Theater alumni return to lead play

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James Goggin, Jr., left, and Jean-Marie McGrath review the script for the Naugatuck Teen Theater’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Oct. 8. Goggin is directing the play and McGrath is the stage manager. –LUKE MARSHALL
James Goggin, Jr., left, and Jean-Marie McGrath review the script for the Naugatuck Teen Theater’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Oct. 8. Goggin is directing the play and McGrath is the stage manager. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Two childhood friends and Naugatuck natives have returned to the stage where they fell in love with theater.

James Goggin, Jr., and Jean-Marie McGrath, both 22, have known each other since preschool. Theater played a large part in their lives growing up. Both were in the drama club at Naugatuck High School, with McGrath serving as president and Goggin serving as vice president senior year.

They both were also heavily involved in the Naugatuck Teen Theater throughout their teenage years. When the teen theater’s production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens Oct. 24 it will mark the first time the longtime friends will work together on a play without being on stage.

Goggin is directing the play and McGrath is the stage manager.

Last year McGrath returned to the Naugatuck Teen Theater as the assistant choreographer.

“That was my first time working on the other side of things rather than just performing. It was a lot of fun. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s a lot cooler seeing what you’re working on performed when you have a stake in it rather than getting up there and smiling. So I asked to do the fall play,” McGrath said.

McGrath also asked that Goggin be brought on board so the two of them could work together again.

Goggin said he was nervous at first. Theater was what he studied in college and this play is his first real job right out of college.

“This was my first day of working in what I’ve studied for and what I told everyone I wanted to do with my life,” Goggin said.

However, he soon settled into the role and things have been running smoothly.

“This is going incredibly well,” Goggin said. “The kids have made it great.”

For Goggin the love of theater started at an early age.

When he was 8 years old Goggin got involved with the borough’s now-defunct summer theater program, Summerscape.

“My mom would take me to the show every year. The first musical I think ever saw was probably ‘Guys and Dolls.’ Next year I saw their production of ‘The Music Man.’ I remember really enjoying seeing these musicals,” Goggin said.

Although later he realized the scripts had been changed in order to make them family friendly, the passion he felt about the theater never left.

“I saw that and knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Goggin said.

When Goggin was old enough he joined the Summerscape program and his first show was “Crenshaw Family Reunion.” McGrath was also part of that production.

For two years Goggin did not act outside of school, until his mother told him about auditions for “Our Town” at the Naugatuck Teen Theater. He was quickly cast and was the only freshman in the play.

Goggin performed in eight plays in total at the teen theater.

McGrath joined the teen theater for the production that followed “Our Town” and performed in seven plays with the theater.

After graduating high school, Goggin went to Western Connecticut State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theater.

While there he acted and ran tech for nearly every show the school put on. He also wrote and directed plays during the school’s 10 minute play festival.

McGrath began focusing on her acting career after high school. She has performed at a variety of theaters around the area.

“After graduating high school I did a lot of the community theaters. The Landmark Community Theater, Thompson Opera House, Warner Theater,” McGrath said.

Now the two are back together and confident the actors following in their footsteps at the teen theater will put on a good show.

“The kids have been nothing but cooperative and enthusiastic. What I really like is all of them really want to do a good job. They want the show to be good. I think it’s not just because of the fact their families are going to come. I think they just genuinely want to put on a good show, which is what is true with all good actors. It’s not about them wanting to look good, they want the show to look good,” Goggin said.

The theater will present five showings of a “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — Oct. 24, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. as well as Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. The theater is run out of St. Michael’s Church at 210 Church St.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students with a school identification. Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased online at www.naugatuckteentheater.com.

McGrath said the lower price for high school students is to encourage students to become part of the theater.

“We really want to get people involved in theater in this community. We’re trying to get as many students in here as possible,” McGrath said.