Brooksby’s thespians take musical comedy to new heights

Theatre at the Pond produces its most successful show to date

Created date

April 27th, 2020
Cast members Ed Vaeni, from left, Nancy Nazaroff, and Loren Schechter following Theatre at the Pond’s successful production of Won’t You See My Neighbors? at Brooksby Village.

Cast members Ed Vaeni, from left, Nancy Nazaroff, and Loren Schechter following Theatre at the Pond’s successful production of Won’t You See My Neighbors? at Brooksby Village.

One of the longest-running activities at Brooksby Village, the senior living community developed and managed by Erickson Living in Peabody, Mass., is the resident-led theater group, Theatre at the Pond. 

Fresh on the heels of last year’s outstanding production of Love Rides the Rails, Theatre at the Pond members embarked on a new challenge—writing an original script and bringing it to life.

“We’ve paid significant royalties to use scripts in the past,” says Loren Schechter, who moved to Brooksby in 2017 from Cambridge, Mass., and joined Theatre at the Pond soon after. “After last year’s show, we formed a playwriting group to develop our own scripts and save on the royalty fees.”

Theatre at the Pond member Phil Edelstein had the idea for a musical comedy based on the antics of a domineering husband and his hard-of-hearing wife.

“The premise is the husband has a winning lottery ticket,” says Phil. “Everyone around him gets excited, but it turns out the ticket is no good.”

Phil joined Theatre at the Pond when he moved to Brooksby from Danbury, Conn., in 2013.

“When I was 12 years old, I won the title role in my grammar school’s production of David Copperfield,” says Phil. “I spent my career in the plumbing supply business, but I’ve been interested in theater ever since I was a kid.”

As Phil’s idea took root, resident playwrights met weekly to add scenes and embellish the plot.

“Loren is magnificent with words and wrote a lot of the dialogue,” says Phil. “Every week, we met to review the script and the team would add their thoughts on how a scene should play out.”

The script, titled Won’t You See My Neighbors?, includes new lyrics to fresh melodies.

“Once we put the play into production, we handed it over to the director, and he contributed his ideas,” says Loren. “As rehearsals got underway, cast members suggested ways they wanted to play a part. The play was shaped by so many people, it truly became a group project.”

Actors bring show to life

Auditions took place in September 2019, with twice-a-week rehearsals beginning as soon as the show was cast.

As the late-January 2020 performance dates approached, rehearsals increased to three times a week.

“It’s a big commitment, but it’s also a great bonding opportunity,” says Eileen Gallant, who moved to Brooksby in 2006 and has been involved with Theatre at the Pond ever since. “You get to know other cast and crew members and have fun in a way that brings everyone closer.”

Loren was the producer and Eileen was the associate producer for Won’t You See My Neighbors? The Theatre at the Pond board engaged the services of a local theater director, Bill Gaylardo, to direct the play, as he’s done for prior productions.

Eileen credits Gaylardo with bringing out the best in the cast and crew.

“Bill makes us laugh and feel comfortable,” says Eileen. “He knows we’re here to have fun.”

No prior acting experience is required to try out for a Theatre at the Pond production.

“I had a feeling one of my neighbors Bill Scouler would be a great actor,” says Eileen. “I encouraged him to try out and he won the male lead in Won’t You See My Neighbors? He did a fantastic job, memorizing a lot of lines and delivering a great performance.”

Nine resident actors took the stage in Won’t You See My Neighbors? A crew of more than 20 resident volunteers worked behind the scenes to bring the show to life.

Behind-the-scenes magic

Alice Gross moved to Brooksby in 2006 from Winchester, Mass., where she produced and stage-managed a local children’s theater and also volunteered with an adult theater group, the Winchester Unitarian Players.

“I majored in biology at Middlebury College in Vermont and went on to work as a physical therapist, but theater has always been my favorite thing to do,” says Alice. “Soon after my husband and I moved to Brooksby, we attended the annual activities fair. That’s where I found out about Theatre at the Pond. I feel lucky to have an outlet for my passion right here on campus.”

Alice shines behind the scenes, where she employs all her creative juices to craft innovative sets for Theatre at the Pond productions.

“Lowe’s and Home Depot are like toy stores to me,” she says. “Of course, we’re fortunate to have incredibly talented people from all across the community helping us bring the production to life.”

Drawing on the skill of Brooksby’s resident woodworkers, led by Bill Phelan, Theatre at the Pond sets often contain components crafted in the Brooksby woodshop.

Volunteers from the on-site television studio run the sound and lights in the catering room inside the McIntosh Clubhouse, where the productions take place.

“We employ the skills and talents of residents and staff across the community,” says Alice. “Employees from general services help us move furniture and incorporate it into the sets. The resident life team helps us with the program and advertising. We couldn’t do what we do without the help of the staff at Brooksby.”

Most successful show to date

As the performances for Won’t You See My Neighbors? grew closer, ticket sales exploded.

“This was our most successful performance to date,” says Loren. “We sold over 600 tickets, which is a record for a Theatre at the Pond show.”

Tickets were $10 each, with proceeds benefitting Brooksby’s philanthropic initiatives, including the Scholar’s Fund and the Resident Care Fund, which ensures a resident is never asked to leave the community due to a genuine inability to pay. The Residence and Care Agreement has complete details.

“To see the show come alive was a really big thrill,” says Loren. “It gave us a purpose and a project where we could enjoy each other’s company and see a tangible result at the end.”

Fans of community theater won’t have to wait long for Theatre at the Pond’s next undertaking. This month, the group is presenting a script reading entitled Light Verse and Laughter, based on the poetry of Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, Pam Ayres, and Brooksby resident Martha Gilfeather.