In choosing its second production, Kentlands Community Players (KCP) was true to its mission “to highlight the talent we have within our community,” said Meredith Fogle, the company’s founder. “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” (SWC), which will premiere on the Arts Barn stage Nov. 22 and 23, is an original play by a Kentlands resident with a cast comprised of local adults and two Quince Orchard High School students.
This play, added Fogle, who is also directing, has enhanced value for the fledgling company. It offers “an interactive experience that will give the audience insight into the audition process and might pique their interest in becoming involved in community theatre.”
Playwright Mark Steimer echoed Fogle, noting that he made the piece interactive “so we could offer at least some members of the audience their first chance to participate in a theatrical production. And, if all goes well, some of them will want to continue that involvement in the future.”
Steimer, who also has acted, assistant produced and crewed locally, wrote the play specifically for KCP at Fogle’s request last spring. The two met in the fall of 2016, when Fogle was part of the cast of a Rockville Little Theatre-sponsored staged reading of Steimer’s “atypical musical titled ‘Together Again for the First Time,’” he said. “That’s how she knew I was a playwright.”
At the time of KCP’s launch, Steimer was otherwise engaged—he had an acting role in Sandy Spring Theatre Group’s “Plaza Suite,” which was also staged at the Arts Barn. But when Fogle asked about a play for KCP’s second production, the playwright was ready. “I pitched an idea, and the group seemed supportive. So I got to work,” he recalled.
Steimer was “motivated by a set of complementary desires in creating (SWC),” he said. “I wanted to write something that would be relatively simple to produce in terms of the technical elements of theatre, provide some educational value by introducing the audience to some aspect of what it’s like to be involved in community theatre, include a story that had a reasonable level of substance and involve characters the audience could relate to and actors would enjoy developing.”
The first draft took about two months. “A few members of the KCP core group then did a reading, which pointed to some needed revisions. Those went quickly, and I was able to turn the script over to the company,” Steimer said. “When Meredith agreed to direct, I felt like the show would be in good hands.”
Describing the substance of the play, Steimer said, “I wouldn’t call it a comedy, though there are more than a few lines that I hope will make people laugh. I like to think the play shows some thoughtfulness with regard to how fragile human relationships can be, the trust and tenderness that individuals can share, and the hurt that follows when that tender bond somehow gets severed.”
Corey Estoll, who had an acting role in KCP’s first production, “Play On!”, is serving as assistant director in this one. “I didn’t think I was right for any of the parts, but I was intrigued by the premise of the play, and I wanted to be a part of making it real,” the Kentlands resident said. “I haven’t directed before, but having done just about everything else in theater, on and off stage, this is the most logical next step.”
Despite his conviction that “acting will always be his passion,” Estoll said he “enjoys the chance to analyze and explore all the characters instead of just focusing on one.”
As for working with Fogle, he observed, “Meredith is wonderfully collaborative. As assistant director, I defer to Meredith’s judgement, but she actively seeks the input of our actors and myself. She has made it so that this is a show that we are all creating together.”
Estoll praised the playwright’s use of interactive elements. “The premise of the play is that the characters are the production crew of a community theater who are holding auditions for an upcoming play,” he said. “The drama of the characters’ lives will be revealed between sessions of volunteer audience members, playing the parts of auditioners, reading lines to audition for the fictional play.
“This creates a situation where only audience members who want to get on stage will be asked to get on stage, and, best of all, the audience is invited to live with the characters behind the fourth wall. The result is that everyone in the audience will feel like these are real people whose lives they are experiencing.”
Of note, said Estoll, are “our leads, Sheldon (Reiffenstein) and Kryss (Lacovaro Curtis) (who) have developed a great chemistry in portraying mid-life new love.”
It has been eight years since Reiffenstein’s last acting role, in Silver Spring Stage’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Now the “retired quite enjoyably” Kentlands resident serves as the KCP Board’s publicity chair. In “SWC,” he plays Paul Taylor, the director who is exploring a romantic relationship with his friend and producer Ronni Schwartz, played by Kryss Lacovaro Curtis, a Gaithersburg resident who works for the Montgomery County Recreation Department.
This is Curtis’ first KCP role, but she has performed in more than 35 plays—and directed 10— since 2000 when she began auditioning. The actress described her character as “a strong, focused, sensitive and caring person, like many of us. She throws herself into her work as producer because, besides loving her job, she is attempting to avoid the pain she recently experienced.
“It is only when she finds someone going through the same experience … that she opens up and begins the slow climb into forgiveness and the understanding that, by allowing herself to be vulnerable, it will allow her to move on.”
Steimer recently attended a rehearsal that “reinforced” his feeling that SWC is in good hands. “I hope this production will help propel KCP toward its really bright future. I’m grateful to the Kentlands Community Foundation and KCP—and especially the gifted cast and crew—for all they’re doing to present this play to the community.”
He “can’t wait to see it as part of the audience.”
Kentlands Community Players will present “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23, at the Arts Barn. Tickets are available on the Kentlands Community Players website at kentlandscommunityplayers.org or at the door the nights of the performances. KCP is requesting a $20 per seat donation.