Local middle-schooler to appear in CRT's 'Our Town'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Wed., Sep. 21, 2011
Jason Mack in rehearsal for CRT's 'Our Town' with director Robert Ross Parker. Photo by David Ciano. - Contributed Photo

Jason Mack isn’t entirely sold on the whole idea of acting. A typical 12-year-old, he is not overly fond of spending long periods of time on one task. “I think there’s going  be a lot of reading through the scenes,” said the Mansfield middle-schooler, preparing to head into an early rehearsal for the Connecticut Repertory Theater’s upcoming production of “Our Town.” Mack plays dual roles in the show, and is the only child actor involved in the production. “I play Joe Crowell and his brother Si,” said Mack, explaining that the fictional brothers appear in two different acts of the play.

For Mack, who is the son of CRT Managing Director Frank Mack, “Our Town” marks his fourth acting experience. He has appeared in UConn-affiliated productions of “Winter’s Tale” and “God’s Country,” and appeared in his fourth-grade production at school. Though by all accounts Mack possesses the acting gene, he’s not overly enthusiastic about the vocation. “It can sometimes be kind of boring,” he said.

Fortunately, his experience with music has helped prepare him for long periods of rehearsal. Mack plays the violin, the piano and the guitar, and is a member of the Country Fiddle String Band at Mansfield Middle School. “You have to practice a lot to be good on instruments,” he said.

Asked about the relevance of “Our Town” to the modern pre-teen, Mack is honest in his answer. “I think it’s kind of old-fashioned,” he said.

But speaking from a more mature perspective, director Robert Ross Parker points to the universality of the show. “It has some very, very serious things to say about life, death, beliefs,” said Parker. “It’s a beloved classic that everyone knows, and it seems so quintessentially American.” Those familiar with the traditional, sparse staging of the show might be surprised to learn that Parker intends to pare it down even further. “I just feel we can simplify costume, visuals, sound,” he said.

And despite the fact that “Our Town” is familiar to most, Parker said that there are plenty of reasons to see the CRT production. “I am a great, great fan of this play,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun show, and it’s got fabulous actors.”

Among the cast are David Patrick Kelly playing the role of the stage manager. Kelly's Broadway credits include "Twelfth Night," "Uncle Vanya" and "The Government Inspector." Kelly has appeared in numerous productions at the Hartford Stage. His films include "The Warriors" and "Crooklyn." He played Jerry Horne in television's "Twin Peaks."

Also appearing is UConn alumna and Connecticut resident Mary Cadorette,  known for her role in television’s “Three’s a Crowd” with John Ritter. Cadorette appeared on Broadway in “42nd Street,” and reigned as Miss Connecticut in 1975. Cadorette plays the role of Mrs. Gibbs.

“I think it’s well worth coming to see,” said Parker. “It’s one thing to see 'Our Town' done in high school, but it’s quite another to see it with an actor like David [Patrick Kelly]. Even when people think they know it, it’s easy to be surprised by it.”

“Our Town” runs from Oct. 6 to 16 at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. The production is the first in the regular season series for the theater. Following “Our Town” will be a production of Moliere’s “The Miser.” “I’m Connecticut,” by Mike Reiss, follows in December. Reiss, a four-time Emmy award-winning writer for “The Simpsons,” has applied his wit to his home state for this world premier production.

In February, CRT will present “Odysseus D.O.A.,” in which Elliot, an AIDS patient in the final stages of his disease, imagines a “magical place where the blind see, the sick love and drag queens become goddesses,” according to a CRT description. Critic Martin Denton called “Odysseus,” by playwright Stephen Svoboda (who will direct the CRT production), “poetic, surreal and wonderfully humorous."

Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” comes to CRT in March, followed by “Spring Awakening” in April. "Awakening" is a musical reworking of Frank Wedekind’s controversial 19th century play.  With music and lyrics by rockers Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, the musical possesses “the most gorgeous Broadway score this decade,” according to "Entertainment Weekly."

For more information regarding “Our Town” or the CRT season, go to www.CRT.uconn.edu or call 860-486-1629. To purchase tickets, go to the website or call 860-486-4226.

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