Plenty of live theater in downtown Schenectady

SLOC, Schenectady Civic productions open
Dashira Cortes, Tanisha Findley and Veronica Lybrand, left to right, rehearse a scene from "Sister Act."
Dashira Cortes, Tanisha Findley and Veronica Lybrand, left to right, rehearse a scene from "Sister Act."

Want to see live theater? Head to downtown Schenectady Friday night and take your pick.

The national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is at Proctors, but that’s not the only show in town. Opening at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse is “The School for Lies,” directed by Chris Foster, and beginning a two-weekend run at the Schenectady Light Opera Company will be the 1992 musical, “Sister Act.” directed by current SLOC board president Michael Camelo.

The Schenectady Civic Players and SLOC both opened within a year of each other more than 90 years ago – as did Proctors – and both of them are still going strong, recognized around the northeast as two of the finest and oldest community theater troupes in the country. At the Schenectady Civic Playhouse – home to the Schenectady Civic Players since 1928 – “The School for Lies,” the 2011 work of playwright David Ives, will be done completely in iambic pentameter. Jason Biszick plays Frank and Jennifer Lefsyk is Celimene, a beautiful young widow known for her sharp and satiric tongue.

The opportunity to work with Foster, long one of the Capital Region’s top actors and directors, and the challenge of speaking in iambic pentameter, were too tempting for Biszick to resist.

“Something based on Shakespeare wouldn’t usually be my first option, but I’ve been waiting to work with Chris for a long time, and I have had some experience doing Shakespeare,” said Biszick who grew up in Beacon and went to the University of Buffalo before heading to the Capital Region. “The naturalistic language, the rhyming and the emotions that are inherent in the words have always interested me.”

Biszick made his Capital Region theater debut in “Assassins” at SLOC in 2009. This is his third appearance at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse, and he has also performed at Albany Civic Theater and Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs.

“I started out at Buffalo as a mechanical engineering major but I had a change of heart in my second year and ended up getting a BFA in acting,” said Biszick, who works in the home improvement field. “I try to do two or three shows a year now. I’m usually too busy to do a show this time a year, but I couldn’t pass this one up.”

Sharing the stage with Biszick and Lefsyk will be Nick Bosanko, Angelique Powell, Nicole Galligan, Rich Angehr and Jean Carney.

Cortes leads SLOC cast

When Michael Camelo decided to direct “Sister Act” at SLOC this season, he was a little concerned about casting the four nuns that carry the show. He needn’t have worried.

“To be honest, I was worried because everyone associates those characters from the movie,” said Camelo, referring to the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg. “People are so familiar with these iconic characters, I was concerned if we could find the right people to put in those roles. Then, Dashira Cortes showed up, so that obviously made me feel good, and at the callback I just stopped worrying. I said, ‘never mind. We have wonderful people.'”

Cortes, from Albany, has performed at SLOC in “AIDA” and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” and was in the cast of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at Park Playhouse in 2014.

“I had never worked with her before, but I’ve seen her on stage, and she is such a professional,” Camelo said of Cortes. “Her talent is amazing. Her voice is jaw-dropping.”

Joining Cortes on stage is Susan Rucinski, Christine Meglino, Elizabeth Corey, Allison McArdle, Stephen Foust and John Rodney Turner.

“I directed ‘How to Succeed [in Business without Really Trying’] last year, and that’s a show that’s very much man-driven,” said Camelo, a SUNY-Potsdam grad who is director of the Scotia-Glenville High School drama club. “So I wanted to do something that’s empowering to women because there are so many talented woman in our area. There are so many songs, such wonderful music in this play, and it’s so funny I thought it would be a good fit for SLOC.”

Camelo said music director Adrienne Sherman will have seven musicians in the pit backing up the cast, which was choreographed by Trish Scott-Dembling.

‘Appropriate’ at Albany Civic

At the Albany Civic Theater, a Patrick White-directed production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ 2014 OBIE winner, “Appropriate,” opens Friday and runs through May 20.

The play, according to New York Times critic Ben Brantley, steals a little something from an impressive group of previous playwrights, including Horton Foote, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil and  most recently Tracy Letts, who wrote “August: Osage County.” The story is set at an old southern homestead, the site of an unhappy family reunion in the shadow of death.

Ravena native Josephine O’Connor plays Rachel, the daughter-in-law of the family patriarch who has just passed away.

“From what I’ve read about the playwright, he loves Tennessee Williams, and the play seems to put you into the mind of a Tennessee Williams family,” said O’Connor. “The patriarch of the family has just died a few months earlier, and everyone shows up to settle the estate.  It’s very much a dark comedy, and I love the language. It’s very crisp and delightful. It’s a family drama touching on serious issues and probably the biggest one is racism.”

O’Connor is making a return to the community theater stage after an absence of 10 years.

“I felt like it had been too long,” O’Connor said of her time away from acting. “I’ve been busy doing a lot of other things, like raising a family and working, but I was discussing this with my husband and he knows how important the theater is to me. It’s a huge component of what I am, and I really liked this play, so I thought it would be a good time to audition and maybe get back into it.”

‘The School of Lies’

WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady

WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through May 13; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday


MORE INFO:, or (518) 382-2081

‘Sister Act’

WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady

WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through May 13; performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $28-$22

MORE INFO:, or 1-877-350-7378


WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany

WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through May 20; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $18-$10

MORE INFO:, or (518) 462-1297


Categories: Entertainment

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