Rockville Centre native Rachel Blackburn will helm her first production since the start of Covid on August 3 and 4 when her cast will perform Into the Woods junior at Port Washington’s John Philip Sousa Band Shell. The cast includes six children and pre-teens from the village, as well.
Blackburn felt the story and structure would work well with Covid-19 regulations. The theater is also outside, which made it a perfect place with Covid still an issue. It also did not hurt that Blackburn has wished to be a part of an Into the Woods production since she begged her drama teachers at South Side Middle School and High School to put on the production when she was a student.
“The thing I liked about it for this time in our lives with Covid going on is that Into the Woods is a story that has a lot of vignettes and individual plotlines,” Blackburn said. “That made it easier to space people out and there is no ensemble, so there is not a group of 20 people huddled together.”
The production will serve as several firsts for Blackburn. It will be her first production in Port Washington since moving there in early 2020, her first at the Band Shell, and her first outdoor production.
The 18-person cast ranges from ages eight to 14. Blackburn said the older cast members have been able to take the younger ones under their wing, while also taking it seriously for themselves. Blackburn said that her directorial style has been to treat all the cast members as equals.
“It’s gotten me pretty far with kids because I think they appreciate that and the responsibility and being spoken to like a peer, rather than a teacher,” Blackburn said.
A member of the South Side High School class of 2003, Blackburn also spoke to the advantages of the theater for children during their formative years. “Theater kept me out of trouble. I always wanted to have my voice be healthy the next day or I couldn’t go out because I had a dance class,” Blackburn said. “I hope that it helps kids at a pivotal age to stay on the right path.”
In her time at South Side Middle School and South Side High School, Rachel was extremely active in the theater department and that led her to NYU where she received her bachelor’s degree in musical theater in 2007.
Rachel continued her educational pursuits, earning her J.D. from Hofstra Law School in 2010. That background came in handy when it came time to sort through the legal process of acquiring the license for the production.
Using her connections form her time at NYU, Blackburn was able to get talented professional musicians who have worked on Broadway to join the live pit band. Blackburn is excited that the cast will be guided by such experienced talent.
Rachel’s mother Carol Blackburn has been a resident of Rockville Centre for 35 years. Carol said that her daughter has been active in local productions all the way back to when she was four. The family often made trips to the city to see shows on Broadway when Rachel was a child.
“When your children are happy, you are happy. If you’re children have a passion and follow it, that’s a gift.” Carol Blackburn said. “Not everybody knows what their passion is and it takes them a while to find it, but she always knew and she’s been cultivating it since she was four.”
“The kids love her and she’s happy. It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Carol Blackburn said.
Tickets are free and audience members are asked to bring their lawn chairs. The shows on August 3 and 4 will start at 8 p.m.