Queens theater troupe heads to Manhattan 1

Queens theater veterans Terri Matassov, left, Mike Miller, Lauren Snyder, Johnny Culver and Kevin Schwab are taking their acting and comedy talents to Manhattan next week to compete in The Take Ten Festival.

Ah, the lure of the big city!

Queens community theater stalwarts, four of them actors and one primarily a director, are about to embark on a new journey together.

They’re taking a joint leap into the world of Manhattan theater, where they will be part of an annual attraction known as The Take Ten Festival, presented by Between Us Productions.

The event, running April 26 to May 1, was designed to give emerging writers, actors and directors an opportunity to show their work and win prizes for their achievements.

This year’s festival will feature no fewer than 16 plays, each no longer than 10 minutes in running time.

The Queens troupe’s project is called “Edward’s Closet,” an original script written by Jenn Dlugos and Charlie Hatton, which director Johnny Culver describes as a comedy in the vein of the old 1970s variety sketches.

“We have added a back story to all the characters,” Culver, an Astoria resident, said. “None of the dialogue changes; it is just given a little meat for the actors to chew on. And boy, do they!”

The actors include four veterans of Parkside Players in Forest Hills, where their paths have crossed in the past.

“My uncle started the group in the early ’80s,” Kevin Schwab, a lifelong resident of Glendale, said. “They threw me up on stage,” beginning with “Camelot” when he was 8 years old.

Now a theater teacher at both Queens College and Forest Hills High School, Schwab suggested that performing in Manhattan means “you can do obscure pieces. You can find a cute little play that people won’t take a risk on here in Queens.” It’s an idea seconded by Terri Matassov, who has lived most of her life in Richmond Hill.

“Here the community wants to see a well-known play,” she said, adding that actors working in Manhattan can play characters that allow them to flex their acting muscles.

“There’s more opportunity to push the button a bit” in Manhattan, Culver said, as most theatrical groups in Queens, often based in churches or synagogues, are sometimes limited in their choices of material.

Mike Miller of Glendale and Lauren Snyder of Forest Hills are reunited in the new work, having first met in a production of a play called “Trust,” presented by Parkside in 2009. Miller’s connection to Culver goes back to “Amateurs” in 2012, in which they both appeared, also at Parkside.

Matassov and Culver have perhaps known each other longest, having worked together for the first time 15 years ago.

And now all five are becoming a closer-knit group thanks to the upcoming production, having been brought together by Culver’s casting notice.

“It’s nice to showcase what we have to offer,” Matassov said. “When people think theater, they think Manhattan first.”

In defense of the Queens theatrical scene, Snyder said a lot of great work is being done here.

“People don’t know about it,” she said.

“Edward’s Closet” is scheduled for April 27 at 9 p.m. and April 29 at 7 p.m. at the Thirteenth Street Rep, 50 W. 13 St. in Manhattan. Tickets are $20. For further information, visit betweenusproductions.wix.com.

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