Sunday, July 19, 2020

Theater students to perform socially distant musical

If you had asked youth theatre producer/director Kathleen Recchia six months ago what she’d be doing this summer, she would not have included Zoom Webinars or setting up a Drive-In Movie on her to-do list.
Normally at this time of year, she is preparing for the Book & Blanket Players annual summer musical-in-a-week program. She is still doing that but this year that involves a whole new skill set. Instead of cancelling the production, which normally involves an intense week of working together at Keene Central School with the performance of a full musical onstage at the end of the week, Recchia went about figuring out how to continue the program with new rules and new parameters.

This meant mastering Zoom and other online skills and coming up with a way to present the production. The first challenge to overcome was choice of show. Since rights and royalties for online productions and drive-in movies could pose a problem, Recchia turned to copyright-free material. She selected songs from the public domain, basically songs written prior to 1924, and invited the directorial team and the student actors to write scenes around them. Six of the nine registered student/actors took her up on the challenge. The team of adults and students have met once a week for the past seven weeks to work on an outline, various scenes, how the songs would fit in and be rewritten, and ultimately a completed script.
The production is called “Piano Portal, a 20/20 Time Travel Musical.” Recchia said that it’s taken a lot of time and patience and expertise from one of the parent/tech directors in particular to guide them through the ins and outs of Zoom. Recchia said, “We are grateful to Eric Klotzko for the time, energy and expertise that he has shared with us and continues to share as we enter the rehearsal and production phase of the project. Everything will be recorded through Zoom or phones and then Eric will edit it all to create the final production.”
On Aug. 1 there will be a preview of the production drive-in movie style at the former polo field at The Bark Eater Inn in Keene which offers epic views of the Adirondack High Peaks. The Book & Blanket Players is grateful to their movie venue host which provides accommodations at their farmhouse bed and breakfast as well as at two secluded cabins.  They host weddings, workshops, retreats, reunions, and community events such as this drive-in theatre–all on their 200 aces of Adirondack fields and forests, gardens, meadows, waterways and trails.
Good Guy Productions has been hired for the drive-in service and volunteers and directors will be on hand to make sure all safety precautions are observed. Admission is free but donations may be sent to East Branch Friends of the Arts at P.O. Box 768, Keene Valley, NY 12943 to support the theatre program or find them online. Reservations may be made by emailing Recchia at: [email protected] or calling 518-708-3606. The production will begin at approximately 8:30PM and cars may start assembling at 8 PM at The Bark Eater on Alstead Hill Road in Keene.
The Book & Blanket Players is sponsored by East Branch Friends of the Arts. Recchia explained, “East Branch Friends of the Arts has been very supportive through our whole 10-year history, but especially this year when we have needed to get different permissions and need a different set of volunteers.” Based in the Town of Keene, New York, East Branch Friends of the Arts is a community-based, non-profit group dedicated to supporting and promoting the visual and performing arts; expanding opportunities of involvement in arts events for residents and visitors; developing and showcasing the community’s rich musical, artistic, literary heritage; and instilling a love of the arts and learning in children..
The program has been awarded a Stewart’s Holiday Match grant and a grant from the Pumpkin Hill Foundation. This project is made possible, in part, with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program on the New York State Council of the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts.
This is the tenth year for the Players to take on the musical-in-a-week format. They began with the musical “Mirette,” followed by the first incarnation of the original musical “Road to Dannemora,” then the broadway musical “Irene.” In the summer of 2013 they premiered an original musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” in 2015 they mounted “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman,” in 2016 they took on “1776” in a gender-blind format, in 2017 they presented the charming spoof of Nancy Drew mysteries, “Trixie True, Teen Detective,”  a new and improved, orchestrated “Road to Dannemora,” in 2018 and last year’s “Lend Me a Tenor, the Musical.”
For more information and registration information please contact Kathleen Recchia at [email protected] or 518-708-3606.
Photos from the Book & Blanket Players’ writing team meeting at work on Zoom and the Bark Eater Inn, where the drive-in will be.

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