By now it’s a well-worn clichè. When you ask Baltimoreans where they went to school, they assume you are asking about high school, not college.
When he was a student at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School, Evan Margolis, a 2008 graduate, had such admiration for the school’s theater department that six years ago, while studying at University of Maryland, College Park, he founded the Beth Tfiloh Community Theatre so that he could keep coming back. Much of his enthusiasm, said Margolis, was due to the talent of BT’s award-winning artistic director, Diane Smith.
“We [Margolis and his peers] had such a great experience working with Diane that a lot of us wanted to keep doing it.”
At first, said Margolis, the project was just for BT alumni, but when Margolis’ father, Paul, joined the group’s 2009 production of “West Side Story,” participants decided to open it up to anyone who wanted to audition. Currently, Margolis, Smith and a cast that includes BT alumni, an alumni parent, BT staff, college students and local theater professionals are preparing for the run of Monty Python’s musical comedy “Spamalot,” which opens with a Sunday matinee on Aug. 17 and includes evening performances on Aug. 18, 20 and 21.
Directed by Smith, the cast stars BT parent Paul Margolis as King Arthur, Sarah Miller as The Lady of the Lake, Josh Margolis ‘12 as Sir Lancelot, Will Meister as Sir Galahad, Will Poxen as Sir Robin, Dylan Margolis as Sir Bedevere, Asher Varon ‘13 as Patsy and Amanda Dickson as The Historian.
For Smith, who has served as artistic director of BT’s schools and congregation for the past 10 years and is also artistic director for the nonprofit Children’s Playhouse of Maryland, working with the BTCT has been a wonderful experience.
“It’s great to have such a diverse group,” she said. “They take it seriously, but there are no egos. The performers who are Jewish are so grateful that we are here, since many of them could not be part of a show that ran and rehearsed on Shabbos. What’s also nice is that the whole community supports us and really appreciates that we are here.”
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Smith said that about half of the cast members are semiprofessional or working toward a career in the theater, while the other half are performing simply for the love of it.
BT alumna Kari Davis, who graduated in 2007, said returning to her high school to perform with the company felt “a bit weird at first. It has been a while since I’ve done a show.”
Davis will begin her second year of medical school at the University of Maryland this fall. Now that she’s immersed in the production though, Davis, who sings, dances and acts in “Spamalot,” said it feels great to be back on stage working with Smith and the rest of the cast. In fact, Davis noted, this summer will be the last time for the foreseeable future that she will have the time to indulge her love of musical theater.
“I hadn’t seen the play before, but I was familiar with the music and, of course, with Monty Python,” she said. “The show is hilarious.”
Will Meister, 20, who plays Sir Galahad, is a performing arts major at CCBC’s Essex campus and acts with various companies in and around Baltimore. This is Meister’s first time being part of a BTCT production, but he has worked with Smith previously and knows the Margolises from Cappies (the Critics and Awards Program), an organization that trains high school theater and journalism students to become theater critics. Meister said performing in “Spamalot” has been a lot of fun.
Smith assured parents that the BTCT version of the play is PG-13. “We’ve toned it down a bit,” she said, adding that “it’s crazy silly humor. ‘Spamalot’ spoofs on everything and takes the humor as far as it can go. You will see high-quality performances and hear some great voices.”
Interested in getting involved? Actors or aspiring actors of school age and up are welcome to audition for future productions. For information, email BTCommunityTheatre@gmail.com.