Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had incorrectly reported that the Woodland Theatre Department has never produced a play. The department has not produced a play since Susan Cinoman has been director. This version has been updated to make the necessary corrections.
BEACON FALLS — Theatre history is on stage with Woodland’s new production of “Stage Door.”
Woodland theatre teacher Susan Cinoman is directing “Stage Door,” by George Kauffman and Edna Ferber, the first play she has directed at the school.
The play follows the lives of a group of aspiring young actresses who board together at the Footlights Club in New York circa 1938.
“This play is all about their lives and their friendships,” Cinoman said.
Woodland has won the Halo award for its musicals in categories including most fearless musical, best actor, best supporting actor, and set design. Sponsored by the Seven Angels Theatre, schools across northern Connecticut, including Pomperaug, Torrington, Wolcott, Cheshire, and Bristol compete for top honors each year.
“We’re excited to show the judges something new,” Cinoman said.
Students have rehearsed every day for “Stage Door” starting in mid-October, Cinoman said.
Cinoman said she chose the play because she “was looking for something that had a preponderance of female roles.”
She also wanted a show that would challenge her young actors and give them a background in theatre history.
“Some students have never seen a live performance,” Cinoman said.
The play makes plenty of references to old Broadway stars and shows, many of which few now remember.
“It’s like a lost, dying art form,” Cinoman said.
She said the high school students relate to the characters in the play because they’re the same age and facing many of the same struggles.
“They love it. They’re really into it,” Cinoman said.
Just like the young women in the 1930s, students now struggle to find jobs, decide who and when to marry, and figure out how to balance their careers and social lives.
“They understand these parts. They’re not that far away from them in terms of their life experience,” Cinoman said.
Junior Alyssa Korzon, who plays Terry Randall in “Stage Door,” said she can really relate to her character. Randall has opportunities to be in movies, but she says she’d rather be in plays because they’re more alive.
“I kind of feel the same way. I’d rather be in a play than I movie,” Korzon said.
Sophomore Catherine Pelkey said she likes her character, Mrs. Orcutt, because she is so different. Mrs. Orcutt is a mean old lady who reminisces about her glory days, Pelkey said.
“I like that the characters have so many dimensions,” Pelkey said.
Korzon said she likes being in a play better than the musicals because she’s not a strong singer.
“I’d rather see musicals, but I like being in plays better,” Korzon said.
“You get more of a chance to shine in a play,” she said, pointing out that individuals are often lost in large musical ensembles.
Pelkey and Korzon have both been in Woodland musicals since their freshman year, and said they love theatre and are thinking about pursuing it as a career.
“I’m usually really shy off stage, but onstage, I’m more outgoing,” Korzon said.
Pelkey said she tries to be on stage as much as possible. Besides Woodland, she’s been in two musicals in Bridgeport.
Cinoman, who is a playwright herself, has been teaching theatre at Woodland for the past four years. Before that, she taught English and theatre in Wilton. She has published and produced several plays and made two independent films. One Woodland student is currently in Cinoman’s play, “All Me, All the Time.”
“I’ve always been able to combine my work with kids with my own writing,” Cinoman said.
She said there’s a growing interest in theatre at Woodland, where students can take acting from beginner to advanced as part of their arts curriculum.
“My classes are completely packed,” Cinoman said.
She said such a strong theatre program is unusual in a public school.
“Our district really sustains the theatre in a big way,” Cinoman said.
Most of the students in “Stage Door,” have also taken one of Cinoman’s classes, she said.
Korzon, who has taken acting one and two and is taking advanced acting next semester, said she would never have discovered her interest in theatre without the class.
“My life would be completely different if we didn’t have it,” she said.
She said she was one of the few students who took the class seriously. Other students signed up for the class because they thought it would be easy, according to Korzon.
“I feel lucky that we offer it,” said Pelkey, who has taken one acting class so far.
“Stage Door” opens Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School with a second showing Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. To reserve tickets, call (203) 906-3584.
Pelkey and Korzon said they will be ready for the show’s opening. Korzon said memorizing all her lines it a little overwhelming, but she’s comfortable on stage.
“I think, collectively, we’ll be very good,” Pelkey said.