Theater Artist Returns to Alma Mater for A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD
Once a Bonnie, always a Bonnie.
That's a commonplace phrase creeping into conversations around springtime on the Olean, N.Y. college campus, but it rings true for Alexandra Herryman, a 2004 Bonaventure graduate returning to her former home to bring her puppetry skills to SBU Theater's production of Robert and Willie Reale's musical A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD.
Herryman, a theater artist, has spent her time since graduation working for various theater companies in Chicago including Silk Road Theatre Project as a stage manager and production manager until a move to Boston to pursue her MFA in theater management. While stage managing for Boston's Puppet Showplace Theatre, Herryman picked up puppetry and began designing and constructing puppets of her own. The Buffalo native relocated to Rochester, N.Y. last November, when she found an opportunity to return to Bona's.
"I reached out to a bunch of people from 'home' just to see if anyone was still left here. Dr. Simone wrote back right away," Herryman said. "When he heard I had been working in puppetry he asked me to come check out what they were doing with Frog and Toad. I came up to sit in on a production meeting, and soon after that was asked to do the design and build for the 'Large and Terrible Frog.'"
Ed. Simone, director of the theater program, said he really enjoyed having Herryman back on campus.
"Allie's a great person to work with," Simone said. "She was a super student, a very good stage manager, so it's fun that she gets to come back and work with our students. It's a good way to spread that energy back around."
Herryman's time with SBU Theater began with an unsuccessful audition in her freshman year for ENTER LAUGHING by Joseph Stein, and even though she said she wasn't sure how to get involved with the technical side of theater, she physically couldn't stay facing the fourth wall.
"I didn't get cast, but my friend Tina Lavis did, and I snuck backstage every night of the show to curl her hair for her in the dressing room," Herryman said. " (The late) Dr. Stephen Gray-Lewis, who directed ENTER LAUGHING, caught me, and for the next several shows had me on board officially as the costume and prop coordinator."
Herryman also creditEd Simone with convincing her she was destined for stage managing.
"I met Dr. Ed Simone in 2002 when he directed the very first one-act play festival," Herryman said. "I remember him asking, 'And what do you do?' I said something like, 'I make lists and I organize things and keep everything in order.' He said, 'Oh, you're the stage manager.' And I said, 'No way!' I was very reluctant to accept so much responsibility and title. He kept after me, though, and I stage managed all through my junior and senior years. "
Even though it has been nearly a decade since she has worked on a show with SBU Theater, Herryman said the Garett Theater still feels very familiar.
"Walking back into the Garrett Theatre is strange. Many things are the same and reinforce the memories I have, but I'm also very aware that time has passed and things have changed," Herrymand said. "When I looked around rehearsal I expected my classmates to come around the corner, but of course this is a whole New Group of folks! It was disorienting and exciting all at once."
Simone said Herryman's final 'Large and Terrible Frog' looks fantastic and perfect for the show.
"She's put together a wonderful, really good large and terrible frog," Simone said. "He is quite formidable - a fun and scary giant frog."
Herryman said the students' dedication impressed her, and she really enjoyed working with everyone.
"I met some great students who are working very hard, giving up their evenings and Saturdays, to make art that they love," Herryman said. "I happened to be around when current student Emily West learned that she got a job at a theatre company for after graduation this year, and it was awesome to see how everyone rallied around her. It reminded me a lot of how I felt when I first got hired at Chautauqua, and I love the fact that SBU Theatre is still supporting students as they go forward into the world."
While the 'Large and Terrible Frog' remains a surprise for the production, which opened last night, Herryman shared one of her secrets about building the giant puppet.
"The big secret about the 'Large and Terrible Frog' is that he's made from a jumbo golf umbrella," Herryman said. "That's my favorite thing about puppetry - using things in totally different ways than what's intended. I love to build with everyday stuff, to put common, recognizable items together and see how they make new shapes."
SBU Theater will present A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD March 20 through 23 at 7:30 p.m., in the Rigas Family Theater at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The show is directed and choreographed by Ed. Simone, designed by Rebecca Misenheimer and Emily West with musical direction by Ryan Thompson.
Tickets are $8 for the public, $6 for seniors, subscribers, students and SBU employees. For this production, tickets for students under 14 are $2. For more information or to reserve tickets, phone the box office at 716-375-2494. Special group rates are available for students and teachers. Contact Evelyn Sabina, curator of education, at (716)-375-2088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Alexandra Herryman