ConfettiFest 16 Opens Thursday On a Screen Near You

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Confetti Stage has been staging a one-act play festival at the Albany Masonic Lodge for many years and it is always a big, bright kick-off to the theater season involving dozens of theater artists creating theater from the ground up. All plays were locally written, designed, directed and produced. A huge undertaking that for 15 years has featured hundreds of Capital Region theater artists.

When it came time to consider how to present this year’s festival, they had a lot of obstacles to consider. First and foremost, they were homeless as the Albany Masonic Lodge was doing its best to limit visitors to the building and second, no one in the Capital Region had staged a production indoors since the middle of March when the pandemic closed all theaters. ConfettiFest 16 would become a film festival. Five short one-act plays: “The Choice” by Adele Costa, “Not Even One” by Lydia Nightingale, “Merry Chrismukkah To All” by Daniel Smirlock, “Painting Moonlight” by Laura Darling and “Great Humanity” by Matt Reichel would be cast, staged and filmed for a virtual festival which will be available for free streaming from 12/3-12/13.

Photo by Candice Potrafka

Amid all this tumult, Confetti Stage has also elected a new president of the organization, Sean Baldwin, who also happens to be the producer of ConfettiFest 16. I asked him some questions via email.

What’s your theater background?

I’ve been involved in theatre locally for 19 years now. I started as an actor; my first show was “The Sound of Music” with Family Players of Northeastern New York. I branched out into directing my senior year of high school, and have been experimenting with different aspects of theatre ever since. I’ve played in pits, designed costumes and sounded, served as stage manager and prop master…but I’ll probably draw the line at hair design. I got in trouble in kindergarten for not being good with scissors; I don’t think anybody wants me cutting their hair!

Congratulations on assuming the leadership of Confetti Stage as the recently announced President! Taking over a theater company in the middle of a pandemic…what are you thinking?

Why not! The timing was coincidental. Our previous president, Steve Henel, had indicated his intention to retire from the board at the end of his term well before COVID began. I really appreciate Steve for staying involved with Confetti, though. Working with him allows for a sense of continuity in an otherwise chaotic time.

I wanted to become president for the same reason anyone else would: I love this group and this theatre community, and I wanted to do my part to not only continue to produce great theatre, but also take this group and our work to the next level. The mantra we’ve been using is “Can’t stop Confetti.” COVID or not, Confetti and its artists can’t be stopped.

What do you love about Confetti Stage and how were you introduced to them?

Now fellow board member Laura Darling is to thank or blame for that; she had invited me to a summer production of “Sleepy Hollow” back in 2016. That was the first Confetti show I attended. After that, on her invitation and a whim, I came out to audition for Confetti Fest that fall and found myself cast in “Lust in the Time of ISIS.” I’ve been with them ever since.

What I like most about Confetti is the content and the community. We regularly find ourselves doing plays that are off the beaten path or otherwise unique in some way. That variety always keeps our work interesting. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our crew of regulars and our efforts to involve new collaborators. In a very short time, our team have become some of my closest friends, and we are always making an effort to add new artists to the fold.

What are your past experiences with ConfettiFest?

ConfettiFest was my first exposure to Confetti Stage. I started as an actor in “Lust in the Time of ISIS.” The following year, I directed “Mermalion” by Steve Henel, a musical mash-up of “Pygmalion” and “The Little Mermaid.” Rehearsal would regularly be put on pause so I could stop laughing. Last year, I directed Laura Darling’s “The Doomed and the Daring,” a very real, raw play about the immediate aftermath of a couple’s breakup. If rehearsal was paused during that show, it was to stop crying. Now here I am producing! My goal next year is to have a script I’ve written appear in ConfettiFest. Fingers crossed!

What excites you about this ConfettiFest?

I have to again point to the variety of it all. Each festival is guaranteed to be something different. We’ve had everything from musicals, serious political monologues, biting dramas, superhero stories, and ridiculous comedies. The variety also extends to our collaborators. Each year, we highlight local playwrights, directors, and actors, and we regularly find that ConfettiFest draws in a large crop of talent that is entirely new to us. It’s an excellent opportunity to expand our community.

What’s the best theater experience, virtual or otherwise, you’ve experienced in the time of Covid?

Ooh, tough question! I really admire the guys at Quarantine eTheatre for putting together a series of new content week after week, all for the benefit of local theatre groups. Apart from the humanitarian aspect of it, I can appreciate how difficult it is to crank out quality new material on a regular basis with a short turnaround period as a radio DJ. I thought “Cry It Out” up in Saratoga was done very well. It’s a script that’s certainly not written with 20-something men in mind, but the actors really made me feel and understand it. In person (outdoors and socially distanced), I would have to say Troy Foundry Theatre’s “Models of Perfection”. The acting was fantastic, and I’m a sucker for devised and site-specific theatre.

What are you looking forward to this winter? How do you plan to keep your theater love alive?

On a personal level, I’m looking forward to continuing my weekly series of radio plays on my program “Ghostlight Radio” on WVCR 88.3 FM. I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for sound design and radio plays through COVID, and I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with actors that I’ve never had a chance to work with onstage on weekly audio dramas.

With regards to Confetti, I should note that I’ve never been good at taking breaks. COVID forced me to step away from theatre for the first time in years. This winter, though, I’m looking forward to working with Confetti on digital content. We did a hilarious Zoom performance of an original script called “Quarantine’s a Witch” around Halloween, which told the story of Macbeth’s witches getting through quarantine. I’m excited to see what else we can create. What I love most about our community of artists in the Capital Region is our resiliency. We don’t stop making art, we just change the way we do it. That thought will certainly keep me warm in the winter.

ConfettiFest can be viewed starting Thursday 12/3 on Confetti Stage’s YouTube page or their Facebook page. You can register by emailing confettistageinc@gmail.com The event is free but donations are gratefully accepted.

Poster by Ally Shivka
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