TWINSBURG – Directing is something about which Kate Tonti is passionate.
Tonti, who acts and directs with Twin Masks Performing Arts Center, said "hands down" she prefers directing.
"It’s so creative, exciting and challenging," she said. "It just gives you so many opportunities to look forward to. I’ll take directing over performing every time."
In its first year, Twin Masks Performing Arts Center began when Doug and Claudia Lillibridge of Twinsburg started a community theater company that complements the Twinsburg Community Theatre, established in 1996.
The Lillibridges, Tonti and Keith Stivers make up the Twin Masks Performing Arts Center’s governing board.
"Our goal is to offer an alternative type of theater," said Tonti. "There is already a wonderful community group theater that puts on large community-focused productions, mostly musicals … We wanted to put on smaller, more intimate shows, not necessarily musicals."
Needing a place to rehearse and stage its plays, Twin Masks was able to find a home at 9076 Church Street in Suites 2 and 3, the previous location of Hair on the Square before it moved. Rehearsals began there in February for the first production, "Avow," directed by Mrs. Lillibridge, which closed May 19.
Tonti will direct Twin Masks’ second production, "Orphans." Auditions for "Orphans" will be at 7 p.m. June 18 and 19 and are open to the public.
Written by Lyle Kessler, "Orphans" is the story of two grown orphan brothers who live in an old dilapidated row house in North Philadelphia, deserted in childhood by an unfaithful father and by the death of their mother. Older brother Treat, brutal and violent, provides for his younger brother Phillip by being a petty thief. Treat takes away Phillip's chances to grow up, depriving him of knowledge and forcing him to live in a world of illiteracy and innocence: relegating him to their lost childhood.
As Treat is out stealing to put food on the table, Phillip never leaves the house. Curious about the world, he secretly attempts to understand things by watching reruns of "The Price Is Right" and underlining words in newspapers and old books he finds lying around. Treat kidnaps and ties up a Chicago gangster named Harold. Harold, an orphan himself, with the prowess of an escape artist, loosens the ties that bind him, turns the tables around, and with gun in hand, puts himself into the role of teacher, healer and surrogate parent.
The play premiered in Los Angeles in 1983. In 2013, it made its Broadway debut. It was nominated for the 2013 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play and 2013 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play, according to www.twinmasks.org.
"You don’t have to have experience, but we invite you to come to our auditions where we will read and cast from there," Tonti said. "It’s very open … you do not need to be a member of the Twinsburg community. We’d love if you are and it’s cool if you’re not."
Those interested in auditions can show up either day. If there are those who have experience in theater and would like to read the script prior to auditioning, the script is available at the Twinsburg Public Library. The script will be loaned out, Tonti noted.
"You don’t need to be familiar with the script," she said. "We always start auditions with an overview of the show and the characters."
Once the show is cast, rehearsals will take place throughout the month of July and then "Orphans" will open in August. Performance dates are Aug. 3, 4, 10, 17 and 18.
"We firmly believe in giving people that opportunity," Tonti said. "Now it doesn’t necessarily mean we can cast you, because people have to fit together as a cast. Sometimes you have someone who is absolutely outstanding but they might not coalesce with the rest of the cast based on the group of people you have to cast from."
Tonti said those who aren’t cast will have the opportunity to help out backstage.
Tonti, who lives in Twinsburg, said she has known Claudia Lillibridge for a number of years, going back to when they were in a show together.
"I was fortunate to direct her in a production a few years ago," she said. "She put a message out on Facebook when she was first getting started to establish Twin Masks, and I contacted her and said I was excited to hear what she was doing and if she needed any help to let me know."
Tonti said Lillibridge immediately told her she would love to have her on board to help.
"We started working together and it’s been such a wonderful collaborative effort getting this theater off the ground with Lilli, Doug and Keith."
Tonti and the others, together, have decades of experience in live theater.
"We have all been in dozens upon dozens of productions," she said. "I don’t know about Doug, but Claudia, Keith and I have all directed many, many shows."
Everyone involved in Twin Masks is a volunteer and the theater company is a non-profit organization. For more information, call 330-888-3211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Reporter Steve Wiandt, can be reached at 330-541-9420, firstname.lastname@example.org or @SteveWiandt_RPC.