Ivy Lane Players have Queens roots

Jennifer Pappas and Eric L. Grayson.
Courtesy of Ivy Lane Players
By Ronald B. Hellman

Once upon a time, Nassau County was part of Queens — until 1898, when Greater New York City was formed. It has lots of theater companies, and many Queens residents, actors and theatergoers venture east across the city border — no passport required — to see what these groups are up to.

One of the more notable troupes is the Ivy Lane Players, which is about to present two plays making their Long Island debuts, “I Was Here” and “Courted: Love on Trial.” The productions, being performed under the joint title “Uncertain Fate,” will run for six performances April 13-22.

Ivy Lane has been around since 1963 and, according to its mission statement, offers works that might otherwise never see the light of day on the Island, while seeking to have their audiences “challenged, shaken up and, at times, annoyed, pestered and bothered by what happens on stage.” Which, I might add, is what good theater should be all about.

They’ve produced 80 shows to date — about three each year. Ivy Lane works out of its home at its patron, the Levittown Public Library (1 Bluegrass Lane), presided over by Henry Brewer as president, and his wife Tara Labell as treasurer. Unlike much of the competition, the group charges no admission — that’s right, free tickets available at the library reference desk — relying on contributions and the kindness of strangers, unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which lets New York City patrons pay what they want.

Brewer often directs, but this current production is guided by Cailin Kless, the daughter of two local theater actors, and a native of Douglaston now living in Queens Village. Kless made her stage debut in 1993 as an angel in the Christmas pageant at the Zion Episcopal Church and has had a number of more earthbound roles since. She is currently studying directing at The Barrow Group.

Several actors who will soon strut their stuff in Levittown can claim connections with Queens. Christopher Blieka, originally from Flushing, is a graduate student at Queens College; Alexander Larkin spent some time in Queens Village and makes his third appearance with Ivy Lane; Jennifer Pappas, a librarian by trade, is from Floral Park; Louis Scavo was born and lived on Eldert Lane in Cypress Hills, and makes his living as a paralegal; Joseph Sherer, a fellow member of the legal profession, resided in Rego Park and Whitestone; and Mara Lee Silverman is a former resident of Astoria and College Point.

All of this is made possible for these actors and the other cast members by the most important person in any production, the playwright. He’s Eric L. Grayson, out of Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay, and the word is that his two plays for Ivy Lane are all about love.

So plan on making a trip to our neighbor to the east and enjoy what Ivy Lane has to offer. For more information, call 516-731-5728, or visit www.ivylaneplayers.com.

Contact Ron Hellman at rbhofc@gmail.com.

More from Around New York