Community theater group spotlights fundraising with fall production
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – New Experience Theatre Works – more commonly known as NETWorks Productions – is a community theater group with over 20 years of experience, based at the Flanagan Theatre in the retirement community Southgate at Shrewsbury since 2008. As they’ve done since Holly Dion founded the group in 1992, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to a worthy cause when they present its fall production, “Play It Again, Sam,” written by Woody Allen.
There’s a simple reason why they contribute to charities, according to Dion.
“Frankly, we do it because it makes us feel good,” she said. “Now that we have a home base, we can concentrate not only on the craft, but we can raise money for groups who need help.”
Performances will be Fridays, Oct. 18 and 25, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Oct. 19 and 26, at 7:30 p.m.; and a matinee Sunday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m.
Prior to settling at Southgate, NETWorks Productions was based at various facilities in Upton, Grafton and Auburn. During that time they took their shows on the road.
“We’d pack up our stuff into a trailer and go to any stage in any area,” Dion said. “Every year or two, we’d come back knocking on the door at Southgate to give them our idea.”
Everything fell into place when they met Deanna Swan, program director at Southgate.
“Deanna was looking for what we had to offer and she had the Flanagan Theatre, which was perfect for us,” Dion said. “In return, we do a production for free for the residents.”
The cast of “Play It Again, Sam” features nine performers ranging in age from 27 to 83. The eldest actress made her stage debut with NETWorks Productions about eight years ago.
The play tells the story of a neurotic film critic, Allan, who idolizes Humphrey Bogart’s onscreen persona in “Casablanca.” Recently divorced, he’s urged to date again by acquaintances, including his best friend’s wife, Linda. In the original Broadway production, the role of Allan was played by Woody Allen and Linda was portrayed by Diane Keaton. Both performers reprised the roles in the film.
In this local production, Allan is played by Paul Winslow. His wife, Charlene, was cast as Linda.
“Charlene happens to be Paul’s wife, but she’s playing the wife of a character played by another actor in this show,” Dion explained. “Their characters end up hooking up with each other because Linda is so sad that Allan is so sad. Paul and Charlene work really well together.”
Other cast members are Aleta Batista, Chris Butler, Michelle Butler, Sheila Prince, Elaine Ritzen, Ford Sanborn and Chris White. Diane Dumeij is the stage manager and Jason Hedley is handling the lights and sound.
Throughout the years, NETWorks Productions has donated a portion of its shows’ proceeds to many local causes including the Shrewsbury Senior Center, the Shrewsbury Public Library, St. Anne’s Food Pantry, Veterans Inc., and SELCO’s Share the Warmth program.
This time, they’re donating a portion of the proceeds to Shrewsbury Girl Scout Troop 31331, consisting of five Shrewsbury High School students. Funds raised will help them go to Our Chalet, an international Girls Scout center in Switzerland, in early summer 2014. So far, the troop has raised $5,000, which is half the needed amount.
“It’s a very expensive trip,” Dion noted, adding, “It will be a wonderful experience for them.”
Tickets for evening performances are $13 general admission; $11 for seniors and students. The matinee is $10. For information about tickets, which will be available at the door, call 508-842-0867 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find NETWorks Productions on Facebook.
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