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INTERVIEW: Andrew Botsford On Hampton Theatre Company's "Sylvia" And The Return Of Live Theater To Quogue

T.J. Clemente

Amanda Griemsmann (as Sylvia the Dog) in rehearsal for Sylvia. (Photo Tom Kochie)

Andrew Botsford, in a talk about the Hampton Theatre Company's (HTC) upcoming production of Sylvia, could not hide his pride and enthusiasm about live theater being back at the Quogue Community Hall this spring. Botsford is HTC's Board President.

"Sylvia was scheduled to open on March 19 of 2020. On March 12th of 2020, when we started our tech week to prepare the show to open, the Governor shut down the theaters," Botsford noted. "At that point we thought, who knew what was going to happen, so we thought we would bump Doll House Part 2 out of our May/June slot of 2020, and we would insert Sylvia there, because who knew, we thought COVID might be over by then. When that wasn't possible, we said we will come back in the fall, thinking maybe in the fall Broadway will open up again."

To do that, Hampton Theatre Company had to request that their set on the stage be left up. The Quogue Junior Theater Troupe, who takes over the use of the Quogue Community Hall in the summer, in a keen spirit of cooperation, agreed to allow that.

Botsford explained, "We then thought about putting the show on in September [2020], but that wasn't possible either. So, then we thought we could put the show up in March [2021], maybe thinking there might be a vaccine or some help on the way. When we got to March, we couldn't do it in March."

But then there was a sea change. Botsford noted, "Then there was a vaccine and an opening of the limitations in the beginning of April, with the Governor's guidance saying we could have 33 percent capacity. Knowing we could not leave the set on the stage for another summer, we said we were going to go for it."

To go for it, Botsford said Hampton Theatre Company had to come up with a series of protocols. In detail, he explained the process of spaced assigned seating, with a process of ushers leading folks to their seats, of needed safe bathroom protocols. He mentioned there will be a total of 60 people in the theatre, including the cast. Masks will be required. The actors will not be wearing masks, but are safely distanced from the audience. There will be no concessions before, during or after the show, but bottled water will be available. All protocols are listed on the HTC website.

Botsford went on to talk about the show itself. He couldn't hide both his pride and enthusiasm when he said, "It's a hell of a cast that features four HTC veterans: Amanda Griemsmann as Sylvia; Catherine Maloney as Kate; and George Loizides in three different roles." Then adding a touch of mystery, "A surprise actor playing Greg." Botsford noted that the role will feature "a familiar HTC face."

He added, "The show was in great shape when we had to close. The cast is now back in rehearsal to get it brushed up again and get all the moving parts together. It's really looking good. We will use last year's programs with inserts that will include information about the safety protocols."

When asked to critique what Sylvia is about, Botsford stated, "It's a fabulous play that is hysterically funny and very poignant because it deals with any empty nest couple in New York. A man who is questioning his employment in mid-life, questioning what he does for a living. His wife, because they are empty nesters with kids in college, his wife had decided to embark on a career teaching English to inner city junior high school kids. Into their lives comes a stray dog that husband Greg finds in the park. This starts a full-fledged wonderful relationship between a man and his dog. It is not as well received by the wife, being seen as an interloper and an inconvenience disrupting the life that she had planned for them in their empty nest years."

He continued, "Sylvia has quite the personality. The show is very funny, but also as I said before, very poignant in terms of the relationship between the couple and a man and his dog. It all comes to a head, and they have to learn how to compromise and learn what is love really. It's got everything."

Sylvia will open on Thursday, May 27 and run through Sunday, June 13. Hampton Theatre Company Artistic Director Diana Marbury will direct the production. The set design is by Sean Marbury, with the lighting design by Sebastian Paczynski. The sound is being handled by Seamus Naughton and the costumes by Teresa Lebrun.

Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, range from $10 to $30. Performances will be held on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Quogue Community Hall is located at 125 Jessup Avenue in Quogue. For more information, visit www.hamptontheatre.org.

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