Friday, November 14, 2014

Board Spotlight: Sharon Karmazin

In John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar,  the character of Anthony Reilly says, “There’s the green fields, and the animals living off them.  And over that there’s us, living off the animals.  And over that there’s that which tends to us.”  At George Street Playhouse, that entity which watches over and guides us is our incredibly dedicated and generous Board of Trustees.
 One such Board member is Sharon Karmazin, who was first elected to our Board in 1994, and currently serves as Secretary.  She is an award-winning Broadway producer and former Director of the East Brunswick Public Library.   In 1996 she established the Karma Foundation, which supports the arts and culture, autism, education, literacy, health and human services, and the development and enrichment of Jewish life.  Besides George Street Playhouse, she serves on a number of boards that include the Rutgers University Board of Overseers as well as the Rutgers President’s Council Executive Committee. 

Ms. Karmazin took a few moments to chat with GSP’s Director of Marketing about her life as a Board member and Broadway producer – as well as mother and grandmother.

Besides your involvement with George Street, you are a notable Broadway producer as well.  What role has theatre played in your life?  Has it always been a part of it?  When were you first bit by the theatre bug?

“I've been hooked on theater since I saw the original King and I with Yul Bryner for my seventh birthday. My parents were modest people but they loved going to Broadway and often brought me. My dad loved music from shows so there were always 78s and later LPs of shows like South Pacific and Brigadoon playing in my childhood home. Seeing shows like The Diary of Anne Frank, The Music Man, Damn Yankees, Kismet, My Fair Lady and others was part of my growing up years. Looking back at my high school yearbook, my two aspirations were to be a U.S. senator or a theater critic. To this day, I always find some aspect to appreciate in a show, even if on the whole, the show isn't very good.”

How did you first become involved with George Street Playhouse?

“Adelaide Zagoren (a longtime friend of the Playhouse and Board member) was a friend, a role model and a mentor. She was the person who recruited me to the Board over 20 years ago.”

You have so many facets – you were a respected librarian in East Brunswick, an innovative philanthropist, member of a number of boards, including the Rutgers Board of Overseers, and most recently, The Actor's Fund as well as award-winning Broadway producer.   Is there one aspect that takes precedence over the others?

“What is so wonderful about my life day to day has been the opportunity to participate in all of these activities and more. It keeps me very busy with a group of diverse, yet overlapping interests. My most favorite time is the time I spend with my children, Dina and Craig, and my grandchildren, Hunter and Harper, and the time I spend with my partner Dave. We travel a lot and theater and art are often a part of what we do, both home and away. Then through my connections with theater, collecting studio glass, producing in New York and my volunteer and board activities, I have met wonderful like-minded people, learned so much and made many new friends.”

Scene Shop Branches Beyond The Stage

Deirdre O'Connell and John Bolger in Lips Together, Teeth Apart
photo by T. Charles Erickson, design by R. Michael Miller
Providing the perfect settings for our actors to do their best work is a hallmark of a George Street Playhouse production.  Actors and audiences alike are struck by the wonderful craftsmanship and the sheer beauty of our sets.

 I have been on staff at the Playhouse for over 14 years now, and two of the most memorable sets during my time here are the set for Talley’s Folly, the beautiful Victorian boathouse designed by Ted Simpson, and Lips Together, Teeth Apart, designed by R. Michael Miller, a long-time Rutgers faculty member and a frequent contributor to the beauty that sits on our stage. 

Michael’s set for Lips Together… was a Fire Island beach house, complete with running outdoor shower, beautiful bedrooms – and an in-ground pool!  We staff members were drawing lots to be able to spend the night, it was so beautiful.  Michael also designed the sets for the first two shows of our current season, taking us to the Midlands of Ireland in Outside Mullingar, to the middle-American basement of The Fabulous Lipitones.

What you may not know, is George Street Playhouse has a Theatrical Scene Shop where these wonders are created and built. Dozens of skilled artisans handcraft every detail of every set.  And their talents are not just confined to the George Street stage.  Our Shop has built sets for Paper Mill Playhouse and Hunter College, as well as the recent production of Joe DiPietro’s Clever Little Lies at the John Drew Theatre at Guild Hall.  Jim Youmans, who designed numerous Broadway sets and is a frequent designer at GSP, said, “they know how to deliver exceptional quality.” 

Our unique roster of creative designers, skilled artisans and project managers ensure that every detail of every build meets or exceeds expectations, developing solutions to fit any budget while delivering maximum impact.

Creating Perfect Harmony

A conversation with Steve Delehanty, music director/arranger for the George Street Playhouse production of ‘The Fabulous Lipitones’

In the musical comedy, TheFabulous Lipitones, the story revolves around a barbershop quartet that after 30 years of existence finally gets a shot at Nationals. However, they lose a key member of the group to a victoriousalbeit lethal”B flat” in the regional competition and wind up finding an unlikely replacement to carry on.

Michael Lichtefeld, Michael Mastro, Steve Delehanty
and John Markus during the first rehearsal of The Fabulous Lipitones
In reality, George Street Playhouse’s production of The Fabulous Lipitones, which runs from November 18 through December 14, stars Broadway veterans Donald Corren, Wally Dunn and Jim Walton, plus YouTube sensation Rohan Kymal. Immensely talented performers and singers, they only had a few weeks of rehearsals to sound like a barbershop quartet that’s been harmonizing for three decades.

That’s where Steve Delehanty comes in. Mr. Delehanty is music director/arranger for GSP’s production of The Fabulous Liptiones—a show he’s been involved with previously.  

One of Mr. Delehanty’s main objectives was to get the four actors to sound like a seasoned barbershop quartet. “They all have beautiful voices and can sing Broadway style, but barbershop focuses on blending the voices of the quartet.”

Two of the leads in the George Street Playhouse productionMr. Dunn and Mr. Kymal—have done Lipitones together before, so they are familiar with the material, each other and the style of singing required for the show.

Another key responsibility is working out the barbershop-style arrangements for the show, which features primarily songs in the public domain as well as a few original pieces written specifically for The Fabulous Lipitones.

While the public domain songs are rather straightforward, one challenging aspect as an arranger is giving the songs new life. “You still want to make the arrangements interesting,” said Mr. Delehanty. “You don’t want them sounding like they were just down singing at the bar.

“Another thing is that some of the public domain songs feature three-part arrangements,” he added. “That’s not barbershop. Barbershop is four parts, of course.”

Mr. Delehanty has been around music for most of his life. He took piano lessons in his youth and accompanied his college’s glee club.  “I did piano bar for 32 years and started ‘barbershopping’ in 1964--so I’ve been doing that for over 50 years now,” he said.

The Fabulous Lipitones - click for tickets and info
As a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, Mr. Delehanty has honed his skills as an arranger over the years and is listed on the organization’s web site as a resource for barbershop groups looking for new arrangements of songs. In fact, when John Markus—who, along with Mark St. Germain, wrote The Fabulous Lipitones—was seeking an arranger for the show’s musical content, he called the Society and was referred to Mr. Delehanty.

“John called me and asked if I was interested,” said Mr. Delehanty. “He had talked to someone at the Society who told him, ‘Get Steve.’”

Mr. Delehanty said George Street Playhouse audiences should expect to hear typical “zippy” barbershop-style songs.

“It should be exciting,” he says. “Ifand I know that it will happenthe quartet is really, really good, that itself will be pleasing to the audience because a good barbershop quartet is really entertaining.”