Spotlight On Inclusivity in the Arts: Unique Theatre Company

Author: Jen Swan

For this month’s spotlight, I had the opportunity to visit two organizations whose focus is inclusivity in the arts to speak with the artists about their projects. The talented artists at Starlight Studio and Art Gallery and the dazzling cast, staff, and writers at Unique Theatre Company are both creating captivating works that you definitely won’t want to miss.

Just the other day, I had the opportunity to attend the first meeting of the new season for Unique Theatre Company led by Beth Geyer, Artistic Director, and Vienna Haak, Executive Producer. Their mission: providing a venue where persons of all levels of ability can learn and express themselves through art, playwriting, acting and more. Even though what I witnessed the other day was only the first meeting, I can say that there are big things in store for this group of talented directors, actors, and playwrights.

When I arrived at the space, everyone else was arriving too and there was an excitement in the air for the return to live theater after the pandemic. The company is working on their return to the stage; a show titled “Slices of Life” featuring four short plays written by Unique Theatre’s own playwrights. The four plays titled “The Lonely Godfather,” “Ryan’s Legacy,” “Once Upon A Song,” and “Let’s Eat the Queen” were written by Andy Calderon, Amber Dudley, Madisyn Ross, and Keller Vogelsang respectively. 

I had the pleasure of talking with Keller about her show, “Let’s Eat the Queen,” which is her very first staged production. While this is the first show of hers that is being produced, when asked to submit a play during the pandemic, she actually wrote six plays before deciding to produce this one. “The play is about two sisters who enter a scary house on Halloween,” explained director Charlie. “They meet John the Vampire, who doesn’t want to be a vampire anymore, but cannot leave the house due to a curse put on it by Jude the Ghost. The only way for the sisters to free John the Vampire from the curse is by eating the Queen Vampire who rules all.” Keller said she is so excited to see her work come to life on the stage and it will definitely be a fun-filled (and maybe just a little bit spooky) ride for the audience.

I also got to chat with actor Ron who plays cousin Benji in Amber Dudley’s play, “Ryan’s Legacy.” Ron has been with Unique Theatre for a number of years now and is a seasoned professional who is looking forward to playing this role in Amber’s serious work. “Every year I get nervous but you know what, you go up there and you do your thing,” he told me. “I love these people, I love acting with my friends.” Ron and his acting buddy Jacob have been acting and having fun together for years and you won’t want to miss this dynamic duo together onstage.

Finally, I sat down with the actors and directors working together to bring Andy Calderon’s work, “The Lonely Godfather,” to life. Husband/wife directing team Jeff and Erin are already eager to work with Andy so they can do the best job of bringing his words to the stage. “The work is about Joe, a mafioso, and his long-suffering secretary Mary, and his conciliary named Tony who brings in Roxane, who is the daughter of a deceased mafioso,” Jeff explains. “Roxane wants to take on the legacy of her father but Joe doesn’t know about that… But on the other hand, Joe also wants a girlfriend and when Tony tells Joe that Roxane likes him, he lets his guard down, unaware that Tony and Roxane are ready to double cross him.” 

Actors Nathan and Joe are excited to get to work on their mafioso alter egos in “The Lonely Godfather.” Nathan, or Clark to friends, is already getting into character channeling his inner Marlon Brando (he does a very convincing impression) and Joe is drawing character inspiration from his favorite mob film, Goodfellas. When asked what his favorite part of putting together a show is, Nathan remarks, “Trying to see how the characters develop. It’s a lot of work, trying to get the characters the way you want them to be and a lot of trial and error.” Joe, on the other hand, is a theater newbie and he is looking forward to having a lot of fun and meeting new people throughout this production.

You definitely will not want to miss the four shows in Unique Theatre’s “A Slice of Life” which is coming to the Compass Performing Arts Center from December 2nd to December 11th. There will be something for everyone and these actors are eager to show off their skills and once again perform for live audiences. More details for the show can be found on the Unique Theatre website and Facebook page.

Compass Performing Arts Center 545 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo 14222

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