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OnStage News & Notes - October 2013

MPOnStage NewsletterIn October, we look forward to Monty Python's Spamalot, Carrie: The Musical and Working; get some headshot photographer search tips from Meera Mohan; announce rave reviews for Dan Maurer's "Snow Day" and promote October, November and January Alumni Happenings.

Monty Python's Spamalot Delivers
Medieval Mania in a Muscial

MPO Brings Tony-Winning Musical Comedy to Kelsey Theatre November 15

West Windsor, NJ – On the heels of blockbuster musicals like Avenue Q and Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA, the award-winning team at Maurer Productions OnStage will deliver Monty Python’s Spamalot, the irreverent and spectacular Broadway spoof of the King Arthur legend. The show will run at Kelsey Theatre on the West Windsor campus of Mercer County Community College. Dates and times for this production are Fridays, Nov. 15, 22, and 29 at 8 pm; Saturdays Nov. 16, 23, and 30 at 8 pm; and Sundays, Nov. 17, and 24, and Dec. 1 at 2pm. A reception with the cast and crew follows the opening night performance.

Lovingly ripped off from the motion picture, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Spamalot is the fresh Broadway hit and irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend. Rude Frenchmen, cancan dancers, the Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls, killer rabbits, catapulting cows, and the somewhat odd Knights who say "Ni" are just part of the adventures and dangers awaiting King Arthur and his knights of the very, very, very round table in their quest for the Holy Grail. The Broadway production of this non-stop rollercoaster ride of laughs was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning three, including Best New Musical.

The show also features numerous references to Monty Python's Flying Circus television skits like the Lumberjack Song, Spam, and the Dead Parrot Sketch, while some of Broadway's cherished musicals are skewered along the way including a spoof of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Les Miserables, and The Producers.

Fresh off his work on the company's acclaimed production of Avenue Q, John Maurer will once again slip into the director's chair. "I've been a Monty Python fan from a young age," Maurer said. "Their brand of zany and irreverent comedy is universally appealing, but it is unique and tricky to pull off," he added. "Lucky for us and the audience, our cast brings the Python spirit to the show in every scene. Sometimes it's hard just to get through a rehearsal because everyone is laughing so hard."

Leading the quest is King Arthur, played by MPO newcomer Stuart Myles with his trusty servant Patsy played by Rob Gougher(The Drowsy Chaperone, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Hollywood Arms). Playing his gallant knights - and a broad assortment of other characters - are Kevin Palardy as Sir Lancelot the Homicidally Brave, Mimi Francis as The Lady of the Lake, Justin Derry as Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot, Sean Downing as Sir Galahad, the Dashingly Handsome, Peter Bisgaier (A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody) as Sir Bedevere, the Strangely Flatulent, Paul Phalen as Prince Herbert, and Dan Slowthower (The Drowsy Chaperone, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Tim the Enchanter.

Rounding out the cast are Tom Bessellieu (The Drowsy Chaperone) as the Historian, Scott Karlin (Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Few Good Men, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Singin' in the Rain, The Emperor's New Clothes) as the Black Knight, John Glace (Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA) as Bors the Beheaded, Mark Applegate (Avenue Q, The Drowsy Chaperone) as Concord and Candace Chmielewski, Jen DeFilippi (The Drowsy Chaperone), Sally Page (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Dominique Shaw as the Laker Girls.

In addition to John Maurer, the production team features Musical Director Laurie Gougher, Choreographer Jane Coult, Costumer Designer Mark Applegate, Prop Mistress Dottie Farina, Master Set Builder Jeff Cantor, Stage Manager/Producer Diana Gilman Maurer, Assistant Stage Manager Rosie Karlin and Sound Designer/Producer Dan Maurer.

All tickets are $20 (plus a ticketing fee) and may be purchased by calling the Kelsey Box Office at 609-570-3333 or online here. Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible. Free parking is available next to the theater. More information about this production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” can be found online at

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Kelsey Theatre Companies Score at the Perry Awards; MPO and Pennington Players Take Home Hardware

Maurer Productions OnStage is thrilled to be honored beside other Kelsey Theatre production companies as recipients of 2013 NJACT Perry Awards. The awards ceremony, held in September, was hosted by the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters (NJACT).

Selected from New Jersey community theater productions that were performed during the 2012-13 season, Kelsey Theatre companies and actors received 24 nominations; four were selected as winners of the highly competitive awards.

From Maurer Productions OnStage, John Maurer and Alycia Bauch won for Outstanding Properties for a Musical for Avenue Q. The cast of MPO's Avenue Q, which had a two-week run at Kelsey Theatre last March and earned multiple nominations, reprised some of the show's hilarious numbers as part of the entertainment at the awards ceremony.

But Pennington Players was the big winner from the Kelsey family that night as they received the coveted Community Theatre of the Year Award, chosen from more than 150 theater companies that perform throughout the state.

Other awardees included Isabel Kinney, of Cranbury, as Outstanding Youth Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (The Pennington Players); and Eliza Burwell as Outstanding Stage Manager of a Play, also for The Miracle Worker.

Accomplished actress and singer Elizabeth Rzasa, a staff member in the MCCC Music Department, won Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for Scrooge with Shore Repertory Theater Company, a role she performed at Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan. Rzasa performs frequently at Kelsey Theatre, most recently in September as Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She will soon appear in the title role of Yardley Players' production of Peter Pan.

In congratulating the nominees and the winners, Kelsey Theatre Artistic Director M. Kitty Getlik said; "We are so proud of the companies and actors who contribute to the quality offerings at our theater. Their passion for the performing arts is apparent in each and every production mounted on our stage. Each year, we see them pushing the envelope with challenging shows that require not only top-notch acting, but also set design, props and costuming that are increasingly creative and sophisticated. Our audiences have come to expect a lot and these groups deliver."

Other Kelsey nominees included: Megan Sherrow as Outstanding Youth Actress in a Play for A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody (Maurer Productions OnStage); Calvin Tobias as Outstanding Youth Actor in a Play for On Golden Pond (PinnWorth Productions); Wayne Irons and Judi Parrish for Outstanding Sound Design of a Play for The Miracle Worker (The Pennington Players); Judi Parrish for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Miracle Worker (The Pennington Players); E. Nicole Spadafino for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); Shannan Gonzalez for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); Michael Schiumo for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); Kyrus Keenan Westcott for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); Dottie Farina for Outstanding Properties of a Musical for Sunday in the Park with George (PinnWorth Productions); Kate Pinner for Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play for On Golden Pond (PinnWorth Productions); John M. Maurer and Amy Bessellieu for Outstanding Scenic Design of a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); Kathy Slothower for Outstanding Costume Design of a Play for The Miracle Worker (The Pennington Players); Kate Pinner for Outstanding Costume Design of a Musical for Sunday in the Park with George (PinnWorth Productions); Laurie Gougher for Outstanding Musical Direction for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); John M. Maurer for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions OnStage); Jennifer Nasta Zefutie for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play for The Miracle Worker (Pennington Players); and Maurer Productions for Outstanding Production of a Musical for Avenue Q (Maurer Productions Onstage).

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“Pretty” Doesn’t Cut It:

Finding the Right Photographer for Your Acting Headshot

by Meera Mohan - Actress (AEA), Photographer and MPO Alum

(Editor's Note: Guest columnist Meera Mohan is a professional actress and photographer. Over the years she has appeared on the Kelsey Theatre stage many times including MPO's acclaimed productions of Man of La Mancha and Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA. We invited her to share some of the knowledge she has acquired during her pursuit of a theatre career. To learn more about her photography click here.)

In 2011, I decided to quit my corporate job to pursue professional theatre and photography. I couldn’t do everything all at once, so I started with theatre. About a million things stood in my way, including reality, chance and…the fact that I was about a decade behind others who had opted to pursue life on the stage. Not to be deterred, I decided that I’d just have to fake it till I could make it. My resume would have to look crisp. I’d have to walk into auditions prepared, confident and unapologetic. And my headshot would have to scream seasoned professional coming through! That’s right. Call me back.

Well. I figured out the resume with a little research. And with practice, I’ve improved at treating the audition room as a creative space–and shaking off the time that I tripped over the doorway and entered the room flapping my arms like an angry goose (yeah, they didn’t cast me in that one). I’ve built good relationships with the theatres I’ve worked with, and I have been very, very fortunate to find work.

Thank goodness for all that, because I never worked out the whole headshot thing.

It was confusing. Should I go top-of-the-line, and spend $1000 for a shoot with Jordan Matter or Peter Hurley? A thousand dollars? If not, how would I weed through the hundreds of photographers doing it for less, and know the right one? I mean, how different was one photographer from another, if the shot was framed well and lit well? The answer: PRETTY DIFFERENT.

Earlier, I wrote that I left my job to pursue theatre and photography. Well, I launched the photography business this year. Since I’ve been on both sides of this story, I’m committed to helping people become smart shoppers.

The truth is, people looking for headshots look like easy money. Frankly, because most of us are not very informed consumers, we are easy money. It’s not that photographers are trying to rip you off on purpose – it’s just that, in the era of digital cameras, a lot more people have proudly entered the market, fancy Canons and Nikons in tow. Simply having a good camera does not make someone a good photographer.

To sift through this market and find gold, you need to identify three things: technique, style, and what I call spark. Here are tips on how to look for them.

1) Technique – This should be a basic. A photographer’s subjects should be well-lit—no harsh shadows or glares. Eyes must be crisply focused. The background should be soft or blurry, so it doesn’t pull focus from the person.

2) Style – A good photographer needs to have a contemporary style. A dated shot doesn’t give the impression that you’re a modern professional. Current styles are full bleed (no border), and have a clean, natural look. They shouldn’t look posed or be in front of a patterned backdrop. Leave the cheesy backdrop in the early nineties, where it belongs.

3) Spark – This is the hardest to identify, and the MOST IMPORTANT. Once you figure out how to see it in a photo, you’ll always know when it’s present or absent. A picture is worth a thousand words. Below are two shots I took of Kimberly Suskind (another proud MPO Alum now working professionally):

Both are lovely. But only one has spark. It’s all in her eyes. X-Factor. Energy. Charisma. Tyra Banks calls it The Smize. There are a million words to describe this concept. It’s the thing that makes some performers captivating, even when they’re motionless. You know it when you see it. Well, it must be present in a headshot! “Pretty” is generic. A headshot must contain your personality. When someone looks at your photo, it should feel like you’re there in person, looking right back at them.

A skillful photographer knows that it’s vital to get subjects to produce this spark. And has techniques to help you produce it. It’s different for every person, so it becomes a team effort. Before choosing your photographer, you need to be sure you see the “spark” in all their images, and feel confident that they can help you achieve it too.

Visit my website for other images I’ve taken that have the “spark” ( Maybe I’ll take your photo one day, and we’ll figure out how to catch your charisma through the lens. Or maybe you’ll find someone who’s a better fit for you. Either way, if I’ve helped you make that decision, I’m satisfied.

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Carrie: The Musical
Now Playing at Kelsey Theatre Through Oct. 27th

West Windsor, N.J. –From the annals of American horror comes “Carrie, the Musical,” to be presented by Pierrot Production at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre this Halloween season. Eight performances will be presented, including two midnight shows.

Performances are Fridays, Oct. 18 and 25 at 8 p.m., Saturdays, Oct. 19 and 26 at 8 p.m. and midnight; and Sundays, Oct. 20 and 27 at 2 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on the college’s West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. A reception with the cast and crew follows the opening night performance on Oct. 18.

“It’s a name you will remember forever and a night you will never forget,” promises the show’s director, Kat Ross-Kline. “This is a newly re-imagined version of the Broadway original, based on the best-selling novel by the king of horror, Stephen King.”

Jenna Scannelli, pictured here, shares the role of Carrie with Lindsey Krier.

With a home life dominated by a reclusive and over-protective mother, Carrie is also a misfit at school, where she is relentlessly bullied. But she’s discovered special powers that will allow her to enact a unique and unforgettable revenge on her persecutors – should she choose to use them. First performed on Broadway in 1988, the Pierrot Productions’ version is a revival of the show that was staged Off-Broadway in 2012 with new music by the show’s original composers, Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, and writer Lawrence D. Cohen. The show is not recommended for those under age 17.

“Carrie” features two actors, Lindsey Krier and Jenna Scannelli, who will alternate in the lead role. According to Ross-Kline, that decision was made because of the vocal demands of the part. “The demands in this highly emotional role are extreme, not just the amount of singing, but the fact that the majority of the singing is high belt,” Ross-Kline explained. “We want to give each girl a chance to perform at her best. They work well together and the cast has been so respectful and supportive of both of them. It has been a neat process to watch as they discover their own version of the character. This is my first attempt as a director to cast in this way.”

Carrie, played by Lindsey Krier, is pictured seated in chair. Also pictured are, standing from left, Kristen Kane, Haley Ackerman, Tiffany Dydack, Alec Kass, Caitlin Sprang and Dan Johnson; seated from left, Donte Wilder, Katie Wicka, and Frankie Confalone.

Other cast members include: Haley Ackerman of Moorestown as Norma; Frankie Confalone of Bordentown as Freddy; Amanda Dranchak of Cinnaminson as Margaret White; Tiffany Dydak of Levittown, Pa., as Chris Hargensen; Arielle Egan of Princeton as Helen; Emily Huddell of Moorestown as Miss Gardner; Dan Johnson of Ewing as Tommy Ross; Kristen Kane of Plainsboro as Rhoda; Alec Kass of Simsbury, CT, as Billy Nolan; Brian Kelly of Doylestown, Pa., as Mr. Stephens; Caitlin Sprang of Upper Sandusky, OH, as Sue Snell; Matt Staley of Hamilton as Stokes; Katie Wicka of West Chester, Pa., as Frieda; and Donte Wilder of Ewing as George.

In addition to Ross-Kline, the production crew includes producer Pete LaBriola, musical director Erica Silver, assistant director/stage manager Jaci D’Ulisse, costumer Frankie Confalone, technical supervisor Jim Petro, and production assistant Hannah Knight.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $16 for students and children. Tickets are available online or by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333. Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible, with free parking available next to the theater.

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Maurer’s "Snow Day" Hits Amazon Bestseller Lists as Successful Virtual Book Tour Winds Down

Snow Day: a NovellaWith the help of rave reviews from readers, and the support from book bloggers around the internet, author and MPO Producer Dan Maurer’s thrilling novella, Snow Day, hit no less than two Bestsellers lists this Fall. Beginning in September, Snow Day hit #11 on Amazon’s Bestselling Thrillers list and #8 on the online retailers Bestselling Horror list, where it shared virtual shelf space with the likes of Steven King’s “Under the Dome” and Joe Hill’s “NOS4A2”.

Riding high on reviews from influential Amazon customer reviewers and book bloggers, readers and took a chance on the ebook by an otherwise unknown author, only to find Maurer had exceeded their expectations. Ursula K. Raphael, an Amazon Top 1,000 Reviewer, called Snow Day the “the best horror novella of 2013...a horror masterpiece...”. Meanwhile, the Midnight Chillers Book Blog called it “...a riveting, bone-chilling thriller...”. (See list of reviews here.)

“It’s rewarding to see readers respond to the ebook and audiobook in such positive terms,” Maurer said. “You never know how some people will react,” he continued. “The fan letters that come in through my Facebook page are especially gratifying. When I read personal notes from strangers who have read the work, I can see how the story’s themes really struck a chord with them.”

As a way to give back to his readers, Maurer giveaway. A Free Kindle Fire HD and five downloadable audiobook editions of Snow Day were given away to fans. Maurer’s Snow Day is available as an ebook from and an audiobook from Amazon and The audiobook was narrated by Lynn Baskin and directed and edited by the author.

Maurer is currently at work on another thriller, this one a full-length novel, entitled “How Does Your Garden Grow”. Visit to learn more about Dan Maurer and his work.

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Playful's Working Coming to Kelsey November 2

West Windsor, N.J. – For everyone who has ever had a long, tough day on the job comes the musical Working; presented by Playful Theatre Productions at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre. This inspiring, compelling portrait of “average” Americans will be performed Fridays, Nov. 1 and 8 at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Nov. 2 and 9 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, Nov. 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on MCCC’s West Windsor campus, MCCC’s West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. A reception with the cast and crew takes place following the opening night performance on Nov. 1.

Based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with American workers, which was published in 1974, this newest version of the Working musical celebrates the lives and contributions of the men and women who are so often overlooked: the school teacher, the parking lot attendant, the waitress, the millworker, the mason, the trucker, the fireman, and the stay-at-home mom, to name just a few.

The Working cast includes, top row from left, John Wishnie, William Kamps and Vicky Czarnik; seated from left, Lisa Ernst, Fred Gropper and Hannah Shaffer. This highly original look at American workers features 26 songs by an all-star list of composers including Micki Grant, Craig Carnelia, Lin-Manual Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and Grammy Award-winning folk legend James Taylor.

The ensemble cast features: Vicky Czarnik ((Singin' in the Rain)) of Langhorne, Pa., William Kamps of Burlington, Lisa Ernst of Hightstown, Fred Gropper of Yardley, Pa., Hannah Shaffer of Millstone Township, and John Wishnie of Morrisville, Pa.

The production team includes director Jarad Benn, musical director Mike Gilch, choreographer Nicole Farina-Machin and stage managers Ruth Kresge and Nancy Russell.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $16 for students and children. Tickets are available online or by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333. Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible, with free parking available next to the theater.

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MPO Aluma and Fellow Students to Perform at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Students Scramble to Raise Funds for the Trip

MPO alumna Caroline Maurer (Winnie the Pooh, The Emperor's New Clothes) and her classmates in Robbinsville High School's Ravens Players Theater Troupe have received a very high honor. The students have been chosen by The American High School Theatre Festival as one of the top programs in the nation. As such, they have been invited to perform a show in the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city. Every year thousands of performers take to a multitude of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, musicals, operas, music, exhibitions and events. For students of the arts, there is no better educational experience.

To help raise money for the trip and produce their show, the students have formed a non-profit group called the Fellowship of the Ravens. Between 2013 and 2014, the troupe will conduct a series of fund raisers to support the cost of this eductaional endevour.

Lovers of the arts and supporters of arts education are encouraged to visit and become a fan of the Fellowship of the Ravens Facebook page so they can learn more about this important project.


Learn more about the Fringe in the video below.

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Talking About Working
Working In this Podcast we talk with the director, music director and the cast of Working being produced by Playful Theatre Productions at the Kelsey Theatre on the campus of Mercer County Community College. Our guests include Director Jarad Benn, Musical Director Michael Gilch, and cast members John Wishnie, Fred Gropper, Hannah Shaffer, Vicky Czarnik and Lisa Ernst.

Listen to the Podcast.

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Alumni Happenings for October, November and January

Love! Valour! Compassion!

See alumni Mark Applegate (Avenue Q, The Drowsy Chaperone), Bill Mercado (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Lynn Baskin(Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA, Driving Miss Daisy), Tony DiDia(Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA) and Chris Arena (The Drowsy Chaperone) when PinnWorth Productions presents Terrance McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! at Mercer County Community College's Kelsey Theatre. Filling out the cast are Johnathan Polanco and Bill King

Synopsis: PinnWorth Productions brings us the story of eight friends, who gather at a home in upstate New York over three summer holiday weekends. Flirtations, love, mortality and the nature of friendship are explored against the idyllic country setting of the lakeside house, where the drama of the real world is never far from mind. At turns poignant and hilarious, Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning story of these eight gay men was described as "...a big, generous, haunted comedy...both very funny and filled with intimations of time's passage, of loss and death..." by the New York Times.

Show Dates:
Fridays, January 10 & 17, 2014 at 8p.m.
Saturdays, January 11 and 18 at 8 p.m.
Sundays, January 12 and 19 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $14 for students and children.
For tickets, call the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at (609) 570-3333 or Online

Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible, with free parking available next to the theater.

The Kelsey Theatre at MCCC
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550 U.S.A.

Agnes of God

See alumna Laurie Hardy (Hollywood Arms) when Villagers Theatre presents John Pielmeier's drama Agnes of God directed by alumna Judi Parrish (The Drowsy Chaperone). Filling out the cast are Megan Halvorsen and Kelly Maizenaski.

Synopsis: A psychiatrist and the mother superior of the convent clash during the investigation of a novice nun who gives birth and insists that the dead child was the result of a virgin conception.

Show Dates:
Runs through Sunday October 27

Tickets and information are available online at Villagers Theatre or by calling 732-873-2710.

As You Like It

See MPO alumna Caroline Maurer (The Emperor's New Clothes, Winnie The Pooh) will perform the role of Celia as she and the Robbinsville High School Raven Players present William Shakespeare's As You Like It at the Robbinsville Arts Center.

Synopsis: In this beloved comedy a perfect pair of lovers, both banished, seek refuge where they meet in the Forest of Arden. Only one complication prevents their love from flourishing, the lovesick Rosalind is disguised as a man. As she teaches Orlando how to woo a woman her frustration yields to high comedy in this tale of cross-dressing, mistaken identity, and love, filled with poetry, song, slapstick humor, and shrewd observations about human nature.

Show Dates:
November 14, 15, 16 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $8 for seniors and $10 for adults, and will be sold at the door.

Robbinsville High School
155 Robbinsville Edinburg Rd
Robbinsville, NJ 08691


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MPO Theater Quiz:

And now for somthing completely different

How well do you know Spamalot? Try out our little test and see.

Try out our October edition

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