River Wards Theatre Company to present first production.
By Melissa Komar
River Wards Theatre Company marked its first anniversary at the beginning of October and had much to celebrate.
What started with a handful of alumni from the defunct Theatre Company of Port Richmond coming together to keep the acting company alive in the neighborhood has blossomed into a few dozen and growing member organization.
RWTC earned nonprofit status during the past 12 months.
The organization sold out its cabaret night fundraiser, showcasing the talents of its members, back in April.
And, it’s currently three weeks away from putting on its first production, The Addams Family the Musical in Concert.
What better way to get a kooky and spooky behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming event than to talk to The Addams Family members themselves?
Northeast Philly resident Liz Lydon has been involved in theater for 30 years and previously went to see friends perform with the Theatre Company of Port Richmond.
This production, the stars aligned, with timing being ideal for Lydon to be a participant and not just a spectator.
Lydon will play Grandmama.
“She’s a lot of fun. She’s full of piss and vinegar, and she’s fantastic,” she said about her role. “She’s not one of those old, rickety ladies. She’s sassy.”
Ola Goral got her start in theater in 2012, and was 100 percent on board when RWTC formed “because I didn’t want to stop.”
“I needed my fix,” said the Bridesburg resident, who will play Morticia. “It’s funny because I grew up knowing nothing about the Addams Family, so when I found out I would be playing Morticia, I actually had to look her up. And, I watched all the movies.”
What she discovered surprised her.
“I realized I don’t really have to act,” said Goral, laughing. “I just have to be myself. But, it’s fun to put your own spin on her personality while staying true to such an iconic character. She’s super sexy, she’s super sarcastic, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Joining a theater company that’s starting from the ground up was librerating, according to Goral.
“I find incredibly freeing,” she said. “There are no expectations. You don’t have to go along with old rules because the rules are still being written. And, there’s a sense of excitement in the air. And, that’s really infectious.”
Like her “family” members, Tatlyn Miller has been involved in theater much of her life.
But, unlike her fellow, female actresses, she’s take on a slightly different role.
“I’m playing Pugsley, which is really exciting,” Miller said. “I’ve always wanted to play a male character, and I finally get to do that, but also stay in my singing range because he’s a young boy.”
“He’s a little mischievous brat who is very protective, but doesn’t want to seem protective of his sister,” the Fishtown resident added. “And, I can relate to that on so many ways because I’m an older sister.
Miller described starting fresh with RWTC as “scary, but in an exhilarating way because everyone was willing to make the dream a reality.”
Like many of her “family” members, Angela Burtulato got her first taste of acting in Port Richmond and will play Wednesday in RWTC’s upcoming show.
“Wednesday is a goth princess,” she said. “She is so powerful, she stands her ground, and, she doesn’t take crap from anyone. She is her own person. I think it’s pretty neat I get to play someone so close in age to me.”
Starting fresh with RWTC was, ironically, similar to a family affair, according to Burtulato
“I’ve been with some of these people since I was 7 years old, so it’s nice to see faces over and over again because they’re like a family to me, but to see new faces and welcome them into my life is pretty awesome,” said the Port Richmond resident.
Bob Ford “was a freshman in high school when I got bit by the bug” and has been involved in theater for more than 40 years.
The Fishtown native was a former member of the Theatre Company of Port Richmond for 22 years, and was astonished by the speed at which board members of River Wards Theatre Company came together to form a new organization.
“When you’re involved with something that many years, and given it was relatively short notice it was dissolving, was a real shock. To a lot of people, it was like losing a family member or a really good friend,” Ford said. “The amazing part of what happened here with the forming of RWTC was the immediacy with which it occurred. The heartbreak was a driving force for it so much to say, ‘We’re not gonna stop. We’re going to keep going and we’re going to build from the beginning with our own name and our own company. That was incredible.”
Ford will play Lurch, a role he called “the greatest part I ever had without having to say a word.”
“It will be fun to just use my face and see what kind of reactions I can get out of the audience, just trying to be creative without overstepping,” he said, laughing. “It’s so fantastic not having to go home and study lines. I’ve done some roles that were a lot of lines like Don Quixote. I just have to figure out a way to get tall.”
Brian S. Rothman will take on the role of Gomez and has been involved in theater for more than 30 years.
“It’s fun, typecasting, but Gomez is a family guy. He cares passionately about his family. He’s a passionate man. He wants his little girl to be happy and doesn’t want to upset his wife, that whole ‘Happy wife, happy life’ thing people say. He wants everyone to be happy,” the Mayfair resident said.
Rothman had no previous involvement with RWTC until Lydon reached out to him.
“They were looking for a Gomez, and Liz reached out and said, ‘Hey, there’s a new theater company forming, and they’re looking for someone to play Gomez,’ ” he said. “I was actually planning to take the year off. I was not going to perform anywhere with any theater company. It was going to be the year of me. But, I knew I could pull the role off if they cast me and I wanted to help them and lend my experience.”
Even with a stellar cast, the production wouldn’t be possible without the backing of the community.
“If I could get just one thing through is our appreciation for the community. The support we’ve had is amazing. Every time we turn around, someone is offering to help because they want us to succeed, or they want this artistic movement in the community, or they just love seeing shows,” said Katie Brown, artistic director for RWTC.
And, whether it’s fresh faces or experienced veterans, the RWTC’s upcoming production and overall mission is to provide an opportunity for the acting community in the River Wards to exist.
“Our biggest goal is to give people a chance to perform and get on stage,” Brown added. “And, to keep giving people the chance to perform in the future.”
The River Wards Theatre Company presents The Addams Family the Musical in Concert on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m. at Mother of Divine Grace, 2612 E. Monmouth St. Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased online at riverwardstheatre.ticketleap.com/addamsfamilyconcert or at rehearsals by calling Rachel at 215–327–5725.