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Spotlight on St. Mark’s Church and Into the Woods

By • Jul 26th, 2006 • Category: Interviews

Listen to our discussion with Kathy Sullivan, of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia [MP3 15:16 4.4MB].

Mike: Today the ShowBizRadio Spotlight is on Kathy Sullivan of the St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia. They will be performing Into the Woods later this week.

Kathy: Hi.

Mike: Thank you for spending some time with us right before you run some scenes for Into the Woods.

Kathy: You’re welcome. I really appreciate you coming out and talking to us. It’s a great honor to be on the radio or the internet at least.

Mike: So, please tell us a little bit about why you’re doing Into the Woods.

Kathy: It’s got an interesting moral. As one of my lines says, the moral question at issue here is the finality of the story such as these. Basically Into the Woods is the story of the brother’s Grimm fairy tales. Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Jack and the beanstalk with the beans, the magic beans. And his milky white cow. The baker and his wife who are childless and can’t have a child because of a spell that’s been put on their house by the witch who is Rapunzel’s mother. So it has those four and also Cinderella going to the festival. As well as her stepsisters and mother and father.

It’s how they’re woven together that the story becomes Into the Woods. They go into the woods to get several things. At the end of the first act you find out that they all get their wish. But in the second act you find out what the finality of these stories has caused. And to get your wish is not always the best thing in the world. It’s very interesting to examine that issue here in the church. I think the producer’s note that I wrote up is that we hope that God gives you everything that you wish for. It’s an interesting example of what God has in plan for you.

Mike: What about when God says no?

Kathy: Well, that’s a thing that you have to look at. Unfortunately the stories here don’t tell those stories. Yeah, there’s always the time when God says no. You have to learn to deal with that. We have a theater ministry here so it’s not just the kids coming and doing theater for the summer. We always start with prayer. We always have some kind of formation. We have somebody in the production crew or even in the cast to do a formation for that day.

So far this year one of the biggest things we’ve had to stress with this show especially is that it’s one team. It’s one whole story. It’s not four or five stories woven together. It’s one entire story. We had to stress that it’s one team and let them realize that they don’t have small parts. All of the parts are big because they all relate to each other. It’s very interesting to see how the kids are reacting and the adults. We have several adults this year working with us. It’s kind of nice.

Mike: Tell us about the cast and the crew.

Kathy: There’s twenty two poeple in the cast. There are only three or four high schoolers that are still in high school. Maybe more than that. There are maybe six high schoolers. The rest of them are either in college or young adults. We have several of them that are returning. We have several people that return every year. Then we have a lot of new blood this year, as we call it. We have a lot of new faces. It helps to build the program, to get the word out so that we can get more people involved.

This year is the first year that we had over the amount to audition for the roles, especially for the female roles. We had only cast fifteen female roles and the rest of them are male. We had thirty women that tried out for the show. We had to tell fifteen of them that they couldn’t have a role. Unfortunately, some of them were people that are involved in the process here and in the programs. Hopefully we can keep them involved throughout the rest of the year doing other things.

We also do a one act play festival for the high school ministry here in the Spring. Well, Spring/Winter that’s an Arlington Diocese thing. We do a one act play. It’s very exciting. I start my job probably about November and go through until August and then I take the rest of the year off.

Laura: Do you find that it’s difficult to get men to audition for Into the Woods?

Kathy: Oh, yeah. This year we actually had more men audition than we normally do. Over the last several years we’ve cast every single man that’s come out. We don’t have a choice, we have to have men in the show. This show doesn’t call for a lot of men. That’s very good. We have six men in the cast. There’s supposed to be seven. Rob Tessier who started the theater ministry here and is also down at All Saints now. He is a narrator and I’m also the narrator. We split the role because he’s so busy down there. His wife told him he could only do two shows. Somebody had to pick up the slack and we didn’t have another guy. So I get to do the role for three nights which is kind of nice. I’m just kind of busy doing production stuff, too.

Laura: How did you recruit for Into the Woods?

Kathy: This year what we did was we emailed all the previous casts. We also put out posters at all of the high schools in this area, in this location. In Vienna, Oakton. We did put an ad in the church bulletins because we had people from Springfield. It’s a big blessing because we got two guys out of that. We have two people that are coming from Maryland. They saw it online some place at Catholic University or some place because they’re both from Catholic University.

This year is the first year we have almost an entire Catholic cast. We only have two or three people that are not Catholic. We don’t normally discriminate against that. Normally we’re open to whoever wants to audition. This year it just happens to be that we have several people who are Catholic who are talented enough that we wanted them in the show. We do have a few people who are returning that are not Catholic. We try not to do totally Catholic formation. We try to incorporate everybody. We’re not exclusive to any of the religions or anybody in the cast. It’s definitely an ecumenical service that we do with the theater ministry.

Mike: Are there a lot of people in the church that get involved? Or is it community members? Or is is it just youth or adult?

Kathy: A couple of the college kids that we have actually grew up in this parish, but they weren’t involved in the high school program. We didn’t start having one act plays up until four years ago. Some of them were not involved in the high school program so they didn’t get involved in the one acts. It’s very difficult to get the high school kids here involved in theater because they’re so involved with so many other things. They’re always involved in something where they have to be at a meet or some kind of sports activity or even school. We have have two or three people in the cast that are from Thomas Jefferson. Their work load is a little bit more than the regular kids here. We start auditions before they stop school and we start rehearsals before they get out of school. So it’s a little bit more difficult for them to come to auditions and rehearse and everything up until the point their school is out. By the time school is out they’re ready to just have a nice time and then they’re active in the church. It’s a little bit different for them to be active.

Mike: What would you consider to be a successful show?

Kathy: A successful show is when the cast is happy with the director and the production crew. I think a successful show is when we actually have enough people to pay for the show. All of the profits go totally to the St. Patrick’s Foundation. The St. Patrick’s Foundation is a charity in Kingstown, Jamaica. It’s sole responsibility is four centers that are schools. Two of them are preschools in a dump area in Kingstown Jamaica. They are two to six year olds. They educate them so that when they reach an age where they can go to school, they are able to go to school. They have two high schools in the poorer section of Kingstown. Not so much in the dump, close to it. They are high schools that teach a craft. They also have woodworking, sewing. I think they are starting cosmetology. They have computer lab. They have an electronics class. They try to teach them some kind of craft so that when they get out of high school or the school that they’re in, they can make a living wage.

The fifth center that they have is a nursing home that they take the poor and destitute elderly. In Kingstown, if you cannot make a wage, you’re cast out onto the street. So when you get to a certain age and you’re not able to work any more. Some people are even from the dump area. They’ve lived there all their live pretty much. They get to a point in their lives where they need assistance. They bring them into the nursing home and care for them until they die.

The last time I was there last year, they had the first AIDS patients. AIDS is a huge epidemic in Jamaica. Jamaica is anti-abortion. They have a lot of problems with sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS is pretty prevalent in Jamaica. They had the first two AIDS cases when I was there the last time.

They also have at one of the centers a marching band which is supported by Red Stripe Beer. They buy their uniforms for them and support them. They play at differnt places in Kingstown. Some of the tapes I have seen they’ve been to Trinidad. They’ve been to some of the other islands in the Caribbean. They have a drum and bugle band. They also have singers. They have now dancers. They have women that dance with the band.

They will actually be coming this year for the first time to America and performing at St. Marks. There’s eleven of them that will be here during the show playing at intermission and afterwards to help raise money for the band specifically. The money that we make from the show, past all the bills that we pay because we have no budget. We use the money to pay for the show and whatever is leftover goes straight to st. Patricks. That goes to help out the centers and whatever they need. Over the last twelve years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve contributed over $60,000. We make anywhere, depending on the show, and depending on how much it costs us. We’re cutting on costs this year. We’re trying to not spend as much money so that we can send more money over because of the hurricanes in the last few years. They needed more money and we have not been able to send it. This year we’re hoping to have a better take and, hopefully more people will come see the show. That would help.

Laura: Back to Into the Woods. What is your rehearsal schedule? How many nights a week do you rehearse?

Kathy: When we start in June we only rehearse three nights a week. We rehearse on the weekends. Starting in July, we have a lot of our kids who go to our high school work camps. The last week in June is usually high school work camps. After they get back from work camp we start rehearsals everyday. We usually have rehearsals for three hours every night until about two weeks before performance and then we go to four hours a night. Yesterday we had a rehearsal from 10 ’til 10. Today we started at noon and will probably go until 10 or eleven tonight.

Tonight we have what’s called our sits probe. The band will be here. The orchestra will be here and we’ll sit and sing, which is what sits probe is. Sit and sing with the orchestra and get our cues down for the orchestra. We will be doing that this evening for a few hours. Then tomorrow night we start dress rehearsal. We have dress rehearsal Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and go up on Thursday. Our performance dates are July 27th, 28th, and 29th at 7:30. The 29th and 30th at 2 PM. Tickets are $12 for general admission. $10 for seniors and students. As soon as a child enters school they’re called a student.

Laura: How do you get tickets?

Kathy: You can call the Youth Ministry Office at 703-938-5656 Ext. 2. It will give you a message as to how to order tickets. You can also come to the show and they’ll be available. We have the luxurious gymnasium so we don’t have a limit on our seats. I can always add seats if I run out of them. I would love to have a year that I ran out of chairs and didn’t have enough chairs for people to sit in. I have yet to have that problem. If we had that problem this year it would be a wonderful problem to have.

We did this show, this show is a repeat. We did this show eight years ago. At the time Father Culkin who was the pastor at the time at St. Marks was the narrator. It’s kind of a sentimental show because he actually died five years ago I think it is now. So some of the people in the parish will come to see it just because of that. I just hope we can do it justice to what they did before. It’s a good show. The kids are really on fire.

We have so much talent up there on stage it’s kind of sickening sometimes. It’s really difficult. I think the audition process is very difficult for me and for the rest of the production staff. It’s really bad to have too much talent. I would never want to be a Broadway producer or a director because I don’t know how you can tell people and break their little hearts. Some of these kids, this is their summer and it’s very difficult to say no to somebody who doesn’t have anything else to do for the summer. Some of these kids this is their third time returning because this is what they long for in the Summer. You just have to say, “You know what? We just can’t use you this year.” That’s really heartbreaking. It’s really heartbreaking for me to do this year to several of the kids that normally would be in the show. It would be nice to be able to do a show that was so big that I didn’t have enough people to be in it. I don’t think I ever want to have that problem.

Mike: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Kathy: One of the morals from this show. One of the songs near the end is called,”No One is Alone.” That is probably the song for the show. It’s a song about the fact that people are not alone in this universe. The characters learn that by going through the woods and meeting each other along the way. Cinderella sings this to Little Red near the end of the show. She says no one is alone. It’s very important for the theater ministry part of it for the kids to realize that no one is alone in this world. With God there is always somebody there.

Mike: This has been the ShowBizRadio Spotlight at St. Mark’s Church in Vienna. They will be doing Into the Woods later this week.

Kathy: Thank you.

Laura: And now, on with the show.

This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/1758.

started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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