“NextUp” is a quarterly digest providing our patrons, students and supporters some fun, dynamic, and alternative information and insight on what goes on in and around NextStop Theatre. You can look forward to fun interviews, silly and creative videos, and backstage peeks at how we (at your friendly neighborhood theatre) do what we do.
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NextUp April 2020 – Table of Contents
- Producing Artistic Director Report
- VIDEO: Social Distancing Duet
- Reflection from an Artist
- Meet Your Fellow NextStop Patrons
- Getting to Know NextStop Staff
- A Look Back – Production Photos
- Online Theatre Resources
I hope this message finds you safe and healthy in these chaotic and unusual times!
When we first started talking several months ago about the idea to publish a digital newsletter, we were hoping it could provide a different perspective on NextStop Theatre and give you, our beloved patrons, a way of forging a deeper understanding and appreciation for the work (and the amazing people who make that work possible.) It still feels incomprehensible to me that suddenly and for the foreseeable future it is going to be one of the only ways that we can reach you. But we must all take the hand that is dealt to us and I am extremely grateful for any chance to continue to foster the connections we have with our community, which is at the core of our mission at NextStop.
So here we are! For this first edition and what I plan to be the first “article” in each edition of NextUp, I will pull back the curtain and give you an update on what is going on behind the scenes at NextStop Theatre!
On March 12th, I made possibly the hardest decision I have ever been faced with as the Producing Artistic Director of NextStop Theatre. As we all stared into the face of the impending Covid-19 pandemic (with the support of my staff and board), I chose to close our beautiful production of the musical Ordinary Days and begin the process of suspending all operations and activities at NextStop. It was devastating for me to unceremoniously halt so much glorious art! Despite all of this, I am happy to report that we are doing okay. As we mentioned recently, our staff and artists are safe and healthy, we are so fortunate to be financially stable enough that we were able to shift all full-time staff to remote work, and we are hoping to reschedule both Noises Off and In The Heights for future dates.
One of the things I spend a lot of time reminding and explaining to people is just how many projects NextStop really has going at any given time. For example, when I made that decision on March 12th, we had one show in performance (Ordinary Days), one show in rehearsals (Noises Off), two shows in pre-production meetings (In the Heights and a youth production of Freaky Friday), our Summer Theatre Adventures program in a busy planning and staffing phase, and another EIGHT productions in preliminary concept discussions for next season, which we planned to announce at the opening of Noises Off. We keep a lot of “plates spinning” at once and it certainly felt like a VERY large crash when they stopped.
Anecdote: Prior to the suspension of rehearsals for Noises Off, our amazing and hilarious cast had been well into rehearsals to stage this extremely complex farce. Possibly the most basic thing to know about the show is that it deals with actors and directors maneuvering through the challenges of staging and performing a farce! I can now report that the playwright knew exactly what he was doing, as our cast and crew unintentionally found ourselves saying and doing EXACTLY what the cast and crew say in the script over and over again (not on purpose), as WE tried to maneuver through staging and performing this farce!
Today, we are brainstorming and developing strategies for various scenarios of our return at some point. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the future is scary, since there is so much uncertainty and each day that we are dark is depleting what cash reserves we have. But I believe that imagining the possibilities for a brighter tomorrow is one of the things that artists do best. So that is what we are going to do and I can’t wait to share that vision with you soon!
‘Till we meet again,
Saturdays at 2pm beginning Saturday, April 18
Join the conversation! We will share fun and exciting updates, interview artists, and answer questions on all things NextStop. Each episode will be approximately 15-20 minutes long.
Look for the link in a future post on our Facebook page and in a follow-up email
We asked some of our favorite musical theater performers if they would sing classic duets. The catch being that they had to record their parts separately and we didn’t tell them who their scene partner would be! We started with two of our most beloved leading men and they did not disappoint!
Ricky Drummond (star of “Wedding Singer”) and Matt Hirsh (star of “Catch Me If You Can”) singing “Confrontation” from “Les Miserables.”
Elisa Rosman (star of pretty much everything) on piano.
A behind-the-scenes peek from Meredith Eib who played Miss Honey in “Matilda The Musical”
This past December, I had the wonderful opportunity to play Miss Honey in NextStop’s “Matilda the Musical.” What a memorable holiday experience it was for all involved! When Evan asked me to reflect on the experience, I struggled with where to begin. Should I talk about the wonderful design elements that helped make stage magic happen every night?? Or maybe about the stresses, joys and pure craziness that is performing at the holidays?? Maybe simply what it was like diving into this wonderful story? I concluded that the obvious, though necessary response, though, would be to talk about what it was like working with the wonderful 12 young performers on stage every weekend.
I have always loved children’s theatre. I’ve performed in professional theatre for children, I’ve directed children’s musicals, I even teach in an elementary school music classroom part-time and have a private voice studio of over a dozen young singers I work with each week! This experience, though, was different. This was the chance to hone my own craft as a professional actor alongside children performing professionally. And professional they were. I loved getting to know each of their wonderful personalities and characters. I’ll never forget Eva’s (Lavender) professionalism, Jane’s (Matilda) enthusiasm, Adalyn’s (Amanda) spunk, Jonah’s (Nigel) bravery, Katie’s (Matilda) thoughtful acts of generosity and so many more incredible and unique qualities form the other kids involved. It warmed my heart to see their absolute dedication and fearless commitment to performance. I loved seeing their excitement on opening night and shared in their sadness on closing night. Their genuine joy ultimately reminded me of why I first fell in love with theatre.
It’s easy working in the theatre to become stagnant and even somewhat complacent about the work we as actors do- the routine of auditioning, rehearsing long hours, and working multiple jobs to make ends meet sometimes feels endless and I am sure I’m not the only actor in the DC area who has paused every once in a while to ask “is it worth it?”. The kids of Matilda, not to mention the amazing adult cast, extraordinary creative team, crew and the wonderful audiences we delighted performing for became my most recent, affirming YES that this is all very, very worth it. I am certainly grateful to Evan and the team for taking a chance on me and allowing me to explore a character in Miss Honey who I both connected with and learned a lot from. I am even more grateful, though, for how he created an environment that allowed the kids involved to put forth their best possible work. He allowed them to be kids, yet treated them as the professionals they are. It was a genuinely wonderful balance of work and play, which became a wonderful reminder to me that my work as an actor is largely centered around play- and what a gift that is.
Matilda was certainly a theatrical experience that I will remember for a long time. I am grateful for the huge-hearted, and hugely talented people I was able to work with. I am grateful to have worked with some wonderful friends I went to college with (five of us went to Catholic University together), made some new friends, and to now have the proud title of number 1 fan to twelve awesome kiddos. I can’t wait to see their futures in the DC area, to work with them again, or to be in the audience of the next time they take they take the stage by storm and prove that “just because you’re little you can do a LOT”.
An interview with Francis, a longtime NextStop fan and one of our star ushers!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a slightly older than middle-aged, semi-recently retired federal employee who enjoys; “Star Trek”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Big Bang Theory”, “Firefly”, “Hogan’s Heroes”, “Gilligan’s Island”, live theater, and babysitting my grandnephews and grandniece (this last item usually requires a day of recovery for me). After my retirement, I decided to pursue a long held desire to act. As self-motivation isn’t exactly one of my outstanding characteristics and the desire apparently isn’t strong enough for me to do all that is required, the pursuit has met with only minimal success. However, it did lead to my learning of volunteer opportunities with local theater groups. As a result, I help build sets and occasionally work as a stage hand for the Reston Community Players (I like to joke this makes me the “skill” as opposed to the “talent”). And, of course, I usher for the NextStop Theater – which is something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s great fun working with the NextStop Theater personnel and greeting/assisting the patrons as they arrive. Being able to watch the exceptional performances is an added bonus.
What do you love about theatre? A big appeal of live theater for me is the potential connection (emotional or otherwise) between the performers and the audience. This is most especially the case in smaller venues – such as NextStop. Some shows literally incorporate the audience in the production. But even with those that don’t, I often find myself feeling a connection. This connection, however, can be a bit of a downside for me when ushering. I tend to be a bit of a weeper and the end of one or two emotional shows had me really working on reigning in my emotions so that I could properly fulfill my ushering duties (just wouldn’t do to have the patrons consoling the usher as they leave the theater).
What keeps you coming back to NextStop? Two things I really like about NextStop are (1) their tendency to surprise me with their creativity and (2) their willingness to incorporate the audience into the performance. “Singin’ in the Rain” did both and just totally blew me away. The creativity, the tap dancing, and Carolyn Burke’s portrayal of Lina Lamont (talk about a connection with the audience) were outstanding.
What is your favorite show you’ve seen at NextStop, and why? It is difficult for me to pick a favorite show that I’ve seen at NextStop. My preferences tend to lean towards comedy/musicals, but the more serious dramas (i.e. “East of Eden”) have been good as well. I didn’t hold a lot of anticipation for “Pride & Prejudice”, but ended up really enjoying the heck out of myself. And “Beehive” just had me drumming my legs in beat to the music from beginning to end.
What is a show you would like to see at NextStop? I’d be interested in seeing NextStop do “Man of La Mancha”. I’ve enjoyed the music since I was a child (even before knowing what the story was) and have seen it performed a few times. What NextStop would do with it intrigues me.
If you’re interested in being featured in a future patron interview, please message us at firstname.lastname@example.org
An interview with NextStop’s Producing Artistic Director, Evan Hoffmann
Who are you when you are NOT at NextStop? Despite popular belief, I do actually leave the theater every once in a very long while! On those rare occasions, I am the obnoxiously proud father of Miles (6), Felix (4), and Penny Hoffmann (11 months!) I live in Sterling with my wife (Jacki) and the kids. I have a list a mile long of home improvements that I never seem to get to, (which I am now starting to plow through in the days of COVID-19!)
How did you get involved in theater? When I was ten years old, the choral director from Herndon High School asked the choir director at my church (Trinity Presbyterian on Dranesville Rd) if any of the kids in the children’s choir might be interested in being in the high school production of “The Music Man.” Despite having no experience and only a vague idea of what a musical even was, I jumped at the offer.
I was hooked from the first rehearsal! I don’t know if it was getting to play make-believe, having thousands of people applauding me, or the 30+ high school girls who were giving me LOTS of attention. But regardless, I knew with every fiber of my being that I was where I was supposed to be. From that time on, I signed up for every opportunity that I could find to be a part of the theatre (including many projects with the Elden Street Players, long before they became NextStop Theatre.)
What brings you to NextStop? In 2010, I began a conversation with the board of directors for what was then the Elden Street Players about transitioning the company to a professional model. I believed with all my heart that this company had enormous potential and that this community deserved to have greater access to professional theatre. I spent nearly three years pondering, discussing, and planning. At the end of 2012, I quit my job and was officially hired to run the re-imag
ined NextStop Theatre. Since opening our first production, in September 2013, I have produced nearly 70 projects, worked with the most brilliant artists, and grown more dedicated to the company each day!
What is your favorite production that NextStop has ever done? My favorite production is always the next one! The possibility is where the fun lives.
But since that is kind of a cop-out of an answer, I will say that two that have particularly stuck out for me, personally, are “Gutenberg! The Musical” which was just ridiculous fun and “City of Angels”, which is something I was particularly proud of my direction on.
What’s the best thing about working at/with NextStop? The people. I get to surround myself with actors, directors, and designers who I idolize, I serve a community that is loving and warm, and I work with a staff that lifts each other up each and every day. Who wouldn’t want that?!
Enjoy these photos from NextStop’s 2014 production of “Into The Woods”!
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Lapine, Originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine, Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, Directed by Evan Hoffmann, Music Direction by Elisa Rosman.
Photos by Traci J. Brooks Studios.
While we are all quarantined, there are many other theatres also producing terrific online programming. Here are just a few places to get your theatre fix:.
Do you have cooped-up kids who love theatre and acting? Adventure Theatre MTC in Maryland has several online acting classes available for elementary school kids which can be streamed here.
Do you love Shakespeare? The Folger Theatre in DC is streaming their acclaimed 2008 production of Macbeth for free until July 1. CLICK HERE to watch!
Do you wish you could travel? You can digitally hop across the pond! The National Theatre in London is streaming some of their most famous productions for free on YouTube throughout the month of April. Learn more here!
Do you want something musical to binge? This list compiled by Playbill is full of terrific musical and theatrical TV shows to binge while you’re stuck at home. Click here.
Some Good News for Charitable Giving!
1) All taxpayers can make a $300 gift to a nonprofit of their choice and use it as a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on their 2020 taxes.
2) For those who itemize deductions, in 2020 the existing annual cap will be lifted.
Section 2204 of the CARES act allows taxpayers to make a $300 gift to the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of their choice and use it as a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on their 2020 taxes. This means that donors who give $300 to NextStop in 2020 will get BACK the full amount of their gift when they pay their 2020 taxes next year. The $300 amount is a total amount for 2020 taxes, meaning you can’t give multiple $300 gifts to different non-profits and receive multiple tax credits. But you can give one $300 gift to one non-profit, or a series of smaller gifts to different non-profits totaling $300.
Ordinarily, the tax code limits the amount of charitable gifts a taxpayer can deduct from taxes to 60% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). Section 2205 lifts that cap, so that, in 2020, taxpayers can deduct 100% of their AGI.
Evan Hoffmann, Producing Artistic Director
Abigail Fine, Managing Director
Megan Behm, Deputy Managing Director
Kristin Hessenauer, Co-Technical Director
Chris Foote, Co-Technical Director
Jaclyn Young, Education Coordinator
Laura Moody, Audience Services Manager
Vicki Kile, President
Maribeth Herod, Vice President
Wesley Clark, Treasurer
Jessica Hill, Secretary