There’s a new player on the Brooklyn theater
scene: Brooklyn Family Theatre at the Church of Gethsemane at
1012 Eighth Ave. in Park Slope.
The program, part of the church’s outreach to the community, is run by producing director Phill Greenland and co-producing director Lorraine Stobbe.
"We’re really excited to be in the community and doing decent stuff. Our goal is to pick work appropriate for the entire family, work that appeals to everyone," said Greenland. "We plan on doing four shows a year, and at least one of them will be a musical."
Previously, Greenland and Stobbe were both resident directors at New York Youth Theater, housed at the Central Presbyterian Church at Park Avenue and 64th Street in Manhattan. In 2001, that program closed after 10 years.
"We all wanted to go our own separate ways. Ten years was a good run, and we decided to go on," said Greenland.
At that same time, Stobbe had just moved to Park Slope. Greenland had been living in the neighborhood for three years.
"We [Stobbe and I] had talked and dreamed together of doing something in Brooklyn," Greenland told GO Brooklyn. "We like Brooklyn." So when the Rev. Elizabeth Alexander, pastor of the Church of Gethsemane, suggested Greenland launch a theater program at her church, he jumped at the chance.
"Liz is a good friend of mine. I knew her when I did theater and was a staff member at Central Presbyterian," he explained. "Liz convinced me to move my membership to the church and suggested I continue my theater work here."
The drama program will serve the church in several ways.
"The church mission is criminal justice," Greenland said, alluding to the JusticeWorks a non-profit program run out of the church that provides services primarily to women in prison and their children. "Aside from doing great stuff in the immediate community, we hope to bring attention to the good work the criminal justice program is doing in this building."
That work includes writing letters to prisoners and attending rallies seeking to overturn the Rockefeller drug laws, which require judges to follow stiff mandatory sentencing guidelines.
He said that although Brooklyn Family Theatre is a program of the church, "Lorraine and I have artistic control."
Greenland has already joined the Alliance of Resident Theaters, a support group in New York City for nonprofit off- and off-off-Broadway theaters. He plans to list auditions in Backstage magazine and to send releases to the local press. He also has many "actor and performing friends in the neighborhood" whom he hopes to cast in productions.
The season opens April 12 with "Godspell," a show that will allow Greenland to fulfill his goal of featuring young people playing alongside adults. But there are additional reasons for his choice.
"I didn’t want to start with something too massive. ’Godspell’ is scored for a band and not an orchestra," said Greenland, adding that he is using Park Slope musicians with whom he has worked previously. "It seemed like a good fit. You can combine teens and adults easily."
On a more personal note, he said, "I love the show. It’s one of my favorites."
The summer offering will be "Alice in Wonderland" in a version with incidental music.
While Stobbe is more experienced in straight drama, Greenland’s great love is musical theater, especially pop musicals.
"’Big River’ is a favorite," he said. "So is ’Once on this Island.’ I’ve done ’Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’] five times. I love [’Jesus Christ] Superstar.’ This is my fifth ’Godspell,’ I’m really looking forward to staging it again."
Greenland plans to start modestly. The church chancel, with furniture removed, will be his stage, and he expects to attract a core audience from Brownstone Brooklyn. But eventually, he hopes to draw from all over Brooklyn as well as the other boroughs.
With all the talent living in Brooklyn and the many Brooklynites eager for good theater, it would seem that Greenland and Stobbe have placed their new venture on firm and fertile ground.
"Godspell" will be produced by Brooklyn Family Theatre at the Church of Gethsemane, 1012 Eighth Ave. at 10th Street in Park Slope, from April 12 through May 5. Tickets are $12. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 4 pm. For information on how to become involved in the theater program, or for reservations, call (718) 670-7205.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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