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Something New in Air at Oddfellows

It's a new school year, and a new slate of programming is being unveiled at Oddfellows Playhouse. The youth theater is excited to unveil a large overhaul and upgrade in its programmatic offerings.

It's a new school year, and a whole new slate of programming at . The youth theater, which provides afterschool and weekend theatrical programming, is excited to unveil a large overhaul and upgrade in its programmatic offerings.  

Oddfellows’ programs use theatre as a vehicle to build essential life skills, while exploring highly educational and artistic themes and plays.  “We asked our families and students for input on what Oddfellows was offering them and what they wanted to see added,” said Executive Director Matt Pugliese. 

One of the biggest changes in the Playhouse schedule is a switch from eight week to six week class sessions.  Instead of three trimesters of classes during the year, there will be four 6 week quarters.  

“There are still 24 weeks of programming during the school year, but hopefully the six week course schedule fits better into families’ busy schedules,” said Pugliese.  Fall Session 1 runs for six weeks from September 17 until October 27.  Fall Session 2 runs for six weeks from October 29 through December 15.  Winter and spring session will follow, beginning January 28.  

Another effort to accommodate families with multiple children is an increase in simultaneous class offerings on weekday afternoons.  Classes are offered from 4-7pm Monday through Thursday for students K-8.  

“We saw how popular Saturday morning classes were with families with multiple children.  It took a lot of logistical coordination, but nearly every afternoon, a parent can drop off their children for an hour or more and have a program at every school age level.” 

There are also more classes that explore areas outside of traditional acting.  New class offerings focus on musical theater, improvisation, circus skills, audition coaching, directing, technical theater, and playwrighting. 

Classes for the Little Fellows (ages 3-4) include Fairytales and Folksongs, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! and Dinosaur Adventures.  First Act (Grades K-1) offer Creative Drama courses themed around children’s books and adventures such as Harry the Dirty Dog, Angelina Ballerina, and The Paper Bag Princess.  Story Starters (Grades 2-3) encourage creative expression and promote confidence, self-esteem, and communication.  

Once a week classes focus on skill building, while classes that meet twice a week short productions put those skills into action.  Short productions include Dr. Seuss Stories and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Kids Company (Grades 4-5) is the stage that students begin to focus more on skills and techniques.  These courses help develop the next set of vocal, physical and emotional skills.  

Short productions such as Connecticut Ghost Stories are offered on Thursdays. A class in the Fundamentals of Musical Theater is offered on Saturdays.

The Junior Repertory Company (grades 6-8) offers skill based workshops throughout the week. A musical theater dance class on Wednesdays helps students build around dance and acting as storytelling devices.  Musical Theater Cabaret will put together select complete numbers on Saturdays.  

The Junior Repertory Company will present a full production of Huck Finn by Eric Coble, Adapted from the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  Huck Finn flees the claws of "civilization" for the freedom of the mighty Mississippi, only to find himself running from mobs, getting shot at, stealing gold, digging escape tunnels and dressing as a woman. And perhaps his greatest adventure: unexpectedly finding his own moral compass in a world of corruption and hypocrisy.  

This highly-theatrical adaptation, directed by Lorra Webb, is the second of Coble’s work produced at the Playhouse, following 2006’s Gold in the Bones.  The Teen Repertory Company (grades 9-12) is an opportunity for adventurous, committed teenagers to experience cutting-edge theater in a supportive, challenging and non-competitive environment.

The company takes on mature, thought-provoking work with bold energy and high artistic standards.  Skill building classes and private coaching are available as well. Courses in directing and playwrighting are featured this fall.

The season will begin with a “historical” piece by John Heimbuch, William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead: A True Account of the Zombie Plague of 1599, that will take the stage in November.  This play from the NY Fringe Festival takes place backstage on the opening night of Shakespeare’s Henry V.  

Dealing with drama behind the scenes becomes more complicated when an afflicted madman enters the Globe and attacks.  As the affliction spreads through London, the Globe is placed in quarantine and the survivors within must fight for their lives.   This production is being produced by the generous support of Beverley and Tony Bellisio.

"This play is fun.  That is what initially drew me to it.  But the genre of horror is a reflection of our society, and it says a great deal about where our fears are today that we have become recently fixated on zombies and the risk of some pandemic outbreak.  During the Elizabethan era, the term “afflicted” was used synonymously for madness, illness or even demonic possession.  This play is about the fear of others,” said Pugliese. 

The holiday season brings a new holiday offering to the stage, with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration.  The play, directed by Peter Loffredo, is a co-production with CT Heritage Productions, and will feature a multigenerational cast made up of Oddfellows’ Teen Rep company and CT Heritage Productions.  

The piece, which received its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre in 2008, tells the story of a Christmas Eve in Washington, D.C. in 1864.  Vogel weaves together historical fact with humanizing detail and inventive fiction to explore the celebration of Christmas and our nation during wartime.  Auditions will be Tuesday September 18 and Wednesday September 19 for the fall shows, and Tuesday January 22, 2013 and Wednesday January 23, 2013 for the winter/spring productions. For more information about the 2012-13 season, or to purchase tickets, visit www.oddfellows.org

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the American Savings Foundation, the CDBG Scholarship Program, the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, the CT Department of Education, Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund, Elizabeth Carse Foundation, the Fund for Greater Hartford, the George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, the Irving Kohn Foundation, the J. Walton Bissell Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex United Way, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Middletown YSB, the National Endowment for the Arts, Northern Middlesex Cable Advisory Council, Pratt & Whitney—Middletown, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, the Stare Fund, Stop and Shop Foundation, Thomas J. Atkins Foundation, Triple Frog, LLC and WESU (88.1FM).

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