Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Wheaton Drama’s British Whodunit Puts the Accent on Funny

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Take a high energy comedic spoof of Agatha Christie-type whodunits, set it in a proper English manor with multiple doors and windows for quick comings-and-goings, a script chuck full of malapropisms and puns, a cast full of talented, but decidedly Midwest actors, and a genuine British director, and you’ve got a recipe for a hilarious production – and production process – for Murdered to Death at Wheaton Drama.

Murdered to Death is directed by Annie Walker-Bright, a British born-and-raised veteran of the Wheaton Drama theater.

Annie Walker-Bright

“I grew up in England the youngest of four siblings with an Irish mother and father with beautiful lilting Irish brogues.  I lived just outside of London for most of my life as a young girl into my early twenties in England.  I am told I still have, some 50 years later of living in the United States, quite a strong accent, although my relatives when I return home would aggressively disagree.  Because of my early years in England, I have an ear for a real English accent whether it be plum-in-the-mouth, cockney, Irish, Scottish or dialect from some nether region of the UK.  As a result, I have heard on stage some ‘English accents’ that have left me quivering in horror because I hear them to be strained and nowhere near authentic and sometimes unintelligible.”

But success, Walker-Bright has learned, is about ensuring the audience is too busy laughing to spend any time worrying about the authenticity of an accent.

“Obviously, most American audiences do not have the same ear as I do, understandably so.  Consequently, when I direct English plays, I tend to focus more on an overall presentation.  My role as the director of this English murder comedy mystery is to infuse and glean as much humor as I can from a funny, well-crafted script.  I am more about the end result, and simply making people laugh – a lot – is my primary directorial vision.  If you present a well-formed stage set in 1930’s style, furniture, furnishings, costumes, makeup and all the other accoutrements of that time period and location, the audience is subconsciously taken to that place without having to listen and master vastly different accents.” 

Cast (L to R), Shannon Bachelder, Mindy Kaplan and Director, Annie Walker-Bright,
focus on the physical comedy of this whodunit set in a classic English manor

Not to say the language of Murdered to Death isn’t important. In fact, it plays a leading role in some of the humor, with double meanings and malapropisms based on the British English. These nuances, Walker-Bright points out, are critical to get right.

“The lead investigator in our mystery is Inspector Pratt, a bumbling, arrogant and clueless detective. Pratt, of course, in the Oxford English Dictionary means, “an incompetent, stupid person,” or, “a person’s buttocks.” Either way, that sums up our Pratt, and he’s just hilarious.

But success for Walker-Bright, is ensuring a little mystery and a lot of laughter are the focus of the evening.

“If the audience comes out of the experience complaining about the lack of English accents, then I have not done my job to suspend reality and put them into an English manor home with an array of colorful characters going about their job to make you laugh.”  

Murdered to Death, by Peter Gordon, will be presented by Wheaton Drama, March 22 – April 14, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm. Wheaton Drama is located at 111 N Hale St. Wheaton, IL 60187. For tickets, call 630-260-1820 or visit www.wheatondrama.org.

Casting Announced: SWEENEY TODD

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Director Randall Knott is excited to announce the cast for Wheaton Drama’s upcoming production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Knott and his production team are excited for the adventure ahead and would like to thank all those who auditioned for the production.

Cast List

Sweeney ToddDavid Pfenninger
PirelliBlake Malley
AnthonyEric J. Downs
BeadleNathan Dittmore
Beggar WomanMeg McGarry
JohannaMary Rose Nicholas
JudgeStan Austin
Mrs. LovettSara Malloy
TobiasHenry Allan
EnsembleJean Austin
EnsembleMorgan Dietkus
EnsembleAndy Emmerich
EnsembleBonnie Hagemann
EnsembleTracy Kay
EnsembleDavid Korzatkowski
EnsembleKevin Loeper
EnsembleMonsieur Mason
EnsembleMike Plazcek
EnsembleWill Rozak
EnsembleJessica Sheffield
EnsembleKrystyn Wells
EnsembleMatt Whalen
EnsembleClaire Yearman

Production Staff & Crew

DirectorRandall Knott
Assistant DirectorJulie Dotin
Production & Stage ManagerElyse Willis
Musical DirectorBryan McCaffrey
Assistant Musical DirectorAaron Zimmerman
Assistant Stage ManagerVikkie Willis
Assistant Stage ManagerMelanie Johnson
Assistant Stage ManagerBruce Ebner
Set DesignerMichael Boyna
Costume DesignerAbeline Glenzinski
Hair and Make Up DesignerJim Martin
Light DesignerJim Van De Velde
Sound DesignerDave Amato
Fight Coreographer / Stage CombatBruce Worthel
ChoregrapherKaty Smith

Sweeney Todd will be on stage May 24 through June 16, 2019. Performances will be Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 3pm. All performances are held at Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111, located at 111 N. Hale Street in downtown Wheaton. Tickets are available NOW by phone at 630-260-1820 or online at www.wheatondrama.org.

Audition Notice: SWEENEY TODD

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Wheaton Drama announces auditions for SWEENEY TODD: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, directed by Randall W. Knott, with production management by Elyse Willis, musical direction by Bryan McCaffery, and choreography by Katy Smith.

WHEN: Sunday, March 3 or Monday, March 4, beginning at 7 p.m..  Callbacks will be held on Wednesday, March 6, beginning at 7 p.m..

WHERE:  Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111, located at 111 N. Hale St., Wheaton, IL

Auditions will be by appointment (see below). Please prepare 32 bars of a piece in the style of the show. There will be no movement/reading at the preliminary auditions, just singing. Callbacks will include some movement. Please plan to arrive as early as you need to prepare for your audition time. Note: we intend to be on time, if you are late, your spot will likely be forfeited. See below for character descriptions.

To schedule an appointment:  

Audition appointments have been filled and a waiting list has been started. Please email below to be added to the waiting list for an audition!

Please email toddwdi2019@gmail.com with a preferred audition night, NOT a preferred time. With the demand we expect, we will not be able to accommodate requests for appointment time. Audition appointments will be scheduled in 5 minute increments, and the Production Staff reserves the right to fill the slots as requests arrive. Please indicate that in the event your preferred night is not available, if you are available the other night as well. Auditions will be first come, first serve, and limited to the 72 slots we are creating. Audition appointments will close on March 1, 5:00 pm.  

SWEENEY TODDwill run May 24 through June 16, 2019. Performances will take place Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 3pm. All performances are staged at Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111, located at 111 N. Hale Street in downtown Wheaton.

Non-Mandatory Q&A with Production Staff

There will be a non-mandatory Q&A with the Director and Assistant Director on Saturday morning, February 9th, at Playhouse 111, 10:00-11:00 a.m. Audition expectations, a brief description of the vision of the show, and any questions from those attending will be the topics of the day.  There will be doughnuts, coffee, etc.  Mostly, it’s a way to break some of the tension before the auditions.  As stated, attendance is not mandatory, but we might have some fun.  

Character Descriptions:
Age ranges mean WHAT CAN BE VISUALIZED ON STAGE age ranges, not necessarily actual ages of actors.

Sweeney Todd– Baritone  (Age 35-45)  Primary male lead. A man out for revenge following his 15 year false imprisonment in Australia.  Will learn small amount of stage combat.

Mrs. Lovett– Mezzo (Age 45-55)  Primary female lead.  Opportunistic owner of a failing meat pie shop.  Comedic, for sure, but with an edge.

Judge Turpin– Baritone (Age 55-75) Supporting male lead.  Sanctimonious “honorable” man responsible for Todd’s imprisonment. 

Anthony Hope– Tenor  (Age  20-25) Supporting male lead.  Wide-eyed romantic ingénue.

Johanna– Lyric Soprano (Age 16) Supporting female lead.  Romantic ingénue who is perhaps not so wide-eyed.

Beggar Woman– Mezzo (Age – 35-45) Supporting female lead.  “Crazy” beggar woman with a tragic story to tell.

Tobias Ragg– Tenor (teenager-early 30s) Supporting male lead.  Mentally challenged, put-upon young man.  Will consider teenagers, but bear in mind that the role is demanding, vocally.  

Beadle Bamford– Tenor (Age 45-55) Supporting male lead.  Turpin’s lackey.  What Bill Sikes would be if he’d had someone spot his talent and groom him.  Must have a high falsetto range.

Adolfo  Pirelli– HIGH, crisp tone, tenor (Age 25-35) Pirelli is a theatrically comic Italian(?) barber with a soaring voice…and a secret.  

Ensemble– We NEEDbetween 5-16 ensemble members to act as a Greek Chorus throughout the play.  Stage time will be plentiful, and ALL will be featured, at least visually, at some point.  The Ensemble will be balanced based on strength of vocalists, it may be divided equally SATB, it may not.  We will be casting at least 3 males and 2 females in the ensemble. We would prefer a larger ensemble, as we want to fill the stage with sound.  This is a show that absolutely depends on its ensemble.

This production is non-equity & there is no pay.

SWEENEY TODD is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. www.MTIshows.com

Director Application: 2019-2020 Season

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Wheaton Drama is now accepting applications from members who are interested in directing for the 2019-2020 Season.

If you are interested in directing one of these shows, please submit an application to Artistic Committee Chair Christine Pfenninger at: christine.pfenninger@icloud.com by FEBRUARY 15, 2019. A separate application must be filed for each show you are submitting to direct.

The Artistic Committee will interview all prospective Directors on Tuesday Feb. 26 or Wednesday Feb. 27 from 7-10pm in WDI’s Green Room (basement). If necessary, additional interviews may be held on Thursday, Feb. 28 from 7-10pm. The Artistic Committee Chair will contact prospective directors to schedule an appointment.

If selected to direct, part of your commitment to Wheaton Drama will be participation in a post-show survey/interview  with a Board liaison. Additional information and job descriptions will be forwarded once your appointment is set.

Announcement of the season’s shows and directors will be published in the April 2019 TYRO.

APPLICATION DEADLINE IS 2/15/2019

2019-2020 Season Shows

  • The Addams Family (Sept 13-Oct 5, 2019 – 15 shows) (musical)
  • Moonlight & Magnolias (Nov 15-Dec 8, 2019 – 14 shows) (comedic play)
  • Little Women: The Musical (Jan 17-Feb 9, 2020 – 15 shows) (musical)
  • Hauptmann (Mar 20- Apr 5, 2020 – 11 shows) (dramatic play)
  • Peter & The Starcatcher (May 22-Jun 14, 2020 – 15 performances) (play with music)


Please note there is no pay or stipend for this position.

Casting Announced: MURDERED TO DEATH

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Director Annie Walker-Bright and her production team are pleased to announce the cast for MURDERED TO DEATH and would like to thank all those who auditioned for the production.

CAST

Mildred Mindy Kaplan
Dorothy Erin Payton
Bunting Jim Martin
Colonel Charles Craddock Stan Austin
Margaret Craddock Lynda Porter
Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington Jami Johnson
Pierre Marceau Vince Scalone
Joan Maple Charmaine Jones
Constable Thompkins Geoffrey Maher
Inspector Pratt Keith deBolt

CREW

Director Annie Walker-Bright
Assistant Director Dee Hicks
Production Manager Rebecca Poole
Stage Manager Jackie Haiser
Properties Amy Johnson
Costume Design Susan Hajny
Set Design/Construction Don Dumper
Set Decoration Barb Giblin
Lighting Design Jim Van De Velde
Sound Design TBD

MURDERED TO DEATH will play at Wheaton Drama from March 22 through April 14, 2019. Tickets are available NOW by calling our ticket line at 630-260-1820 or online at http://www.wheatondrama.org/order-tickets/.

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