5 Questions with Leigh Berenis
Did you know that Saratoga Children’s Theatre has a sister company called Spa City Theatre, founded in 2019 which has adults and students performing in the Capital Region Premiere of “The Theory of Relativity “ at their own black box theatre This weekend only? In some news that may have escaped your attention due to the Pandemic, I caught up with Leigh Berenis on SCT’s latest moves.
PW: Tell us about your role in Saratoga Children’s Theatre and how Spa City Theatre came about.
LB: I was the Executive Director of Saratoga Children’s Theatre for about ten years and am now working on the creative/programming side of the company since I currently live in Los Angeles, CA, in the film and tv industry. I started Spa City Theatre in 2019 with “Newsies,” and there were six families (parents and children) that were in the show. This was created as a way of continuing to serve the SCT students that had gone into college but also for them to share the stage with their families, staff, and community members. We provide a safe space for those who want to get back into performing, try it for the first time, or want to continue to keep their chops up.
PW: What’s the story behind the “Theory of Relativity,” and why was it chosen for SCT?
LB: From Drama Desk Award nominees Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (“The Story of My Life”), “The Theory of Relativity” is a joyous and moving look at our surprisingly interconnected lives. Whether you’re allergic to cats, in love for the first or tenth time, a child of divorce, a germaphobe, or simply a unique individual, audience members and actors alike are sure to find themselves in this fresh new musical.
Through a seemingly unrelated collection of songs, scenes, and monologues, “The Theory of Relativity” introduces a compelling array of characters experiencing the joys and heartbreaks, the liaisons and losses, the inevitability and the wonder of human connection.
It was chosen for Spa City Theatre because of it being a song cycle and something different for this area. The music is absolutely stunning and complex. We wanted to showcase the community’s voices after just producing “Xanadu,” which was a fuller show.
PW: The cast has a number of alumni. Can you tell us about the casting process and what it’s like having young adults who have such a history with you continuing to perform with the organization?
LB: We open auditions up to the public. We have a couple of members who are not Children’s Theatre alums in the show. Auditions are based on who fits the role and the ensemble. Spa City is still relatively new, and we have only produced a few shows due to covid, etc. We would love to get more community members involved and families, of course!
Seeing these students go from their teenage years and are now graduating college and working alongside us as actors or staff members makes me tear up. For example, Emily Covell who choreographed Theory of Relativity I have known since she was about 12 years old. We went through her rebellious teenage years together, worked on her skills together, and prepped for college. Now she was my co-choreographer on “Xanadu” and is doing her first ever solo choreography work with adults on “Theory of Relativity.” Working with her on “Xanadu” with her by the end had me in tears because of how mature and confident she has become and her willingness to take the chance and learn from her mistakes.
PW: How have you found the process of creating theater over the past couple of years, and specifically, how has it been working in your new home?
LB: Creating theatre since 2020 has definitely been tough. Many people we have found are not as into it or willing to do something they don’t know. We are persevering. Our new home is what I have dreamed of for ten years. It may not be a glitzy theater, but as a theater person, I LOVE a black box! The work you can do in a black box with our new lighting grid is endless. We are working on raising money for moveable stadium seating and an AC unit, so there are always things to be done. We are so happy with the black box and the rehearsal rooms and hope that the community can use our space as well!
PW: What is a play that changed your life, and how?
LB: Wow! This is a hard question. “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller is one of my all-time favorite plays. Reading it in high school when I was preparing to apply to college and legitimately checking out every play in the public library was the one that stuck with me. The story and characters are so vivid. It is one of the shows that I cannot wait to produce and direct and with our space and the potential opening of the garage door and using the outside as an element. That play for sure changed my life and I knew that I wanted to be a director and producer.
“The Theory of Relativity” runs 7/28 @ 7:30pm and 7/29 @ 2 and 7:30pm
SCT Blackbox, 615 Maple Ave, Saratoga Springs