The Easton Theatre Co-Op Brings Community Theatre Back to Easton! Interview by Christine Lake
The Easton Irregular recently chatted with Easton Theatre Co-Op members Jim Vivian (President/founder) and Steven Schmid (Member-at-Large and Director of the current production Kimberly Akimbo) to find out what makes the Co-Op tick.
How did the Theatre Co-Op come about?
Jim: The idea to form a non-profit 501(c)(3) community theatre company in Easton had been rattling around in my brain for a couple of years. I was quite active with the Chansonnette Theatre company, but sadly, that group had slowly faded away. I’ve always lived in the Easton area and I was very encouraged by the recent rebirth of downtown and the blossoming of the arts community. While performing in a production of White Christmas at the Pennsylvania Playhouse in 2015, I became friends with several cast members who were also from the Easton area and similarly invested in the community, and they were keen to the idea. In early 2016, these castmates and a few others formally met at my house. After a few drinks and some hilarious improv games, we fashioned a plan: Easton Theatre Co-op was born.
The Board of Directors includes myself, Amanda Pascale (Vice-President), Christina Check (Recording Secretary), Gary Boyer (Treasurer) and Steven Schmid. (Amanda and Gary are actually from Jersey, but we let them in anyway!) Each of our Board Members is a community theatre veteran, but their expertise also includes web design, marketing, graphic design, writing and multi-media skills. There were also a handful of other valuable theatre people that helped us get off the ground to whom we are eternally grateful. In addition, we are fortunate to receive support from theatre friends at Northampton Community College and Lafayette College. All of us are passionate and committed to the theatre arts, as we believe that art can make a difference in people’s lives.
What was your experience like getting the Co-Op started?
Jim: Starting a theatre company is a daunting task because you start with nothing – no money, no theatre, no costumes, no audience. Everything you do has to be on the cheap, but still look and sound professional. Our first idea was to do a Broadway Cabaret as it’s much easier than producing a play. We were fortunate to get the awesomely talented Lucille Kincaid as our music director. I gathered together a dozen of the best musical theatre performers in the area, and after only a few rehearsals we were show-ready. We performed a sold-out cabaret at the elegant Pomfret Club downtown and it was truly a night to remember.
Then, Steven and Kim Rose of the Third Street Alliance for Women and Children just happened to be at an Easton business meeting when the subject of our theatre group came up. Kim invited us to check out their “stage in a gym” as they were hoping to get someone to make use of it. We produced our first play there last October, a combination of several short, very funny scenes, expertly directed by Gary Boyer, Lori Colacito and Steven Schmid, and a one-act, musical farce that I wrote and directed, titled The Von Trump Family Cabaret. I played Baron Von Trump and Chrissie Check brilliantly played a bi-polar Maria who ends up as a chorus girl in the Kit Kat Klub! Thanks to the talented performers in all the scenes, our audience was rolling in the aisles with laughter!
At the beginning of this year, our Board decided that we could now afford the royalties for a show that had appeared on Broadway. After a rather long and intense discussion (where
fortunately no one was seriously injured), we selected Kimberly Akimbo. Again, we chose a play that could be produced inexpensively, would appeal to our audience, but would also be artistically challenging and rewarding.
Tell me about your current show, Kimberly Akimbo.
Steven: Kimberly Akimbo is a fantastic play by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire. The story follows 16-year-old Kimberly (Trish Steele) who has a rare genetic condition called progeria, which ages her exponentially faster than normal. Kim is not only navigating the usual high school pitfalls, but the extraordinary mess that is her family. Her father Buddy (Eamon Kinsman) is always drunk, her very pregnant mother (Danya Kinsman) is quite the hypochondriac, and neither knows how to make this family work after their abrupt move to Bogota, NJ. Soon, a school project brings Jeff (Salem Perez) into Kim’s life just in time for her con-artist/vagabond Aunt Debra (Tati Torres) to unleash her newest get-rich-quick scheme on the family. It’s a whirlwind dark comedy that takes all sorts of twists and turns; it is smart, funny, touching, and weird.
The set is going to be VERY minimal due to the space constrictions we have at Third Street Alliance. This is fine, of course, as Lindsay-Abaire’s production notes specify that the set is minimal and almost purely representational. Generally, we would be rehearsing in a dedicated theater, but this is more grass roots, do-it-yourself theater in the technical sense. There’s been a learning curve, but we are having a blast. So far, the actors are very much in tune with their characters and it’s really hard for me not to burst out laughing several times during rehearsal – even though I’ve heard the lines dozens of times! My stage manager, Christina Check, keeps me and the super high energy cast on point and organized. I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting group of people.
What are the Co-Op’s future plans?
Jim: Our future plans are to continue to grow our audience by presenting high-caliber performances to the community. We plan to produce Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor in October, which should be a real crowd pleaser. We’ve also started working on our next Broadway Cabaret. We’re looking to do some performances for private groups soon and a public Cabaret later this summer. We’re also booked to perform at several Easton festivals throughout this year. Hopefully, we will soon be in a position to produce a full-fledged, Broadway musical!
How can someone get involved with the Co-Op?
Jim: You can keep up to date on ETC by checking out our website, http://www.eastontheatrecoop.org, and liking us on Facebook. You can volunteer to assist backstage, or help with set building, light & sound, etc. by contacting us through our website. If you’d like to financially support Easton Theatre Co-op and help us purchase much needed stage equipment (donations are tax deductible), or you are a local business and would like to cross-promote your marketing, you can contact me directly: email@example.com. I would like to extend a very big thank you to the Easton community for embracing our little theatre company. We are exceedingly passionate about our art and we stand by our motto: Enrich the ever-growing artistic community of Easton by providing exceptional theatrical entertainment.
Kimberly Akimbo performances are on April 29th and 30th, May 6th and 7th. You may purchase tickets at the Co-Op’s website. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Third Street Alliance for Women and Children.