Staples Players: The Drama Never Ends

There’s something about opening night and Staples Players.

Last fall, director David Roth’s daughter Lucy was born 17 minutes after the curtain rose on “Guys and Dolls.”  That wouldn’t have been so bad — except associate director Kerry Long is David’s wife (and Lucy’s mother).

This year’s fall production is “Curtains.”  Everyone was excited about last Friday’s opening night (and Lucy’s 1st birthday the next day).  Rehearsals had gone well; music, costumes and choreography clicked; tickets sold briskly.

But right after Thursday’s preview, Eva Hendricks — who plays Carmen Bernstein, a leading role in the clever show-within-a-show — had bad stomach pains.

She saw a doctor on Friday.  He sent her right to the emergency room, with possible appendicitis.

Roth and Long got the news at 3:30 p.m. — 4 hours before “Curtains'” curtain.  They quickly called the other actors in to rehearse scenes with Eva’s understudy, Sydney Robinson.

Make that, freshman Sydney Robinson.

Sydney Robinson (Carmen Bernstein) and Max Samuels (Lt. Frank Cioffi) in "Curtains." (Photo by Kerry Long)

Fortunately, Sydney had done her understudy homework.  She knew virtually all of her lines, blocking and choreography.

“That was a major feat,” Long says. “She had never really rehearsed her role before — there isn’t time to do that with understudies.  They’re responsible for knowing their own lines and blocking.

“Usually, understudies just fill in if an actor is out sick during rehearsals.  This was remarkable.”

Last-minute craziness included alterations to Eva’s many costumes, and some minor changes to blocking.

But Sydney stepped up and into the role, big-time.  She wowed the audience — and her fellow actors.

She had help, of course.  Actors Max Samuels, Matt Van Gessel and Ryan Shea supported Sydney by helping with a line or two, and guiding her around the stage when she was unsure of what to do.

Assistant director Gwen Beal assisted Sydney with each entrance backstage.

Still, it was Sydney’s role — and she nailed it.

“We are incredibly proud of how everyone banded together to make it work.  It’s a real testament to the organization, and to the ability of these kids to roll with the punches like pros,” Long says.

Roth and Long have had understudies for roles that are single-cast — but no one has actually ever had to go on.

Eva Hendricks and Max Samuels in the same roles. (Photo by Kerry Long)

“It was exciting for the kids to see that being an understudy is serious business,” Long says.  “It’s not something you can just blow off.”

Roth made a rare about Sydney announcement before the show.  During final bows the audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation — and the cast responded with equally rare applause of their own.

Fortunately for Eva, she does not have appendicitis.  She returned Saturday night, and wowed the crowd.

This coming weekend, Sydney Robinson is once again an understudy.  But she — and every Staples Player — now knows that, whatever it takes, the show must go on.

Even with Fortunately with, a freshman taking the lead.

(“Curtains” concludes its run this Friday and Saturday [Nov. 19 and 20] at 7:30 p.m.  For ticket information, click here.  Tickets will also be sold this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Staples’ main entrance, from 12:30-2 p.m.  For more details, call 203-341-1310.)

10 responses to “Staples Players: The Drama Never Ends

  1. I saw Sydney in her leading role, and nobody would’ve known she was an understudy if an announcement hadn’t been made. The fact that her performance was so fabulous says a lot about Sydney taking her understudy role seriously, and also the professionalism of Players…always ready for anything! Bravo, Sydney and Staples Players, and welcome back Eva!! CURTAINS is another huge Staples’ hit! I’d say break a leg but…..

  2. Bravo!! Bravo!! Sydney!!

  3. I am proud to say I have known Syd since the day she was born- WOW what a talent! Well done! – I think this is a remarkabke year for the Frosh at Staples- a 9th grader in the lead on the stage and on the field (quarterback) – It’s only going to get better………..

  4. 2014!

  5. Brava!

  6. Yes, the kids are great. It’s the adults that need supervision. Over the years, Staples Players director David Roth has hired Matthew Deedon to “help with the productions.” Unfortunately, Roth is not as good a judge of adult character as he is of youthful talent; Deedon was arrested last week by Westport police for a Staples-related scam:

    • I hear an ax grinding………….

    • Thanks so much for the great story, Dan.
      As for your comment “concerned”, I believe Matt Deedon was hired by Robert Cloutier who was the Arts administrator under Gloria Rakovic when Al Pia was still the director of Players. He was kept on when Judy Luster took over the position for four years and was still there when I took over in 2000. Matt sold program ads for us for some years until we decided that we did not require his services anymore and he was let go a couple of years ago. Matt has not had any association with Players since then and we regret that he has potentially taken such an unfortunate turn with his life choices.

    • Mr. Roth’s character judgement had nothing to do with hiring Matthew Deedon. Matt worked with the Staples Players continuously under Albert Pia and Judy Luster before Mr. Roth was hired. Matthew Deedon promoted and assisted the Staples Players in so many ways for over a dozen years. His recent trouble came 3 years after he separated from the Staples Players in 2007. That you would publicly associate Mr. Roth’s character judgement with the recent difficulty of a long ago former associate that was hired years before Mr. Roth is a sign of something else. Concerned? I’d say Confused.

  7. I had the privilege of working with David (and Kerry) when David directed a show I produced at the NYC Fringe Festival. My experience with David was exceptionally positive. His responsibilities included not only casting, but also helping hire the crew. I never had any reason to question his choices on staffing; he was absolutely professional in all aspects of the production.