There’s an old entertainment saying that goes on about the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd when trying to describe what draws performers to the stage. It’s a feeling Music and Theatre Legacy Foundation (MTLF) founder Kathleen Mucciolo-Kolins knows well as a lifelong thespian, teacher and devotee of the theater. Not only is she an experienced performer who’s spent time on and Off Broadway working in production as well as performing, but she’s taught drama and English at Sewanhaka High School and also boasts a degree as a teaching artist from the Lincoln Center Institute.
In recent years, the Garden City resident has channeled her efforts into the MTLF. Created in 2009, this nonprofit organization represents Mucciolo-Kolins’ passion for bringing children and the performing arts together in a world where theater and music seem to be taking a backseat to social media and video games.
And while her efforts have led to awarding scholarships to students and given children a chance to share the stage with notable performers like Irish vocalist Andy Cooney, Mucciolo-Kolins upcoming effort, “Shades of Time,” is a fundraising effort to raise money for the foundation to be used for kids and their projects. The event is centered on a pair of one-act staged readings written by playwright Bill McMahon that will be staged on Friday, March 11 at The Players, the historic actors’ club located in Gramercy Park.
Mucciolo will be part of the three-person cast for both productions alongside Steve Hauck and Joy Franz. Not surprisingly, she’s thrilled to be walking the boards again.
“It’s two one-act plays and I’ve got the lead in both and they concern time, memory and the time with which we find ourselves. One is called The New Black and is about a fashion designer who has left the New York City hub and the rag business and it takes place in 1988 when people like Halston were the big names. I play Vita, this high-powered, nerve-driven gal in her late 40s/early 50s who smokes cigarettes and was his partner in the garment industry. She traverses out there to try to coerce him to come back to the city,” she explained.
“The other is called Mother of the Groom and I play the mother Phyllis, who is a flashy kind of a character who is very good-hearted and insightful. Her son is getting married and she meets Eleanor in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel. Eleanor has a son also and the two boys are getting married—that’s the twist.”
And while Mucciolo-Kolins had concerns that the subject matter of Groom might have been a bit too edgy, she wound up being won over by McMahon’s writing.
“I was reluctant to do that because it might be a little too cutting-edge, but it’s a sign of the times,” she admitted. “It’s tastefully done and there isn’t anything that’s foul or crude in it. It happens to be a fact of life and it’s wrapped in good humor, sensitivity and the idea of [two moms] figuring out how to make this a family for their boys.”
This Friday’s event allows Mucciolo-Kolins to practice her craft while raising money for the foundation and giving her more opportunities to mentor, teach and help make a difference in boosting the self-esteem of children that might otherwise be lacking in that department. Call it paying if forward from a pair of late influences who recognized that Mucciolo-Kolins had what she calls the bug of always wanting to perform dating back to when she was 4.
“My drama teacher in high school was Ruby Parks at Floral Park Memorial High School. This woman was so talented and saw the energy in me as a middle school kid from 12 years old, took that and helped me develop until I was a senior. That was the woman who did it and really planted the seed and I think she had the biggest influence on me, may she rest in peace,” she recalled. “Clark Marlor was another influence. He was my professor and I was working on my master’s in my second year and we were about to write my thesis. He said I would but he had to get me out of the classroom and into the throes of what’s happening with friends of mine on Broadway. I was 20 years old. So, I did an internship that summer and I worked for David Merrick, Arthur Cantor and Jack Schlissel.”
It was this connection with kindred spirits that’s inspired the Floral Park native to reach out and help younger people in a way with the Music and Theatre Legacy Foundation that goes beyond maybe making that leap to the Great White Way.
“I’m a teacher, so this is teaching and mentoring. This developing them and bringing them out. Seeing kids at the beginning of the process who look at the floor, shuffle their feet, can’t be bothered or miss a rehearsal. By the second or third meeting, they’re there in performance,” she pointed out.” “They’re so proud that they can’t wait for their parents or grandparents to get there. You see a transformation in them and that’s priceless.”
Shades of Time will be held on Friday, March 11 at 8 p.m. at The Players located at Gramercy Park South in Manhattan. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 516-455-9393 or visit www.musicandlegacytheatrefoundation.org.