May 19–28, 2017

2017 SEASON

. . . a powerhouse piece of theatre that needs no more than a few chairs and talented performers

ABOUT VIOLET

Winner of the Drama Critics' Circle Award, and Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997, and then on to a Tony nominated Broadway debut in 2014 with a revised version, Violet is a moving musical featuring show-stopping anthems ranging from American-roots to folk to gospel. With a score from Tony-winning composer, Jeanine Tesori (Caroline Or Change, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek, Fun Home) and book and lyrics by the acclaimed Brian Crawley (A Little Princess), Violet is inspired by the short story, The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts, astounding critics and audiences alike in two separate decades.

In 1964, Violet is traveling across the Deep South towards a miracle — the healing touch of a TV evangelist that will make her beautiful. Though she may not succeed in being healed, Violet is able to repair the ills that are lying deeper than her skin; and on the way, meets a young, African-American Soldier whose love for her reaches far past her physical "imperfections".

Violet is a powerhouse piece of theatre that needs no more than a few chairs and talented performers to take an audience's breath away. It is a must for companies dedicated to depicting moving stories on their stage.

NEWS & REVIEWS

CAST

Violet
Flick
Monty
Father
Old Woman
Preacher
Billy Dean
Lula
Young Violet
Virgil
Leroy
Music Hall Singer
Show More

Violet . . . Front Porch has managed to summon the perfect person for every role

Pittsburgh City Paper, Ted Hoover

May 24, 2017

There’s no other way to say this: Front Porch Theatricals’ production of Violet is one of the most magnificent evenings I’ve ever spent inside a theater.

The show, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, first played off-Broadway, to acclaim and awards, in 1997. It made it to Broadway in 2014 — great reviews but only a five-month run.

The title character is a young woman from the North Carolina backwoods in 1964 traveling to see an Oklahoma televangelist, hoping he’ll heal her face, which was disfigured in a childhood accident. On the bus she meets two soldiers heading for an Army base: Flick, a black sergeant, and Monty, a white corporal. The three quickly bond, and most of the musical is their bus ride and the highly complex relationship they create. This intermissionless show ends with Violet’s meeting the televangelist and the fallout.

Stage review: Front Porch musical 'Violet' finds beauty in tolerance

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sharon Eberson

May 25, 2017

Violet, a young woman with a disfiguring facial scar, has left home in search of a miracle from a TV evangelist. She believes to her core that he can make her beautiful, while everyone who looks beyond the scar can see what a mirror can’t — her indomitable spirit and beautiful soul.

The musical “Violet,” now in bloom on the North Side, is just the latest example of Front Porch Theatricals giving vibrant, new life to a lesser-known gem of American musical theater.

The company that has emerged as a stalwart of Pittsburgh summer prides itself on employing resident talent, and there’s plenty on display here, starting with Violet herself, the diminutive blond powerhouse Elizabeth Boyke.

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INTERVIEWS WITH THE CAST OF VIOLET

Elizabeth Boyke

In the role of Violet

 

Describe your experience working with your director, Robyne Parrish:
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Robyne once before in The Musicals of Musicals, The Musical at Off the Wall Productions. To team up with her again for Violet on the anniversary of our first show together has been an absolute joy!


Robyne is a remarkable director and performer with an infectious personality to match. With every rehearsal, she gives her actors the freedom to explore our impulses and then helps us hone our discoveries in the direction she would like to steer the show. She strikes a great balance of keeping the rehearsal process playful and collaborative while also providing a safe space for her actors when the serious, more sensitive topics need to be explored. She is an actor’s actor and one that I hope to work with again in the future!


What special preparation have you taken to understand your character? Have you ever played someone like her?
Some of my favorite roles to play are characters who start as ugly ducklings and turn into swans. A role I’ve played before that I find to be very similar to Violet is Louise in Gypsy: Both women struggle against their insecurities and, throughout the course of their stories, find their way to being truer, more confident versions of themselves. I’ve experienced that kind of journey in different aspects of my own life and being given the opportunity to play these roles has helped me remember how far I’ve come as a person and as a performer. Each time I’m given the challenge to understand what my character has been through and where they’re coming from, I can’t help but reflect on the parallels I see in my own life and it reassures me that, just like them, all of the hard decisions I’ve made and the steps that I’ve taken to become the person that I am today were all worth it.


What about the show’s themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to—if anything?
A concept that has really stuck with me as I’ve been working on this show is the idea of risk and reward: A person isn’t able to grow unless they’re willing to take a leap of faith and learn from whatever happens from that decision. To face your fears and dare to do something that scares you or makes you uncomfortable is courageous and bound to have a lasting impact on you. So, not only are you a different person afterwards from what you chose to do, but you’ve done yourself the favor of never having to live with the regret of ‘what if’.


Just like Flick says, “Two kinds of people in this world: Some say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no’.” Violet makes the choice to say ‘yes’ and begin her healing journey with such hope that you can’t help but feel inspired to reach for the things you’ve been holding yourself back from as well.

How do you feel about working with this cast—its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences?
This cast is truly special. Everyone is just as tremendous of a human being as they are a performer. It’s been so wonderful to see everyone putting their heart into every character they play and each song they sing. We’ve been laughing, crying, and learning together since day one. I couldn’t imagine a better group to tell this story with.


This is your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come out and audition for them, and how is that experience going so far?
Working with Front Porch Theatricals has been one of the most positive theatre experiences I’ve had in a very long time. From initial auditions to callbacks to rehearsals, I have been overwhelmed with how welcoming the company is and how much they care for everyone who works with them. They’ve made it very easy for this Pittsburgh newbie to feel right at home.

Jonathan Visser

In the role of Father

 

Describe your experience working with your director, Robyne Parrish.
It’s been wonderful working with Robyne. She’s positive and encouraging, intelligent and efficient.

 

What special preparation have you undertaken to understand your character? Have you ever played someone like him?
I feel like the character is very similar to my father, actually. My father was also an introverted farmer riddled and wracked with guilt.

What about the show’s themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to – if anything?
Everything. From style of music to the beautiful story, what’s not to love about Violet? I also spent 15 years in the south and was raised on a farm. So there’s a lot in this show I relate to.

How do you feel about working with this cast — its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences…?
This cast, like every FPT cast is laden with talent, charisma, and hard work. Robyne told me she got every person she wanted, and it took me a short time to understand what she meant and why.

This is not your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come back, and how is that experience going so far this time…? 
FPT combines a high standard of artistic excellence with a positive and creative atmosphere. They also take excellent care of their employees. They are a true family. I think Dave Toole put it best when he once said to me, “I would do CATS with Front Porch Theatricals!” NOTE: FPT would not do CATS!

Lamont Walker

In the role of Flick

 

Describe your experience working with your director, Robyne Parrish.
Wonderful. She allows us as the actor to find things I the scene and then guides us in a direction rather than forcing things upon us. She has wonderful thoughts about the characters that allow us to explore even deeper. 


What special preparation have you undertaken to understand your character? Have you ever played someone like him?
Watching videos about Black Men in the time and the Vietnam War. What racial tensions/interracial relationships were heard of in the time. Learning to play poker!

 

What about the show’s themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to – if anything?
It’s a story about finding love for yourself. Inner vs. outer beauty. We find that love is found by 1. Loving your inner self; and 2. Seeing beyond someone physically and finding their heart. 


How do you feel about working with this cast — its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences…?
I love the cast. It’s my pleasure to be working with all kinds of actors and people from all different backgrounds. It’s why you really get to know and love the theatre community. 


This is your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come out and audition for them, and how is that experience going so far…? 
I’ve always loved the shows that Front porch produces and loved the story of Violet

Angela Mazzocco

Assistant Director

 

Describe your experience working with your director, Robyne Parrish
Robyne is absolutely wonderful to work with, and I am so lucky to be learning from her. She makes every person involved in the show feel valued and loved. Not only is she a tactful, brilliant director, she's also just a lovely kind human. We are so lucky to have her as the head of our little family!

What about the show's themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to — if anything?
I think there is some aspect of this story that everyone can relate to, but personally I really identify with Violet. Like Violet, I also lost a parent at a fairly young age, so that's something I can relate to. But also, it's really incredible to see how she grows throughout and finds herself on her journey- I feel like that's something that everyone can relate to. (I would also be crazy to not mention how incredible Lizzy is in this role. I mean, seriously. So. Darn. Amazing.)

How do you feel about working with this cast — its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences?
This cast and really the entire company on this show clicked since day one. Every person in this cast is not only stunningly talented, but each of them is so kind and fun. The best part of my day is always going to Violet rehearsal, because this group of people is really one of a kind.

This isn't your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come back, and how is that experience going so far this time?
After being an intern last summer, I am so happy to be joining the Front Porch family again this summer. I came back again this year because of my wonderful experience last year, and because of the great opportunity to assistant direct Violet. I have learned so much from working with Front Porch, and I am so grateful for every opportunity I've had! This experience has been unlike any other show I've done — I honestly don't want it to ever end! This show and this cast are just so special, and I can't wait until we get to share this with an audience.

Missy Moreno

In the role of Music Hall Singer

 

Describe your experience working with your director, Rachel Stevens.

I have heard so many great things about Robyne from colleagues and I was delighted beyond those tales! She is so positive and really lets the actor explore and create in an organic fashion and she helps you set the work mutually. And her laughter and joy creates an atmosphere that makes me want to give it my all every time! Yay! 
 
What special preparation have you undertaken to understand your character? Have you ever played someone like her?
This style of music where my character is featured is truly in my wheelhouse of gospel, blues, southern rock n roll. Before I was an actor, I grew up singing in churches and in a wedding/bar mitzvah band, so I am all about these styles!!! And when some numbers also have a layer of musical theater qualities, I am in true musical heaven! 
 
What about the show’s themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to – if anything?
The father / daughter relationship of violet and dad really makes me reflect on my own father relationships. I have a stepfather I’ve known since I was 4 and met my biological father at age 21, I always have had a complicated path of finding resolutions of the questions I had on how our paths converged and how to find love and acceptance from them. The beauty of acceptance for who you are in this story has truly moved me. 
 
How do you feel about working with this cast — its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences…?

This ensemble has been one of the kindest and most hard working groups I’ve been a part of. So much humility and respect plus talent in one group has been a perfect recipe for stellar storytelling. And I think the various backgrounds keeps every rehearsal and bonding moment fresh!
 
This is your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come out and audition for them, and how is that experience going so far…? 
I have been big fans of Leon and Nancy Zionts since I met them at MTAP's "hot metal showcase"! And then when I saw The Light in the Piazza I was blown away in tears and joy (Becki Toth WOWWW). After all this, I knew I needed to work with this amazing company! I love the shows they choose and the creative teams they assemble. Doug Levine, Deana Muro?!? They are the best in the land! I love having even more musical theater shows in PGH and this experience has been so filled with kindness, hard fulfilling work and fun! I am a happy missy for sure!! Front porch forever!  

Erich Lascek

In the role of Preacher and Bus Driver

 

Describe your experience working with your mentor and the team.

Robyne is amazing at taking what each actor brings to their role, and then molding that to fit within her vision of the show. It is a very free, yet well organized process, which is a very difficult balance to strike.


What special preparation have you undertaken to understand your character? Have you ever played someone like him?
I am a full time high school music teacher, and many of the “bits” I do as the preacher are no different than the “dog and pony” show I do in my classroom everyday to try and keep my students’ attention. I have never played a role like this before, but I am loving the opportunity to be the preacher (and a bus driver, and a radio singer!)


What about the show’s themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to – if anything?
My big take away from this show is this:  Self-acceptance is imperative to heal.

 

How do you feel about working with this cast — its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences…?
The talent on this stage is both humbling and energizing.  It is great to feel like you need to bring you’re a game everyday to keep up with the work your cast  mates are doing around you.


This isn't your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come back, and how is that experience going so far this time…? 

I am thankful to be a part of the Front Porch family. This is my 4th show with PFT.  Being a full time teacher (and part-time landscaper), I do not get to do as much theater as I would like. I know being a part of a FPT production will be meaningful, memorable, and musically fulfilling experience.

Smantha Lucas

In the role of young Violet

 

Describe your experience working with your mentor and the team.

My experience with Robyne has been nothing but wonderful. Robyne treats her actors very respectfully and is open to letting the actors play and find their own ideas, which allows the actors to provide a more organic interpretation of the characters. 

What special preparation have you undertaken to understand your character? Have you ever played someone like her?
In my high school production of Shrek, I played Young Fiona. For that role I remember having to channel back to my “seven year old self.” For this role, I have to channel back in time to my “13 year old self,” to present day, since throughout the play Violet has flashbacks from ages 13-18. To prepare for this role, I read the script multiple times, spent countless hours developing a backstory, and spent a lot of time analyzing the script to deepen my relationship and understanding of the character. In addition to this, I’ll admit that I went back and read my old diaries from when I was younger to see exactly what I was thinking about when I was her age. I find that playing with the lines in rehearsal and trying them with new intentions each time, making them different, helps me understand the character better and ultimately, gives me more to work with. I have also learned how to play draw poker—so that’s pretty cool. I’ll admit that I’m not very good, but by show time I should be a force to be reckoned with! 

What about the show’s themes or story appeals to you, can you relate to – if anything?
I can definitely relate to Violet’s drive and stubbornness. Violet is an all or nothing kind of girl. When she sets her mind to something she’s going to get it and no one is going to stop her, much like myself;

 

How do you feel about working with this cast – its size, its blend of veterans and folks new to theatre, its blend of people with different experiences? 
I have absolutely LOVED working with this cast. I enjoy the small size of the cast because I think when you have such a huge cast it is very difficult to develop an intimate bond, which in my opinion is vital to the success of the production. I have enjoyed learning off the actors in the cast, learning how they develop their characters and each of their unique processes. It’s nice to have a blend of people with different experiences because we are all able to learn so much from each other—it is a collaborative and supportive environment where we capitalize on each other’s strengths and work together to overcome challenges. In addition to this, it has been such a pleasure to work with people with such a strong work ethic and determination. I feel that everyone in this cast and production team wants this show to be as spectacular as possible, which makes the process “oh so enjoyable!” We work smart and we work quickly. Just how I like it. 

This is your first time working with Front Porch Theatricals. Why did you decide to come out and audition for them, and how is that experience going so far? 
Let me start by saying… THEY BRING US SNACKS. When they had snacks at the callbacks, I knew that this theater was the real deal. Hahaha!!! In all honesty, this theater is one big happy family. I had the privilege of seeing Front Porch’s previous productions of In the Heights, Light in the Piazza, and The Spitfire Grill, and was so impressed by the quality and professionalism. This experience has been nothing, but wonderful and I can only hope to have the opportunity to work with Front Porch again in the future! : )

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