Monday, February 23, 2015

Director Gary Mendoza: Entranced by Theatre

Gary Mendoza teaches Talented Theatre at Covington High School and has been a regular feature on the Slidell Little Theatre stage for several years and has even served on SLT’s Board of Directors. Though it has been several years since he last directed a show at Slidell Little Theatre – Romeo and Juliet in 2008 – he has been at the helm of a number of other productions including Pterodactyls for Cutting Edge Theatre, and countless shows for Covington High School and the CLAPS Summer Theatre Program. He returns to Slidell Little Theatre to direct Doubt: A Parable, on stage February 27 - March 15, 2015.
Gary Mendoza

Gary received SLT’s Ginny Award for Best Actor in 2013 for his tour de force performance as the adult Ralph Parker in A Christmas Story and he was most recently onstage as Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Gary took a moment from his very hectic production schedule to tell us more about his experiences.

Q: What was your earliest involvement in theatre?
Mendoza: I was a junior in High School at Pearl River, and my friend’s girlfriend was in Lil’ Abner and she wanted him to work crew, so he begged me to go along with him. They broke up and I ended up getting a role when another kid quit.   

Q: What attracted you to theatre to begin with?
Mendoza: It was gradual, but as I got going I found myself becoming more and more interested. I started realizing the difference between bad writing and something that is actually compelling. I wanted to experiment with how sound and lighting could help add to the show and not just be there because it’s needed. I started to like reading Shakespeare, not necessarily to read it, but to imagine how it would look like on stage.
Q: What is it about theatre that holds your interest today?
Mendoza: Everything! I like to challenge myself with every show I work on as an actor, director or designer. I like to see shows and marvel at them to the point that I start thinking of a way I might be able to do it better. I like to see bad shows and learn a lesson in what not to do.

Q: What are five plays that you’ll never forget and why?
Of Mice and Men – I played Lennie for my thesis role in the MFA program at UNO.  I had done scene work from the show before while in college and I fell in love with the character. It is one of the few roles that I would play again in a heartbeat.

A Christmas Story – I liked it so much I did it again nine years later. Both at SLT. The first
Gary Mendoza as the adult
Ralph Parker in
A Christmas Story
time around I developed some lifelong friendships with an incredibly special set of brothers. The second time around I got to share the stage with my son, which was awesome!

The Last 5 Years – I directed this for our CLAPS Summer Program a few years back. It was beautiful. Two people singing through the entire show (and I am not necessarily a musical theatre person.) The story is told from different directions of their relationship. His from beginning to end, hers from end to beginning. The only time I let the audience see them make eye contact was when they met in the middle for their wedding.

Macbeth – It was the first theatre production in thirteen years to be directed at Covington High by somebody other than George Sanchez (who has become a true friend.) I was a new teacher who was actually not hired the year before when I interviewed, and I’m sure that everybody thought that the new kid was just going to fail miserably. It was epically incredible! The students were amazing and the show ended up being spectacular. At circle on opening night I confessed to the cast that it was my first time directing a Shakespeare play. They didn’t believe me, but it was true.

Beauty and the Beast – A few years ago at CHS, we were deciding what to do for the school musical. We joked that we should do that and I would play Lumiere and Cedric Bridges, one of the choir teachers (who is an unbelievable singer) would play Cogsworth. We laughed for about ten seconds, then it became a reality. We’re reprising our roles this summer for the 20th anniversary of the CLAPS program.

Q: What play do you think people should see, but probably haven’t?
Mendoza: Waiting for Godot – It’s absurd, so most people would probably hate it or not get it, or both, but it really is an interesting show. I was lucky enough to see it on Broadway last year with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellin.

Q: What was the oddest play you ever saw, directed or starred in?
Mendoza: I was in a play called Going Under while in grad school. It was student written and student directed. It was supposed to be about the New York subway. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
I directed Strindberg’s A Dream Play once at the high school. It was a weird experiment, but the kids got something out of it.
Q: What was the best advice you ever received about acting?
Mendoza : A professor once told me that Stanislavsky said “it takes 20 years to become a good actor. 10 to learn everything, and 10 to forget everything that you’ve learned.” That has always stuck with me.

Q: When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
Mendoza : Even in Grad School I wasn’t sure. I never felt like I was good enough or really knew what I was doing. We were working on a scene for class, from a bizarre little play called Germs, and all of a sudden things just clicked. I had figured it out. From that point on I quit trying to walk away from the theatre.

Q: What was the first show you ever directed?
Mendoza: WASP, by Steve Martin. It was for a directing class at UNO. It was incredible.
I directed a scene from Angels in America while in undergrad and absolutely became enthralled with that show.

 Q: Name your top three roles as an actor and tell us why.
Lennie in Of Mice and Men – It’s too easy to label him as retarded. He is a child in the body of a grown man. He is innocence lost.

John Proctor in The Crucible – the sheer power and intensity is riveting. Guilt which becomes overwrought with Love and Pride. Playing opposite Julie and Robert, and everyone else for that matter, was just inspiring.

Magnificent Bastard – It was a ten minute play called Cauliflower for a 24 hour play fest at UNO. I wore a paper bag with a smiley face on my head and had to enter dancing to “Let’s Get It On!”

Q: What role would you love to play that you haven't yet?
Mendoza : Hamlet. I also want to direct it, but not until I’m too old that I can’t play it anymore.

Q: What is the scariest part of an audition?
 Mendoza: Waiting for the cast list afterwards

Q: What is the strangest thing a role required you to do?

Mendoza: The final scene in For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls (a spoof on the Glass Menagerie), I popped open a door with my knee and I’m standing in the doorway wearing a white tank top, a pea coat, combat boots, and incredibly short cut off denim shorts. Like way too short! I also had spiked hair and I was smoking a Capri cigarette. I still have the shorts actually.

‘Doubt’ Director Draws Cast Close for Intimate Performance with Audience

Slidell Little Theatre’s production of the powerful drama, “Doubt: A Parable” is set to open February 27, 2015 with performances running weekends through March 15.

A Catholic priest, Father Flynn, is suspected by Sister Aloysius of sexual molestation of the only African American boy in a Catholic school in New York City. She is determined to stop him. Sister James, a neophyte nun, wants to do the right thing, but is unsure who to believe. Mrs. Muller, the mother of the boy in question, doesn’t want to cause any trouble for reasons of her own. The audience is challenged in their own beliefs and criteria for accusation. Did he do it or is he being falsely accused?
Gary Mendoza

The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning “Doubt” is directed by Gary Mendoza and stars Larry Johnson, Jr. as Father Flynn, Anne Pourciau as Sister Aloysius, Maria Hefte as Sister James and Shelby Faciane as Mrs. Muller.

In advance of the show's opening, Gary shared with us what audiences can expect on stage.

Tell us about your vision and inspirations for Doubt.
I was drawn to this show because of the cast size. I am used to dealing with numerous high school students in large scale productions, that I embraced the chance for a challenge on this intimate of a level. I want to really connect with the audience and make them go through the same thought process that the four actors have to go through.

What are the challenges to staging this production?
Keeping that connection. Since SLT is a relatively small space, we brought everything down closer to the audience.

What the audience can expect to see?
Four actors who know how to handle a show of this magnitude. They say that 90% of a show is casting. If that is true then I can coast for the other 10% because they have such a good grasp on their characters that it is an absolute joy to direct these people.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

SLT Posters/Artists Unveiled

Slidell Little Theatre is proud to unveil the posters for the 2015-2016 main stage productions and to recognize the artists in our community who willingly donate their time and talent to promoting our shows.

Mary Poppins

One of the most popular Disney movies of all time is now a musical and makes its northshore debut at Slidell Little Theatre.  Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the classic Walt Disney film, “Mary Poppins” opens Slidell Little Theatre’s 2015-2016 Season, beginning in August 2015. 
A jack-of-all trades, Bert introduces us to England in 1910 and the troubled Banks family. Young Jane and Michael have sent many a nanny packing before Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep. Using a combination of magic and common sense, she must teach the family how to value each other again. Mary Poppins takes the children on many magical and memorable adventures, but Jane and Michael aren't the only ones she has a profound effect upon. Even grown-ups can learn a lesson or two from the nanny who advises that "Anything can happen if you let it." 

Poster by Scott Sauber
Scott teaches Theatre in the Talented Arts Program at Slidell High School and is a graduate of the University of New Orleans’ Theatre Department. He is a multiple-award-winning actor, light designer, director and educator.

Katrina: Mother-in-law of ‘em All

This year marks the 10th anniversary of one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the United States – Hurricane Katrina – and Slidell Little Theatre commemorates the historic event with a touching and humorous play that relives the experience through the eyes of its survivors.
“Katrina: The Mother-in-Law of ‘em All,” by local playwright Rob Florence, explores what happens when five Katrina survivors gather at the Mother-in-Law Lounge to retrace their footsteps. Experience the heartbreak, humanity, and yes, comedy through the journeys of five New Orleanians who lived to tell their tales about the devastating storm.

Poster by Glenn Dieterich
A resident of Slidell for the last 33 years, Glenn is a self-trained artist. A graduate of Loyola University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, he worked for 21 years as a television director at WWL. He currently works as a graphic designer in Slidell. He was awarded SLT’s Ginny Award for Best Poster Design for his artwork in Duck Hunter Shoots Angel.

The Snow Queen

One of the most beautiful of all fairy tales, the timeless appeal of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen lies in its persuading us that life is truly magical. The wicked Snow Queen casts her icy spell on the world, turns young Kay's heart to ice and takes him away as her eternal prisoner to her Ice Palace at the very top of the world. Gerda, Kay's friend, must journey forever north and brave many dangers in her attempt to save Kay and break Winter's grip. Gerda never gives up. She leads us through terrifying ordeals as well as endless fun and nonsense. A long the way Gerda encounters talking ravens, the evil Cobweb Spider, a prince and princess, a band of robbers and the wild robber-girl, greedy polar bears and the brave reindeer who carries Gerda across the artic wastes. This is a wonderful, fast-paced adventure story.

Poster by Julia Lavigne
Julia is a native of Slidell and has appeared on stage at Slidell Little Theatre in several YATS and main stage productions over the years. She graduated in 2013 from Savannah College of Arts and Design, with a BFA in Illustration and Communication Design. She currently lives in New Orleans where she is a freelance illustrator and private teacher. When time allows, she eagerly gives back to the community through organizations like Big Class and Slidell Little Theatre.

Pride and Prejudice

All of the wit and romance of Jane Austen's “Pride and Prejudice” come to life in this refreshingly fast-paced and engaging new adaptation. Finding a husband is hardly Elizabeth Bennet's most urgent priority. But with four sisters, an overzealous match-making mother, and a string of unsuitable suitors, it's difficult to escape the subject. When the independent-minded Elizabeth meets the handsome but enigmatic Mr. Darcy, she is determined not to let her feelings triumph over her own good sense -- but the truth turns out to be slipperier than it seems. In a society where subtle snubs and deceit proliferate, is it possible for Elizabeth and Darcy to look beyond his pride and her prejudice, and to make the best match of all?

Poster by Laura Mauffray Borchert
Laura is a local artist/attorney and the project coordinator for Pelicans on Parade, a community art exhibit featuring pelicans hand-painted by a couple hundred artists.  She loves breaking away for new art adventures:  she assisted Wyland as he added a manatee to his Whaling Wall at the Hilton Riverside, paints her own law office Christmas cards, hosts several artists during Arts Evening at the newly restored Notting Hill in Olde Towne, and painted the 2014 SLT poster for Radium Girls.

A Lesson Before Dying

Jefferson, an innocent young man, is condemned to death in backwoods Louisiana in 1948. At the trial his lawyer, trying to save his life, called him no more a human being than a hog. In prison, he acts like one, insisting that he will be dragged like that hog to his death in the electric chair. His godmother asks a schoolteacher to teach him to die like a man.

 “A Lesson Before Dying,” Ernest J. Gaines' celebrated novel, makes an engrossing, moving and finally devastating play for the stage.

Poster by Cameron Metrejean
A Lafayette native, Cameron has been designing posters and playbills for 5 years now, including SLT’s poster for Gifts of the Magi. He is currently majoring in Performance and Directing Theatre at Northwestern State University where he has performed in several stage productions.


King Arthur travels the land with his servant trying to recruit Knights of the Round Table to join him in Camelot and his quest for the Holy Grail…

“Spamalot,” lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits, and French people.

Poster by Kristen Lennard
Kristen Lennard graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor's Degree in Art History and Studio Art from Birmingham-Southern College. After graduating she began working for a New Orleans-based non-profit organization providing marketing and graphic design services. Kristen now works as the Marketing Manager for a local Insurance Brokerage and spends her free time providing graphic design and marketing consulting for non-profits and small businesses. Kristen has provided graphic design services for the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation, St. Bernard Project, and Slidell Little Theatre among others. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

'Full Monty' Auditions March 1, 2015

Director Scott Sauber brings a story of finding the confidence to do what you never thought you could go THE FULL MONTY.  Jerry and his friends are all struggling to make ends meet when a hair-brained idea gets thrown on the table.  Just when society says they can't (or perhaps, shouldn't) the 6 guys are out to prove the world wrong in a big way.

The ensemble of 12 men (6 willing to bare it all) and 10 women form the cast.

Jerry leads the "band" with an ex-wife and a kid to fight for. (30ish with a tenor range)

Dave has a few more pounds then he is willing to show off. (30-40ish with a round shape)    ---together, the two come up with the plan

Harold lives the high life and with some dance experience, set out to teach the men some moves. (early 40s, looks good in a suit)

Malcolm lives at home - with his mother. (30s with a slight frame)

Ethan doesn't care one way or the other, but is nice to look at (and does a little more showing then the other 5.) (20s-30s with a physique)

and "Horse" a black man. (older is better - tenor range)

***the show does begin with a classic Chippendale-type dancer.  He has two scenes aside from his dance number.  Abs, pecs, quads, lats, buns -- we would like to show the ladies a little something.  Won't have a lot of rehearsal, but then again, shouldn't need a lot of rehearsal.

The other guys will dance for an opportunity to be on the line, but seriously - no experience necessary.  They also jeer and cajole the guys into baring it all.

Jerry needs an ex-wife (non-singing)
Dave's wife Georgie leads the ladies in their powerhouse songs (Woman's World!)
Vicki is Harold's wife - stylish and ritzy
and Jeanette: Sassy, quick-witted, and larger than life. A piano player up in age, eager to put on a show!
The other ladies join the men in cheering on the boys.

While there is an allure about the boys going the Full Monty [and yes, the boys must be willing to GO THE FULL MONTY] the show is about fighting your demons and being proud of who you are.  The nudity is never gratuitous, but COURAGEOUS, and the crowd will cheer you on.  As a former cast member, I promise you will be treated with respect and the lighting will be mesmerizing.

Auditions begin Sunday, March 1 @ 7:00 at Slidell Little Theatre.
32 bars of an upbeat theater tune would be ideal - an accompanist will be provided.
Rehearsals commence March 22, Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 - 10:00.
Performances run May 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 @ SLT.


1: Be yourself.  I know the anxiety about putting yourself out there.  I won't ask you to do what I won't do myself.
2: Prepare your song.  The internet is full of rehearsal tracks and piano accompaniment.  Smile and be comfortable.
3: Don't take clothes off during the audition.  That is not appropriate.
4:This is a GUY'S show.  We need the good ol' boys singing songs about being "good ol' boys."
5: The wives should be fierce!  Upbeat modern theater songs - this is an upbeat show.
6: Read the website:  Know what you're getting into.
7: Do not worry about the Full Monty part.  You're in good hands.