Occasionally we are lucky to cross paths with cast and crew in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions who have significant ties to Long Island. In the case of Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical, an Off-Broadway show, which has just been extended through the end of April, we were fortunate to meet, not only one of these people, but two. Kaitlyn Meriam of Farmingdale and Alex Dash of Jericho are holding down the stage management of this lively creation by Jonathan Hogue that is packed with talent.
Meriam, the assistant stage manager, is currently making her Off-Broadway debut in this musical. She is also currently stage managing her fifth production with Argyle Children’s Theatre in Babylon. Meriam earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in theatre production and design with a concentration in stage management from LIU Post in 2020.
For more than seven years, Meriam has stage managed with many regional theatres such as Berkshire Theatre Group (Pittsfield, MA), Timber Lake Playhouse (Mount Carrol, IL), Bucks County Playhouse (New Hope, PA), and the John W. Engeman Theatre (Northport). She is a Farmingdale High School alumna, Class of 2016.
We had a chance to chat exclusively with Meriam.
Here’s what she had to tell us.
Q. What is the best thing about this show?
A. Overall, it’s just so much fun. Night in and night out, from the very first note to the very last chord, the audience is having a ball and honestly, we are too. If I had to pick a specific thing, I’d have to go with the music. These songs are so brilliantly crafted and catchy that even months in, I still find myself leaving the theatre every night happily humming these tunes. You’d think I’d be sick of it by now but they’re just too good!
Q. Did this show teach you something new?
A. I’ve learned a lot about myself during this run but one thing I would say is that this production has taught me how to be flexible and think on my feet. On the namesake of the show, “stranger things have happened” but boy does it sometimes feel like it couldn’t get much stranger with the obstacles that we’ve faced. I would also say that the biggest thing working on Stranger Sings has taught me is the importance of community. We have a truly extraordinary company up at Playhouse 46 and it would be impossible for us to make it through without each other.
Q. What’s the best thing about this cast/crew?
A. Everything. The best part of my job, hands down, is the people. Working with a lifelong friend like Alex [Dash] is the cherry on top, but every member of this crew and cast is a dream to work with, particularly our other ASM [assistant stage manager], Lara Sato. The three of us make a great team, and great friends, and I couldn’t ask for better partners in all the craziness that naturally emerges when working in theatre. I mean it, though, when I say this company is full of some of the most kind, supportive, and funny humans I’ve ever worked with and none of us could do what we do without each other. We love to poke fun at one another and have a good time, but when it comes down to it, we are truly a family and I am lucky not only to work with them, but just to know them.
Q. Why do you do what you do, professionally?
A. Theatre is very important. It means a lot to be able to bring people joy and maybe even make a difference through it. Stage managing puts me right into the middle of facilitating all that while also matching my skill set very closely, so it’s always been a natural fit. I love what I do.
Q. How did you get involved in theater?
A. As a kid I was always fascinated with seeing theatre, but I never quite grasped that it was something I could do. When I was about 11, My school chorus teacher encouraged me to audition for the school musical and I absolutely fell in love with it all. I couldn’t get enough so I started finding ways to involve myself in theatre at my middle and high school in any capacity I could. When the two to three shows a year there weren’t enough anymore, I branched out to a local community theatre, the Cultural Arts Playhouse (CAP) [Syosset]. I wanted to be involved however I could so CAP really became a second home for a few years of my life. I spent every night, every weekend there rehearsing to perform in shows, taking classes, ushering, learning about, and working shows in sound and lighting, concessions—you name it! If it meant I got to be at the theatre, sign me up. I made some of my best friends, like Alex, there and almost a decade later, I still couldn’t imagine it any differently. Through high school, theatre became my entire life, and I didn’t want it any other way. I went to college, got my degree, and now I’m lucky enough to be able to live my life this way with this career because of those long island roots. Because of not only the things I learned and the time I spent there, but also because of people like Alex. We’re like family now and would do anything for each other. When Alex called and said there was an opening on Stranger Sings, I jumped at the opportunity not just because it’s a great show (which it is) or a good career step, but also because it means I get to come into work every day and have a blast with my friend just like we did every weekend all those years ago at CAP. It’s all so surreal but I am so grateful to be able to be on this journey with Alex at my side.
Q. Tell us more about your connection to Long Island.
A. I think growing up on Long Island played a big part in leading me down the path of theatre as a career. Long Island is so packed with theatre and opportunity that I was always able to keep myself going with it. I was lucky enough to grow up in the Farmingdale School District with an incredible music department and such a passionate theatre department that it really only took that first show to get me hooked for life. Farmingdale is full of some incredibly supportive and kind teachers. I would never have gotten to where I am today without their work and dedication to creating and nurturing these programs for their students. I will always be thankful to teachers like Jessica Mischke, Elizabeth Swansen, Danielle Tucker, and Lauren Castellane for that. I will especially always be grateful to Katrina Beiner, who saw the spark in me from the very beginning and gave me my start in stage managing specifically. The Farmingdale School District theatre departments, the Cultural Arts Playhouse, and of course, my family and friend’s support are all to thank for sending me down this path and setting me up for success in stage managing as a career.
Q. What would be helpful to know before coming in to see this show?
A: It’s helpful to have seen the Netflix series, but I always tell people that it’s by no means a requirement. We have people every day who come in absolutely blind to the Stranger Sings universe and have a wonderful time. There’s pieces in there for everyone but as long as you come in with an open mind and a sense of humor, you’ll have a great time.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals in a similar role?
A. Work hard, be kind, and take care of yourself. It’s very easy to lose one of the three in the chaos of this business but they are each so important to creating opportunities that are attainable and sustainable.
Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical plays through April 30, 2023 at Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s (308 W. 46th Street). Tickets are $49 to $99 for all performances. A limited amount of VIP Bean Bag chairs are available for $149. All prices included $1.50 facility fee.
Weekly performance schedules vary.
Visit StrangerSings.com for more information and to purchase tickets.