PA Theatre: Coming to a Living Room Near You!

It’s show time! The day of the show is usually a bustling and busy couple of hours of final preparations. The backstage area of the PAC is abuzz with spontaneous karaoke sessions, hair and makeup crew members are attempting to bribe reluctant fashionistas into putting on less agreeable costume and makeup, and the air is thick with an undeniable energy and excitement.

Seniors Stephanie Momanyi and Marie Leggott have an intense moment during recording (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bissonette)

Last weekend, however, didn’t bring the same atmosphere. New actors and veterans alike were thrilled to be back in the swing of things, but there were no costumes to be had, not even a set. Instead, the eight members of Providence Academy’s fall show took their place at a small configuration of seats with microphones and tried their best to make the story of Blithe Spirit come to life with their voices and a few key sound effects.

In response to the recent COVID 19 pandemic, the Upper School theatre department made a major change in order to have their show. They decided to take the fall play, which was already slated to have a small cast in order to remain in COVID restrictions, and make it a radio show. This meant that there would be no set or costumes, just the actors sitting and giving their lines. One student  provided all of the sound effects that would have otherwise been visualized under normal circumstances. Some were simply audio files utilized when the script called for it, like glasses breaking or a record playing. Others, like the sound of tapping on the table or the table falling over were created live by the actors.

For several of the actors, this method of acting was an entirely new approach in the sense of characterization and how they were going to bring these ghosts, mystics, and hopeful authors to life. 

“After all, they can’t see me,” leading man Joseph Uzelac, ‘22, reflected. “I have to find ways to convey in my voice that I’ve sat down or that I’m pacing. It puts far more pressure on me as the actor to create just as memorable of an experience for the audience.” 

Sophomore Lauren McGill keeps everyone on track during recording and also provides sound effects (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bissonette)

Director Melissa Simmons agreed with this statement with one of her final notes before recording day. “This is an entirely different skillset that we’ve had our players learn and experiment with,” she stated. “It’s not at all what we expected to be doing this year, but everyone involved has done an excellent job of adjusting accordingly.” 

Another major deviation from traditional plays that sets radio plays apart is the inclusion of a narrator to read the lines of stage directions, things that would otherwise be acted out by the actors onstage. This was a bit of an adjustment for actors, who were used to skipping the stage directions in the readings of the show, but it gave the cast a chance to truly understand what was going on in any given scene. The addition of a narrator also allowed a new character to be introduced to an already small cast and another voice to be added.

One of the hardest things about doing a show during COVID is the limited number of people who can be involved with the show. While PA theatre works hard to include everyone who wants to be a part of the show, it’s not always possible to cast everyone who tries out. In order to compensate for this, there was a second, shorter show that was put together with the actors who weren’t a part of Blithe Spirit. This ensured that everyone who wanted to share their talents could, and made a new experience for audience members to enjoy.

Overall, the show was a great success, in spite of the different situation of this year. Audience members were able to enjoy the hard work of the Providence Academy players from the comfort of their own homes, and there was the added bonus of no paid admissions.

“This probably wasn’t at all what these kids were planning to do for their fall show, but they did an awesome job with what they were given,” one audience member, a neighbor of one of the cast members of Blithe Spirit enthused. “I’m so glad that I was able to listen to and enjoy the show in spite of everything.”

Though it was by no means the ideal method of having the fall play, the radio play of Blithe Spirit was the perfect thing to get people back into the swing of something normal. Though the virus has changed so, so many things this year, it was a beacon of hope to know the old saying remains true: the show must go on.

Seniors Stephanie Momanyi, Val Fish, and Marie Leggott celebrate a job well done and the end of their final fall play.

This Day in History: RCA Buys Elvis Presley’s Contract

On this day in 1955, RCA-Victor signed Elvis Presley to a recording contract, paying $40,000 to Sun Record Company for his release. The deal, negotiated by special advisor “Colonel” Tom Parker, was record-breaking, amounting to over $375,000 in 2018. Backed by the connections and distribution power of a major label, Presley would soon begin a meteoric rise to international stardom.

Colonel Parker, Gladys, Elvis, and Vernon Presley, H. Coleman Tilly III, and Bob Neal at Sun – November 21, 1955

The best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, Presley came from humble beginnings. The Presleys were a poor family, living in rooming houses and public housing in Memphis. Elvis seemed destined to be a truck driver. Providence Academy teacher and lifelong Elvis fan Brian Dudley recalls speaking with a woman who had gone to school with Presley: “She said that ‘he had had the poorest clothes and that nobody would play with him.’ He was the lonely kid in the corner of the playground.” Still, Presley aimed to one day make a name for himself as a singer.

In August 1953, Presley visited Sun Records and recorded – at his own expense – two songs, hoping to be discovered. One year later, owner Sam Phillips was still looking for a singer who could fuse white country music and black rhythm and blues (R&B). He decided to call Elvis. Late at night on July 5, 1954, Presley found his groove. With Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black on bass, and D.J. Fontana on drums, the group recorded Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right”.

Upon its release, local radio stations played the song over and over again. In a 1955 article for the Memphis Press-Scimitar, Robert Johnson wrote, “His first record, “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” hit the best-seller lists immediately after release in July of last year and both Billboard and Cashbox, trade journals, named him most promising western-star”. Dudley notes the importance of Presley’s time at Sun: “it was integral; it made him the King of Rock ‘n Roll. The raw combination of folk music, blues, and country really came together to form rock ‘n roll.” A growing sensation, Elvis and his band toured the south, playing at fairs and on radio programs like the Louisiana Hayride.

Presley with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker

With regional hits such as “Mystery Train” and a unique blend of rockabilly, blues, and R&B, Presley was outgrowing Sun Records. In addition, the company was in financial trouble. Needing money to back the rest of his artists and overcome mounting debt and operating costs, Phillips considered selling Presley’s contract. In stepped Elvis’s new special advisor, the self-proclaimed “Colonel” Tom Parker. Parker had managed many country singers, and he saw Presley as a potential star. Negotiating on Presley’s behalf, Parker immediately asked Phillips to name his price for the singer’s contract. Phillips demanded $35,000 plus $5,000 to pay back royalties that Sun owed Presley. At the time, this was considered astronomical, more than had ever been paid for a singer. At first, RCA would not offer more than $25,000 for the contract; Parker gave them two weeks, or Presley would sign somewhere else. On November 15 RCA accepted the terms, and the two sides orchestrated a deal.

Replica copy of Elvis’s first recording contract with RCA, written Nov. 15, 1955 and signed on Nov. 21, 1955

The sale of Presley’s contract was finalized on November 21st at Sun. Dudley remarked, “to many, [the sale] meant the beginning of Elvis’s commercialization – ‘here comes packaged Elvis’ as opposed to the raw bluesy, R&B, country Elvis. However, this also gave Elvis necessary exposure. To become a big deal, you had to get people to play your records.” Ultimately, this deal would have many long-term effects on Presley’s career. All of the singles he had recorded at Sun Records were included in the sale, and RCA soon re-released them. On the same day, Elvis signed a contract naming Parker his sole manager – a position the Colonel would hold until Presley’s death in 1977 – and a “long-time exclusive writing pact” with Hill and Range, who would control what he recorded until the early 1970s. By 1956 Presley was recording new material for RCA. His debut single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and his first album, Elvis Presley – featuring the hit “Blue Suede Shoes” – topped the charts and became RCA’s first million-selling album by a single artist. Elvis was on his way, primed to ascend to the throne of musical royalty as the King of Rock ‘n Roll.

Presley’s eponymous debut album with RCA

Dudley concludes, “Elvis represented everything that was good about rock ‘n roll…certainly, rock ‘n roll at its best is so uniquely American, and Elvis harnessed this. It can be said that he gave his life for his country, in a way.”

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll

 

For More Information:
http://scottymoore.net/article551122.html

http://www.elvis-history-blog.com/

 

Shall I Compare Thee to a Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Coffeehouse has been a tradition at Providence Academy for a good many years. This biannual showcase features the many musical talents in the upper school at PA. With the visiting Netters as the Emcees, coffeehouse is a relaxed and enjoyable Friday evening that is beloved by not only the upper schoolers, but rather the entire PA community.

Unfortunately, one thing coffeehouse lacks is actual coffee. Concessions include Coke products and water, but the warm caffeinated nectar hasn’t been a featured treat for several years now. The 2018 spring coffeehouse notably featured root beer floats, but coffee has never made the lineup.

In order to make up for the lack of coffee, the performers each make their own unique flavor on the stage with their vibrant and versatile acts. It’s fitting, seeing as holiday flavored coffees often hit the market right around the same time as the much anticipated coffeehouse. And now, for the first time ever, the PAW will offer a definitive look into the fall coffeehouse accompanied by comparisons to some of the most beloved holiday coffee drinks as well as some year round favorites.

PA Jazz Band- Gingerbread Latte

Everyone knows and loves the PA jazz band as the opening act of the coffeehouses. This talented group of symphonic band honors students is directed by Mr. Jones. Last Friday, the jazz band exhibited their Christmas piece early with Big Band Holiday, thus earning the comparison to the Gingerbread Latte; like Big Band Holiday music, the Gingerbread Latte is a warm, comforting classic with a spicy twist.

Jack Kruse- Turtle Mocha

A coffeehouse veteran, Jack Kruse (‘19) is no stranger to the stage. Performing solo acts for the past three years, his singing and guitar playing have become one of the staples of coffeehouse. His talent on both guitar and vocals has even led some audience members to believe that he deserves the Golden Buzzer on America’s Got Talent. With his warm sound, earnest demeanor, and soulful singing, mixed with his undeniable talent, Jack’s spot on the Coffeehouse Lineup fits the ever-popular Turtle Mocha from Caribou, which contains all of those qualities and many more with its complex layers of chocolate and caramel balanced evenly with coffee.

Shane Flanigan- Trenta Cold Brew

Another guitarist, though not a vocalist, Shane Flanigan (‘20) blew the audience away once again with his adrenaline pumping guitar solo. “He looks at Guitar Hero and he’s like ‘Oh, that’s cute’,” band director Mr. Jones enthused. His intense and heart pounding talent contrasting sharply his cool and collected demeanor has earned him a place on the Lineup as not a holiday classic, but rather a different concoction of his own invention. “I’d probably compare [my act] to a Trenta Cold Brew from Starbucks with extra ice, four shots of espresso, and nothing else,” he explained. This mix of intense caffeine with a cool and collected demeanor is right on the mark for Providence Academy’s house rockstar.

Carole Levoir- Caramel High Rise Latte

One of the three debuting acts, Carole Levoir (‘19) made a large splash in the coffeehouse world with her solo of “Sweet Creature”. Often seen in the crowd, Carole was proud to make her first ever stage appearance, and also earned her spot in the Lineup as the Caramel High Rise Latte: sweet, with a hint of salt for flavor, but overall warm and comforting all the same. This drink in particular suits Carole’s act because it was the first drink that she ever got from Caribou, and this was her first time doing coffeehouse. “That’s a really odd coincidence, actually,” Carole admitted when she found out. Coincidence or not, both the Caramel High Rise and Carole have found a place not only in the lineup, but also in audience’s hearts.

Isabella Igbanugo- Dark Chocolate Mocha

You may have seen her in the choir concerts as a featured soloist, or remember her as the Sour Kangaroo from Seussical or Sister Bertha from Sound Of Music, but Isabella Igbanugo’s (‘19) talent goes far beyond that. With her deep, soulful voice, Isabella has made a name for herself in the world of coffeehouse as both a soloist and a featured singer on jazz band pieces, creating a whole new standard for the acts. Her rich and resonant sound has earned her a suitable comparison to the Dark Chocolate Mocha: deep and flavorful chocolate mixed with a strong brew of coffee to create an incomparable drink that will flood your senses with intense emotion, a lot like Isabella’s singing.

Stephanie Momanyi- Cinnamon Dolce Latte

Another newcomer to the Coffeehouse stage, Stephanie Momanyi (‘21) brought the house down with her heartfelt rendition of “Always Remember us This Way”. Notably the youngest performer in the lineup, Stephanie gave a thrilling debut performance with the poise of someone far more experienced and mature. Her sweet singing mixed with a spicy performance may remind future audiences, as it reminded us, of the Cinnamon Dolce Latte; rich in flavor and a memorable favorite that won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

Gianna Bruno- Vanilla Bean Creme Frappuccino

Another veteran, Gianna Bruno (‘19) ascends the stage once again for a riveting and moving solo. Often accompanying herself on electric bass or piano, and even premiering one of her own original works at the 2018 Spring Coffeehouse, Gianna’s versatility has made her one of the most compelling performers in the lineup. The drink that compares best with this amazing amount of talent would have to be the Vanilla Bean Creme Frappuccino, seeing as it’s an irreplaceable classic, but it also gives a nod to Gianna’s bilingual performance in which she switched from French to English singing with the ease of a native French speaker.

Carson Kreger- Chai Latte

The last of the three debut acts, Carson Kreger (‘19) mounted the stage for a memorable solo of “Sunflower”. Often seen behind the scenes in the theatre business as the dependable stage manager for the PA Players, Carson was happily welcomed to the spotlight for her first ever stage appearance. With her comforting and sweet song, Carson earns her place in the lineup as the classic Chai Latte; a warm, dependable favorite of many people during the holiday season.

Maddy and Sam Young- Candy Cane Mocha with Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of two duet acts, siblings Maddy (‘20) and Sam (‘19)  Young captivated the audience with their rendition of “Shallow” from the new movie A Star is Born. Their natural harmonies and sibling connection warmed the audience’s hearts and earned them a place on the lineup as the Candy Cane Mocha with a side of Chocolate Chip cookies; a perfect comfort food combination that is not only timeless, but also captures the essence of this dynamic duo right on point just in time for the holidays.

Ikemonso Ayika and Cort Dingman- Tuxedo Hot Chocolate

The second of the two duets and the final comparison for this Lineup was Ikemoso Ayika and Cort Dingman (both ‘20). While both did a solo act, the two will perhaps be remembered best for their duet of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” with Cort on piano and Ikemonso on vocals. With their almost bantering stage presence and affable voices, Cort and Ikemonso finish off the Lineup with the ever popular Tuxedo hot chocolate from Dunn Brothers. With its lighthearted taste topped with that ever important dollop of whipped cream, the Tuxedo hot chocolate is perfect for this duo of friends who really are indeed the piano men.

So drink up, enjoy the holidays, and be sure to catch the video coverage of the coffeehouse, which can be found on the Providence Youtube Channel. 

Not Your Typical News: Why Late Night News Matters to You

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter,” said Mark Twain. By calling laughter a weapon, Twain points out three things that satire does well, it makes us laugh, makes us think, and makes us question. Truly great satire has the power to illuminate injustices without the typical monotonous delivery of a daytime news program; it has the power to make its viewers question the way the world works.

Mark Twain, 19th Century American author

A 2012 study published by the University of Michigan found that satire news, like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (formerly Jon Stewart), greatly increases voter discussion of upcoming elections.

“The constructive role of comedy shows evidenced in this study suggests that political entertainment may serve as an important catalyst for revitalized civic life,” Hoon Lee, the article’s author said.

Given this study, it’s easy to see why late night news has become so popular in recent years; for example, since its creation in 2015, Last Week Tonight has won 12 Emmy awards.

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight

Late night news hosts occupy a unique position; they sit somewhere between journalists, who strive for accuracy and fairness, and activists, whose views are too far left or right to be taken seriously by most. These hosts have a unique way of delivering the news as well. Unlike typical journalists, their delivery is varied, entertaining, and impactful.

Most students at Providence watch Saturday Night Live rather than a typical late night news comedy show. Mrs. Gregg, the Upper School Administrative Assistant, says “When I’m awake, I watch Jimmy Kimmel, and when I’m really awake, I watch Seth Meyers.”

Seth Meyers, host of Late Night w/Seth Meyers

A minority of students and faculty watch late night news comedy, but those who do recognize its unique style of delivery.

“John Oliver (host of Last Week Tonight) delivers the news in a different and more understandable way than the regular news does,” said Junior Nathan Borthwick.

“I watched when I was younger, but as I got older, I realized how smug the hosts were,” said Mr. Skemp, an Upper School history teacher.

Overall, news that answers to no one besides the public has a way of cutting through much of the hum-drum of your typical daytime news show. News delivered with satire in mind has the power to truly change minds and expose the incongruities of our world.

The Theatre Banquet as Described through Script

SCENE: THE BLACK BOX THEATRE IN THE BASEMENT OF PROVIDENCE. AFTERNOON

The lights come up on the black box of the Providence Academy theatre department. The mood is bright and cheerful with music playing in the background. A group of Providence theatre students are sitting at tables and standing around in semi formal attire. They are chatting quietly amongst themselves and simply having a good time talking about theatre and admiring the lovely slideshow with all of the pictures from the year’s shows. From the door leading from the couch room to the black box, MRS. SIMMONS emerges. She is the head of the theatre department and also a middle school English teacher. She is dressed festively for the occasion, and she eagerly steps to the front of the stage to address the crowd.

SIMMONS(broadly)

Hello, and welcome to the 2017-18 Provies! The Provies is the time of year when the members of the theatre come together to celebrate another season of productions well done and recognize those in our community who have gone above and beyond as actors and techies. We also take this time to announce the upcoming shows for next year’s season in order to get students interested in joining theatre next year. So without further ado, I present to you the 2017-18 Provies!

She steps to the side and ISABELLA(’19), ESSIE(’18), MADDY YOUNG(’20), MADDIE AUSTIN(’18), EMMALLY(’18), and SIDNEY(’18) step into the center stage.

ESSIE

We are the theatre council.(Glances around at the others, clearly looking for someone.) Or most of it, that is. Thomas and Ike should be here any minute.

ISABELLA

We are in charge of arranging the banquet and making sure that everything runs smoothly. We also help with creating and formulating the awards.

MADDY YOUNG pulls a laptop off a nearby desk and opens it up.

MADDY YOUNG

At the end of every show, we create a Google form with all of the awards listed, as well as the nominees for these awards. Award types include best lead actor or actress, best supporting actor or actress, best ensemble member, best techie, most valuable player, most improved, and most memorable moment. (passes laptop to MADDIE AUSTIN)

MADDIE AUSTIN

After the form is compiled, it is then sent to everyone who participated in the show, and they are asked to pick the nominee that they most want to see win the award. The votes are then tallied and the awards are arranged. (closes laptop and sets it on a nearby table)

EMMALLY

Today’s the day that everything is revealed, and we get to look back on all of the fond memories that we made through the year. Like, remember that night that the staircase in the Sound of Music set nearly ran over half the cast?

SIDNEY

Or the performance where the chorus girls and I came up with all new choreography for our part, and Ike just kind of went with it? That was hilarious!

They all share a laugh as they step off to the side of the stage. The theatre students continue to chat with each other and mingle as upbeat music from The Sound of Music plays in the background. From stage left, MAE(’21) and EMMA(’21) enter along with VAL(’21) and STEPH(’21). They are all dressed for the occasion and they are chatting affably. VAL hears the music and winces a little.

VAL(clearly miffed)

They’re still playing the music from the musical? Couldn’t they have picked anything else?

MAE (slightly sympathetic)

They just want us to be thinking about all of the good times we had together for that show. Not to mention, it’s the last chance we get before we move on to the next season’s shows.

STEPH (curiously)

I wonder what we’re going to do for next year, especially for the musical. They’ll be announcing that today, as well as the fall play and the winter one act.

EMMA

It would be cool to do something more modern, like Hamilton or Wicked. (holds up a Playbill from each)

VAL takes the Playbills from her and inspects them. She then tosses them over her shoulder and onto a nearby table. 

VAL(dismissively)

Nah, probably not. I think that Music Man‘s got a good shot. (holds up Playbill for Music Man) No pun intended, of course.

MAE

Of course. Though, you know, there’s been a lot of talk about doing either Peter Pan or Into the Woods for the musical. (holds up a Playbill for each) Both of which would be really fun to do.

STEPH takes the Peter Pan Playbill from MAE and pages through it curiously.

STEPH(slowly)

Wait, if we did Peter Pan, that would mean that we would get to use the fly system, right?

EMMA

You never know… you might get your chance to fly across the stage next year, Steph.

VAL(shuddering at the thought)

Not me. I’m scared of heights. I’m hoping that we do Music Man for musical, and then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the fall play.

EMMA

And what are your guesses based off?

VAL(proudly)

Absolutely nothing except my taste in theatre. Isn’t that lovely?

EMMA(slightly sarcastic)

It’s something, all right.

They walk over to a table and sit down. More students arrive and start sitting down at tables and facing the front of the room, clearly anticipating something. The scene then shifts to the award ceremony, where several students get up and receive small plastic trophies from the theatre council. The trophy recipients sit down at the tables and admire their trophies.

JACK(’19)

Best lead actor for Sleepy Hollow? I’m flattered.

VAL

Well, you did a really nice job as Ichabod Crane (inspects her own trophy). I’m just surprised that I actually got MVP for “15 Reasons Not to be in a Play”.

IKE(’20)(victoriously)

All right! Best lead actor for Sound of Music! I even beat Captain Von Trapp!

THOMAS(’18)(indifferently)

Not that I’m too displeased. I got MVP for the show, after all.

EMMALLY

I can’t believe that I got the Saint Genesius award.

THOMAS

You deserve it. It has to go to the person that’s been the most dedicated to theatre, and with eleven shows under your belt, I’d say you qualify.

ISABELLA(loudly)

Can I have all of your attention, please? Attention!(the crowd falls silent) Thank you. Now it’s the moment that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time now to announce the 2018-19 theatre season!

The crowd errupts in cheers and then falls silent with a hush of anticipation. MADDY YOUNG pulls out an envelope and breaks the seal.

MADDY YOUNG

For our fall play, we will be performing either the all male or all female cast version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.

There is polite applause.

CELIA(’20)

That sounds like it’s going to be exciting!

EMMA ARNDT(’18)

Yeah, it will be interesting to see if they go with an all male or an all female cast.

MADDIE AUSTIN takes another envelope and breaks the seal.

MADDY AUSTIN

For the middle school winter play, they will be performing Anne of Green Gables

MAKENNA(’19)

Oh, that’s going to be good. It’s always interesting when they take a book and turn it into a play.

There is polite applause. ISABELLA takes the next envelope.

ISABELLA

The middle school one act is going to be The Emperor’s New Clothes.

GIANNA(’21)

Oh, that’s going to be interesting.

EMMA(thoughtfully)

I wonder if they’ll actually have the guy come out in just his underwear…

VAL

I’m assuming no.

MAE(nervously)

I’m hoping no.

There’s polite applause. SIDNEY steps forward and takes the final envelope.

SIDNEY

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.

THOMAS(aside)

Oh, boy. The musical.

SIDNEY

It’s time to find out what the spring musical for next year.

THOMAS(aside)

Place your bets, boys, what’s it gonna be? (pauses for a moment to think. Offhandedly) Probably Shrek the Musical.

IKE(overhears him, scandalized)

What? No way!

LAUREN(’19)

He’s crazy if he thinks they’re going to let us do that.

ELLA(’20)

Yeah…

SIDNEY

Drum roll, please.

All of the theatre banquet guests drum their hands on the sides of the table and watch while SIDNEY unseals the envelope. She opens the envelope and looks at the slip of paper inside, a look of sheer disbelief crossing her face.

SIDNEY

Oh, my. None of you are ever going to believe this one.