TRR photos by Jonathan Charles Fox

Delaware Valley Middle School seventh grader Timothy Cortes sang a selection from “Fiddler on the Roof” for his Forestburgh Playhouse audition at SUNY Sullivan’s Seelig Theatre a few weeks ago.

Curtain up at the Forestburgh Playhouse!

Local performers get in on the act

Pulling into the parking lot of SUNY Sullivan last week, I was stunned to see scores of kids, teens and adults flocking to the theatre complex, where Forestburgh Playhouse producer Franklin Trapp had scheduled auditions for the company’s upcoming summer season of shows. “There has always been a local presence at the playhouse,” Trapp said when I asked him how long they’ve been doing this. “But interest has really increased over the last few years, and by the time we’re done seeing all of these talented folks, more than 20 of them will be performing at the playhouse this summer. It’s pretty cool.”

With productions of “Kiss me Kate,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Seussical the Musical!” and “Annie” slated for the summer season, there are “plenty of opportunities for young people again this year,” according to Trapp. “Last season we had the chance to enhance the chorus of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ with a lot of local teens, and they were just great!” he enthused. “We don’t have to do it, but we really want to. A big part of our mission is to provide opportunities for local kids that can enrich their lives by exposing them to the performing arts.”

In anticipation of the kid-friendly production of “Annie” on the roster, Trapp and his team held a workshop for young ladies interested in performing in the show. “It wasn’t an audition, per se,” Franklin explained, “but more a part of our educational community outreach efforts. All of the [local] girls taking part in the workshop were recommended by their teachers, and we led them in acting games, singing exercises and even some choreography. There are some seriously talented kids out there!” Asked if they might have discovered a local youngster to actually star as the red-headed moppet in “Annie,” Trapp did not completely discount the notion. “As always, the playhouse will have a resident company of super-talented college-age kids performing here all summer long, in addition to seasoned professional actors of all ages who will also be starring in shows like ‘Steel Magnolias,’ ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘Million Dollar Quartet,’ but yes, it’s possible. I can assure you that we discovered a lot of great local ‘orphans’ for ‘Annie’—it’s gonna be great!”

I spent a few hours with Trapp and company at the Seelig Theatre that day, observing the audition process and chatting with some of the participants. After she sang “A Growing Boy,” accompanied by Chuck Vasallo at the piano, Jamie Askey sat with me for a moment and explained her interest in the Playhouse.

“I love the place,” she said, “and my grandpa lives up here. It would be wonderful to spend the summer with him, and being in a show at the Forestburgh Playhouse would be a dream come true!” Del Valley Middle School  seventh-grader Timothy Cortes agreed. “Yeah, it would be cool to be in the show,” he said after singing a song from “Fiddler” for the producers. Roscoe’s eight-year-old Mya enthusiastically chimed in. “I really want to be a professional actress” she told me after her audition. “I take dance in school and have been to the playhouse many times. It’s fantastic!”

Spying a familiar face, I approached Minisink High School’s Ryan Fogler. “Haven’t I seen you at the Playhouse before?” I asked. Ryan nodded and reminded me that I had reviewed and photographed him in  productions of “Mame,” starring Loretta Swit; and “Mary Poppins,” in which he had had large roles a few years ago. Well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming a professional actor, Fogler informed me that he had been starring in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at the Barn Theatre in Montville, NY and that his mom, who was with him at SUNY Sullivan, had been driving him back and forth every day. “He’s the best young man I could ever ask for,” she said. “He gets good grades and is really a great kid. Helping him pursue his dream is part of my job as a parent, right?”

As I watched kids and adults strut their stuff on stage that day, I began to get excited about all the great shows that the Forestburgh Playhouse will be presenting this summer. “I expect at least 20 local performers will be joining us on stage this year,” Trapp said. “The Playhouse is committed to providing a home for members of the community who are interested in theatre. We want it to be accessible to everyone—not only as an audience, but as participants as well.

“We’re really excited,” he concluded. “It’s gonna be a great season.” Curtain up!

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