The PiTCH Week 3: “Anne of Green Gables”

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Welcome to The PiTCH

Imagine sitting in an intimate, cabaret-style theater in the early 1940s, sipping a glass of wine, watching Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and Agnes de Mille present a workshop of OKLAHOMA! Imagine being able to give direct feedback to those Broadway giants that would prove vital to the development of their show. Now, imagine doing that today, with the next generation of composers, writers, and lyricists. Welcome to The PiTCH.

The PiTCH returns this year for its sixth season, providing a forum for new musicals in development to “pitch” their shows on stage.  Each year, musicals are selected from a pool of applicants, and the creative team is provided with a week-long residency at the Festival to workshop their show and prepare to present it to an audience (that’s you!) Afterward, the audience (that’s you again!) and the creative team engage in active, constructive dialogue about the piece and the process, helping them to gain valuable insights for moving forward!

Now Introducing, “Anne of Green Gables

The third show of this season at The PiTCH is one whose name – even without reading the famous books, or seeing one of the many movie or T.V. adaptations – is probably recognizable. With music, book, and lyrics by the team of Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson, this show takes the well-known story of Anne Shirley, and bring it to life with a score that blends folk-rock, pop, gospel, and musical theater styles; and a script that grapples with questions of family, friendship, and the bittersweet trials of adolescence. This musical takes a twist on a classic that you do not want to miss!

We talked with Matte O’Brien about the development of “Anne of Green Gables,” where the team drew their inspiration from, and why audiences will be drawn to this contemporary adaptation of the already famous classic.

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Matt Vinson (Music), Matte O’Brien (Book, Lyrics), Celeste Rose (Actress)

Where did you draw inspiration to start this project?

I had grown up on Anne of Green Gables, it was one of my mother’s favorite stories. I always thought the character of Anne has a wild enough emotional life that show could believably sing about her insecurities, hurts, passions, and loves. I brought the novel to Matt, thinking we might be able to find a unique way to adapt it for the stage. He was familiar with the title, but that was it. We spent several month playing with lyrics/melodies/scenes without much success. Everything we were writing felt very quaint and sepia toned- until one day we were writing a song called “The Asylum” and Matt said… “So it’s sort of like this whole song is in her imagination.” That was the key that unlocked the whole thing! By Writing the show through the lens of Anne’s imagination, we were able to honor L.M. Montgomery’s original characters and plot, while finding an entirely unique angle of our own.

Why did you wish to tell her story from a more contemporary perspective?

Anne is contemporary. She’s a great feminist character. She’s smart, funny, strong, insecure, fragile, independent, stubborn – a glorious mix of imperfections and contradictions. It would be doing the stories a disservice to pretend the issues and themes that L.M. Montgomery was exploring in her day have been resolved. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve a long way to go.

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Celeste Rose and Matte O’Brien during dress rehearsal for “Anne of Green Gables”

What has been your biggest motivation through the show’s development?

Our goal is to adapt the book in a way that will thrill Anne of Green Gables fans, people that grew up with these stories, like myself; and open the characters up in our own unique way to allow new people to fall in love with them for the first time, like Matt has.

What challenges have you faced during the process? How have those challenging experiences helped to shape the project to what it is currently?

The greatest challenge we’ve had is presenting Anne as a fully realized character. She has such a expansive and volatile emotional life in the book that we want to make sure we capture the truth behind all that passion, pride, and insecurity.

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Matt Vinson, Celeste Rose, and Matte O’Brien during dress rehearsal for “Anne of Green Gables”

Don’t miss this lively new production of “Anne of Green Gables” which runs July 26-29 at downtown Auburn’s Theater Mack, located behind the Cayuga Museum.  Each presentation is approximately an hour long, and there are beer, wine and other refreshments available while you watch!

Whether you’re in it to “see it first” or to tap into your inner theatre critic – even if you’re just there for the wine – The PiTCH is an exciting night out with shows you won’t see anywhere else… yet!

For tickets and more information, visit FingerLakesMTF.com/the-pitch or call 1-800-457-8897.

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