Mohonasen teacher’s musical to open Friday

Writing songs was always something Gail Sparlin enjoyed doing, and turning them into a full-fledged
Gail Sparlin and Patrick White rehearse a scene from Sparlin's new musical, 'Pokegama Hotel,' being presented by Our Own Productions and opening Friday at the Quest Theater on State Street.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Gail Sparlin and Patrick White rehearse a scene from Sparlin's new musical, 'Pokegama Hotel,' being presented by Our Own Productions and opening Friday at the Quest Theater on State Street.

Writing songs was always something Gail Sparlin enjoyed doing, and turning them into a full-fledged musical has also been great fun.

“I always liked the idea of weaving songs into a story,” said Sparlin, a music teacher at Mohonasen High School whose new musical, “Pokegama Hotel,” is being produced by Our Own Productions.

“The idea of writing a musical that would be fully produced and staged seemed like a natural progression to me, and working with the staff here and all the actors has been wonderful. It’s been a great experience.”

Our Own Productions (OOPs) is a locally based theater company that usually holds its performances at the Emmanuel-Friedens Church at 218 Nott Terrace in Schenectady. “Pokegama Hotel,” however, will be at the Quest building at 826 State St., formerly home to the Schenectady Light Opera Company.

The show, co-directed by Sparlin and Leslie Elaishuk, opens Friday at 8 p.m. and runs weekends through Sept. 28.

‘Pokegama Hotel’

WHERE: Our Own Productions, Quest Theatre, 826 State St. Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 28

HOW MUCH: $15-$13

MORE INFO: 466-7159, www.ourownproductions.com

“All the theater seats are gone and we’re not using the stage,” said Sparlin. “We’re down on the floor and it’s going to be cabaret-style seating. The play is actually a series of vignettes about the ordinary and the extraordinary. It’s about a group of regular folks that have ordinary problems and yet seem extraordinary. One of the songs is about just putting on your face and going to work in the morning. Sometimes that can be extraordinarily difficult.”

“Pokegama Hotel” is set in Sparlin’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and focuses on the people who come and go into a neighborhood bar where her mother, Jan, was a bartender.

“The bar was about five blocks from my middle school, and at 3 o’clock I would walk from school to the bar and spend an hour there with my mother until she got off at 4,” said Sparlin.

“She’s the main character because she’s on stage the whole show, but it’s really an ensemble piece because it’s about all the family, friends and other customers that come into the bar. These stories are based on real people. There’s always a little bit of embellishment involved, but basically they are true stories.”

Sparlin plays Fay, the character based on her mother, and Patrick White is Stonewall, who is based on her father. Sparlin’s daughter, Cecilia Gray, plays Linda, Fay’s daughter.

“Having Cecilia in the show was one of my motivations,” said Sparlin, whose daughter was a 2008 Mohonasen graduate.

Based on author

“The character she plays is based on me, but Linda is actually a bit older than I would have been. So, it’s actually loosely based on what I would have been like if I was older. Patrick’s character was originally a smaller role, but when he joined the cast I went back and wrote more of him into the show. He’s such a great actor we had to use him more.”

Also in the cast are Jeffrey P. Hocking, Katie Payne, Janice Walz, Peter Belenchia, Edward Metzold, Gene Sirotof, Michael Silvia and Leslie Marie.

“I’m the bartender so I’m always out there, but everybody has their moment to shine,” said Sparlin, a University at Albany grad who got her master’s at The College of Saint Rose. “We have some very talented people, and some great voices.”

Music will be provided by a small pit band of four, including musical director Dennis McCafferty. Among the musical styles used are gospel, jazz, pop tunes and Broadway-like show tunes.

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