While brainstorming for North Fork Community Theatre’s upcoming presentation of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” president and leading man Michael Hipp, director Bob Beodeker and producer Mary Kalich figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone.
In an effort to simultaneously raise awareness of the theater and its current “Building on Tradition” campaign and fill the role of the play’s unseen “book voice,” the three decided to cast 12 different community leaders for the part, each for a different performance.
The play tells the tale of New York City window washer J. Pierrepont Finch and his climb up the corporate ladder as he reads from a book entitled “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” The book voice narration is provided by a cross-section of some of the North Fork’s best known voices.
WLNG radio host Gary Sapiane is among these — his is the voice that has awakened Eastern Long Island for more than 40 years. He recorded his part in the WLNG studio and said he was more than happy to help the theater out.
“It was a perfect part for me because on the radio I am heard and not seen and so is my part in the play,” he said. Mr. Sapiane’s performance will take place Saturday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. He said despite his role being close to his line of work, this will be his theatrical debut.
Ms. Kalich said all the local community leaders she approached for the “book voice” role, including Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly, gladly accepted.
“I probably could have gotten 70,” she said with a laugh. “There’s always some famous person who is the book voice.
“For example, Walter Cronkite was the book voice with Matthew Broderick and now it’s Anderson Cooper,” she said. “We wanted to transfer that idea and use the movers and shakers of our own community. Each person has their own night and it’s super exciting how much ownership and leadership each person has taken over their own night.”
Ms. Kalich said Andrew Mitchell, CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, purchased 50 tickets for his staff to attend his performance and an anonymous donor is matching all the tickets sold on the Riverhead Building Supply night as a donation to the theater.
Director Bob Beodeker said giving local leaders some theater experience was an excellent way to bring the community into the theater.
“As a community theater we’re always looking to involve people in the theater’s productions in ways they may never have been before.”
He said the voice recordings have all been completed and this weekend “tech rehearsals” will begin, where lights and audio will be introduced to the dress rehearsals. The book voice used will change from dress rehearsal to dress rehearsal, Mr. Beodeker said, to get the cast used to hearing the different voices.
“They were looking for recognizable voices so I guess that’s why I was asked,” said James McKenna, Mattituck-Cut-chogue school superintendent. “I do the snow closings and communications with the district at large.”
He said the recording was fun to do, but what surprised him most about the experience was hearing the way his voice sounded.
“When I heard it played back, I asked, ‘That’s me?’ ”
Mattituck-Cutchogue school board and Cutchogue Fire Department member Jeff Smith said what surprised him most was how little time it took to record the part.
“I think I was there a half-hour or 45 minutes. I expected it to take a lot longer,” he said. “Even my wife was surprised when I came home so quickly.”
Mattituck Chamber of Commerce president Donielle Cardinale said the experience was “a lot of fun. I am looking forward to the performances and will be there a few of the nights.”
She said the idea of finding multiple book voices showed a great deal of creativity.
“I think it was really effective in raising people’s awareness for what they’re trying to do with buying the theater,” she said.
NFCT’s “Building on Tradition” campaign is part of an effort to raise $500,000 by this August to buy the building from Mattituck Presbyterian Church, which Ms. Kalich said has generously allowed the theater to operate in its location on Old Sound Avenue for more than 50 years. So far, the theater has raised $380,000.
“The overall goal is $750,000, which includes the necessary renovations inside and out,” she said. “We have raised $100,000 in the past four months and we know we’re going to be able to do this.”
Tickets for “How to Succeed” are $20 and available at nfct.com or by calling 298-6328.