Young Egremont theatermakers embrace challenge

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EGREMONT — Berkshires natives Harrison Lang and Caitlin Teeley knew that mounting even a concert-style version of Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale musical "Into the Woods" in a redesigned barn would be a challenge.

But what others see as challenge, Lang and Teeley, graduates of Monument Mountain Regional School, see as opportunity. Their theater experiences since last summer are riddled with examples.

"You just have to make creative choices," Teeley said during a recent pre-rehearsal interview at The Barn at Egremont Village Inn, where their production of "Into the Woods" is being given a one-night-only gala presentation Saturday evening at 7:30, preceded at 5:30 by a pre-show reception with food and beverage from local merchants.

With a little help from family and friends, Lang and Teeley served notice on what they were about last June with their first production, "Spring Awakening," Duncan Sheik's 2006 rock musical adaptation of Franz Wedekind's 1891 expressionist drama about teenage sexual awakening within the framework of small-town strictures imposed by parents and schoolmasters. It's a bold, frank musical that Teeley and Lang were determined to produce once they saw the national tour of the multiple Tony Award-winning show in Boston in 2008.

They mounted their production last summer in mid-June at The Barn and while, Teeley said, some people walked out during a few performances, the show proved so popular, two performances were added.

"We felt that show said who we are," said Gigi Teeley, Caitlin's mother, who owns The Barn. Other family members own and manage the inn, its dining room and The Barn. "Even though some people walked out, the fact that we had to add two performances told me people understood who we are."

"We want to do shows that make audiences ask 'Oh, you're doing THAT show?' We want to make people a little uncomfortable. We want to encourage people to get into discussions afterward; ask questions."

"Into the Woods" gets under the skin of fairy tales. Librettist James Lapine has created a fairy tale world that includes Jack the giant killer, Cinderella, a wicked witch (played by Teeley), Red Riding Hood, a wolf, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and her prince, Rapunzel, and a baker (played by Lang) and his wife.

The show's first half is a ride through the fanciful, childlike side of fairy tales. The second half is darker as the characters are thrown into complicated, anything-but-childlike situations and relationships before coming out the other side, leaving audiences to contemplate what Lang feels is the show's cautionary lesson — be careful what you wish.

It's a demanding musical in terms not only of what it requires dramatically and musically from its large cast but also technically — scenery, props — "and there is that giant," Teeley says.

Each of the cast's 12 members play multiple roles. That includes the show's music director, pianist Mike Pacifico, who also serves as narrator. Lang and Teeley have come up with easy, simple visual devices to aid in making the often rapid transitions from one character to the next a bit easier for audiences to track.

Lang, 25, has an MFA in musical theater from Tulane University. Teeley, 27, studied at Cal Arts near Los Angeles and worked the L.A. area as an actress and singer before returning to the Berkshires in 2015, about the same time Lang came home. Neither Lang nor Teeley had directed anything before "Spring Awakening." So, "Into the Woods" is their second time around as co-directors. The fact that their respective characters have few scenes together has enabled them to function, in effect, as a tag team. Each takes over from the other, they say, almost seamlessly.

"It feels like a marriage," Teeley said; "the ebb and flow between us."

"Caitlin really is taking the lead directing," said Lang, whose friends call him Harry.

"It's a lovely partnership," Teeley added

"It's easy as an actor working with them," said Gigi Teeley, who plays Jack's mother, Cinderella's mother and Granny.

"Into the Woods" may be this crew's third production, but Saturday's gala is a beginning of sorts. As of Saturday, Lang, Teeley and their extended family's venture will have a name — Ghost-Lit Rep (after the ghost light that stands on stage in an otherwise darkened theater following a performance) — and a website — www.ghostlitrep.com.

The future?

"I see this as our home," Gigi Teeley said, looking around the barn, "but, who knows, we could venture out.".

Reach Jeffrey Borak at 413-496-6212 or jborak@berkshireeagle.com




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