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Theater & Dance
What you need to know for 01/20/2018

Teacher says 'Elm Circle' deals with important issues

Teacher says 'Elm Circle' deals with important issues

Susan Peter loves working with the Timothy Murphy Playhouse, but it wasn’t always easy getting on st
Teacher says 'Elm Circle' deals with important issues
Susan Peter, right, plays the mother of a troubled young girl (Olivia Galasso) in the Theater Project of Schoharie's production of "Elm Circle."

Susan Peter loves working with the Timothy Murphy Playhouse, but it wasn’t always easy getting on stage, let alone landing one of the leads.

“They only do musicals, and well, I’m not much of a singer,” said Peter, an Esperance resident who is sharing the stage with 14-year-old Olivia Galasso of Cobleskill in Mick Casale’s 1978 play “Elm Circle,” being staged Thursday through Sunday at the Golding Middle School Auditorium by the Theater Project of Schoharie.

Peter, who grew up in Wappingers Falls, went to Roy C. Ketcham High School and then SUNY-Potsdam, has been teaching Earth science at Middleburgh High School for the past 19 years. She first entered the community theater world when her daughter Kathleen, now a sophomore at Schoharie High School, got the acting bug as a 5-year-old with the Timothy Murphy Playhouse in Middleburgh.

The Theater Project of Schoharie was created in 2006 by Katherine Hawkins with the hope of bringing quality community theater to Schoharie County.

“Elm Circle” is a play that takes place in the mind of a troubled 15-year-old girl. Penned by Casale, a 1967 graduate of Lansingburgh High School and now head of the writing department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the play brought a lot of attention to teenage suicide when it first came out in the late 1970s.

’Elm Circle’

WHERE: The Theater Project of Schoharie, Golding Middle School Auditorium, Washington Ave., Cobleskill

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $8-$6

MORE INFO: 234-4892,

Willard Martin is directing the show, which also stars Schuyler Shaw, Drew Martin and Sean Jordan.

Q: When did you become interested in theater?

A: I had always been interested in the theater but just didn’t have the opportunity kids have today, especially in this area. There are so many groups that welcome children or younger members. I did a few shows in high school and a few college productions but then I stopped.

Q: What got you back in?

A: I did my student teaching in Saratoga, where I met my husband, and then we moved and I got a job at Middleburgh. I did a little tech work for the Timothy Murphy Playhouse way back when because some of my co-workers knew I had some theater experience, but then I got pregnant and that kept me pretty busy. When my daughter got old enough — she started doing shows when she was 5 — I got back into it. Then when it became easier for Mommy to get home a little later each night, I got more into it. I felt like I needed to do it. I needed to get back to doing the things that I loved.

Q: Who’s more serious about acting? You or your daughter?

A: We’ve both been cast in a murder-mystery coming up in May so we’re excited about that. She’s probably more serious in a way because she’s had much more exposure to it and more opportunity. She’s probably done 10 shows with the Timothy Murphy Playhouse, and she’s not involved with this one because she’s working on a school production.

Q: What are some other plays you’ve performed in?

A: I recently did “Steel Magnolias” in Schoharie. I played the mother, the Sally Field part from the movie, and around six years ago I was the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz” at the Timothy Murphy Playhouse. Again, no singing there. I was also in “The Sound of Music,” playing the house maid. No singing there. I’m just not that comfortable with my voice.

Q: What was it about “Elm Circle” that got you to the auditions?

A: I wasn’t that familiar with the play, but I read it when we were selecting plays because I’m on the board and I thought it was an excellent play. It’s about a young girl struggling with mental illness. It’s about her falling more and more into the illness, and it shows the impact it has on her family. There is some bullying involved, some drug abuse, and then she runs away from home so it’s very relevant to what’s going on today.

Q: Can you tell us about your character?

A: She has no signs of mental illness, but she is frustrated with some aspects of her life, and she is a little self-centered at times. During the course of the play she becomes more aware that something is really wrong with her daughter.

Q: How often do you like to get involved in community theater?

A: Well, I’ve done everything from stage managing, to child wrangling to any kind of tech work with shows for my daughter. But I really like performing and I may do a bit more. It’s crossed my mind to go [to Albany or Schenectady] and try to audition. It’s something I may do in the future.

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or

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