One of the special things about being part of community theatre is the camaraderie. Whether performing on stage or being part of the crew, friendships are forged through theatre. Sometimes those friendships only last for the run of the show and then fade, some may last for a few seasons… sometimes you are lucky enough to build a friendship that will last a lifetime!
In the fall of 2018, Kate Shuker and Matt Blundell auditioned for the Northumberland Players radio play Miracle on 34th Street, with no idea that it would change their lives.
I had been involved in many theatre groups throughout my teens and twenties, however I had put my love of theatre on hold to raise a family. When I saw the audition notice for Miracle on 34th Street at the Firehall Theatre, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to ease back into it.
In the show, I was cast to play eight small roles such as “Mother”, “Small Girl”, “Miss Prong” and “Postman 1”, which I thought would be a lot of fun and a great way to work on my character building skills and develop some new accents. I wasn’t wrong.
The Northumberland Players family, and specifically the cast and crew of “Miracle” welcomed me with open arms and immediately made me feel at home. I loved making each character my own, and deciding that the character of “Miss Prong” would be nervous and fidgety while “Mother” was strong with a Brooklyn twang was a ton of fun.
After 2 months of rehearsals, we entered the final week before opening. Costumes were ready, characters were on point, and now it was time to turn it all into a show. If you’ve never seen a radio show, it’s a wonderful experience. The actors in the show are playing actors from the 1940’s who are in turn, putting on a radio show. The audience becomes the radio station audience with the actors taking turns at microphones voicing the parts.
Because we are playing actors that are acting out parts, we come up with “back stories” about our characters that the audience never sees – but that determine the way we move and interact with others on stage. Our wonderful Director, Heather Jopling, decided that when we weren’t at the microphones, we would be sitting in a semi-circle around the stage, reacting to what was happening – and interacting with those actors seated next to us.
What happened next was pure Christmas magic. I was seated next to Matt Blundell. I’d only said a few words to Matt during rehearsals, but it fell to us to provide some sound effects during crowd scenes (“Welcome to Macy’s – 3rd floor, Linens, Towels and Kitchen Ware”…. “Excuse me Sir, have you tried this new cologne?”). We also came up with a back story… We just clicked.
We shared some scenes, and we shared some laughs – and I looked forward to seeing him each day as we performed. As the run came to an end and reality set in, I knew that I had found a new lifelong friend. As it turns out, I found more than a friend, as we began dating that January, and have been together ever since. I guess thanks to Northumberland Players, I had my very own Christmas Miracle on Second Street.
Since high school, theatre has always been a part of my life, however becoming a Northumberland Player a few years back felt like coming home. “Miracle” for me was one of those once in my lifetime opportunities to work with a great director, a very talented cast and to share the stage with the man who introduced theatre to me so many years ago, my high school drama teacher (and so much more), Jim Finan!
The show was fun from the start, filling me with the joy of the Christmas season each and every day for months as we prepared. As we neared performances, the immersive transformation of the Firehall Theatre into a festive radio station studio was magical.
Experiencing all of that would have been incredible enough on its own… but one other thing happened. I met Kate and my life was changed forever. Through the run of the show, we played together, creating backstories and ad lib-ing interactions as both customers in department stores and actors in the studio. We had a couple of scenes together and for some reason, those scenes always made me the most nervous, but were also the most looked forward to.
Through all of that we started to get to know each other and as we neared the show’s end, we realized we didn’t want the getting to know each other to stop. So it didn’t… a couple of months later we were dating and the rest, as they say, is history.