Q&A with the Alliance Stage Company
Have you ever wanted to act? Write a play? Sing and dance for an audience? Design props and costumes? Then check out this Q&A with the Alliance Stage Company. The group is always looking for new members who want to explore the performing arts in a relaxed and fun setting.
The Alliance Stage Company has a storied history, having been featured in the 1998 Academy Award-winning documentary short The Personals: Improvisations on Romance in the Golden Years. Members of the company discussed past and current projects on March 25th, right after they performed The Purim Story to the delight of both preschoolers and seniors at the Manny Cantor Center. Karen Makower, who played Queen Esther, declared the show a success. “They laughed when they were supposed to laugh. They booed when they were supposed to boo.”
When do you meet?
The company meets every Thursday from 10-12 in the Manny Cantor Center.
How many members do you have?
We currently have fourteen and we welcome more.
Who is the director of the Alliance Stage Company?
Cory Michael Herman assumed the role of director in September 2009. He also began Sirovich Senior Theater, a sister company at the Educational Alliance’s Sirovich Center in 2010. In addition, he recently worked Off-Broadway as the assistant director for Charles Messina’s critically acclaimed play, A Room of My Own starring Ralph Macchio and Mario Cantone.
How much rehearsal went into The Purim Story?
We only had three weeks, so three rehearsals! We are also practicing for another play we will perform in May, so we were not able to devote the entire two hours to the Purim skit. Some of us used cue cards because we did not have enough time to memorize the script.
Who made the costumes?
We supplied costumes from home. We also made most of the props, including a dunce cap, crown, three-corner hat, and three paddle signs.
Who wrote the play?
Gerard M. Petitte, a two-year member of the Alliance Stage Company.
Who were the performers?
Queen Esther: Karen Makower
Queen Fashti: Minerva Zabrocky
Mordechai: Mary K. Williams
King Ahasuerus: Mendy Erez
Haman: Jesse Marsh
Narrators: Zhi Sun “Donna” Wu , Dora Chu Chiang, Lily Nieves, Phyllis Smoller, and Robin Ward,
Director: Cory Michael Herman
What kind of training did you do for this skit?
We study a curriculum our director developed specifically for older adults that explores the techniques of improvisation, public speaking, musical comedy, character development, and scene study. Specifically for The Purim Story, Minerva Zabrocky worked with Karen Makower to learn belly dancing moves as well as how to use finger cymbals.
What other plays have you recently performed?
In December we put on a Chanukah play. Within the last year we also wrote and produced a multi-lingual PSA to promote recycling for the Manny Cantor Center’s lunch program and performed at NORC’s 20th Anniversary Gala.
What performances are you planning?
We are currently rehearsing Ham Radio, which is a comedic skit adapted from an episode of the television show Frasier. We are collaborating with the group from the Sirovich Center and putting on a show in May in celebration of Older Americans Month. It is free and open to the public.
Can you tell us more about the company?
The company is made up of members with all levels of experience. Some arrive with previous training, while others are new to the craft. A few members choose not to perform, but use the class to improve self-esteem and build confidence in their everyday lives.
Last year, members completed a study of audition techniques, learned “type,” posed for headshots and developed an acting résumé. Since then, some members have applied their studies outside the classroom and have been cast in speaking roles on television and work as background extras. Be sure to watch Jesse Marsh in the season finale of The Good Wife on CBS Sunday, May 8, 2016!
For more information on how to join the Alliance Stage Company or to see one of their upcoming shows contact the Weinberg Center for Balanced Living by phone at (646) 395-4270.
Piece by Amy Greenhouse