BWW Interviews: Nutley Little Theatre's Penny Paul
Northern New Jersey has some of the best community theaters in the areas...okay, I live here so I guess I am biased. But I believe what is so wonderful is the opportunity for those who just love performing and those who are working towards a theater career can come together in one space and create art. That is what happens at Nutley Little Theatre (NLT) in Nutley, NJ. BWW got the chance to talk to director Penny Paul about their upcoming production.
BWW: Penny, I'm so glad you could take the time to join us to talk about your current project! NLT is one of the oldest community theaters in the area. How long have you been involved with them?
Penny Paul: I've been working with Nutley Little Theatre since I moved to the area in 1999, so since the 'turn of the century".
BWW: You are one of those creative types that direct and act. Can you tell us a little about your arts history?
PP: I've been involved in theatre since I was a child, writing, directing and acting in my fourth grade play about Egypt's Queen Hatshepsut. I started performing in summer stock on Long Island at aged thirteen. After a few career detours into better paying industries like the law, academia and public relations, I realized I could continue to do theatre and still pay my bills by staying involved at the community level. I've been directing more frequently since I started aging out of the ingénue roles, but I occasionally get back in front of the footlights when the right role comes along.
BWW: Since I also know you, I happen to know you came from an exciting graduating class from Yale University. Can you share a few of those names with BWW readers?
BWW: You have no reason to be intimidated! Your production of "Lobby Hero" opens April 12. Please tell us a little about the show?
PP: The New York Times called "Lobby Hero" the best American drama of the first half of this century; it tells the story of Jeff, the luckless security guard drawn into a local murder investigation involving his superior and an overzealous young policewoman. "Lobby Hero" is about fateful, revealing decisions, and how they often emerge from conflicting motivations. The cast includes Gus Ibranyi and Gene Puno-Deleon, both of Bloomfield, Eddie Capuano of Jersey City , and Brandon Wright of Newark.
BWW: What drew you to the piece?
PP: Actors love the playwright Kenneth Lonergan: his dialogue is so complex and yet realistic. I was drawn to the themes of moral choice: how do we do the right thing when we can't tell what that is? How do we choose between family and the law? Plus the underlying themes of race and gender issues are subjects seldom tackled with such honesty in community theatre.
BWW: Is there something about a smaller cast show that causes you to approach the directing process differently?
PP: We improvise, we do body work to help the actors inhabit their roles. I like the luxury of working closely with a few people so we all have the time to sink our teeth into the piece and learn to trust one another with this deep material.
BWW: What themes do you want audiences to take away from the production?
PP: I hope it inspires a conversation: what would you do? How does one act heroically in the modern world? Is it possible?
BWW: I love that NLT does opening night benefits for organizations. Is there something about this show or Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties in particular that made you choose them?
PP: Carlos Lejnieks BBBS' CEO is passionate about making a difference for kids: this organization is improving lives of children in some of our region's most challenged urban areas.
BWW: That is so awesome. Thanks for taking a few moments away from life and rehearsing to talk to us on BroadwayWorld. We wish you all the best with the show and want everyone to know that "Lobby Hero" runs weekends April 12-27 and information can be found at www.nutleylittletheatre.com