Written by Michelle Botello
The North Park Vaudeville Theatre and Candy Shoppe is located on 2031 El Cajon Blvd. near Park Blvd. in San Diego and presents a feature of short plays written by Christopher Durang through til April 7. The cast of this comedy of short plays speak about playing a role in a short play and about their experience as actors.
This year, the owners chose Christopher Durang as playwright, and this is what Jeff Bushnell, 77, part owner said, “We like him, he's crazy, you know, he does wild and funny stuff.”
Durang, born in New Jersey in 1949 wrote his first play “I Love Lucy" at the age of eight, and was his first time seeing his words come alive on a stage.
He has written a book of short plays, numerous movies, and television series. He won a Tony Award in 2013 for his play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”, and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, one of many.
Durang, '71, is this year's recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal he received on May 5th, 2006. The Arts Medal is one of the events of the Arts First, the annual festival of student art-making. Durang is the first playwright to receive a medal, according to the Harvard Gazette.
His rule in writing is “whatever you write about, you must have a strong reaction to it", according to an article in the Harvard Crimson.
The theatre has a good reputation with the Playwright Festival. Bushnell said, “We are very well known around the country and the world for doing that.” He said, “We've done over 650 in the last 16 years and that's what our real mission is, new plays, new people.”
"The way it works is once a year they do a royalty play, from a known playwright, and pay royalties", said Bushnell.
According to Bushnell, it took two and a half to three months to prepare for the Durang plays. He said, “What we try to do is give a lot of people some opportunity to act, so we try to get as many people involved as we can.”
If you are interested go to www.northparkvaudeville.com send an email to Jeff Bushnell straight from the website and you will be placed on the email list where they publish the audition list.
Summer Golden said, "The owners share a dream!". “I always wanted a theatre and , you know, because I was a ballet dancer, and then I couldn't dance anymore because of a car accident, and I never really acted, and then, but I really wanted a theatre and I wanted to have a lot of people with disabilities which is what I have here.”
After Golden met Bushnell, one day they were speaking, and she said, “My dream is to have a theatre. We were just talking, and he said, just stick with me, you'll have it someday, and I didn't just stick with him just for the theatre but it seemed to work out that way.”
The NPV offers an opportunity to people with disabilities, and it is the STARS program run by Golden, which is a program for the mentally challenged that began in 2005.
Rachel Goldbaum, 44, a student actress started in 2005 and is part of the STARS program at NPV.
“I've been doing a lot of plays here and also with disabilities with STARS , and melodrama, and the Playwright Festival.” She is a playwright with Summer, a secretary for the STARS and advanced class. She played in Women in a Playground”, the character of Ethel.
Shelley Benoit, relates about Christopher Durang. She said, “He is a great, funny, absurd, playwright and his material is so fun to work with and being able to come here at the North Park Vaudeville theatre it's just been a treat to be able to bring those pieces to life for audiences.” Benoit practiced for eight weeks and gave an amazing performance as Wanda in "Wanda's Visit".
This actor has spent some time of his life acting. Terry John, 77, was enthusiastic about Christopher Durang and about his role as John in Naomi in the "Living Room" and as the priest in the "Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room."
John stated, “Today was awesome, was so much fun doing these things. And as we do them we get better, and you start improvising a little, do your own thing, and put your own twist into it. It's a lot of fun doing it. It's interesting, Lots of stuff is really funny.”
John has been performing for NPV for 17 years. He has performed in world famous plays like the "Phantom of the Opera", "Jesus Christ Superstar", and "Cats", in San Diego, New Orleans, Charlestown, and Las Vegas.
There is a free class offered at the San Diego community college called "The Nuts and Bolts of Acting", and Holly Ritter, who played Melissa Stern in the Business "Lunch at the Russian Tea Room" is the instructor.
Ritter said, “I also teach acting at the San Diego Community College District. I teach adults and I've been teaching there for 14 years.” To join the class you must be over 18 years of age.
Contact [email protected] if you're interested.
One of the students Ritter worked with today was Chuck Hart. Hart, 65, played the role of a man who cannot get his license at the DMV and blows a fuse. His role is customer and the play is DMV Tyrant. He said, “I'm just at my boiling point and explode!”
He said, “I started acting at the age of 50 and I got involved with another "Black Box" theatre which is what they call a space like this. That was on fifth avenue, and I went and auditioned and stayed with them for about seven or eight years. Then I switched onto here.” Hart is a student in the Nuts and Bolts class.
A group of ladies came to see one of their group members act in one of the short plays and they're thinking about bringing their act to the NPV. Adrienne Hart, 79, formed a dance group, comedy and song named the "Rhinestone Grannies."
She said, “One member of our group is performing today, Janet Piatek ,who played Margaret at the "Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room."
For more info go to www.RhinestoneGrannies.com
The play writer Durang is known for being outrageous and absurd, and the owners of NPV who shared a likeness to Durang made it all happen on that stage on El Cajon Blvd. in the month march.