Midtown Direct charges into SOPAC for “The Girl in the Frame”

The South Orange Performing Arts Center’s first and only theatre company in residence, Midtown Direct Rep, will perform a staged reading of the musical “The Girl in the Frame” this Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m.

Midtown Direct Rep is a theatre company made up of several established actors and actresses living in the Maplewood/South Orange area, including Kelly Bishop, Becky Gulsvig, Michelle Federer, David Josefsberg, Christianne Noll, and Charlie Pollock. “The Girl in the Frame” is the second show of the company’s launch, which also included a reading of the musical “Rated P,” August 18 and 19. Each performance is followed by a question and answer period with the actors and directors.

Company co-Artistic Director Jeremy Dobrish, who is directing both readings, said he and his co-AD Sandy Rustin first thought about the idea at SOPAC’s benefit gala on June 19.

“The name of the gala was ‘Small Town, Big Talent,’ and it’s true,” Dobrish said. “So at the gala, all these accomplished Broadway actors were talking about what a great space SOPAC was and how they would love to perform there. And we thought we should be using this beautiful space.”

Dobrish said he and Rustin next brought their idea to SOPAC’s Executive & Artistic Director Ondine Landa Abramson.

“Ondine was entirely committed and enthusiastic about the idea.” Dobrish said. “So the next step was to get a company of actors together.”

Dobrish said many actors were excited to work so close to home.

“The commute to New York isn’t bad, but it’s still a commute,” he said.

According to Dobrish, the company wanted to perform these two staged readings to get a feel for what the audience likes.

“We’re testing the waters here,” he said in between rehearsals. “We might think something works, but the audience has to love it too. That’s the purpose of the Q&A session. We want to hear from the audience. Obviously people come in with opinions, and we expect them to voice those opinions.”

One interesting dynamic of the project according to Dobrish is the close proximity of the rehearsal space. When Dobrish spoke on the phone, he said he was calling from Sandy Rustin’s Maplewood residence.

“We’re here for rehearsal today,” he said. “We’ll be at various places until we move into SOPAC’s rehearsal space, and then finally onto the stage.

Dobrish revealed that the company only has 29 hours of rehearsal time allowed by the Actors Equity Union before the reading is performed. In that time, the actors must learn the music and get a firm grasp of their performance. If everything goes according to plan, Dobrish said the actors will first work with the band and SOPAC’s stage the morning before a performance.

“It’s very fast-paced,” Dobrish said. “But these are professional actors; this is what they do and what they are used to.”

Dobrish said that it is often hectic to schedule rehearsals for everyone in the short amount of time the company has, but he said he sees it as just one of the interesting quirks about the company.

“A funny story is one of the producers and I were trying to set up a time and a place to meet, and we were so busy that nothing was working,” Dobrish said. “Finally, we realized that we could have our meeting on the train into New York. We made sure we got on the same train and met on board. That’s great about living and working so close to home.

“I love this area,” said the Maplewood native, who said he usually directs plays off-Broadway and has traveled to direct in other communities, such as the Goodspeed Theatre in East Haddam, Connecticut, where he has also directed a production of “The Girl in the Frame.”

In this musical by Jeremy Desmon, a New York couple dreams of their ideal romantic matches. But when they meet their fantasies in the form of their new roommates, they realize they are happy with one another. According to Dobrish it is a “musical comedy of love and finding love with the one who is perfect for you.”

Tickets for “The Girl in the Frame” are $15 and can be purchased by visiting or calling the box office at 973.313.ARTS (2787), or online at www.sopacnow.org.

Erin Bell can be reached at erin.bell@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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