Spotlight on the Metropolitan Performing Arts TheatreBy Michael Clark • Mar 22nd, 2011 • Category: Interviews
Interviewed March 20th, 2011
Listen to the interview [MP3, 11:11, 5.1MB]
Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio and today I’m talking with Dan Stapula, who is the Artistic Director for the Metropolitan Performing Art Theater in Northern Virginia. He is also the director for their upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors. Thanks for talking with me today Dan.
Dan: Sure Mike. Good to talk with you.
Mike: So tell me a little about the Metropolitan Performing Arts Theater. It’s a fairly young company.
Dan: We started slightly over five years ago. We started out strong with five shows a season and had some people really excited about doing theater. We have trailed off a little bit in the last couple of years just because of the work schedules of the people involved to two or three shows which seems to be pretty typical of the area. MPAT is part of the Metropolitan Performing Arts Alliance. And that actually has five other companies mostly dance companies and a music group and we kind of help support each other, share rehearsal space etc.
Mike: So is it kids only or all ages? Who is it open to?
Dan: We try to put together a balanced season so we do try to involve children in at least two shows that we do a season and then we try to have something for adults and then something that the whole family can be in together. That is the goal anyway. We try to cross promote the adults and kids in our dance programs.
Mike: So are the shows you do pretty dance heavy then?
Dan: The funny thing is when you have groups that are sharing lights and rehearsal space and that sort of thing. The dancers tend to be pretty engaged in their dance troupes. So what we do share more than the performers themselves are the choreographers and the leadership.
Mike: Interesting. So how was the leadership structure? Is it team based or is it just a role where the choreographer knows that that is what he or she will be doing.
Dan: We negotiate it. We know each other. We meet at least once a quarter between the artistic directors and will ask each other to help support each other’s show. If schedule allows we will do that. Or we will use each other for referrals for people that would be good at a particular show. A lot of times we are identifying talent for each other also.
Our lead in Urinetown last year is a wonderful tapper, great singer. She did a wonderful job with the show and she has gone on from us now and she’s at Arlington Players playing in their production of 42nd Street. We like to say that we do not keep them to ourselves. They are involved in our dance program and they might be involved in our community theater and then they launch off into other stuff.
Mike: The upcoming show Little Shop is actually at a local high school. How does that work. Are you just renting space?
Dan: Yes, we rent space from Fairfax County. Bryant is an alternative high school in Fairfax, which works out for us because although they are a high school and they have a large auditorium. They do not have an active theater program. So we have kind of adopted that space to use on a more or less regular basis. The disadvantage is they do not have all the lighting and sound equipment maintained the way that other schools do, but on the other hand we are not competing for time in the theater, so we can take a good two weeks before the run starts and have it the whole time.
Mike: Okay, that’s good. Are your runs usually two or three weeks?
Dan: We are trying to do six shows and that usually means two weekends.
Mike: Looking at your website I see you are actually starting to plan your 2011-2012 season.
Mike: What types of things do you think you will be doing? Although you probably do not know yet.
Dan: I honestly can’t say at this point. I have kind of taken the first five years and done the shows that I want to do and at this point I am trying to turn to the community and say: Let me stop suggesting shows and let’s plan a season that you guys really want to do. Because I may not be interested in Cinderella there might be a whole lot of people that are.
Mike: So the cynic in me says that is just what we need is another theater doing Cinderella or kid’s basic shows.
Dan: Right. We are here to serve the families and the groups in our area as well as the expanded theater community in DC. I love the synergy between the two, but there is the part of us that says “Ok, we’ve got a group of people within a ten mile radius hear that want to enjoy doing community theater near their home.” So as far as picking the season we do try to make sure their voice is heard. I do try to throw in my two cents as far as shows that would be castable or to bring in other folks. Urinetown was like that. No one had ever heard of it in the community where we work. It is obviously really popular in the acting community, so we had a lot of people come out and that generated a lot of excitement for the audition. Little Shop was the same way.
Mike: Where people have heard of it..
Dan: People have heard of it and they want to play the roles for quite a while and it brought in actors from all over the place.
Mike: Tell me about Little Shop. When does it open?
Dan: Little Shop opens March 25th. That’s next Friday. It runs that Friday evening 7:30 PM. Saturday a two PM matinee and then a 7:30 show. Then April 1 and 2nd. 7:30 PM and then 2 PM and 7:30 PM.
Mike: Looking forward to seeing the different ways that people make Audrey. Or I guess Audrey II.
Dan: Audrey II. For a small cast show it’s got a lot of stuff. A lot of big puppets and props and what not. We worked with a professional company with the puppet. I think we’ve got a really nice one. We have got a couple of folks who have done Little Shop before in the cast. They tell me anyway that this is the best puppet they have worked with.
Mike: So tell me about the cast of Little Shop.
Dan: Well, we have been so fortunate this season. We had a great turn out for Little Shop and we were able to get some wonderful local talents as well as kind of our established group that kind of comes out for shows and does such a great job. Jay Tilley who is a wonderful actor in the area as the voice for Audrey II. We have an incredible puppeteer in Carl Atland. Rachel Goldman is our Audrey. She has been in local opera and community theatre and I think professional theater productions also. So it’s just an all-star lineup and I’m leaving lots of people out accidentally. But it is a wonderful group of folks and I feel fortunate that our theater has attracted them in this show.
Mike: So this is your last show of the 2010/2011 season?
Dan: For the community theater program for MPAT, yes. We have got a lot of dance programs that come up at the end of the season, so we try to help support them. Then we will try to come around with a summer show. And then one in the Fall. So we actually have to get really busy and pick and announce our season. Usually we give ourselves a month after this show. This is pretty much a standard time slot for us in the end of March beginning of April. We give ourselves a month to collapse and then recover. Pick the season and announce it. We were going to do Fiddler this year. That was on the schedule. But I guess with the national tour even though it was a while ago that it came through here, we actually did not get the rights.
Mike: Another theater down in Woodbridge same thing happened. They had the rights and they were pulled.
Dan: Which was surprising to me. Everybody else has dealt with that before. This just happens to be the first show for me that I have not been able to get the rights.
Mike: Is there a show that you really want to do that you have not done in your first five years?
Dan: With MPAT I’d like to do a show I did in Germany called Suburb. Which has been done in the area. I think Lisa Anne Bailey directed it up in Herndon. It is a wonderful show and it has been done in the area, but not for a while, so I’d like to bring that back. Suburb is a possibility for next season, or the one after that. Eventually I would like to do Fiddler if I can get the rights. It is a show everybody knows. It would definitely be popular in our local community and a lot of people have expressed interest in doing it. There are some possibilities there.
Mike: So if somebody wanted to get involved, how could they do that?
Dan: They can visit www.Metrotheater.org, that is with an e-r. We didn’t do re because that was taken. There is contact information and a form on that webpage. That will come to our board of directors and they will get you involved in the right spot.
Mike: Very good. Are there any specific challenges of things you either wish you could do or people you have trouble finding? Specifically tech-type people.
Dan: Tech type people. We are fortunate in that we do have some really good technical talent. Stephanie Chu has been our lighting director and technical person. When they are not available that does become a challenge. We have good talent in sound engineering and lighting. As far as resources we rent everything because we go into rented spaces. That is a particular challenge too. We actually go to Maryland for our wireless equipment etc. I would actually love to hear from some local vendors in the Northern Virginia area that would work with us.
Mike: Well very good. Well I hope the show has a good final week of rehearsals and opens well next weekend.
Dan: Great. Well I hope you can come out and see it and I hope your listening audience can come out and see it. We’d love to have you. It is a friendly crowd. We’ll sell you some cheesecake and hopefully give you a good time with Little Shop.
Mike: Also, how can you get tickets for Little Shop?
Dan: Tickets are on sale on our website: www.metrotheater.org. There is a ticket link. You can also email email@example.com and they can send you all sorts of information about group rates etc. It is online ticketing. You can also buy tickets at the door. Little Shop is at Bryant High School which is in Alexandria, Virginia. in the Southern Alexandria area.
Mike: OK. Well thank you very much for talking with me today, I do appreciate it.
Dan: Well thanks Mike. I do appreciate your time.
Disclaimer: MPAT will provide two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio to review Little Shop of Horrors, and MPAT also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio web site. The offer to interview someone involved with MPAT came before they expressed interest in running an ad.
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