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Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Costuming Wheaton Drama’s Sweeney Todd in the Hands of a Talented Area Student

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

By Elena Dansdill

A show with 23 different actors, a wide variety of costume changes with full 19th century style outfits, and starting mostly from scratch is enough to make any experienced costume designer overwhelmed. But Wheaton Drama’s new costume designer for Sweeney Todd – Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Abeline Glenzinki is doing it all, at only age 17. Since March, Abeline has been planning, sketching, researching the period, and watching other adaptations of the show for inspiration on how to create the world of Sweeney Todd through costumes.

Abeline Glenzinki works on designs for
Wheaton Drama’s upcoming production of Sweeney Todd – Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Starting from scratch, Abeline says she’s, “terrified but excited” to head the costumes for this show. While still only in high school, she’s certainly qualified. She began sewing in only third grade and quickly got involved with costumes and theatre throughout middle school and high school. You might have seen some of her pieces at Wheaton Drama in Elephant Man or Willy Wonka, but this is the first time she’s been the sole head of costumes.

It’s quite an accomplishment, and the first time someone so young has led such a daunting production at Wheaton Drama. “This is a huge show, from all aspects – the music, the set, the props, and the costumes,” say Wheaton Drama President, Stan Austin. “That someone as young as Abeline has so much vision, drive, responsibility and talent is really incredible. What she’s been able to create really has to be seen to be believed.”

 “My favorite character I’ve been designing at the moment is Mrs. Lovett,” Abeline says, “I’m planning to make or sew most of her pieces.”

Design sketches for Mrs. Lovett’s costume – one of more than 23 creations
Abeline Glenzinki is designing for Sweeney Todd

Taking a glance through her rough sketches, the characters have already started to come to life. For Mrs. Lovett’s second act costume, Abeline says she’s “channeling a more Victorian look with a super fun red skirt and jacket combo.” Even the small snippets of descriptions and color themes on her sketches show her talent and eye for blending traditional Sweeney Todd costumes and her own style. But you can only do so much on paper; the fun doesn’t really begin until the actors and dress rehearsals come into play.

Besides having to think about the actors comfortability onstage, Abeline says she’s learned a lot more about fully designing a whole show: “You have to consider what the lights and set are going to look like so colors don’t clash. You have to decide what is considered a prop and what’s hair and makeup. You have to develop an organization system or else you’re just left with piles of clothes.” The final product is still far from finished, but with only a couple weeks left until opening night, Sweeney Todd is sure to excite all audiences with its thrilling blend of costumes, lights, music, sets, and theatre magic.

Sweeney Todd will be on stage at Wheaton Drama from May 24 through June 16, 2019. Performances are Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 3pm. Tickets available NOW at www.wheatondrama.org or by phone at 630-260-1820.

Sweeney Todd is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

Tony-Award Winning Epic Comes to Wheaton Drama

Friday, May 10th, 2019

By Mike Frale

Wheaton Drama’s upcoming production, Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, is currently in rehearsals, with the cast and crew working to navigate the extremely difficult and famous piece.

Sweeney Todd tells the story of barber Benjamin Barker, aka Sweeney Todd, as he tries to get revenge against his arch-enemy for the murder of his wife, Lucy, with the aid of the cheerful and amoral pie shop owner, Mrs. Lovett. As he opens his shop up above Mrs. Lovett’s store, he gets caught between the destined love between his daughter, Johanna, and a naïve sailor, Anthony.

Director, Randy Knott

Randy Knott is directing this epic and we had a chance to sit down with him –

What drew you to direct “Sweeney”?  

Boy.  I guess I’d ask “what didn’t?”  The music is amazing; challenging, yet satisfying to the ear.  The story is as old as stories themselves.  I love the ambiguity of who the bad guy is, and I love the idea that all of us, if we look into our hearts, probably are capable of the atrocities that are committed in the show.  We certainly, through the play, find ourselves capable of cheering for the guy committing them.  THAT, I find delicious.  My favorite villain in film is Michael Corleone, because his bend towards evil is a choice.  “…Todd” lets us see that, also.  

Is there something you hope audiences will be able to learn from watching “Sweeney”?

I always hope that any show I direct allows the audience to find some part of themselves during the evening.  Even the comedies.  This show, I believe, really looks at things like class, revenge, love, ambition, opportunism, injustice, and abuse of power, etc.  In some ways, it’s an incredibly timely piece.  In some ways, it always will be.  

What is a piece of advice you give to your actors as they prepare for this difficult and exhausting piece of musical theatre history?

I want them always to be honest to the moment.  Because this show has so much theatricality, so much singing, so much beauty…it is easy to slip into falling in love with the sound of one’s own voice, or of the music.  The audience will, of course, fall in love with that also…but they paid to see the story.  That’s what I’m trying to get to.  

Randy Knott (Director), David Pfenninger (Sweeney Todd), and Sara Malloy (Mrs. Lovett) (L-R) work a sceene while the cast looks on.

How did you prepare to direct this production in the pre-rehearsal process?

I’ve spent countless hours discussing, with Julie, the assistant director (and my domestic partner), the characters, the small moments, the big moments, the set, the setting, the time, etc.  I’ve been studying this show for a year.  The actors have been studying it for 2 months.  As with most projects of this magnitude, one has lots of big ideas.  I have dozens of things in my head about this show, these characters, and deep character dives. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that my ambition – while never fully put aside – can get in the way of the fundamentals.  Sometimes you have to worry about making sure everyone can be seen, that the set is going to work, or that the props get cleared…and the deeper ambitions…they’ll have to wait.  We’ve still got 2 weeks, though…I’m excited to see how much of that ambition makes it to the stage.

Sweeney Todd will be on stage at Wheaton Drama from May 24 through June 16, 2019. Performances are Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 3pm.

Tickets available NOW at www.wheatondrama.org or by phone at 630-260-1820.Sweeney Todd is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

Applications for Artistic Committee Chair Due 6/14/19

Friday, April 19th, 2019

WDI President Stan Austin is accepting applications from members for the position of 2019/2020 Artistic Committee Chair. This individual will work with the chairs of the Play Reading and Musical Play Reading Committees, WDI Board representative(s), and at-large members to propose a slate of shows for the 2020-21 season.   Download the application form: WDI Artistic Chair Application 19-20

Deadline to submit the application has been changed to Sunday, June 14, 2019. The term of this position runs from Sept. 1, 2019 through Aug. 31, 2020.   More details can be found in the WDI bylaws, which can be found on our website. Other specific questions can be sent to wdipres2017@gmail.com.

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.

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