Monday, December 3, 2012

“Put yourself in my place”--written 11/2/12
By Ellen Wilson Dilks
That phrase gets repeated three times in Thomas Gibbons play PERMENANT COLLECTION, which hits the PCS Mainstage on January 4, 2013.     My cast and I have adopted it as our mantra as we explore the story.
The play is challenging for the actors—and me, the director.    It has meat to it, it engenders interesting conversations.    But it has its funny moments too.    [Greg Tigani is a hoot as the ghost of the irascible museum founder]     And the cast is doing a great job of creating real and interesting people out of Mr. Gibbons’ wonderful words.    We’re still in the early stages of rehearsal.     Scripts are still in hand, we’re figuring out entrances, exits and where each person will be in each scene.    But the fun part is digging into what makes these people tick.    We ask each other a lot of questions…
Loosely based on the events at The Barnes Foundation when Richard Glanton was named director, PERMENANT COLLECTION deals with racial politics in the workplace.   The new director of this fictional arts foundation (played by E. Scott Jones) is a black man who feels more of the priceless African art that has been languishing in the basement storage area should be on display—that there should be artistic equality.    The foundation’s Director of Education (played by John Harvey, (Harvey in the Morning to long-time Philly radio listeners), who’s been there for 25 years (and is white), wants to maintain the conditions of the founder’s will: nothing is to be changed or moved.   The fact that the last piece of artwork was placed just after the foundation opened fifty years ago—and the world has gone through many changes since then—is irrelevant to him.    The founder’s vision must be preserved.
Both have valid points—there should be more equality and fair representation; but it is the right of a private collector to determine what works get put on display in the art institution he paid for.   Even after his death.   Local reporter Gillian Crane (Natasha Kelly) is there to reveal all the in-fighting to the public.    And the director’s young black assistant (played by Rachel Simpson) gets caught in the crossfire. 
As we work through the scenes, we find that we're continually putting ourselves in each character’s place.     Seeing things from all perspectives.     And, of course, these viewpoints carryover into the rest of life as well.     We’ve had lots of discussions about the many racial and gender gaps found in Corporate America—and elsewhere.     Things have improved some, but we still have a lot to learn.   Why can’t we all at least try to see things from all perspectives?    It isn’t always easy, but it sure helps you grow as a human being if you “walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes.”    Maybe that's the appeal of acting—we get to do that through the characters.
PERMENANT COLLECTION will be an exciting evening of live theatre—we hope you join us.  January 4—19, 2013.    Visit for all the details.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blog from Brighton Beach Memoirs' director Paul Kerrigan!

 Brighton Beach Memoirs opens our 2012-13 season this Friday!!! Here are some thoughts from the director Paul Kerrigan!

General thoughts from the director’s chair
As Brighton Beach Memoirs gets ready to open, I haven’t really had a chance to reflect on the process of mounting a Neil Simon classic production.  I understood the expectations from those who have seen the production on stage on in the movies.  A line or a moment from the script or screenplay has gone forth with these folks, who I hope will come back to see how funny or endearing this family story remains.
My experience of rehearsals has been infused with laughter.  I find the cast and crew just adorable, and if I could find room in my apartment, I’d take them home with me.  Did you know they are creating a backstage music video?  They already have posted a blog. (Behind Brighton Beach

They take care of one another.  They do not complain….ever (at least not to me).  They are truly funny people.  Not stand-up comedian funny, but genuinely, fascinatingly funny.  As a group, they just make me laugh because they freely express their human nature.  Even though we’ve worked really hard, it doesn’t feel like it.  I guess that’s where the audience comes in to play.  

The magic of live theater for me breathes in the interaction between the audience and the stage.  How the audience receives the story acted out on stage actually changes it.  Consequently, no two performances will be the same, especially in a comedy like this play.  We’re almost done our work.  Now we invite the audience to join in the alchemy of the imagination.  Together we will invoke the creative spirit to manifest precious moment after precious moment.  We laugh.  We cry.  We listen with our hearts.  Take a talented cast and crew and a brilliant evocative script, and you end up with a great production on display before you.

The Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge during the rehearsal process was keeping the actors fresh.  Consequently, we rehearsed in spurts.  We rehearsed in the middle of July, then took a break.  We rehearsed in the beginning of August, then took a break.  We avoided weekends and holidays.  I believe we are rested, confident and focused.  On Friday when we open, I believe they will take the stage by storm!

Directing Simon
My first directing experience after college was Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple in 1983.  In 1995, I directed Lost in Yonkers here at the Players Club.  That play holds a special place in my memory, and was one of the most successful productions artistically that I’ve directed.  I’ve become a big fan of shows with one set and a small cast, written by Award-winning playwrights. 

 The Script Then and Now
Brighton Beach Memoirs is as good a script as Yonkers, among Simon’s best.  The authentic, complex network of relationship in BBM speaks to the need for love, the frustration of desires unfulfilled or delayed, the perils of parenting teenagers, and the universal horniness of teenage boys and the emotional roller coasters teenage girls ride.  Underpinning it all is a bedrock love of family and the dignity of hard work.  Oh, yes, and it’s funny, very funny.

Opening Night
On Friday, September 14th, the Players Club will honor my friend and mentor George Mulford, as well as my wonderful friends Ruth Goldman and Reba Ferdman.  Many of the “old-timers” will be in attendance that night to honor them, see the newly redecorated lobby, and then see Brighton Beach Memoirs. A lot of these folks will have already seen the 1987 production directed by Charles and Barbara Hicks.  I’m thrilled to share this living history with my cast of “youngsters”.  As an organization of committed volunteers, few organizations can compare with The Players Club of Swarthmore.  As a teenager in 1974, I saw the PCS Production of Man of La Mancha.  I was amazed at the spectacle of it all, and I wanted to be part of it.  Now, I get to chair the Production Committee, working to create quality theater for our community, just as hundreds of folks have done for a hundred years.  Who knows?  Maybe some kid will come to see Brighton Beach Memoirs and decide they want to get involved.  They might be the Production Chairperson in 2061 when we will celebrate 150 years as a key cultural resource of the region.  As I teach theater arts to kids in our new lobby on Saturday mornings with the Young Peoples Theatre Workshop, I am part of the legacy granted by the creative artists who have gone before me.

Kate and Kate
I got a call from Dorie French, who played Eugene’s mother Kate in the 1987 BBM production.  I invited her to join the panel at the Meet the Artists Q&A session after the matinee performance.  I can’t wait for Dorie and Lisa Eckley Cocchiarale (Kate 2012) to meet and compare notes.  For my own part, I expect to get a few pointers and suggestions from Charles and Barbara Hicks, as their 1987 production was excellent, as far as I can tell from the archives.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hitting for the cycle at Players Club with Jim Fryer

To the non-baseball fan, which means in one game a batter, hits a single, double, triple, home run.  If there is an equivalent theatrical metaphor it might mean: actor, stage manager, producer, director.   With my opening debut as a director of Bunnicula, the upcoming Children's Theater production, I will have 'hit for the cycle' at PCS.

The 'flip side' of my PCS trading card would show the following 'stats':

    actor: six productions from 'Fiddler on the Roof' to, most recently, 'Arsenic & Old Lace'
    stage manager: 'A Christmas Story'
    producer: 'Intimate Apparel' and 'The New Plays Festival'
    director: 'Bunnicula'
Although this has no doubt been done before it should put me in a fairly small group of dedicated Player's Club devotees who have seen this terrific facility from all venues.  How do the jobs compare?

The hardest, hands down, is stage manager whereby you get all of the responsibility and none of the glory.  To the contrary, invisibility is your goal throughout the creative process.  The job almost runs counter to every other job in the theater: avoid being seen, dress in black, talk in whispers and stay the hell off stage unless it's absolutely necessary.  Add lots of kids to the mix and 'backstage nanny' is added to the job list.  It's a Yin job in a Yang world.  The stage manager must get their satisfaction from knowing that the magic ain't happenin' without your ninja-like efforts executed with precise timing with your cohorts in the tech booth and prop departments.  The rush is that you're the one who says when the curtain goes up and you're the one who calls down the smoke, thunder and lightning and the one who magically makes it change from one setting into another to the gasps of the audience.   So while the actors following a show are getting their hugs and flowers from gushing admirers, you, equally exhausted, are wielding a push broom across a desolate stage sweeping up the confetti or glitter or whatever was the flotsam and jetsam of that particular show.  And with an Emmet Kelly-like sadness, you're the one who turns out the lights when it's over.  PCS, btw, excels over any other theater I've known in the professionalism of its tech staff and backstage crews.

Actor: by far the easiest and most glamorous job at PCS.  There are pressures, certainly.  Going up on lines, missing cues, props malfunctioning, cell phones going off, coughing patrons, talking patrons all are hidden land mines when you step on stage in front of people.  Endless memorization of the script is the real grunt work of acting; running lines in your head at work in the elevator, when you're out riding your bike, when you're standing in the checkout line at Kohls.  But the rest is pure and simple 'play'.  The person who first called these 'plays' must have been an actor describing the child-like fun of pretending to be someone else.  The sense of camaraderie is the great by-product where 5, 10 even 20 years down the road you still have a unique bond with your fellow castmates that often outshines those you have with non-stage acquaintances.

Ken Locicero and Jim Fryer in Arsenic and Old Lace

Producer: maybe one of my favorite jobs at PCS since: a) nobody knows what a producer does anyway, b) you can stick your nose in almost everyone's business without justification (see "a"), c) you don't have to be anywhere at any place at any time....unless you want to.  Like the stage manager, you have to get your satisfaction from knowing that the show does not happen without your efforts.  Sets don't get built, auditions don't get set up, props and costumes don't get assembled, the publicity doesn't get handled, the show literally and figuratively does not go on without you pulling the strings like some grand puppeteer.  The producer is, in the end, a troubleshooter more than a creator of art.  But that doesn't mean you don't have an emotional investment in the final product.  Watching 'Intimate Apparel' as it was performed, still one of the best shows I've ever seen at PCS or on any stage frankly, I had a proud-poppa-like feeling in having a hand in such a wonderful production.

Director: although it's my first time at PCS (thank you for the opportunity btw), it's not my first time directing, but speaking from experience this particular job combines the actor's glamour, the producer's power and the stage manager's responsibility all rolled into one.  The look and feel of final product is on your shoulders yet, in the end, the actor is the final arbiter of what is said and done; the stage manager is the boss once the production takes the stage and the producer is the one who sets the parameters of what can and can't be done.  Your truest partner is the playwright.  Your contract is with them more than anyone else.   You are part alchemist and part Dr. Frankenstein transforming words written on the page into a living, breathing entity.  So if you hear someone on the Second Stage early in October shouting "It's alive!"...that'll be me.

The thread that runs throughout these various jobs is that you get to work with insanely creative people with one goal in mind: to create art.  Each experience, each show, each performance is different and fascinating in its own right and I thank Players Club for letting me share in the process.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Spotlight on a Players Club Member-Ken Wilson!

 Spent some time with a member of Players Club-Ken Wilson. Ken has been in numerous productions at Players Club. Here is some insight on what his experience has been as a member of Players Club! 

Ken Wilson in Our Town.

 You are a member of Players Club. What made you want to join as a

        I knew as soon as I began rehearsals for my first play at the Players
Club a few years ago that I wanted to become a member. I played Mr.
Fezziwig and a couple of other minor characters in A Christmas Carol. It
was the most fun I've had doing a play since high school!  Paradoxically,
it was the most professional environment I had ever observed in community
theater in terms of the acting talent of my fellow cast members, the skill
and dedication of the stage crew, and, of course, the brilliant direction
of Jen Wolfe.  In truth, I have never experienced such a high degree of
dedication to the arts of acting and stagecraft, and, in fact, my
experiences in each of the plays in which I have since appeared at the
Players Club have been just as good. I am truly honored to be a member of
this theater.

Ken Wilson and John Harvey in Our Town 

 What do you like the most about working at Players Club?

        The members of the Players Club - actors, directors and crew - have
been without exception warm and welcoming to me, a very pleasant surprise
after hearing that this group could be cliquish and off-putting.  I think
the best thing about working at the Players Club has been the dedication
and friendliness of the stage crew.  Actors come and go, and each play
becomes its own little world, but the good people at the Players Club who
work in set design and construction, lighting, sound, props and costumes
are a constant factor in what makes the Players Club the gold standard of
local community theater. They are quite simply the best at what they do,
and without them the actors and directors could not perform the magic that
we do.

 What has been your favorite or most memorable experience with working at
Players Club?

        It's difficult for me to pick just one memorable experience.  Working
on A Christmas Carol with so many children in the play made me see the
magic of the season through young eyes. Working on Our Town with Ellen
Wilson Dilks brought back memories of working on this classic play while I
was in high school.  And, The Beaux' Stratagem gave me the opportunity to
work under the great George Mulford, who in just a couple of months taught
me more about acting and stagecraft than I could have learned during a
semester of acting courses. But if I had to pick my favorite experience, it
would have to be working with Bruce and Millie Nutting on Anne of Green
Gables.  Not only were Bruce and Millie such terrific directors and the
other cast members so talented, the character of Matthew Cuthbert remains
my favorite of all the roles I have played at the Players Club and other

 Which shows are you going to audition for?

        It doesn't appear that any of the Main Stage plays have a role for
me, but I hope to audition for The Last Days of Judas Iscariot on Second
Stage.  It will feature a large cast of men and should be fun to do. Hope
I'm offered a part!

Our 2012-13 season is in the works! What show are you most excited about?

         All of this season's offerings look wonderful!  On Main Stage, I'm
looking forward to seeing the Players Club's adaptation of Grey Gardens,
just because the story behind the play happens to be both true and bizarre.
Also, as a lawyer and a lover of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art,
I'm looking forward to seeing Permanent Collection, based on the true story
of the breaking of Dr. Barnes' will and the subsequent relocation of his
outstanding collection to the custody of the Philadelphia art establishment
he despised. Sleuth should also be a lot of fun to see. On Second Stage,
I'm looking forward to seeing A Perfect Ganesh, Chambers Music and The Last
Days of Judas Iscariot.

Make sure to check out our website for tickets for the 2012-13 season!
To become a member of Players Club-it only costs 20 dollars!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview with Anthony SanFlippo from Brighton Beach Memoirs!

We have an interview with Anthony SanFilippo who is playing Jack in our September production of Brighton Beach Memoirs! So excited for this production! 

 This is your main stage debut at Players Club-have you worked on our 2nd stage or children's theater?
No. As a matter of fact, this is technically the first time I've been on stage in a legitimate role in 17 years. I did make cameo appearances in the Performing Arts Youth Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz (as the Wizard) and also surprised a lot of people performing in a jazz number for the Orlandi Dance Center in Havertown (a medley of songs from Guys and Dolls). Otherwise, this is it.

What area do you live in?
I live in Springfield, PA with my three children (all who have appeared in a Main Stage Production at PCS - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and our yappy Beagle Ringo.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Players Club?
Being around so many people committed to making good theatre a staple not only in the Swarthmore community but the landscape of the entire region. It's really impressive how far-reaching the PCS connections are in this area. We are only a cast of seven and yet have members from two different states, and five different towns.

What has been your favorite or most memorable moment in rehearsal for Brighton Beach?
I finally got Lisa Eckley Cocchiariale (Kate) to break down in laughter on stage. I like to keep things light and comfortable when working - it makes for a great environment - and it's obvious that Paul Kerrigan operates the same way, which makes him such a good director. But, while I've had no problem eliciting laughter from the rest of the cast, Lisa has been a tough nut to crack. Perhaps it's because she's so darn talented and so intensely into her character that it's hard to get her to let her hair down. But we were doing a scene and I delivered a line - in character - and for some reason it made her crack up. It was unintentional on my part, but it worked. We then had to do it four more times before either of us didn't laugh. I hope the audience finds the moment as funny as we did.

Are you going to audition for other shows at Players Club?
I'd love to, but my job prevents me from auditioning for anything other than a show that rehearses in the summer. I work for the Philadelphia Flyers and I have to be at every game - both home and away - and as such my schedule is not conducive for rehearsing/performing during the hockey season (October-May).However, if the Fall show every season is in need of a character actor within my range, I'll certainly audition.

Besides Brighton Beach Memoirs -what other shows are you excited about this coming theater season?
I'm excited to see them all! But specifically, I can't wait to see How to Succeed in Business... It's such a fun musical with great songs and a heck of a showstopper in Brotherhood of Man. It should be a great way to wrap up the season.
Check back for another interview from the cast and crew of Brighton Beach Memoirs! For tickets to Brighton Beach Memoirs go to !
Also Anthony started his own blog about his experience with working on Brighton Beach Memoirs-Check that out at !

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interview with Brandan Skahill

Had a moment to sit down and have a mini-interview with Brandan Skahill. Brandan Skahill is making his main stage debut at Players Club playing Eugene in our September production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. Brighton Beach Memoirs opens on 9/14! 

This is your main stage debut at Players Club-what shows have you done in the area?
Brandan- This is actually the first show I've ever done at the PCS. My director, Paul Kerrigan, is a teacher at my school, and he suggested that I audition.

What was the audition process like?
Brandan-The audition process was a little different than I've done before. The initial monologue was a bit longer than I've had to read in the past, and Paul kept stopping me and asking that I go back and try a different acting perspective. Once I made it to the callbacks, I was asked to read a few scenes with some others, and then I was done. It was a lot shorter than I expected, but it gave me a good feel for the character I was trying out for.

What is the best part about working at Players Club?
Brandan- I really like the camaraderie that's been established. All the other cast members are nice and easy to work with, and I think we work together very well. If I have a question, I can easily go up to any one of them and they'll give me a straight and honest answer. I think something like that can only be achieved with a very small cast.

So far what is the most memorable or funniest moment so far in the rehearsal process?
Brandan- A few nights ago, we were told that we were going to be running the first act, when in actuality we ended up only running the first 20 pages or so. This was because we just couldn't get the "exchange", as Paul put it, into our heads. Once we got past that, one of the actors just couldn't get his lines. Every time he called for line, which was every line, we just started laughing.

What is best part about working with the director-Paul Kerrigan?
Brandan- I've known Paul for a while, him being a teacher at my school, and for the past two years he has directed my school's winter musical. So I've worked with him before, but not with a show like this. He gives direction very well, and he is clear and concise when he gives acting tips. I think that's very important for a director. Beyond that, he's a generally nice guy and I enjoy working with him.

This show has been produced numerous times over the years-why do you think it is so popular with audiences?
Brandan- I think the show has a lot that audiences can connect with. Younger viewers can relate to Eugene's innocence or Stanley's principles and his "big brother" status. Older men can see how hard it is to provide for a family through Jack's eyes. Younger girls can connect with Nora's dreams. And older women understand how hard it is to be a mother, either in Kate's or Blanche's position. Whatever the case, every character is relatable. Other than that, it's a funny show, and it's also packed to the brim with meaning.

What other shows are you excited about Players Club doing this season?
Brandan- I'm particularly excited for Little Women. I've always wanted to see that show.

Stayed tune for the next blog with  Anthony SanFilippo- making his mainstage debut playing Jack!