Archive for Thursday, March 4, 1999

ACTRESS GOES FROM ORCHESTRA PIT TO STAGE

March 4, 1999

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— Jan Cooper is a contributing member of Baldwin Community Theatre, both behind and in front of the curtain.

When she started at the Baldwin Community Theatre, Jan Cooper was more than content to keep her contributions limited to off-stage activities.

Her husband, Bill, was a school band director who often directed orchestras for community shows. When musicians were needed, Jan usually found herself playing with the band.

"When the husband is the band director, then the family usually ends up in the pit orchestra," she said with a laugh.

Cooper soon found herself moving into other theater jobs, including costume and set construction. After she broke her wrist, she was moved from playing the bass clarinet to running the sound board.

Lately she has found herself appearing more on-stage and is one of the five featured actresses singing and dancing her way through Baldwin Community Theatre's version of "Nunsense."

The play, by Dan Goggin, is a satire about the five remaining nuns in the Little Sisters of Hoboken Order, who are trying to raise money to bury four of their fellow nuns following an outbreak of botulism.

Desperate to get their sisters out of storage and into the cemetery, the nuns put on a talent show featuring song and dance routines. The problem with the plan is that none of them have any talent.

It's all done with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, Cooper said.

"It's a loving satire on nuns," she said. "The playwright wrote it because of his fond memories of going to Catholic school. It's not a mean show -- it's done very lovingly."

Cooper and fellow cast members Brenda Achten, Heather Ballinger, Medora Davidson and Michelle Hewitt hold the stage throughout the evening with musical numbers, a few dance steps and plenty of jokes.

"We're all in a lot of numbers. It's enough to wear out us ladies who are dancing," Cooper said.

Because of a short production schedule -- the actresses started rehearsing in early February -- the group has been hard at work almost every night.

"I enjoy going to rehearsals and the camaraderie with the other ladies," Cooper said. "The show is really funny and it is a good way to spend time."

Cooper has appeared in "Oliver," "A Christmas Carol," "Little Mary Sunshine" and played in the orchestras for "Annie," "Camelot" and "The Music Man."

The latest production continues to be a family affair. Her son, Will, is working as the orchestra director, and his wife, Carol, is playing piano for the production.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to jbiles@ljworld.com.

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