Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s production of ‘Angels in America’ honored
WILKES-BARRE — The cast of Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre’s “Angels in America, Part One” was thrilled to learn on Sunday that judges at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Theaters’ PACTFest admired their work so much they awarded the local group the chance to advance to further competition.
“It was wonderful, one of the best experiences I ever had,” said David Parmelee, of Shavertown, who recreated his role as attorney Roy Cohn in a condensed version of the play at PACTFest. “The adjudicators who gave their critiques right then and there were theater professors and playwrights. It wasn’t like your friend coming up to you after a performance and saying ‘good job.’ “
Judges in the PACTFest competition, which was held in Williamsport, praised Little Theatre for taking on Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” which deals with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, because it is not often brought to the stage, Parmelee said.
They also awarded cast member Mandy Pennington an Outstanding Actress award for her portrayal of Harper Pitt, a fear-filled woman who hallucinates and obsesses as her marriage falls apart, and they awarded Dave Reynolds an Outstanding Director Award.
“Harper is a very emotionally demanding role,” said Pennington, who lives in Scranton. “She’s coming from a place of such frustration. She’s just a beautiful mess. Her emotions tend to cycle quickly. She has an imaginary friend and a tendency to swing back and forth.”
Pennington was especially pleased when the judges told her and Eric Lutz, who portrays character Prior Walter, that they could “feel their pain.”
“I remember being bowled over by their praise,” Pennington said. “That is an actor’s ultimate goal. To get your audience to feel.”
The PACTFest competition limits performances to one hour, and “Angels in America” is a three hour play so the Little Theatre group consulted the playwright about condensing it.
“Tony Kushner was very accommodating,” Parmelee said. “He said, ‘Cut it any way you want as long as you do it in order.’ So we took about one-third of the scenes that told the story best and got most of the characters on stage.”
“It was a thrilling experience,” Pennington said. “Everyone in the cast and crew worked so hard.”
Six theaters from across Pennsylvania were represented in the recent competition, and Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre was one of two judged worthy of proceeding to ESTAFest, the Eastern States Theater Association competition April 6 to 9 in Wilmington, Del. The other winner was the Erie Playhouse, which presented “The Glorious Ones.”
“This is where the competition gets really keen, on the next level,” said Walter Mitchell, who is PACT president. “They’ll be facing groups from New York state, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. You really have to be at the top of your game, but I think for the first time in a long time Pennsylvania has a good chance of going on to the nationals (at the end of June) in Rochester, Minn.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT