Hartland Student, Father Bring Original Play From New York To Howell
March 8, 2019
A local father and daughter duo are bringing an original play from the Big Apple to downtown Howell.
When Hartland High School junior Rachel Rotay was 11 years old, she wrote and composed lyrics for a song called “Turning Pages.” Her mother Sue, soon tasked Rachel’s father Robert , an engineer at GM, with writing a play around it as part of a “honey do” list. Three months later, using the essence and themes of Turning Pages and other songs Rachel was writing to develop characters, Robert completed the Rotay family’s original musical “Glockcoma.” Glockcoma, he describes, is a dramatic comedy about an older woman who loses vision of her life, faces her regrets, and explores how she deals with them.
Robert said that he’s met people in disbelief that an engineer could write a play. The perception, he says, is that they are good with numbers, but incompetent with English and writing. He says that he actually thinks being an engineer helped him, as it gives him skills with process-oriented thinking. Plays, in themselves, Rotay said, have a skeletal structure that needs to be adhered to.
The Rotay’s submitted Glockcoma for consideration to premier at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City in 2016. The musical was accepted as one of 40, from 400 applicants, and was nominated for a couple awards, according to its Director, Brian Catton, of Hartland.
Rachel said New York was quite an experience, meeting and being around other playwrights. She told WHMI, “You know, being this 14-15 year old girl and saying, ‘Yes, I DID write all this music, and I poured my heart and soul into this,’ around professional adults who’ve been doing this for 15-16 years or so was a little bit intimidating and definitely a learning experience, but also fulfilling.” Coming back from that experience, they reworked the play further, adding a pair of new songs from Rachel, who said she is inspired by music of the past. As Robert’s story travels through the life of the elderly woman, Rachel’s songs compliment and reflect the era each scene is set in.
The Rotay’s and their theatre company, The Art of Theatre, are now preparing for a nine performance stint at the Historic Howell Theater.
In New York, the Glockcoma cast included performers who worked with Cats, Evita, and Orange is the New Black. Catton, who remains at the helm, said that if they couldn’t find the right cast back in Michigan, then the show wouldn’t have gone on. They’ve found their cast.
Rosaline Contrera Guastella, who has 26 years of experience with the Michigan Opera has been named leading actress, and will play the protagonist, Alexandra. Other cast members include Tenor from the University of Michigan-Flint, Brenden Stevens; Gabrielle Blondin, a senior at Hartland High School; Jennifer Burke Thomas, who has directed many plays in the Fenton, Hartland, and Howell areas; Lily Bowen, a 10 year-old singer/actress from Northville; and Rachel Rotay herself, in a supporting role.
Nine performances will take place between April 5-14 at the Historic Howell Theater. Fifty cents from every ticket sold and 20% of opening night concessions will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Rachel has been a Type 1 diabetic since she was 6, and said that she feels it’s important to do her part in helping find a cure for any disease, but especially diabetes because of her struggles with it.
For more information on the The Art of Theatre, visit www.theartoftheatre.org , call (810) 240-2128, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (MK)