LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Center for the Arts will host an original play written and directed by Lake Placid High School senior Joan O'Leary that will include a cast of more than 30 local children.
"Long Live" will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. Admission to the performance is free, but donations will be accepted at the door. According to Kim Andresen, program and marketing director for the LPCA, the donations go toward helping the arts center keep doing shows such as this - the center donates the space, some production costs and provides technical support such as lighting.
One of O'Leary's first productions was an original musical called "A Summer to Remember" that was performed in 2009 by the drama club at St. Agnes Parochial School when she was an 8th-grader. The cast and crew was made up of about 30 St. Agnes elementary school students, as O'Leary began to take her plays out of her parents' basement and onto the school stage.
Pictured is the “Long Live” cast and crew. They are, in no particular order: Morgan Olsen, Olivia Paul, Hayden Olsen, Charlotte Ward, Robyn Rutgers, Matthew Paul, Frankie Hathaway, Mary Finnerty, Sydney Lawrence, Carleigh Garrett, Danielle Gonyea, Olivia Zeis, Dylan Duffy, Lindsey Rath, Reid Pedu, Victoria O’Leary, Ashley Chris, Tony Miller, Sophie Morelli, Paige Megliore, Hannah Kaltenbach, Georgia O’Leary, Jillian Goulette, Hunter Wilson, Elizabeth Leff, Lorraine Draper, Lucky Cerruti, Mary Kate Graham, Olivia Sawyer, Taylor Barney, Jenna Eldred, Haile Thompson and Carleigh Garrett.
Photo/Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News
Andresen said that O'Leary approached the LPCA several years ago to do her shows there. Just last year she directed an original a musical comedy "The Rotten Apple" at the LPCA.
"It's our way of giving back," Andresen told the News, adding that having the children perform at the center is what the LPCA is all about. "It's a great addition and encouraging the arts or theater for children is one of our missions."
For more information, call the LPCA at 518-523-2512.
The Lake Placid News contacted O'Leary, and the following is a Q&A session with the aspiring director.
Lake Placid News: I understand this isn't the first time you've directed a play. Tell me about how you got started directing, how many you've done and why this one is special.
Joan O'Leary: This is the fourth show I've directed at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. I've also directed a musical at St. Agnes School. I started directing plays in my basement when I was in 5th grade and the rest, as they say, is history. Every year I've challenged myself to try and make both the story and show better we've come a long way since the basement days!
LPN: Think back to your first production and tell me some of the things you have learned leading up to this final work.
JO: Well, for starters, it's nice to have an actual theater instead of some lawn chairs set up in my parent's basement! It's also very cool to have a tech booth instead of just having someone flickering the lights. The first production Christina Stanton and I did at the LPCA was very bare and the scene changes were agonizing. Smooth scene transitions are one of the most challenging aspects for me as far as putting a show together goes. This show will be the first one that has transition music for scene changes and it's really helping a lot. In the past, we also relied heavily on a large screen to project images of "sets" which we are no longer doing. Our sets this year are amazing thanks to the help of cast parent, Richard Gonyea, and my senior project mentor, Tom Dodd.
LPN: I notice there were several plays that you directed that have had a larger than normal cast. What are the challenges of not only directing a play, but having so many performers to direct?
JO: I have a whistleand when things start to get nutty, the kids hear my whistle and know that it's time to listen! There are a ton of challenges associated with orchestrating a large cast but my policy has always been that everyone who auditions gets a role - so I usually end up with a lot of kids, which is great. Luckily, my music director, Gen Benware and my choreographer, Christina Stanton, help keep everyone under control. And, overall, the kids are really good and work very hard to do their best so it makes the whole process a lot of fun. One of the biggest challenges is communicating with my cast. We certainly take advantage of social media (Facebook group, blog, email) but updating everyone is still always challenging.
LPN: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a director and is there any desire for you to be on stage, sort of a director/actor?
JO: I love overseeing the production process. Working with a cast and crew is as interesting and entertaining as the show itself. I get butterflies as we set out on our journey towards opening night - and I can't help the adrenaline rush I get as I help cast members discover their characters and block their scenes. Although the cast can get sick of all the repetition, and "tweaking," needed to perform a show, I never tire of it. It's all of those nit-picky details that make the big picture so much better.
As for acting, I've been lucky enough to be a part of Lake Placid High School's Theater Department. I love acting and have learned so much from participating in the school plays and musicals, thanks Mr. Gotham & Ms. Weems!
LPN: I see you also wrote the play that is scheduled to be performed this week so, tell me a little about "Long Live."
JO: "Long Live" is a show that follows the lives of four best friends from childhood through adulthood. It's a story of the trials and tribulations of love, friendship and family. The show was written in such a way that the audience will be able to watch the cast grow up before their eyes. The first act features the characters as children, the second act features the same characters as high school students and the final act is them as young adults. Central to the storyline of Long Live is Rose Hillman (Olivia Zeis) and John Hillman (Dylan Duffy), the parents of two of the main children. I am especially lucky to have Dylan and Olivia in the show this year. Dylan is a graduate of Lake Placid High School and they are both graduates of the SUNY Oswego Theater Program. It has been amazing working with them and the entire cast has benefited from their experience.
LPN: It must help the creative process since you are the writer in that you know exactly what you want to see develop on stage, correct? Tell me what goes through your mind seeing your creation take life on stage.
JO: It certainly helps that I am able to have full creative license when it comes to my shows. I can cut the script, change the script or add something new if I feel so inclined without worrying about copyright issues. I'm also a control freak, so it's nice to have total power when it comes to the telling of the story. I have had a lot of help from my teacher, Amy Spicer, when it comes to editing my plays. Ms. Spicer has helped me tremendously with my writing over the last few years and she would be happy to know that I was meticulous when it came to comma usage with this script!
LPN: I understand this is your last production since you are graduating in June. What are your goals and career aspirations?
JO: Like every senior across the country this is the dreaded question! I hope to expand my production company, Greenwood St. Basement Productions and keep writing. I have a couple of plays that I would love to publish as well. As for the long term, my dream is to be a director on Broadway. I plan on attending college in the fall, but where that will be I'm still not sure.
LPN: So, should Lake Placid plan on seeing your work on Broadway some day? If so, describe how you think you would feel seeing your production in the "bright lights" of Broadway?
JO: That would be insane. I would be over the moon and on Broadway, but for right now I'm excited to see my work performed at the amazing LPCA.
LPN: Anything else you want to add?
JO: Special thanks to the LPCA for taking a chance on a 14-year-old girl four years ago, and for allowing me to continue to bring a new show to their stage year after year. I have had several of the same kids in all four shows - as well as several kids that tell me this is the only show they ever get a part in - so I am very proud of that. I know that we all have enjoyed a special journey together and grew a lot together over the years. It was so much fun!
CAST SHOUT OUT: I am so proud of the work my cast and crew has done this year. It has been a pleasure to work with such a talented, dedicated and intelligent group of people. I will certainly miss everyone next year. I love you guys - I hope you had as much fun as I did. Break a leg this weekend!