I met with a longtime Depot Theatre person to discuss the new 2017 season. Beth Glover has an excellent vantage point to view all the upcoming productions.
This busy actress appears in local venues, on and off Broadway, and on the West Coast. Theater, small films, and television provide a varied backdrop for her work, even from backstage, such as serving as a stage manager for Depot Theatre's production of "SHOUT! The Mod Musical."
What to love
"I love the Depot Theatre," Beth said. "It's a completely professional operation; the shows are so high quality." She appeared there most recently in the Tennessee Williams classic "The Glass Menagerie" as the mother. We agreed it was a favorite play of us both.
"I had some people tell me, 'I don't want to see that one, it's so depressing,'" Beth said. "But I remind them that people are not one thing. This play is not about one thing. Part of it is a woman who feels trapped and yet will do anything to make life work. She's a survivor. Even, sometimes, to the detriment of her children, she works so hard at it. I played Amanda as the force that makes things happen."
I asked if that worked, and she lit up.
"It did! Word of mouth was great. I had people tell me, 'I've never laughed at that play before.' Because there are funny things in it. No work is just one thing."
Our discussion went on to the upcoming productions, all of which are on the lighter side. "It's summer, people want something fun," Beth said. "'The Taffetas' is a really thrilling part of this season for me, because I was in the touring company, right after my graduation from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was my first professional job, and it was a super cute show."
"Nice! Hit the ground running," I said.
"The Taffetas" is a nostalgic musical which follows four singing sisters from Muncie, Indiana. They are making their national television debut on the Dumont Television Network. It has songs like the ones The McGuire Sisters, The Fontane Sisters, and The Chordettes used to sing. The audience is invited to "Remember what Sunday night television was like on your 12-inch black-and-white screen!" Or, experience it for the first time.
"It was a high point," Beth said, "I quickly found out there's low points too, of course. As long as I can keep working, especially doing something new for me, I'm happy."
She's also a writer, having spent three years writing for, and performing with, Third Rail Comedy, the House Sketch Group for Gotham Comedy Club. She also collaborated with playwright and lyricist Randy Buck on her one-woman show "Impaled on a Magnolia." Rex Reed said it was: “Clever and hilarious. Beth Glover is a formidable cross between Marilyn Monroe and Fannie Flagg.”
My dad said, "Don't ever let anyone tell you they know how to make it in show business. Everyone has to make it in their own way." He followed his show business dreams with involvement in community theater, and this is how Beth found she had the same dreams.
Find the funny
The season opens July 7 with "A Brief History of Penguins and Promiscuity." This rollicking sex farce involves a stuffy but steady English professor with an "incredibly ugly" marine biologist and an obnoxious French waiter. With a number of delivery men, an aspiring mime, and a mother who gets overcome with that special something involving a penguin.
"Oh, I love farces," I said.
"Me too, it's all about the timing," Beth said. "But I admit, it's 'Souvenir' this year that I think will have special appeal. It's about Florence Foster Jenkins."
Beth was surprised I knew who she was. "Oh, I've known about her even before the Meryl Streep movie. I'm a fan of Mrs. Miller, who was a Florence Foster Jenkins of the 1960s."
Florence Foster Jenkins was a New York socialite who became a musical cult figure from the 1920s until her death in 1944. People familiar with the William Hung phenomenon — a notably untalented singer from the talent show "American Idol" — might be surprised at how far back this tradition goes.
"What I love about it is how it's told through her accompanist," Beth said, "The playwright was really interested in their relationship, which lasted for decades."
"And who better to know the story," I agreed.
It is surprising that Florence Foster Jenkins' career lasted longer than William Hung's, since both of them were equally, and spectacularly, untalented. I think this one sounds completely fascinating; even with the accurate re-enactment of Florence's singing.
Behind the scenes
The scheduled production of "The Last Romance" is through Beth's group, Adirondack Stage Rats. It's part of her exploration of all facets of the theatrical experience.
This is a theater company she helped start. They had a great success with the play at another Adirondack arts outlet, and this led to Depot Theatre board members asking to have it brought to their theatre. "I simply recused myself," Beth said. "I didn't want it perceived that I was trying to make the theatre do it, so they are producing it."
This charming comedy is about how a small change in a man's routine leads to a big change in his heart. "It's all part of staying involved," Beth said. "That is what I tell the younger actors coming up; save up, and you can do that workshop when things are quiet. I've gotten some good parts that way."
I said a show business career certainly had to be about the journey, and Beth agreed. "My last school reunion? Forty people, and only myself and one other person are still working as actors." She doesn't stop there, by any means. "Lately I've been getting into directing, even sound design, which is the sound effects and sound cues which add so much to a play."
This season, even the audience can become a part of this development process. The Depot Theatre’s new play reading series, page2stage, has the playwright of each script present during a read-through. Comments, questions, thoughts, and reactions from the audience will become part of the whole workshop atmosphere of these special productions.
"We perform in the baggage holding area from when it was a fully operational train station," Beth said as we wrapped up our chat. "It is such an exciting venue because this is how theatrical productions used to go from town to town, on the train. Makes me feel that history in a special way."
If you go there, you will feel it, too.
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