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Next Door Is a Place for More Than Just Theater

The Next Door Center for the Arts is about to launch its latest production, "Into the Woods," but staff say the center is about more than theater.

The is currently in the midst of “tech week” as it prepares to mount its latest production, “Into the Woods.” This week of technical rehearsals brings together all the elements of the show, ultimately culminating in opening night this Friday.

The show tells the tale of a baker and his wife, who have been cursed by an evil enchantress, leaving them unable to have children. The couple embarks on a journey to break the spell, and on the way they meet a variety of fairy tale characters.

“This is a musical that will delight our children yet still holds a very deep message for adults in the audience. While there are fairy tale characters in this play, they are adults with recognizable moral dilemmas,” said Brian Milauskas, Producing Artistic Director, in a press release.

The Next Door Center for the Arts is a non-profit organization focused on building community through the arts. And “Into the Woods” is truly a community show, bringing together professional actors who are members of Actors’ Equity Association, as well as local talent. Sarajane Mullins, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, said she enjoys the mixed levels of experience.

“I think it’s refreshing. It creates a wonderful environment to work in,” said Mullins, who is also on the Next Door staff as assistant to the Producing Artistic Director.

Cathie Jackson, who plays Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, is one member of the community without a lot of professional theater experience. Watching Jackson experience a fully produced musical for the first time, taking pleasure in all aspects of theater, is a joy for Mullins too, she said.

The performing arts center owes some of its success to low overhead, keeping only Milauskas and Mullins on staff, hiring freelancers for lighting and other temporary roles, and drawing on the expertise of a board of directors.

The streamlined staffing arrangement means Mullins and Milauskas juggle a bit of everything at times, even down to staffing the box office. “If I’m not on stage, I’m in the box office, and if Brian’s not on stage, he’s in the box office,” Mullins said.

They recently got some help in that department: the theater’s new online ticketing system, Vendini, makes it easy for patrons to choose their own seats and even print tickets at home.

The Next Door Center for the Arts usually produces four to six shows a year. To fill in the calendar between self-produced shows, they bring in visiting theater companies, and also rent out the space for meetings and community events. There is also a dedicated art gallery in the lobby, currently exhibiting the work of art teachers in the Winchester Public Schools.

“The icing on the cake is the art gallery,” Mullins said. “This is a place for more than one kind of art and more than one kind of person.

“Into the Woods” opens at the Next Door Center for the Arts on Friday, March 9 and runs through March 24. Tickets are available on their website or by calling 781-729-6398.

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