The Talisman Players had the audience rolling in their seats with laughter during opening night of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” at Kutztown University.
The show moves to The State Theatre in Boyertown for performances on Jan. 25 and 26.
“There’s always excitement,” on opening night, said Matthew Lupacckino, aka the Emperor. “It’s magic. It’s pure magic (walking onto the stage). I love doing this more than most anything in the whole world and it’s great. I love all of the people in the show.”
Director Tom Nardone welcomed the audience sitting in the intimate setting of the KU Georgian Room of Old Main.
“You’re the group that’s here because they’re avoiding the snow,” said Nardone receiving a few chuckles, as the Jan. 18 shows were held during a forecasted snowstorm. The Jan. 19 afternoon show concluded the Kutztown shows. “But we really, really appreciate you being here this evening. I think you’re in for a treat, in fact, I know you are. We’re so anxious to have you here because we have what we all think is funny and we need an audience to make sure that it is.”
The all-ages cast presented “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a translation of a classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen. This version takes place in a small country in the Far East.
“It’s a great tale,” said Nardone. “It’s a great version with wonderful, very developed characters and I think you’ll have a good time.”
The Emperor is fond of new clothes. Two imposter weavers tell him they can create a suit for him that would be invisible to people who are unfit to hold their office or are excessively foolish. The Emperor orders this suit to be made. The weavers pretend to weave this suit but in truth weave nothing at all, and present this fake invisible suit to everyone in the city as if it really exists.
Zar and Zan, portrayed by Liz Weimar and Megan Laudenslager, describe the invisible suit in such colorful detail that even the audience can picture in their minds the turquoise, gold, green and purple of the cloth, and the images of shadowed leaves like sad memories and the stars in a pool, highlighted by diamonds.
The Emperor and all who look upon the suit are troubled by what they cannot see, wondering if they are inadequate. This causes everyone, including the Emperor, to lie and say they can see the suit although in reality they cannot. The Emperor leads a parade through the city in his new suit. A child breaks everyone's delusion by shouting out that the Emperor is wearing his underwear!
“You know, when you’re rehearsing it and rehearsing it and you push for a certain style and certain movement and a certain pace and then it comes together, it’s very exciting,” said Nardone, happy that the audience laughed at all of the right places as intended.
The message behind the story?
“That there is a bit of foolishness in everyone and ultimately we have to treat everyone with kindness and respect and just hope that your example is infectious,” said Nardone.
Meet the Cast
After the show, the cast mingled with audience members, many of whom were family members and friends, as well as fans of the Talisman Players.
Alexis Sirrakos, Kutztown, hugged her daughter, Gracey, 7, presenting her with flowers after performing as one of the parade dancers and a weaver child. Gracey was all smiles after the show, saying she had fun.
“I think it gives her a lot of confidence and I think that’s a really fun thing for her to do,” said her mother Alexis. “To get up on stage in front of a lot of people, it takes a lot of bravery and courage to do that, so it’s fun to watch her perform and feel proud of herself and to work hard and then to really feel it from other people other than just her parents. This is her first show so she’s really excited.”
Jason Garcia has a theater background so he enjoyed being able to come back to theater to portray The General and act as an adult.
“It’s that attention that you get from the audience and you’re able to portray your character… it’s in your heart and you do it and you love it,” said Garcia. “My son (Alexander Garcia as a weaver child) was in it, too, so we got to do the show together. That was cool.”
Susan Mangold usually portrays a strong female character so as The Empress, portraying somebody who is weak and silly was a lot of fun.
“I hope the audience got to laugh and to really enjoy the silliness of it,” said Mangold.
Liz Weimar and Megan Laudenslager portrayed the imposter weavers Zar and Zan, the comedic duo on a mission to find adventure and help bring about change in the kingdom.
“It’s just a fun role; you can be very goofy and happy,” said Laudenslager.
“And the direction we got from Tom made it that much easier,” added Weimar.
“The lesson of the show is don’t be full of yourself and be honest and truthful, so I would hope at least a lot of the kids coming would get that,” said Laudenslager. “And just to be kind to one another.”
“And to at least have a good night,” added Weimar. “It’s the end of the week. People have the stresses of their lives. We just want them to come and have fun and not have to worry about those things.”
Fans of the Talisman Players
Elisa Hammes of Dryville came out to see friends in the show, “They’re really just a cohesive, talented bunch. I’ve never been disappointed and the shows are entertaining.”
Kathy Mohler, Kutztown and Greenwich elementary band director, and Melissa Blatt, Greenwich 5th grade teacher, came out to see current and former students perform.
“Watch them grow up and progress,” said Blatt.
“We’ve come to almost all the Talisman shows,” said Mohler. “I think it’s great for the kids.”
“I’ve been surprised by the high quality in their productions for such a small group and just starting out, they do a great job,” said Blatt.
Keeping the Magic of Theater Alive
The Talisman Players in Kutztown work hard to keep the magic of community theater alive.
“Keeping a community theatre going is tough,” said Nardone, who co-founder the Kutztown Talisman Players with his daughter Christine Nardone Storch. “We don’t have the built in school obligation to buy tickets; we don’t have the extra advertising money, or get a lot of advertising in our playbill. We don’t have a lot of people to even go around and put up posters. We aren’t Civic Theatre with a very large pool of actors (although we’re growing) and we don’t have unlimited rehearsal time and space. We have very little storage. We donʼt have.... WAIT! What we do have is a fantastic COMMUNITY THEATRE called THE TALISMAN PLAYERS.”
The Talisman Players started with less than 10 people in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church, Kutztown, in the winter of 2014-15. Now, they call Kutztown University their home and credit their success and continued growth to their high artistic standard of theatre magic with a vision of theatrical excellence at affordable ticket prices, as well as continued community support.
In fall 2019, the Board of the Boyertown State Theatre named the Talisman Players as their resident theatre group. This means that while the Talisman Players call Kutztown University their home, they also perform shows at Boyertown State Theatre as their resident theatre.
“With the overwhelming success of the Talisman Players presentation of ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘The Wizard of O’z last year, it was a natural connection to have Talisman be our Resident Theater Company,” said State Theatre President Charles Haddad and Manager Shannon Anthony. “Plans are still being developed to fully explore what the connection of Talisman and The State Theatre will be as the State Theatre strives to be a community theater with the magic of live stage shows with a high artistic standard at affordable prices.”
The show continues Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. and Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. at The State Theatre in Boyertown. Tickets are $8 each and available at the box office or at www.boyertownstatetheatre.com. Each ticket purchase includes a Meet the Cast social event after the show.