Readers Theater Returns with ‘Rumors’ on April 2

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”

William Shakespeare

Readers Theater founding members Kit Briner and Geri Gould rehearse with actor Dan Mulvihill, right. —Meghan Ann Imagery LLC Photo

Easton actors Kit Briner and Geri Gould met some years ago when they were cast in the play “Lou Gehrig Did Not Die of Cancer” by Jason Miller. They portrayed a couple on the verge of divorce. They have been together ever since, partners in life and stage partners in an ongoing collaboration of life and theater arts.

In 1995 they learned that Joanne Kant was interested in forming an organization to promote the arts in Easton. They joined with her and helped found the Easton Arts Council. Two years later Kit and Geri initiated the arts council-sponsored Readers Theater. 

The concept was to bring live theater to Easton without the demands of a full-scale play production. The annual program has evolved over the years with a reputation for presenting “humorous, thought-provoking, off-beat material with razor-sharp satire, and has developed a loyal and enthusiastic audience,” according to Kit. 

Readers Theater returns after a two-year interruption to present “Rumors,” a farce by Neil Simon, on April 2 at 8 p.m. in the community room at the Easton Public Library. There is no admission charge; donations to the Easton Arts Council are greatly appreciated.

Joanne Kant rehearses her part as the narrator in “Rumors” by Neil Simon. —Meghan Ann Imagery LLC Photo

Three arts council executive board members are in the show: Joanne, president; Geri, treasurer, and Kit, secretary. Rounding out the cast are Claire Wilkes, John Traggianese and John Laske of Easton; Paul Doniger of Newtown; Leigh Katz of Westport; Daniel J. Mulvihill Jr. of Danbury, and Jennifer Ju and TJ Chila of Milford. Meghan Cormier of Redding is the stage manager.

The audience will see cast members they know and new ones. They are unanimously delighted to return after Covid shut down the show for the past two years.

Vibrant Arts Community

The Easton Arts Council was founded in 1995 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization to showcase community artists, foster communication between the schools and the arts community and provide a forum for local artists to meet and exchange ideas. Readers Theater began in the spring of 1997. 

“These are not the kind of programs where the actors just sit on stools and read,” said Geri, Readers Theater co-founder. “They are polished productions with costumes, props and professional lighting. Everyone is surprised at how quickly they become absorbed in the play and forget that the actors are carrying scripts.” 

Kit Briner rehearses with the Readers Theater cast. —Meghan Ann Imagery LLC Photo

There is no set format, according to Kit, artistic director. “Sometimes the production will be a themed collection of one-act plays, often including poetry, music, and dance,” he said. “Many full-length plays have also been presented, including, “The Debutant Ball” and “The Wake of Jamey Foster” by Beth Henley; “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” by Steve Martin; “The Substance of Fire” by Jon Robin Baitz; “Mr. Williams & Miss Wood” by Max Wilk, “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” by Sarah Ruhl, “Fuddy Meers” by David Lindsey Abaire, and “The Pavilion” by Craig Wright. 

People often ask Kit how he finds such unusual and entertaining material. The answer is: “It finds me,” he said. “Readers Theater is an amateur project in the truest sense of the word, which means that we do it for the love of it! All participants, amateur and professional, volunteer their talents to make great theater and we have every intention of keeping audiences coming back for more.”

About ‘Rumors’

Four couples arrive at the mansion of a deputy New York City mayor and his wife to attend a party celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. However, the four couples soon discover that there are no servants, the hostess is missing, and the deputy mayor has shot himself through the earlobe. 

Comic complications arise when, given everyone’s upper-class status, they decide they need to do everything possible to conceal the evening’s events from the local police and prevent the spread of rumors.

Crew

Artistic Director Kit Briner and Stage Manager Meghan Cormier discuss sound cues. — Paul Doniger Photo

Meghan Cormier began her theater career as stage manager at Joel Barlow High School, graduating in 2019. She learned from wonderful professionals in the community: Kit Briner, Diana Canova, and others in the Connecticut Drama Association. After graduation, she pursued theater as the production stage manager at Pantochino Productions in Milford for the 2019-20 season. She recently opened her own photography business, Meghan Ann Imagery LLC, with her love of art and storytelling behind the scenes. She is thrilled to be back with Easton Reader’s Theatre and use some old muscles!

Cast

The cast includes familiar faces and some new ones. —Meghan Ann Imagery LLC Photo

Joanne Kant is thrilled to be returning to Reader’s Theater for “Rumors.” Performing ever since she was cast as Josephine in “HMS Pinafore” in sixth Grade, she has continued acting in roles while an undergraduate at Yale, then in medical school, while working in her medical practice, and as one-third of The Hot To Trot Trio. Joanne is a founding member and president of the Easton Arts Council which sponsors Reader’s Theatre. She recently retired and her favorite role now is Grandma!

Jennifer Ju has performed in theaters throughout Fairfield, Middlesex, and New Haven counties. Favorite roles include Mrs. Webb in “Our Town,” Kate in “Sylvia,” Vera in “The Odd Couple, Female Version,” and Flute/Thisbe in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Jennifer is also a physician, newspaper columnist, and playwright whose plays have been performed by Shakespeare on the Sound, as well as at the Sharon Playhouse, The Bijou Theatre, and The Strand Theatre. Jennifer is thrilled to return to Readers Theatre. She thanks Kit for this opportunity and is grateful “for his brilliant vision and direction.”

Paul Doniger, a retired theater and English teacher at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, is a founding member of New York City’s Classic Stage Company, where he served as actor and board of directors member (1968-1975). He studied with playwright Romulus Linney and is in the Playwriting Workshop at Theatre Works in New Milford. He’s been seen as Prospero in “The Tempest” in Newtown and in 7-Angels Theatre’s “Turn Up The Volume” series. His play “Masks” is published by YouthPlays.com. Other plays include “Cassandra,” “Echo/Memory,” “Ubu, The Conqueror,” “What The Dickens!” and “Passive Resistance.”

Claire Wilkes made her Readers Theatre debut with “Ten Steps Beyond” in 2005 and has been a subsequent “frequent flyer.” She is grateful to Kit and the Easton Arts Council “for the enduring opportunity to make theater in our little town. Much love to cast members, past and present.”

T.J. Chila returns to Readers Theater after the two-year Covid interruption. With her are Jennifer Ju, Paul Doniger and Claire Wilkes. — Meghan Ann Imagery LLC Photo

T.J. Chila is excited to be performing live theater again. Her last appearance for Easton (pre-Covid) was in “A Flight of Angels.” Other area credits include performances with Orange Players, Eastbound Theater, Milford; Town Players, Newtown; Town Players, New Canaan; Squarewright’s Playwright Group, Stratford; Carriage House, Norwalk; and Curtain Call, Stamford. “A great big thank you to Kit for making this possible despite these unprecedented times. The show must go on.”

Leigh Katz has been an actress for more than 25 years, appearing in several leading roles throughout Connecticut and New York. Memorable productions have included “Hamlet” (Gertrude), “Light Up The Sky” (Irene Livingston), “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest” (Nurse Ratched) “Rumors” (Chris), “Steel Magnolias” (M ’Lynn), “Motherhood Out Loud, Blithe Spirit” (Ruth) and many others. Leigh has also appeared in several full-length independent films, some of which have been featured in selected National Film Festivals.

Daniel J. Mulvihil Jr. has been performing as an actor and director for the past 35 years. He has played Lenny Ganz in “Rumors” twice before at the Town Players in Newtown. Recently, he played Ken Gorman in “Rumors” at the Ridgefield Theater Barn. He sends “much love” to his dear friends Geri and Kit for this 30-year reunion. He is the owner/broker of Mulvihill Realty in Danbury.

John Laske is a grad student at Fairfield University who, besides acting in middle and high school productions, has appeared in one Easton Community Theater performance, “Fuddy Meers.” He is tremendously excited to return to Readers Theater after a long hiatus as Cadet Pudney.

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