by Lorie Lewis Ham
SPECIAL NOTE OF DATE CHANGE FOR THIS SHOW-Due to issues beyond their control it was necessary to postpone and move the opening of The Elephant in the Room and Martinis and Malice ahead one week.
They will reopen on Friday, June 23 @7:30 p.m., and the new performance schedule is as follows:
Friday-Saturday, June 23-24 and June 30-July 1 @7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 25 and July 2 @2:00 p.m. They apologize to their patrons for the inconvenience.
CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP in Fresno has two original plays opening this weekend-The Elephant in the Room and Martinis and Malice. We spoke with CURTAIN 5’s artistic director Jerry Palladino this week about the shows.
KRL: I understand that The Elephant In the Room is from a recent playwriting competition for students. How did you end up choosing this particular play?
Jerry: As a point of information, when I founded CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP in late 2012, my objective was to read and stage worthy original scripts by local Fresno and Valley writers.
The first competition CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP sponsored was with students in Kathryn Koch’s playwriting class at Roosevelt School of the Arts. I met with the students and asked them to submit their one act dramas or comedies on any subject they wished. I thought I might get one or two good plays. To my amazement, I was able to select four good scripts and awarded each student writer a $100 scholarship award.
I directed the first two plays, which opened the 2015 Season: a comedy, Necromacin’ Around by senior Cyrus Kinzel, and a drama, Vuelos by junior Onyx Beytia. I will direct The Elephant in the Room by senior Samantha Perez, opening June 16. The fourth play, a comedy, A Deviant Court by senior Sarah VanBindsbergen, is planned for the 2018 Season.
The first play Cyrus Kinzel submitted was an immediate audience favorite. Now a college sophomore, his second comedy, Spiritual Healing, was a successful entry at the 2016 Rogue Festival. A third comedy, Chop! Chop! Charlie’s Basement Party, was an award winner at this year’s Rogue Festival. Cyrus is now writing a new comedy for the 2018 Rogue Festival.
The criteria I used to select the four Roosevelt student plays was the quality of the scripted writing, the excellence of character development, and that the scripts were worthy to produce on stage. I was impressed that the four scripts I selected were all the first plays written by these students.
KRL: Is the cast also students?
Jerry: I have cast students from auditions in appropriate roles alongside CURTAIN 5 repertory actors for several of my productions including the 2016 and 2017 Rogue Festivals.
I was thrilled to cast Ian Jones, a Roosevelt School of the Arts junior, as the lead in my production of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Donald Munro was highly impressed with Ian’s performance. He’s now a CSUF freshman, who recently understudied the male lead in Heathers and will play Quasimodo in Children’s Musical Theaterworks Fresno premiere of the Disney musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this summer.
KRL: What personally drew you to this particular play? What about it that made you want to produce/direct it?
Jerry: I was impressed with the nature of the play’s curious plot, the complicated and socially inept nature of Leo. His personal issues formed the basis of the entire plot, and were maturely handled in the drama’s final scene. In the cast are four adult actors: Albee Sanchez as Leo, Tania Haigounian as Wendy, Destiny Cunningham as the gypsy Vimala and Daniel Pena as Leo’s Father.
KRL: I notice that you produce a lot of original plays. Why is that?
Jerry: My primary objective in founding CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP was to read new original works by local Fresno and Valley writers, and select those that are worthy to produce and direct for our audiences. All my productions are performed by new, past and current actors who are CURTAIN 5 repertory actors.
KRL: The other show being performed, Martinis and Malice, which you wrote. What inspired the idea for this play?
Jerry: I have always been impressed with vintage black and white movies and film noir, but particularly with the sophisticated dramas and comedies of the great British film-stage actor-playwright Noel Coward. This play is my take on a social encounter Noel Coward may have personally found entertaining.
KRL: What is it like seeing something you have written on stage?
Jerry: I am always excited and curious seeing what I have scripted realized on stage. What’s on paper is always so differently realized on the stage.
KRL: How many plays have you written?
Jerry: I have written three plays. One play was produced when I was a student at the University of Southern California. I’ve also written several comedy skits.
KRL: Other than being original, what is unique about these shows, as opposed to the other theatre being performed in the area? Why should people come see your shows?
Jerry: I have always been enthralled when going to see a new/original play or musical. If new works are never written, theatre would only be revivals and nothing new. I chose to dedicate my efforts to soliciting and staging new works by local writers. If someone doesn’t give these writers a chance to see his or her original dramas or comedies staged, audiences would never have an opportunity to see any new, original works.
Since CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP staged its very first original works, people attending have come to anticipate what’s next from CURTAIN 5. I am happy C5 is cultivating an audience who attend and enjoy new works by local writers. These writers deserve an opportunity to see work realized on stage.
KRL: Why did you decide to perform two shows together? Is there a connection in any way?
Jerry: When CURTAIN 5 stages one act plays, we always present two plays during each engagement.
KRL: What are the dates, times, and location for the performances?
Jerry: The plays will be performed Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 and June 23-24, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 18 and 25, at 2 p.m., at Fresno Soap Co. Stage, Gallery & Studio, 1470 North Van Ness Avenue in the Fresno Tower District.
KRL: What are the ticket prices, and how do you purchase them?
Jerry: Advance tickets are available online from brownpapertickets.com. General is $15 and Student is $8. At the door, tickets can be purchased for General $20 and Student $10…major credit cards accepted.
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jerry: Treat yourself to the joy of live theatre and original works by talented local writers.
Here are short summaries of each One-act Play:
The Elephant in the Room is a new curious drama by Roosevelt School of the Arts senior Samantha Perez and directed by Jerry Palladino. Leo is an insecure engineering student unwilling to accept responsibility for the circumstances in which he finds himself. He uses the gift of an elephant good luck charm as an excuse for positive changes suddenly occurring. This denial and unwillingness sees his devoted girlfriend, Wendy, leave him, increases the strained relationship he has with his father, and finally culminates in an unexpected intervention from an unlikely source, his eccentric gypsy neighbor, Vimala. Does good luck have a downside?
Martinis and Malice by Jerry Palladino parodies the delightfully entertaining black and white film comedies by the great British actor-playwright Noel Coward. The play is directed by R. S. Scott and features an upper crust married couple, Vincent and Charlene, sipping martinis in an intimate cocktail lounge at the Plaza Hotel in 1920s New York City. Our sophisticates are embroiled in a bizarre disagreement in which we are all privy to witness.
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