Friday, August 17, 2018

August: Osage County- meet producer Lloyd Bittinger!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. For the past 23 years I have been a member of The Little Theatre of Alexandria serving in numerous capacities, including that of governor, front-of-house and president. I have been the producer or co-producer on three previous occasions for A Christmas Carol and acted in the LTA production of The Visit. I am an active member of the LTA lighting crew and often run the follow spot when one is used in a production. I also frequently work in the box office and as an usher or house manager. In real life I am a retired healthcare consultant and radiology administrator.

How does the show differ from other shows you have worked on? During my time at LTA I have worked on a very large number of shows. What makes August: Osage County different is that it is very intense and deals with difficult issues related to addiction and suicide and how that affects family members as they relate to each other being again pulled together to deal with the tragedy. It is not the kind of show that you will leave humming a Broadway tune.

     What made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA? My involvement in theatre goes all the way back to grammar school. I have never NOT been involved in theatre. The suspension of reality and imagination associated with theatre has always appealed to me as a creative process.
When I first moved to Alexandria, from Fredericksburg, twenty some years ago I met some friends and was involved with Dominion Stage. But I lived very close to LTA so walked up the street one day, came in and said that I wanted to volunteer. I started as an usher and house manager.

     What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre? There are so many facets associated with working in the theatre, all the way from front of house to backstage, and everything in between. My advice is not to over commit, but to focus on your areas of interest and build on them as you grow, taking one step at a time, and always doing the best you can do in each area.

     What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show? August: Osage County is a unique kind of show in that the audience will be exposed to issues and/or situations probably never seen on stage before. The script is very mature and in some ways shocking. You should come away from this show having felt intense emotional responses to the characters and situations the playwright introduced to you.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Nance - meet music director Christopher Tomasino!

Tell us a little about yourself.  I am the Music Director for The Nance.  I have music directed numerous shows at the theatre, most recently Legally Blonde, and I will be music directing the upcoming production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I have been music directing at LTA since its production of Chicago in 1988 and counting The Nance will have worked on 32 shows here.  In addition to LTA, I am the music director for Bishop Ireton High School’s theater arts program.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?  I mainly work on musicals, though I have provided musical input on some plays that had minor musical elements.  However, this is the first show I have worked on that I would say is primarily a play with music.  Roughly I would say the play to music ratio is 60/40.  Most musicals have songs that provide the exposition, develop characters, propel the story line, and provide the resolution.  With The Nance the music, which is original to the show, provides atmosphere, and along with the vaudeville routines helps comment on what is happening in the story.

What made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?  I have always loved theatre.  The first show I ever saw live was a community theatre production of Brigadoon.  From that point on I was hooked.  I loved going to see the shows, and eventually started playing in pit orchestras (clarinet).  Once I graduated college, I knew I wanted to get more involved – play more, but also wanted to music direct and conduct.  I replied to a notice for music directors posted by Port City Playhouse, interviewed, and was given the opportunity to be Assistant Music Director for their production of A Chorus Line.  For their next musical, Cinderella, I was given the Music Director title and have gone on from there.  I got involved at LTA because someone saw a Port City production and recommended me to the Producer of Chicago.  I was very interested in that show, so I interviewed, got the gig.  The next show I worked on at LTA was The 1940s Radio Hour which is the show I met Frank Shutts, the Director of The Nance which started a fantastic collaboration and friendship.  That show was in 1990.  Hard to believe we have worked together for over 28 years either at LTA, Bishop Ireton, and other theatres.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?  Don’t!  Just kidding.  Love what you do.  Learn from your producers, directors, choreographers, design staff, and actors.  Everyone has a valid viewpoint and incorporate their view into your work.  Constantly support the view of the director and interpret their view into the music.  However, you must always be true to the composer and lyricist.  While the vision of the particular production belongs to the director, the show belongs to the composer and lyricist and you must honor their work.  Lastly, have fun.  When this becomes work, then it is time to leave.

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show?  Firstly, enjoy the show – laugh and cry.  Then once you have had a chance, sit back and think about what you have seen.  This show is fiction based on reality.  While Chauncey and Ned are not real people, they are based on real lives of that time.  Then think whether times really have changed since 1937.  Certain rights and freedoms exist now that did not then, but have things really changed?  If not, then work on supporting people to accept themselves so people do not have to hate who they are and can be free to be themselves without being called out.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Nance - meet choreographer Stefan Sittig!

Tell us a little about yourself. I am the choreographer for The Nance and very excited to be working on this production!  This is my 8th show with LTA and my 2nd time working with Frank Shutts, after In The Heights back in 2015 (which was an amazing experience all around!)  I have directed and/or choreographed nearly 80 productions, and while I did have a lot of offers that conflicted with this, I jumped at the chance to work on this piece and with Frank (and producer Mary Beth Smith Toomey) again!  I couldn’t turn this opportunity down! I have worked on shows Off-Broadway, internationally, regionally up and down the East coast, as well as for dozens of colleges/universities and community theatres and I always seem to come back to LTA.  The level of professionalism and collaboration is so high for a community theatre.  It’s very impressive.  

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on? As much as I love musicals, I always find that projects that are less traditional, be they plays with music, or shows that use music/dance in an original way, are always the most challenging for me, and often bring out the best of my work. This show fits perfectly into that category.  The Nance is about so many things, but in terms of style, it is a show about the end of vaudeville and burlesque. I have always found the late 30s to be one of my favorite time periods in terms of dance and theatre. The vaudeville part comes a bit more naturally to me, perhaps because of my lengthy background in “hoofin”/tap dancing and musical theatre, but the burlesque acts I had to research. I watched over 100 hours of footage of vintage burlesque dancers to get a feel of the style the ladies in the show would be using during their numbers. I loved every moment of it—I feel it’s added another skill set to my repertoire.  I mean, “ya gotta get a gimmick” right? (Hope most of the readers get my Gypsy reference!)

What made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA? Next year will mark my 40th year of being involved in theatre in some way or another.   I first stepped onto the stage as a young boy in a production of The Lottery and then, shortly after, my first musical, L’il Abner.   I just loved it all!  Singing, dancing and acting—all at once!  I was hooked from then on.   I first came to LTA in 2006, when Joanna Henry asked me to choreograph Into The Woods. That was such a wonderful experience – and a great cast, several of them ended up on Broadway!  It was truly a magical time.  And since then I’ve worked on The Rocky Horror Show, A Streetcar Named Desire, In The Heights, West Side Story, Anything Goes (also director) and Legally Blonde all at LTA.  It’s been a great ride! 

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre? It’s hard work.   Let me say that again---it’s hard work.  But if you have a passion for it and simply must do it, then go for it.  But be ready to roll up your sleeves.  It’s not a place for slackers.  I find that the folks I most like to work with have a strong ethic and follow a disciplined routine.  That’s what leads to the most fruitful collaborations and the most creative solutions in my opinion.  One of my favorite quotes on this is by Julie Andrews – “Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show? The Nance is unlike any other show I’ve ever worked on.  It’s not quite a play, it’s not quite a musical.   It lives somewhere in that in-between world.   It also has a really strong message about being true to yourself, accepting who you are, and surviving during difficult times.   I think it has a lot to say to today’s audiences.   Plus, the cast is absolutely amazing, they are stunning in their portrayals, all of them, in a different way, take my breath away in rehearsals!   It’s a definite must see! 

For more on Stefan and his work, go to

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Nance - meet cast member Danielle Comer!

What do you find appealing about your character and this show? I really love how fun these characters and this show are. Lots of what they do is to make people and each other laugh and there are so many high energy scenes and it’s just FUN. At the same time the show deals with a lot of important issues regarding the gay community especially during this time period as well as a look at love in general. It’s a great balance of entertainment and something deeper.

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of “Joan”? I’ve learned more about how I can push myself as an actor, not only mentally and emotionally, but physically as well with all the dancing and singing the show requires. I think I definitely surprised myself with how confident I’ve become in my portrayal of someone so different from myself in real life. It’s really satisfying to look at a challenging role and think “Hey! I think I’ve done a pretty good job!”

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show? First and foremost, I went the audience to have fun. This show is very much a comedy and has so much fun in it- I want the audience to have fun and laugh with us. Second, I’d love for them to take away more of the history of gay culture in this time period and overall a respect for the people and performers that were a part of the unique burlesque culture, both the men and the women.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on? Well, I’ve never really had to take lots of my clothes off before or be exposed onstage that much so that’s definitely different from roles I’ve played in the past. That and the dancing. Not a huge dancer so that was different as well. Mostly, I think Joan is one of the most confident in herself characters I’ve played so that has been fun and challenging to work on.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA? I’ve been acting since I was 6. I started in summer camps at Mount Vernon Children’s Theatre and just kind of went from there. I studied in high school and got my degree in Theatre in college and I’m currently working towards a Master’s In Arts Management. Mostly I’ve been exposed to LTA through my director and theatre teacher in high school. Both direct shows at LTA and have been very involved so it’s always been something I’ve been interested in. I was in my first show at LTA about two years ago and so now I’m back to do it again! Fun fact, my director in high school who introduced me to LTA is none other than Frank Shutts, the director of The Nance! This is the first show he’s directed me in since high school which has been so much fun and rewarding to continue to grow my craft with him.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre? Resilience and perseverance. So much about working in theatre is staying true to yourself and your talent. Work hard, be confident and true to yourself and don’t let anyone get you down. If you love it and it’s a part of you, never let it go.