In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of Reston Communty Players’ production of Shrek The Musical, meet Director Sue Pinkman and Music Director Elisa Rosman.
Joel: Please introduce yourself to our audience.
Sue: My name is Sue Pinkman, and I’m the Director of Shrek. I’ve been a member of RCP for 37 years since I moved to Reston in 1978. I’ve worked in the northern Virginia theatre scene in many different venues, but I’m very happy to call Reston home.
Elisa: Hi! I’m Elisa Rosman, and I’m the Music Director for Shrek.
What shows have audiences seen your work in lately?
Sue: I took an 18-month hiatus, but most recently directed 33 Variations at RCP. Before that, I directed another big production: Hairspray (2011) at The Little Theatre of Alexandria that brought home 15 WATCH awards (more than any other show up to 2012), including Outstanding Director and Outstanding Musical. After 10 years as president of RCP, I retired in 2009, and was honored to be named the Reston Citizen of the Year by the Reston Community Association, for my 31 years of volunteer efforts toward enhancing the arts in Reston.
Elisa: Last season I music directed Sunset Boulevard at RCP. I also work at other theaters around town. Recently I have music directed Visible Language for WSC Avant Bard and Into the Woods for NextStop. I also really enjoy accompanying individual singers, and had the privilege of accompanying Bayla Whitten and Donna Migliaccio in their cabarets this past spring and summer.
Describe your creative role in bringing Shrek to life on stage.
Sue: In the community theatre/volunteer “arena” the director plays a pretty significant role in developing the entire artistic concept of a show. So in a way, I’m also a Co-Producer. Since I “was hired” nearly 18 months ago, I’ve been living-and-breathing Shrek for quite some time, and have a very well-defined idea of what I would like to see on the stage. Sharing and interpreting that to the other staff members is a great part of the challenge.
Elisa: I get to be in charge of most of the musical components of the show. That means I work with the cast to learn the music, I play piano for rehearsals, and I recruit and lead the band. We are very lucky, in that we’ll have an 11-piece band for Shrek. I’ll be conducting from the keyboard, which means lots of head-banging for me.
What drew you to the material?
Sue: The music and the humor written into the script is the biggest draw for me. It’s very much a children’s show, but with that slight NOD to the adult audience. It is pretty faithful to the original Shrek animated film, but has enough new elements to keep it fresh, and there are a great many situations and laughs that will keep the parents just as entertained as the kids who attend. The music is also delightful, and the authors/composers have paid tribute to MANY other famous musicals in very special ways throughout the production.
Elisa: I think I was mostly drawn to the material because it’s awesome to do a show that my kids are excited about!
What do you find most exhilarating about the creative process?
Sue: I actually love the rehearsal process even more than seeing the finished product. Once the show opens, that means that it will also soon close. But the rehearsal hall is where all the creativity happens, and I really love “enabling” the actors to find their characters, and attempt to sing-dance-act in a way that they may have never done before. Stretching and expanding creatively is a really fun process to be a part of!
I’m so honored to be sharing this experience with this cast of amazing, talented artists. (I’ve never worked with so many experienced tap-dancers! I’m so jealous because that’s one thing I just could never do). But they are also just a great group of very nice people. When you spend so much time together (they were cast in April, starting rehearsing in June!!), you learn to rely on each other SO much (during the backstage process, just getting into your next costume, etc.). I think we are going to have a whole lot of new friends by the time this is all over.
What is the most challenging thing bringing Shrek to life?
Sue: Unfortunately, like a lot of new musicals these days, the storyline is more like a movie script. There are a LOT of fast scene and costume changes. With an unlimited budget, these problems are solved! With a community theater budget… we have to get really creative!
Elisa: I think that I am lucky to not be in charge of the most challenging components: the sets and costume/make-up changes.
What makes Shrek special or unique?
Sue: A talking DONKEY! A singing OGRE! A singing COOKIE? Tap-dancing RATS??? Need I go on?
Elisa: I just love how fun it is and really what an uplifting story it is. It has lots of joy in it, and I think you feel that in the music.
What is your favorite number in Shrek — and why?
Sue: Shrek (the character) has several very beautiful ballads that really tug at your heart-strings, and our actor, Paul Tondon, has a gorgeous voice… so bring your tissues! But I think my favorite is “Freak Flag,” the big ensemble number in the second act. It has 15 different (famous) Fairy Tale characters, and really sums up the whole theme of the show.
Elisa: I love different songs for different reasons. I love “Freak Flag” for its excitement, and I love “Who I’d Be” for its sincerity and for how great it sounds when three of our leads sing together!
Do you have a favorite line or scene in the show? What is it and why is it your favorite?
Sue: “What Make You Special …Makes You Strong” The Fairy Tale characters sum it up beautifully. If everyone is accepted for their special uniqueness and their differences, instead of being shunned because they “wear a different hat,” think of all the wonderful experiences you could have if you took advantage of that!
What do you hope audiences take away from this production?
Sue: Besides the joy of a wild and crazy musical comedy? It goes right back to — we are all really the same, with just a few outward differences. Sure, your opinion may be different from mine, but I can live with that… and perhaps even learn from it. Like they say in South Pacific … “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.” Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if tolerance and acceptance was taught at a very young age?
Elisa: That everyone should be able to let their freak flag fly! Everyone is special and unique, and I love that Shrek celebrates that.
What are some of the magical surprises that RCP’s production of Shrek has in store for audiences?
Sue: Well, let’s just say … there are PLENTY! I don’t want to give anything away … but a 13 foot Singing DRAGON is just one of them.
Elisa: I am not going to spoil any surprises! I’m just excited to share this show with lots of folks…especially kids!
Shrek The Musical plays from October 16-November 7, 2015 at Reston Community Players performing at CenterStage at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500 x 3, or purchase them online.
Performances are October 16, 17, 23, 24, and 30 and November 6 and 7, 2015 at 8:00 PM, with 2:00 PM. matinees on October 25th and 31st and November 1st and 7th, 2015. A special Halloween costume contest is planned for the October 31st matinee. Cast member meet and greets will be held in the lobby on October 25th, November 1st, and November 7th.
CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired.
Shrek The Musical is produced by Laura Baughman and Mary Ann Hall and features direction by Sue Pinkman, musical direction by Elisa Rosman, and choreography by Ivan Davila and Haley North.
The cast includes Paul Tonden (Shrek), Jolene Vettese (Fiona), Joshua Redford (Donkey), Chuck Dluhy (Farquaad), Jennifer Lambert (Dragon), and Mhairi Cameron, Sean Cator, Brayden DiBacco, Gary DiNardo, Marissa Dolcich, Chris Dore, Richard Farella, Kieth Flores, Elizabeth Gillespie, Patrick Graham, Alexandra Guyker, Mark Hidalgo, Jasmine Jones, Evie Korovesis, Allie Lytle, Lindsey McClenathan, James McNamara, Allen McRae, Todd Meikle, Erik Peyton, Colleen Robinson, and Ella Schnoor.
Meet The Cast of Reston Community Players’ ‘Shrek The Musical’: Part 1: Paul Tonden and Jolene Vettese.