Tag Archives: “Almost

Gwen Beal: From Almost Nothing To “Almost, Maine”

On her 1st day of school 4 years ago, Gwen Beal auditioned for Staples Players’ fall show, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

She didn’t get a role.

But instead of marking the end of her Players career, it was the beginning.

Assistant director Caley Baretta asked Gwen to sit in on a rehearsal. Though intimidated — Caley was a well-known junior — Gwen said “sure.”

She was hooked.

She interned with Caley for the spring production of “Twelve Angry Men.” She continued to work with — and learn from — Caley as a sophomore.

As a junior, Gwen was on her own.

Gwen Beal, working hard on the set of “Almost, Maine.”

Now — less than a month from graduation — she’s reached the end of a very enjoyable and creative 4-year Staples Players career. “Almost, Maine” — a serio-comic collection of whimsical tales about the joys and perils of romance in a small Maine town — is set for this Thursday, Friday and Saturday (May 24, 25 and 26) in the Black Box Theatre.

It’s a clever, intriguing play — one of those you-may-not-know-it-but-you’ll love-it shows. It’s also a fitting capstone for Gwen’s career.

“To think that I saw maybe 2 Players productions before I got here. And now it’s become the biggest part of my life,” she marvels.

Actors get all the props applause, but a role like Gwen’s is crucial to any play’s success.

“It’s so rewarding to watch a scene grow,” she says. “We shape it the way we want. It really is ours. Mr. Roth (David, the director) oversees things, but in a lot of ways we’re really on our own.”

Michelle Pauker and Bryan Gannon, two of the stars in “Almost, Maine.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

From casting suggestions to helping block and run scenes — plus nitty-gritty but very necessary work like handling dinner — an assistant director can make or break a show.

Gwen learned her role by “stalking Caley. I saw everything she did. There’s no textbook to read. Everything is trial and error.”

Once, Gwen forget an important binder. She got yelled at — and never made the same mistake again.

She’s excited about “Almost, Maine” because the cast and staging are so intimate. “Everyone has a story to tell, but the scenes are short. You don’t have much time to get the whole character across.”

Everett Sussman (left) and Clay Singer discuss the world in “Almost, Maine.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

It’s not easy for a high school actor to play an adult going through a divorce. “That’s so beyond our experience,” Gwen says. “But it’s so rewarding to figure out how to do it, and do it right.”

Some days are blissful. Others are freak-outs. Yet, Gwen notes, “when you figure everything out, there’s no feeling like it.”

Right now, she feels “bittersweet. I’m totally in denial that on Saturday, I’ll be all done with Players. This experience has really shaped me as a person. I’ve learned to talk to adults, technicians, older Players and peers. I’ve learned so much about people.

“My entire high school experience would have been different without Players.”

And all because an older student asked casually, can you give me a hand?

(“Almost, Maine” will be produced in the Staples Black Box Theatre this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 24, 25 and 26, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and students. There is also a 4 p.m. performance on Saturday, May 26; tickets are $5 for senior citizens and students. Click here for reserved seats.)
Click the YouTube arrow below for an “Almost, Maine” trailer:

An EMT Acts Up

Every once in a while, patients peers at Westport EMT Marc Hartog strangely.

“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” they ask.

Usually they do — and it has nothing to do with an ambulance gurney.  They recognize Hartog from his community theater work.  The veteran medic is also a talented actor.  It’s an incongruous pairing — but he’s passionate about both parts of his life.

Hartog — a certified paramedic — has a master’s degree in public administration.  He’s directed St. Clare’s Hospital’s EMS department, and its emergency room.

He got married in 1990, moved to Connecticut, and commuted to New York.  But when a job opened up with Westport Emergency Medical Service he leaped at the chance to spend more time with his family.  He became a paramedic crew chief, and now serves as coordinator.

Haven't I seen you somewhere? Marc Hartog the actor...

All along, Hartog was a theater buff.  In high school he worked the back end — tech, lighting, running crew — and occasionally acted.  He continued his involvement in college.

“In New York there’s not a lot of work if you’re not a professional,” he notes.  His wife is an actress too, but not until they moved to Connecticut did they discover local theater.

Hartog has performed often with the Westport Community Theater.  He’s also worked in Wilton, New Canaan, Darien, Stamford and Milford.  He’s taken on many roles, in everything from murder mysteries and dramas to comedies.

He appreciates “the great bunch of people” who comprise the community theater world.  And, he admits, getting a response from an audience is “a huge boost.”

Despite vast differences, Hartog sees similarities between theater and emergency medicine.  “You find yourself in a lot of different situations in EMS,” he says.  “You have to improvise, and really think on your feet.”

...and Marc Hartog the EMT.

In community theater as in EMS, Hartog interacts with people he doesn’t know.  Developing quick rapport and trust with patients is akin to meeting a new cast, and learning to work together.

Hartog also does plenty of public speaking and teaching for EMS.  His ease in front of a crowd comes from his experience on stage.

Over the next 3 weekends Hartog performs in the Darien Arts Center’s “Almost, Maine.”  The romantic comedy is a series of vignettes, with 9 actors playing 19 roles.

As usual, a few fellow EMTs may see the show.

Then there are the theatergoers who watch Hartog perform, not knowing they’ll see him again in his white EMS uniform.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” he says.  “And if they’re able to remember me from a show, then I know it’s not the most serious medical call.”

(“Almost, Maine” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, March 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26, at 8 p.m.; there are Sunday matinees March 13 and 20 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are available online at www.arts.darien.org, or by phone at 203-655-5414.)