BWW Interviews: A Chat With Director Mark Rampmeyer
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by Melissa Giordano
A Christmas Carol may be a theatre staple throughout the holiday season, but the John W Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, has decided to switch things up a bit. Mark Rampmeyer, director of the Engeman's upcoming production, has taken time out of rehearsals to chat with us to give us a sneak peak.
First, tell me about yourself. How long have you been with the Engeman Theatre?
Hi, I started at the Engeman five seasons ago. A friend of mine was supposed to design the hair and make-up for their production of A Wonderful Life, but had a conflict come up so I stepped in. I went and did the show and really fell in love with the theater. It's a beautiful performance space. They asked me back to do their next production and I have been there ever since. Two years ago I was asked to step into the Associate Artistic Director position in an effort to elevate their Children's Theater program. That has now turned into keeping an artistic eye on those productions as well as our Ed Rep program, our Studio for the Performing Arts, and main stage productions.
How was it decided to put on A Christmas Carol amongst the other holiday shows?
There are just some shows that need to be included into every theaters portfolio. Our clientele truly embraces the holiday season. Northport looks like a page from the Dickens' novel when it is all dressed for the season. We've had great success with previous seasonal favorites such as A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. A Christmas Carol is a timeless piece that most defiantly has its place among the Christmas classics. It's one that many theaters perform, so we were just waiting to find the right script, at the right time to appear and it did so here we go.
A Christmas Carol is a timely and familiar tale; a favorite among many. How are you freshening it up for The Engeman?
Our script! Michael Wilson has written the version we are producing and he has done an incredible job of preserving all the moments that are near and dear to our hearts but, at the same time, being adventuresome enough to splash this classic story with lots of laughs, brand new twists, and a few extra ghosts thrown in for good measure. It's still a very touching story and Tiny Tim will warm the heart of the coldest miser, but anyone who has seen A Christmas Carol before should be pleasantly surprised by Mr. Wilson's clever re-telling of this story.
As you're currently in rehearsals, please tell us about the cast.
AMAZING! I know every director says that but I can't help it. The amount of talent and professionalism I have been given to work with leaves me endless possibilities to stage something new and interesting for our audiences. The rehearsal period hasn't been an easy one. Sandy most defiantly made a mess of plans. We lost several days of rehearsals due to transportation, heat, and power issues. Instead of being daunted by the challenges this company really pulled together as a team. We helped each other out with rides and places to stay and were determined not to have this storm dampen the heart of our story. Some of our children in the company are making their stage debut with us and that's very exciting. We are also lucky enough to have some of the best Broadway professional actors on board with us as well. I have had the pleasure of working with Barbara Marineau on the Broadway company of Beauty and the Beast, Michael James Leslie on the National Tour of the same show. Steve Luker and I worked on the revival of 42nd Street together. Wilbur Henry is an alumni actor from the Engeman Theaters' production of Others Peoples' Money. I most recently directed Seussical for our Youth Theater Series and many of those actors are onboard for A Christmas Carol. So one way or another the roots with deep with this company. The show brought us together and Sandy made us a family. I guess every cloud, even the big ones, has a silver lining.
Are there any other surprises you could tell us that will absolutely shock the audience?
I think the most important thing is to be ready for something fun, new, and exciting. If you are thinking "I've seen that one before" you will surely be mistaken. We have taken all the magic and warmth of the story as it has be told over the years and wrapped it up in a brand new fun , thrilling experience for the whole family. So if you are seeing it for the first time or the tenth time, I'm pretty sure you will not have seen it like this!
Mark Adam Rampmeyer (DIRECTOR) is the Associate Artistic Director at the John W. Engeman Theater and makes his home here in Northport. Last season he directed the John W. Engeman Theater production of 42nd Street. He has also directed several of our Youth Theater Series Productions at the John W. Engeman Theater including Seussical, Pinkalicious, Rapunzel, Alice in Wonderland, and the seasonal favorite Frosty. As a stylist, his work has been seen on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast, and All Shook Up to name a few. His design work was seen in Lysistrata Jones, West Side Story and The Farnsworth Invention. Mark was the recipient of a Drama Desk award for his contributions to the design team for Horton Foote's Orphans' Home Cycle at Signature Theater. Mark has spent 35 years working in the professional theatrical community and has had the great pleasure to work with such amazing talents as Olympia Dukakis, Lynn Redgrave, Jean Stapleton, and Hank Azaria. He is very appreciative of his mentors David H. Lawrence and David C. Woolard, for their guidance and teaching, and to Kathleen Conry for more than 30 years of encouragement. Mark would like to thank all who continue to support him on this journey. *peep*