The perilous journey.


As family lore has it, my grandmother Margaret couldn’t get on the boat fast enough to make the journey from Ireland to the United States. Though she boarded a ship with a better fate than that of the Titanic, I can hear her excitement and her hopes echoed in many of the aspirations expressed by the third-class passengers on the our ship of dreams.

The Irish Immigrant has become a cliché in New England, and we laugh and joke about our ancestry because we know that for the most part, the Irish have thrived in America. Because of this triumph it’s easy to forget that many of the waves of immigrants who swamped the shores of the East Coast in the late 19th-and early 20th-centuries were fleeing poverty, hunger and lack of social mobility. Such conditions in their countries of origin left them vulnerable and without resources. They were often powerless when they got to America, and had to be industrious and lucky to build lives for themselves.

Not long ago at all a boat filled with similar strivers from another part of the world capsized off the coast of Libya, and hundreds perished, some locked in the hold by those whom they had paid to transport them to a better life in Europe. Hearing that awful news it was hard not to think of those third-class passengers on the Titanic who were similarly trapped as the ship went down.

It’s heartbreaking to recognize that such stories of desperation and danger are timeless and still with us today. Will we ever live in a world that doesn’t include such tragedies? And for those of us who are among the more privileged classes (a status that is made very clear onstage in Titanic), what does it mean to not have the same struggles and peril that some endure?

All of us are on a journey, some more fraught than others. We flee the things that haunt us and we dream of brighter futures. Come journey and dream with us when Titanic opens on May 8.

Margaret Felice is a singer, religion teacher, choral conductor, and blogger who lives in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Her music and writing are found at her website, or you can catch her on Facebook or Twitter. She plays Alice Beane in Titanic and won’t tell anyone whether she survives until they see the show.


When does “Too Soon” become “Enough Time”?


With the passage of time, a tragic event becomes a historic event. Emotion detaches, and all that is left is a body of facts.

I was struck with this thought a few weeks ago, on Wednesday, April 15th. On that date, I realized that the sinking of the Titanic shares an anniversary with the Boston Marathon Bombing.Take a moment to consider that, and compare how you think about the two events.

Here’s what comes to mind when I think about the Boston Marathon Bombing:

– My SHOCK when I first heard the news on the radio (I was in my car, driving back from New York).
– My FEAR as I called my boyfriend, who was spending the day blocks away from the finish line.
– My RELIEF when I found out that he was okay, and was heading back to the train station.
– My SADNESS when I learned that 3 people (eventually 4) had died, and dozens of people had been injured.
– My ANXIETY when transit was shut down the next day, as the police searched for the culprits.
– My HOPE as Boston joined together, to assist and support the survivors, and pay tribute to the victims.

Now, here’s what comes to mind when I think of the sinking of the Titanic:

– Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Celine Dion.
– The iconic image of the ship going down, with only half of the body visible.

Apparently, I’m not alone. I searched Google Images with the keyword “Titanic,” and here are two of the top search results:

Titanic 2Titanic 1

In addition, there are many images of Titanic-themed products:

themed productsthemed products 2

themed products 3themed products 4

Back in 2013, there was a news story about a young woman in Colorado who had dressed as a “Boston Marathon Survivor” for Halloween. After posting a picture to Twitter, she received death threats, had her identity tracked down, and was ultimately fired from her job. Her actions were EXTREMELY distasteful, I agree. But it made me wonder, would there be any consequence to dressing as a Titanic Survivor? How would people react? With a slight groan, an ironic “too soon” comment, maybe even a giggle?

All in all, I wonder – when does “too soon” turn into “enough time?” At what point do we, as a society, forget the emotion and human loss that was involved in a tragedy?

When the Titanic went down, 1,517 people died. Among the victims were many influential people; the celebrities of the time –the co-owner of Macy’s (Isador Straus), the VP of the Pennsylvania Railroad (John Thayer), and American millionaires (Benjamin Guggenheim & John Jacob Astor IV), to name a few. People all over the world were affected by these losses.

And as for the survivors, there were 711 of them. Many of these individuals suffered from post-traumatic stress for the rest of their lives.

As an actor in Titanic the Musical, I (along with many of my cast mates) have the unique opportunity to portray a real person. I play Madame Leotine Pauline Aubart, a first-class passenger who survived aboard Lifeboat 9. During rehearsal, I have been trying to view the tragedy through her eyes:

– Her SHOCK when she first finds out that the Titanic is sinking.
– Her FEAR as she is escorted to the life boats.
– Her RELIEF when she gets a spot on Lifeboat 9.
– Her SADNESS as she is separated from her lover (Benjamin Guggenheim), knowing that he is probably going to drown.
– Her ANXIETY while she waits in the lifeboat, in the middle of the dark and frigid ocean, for help to come.
– Her HOPE when the Carpathia arrives, to transport the survivors back to safety.

Now, when I think of the Titanic, I can conjure up these emotions; feelings that are familiar to all people, 103 years ago, and today.

I truly believe that Woodland’s production will remind audiences of the humanity that was aboard the Titanic on the day that it sank. And perhaps, people will realize that although we are separated from this incident by over 100 years, we are connected by the way that we react to, process, and ultimately, transcend a tragic event.

A new family aboard the Titanic


A new family aboard the Titanic

How long since we first met? Has it been three days or four? So sings Bandmaster Hartley during one of the numbers that the Titanic’s band performs. Later, his lyrics suggest Shall we all meet in the autumn? Shall we still be best of friends?, hinting that something as exciting as a sea voyage can inspire quick intimacies which don’t always endure.

One finds the same phenomenon in a theatrical production. Spending hours, days and weeks creating something together prompts friendships and even the occasional “showmance” between two actors. This occurs in even the lightest of productions, but the bond of a new community is especially strong when we are exploring some of the questions that working on Titanic inspires us to consider:

Who would we push into the lifeboat in front of us? Who are the people we wouldn’t get onto a lifeboat without? What would we do if we were left behind in the shadow of another’s sacrifice? How could we forgive ourselves, and whom would we need to forgive?

The intensity of these themes helps our community of actors and crew create something special both on and off stage. It is a credit to those assembled that we can ask ourselves such challenging questions and share those emotions through our art.

I’m sure as you watch the production you’ll notice these themes of community and family. People board the ship with their families and are soon wrapped up in the new family of their class on the boat, and later in the families of those who survive, and those who accompany each other through the sinking of the ship.

We want to welcome you into our family when Titanic opens in a few weeks. Please join us.

Margaret Felice is a singer, religion teacher, choral conductor, and blogger who lives in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Her music and writing are found at her website, or you can catch her on Facebook or Twitter. She plays Alice Beane in Titanic and won’t tell anyone whether she survives until they see the show.

First Time Journey!


Titanic is my first show with Woodland Theatre Company, and I feel I should start by saying I am exceedingly excited to be performing in this musical.

I didn’t have any expectations when I found out I was cast as Caroline Neville, a young British woman running away to America with her lover to get married. I had never seen the show or heard the score.

Little by little, during my research, listening repetitively to the music and the rehearsal process, I’ve fallen in love with the amazing score, the characters, and the story of Titanic told in this special way. Our director Doug Hodge is an impressive wealth of knowledge about the show, which would be expected, except that he can sing and recite by memory every line of it. He has a vision and is able to communicate it with us in an enthusiastic and effective way. And the caliber of acting and singing in this cast is shockingly high! Now I’m filled to the brim with positive expectations. This show is going to take people’s breath away. No pun intended.

The feeling of going back in time to replay this mysterious disaster is at once chilling and beautiful. Cast and crew were crying during the first rehearsal, so you know it’s going to be a powerful production. I’m telling you, it’s a must see. I can’t wait!

– Alyssa Marshall

A Titanic Journey


It’s the night before rehearsals are set to begin for Titanic and I can’t sleep. I feel like a little kid waiting up for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. In less than twenty-four hours, I’ll be meeting with some of my best friends to board the ship of dreams. Along the way, I know there will be a lot of hard work, but there will also be new friendships, strengthened relationships, laughs, late nights at Noon Hill, a few refreshing tears, and so much more. The cast and crew will unite on a journey toward what we hope will be Woodland’s most successful show yet.


As I lie in bed dreaming of the weeks to come, I can’t help but think that the people of the actual Titanic probably felt a similar way the night before their departure. Many of them, like my character of Kate Mullins, were dreaming of a better life in America, of a chance to create opportunities for themselves. Some were traveling overseas for the very first time. Some were visiting relatives. Many first class passengers were probably vacationing, and they were happy to show their power and prestige by securing a place on this particular ship. All of the passengers, including the crew, were boarding the Titanic for its maiden voyage, and they knew they were making history traveling on this ship of dreams. Boarding this vessel was a sign that they were among the lucky few who were able to arrange a ticket for passage. Their lives would be changed forever


            But not in the way they had hoped. The incredible feelings of excitement and anticipation as they boarded Titanic only made the end of their journey all the more sad. This past week in rehearsals, we blocked both the opening number and the scene in which we all try to board the last available lifeboat. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the emotion was palpable in the room for both pieces. In the beginning, the majesty of everything just swept us all away: the stunning music, the unbelievable talent in the room, the passion, the potential. Then, we experienced the stifling feeling of helplessness as we fought for a coveted seat in the lifeboat. Granted, the musical spells out very clearly who will live and who will die. But in the moment, I found myself not caring. As I ran around the stage fighting through the crowd, I thought to myself, “If I ca  n find a way, I am getting off this stage.” But no matter where I turned, there was another crew member to push me back, another passenger blocking my way trying to board the lifeboat themselves. I couldn’t help but get emotional when I thought about the fact that in real life aboard the Titanic, these people had everything to lose if they were unsuccessful in their attempts to find a spot in a lifeboat. Standing on the stage watching the last lifeboat “be lowered,” there are several moments of desperation that end in a frightening stillness. In those final moments, the distinctions of class go out the window, and the essence of humanity, of imminent death and unbearable sadness, shine through. This story is SO important, and I am grateful to be able to join this cast and creative team and tell the tale.


As actors, we have the all-important job of paying homage to the real people who lived and died on board the Titanic in 1912. It is certainly difficult to put ourselves in this precarious emotional position, but it pales in comparison to the horror that occurred the night of the sinking. My character is among a group of third class passengers that are locked below decks to keep order at the beginning. Not being able to board a lifeboat is one thing, but being denied the chance to even try is another thing altogether. To think that a higher ticket price lent itself to a longer life in many cases is more than one can bear. There is also a theme of relationships that pervades this story. When the ship was sinking, did you abandon your loved ones and focus on saving yourself? Did you give up your seat in the lifeboat to someone older or younger? Did you give preference to first class passengers over the few third class passengers that made it above deck? How do you look someone in the eye and essentially give them a death sentence?


These questions and so many more will be explored in Titanic: The Musical. We will be going on a journey through this process and relying on each other to help the vision for this show to be realized. You may not get to hear Celine Dion sing “My Heart Will Go On,” and the old lady may not drop the necklace into the ocean at the end. My apologies for the spoiler alerts. But I think you will be moved by the power of this story if you are brave enough to sit through it, and I know you will be glad you did. It will make you hug your loved ones a little closer and re-examine the things in life that are important. Come and see Titanic and watch our journey as a cast and crew come to fruition. I promise the performance won’t tank =)


What happens in costumes…..stays in costumes!

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting…my first ever blog entry!! 


My name is Mary Ann Hatem and I am both a member of the Les Miserable cast AND doing double duty as Costume Coordinator.  If you want to know what that means, I do whatever the Woodland Theatre Costume Designer tells me.  That may seem like a simple explanation to you but trust me, I’ve been working with Regina O’Connor for years and she is not afraid to ask you to do any kind of weird thing she can think of.  She is the person who taught me how to use soap to make a ‘bald cap’ and how to use styrofoam meat trays to make ‘shrinkydinks’.  I think she’d put everyone in a Project Runway alternative materials challenge to shame.   She is nothing short of a magician!

Anyway, I’m here to tell you what costuming an epic and iconic musical (i.e. Les Mis) is like.  Everyone here thinks that costuming 31 cast members in upwards of four costumes each is hard but I’ll tell you a little secret:  I also happen to be the adviser and director for the Medfield High School Theatre Society and a cast of 31 would be a dream sized cast for me!  In all seriousness though, I do not want to diminish in any way the amount of blood, sweat and tears put into what is easily the most beautiful costume plot, and probably the most complex one, I have ever had the honor to work on. 


First, the blood.  Here is a little secret.  Thirty one costumes = an infinitesimal amount of pins.  They bite.  Most of the costumes get blood on them.  Regina and I have always been of one mind:  this is good luck.   Chocolate on a costume is not good luck.  If anyone brings chocolate into a costume area it is immediately confiscated.  I am not afraid to let Regina know that there has been a chocolate offender spotted.  We eat it later just to make sure there is no further chance of it getting on anything.

The sweat.  We are so lucky to have a great warehouse to work in.  The space includes both of our own sewing machines, a serger, cutting and ironing tables, two sewing mannequins named Tallulah and Little Edie.  It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  We get there when it’s light out and usually leave in the dark!  We’ve solved most of the world’s problems right there at that cutting table. 


As you can imagine, spending so much time in one space together has led to a lot of laughter and tears.  (Tears…get it?  Fabric?)  One of Regina’s favorite things is when I hum.  I hum a lot.  I don’t even know I’m doing it.  One of her other favorite things is when I say ‘so….’ And then follow it up with a laugh and say ‘ha, ha.  Sew.”  I know she thinks I’m really hilarious even if she doesn’t say so.  The tears mostly come when we get a burn from the super hot iron, or the sewing machines jam, break needles, run out of thread, etc.  Or when we sew things together backwards or upside down.  Or when cast comes in for fittings and the pants have droopy crotches or the sleeves are too short on a blouse we’ve counted on using.  And you thought those things only happened on Project Runway.  When all that happens we know it’s dark out and time to go home. 

All in all, I’ve been very excited to go to work at the Warehouse and help create all these marvelous garments.  We are very luck to have an Artistic Director, Doug Hodge, who has a great appreciation for the importance of beautiful costuming.  Every pair of the 2000 (estimate) pants you see on stage have been built from scratch.  Every gown has been lovingly pieced together precisely for our cast members.  Each costume has been researched and color coordinated with each unique character in mind.  There is no end to the amount of detail, thought and love put into every costume.  Take a moment when you come to see the show to really see the costumes.  We invite you to take a long hard look at them!  Whether they are on a ‘Lovely Lady’ or the ‘Master of the House’, every one of them is a work of art in itself. 

In closing, I will just leave you with this thought.  You know all the times you’ve said to yourself ‘I really wanted to see that show but I didn’t get my tickets in time’?  Well… “The time is now, the day is here!!”  Don’t wait until this show is sold out because you want to be able to say ‘I saw that show and it was GREAT!’

Reflections on a Father-Daughter Bond: From the Backyard to Backstage !

Image“Rob, I’m taking Benjamin to hockey at 11:30 then picking up Charlotte at lacrosse at 1:30, so would you please drop-off Robert at baseball in Wayland at 12, pickup Katherine and Elizabeth at dance in Newton at 12:30, then bring Elizabeth to an audition in Sherborn at 1:00?”

I was just following transportation instructions from my wife, Meg, when I arrived at the church in Sherborn where auditions were being held for Woodland Theatre Company’s production of The Sound of Music. And while filling out the audition form for my daughter, Elizabeth (8 years old, and the third of five children in our family), a little voice in my head said, “Hey, Rob, why don’t you audition? You love singing and acting, you love this musical, if Elizabeth gets a role then you’re going to be making the daily drive to Medfield anyway …. what do you have to lose?” So I listened to that little voice, and right after Elizabeth auditioned, it was my turn.

And that’s how it worked out that Elizabeth and I became a daughter-father duo in the cast of The Sound of Music this spring. And while I know it’s a cliché, it’s certainly accurate to call the last two months a “once in a lifetime experience” for me.

Elizabeth got a lead role. She plays Gretl, the youngest member of the Von Trapp family. And me? I play the role of Franz, the butler. Think about how cool that is: we both auditioned for a musical, we both got roles, and it’s the EIGHT YEAR- OLD who got a lead role and the MUSICALLY EXPERIENCED DAD who got a small, supporting role.

Sometimes I wonder, what did Elizabeth learn from this remarkable audition outcome? Here are my guesses: 1) It’s OK to take risks, to be spontaneous, and to “go for it.” 2) I always thought my dad was so talented, and maybe I’m even more talented than he is!  3) My dad must really love me a lot since he was willing to audition for a musical just to create a way to spend more time with me! And 4) Since my dad was so excited about being offered a small role in the show, perhaps it’s not the size of the role that’s most important, it’s the idea that any role gives you an opportunity to be a member of the cast and to be part of something magical.

I know Elizabeth has loved being part of this production. All seven of the actors and actresses who play the Von Trapp children have bonded just like real brothers and sisters. I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, since they spend so much time together, have similar interests and abilities, make similar personal sacrifices to be part of this hard-working cast, and are close to the same age. They joke around off-stage, laugh constantly, hug and high-five each other, and are always happy to be reunited with one another at the start of another long rehearsal. They were meant to be together!


Likewise, the adult actors and backstage crew are like aunts and uncles to Elizabeth and the other kids in the cast. They’re always complimenting the young actors and actresses on their acting, singing, and hard work; they help them with their costume changes, and they laugh together whenever they’re not practicing a scene. It’s been wonderful to watch Elizabeth (and all of the other child actors) become part of an authentic “second family” at Woodland Theatre Company — and for me, it’s a been a pleasure to participate fully in this family, as well.

 First and foremost, my parental joy as a cast member has come from just spending large blocks of time with Elizabeth, both at the rehearsals and on the long car rides there and back. But beyond that, I have been privileged to watch Elizabeth grow as a little professional in the theater biz under the expert tutelage of artistic director Doug Hodge and musical director Chris Holownia.

No, she doesn’t get paid for her acting, but everything about Elizabeth’s approach to the show has been 100% professional: The way she took personal responsibility to memorize all of her songs and lines early on; her enthusiasm for going to every rehearsal, even when she was exhausted and the rehearsals were scheduled to go well beyond her bedtime; her high energy level during long rehearsals that required several consecutive hours of high intensity dancing, acting, focusing, and listening; her appreciation for and collaboration with her acting peers in the show; her willingness to receive feedback about how to improve her performance; and the list goes on and on.

It’s important to say this: everything I wrote in the above paragraph about my daughter, Elizabeth, is also true about all of the Von Trapp Family children. Julesy (Liesl), Brooks (Friedrich), Chloe (Louisa), Tyler (Kurt), Anika (Brigitta), and Katherine (Marta) all approached their roles as true professionals and, as a result, were accorded the same respect as the adult actors in the play. Frankly, I think all of the adults in the show, to some degree, stopped seeing these talented, hardworking children as children and started to see them simply as thespian peers. But they are children (all ages 8 to 14), which makes their accomplishments in this production all the more amazing.

I tell Elizabeth at least once a day, “I’ll always remember this, my girl! I’ll always remember the happy times we shared as fellow cast members in the greatest family musical of all time.”

Something tells me she will, too.


                                         – Rob Crawford