13 Minutes with Rita Maron About Academy Players’ latest – 13 The Musical


13musicalI love the term “Mama Bear.” It conjures up such strong images of female strength, with a nod toward someone who protects, nurtures and provides for not only her own children, but others as well. As such, it is the perfect way to describe Rita A. Maron, artistic director and driving force behind Academy Players of RI. This “Mama Bear” has made quite the name for herself locally as a mentor, cheerleader and advocate for empowering youth through theater and performance. Under her direction, the group’s latest show, 13 The Musical, is no exception. The show is a coming-of-age tale about a recently transplanted New Yorker trying to fit in at his new school – and discovering that standing out is not always a bad thing. The musical features a popular rock score from Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, Bridges of Madison County).

I spoke to Rita about the show, Academy Players’ mission to challenge themselves artistically  and why she loves working with young performers.

Marilyn Busch: Why did you choose 13 The Musical?

Rita A. Maron: 13 is a show that you do not see performed often (although we did do it 6 years ago with a different cast). We are always looking for that show that no one has taken the challenge to do.

MB: What’s the takeaway for audiences on this show?

RM: The focus for us is this message of anti-bullying, with some great rock music written by someone whose work we love, Jason Robert Brown. Our musical director, Jennifer Holden, has met and played for him … so, we consider her an expert. (laughs)

MB: What is it like working with a cast made up predominantly of young adults?

RM: I love this age group … and I love these young adults! We began right at auditions by telling them that this show will change them. I think that if you are not a kind, respectful friend that this process will force you to become one – even for a temporary time.

MB: And did you succeed?

RM: We truly think we have succeeded. Each cast must attend one another’s shows and assist, whether back stage, front stage and theater and all around. There are no egos, no divas, with the three casts!

MB: Wait, three casts? Don’t people usually use just need one?

RM: We chose three casts after auditions because we had over 80 young adults audition. About 50% had a boatload of talent in every area. The experienced, the not so experienced, some of these young adults had it all.

MB: How does that work with so many performers?

RM: Each cast has had their own day of rehearsal and have been brought in to study each cast, have dinner all together and bond as performers, not as competitors. With three casts, it allows the actor to become [part of the] supporting cast when others are leading…a more stress-free fun example. They study one another to see what each character has that they might not have or may want to change, add or take away.

MB: Who is performing when?

RM: We have named each cast, “NYC” is performing the first weekend, “Indiana” is performing the second weekend and the co-study cast performs Saturday, March 10 at 2pm.

MB: What is a co-study cast?

RM: A co-study could be called an “understudy,” but I hate the ‘under’ part of the word. The co-studies have to learn the roles by almost osmosis, studying and writing blocking down and choreography all while still performing as supporting cast. A very difficult job … but they always conquer it.

MB: What is it that sets Academy Players apart, do you think?

RM: I love what we do because we take the time to do it like no other. We do not in the beginning push performance, we push learning. We take the time to draw a blue print and we take the time to ensure that all of us are students of the art. Learning what everything means and how to find a way to deliver without having the necessary private lessons. We love to give the actors an opportunity to create their own character.

Academy Players presents 13 the Musical by lyricist Jason Robert Brown with a book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn now through March 11. Due to construction, performances will be at North Providence High School, Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence. Tickets available online at academyplayersri.org. Performances are March 8 at 7pm, March 9 at 7pm, March 10 at 2pm & 7pm and March 11 at 4pm.


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