Dec 26, 2012

Now Registering for Winter Classes

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater is pleased to announce that its Winter 2013 Session will begin the week of January 28.  Oddfellows’ programs use theater as a vehicle to build essential life skills, while exploring highly educational and artistic themes and plays.  There are a variety of performance options and technique based classes for students ages 3-18.

Classes for the Little Fellows (ages 3-4) include Around the World and Animal Adventures. Classes are offered on Saturday mornings.  Looking for something to do during the week with your little one?  Participatory classes include Parents & Tots and Arts Explosion on Thursday mornings at 10am. 

First Act (Grades K-1) offers Creative Drama courses themed around children’s books and adventures such as Fractured Fairytales and Jungle Safari Story Starters (Grades 2-3) encourage creative expression and promote confidence, self-esteem, and communication.  Once a week classes focus on skill building, while classes that meet twice a week short productions put those skills into action.  Classes include Peter and the Wolf and Create Your Own Story and a mini-production of Grimm FairytalesThe Kids Company (Grades 4-5) is the stage that students begin to focus more on skills and techniques.  These courses help develop the next set of vocal, physical and emotional skills.  Technique classes include Fundamentals of Acting, Create a Character and Fundamentals of Musical Theater. An original comedic mini-production is also on tap, called More Rubber Chickens.

The Junior Repertory Company (grades 6-8) offers a full production of Alice Threw the Looking Glass, a parody of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style by John Walch.  In this comedy, First-year college student Alice is in serious danger of failing her English course when she follows her composition paper into the trash -- and ends up in a hallucinatory world where the rules of grammar are turned upside-down. If she wants to pass, she'll need to deal with gunslinging run-on sentences, thugs hawking colloquialisms, fearsome Modifier Leeches, and more. 

The Teen Repertory Company (grades 9-12) will be holding auditions on Tuesday January 29 from 7-9pm.

There are also private lessons, stagecraft, directing and playwrighting classes available for middle and high school students.  A full list of program offerings and public performances can be found online at

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the CDBG Scholarship Program, Citizens Bank, the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, the CT Department of Education, Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund, Elizabeth Carse Foundation, the Fund for Greater Hartford, the George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, the Irving Kohn Foundation, the J. Walton Bissell Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex United Way, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Middletown YSB, the National Endowment for the Arts, Pratt & Whitney, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, the Stare Fund, Stop and Shop Foundation, Thomas J. Atkins Foundation, Triple Frog, LLC and WESU (88.1FM).

Dec 20, 2012

A Letter from our Executive Director

To our friends,

I planned today to write a letter to our supporters, our participants, our alumni – our community.  I had planned to tell them why in these challenging financial times, Oddfellows was an important and fragile resource for our community.  To write this now, after the tragedy of Sandy Hook, seems out of place, because our challenges as a society are clearly far greater than financial.

This weekend, I spent a lot of time working at Oddfellows Playhouse, not at home hugging my daughters as I would have liked to.  In the absence of my family, I thought about what the role of an arts organization, specifically what the role of our theater, Oddfellows Playhouse, has in our community in the wake of this terrible tragedy. What is Oddfellows’ proper role? What can the Oddfellows family do to help one person or many in lending an appropriate voice in the healing process?  As a community arts organization that focuses on the youth, do we need to decide whether we shall we speak on this at all? What are the limits of restraint? Shall we just continue on with our lives and program as is?

On Saturday morning, for several hours, families filled the rehearsal halls and theater at the Playhouse to celebrate the end of their fall classes.  The building was filled with joy, laughter and excitement as the students shared their work with their families, friends, and loved ones.  Elementary school students presented mini-productions of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Polar Express” to packed houses of the people who love them the most.  And maybe because of the events of the previous day, the messages of hope, love, faith and family seemed to be a little clearer.  Not a word was overheard from any parent or child about the events of the day before.

With every production and class, Oddfellows tries to bring us together, as audience and performer, as parent and child, as a community.  It may provide us with ideas and questions to consider, to share with others, it may give us hope and it may fill whatever void we feel.  Theater cannot undo tragedy, but it can inspire us to celebrate what is most precious, as I believe it did this weekend.

Thank you for being a part of the Oddfellows community.  I hope you all enjoy a great holiday season with your loved ones and look forward to working together to make 2013 the best it can be!

Matt Pugliese
Executive Director

Dec 6, 2012

A Uniquely American Holiday Production

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater and Connecticut Heritage Productions are joining creative forces this holiday season with a co-production of Paula Vogel's A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration.  The play will be performed at Oddfellows Playhouse from December 6-15.  

“One of Paula Vogel’s original sources of inspiration for writing this play was to create a truly unique American Christmas production.  So many of our standard holiday cultural pieces are imported from other countries – A Christmas Carol, the Nutcracker, and so forth,” said Peter Loffredo, artistic director of Connecticut Heritage Productions.

The play, directed by Loffedo, will feature a multi-generational cast of actors from the community, including members of Oddfellows’ Teen Repertory Company.  The Connecticut Humanities Council is generously helping to fund this production because of its unique combination of historical significance, audience appeal, and educational storytelling.  

The play is set is Washington, D.C., on Christmas Eve 1864, during the Civil War.  President Lincoln has just been reelected and General Sherman is marching troops into battle.  Interweaving historical figures with fictional characters, A Civil War Christmas not only entertains but inspires the audience by portraying the real-life struggles that occurred and the human spirit that endured during one of the most difficult times in our history. Moving swiftly from scene to scene, it chronicles many aspects of the period, from something of the private life of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to the moving story of an African-American soldier whose wife has been cruelly kidnapped.  Christmas carols and folk songs are sung throughout by the ensemble, with additional period music performed by a group of instrumentalists. 

A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration, was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, with music by Daryl Waters. Vogel is the former chair of the playwrighting department of Yale University and a writer-in-residence. The show premiered at Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, CT, in 2008, after which it was transferred to Boston's Huntington Theatre Company in 2009.  it is scheduled to have its off-Broadway debut in New York City this month.

Oddfellows and CHP have joined forces on various projects in the past, including Higher Ground, an original play dramatizing the long struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality, and the Connecticut Valley Student Playwriting Competition.  They approached this production with the goal of bringing together various perspectives and members of the community to explore the theme of life in wartime during the Christmas holiday.

“Our country has just concluded a very fiercely contended national election.  The differences were sharp and deep.  Spending time delving deeply into the American Civil War and the issues has provided the cast with not only a deeper understand of our nation’s history, but also another lens through which to view our current political climate. We are excited to bring this play to our community to further this discussion,” said Oddfellows’ Executive Director Matt Pugliese.

Director Peter Loffredo has incorporated historian/novelist Richard Slotkin and ethnomusicologist Ellen Lueck into the production process to help enlighten the cast about the play’s historical significance and provide community conversations on performance evenings with the audience. Slotkin will lead a talkback following the performance on Friday 12/7 about the actual history covered in the play, and Lueck will lead a conversation regarding the musical history of the folk songs and carols on Friday 12/14. 

The production runs December 6, 7, 8, 13,14, 15 at Oddfellows Playhouse.  All performances are at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Thursday December 6 and 13 is a Pay-What-You-Can Performance.  Please bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Amazing Grace Food Pantry.  Tickets are available online at or by calling860-347-6143.  The performance is made possible through special funding from the Connecticut Humanities Council, The Middletown Commission on the Arts, and Eli Cannon’s Tap Room.