Here is Part 1 of a series of interviews with the director, producer, and cast of Reston Community Players’ production of Terrence McNally’s Master Class. Meet Director Rosemary Hartman and Producer Kate Keifer.
Maria Callas, one of the most famous opera divas of all time, is teaching a master class in front of a live audience at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage from January 15-30, 2016.
Glamorous, commanding, larger than life, caustic, and surprisingly drop-dead funny, Maria is alternately dismayed and impressed by the three students who bravely enter the music studio at Juilliard, hoping for a gram of inspiration from the famed soprano. Maria frequently retreats into recollections of her own life and triumphs at La Scala with searing monologues about the unforgiving press, her affair with Aristotle Onassis, and her sacrifice taken in the name of art.
Diane Jackson Schoor: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Rosemary: My name is Rosemary Hartman and I am the director of Master Class. This will be my first time working with Reston Community Players and I am pleased to be working with such a talented and professional group of people. I have directed 50+ plays in most of the Northern Virginia community theatres and some of the smaller professional theatres in Washington, DC.
I have also done some acting, worked as a theatre business manager, and been an Artistic Director. I received a WATCH Award for direction of Three Tall Women at Elden Street Players and Best Director at The Little Theatre of Alexandria for Twigs. When I am not involved in a theatre production (which is rarely) I enjoy attending theatre, movies, and dining out with good friends, and spending quality time with my two daughters, two granddaughters and one adorable great-grandson.I am happily retired from Arlington County Department of Real Estate Assessments.
Kate: I am Kate Keifer and I am the co-producer for Master Class. I have been involved with RCP in various capacities for 15 years, although this is my first time as a producer.
What drew you to Master Class?
Rosemary: It is an extremely well-written script. Terrence McNally dispels some of the myths about Maria Callas and we get some real insight into who she really was. I love the music.
Kate: I am very excited that RCP has chosen to produce Master Class. We have been producing high quality musicals and plays for almost 50 years, but it is not often that we get to reach out to shake hands with our fellow artists in complementary genres for one of our productions. With the focus of this play being on the opera genre, we get to do just that. We have some fantastic operatic voices in this production that will knock the socks off of our audience members. However, the heart of this play is about Maria Callas, whose story is captivating and whose larger than life persona is perfectly captured.
What is your favorite line in the show and why?
Rosemary: In Maria’s first reminiscence monologue she is performing La Sonnambula at La Scala. She has finally arrived: “…Here I am, dead center stage at the greatest theatre in Europe singing roulades in full voice. Hurling notes like thunderbolts. Daring anyone to challenge me…People have stopped breathing. My revenge, my triumph are complete.”
What is your favorite scene in Master Class and why?
Rosemary: Maria’s reminiscence monologue where she converses with people in her earlier life, including Aristotle Onassis.
What makes Master Class special or unique?
Rosemary: It dispels some of the negative myths about Callas as a “Diva” who was unpleasant and uncooperative. McNally has given us insight into this musical genius who was satisfied with nothing less than perfection in herself and others in the work. We get to hear some of the most beautiful operatic music of Maria Callas.
What is the most frightening or daunting thing about presenting Master Class?
Rosemary: The absolute most daunting challenge was the huge amount of dialogue for Maria. Lisa Bailey, who is playing Maria, is doing a fabulous characterization of the role. She is also doing a yeoman like job in getting her lines, which constitute approximately 75% of the dialogue in the play.
Another challenge was finding the right operatic singers. These people are not in the usual group of singers from which theatre directors draw. They are mostly working in their own milieu of opera and are difficult to find in community theatre.
Kate: This is not a big flashy show. The story rests heavily on the shoulders of the actors to grab the attention of the audience and hold it for the length of the production. Luckily for us, every member of our cast is extremely capable of doing just that and their beautiful performances are definitely worth seeing.
What do you hope audiences take away from seeing Master Class?
Rosemary: As referenced earlier, I want them to see a different side of Maria Callas than what they probably have heard about her being difficult, etc. Also, I hope they gain some appreciation for the gorgeous operatic music
Kate: I hope our audiences will walk away from Master Class with an appreciation of Maria Callas’ art and her dedication to it.
Master Class stars Lisa Anne Bailey as Maria Callas and features Rosemarie S. Greger as the 1st Soprano (Sophie), Molly Pinson Simoneau as the 2nd Soprano (Sharon), Christopher Cosgrove as the Tenor (Tony), David Rohde as the Accompanist (Manny), and Richard Durkin as the Stagehand. Master Class is directed by Rosemary Hartman and produced for RCP by Kate Keifer and Carol Watson.
Master Class plays from January 15-30, 2016 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 then press 3 for the 24-hour ticket ordering system. or purchase them online.
CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired.