What is an ACTORR Production?

      It all started in Mrs. Murphy's 4th grade class at Albert Schweitzer Elementary School in Levittown PA in 1964. I remember the day she announced that the class had come up ideas for a Christmas play that would illustrate the different Christmas traditions around the world. To my surprise, my idea was chosen. I was equally surprised that I would head a writing committee that would put dialog to my idea, "That Was the Night That Was", stolen from a TV show.

The idea was that Santa gets ill and his son, Willie Claus, has to deliver the presents. It's his first time out so he gets things mixed up. Pinatas go to Holland, wooden shoes go to Mexico, etc. Santa sends Willie out to set things straight, but the kids are already enjoying what they got and learning about other cultures. Seems I liked stories with a message even then. Being the tallest kid in class, I was cast as Santa Claus, a big step up from 3rd grade and the first play I was in: "Transportation" (I played a canoe).

The 5th grade music teacher had me singing my first solo in front of the whole school, "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal." In 6th grade, in Mr. Whaling's "Rapid Learners" class, we presented the rather adult Noel Coward comedy, "Blythe Spirit," for which I designed and helped build the set.

In 7th grade Junior High, Mr. Wolfe recruited me for chorus, and made me the lead in the musical, "Where is the Mayor?," a big honor that usually went to a 9th grader. That summer, Mr. Wolfe suggested that I take the "Summer Stock" course at the High School. He explained that it was 2 months of courses on acting, singing, dancing, and stagecraft, and the rehearsal and presentation of a musical, and that I’d learning from a great teacher, Mr. Ted Kloos. The show was "Annie Get Your Gun" and I landed a supporting role with a song, against older competition. I never attributed it to talent, guys being in short supply, I figured I was already as tall as the high school guys.

Peer pressure is a powerful thing, however, and you can imagine how the guys on the basketball team made me feel about “play practice.” I grew up in a sports family, and they didn’t quite understand my desire to sing and dance either, so by 9th grade I was ready to give up on it, but Mr. Kloos never gave up on me. He asked me to help him with the lighting and scenery painting. I could do that after basketball practice, so soon I was at school in the evenings helping Ted hang lights from the ceiling and learning the switches and huge levers on the old-timey lighting panel.

By my junior year at Neshaminy High, it was obvious that I was too thin and gawky for sports, and that it was theatre and Ted Kloos’ Concert Choir that I really loved. Seeing my name posted as “Cornelius Hackl” after the auditions for “Hello Dolly!” changed my life. I can still remember the curtain coming down and our cast of 60+ cheering and hugging.

Performing was it for me now, but I also continued to help backstage with scene painting etc. Senior year my friend, John Moss, and I wanted to write a one-act musical about Sherlock Holmes for the school Arts Festival, truly an ambitious undertaking. We had the first scene done and even lyrics to the first song when we realized we would never finish in time. Someone suggested we do the first act of the musical “The Apple Tree” called “The Diary of Adam and Eve” from a story by Mark Twain. I ended up asking Jodi Gurwood, who had played Dolly, to be Eve. I played Adam and John played the Snake. We performed it every period for a whole day, as a staged reading in the music room, with most of the school seeing it. It was the hit of the festival with many moved to tears at the end.

Continued Soon....

ACTORR Productions 2021