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Ghostly production brings down the house at Maris Grove

Playwright Marian Ellis writes another winner

Created date

January 8th, 2018
Arlyne Goldberg, in a red flapper dress, teaches the Charleston to an inept group of Vaudevillian ghosts and Avon Gard Shakespearian actors.

Arlyne Goldberg, in a red flapper dress, teaches the Charleston to an inept group of Vaudevillian ghosts and Avon Gard Shakespearian actors.

 

Last November the Players group at Maris Grove performed A Song for Hamlet, their tenth musical comedy production in as many years at Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa.

To summarize, the Avon Gard Shakespearian Acting Company purchases an old warehouse to transform it to its original glory as a theater. One potential problem: Vaudevillians who’d performed in the theater a century ago still haunt the building.

Written just for you

Like all Players productions, this one was mounted 100% by Maris Grove community members, from playwright Marian Ellis, who says she’s incapable of writing anything that isn’t humorous, to the stage crew she calls “the best in America.”

“When I moved from Hershey’s Mill in West Chester more than ten years ago,” Marian says, “I never thought there would be a theater group for me.” 

But Maris Grove is a community of possibilities and reinventions, its Cardinal Theater being but one opportunity. 

Marian, who has written and staged original plays for 40 years, always writes to her actors’ personalities and capabilities. 

Take Gloria Griffin, for example. Gloria had sung and danced in variety shows when the Griffins lived in Waretown, N.J. But she’d never acted. She worried about learning her “ghostly” lines.

So Marian gave her just 4 lines, 13 words altogether. 

Warren Pollock’s case is similar. Not only does the former DuPont employee not enjoy memorizing, he doesn’t sing
or dance.

“That’s okay,” Marian said to him. “You’re in.” 

She created an egotistical actor for Warren’s character and gave him limited lines that nonetheless played to his strengths of a distinctive voice, an impeccable sense of timing, and the ability to stay in character. 

Warren’s wife Ali, a Players member since the Pollocks moved from Wilmington, Del., has a beautiful singing voice. As an Avon Gard actor, she sang a plaintive duet with one of the Vaudevillians, “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You.” 

Thespian magic

Yes, eventually the acting troupe and the ghosts met one another, and in a rousing scene, a ghost played by Arlyne Goldberg in a fiery red flapper dress taught everyone how to do the Charleston.  

Arlyne is known at Maris Grove for her dancing talents. She had many years of community theater experience in White Plains, N.Y., but she’d never performed on stage.

Marian wanted to showcase those dancing skills, so when Arlyne said she knew the Charleston and could teach it, Marian wrote that into the script. The scene nearly brought down the house.

The play was Arlyne’s first at Maris Grove. “But I’m committed to the group,” she says. “I had such a good time in the play.”

That also goes for Len Dwares, a friend of Arlyne’s who came to a rehearsal and was waylaid by Rena Miller who codirects Players’ stage crew. 

“Would you like to be on the crew?” she asked. “Yes,” Warren said. Simple as that, he was a Player.

Len had so much fun moving furniture and stage sets that when the play ended he told Marian, “I can’t wait until the next gig.”

The productions require lots of hard work and long rehearsals, but Players members feel a strong commitment to their fellow thespians and to Marian to do their best. When the final curtain comes down, they agree it’s been worth it.

“Some of the people in this play are ten-year veterans,” Marian says. “We’re still having a great time.”

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