My favorite scenes in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1995) were the opening and the closing. The show opens in a semi blackout where the “ladies” in various stages of dress are scattered on the raised platforms of the set. As the overture softens to an end, the lights dim and the distinctive voice of Des Burke breaks in as the narrator, to tell the story of how the “chicken house’ came to an end. The last scene ends with the “ladies” from the Chicken Ranch, all with their own hard luck story, saying goodbye, trying to put on a happy face, while they sang the very touching closing song “Hard Candy Christmas.” I must admit tears came to my eyes every night during that scene. This was also the first show I shared the stage with my young niece, Victoria Chiaramonte, who is pictured second from right in red.
From Gavin Corn (who’s mom, Pat, was an early Playcrafters member):
I remember watching countless rehearsals and plays when I was young – ones my mother was in or directed. Mr. Gubbins, Mrs. Munson, Mrs. Mahoney, so many other wonderful and kind people who I got to know as a child. I saw so many rehearsals after school that I would memorize every word and tell the people sitting next to me during the plays when someone missed a line. They must have thought I was one crazy 6 year old! To this day I know every song from Mame (1976), Gypsy (1979), and Hello Dolly (1980).
From Michele DePalo:
I will never forget the road trip to Pennsylvania to get the costumes for The Mikado (1992). Back in 1987 I made contact with a Gilbert & Sullivan theatre company in Chester County, Pennsylvania, who rented us costumes for HMS Pinafore that were shipped to us and then shipped back after the show. As producer of The Mikado in 1992, I connected with them again, but this time Kathy Loizides, Chrisa Burke and I decided to drive to Pennsylvania to pick up the costumes ourselves. We had a blast choosing kimonos and wigs! We packed Chrisa’s car and headed home absolutely thrilled with our find. The question then came up...where do we store this stuff? Chrisa remembers saying that she had an empty closet, and Kathy and I remarked in unison: "You have an empty closet?!"
From Jason Dunne:
Evening Of Comedy (1994) was my first show with Playcrafters. One scene was "If Men Played Cards as Women Do" with myself, John Hannon, Dan Love and the late Bob Maletta. The final night of the show, as I am about to make my entrance, the cards weren't on the prop table. Linda Conroy runs over and hands me the deck of cards and I happen to notice the entire backstage crew in the wings with this "cat ate the canary" look on their faces. I glance down at the cards and right away notice it was a deck of cards of naked men. The show must go on. right? Well out I go... The scene was moving right along and as I dealt the cards the scene took a different direction.. Moments that still make me laugh today was Bob letting out a classic "Oh NO..." Then. the guys began to show each other what cards they had in their hands.. Nothing to do with the scene mind you.. But John had a line that I will always remember.. He took one of the cards he had, and without skipping a beat said " Are these little things called clubs?" It was a wonderful moment and a great first experience with Playcrafters.
From Flo Federman:
I loved my very first show with Playcrafters, Into the Woods (1996), which I got thanks to Director Frank Nelson. But the memory I won’t forget is on the last night of the show, with Ron Menin singing his last song as the Wolf dressed as Granny, lying on a “bed” made of wood. Just as he finished his song the bed broke and he went tumbling. It was actually perfect timing, though it left us all gawking in the wings.
From John Hannon:
The Mikado (1992): This was my debut with Playcrafters. I remember a knock on my apartment door one Monday night in early spring of 1992. It was Pam Hannon. She says “Get your coat you’re coming with me. They need men in the Chorus.” So, I followed, not sure what to expect. Little did I realize that I would meet my “theatre family” that night and have loved to this day. The Mikado was so much fun. And to be involved with my Brother Brian (set designer) and sister-in-law Pam (Yum Yum) was great.
Social Security (1992): This was my first major acting roll with a phenomenal cast. Thank you Bob Maletta, for that opportunity. Many thanks to Jill Linden, Kathy Ljungqvist, Ted Fleissgarten, Jane Love, and Bryan Greifinger for a great experience.
Evening of Comedy (1994): What’s not to love? It was madcap, seat of your pants, never knew what to expect experience with three great directors, a talented cast and an adept and sometimes unexpected stage crew. Our reactions during “If Men Played Cards as Women Do” involving the switching of the card deck we were using, with a more “risqué” card deck (thank you Linda Conroy). My pairing with Kathy Ljungqvist during “I’m Herbert”, and the “Fifteen Minute Hamlet.” The cast had its doubts about how well “Hamlet” would be received. Our director, George Loizides, kept reassuring us this would work. Well, we brought the house down with that skit. And it got crazier when we did Hamlet in three minutes. Kudos to George, Bob Maletta for forgetting his lines, and Jason Dunne in black tights.
The Miracle Worker (1994): This play is one of my favorites. I was thrilled to be part of the production as stage crew. But then four weeks before opening night the role of “James” had to be recast. Producers Kathy Loizides and Des Burke recommended that Director Joseph Romano take a chance with me. Many thanks to the patience of the director and the love, support and “safety net” from Jim Parise, Claire Parrella-Curran, and Jane Maushay, I had the one of the best theatre experiences of my life.
Anything Goes (1994): This was a fun musical. George Loizides had a small part as the “drunk” passenger – one of the funniest continuous bits throughout the show proving the theatre adage “There’s no such thing as a small part…” And who could forget “Sir Evelyn OakLeigh” performing in his underwear.
Love Letters (1996): The beauty of Playcrafters is having the opportunity to explore new theatre experiences. I made a pitch to the Board to both produce and direct this “two persons” piece. This was the first time I directed a show. It was a joy from start to finish and was so well received that we had to add on a fifth performance -- during a major snowstorm. Many thanks to the team that made this work. Kudos to George Loizides and Jill Linden for their poignant portrayals.
From Linda Hillman:
During a production of Oklahoma (1991), Cheryl Sica sat on a chair on the front porch of the house as we were beginning a freeze for the ensemble and Laurey (Catherine Whidden) started to sing. The chair broke and all of the girls on stage had to stay silent and motionless. I’m relatively sure that the audience could see the shaking shoulders, tears streaming down our cheeks and hear the swallowed laughter.
During Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado (1992), Bob Maletta tended to our wigs with great care. I can still see them lined up on their Styrofoam head stands while he gently tended to them. We were not allowed to touch them until he was ready for us!
In Into the Woods (1996), I played Lucinda, Cinderella’s stepsister. In the second act my character was blind and wore sunglasses. I had to lead a procession of the cast across the apron that was built around the orchestra. With no lights on the apron and dark sunglasses on my face I was as blind as my character. Every night I actually used my cane for the blind to find my way across, praying I would not fall in the pit and trying to sing and maintain the pace to complete the walk.
I miss my Playcrafters family. One day I hope to return to the fun and family!
From Jim Parise:
Miracle Worker (1994): This was my first show with Playcrafters. I had worked with Joe Romano at Clare Rose and he asked me to audition. Little did I know then that this would be the start of a new “life” in theater. Meeting everyone in the cast and crew quickly became like a “family” reunion — John Hannon’s replacing the actor as James Keller and the lasting friendship that has come from that. Carrying Claire Curran down a ladder on my shoulder — scary stuff. Working with Michelle Longo a multi-talented teen who played Helen. But the most memorable was the watch pocket that Kathy and Chrisa sewed onto Capt. Keller’s vest before I even finished asking if I could have it.
The Dining Room (1995): A very challenging show — 54 parts and only 6 actors. And overlapping scenes. Talented cast. Playing Elena Jacinto’s father and George Lozides’ son. Crawling under the dining room table with Jane Maushay. Playing Amelia’s lover at a children’s birthday party. All good stuff.
All My Sons (1998): This was my first venture into readers’ theater and under George’s able direction I came to realize that readers’ theater requires so much more of an audience. They have to listen to the words uncomplicated with lights and sound and props and set and we had only our voice and face to communicate the essence of the play. And I got to kiss Jill Linden!
Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1999): “Val socks” those in the cast will remember Matt Palace’s poking fun at my character’s language difficulties. For this show I bought dialogue tapes and had a fellow teacher of Russian background write my lines phonetically for me, to teaching entire classes with a Russian accent, I was most gratified that after one show an audience person overheard me speaking to friends in my normal voice approached me and expressed her surprise that I didn’t have any accent at all!