- March 5, 2014
Our winter production of The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes is off to a great start! Encore Stage & Studio had a fantastic opening weekend with over 1,000 patrons who came to see this fun and comical mystery show, starring the famous partners in crime, Dr. Watson and Detective Sherlock Holmes. Watson and Holmes are one great team, but we have a stellar pair and our own partners in crime behind the scenes we’d love for you to meet: Director Marji Jepperson and Technical Director Kristen Jepperson (or as we’d like to call, the mother-daughter dream team!).
Marji Jepperson, Director for the show and Props and Set Dressing Designer for our season, has been active in theater all of her life. Marji has worked in theater in both the DC area and in California as an actor, choreographer and director. As an actor, her favorite roles include: Aunt Eller in Oklahoma (Act III), Touchstone in As You Like It (Act III), Kate Keller in All My Sons (Great Falls Players), Aunt Martha in Arsenic and Old Lace, and Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady with various companies.
Kristen Jepperson, our Set Designer/Builder and Technical Director, is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, with a BFA in Harp Performance. Since graduation she has toured nationally as a member of the New Christy Minstrels and with Ragtime, the Musical (Emma Goldman). Theatrical credits include: Daisy, The Adding Machine, Studio Theater; Reno, Anything Goes, Olney Theater; Agnes Gooch, Mame, Toby’s of Columbia; Reverand Mother Mary Regina, Nunsense, Toby’s Baltimore. Costuming credits include: Rapunzel, Miss Electricity, the 25th…Spelling Bee at the Workhouse Theater; Pirates of Penzance, Legally Blonde, Encore Stage.
Encore: Marji, can you describe the rehearsal process, what our cast go through during rehearsal and what’s different during tech week?
Marji: After auditions which, of course, got delayed a week thanks to Old Man Winter, we spent the first rehearsal reading the show aloud. We do it Round Robin style, sitting in a circle, with each actor reading just the next line. We cast the show so that the kids could start looking at the script, and thinking about their character. During the break I asked them to to write a biography about their character. It was easier for the actors who only had one character, but I asked the patients to write about their real character, and what caused them to turn into their “grandiose delusion.” There is nothing in the script about this so it was pure imagination. And they did a terrific job! Then we started to block the play, one scene at a time. I asked them to memorize each scene after it is blocked so that we can work on more extensive blocking and character development, and work on relationships with the other characters. During rehearsals we also do improv scenes and games which are not only fun, but help develop acting skills and relationships with the other actors.
During tech week we have speed runs of lines, especially any spots that were troublesome, go over notes from the previous rehearsals. We got to do an entire run of the show on Monday night, first week of tech, which is unheard of usually (thanks awesome tech crew!) These first rehearsals are mostly for spacing since we have been rehearsing in much smaller classrooms. Then each night we add a new element – props, costumes, sound, lights, and make-up.
Kristen: This one was so much easier than the last show (Little Mermaid Jr. with about a gazillion sets and scene changes!). Basically we spent time putting the set together then figuring out the timing on who would change what during the scene changes. Unfortunately, a lot of tech week ends up being a “hurry up and wait” kind of situation because there are so many aspects of the tech that don’t involve all of the people (lighting prep and design, arranging for sound, etc.) Even now that the show has opened, we still do a “dry tech” before each show, which is basically to do all the technical aspects of the show without the actors, just to refresh.
Encore: Marji: The show is about “the world’s greatest detective”, Sherlock Holmes. What do you think makes a mystery come to life and what do you enjoy about mystery theatre?
Marji: I love mysteries, they are my recreational reading. The puzzles are intriguing. Our play has several red herrings, which makes it that much more fun. Sunday, some people from the Sherlock Holmes society came to see the show. They really liked it, even though they were adults, they were well versed in Sherlockian lore.
Kristen: I knew that we would have a lot less stuff to build in this set, so it was fun to get to do a bunch of detail on this set that isn’t always possible. I consulted with my mom, who had very definite opinions about what she would like the set to look like, and took it from there. I was very proud of all the kids who helped me to build the set. The walls look like they have wallpaper, but each of those designs was actually stenciled in by hand by one of the kids! She has so much more patience than I do, and the time machine was built from many pieces of random stuff lying around including a day bed we got free from CraigsList.
Encore: As a mother-daughter team of Director and Technical Director, how do you like working together for this production? What have you learned from each other and do you have any favorite moments you’d like to share?
Marji: We love working together. It was fun to help develop the set as it went along, and having a good grasp on what it was going to be, and the floor plan. This script calls for the Time Machine to be off-stage, but neither of us wanted that. It’s the coolest thing, why wouldn’t we want to see it? We enjoy working together in the shop, which we basically do for all the shows. Sometimes it’s the only time we see each other during the week. It’s good to meld our ideas. I mostly only get to paint the boring stuff, and I’m not allowed to use power tools. She does a lot of the prep work at home, before we have shop hours (actually our house was full of blue tinsel for the longest time, for Little Mermaid‘s water curtain, and now we already have the chandelier for the upcoming show, The 12 Dancing Princesses). We are both creative people, but she thinks so entirely differently from me that I am just amazed.
Kristen: My mom is great to work with. She is communicative, has ideas, but is very willing to be flexible and collaborative. Some people might have trouble working with their mom because some moms like to keep themselves in the “I’m in charge” roll. But my mom and I have been able to work on a more equal footing, each respecting the other’s input.
About two or three years ago, I saw my mom making a prop for something. It was very intricate and involved and I asked her why she spent so much time and effort on something that the audience really wouldn’t see from a distance. She replied that she was doing it for the actors. That having props that were special lent a lot to what they did in the play. I’ve carried that with me ever since, and even though I know that the audience won’t be aware of some of the smaller things I’ve done with the set, I know that it will help the actors in the building of their characters. I’ve learned a bunch from my mum.
Encore: You both make working as a team come naturally, which isn’t always the case for family members. Can you share with us your secret tips to working alongside your mother/daughter?
Marji: I don’t really have any tips, I’m afraid, it’s just always been that way. Of course we have differences of opinion, but if they’re technical she always wins!
Kristen: I think the thing that makes it easiest is that we both like and respect each others abilities. We have slightly different perspectives, so it is great to bounce ideas off of her. One of our favorite things to do (unrelated to theater, but indicative of how we work together) is pass a crossword puzzle back and forth, because with our different strengths we make a great team and that Sunday Post puzzle is toast!
Encore: What do you enjoy most about working for a theatre by kids, for kids?
Marji: I enjoy working with kids because it is so incredibly rewarding. They get excited about every aspect of theatre, unlike many adults. I love, most of all, watching them evolve from children into actors with a professional attitude and performance.
Kristen: They are there because they want to be. I’ve been doing a lot of professional theater over the years, and it can get to the point where you treat it like a job. It is so nice to see so many young people who are just so excited to be a part of the theater.
Encore: Using just three words or phrases, what can our audiences look forward to when they come to the show?
Marji: That’s a hard one. I’d say ‘Sit back. Relax, and I know you’ll enjoy the show!’
Kristen: Intrigue, great characters and a Time Machine!
The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes runs through March 9. Tickets are available online or call (703) 548-1154. Be sure to check out the trailer and enjoy the show!
- February 16, 2014
Last November, we set out a challenge for our students to raise at least $250 by December 31st for Encore’s 5th STAR Fundraiser. The proceeds support Encore’s operations, purchase costumes, props, and scenery, and provide scholarships and free tickets to low-income families. One fabulous student, Sarah Strunk, not only succeeded this challenge, but also won the most dollars and donors! Here to share her Encore experience and some fundraising tips is Sarah Strunk:Sarah: My name is Sarah Strunk and I am in ninth grade. Outside of school and Encore, I take voice lessons, I am a member of Girl Scouts, and I am currently taking a film class involving competitive video production contests.
Encore: What was your first production with Encore Stage & Studio?
Sarah: My first production with Encore was in 2007 in Emma and the Lost Unicorn. I was in third grade and played a fairy named Dewdrop.
Encore: What other programs and shows have you been involved with Encore?
Sarah: I have been in various cast as crew productions such as A Night at the Wax Museum, Aladdin, and Honk Jr. I’ve been in 6 shows on cast and 5 shows on the technical crew and have been camp counselor at Encore’s It’s Elementary summer camp.
Encore: Congrats on winning the STAR Fundraiser! What made you decide to participate in the STAR fundraiser?
Sarah: Thank you! I participated in the online fundraiser a couple years ago and found it to be really fun and a great way to give back to Encore for all the lessons they have taught me there. I wanted to do it again for the same reasons and because Encore is my home away from home and my family.
Encore: How would you describe your fundraising efforts and do you have any tips to share from your success?
Sarah: I reached out to people by sending multiple emails and shared my link through Facebook. I think what really made people want to donate was telling them about my experience with Encore and how important this organization was to me. After each person donated I sent them a personal Thank You to show my appreciation. My tip for future fundraisers is to add a personal touch to their emails and to send update emails with the progress of their fundraiser.
Encore: You won some cool prizes! How did you celebrate your big win?
Sarah: I celebrated my big win by inviting my friend over to help me eat all those yummy cupcakes!
Encore: In the spirit of Valentine’s day weekend, what do you love about Encore or theatre?
Sarah: I really love the ongoing support shown by all the cast and crew mates during every show at Encore. Encore brings in people who have never seen each other before and turns them into family by the end of each run of a show. No matter what mistakes people make, others are constantly there to help them improve and remind them to never give up. That is one of the best things I love that Encore has to offer.
Encore: What are some of your favorite moments at Encore?
Sarah: I think some of my favorite moments at Encore would be making the friends I have today. I’ve never made so many good friends that I can both work well with under pressure and have fun with. Also, I cannot count how many inside jokes I use on a regular day basis that have come from Encore. It really confuses people sometimes and makes me laugh. The memories I make with these students and adults I will never forget.
Encore: Any advice for students who are interested and passionate for theatre?
Sarah: I think the number one most important thing is to never give up. If you love something and you are passionate about it, then go for it! Practice makes you better so get involved with your local theater group and make your dreams come true!
Thanks Sarah for all your hard work over the years and showing us how theatre is a great place to learn and grow!
Sarah Strunk was also involved in the following productions:
Photos taken by Larry McClemons
- January 24, 2014
Over the weekend, Encore presented its final performances of The Little Mermaid Jr., which opened January 10-19. With a royal concert under the sea and Ariel defeating the wicked Ursula, there were many victories to be celebrated at Encore Stage & Studio. 4,432–that’s how many patrons came to see this magical and musical show, making it an all-time new record for the highest attended production for our theatre since Peter Pan in 1987. For 47 seasons, Encore has provided educational and production opportunities with a mission to build a life-long appreciation for live theatre onstage, backstage, in the classroom and in the audience. In the last two weekends, our home theatre was filled with young audiences dressed in Disney royalty and happy, smiling faces enjoying their family date—all reminding us why we love what we do. Thank you for supporting our Theatre by Kids, for Kids!
Hear what our staff and board had to say about the record-breaking news:
Susan Keady, Artistic Director: It’s exciting to give so many families the opportunity to share an afternoon or evening of live theatre. It was fun to see so many high school students in the audience as well as many of our college age alumni cast & crew taking time out on their winter break to see a show and visit with old friends.
How does it feel to break the record for highest attendance in Encore history?
Caroline Schrieber, Programs Manager: Fantastic! The Encore Staff spent a lot of time last weekend badgering our Marketing Manager about how many tickets we had sold. We knew we were closing in on the record, but the moment we sold the one ticket we needed to top our previous highest-selling show was pretty great!
Sara Duke, Executive Director: The Little Mermaid, Jr. was an all-around, great production. The cast, crew and staff worked hard to create a magical experience for children and families, so breaking the attendance record was just icing on the cake. I’ll admit, it was a lot of fun watching the attendance figures increase each day with online sales!
Jerry Gidner, Board President: Extraordinary. During the past several years, since the start of the recession, our attendance numbers have been below where we wanted them. We had done better in the past, and I thought we could again. And we have: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe started our season off with a strong showing – about 2,700 came to see it. Then to follow that with a new attendance record for The Little Mermaid was just so gratifying.
What were your initial expectations for this show? What do you think contributed to the success?
Caroline: Going in, we knew that The Little Mermaid Jr. was going to be a great choice for Encore–it has lots of memorable characters and songs, fun set design possibilities, and it appeals to all ages, from 4-year-old girls who wore their princess dresses to the show, to grandparents who remembered taking their grandchildren to the Disney movie when it originally came out in 1989.
What really made our production spectacular was the team who worked on it. From our highly dedicated adult staff members to our cast who switched easily from tentacles to chefs to seagulls, to our crew who made complicated set changes happen quickly, the people involved really put this show over the edge. It’s due to their hard work that the production turned out so delightfully.
Sara: Originally, I had hoped that we would sell more than 2,400 tickets. Our production of Honk, Jr. had sold 2,149 tickets last January, so I felt that 2,400 was a reasonable goal. We almost surpassed that number in the first weekend! Little Mermaid is a great title (who doesn’t love the songs?!), but I also think that we owe a lot of credit to Aileen Pangan, our Marketing Manager. She has built our reputation in the community over the last three years. Her efforts to increase our visibility by expanding our social media presence, revamping our website, increasing our advertising and connecting with the press has made an enormous difference for our organization.
Jerry: A few years ago, we hired Aileen Pangan, who I call our Marketing Goddess. She has spent 3 years expanding our marketing effort, particularly through social media. She also expanded the number of reviewers of our shows. There used to be one and now it’s 5 to 7 for each show, posting overwhelmingly positive reviews on theater blogs and parenting blogs. And the word has definitely gotten out. Combine that with what we think are high quality shows at very reasonable prices, and it’s a great opportunity for family entertainment. We have a very talented staff, including Sara Duke, our Executive Director, Susan Keady, our Artistic Director, Caroline Schreiber, our Producer and programming coordinator, and a host of other people who work on each show. They are a great team and they create quality shows time after time after time.
What can we expect for Encore’s future?
Caroline: More great shows for great audiences! We had a lot of new patrons join us for The Little Mermaid Jr., and we hope they’ll keep coming back for more theatre by kids, for kids.
Jerry: We hope that the attendance numbers this year are our new normal. More patrons at each show means more revenue, for one thing, which lets us bring programming to more kids. More importantly, it means more young people exposed to the magic of live theater, and for the actors on stage, it means great crowds and an appreciative audience. We have expanded our programming a great deal over the past couple of years and our plans are for that to continue.
Sara: I think we can continue to expect great work from our students and staff – and I hope everyone out there will come and see that work on stage! Theatre is all about team work and I think our record breaking attendance illustrates the amazing teamwork that takes place within our organization every single day. I’m looking forward welcoming just as many patrons to our next production, The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes.
See you at the theatre!
Photos by Larry McClemons, Blog contributors: Sara Duke, Caroline Schreiber, Jerry Gidner and Susan Keady
December 13, 2013
From his very first Encore show acting in The Chronicles of Narnia in 2005, to his largest role yet as stage manager in our most recent production, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Matt Rosenberg has truly made full circle of the Encore production journey both onstage and off. Matt worked on crew for Emma and the Lost Unicorn(2008), Legend of Sleepy Hollow(2008), Little Mermaid(2008), and Jungle Book(2009), and cast for Jolly Roger & The Pirate Queen(2006). Using his great experience and leadership skills, he has made the demanding responsibilities of stage management look so deceivingly easy, and contributing greatly to the success of the show! We’re more than delighted to share Matt’s Encore journey, fun memories, and his excellent tips for students interested in working stage management.
What grade are you in and what school do you attend? What activities are you involved with?
Matt: I am a senior at Yorktown High school in Arlington, Virginia. I have been involved with many school activities such as playing baseball for Yorktown as well as running track. I was a student government officer during my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Outside of school I coach a baseball rec-league team and have competed in both triathlons and power lifting meets. I have also done a couple military courses as well.
What was your first participation with Encore Stage & Studio and why did you decide to audition?
Matt: The first show I did was the 2005 production of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. My sister had been acting at Encore for several years and she thought it would be nice if I tried out with her (not thinking at all I would make it). In the end we both made the show and she played Susan. It was really great of my sister to take me under her wing and expose me to the theater that she loved so much. She went on to do about 20 Encore productions and continues to act at Georgetown University; she will be directing her first play this spring. Both my sister, Katie, and I got our Star Awards at Encore.
Matt: I had a really great experience. I found everyone on staff to be very professional and on top of what needed to be done. Working with the kids was always the highlight of my week. I found that everyone in the cast and the crew were highly motivated to do well and cared a lot about the end result of the show. It was also fun to see how all the parts of the show mesh together and being the stage manger was a front row seat. I never appreciated how much work goes into a show until getting the job.
What do you enjoy most about working on crew?
Matt: For me I found crew to be the most interesting since every day something would be different and new problems would arise. I don’t think any two shows were exactly the same. I also found the challenge of making the right, but quick, decision when anything went wrong pretty thrilling.
How has your involvement with Encore influenced you beyond the theatre?
Matt: I think Encore has given me more confidence and exposed me to leadership roles. It has taught me to be a leader and to step up to more demanding jobs. It has also taught me to not be afraid of a challenge. It is really great being around young people who want to do well in their particular field of interest. Too many activities now a day are highly influenced by parents trying to push their children into fields that the kids may not find appealing. Even since I first started when I was 10 every kid I met at Encore was there for all the right reasons and it was their own choice to be there.
What is your most memorable experience with Encore?
Matt: There are way too many to pick just one, so here is more of a highlight reel. I remember when I was doing crew we would go as a crew to play laser tag and then catch a movie after shows. The traditional cast vs. crew football/ultimate Frisbee games was also a highlight. As stage manager I enjoyed the library performances and watching the kids in between Saturday shows having their dance party. I also remember the first day of try outs being blown away by how excited the kids were to even try out for the show. Over the last eight years I just remember a blur of really memorable experiences too good just to pick one.
What are your plans after high school graduation?
Matt: After I graduate this summer I will be attending Furman University in South Carolina. I hope to one day be an officer in the military and/or work in law enforcement.
Any advice for future stage managers?
Matt: It is important that you are well organized and you have a good idea of what the end product should look like. Make sure you don’t bring any of your problems with you from school and you stay on top of your own school work. Make sure you set a professional yet caring atmosphere and that everyone is included. One thing I did was make a list (either physical or mental) of everything that you think can go wrong and how would you fix it. Everything from lost of communications, broken mics, bad CDs, power outages, bad storms, kids missing their cues, lines or jobs being forgotten, internal cast/crew issues and how to handle them. There is no reason to be caught off guard for a problem that could have been prevented. Most importantly however is that you have fun while it lasts, there were the occasional long day for me but looking back at it, the whole thing was just a blink of an eye.
Best of luck on your endeavors Matt! Encore will always be cheering you on.
Matt Rosenberg was involved in the following productions:
Photos by Larry McClemons.