Homecoming Players

Rachel Hockett (left) and Arthur Bicknell (center), founders of Homecoming Players.

According to their dossier, Wolf’s Mouth Theatre Collective (www.wolfsmouth.com) is an informal Ithaca-based meeting spot for theatre enthusiasts to gather, listen to readings of new plays and then produce them. They congregate and compare notes every second and fourth Monday of the month at Buffalo Street Books in the Dewitt Mall. For few years, they have staged works by local playwrights—usually world premieres, not to mention their annual 10-Minute Playfest.

Some of Wolf’s Mouth’s leading lights include founding member George Sapio, actor Judith Andrew, and playwright, director and actor David Guaspari. 

Full disclosure:  I’ve worked with Judith Andrew previously, in productions with Black Umbrella Shakespeare; she acted in one of my short films. As for Sapio, he is a very talented playwright, director and actor. I’ve known George since meeting him while we were both knocking around the late, lamented Firehouse Theatre, where he directed me in Ben Elton’s Gasping. When I was making a series of short comedy films with George later, I found out that he is also the most talented improvisational actor I have ever had the pleasure to work with. 

“It’s a loose affiliation of Ithaca-based theatre artists, actors, directors and playwrights who normally would never have seen each other in between the few and far productions that go up in town,” Sapio told me. “So I called together a bunch of folks and we started a semi-regular meeting, and we’ve pretty much grown. People have come, people have gone. Actually, we’ve got more long-timers than anybody else. But we keep in touch with each other, we let each other know about productions that are coming up, and we bring in new scripts to read. It’s a way of keeping theatre active. Because Ithaca is clearly, as everyone knows, bursting at the seams with theatre talent.”

Andrews adds, “I would say that the majority of people that come to our meetings have been writers or are writers. I think I’m one of the few who has never written a play, and don’t have any interest in writing a play. But I really, really like coming to the meetings to help the playwrights hear their work. I just like to do cold readings of things, and experience them that way, and allow the writers to hear their words.”

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Ithaca Shakespeare Company just wrapped their summer productions of Othello and Much Ado About Nothing. Since forming under the direction of Stephen Ponton as The Red Bull Players with a well-received production of The Tempest in 2002, the re-named ISC have since become known for their lavish, well-attended productions—Much Ado played to 2100+ people—at the Newman Arboretum in the Cornell Plantations. In the last few years, they’ve taken up winter residence at Fall Creek Studios , where they have staged productions of Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice.

Ponton and company are considering shows for the fall and coming year, but nothing that could be announced at press time. Keep checking their website (ithacashakespeare.org) for news of upcoming productions and auditions.

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Cornell Melodramatics (www.melodramatics.com) have gained a sterling reputation for musical theater. The Melodramatics Theatre Company, Inc. was founded in 2004 by Cornell University students Justin Leader and Carlos Dominguez as a community theatre company. They focus on musical theatre and participation in their productions is open to anyone. The group produced Spring Awakening almost one year before Ithaca College’s recent production; other recent Melodramatics  shows have included The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Bare. They’ve just wrapped auditions for their fall production of Sweeney Todd; to get involved, visit their website.

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The Homecoming Players (www.thehomecomingplayers.org) were founded by director Rachel Hockett and playwright Arthur Bicknell (Moose Murders). They just wrapped their 2013 season with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In 2014, they will stage all shows at the Kitchen Theatre:  David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People (2/3-4); Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms (4/7-8); The Miss Firecracker Contest (5/12-13); In The Car with Blossom and Len (6/6-8); and the world premiere of Dotty, written by Bicknell and directed by Hockett (7/11-13).

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