CROTON FALLS, N.Y. – Croton Falls’ Schoolhouse Theater has opened its doors to reveal comfortable new seats, a larger audience space, refurbished bathrooms, many backstage improvements and a new acoustics system that makes every actor’s every word clear to the very last row.
The season’s first play, “Ten Unknowns” by Jon Robin Baitz, is a four-role vehicle that gives each one of its performers the opportunity for a star performance. Originally produced at Lincoln Center starring Donald Sutherland, the play and its North Salem venue were covered Friday in The New York Times.
The play is a study of interactions among an aging artist, his young assistant, an ambitious art dealer and a young graduate student, who provides a catalyst for the others. One of the themes is the question, Where does art begin? In the artist’s mind? His life experience? Or when it reaches the canvas?
At Sunday’s matinee Talk-Back, Artistic Director Pamela Moller Kareman and the actors answered questions from the audience. One person asked, “How do you prepare yourself for the performance and what happens afterward?”
“Acting on stage is like being an athlete,” said Keith Barber, who plays Malcolm, the artist. “We have to warm up the same way. I warm my voice up and do speech drills for about a half hour, then I go through all my movements on the stage.”
Kareman pointed out that Sunday’s matinee was only the fourth performance. “We’re still working on it. Acting on stage is a very difficult art form. Every time you do it, it’s like doing it for the first time.”
Hannah Wolfe, playing the student, Julia, said, “Before the show, you feel a blanket of concentration. Then you come out on the stage, you really need to let go. I feel very connected when I’m here because it’s one of the strongest ensemble casts I’ve ever been in, and the audience is very quiet and receptive.”
Barber agreed. “It’s an honor to work with this cast,” he said. “I feel I have a responsibility to them and to the author, the craft, the theater and the audience. It helps to feel that the audience is part of the journey. I wouldn’t have discovered what I did [about my role] without the audience being with us.”
In addition to its intimate auditorium, the Schoolhouse Theater has an art gallery that currently features the works of Tom Christopher and Michael Mapes.
The actors are all Equity members, and the artistic director doubles as director at Manhattan’s Neighborhood Playhouse. The Schoolhouse is just off Exit 8 of Interstate 684, and, thanks to the new design, there is ample parking.
“Ten Unknowns” concludes March 30. Tickets are $33 to $35. The Schoolhouse Theater is at 3 Owens Road, Croton Falls. For more information, call 914-277-8477.