2013-07-24 / Features

The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever

A Garden Players Production; Two Unique Casts
BY BETINA HERSHEY

Red Cast surrounding Maria Northrop as Eli and Clare as Skyler.Red Cast surrounding Maria Northrop as Eli and Clare as Skyler.In 2004, the first year I wrote and directed an Alexa Levine as Jo the Cook, Michelle Garcia as Kurt the Protector, and Jessica DeGennero as Quinn the JudgeAlexa Levine as Jo the Cook, Michelle Garcia as Kurt the Protector, and Jessica DeGennero as Quinn the Judgeoriginal musical for the Garden Players, there were 35 kids in the cast and we did a full length original musical called “Lemontales.”  Everyone their own special moment within the arc of the plot.  That was an exciting year.  Some of those kids still come back and help out backstage.  The cast grew each year until we had 70 kids on the stage. Staging 70 kids so you could see them was a directorial feat that I didn’t want to repeat, so this year I did something different... I split the group into two casts.

Clare as Skyler in her tree house.Clare as Skyler in her tree house.The kids were used to being with their own age Amanda Talero as Charlie surrounded by her servants as her power goes to her head.Amanda Talero as Charlie surrounded by her servants as her power goes to her head. group and I knew they would miss each other, but I thought about my years of summer stock and regional theater and how every time I did a show I was in a new city with a new family of actors.  The Garden Players, too, created new bonds with actors both younger and older than themselves.

Joel as Joy wishing for Pre-Charlie days, about to meet the sleeping Skyler.Joel as Joy wishing for Pre-Charlie days, about to meet the sleeping Skyler.The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever is the story of what happens Maya Parness as Skyler and Matthew Levine as Charlie in a show-down.Maya Parness as Skyler and Matthew Levine as Charlie in a show-down.when all of the adults in Skyler’s birthday party vanish and the kids are left to fend for themselves.  Charlie is elected king, Kurt the Protector and Kai lead kids on military water balloon protocol adventures, Jo has to figure out how to make pizza, and Skyler runs off to her treehouse where she is eventually joined by others trying to escape Charlie’s bossy lead.

Matthew as Charlie tells everyone how proud he is of the work they're doing.Matthew as Charlie tells everyone how proud he is of the work they're doing.Two of our leads, Amanda Talero, the skittish The full blue cast explodes, including Shay Baxter center as Jo, right after they said "Every parent had vanished."The full blue cast explodes, including Shay Baxter center as Jo, right after they said "Every parent had vanished."Charlie in the Red Cast and Robert Stryczek, the perfect drill-sergeant Kurt in the Blue Cast, have been with us since Kindergarten.  Some of the many other stand-out performers include Clare D’Amato as a sincere Skyler, Matthew Levy as a comical and angelic-voiced Charlie, Nathan LoPinto as the intensely outdoorsy Wolf, and Sydney Lundin as the truly panicked girl locked in the bathroom.

Jaden Cosme, Allison Feldman, Isabella Gomez, Maya Parness, and Elizabeth Trenchard face the audience and sing, "how could this have happened?"
Jaden Cosme, Allison Feldman, Isabella Gomez, Maya Parness, and Elizabeth Trenchard face the audience and sing, "how could this have happened?" Parents rallied together and created sets more The entire blue cast leans forward as Stella DiCicco reaches in for the last remaining slice of pizza.
The entire blue cast leans forward as Stella DiCicco reaches in for the last remaining slice of pizza. thrilling than we’ve done in years with MaryBeth Bentaha organizing a  muslin backdrop painted as the back yard, Rich Garcia building a tree house that supported 5 actors 7 feet above the stage, Tania LoPinto and Patricia Trillo creating costumes made out of pizza boxes and garbage bags, and Britta and Darren Lundin creating rainclouds rigged to appear in the middle of our final scene to break the tension of the impending water fight.

A lot of things will be changing at Church-in-the-Gardens where the Garden Players reside.  Reverend Noel Vanek is moving to a new parish.  Denver Casado, my Garden Players writing partner, is moving to California.  Our 8th graders are moving on to Frank Sinatra, LaGuardia and other specialized schools.  Two casts was an experiment, and I have yet to decide what I may do differently next year, but I believe each kid had an epic time, and as the Garden Players continues to change and evolve, I plan to be there, enjoying the magic of theatre.

Betina Hershey is director of The Garden Players and a professional performer with two year old twins.  www.gardenplayers.com

 

Return to top

Copyright 1999-2018 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.