2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cynthia Tupper Tackles Bucket List Roles in Let Nothing You Dismay

Cynthia Tupper as the irascible Bubbie with Gary Weinstein as Milford
PHOTO by Laurie Smalis

Long-time Barn member Cynthia Tupper has done it all when it comes to her theater accomplishments at the Farmington Players, including directing 15 shows, serving on the Board for 18 years, and costuming 73 shows!  So it might surprise you to hear that Let Nothing You Dismay helps fulfill a bucket list wish:  “The challenge of playing multiple roles has always been on my theatrical bucket list.”   Cynthia’s three characters are as diverse and multi-faceted as she is.  Her primary role is Charlotte, who she describes as a “free spirited new age force to be reckoned with.  Although she left her children, who were raised by their father, she is just starting to rebuild her relationship with her family. She is absolutely confident in the wisdom she believes she has attained in following her own path. The bigness of her personality is expressed in the drama of her voice and gestures.”  As the play unfolds, Cynthia says, “Charlotte experiences a new found respect from some of the family members who used to scoff at her as an aging hippie. It is very satisfying to see the arc of her character change during the course of the play.”
Cynthia also plays Noreen, a kooky nun that bursts onstage and “gives the audience a taste of the chaos that is about to begin!”  Cynthia says that “being raised Catholic and attending parochial school for two years gives me personal insight into Noreen the nun. Previously I played Mother Superior in Nunsense, who was the Irish traditional strict nun. However, Noreen is the complete opposite as she is a modern energetic nun with a cheerful outlook who ‘always looks on the bright side of life’!”  Last but not least is Bubbie, the 84-year-old Jewish grandmother who loves to complain about everything.  Cynthia sees Bubbie as “a combination of my experiences working in the New York garment district where my Brooklyn accent was learned. I also worked with a real life Bubbie at Saks Fifth Avenue…also known as Goldie. This wonderful woman taught me ‘how to make a brisket that will melt in your mouth!’ Bubbie is a rare combination of chutzpah, attitude and a big heart and whose outspokenness is legendary.”
Let Nothing You Dismay reexamines what it means to be a family. In reflecting on the themes of the show, Cynthia says, “for many people their families include a strong network of friends. Especially for someone like me, who is a child of a child of an only child. Although my husband has a brother and a sister, our family is by no means huge. So our close friends and our Barn family are definitely part of our extended family. The show celebrates diversity and includes adoption as an important option. This play definitely takes a page from the television show Modern Family with its mixed bag of big personalities and humorous chaos.  It’s a new fast-paced and funny family friendly Christmas show to be enjoyed by all.”
Let Nothing You Dismay has 10 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from November 30 – December 15.  The show is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ansley Barnard Helps Put the Fun in Dysfunctional Family Farce

Ansley Barnard (kneeling) as Kaitlyn struggles with a bassinet as adoptive parents
Allie (Shalya Curran) and Kevin (Jason Wilhoite) look on, during early rehearsals.
PHOTO: Laurie Smalis

In Let Nothing You Dismay, adoptive parents Kevin and Allie await the birth of their child on Christmas Day.  Against their wishes, their extended families descend on the hospital to welcome the new addition.  Eight actors play 22 roles in this crazy holiday farce, which makes its Midwest premiere at the Farmington Players (November 30 – December 15).  Ansley Barnard plays three roles, and she has clearly put a lot of thought into each of her characters: 
Kaitlyn is easily discounted as a dumb blonde and is often ignored or put down by other people.  While she can be a bit silly, mostly she's loving, helpful and hardworking.  She wants everyone to feel as happy as she does and strongly believes in the importance of family.  Playing Kaitlyn is a joy because of her never-ending enthusiasm. …
“Brianna is quite mysterious. Playing her is an interesting challenge in movement because she spends a lot of time on stage without speaking.  She is someone that will make an immediate impression on someone, but also fades into the background unnoticed.  It's a tricky balance.  I take inspiration for Brianna's character from the most eccentric artists I've met and enjoy bringing out her dramatic side.  Brianna can be severe and sarcastic, but she finds endless amusement in the pitfalls of other people's lives. …  
“Angela is a fun character to play because she's almost completely unlikable.  I want the audience to see her the way her sister Allie does: selfish, domineering, and arrogant.  But Angela is also someone that refuses to settle, and I like that about her.  Even though she's abrasive, she is productive and driven.  As with all the characters in the show, Angela is trying to keep her family on track even if her priorities are somewhat questionable.”
The predominant theme of Let Nothing You Dismay is family, and the extended Gordon and Sapperstein families definitely put the "fun" in "dysfunctional"!  Ansley thinks “LNYD will showcase that sort of crazy loving relationship. My husband and I got married this year, and I can relate to Kevin and Allie's experience blending their families.  Luckily our families are not this intense, but there's always a little apprehension when you bring everyone together for a big event.  You just can't plan for everything.”  She knows audiences will love this show because “everyone has found themselves in an awkward family event at least once.  There's at least one character in the show that will remind you of someone you know and hopefully you'll laugh along with us.”  The cast has definitely enjoyed itself during rehearsals, and keeping a straight face can be challenging.  As Ansley says, “I'll often start laughing in rehearsal when one of the actors nails a good line or brings something new to their character.  I think audiences will pick up on how much fun we are having and make it a fun experience for them.”
2018 has been a whirlwind year for Ansley.  In addition to getting married, she traveled to Italy and Japan, and performed in two Barn shows (Into the Woods).  She comes from a family of professional actors, and is returning to the stage after a 10-year hiatus to focus on her engineering career.  Originally from the west coast, Ansley moved to Michigan four years ago to work in the auto industry.  She used to design and test bodywork for IndyCar, and now works in software.  But her most out-of-this-world experience was last year while “pursuing my teenage dream of becoming an astronaut.”  Ansley served as an “analogue astronaut for a program called HI-SEAS.  It's a NASA-funded Martian analogue mission to study … the psychological challenges of being isolated and confined for years at a time for these longer missions.  Six of us were selected to live in isolation for eight months in a remote dome-shaped habitat on the side of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.  The geography is desolate and we didn't leave the habitat except wearing protective suits.  We had no phones, no Internet, and no live communication with other people.  It was unlike any other place I've ever been and it was both as special and as difficult as you might imagine.”
Let Nothing You Dismay has 10 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from November 30 – December 15.  The show is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Jack Jerome Interviews Tony Targan: An Inside Look at Brighton Beach Memoirs

Jack Jerome (left) interviews Tony Targan (right) about Tony's portrayal of Jack
In Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, the patriarch of the household is Jack Jerome, an empathetic character who works two jobs to support his family. With four teenagers, his wife, and his widowed sister-in-law under one roof, it’s challenging, to say the least.  When his son Stanley says, “Pop, I have a problem,” Jack replies, “If you didn’t, you wouldn’t live in this house.”   I recently sat down to talk to Jack, but he quickly turned the tables on me, making me the subject of my own interview! ­­­

Tony:   Jack, I have to tell you that is a real pleasure to portray you in the Farmington Players’ production of Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Jack:    It’s not as easy as it looks, is it?

Tony:    That’s true.  It’s challenging to play a character that is weary and physically ailing most of the time, and yet has to project such energy, emotion, and anger.

Jack:     Yeah, well, you seem to have the anger part down pretty good.  That’s quite a temper you’ve got.

Tony:    As my mother Arleen once told me, “You’ve got a lot of patience … until it runs out.”

Jack:     Patience is not one of our virtues, my friend.

Tony:    I can relate.  It’s hard dealing with four teenagers and two middle-aged sisters under one roof.  And yet Jack finds a way to commiserate with everything his family is going through.  As Jack often says, “I know what it’s like.”  Your empathy is very genuine.

Jack:     You have to strive to set a good example, but also give your family – and yourself – permission not to be perfect.

Tony:    Well said.

Jack:     So, Tony, tell me how you go about connecting with my character?  

Tony:    When I talk about Jack’s brother Michael, who died in the war, I hold his Army picture.  I decided to make it more personal by using an actual photo of my father Barry when he was a young Army private during the Korean War.

Jack:     Nice touch.   Did other family members influence your character’s development?

Tony:   I like to model Jack after my grandfather Albert Targan.  A Russian Jew, he emigrated here in the early 1900s, and was orphaned at a young age.  Despite little schooling, he worked hard as a grocer to provide for his family – a wife and three boys – and he knew that education was their way to a better life.  Both my uncles served in the Navy in World War Two, and both went on to become lawyers. My father has a PhD in English Literature and is a writer and retired college professor.

Jack:    Besides family, what other themes of Brighton Beach Memoirs are still relevant today?

Tony:   In the play, Jack worries about his European relatives on the eve of WWII, saying, “If you’re Jewish, you’ve got a cousin suffering somewhere in the world.”  America has always been a safe haven.  If my grandparents and other Jewish relatives did not escape Eastern Europe to seek asylum in America, none of my family would be alive today.  We are a nation of immigrants, most of whom came to America to flee persecution or seek religious freedom.  And yet many people still want to bar the door to new immigrants, or have prejudices against anyone who is different than themselves.

Jack:   Last question:  The Jerome family lives in Brooklyn in 1937.  Like many families during the Great Depression, we were poor and had our share of family drama.  What makes our family so special that people will want to come see Brighton Beach Memoirs?

Tony:   Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical reflection on the life of its author, the recently departed Neil Simon.  The structure of the play is compelling as the young Eugene Jerome narrates his dreams and desires directly to the audience in comedic fashion.  The family dynamic pits spouses and siblings against each other, and yet, despite all the strain, the family’s ties are ultimately strengthened.  It’s a poignant family drama … Plus, it’s just a really funny show!

Brighton Beach Memoirs has 3 remaining performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from October 11 – 13.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Pamela Martin Finds Beauty in Kate’s Vulnerability in Brighton Beach Memoirs

Kate (Pamela Martin, right) has a complicated relationship with her sister Blanche (Nancy Cooper, left)
as husband Jack (Tony Targan) tries to keep the peace.
PHOTO by Paul Manoian

The famous Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”   With all due respect to Mr. Shaw, he never saw Pamela Martin act!   Pamela has been teaching drama since 1991 as a Drama Specialist at Cranbrook Schools, Brookside Elementary.  And if you see her performance in Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Farmington Players, you will know right away that she can definitely act!  Pamela’s character Kate Jerome is the wife of Jack Jerome, the sister of Blanche, the aunt of Nora and Laurie, and the mother to Eugene and Stanley.   As Pamela says, “I truly enjoy playing Kate because she is a very formidable Jewish mother who really has a deep care and concern for her family. She is a ‘workhorse’ and she is very tightly wound. Above all, she wants to keep the peace.  She is a problem solver who tries to tackle every family issue and tries to fix all of the family problems.”  And in the Jerome family, there are plenty of problems to fix!  As Kate so eloquently puts it, “you inherit a family, you inherit their problems.”

Family is the central theme of Brighton Beach Memoirs.  Pamela sees Kate as strong, yet vulnerable, when dealing with each family member.   As she observes, “There is a theme of dignity for each character. The collective dignity must be brought together. It is the family.  Kate is the protector and lioness yet she is very vulnerable. There is a beauty to Kate’s vulnerability. I can see myself in Kate from the outside as having a rather tightly wound disposition at times but inside, I too have a great love for my family and I can also be quite vulnerable.”  This vulnerability really comes out in her scenes with her younger sister Blanche, played by Nancy Cooper.   Pamela says that Kate has “a special yet complicated relationship with her younger sister, Blanche. My challenge with playing Kate is that I need to balance her frustration and control with her great love, compassion and understanding and give the audience a glance as to why Kate is Kate.”

Pamela has always loved Brighton Beach Memoirs and Neil Simon is one of her favorite playwrights:  “The way he builds a scene -- one moment you are laughing hysterically the next you are wiping away tears -- pure perfection. Also, I like the fact that this was an autobiographical play based on Neil Simon’s own family. (He being the Eugene role of course.)” Audiences also love the show because “there is something that will resonate with everyone. Whether it be a character, scene, monologue, or dramatic pause, Mr. Simon’s work is brilliant.  Brighton Beach is as much relevant today as it was back in 1937 because it is about family.  And as Kate says, “This is a family. The world cannot survive without families.”   Pamela has enjoyed connecting with her new Barn family as well:  “I am thrilled to be a member of the Farmington Players family and I adore acting with my very talented Brighton Beach family.  I hope everyone enjoys the show!”

Brighton Beach Memoirs has 7 remaining performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater through October 13.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.