Middlebury College Theatre’s Summer in the City
September 4, 2012
Theatre Students, Faculty, and Staff Earned Acclaim in New York City with Professional Affiliate Company PTP/NYC
Middlebury, VT—Middlebury College’s affiliated professional theatre company, Potomac Theatre Project (now familiarly known as PTP/NYC), concluded its sixth highly-successful Off-Broadway repertory season on July 29, 2012. This year’s productions were Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money and Neal Bell’s Monster, performed at Atlantic Stage 2 in Manhattan.
Serious Money, in particular, was a favorite of audiences and critics alike. Daniel M Gold wrote in the New York Times on July 13: “If there’s a sharper-edged evening of entertainment in Manhattan at the moment, it involves juggling knives. ….In the Potomac Theater Project production, the over-the-top comedy remains raw and urgent, a scathing critique of capitalism that has no use for balance. This production, smartly directed by Cheryl Faraone, is swift and sleek….Of special note are (Tara) Giordano’s cleareyed Scilla, (David) Barlow’s oily Zackerman and (Jeanne LaSala) Taylor’s seductive Jacinta, wielding her purring accent like the financial instrument it is: ‘Sexy greedy,’ the play notes, ‘is the late ’80s.’ The spare, clever set by Hallie Zieselman features chandeliers that double as telephone banks and Champagne bars.”
Although the response to Monster was more muted, member of the cast—in particular Middlebury College students Christo Grabowski and Noah Berman—were praised for their performances: “Noah Berman electrifies Will, Victor’s bratty little brother, and a talking cat, with caustic energy. Christo Grabowski has forceful impact as the ship's captain.”—Backstage
PTP/NYC is a professional theatre juggernaut with a long affiliation with Middlebury College’s theatre program. The 2012 summer repertory season was the company’s sixth in New York, at the Atlantic Stage 2 in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. PTP/NYC moved to New York in the summer of 2007, after a 20-year run in the Washington, DC area. Supported in large part by Middlebury College since its inception in 1987, Potomac Theatre Project is the only professional theatre company affiliated with an undergraduate liberal arts theatre program in the country. Between 10 and 14 Middlebury students are involved with the company yearly. In the past 26 years, more than 300 students have worked as actors, designers, technicians and administrators; most of them have continued to pursue theatre, along with film and television, in either the academic or professional arenas. PTP alumni include Cassidy Freeman ’04.5, now on A&E’s Longmire; Anna Belknap ’94 from CSI: NY; Bill Army ’07, currently Off-Broadway in Old Jews Telling Jokes; Matt Saldivar ’92, starring on Broadway in Peter and the Star Catcher; and many others.
Many Vermont artists spend the summers in New York with PTP. The company is headed by Cheryl Faraone and Richard Romagnoli, long-time professors at Middlebury College (along with Jim Petosa, director of the School of Theatre at Boston University). Design elements are provided by Mark Evancho, Jule Emerson, and Hallie Zieselman, all members of the Theatre Department’s faculty and/or staff. Assistant Professor of Theatre and Middlebury alum Alex Draper ’88 was frequently singled out for his performance in Serious Money: “Alex Draper’s realization of Billy Corman comfortably inhabits the gray area between reptilian and seductive often commandeered by dynamic men”—Woman Around Town.com.
Productions of Serious Money and Monster at Potomac Theatre Project were not the only shows to represent the Middlebury College theatre program in New York this summer. They were joined by Swing State, a two-character musical written and developed at the College by Visiting Assistant Professor Dana Yeaton ’79.
The original work, featuring music by Andy Mitton ’01, was a Next Link selection at the 2012 New York Musical Theatre Festival, the world’s largest festival of its kind.
Swing State pits Bonnie, a born-again Christian teaching kindergarten in Appalachian Ohio, against Neil, a gay chiropractor and recent transplant from Brooklyn.) The New York Times described Morgan Weed’s portrayal of Bonnie (for which she won a Best of the Festival acting award) as an “impressive” accomplishment, “helping a not-obviously empathetic Hell’s Kitchen audience empathize with a ‘Christian nut job,’ as she is occasionally called . . . Yeaton’s book and lyrics grant Bonnie a . . . nuanced and developed character arc . . .”
Suzanna Bowling of Times Square Chronicles called Swing State her “newest rave,” and wrote: “The libretto by Dana Yeaton (a Helen Hayes Award nominee for his play Redshirts), is clever, smart and takes the gay theme, which has been overdone, and makes you feel straight from the heart.” Theatremania wrote: “There’s a sincerity about Swing State that’s affecting . . . Yeaton and Mitton, along with director Igor Goldin, craft a story void of clichés with social and political undertones that are muted enough to let two vivid characters come to life.” And nytheatre.com called Swing State “a well made, quiet story of personal healing, performed by two talented singers.”
An opening day reception for Swing State was hosted by the Middlebury Alumni Association, with a special guest performance by the Dissipated Eight.
For more information about the Middlebury College Theatre program or PTP/NYC, go to http://go.middlebury.edu/theatre.
top: The cast of PTP/NYC's Serious Money includes Adam Milano '15 at the microphone, with Alex Draper '88, Tara Giordano '02, Alicia Evancho. '12, Meghan Leathers '13.5 (first row), and Gillian Durkee '11.5, Jay Dunn '99, Molly O'Keefe, '12.5 and others (back rows). July 2012, photo Stan Baruouh.
bottom: Joe Varca '02 and Noah Berman '13 in PTP/NYC's production of Monster, July 2012, photo Stan Barouh.