Leary happy to be part of ‘Fireflies’ at Curtain Call; Black Theatre Troupe production also opens

Two women at a table looking worried

Judi Merriam, left, and Robin Leary share the stage in the Curtain Call Theatre production of “Fireflies,” opening March 2 at 7:30 in Latham. (Curtain Call Theatre)

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LATHAM – For a while, Robin Leary’s progress as an actor was always being impeded by her ability as a musician.

“I’d go to audition for a musical, and I’d end up in the orchestra pit because they didn’t have enough people to play instruments,” said Leary, one of four people making up the cast of “Fireflies,” opening tonight at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham and running through March 19. “When I was younger, music took up most of my time, so I was involved in a lot of ensembles and didn’t think too much about acting. But I was always interested in it. I always loved the theater.”

Leary, a New Hampshire native who grew up in New Jersey, has been a regular on area stages for more than three decades now. A Malta resident, she really learned to act at Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs, making her debut there as Nurse Preen in “The Man Who Came to Dinner” in 1985.

“I also did a lot of backstage work earlier, and I’ve probably had over 35 acting roles there since I first moved to the Saratoga area in the 1980s,” she said. “Nurse Preen was my first stage role. That was a lot of fun, and it was great when I got to play her a few years later in a reboot of that show at Home Made. It was fun to put more of a mature spin on her.”

Leary made her Curtain Call debut in 2011 playing Mrs. Van Daan in a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Chris Foster, who is directing “Fireflies,” played her husband in that production. Joining her in this cast are Judi Merriam, Patrick White and Jeffrey Stubits.

“This is the first time I’ve worked with Chris as the director, and it’s also my first time on stage with the other three actors,” said Leary. “It’s a very sweet story with a lot of humor in it.”

A play by Matthew Barber, “Fireflies” is based on the 2003 novel “Eleanor and Abel,” by Annette Sanford, a prolific short story writer who died in 2011 in her early 80s. Barber’s play had its world premiere at the Long Whart Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut in 2017.

Merriam plays Eleanor, a recently retired school teacher, and White is Abel, the handyman she hires to help her with a few repairs around the house. Leary is Grace, a neighbor and friend of Eleanor’s, and Stubits plays Euguene, the local policeman who happens to be a former student of Eleanor’s.

“My character is a bit of a busybody, but she really does have a good heart,” said Leary. “She really cares about Eleanor and she is a little old- fashioned. She feels like she has to look out for her friend, who seems to be getting depressed.”

Things get a little more complex when Abel, White’s character, wants to do some more work around the house. That arouses Grace’s suspicious nature.

“I had never really heard of the play before I read the script, but I liked it and thought I would audition,” said Leary, who also performed at Curtain Call in a 2018 production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

“I’m of that certain age now where there aren’t that many roles for us, and I really liked the character so I auditioned. I audition a lot. Whenever they let me, I’ll jump right in.”

Leary, in fact, has already auditioned for Curtain Call’s next production, “The Incident of Our Lady of Perpetual Health,” which opens April 13.

While most of her theatrical work has been done at either Home Made or Curtain Call, Leary recently made her debut with the Schenectady Civic Players in “Murder on the Orient Express,” where she drew rave reviews from Gazette critic Paul Lamar.

“I was lucky enough to work with Schenectady Civic for the first time in November, and that was a lot of fun,” said Leary. “I had also started rehearsals on ‘Death Trap’ at Albany Civic, which would have been my first show there, but we never went up because of COVID. Then when they rescheduled it I just couldn’t make the timing work.”

When Leary isn’t on stage, she serves as music director for her church in Saratoga Springs. She started out with piano lessons in the second grade, but then switched to string instruments. She started playing the violin in fifth grade and went on to perform with a number of different musical groups with either an oboe, bassoon or clarinet. In church events, she says you might even see her with a trumpet.

The scenic designer for “Fireflies” is Andy Nice, while also making up the crew are Paul Radassao (lighting design), Carsen Joenk (sound design), Beth Ruman (costume design) and Rebecca Gardner (prop design.) John Quinan is the stage manager.

Black Theatre Troupe play opening

Also opening tonight and running for two weekends at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany is the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York production of “Topdog/Underdog.”

First produced in New York City in 2001, “Topdog/Underdog” earned a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for playwright Suzan-Lori Parks following its Broadway debut in 2002.

The story centers around the sibling rivalry of two African-American brothers named Lincoln and Booth who struggle with their relationship and cope with racism, poverty and women trouble.

Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright played the two lead characters on Broadway. Starring in the Black Theatre Troupe production are Michael A. Lake and Alexander Heck. Jean-Remy Monnay, who founded the group in 2009, is directing the show.


WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham

WHEN: Open tonight (March 2) and runs through March 19; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (there will be one Saturday matinee at 3 p.m. on March 11), and 3 p.m. Sunday


MORE INFO: Visit www.curtaincalltheatre.com or call (518) 877-7529


WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 251 North Pearl St., Albany

WHEN: Opens tonight and runs through March 12; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $20-$15

MORE INFO: Visit www.blacktheatretroupeupstateny.org

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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