WEBLetter September 2021

Immediate Past President Report

Danine Welsh

I had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies for our recent 2021 Annual Membership meeting. In my final act as Board President, I thanked all our members for their support this past year as the company faced the many restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic. In spite of these restrictions, we had many accomplishments: ongoing play readings and happy hour events, three Zoom productions (including one written by a Providence Players’ (PPF) member), and two outdoor productions, which had never been done by PPF before! We were also awarded two grants from ArtsFairfax (an operating support grant as well as an emergency relief grant) and we established a new collaboration with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation.

We have accomplished a great deal during this past year and I look forward to getting back to our first love – presenting live theater to our audiences.

Danine Welsh
Immediate Past President, Providence Players of Fairfax

Greetings from the (New) President

Nick Manicone

I maintain a backyard pond with koi fish, a few itinerant frogs, and a bench I’m supposed to sit on during times of quiet reflection, which I rarely use.

Enjoying a few minutes of peace recently, I noticed that the pond had attracted a number of water-skimmers – those spindly bugs who skate atop the surface tension of the water.  This led me to wonder how these aquatic creatures got to my back yard, far from any other natural water source.  Google supplied the answer, of course: mother bugs sense when their watery environment is starting to dry up, and birth a generation that has wings to explore for new environs.  Once again, life amazes us with its ability to adapt and endure.

For we humans, the past couple of years have been a dry season indeed, but I’d like to think it helped the Providence Players grow wings.  Forced to adapt, we’ve performed in the parking lot of the Italian Café and online to allow theater to continue in the face of Covid.  We’ve taken up the challenge of more fully representing the diversity of the community in which we’re honored to perform.  And now, starting this Fall, we’re committed to safely reopening at the James Lee Center and putting on a challenging and varied series of plays. I am proud to say that I am President of the Board of Directors for this 2021-2022 season of rebirth.

By way of offering a little about me, I am a nature-lover (as you may have gleaned), a beekeeper, and a long-time labor lawyer.  My wife Becky and I have two children, one of whom (Sophia) is an aspiring actor whose performance as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird in 2017 first brought me into contact with the Providence Players family. (My other daughter Izzie occasionally helps with set builds, when not playing softball).

I see my role as being a steward of this wonderful company and helping to expand the PPF family.  PPF has proven to be a great place to find and build community, and I invite everyone who is interested to come out and to be involved in our productions.  We can use talents of all sorts – actors, yes, but also costumers, set builders, stage crew, ushers, lighting and sound technicians – there are so many roles one can play, not all of them on the stage.   If there is anything I can do to help you enjoy or connect with the Providence Players, do not hesitate to reach out to me at my email address maniconen@gmail.com.

This will doubtless be a challenging year.  It is impossible to know what direction events will take us, and what measures we will need to take to gather together in the theater we all love.  We ask your cooperation in helping us to make theater a safe experience for everyone.  It will be a small price to enjoy the company of others and the inspiration and sustenance good, live theater provides.   We’re so glad to be back, and glad to have you back.  And now, on with the show!

Nick Manicone
President, Providence Players of Fairfax

Hopeful Optimism for a New Season

Though we have not heard officially from Fairfax County (as of September 2021) whether they will open the James Lee Community Center in the fall, we are moving forward with optimism to prepare for the 2021-2022 season.  If open, what a season it will be.  It includes a world-premiere, a holiday favorite, an award-winning comedy and companion one-acts that explore issues of race and gender, and demonstrate why Shakespeare’s words remain relevant today.  Go here to read the summary of each production planned.

Already, Michael Donahue, the director of the fall production, The Beatle Club, by Teresa Sullivan, has conducted auditions, cast the show (announcement to come) and begun to schedule the first read-thru and production meeting.

Spotlight: Teresa Sullivan, Playwright

Teresa Sullivan

An agent once described Teresa as “Jackie O meets Dave Barry, with just a touch of dirty Chelsea Handler.” But if it was up to Teresa, she’d say she’s more like J.K. Simmons in the Farmers Insurance commercials, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”

Born in Scotland and raised in New Jersey, Teresa zigzagged across the country in eighteen moves with her husband, Tim, a 2-Star Coast Guard Admiral, now retired, and their four children. She’s got a great sense of humor – “Had to – did I mention four kids?” She’s earned a black belt in Taekwondo, worked in Micronesia for a CDC epidemiologist, stumbled across still-live WWII bombs in the Saipanese jungle, entertained top brass and heads of foreign governments and lived to tell (write) the tales.

Since home was where the military sent her, the stage and screen had to wait, but the writing wouldn’t. So, Teresa filled those years with newspaper and magazine writing, (TIME, The San Francisco Chronicle, Army/Navy/Air Force Times) to name a few.

Then, the day her husband left active duty was the day Teresa was accepted into the prestigious UCLA Master of Screenwriting program. She aced the challenge with a record number of productions including the University’s first streaming drama pilot, Doubleblind – which won multiple awards.

Since then she has had comedy sketches produced off Broadway, contributed to the anthology Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards (Netflix) produced by James Franco’s Elysium Bandini Studios, and optioned her original comedy feature Stewardess (which pokes fun at the deplorable lack of civility in the airlines). Currently, Teresa is developing a drama series based on the life of the hugely popular 1950’s Late-Night host, Faye Emerson, a TV pioneer that time and television history forgot.

It’s been many years since Teresa, with tears in her eyes, left her home in Teaneck, New Jersey, but she gets to revisit that special time and that special place in her play The Beatle Club – which will have its world-premier this season with the PPF. “The summer of ’65, when the Beatles were coming to town, was one of those watershed moments that everyone who is old enough remembers. My hope is that everyone who sees the play will appreciate the fragility of those innocent dreamers and the gut-wrenching effects that war, any and every war, can have on a family’s story.”

The Beatle Club – View from the Director’s chair

by Michael Donahue

Michael Donahue

Teresa Sullivan’s play The Beatle Club is a story for, and about, each of us.

From the very first time I read The Beatle Club, I wanted to bring the story to life on the stage.  This is a story about a family confronting fear, sadness, bravery, courage, strength, and lots of loving joy in spite of the obstacles facing them.  This is a story about the past, but this story is easily relatable in today’s climate.

It is 1965, and The Beatles are coming to play Shea Stadium, the Vietnam war is looming, and the O’Shea family and friends face their own private wars, desires and struggles.  Granny is the sage matriarch who thinks The Beatles are bugs, not John, Paul, George and Ringo.  Her widowed son struggles to raise two children in the current environment; son Rory is turning 17 and facing the draft.  Young Mary, his sister, is more concerned with going to see the Beatles so she forms her own Beatles Fan Club with her friends Kate, David and Eddie.  Each of the characters is so rich and the family dynamic is so powerful.  What will happen to this family in the summer of  ’65??

Like the lyrics to the Beatles hit HELP say:

Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone

I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone…”

The Beatle Club is a story about us all and for us all.

Community Representation Committee Update

by Kevin Harnisch

Anthony “Swampdog” Clark

The Providence Players has long focused on reaching out to a wide range of organizations in our community with partnership ideas. In 2020 the Board determined that a more qualitative and quantitative approach was needed. After a study of U.S. Census data for the Providence District and the City of Falls Church, our Community Representation Committee recommended ways that we could improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility to presently underserved communities.

Not surprisingly, we have entered into a relationship with Tinner Hill Foundation whose mission includes promoting understanding and respect for all people, and sponsoring educational and other activities designed to increase awareness for the achievements African Americans have made in Falls Church and the rest of Virginia.

Carly Harvey

In June, Providence Players collaborated with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the staff of the Tinner Hill Music Festival to hire musical artists for its most recent production of The Parking Lot.  World-class, local artists like Anthony “Swampdog” ClarkCalista GarciaCarly Harvey and Eric Scott added a musical richness to this production, each and every evening, and audiences were delighted. We were proud of our collaboration with Tinner Hill and were grateful for their help and support.

This past August we expanded our association by becoming Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation Music Festival Silver Sponsors, supporting the Artists Village at the Tinner Hill Music Festival and the incredible artists in this community.

We are also exploring the opportunity to share our theater experience with the newly formed Fairfax County Commission on African American History Inventory. The focus of this enterprise would be to provide access into the histories of African American communities throughout historical Fairfax County by providing and supporting historical and cultural presentations.

In the past, we have prided ourselves on the quality of our work and our cultural contributions to our community. Our plays have ranged from comedies, tragedies and mysteries and have represented classics to modern-day works. In the future, we look forward to continuing the high quality of our productions while we further promote artistic and audience diversity, with the goal of positively impacting a broader segment of the community we serve.

Upcoming Event:  Play Reading evening (in person) September 14th

A recent, focused survey of past readers resulted in a request for more comedies and mysteries. We believe we have found the perfect script! Please join us to read Murder at the Prop Table by Ed Bassett. This is a fun, fast paced, farce with action (and chaos) taking place both onstage and backstage. Oh yes, and lots of props. This in-person reading will take place at the Italian Café in Falls Church. Readers are welcome to bring food and drinks to the reading. In order to have adequate resources, please RSVP at least one day before the event via email members@providenceplayers.org  Make sure you save the date and remember, only members can attend! So, if you need to, make sure you renew or join.

Applause for Our Recent Event Volunteers

Director Michael Donahue gives his vision for The Beatle Club.

Happy Hours

Our special happy hour to announce the season took place on Monday, June 28th, at the Ireland Four Provinces restaurant.  Thanks go to the lovely Andra Whitt who was our Master of ceremonies, with an able assist by the lovely David Whitehead. Not only did we enjoy time visiting with old friends and new ones, but we also learned which plays would be included in the upcoming season. Special thanks go to the Directors who joined us that evening: Michael Donahue (The Beatle Club), Sarah Baczewski (Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells), Amanda Ranowsky (Enchanted April) and Eleanore Tapscott (Playing Juliet and Casting Othello). We are looking forward to a fantastic season!

Play Reading Nights

For our June 8th (virtual) Play Reading night, we read From the Porch by Teresa Sullivan – yes, the same Teresa Sullivan who wrote The Beatle Club. We had lots of participants, even folks from California, reading the roles. There was unanimous agreement that this play was well written, with engaging characters and was evocative of a small town in the 1960s. The evening ended with “the big reveal” – that our California guests included the author herself and that we had participation by two of the “characters”. Teresa said she was thrilled to hear her words read aloud by such a gifted group of readers – and that there were times that she was brought to tears.  All in all, this turned out to be a lovely evening.

The 2021 Annual Membership Meeting

Italian Café

PPF’s Annual Membership meeting was held on Monday, June 14th at the Italian Café. Along with the President’s Report, by Danine Welsh and introduction of the new President, Nick Manicone, there was member recognition, presentation of a scholarship and an election!

  • Member Recognition – On behalf of the Membership Committee, Tina Thronson thanked members and donors for their engagement, and their financial support during this pandemic year. She extended special thanks to the following individuals for their contributions to the productions held in the Italian Café parking lot:  Christopher Crockett, Chip Gertzog, Jason Hamrick, Maggie Landis, Brian O’Connor, and John Smith. Danine Welsh noted that long-time member Beth Harrison was leaving the area and, on behalf of PPF, thanked her for her many contributions to the company. Danine also recognized the many contributions of Julie Janson, who left the PPF Board at the end of June.  And finally, Andra Whitt recognized the able assistance of Sunita Tamang and Anil Lama of the Italian Café, which contributed to the smooth operations of the productions held at the restaurant. Our heartfelt gratitude to them all.
(Top to Bottom, L-R) Chris Crockett and Julie Janson, Chip Gertzog, Maggie Landis, Jason Hamrick, John Smith and Brian O’Connor.
  • PPF Scholarship Program – This year we were delighted to present a scholarship to Kyleigh Friel, a graduating senior from Bishop O’Connell High School. Her past performances in three PPF productions, as well as her many theater activities in high school, made her a very worthy recipient. She is scheduled to attend the University of Mary Washington in the fall.  Congratulations Kyleigh!
(L-R) Kyleigh Friel with friend, Luke; Kyleigh in the 2016 production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever; and Kyleigh receives her scholarship award from board member, Mike McLaughlin.
  • Newly Elected Directors and Board Officer Appointments – PPF bylaws call for the membership to elect three directors, annually, to serve for three-year terms.  At the annual meeting, David Whitehead, on behalf of the Nominating Committee, presented the slate of candidates for election to three-year terms on the Board beginning July 1st, 2021.  The slate included:  Mike Dazé, Jayne Victor and Mike McLaughlin. The members attending the meeting voted to approve the slate of candidates by acclamation.  Each July, during its regularly scheduled meeting, the Board convenes to appoint officers.  Officers appointed include:
    • Nick Manicone, President
    • Kevin Harnisch, Vice President
    • Mike Dazé, Treasurer
    • Janet Bartelmay, Secretary

    We are very thankful for their agreement and commitment to serve.  Danine Welsh retired as outgoing and immediate past president and we are so appreciative of Danine’s leadership during her tenure, especially over the very tumultuous past year.

Member Updates

Kathy and John White
  • Backstage and Under the Lights:  Applause for the contributions of Kathy and John White – A special tribute to a committed couple, John and Kathy White, who have combined their talents and contributed to numerous PPF productions over many years.  They will be missed as they move on to the next phase of their lives.  Read the entire tribute!
  • Although Janet Kohler Dueweke (and husband, Dan) moved to Michigan (to be near family  – is this a theme?), a few of the PPF gang were able to spend time with her during a recent visit. Such a lovely actress and lovely presence – it was great to see her again.
Member friends come together to visit Janet Kohler Dueweke – (Top to Bottom, L-R) Nick, Sophia, Becky and Izzie Manicone with Tina Thronson; Beth Whitehead, Roxanne Waite and Allen McRae; Bob and Elena Thompson join the Manicones; Janet’s headshot
  • Welcome back renewing members:  Michael Bagwell and Clark Chesser, Janet Bartelmay, Sara Bennett, Ariana Colligan and Will MacLeod, Janice Crawford, Tommie Curtis, Ann Daniel, Patrick and Ingrid David, Mike Daze and Bev Baughman (and Family), Christian Faulkner, Stu Fischer, Allen and Jenny Flanigan (and Family) Susan Garvey, Chris Getek, Earle Greene, Jason Hamrick and Andra Whitt, Kevin and Sarah Harnisch, Beth Harrison, Carmen Jacobs, Susan and Saul Kaplan, Elizabeth Keith, Megan Klose and Frank Burdette (and Family),  Ray and Dana Koch, Mike and Prince McLaughlin, Laura, Champ and Caden Mitchell (and Family), Paul Newcombe, Han Nguyen, Amanda Ranowsky, Kathi and David Ranowsky, Robbie and Nick Snow (and Family), Tina Thronson, and Beth and David Whitehead.
  • New members: Welcome to Providence PlayersGina Cicotello, Sarah John (and Family), Teresa Sullivan, and Eleanor Tyler.
  • If your membership is lapsed and you wish to renew, you can click here.

Volunteer Needs

We have added this section to let members know about specific needs – production and organizational – that require the time and talent of our members.  This list will grow over time, so please check this section when you receive your WEBletter:

  • Marketing Committee – help with social media
  • Membership Committee – help with member events
  • Production – Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells – a variety of production roles

If you have any interest in these roles or others, please email us at members@providenceplayers.org.

Final Curtain?

(Have an update you would like to share with your fellow members?  Please send an email to members@providenceplayers.org with the subject line “Member Update” and we will include it!)
(In a show with another company?  Join our Facebook Group page.  Share the news!)
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WEBLetter Editor:  Tina Hodge Thronson (send a message to Tina)