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Photo by Barry Feterman
Members of St. Gregory’s Theatre Group rehearse for “Don’t Judge a Play By Its Title.”
By Merle Exit

Actor, writer, director, and former English teacher Mark Lord has a new original show to share.

“Don’t Judge a Play by Its Title: A Funsical,” will debut Feb. 23–26 at St. Gregory’s Theatre Group at the Oak Room in Bellrose.

“It is neither a revue, nor a traditional play with a plot,” Lord said. “It is probably its own genre. We’re calling it a ‘funsical,’ which aptly describes it.”

The show is about poetry, according to Lord, who drew on a wide variety of verse as source material.

“It is a musical that traces the role that poetry plays in our lives from childhood through old age,” he said, “consisting of several dozen pieces of poetry — some quite lengthy, some a few lines — ranging from nursery rhymes, to Shakespeare, to love sonnets, bawdy limericks and some heart-wrenching narratives about the difficulties we all face.”

By bringing together poetry from across genres and a wide range of authors, Lord hopes to encourage his audience to engage with poetry and related to it better.

“My goal in this show is to be equally entertaining and informative, and we hope to have audiences leave the theater with a greater enjoyment and understanding of the wide world of poetry,” he said. “The poems in the show include works by the likes of William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, James Weldon Johnson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, comic pieces by Shel Silverstein and Ogden Nash, slightly bawdy limericks, and several that speak to different aspects of today’s society.”

Lord’s “funsical” had its origins in his earlier career as a teacher looking for ways to engage his often-disinterested students with literature.

“The seed for the show was planted many years ago when I was still working as a high school English teacher,” Lord said. “Not all students like poetry, and I thought that there must be a way to make poetry more engaging. I put together a dramatic presentation that featured a combination of poetry and music. We performed it in school and the students loved it. Ever since, I wanted to expand the piece by mounting it for a wider audience.”

Lord wrote original lyrics for the show’s opening/closing number, which were set to music by his collaborator, Joe Ferrante. He said about 65 percent of the show is spoken word, while the rest is made up of about a dozen musical numbers, all of which have to do with poetry.

“Some are based on actual poems, some are from musicals adapted from Shakespeare, and so on,” Lord said. “From Seuss to Shakespeare, naughty limericks to expressions of love, there is something for everyone in this production.”

That cast is as eclectic as Lord’s source material, with each of the two dozen multi-cultural and multi-generational actors taking on multiple characters depending on the poem they are performing. Some of the performers are seasoned veterans and local favorites, while others are relative newcomers to the Queens theater circuit.

What: “Don’t Judge A Play By Its Title”

Where: St. Gregory’s Theatre Group, at the Oak Room, 242-20 88th Avenue, Bellrose

When: Feb. 23, 24, 25, 8pm; Feb. 26, 2pm

Tickets and information: 718-989-2451 www.sgtg.org

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