The Advertiser-News
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Written by Nicole Cusick

Tri-State keeps theater alive . . .Tigers, bears and interns—OH MY!


Tri-State Actors Theater Yourh Acting Company has taken on “The Jungle Book” as its show of this summer’s intern program. 
The show is the musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel.  The company, ranging from ages 13 to 17 years, worked for three intensive weeks on a professional rehearsing schedule learning as much as possible about professional theater and mastering “jungle law.”

“The kids were a mix of new and long-term company members that came together well,” said Paul Meacham, director of the show as well as the artistic director and founder of Tri-State Actors Theater.  Meacham has been a part of Tri-State since 1988 and has acted on stage and film. He’s proud of the fact that in this program the children have the experience of working on a professional schedule to put on a show.  They get to see the difference between doing theater in a school setting as an after-school activity and how it is done in the professional world.

Taste of professional theater

“My experience at Tri-State was so different because Paul pushes us to be the great artist that he knows we are,” said Sophia Metcalf of West Milford.  “I like a challenge.”

 “This group was more dedicated than any other school shows I have been in,” said P.J. Lombardo, a High Point student.

“Many of our schools cut the theater programs and Tri-State gave that opportunity back to us,” said Meghan Good, of Franklin.

Many spoke of how grateful they were to have the program and be able to stay involved in theater this summer.  All the interns needed to portray animals and they spoke of the challenges that presented.

“Animals don’t dance, so that was pretty hard,” said Sophie Metcalf.

“Jungle Book” featured several dance numbers, choreographed by Lauren DeVore of Franklin. She helped the company get in touch with their wild side to dance and act like animals.  DeVore is a long-time  member of Tri-State.  She has been working with the theater for seven years; and has been in Tri-State’s professional shows also.  Lauren is in her second year at Sussex County Community College, where she is majoring in dramatic arts.  This is also the second year that she has choreographed the dance numbers for the intern musicals 

“I love working with the kids.  I am close enough to their age to be able to relate to them as a peer yet be a leader for them at the same time,” she said.

“Only in theater is it OK to growl at your friends,” said Ali Castellucci of Stockholm.  All of the young performers involved in the show admitted the noises they get to make on stage as animals were some of their favorite parts about the show. 

Although it’s fun, it takes a lot of endurance to play one for 15 shows. “With such a long run, the kids had to learn a great deal about sustainability,” said director Meacham. “We are never done working on our character”, said young actor Albert Weitz of Franklin.  The company members agreed that they love the opportunity they have for each performance to keep their characters fresh and still interesting to watch.

Another of the things the young cast members appreciate about working with Tri-State is the opportunity to work with the professionals around them. 

Jon Dragon of Sussex, one of the most seasoned members of the cast, is currently in his sixth year as an intern.  He points to Christian Rohde, the stage manager, and said “he is the glue that holds us all together.”  Christian Rohde is a former intern himself; and is attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Atlantic Acting Company.  “It’s great to work with the kids and have earned their respect.  I have learned from them and have a lot of knowledge to pass on the them as well”

 The children also spoke fondly of Ryan DeFoe, the show’s musical director. 

Tri-State Actors Theater’s intern program is an outlet for community theater for young people every summer.

  A NEW PARTNERSHIP

 Tri-State Actors Theater and the Performing Arts Center of Sussex Community College have come together for the first time with the production of “The Jungle Book.”

According to Bryan Zellmer, assistant director of cultural affairs at SCCC, this partnership will last for the next season, until June 2012 and perhaps longer.

Given the current economy, Tri-State gave up the theater that had been its home in Sussex Borough for many years.  The theater has been “On the road” for the last year, according to director Paul Meacham.  The have used a number of different venues to produce their shows, but have found a new home at SCCC.  Recent budget adjustments at SCCC had also provided the Performing Arts Center with the room in their season to welcome Tri-State to the venue and to create a full season of performances 

According to Kathleen Scott, the college’s director of public relations and marketing, Dr. Paul Mazur, college president, loves the arts and is a huge supporter of this partnership.

Both parties hope that the students involved in the arts at SCCC will take to the new partnership with open arms. It affords students a chance to be involved with a professional theater at their own school. “It will allow more young people and more advertising through word of mouth for local theater,” said Lauren DeVore, long-time member of Tri-State and a SCCC student.

“I am thrilled about the partnership and the season ahead as well as to see the next stages this partnership can grow.” Says Zellmer.

What’s next:

The next season at the Performing Arts Center at SCCC will feature at least three more Tri-State productions as well as other professional and school performances.  “This is an important partnership.  Theater is an educational tool.  It keeps people thinking and will be great for both parties,” said Rohde.

“I certainly hope it will be a permanent partnership,” said Tri-State’s Meacham.  There is a solid working agreement between the two partners and it will bring new opportunities for theater to the community and in the schools within Sussex County. “Going to the city is great but there is art right here in the community and it needs to be kept alive because it is beautiful.  This partnership will help that,” said  DeVore. 

“We want to spread the word of the partnership and open the eyes of the community and invite more people here with this partnership,” noted Kathleen Scott, director of public relations and marketing at Sussex Community College.