Calling all Volunteers! Strauss Theatre Center is proactive as we prepare for state guidelines on re-opening our theatre. We need you! This Saturday we are Deep Cleaning our theatre. Shifts of no more than six at a time are being organized to begin our Deep Cleaning of the theatre.
Volunteers can call the theatre at 318-323-6681 or email Donna at email@example.com to volunteer. We will reach out to you on schedules and how you can help.
Today we asked 5 questions of Anita Breen, Strauss Theatre Center’s General Manager, Patron Member, and former performer.
1. What first drew you to live theatre?
When I was a senior in High School, my class traveled to New York City and saw two Broadway Shows: My Fair Lady and Carnival (the original cast!). I was mesmerized. Ever since, I have been totally consumed by theatre.
2. What type of theatre are you drawn to?
A very well-done drama.
3. What is your all-time favorite show?
Carnival. Partly because if was my first. Also because it is a great show.
4. Why Strauss Theatre?
The first show I ever saw at Strauss was Bye Bye Birdie (not long after my NYC trip) and couldn’t believe how well it was done! My first production to be in was My Fair Lady. Such a thrill! The Strauss family has done so much for the community and for the local theatre scene. The Monroe area is very fortunate to have benefited from their vision and their support.
5. What is the most absurd thing you’ve seen on stage?
I have two. The first one was a nude version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I’ve wondered what Tennessee Williams would have thought of such a production. And the second one involves the late George Brian, long time professor and Strauss theatre director/actor, who became aware of an actress trying desperately to upstage him during a show. He took matters into his own hands and taught her a drama trick or two by standing upstage of her and continually zipping and unzipping his pants. No one upstages George Brian!
It’s been over a decade now since my friend invited me over to his home to watch the movie How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying and instantly I fell in love. The characters, music and story arc were wonderful. Thus began my crusade to get the show performed on stage at the Strauss Theater.
Year after year I approached Directors, General Managers, Board Members and even Presidents with the request for How to Succeed and each time I got nowhere.
2 years ago I joined the Board and had the honor of serving on the Production committee, the first show I recommended? You guessed it. How to Succeed. You know how this story ended and the show was scheduled for our 2019-2020 season.
When auditions came up, I was content to get any role. The show has such a strong set of characters and I would’ve been happy to be cast as anyone. I was blessed to receive my first starring role ever in a show playing Pierpont Finch. A young man looking to climb his way up the corporate ladder!
Practices started in early January and as each week passed my anticipation grew. My co-stars, supporting cast and ensemble are some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Through the last few months they worked tirelessly to put on the greatest show of the season….then along came COVID-19.
The State shut down and we’ve been on stand-by ever since. A few days shy of our premiere. Truth be told, if the show had started a week early there’s a good chance we would’ve been able to complete our run the weekend before the virus was in full effect.
But now we wait.
Wait for the State to give us the greenlight so we can pick up where we left off and continue working on this great show. When will that be? No one knows. But as we slowly move forward with re-opening the State that time is coming closer each day.
What have I been up to in the meantime? I practice.
3 times out of the week I rehearse my lines and songs from the play. I do it so much now that my wife is tired of her husband’s one man performance, yet my 12 month old twin girls clap for their poor insane Daddy, so at least I have their support.
I love this show and I know you will too. It’s been 13 long years in making to get this far…and with a show this good, I can wait few more weeks. I hope you can too.
It’s been almost two months now since the opening of Strauss Theatre Center’s production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying was delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak. After weeks of hard work, the cast and crew were only a week away from opening when we all realized we would have to postpone the show. Since then, social distancing restrictions have prevented them from gathering for rehearsals, but they’ve still been hard at work rehearsing on their own while we wait for restrictions to be lifted. We decided to ask some of our cast members what they’ve been doing to prepare for the eventual opening of our show while on lockdown. Here’s what they had to say:
“Bud has been relaxing by the pool at the country club, yelling at the wait staff and not tipping. Benjamin has been in a depressive spiral sprinkled with panic attacks and the occasional manic episode.”-Ben McQuillin (“Bud Frump”)
“I’ve been working hard on my Gatch ‘stache. I’ve also been running line my lines in my head. I want to make sure I remember them and continue to work on my accent.”-Scott Asa Stone (“Mr. Gatch”)
“I’m already ready for How To Succeed! What I HAVE been doing, to appease the theater nerd demon that dwells within, is teaching myself the tap dance from 42nd Street. I’ve also been working very hard trying to learn ALL the lyrics to Hamilton (poor Scott Asa Stone haha). So if we want to have Hedy LaRue rap about ‘the ten-dollar, founding father without a father’ and then break into a show stopping tap number then I guess you could say I’ve been spending my quarantine getting ready for H2$. Also, I’ve been working, because I’m essential yo.” -Moira O’Connor (“Hedy LaRue”)
“To keep everything fresh in my mind, I’ve been mentally going through my lines, acting out the scenes in my head while going about my day. It has led to a couple of awkward occasions of me breaking out in singing ‘A Secretary is Not a Toy’ at random while at work, but my coworkers don’t seem to mind. Although, some of them do seem to be socially distancing themselves from me by a lot more than six feet lately.”-Glenn Williams (“Bert Bratt”)
“I’ve been singing the entire track in front of the mirror while styling my hair. So far my best song is Paris Original.”-Blane Evans (“Mr. Tackaberry”)
“I’ve binged a few episodes of ‘The Office’ to hone my pompous ignorance. I’ve also broken out the crochet hooks to keep calm. My songs run through my head pretty much on a constant loop, but line refreshers are the next step for me.”-Mickey Cannon (“J.B. Biggley”)
So there you have it! Our cast looks forward to bringing you How To Succeed whenever this pesky pandemic starts dying down. We’ll keep monitoring the situation and let you know as soon as the new show dates have been determined. Stay tuned!
While Strauss Theatre Center remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of Strauss volunteers are using some of their downtime to help out in this time of need. With the pandemic causing a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment for our healthcare workers, Strauss volunteers Gayle Frick, Cassey Bernstein, Cynthia Chapman, Lyn Hollier, and Dorothy Donald have been using their sewing skills to create face masks to donate to healthcare workers across northeast Louisiana and beyond.
Cassey Bernstein, an actress who has appeared in several Strauss productions including “Baskerville” earlier this year, has made over 100 masks that have gone out to help people in four states. “Most of my masks go to my community, but I have also sent masks to nurses I know in Texas and Illinois,” she said. “This has been a very therapeutic project on which to work. I don’t feel so helpless when I am sewing, and knowing that what I am making could help keep people safe.” Cassey has also been working on making scrub hats for respiratory therapists at St. Francis Medical Center.
Dorothy Donald has also seen her handiwork go to help people both locally and across the country. “Just finished some going to Affinity Behavior Health Clinic. They’ve gone as far as to Portland, OR to sweet young police officer, Auburn, AL to my niece’s medical clinic, AL to my friend’s 6 rural health clinics, my RN friend in Missouri, my nurse friend in New Orleans whose husband is also a nurse (Touro isolation unit), to Houston and more places I’m sure I’m forgetting.”
Of course, healthcare professionals aren’t the only ones benefitting from their hard work. As the CDC has begun recommending everyone wear a face mask in public as part of its social distancing guidelines, many in our community can benefit from these face masks, including our own audience members once the Strauss does open back up.
According to longtime Strauss actress, director, and costumer Gayle Frick, “I am happy to say we will continue making masks to have available for our members who need them or have forgotten theirs (at home) and would like one.” Incidentally, Gayle is the director of the currently delayed production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, to be performed at a yet to be determined time when the COVID-19 threat has subsided.
Our Strauss volunteers aren’t the only ones involved in making face masks. There is a whole community of people on Facebook who are using their sewing skills to help others during this time of need. If you are interested in learning more or would like to get involved yourself, check out the NELA Facemask Project on Facebook.
Add Shakespeare’s Globe to the list of theatre organizations helping us get through the coronavirus pandemic by offering free online viewing of some of its shows.
Starting April 6, the Globe will be offering a selection of six plays on its YouTube channel that is sure to please any Shakespeare lover: Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. The films will rotate every two weeks.
As lockdowns and social isolation continue to keep theaters dark on Broadway and beyond, arts institutions like the National Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera have helped keep the ghost light burning by providing filmed versions of stage shows to audiences at home. Now composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, a veritable institution unto himself, is pitching in as well.
Starting on Friday April 3, the composer’s Really Useful Group, in partnership with Universal, will offer free broadcasts of the greatest Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, including such megahits as ‘Cats’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’.
A different Lloyd Webber musical will stream each week on The Shows Must Go On!, a new YouTube channel devoted to this project. Each show will go live on the channel on Fridays.
With the Coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc on the world’s populace and shelter-in-place orders being extended through the end of April (and possibly longer), it doesn’t look like our nation’s theaters are going to be opening back up anytime soon. Thankfully, the National Theatre in London is stepping up to help us get our theatre fix from the comfort and safety of our own homes.
Every Thursday night during the month of April, the National Theatre will stream a new play on its YouTube channel free of charge. Each play will become available to stream at 7pm GMT/1pm CST and will be available to watch anytime during the next seven days. Here is the lineup for the month of April:
April 2: “One Man, Two Guvnors” by Richard Bean, starring James Corden.
April 9: “Jane Eyre”, adapted by Sally Cookson.
April 16: “Treasure Island”, adapted by Bryony Lavery.
April 23: “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare, starring Tamsin Greig.
The theatre community is reeling from the shutdown of Broadway theatre through April 12th, a public health measure to protect audiences from possible coronavirus transmission. During the 1590’s plague, when the theatre were shut as well, William Shakespeare apparently chose to write poems instead. From his “Venus and Adonis”, penned while playhouses were closed and writers were essentially quarantined, came this somewhat strange compliment: “The plague is banished by thy breath.” Should we theater people — writers, players and audiences alike — be staying home now and writing and reading poetry as a curative for the next month? Books, unlike group events, carry no germs.
We’re asking all Friends of Strauss to send us an update on what you’re doing during the COVID-19 shutdown. Here are a few updates.
I am using this time to express the introvert side of my personality which is squashed so much from being social. – Freeman Stamper
I’ve been crocheting Christmas snowflake ornaments! – Janet Knott
I have nothing creative to add…you know this…lol…but surely are getting some things done needing to be done. The best and worst truth is that I have no excuse not to get them done. I am betting that a lot of us will need some diversion when this scare comes to a close. Thank you for everyone who has obeyed the rules and tried to keep everyone as safe as possible including themselves. May God bless all of the cautions and good things that have happened. We’ll be back and in need of entertainment! – Kathy Chandler
Send us YOUR update to firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story with all your friends at Strauss Theatre.