BWW Interviews: Pasadena's Stage Door Inc. Talks Its Past, FRANKENSTEIN and its 2013 Season
In 2010, Houston's Channel 2 News KPRC named Stage Door Inc. Houston's "Best Theatre Group," a title this company definitely is deserving of. After attending a recent production of Stage Door Inc.'s FRANKENSTEIN-A NEW MUSICAL by Mark Baron, Jeffrey Jackson, and Gary P. Cohen, I had the opportunity to sit down with members of the talented cast. Justin Nicholson, playing the Creature and a founding member of the theatre, Travis Hamilton who plays Victor Frankenstein, Leslie Sharp who plays Elizabeth Lavenza, and Alyssa Araguz who plays Agatha all chatted with me about Stage Door Inc., FRANKENSTEIN, and their upcoming 2013 season. All I can say is that great things are currently happening in Pasadena and it seems that that trend is sure to continue into the future for quite some time.
Tell me a little about Stage Door Inc.
Justin Nicholson (JN): We started about five years ago. Mark Anthony Glover and I had both been doing shows together. He came to me while we were in college and an opportunity arose and we decided to take it to start our own theatre. We were already doing guest directing and stuff at other theatres. It took us about a year to build funds and get our game plan together, then we started in another section of this mall [Pasadena Town Square Mall], and we had kind of a small beginning. We had a four-show season, then we ended up getting a better, newer space with the same size stage. We've done about 10 shows a year every year, and it's been non-stop since. We've been growing and growing.
How do you program your seasons?
JN: We have board meetings, and we have a scheduled time of the year where we will have people selected for script committee and they vote on what we're going to do for the next year. Everybody always brings in a number of scripts, and then we hand them out and read them. Then we'll have a meeting and discuss "let's do so many musicals, let's do so many regular shows, let's do some many comedies, let's do so many of this and that," so that we have a little bit of everything for everybody in the season.
How did you pick FRANKENSTEIN-A NEW MUSICAL? As musicals go, it's not very well known. Is there a story there?
JN: We were originally going to do, what was it?
Others (in unison): JEKYLL & HYDE!!!
JN: We were originally going to do JEKYLL & HYDE. It came time for auditions and someone ended up getting the rights at another theater, and we ended up losing that. But we found this script and heard the music and we're like this is very close to the same show, very close to the same feel...
Travis Hamilton (interjecting): Thematically.
JN: And we just fell in love with it instantly and put that up next for our show.
Leslie Sharp (LS): JEKYLL & HYDE got taken away and we were all like, "Dang! I was really set on this dark, gothic, beautiful choral sound." Then we found FRANKENSTEIN, and I think we had a few others that were thrown in as possible replacements. Everyone listened to FRANKENSTEIN, and everybody liked this immediately.
What was preparing for FRANKENSTEIN like?
LS: It was a lot of music rehearsal at first with just a keyboard and without the actual underscore. The chunks of music in the score are so huge that if you miss something you have to go back to the beginning, and it's like five minutes ago. So, we did a lot of rehearsals with just a keyboard and a cappella singing to get chords and all of that. Then, we slowly put it together. It was a lot of music rehearsals. We didn't block it until very late in the game.
Alyssa Araguz (AA): Two-thirds [into rehearsals], I think.
Travis Hamilton (TH): Yeah, because the show is designed timed to the underscore. So, we pretty much worked on getting that down, and then we could work on putting it on the stage.
What are your favorite moments in FRANKENSTEIN?
LS: My favorite part of the show is the beginning of Act II when Justine comes back to life on the table. It's just Justine, Frankenstein, and the Creature, and that interaction, and that song, and the lightning, and that feeling. I got to sit in the audience and watch that during dress rehearsal, and that is my favorite part of the show.
JN: I love any of the parts where the Creature and Victor Frankenstein do duets together. The music is just so well written. There are some parts where we're filling in each other's lines for the rhyming scheme and it's just amazingly written.
AA: My favorite parts are anytime we can see how human the Creature is. I always end every show feeling so much for the creature. He's just this misunderstood person because [looks at Travis Hamilton] that's what you created-a person. And so, [looks at Justin Nicholson] I feel for you.
TH: My favorite parts of the show, at least the parts I can see, are definitely some of the Creature and Victor's parts with the stuff going on in the background because the whole show is basically flashbacks. As you can tell, it is basically him telling the story to the captain in the Arctic. There's one part that I love in the score, and I have not been-because of where I am and what I'm doing-to actually watch it, but I love "The Hands of Time." It is after Victor realizes and becomes terrified of his creation and runs off, then all of his family is singing about what's been happening while he's gone. They're all distressed because they haven't heard anything from him.
LS (interjecting): I think that's definitely my favorite.
TH: And Leslie and Mikey, who plays Henry, are doing great jobs, but I think my absolute favorite scene is the end, where Victor, after losing everything, realizes the responsibility he had and how things would have been different if he would have manned up, so to speak.
AA (mock chiding): Take responsibility for yourself.
TH: And not been such a wuss, you know, when the unknown happened. He's like "What is this beast?"
AA: I love that you were so surprised of the thing you created because you made it.
TH: Yeah, he is. I mean, it's Mary Shelly, exactly! I mean, it's right from the novel. Everything was bent on his plans, his plans, his plans. He didn't stop one moment to think about what the repercussions would actually be.
AA & LS (in unison): The morality.
AA: The morality question for sure.
TH: It's been really fun-the whole process. Everyone has been really excited to learn the show and get it on the stage. Everyone has worked really hard. And the more we run the show, the tighter certain parts get. But I think we've got a great show.
LS: Doing so many shows in a season doesn't leave you just a ton of time between them for rehearsal. So when you get a show like this, you always wish you had one more week, two more weeks because it's just so difficult.
AA: One more day.
LS: Yeah. It's so much to cram in.
TH: I think Mark [Anthony Glover] even said once, he didn't realize how-he knew it was going to be a tech heavy show and timing-but he didn't realize how much until this last week [the last week of rehearsal before opening night on September 1, 2012].
JN: Yeah, we're doing really well. It's an amazing cast. It's an ensemble show, and I think we have an amazing ensemble cast because I don't think this show would work without every single part of it.
AA: Oh, absolutely not. We've definitely been given a great cast to work with because everyone is one big community.
LS: You have to do your homework. I mean, in community theatre, there is not enough time in the day to make it perfect because everybody's got an eight to five. Everybody is doing something else.
LS: And so, you can tell with this cast that everybody-that's all I listened to in my car for a month-and you can tell that's what everybody else was doing too because they'd come to rehearsal and nobody had forgotten what they learned the day before, and I feel like, in community theatre, that's rare. So, that was nice.
Tell me about your upcoming 2012 season.
LS: We're super excited about next season.
LS: It's super dark. It's our fifth season, and the way we chose a lot of it is we let our audience vote on Facebook and when they came to the show on every show we have ever performed before here at Stage Door. We let them vote on their favorite, and our audience's top 5 were RENT, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, SWEENEY TOOD, ROCKY HORROR, and EVIL DEAD. That tells you kind of who our audience is. They are edgy and dark.
LS: We're not doing Rogers and Hammerstein a lot. We do some. We did SOUND OF MUSIC. We do family friendly shows, but next season kind of became our season of murder and mayhem because our audience chose it that way. And we were like, "Well, let's go with it!" (Laughs) So that's how that happened.
FRANKENSTEIN-A NEW MUSICAL will continue to run at Stage Door Inc. until September 23, 2012. Their next show, the emotionally visceral THE LARAMIE PROJECT runs from October 12, 2012 to November 4, 2012. Then, Stage Door Inc. will close their fourth season with DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW, which runs from November 23, 2012 to December 16, 2012. Their fantastic fifth season opens on January 4, 2013 with a production of RENT. Following RENT, Stage Door Inc. is offering productions of Steven King's MISERY (February 15, 2013 to March 10, 2013), LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (March 28, 2013 to April 21, 2013), SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY (May 24, 2013 to June 16, 2013), SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (July 5, 2013 to July 28, 2013), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (August 9, 2013 to September 1, 2013), Richard O'Brien's THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (September 20, 2013 to October 12, 2013), EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL (October 31, 2013 to November 17, 2013), and NUN CRACKERS: A NUNSENSE CHRISTMAS MUSICAL (November 29, 2013 to December 22, 2013). For more information and tickets please visit http://www.stagedoorinc.com/ or call (832) 582 – 7606.All images are courtesy of Stage Door Inc.
Promotional Poster for FRANKENSTEIN.
2013 Season Announcement.