Windham Players focus on community, as well as theater

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Wed., Jan. 16, 2013
Windham High School students participate in an audition for this year's Windham Players spring production. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Windham High School students participate in an audition for this year's Windham Players spring production. Photos by Melanie Savage.

A group of students sat in the darkened auditorium at Windham High School. There was a feeling of camaraderie in the room, with students alternately chatting quietly or watching the activity on the stage. By late afternoon on Jan. 9, the third and final day of auditions for this year’s spring Windham Players production, the students were mostly from Windham. But the final production of “A Very Potter Musical,” scheduled to run in late April/early May, will feature a much more heterogeneous crowd. Auditions brought in more than 30 people from 11 different schools, according to Vincent Iovine, a Windham High School English teacher and the Windham Players director.

Iovine, who holds dual graduate degrees in both speech/drama and teaching, took over the school drama program eight years ago and immediately decided to draw in performers from outside the school. He wanted to encourage collaboration between the school and the community. “And essentially, to let people know what a tremendous resource we have here,” said Iovine. “These are great kids we have here.”

Over the years, productions have included performers as young as 4 and as old as 72 years old, and from schools all over the surrounding area. “It’s really a pleasure to see how the younger kids and the older kids work together,” said Iovine.

Productions also draw talent from local universities. This year’s auditions drew Eastern Connecticut State University students, including Rachel, a Columbia resident, who auditioned on Jan. 9. Iovine was blown away by both her dramatic and musical auditions, and immediately invited her to become part of a cabaret performance scheduled for later in the year. It was Rachel’s first time auditioning for Windham Players.

“I love Harry Potter, and I’ve been wanting to try something new,” she said. Rachel performed in musicals as a student in middle school but lost interest during her high school years. “I remember loving to act and sing,” she said. She decided to stop in at the Windham Players audition after hearing about them on the radio. Rachel was nervous before heading onstage, “but as soon as I start, the nervousness goes away,” she said.

Iovine wasn’t sure yet how Rachel would be cast. “We had seven or eight very strong voices,” he said. After three days of auditions, the plan was to assemble at local coffee shop Cafemantic and hash out casting decisions. Included in the decisions would be Laurene Palmer, a special education teacher at Windham who has been involved in productions for more than 10 years, and officers of the Windham Players, who this year happen to be all seniors at the school. Jesse Dunnack, Rikki Arkin and Faye Stoloff would not only help to cast, but would assume non-acting roles in the production.

Along with the other senior members of the Players, Windham senior Michael Paulhus will be greatly missed after graduating this spring. Paulhus got involved in lighting and sound when he was in the seventh grade. “My sister was involved and I kind of got dragged in,” he said. Paulhus plans to attend college in either Vermont or Boston next year, and is currently training Brett Ellis, a Windham freshman, to take over his role in the control room. “I don’t mind saying that [Paulhus has] traveled way beyond me in terms of the technical stuff,” said Iovine.

The Windham Players production of “A Very Potter Musical,” featuring characters from the popular “Harry Potter” series, will play May 2, 3, 4 and 5. Weekday and Saturday performances are 7 p.m., with a Sunday matinee scheduled for 2 p.m.

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