In the opening to the musical comedy “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the audience is made aware of the titular character’s failures and absence of confidence. But for Greg Gondek, a second-year undeclared major portraying Charlie Brown during The Miami Theatre Players’ November production of the classic play, confidence and success were easy to obtain.
“I felt that I could experiment and try different things in terms of acting, and I didn’t feel at all intimidated or insecure to do so,” he said. “[The Miami Theatre Players] are different because the group creates an environment where everyone has a voice and anyone can help participate. It is a place where passionate, committed students can work together on something that they are truly interested in.”
With cheers and laughs, the entirely student-run group took their final bow of the semester in Parker Theatre, ending their fall 2010 production of the “Peanuts” comic strip-inspired Broadway hit on Sunday, Nov. 21.
With lyrics and music originally written by American composer Clark Gesner and characters created by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” follows Patty, Schroeder, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the gang on a normal day while Charlie Brown searches to figure out whether or not he is, in fact, a “good man.”
According to Director Annette Storckman, the group chose the play because it was a good transition from their previous production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” And while it shares a similar feel and style, she said it gave the group the opportunity to do something different with a small number of participants.
Funded entirely by the Student Association and produced outside of the Department of Theatre Arts, Storckman said the production was surprisingly easy to put together with only her fellow students.
“I marvel at everyone’s professionalism,” she said. “The Miami Theatre Players, as long as I have been a member, have been very collaborative. This semester was no exception.”
The show and all those who participated have continued to receive excellent feedback since the last performance date, Storckman said. Liz O’Neal, the actress who portrayed Lucy in the original Broadway production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” even came to see the team’s production and “loved it.”
Storckman said the cooperative and coordinated efforts of the cast and crew helped the play come together despite any bumps along the way.
One hampering detail, she said, was that the group was only able to obtain rehearsal space in Parker Theatre for two days due to scheduling and funding issues. Also, even though they applied for the rights for “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” the moment it was voted in, they did not receive rehearsal materials until about two and a half weeks until the show’s premiere.
“We were working with downloaded scripts,” she said. “The pit began rehearsing as soon as we got the materials, and still they were phenomenal.”
Assistant Director Sam Grossman said joining the theatre group can provide a great release from the stressful life of a college student, which is why members range from a variety of different majors and minors, rather than just theatre.
As a secondary education English major, Grossman said she immediately became attracted to The Miami Theatre Players during her first year in New Paltz because of the group’s openness in inviting anyone to participate in shows.
“Although all students are allowed to try out for the main stage performances that are put on by the theatre department, I felt intimidated as an incoming freshman and Miami was the stress-free alternative I had been looking for,” she said.
Even if a participant does not have training or much knowledge in the craft of performing or theatre, Storckman said anyone is welcome to come, learn and have fun.
No matter what the challenges, Storckman said she has enjoyed working with her fellow group members and watching them build upon their skills to create the best production possible.
“It is the most rewarding experience to give them some tools and watch them thrive in their roles,” she said. “The creative team is amazing. It is, again, extremely rewarding to see all of us students bringing the things we have learned and are passionate about to create a show.”
After a vote from the entire group, The Miami Theatre Players’ next production will be “Spring Awakening” and is aimed for some time in May.