The Actorsingers

Presenting Community Theatre since 1955

In the Spotlight Raelene Liljeberg 

Costume Designer for Les Misérables

Raelene LiljebergRaelene Liljeberg, the very talented Costume Designer for Les Misérables, is a Nashua, New Hampshire native and “proud of it!” Raelene loves working on “period costume-based” productions so was thrilled to lead the costume effort for this production.

Although Raelene has appeared on stage in the past she gets the greatest satisfaction from the audience’s reaction when the curtain opens and they see the cast for the first time on stage in costumes she has designed.   Her most rewarding effort was costuming Mame, she recalls “when the curtain opened and the audience saw the men in red hunting jackets, white pants, boots and top hats and the ladies in red & white themed gowns they applauded – that made my day!!”

Raelene has been involved with the Actorsingers for 46 years in one capacity or another, on every main stage production, she says “I was primarily costuming with my dear friend and mentor, the late Penny Tamulonis, and of course with my late husband John who directed many productions in Actorsingers and with the high school.”

When asked about the most challenging aspect of costuming Les Misérables “the number of cast members was not an issue, but the multiple characters they assumed during any one particular scene and with very little off-stage time to change meant recreating with a minimum of down time.”

Raelene needs to do quite a bit of research before she starts on costumes “once I know I am costuming a show I try to start as soon as possible, I usually have an idea already in place for the costumes then I proceed to see what inventory is available from our well-stocked costume room” She goes on to say “time spent is not merely on rehearsal days but 7 days a week, right up to opening night!  Sewing is almost a lost art now, which is sad, and I hope to keep it alive with Actorsingers as long as I am physically able.”

Raelene’s earliest theatre memory was with her mother she “would take me to New York once a year and we would always go to Radio City Music Hall.  My first Actorsingers’ production was Desert Song and knew then I wanted to be involved!”

When Raelene is not costuming she works full time as an office administrator for a local real estate firm but she is never far away from costuming as she also maintains the costume room for Actorsingers as well as manages all rentals to other groups and schools throughout the year.

Posted by Evelynn Decker Wednesday, November 13, 2013 12:32:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight - Don Smith-Weiss 

Barricade Designer for Les Misérables

Don Smith-Weiss

Don Smith-Weiss from Nashua is the barricade designer for Les Misérables.  He states he “wanted the chance to be a part of something this big, this moving---and a vision of the barricade opening up like a flower as Will (the Director) presented his set design at an early production meeting” really compelled him to be work on this show.

Don  feels the best part of working on a show is the collaboration, “as much as I enjoy being in complete control of a project, I love bouncing ideas off others and making something better and richer through the extra input. And I always say that we in theater get to create magic, which most people never get a chance to do.”

Don has been in a couple of Actorsingers shows and designed sets for two. He has also acted and/or designed sets for The Nauss Hall Players in Nashua, the Palace Theater, The Majestic Theater and other groups. Don thinks back to 26 years ago, “I agreed to design the sets for Fiddler for the Portland Players in Maine shortly after we'd moved back to the Nashua area. We had no email then. I mailed a big packet of drawings and then never heard anything, so I didn't know if they'd even used my designs. But when we went to the show a couple of months later, there was my whole design onstage, right down to the colors of my illustrations!”

Don finds the most challenging part of bringing his craft to life for this show was time and people. “There are a lot more people willing to act and sing than those who build, and assembling the components of a set is always a challenge because there are so few of us, and real life and work intrude on our time.” 

The hard work has paid off as “the barricade has to look cool and impenetrable, yet each half has to fit in a space 4' x 8' x 6' until it opens up. Storing a 23' wide barricade in 16' was a challenge.”  “The first time the "students" climbed to the top, I realized I had to add upstage panels, or they'd be out there in the open shooting at the soldiers! “ Don goes on to say “the cast may not realize this, but it's easier and more fun to work on the set when the sound of rehearsal filters down through the floor to the scene shop. We do the sets for them, and it's a real-time reminder of what we're working towards.”  “I love how so many people have worked separately on their own parts of the production without knowing how it all fits together. Parts of the set have built been by different teams--even in separate workshops--with the builders never knowing how the pieces go together till move-in weekend. Same with the other visual elements---video, props and set pieces---none of them put together until tech week.”

Don’s earliest theatre memory was being in a production of Chicken Little in the second grade. “I remember thinking that I could've done a much better job on Chicken Little's costume.”

While Don isn’t busy acting/building and designing sets, he writes songs, plays guitar and piano, and cooks. Right now he’s renovating his 1950 house to look like it was built in 1750…after which he'll return full time to designing kitchens and drawing his online comic strip (which is currently on hiatus) at www.qlowntown.com.

Posted by Evelynn Decker Tuesday, November 12, 2013 6:12:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight - Leo Choquette 

Properties Lead for Les Misérables

Leo Choquette, from Merrimack, NH, is the Properties lead for Les Misérables. Leo states “this is the musical of all musicals - when I think of musicals, Les Misérables comes to my mind first!”  Leo goes on to say “this is a period piece, and I’m in my element doing period pieces. I like to make the audience feel like they’re in that particular time period.” “I am more detailed oriented with theater than at home.  I am a visual person so the overall look of the scenes with props needs to look good.”  “When the audience is watching, it will look very realistic - they will feel like they are in the French Revolution time period.  “Viva la France!

Leo found the most challenging part of bringing this show to life was staying in the French Revolution time period the props have to be period specific and realistic. This is a very props heavy show with many interesting pieces!

Leo finds working on props for shows is his stress relief from everyday life.  When he is the running props master, he just doesn’t put things on racks for the cast to get.  He realized after working stage crew that costume changes are quick and if he can hand something off or take something back,  it is one less thing the cast has to worry about. He says “if the cast has what they need for props when they need it, then I have done my job.  I take pride in what I do!”

Leo remembers seeing his first Theatre production on Broadway, Annie Get Your Gun with Reba Macintyre.  He was lucky to attend with his grandmother, mother and sister-in-law.

Leo, who has a degree in interior design, likes to shop at consignment stores, thrift shops, Goodwill, Salvation Army and antique houses looking for props.

Posted by Evelynn Decker Monday, November 11, 2013 12:06:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Sarah DeLisle 

Plays in the female ensemble in Les Misérables

Sarah DeLisle

Sarah is from Bedford, NH and auditioned for Les Misérables after a friend told her the show was coming to Nashua.  Her friend said she had to audition because she would have been THAT girl at every performance singing along and disrupting other audience members!

This is Sarah’s first Actorsingers show but she hopes “it's not my last!”  Sarah appeared in the V - Monologues all four years of college but has not been in anything recently.  She explains “When I found out that I made the cut, I was sitting in my classroom and burst into happy tears, thankfully my students were out of the room!”

Sarah explains “Theatre brings out a piece of me that I never knew existed. It gives me the chance to portray something complete separate from myself and be free. I also love the community aspect and how we all work together to create something amazing.”  As part of the ensemble, Sarah feels lucky to have a variety of roles, the most challenging part of connecting is to her part of Whore #2 she says “I feel like I'm being silly when trying to entice the young men and audience.”

Her earliest theatre memory is from being very young and singing along with The Phantom of the Opera on tape in the car. 

Sarah feels fun and work go hand and hand for her because she teaches 2nd grade. She also loves to spend time going to see shows, trying new restaurants, baking and going out with friends.

Posted by Evelynn Decker Monday, November 11, 2013 8:28:00 AM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Mia Berardi 

Plays in the female ensemble in Les Misérables

Mia was born in New Hampshire but grew up in Lakeland Florida, she auditioned for Les Mia Berardi  because it is a beautiful show with beautiful music and she really wanted to have such an amazing show on her résumé.  This is her first Actorsingers show and only her second community theatre show ever!

Mia was super stoked to find out she was cast, she hadn't been in a show for a year since she left Illinois where she was performing in her first professional show. She was ecstatic to get back to what she loves! When Mia is performing she feels like the last puzzle piece in the puzzle you've been working on for ages,  like she’s in the right place. Mia says it helps her grow not just as an artist but also as a human being in every show she works on.

At the beginning of the show Mia plays the factory girl who gets Fantine fired. It's a pretty fun character even though she is mean. But hey, some of the greatest characters to play onstage are mean!  She is  also a few other random people onstage which is always fun because you can create your character from scratch!  Mia finds the most challenging part about her roles is getting the idea that all of these people are suffering. Their lives are very hard and they are looking for a solution. That's really what it's all about. So the characters are trying to find peace in a chaotic environment.

Mia’s earliest theatre memory was when she was cast in Gypsy when she about six. She remembers opening night and seeing all the grown up ladies putting their stage makeup on and doing their hair and thought..."That's what I want to do when I grow up!"

What does Mia do when not on stage she reads, she says she reads so many books its ridiculous!. She also has private voice lessons with Lynn McCartney which she enjoys so very much because she is obsessed with singing!

Posted by Evelynn Decker Sunday, November 10, 2013 5:35:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Melany White 

Plays in the female ensemble in Les Misérables

Melany originally from Hershey, PA (where the chocolate is made!), currently lives in New Hampshire.  Kate has worked with Majestic and Milford Area players in the past but this is her first Actorsingers Show.  Melany auditioned this past August because she just LOVES the music and also wanted to try some out of her acting skills.

Melany was thrilled to be cast in Les Misérables after seeing other Actorsingers' productions she was excited to have the chance to work with Actorsingers on this show.

Melany a member of the ensemble portrays a beggar and a prostitute in various scenes of the show.  In order to connect with her characters, she has tried to be truthful in imagining how it would feel if she was forced to survive in the world on her wits. Acting allows Melany to bring a character (sometimes one who is completely different from her) to life from off the page and truthfully tell their story.  Although it is challenging for her to portray one of the "lovely ladies" convincingly, by opening night, she was confident she was be able to bring this particular character to life for the audience!

Melany’s earliest theatre memory was playing Melody the singing psalm book in the musical "Kids' Praise III" when she was in 3rd grade.   She sang a solo and got the chance to dress up in a large pink book costume.  She LOVED it!

When Melany is not acting, she enjoys traveling to new places.  One of her favorite places is London, England.  But when she is not traveling, she can be found reading a good book.

Posted by Evelynn Decker Sunday, November 10, 2013 9:33:00 AM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Katie Weiss 

Plays in the female ensemble in Les Misérables

Katie Weiss

Katie Weiss from Nashua New Hampshire auditioned for Les Misérables as singing is her favorite!

 Katie has worked with Actorsingers in the past on Aida and Sound of Music she also has worked with Stagecoach and First Church Ministry. When Katie found out she was cast her reaction was “ Yay, I’m in a show!”  She mentions as cast members, we are all a little crazy to do what we do, it’s nice to be in a group of people like that!

 Katie plays several characters, one is a Factory Worker that just wants to fit in at the expense of someone else’s misfortune and another is a Beggar that involves a constant level of intensity!

Katie’s earliest theatre memory was playing Wendy in Peter Pan, she remembers loving her dress. Katie’s favorite memory is when she forgot to go out onstage for her few lines in the only performance of a show. All that work for nothing!

Katie has a degree in Landscape Architecture, and she works part time at two firms so that she can become a registered landscape architect. One is a Civil Engineering firm where she is a Project Manager, and the other is a Landscape Architecture firm in Newmarket, NH. For fun, she loves to create and design. She sews a lot, and sings all the time!

Posted by Evelynn Decker Saturday, November 9, 2013 5:07:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Max McGrath 

Plays Valjean in Les Misérables

Max McGrath originally from Manchester now living in Nashua, New Hampshire auditioned for Les Misérables because he felt  “not only was It a huge opportunity to perform something politically and socially relevant, It's an invitation for each of the performers- no matter the role- to take a very personal journey. Each character has a terrible and tragic burden that they must overcome, and how they do that is now up to us!”

This is Max’s debut with the Actorsingers he has appeared in the past with the Majestic Theater's production of Children of Eden as "The Father".  Why does Max do theatre?  “Joy is the only word to use. There is nothing like it in the world and it can't be described. That feeling when the curtain falls and raises again... nothing can take you higher.”

How did Max react when he found out he was cast as Valjean? “It was a surreal moment. I was absolutely hysterical. I kept thinking, oh my god how am I going to memorize all this music; I have to stand and deliver a performance of one of the most recognizable roles in Musical Theater and I've never even been arrested! Valjean was in prison for 19 years!  “

How is Max connecting with his character? “Jean Valjean is a very complex character he spends many years as a poor young man with good intentions, and makes that one mistake (stealing bread) that gets you caught. So in the fine form of the day, the petty thief is cast down with murderers and rapists and even other men like himself. He sees himself as the victim of this brutal and cold system of justice. This ultimately leads to him stealing from the Bishop of Digne who had given him food and a place to sleep when no one else would. It's that feeling of being one against the world, where everyone is out to be on top; you do what you have to do to get ahead and damn those who's feet you tread on. Wouldn't they have done the same to you? But then the tables are turned and Valjean is at the mercy of the bishop who instead saves him from prison and tells him to be a better man. I'm sure for a moment Valjean contemplates something terrible before deciding to break his parole and run. I connect with that moment; the choice to live another day; to do the best you can and keep fighting just one day more.”

Max finds the most challenging part of Valjean is “definitely the age difference, throughout the course of the show he gets to be about 50 and I'm 24. That in itself is a challenge; coming up with all of that life experience to play off of. “

Max’s earliest theater memory is of seeing Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neeley in Boston with his Dad. To this day it remains one of the coolest childhood memories he has, and one of the reasons he began singing and performing.

When Max is not rehearsing with the Actorsingers, he is a Shift Lead at Starbucks, he pours coffee, counts money and talk about the weather with his customers, in his free time he enjoys reading, writing and spending time with his family and friends.

Posted by Evelynn Decker Friday, November 8, 2013 12:08:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Mark Schwartzberg 

Plays Javert in Les Misérables

Mark Schwartzberg from Bedford New Hampshire plays Javert  and is very familiar with the production as all three of his sons have appeared in “ Les Misérables” productions in recent years and he is now following in their footsteps.  His son Nathan played Jean Valjean in a Palace youth production and his son Daniel played Valjean at school and Javert at Peacock Players.  His son Jakov played Babet. a member of Thenardier's gang and also a student in the Peacock Players production.

Schwartzberg, originally from Rochester, NY, did theater in high school and college, though he ended up going into medicine (pediatrics).  His earliest theater memory is of playing Charlie Brown in "You're a Good Man..." when he was 13.

 Schwartzberg has been in several Actorsingers productions including "Man of La Mancha", "Aida" and "Curtains.”  He has also acted at the Palace, with Stage One, with Stagecoach and with MADCO.

Schwartzberg particularly wanted to play Javert because he finds his character to be so complex and conflicted.  He thinks that Javert really wants to do what is right and to put some order into a world that has been in upheaval and chaos since the revolution in 1789.  He likely would have directly experienced the revolution and its aftermath as a child (according to the book by Victor Hugo,  Valjean was born in 1769 and Javert in about 1780).  He would have been 13 or 14 during the “Reign of Terror.”  Add to this the fact that Javert was born in prison.

In reaction to all this, he has applied to himself and to the world a standard of absolute adherence to the rule of law. In fact, having seen M Madeleine (Valjean), the mayor, lift a heavily loaded cart to save a stranger’s life, he goes to his superiors and denounces the mayor as Valjean.  On learning that "Valjean" has been caught, he confesses his actions to the mayor (Valjean) as deserving of punishment though no harm has actually come to the mayor through those actions.  Ultimately, Javert cannot reconcile his absolutist view of good and evil with the kindness and charity he receives from the "fallen" Valjean.  Trying to portray that without making the characterization cliché-ed or cartoonish is the great challenge of the role.

How did Schwartzberg feel about being cast?  Frankly, he was shocked when he got the call asking him to try to arrange for a callback.  When he left the initial audition he thought "Oh well, it was fun to try and I think I sang pretty well".  When he did his callback all out of breath, he thought "well I had my chance but..."  So, when he was cast, he was really surprised and then a bit anxious - can I pull this off?  It is, as you know, a bit of a family tradition and, though it may seem somewhat backwards in terms of the generations.”

What does Schwartzberg get from theater?  “Theater frees me to explore ideas and emotions which are not a part of my everyday life.  And, as most of what I have done recently is musical theater, I get to sing!”

Posted by Evelynn Decker Thursday, November 7, 2013 7:52:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight Main Stage

In the Spotlight Sheree Owens 

Plays Eponine in Les Misérables

 

Shreree Owens, a Concord, NH resident, makes her Actorsingers debut in  “Les Misérables” as Eponine.  She connects to her character in the following way, “I am fortunate enough to be with the love of my life, not caught in the ‘friend zone’ like poor Eponine, but I can draw on that love and imagine what it would be like if I were to lose it, or never have gotten to have it at all.”   When asked about bringing  Eponine to life she states “I want this Eponine to be set apart from others.  I have a clear idea of what motivates my Eponine and of her personality, and I'm hoping that comes through in my performance.  It's hard to follow up Lea Salonga and Samantha Barks and all the Eponines that people have seen and will see locally, but all I can do is be true to my Eponine and the context of this production and try my best."

Posted by Evelynn Decker Wednesday, November 6, 2013 12:17:00 PM Categories: In the Spotlight
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