Bloomfield HS thespians are back in the theater with ‘Stage Door’

Photo Courtesy of Schuylar Doemling
Starring in Bloomfield High School’s upcoming production of ‘Stage Door’ are, top row, Andrew Lomont, left, and Marc Manapat; and, bottom row, Megan Moynahan, left, and Gabbi Nucci.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield High School’s theater department is back to performing this weekend with its annual fall play, this time staging the 1936 play “Stage Door.” Telling the story of a group of young women who go to New York to study acting and find jobs in the theater, the show eventually follows a young actress to Hollywood as she tries to make it in the film industry. Though the play was originally billed as a comedy, BHS theater arts teacher and director Brandon Doemling is presenting it as a drama because of the sometimes heavy subject matter.

“It’s about people in the theater making it in theater,” he said in a phone interview with The Independent Press on Nov. 13. “One gets lured to Hollywood, and she doesn’t think it’s an art form. It’s an interesting dynamic.”

Senior Gabbi Nucci is playing Jean Maitland, the actress who goes to Hollywood. The play is a period piece, and Nucci said in a Nov. 13 phone interview that the cast has learned a lot about old Hollywood and theater history.

“It’s taught me more than I knew (it would),” she said. “We’ve found ways to include ourselves in the characters, because we’re playing people who love the same things that we love.”

Set at the dawn of the rise of movies, the play shows the dichotomy of the people who want to work in “old-fashioned” live theater and those who want to work in the newfangled film business. Marc Manapat is playing Keith Burgess, a playwright who gives up his theater career to work in Hollywood.

“He goes to the film industry, but he still finds a way to love theater even in the midst of everything that’s going on and people telling him that theater isn’t good anymore,” Manapat, also a senior, said in a Nov. 13 phone interview.

According to Megan Moynahan, a senior playing the lead role of Terry Randall, an actress determined to be successful on stage and to avoid Hollywood, the theater and film industries are now more similar than they ever were before.

“They have a lot in common,” she said in a Nov. 13 phone interview. “Plays have taken on more of a filmlike structure. … But the acting styles are different.”

“Stage Door” is a show with a female-heavy cast: There are 16 female parts to seven male parts. It’s an exception for a play written in a time when women didn’t get as many opportunities as men to be on stage and build careers of their own.

“There are way more women, and we realize how important they are in theater,” Manapat said. “They shape what everyone is doing.”

The stage crew at BHS is made up of all students, and this year a student is in charge of the lighting design for the first time in a while. Jonas Reeder joined the crew as a sophomore when his brother and friends were acting, but he didn’t want to be in the cast. This year he’s taking on all of the lights for the play, after doing the same job for the spring theater production.

“This is much different,” Reeder, a senior now, said in a Nov. 13 phone interview. “We have an actual set, and it’s a longer show. It’s higher quality all around, so the lights have to be better.”

The cast has been watching the crew as much as the crew has watched the cast, and Nucci said everyone behind the scenes has been working just as hard to get ready for opening night.

“The things that the crew can do are insane,” she said. “You don’t always think about the lighting design. But them all being our friends gives us such an appreciation for what they’re doing.”

It goes both ways. Reeder knows the show just as well as the actors and has seen the talent that will be on display when it opens.

“A lot of very talented actors graduated in the last two years,” he said. “It says a lot about the juniors and seniors that were under their wing that the program hasn’t suffered at all.”

“Stage Door” will be performed in the BHS auditorium at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18, Nov. 19 and Nov. 20. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at