To Director, Cast, Crew, Volunteers, and Sotterley Staff of Holiday Candlelight Tours 2011,
I have heard nothing but rave reviews from members and visitors who attended Candlelight this season. I wanted to give special thanks to Linda Tucker Jones for giving her all so this event could happen. Sets, decorations, costumes, rehearsals, casting, Whew! Special thanks goes to James LePore for directing this year’s production, your positive influence, free publicity and example made it a fun and uplifting experience.
I was especially proud of all the very young members of the cast this year. Our band of Mary Bowles guides who took on a big responsibility and added that extra dimension to the visitor experience this year, THANK YOU. Also to Tia, Emily and Sabrina, who showed their talent, worked hard and were cute as could be as young Mabel and Eleanor. Amanda and Sarah, you are an example to us all. You learned your parts quickly, you rolled with changes and you showed us what real teamwork is all about. Erin, Thomas and Hannah—Erin, you stepped up to carry a major aspect of the story. You made it look easy! Thomas, thanks, you had some serious material and you pulled it off. Hannah, who had to read the entire “Night Before Christmas” poem a thousand times and your wonderful musicianship, Wow! KUDOS!
Thanks to Shannon, (Rebecca Bowles) who had a ton of lines, had to step in and out of time and be convincing. As a first impression for the audience, you were stunning. Wonderful job! You helped set the stage for the rest of the performance.
The Drawing Room scene, I loved to see actors owning their characters. Patrick and Jeremy, when you stood up with your exchange about “older brother responsibilities” Wow! Mr. Greenwell, thanks for helping with the music tech and delivering your line with class. Ladies, Mrs. Greenwell, Erin and Catherine, you looked at ease and performed beautifully. Thanks Mrs. Greenwell for your choreography. This is something guests always look forward to in the Drawing Room. Mrs. Greenwell, when you adlibbed to “Tom” about his drinking, I thought it was a riot!
You know you have passed the test when descendants and people who knew the real people you play are proud of the performance and this was the case for this year’s production. Red Room 1850, wonderful job to all of you. Geno, you were fabulous and a beautiful ambassador for womanhood, and Helena, I believed you were sisters. Our Dr. Briscoe’s and Chapman’s, Neil and Paul, depth, seriousness and humor. Bravo!
There were a lot of firsts with this production. It was the first time that the Satterlee’s and Mabel Ingalls were depicted in a living history performance. The audience loved it! How the slave and servant roles were executed was amazing and something new. Lest we forget that more than just the owner’s families lived and worked at Sotterley. Javon, Jay, Shemika, Amanda and Sarah—for playing Gilbert, Robert, Ruth, Mary and Katherine--All I’ve heard from guests is praise for your portrayals. Great Great Great and Thank YOU for driving all the way here! I had someone ask me, “Are those girls really Irish?” The Knotts, both Charles and India added continuity and also were roles that had not been performed here before, thanks Leni and Stephen for your good portrayal of some really good people! Betsy, you were amazing as Louisa, you were splendid. Chuck, thanks as always for your support and never doing anything halfway! You were a great Herbert. Kim, Mabel was by far one of the most important roles, you were believable and beautiful. Once again I heard things like, “you know she looked like Mabel too.” You know when audiences say this you have done an outstanding job. It’s the acting baby! Thanks also to Mabel’s partners in crime, Bettylou and Debbie, who adapted to casting gaps and added that lighter touch the audience needed on their way out the door.
Of course to pull off a production you have to have the support of the organization, thanks to all Sotterley staff who worked hard on many aspects to make this a success, Joe’s maintenance staff is always proof that you can do a lot with a little. Thanks to our other volunteers that worked either directly with the production, like Dawn, Lesley and Sarah on assisting, make-up and lighting to volunteers who came to help make cookies or swing a flashlight in the cold. We couldn’t do it without each of you.
As Sotterley moves forward as a museum, living history and other dramatic performances will also grow along with our needs for those from all aspects of theatre production. This summer, our 1812 Living History commemoration, with a script written by Dale Jones, entitled, “The Choice,” will be presented on at least three different occasions over the summer of 2012 and beyond. The story revolves around those enslaved at Sotterley and their choice to run to the British or stay in their present circumstances. Along with the wonderful script, costumes for the major characters have also been professionally designed and created for this production. More information will follow soon, so Sotterley will be in need of theatre personal, not just actors, because this actually has fewer speaking roles, but lots of guides with some dialogue, extras, and other theatre support. Of course our traditional productions, such as Ghost Tours and Candlelight will also continue. Small vignette’s of living history are also beginning to be used, so Sotterley will have more need of living history performers on an important but smaller scale more often. As we grow, Sotterley will continue to improve our planning and scheduling to make more effective use of volunteer and staff efforts.
Thanks again to everyone involved. Keep talking it up. Word of mouth is still the best way to recruit. Watch for our 2012 Calendar of Events to pop up on the website before the end of this year.
You all should be very proud, I know I am. The Sotterley Players rock!
Best Wishes and Happy Holidays!