Category Archives: All Blog Entries

Once on this Island: May Update

Dear Friends,

I thought things would be quiet once Once on this Island was cast (by the way, the cast is fantastic), but I was sorely mistaken! So much to do! We’re still talking to a few new team members and making arrangements for our first meeting, and ticketing! A whole new ticketing system! So, that’s pretty exciting.

For our past three productions, we’ve worked with the Box Office staff at the Arsenal Center for the Arts/New Rep, which has been really great. Honestly, they’re such great folks, and you couldn’t ask for more conscientious and thoughtful customer service. However, the unfortunate truth is that their ticketing system is expensive to run; so, that’s forced us to make a change for this season. Our new Box Office services provider is Brown Paper Tickets, which is a relatively new-to-the-scene player in the ticketing industry, but their business model is fantastic. They’re calling themselves the “Fair Trade” ticketing company, and part of their profits go towards various causes and charities (you get to pick which when you purchase your tickets). So, this is very exciting to us as it’s another way for us to fulfill our mission of reaching out to other communities and supporting them.

In addition, changing ticketing providers “de-couples” us from New Rep and the Arsenal Center, and opens up the possibility that we might be able to perform in other venues in the future. Not that we don’t love New Rep and the ACA, but unfortunately a lot of people tend to get us confused. This will help clear that up. For example, we often hear of people talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the “New Rep” – which is very confusing, since New Rep is a theater company, not a venue, and wasn’t actually directly involved in the show. (If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you already know that we’re Blue Spruce Theatre, and not New Rep, nor the Arsenal Center. If this is all still confusing, email me and I’ll help straighten it out.)

In other news, the cast for Once on this Island is fantastic! (Did I already mention that?) We’ve listed everyone on the front page of the website, so I won’t bother listing them again here. In the future I will probably reserve blog entries for more thoughtful, reflective notes, rather than press releases and so forth. I’m hoping to start posting some fun production photos and stuff as well.

I’ve tried on several occasions to install the ability to leave comments on blog entries; I may be upgrading the website in the near future which will allow you to leave feedback. Until then, if you do want to say something, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you might want me to write about, or who else you might want to hear from in the future; so for the moment, please just email me and let me know your thoughts.

Meantime, none of us can wait to get started on the show, but we’ll just have to enjoy the summer first! What a shame.

All the best,
Jesse Strachman

What a ride! 2010 IRNE post-mortem

Dear friends,

Wow, last night was a lot of fun! The IRNE (Independent Reviewers of New England) Award ceremony was last night, and Blue Spruce was in attendance to cheer Danny Bryck on for his nomination for Best Actor in a Musical (Small Theater).

A good portion of the Hedwig team was able to reconnect and hang out, and we all got to cheer on our (other) favorites in the New England theater scene. I was particularly glad to see that some relatively far-flung theaters had been recognized. The IRNE folks do tend to gravitate primarily to groups in the Boston area, but there were many nominations for a group in Connecticut (Hartford Stage), and another nomination for a notable production company up in Maine (Ogunquit). It’s exciting to see that vibrant theater is still alive and kicking far outside the urban centers of New England.

So, we didn’t win the award, but we were thrilled to be there and be part of the celebration of area theater companies. Onward and upward, and looking forward to 2010! Auditions for Once on this Island are filling up!

Jesse Strachman

Auditions for Once on this Island and other news

Dear friends,

As most of you have probably already noticed (it’s right on the front page of the website), we’re holding auditions for our next production, Once on this Island. What a fantastic show this is. If you don’t already know, it’s a story of love, loss, divine intervention, culture, dance, and ultimately, a story about stories. It’s a fascinating blend of Calypso and Broadway Pop with lots of great opportunities for performers of all types. It’s also going to be our most challenging show to date; with a cast of roughly 11 (and those of you who know how small the Arsenal Center Black Box is know how interesting that’s going to be), and very a challenging costuming concept (I don’t want to give it away just yet), this is a stretch for any small theater company.

So, we’re really excited to be taking our company to the next level in terms of bringing in larger numbers of people. That being said, right now Blue Spruce Theatre is made up of a very small core group of brilliant individuals, but we’re going to need a lot more hands involved in this production than we have had in the past. So, if you are interested in volunteering, please email me and we will almost certainly find something with which you can help.

So far, we’re about 1/3 full for the audition signups; we still have a month to go, so I would expect that we are going to be full up by the time we get to May. So, please sign up early!

In other news, we had a bit of flooding in our storage space (yes, it’s my basement) and we thought that we had lost the PA system that we used for last season’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. After a couple of weeks, we let everything dry out, and even though the PA system had been under about 4 inches of water, it seems to be working fine! So, that’s a bit of a miracle. Perhaps it has something to do with the gods? Hmmmm….

Anyway, I’d like to thank you all for reading, and be sure to keep in touch. We’re now a bit more actively promoting activities on Facebook and Twitter, so you can find us there if you’d like.

All the best,
Jesse Strachman

IRNE Nomination and Let’s Duet!

Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you know about two very exciting upcoming events for Blue Spruce! First, this Monday, March 22, Blue Spruce Theatre joins the rest of the Boston Theater Community in presenting “Let’s Duet for Haiti” at the Boston Center for the Arts, Calderwood Pavilion. Tickets are $29 (includes fees) and $25 is tax-deductible (to extent allowed by law – our lawyers made us put that). The list of performers is mind-boggling; if you miss this, you have missed the Boston event of a lifetime. Unless we do something similar next year. I don’t know. But it’s a can’t-miss event, and we’re co-sponsoring it, so we’re psyched and it’s for a great cause; all the proceeds (the $25 per ticket) go directly to Doctors Without Borders, which is providing essential and timely emergency services even now in Haiti as we speak.

Let's Duet for Haiti logo

So, be there. This Monday night at the BCA. Click the logo for tickets.

And in other news, if you haven’t noticed on the front page of our website recently, Blue Spruce Theatre garnered its first IRNE nomination ever: Danny Bryck was nominated as Best Actor in a Musical (Small Theatre) for Hedwig and the Angry Inch! We’re all proud of Danny and will be cheering for him at the IRNE Awards ceremony, Monday, April 19, 2010, at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama.

Danny Bryck as Hedwig


More to come soon! Big announcements after the Duet event. Please join us!

Best regards,
Jesse Strachman

Blue Spruce Theatre “Comes Out” in Support of LGBTQ Equality with November Production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch LogoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Media Contact: Jesse Strachman
Press: 978-667-0512
Box Office: 617-923-8487

Blue Spruce Theatre Logo


Blue Spruce Theatre Presents:

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Text by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Kevin Mark Kline

November 12-22, 2009
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Black Box
321 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA 02472

Blue Spruce Theatre “Comes Out” in Support of LGBTQ Equality with
November Production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Blue Spruce Theatre announces a strong new interpretation of its mission statement with a focus on rights for all, especially those who are marginalized.  According to Jesse Strachman, the Producing Artistic Director, a concurrence of events has made it clear to the group that the time has come for them to take a stand, here and now, for what they believe in. This has prompted Blue Spruce to “come out” for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) Equality.  Not surprisingly, they plan to do so by using their voice: the voice of the theatre.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch uses rock music and monologues to tell the captivating story of German immigrant Hedwig (nee Hansel), a male-to-female transgender punk rock star who finds love and loss in the U.S.  Audiences the world over have connected with this iconic character and her search for acceptance in a world that refuses to let people celebrate who they truly are.

“This choice was not an accident,” says Strachman of the decision to produce the punk-rock musical this season. “I wanted to tell stories of connection: of how we connect and fail to connect as men, as women, and as those who don’t conform to either of those norms.  To honor our beliefs, this season is being dedicated to GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders), who are working tirelessly to build awareness about the issues surrounding transgender and genderqueer rights.”

In this important year for gay and lesbian marriage rights, there is a growing concern that the fight for transgender rights is being marginalized due to the increased exposure and successes of the gay rights movement. Many fear that the movement runs the risk of gaining ground, but leaving some behind. Blue Spruce Theatre, while not dedicated to any particular cause or group, believes that supporting and celebrating equality is an essential way to help people connect with each other. In the future, they plan to show their support for certain groups and causes; therefore, this bold clarification of their mission is an important step for the ambitious new theater company.

The Blue Spruce production team for Hedwig has been overwhelmingly supportive of this “coming out.” Graphic artist Kristin Boucher said, “I think it’s wonderful that Blue Spruce Theatre is aligning itself with GLBT rights. As the daughter of a lesbian, gay rights are of great importance to me. I’m overjoyed that you’re standing up for the cause.” Danny Bryck, the Boston-area actor who will be playing the title role in the upcoming production, adds, “I am very proud to be working with Blue Spruce Theatre this season, and to be a part of a theatre community that acts on its beliefs. Therefore, I would like to join in Blue Spruce Theatre’s dedication of their season by personally dedicating my performance to GLAD, and to every person who fights a daily battle just to be themselves and live their lives with dignity and without fear.”

Blue Spruce Theatre invites you to join them at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in November for the telling of this dramatic story, and thanks you as always for your support.

For more information about Blue Spruce Theatre, visit them online at
or email them at

For more information about GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders), visit 


Blue Spruce Theatre was created in September of 2006 to bring high-quality, intimate musical theatre to audiences outside of Boston. Our mission is to produce works that connect us to each other as people, giving us a better understanding of who we are, where we came from, and where we are headed.

Lessons Learned

Hi everyone,

Portraits: The Last Leaf / Still Life is done, probably never to be seen again. I loved this show. The cast routinely brought me to tears on a nightly basis when I was able to watch the show. Thanks to Rachel Baum for her enthusiasm and her patience (we subjected her to a 2-hour photo shoot to create the show’s logo, which came out beautifully). Thanks to Lisa Korak, for her energy and professionalism and constant feedback. Thanks to Dorothy Ahle, who brought the perfect blend of bravado, maturity and grace to both of her characters. And thanks to Peyton Pugmire, who stepped in at the very last minute and was able to portray The Doctor beautifully and sympathetically. My thanks to them all for telling these beautiful stories night after night for us.

Now that Portraits: The Last Leaf / Still Life is sadly behind us, this is a good time to reflect on the lessons learned from producing this beautiful show.

Lesson #1: You cannot produce shows in a vacuum.

There is no theater company that can survive without the other companies around it. Thanks to the Publick, Concord Players, Turtle Lane Playhouse, New Rep, and the Arsenal Center for their support in making Portraits possible.

Lesson #2: Producing new works is risky even if the rewards are great.

Portraits won great critical acclaim, but unfortunately due to various reasons, attendance was, to put it politely, “light.” In a down economy, audiences are much less likely to take chances on new companies producing new works. They would (understandably) rather go to see Spamalot on tour – a so-called “sure thing” – than invest $50-$60 on an edgy “new work.” What does that mean? That says to me that it’s more important than ever to keep supporting new works and new theater companies. Emerging companies like F.U.D.G.E., Whistler in the Dark, Loki Arts, etc. all need your support now more than ever. If you want to see small theater survive, it’s now or never.

Lesson #3: There is always a solution.

Portraits: The Last Leaf / Still Life, from a production standpoint, was the most challenging show in which I have ever been involved. It all seems so simple when you’re watching it, but seemingly simple things – like how to attach a curtain to a foam brick wall – become magnified when you’re rushing to get things done. There were times when Portraits seemed like it would be an impossible show to produce; due to completely unanticipated and understandable reasons, we ended up having two of the roles re-cast (one at the very last minute), we had orchestra members who had to cancel – hours before showtime – causing last-minute telephone frenzies to find replacements, and an extremely tight rehearsal schedule, all of which made for a very challenging environment in which to work. (Did I mention that it was challenging?)

However, I think there is no denying that the end result was fantastic. All of the problems were solved, just in time, and therefore it gives credence to the old theatrical saying, “It’ll always come together.” This is a testament to the hard work of our production crew, and I owe them all thanks: Nathan Lofton, for getting (and keeping) the orchestra together; Joe Delgado, who reworked much of the orchestrations for Still Life at the last minute; Shannon Gmyrek, who gathered all of our beautiful costumes and kept them in good repair; Dahlia Al-Habieli, who put up with my endless requests for changes to the set design; Margaret “Maggie” Kayes, who somehow managed to find a way to transform the entire set between acts without rushing, panicking, or making any mistakes; our house management team, Louis and Louise James and Anika Bachhuber, who kept our patrons comfortable and made it possible for me and my co-producer to stay free to take care of anything that might be falling apart at any given moment; and last but not least, my wife and co-producer PJ Strachman, who created the beautiful lighting for the show, shopped for props, helped build the set, and did pretty much anything else she could think of to keep the show going strong.

Lesson #4: When people tell you something is impossible, you’re probably on the right track.

There were three things I was told not to do – by many people – and I think they all came out beautifully.

Number one: Don’t do a show that requires a harpist. They’re too expensive and too hard to find.

I loved the harp in this show. It wouldn’t have been the same without it, and synthesized harp just doesn’t have the same visual and atmospheric appeal. I am grateful to the harpists that played for us – and the entire orchestra – for their participation in this endeavor.

Number two: You won’t find someone to play Mr. Behrman/Helen.

One of the challenges of this show was to find a woman – or a man – who could play a man in the first act, and sing in a man’s range, and then play a woman in the second act, and sing alto. Enter the incomparable Dorothy Ahle. Interestingly, this role was the easiest to cast of all four.

Number three: Don’t do original orchestrations.

Original orchestrations can be sticky business in certain circumstances. However, Jenny Giering and Joe Delgado were very flexible in how they were able to work together on this, and the outcome was brilliant. My thanks to them, and to Nathan Lofton who worked with them on this, to bring this dream to fruition.

In all, I consider Portraits: The Last Leaf / Still Life an enormous success. My hope is that some day we can see this work again, perhaps under better economic circumstances, so that more people get to enjoy these stories – because they need to be told. I hope that those of you who have seen these stories are inspired by them, and continue to work to create and support art, and continue to celebrate love and life. My final comment to my readers is this: What would you to give up, in order to give? Art is a gift, not just to an individual, but to the ages. To paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, the two things that we leave to future generations are children and art. The importance of both of these things cannot be underestimated. Art allows us to communicate with future generations. We look back on history through art. What would the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks be to us without their statues, architecture, and paintings? How could we understand history without music and poetry? We must create art, as that is our legacy – the only thing that allows us to survive beyond our mortality, besides the influence we leave with our children. Please, consider what it is you would give up, in order to create and support art.

Thanks to all,
Jesse Strachman
Producing Artistic Director
Blue Spruce Theatre

Graphics Design and Cabaret

Portraits Poster

Rachel Baum as both “Johnsy” (left) and “Honey” (right)

In the previous blog entry, I said we were working on a special photo shoot. This is the result. I am quite pleased with it. I will be putting a higher-quality version of this poster in the press section in the near future. Rachel Baum (featured in this photo composition) was a real trooper as we spent almost two hours posting and re-posing her in different costumes, behind the frame, in front of the frame, etc. I’d like to thank Anika Bachhuber, who took the photos, and thanks to Louis and Louise James and PJ Strachman (my lovely wife) who all helped set up the shot and did a lot of the legwork to make this possible. Thanks to Shannon Gmyrek who helped decide what the costumes would look like. Also thanks to Robin, Annita and Richard at Turtle Lane Playhouse; Richard was kind enough to costume our Johnsy for the “painting” part of this photo shoot.

One of the challenges I had was to take this photo and integrate the cabaret in with the poster. In the end I had to make the poster extra long; it is no longer a standard size. This means it’s going to be smaller and more expensive to print. I still think it came out great and I’m very proud of this, and of everyone involved. Now we just need to get people to come see the show!

I’ve been sending out press releases and calling newspapers, but I’ve had a hard time getting people who were available to talk about the show. Obviously everyone is really busy, but I’m trying to get the word out as this is going to be a really special production and I don’t want people to miss it. So, if you know anyone in the press, please let me know and I’ll send you a press packet to send to them, or once I have it on the website they can just pull it from there.

Please, please keep up the word of mouth! Blue Spruce Theatre’s success depends on you. Oh, and just to start the buzz going, we’ve picked a show for ’09. I think you’re gonna like it. More next time.

Take care,

Quick Update – 9/12/08

A quick update:

We’re doing a very special photo shoot this weekend to attempt to create a new publicity logo that will be used for posters and postcards and the like. It will involve a bit of tricky post-processing. Should be interesting. I’ve also sent out a press release to a couple of papers in the hopes that we can get someone to run a nice article, or at least come review this show. If anyone happens to know anyone in the press who might be interested in running something, please let me know. I do have a nice press contact list, but as many of you may already know, it’s hard to get people to pay attention to you when you’re just starting out. So, at the very least, please help out by actively spreading the word about this very special show.

I’d like to thank Turtle Lane Playhouse for their assistance with the photo shoot, and also for their support in the past. Falsettos is opening this weekend; I’m planning on getting down there to see it in the near future, and I hope you’ll do the same.

Thanks once again for your continued interest and support, and we hope to see you at the show this November at the Arsenal Center!


Auditions and Other Fine Things

It’s been a really long time since I took the time to sit down and write anything. For those of you who have been watching, I apologize; naturally I’ve been focused more on getting the logistics involved in getting Portraits: The Last Leaf / Still Life on its feet than communicating. For that, I am deeply sorry. However! I do have a number of important announcements, other than the obvious one – audition dates have been set.

First of all, I’d like to introduce the production team we have so far. I’m very excited about this because of the talent we have on board. I really think this show is going to be great. So, here goes, in no particular order:

  • Directing: me.
  • Music Direction: Nathan Lofton
  • Lighting Design: PJ Strachman (
  • Scenic Design: Dahlia Al-Habieli
  • Costume Design: Shannon Gmyrek (returning after doing a stellar job for The Last Five Years)
  • House Management: Anika Bachhuber (who did a phenomenal job as our Stage Manager for The Last Five Years)
  • Additional Orchestration by: Joe Delgado

I’d also like to send out some thanks to Nick Brown who found Nathan for us, thanks to Martin Holbrook at the Arsenal Center for making it possible for us to perform there, and Harriet Sheets for helping coordinate things for the Arsenal Center earlier this year. Additional thanks go to Jenny Giering who has been extremely cooperative in helping us produce her music for Still Life.

One position we are still looking to fill is that of the Stage Manager. If you are interested in perhaps coming on board, please email me at , preferably with a resume attached, and I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

I spoke with a marketing professional earlier this year who told me that I should come up with a new logo for the show. Therefore, once the show is cast, we’re going to do a little photography and see if we can come up with something a little more compelling. Stay tuned! Much more to come.

All the best,
Jesse Strachman

Announcing The Last Leaf / Still Life

I’m finally comfortable enough with the current set of arrangements that I’m announcing our next show! We still have a number of details to finalize, but assuming nothing falls through, Blue Spruce Theatre will be producing Peter Ekstrom’s The Last Leaf and David Javerbaum & Jenny Giering’s Still Life in our return to the Arsenal Center. Show dates are tentatively November 6-23. Very exciting news indeed!

The Last Leaf is based on the famous O’Henry short story, and it tells the story of Sue and Johnsy (a pair of artists sharing an apartment and art studio), and their neighbor Mr. Behrman. Johnsy falls ill and is determined that she will die when the last leaf on the vine outside her window falls. If all goes according to plan, we will be performing with the full orchestration; however, that may depend on a number of factors, so I can’t make any promises. The original recording is somewhat hard to find, but it looks like you can buy it from

Some of you may remember Still Life from the EMACT festival in 1996. I saw it twice as part of the festival, and the music stuck with me even to this day. It’s a simple enough story: Honey, a photography student, is leaving home for college at the same time that her grandmother Helen (a painter) is moving out and going into a rest home. Honey’s mother Sarah (also a painter) is caught in the middle, trying to cope with the changes all at once. I’m still working out the details of how to get the performance rights to this gem of a piece, but I think it will make a fine companion piece for The Last Leaf. The soundtrack is not available, but you can check out composer and local favorite Jenny Giering’s solo projects on her website.

There are still openings available for our production team, so please drop me a line if you are interested in helping out. Some positions will have a stipend attached. Email for information.

All the best,