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August 21. 2014 12:15AM

Season Ends

Andy's Summer Playhouse: Curtain comes down on 44th season


Stage Manager Alice Hale, 21, of Hancock, does one last costume check on 10-year old Malcolm Graham of Dublin prior to the start of 'The Strongest Girl in the World' on July 3. Graham said, 'This is really cool. I want to do it again next year.' (KATHLEEN BAGLIO HUMPHREYS)

WILTON - Since 1971, Andy’s Summer Playhouse has offered summer theater to children in scenic Wilton Center.

On Aug. 16, the curtain closed on the 44th season and to date, the playhouse has produced more than 180 performances, providing acting, writing, production, lighting and behind-the-scenes theater experiences to thousands of children overseen by professional artists.

Andy’s offers three programs: the Main Stage, with a cast of kids for productions; an Apprentice Program that gives an opportunity to learn backstage work; and the Johnson Russell Playwright Labs, where kids learn to write their own one-act plays performed by other kids at the end of the season. A typical season has about 100 participants in all three programs.

Main Stage works with aspiring young actors and actresses, ages 8-18, and many of the Andy’s kids return as adults to work or volunteer at the playhouse to keep the tradition alive. Some students are nervous at first, but all leave Andy’s at the end of the summer more confident and self-assured then when they entered, while gaining valuable life experiences and building bonds of friendships.

This summer, 85 kids at Andy’s performed three original plays in the Isaac Frye Highway theater, plus had a touring production that went into communities and performed at local town halls, community centers and Milford’s Amato Center, exposing other children to theater and awareness of the program at Andy’s.

The touring production had 10 students who performed “Around the World with Nellie Bly.’’

It’s been about six seasons since Andy’s offered a travelling group and it certainly has its challenges to perform on unknown stages. A particular challenge came on the second remote performance.

“We had an audience of about 30 kids ages 2 to 8 and a dozen adults in a town hall, which had four pillars in the middle of the room where we were performing so our stage was small and our audience very young,” said Abby van Ham, age 14 from Lyndeborough, who just completed her third season at Andy’s.

“With a travelling show, no one could go off stage, and we had different roles. Our costumes were everything you could think of.... We had a sash, various suit coat collars, masks and hats, it was complex. For costume changes we flipped things out or untied parts and we used a lot with hats,” said van Ham.

The travelling tour would arrive two hours before show time, then the actors would run a few lines, get into costumes, do make-up, then get right on stage to perform.

“You have to know the whole script and everybody’s walking all the time; it’s more stressful but cool,” van Ham said.

The white clapboard historic 1860 building was Wilton’s first town hall and is a perfect setting for the playhouse.

2009 saw the first group of alumni to run Andy’s including Artistic Director DJ Potter, and Managing Directors Jaimie Harrow and Mark Haley, who have continued Andy’s creative growth and community service.

In the early 2000s, Andy’s started to commission original plays and this season, all the plays were original with the theme of powerful female leads.

Alumni and Media Designer Erik Fong started as a 10-year-old in 2002 and has returned every summer since.

“Andy’s was one of the most influential things in my entire life. One of the things that make us unique and keeps me coming back year after year is the sense of ownership we give to the actors and kids we work with. We give the kids the opportunity to make these shows their own, not only through the performances but backstage work, everything on the stage and in the show we get help from the kids and that’s really magical and elevates this above simple theater,” Fong said.

“Every single show we do is an original production, there is always new stuff,” Fong added.

“Andy’s gives every person who gets involved valuable skills. Performing is one thing and being on stage is one thing but we have a lot of kids that just work on the Apprentice Program or work on playwright and that gives them their own opportunities to grow and meet kids from other schools, which is very refreshing, and also people who share similar interest,” said Fong.

“All the kids who come here are a little off kilter. These are not your normal kids, they have really intelligent, insightful conversations but also love to jump around and have lots of fun and that is what keeps it exciting and fresh and the staff returning. We give them an environment to be creative and be themselves and think differently and we embrace that and foster that and we encourage that every single day here,” added Fong.

Sarah Mader, 14, from Mont Vernon, is having a taste of her first summer at Andy’s, in the Apprentice Program.

She said, “I love Andy’s because you always feel welcomed here. Everybody loves you here and it’s so much fun. I’m working the light board tonight.”

Gianna Mercier, 16, from Wilton, is also in the Apprentice Program and on her second summer.

She said, “I’ve learned a lot of social skills here. I feel like Andy’s does that for a lot of kids. Theater kids are not known to be the most normal of people so this is helpful to come here and be with people who are equally as odd as you are and be accepted immediately and it’s really nice. It makes communicating a lot easier and I feel that can be transferred to other social interactions,” Mercier said.

“When I came here last summer I was a nervous person and anxious about acting on a stage in front of a large audience like this but by the end of the run of our shows I felt my confidence level and social skills went up significantly. It really helped me come out of my box,” Mercier said.

“I love Andy’s and want to do it as long as I can. I’ve done everything here,” said 16-year-old Mia Brown from New Boston, who is in her seventh year at Andy’s.

Jenny Emerson Foreman was the director of “Strongest Girl in the World’’ in July. She said, “I grew up as an Andy’s kid and came back to Andy’s when I relocated back to the area. It’s a great place, great way to understand there is so much possible if you can just imagine it.”

“This is a pretty young cast with a lot of people who have never been on stage before so we worked a lot on projection, articulation, telling the story and making sure they understand the story and how to bring their characters to life and be individual and incorporate their own ideas as well as shift them around so they understand where they will be on stage so they are consistent and they are remarkably consistent, enthusiastic and really sweet to work with. It’s been great,” added Foreman.

This is 9-year-old Isadora Crane from Wilton’s second year. She said, “I like being on stage because I like acting and it’s really fun”.

This summer, Andy’s had a staff of 20 adults, 14 who were Andy’s kids. During the winter, Andy’s fundraises. Its non-profit programs are paid for partially though tuition, grants and a lot of community support and donations.Fong said, “If it has not been special, I would not have been coming back here for 14 years. It has had such an impact on my life and my own personal journey and I gather so much joy from being able to pass that on and help others.

“At the end of the day, this place is about love and it’s hard to imagine a summer where Andy’s Summer Playhouse does not continue on.’’

.

For more information, call 654-2613 or visit info@andyssumstarted to commission original plays and this season, all the plays were original with the theme of powerful female leads.

Alumni and Media Designer Erik Fong started as a 10-year-old in 2002 and has returned every summer since.

“Andy’s was one of the most influential things in my entire life. One of the things that make us unique and keeps me coming back year after year is the sense of ownership we give to the actors and kids we work with. We give the kids the opportunity to make these shows their own, not only through the performances but backstage work, everything on the stage and in the show we get help from the kids and that’s really magical and elevates this above simple theater,” Fong said.

“Every single show we do is an original production, there is always new stuff,” Fong added.

“Andy’s gives every person who gets involved valuable skills. Performing is one thing and being on stage is one thing but we have a lot of kids that just work on the Apprentice Program or work on playwright and that gives them their own opportunities to grow and meet kids from other schools, which is very refreshing, and also people who share similar interest,” said Fong.

“All the kids who come here are a little off kilter. These are not your normal kids, they have really intelligent, insightful conversations but also love to jump around and have lots of fun and that is what keeps it exciting and fresh and the staff returning. We give them an environment to be creative and be themselves and think differently and we embrace that and foster that and we encourage that every single day here,” added Fong.

Sarah Mader, 14, from Mont Vernon, is having a taste of her first summer at Andy’s, in the Apprentice Program.

She said, “I love Andy’s because you always feel welcomed here. Everybody loves you here and it’s so much fun. I’m working the light board tonight.”

Gianna Mercier, 16, from Wilton, is also in the Apprentice Program and on her second summer.

She said, “I’ve learned a lot of social skills here. I feel like Andy’s does that for a lot of kids. Theater kids are not known to be the most normal of people so this is helpful to come here and be with people who are equally as odd as you are and be accepted immediately and it’s really nice. It makes communicating a lot easier and I feel that can be transferred to other social interactions,” Mercier said.

“When I came here last summer I was a nervous person and anxious about acting on a stage in front of a large audience like this but by the end of the run of our shows I felt my confidence level and social skills went up significantly. It really helped me come out of my box,” Mercier said.

“I love Andy’s and want to do it as long as I can. I’ve done everything here,” said 16-year-old Mia Brown from New Boston, who is in her seventh year at Andy’s.

Jenny Emerson Foreman was the director of “Strongest Girl in the World’’ in July. She said, “I grew up as an Andy’s kid and came back to Andy’s when I relocated back to the area. It’s a great place, great way to understand started to commission original plays and this season, all the plays were original with the theme of powerful female leads.

Alumni and Media Designer Erik Fong started as a 10-year-old in 2002 and has returned every summer since.

“Andy’s was one of the most influential things in my entire life. One of the things that make us unique and keeps me coming back year after year is the sense of ownership we give to the actors and kids we work with. We give the kids the opportunity to make these shows their own, not only through the performances but backstage work, everything on the stage and in the show we get help from the kids and that’s really magical and elevates this above simple theater,” Fong said.

“Every single show we do is an original production, there is always new stuff,” Fong added.

“Andy’s gives every person who gets involved valuable skills. Performing is one thing and being on stage is one thing but we have a lot of kids that just work on the Apprentice Program or work on playwright and that gives them their own opportunities to grow and meet kids from other schools, which is very refreshing, and also people who share similar interest,” said Fong.

“All the kids who come here are a little off kilter. These are not your normal kids, they have really intelligent, insightful conversations but also love to jump around and have lots of fun and that is what keeps it exciting and fresh and the staff returning. We give them an environment to be creative and be themselves and think differently and we embrace that and foster that and we encourage that every single day here,” added Fong.

Sarah Mader, 14, from Mont Vernon, is having a taste of her first summer at Andy’s, in the Apprentice Program.

She said, “I love Andy’s because you always feel welcomed here. Everybody loves you here and it’s so much fun. I’m working the light board tonight.”

Gianna Mercier, 16, from Wilton, is also in the Apprentice Program and on her second summer.

She said, “I’ve learned a lot of social skills here. I feel like Andy’s does that for a lot of kids. Theater kids are not known to be the most normal of people so this is helpful to come here and be with people who are equally as odd as you are and be accepted immediately and it’s really nice. It makes communicating a lot easier and I feel that can be transferred to other social interactions,” Mercier said.

“When I came here last summer I was a nervous person and anxious about acting on a stage in front of a large audience like this but by the end of the run of our shows I felt my confidence level and social skills went up significantly. It really helped me come out of my box,” Mercier said.

“I love Andy’s and want to do it as long as I can. I’ve done everything here,” said 16-year-old Mia Brown from New Boston, who is in her seventh year at Andy’s.

Jenny Emerson Foreman was the director of “Strongest Girl in the World’’ in July. She said, “I grew up as an Andy’s kid and came back to Andy’s when I relocated back to the area. It’s a great place, great way to understand there is so much possible if you can just imagine it.”

“This is a pretty young cast with a lot of people who have never been on stage before so we worked a lot on projection, articulation, telling the story and making sure they understand the story and how to bring their characters to life and be individual and incorporate their own ideas as well as shift them around so they understand where they will be on stage so they are consistent and they are remarkably consistent, enthusiastic and really sweet to work with. It’s been great,” added Foreman.

This is 9-year-old Isadora Crane from Wilton’s second year. She said, “I like being on stage because I like acting and it’s really fun”.

This summer, Andy’s had a staff of 20 adults, 14 who were Andy’s kids.

During the winter, Andy’s fundraises. Its non-profit programs are paid for partially though tuition, grants and a lot of community support and donations.

Fong said, “If it has not been special, I would not have been coming back here for 14 years. It has had such an impact on my life and my own personal journey and I gather so much joy from being able to pass that on and help others.

At the end of the day, this place is about love and it’s hard to imagine a summer where Andy’s Summer Playhouse does not continue on.’’

For more information, call 654-2613 or visit info@andyssummerplayhouse.com.


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