Friday, December 16, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight - meet Barbara Helsing

Tell us about yourself.  What are some of your other hobbies?
I was born in Washington D.C., along with my siblings.  My parents came from South Dakota in 1941.  I lived in Prince George's county and graduated from Suitland High School in 1963.  My parents wanted me to go go college (and they would have paid for it) but I wanted to get a job and earn money.  I got a job with PEPCO and had a long career there for 38 years, retiring in September 2001.  I earned a good salary but was glad to be able to retire early.  I was especially glad to not have to go to work after 9/11/01.  I had just retired and felt like the world was coming to an end.  During that time, I lived on Arlington Ridge Road and I felt the concussion when the plane flew into the Pentagon.  I walked up the street and could see the Pentagon on fire.

After retirement, I spent a lot of time helping my parents who moved out to Warrenton, Virginia, near my brother and his family.  I was glad to have the extra time with them as they both passed away in 2006.  In 2007, Roland Gomez helped me find a condo at Watergate of Landmark and I am very grateful to him.

I also volunteer at my church once a week answering the phone and stuffing envelopes (nothing that takes much brain work).  I have two yellow tabby cats, Tom and Jerry, and I love them so much.

What brought you to LTA?  What areas do you volunteer?
My friendship with Rance and Vera Willis.  We attended the same church in Washington D.C. and he kept giving me tickets to LTA.  I became hooked on the theatre and he urged me to join and volunteer.  I became a member in 1998 and started working wardrobe on Fiddler on the Roof.  I had a wonderful time and Margaret Snow taught me the ropes of working wardrobe.  I owe it all to her!  I have also done props design on Biloxi Blues and other shows.  I have worked at other theatres in the area but LTA is my home!  My main volunteer job at LTA is now box office (with arthritis it is too hard for me to work backstage).  I do miss working backstage and being around the actors.  I have made so many friends with them and they trusted me to help them.  Whenever I see an actor I know at another location, they always come up to me, give me a hug and kiss, and say what a good helper I was to them.  It is great to be remembered!

What has been your favorite shows to work on at LTA?
One of my favorite shows was Master Class which I think was my first show as heading wardrobe.  Nicky McDonald was truly Maria Callas and each performance I heard something that stuck with me, and I will never forget it.  She won a WATCH Award for that show.  Another show I worked on was 33 Variations and that again was a labor of love.  I also worked on Greater Tuna and having seen it at another theatre, I decided I didn't want to work on wardrobe for that show...but Kit and Jean, the costumers, had everything laid out which made it a piece of cake to work.  Mike Baker even worked wardrobe on that show!  It was fun!  Never make up your mind prematurely.

What has been your favorite show LTA has produced?
That is one hard answer.  Chicago was truly great.  The music and dancing was wonderful.  I love all the shows we do (with the exception of two which were just not my taste).

What advice would you give others who wanted to get involved in theatre?
Go for it!  You never know what will strike your fancy.  There are some terrific mentors here to train you (and you can't get fired b/c we are all volunteers)!  One time I did make a mistake on wardrobe and called the costumer, Kevin Lane.  He came down to the theatre and I was sitting there crying.  He took me by the shoulders and said "you didn't do anything wrong...you did what you were told to do".  I will always love him for that.


LTA Volunteer Spotlight - meet Carolyn Winters



Tell us about yourself.
I was born in New York and moved around a lot as a child.  I spent my High School  and College years in Pennsylvania.  After graduating from college, I moved to D.C. and went to work for the C&P Telephone Companies.  I worked on the Executive Staff handling the Residence Telephone Construction Budget and Inventory Management.  I met my husband Frank while working at C&P.  We moved to New Jersey when I was promoted to AT&T handling the Inventory Management for Residence Service Centers and 900 phone centers across the country.  After I left AT&T, my best friend talked me into starting the Blind Spot and we sold blinds, shutters etc together for over 23 years.  In my spare time, I play and teach duplicate bridge, play Maj Jong and work on social events at Watergate at Landmark, where I live.  I also enjoy Tai Chi and walking.

When did you first get involved in theatre and LTA?  What areas do you volunteer?
My mother was a costume designer so my sisters, brother and I were always involved with theatre.  In high school, I was in a few plays and had lots of friends that were interested in the Arts.  After we moved back to Washington, I decided to take an Acting Class….and then Frank Shutts asked me to do Wardrobe for a show.  I worked Wardrobe and props and then was asked to Produce Private Lives with Margie Remmers.  From there I produced other shows and especially loved to do Musicals.  I also was Box Office and Production Governors as well as President of LTA.  

I love introducing people to the theatre and bringing them in to the LTA family to volunteer.  I used to hear that LTA was made up of cliques.  I tell them just volunteer and you will get to know all the “regulars”.  I have made so many friends at LTA that are so special to me.  

I am currently Director of the LTA Council.  The Council intimidated me until I was asked to join and had fun being a part of that group.  We are currently doing a large project which will change our Courtyard into a “Shakespeare Garden”!  In order to do this we are having a “Buy a Brick” campaign starting in February.

What has been your favorite show you worked on at LTA?
My favorite show was 1776.  I had just become President and was Producing that show with Sharon Field and Rance Willis.  The show ran for 4 weeks.  And during that 4 weeks, we did a special performance at Ft. Ward Park where 700 people showed up.  Whole Foods provided bottles of water for us to give out.   We were suppose to be out of the park before dark because there  were no lights but we were running a little long!    I don’t think the City of Alexandria was too happy with us when 700 people tried to leave the park in the dark!  They never had another event there.

I think Hair was the most fun show to work on.  I was the Wardrobe Mistress!  And it was the beginning of LTA starting to do shows that appealed to a younger crowd.



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight - meet LTA volunteer Ira Forstater



Give us a short bio about yourself.  What hobbies do you have other than theater?
I am from the Philadelphia area (as is my wife Robin Fradkin), and we moved to Northern Virginia in 1980 when I began my over three decades of public service with the Federal Government. Our son, three daughters, their spouses, and our grandson live in VA, NJ, and NY. Robin’s father (age 96) lives with us and has even joined us at LTA a couple of times.

Since retiring a few years ago, I have been fortunate to be able to spend most of my free time in promotion of the arts and local community service. I enjoy volunteering each year at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Washington Folk Festival, and had the special opportunity to help at the recent Sounds of Freedom Festival celebrating the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I also volunteer as a pro bono attorney in DC and as a Tax-Aide counselor in Northern VA.  This Autumn, I began taking classes at Northern VA Community College, and just completed a wonderful one on Introduction to the Theatre.

When did you first get involved with LTA?  What areas LTA do you volunteer?  
Soon after my retirement, Robin and I both decided to join LTA as active members. Robin ushered and soon began serving as a House Manager, which she still does as much as her work and care for her Dad allow. I started at Will Call and then moved over to the Box Office desk, which continues as my main volunteer area at LTA. In 2015, I was surprised and fortunate to be one of the co-awardees of the New Volunteer of the Year Award. My grandson decided to be born the day of the awards night … and I knew which stage (not LTA) I had to be on that day! Since then, I have become a regular House Manager, which I try to do at least once for each show. And most recently, I joined LTA’s Board of Financial Advisors and have had the chance to learn about and help out with set construction.

What has been your favorite show you have worked on and why?
I have three (or four) favorite shows – the one that just closed, the one that’s on stage, and the one (or two) in rehearsal.

What is your favorite show LTA has produced onstage and why?
Well, the most memorable LTA show for me so far was The Rocky Horror Show. A fantastic and fun production to be sure. But I was there with my youngest daughter and her friend on the night that our sound system malfunctioned and did a terrific imitation of a fire alarm. The backstage and Front of House volunteers that evening responded quickly in contacting the fire department and having the patrons, cast, and crew exit the building. The phantom ushers (part of the show’s cast) stayed perfectly in character outside in front. I took my daughter and her friend around the stage door side as patrons shared coats with the very lightly costumed cast on this freezing night and cast members let my daughter and her friend pose with them for some photos. Once the all clear was given and the fire trucks departed, most patrons returned to the theatre, the cast took the exact places they had been on stage before the alarm, and finished the performance with the audience joining in for rousing encore of Time Warp.

What advice would you have for those that want to get involved in theatre?  
The LTA is a truly special place. And everyone, from our amazing staff Virginia and Tina (and now Crissy too) and our Board of Governors to our incredibly talented volunteers in all backstage and tech areas are so welcoming and encouraging of others who have an interest in helping, regardless of experience level. If you have an interest, come learn, be a part of the production, and enjoy!

I want to say a few more words about Box Office and Front of House. We sell the tickets, welcome our member, subscriber, and first-time patrons, handle concessions and questions, and deal with the unexpected. We are the public face of the LTA and help ensure that our patrons enjoy their time with us and that the performance can begin on schedule. We provide training and the opportunity to shadow experienced volunteers in all of these positions. Volunteering on the House side is also a great way to meet many of our wonderful long-time volunteers and patrons, as well as each show’s producers, director, and stage managers.

Volunteering on a regular basis at LTA will bring you lasting friendships and a place within a welcoming community that appreciates and is dedicated to continuing live (and lively) theater as an art form and promoting theater education and enjoyment. So please join us!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Christmas Carol - meet cast member Maeve Bradley



Tell me a little bit about your character.
My character is like her Mother. She looks up to her and always wants to get involved. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from this play?
The true meaning of Christmas and to be thankful and kind to everyone.