minutes mid-show in a scene showing their engagement and wedding.

During its off-Broadway run, “The Last Five Years” won the 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical and Lyrics. It’s since been performed world-wide and, in 2014, was adapted into a film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

In the Eagle’s production, Max Meyers plays Jamie while Jenna Pastuszek is Cathy. To give the show that now-expected Eagle twist, the actors enter and exit on a turntable stage. There’s also a 12-foot, concave screen slightly above and behind the actors providing changing background scenery: When Jamie talks about his apartment, for example, footage of a NY apartment appears on the screen. When Cathy reflects on time spent at a lake house in Ohio, the video shows ducks on a pond.

“It’s subtle. It’s not taking away, but setting a tone and giving the show more of a musical theater feel instead of a cabaret-feel,” Corsi said. “If you’re not familiar with the show, it can be confusing at first. This is not only beautiful but it helps the audience follow along.”

Pastuszek said the musical is both sad and happy but, most of all, relatable.

“We’ve had a lot of previews with small audiences and people say, ‘It’s so beautiful. I can’t blame either one of them for the things that go wrong. Both the characters you’re portraying on stage, I see myself in both of them.”

Meyers said he, too, likes that element of real-life ambiguity. He thinks it will encourage people to be more mindful of their relationships and may even embolden them to communicate even when that’s difficult.

“The show encourages people to look at the love in their lives and to cherish it even more,” he said. “That’s a great perspective to give to anyone.”

 

 


BWW Review: THE LAST 5 YEARS at EAGLE THEATRE is a Show You Should Make the TIME to See

From Broadway World – June 4, 2018

 

This weekend, Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, NJ opened the doors for its production of Jason Robert Brown‘s The Last Five Years.

The Last 5 Years is an emotionally powerful and intimate musical about a man and a woman who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The musical’s unconventional structure consists of an aspiring actress Cathy Hiatt (played by Jenna Pastuszek) telling her story backwards, while budding novelist Jamie Wellerstein (played by Max Meyers) tells his story chronologically; the two characters only meet once, at their wedding in the middle of the show.

Jason Robert Brown’s writing is brilliant: his story is relatable; his characters are personable; and his music is witty, funny and heart-wrenching. The structure of the play (having Cathy telling the story in reverse and having Jamie tell it chronologically) is unique and imaginative.

Eagle Theatre’s production design for The Last 5 Years is simple, but smart. The Eagle’s Innovations Factory has created a Lazy-Susan type turntable which the actors ride to make their entrances and exits. On either side of the turntable are podiums, and above the set is a panoramic screen that shows different video projections throughout the show. And since the musical has such a strong theme of time and how time moves, many of the videos projected onto the screen feature clocks.

In the Eagle’s production, there are very minimal props and set pieces. As an audience, you are only ever seeing one half of the story at a time. You either see it from Jamie or Cathy’s perspective and you either see the first half of last half. So, some of The Eagle’s set pieces are half-half of an airplane seat or half of a bed-showing that it is only half of the story. Corsi also chose to modernize the production a little by using the video backgrounds and some contemporary props (like using cell phones and an airplane instead of hand-written letters and a car in the traditional staging).

Dramaturgically, I love the idea of the Innovations Factory’s turntable. It nicely reflects the circular nature of the play and adds momentum, highlighting the theme of time always moving. Jason Robert Brown’s script and music has a very circular structure. The music repeats several iconic ditties and even lyrics that take on different contexts throughout the show.

The way Producing Director of The Eagle and Director of The Last 5 Years, Ed Corsi, utilizes the turntable in his blocking highlights the separation of Cathy and Jamie. Pastuszek and Meyers are always on opposite sides of the stage and only ever make physical contact during Jamie’s proposal to Cathy, and during their wedding in the song “The Next Ten Minutes”.

Eagle Theatre’s simplistic production is a smart choice. The Last 5 Years is not a dog and pony show. Rather, Corsi puts the focus on the authenticity and relatability of the relationship between Jamie and Cathy. The Eagle’s production feels intimate and perhaps more importantly, authentic. The main focus is on Pastuszek and Meyer: their acting and their singing. The Last 5 Years is an almost operatic musical. There are not many lines of dialogue as Jamie and Cathy almost never directly interact, so the story is told primarily through song.

Something that I find so special about Jason Robert Brown‘s writing in The Last 5 Yearsis that the characters are so well developed. They are not two-dimensional caricatures of two people who fall in love such as are common in traditionally commercial musical theatre. Instead, Jason Robert Brown gives both Cathy and Jamie full stories and he shows how both parties contributed to the end of the relationship. It is a realistic portrayal of a relationship and Pastuszek and Meyers as Cathy and Jamie are personable, adorable, and endearing.

Jason Robert Brown’s musical is an emotional story, but there is a constant balance of drama with comedy in his writing. Because of the structure he chose (to have Cathy tell the story backwards while Jamie tells it chronologically) most of the songs in the musical alternate with a cheerful, cheeky song then a beautiful ballad.

I love the more upbeat songs in the score, and one of my favorite moments in the musical is when Meyer as Jamie sings “The Schmuel Song”. “The Schmuel Song” is a story Jamie writes for Cathy at Christmas time about an elderly tailor from Klimovich whose clock tells him that he could turn back time as he sews. Jamie presents to Cathy a watch telling her how he will support her following her dreams. My favorite part about Meyer’s performance of this song is his little dance during the “Na na na na’s” which is charming and comedic.

I also love Pastuszek’s rendition of Cathy’s ranting song “Climbing Uphill” about the torturous audition process in New York City. It is a very meta-theatrical moment since you know that the actress onstage has herself had to audition to be in the very play you are watching. Pastuszek delivers the song hilariously and it is a nice light-hearted moment in an emotionally heavy musical.

Both Meyers and Pastuszek perform all of the music in the show amazingly and I was very impressed with Jason Neri’s Music Directing.

Eagle Theatre’s The Last 5 Years is a show you will want to make the time to see. Jenna Pastuszek and Max Meyers are perfectly cast, having a dynamic relationship and beautiful voices that bring Cathy and Jamie to life. The production design is functional and inventive, and Jason Robert Brown’s music is exciting and catchy. You are sure to be humming as you exit the theatre.

The Last Five Years won the Drama Desk awards for best music and best lyrics in 2002. Now running at Eagle Theatre, this charming 85-minute musical stands out more for its novel storytelling conceit. In their song cycle, Cathy and Jamie separately recall their failed marriage, each remembering the breakup from a different time perspective.

Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, Five Years is loosely based on his own failed marriage. Cathy begins at the painful end of the marriage. She sings “Still Hurting” and works back five years. Jamie starts at the beginning and proceeds chronologically. While the songs hold their own, with help from Jason Neri’s five-piece band, melodies do not linger, and lyrics are more declarative than witty. It is the ironic pathos of the inverted storytelling that grabs the spotlight.

Jenna Pastuszek and Max Meyers are a captivating pair. Both sing with clear, strong voices (though Pastuszek may have the better pipes). They shine as actors, too, transforming each song into a dramatic episode.  You feel affection for Pastuszek’s Cathy, a struggling actress who never makes it onto the main stage. In songs like “Climbing Uphill” you love Cathy’s sense of humor as she tussles with both a flagging career and her fear of being elbowed out of Jamie’s life.

By contrast, Jamie is a successful and precocious writer. In “Shiksa Goddess” he is enraptured with Cathy. But, as the marriage bogs down, he flirts with other women, then has an affair (“Nobody Needs to Know”). Yet you do not despise him. Rather, you feel sad that Jamie has lost the joy of being in love that Meyers made you feel so endearingly in the early song episodes.

Director Ed Corsi envelops the story in a pervasive image of circularity. The stage, thanks to the set design by Eagle Innovations Factory, revolves around a hypnotic backdrop to bring Cathy and Jamie separately into view, each time sporting a new costume by Sean Quinn. Overhead, Brian Morris’ curved video screen presents shifting backgrounds — the Manhattan skyline, a lake in Central Park.

Cathy and Jamie meet just one time, at their wedding scene in “The Next Ten Minutes.” In exquisite isolation, they are also on stage for a final duet, where Cathy exults in her new love while Jamie is in his ending despair. By this time, you know them very well and it is a moving finale. You may also know yourself a little better, too, as this engaging show has the power to stir up personal memories.

 


 

Eagle Theatre Presents The Last Five Years

From New Jersey Stage – May 15, 2018

Gorgeous melodies and a tender love story take center stage in Eagle Theatre’s upcoming production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, from June 1 through July 1st, 2018. Winner of the 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics, the play tells the story of two individuals who fall in love-and out of it again-over the course of a five year relationship. The production stars Max Meyers and Jenna Pastuszek.

In the play, Jamie, an up-and-coming writer, struggles to balance his sudden success with his increasingly tumultuous love life, while Cathy, an aspiring actress, deals with the frustrations of her own stalled career while watching her husband from the sidelines.

Best known for its catchy melodies, ranging from waltzes to rhythm and blues, The Last 5 Years contains an evocative and unconventional storytelling structure. It consists of Jamie telling his side of the tale in chronological order, while Cathy relives the relationship backwards. Their stories intersect only once, in the middle, on their wedding day.

The musical debuted in Chicago in 2001, starring Norbert Leo Butz and Lauren Kennedy. In 2002, the production transferred to Off-Broadway, replacing Kennedy with Sherie Rene Scott. Since the original premiere, The Last 5 Years has been produced all over the world, from London to Israel. In 2014, a film adaptation premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, staring Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick.

Eagle Theatre’s Producing Director Ed Corsi claims “The universal themes are what make this musical relatable to a modern audience.” He continued, “It reminds me to truly savor the love I have in my life. The feelings, dreams, and needs of our loved ones are fragile, and must be nurtured and taken seriously in order to thrive.”

Jenna Pastuszek, playing the role of Cathy, claims “If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know parts of what these two characters are going through. I can easily take chunks of text from either Jamie or Cathy and talk about a time in my own life in which that text applied.”

Though the 80 minute musical consists of a cast of two characters, both written broadly enough to allow audiences to metaphorically put themselves in the shoes of each role, The Last Five Years was inspired by Brown’s own failed marriage to Theresa O’Neill. O’Neill threatened legal action on the grounds the story of the musical represented her relationship with Brown too closely, and Brown made alterations to the score in order to reduce the similarity between the character Cathy and O’Neill.

Corsi concluded, “I hope audiences leave with new intentions to truly take a moment to look around and notice the love they have in their lives. It is worth fighting for.”

The Eagle Theatre, South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theatre, is dedicated to redefining regional theatre through innovation, enlightened production techniques and the development of eclectic theatrics.

Under The Direction of Ted Wioncek III & Ed Corsi, this nationally recognized, award-winning regional theatre produces more than 160 live performances each year, including full-scale Broadway caliber World Premieres and re-conceptualized revivals; New Works Development Series, a play reading series dedicated the nurturing local playwrights; a traveling Theatre for Youth Audiences program, specializing in providing arts education to schools in under served communities; an Annual Fringe Festival, a 3-day street fair and theatrical marathon, featuring multiple eclectic productions, a beer and wine garden, pop-up art, food, live music, and street performers; Innovations Factory, a core of theming artist dedicated to experimental storytelling through medium advancing technology; and Eagle Theatre Conservatory, a year-round tuition based theatrical institute for all ages and levels of professionalism. In addition, Eagle Theatre is serves on Facebook’s inaugural SMB Council for Small Business.

The Eagle Theatre’s beginnings were humble, with just a simple announcement printed in the local newspaper in June of 1914, stating that “Mr. Litke will put up a concrete building on his lot on Vine Street, for his moving picture winter theatre.” From that, the Eagle Theatre was born.

Eagle Theatre originally opened its doors in 1914 as a silent movie theatre and playhouse from 1914 until 1944, when it was then sold to the Pentecostal Assembly of God and converted into a church. The church occupied the building for 15 years, then sold it to Harry and Evelyn Hitman in 1959. The Hitman’s used the building for storage until 2006. By that time, the old building was on the verge of being demolition. Tracy Petrongolo, the head of the Hammonton’s arts and cultural committee, researched the building’s history and determined that it was worthy of preservation. What followed was a remarkable example of dedication by a devoted base of volunteers who were intent on seeing the theatre restored.

The theatre was restored in 2009 to serve as a performing arts center. Since the reopening, Eagle Theatre has quickly grown into a nationally recognized non-profit producing organization.

Today, this award-winning culturally diverse epicenter boasts state of the art technical equipment, a free parking lot, Sharrott Winery’s on-site Wine Lounge, and is located within walking distance of several boutiques and acclaimed dining destinations in beautifully revitalized Downtown Hammonton, serving patrons from New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, and beyond.


Eagle Theatre goes on road to Cape May

From the Courier Post – April 26, 2018

The Eagle Theatre leaves Hammonton to begin an on-the-road tour Friday night as it brings a Vietnam-era musical drama to the Cape May Stage in a co-production.

The two-weekend run of “Jon and Jen” follows acclaim for the Eagle Theatre’s 2017 production of the play, which garnered a Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Nomination for Outstanding Direction of a Musical.

The plot centers around a close-knit brother and sister as the country and their family become divided over the war in Vietnam and Jon goes off to fight, leaving his sister and family to cope with his absence.

“I have long awaited the opportunity to take Eagle Theatre’s Mainstage productions far beyond the theater walls. Whether it be locally or nationally, sharing our work is vital and touring affords us the opportunity to make connections outside our immediate reach and helps further enrich our diverse region,” said Eagle Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III, who served as director for the theater’s original “Jon and Jen” production.

Meanwhile back at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, the curtain will rise and fall for the final weekend performances of “Moonlight & Magnolias,” a show about the behind-the scenes decisions that led to the making of the iconic Hollywood film “Gone with the Wind.”

The theater has been transformed into a Hollywood-like setting for the play. Guests can walk down the Oscar-like red carpet, get a photos snapped, buy popcorn from the popcorn girl or sip a glass of wine in the Brown Derby-inspired Sharrott Wine Lounge.

“Jon and Jen” performances are April 27 to 29 and May 4 to 6 at Cape May Stage, 405 Lafayette St. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. For tickets, visit www.capemaystage.org or call the box office at 609-704-5012.

For “Moonlight & Magnolias,”  shows are 7:30 Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visit www.eagletheatre.org or call 609-704-5012.


 

 

Inside Eagle Theatre’s Ambitious 2019 Season

From New Jersey Stage – April 6, 2018

The Eagle Theatre will present five plays in an ambitious 2019 season.  Plays include Gary, a futuristic World Premiere by celebrated local playwright Bruce Graham, the Regional Premiere of Karen Zacarías’ comedy, Native Gardens, a lavish and loving staging of the epic musical blockbuster, Ragtime, by the writers of Once On This Island, Anastasia, Rocky: The Musical, an exciting adventure-filled bluegrass musical experience entitled The Burnt Part Boys, and Dogfight,a hauntingly romantic pop musical by Pasek & Paul, composers of Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.

Additionally, The Eagle Theatre will host the 3rd Annual New Jersey Fringe Festival, a 3-day street fair and theatrical marathon, featuring multiple eclectic productions, a beer and wine garden, pop-up art, food, live music, and street performers; Eagle Theatre Conservatory, a year-round tuition based theatrical institute for all ages and levels of professionalism; New Works Development Series, a play reading series dedicated the nurturing local playwrights; a traveling Theatre for Youth Audiences program, specializing in providing arts education to schools in under served communities; as well as, several Stand-Up Comedy Nights, and off-site revues presented by Eagle Entertainment.

“The Eagle Theatre is where professional artists can make a home, where the stars of tomorrow can receive a reputable education, and patrons from all over the world can be enlightened and entertained.” said Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III. “Now entering our 8th season, Eagle Theatre has made its mark by telling poignant stories in an authentic way. When choosing a season, we set out to find commanding stories that inspire; stories full of passion and compassion; stories that ignite and excite the dreamer in all of us. This season, in keeping with tradition, we set out to tell these stories in the most visceral and visually stunning way possible to continue to provide audience with a landmark for world-class innovative and invigorating entertainment.” This is Wioncek’s 8th year with Eagle Theatre, operating closely in collaboration with Producing Director Ed Corsi.

The Eagle Theatre will kick off its 2019 season with the sell-out Broadway sensation, Ragtime (January 24th – February 17th, 2019). Brimming with unforgettable melodies and a deeply compelling story of love and loss, Ragtime paints a powerful portrait of the American Dream that awakens the heart and captivates the soul. Set in the volatile melting pot of New York City, three distinct American stories are woven together—a determined Jewish immigrant, a daring Harlem musician and an upper-class mother, united by their courage, compassion and belief in a better tomorrow. Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, this triumphant must-see musical masterpiece is bursting with show-stopping splendor and unbridled passion. This breathtaking musical was written by Tony Award® winners Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens (Once On This Island, Anastasia, Rocky: The Musical), and Terrence McNally (Catch Me If You Can, Anastasia, Master Class). The original Broadway production, featuring a cast of 53 performers, garnered 4 Tony Awards® and 5 Drama Desk Awards. Eagle Theatre’s has since developed a new and evocative retelling, featuring a cast of 18 performers for this boundless opus. Ragtime will be Eagle Theatre’s largest and most lavish production to date.

Come March and April, The Eagle Theatre is proud to announce that the official Regional Premiere of the new hot-button comedy, Native Gardens, will make its way to  the stage (March 21st – April 14th, 2018). Cultures clash in this brilliant new shear-sharp, flower-flinging romp, turning well-intentioned neighbors into feuding enemies. Pablo, a rising attorney, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant wife, have just purchased a home in a historic neighborhood next to Frank and Virginia, a well-established D.C. couple with a prize-worthy English garden. But a disagreement over the property line that separates their backyards soon spirals into an all-out war of taste, class, and gardening.

Eagle Theatre’s production promises to be chockfull of pep and poignancy, as Mexican-American playwright Karen Zacarías pushes the boundaries and shatters biases one laugh at a time. Zacarías is the founder of the Young Playwrights’ Theatre in Washington, D.C., and is most known for her play, Mariela in the Desert, winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award.

[Article previously referenced the Burnt Part Boys, which has been replaced for the 2019 season with My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra]

In Fall, Eagle Theatre creates a cybernetic fun-factory for the World Premiere, futuristic comedy, Gary (September 19th – October 13th), by award-winning playwright, Bruce Graham. This cheeky yet reflective parody puts convenience and comfort first as it begs the questions; What happens when communication has become obsolete? When human connection is a dream of the past? When technology takes over? First, there was Siri… then came Alexa… Now, meet Gary! Celebrated playwright, Bruce Graham began his career as a playwright at the Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays (PFT) in 1984 with Burkie. Graham became playwright-in-residence at PFT and later served two years as Artistic Director. He has received grants from the Pew Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and was a past winner of the Princess Grace Foundation Statuette. He won the Rosenthal Prize for his play Coyote On A Fence. He has won consecutive Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Awards for Best New Play (Something Intangible and Any Given Monday) and Chicago’s Jefferson Award for The Outgoing Tide. He is the first American playwright to be invited two years in a row to the Galway Arts Festival, which produced two of his plays, The Outgoing Tide and Stella and Lou. Graham recently returned to acting and has appeared as Ben Hecht in The Eagle Theatre’s Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Recommended acclaimed production of Ron Hutchinson’s Moonlight and Magnolias, directed by Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III. Gary will receive a public reading at Florida Rep’s 5th Annual PlayLab Festival in May 2018.

The Eagle Theatre closes their season with a brilliant new production of the beautifully romantic and hauntingly heartbreaking musical, Dogfight (Nov 14th – December 8th).  It’s November 21, 1963. On the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for a night of debauchery. But, when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress, he finds himself learning an unexpected lesson in the power of love. Based on the 1991 Warner Brothers film, Dogfight, written by Lucille Lortel Award winners, Pasek & Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman) is studded with an unstoppable pop score, an unexpected love affair, and a genuine and charming message that takes audiences to new heights.

Eagle Theatre is located at 208 Vine Street in Hammonton, New Jersey. It is South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theatre, is dedicated to redefining regional theatre through innovation, enlightened production techniques and the development of eclectic theatrics.

 


 

 

LITTLE WOMEN at the Eagle Theatre is a BIG Hit!

From Broadway World – January 31, 2018

The Eagle Theatre opens its 7th season with an innovative stage production of a beloved classic novel, turned movie turned live musical. When you are limited for space but not for imagination and talent the results can be “Astonishing”. It’s now no secret that the intimate theater space in the heart of Hammonton NJ is one of the treasures of the town. Widely known as the “blueberry capital of the world”, The Eagle Theatre abounds with a young creative team namely Artistic Directors Ted Wioncek III and Ed Corsi and a resourceful staff.

Corsi and Wioncek push the envelope on theater and technology and it’s put to the test by combining an old fashion classic story fused with the marvels of mechanics the results are “highly stimulating, emotional and entertaining” says Little Women director Ted Wioncek III. 17 Custom computer -controlled winches power moving walls and rotating stages. Props that mechanically appear ‘closeted’ on all for walls are brought into each scene remotely for a dramatic effect on this hallmark production.

Eagle’s Little Women is packed with wonderful talent. The four March girls (Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy) are cast from four leading lady quality actors/singers; Maggie Griffin-Smith, Victoria Mozitis, Colleen Murphy and Kimberly Suskind; each with their own desires and destinies and wonderfully portrayed. Suskind’s “Tom-boy” Jo is vibrant, passionate, and joyous with a voice that pierces the heart. Her soliloquy “Astonishing” truly is and her duet with the dying Beth“Some Things are Meant to Be” pulls on the heart strings. Christopher Columbus, these ladies are good!!

Jo’s male counter-partner and adopted March Brother Laurie “Teddy” Laurence (Will Stephan Connell) is wholehearted, good-natured and love starved. Connell’s full rich voice in “Take a Chance on Me” should have won his love Jo, yet it was not to be. The sensible John Brooke (Max Meyers) is quietly charming and his musical number “More than I am”wins Meg’s heart in a moment. The initially stuffy Mr. Laurence (Don Green) warms up quickly surrounded by the March beauties particularly with his surprising sweet duet with Beth “Off to Massachusetts” . The senior March ladies are Aunt March (Marianne Green) who is comically as high brow as possible. April Woodall plays the beloved matriarch Marmee whose love and bravery for her family are unquestionable, yet the biggest surprise for me is her outstandingly beautiful alto voice. Her “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty” are ‘heart melting’.

As Jo ventures off to New York to follow her literary dreams she meets her unlikely suitor Professor Bhaer, played by Eagle favorite Tim Rinehart. The professor is profoundly puzzled by the presentation of Jo’s “The Weekly Volcano Press” where she employs seemingly all of the Eagle’s set and movement technology to electrify her fantasy stories of ‘blood, vengeance and gore’. It’s only after Jo returns home that Bhaer reluctantly realizes his true feelings as he comes out of his realm with a heartfelt rendition of “How I Am” and the rest of the story follows up nicely with Alcott’s 149 year old novel.

Wioncek states “We were given a novel, but she left to us a voice, a literary role model that would continue to speak to us across the generation”.

Musical Director Jason Neri directs his 6 piece band beautifully with a score that is lush and poignant. Costumes by Ashleigh Poteat are remarkably authentic and impressive! With so much activity on this stage let’s not forget the quick paced movement by the actors at the capable hands of choreographer Sal Pavia. Impressive Scenic designs by Chris Miller and Ted Wioncek III. Lighting by Chris Miller.

LITTLE WOMEN plays at the Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine St. Hammonton, NJ on selected dates through February 25. For tickets and more information visit www.eagletheatre.org or call 609.704.5012

 


The Eagle Theatre spends December away from home at Kathedral Event Center for a holiday show that spans the globe

From the Press of Atlantic City – December 13, 2017

For the first time since its rebirth in 2009, the Hammonton’s Eagle Theatre is packing up its trunks and taking an original show on the road for the holidays.

It’ll be a very short trip.

While the Vine Street venue does a quick change from its most recent show, “The Fantasticks,” which closed on Sunday, to its next legitimate layout, “Little Women,” which opens a month-long run Jan. 24, South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theater company has created an original holiday show.

But with its main stage already under construction with sets for the next play, the theater had to find a secondary stage on which to present the original holiday revue, “Season’s Greetings, A Musical Celebration of Holiday Traditions From Around the World.”

The new 300-seat Kathedral Event Center in Hammonton, less than a mile from the Eagle Theatre, seems to be a perfect fit, according to Ted Wioncek III, the Eagle’s co-artistic director who also conceived and is directing the holiday show.

“It is the first original Eagle Theatre production to be performed outside the Eagle Theatre,” Wioncek says with unmistakable pride.

That the Eagle Theatre’s main stage wasn’t available may have turned out to be a holiday blessing in disguise. Moving the show from the 200-seat Eagle Theatre to the larger event center is a way of introducing the Eagle to people who may not be aware the theater has been back in the business of entertaining audiences for almost a decade.

“We wanted to reach a completely different audience and demographic, and share what we have to offer at the Eagle Theatre with another venue during the holiday season,” he explains.

“Season’s Greetings,” he says, follows the cast of four performers as they take a musical holiday journey around the world to look at how the early winter holidays are celebrated in other countries and cultures.

“We stop by Germany, Russia, Italy, the U.K. and France,” Wioncek says. “We even have a section devoted to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Ramadan. It is absolutely all-inclusive.”

No short cuts with this show, either. Rather than using cheaper, pre-recorded tracks to accompany the performers, music will be provided by a live jazz quartet.

“We are adamant and devoted to the work of live professional musicians at the Eagle Theatre. We always use (live) musicians for our productions and our musicals as opposed to using (pre-recorded) tracks,” Wioncek says. “We feel there’s absolutely a huge difference. You can tell there’s an energy that you cannot replace when you’re using live musicians. (The show has) piano, bass, drums and a saxophone. It is a swinging good time.”

“Season’s Greetings” also shares favorite holiday traditions, has an audience-participation “carol-along” and takes time to salute America’s veterans.

“We have some other special treats, perhaps (someone) from the North Pole, as well,” Wioncek says, and you could almost see his eyes twinkling over the phone.

If Wioncek has to pick a favorite part of the show, it would be the one with all-American musical roots. The holiday salute to the veterans is easily the show’s most touching moment, he adds.

“We spend a good amount of time singing songs from that great American standard holiday songbook, which is one of the highlights of the night,” he says. “But the part that’s most special to me, and I believe the rest of the ensemble, is our salute to our military veterans. It’s an opportunity to honor all of those individuals who have served our country in the past and present so they can stand up and take a bow and thank them for our freedom. There certainly won’t be a dry eye in the house.”

Wioncek and the rest of the Eagle Theatre staff and production crew are very happy how the theater has progressed since a dedicated group of volunteers brought the theater back on its artistic feet.

The original Eagle Theatre opened in 1914 as a silent movie theater and later a playhouse. It was sold in 1944 and became a church, then sold again in 1959 to a family that used the former theater for storage purposes until 2006. By then, the once-proud Eagle was on the verge of being condemned and demolished.

That’s when the Eagle Theatre’s original troupe of volunteers got together to save the venue.

“We’ve grown, not only into a professional regional theater, but we have a year-round conservatory offering educational programs,” Wioncek says. “And we have touring productions now that are leaving the Eagle Theatre and going to other communities and other states. It just seems that every year we take on a new piece of the puzzle. And in doing so, I can truly see now that the cultural palate of the southern New Jersey area is truly growing and adapting.”


 

Review: ‘The Fantasticks’ at The Eagle Theatre

From DC Metro Theatre Arts – November 13, 2017

 

What’s not to like about The Fantasticks? It’s always been a modest, gentle show that goes down easy. The Eagle Theatre’s new production adds a few new wrinkles, putting its own stamp on this venerable musical without getting in the way of what’s made it work so well for over half a century.

The original Off-Broadway production, which opened in 1960 and ran for over four decades, was celebrated for its low-tech, low-cost approach – one that perfectly suited the simple, soothing life lessons that the show teaches. The story is a basic one: A boy and a girl, Matt and Luisa, fall in love, in defiance of their feuding fathers – not knowing that the “feud” is all for show, concocted by the fathers to encourage the kids to fall in love and give them something to fight for. A faked abduction (part of the fathers’ scheme) leads to a song called, fittingly, “Happy Ending.” But later the truth comes to light, and a real feud arises between the fathers – and between Matt and Luisa. Will everything really all end happily? Well, take a wild guess.

If The Fantasticks gets caught up in its own whimsy at times, and if some of its attitudes seem dated – especially regarding Luisa, who can come off as one-dimensional – there’s no doubting its sincerity. Tom Jones’ book and lyrics have a poetic expressiveness that allows the characters’ earnestness to shine through. That works best in songs like “Much More,” Luisa’s declaration of what she wants out of life; “They Were You,” Luisa and Matt’s song of romance and reconciliation; and the standard “Try to Remember,” which sums up the show’s attitude of wistful nostalgia. And Harvey Schmidt’s music gives everything an air of maturity and sophistication, especially in the jazzy chords and rhythms of “This Plum is Too Ripe” and the classical flourishes of “Metaphor.”

Director Ed Corsi’s production has a graceful, relaxed tone; some of the show’s more stylized theatrical elements, like the character known as “The Mute,” have been abandoned here. Ashleigh Poteat’s costumes favor casual dress over the show’s theatrical heritage; Matt wears a plaid shirt and jeans that owe more to grunge rock than commedia dell’arte. Chris Miller’s lighting gives numbers like “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” the requisite haziness. But the set design, credited to Miller and Corsi, is dominated by a pair of brick arches that block the audience’s view of Miller’s projections on the back wall. Jason Neri leads a three-piece combo from the rear of the stage; they’re fine, though the drums sometimes overwhelm the harp and keyboard.

As Luisa, Morgan Billings Smith is the definition of winsome, both in her delicate soprano and her disarming attitude. (Watch for the way she reacts to intense feelings by fidgeting with the hem of her skirt.) Justin Mazzella makes a sturdy partner for her, but Paul Weagraff and David Nikolas are a bit too campy as the fathers. (Caitlin Catanella does the choreography, and her vaudeville-style dance steps for Weagraff and Nikolas, in their duet numbers “Never Say No” and “Plant a Radish,” are so undemanding they’re almost laughable.)

Tim Rinehart broods intensely as El Gallo, the dashing narrator-cum-outlaw who sets the abduction in motion; his warm tenor suits the songs perfectly. And Leonard C. Haas and Shamus Hunter McCarty, as El Gallo’s hapless sidekicks, give a nice air of self-mockery to the proceedings.

From its humble setting to its heart-tugging plot, from its restrained accompaniment to its contemplative characters, The Fantasticks is theatrical comfort food of the first order. And the Eagle’s production gets it right.

 

 

 


 

Eagle Theatre Receives Major Gift from Philly Donor

JimDonio-and-LeonardCHaas_smallThe Eagle Theatre just got closer to a major fundraising goal with a $250,000 gift from the Wyncote Foundation of Philadelphia. It is the largest single gift in the theater’s history.

The donation was announced on Thursday evening.

“We hope that our gift will encourage a broad base of contributors to do everything they can to help this theater to continue to grow, thrive,and exceed expectation,” said Wyncote Foundation board member Leonard Haas in a press release from the theater.

As part of the Eagle’s 3 Year 3 Million campaign to raise $3,000,000 over the course of three years the donation will be used for general operational support.

RELATED: First NJ Fringe Festival comes to Hammonton

Since the campaign began last year, the theater has raised more than a million dollars through contributions and grants from individuals, businesses, nonprofit foundations and government entities. The most recent gift is included in this total.

Ed Corsi, the co-artistic director, said he and Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek were introduced to the foundation through other theater contacts. They developed a relationship and applied for a grant through the foundation, which, Corsi said, is one of the biggest funders of the arts in Philadelphia and around the country.

The foundation, Corsi said, was not just impressed by the theater, but by the town. “They see a lot of potential in the entire town of Hammonton.”

The Eagle Theatre is South Jersey’s only year-round equity theater and is organizing the first-ever official Fringe Festival in New Jersey, to take place this August.  This year, the theater put on the hit musical “Heathers” and has experimented with using sound and scent technology to make the theater experience more interactive for the audience.

“This is huge,” Corsi said of the gift. “We said transformational. It really is.”

The theater takes a lot of money to run, Corsi said. The extra funds from the Wyoncote Foundation “allow us to continue to do the things we’ve done so far and continue throughout the year.”

SOURCE (Courier Post Online)


 

Eagle Theatre Pays Tribute to Hammonton

A Walk-Through Exhibit prefaces the Eagle Theatre’s inventive production of
Thornton Wilder’s Award-Winning masterwork, OUR TOWN

Eagle's Walk-Through Exhibit

Hammonton’s Sesquicentennial, 150 year anniversary, with a groundbreaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Pulitzer Prize Winning play, OUR TOWN. The play, and special walk through Hammonton history exhibit, will open this Friday, May 20th and run through June 26th.

Wilder’s inspirational masterpiece seamlessly weaves past and present, as it chronicles the daily life of a close-knit community and reveals universal truths that connect us all by showing us what it is to be alive. This production also infuses moments that include Hammonton family and business names, along with other local references.

Eagle Theatre has sought to breathe even more life into this familiar tale with a brand new technological innovation. A “scentsory” experience will waft aromas throughout the theatre at key moments during the performance. The production also features an acclaimed professional cast, including Barrymore Award Winning actors Jared Delaney, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Leonard C. Haas.

Onstage, props will remain pantomimed in traditional Wilder fashion, and live sound effects are created by the actors themselves. In addition, the actors remain onstage throughout the performance, serving as an instrument to the communal sentiment of the piece.

Guests will also have access to the pre-show immersive walk-through exhibit entitled ‘Waves of Diversity – An Interactive Experience of Hammonton’s Progressive History’.  This exhibit will display rare photos, film, clothing, artifacts, and antiquities. Patrons will re-discover cherished local memories and facts. After walking through the exhibit, patrons will move into the main seating area of the theatre for the performance.

“We are thrilled to produce this fresh take on an American classic, and set it in Hammonton. We know anyone with a connection to the area will enjoy this once in a lifetime experience with their family and friends,” Jim Donio, Eagle Theatre Managing Director said.

 



Our Town: Why is this a Heartwarming American Classic?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER, TONY AWARD WINNER,
DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNER, BARRYMORE AWARD WINNER

HAMMONTON, N.J. – Eagle Theatre will pay homage to the Greater Delaware Valley with a groundbreaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Pulitzer Prize Winning play, OUR TOWN.

Starring Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Award Winners Jared Delaney, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Leonard C. Haas, Wilder’s inspirational masterpiece seamlessly weaves past and present, as it chronicles the daily life of a close-knit community and reveals universal truths that connect us all by showing us what it is to be alive.

OUR TOWN, written in 1938, became an instant classic following a successful Broadway run. This celebrated American classic was born out of a playwright’s frustration. Wilder was dissatisfied with the theatre of his time, claiming “I felt that something had gone wrong…. I began to feel that the theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive.” His response was to use a metatheatrical style in approach to this work. OUR TOWN systematically breaks down the barriers between audience and performer, while actors mime actions without the use of props. However, despite Wilder’s theatrical invention, it is the uplifting subject matter that resonates with today’s audience.

DelMarcelle, a professional actor, director, and theatre educator for over eighteen years claims that what drew him to the play is its timelessness. “The day people stop working, loving, struggling, connecting, suffering, laughing…dying…that’s the day we can start thinking of this beautiful piece of theatre that flaunts the conventions of this art form so masterfully as a relic…an antique. Until then, it remains just as vibrant, just as cutting edge, just as important, just as modern…as any other work of the contemporary theatre.”

Haas, fellow Barrymore Winner and professional actor and philanthropist, shared DelMarcelle’s sentiment, exclaiming “It taps into what is at our core, what is really important, or at the very least it will make people remember or realize what they once knew was important that they might had forgotten, as they became grown up and modern.”

Eagle Theatre has sought to breathe life into this familiar tale. The production will feature a pre-show immersive walk-through exhibit entitled ‘Waves of Diversity – An Interactive Experience of Our Progressive History’, set to display rare photos, film, clothing, artifacts, and antiquities. Onstage, props will remain pantomimed in tradition Wilder fashion, and live sound effects are created by the actors themselves. In addition, the actors remain onstage throughout the performance, serving as an instrument to the communal sentiment of the piece.

Delaney, Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director of Revolution Shakespeare, concluded “While it’s certainly an American classic, it’s far more experimental than people remember. The subject matter seems simple enough, but the structure of the play itself was a bit avant-garde for its day. Even today, for that matter.”



Eagle, Stockton & Noyes Pioneer Your Theatrical Experience

What Happens in OUR TOWN, Stays in OUR TOWN

HAMMONTON, N.J. – Eagle Theatre will pay homage to the Greater Delaware Valley by celebrating Hammonton’s 150th Anniversary with a groundbreaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize Winner OUR TOWN, re-imagined to take place in Hammonton, New Jersey.Our Town - Cast & Designers Read ScriptStarring Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Award Winners Jared Delaney, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Leonard C. Haas, Wilder’s inspirational masterpiece seamlessly weaves past and present as it chronicles the daily life of a close-knit community and reveals universal truths that connect us all by showing us what it is to be alive.

OUR TOWN will mark the official launch of Eagle Theatre’s IF (Innovations Factory), a core of theming artists (IFologists) dedicated to discovering medium advancing technology, designed to provide audiences with an intensely immersive and sensory experience.

Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III stated “We found ourselves asking ‘What If?’ What if our inquisitive nature was embodied by a collective of artists with a common goal; push the medium forward. It was out of this question that we founded an assembly line of endless possibilities, made up of dreamers and doers.”

Eagle Theatre’s OUR TOWN will pioneer a new ‘scentsory’ experience. The scent of rich coffee, fresh linen, and a bouquet of heliotrope will envelope the audience, creating an intangible world-building atmosphere that accentuates the patron’s experience. IF’s theatrical ‘scentsory’ prototype has been in private research and development for over a year and is now set to make its debut.

OUR TOWN was first performed in Princeton, New Jersey in 1938.

Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi claims “This is the Delaware Valley’s opportunity to reclaim the beloved American classic while providing a refreshing twist that will undoubtedly open your heart and breathe life into a timeless tale.”

Eagle Theatre has partnered with Stockton University- South Jersey Cultural & History Center and The Noyes Museum to present an immersive walk-through exhibit entitled ‘Waves of Diversity – An Interactive Experience of Our Progressive History’, set to display rare persevered photos, film, clothing, artifacts, and antiquities. The exhibit was funded, in part, through a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Wioncek concluded “OUR TOWN will be a love letter to the history of cultural and technological progression. Audiences will not walk into a theatre, rather simultaneously step into to the past, present, and future.”


Lights, Camera… Hammonton!
Hammonton Native Features Hometown As Inspiration For Full-Length Feature Film

HAMMONTON, N.J. – Since its inception Eagle Theatre has garnered a reputation for innovative and invigorating live theatre. Now, South Jersey’s Only Year-Round Professional Equity Theatre shifts the spotlight to cinematic political drama with the Public Film Premiere of Hammonton native Tracy Lucca’s The Finders.

The beloved Mayor of a small town is running for Congress. Just before the election her only son is almost kidnapped at a local store. When she begins to unravel the case, she finds that the very institutions she thought were there to help and protect her are now out to get her.  When she doesn’t back down, the powers that be are forced to come to her with a deal.

FindersThe Finders marks the first official SAG/AFTRA film to be cast by the Eagle Theatre Casting Department. SAG/AFTRA is the American labor union for film, television, journalists, recording artists and radio personalities worldwide. SAG-AFTRA is a member of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.

“I knew I wanted to film in Hammonton, because I wanted to create a sense of community among local filmmakers, actors and artists. I felt if we just got everyone in the same room we could really create something special, so helping to organize a space where this could happen was very important to me. I hired all locals and residents of Hammonton, we have so much talent in our area and I wanted to highlight that for all to see.”, notes Tracy Lucca, Writer, Director, and Producer of The Finders.

Shot frame-by-frame exclusively in Hammonton, NJ, the full length feature film highlights an array of local noteworthy talent, including several resident Eagle Theatre performers, and members of the Hammonton community.

When asked about its bold political charge, Lucca added, “I love politics, because I’ve always felt that it’s a career path where one can affect real change. I knew I wanted to write a political thriller and I knew it had to be filmed in Hammonton because although we are far from Washington, anyone, anywhere can make a difference, and we should all try.”

“This is the only opportunity for the public to see this professionally produced movie before it goes on the film festival circuit throughout the nation. All net proceeds will benefit the Eagle Theatre,” said Jim Donio Eagle Theatre Managing Director.

On Sunday, there will be a post film talk back session with the Director. On Monday, lead actress, Kim Carson and the Director with both have a post show talk back.

Sharrott Winery’s on-site Wine Lounge will be open prior to the film.

 


Learning Through Laughing
The Art of Confronting Taboo Social Issues

HAMMONTON, N.J. – When Eagle Theatre set out to produce HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL, Co-Artistic Directors Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek III had more than sold-out performances and show-stopping musical numbers in mind.

HEATHERS - THE MUSICAL _ Promotional 2HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL is a stage phenomenon based on the 1989 cult-classic film. Teen suicide and school bombings take center stage, while bulimia, alcohol abuse, and absentee parenting wait in the wings to keep the sinister undertones afloat. A subject matter that may have felt more like fiction throughout its cinematic debut appears less than socially acceptable today, leading many to wonder why the Eagle’s macabre musical is breaking box office records and “Largely succeeds” according to DC Metro Theatre Arts critic Tim Dunleavy.

Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi suggests “The lesson is hidden behind memorable catch phrases and the incredible score. We are teaching from the inside out. In my experience, that is how poignant dark comedy works.”

Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jim Rutter explains “Eagle Theatre’s over-the-top production reveals why the movie succeeds as a riotously funny, yet heartfelt, musical. It’s a perfect pair of touches, performed honestly that will endear this musical to any fans of the film.”

Eagle Theatre has played a major role in tackling taboo social issues since its 2012 debut production, RENT. Throughout its 5 seasons, ‘South Jersey’s Only Year-Round Professional Equity Theatre’ has fine-tuned the process of bringing dramatic and traumatic fair into the limelight. Eagle describes their method as “reverse education.”

Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III dissected further adding “HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL gives us permission to laugh at our own absurdity. It’s irreverence paves the way for sincerity, creating a discussion that may have otherwise been swept under the table.”


NY Comes to SJ

The Business of Funny

(Hammonton, NJ) – South Jersey native Kevin Hurley hits center stage in Eagle Theatre’s upcoming phenomenon HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL, opening March 18th at the Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton, NJ.

Kevin Hurley_Stand-UpHurley, a New York resident, always had aspirations of becoming a professional actor and stand-up comedian, claims Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III. 
Wioncek and Hurley both graduated from the Southern New Jersey Academy of Performing Arts, sharing the spotlight on numerous occasions. Wioncek said “Kevin’s success is a true testament to his passion and drive.” However, Hurley places the onus on opportunity, one of which was granted by Eagle Theatre.

“Hosting the 
Eagle Theatre’s Stand-Up Comedy Night has become one of the highlights of my career. We have created an incredible outlet for comedians from all over the country; Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles. I am anxious to bring that enthusiasm to a major musical.”

HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL is a hilarious and homicidal new musical based on the 1980’s cinematic dark comedy. Westerberg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather and Heather, the cruelest girls in Ohio. Misfit Veronica Sawyer rejects their evil regime for the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plots to put “the Heathers” in their place – six feet under.

Hurley,
provides a unique brand of comedy, tailor made for the script’s tongue-in-cheek tonality. Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi says “Hurley is hilarious. He provides a lifetime of stand-up knowledge to each and every line. Who better suited for a comedic role than a professional comic by trade. Funny is his business.”
 

“I moved to New York to find South Jersey was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. New York based actors and comedians flock to the Eagle because it is a collective of ingenuity that continues to reinvent itself. It has changed the cultural standpoint in which people view my home state.” Hurley concluded “The Eagle makes me proud to be a South Jersey native.”

Eagle Theatre’s on-site Sharrott Wine Lounge will open 45 minutes prior to the performance.


FREE FUN
ALL THE WORLD’S A ‘STAGES FESTIVAL’

(Hammonton NJ) –  The Eagle Theatre of Hammonton, NJ, is proud to participate in their second year of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s STAGES FESTIVAL on Saturday, March 19th, 2016.New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s STAGES FESTIVAL offers dozens of performances, workshops, classes, and events at the state’s professional theatres, performing arts centers, libraries, schools, senior centers, and other community venues. The program was developed to encourage New Jersey’s residents to attend their local professional theatres creating an affordable, accessible, and enjoyable experience. Since its inception 19 years ago, the program has served over 190,000 people.

The Eagle Theatre, South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity Theatre, will host three sessions on March 19th, 2016;

SESSION 1:NJTA Stages Festival 2015 _ Eagle Theatre
WHO: Children Ages 5 – 12
WHAT: MUSICAL THEATRE JAM SESSION
WHEN: 12:00PM – 12:45PM
SESSION 2:
WHO: Ages 10 – 17
WHAT: INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
WHEN: 1:00PM – 1:45PM
SESSION 3:
WHO: Teens Ages 13 – 17
WHAT: MUSICAL THEATRE JAM SESSION
WHEN: 2:00PM – 2:45PM


MUSICAL THEATRE JAM SESSION:
Participates may select from the Eagle’s catalogue of musical theatre songs. Children and teens will learn the benefits of various musical styles, as well as work on vocal dynamics and technique. Most importantly, we will have fun!

INTO THE SPOTLIGHT:This 45-minute session will delve into the art of audition preparation, including; execution, script analysis, cold readings, and scenes/monologues. As well as; breaking into the business, rehearsal etiquette, and more. Participants will take part in exercises and gain professional feedback to advance their knowledge and skill set.
Every session is Free of Charge. Participants are required to email or call the Eagle Theatre to secure their spot for any session(s). Parents are welcome to attend or drop their children off for their session.

For more information, or to make a reservation, call 609-704-5012 or email info@theeagletheatre.com.
To receive a full schedule of events for The Stages Festival please visit www.stagesfestival.org.
The Stages Festival is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Bank of America; and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. Additional program support has been provided by The Smart Family Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Prudential Foundation, F.M. Kirby Foundation, and The George A. Ohl, Jr. Trust Foundation.
 

1,200 ARTISTS TRAVEL CROSS COUNTRY FOR EAGLE GIG
What’s Your Damage?

(Hammonton, NJ) – Eagle Theatre, opens the new groundbreaking theatrical phenomenon, HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL, on March 18th – April 24th, 2016, at the Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton, NJ.
NewHeathers_390x390HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL is a hilarious and homicidal new musical based on one the greatest teen comedies of all time. Westerburg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather and Heather, the cruelest girls in all of Ohio. But misfit Veronica Sawyer breaks the mold and rejects their evil regime for her new boyfriend, the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plans to put “the Heathers” in their place – six feet under.

Eagle Theatre Co-Artistic Directed Ed Corsi says “The musical features a moving love story, laugh-out-loud comedy, an irresistible score, and an unflinching look at the joys and anguish of high school life.”

Eagle Theatre auditioned over 1,200 actors for its 2016 season. Performers traveled cross country, many hailing from major Heathers-Feb23cities (Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York) for the opportunity to work with South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity Theatre. It was San Diego, California resident, Cailene Kilcoyne, that won the hearts of the Eagle Theatre, and landed the role of Veronica Sawyer, originally made famous by an up-and-coming Winona Ryder in the 1989 cult classic film.

Cailene Kilcoyne, a member of Actors’ Equity Association, holds a BFA from The Boston Conservatory, now merged with Berklee School of Music. Credits include: Into the Woods (Little Red), Fat Pig (Jeannie), Peter Pan (Peter Pan), Joseph … Dreamcoat (Narrator), Royal Caribbean International.

In regards to the Eagle’s ever-growing talent base, Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III added “Submissions in the thousands are a true testament to the town of Hammonton, and all it continues to do to make our out-of-town, traveling artists feel welcome. The cultural landscape of Southern New Jersey is expanding before our very eyes. It is an exhilarating time to be a progressive arts organization in this region.”

Eagle Theatre’s on-site Sharrott Wine Lounge will open 45 minutes prior to the performance.


 

 

COMEDIANS SELLING OUT IS NO LAUGHING MATTER
Eagle Runs Out of Room to Host STAND-UP
 

StandUpComedy_390x390(Hammonton, NJ) – Eagle Theatre’s presents its next installment of Stand-Up Comedy on February 27th@ 7:30PM & 10:00PM, featuring the country’s most world-renowned comedians. Entering its third season, Eagle Theatre’s Stand-Up Comedy Series is celebrating by adding more performances, due to popular demand. However, patrons hoping to have their funny bone tickled are now limited to only 1 showing at 10:00PM, as the 7:30PM debut SOLD OUT in record time.

HOST – Kevin Hurley is the Eagle Theatre’s favorite comedian, as well as a regular actor in their MainStage productions. He has won the Sarcasm Comedy Club Competition, as well as the 2014 winner of the Stress Factory March Madness competition. Kevin is a regular host at Helium comedy club and regular at The Stress Factory and Gotham.

HEADLINER: The Legendary WID was named one of the Funniest People in New Jersey. Originally from Cranford, NJ, he has become the undisputed Prince of Props and Puns! Most notably, he is the subject of an award-winning documentary film entitled Wid, by Jason Ferraro and Brian Galla. Selected TV Credits include: VH1’s Top 20 Countdown, Stand-Up Spotlight, Comedy Central, and 30 Seconds to Fame. You can also check him out on the best selling DVD, Laughing Out Loud: America’s Funniest Comedians, along with Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, and Jay Leno.

FEATURED ACT: John Kensil began his comedy career as a joke writer for radio personalities, then wrote for Jay Leno and Joan Rivers. John has been entertaining audiences with his aptly titled, “John Kensil Show,” a sarcastic takeoff on the old Dean Martin Show with John as Host as a cast of offbeat character comedians dropping in. John entered the stand up comedy arena while attending Temple University. His humor style can best be described as taking an ordinary situation and creating a twisted view on it – much like a party clown making balloon animals. He has worked with many national comedians and when most were asked to describe John Kensil, the usual reply was, “John Kensil? Didn’t he park my car?”

Eagle Theatre’s on-site Sharrott Wine Lounge will open 1 hour prior to the performance and remain accessible throughout the performance.

 

 IMAGINATION LEADS THE WAY

Choose Your Own Adventure Theatre for Young Audiences
 
(Hammonton, NJ) Eagle Theatre’s Theatre for Young Audience Series presents the World Premiere of JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR by Co-Artistic Director’s Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek III, opening March 4th at The Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton, NJ.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 11.58.45 AMJANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR is the story of a young, imaginative girl who searches for adventure and gets too far from home, traveling in a magical pear.  Along the way, she makes new friends, discovering the joys of freedom and friendship. Throughout her journey, she develops self-confidence, self-awareness, and helps others overcome their own personal obstacles.
The story of JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR teaches many life lessons and encourages important values including; compassion, bravery, strength, and standing up for yourself and one another.Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III says “We felt it imperative that our first World Premiere feature a strong female heroine. A great majority of plays concern themselves with finding a prince and living happily ever after. We chose to focus on how to find happiness from within, each and every day, starting now.”In the nonstop adventure of JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR, you are transported to a world of make believe; actors turn household items into stunning theatrical props, while sound effects are created right before your very ears. Audience members will be invited to assist in choosing what props, costumes and plot twist the story takes, creating an exhilarating immersive experience designed to delight audience members of all ages.Adds Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi “Our production is equal parts entertaining, enlightening, and educational. Each performance features a Meet & Greet Talk-Back with the cast, whereupon audiences may ask questions and share opinions about the play.”The ensemble cast features Kelly Filios, Jonathan Fink, Ernie Jewell, Tim Rinehart and Kimberly Suskind.
JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR will be available for regional touring post its debut at the Eagle.
Eagle Theatre’s Theatre for Young Audiences Series is sponsored by ShopRite of Hammonton, as well as the OC Home Charitable Foundation.

 


Review: ‘Assassins’ at The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, NJ

Is there a more relevant topic in contemporary America, while gun control is being hotly debated by the presidential candidates, Congress, and the voting populace, than a look at gun violence via the murderers and would-be killers of US presidents? Based on an original concept by Charles Gilbert, Jr., Assassins, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, presents an atemporal fictionalized history that is both timely and chilling, and the Eagle Theatre’s excellent production of the Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning musical is a provocative example of art that can make a difference, by employing theater in the service of social issues.

Adam Hoyak and Jeff Coon. Photo by Chris Miller.

Adam Hoyak and Jeff Coon. Photo by Chris Miller.

Presented in the format of a Vaudevillian-style carnival revue, the one-act show begins with the diabolical Proprietor of a fairground shooting gallery (an unnerving and seductive Tim Rinehart in demonic make-up) hawking guns to the soon-to-be-infamous passersby and enticing them to take aim at a President. The unsettling vignettes that follow are seen from the perspective of the titular figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, who co-exist here in a hellish time and space, conversing, singing out their motivations for murder with the aid of a Balladeer, and encouraging each other to join their notorious circle of assassins.

Varied styles of dress evoke the historical period of each real-life character (costumes by Sean Quinn), as does Sondheim’s complex score, which gives a nod to the popular music of each era represented. The musical numbers, all potently performed by Eagle’s skilled ensemble and live band, and musically directed by Jason Neri, include a sardonic paeon to the 2nd Amendment (“Everybody’s Got the Right”), delivering the sociopathic message that shooting the people in charge will bring happiness to the lives of the chronically disenfranchised and peace to the minds of the criminally deranged–the “expatriates in our own country.” The cheery tone and tempo of the Balladeer (played with youthful optimism by Adam Hoyak) and the vertical strips of bright carnival lights that flash in time to the music (lighting design by Chris Miller) provide a bizarre contrast to the assassins’ unhinged justifications for killing, which give deeply disturbing insights into the logic of madness and the desperate backstories that inspired their vicious acts.

Directed by Ted Wioncek III and led by Philadelphia favorite Jeffrey Coon as John Wilkes Booth (the killer of Abraham Lincoln), the consistently fine cast ably distinguishes the personalities, psychology, and emotions, accents and speech patterns of the nine men and women who achieved fame and sought fulfillment by taking the life of an American President. From Justin Mazella as Leon Czolgosz (the son of Eastern-European immigrants who murdered William McKinley) to Sean Elias as Giuseppe Zangara (the Italian-born attempted assassin of President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt) to Will Connell as John Hinckley (who believed he could win the love of Jodie Foster by shooting Ronald Reagan), the actors reveal the anger, frustration, and alienation that drove the crazed gunmen to strike out.

Ensemble, with David C. Yashin (left) holding protest sign. Photo by Chris Miller.

Ensemble, with David C. Yashin (left) holding protest sign. Photo by Chris Miller.

The deafening sounds of the gunshots fired by the characters, and often aimed towards the audience, contribute to the terrifying mood of the story (sound design by David Pierron). But most disquieting is the scene of Lee Harvey Oswald (Adam Hoyak, transformed from the upbeat Balladeer by the overwhelming evil around him), which includes the appalling actual footage of the Kennedy assassination on the multilevel wooden set’s backdrop of video screens, with scenic design by Wioncek and Miller, who also designed the projections, followed by members of the ensemble coming together to sing about his unforgettable impact on America in “Something Just Broke.”

Despite the dead-serious topic, there is also enough dark humor in the play to elicit uncomfortable, but much needed, laughter. Paul Weagraff is hilarious as the oddly congenial jack-of-all-trades Charles Guiteau (who was hanged for the assassination of James Garfield), as are Samantha Morrone and Victoria Healy, in an imagined meeting between Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (an adoring follower of Charles Manson) and Sara Jane Moore (each made a failed attempt on the life of Gerald Ford, whose renowned clumsiness is captured in a well-executed bit of physical comedy by Shaun Yates). And David C. Yashin, absurdly dressed in a Santa suit, makes the transition from laughable to scary as Samuel Byck (attempted assassin of Richard Nixon), in a standout monologue that becomes increasingly impassioned as his murderous rage builds.

It is that incendiary character, who, in an earlier scene with his fellow assassins, effectively underscores the current import of the play with the protest sign he carries: “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.” Isn’t that the same rationale of today’s gun lobby in America?


 

EAGLE THEATER’S ASSASSINS – A KILLER OF SHOW!

Assassins cover photoAssassins is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. It uses the premise of a murderous carnival game to produce a revue-style portrayal of men and women who attempted (successfully or not) to assassinate Presidents of the United States. According to one definition of this macabre musical Assassins is in fact the crossroads of history at which some of America’s most despised public figures meet as equals to share the stories of where they went wrong or, perhaps more horrifyingly, where they went right.

Let’s meet the lineup of infamous Assassin, their famous victims and the Eagle cast: John Wilkes Booth (Jeffrey Coon) assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. Charles Guiteau (Paul Weagraff) assassin of President James Garfield (David Nikolas). Leon Czolgosz (Justin Mazella) assassin of President William McKinley. Emma Goldman (Cindy Chait) anarchist known for her political activism who also interacted several times with Leon Czolgosz . Giuseppe Zangara (Sean Elias) attempted assassin of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.Lee Harvey Oswald (Adam Hoyak) assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Samuel Byck (David C. Yashin) attempted assassin of President Richard Nixon. John Hinckley (Will Connell) attempted assassin of President Ronald Reagan. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Samantha Morrone) attempted assassin of President Gerald Ford. Sara Jane Moore (Victoria Healy) attempted assassin of President Gerald Ford( Shaun Yates)

The musical first opened Off-Broadway in 1990, and the 2004 Broadway production won five Tony Awards. Sondheim has said that he expected backlash from the public due to the content. “There are always people who think that certain subjects are not right for musicals…we’re not going to apologize for dealing with such a volatile subject. Nowadays, virtually everything goes,” he told The New York Times.
By developing the characters of historic assassins out of the slim biographical information found in the daily news, Assassins prompts us to consider their motivation. Departing from the humanism of his previous musical Into the Woods, Sondheim suggests that political murderers are a product of the American political culture.

The Eagle Theatre creates an enormous amount of anticipation and tense excitement as a prologue to their well staged production. From the roaring roof- rattling sound effects of roller coaster to the scintillating staging and striking lighting design all courtesy of Chris Miller/Ted Wioncek (lighting and set designs) and David Pierron’s chilling sound design, Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III has left no room for the audience to breathe easy throughout the 90 minuet nonstop angst of his direction of these colorful characters.

The catalyst of this macabre piece is the collection of misfit characters in a seemingly carnival atmosphere where the Proprietor (Tim Rinehart) of the game entices them to play, promising that their problems will be solved by killing a President. “Everybody’s Got the Right” is the opening song sung by Rinehart, who looks as if he’s stepped out of “A Clockwork Orange” with pockets full of hand guns to the would be killers.
Jeff Coon returns to the role of the infamous history making John Wilkes Booth Jeff Coonhaving played the same role at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia in 2007. Coon brings his unique experience to the character. Coon implies that Booth’s drastic decision of assassinating Lincoln was motivated by the fact that he truly believed that Lincoln was tearing the country apart. His portrayal of Booth is compelling and ever present as he weaves convincingly in and out through generations of assassins always the moderator of acts of madness.

Our female assassins Squeaky Fromme (Samantha Marrone) and Sara Jane Moore (Victoria Healy) prepare to assassinate Gerald Ford bringing an impossible to believe light- hearted, ditsy comedy to this modge- podge collection of murderers. Fromme speaks of the apocalyptic preachings and her love/adoration relationship with mass murderer Charles Manson. Marrone is almost adorable in a very strange manner. Her co-conspirator Sara Jane More, juggling her purse with a bucket of chicken, a miss guided hand gun and a very delusional persona, is truly the much needed comedy spot in this dastardly ditty.

Samuel ByckWith many notable performances such as Adam Hoyak’s Lee Harvey Oswald and Paul Weagraff’s insane desire to become the next Ambassador to France, the standout performance goes to David C. Yashin’s role as perhaps the one of the lesser known assassins Samuel Byck; President Richard Nixon’s predator.
Byck sits on a park bench in a dirty Santa suit talking into a tape recorder, preparing a message to Leonard Bernstein telling Bernstein he can save the world by writing more love songs, and explaining that he is going to change things by crashing a 747 into the White House and killing Richard Nixon. Yashin is insanely entertaining.

Assassins is Sondheim at his peak of creativity and daring. Sondheim has said that he expected backlash from the public due to the content. “There are always people who think that certain subjects are not right for musicals…[w]e’re not going to apologize for dealing with such a volatile subject. Nowadays, virtually everything goes,” he told The New York Times. By developing the characters of historic assassins out of the slim biographical information found in the daily news, Assassins prompts us to consider their motivation. “(Sondheim) confronts pain in order to cauterize the decay and heal the sicknesses which lurk at the core of our society”. Departing from the humanism of his previous musical Into the Woods, Sondheim suggests that political murderers are a product of the American political culture. With edgy/controversial songs such as “Everybody’s Got The Right”, “The Ballad of Booth”, “The Gun Song”, “Another National Anthem”, “Something Just Broke” one must be cautioned that the subject matter and language makes Assassins a production worth a warning for both children and adults weak of heart.

The assassins regroup once more at the shooting range, now with Oswald among their ranks, and they proudly restate their motto, “Everybody’s got the right to be happy,” before loading their guns and opening fire on the audience. The final scene featuring Lee Harvey Oswald is especially poignant as the assassins of the past appear imploring him to act. Enough said for those who have not seen the show.

ASSASSINS plays at The Eagle Theatre on selected dates through Feb. 21. 208 Vine St. Hammonton NJ. For tickets and more information visit www.theeagletheatre.com or call 609.704.5012


 

 

Eagle Theatre Nominated for Prestigious Barrymore Awards

Only South Jersey Theatre in the Running for Philadelphia Area’s Highest Honor

Hammonton, NJ – Less than one year ago, Hammonton’s Eagle Theatre was not even eligible to participate in Theatre Philadelphia’s prestigious Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Fast forward 11 months and the Eagle Theatre has become the only theatre in South Jersey to be nominated for one of these coveted honors. The Eagle Theatre is South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theatre and the only Regional Theatre to produce full scale musicals in the southern eight counties of the state.

At a press conference in Philadelphia on Monday, August 24th, Theatre Philadelphia, the organization that governs over the Barrymore Awards, announced the 2015 nominees. The Eagle Theatre now competes directly against top Philadelphia theatres such as the Arden Theatre, Wilma Theatre and Philadelphia Theatre Company. The Barrymore Awards are named for the legendary, Philadelphia based “first family” of American theatre: John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore.

The first four Eagle Theatre productions that were eligible to participate in the Barrymore Awards were all designated “Barrymore Recommended” and were passed along to the next level of the award process. Those productions included: The Civil War: The Musical, Into the Woods, Catch Me If You Can and tick, tick…BOOM! Dozens of official award nominators and judges have reviewed and scored every Eagle Theatre production for the past year, culminating in a nomination for the Best Choreography Award forCatch Me If You Can for the Eagle Theatre’s choreographer, Dann Dunn.

‘I’m so thrilled to be nominated on behalf of the Eagle Theatre’s innovative and new take on Catch Me If You Can. I’m humbled and grateful to be in such incredible company with the other nominees in this category and that I’m able to represent the first rate and talented cast, crew, design, and creative team of the Eagle’s production,” Dunn said.

The Barrymore Award Ceremony will be held at the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia on November 2ndat 7pm. Representatives from the Eagle Theatre will be attending the ceremony.

The Eagle Theatre is South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theatre and is located at 208 Vine Street in Downtown Hammonton. The 2015 Mainstage Season resumes with Closer in September and October and Bonnie and Clyde in November and December. The 2016 Mainstage Season was recently announced and will feature Assassins, Heathers, Our Town, The World Premiere of The King of East Jabip, and Godspell.

More information and tickets are available online at www.TheEagleTheatre.com or www.facebook.com/TheEagleTheatre or by calling the Box Office at 609-704-5012.

Actor's Equity NAMTTheatre Communications GroupNJ State Council on the Arts