By George Basler
Half Light Theatre, a new Binghamton-based theater company, is planning to mark its first anniversary with a special evening this coming weekend.
On Friday (July 27), the company will take over the grand mansion foyer of the Roberson Museum and Science Center for a gala fund-raising event that will begin with wine sampling and hors d’oeuvres at 6:30 p.m. followed by a performance of Terrence McNally’s play Master Class at 7:30 p.m.
One participant in the production will be Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan, who will be making his acting debut in the small role of a stagehand. Ryan took on the role at the request of Tim Mollen, Half Light’s artistic director.
The play stars former Tri-Cities Opera singer Andrea Gregori, who is reprising the role of opera legend Maria Callas. Gregori’s performance was highly praised when she first gave for the Ti-Ahwaga Community Players in Owego in 2011, Mollen said.
Mollen said he asked Gregori to appear at the benefit after hearing that she was performing the role again this past weekend at the Casino Theatre in Providence. R.I. After being asked, Gregori, and other cast members, agreed to add the Binghamton performance. “Basically, the production was handed to us,” Mollen said.
Gregori, who has sung with opera companies and at festivals across the country, plays Callas at the end of her career. The opera legend achieved renowned in the 1950s and 1960s not only for her vocal skills, but also for her colorful life off stage that included feuds with fellow performers and her years as the mistress of Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who later married Jacqueline Kennedy.
McNally’s play centers on classes that Callas gave at Julliard in the 1970s that, by all accounts, could be brutally critical. During Master Class, Callas also recalls her life and career. The production at Roberson, directed by James Osborne, also stars Joe Brainard, Kathleen Jasinskas, Jana Kucera and pianist Margaret “Pej” Reitz.
Mollen said Gregori asked him to play the stagehand, but he had the idea to cast Mayor Ryan instead as an attention getter. Ryan looked at his schedule and agreed. Mollen thinks the mayor said “yes” because he is a big supporter of the arts in Binghamton. Half Light is one of two professional acting companies in the city. The other is the Know Theatre.
Tickets are $40 in advance, and $45 the night of the performance, according to Half Light’s website. About half of the 100 available tickets had been sold as of Sunday (July 22).
Part of the money raised at the benefit will help bankroll Half Light’s production of the Broadway show Dracula, The Musical, planned for November, Mollen said. The production is the most expensive one that Half Light has mounted in terms of costumes and sets, not to mention acquiring the rights.
Friday’s benefit will be a opportunity to have a “classy, dressy night out in Binghamton,” Mollen said.
Roberson is located at 30 Front St. in Binghamton. To order tickets, go to www.roberson.org or call Roberson at 772-0660.