April 30--NEW HAVEN -- The second stop of Pulitzer Prize-winning New Haven playwright Donald Margulies' 2008 play "Shipwrecked!" was at Long Wharf Theatre. That run inspired the latest production at an off-Long Wharf theater space on Chapel Street.
New Haven Theater Company will debut its version of "Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself)" Thursday through Saturday and May 8-10. Tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for students and children.
"When I first saw it, I thought it was a fantastic, fantastic play," said director Peter Chenot in a phone chat this week. "And it's traveled around; it's been all over the country."
New Haven Theater Co. began about 20 years ago with locals performing in the back room at Bar on Crown Street. It went dormant for awhile, but returned in 2005 when Chenot and T. Paul Lowry revived the group with Danielle Ginnetti (then with Bar; now at 116 Crown) and put on more shows. The company did shows in different locations, and when Lowry left for Chicago, Chenot made it more of an ensemble company, totaling 14 people these days.
The troupe has been putting on productions such as "Our Town" at the slender English Building Markets building, at 839 Chapel St. in the block before Church Street, and will continue there into 2015 after signing a one-year lease in February.
The group turned an area in the back on the first floor into an "intimate little space" seating 60 people, Chenot said.
In their day jobs, Chenot and fellow company member Steven Scarpa are administrators at Long Wharf Theatre, so they know quality acting and production. The company also includes Chenot's wife, Megan Keith Chenot.
"We work during the day and ... New Haven Theater Company is our hobby that we do at night and on weekends," Chenot said.
He said it stems from an age-old motivation.
"We're a group of actors; we love to work together, and we've learned ... that we work well together," Chenot said. "And we want to try and do the best work possible that we can put together -- within our limitations but stretching our limitations."
It's a family-friendly story, with an appreciation for tall tales.
"Ages 8 and up," Chenot said. "It's not a play for kids, but it definitely has an element that kids are going to love. "It's about storytelling, it's about imagination. It's very similar to 'Our Town' in some respects. It starts out with a bare stage and then we bring out everything and create incredible worlds."
De Rougemont actually existed, "and he became famous for about three months back in the early 1900s," said Chenot.
He told of bravery, romance and fantastic deeds -- surviving an epic sea journey, riding sea turtles, vanquishing his enemies. "And, of course, it kind of unraveled that maybe not all of that was actually true."
Christian Shaboo will play the lead role, and six other actors (Mallory Pellegrino, Erich Greene, Margaret Mann, Jesse Gabbard, Katelyn Marshall and Trevor Williams) come out to help tell the story using props from two large steamer trunks.
For tickets and more information, see www.newhaventheatercompany.com.
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