“There’s no business like show business,” belts Annie Oakley in the classic musical Annie Get Your Gun. Taking a cue from the iconic ditty, two township residents are taking the message to heart.
Thom Florio and Courtney Sanchelli, with help from a friend, have separately written scripts that are getting some “play,” so to speak.
Florio’s script, The Subject Was Doorknobs (or Lemonade, Amazons and Their Dubious Association With Doorknobs), is being presented in a staged reading at the Dover Little Theatre tonight, May 18, through Sunday, May 20.
Sanchelli’s script, Secrets Buried, which she wrote with the help of friend Haley James, is available for downloading online at Amazon, with a free sample available.
Florio describes his play as a comedic thriller involving eight strangers who are summoned to a derelict vaudeville theater to fulfill the wishes of the theater’s founding members.
He tells The Jefferson Chronicle he often refers to the play “as a bit of an odd duck in that it plays with convention and audience expectations while laying out a solid narrative to keep the viewer invested.”
Florio says the staged reading will give audiences a sense of how a full production would look. He adds that it also “allows the playwright to receive feedback from the audience.”
He notes that an earlier version of this play was given a table read by members of the Jefferson Community Players in 2010. Florio himself acted and directed for the Players from 2006 to 2010 and performed in its Uncorked Improv Comedy Troupe from 2011 to 2016.
Drama, Drama, Drama!
Sanchelli’s play is more of a sensitive drama centering on a main character, Danielle, who “battles everyday with her disability,” she tells The Chronicle.
Although limited by a wheelchair, Danielle – a darling of the tabloids – appears to have a glamorous life as the daughter of a senator. However, explains Sanchelli, “there is a hidden truth about the character’s mother that is woven into the plot.” She adds that Danielle is someone “who wants nothing more than to love and be loved. The script follows her journey to awareness.”
Sanchelli, herself living life in a wheelchair, says “the character of Danielle is loosely based on myself and my experiences both in life and health.” She adds that another of the play’s characters, Lucas, “is based on a friendship that I had when I was nine years old during a rehabilitation stay at Children’s Hospital in Mountainside, New Jersey.”
Giving to the Community
A 2014 graduate of Jefferson Township High School, Sanchelli wrote Secrets Buried with James over a span of three years. “When I was little, my parents always said to me that I could do anything I set my mind to do, and I really think they were right,” she says, having achieved her goal of writing and publishing a play.
A lifetime township resident, the author has an altruistic goal for her work. Sanchelli tells The Chronicle that she and James “would really like to find volunteers to help with putting on a charity performance of our completed play for a local food pantry in Jefferson.”
Interested residents and others can find the play Secrets Buried by Sanchelli and James at https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Buried-Play-Courtney-Sanchelli/dp/1980383162/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526670445&sr=1-1&keywords=buried+secrets+Sanchelli.
A Bit of Mystery
Although a comedy, Florio says Doorknobs includes a bit of a twist. A series of disturbing events makes the characters realize their gathering at the theater was for a completely different purpose than previously believed.
Several township residents in addition to Florio will appear in this weekend’s script-reading in Dover, including Christine Anderson, Megan Murray, and Dina Nicholas. He and Nicholas previously acted together with the Players in Jefferson.
The Florio family moved to the township in 1969 after spending two summer vacations on the Milton side of town. After graduating from Pratt Institute with an associate degree in illustration, the playwright wrote two screenplays before studying filmmaking at New York University. To better learn the craft of film directing, he entered community theater as an actor and director in 2006.
The staged readings of Doorknobs will be presented tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, May 20, at 2 p.m. The Dover Little Theatre is located at 69 Elliott Street, Dover. There will be a Q&A with the cast and writer following every performance.
To reserve tickets, visit the theatre’s website at www.doverlittletheatre.org or call 973-328-9202. Further information about the play can be found at www.facebook.com/DoorknobsPlay or the Dover Little Theatre event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/249623072279761/.
While admission is free for the reading, “donations are very much appreciated,” Florio quips.
Bring on the applause!