Friday, July 24, 2015

WFT's new Director of Education: Lloyd Woodcock

WFT is pleased to welcome Lloyd Woodcock to the Wheelock community as Wheelock Family Theatre’s new Director of Education. Lloyd began on July 1 and already has endeared himself to students, parents, and teachers alike. Prior to WFT, he worked with the celebrated “TADA! Youth Theatre” in New York. As the former Theatre Coordinator of the New York City Department of Education’s public schools, Lloyd oversaw multiple programs and collaborations, including those with the Shubert Foundation and Music Theatre International Broadway Jr. While in New York City he served as Associate Director of The Forum Project, where he created programming that promoted dialogue around issues of power, privilege, and oppression. He also assisted with the planning of professional development workshops for educators, activists, and community-based workers. As Site Director of Wingspan Arts, Lloyd supervised operations of their after-school programs and served as a liaison between the principal, school staff, and parents. He also oversaw administration, curricula, and staffing for the organization’s Education Department. Lloyd earned an MSEd in Educational Theatre from the City University of New York [CUNY] City College in New York. We are thrilled that he is now a member of WFT’s team!

Monday, June 29, 2015

John Bay's Retirement Party brought out the Big Wigs!



And a great big thank you to John Bay upon his retirement!

To the Wheelock Community,

It is with mixed emotions that I write to inform you that John Bay is retiring, effective June 30. As WFT’s first full-time Director of Education John built a model program that continues to thrive. Firmly grounded in child development and multiple intelligences theories, he hired and mentored countless teachers in a child-centered approach to teaching and learning through and about the arts. He developed longstanding partnerships with schools and organizations to make classes available to students who are most in need. With intelligence, thoughtful planning, a collaborative spirit, and openness to new approaches, John made the WFT’s education program a crucial component of the theatre. 

More recently he launched a drama and autism initiative with Wheelock College faculty that not only has inspired Wheelock students, but also yielded articles and conference presentations, bringing recognition to both the College and WFT. John truly embodies the mission of both the College and the Theatre. He has improved the lives of generations of young people; parents; WFT teachers and staff; Wheelock students, faculty, and staff; and members of the wider community by helping us realize our creative potential. 

We thank John for working tirelessly on our behalf and wish him well as he pursues new projects, and hopefully stays involved in the drama and autism initiative. It is an understatement to say John will be greatly missed.

Yours truly,


Wendy Lement


Wheelock Family Theatre

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Carla Martinez. Actor Profile SHREK THE MUSICAL.

"During my final semester in college, I saw an audition posting for a production of Oliver! at Wheelock Family Theatre. I was new to the Boston theater scene and was hoping to find a company that would welcome me with open arms. That's exactly what WFT did.

Being an actor of color, I always have a million questions running through my mind before heading to an audition. As I walked into WFT that day, I kept saying 'there's no way they're going to cast an Hispanic woman in Oliver.' I was surprised to see so many actors of all shapes, sizes, and COLORS waiting for the dance call. The environment (even though it was an audition) was calm and warm. People were catching up and reminiscing about their time in past WFT shows. Jane Staab even met each auditioner at the door, shook our hands, and walked us all the way to the front of the theatre to meet the music director. I knew from that moment on, if I were to get cast, WFT would become a very special place to me.

Now, as I'm getting ready to open my fourth show, the word 'home' so accurately describes how I feel about WFT. I'm honored to stand on a stage that's accessible to so many different communities. Our ASL performances are some of my favorites and I love getting the chance to interact with the audience during talkbacks. WFT also offers tickets at a number of different prices, so that everyone has a chance to experience live theater; regardless of whether or not they can afford it.

I'm forever grateful for not only the experiences, but the love that WFT has shown me in the short time that I've worked there. Thank you to everyone behind the scenes for being fearless pioneers of inclusion and also to the patrons who continue to donate to this incredible company. It's good to be home!"

Annie Kerins, Carla Martinez, and Jillian Couillard as the 3 Blind Mice in the WFT production of SHREK THE MUSICAL.

Gamalia Pharms. AEA Actor at WFT for many seasons now...

"I feel so blessed to be a part of this amazing WFT production, and to once again be surrounded by a WFT cast that so fully represents our wonderful audiences - all of humanity.

I have loved the story of Shrek from first seeing the film when it came out in movie theaters. The message of acceptance, and that love comes in all shapes, sizes and colors is a message WFT fully embraces, with its mission of inclusion and diverse casting policies since its inception in 1981.
From my first job at WFT back in 1985, Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, I knew I had found a place where I truly felt welcome and belonged – a true family. I have enjoyed being a member of many casts here at WFT that reflect the diversity of Boston in all aspects - race, age, gender, and individuals with disabilities."

Gamalia is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and has appeared at Wheelock Family Theatre in: the Elliot Norton Award winning production of Hairspray, The Wizard of Oz (three productions), The Hobbit, Cinderella, A Little Princess (two productions), Kiss Me Kate, The Good Times Are Killing Me, Ole' Sis Goose, The Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast, The Beanstalk, The Giant and Jack, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse (two productions), Pippi, Honk, Seussical, Hello Dolly, Oliver!, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Trumpet of the Swan, Anne of Green Gables, Stuart Little, Aladdin, My Fair Lady, Once Upon a Mattress, and Phantom Tollbooth.

Jon Allen, Gamalia Pharms, and Tyla Collier in WFT's HAIRSPRAY 2014.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Review Quotes! Everybody Loves Shrek!

“Wheelock's delightful and energetic Shrek sends a positive and timely message about not judging ourselves or others by what's on the outside rather than by what's on the inside. In our looks-obsessed society, it's a message that kids can't hear enough.” -Margaret Hagemeister; Boston Events Insider

“The performance itself was… full of heart, dedication and sincerity. The ensemble cast sings and dances their hearts out, and their comedic timing is on point.” -Meghan B. Kelly;

“You will be treated to a very entertaining, fun and professional performance.  I was really impressed with everything from the wardrobe to the dance numbers. The cast did an amazing job in making all fairy-tale creatures come to life. You can tell the little kids and little kids at heart enjoyed the show by the sound of the infectious laughter in the theater.” –Nicole; 5StarMommy


“Shrek the Musical was one of the best musicals I have ever seen. My favorite part was when Donkey fell down from the sky.  Lord Farquaad, as tiny as he is, will make you laugh your head off.  Fiona is sassy, rude, and sweet all at the same time.  I know this, you’re going to leave this play with a smile!” -Makenna; 5StarMommy


“Weird or not, I can guarantee that your kids will love the show.” -Victoria Burdman; At Home in Boston

“I laughed even more than the children in the audience.” –Beverly Creasey; Boston Arts Review

“Wheelock’s production is a good one that executes the material well. Shrek himself (Christopher Chew) is impressive and consistent in the title role, Shonna Cirone brings the same biting sarcasm Sutton Foster did in her role as Fiona, Mark Linehan steals the show in the physically taxing role of Farquaad, and Maurice Parent wins over every kid in the audience with his Donkey. The ensemble, which includes everything from eighth graders to professionals, are versatile and energetic, and the puppetry used for the Dragon is masterful.” -Jamie Loftus;

“Sometimes you just have to trust the kids. The first glimpse of Wheelock Family Theatre’s Shrek is a surprise. Instead of the round, green, smoothly computer-animated ogre of the movie, this Shrek is tall and hairy, with a lumpy green headpiece and mossy dreads. But as played by Christopher Chew in Wheelock’s “Shrek the Musical,” this ogre was a hit with the children…. they laughed and cheered and clapped in all the right places.” -Joel Brown; Boston Globe

“Okay, so maybe it's not so simple to create an engaging and entertaining show that appeals to both kids and adults. But the Wheelock Family Theatre's production of Shrek the Musical, about a grouchy ogre, a feisty princess and a loquacious but kindhearted donkey, does it, and does it so well that when the curtain closed on the final makes-you-want-to-dance-in-your-seat song, my 9-year-old son and I looked at each other and said, "We want to see that again!" -Michelle Curran; Mommy Poppins

“Do not make the monstrous mistake of missing this show!” –Al Chase; White Rhino Report


“From the colorful, sparkling, feathery costumes to the beautiful backdrop lighting and transformative sets, all of the show's visual elements are first-rate.” -Sarah Chantal Parro; Talkin’ Broadway




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

WFT Actor: Jessica Ayer in Shrek the Musical

"I remember seeing WFT's production of The Sound of Music with Angela Williams as Maria. This particular show stood out for me because it was my first time seeing a show with non-traditional casting. Before this, I had thought that if the original character was white, then you had to be white and if the original was black, then you had to be black. Being a mixed girl, that did not leave me with many options. So this show truly made me feel like I could do anything. 

I started at Wheelock when I was 6 years old with their summer acting classes. Being the overly-dramatic, high-energy child I was, I automatically fell in love. I remember the teachers made it so much fun that I never wanted to go home. Since then WFT has taught me so many important lessons that I will never forget, the most prominent of which is to never give up. During middle school I dealt with a lot of disappointment during school shows and began to think that acting was not for me. I decided to give it one last shot when I heard that WFT was going to produce Hairspray. As soon as I walked into the first rehearsal I realized why I had fallen in love with WFT and acting so many years before. Everyone was so kind and helpful throughout the whole process. I felt like my 6 year old self again, excited to perform and never wanting to leave a show because WFT felt like home. 

WFT is inspirational - from their non-traditional casting to their ASL performances and affordable prices, there is absolutely no other place like it. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to grow up here and work with so many talented people. WFT will always hold a special place in my heart."

WHO is SHREK? Christopher Chew at the Wheelock Family Theatre

"Arts education is essential. There can really be no debate about the importance that the arts have on a civilization or more specifically a community. Education without significant contributions from the arts truly does not exist whether school systems and communities acknowledge that or not. The creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication fostered through arts education touches every other aspect of education more so than any other discipline. Wheelock Family Theater recognized that long before it became popular to talk about 21st Century Learning Skills or the 4 Cs of successful education. Their mission has been focused on transforming lives through exposure to live theater and education in the arts throughout their successful history. Wheelock Family Theatre has not only participated with the theater community at large in the creating art that transforms lives, WFT has nurtured and established an environment that has been transforming lives of countless individuals fortunate enough to walk through the doors and join this inclusive, wonderful family.

My entire professional career has been devoted to both education and theater. Whether I was teaching a theater course or not, my theater education has profoundly affected my perspective on how I work with students in all of my classes and now as a building principal. My acting career has always been affected by my perspective in education and the awareness of how our choices are perceived by others. My experiences here at WFT have allowed me to bring my entire experience with me to the storytelling craft more so than many of my other performing opportunities. I have treasured each and every aspect of my journey with WFT and value the rich tradition that it has and the magical impact it has on its audiences. It is an honor to be a part of that tradition and a privilege to be able to include my family in the larger Wheelock extended family. As a professional actor, there are not many opportunities to share the stage with my children and my daughter’s participation in this production has been a truly special experience that we will both always treasure. For that, we are both tremendously grateful to WFT and appreciate their contribution and commitment to the wonderful Boston Theater Community!"

Christopher returns to WFT having appeared in The Little Princess, Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music.

WFT Actors: Grace Brakeman in Shrek the Musical

"I have always loved coming to see shows at Wheelock Family Theatre since I was a little girl. But when I started taking summer classes and was cast in Ramona Quimby the next year, WFT became my second home. My relationships and experiences at Wheelock over the past ten years have allowed me to become friends with people of all backgrounds and views.
Wheelock is the only place I know of that is committed to excellent productions as well as inclusion and accessibility. In addition to presenting important stories in an engaging way, WFT is special to me because it fosters a nurturing, loving, and accepting atmosphere. I love getting to work together with a team of creative people with distinct perspectives. Just like the fairytale creatures in Shrek encourage each other to 'let their freak flags fly' and embrace their individuality, WFT celebrates people's differences and unique qualities that make them special.
Yet WFT does more than create a supportive environment: It has a progressive policy of non-traditional casting. Wheelock's dedication to color and ability blind casting has cultivated teams of incredibly talented and diverse people. Each child in the audience can be inspired by an actor that they personally identify with.
After closing Shrek (my tenth show at WFT) and moving to Chicago to study in the theatre major at Northwestern University next year, I will dearly miss my WFT 'cast families'. I am forever grateful for the opportunities and coaching at WFT and for Jane Staab, Sue Kosoff and all the wonderful people I have been lucky enough to know here."

WFT Actors: Lexi Ryan in Shrek the Musical

"My first experience with WFT came when I was ten years old, playing Cindy Lou Who in Seussical. I grew up on this stage. But more importantly, I grew up a part of this family. The people at WFT, from the directors to costume designers, from the crew to my fellow actors, are among the most caring, kind, and talented members of the theater community, and of the world. Nowhere have I found a more supportive, hardworking, and transformative group of people. 

A key theme of WFT that has stuck with me is the idea of storytelling. I have learned that that is an actor’s true craft. Wheelock brings stories to life in a very special way. Beyond colorful costumes and impressive high notes, the point of theater is to touch people through effective storytelling. Storytelling is a means of sharing experiences through bridging cultural divides. The best stories show how all humanity is connected. 

What is truly magical about Wheelock is that it brings positive messages to children through its incredible storytelling. Where adults may be judgmental, children are prejudice-free. WFT helps to cultivate acceptance in its audiences, from the youngest children to the oldest patrons. Children start colorblind. They accept WFT's colorful casting without a second thought. Children will view avant-garde art as fun rather than weird. As I've gotten older, I've realized that WFT creates family-friendly theater with a message, something young viewers won't even register at the time, but guides them to become better people as they grow older. Shrek marks my sixth show at WFT in seven years and perhaps the most fun of them all. Shrek is a delightfully whimsical story that will make children and adults alike laugh out loud, but it also teaches an important lesson, one near and dear to most in the theater community: be true to yourself and 'let your freak flag fly!'"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

SHREK Theater Review by Anne Pieterse

“Your horny warts, your rosy wens,

Like slimy bogs and fusty fens,
Thrill me” –William Steig (from Shrek)

“Shrek” was the first, one of the many children’s picture books, artist William Steig wrote and illustrated. Then Shrek became a DreamWorks movie followed by a Broadway musical. And now tonight, “Shrek the Musical” is the final production of the Wheelock Family Theatre’s 34th season. And what a brilliant opening night performance it was. Directed by Shelly Bolman, choreographed by Patricia Manalo Bochnak, musical direction by Matthew Stern, and costume designer Charles G. Baldwin worked together to create a production filled with dazzling entertainment. There were dance numbers to get you stomping your feet, comedy for all ages, solo singing, and vibrant choral numbers, songs mixed with dance numbers, all tucked together with simple movable sets. Whether in book, film, or theatrical presentations, the story of Shrek remains the same. It is an ugly duckling tale (with a twist), an ogre named Shrek wants to be a left alone in his swap. Farquaad (the current ruler, but not yet King) is a self- impressed bully, who orders Shrek to rescue the princess Fiona so he can marry her and the become King. Battles with fire breathing dragons and “Donkey’s” wisdom, give heart to this endearing and satisfying story. The tale promotes diversity and encourages more than superficial thought when we are asked to consider what makes a princess and what characteristics her suitor should have. The story encourages us to celebrate who we are and how we do it. To look beyond the assumptions we make when judging ourselves and others.

Experienced talented actors, Christopher Chew (Shrek), Shonna Cirone (Fiona), Maurice Emmanuel Parent (Donkey), Mark Linehan (Farquaad), set the tone by their strong performances. The smaller characters roles of Young Shrek, Young and Teenage Fiona, Thelonius, Bishop, Mama Ogre, Papa Ogre, King Harold, and the Knights did superior work as well, often playing more than one part.

Shrek the Ogre just wants to be left alone in his swamp and has no interest in having fairytale trash living next to him. The “Fairytale Trash” community of creatures are easily recognized as the characters from Grimm’s fairytales, old cartoons, and Disney movies: Pinocchio, Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear, Fairy Godmother, Red Queen, Bluebird, Genie, Little Red Riding Hood, Chip, The Teacup from Beauty and the Beast, Ariel, The Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, Ugly Duckling, Queen Lillian, Wicked Witch, Captain Hook, Pied Piper, Big Bad Crossdressing Wolf, Ginny and Peter Pan. The costumes were made with bright dazzling colors that allowed the audience to easily recognize the familiar characters. And a variety of jokes are enhanced by the audiences past history and knowledge of fairytale creatures.

The live 8 man orchestra including keyboard, 2 reeds, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums sat under the stage and was first-rate.

The use of puppets was captivating when eight puppet handlers maneuvered the dramatic giant Dragon that towered, twisted, and turned majestically over the stage. The handlers moved as one and actually danced with the flow of the Dragon’s swirling body from the fire coming out of her mouth to the tip of her long pointy tail. Hand puppets were used too. Funny scenes involving the torture of the Gingerbread Man were hilarious. The Gingerbread Man cookie puppet ends up shouting, “Eat me!” and the audience roared.

Young children in the audience seemed to be smitten and enthralled by the sparkles, glitter, and energy of the evening. Unobtrusive open captioned, by illuminated lighting on both sides of the stage, aided in the enjoyment for those hard of hearing and deaf. Each production offers final weekend performances that are interpreted in American Sign Language and audio-described for patrons who are blind, with Braille programs available upon request. All productions offer enhancements for patrons with cognitive disabilities or sensory sensitivities. Everyone should partake, and savor the fun in this delightful show.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Raising The Bar: Exploring The Actor's Process


Wheelock Family Theatre is holding auditions for teens with prior training and performance experience committed to deepening their acting skills and knowledge of the craft.  A limited number of admission slots are available on a rolling basis.  Those actors selected for this program will immerse themselves for two weeks in intensive advanced theatre training.

 Through challenging exercises and workshops in vocal, movement, and character work, and exploration of scenes from outstanding plays, students will experience the actor's process in-depth. This unique program culminates in a Showcase on our WFT Mainstage.


*PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS: *Specific Individualized Attention and Feedback -*Intensive Ensemble Training  -*Building Core Set of Acting Tools Vital To Every Actor’s Success-  *Breaking through Individual Acting barriers/Issues  -*Teen actors stretch and challenged to go out of their “comfort zone” to take acting to a higher level

*PROGRAM DATES: Aug 3 - Aug 14, 2015 (Mon.-Fri.)

Hours: 12:00-6:45pm 

Location: Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston

Main Stage Showcase: Friday, August 14 at 8:00pm.



TUESDAY, APRIL 21  (4-7pm)

SUNDAY, APRIL 26   (1-4pm)

(Alternate audition times may be scheduled if necessary)


To schedule an audition, please email your arts resume and a note of interest to:  Fran Weinberg,  Director

WFT Teen Advanced Performance Intensive


*AUDITION REQUIREMENTS: Two contrasting monologues from plays, one comedy and one drama, totaling approximately three minutes. One of the two pieces should be from either: a classical play, any play that emphasizes heightened language, or a play written before 1960.