As a testament to the diverse and powerful theater community on campus and to the determination of its students, Wesleyan students and alumni, Dylan Marron ’10 and Jo Firestone ’09, are taking their two-person show, “Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite,” into the public eye this season, performing in city venues and at college campuses throughout the nation. Via e-mail, Dylan Marron discussed the show’s history, progress, and future.
A familiar duo to Wesleyan students, Marron and Firestone met during the 2006-07 school year while performing the Wesleyan Melodrama, according to Marron. He went on to add that the two “were also in the same sketch comedy group, Lunchbox, and in the fall of ’08 she [Firestone] directed ‘Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad,’” which Marron starred in. During that same season the two decided that they wanted to collaborate on a production, and the process of creating “Ridgefield” began. Marron explained that the idea began as a clown show, which morphed over time into a silent play and eventually into a multi-character, two-performer piece. The show debuted during WesFest last year, April 16th through 18th, and had an encore performance during Senior Week.
Taking on a massive cast of characters, Firestone and Marron transform into all the archetypes, heroes, and villains remembered from the glory days of middle school. Billed as a show “for anyone who thought it couldn’t get any better than orange soda and slow-dancing,” “Ridgefield” features every person you loved and hated: the popular girl, the one with stage fright, the Goth, and even the cranky janitor (Marron added that none of the characters were based on specific people, but are rather conglomerations of several). It was extremely well received at Wesleyan, which is in part what inspired its creators to take it on the road.
Already, “Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite” has played in New York at The Magnet (where it will show again on the 20th and 27th), and The Tin Ceiling in St. Louis. It will show again in New York at the People’s Improv Theater this Friday, October 9th. Marron writes, “At the moment we are our own producers/publicists/assistants/go-getters/posterdesigners but are interested in finding people who also believe in the project that want to work with us.”
In addition to the New York performances, the pair is touring colleges on the east coast, in what they are calling “The Financial Play’d Project.” Marron described it as “an idea we had to get exposure and bring the play to different schools while doing it ethically.” The fundamentals are that “Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite” will be playing at several college campuses, with any profits going to the college’s financial aid or student arts fund. The project will begin at Princeton University on October 15th-17th, and move to Connecticut College on the thirtieth. Other possible schools include Brandeis, Washington University, Cornell, Bard, and Rochester University. The pair sounded excited to be playing at campuses—Marron explained, “College students are [the show’s] ideal audience.”
Marron also expressed his thanks to the Wesleyan community, and in particular to Second Stage, saying, “If you’re even vaguely interested in theater, audition for one of their plays or apply to direct or write one…It’s one of the most amazing things for young artists.” While the future remains ultimately unknown for the many “talented” denizens of Ridgefield Middle School, for now Marron and Firestone remain busily employed making them think, feel, breathe, and live.