Annapolis Company Theatre

From Annapolis Past Port

The Annapolis Company Theatre (ACT) was a local community theatre that would typically perform a Shakespearean play for a few weekends in the Great Hall at St. John's College during the middle of the summer between the years 1992 and 1996. The company was founded by St. Johns alumnus Nathan Rosen, who directed all the shows performed by ACT.

Usually, auditions would consist of cold readings of monologues from a Shakespeare play, improvisational exercises, and if the play merited, vocal auditions (as it did for Much Ado About Nothing, which was performed in 1994). Once the roles were cast, rehearsals typically lasted 4-5 weeks (mid-June to mid-July) with performances taking place from mid-July to early August. Rehearsals typically started with vocal warm-ups, including tongue twisters like “Unique New York,” “Red Leather, Yellow Leather,” and “Sally Sells Seashells By The Seashore.” Inevitably, the cast would crack up with laughter, which helped set up a warm, comfortable, often humorous tone during rehearsals and performances. Nathan always encouraged his casts to have fun and enjoy the rehearsal process as well as the performance stage of each theatrical journey. He also regularly welcomed input from the cast regarding their characterizations. Nathan also regularly hosted cookouts/swim parties for the cast at his Annapolis home on Sunday afternoons during the runs of the shows, which included 12th Night, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet (between 1992 and 1995).[1]

The inaugural production of Shakespeare’s comedy 12th Night was cause for celebration for Nathan, the cast, and the audience alike.. In the “Director’s notes” of the show program, Nathan expressed his enthusiasm for the production by writing, “12th Night is a wonder. This version of the play steals freely from my many influences and incorporates many of the cast’s wacky suggestions. We wanted a lively, fun, version of this classic comedy.” Nathan also wrote, “This production...owes a lot to my production last fall at Thomas Stone High School as well as my time in the NEH Teaching Shakespeare program at the Folger Shakespeare Library.” In the center fold, the program also included a “map” of the characters and plot lines that was created by Peggy O’Brien, the education director at the Folger Shakespeare Library whom Nathan thanked for her help. The production won rave reviews from the Publick Enterprise (August 1st Half 1992 edition). Reviewer Nancy Hatheway Noyes began her “Spotlighting” article on the production with these words: “A convoluted plot, amazing characters, surprising musical interludes, extraordinary language, boffo slapstick comedy, audience, and riotous laughter for about 120 people. Sounds like fun? It is.” Noyes added, “Featuring witty, wacky interpretations of the play and its directors, as seen through the eyes of director Nathan Rosen and his clever and energetic cast, the production is altogether wonderful.” As would be the case with subsequent ACT productions, Nathan and the cast became close-knit, regularly enjoying post-show drinks at venues such as Harry Browne’s.[2]

In reviewing the actors’ performances, Noyes gave high marks to three performers who would form the magical triumvirate of mainstays in ACT shows, performing in all or almost all of ACT’s five seasons: Aaron Finkelstein and two of his leading ladies in subsequent ACT shows, Sandra Gwynn and Christine Hirrell.[3]

Of Aaron’s performance in 12th Night, Noyes wrote,” A...very strong comic performance is turned in by Aaron Finkelstein as the benighted Malvolio. It’s a wonderful work of a highly comic nature, as the poor fellow tries to recover his damaged dignity through great tribulation.” Aaron would go on to give electrifying leading man performances as the titular character in Macbeth (also known as the Scottish Play for those who might consider themselves superstitious when seeing or hearing the name of this Shakespeare tragedy) and Benedick in the comedy Much Ado About Nothing in 1994.[4]

Sandra received praise from Noyes as one of the female leads in 12th Night: “As Viola/Cesario, Sandra Gwynn is a good anchor for the production, skillful in both her diction...and her sensitive and appealing characterization of this multi-faceted role. Hers is certainly some of the most consistently dignified work in the production, with artful subtlety and a board range of emotional colouration, but she, too, doesn’t miss out on the fun.” In subsequent years, Sandra gave mesmerizing performances as Lady Macbeth (playing opposite Aaron’s Macbeth), as well as the dual roles of Friar Francis and the gentlewoman Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing.[5]

Similarly, Christine received kudos for her portrayal of the countess Olivia, with Noyes crediting Christine for how she “handle[d] the imperiousness of the role well without sacrificing its warmth.. er, perhaps we should say ‘heat’. Her Olivia is rapaciously aggressive in her lusty fascination with Cesario, sly and seductive in her efforts to win ‘his’ affections.” Christine also gave equally solid performances as the 3rd Witch and Lady Macduff in Macbeth, as well as the formidable Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (playing opposite Aaron’s Benedick).[6]

Other performers who acted in one or more of ACT’s shows include (but are not limited to) the following: Aubrey Baden III, Neil L. Bergman, Amber Berry, David Bockman, Erin Breagy, Michael Cary, John Castro, Jack Daniel, Wes Donehower, Patrick Field, Barry Genderson, Travis Gomoljak, Brendan Greeley, Michael Harrell, Denise Huffer, Nathan Jongewaard, Dan Kavanaugh, Erik Kaukonen, Jim Keller, Kardyhm Kelly, Joella Klinghoffer, Kerry Roy Kohnhorst, Mark Lewis, Erika Lin, Theresa McCarter, Lucy Montgomery, Christopher Morrison, Kathryn (Sam) Noel, Christian Parr, Francie Roberts, Andrea Seabrook, Todd Stregiel, Nicholas Svara, Gene Vassilaros, and Derek Woodburn.[7]

Those who were involved in ACT onstage or offstage are likely to have fond memories and share reminiscences of bringing Shakespeare to life; they are likely to remember these experiences as fun and enjoyable, as well as the friendships that were formed during these theatrical journeys.[8]

  1. Aubrey Baden III
  2. Aubrey Baden III
  3. Aubrey Baden III
  4. Aubrey Baden III
  5. Aubrey Baden III
  6. Aubrey Baden III
  7. Aubrey Baden III
  8. Aubrey Baden III