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Change of scenery

Little Theatre Company finds new niche off stage

Created date

June 19th, 2012

Apart from portraying Hiawatha in the first grade, acting never crossed Ed Horak s mind until he moved to Charlestown in 2004. Now Ed, along with the other members of Charlestown s Little Theatre Company (LTC), act in public service announcements (PSAs) airing on the community s in-house TV channel. Before we moved here, doing something like this never would have crossed my mind, says Ed, a computer programmer who retired from the Social Security Administration. One of LTC s founding members encouraged Ed to join the group. Ed has since appeared in stage productions of Cheating Cheaters, A Bench in the Sun, and A Bad Year for Tomatoes. He more recently worked on a PSA about recycling for Charlestown s conservation committee. I enjoyed the challenge of taking a relatively uninteresting subject recycling and trying to inject some interest and humor into it, says Ed.

Recycling takes center stage

In order to raise awareness on the different aspects of recycling such as what to recycle, where to recycle, and why to recycle, he and several neighbors developed a series of skits titledGeorge and Gracie,Tonya Treehugger, andBozo and Harriet and Ozzie. Charlestown residents wrote, performed, and directed all the skits with support from the community TV staff, who provided the equipment and creative input. The first PSAs were shot in the studio using a Kelly green Chroma key backdrop, similar to the kind meteorologists use, says Charlestown TV Manager Tom Moore. It allows us to superimpose different backgrounds without ever leaving the studio. The idea for the PSAs came about as Charlestown s performing arts center got a facelift as part of a $28 million dollar campus-wide modernization project. We wanted to be able to keep residents aware of our endeavors while the [performing arts center] is being renovated, says LTC member E.J. Urbas, a retired elementary school principal who worked in community theatre in New York before moving to Maryland in 1989. Soon after moving to Charlestown in 2009, E.J. auditioned for LTC s production ofA Bad Year for Tomatoes. E.J. says initially they began performing skits that were humorous in nature; the content was pure entertainment as a way to bide their time until the auditorium was completed. It wasn t until the conservation committee saw the parodies and requested a number of skits relating to recycling that LTC started creating PSAs. At our monthly meetings we announce to Little Theatre members what upcoming PSAs we ll be working on and ask for volunteers, says E.J. Our members have all been delighted for an opportunity to demonstrate their acting abilities.

Little Theatre, big performances

As members are quick to tell you, there s nothing small about the Little Theatre Company. With big name shows under their belt, includingSylvia, Little Shop of Horrors,You re a Good Man Charlie Brown, andLove Letters, LTC is a full-scale operation with auditions, regular rehearsals, professionally printed tickets, and programs everything you would expect to find with a professional theater group. David Wehr joined LTC shortly after moving to Charlestown in 2008. David, who served as choral conductor for the Houston Symphony Chorale, has an extensive theatre background. He has appeared in at least three dozen stage plays, musicals, operas, and most recently, two LTC productions. The transition from stage to television has been a natural and pleasant one for me, says David. As artistic director of the Concert Chorale of Houston in the 1980s, he was involved in a number of PSAs created for Houston TV to promote the ensemble. I find television easier, a bit more creative, and definitely less rehearsal time is required than a full stage play, he says. Ed says, for him, television has been a totally different ballgame. We don t have a prompter plugged in our ear so you either have to know the script or be able to improvise, he says. Since it s not live, second takes are also possible, which is a bonus. Charlestown s new performing arts center is slated to open in spring 2013 with new lighting, storage, and dressing rooms. But for now, LTC members seem perfectly content biding their time on the small screen. The feedback we ve received has been all positive, says E.J. The staff at the television station has been wonderful and we hope these skits will raise awareness about particular issues on campus and do so in a fun, entertaining, and educational manner.