Press Room

Eagle Theatre received major gift from Philly donor

JimDonio-and-LeonardCHaas_smallThe Eagle Theatre just got closer to a major fundraising goal with a $250,000 gift from the Wyncote Foundation of Philadelphia. It is the largest single gift in the theater’s history.

The donation was announced on Thursday evening.

“We hope that our gift will encourage a broad base of contributors to do everything they can to help this theater to continue to grow, thrive,and exceed expectation,” said Wyncote Foundation board member Leonard Haas in a press release from the theater.

As part of the Eagle’s 3 Year 3 Million campaign to raise $3,000,000 over the course of three years the donation will be used for general operational support.

RELATED: First NJ Fringe Festival comes to Hammonton

Since the campaign began last year, the theater has raised more than a million dollars through contributions and grants from individuals, businesses, nonprofit foundations and government entities. The most recent gift is included in this total.

Ed Corsi, the co-artistic director, said he and Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek were introduced to the foundation through other theater contacts. They developed a relationship and applied for a grant through the foundation, which, Corsi said, is one of the biggest funders of the arts in Philadelphia and around the country.

The foundation, Corsi said, was not just impressed by the theater, but by the town. “They see a lot of potential in the entire town of Hammonton.”

The Eagle Theatre is South Jersey’s only year-round equity theater and is organizing the first-ever official Fringe Festival in New Jersey, to take place this August.  This year, the theater put on the hit musical “Heathers” and has experimented with using sound and scent technology to make the theater experience more interactive for the audience.

“This is huge,” Corsi said of the gift. “We said transformational. It really is.”

The theater takes a lot of money to run, Corsi said. The extra funds from the Wyoncote Foundation “allow us to continue to do the things we’ve done so far and continue throughout the year.”

SOURCE (Courier Post Online)


 

EAGLE THEATRE PAYS TRIBUTE TO HAMMONTON

A Walk-Through Exhibit prefaces the Eagle Theatre’s inventive production of
Thornton Wilder’s Award-Winning masterwork, OUR TOWN

Eagle's Walk-Through Exhibit

Hammonton’s Sesquicentennial, 150 year anniversary, with a groundbreaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Pulitzer Prize Winning play, OUR TOWN. The play, and special walk through Hammonton history exhibit, will open this Friday, May 20th and run through June 26th.

Wilder’s inspirational masterpiece seamlessly weaves past and present, as it chronicles the daily life of a close-knit community and reveals universal truths that connect us all by showing us what it is to be alive. This production also infuses moments that include Hammonton family and business names, along with other local references.

Eagle Theatre has sought to breathe even more life into this familiar tale with a brand new technological innovation. A “scentsory” experience will waft aromas throughout the theatre at key moments during the performance. The production also features an acclaimed professional cast, including Barrymore Award Winning actors Jared Delaney, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Leonard C. Haas.

Onstage, props will remain pantomimed in traditional Wilder fashion, and live sound effects are created by the actors themselves. In addition, the actors remain onstage throughout the performance, serving as an instrument to the communal sentiment of the piece.

Guests will also have access to the pre-show immersive walk-through exhibit entitled ‘Waves of Diversity – An Interactive Experience of Hammonton’s Progressive History’.  This exhibit will display rare photos, film, clothing, artifacts, and antiquities. Patrons will re-discover cherished local memories and facts. After walking through the exhibit, patrons will move into the main seating area of the theatre for the performance.

“We are thrilled to produce this fresh take on an American classic, and set it in Hammonton. We know anyone with a connection to the area will enjoy this once in a lifetime experience with their family and friends,” Jim Donio, Eagle Theatre Managing Director said.

 



WHY IS THIS A HEARTWARMING AMERICAN CLASSIC?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER, TONY AWARD WINNER,
DRAMA DESK AWARD WINNER, BARRYMORE AWARD WINNER

HAMMONTON, N.J. – Eagle Theatre will pay homage to the Greater Delaware Valley with a groundbreaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Pulitzer Prize Winning play, OUR TOWN.

Starring Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Award Winners Jared Delaney, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Leonard C. Haas, Wilder’s inspirational masterpiece seamlessly weaves past and present, as it chronicles the daily life of a close-knit community and reveals universal truths that connect us all by showing us what it is to be alive.

OUR TOWN, written in 1938, became an instant classic following a successful Broadway run. This celebrated American classic was born out of a playwright’s frustration. Wilder was dissatisfied with the theatre of his time, claiming “I felt that something had gone wrong…. I began to feel that the theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive.” His response was to use a metatheatrical style in approach to this work. OUR TOWN systematically breaks down the barriers between audience and performer, while actors mime actions without the use of props. However, despite Wilder’s theatrical invention, it is the uplifting subject matter that resonates with today’s audience.

DelMarcelle, a professional actor, director, and theatre educator for over eighteen years claims that what drew him to the play is its timelessness. “The day people stop working, loving, struggling, connecting, suffering, laughing…dying…that’s the day we can start thinking of this beautiful piece of theatre that flaunts the conventions of this art form so masterfully as a relic…an antique. Until then, it remains just as vibrant, just as cutting edge, just as important, just as modern…as any other work of the contemporary theatre.”

Haas, fellow Barrymore Winner and professional actor and philanthropist, shared DelMarcelle’s sentiment, exclaiming “It taps into what is at our core, what is really important, or at the very least it will make people remember or realize what they once knew was important that they might had forgotten, as they became grown up and modern.”

Eagle Theatre has sought to breathe life into this familiar tale. The production will feature a pre-show immersive walk-through exhibit entitled ‘Waves of Diversity – An Interactive Experience of Our Progressive History’, set to display rare photos, film, clothing, artifacts, and antiquities. Onstage, props will remain pantomimed in tradition Wilder fashion, and live sound effects are created by the actors themselves. In addition, the actors remain onstage throughout the performance, serving as an instrument to the communal sentiment of the piece.

Delaney, Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director of Revolution Shakespeare, concluded “While it’s certainly an American classic, it’s far more experimental than people remember. The subject matter seems simple enough, but the structure of the play itself was a bit avant-garde for its day. Even today, for that matter.”


What Happens in OUR TOWN, Stays in OUR TOWN
Eagle, Stockton & Noyes Pioneer Your Theatrical Experience

HAMMONTON, N.J. – Eagle Theatre will pay homage to the Greater Delaware Valley by celebrating Hammonton’s 150th Anniversary with a groundbreaking production of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize Winner OUR TOWN, re-imagined to take place in Hammonton, New Jersey.Our Town - Cast & Designers Read ScriptStarring Theatre Philadelphia Barrymore Award Winners Jared Delaney, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Leonard C. Haas, Wilder’s inspirational masterpiece seamlessly weaves past and present as it chronicles the daily life of a close-knit community and reveals universal truths that connect us all by showing us what it is to be alive.

OUR TOWN will mark the official launch of Eagle Theatre’s IF (Innovations Factory), a core of theming artists (IFologists) dedicated to discovering medium advancing technology, designed to provide audiences with an intensely immersive and sensory experience.

Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III stated “We found ourselves asking ‘What If?’ What if our inquisitive nature was embodied by a collective of artists with a common goal; push the medium forward. It was out of this question that we founded an assembly line of endless possibilities, made up of dreamers and doers.”

Eagle Theatre’s OUR TOWN will pioneer a new ‘scentsory’ experience. The scent of rich coffee, fresh linen, and a bouquet of heliotrope will envelope the audience, creating an intangible world-building atmosphere that accentuates the patron’s experience. IF’s theatrical ‘scentsory’ prototype has been in private research and development for over a year and is now set to make its debut.

OUR TOWN was first performed in Princeton, New Jersey in 1938.

Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi claims “This is the Delaware Valley’s opportunity to reclaim the beloved American classic while providing a refreshing twist that will undoubtedly open your heart and breathe life into a timeless tale.”

Eagle Theatre has partnered with Stockton University- South Jersey Cultural & History Center and The Noyes Museum to present an immersive walk-through exhibit entitled ‘Waves of Diversity – An Interactive Experience of Our Progressive History’, set to display rare persevered photos, film, clothing, artifacts, and antiquities. The exhibit was funded, in part, through a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Wioncek concluded “OUR TOWN will be a love letter to the history of cultural and technological progression. Audiences will not walk into a theatre, rather simultaneously step into to the past, present, and future.”


Lights, Camera… HAMMONTON!
Hammonton Native Features Hometown As Inspiration For Full-Length Feature Film

HAMMONTON, N.J. – Since its inception Eagle Theatre has garnered a reputation for innovative and invigorating live theatre. Now, South Jersey’s Only Year-Round Professional Equity Theatre shifts the spotlight to cinematic political drama with the Public Film Premiere of Hammonton native Tracy Lucca’s The Finders.

The beloved Mayor of a small town is running for Congress. Just before the election her only son is almost kidnapped at a local store. When she begins to unravel the case, she finds that the very institutions she thought were there to help and protect her are now out to get her.  When she doesn’t back down, the powers that be are forced to come to her with a deal.

FindersThe Finders marks the first official SAG/AFTRA film to be cast by the Eagle Theatre Casting Department. SAG/AFTRA is the American labor union for film, television, journalists, recording artists and radio personalities worldwide. SAG-AFTRA is a member of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.

“I knew I wanted to film in Hammonton, because I wanted to create a sense of community among local filmmakers, actors and artists. I felt if we just got everyone in the same room we could really create something special, so helping to organize a space where this could happen was very important to me. I hired all locals and residents of Hammonton, we have so much talent in our area and I wanted to highlight that for all to see.”, notes Tracy Lucca, Writer, Director, and Producer of The Finders.

Shot frame-by-frame exclusively in Hammonton, NJ, the full length feature film highlights an array of local noteworthy talent, including several resident Eagle Theatre performers, and members of the Hammonton community.

When asked about its bold political charge, Lucca added, “I love politics, because I’ve always felt that it’s a career path where one can affect real change. I knew I wanted to write a political thriller and I knew it had to be filmed in Hammonton because although we are far from Washington, anyone, anywhere can make a difference, and we should all try.”

“This is the only opportunity for the public to see this professionally produced movie before it goes on the film festival circuit throughout the nation. All net proceeds will benefit the Eagle Theatre,” said Jim Donio Eagle Theatre Managing Director.

On Sunday, there will be a post film talk back session with the Director. On Monday, lead actress, Kim Carson and the Director with both have a post show talk back.

Sharrott Winery’s on-site Wine Lounge will be open prior to the film.

 


Learning Through Laughing
The Art of Confronting Taboo Social Issues

HAMMONTON, N.J. – When Eagle Theatre set out to produce HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL, Co-Artistic Directors Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek III had more than sold-out performances and show-stopping musical numbers in mind.

HEATHERS - THE MUSICAL _ Promotional 2HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL is a stage phenomenon based on the 1989 cult-classic film. Teen suicide and school bombings take center stage, while bulimia, alcohol abuse, and absentee parenting wait in the wings to keep the sinister undertones afloat. A subject matter that may have felt more like fiction throughout its cinematic debut appears less than socially acceptable today, leading many to wonder why the Eagle’s macabre musical is breaking box office records and “Largely succeeds” according to DC Metro Theatre Arts critic Tim Dunleavy.

Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi suggests “The lesson is hidden behind memorable catch phrases and the incredible score. We are teaching from the inside out. In my experience, that is how poignant dark comedy works.”

Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jim Rutter explains “Eagle Theatre’s over-the-top production reveals why the movie succeeds as a riotously funny, yet heartfelt, musical. It’s a perfect pair of touches, performed honestly that will endear this musical to any fans of the film.”

Eagle Theatre has played a major role in tackling taboo social issues since its 2012 debut production, RENT. Throughout its 5 seasons, ‘South Jersey’s Only Year-Round Professional Equity Theatre’ has fine-tuned the process of bringing dramatic and traumatic fair into the limelight. Eagle describes their method as “reverse education.”

Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III dissected further adding “HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL gives us permission to laugh at our own absurdity. It’s irreverence paves the way for sincerity, creating a discussion that may have otherwise been swept under the table.”


N.Y. COMES TO S.J.

The Business of Funny

(Hammonton, NJ) – South Jersey native Kevin Hurley hits center stage in Eagle Theatre’s upcoming phenomenon HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL, opening March 18th at the Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton, NJ.

Kevin Hurley_Stand-UpHurley, a New York resident, always had aspirations of becoming a professional actor and stand-up comedian, claims Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III. 
Wioncek and Hurley both graduated from the Southern New Jersey Academy of Performing Arts, sharing the spotlight on numerous occasions. Wioncek said “Kevin’s success is a true testament to his passion and drive.” However, Hurley places the onus on opportunity, one of which was granted by Eagle Theatre.

“Hosting the 
Eagle Theatre’s Stand-Up Comedy Night has become one of the highlights of my career. We have created an incredible outlet for comedians from all over the country; Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles. I am anxious to bring that enthusiasm to a major musical.”

HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL is a hilarious and homicidal new musical based on the 1980’s cinematic dark comedy. Westerberg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather and Heather, the cruelest girls in Ohio. Misfit Veronica Sawyer rejects their evil regime for the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plots to put “the Heathers” in their place – six feet under.

Hurley,
provides a unique brand of comedy, tailor made for the script’s tongue-in-cheek tonality. Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi says “Hurley is hilarious. He provides a lifetime of stand-up knowledge to each and every line. Who better suited for a comedic role than a professional comic by trade. Funny is his business.”
 

“I moved to New York to find South Jersey was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. New York based actors and comedians flock to the Eagle because it is a collective of ingenuity that continues to reinvent itself. It has changed the cultural standpoint in which people view my home state.” Hurley concluded “The Eagle makes me proud to be a South Jersey native.”

Eagle Theatre’s on-site Sharrott Wine Lounge will open 45 minutes prior to the performance.


FREE FUN
ALL THE WORLD’S A ‘STAGES FESTIVAL’

(Hammonton NJ) –  The Eagle Theatre of Hammonton, NJ, is proud to participate in their second year of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s STAGES FESTIVAL on Saturday, March 19th, 2016.New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s STAGES FESTIVAL offers dozens of performances, workshops, classes, and events at the state’s professional theatres, performing arts centers, libraries, schools, senior centers, and other community venues. The program was developed to encourage New Jersey’s residents to attend their local professional theatres creating an affordable, accessible, and enjoyable experience. Since its inception 19 years ago, the program has served over 190,000 people.

The Eagle Theatre, South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity Theatre, will host three sessions on March 19th, 2016;

SESSION 1:NJTA Stages Festival 2015 _ Eagle Theatre
WHO: Children Ages 5 – 12
WHAT: MUSICAL THEATRE JAM SESSION
WHEN: 12:00PM – 12:45PM
SESSION 2:
WHO: Ages 10 – 17
WHAT: INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
WHEN: 1:00PM – 1:45PM
SESSION 3:
WHO: Teens Ages 13 – 17
WHAT: MUSICAL THEATRE JAM SESSION
WHEN: 2:00PM – 2:45PM


MUSICAL THEATRE JAM SESSION:
Participates may select from the Eagle’s catalogue of musical theatre songs. Children and teens will learn the benefits of various musical styles, as well as work on vocal dynamics and technique. Most importantly, we will have fun!

INTO THE SPOTLIGHT:This 45-minute session will delve into the art of audition preparation, including; execution, script analysis, cold readings, and scenes/monologues. As well as; breaking into the business, rehearsal etiquette, and more. Participants will take part in exercises and gain professional feedback to advance their knowledge and skill set.
Every session is Free of Charge. Participants are required to email or call the Eagle Theatre to secure their spot for any session(s). Parents are welcome to attend or drop their children off for their session.

For more information, or to make a reservation, call 609-704-5012 or email info@theeagletheatre.com.
To receive a full schedule of events for The Stages Festival please visit www.stagesfestival.org.
The Stages Festival is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Bank of America; and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. Additional program support has been provided by The Smart Family Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Prudential Foundation, F.M. Kirby Foundation, and The George A. Ohl, Jr. Trust Foundation.
 

1,200 ARTISTS TRAVEL CROSS COUNTRY FOR EAGLE GIG
What’s Your Damage?

(Hammonton, NJ) – Eagle Theatre, opens the new groundbreaking theatrical phenomenon, HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL, on March 18th – April 24th, 2016, at the Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton, NJ.
NewHeathers_390x390HEATHERS – THE MUSICAL is a hilarious and homicidal new musical based on one the greatest teen comedies of all time. Westerburg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather and Heather, the cruelest girls in all of Ohio. But misfit Veronica Sawyer breaks the mold and rejects their evil regime for her new boyfriend, the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plans to put “the Heathers” in their place – six feet under.

Eagle Theatre Co-Artistic Directed Ed Corsi says “The musical features a moving love story, laugh-out-loud comedy, an irresistible score, and an unflinching look at the joys and anguish of high school life.”

Eagle Theatre auditioned over 1,200 actors for its 2016 season. Performers traveled cross country, many hailing from major Heathers-Feb23cities (Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York) for the opportunity to work with South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity Theatre. It was San Diego, California resident, Cailene Kilcoyne, that won the hearts of the Eagle Theatre, and landed the role of Veronica Sawyer, originally made famous by an up-and-coming Winona Ryder in the 1989 cult classic film.

Cailene Kilcoyne, a member of Actors’ Equity Association, holds a BFA from The Boston Conservatory, now merged with Berklee School of Music. Credits include: Into the Woods (Little Red), Fat Pig (Jeannie), Peter Pan (Peter Pan), Joseph … Dreamcoat (Narrator), Royal Caribbean International.

In regards to the Eagle’s ever-growing talent base, Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III added “Submissions in the thousands are a true testament to the town of Hammonton, and all it continues to do to make our out-of-town, traveling artists feel welcome. The cultural landscape of Southern New Jersey is expanding before our very eyes. It is an exhilarating time to be a progressive arts organization in this region.”

Eagle Theatre’s on-site Sharrott Wine Lounge will open 45 minutes prior to the performance.


 

 

COMEDIANS SELLING OUT IS NO LAUGHING MATTER
Eagle Runs Out of Room to Host STAND-UP
 

StandUpComedy_390x390(Hammonton, NJ) – Eagle Theatre’s presents its next installment of Stand-Up Comedy on February 27th@ 7:30PM & 10:00PM, featuring the country’s most world-renowned comedians. Entering its third season, Eagle Theatre’s Stand-Up Comedy Series is celebrating by adding more performances, due to popular demand. However, patrons hoping to have their funny bone tickled are now limited to only 1 showing at 10:00PM, as the 7:30PM debut SOLD OUT in record time.

HOST – Kevin Hurley is the Eagle Theatre’s favorite comedian, as well as a regular actor in their MainStage productions. He has won the Sarcasm Comedy Club Competition, as well as the 2014 winner of the Stress Factory March Madness competition. Kevin is a regular host at Helium comedy club and regular at The Stress Factory and Gotham.

HEADLINER: The Legendary WID was named one of the Funniest People in New Jersey. Originally from Cranford, NJ, he has become the undisputed Prince of Props and Puns! Most notably, he is the subject of an award-winning documentary film entitled Wid, by Jason Ferraro and Brian Galla. Selected TV Credits include: VH1’s Top 20 Countdown, Stand-Up Spotlight, Comedy Central, and 30 Seconds to Fame. You can also check him out on the best selling DVD, Laughing Out Loud: America’s Funniest Comedians, along with Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, and Jay Leno.

FEATURED ACT: John Kensil began his comedy career as a joke writer for radio personalities, then wrote for Jay Leno and Joan Rivers. John has been entertaining audiences with his aptly titled, “John Kensil Show,” a sarcastic takeoff on the old Dean Martin Show with John as Host as a cast of offbeat character comedians dropping in. John entered the stand up comedy arena while attending Temple University. His humor style can best be described as taking an ordinary situation and creating a twisted view on it – much like a party clown making balloon animals. He has worked with many national comedians and when most were asked to describe John Kensil, the usual reply was, “John Kensil? Didn’t he park my car?”

Eagle Theatre’s on-site Sharrott Wine Lounge will open 1 hour prior to the performance and remain accessible throughout the performance.

 

 IMAGINATION LEADS THE WAY

Choose Your Own Adventure Theatre for Young Audiences
 
(Hammonton, NJ) Eagle Theatre’s Theatre for Young Audience Series presents the World Premiere of JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR by Co-Artistic Director’s Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek III, opening March 4th at The Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton, NJ.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 11.58.45 AMJANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR is the story of a young, imaginative girl who searches for adventure and gets too far from home, traveling in a magical pear.  Along the way, she makes new friends, discovering the joys of freedom and friendship. Throughout her journey, she develops self-confidence, self-awareness, and helps others overcome their own personal obstacles.
The story of JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR teaches many life lessons and encourages important values including; compassion, bravery, strength, and standing up for yourself and one another.Co-Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III says “We felt it imperative that our first World Premiere feature a strong female heroine. A great majority of plays concern themselves with finding a prince and living happily ever after. We chose to focus on how to find happiness from within, each and every day, starting now.”In the nonstop adventure of JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR, you are transported to a world of make believe; actors turn household items into stunning theatrical props, while sound effects are created right before your very ears. Audience members will be invited to assist in choosing what props, costumes and plot twist the story takes, creating an exhilarating immersive experience designed to delight audience members of all ages.Adds Co-Artistic Director Ed Corsi “Our production is equal parts entertaining, enlightening, and educational. Each performance features a Meet & Greet Talk-Back with the cast, whereupon audiences may ask questions and share opinions about the play.”The ensemble cast features Kelly Filios, Jonathan Fink, Ernie Jewell, Tim Rinehart and Kimberly Suskind.
JANE AND THE HUMONGOUS PEAR will be available for regional touring post its debut at the Eagle.
Eagle Theatre’s Theatre for Young Audiences Series is sponsored by ShopRite of Hammonton, as well as the OC Home Charitable Foundation.

 


Review: ‘Assassins’ at The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, NJ

Is there a more relevant topic in contemporary America, while gun control is being hotly debated by the presidential candidates, Congress, and the voting populace, than a look at gun violence via the murderers and would-be killers of US presidents? Based on an original concept by Charles Gilbert, Jr., Assassins, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, presents an atemporal fictionalized history that is both timely and chilling, and the Eagle Theatre’s excellent production of the Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning musical is a provocative example of art that can make a difference, by employing theater in the service of social issues.

Adam Hoyak and Jeff Coon. Photo by Chris Miller.

Adam Hoyak and Jeff Coon. Photo by Chris Miller.

Presented in the format of a Vaudevillian-style carnival revue, the one-act show begins with the diabolical Proprietor of a fairground shooting gallery (an unnerving and seductive Tim Rinehart in demonic make-up) hawking guns to the soon-to-be-infamous passersby and enticing them to take aim at a President. The unsettling vignettes that follow are seen from the perspective of the titular figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, who co-exist here in a hellish time and space, conversing, singing out their motivations for murder with the aid of a Balladeer, and encouraging each other to join their notorious circle of assassins.

Varied styles of dress evoke the historical period of each real-life character (costumes by Sean Quinn), as does Sondheim’s complex score, which gives a nod to the popular music of each era represented. The musical numbers, all potently performed by Eagle’s skilled ensemble and live band, and musically directed by Jason Neri, include a sardonic paeon to the 2nd Amendment (“Everybody’s Got the Right”), delivering the sociopathic message that shooting the people in charge will bring happiness to the lives of the chronically disenfranchised and peace to the minds of the criminally deranged–the “expatriates in our own country.” The cheery tone and tempo of the Balladeer (played with youthful optimism by Adam Hoyak) and the vertical strips of bright carnival lights that flash in time to the music (lighting design by Chris Miller) provide a bizarre contrast to the assassins’ unhinged justifications for killing, which give deeply disturbing insights into the logic of madness and the desperate backstories that inspired their vicious acts.

Directed by Ted Wioncek III and led by Philadelphia favorite Jeffrey Coon as John Wilkes Booth (the killer of Abraham Lincoln), the consistently fine cast ably distinguishes the personalities, psychology, and emotions, accents and speech patterns of the nine men and women who achieved fame and sought fulfillment by taking the life of an American President. From Justin Mazella as Leon Czolgosz (the son of Eastern-European immigrants who murdered William McKinley) to Sean Elias as Giuseppe Zangara (the Italian-born attempted assassin of President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt) to Will Connell as John Hinckley (who believed he could win the love of Jodie Foster by shooting Ronald Reagan), the actors reveal the anger, frustration, and alienation that drove the crazed gunmen to strike out.

Ensemble, with David C. Yashin (left) holding protest sign. Photo by Chris Miller.

Ensemble, with David C. Yashin (left) holding protest sign. Photo by Chris Miller.

The deafening sounds of the gunshots fired by the characters, and often aimed towards the audience, contribute to the terrifying mood of the story (sound design by David Pierron). But most disquieting is the scene of Lee Harvey Oswald (Adam Hoyak, transformed from the upbeat Balladeer by the overwhelming evil around him), which includes the appalling actual footage of the Kennedy assassination on the multilevel wooden set’s backdrop of video screens, with scenic design by Wioncek and Miller, who also designed the projections, followed by members of the ensemble coming together to sing about his unforgettable impact on America in “Something Just Broke.”

Despite the dead-serious topic, there is also enough dark humor in the play to elicit uncomfortable, but much needed, laughter. Paul Weagraff is hilarious as the oddly congenial jack-of-all-trades Charles Guiteau (who was hanged for the assassination of James Garfield), as are Samantha Morrone and Victoria Healy, in an imagined meeting between Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (an adoring follower of Charles Manson) and Sara Jane Moore (each made a failed attempt on the life of Gerald Ford, whose renowned clumsiness is captured in a well-executed bit of physical comedy by Shaun Yates). And David C. Yashin, absurdly dressed in a Santa suit, makes the transition from laughable to scary as Samuel Byck (attempted assassin of Richard Nixon), in a standout monologue that becomes increasingly impassioned as his murderous rage builds.

It is that incendiary character, who, in an earlier scene with his fellow assassins, effectively underscores the current import of the play with the protest sign he carries: “ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.” Isn’t that the same rationale of today’s gun lobby in America?


 

EAGLE THEATER’S ASSASSINS – A KILLER OF SHOW!

Assassins cover photoAssassins is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. It uses the premise of a murderous carnival game to produce a revue-style portrayal of men and women who attempted (successfully or not) to assassinate Presidents of the United States. According to one definition of this macabre musical Assassins is in fact the crossroads of history at which some of America’s most despised public figures meet as equals to share the stories of where they went wrong or, perhaps more horrifyingly, where they went right.

Let’s meet the lineup of infamous Assassin, their famous victims and the Eagle cast: John Wilkes Booth (Jeffrey Coon) assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. Charles Guiteau (Paul Weagraff) assassin of President James Garfield (David Nikolas). Leon Czolgosz (Justin Mazella) assassin of President William McKinley. Emma Goldman (Cindy Chait) anarchist known for her political activism who also interacted several times with Leon Czolgosz . Giuseppe Zangara (Sean Elias) attempted assassin of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.Lee Harvey Oswald (Adam Hoyak) assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Samuel Byck (David C. Yashin) attempted assassin of President Richard Nixon. John Hinckley (Will Connell) attempted assassin of President Ronald Reagan. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Samantha Morrone) attempted assassin of President Gerald Ford. Sara Jane Moore (Victoria Healy) attempted assassin of President Gerald Ford( Shaun Yates)

The musical first opened Off-Broadway in 1990, and the 2004 Broadway production won five Tony Awards. Sondheim has said that he expected backlash from the public due to the content. “There are always people who think that certain subjects are not right for musicals…we’re not going to apologize for dealing with such a volatile subject. Nowadays, virtually everything goes,” he told The New York Times.
By developing the characters of historic assassins out of the slim biographical information found in the daily news, Assassins prompts us to consider their motivation. Departing from the humanism of his previous musical Into the Woods, Sondheim suggests that political murderers are a product of the American political culture.

The Eagle Theatre creates an enormous amount of anticipation and tense excitement as a prologue to their well staged production. From the roaring roof- rattling sound effects of roller coaster to the scintillating staging and striking lighting design all courtesy of Chris Miller/Ted Wioncek (lighting and set designs) and David Pierron’s chilling sound design, Artistic Director Ted Wioncek III has left no room for the audience to breathe easy throughout the 90 minuet nonstop angst of his direction of these colorful characters.

The catalyst of this macabre piece is the collection of misfit characters in a seemingly carnival atmosphere where the Proprietor (Tim Rinehart) of the game entices them to play, promising that their problems will be solved by killing a President. “Everybody’s Got the Right” is the opening song sung by Rinehart, who looks as if he’s stepped out of “A Clockwork Orange” with pockets full of hand guns to the would be killers.
Jeff Coon returns to the role of the infamous history making John Wilkes Booth Jeff Coonhaving played the same role at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia in 2007. Coon brings his unique experience to the character. Coon implies that Booth’s drastic decision of assassinating Lincoln was motivated by the fact that he truly believed that Lincoln was tearing the country apart. His portrayal of Booth is compelling and ever present as he weaves convincingly in and out through generations of assassins always the moderator of acts of madness.

Our female assassins Squeaky Fromme (Samantha Marrone) and Sara Jane Moore (Victoria Healy) prepare to assassinate Gerald Ford bringing an impossible to believe light- hearted, ditsy comedy to this modge- podge collection of murderers. Fromme speaks of the apocalyptic preachings and her love/adoration relationship with mass murderer Charles Manson. Marrone is almost adorable in a very strange manner. Her co-conspirator Sara Jane More, juggling her purse with a bucket of chicken, a miss guided hand gun and a very delusional persona, is truly the much needed comedy spot in this dastardly ditty.

Samuel ByckWith many notable performances such as Adam Hoyak’s Lee Harvey Oswald and Paul Weagraff’s insane desire to become the next Ambassador to France, the standout performance goes to David C. Yashin’s role as perhaps the one of the lesser known assassins Samuel Byck; President Richard Nixon’s predator.
Byck sits on a park bench in a dirty Santa suit talking into a tape recorder, preparing a message to Leonard Bernstein telling Bernstein he can save the world by writing more love songs, and explaining that he is going to change things by crashing a 747 into the White House and killing Richard Nixon. Yashin is insanely entertaining.

Assassins is Sondheim at his peak of creativity and daring. Sondheim has said that he expected backlash from the public due to the content. “There are always people who think that certain subjects are not right for musicals…[w]e’re not going to apologize for dealing with such a volatile subject. Nowadays, virtually everything goes,” he told The New York Times. By developing the characters of historic assassins out of the slim biographical information found in the daily news, Assassins prompts us to consider their motivation. “(Sondheim) confronts pain in order to cauterize the decay and heal the sicknesses which lurk at the core of our society”. Departing from the humanism of his previous musical Into the Woods, Sondheim suggests that political murderers are a product of the American political culture. With edgy/controversial songs such as “Everybody’s Got The Right”, “The Ballad of Booth”, “The Gun Song”, “Another National Anthem”, “Something Just Broke” one must be cautioned that the subject matter and language makes Assassins a production worth a warning for both children and adults weak of heart.

The assassins regroup once more at the shooting range, now with Oswald among their ranks, and they proudly restate their motto, “Everybody’s got the right to be happy,” before loading their guns and opening fire on the audience. The final scene featuring Lee Harvey Oswald is especially poignant as the assassins of the past appear imploring him to act. Enough said for those who have not seen the show.

ASSASSINS plays at The Eagle Theatre on selected dates through Feb. 21. 208 Vine St. Hammonton NJ. For tickets and more information visit www.theeagletheatre.com or call 609.704.5012


 

 

Eagle Theatre Nominated for Prestigious Barrymore Awards

Only South Jersey Theatre in the Running for Philadelphia Area’s Highest Honor

Hammonton, NJ – Less than one year ago, Hammonton’s Eagle Theatre was not even eligible to participate in Theatre Philadelphia’s prestigious Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Fast forward 11 months and the Eagle Theatre has become the only theatre in South Jersey to be nominated for one of these coveted honors. The Eagle Theatre is South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theatre and the only Regional Theatre to produce full scale musicals in the southern eight counties of the state.

At a press conference in Philadelphia on Monday, August 24th, Theatre Philadelphia, the organization that governs over the Barrymore Awards, announced the 2015 nominees. The Eagle Theatre now competes directly against top Philadelphia theatres such as the Arden Theatre, Wilma Theatre and Philadelphia Theatre Company. The Barrymore Awards are named for the legendary, Philadelphia based “first family” of American theatre: John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore.

The first four Eagle Theatre productions that were eligible to participate in the Barrymore Awards were all designated “Barrymore Recommended” and were passed along to the next level of the award process. Those productions included: The Civil War: The Musical, Into the Woods, Catch Me If You Can and tick, tick…BOOM! Dozens of official award nominators and judges have reviewed and scored every Eagle Theatre production for the past year, culminating in a nomination for the Best Choreography Award forCatch Me If You Can for the Eagle Theatre’s choreographer, Dann Dunn.

‘I’m so thrilled to be nominated on behalf of the Eagle Theatre’s innovative and new take on Catch Me If You Can. I’m humbled and grateful to be in such incredible company with the other nominees in this category and that I’m able to represent the first rate and talented cast, crew, design, and creative team of the Eagle’s production,” Dunn said.

The Barrymore Award Ceremony will be held at the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia on November 2ndat 7pm. Representatives from the Eagle Theatre will be attending the ceremony.

The Eagle Theatre is South Jersey’s only year-round professional Equity theatre and is located at 208 Vine Street in Downtown Hammonton. The 2015 Mainstage Season resumes with Closer in September and October and Bonnie and Clyde in November and December. The 2016 Mainstage Season was recently announced and will feature Assassins, Heathers, Our Town, The World Premiere of The King of East Jabip, and Godspell.

More information and tickets are available online at www.TheEagleTheatre.com or www.facebook.com/TheEagleTheatre or by calling the Box Office at 609-704-5012.

Actor's Equity NAMTTheatre Communications GroupNJ State Council on the Arts