By Rita Charleston
Quintessence Theatre Group kicks off its eighth season with a new family series, beginning with a world premiere of a modern adaptation of “Aesop’s Fables” by Quintessence Company member Lee Cortopassi, who also directs the show. The play runs through Sept. 17 at The Sedgwick Theatre, 7137 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, before it tours area schools.
Based on a collection of short morality tales for children that have been told since 600 BCE, “Aesop’s Fables” uses contemporary language and situations to re-imagine timeless tales of friendship, trust, honor and common sense. “Lee has combined several fables into one 45-minute play geared to children but definitely meant as a family show,” says Michael Gamache, an ensemble member in the show who plays a lion.
“The show is very fast-paced, so no one has much down time. There are a lot of changes, so there’s constant activity. It’s a great deal of fun. And while I never pretend I’m not a human being playing a lion, I can infuse my energy with animal movement and characteristics without ever dropping my humanity. So it’s a nice blending of the two.”
Gamache admits he’s had lots of fun since moving to Philadelphia several years ago and joining Quintessence last November. A transplanted native of Virginia, the actor has been seen at Quintessence in “Wild Tales,” “The Broken Heart” and “Love’s Labors Lost” and at Bristol Riverside Theatre, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Virginia Shakespeare Festival and more. Now living in Manayunk, the 38-year-old admits that as a shy child, growing up was not as much fun.
“I was one of those kids who made faces in the mirror to amuse myself. I remember in middle school I was cast as a guard in ‘Antigone.’ I was so scared that I carried my lines on note cards so I could always look at them. But as I got older, and started doing more school plays, I came to be more relaxed. By the time I was in high school, I did a play called ‘Mother Goose, Inc.’ It was a fairytale show for kids, so I guess I’m coming full circle with ‘Aesop’s Fables.’ I’ve also learned to love the acting profession.”
So in order to better learn his craft, Gamache attended Christopher Newport University in Virginia, graduating with a B.A. in performing arts. He went on to attend graduate school at Illinois State University, earning his M.F.A. in classical acting and attending programs with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe Theatre in London. He continues doing all of the Shakespeare that’s offered to him “I love doing Shakespeare,” he says. “I see a lot of contemporary actors who are afraid if it, but I’m super-confident with it.”
When’s he not on stage, Gamache works as a standardized patient for the University of Pennsylvania, and tries to record voice-overs. (“Standardized patients” get paid to pretend to have certain diseases as part of the clinical training of medical students and interns.)
But it’s acting on stage that he loves most. “Acting can be a very stressful thing. Basically, you’re unemployed every six weeks, so you spend your time looking for work. But I wouldn’t want to do anything else because the best thing about it is you’re always doing something new. You get to explore different parts of yourself, which is really beautiful.”
For times and ticket information to the modern adaptation of “Aesop’s Fables,” call 215-987-4450.