homepage logo

Production ‘taps’ into story of dance students

By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

A talented cast took the stage last week to rehearse “Stepping Up” at Herb Strauss Theater, which opened Friday, Feb. 12, and runs through Wednesday, Feb. 24. MEGHAN McCOY

A chance to get away from reality, all while creating time for oneself while forming new friendships, is depicted in the current performance that took the stage at Herb Strauss Theater.

Performances for “Stepping Out,” began Friday, Feb. 12, and will run through Wednesday, Feb. 24. The performances begin at 7:30 p.m. with one matinee showing Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $42 for adults.

Artistic Director Bobby Logue said the theme that runs throughout the play is “doing something for yourself.”

“When you are in class and you are trying to learn dance steps that are brand new, you have to clear your mind,” he said. “I know for myself the joy that I get from teaching, or taking a dance class is you get to shut the world out. It is solely meant as time for you. I think that is what most dance classes represent.”

The dance classes, Logue went on to say is a chance to not worry about a son, or daughter at school, or the grocery shopping that needs to be done.

“This is the time to feed your soul and I think that is the theme of this show,” he said. “All of these people from all these different walks of life took the time to feed their soul and by doing it all together it creates a unity and an instant family. Whether it’s a dance class, art class, picking up shells on the beach – when you have those moments of solitude you get to pull yourself back together, or shut the rest of the world out, so you can focus on getting that light back. That’s what this show is, watching each individual character find their light.”

The cast is comprised of 10 talented individuals, who Director Ann Nieman said have been an honor to work with.

“It has been very inspiring for me,”she said. “These people have really pushed themselves. I threw a lot of challenges at them.”

As the director, Nieman has enjoyed going on the journey with each character and learning what they are about. What she really loves about the play is everyone has a moment where they can shine individually.

Each character takes audience members on their own personal journey, often times resulting in laughter.

The tap teacher, and choreographer, Mavis, is played by Megan Orlowski.

“She is in charge of the Motley Crew that comes together every Thursday,” she said smiling.

Orlowski explained her character as a professional dancer who aged out and decided to become a teacher to keep an outlet for performance. She said it’s a great opportunity for Mavis to stay involved while witnessing everyone coming together for a tap class, which in turn creates a little community that grows.

“I think I enjoy seeing her levels,” Orlowski said of Mavis being herself, the teacher and choreographer based on what is required of the situation.

The rest of the cast all represent very different personalities coming from all walks of life to enjoy a dance class.

Mindy Montavon, who plays Andy, said her character is like a wallflower who is very quiet and has some issues in her home life.

“She’s the worse tapper in the class,” she said laughing. “I like the fact that she’s in a situation that is not necessarily the most comfortable and easy for her, but she still pushes herself to do it and keep at it.”

Maxine, who is played by Julie Arensman, is a busy step-mother and shop owner. Arensman said she takes the class to do something for herself.

“It’s her time. That one time in the week that’s hers,” she said, adding that her character has a fun sense of humor with a little sass.

Kiersten Benzing’s character Dorothy, who enjoys finishing people’s sentences, takes care of her mom and works in an unemployment office.

“She’s really nice,” she said of what she enjoys about her character. “I like how family-oriented she is. She is such a hard worker.”

The character Lynne, who is a nurse, is played by Marley Dove. She said Lynne is very emphatic and provides a shoulder for other characters to cry on, especially Dorothy.

“She is supposed to be the best tapper in the class,” Dove said.

Mrs. Fraiser, played by Nancy Antonio, is a grouchy, humorless piano player. Antonio said her character helped raise Mavis. She said although Mrs. Fraiser believes she could have been a concert pianist, she does not believe she would have become one.

Bonard Church plays Silvia, a go-getter, who has a zest for life and goes at everything 150 mph. Church said since Silvia is married with small children, she decided to take the tap class as an outlet to get away.

“I love her approach to things,” she said. “I think there is a lot of similarities between myself and the character. I love that she is fearless. She will try anything that is thrown at her in class. Fearlessly loyal and I love that.”

Rose, who is played by Illeana Kirven, is the only African American in the class. Rose is very Christian, a comic relief who enjoys performing and wants everyone to get along.

“She is a nice lady and she is crazy,” Kirven said laughing. “She tries to teach the class. The teacher is not there and she is trying to teach the class and she is horrible. It’s a lighter moment because there is some tension because the teacher is not there.”

The nosey, pushy, unfiltered character Vera is played by Samantha Rotella. She said she enjoys playing the character because she would like to think she is nothing like Vera.

The only male taking the class is Geoffrey, played by Christopher Russell. He said his character, who is in his 40s is one that does not want to stand out.

“He is very meek, shy, very held back,” Russell said. “His wife had passed away and his son lives in Canada, so he has no one around. I think the class is an outlet, a way for him to build confidence and be able to start communicating as a normal human being.”

He said he enjoys playing the character because he reminds him of himself 20 years ago as a very withdrawn pre-teen.

“It’s nice to get to explore that. Towards the end of the show he gets to speak a little bit more of his mind and has more confidence,” Russell said.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.