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The OnStage Newsletter - January, 2009

MPOnStage NewsletterThe January edition looks into the set design of Man of La Mancha, We also remember the Life of the author of La Mancha. We have 2 new Podcasts talking about the childrens show Rumplestiltskin is my name and the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, we takes a look at what past alumn are doing now, we quiz you on your knowledge of plays and present 2 case studies on building props for La Mancha. Feel free to share these stories with your friends through Facebook.

Set Design for Man of La Mancha

We are now in the home stretch for Man of La Mancha. With the show scheduled to open on February 6th. lines are being memorized, props are under construction (see the case study section) and costumes are being made. But the largest item on the agenda has to be the set. It is designer John Maurer's job to create the prison/dungeon environment that Man of La Mancha is known for. “It was a little tough designing this show,” said John. “It had to look like a solid stone prison, but we had to have entrances for the actors that made sense in the story. The set had to be big enough for 25 actors, but we couldn't block the fire curtain, so that meant using only half the available stage.  We also need to have a trapdoor in the set to accommodate a lower dungeon entrance. Because the show is also a play within a play, the set had to represent several locations during the performance.

In the end we broke the set up into 4 areas: The steps for exiting and entering the prison go from just above floor level to 9 feet in the air, the main Lamancha cast in rehearsalplaying area is raised 2 feet off the ground and is faced with a 12x8 foot ramp, and two smaller playing areas down stage left and right that are used for specific scenes. The set has two visible gated entrances to the main playing area upstage and 2 invisible ones downstage. There is even a hidden entrance under the staircase, used for quick entrances and exits. The plan is to have enough room for 25 performers but give the set a claustrophobic feel. As always, we will pre-build what we can, then assemble and finish the build at load in.


Author of Man of La Mancha dies at 94

Dale WassermanDale Wasserman, author of the book for the Tony-winning musical "Man of La Mancha" as well as the stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," has died. He was 94.

Wasserman died Dec. 21 of congestive heart failure at his home in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley.

"Man of La Mancha," the tale of the intrepid, ever idealistic Don Quixote, was one of Broadway's biggest hits in the 1960s. The show, which starred Richard Kiley and Joan Diener, opened in 1965 and won the Tony for best musical. It ran for more than 2,300 performances.

Wasserman began writing television dramas in the 1950s, then went on to pen screenplays, including 1958's "The Vikings" starring Douglas and Tony Curtis, and "Mister Buddwing" starring James Garner in 1966.

Born in Rhinelander, Wis., as one of 14 children of Russian immigrants, he was orphaned at age 10 and sent to live with uncles and aunts. Wasserman wrote on his Web site that he left home and spent years "jumping freight trains, graduating as a Hobo cum laude," eventually ending up with a career in theater.

Author of more than 75 scripts, Wasserman continued to work until his death, making revisions to a play based on his early hobo life called "Burning in the Night," his wife said. His latest finished play, "Premiere!" is set to open in a suburban Phoenix theater next month.

Ever the forward-thinking writer, he gave his wife instructions for his obituary months ago: "'The only thing I would want the newspaper to say is this: He invented the phrase 'The Impossible Dream' and lived it,'" Martha Wasserman recalled.

Wasserman is survived by his wife.


Dan Maurer Named to NJACT Board; Seeks to Improve Communication with Theater Community

Dan Maurer, of Maurer Productions OnStage in Ewing, was named to the board of directors for the New Jersey Association of Commmunity Theaters (NJACT). The appointment was made official in an NJACT meeting held December 10 in Winfield Park, NJ. In addition to his duties as a general board member, Maurer will assume the role of NJACT Marketing Director, responsible for all the organization's online and offline marketing efforts. In addition to his NJACT position, Maurer will continue in his role on the board of Maurer Productions OnStage.

Read the Complete story


NJACT Seeks Volunteer Theater Reviewers

The New Jersey Association of Community Theaters (NJACT) is seeking volunteers to serve as reviewers to help identify worthy recipients of the NJACT annual Perry Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement in community theater.

To be accepted as an NJACT reviewer, candidates must have experience and knowledge in various areas of theatrical production (e.g. performance, stage management, props, lighting, sound, directing, producing, costuming, backstage crew, front of house, etc.) Experience in all these areas is not expected, but the broader and deeper your experience, the better your chances of being accepted as a reviewer.


As an NJACT Reviewer, you will be expected to travel around the state to review community theater productions in communities other than your own. Each reviewer must review a minimum of 4 shows per year. Reviewers are provided with two free tickets for each show they review. Reviews are conducted using a number scoring system and must be submitted to NJACT within two weeks of the performance reviewed. More details will be provided if your application is accepted.


Send a letter to NJACT asking to become an NJACT Perry Award reviewer. You must include a copy of your theater resume with contact information. Be sure to include as much information about your theater experience as possible. Please also include a list of the theater companies you are associated with. Your application will be reviewed by NJACT and if your theater experience is found sufficient, you will be invited to become a reviewer. Please note that not all applications are accepted.

Please send your application letter to the appropriate reviewer liaison based on the where you live in the state.

Patrick Starega
North Jersey Reviewer Liaison

Gina Lupi
South Jersey Reviewer Liaison


If you are accepted as an NJACT Perry Award Reviewer, you will be invited to a training session. The next Reviewer Training Session is scheduled for Tuesday, March 10th at 7:30 pm at the Kelsey Theater located on the West Windsor campus of Mercer County Community College (1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, NJ). Training should last about an hour.

If you have any questions about becoming an NJACT Perry Award reviewer, please contact your regional liaison listed above.


Backstage Pass Visits with Pinworth's Virginia Wolf and Yardley's Rumplestiltskin

We start the new year with two new Podcasts. First we look at the the Yardley Players childrens production of Rumplestiltskin is My Name and then spend some time with the director and two of the stars of Pinnworth productions presentation of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. These are the 11th and 12th Podcasts in the Backstage Pass series which offers a behind-the-scenes look at community theatre in Central New Jersey.

You can listen to Backstage Pass right from the MPOnStage website, or subscribe to our free podcast through iTunes.

Episode 12:
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Episode 11:
Taking about Rumplestiltskin is My Name

Listen to more
podcasts here.


MPOnStage Alumni Stay Busy Through the Holidays

Virginia Woolf PhotoAlthough most alumni are taking off for the holidays, some have been hard at work getting ready for January opening nights. John Shanken-Kaye (Lucky Stiff) is playing George in Kelsey’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, being presented by PinnWorth Productions. George and Martha live to fight. But it’s the show they put on for late-night guests that captivates us in Edward Albee’s classic. Performances are Fridays, January 9 and 16, 2009, at 8 pm; Saturdays, January 10 and 17, 2009, at 8 pm; and Sundays, January 11 and 18, 2009, at 2 pm. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 Rumplestiltskinfor students and children.

Also in January, Danielle Standifer (The Emperor’s New Clothes) will be appearing in Yardley Player’s musical version of Rumplestiltskin. Performances are Friday, January 23, 2009, at 7 pm; Saturday, January 24, 2009, at 2 and 4 pm; and Sunday, January 25, 2009, at 2 and 4 pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and children.

Then at the end of January Vicky Czarnik (Singin' in the Rain, It's a Wonderful Life, Lucky Stiff) be playing the role of Joan Plowright in "Orson's Shadow", a comedic drama (based on true events) about a critic who's looking to pair up Orson Welles as a director with Lawrence Olivier as an actor in the Ionesco play "Rhinoceros". Lots of witty, dry humor, and some good dramatic moments as well. It will be at the Actors' NET, from January 23rd through February 8th.


scripts MPOnStage Theatre Quiz "The Plays the Thing"

This month we put down the sheet music and pick up the printed word as we look at the Broadway play. Who wrote it, who was in it and what did it win. You get 10 questions to test your theatre knowledge. Good luck!

Try out our January edition


New Case Study: "Golden Helmet of Mambrino"

Case study of Golden HelmetKeeping with our "all things La Mancha” theme this month we have a new "Case Studies" from our present production. John Maurer takes you through making the Golden Helmet of Mambrino and discusses when good props go bad.

More case studies will be added in time, so check the site whenever you have a prop need or if you love checking out how things are made. And if you have any prop solutions, tips or tricks you have used and would like to share, contact John at

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