Volunteers make sure the show goes on at Bradley Playhouse

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Aug. 5, 2013
Patty Greene-Pawelczyk hangs a flag in the lobby of the Bradley Playhouse. Photo by D. Coffey.
Patty Greene-Pawelczyk hangs a flag in the lobby of the Bradley Playhouse. Photo by D. Coffey.

Patty Greene-Pawelczyk was putting the finishing touches on the Bradley Playhouse entrance on Aug. 2, just hours before the opening of “Anything Goes.” She had decorated it to look like a gang plank to a ship, in keeping with the show's theme. Head shots of the actors were showcased on nautically-themed paper. Fish netting and life-savers hung on the walls. Small anchors, cruise ships and ship knots surrounded playbills. Anchor-shaped luminaria with battery-powered lights led into the theater lobby.

An actress walked through and asked where her head shot was. Greene-Pawelczyk reassured her. “Bob took one,” she told the actress. “Yours will be up before the show.”

Greene-Pawelczyk's familiarity with all things Bradley comes from three seasons volunteering at the Putnam theater. She's loved the theater ever since she saw a Shakespeare play in Stamford, Conn., when she was 16. “I got the bug,” she said, “but I had no clue what went on behind the scenes.” It was after a Bradley production of “Aladdin” that she decided to find out.

Theater business manager Patricia Green called Greene-Pawelczyk invaluable. Green (known as Patty 1) said Greene-Pawelczyk (known as Patty 2) jumped right in. “She wanted to learn everything,” Green said. And because the Bradley is volunteer-driven, there was much to learn. She answered phones, sold tickets, updated computer information and assisted with mailings. She learned how to sew in order to make costume adjustments. She's worked as an usher and at the concession stand. She's been the house manager during shows. She's been a stage manager and producer for two children's shows. She's even been on WINY radio to talk about “Pinkalicious.” Now she is the volunteer coordinator, a board member and the chair of the Human Resources Committee for the Theater of Northeastern Connecticut.

Greene-Pawelczyk has worked on almost every show the Bradley has put on in the last few years. In that time, she appeared on stage only once, when actors needed to practice for “Spelling Bee.” “I'd never been on stage,” she said. “That was a safe way – there was no audience!”

There are as many volunteers backstage as on stage, according to Green. And even the actors have to pitch in on set production. Board members have to participate in the process. There are flashing lights and spotlights to synchronize, sound to mix, light and sound boards to man, sets to be built, painting to be finished, stage hands needed to carry things on and off stage. Productions require greeters, ushers and concession stand help. Green estimates that about 120 volunteers work every show.

For Greene-Pawelczyk, volunteering allows her to use her creativity. “My regular job is very organized,” she said. The Bradley gives her room to experiment. And that experience gives her a physical and emotional lift. “The cast and crew are wonderful to work with,” she said. “They are fun people. I can come here tired and I get re-energized. It's amazing.”

Greene-Pawelczyk has ideas for drawing in more volunteers for the Bradley, and giving them more for their efforts. In August, she will go before the Board of Directors to propose a program to formally recognize volunteers. As long as there are shows scheduled, Greene-Pawelczyk will be there to make sure the show goes on. Whether that requires her to sew or sell, decorate or delegate, she'll be ready.

Green estimates that for every actor, there are two to three volunteers who contribute their time building and painting sets, working backstage, managing props, helping with make-up and costumes, producing and managing the business of each production. Show directors, stage managers, technical directors, lighting and sound technicians and the actors themselves are volunteers. If performance isn't your thing, working in the lobby on show nights as ushers, ticket scanners, concessions sellers, or popcorn makers are also options. For more information about volunteering at the Bradley, call 860-928-7887 during normal business hours, or go to www.thebradleyplayhouse.org.

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