News Column

Friends' reunion leads to 'Quilters' reading

May 2, 2013

YellowBrix

May 02--For Ron Jacoby, theater on Cape Cod began, then began again, with Betsy Argo.

Jacoby first came to the Cape from Bard College in 1963 to work at Argo's Orleans Arena Theater. A college director of his was artistic director in Orleans that year, and convinced Jacoby to come for the intense, multi-show, resident summer-stock tradition that was set up at the old town hall (now the Academy of Performing Arts) from 1950 to 1976.

Five years after that first summer, he got a call from Argo, seeking his advice about a director. He recommended one, who then asked Jacoby to come back to Orleans to act in "The Three Sisters." Jacoby ended up returning to the Cape to act, direct or be part of the apprentice program for the next three summers. "Then I went to the Midwest," he says about ending that phase of his career. "But we did some great things during that time."

And that time in Orleans was seminal for Jacoby, who worked professionally in theater as actor, director, artistic director, producer, etc., for decades in various parts of the country.

The Cape itself held enough of a pull on him, in fact, that he and wife Linn, also a professional actress and director, decided to retire here in 2009.

"The Arena Theater was my first theater experience on Cape Cod and I just fell in love with" the area, Jacoby says. Sitting across a table from him at a local restaurant, Argo smiles. "A lot of people from the Arena Theater decided to move here," she says. "A lot of people."

And reconnecting with Argo, with whom Jacoby had lost touch decades before, was instrumental in involving the couple in the local theater scene. Now the three are working together to produce two weekends of staged readings of Linn Jacoby's adaptation of the musical "Quilters" by Barbara Damashek and Molly Newman.

Linn Jacoby first directed her adaptation of the story of three generations of pioneer women for an award-winning production in Pennsylvania. Through 16 episodes that symbolize patches of quilting material, the play recounts tales of their lives from girlhood through motherhood, through natural disasters and illnesses. Although the actresses use scripts for the staged reading, they are in costume and they have rehearsed staging on a set, including what Jacoby and Argo describe as beautiful and detailed quilts decorating the stage and hall.

Argo, who will play only evening performances, depicts close to a dozen characters, as do the other actresses, in stories from 1870 to the present. Argo has also been co-producer with Ron Jacoby.

Reconnecting with Argo began soon after the Jacobys settled here and they learned of a Truro screening of daughter Liz Argo's movie "Stagestruck: Confessions From Summer Stock," about the Arena days. With fond memories and so many personal and professional connections to his time there, Jacoby wanted to see it, and unexpectedly reunited with Betsy Argo in the lobby. "The years melted away," he says.

The Jacobys wanted to get involved in the Cape theater scene and have done so acting together in "Born Yesterday" at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and "A Thousand Clowns" at Chatham Drama Guild. Their own Stage East Actors company produced "The Belle of Amherst" last year, with Linn playing Emily Dickinson in the one-woman show and Ron directing. But Jacoby credits Argo with making the key difference in their personal and theater lives on the Cape.

Argo invited the Jacobys to become part of a play-reading group that she formed close to 50 years ago and that has met faithfully once a week all that time to read plays together in people's houses. Argo "got us into the group and introduced us to all these great friends," Jacoby says, who have become instrumental to the couple's lives here.

When the Jacobys started looking for a venue to produce their own Stage East plays, it was people from that group who suggested the hall at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans.

Working together on "Quilters" has proven to be a way to close the circle for both Argo and Jacoby. Argo marvels at the energy and enthusiasm of her fellow "Quilters" cast members, which includes another Arena alumnus. She notes that her Arena theater was designed to promote up-and-coming apprentices to theater careers, while now she's working with "people in the twilight (years), as I am, and it's just so fitting."

Jacoby's perspective: "Every morning, I thank Betsy Argo for introducing me back to the Cape in the way that she introduced me the first time."

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The title may sound like a comedy act, but the one-man show "Random Acts of Comedy" is a chance for local actor and teacher Jim Pettibone to create a wide variety of characters in one night. Pettibone portrays more than a dozen characters in comedic monologues and songs in a show at the intimate Black Box Theater at Cotuit Center for the arts. Those personalities include a posh Englishman, a Brooklyn tattoo artist and a Harvard Square folk singer -- with the intent, according to a press release, to display "their quirks, foibles, and individual points of view." The show runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 18. Admission: $15, $12 for members. Information: artsonthecape.org or 508-428-0669.

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It's a big weekend for local school theater. Some options to watch for:

--A districtwide cast of 64 Sandwich students are working together to produce the Romeo-and-Juliet-inspired musical "West Side Story," with shows at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and May 10-11 at Sandwich High School on Quaker Meetinghouse Road. The new directing team there of Kevin Lasit (directing and choreographing) and wife Melinda (vocal director) have used a combined 42 years of experience in education and entertainment to expand the spring musical beyond the high school to include 25 seventh- and eighth-graders along with 39 SHS students. John Williams is conductor and Elliot Sicard is technical director. Tickets: $12, $8 for students and senior citizens, are available at the door or by calling Melinda Lasit at the school at 508-888-4900, ext. 4155.

--Fourteen student actors from The DY Theater Company at the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School will present the musical "Working" at 7 p.m. Thursday and May 10-11, as well as in 2 p.m. matinees May 11-12, at the school on Station Avenue, South Yarmouth. Based on a book of interviews by Studs Terkel, "Working" is a collage of songs and monologues about how different people feel about their jobs. Directed by Roger Shoemaker (a Times theater reviewer), the show was written by Stephen Schwartz ("Pippin," "Wicked") but also includes songs by other composers, including James Taylor. The orchestra and technical crew includes other students, all working in the 180-seat DY Black Box Theater. Tickets -- $10 general admission, $5 for DY students, faculty and staff -- are available at the door.

--Nauset Regional Middle School is presenting the musical "Guys and Dolls" as its spring production, with shows 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the school, 70 Route 28, Orleans. Tickets are $7 at the door. Information: 508-255-0016 or 508-255-3075.

For more theater news and commentary, check out Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll's blog at www.capecodonline.com/stagedoor and follow KathiSD on Twitter.

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(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)

Visit the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.) at www.capecodonline.com

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