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OnStage News & Notes - June 2011

MPOnStage NewsletterIn our June newsletter, we're pleased to announce Laurie Gougher as the newest member of the MPO Board; Director Dan Maurer talks about Aida auditions; the Kelsey Theatre Awards are coming to you live in August; and in the latest episodes of BackStage Pass we talk with the casts of "Die, Mommie Die" and "Blithe Spirit".


Maurer Productions Names Laurie Gougher
to the MPO Board of Directors

The award-winning production company Maurer Productions OnStage is pleased to announce Laurie Gougher as the newest member of the MPO Board of Directors. She will also serve as the company’s in-house Music Director. As one of seven board members, Laurie will have a voice in the direction of the company, how the group manages its productions, and will play an integral role in show selection. Laurie may also be seen directing shows for MPO from time to time. Maurer Productions OnStage is an award-winning production company known for staging musicals and plays at the Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor, NJ. Over the years, MPO has mounted productions resulting in 26 NJACT Perry Award nominations and 5 wins.

Laurie Gougher“We’re very excited to have Laurie join the team on a more permanent basis,” said John Maurer, MPO’s co-founder and Artistic Director. “We’ve known and worked with Laurie for several years in different capacities. She’s an excellent partner and the work she did on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was second to none. We’re lucky to be able to pry her away from all the other great theater companies vying for her talents.”

Laurie’s slate of projects is insanely full. She recently completed music directing MPO’s well-received production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in May. Now she’s just completed casting her production of the musical 13, which she will director for Pennington Players, and she is gearing up to music direct Pirates of Penzance for Pinworth Productions, which opens in January 2012. After that she starts work on MPO’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone slated for June of 2012.

“It’s all a bit crazy right now,” Laurie said of her full schedule and her recent appointment to the MPO board. “I really wasn’t looking to take on so much, but when great opportunities like these come along, it’s hard to say no. It was the same way with this offer from Maurer Productions. It kind of came out of the blue for me. But when it did come, I knew it was a good fit.”

Laurie holds a Masters Degree in Music Education and has been teaching music in all levels of the public schools for 18 years. She is also a classically trained singer and an experienced director and music director. Over the past few years, Laurie has directed and music directed several shows at Kelsey Theatre. Her recent credits include director and music director of Seussical the Musical, music director of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and director and music director of Rumpelstiltskin. Her next directing project, Pennington’s production of the musical 13, will open at Kelsey Theatre on July 29.

Laurie joins a very talented and dedicated board that includes NJACT Perry Award winners and nominees such as Choreographer and Director Jane Coult, Stage Manager and Director Alycia Bauch-Cantor, Stage Manager and Master Carpenter Jeff Cantor, Director and Producer Dan Maurer, Director and Producer Diana Gilman Maurer, and the company’s Artistic Director and Executive Producer John Maurer.

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MPO is taking audition appointments for its production of Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida. All roles are open . All actors, singers and dancers are welcome. Aida will audition July 16 from 9am to 5pm and July 17 from 12pm to 5pm on the West Windsor, NJ campus of Mercer County Community College. actors may click here to book audition appointments online.

Ahead of the auditions, the show’s Perry Award-winning director, Dan Maurer, sat down to talk about what MPO is looking for.

Q: What advice do you have for people who aren’t sure if they should audition for Aida?

Dan: My motto is this: when in doubt, try out. Auditioning is difficult for actors because there is so much that is beyond their control. It’s not always just about being the best singer or best dancer, it’s more than that. It also has to do with how well you fit the role compared to the next actor, how you fit with the rest of the cast, etc. Things you just can’t control. With so many obstacles between you and a role, you don’t want your own self doubt, or false assumptions about what the director wants, to be the reason you weren’t considered. Like the Lotto guy says, you gotta be in it to win it.

AidaQ: There are older actors who believe it’s a young person’s show and there are younger actors who believe there’s no place for them in the cast because there are only adult roles (aside from the part of Mereb who’s in his late teens). What’s the ideal age you are looking for in the actors who audition?

Dan: It’s not really about age, it’s about who you can be on stage.There are 16 and 17-years-old actors who look much older on stage. There are 65-year-old actors who look much younger on stage. I’m not hung up on age. For me it’s about how well people fit and that fit is not necessarily determined by a specific age or vision in my head, it’s often times dictated by who auditions in the first place. A director’s range of choices are influenced by the pool of talent that he or she sees in the audition. Yes, that’s right, sometimes just by showing up to audition you’ve given a director more choices and thereby influenced how the show is cast. There are specific age ranges listed in the audition material, but they are by no means hard and fast rules. They are just there as a guide to give people an idea. In the end, we prefer actors be at least 16-years-old so they can handle the late night tech rehearsals, but even in that case we’ll be flexible. And you should never assume you are too old to auditon, either. If you can act, sing and dance, you can audition.

Q: Are you casting Aida with an all black cast?

Dan: Actors of all races are encouraged to audition. We’re not looking for an all black cast or an all white cast, or an all Asian cast, etc. We’d like to see a true multi-racial cast. The more diverse the ethnic mix, the more credibility I think we bring to the show. At the end of the day, however, it will all come down to who are the most talented actors who filt the roles and who best complements the rest of the cast.

Q: Does that mean you would consider casting a non-black actor in the role of Aida?

Dan: That means I’ll consider just about anything based on who comes to audition. I’d prefer to find a black actor to play Aida, after all, she’s a Nubian princess. But I am definitely open to casting a non-black actor who’s ethnicity might pass for Nubian. Whoever we cast as Aida, regardless of race, her talent level will need to be very high, and that’s what’s ultimately important. I don't see this as a story about color. I see it as a story about love, strength, courage, and duty — qualities that transcend race.

Q: Despite a large cast, there don’t appear to be a lot of named lead or supporting roles in this show. What do you tell people who say they don’t see a specific role for them?

Dan: I’d tell them the best kept secret about Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida is that it is an ensemble show. By that I mean the large ensemble (16-20 men and women) is the soul of this spectacle driven story. There is a lot of dancing and singing for both men and women. Lot’s of stage time for the ensemble because they are creating this stylized world of ancient Egypt. The love triangle between Aida, Radames and Amneris may form the heart of the story, but the ensemble actors make it memorable. Numbers like “My Strongest Suit,” “The Gods Love Nubia,” and “The Dance of the Robe,” are powerful pieces of theater that bring the ensemble front and center, and that only scratches the surface. Just because you don’t feel you are a fit for a specific named role, doesn’t mean that you can’t be an important part of making powerful, memorable theater. This show is going to rock, and it’s going to be the ensemble dancers and singers who bring down the house.

Q: Is Aida a dance show? Should serious, experienced dancers consider auditioning?

Dan: Yes, I like to think of Aida as a dance show, certainly the way we're planning to stage it. Some people will say it's not a dance show in the traditional sense like Anything Goes or Singin' in the Rain, or even West Side Story, and that's true. In fact, school productions will sometimes remove all the dance because many students can't handle it. However, we plan to make dance a big part of the spectacle. In fact, the way we want to handle the flow of the scenes and the scene transitions require a fluidity of motion that is reminiscent of a dancer's grace. So we are absolutely looking to assemble a strong dance team for this show. Dancers are not only welcome, they are necessary.

Q: Do ensemble actors have to dance, and do dancers have to sing?

Dan: Dance and movement is important to the show. Not all ensemble actors will have to dance, but most will. We’re planning to have featured dancers (both men and women) who will carry much of the dance work. And while everyone is expected to sing, off-stage vocalists will help support the featured dancers while they perform. So if you are a very strong dancer, but concerned about your vocals, or if you’re a strong singer and actor, but not sure about your dance, we recommend you audition just the same. We’re planning to use people according to their strengths.

Q: Are any of the roles in your production of Aida pre-cast?

Dan: No, nothing is pre-cast. All roles are open. When possible, which is most of the time, we try not pre-cast roles for our shows. There’s something exciting about giving people the opportunity to come in and surprise you with an audition. And we love working with new people. In our last production, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, roughly half the cast was made up of people we’d never worked with before.

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2011 Kelsey Theatre Awards Coming in August – Live on Stage

The 2011 Kelsey Theatre Awards will be a special night where many of the shows and performers of the 2010-2011 season will be honored. Hosted by Rachel Tovar and Kyrus, the ceremony will take place on August 13th 2011 at 7:00 pm inside The Kelsey Theatre on the West Windsor, NJ campus of Mercer County Community College.

Kelsey Theatre AwardsProduced by K2KEntertainment, this night will not be your average award show. Traditional categories such as Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Choreography, and Outstanding Director will be presented, but also a few new original categories such as Best Villain, Best Onstage Couple, and The LMFAO Award for Funniest Production. Kyrus, producer and host states, “None of us can afford a ticket to The Tony Awards, may as well create our own award show instead.”

On June 27th the preliminary round of nominations will begin. By going to and voting for your favorites, you can help decide who the winners will be. The top few choices from- each category will be the official nominees for the awards. From July 4th until July 9th will be the official voting period. The particular choice that wins will be announced live at the award show.

During the show there will be four performances by the nominees for Outstanding Production of a Musical. The show will also need thirty presenters. Going along the lines of not being your average award show, anyone is welcome to apply to be a presenter at This ceremony has many surprises for the audience in store. One of the interesting quirks is that all of the acceptance speeches have to have a ten word limit. It is guaranteed to be a great night of laughter, honors, and memories.

Tickets will go on sale on Friday, April 8th and can be purchased at,, or through the box office at The Kelsey Theatre. Tickets are $10 for general admission, and $5 for all MCCC students and staff. For all the latest information, visit Kyrus’official website at today.

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MPO Strikes Gold with Scoundrels– See and Share the Video

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels concluded its successful run at the Kelsey Theatre recently, resulting in great reviews and a grateful audience. Leads Dan Petrovich, Bill Mercado and Emily Huddell kept audiences rolling in aisles with help from a talented ensemble of players and a great orchestra.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how the production turned out,” said the show’s director, John Maurer. “The music and choreography were wonderful and the cast really took the show over and made it their own.”

Click here to access a photo montage from the show and see just how much fun the cast and audience had.

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Podcasts: Talking About Die, Mommie Die and Blithe Spirit

Talking About Dirty Rotten ScoundrelsTwo new Backstage Pass Podcasts are now available. First we talk with some of the cast and crew of Blithe Spirit. Our guests for this podcast were Director Ruth Markoe and actors Virginia Barrie and Walter Rosenfeld. We also talk with some of the cast and crew of Die, Mommie Die being presented by the James Tolin Memorial Fund. Our Guests include Producer Tracy Antozzeski, Director Brian Bara, and actors Damian Gaeta, Matty Daley, Kelly Reilly and John Devennie. Both productions are coming to the Kelsey Theatre on the West Windsor campus of Mercer County Community College.

Listen to Die, Mommie Die Podcast.

Listen to Blithe Spirit Podcast.

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