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MCCC Theatre Alum Mark Applegate Returns to the Stage
For Starring Role at Kelsey Theatre

7/3/12


West Windsor, N.J. – Alum Mark Applegate ’95 (Theatre) hadn’t performed at MCCC’s Kelsey Theatre for years, but once he stepped out on stage, it was like he never left.

Applegate recently starred in Maurer Productions’ musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” presented at Kelsey in early June.  “My first experience back at Kelsey has been so much more than I could ever have anticipated,” said Applegate, who praised the talents and professionalism of Director John Maurer and the rest of the cast.  “They were all amazing.”

Applegate’s starring role was simply known as “Man in Chair,” but in fact, he was the narrator, sitting on stage throughout the show, offering amusing commentary and anecdotes.  His character is described as a mousy, agoraphobic Broadway fanatic. 

As the show begins, he pulls out a favorite 1920s musical from his record collection, and the audience goes along with him out of his dingy apartment and into the world of this colorful Broadway comedy, where he becomes totally immersed by the show’s end.

“He’s that crazy guy who just says whatever he’s thinking,” said Applegate, noting that his character’s wicked, wry sense of humor is a mask for troubles in his life.

The show was well received, with positive reviews from the local press – in particular, for Applegate’s performance. “Applegate is perfectly cast, and his performance is exquisitely funny,” said reviewer Bob Brown of The Princeton Packet.

A Hamilton resident, Applegate is no stranger to the MCCC campus, having majored in Theatre at Mercer after graduating from Nottingham High School, where he had performed in plays and the madrigal choir.  “I knew all along that I wanted to study theater,” said Applegate, who enrolled at MCCC based on the recommendation of a friend who had graduated from the Theatre program.  “Before I enrolled, I had already seen a lot of shows at Kelsey." He recalled a time when he performed in a dance production at Kelsey as a high schooler.

He also had a strong connection to Kelsey Artistic Director Kitty Getlik.  “She directed our high school shows,” Applegate explained.

“It was so exciting to have Mark Applegate back in a show here,” said Getlik.  “Mark was part of a group of MCCC Theatre students who really enjoyed their time here, and made an impression on us all." She recalled how he was also a very creative student, particularly when he helped design black and white hats for the famous racetrack scene in “My Fair Lady.” 

MCCC Alum Mark Applegate '95 is pictured in his starring role as Man in Chair in the recent Kelsey Theatre production of "The Drowsy Chaperone."
For the last seven years Applegate has donated a handmade teddy bear to a live auction in New York for the nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This year's bear, Mazeppa from "Gypsy," earned the charity $1,800.

While at MCCC, Applegate took advantage of every opportunity the Theatre program had to offer, recalling several instructors who helped him fine-tune his skills, including Annie Avarre, Janelle Byrne, Terry Sherman, Miriam Mills, Stuart Duncan and Bob Spain.  Sherman took his class to see shows as part of the class curriculum.  “He was a working actor, so it was so great to learn from someone who’s actually out there in the field,” Applegate said.

Among the shows that Applegate performed in while at Mercer was the original production of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in 1995, when he played the author, Clement C. Moore.  The show is now one of Kelsey's annual holiday favorites.  His best acting memory as a Mercer student is when he played the half-crazed sailor Ben Gunn in PinnWorth Productions’ “Treasure Island.”

After studying at MCCC, Applegate stayed on at Kelsey as the box office manager.  “Mercer is a great starting off point. I cherished my time there,” he said.

He then took voice lessons at Westminster Conservatory through a scholarship, while also helping with theater sets and costumes in area school productions, including Cranbury School and Stewart Country Day School. He also performed in Princeton University’s student production of “Camelot.”  “I co-costumed that show on a very small budget: zero dollars!” laughed Applegate.

He then took a job backstage, working as the head of wardrobe at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.  “I learned a lot there.  Working backstage is so enriching, most people have no idea,” he said.  He worked with esteemed acting talent from New York, including Blair Brown (“Fringe,” “Continental Divide”), Jimmy Smits (“Star Wars: Episode III,” “L.A. Law”), Lily Tomlin (actress and comedian), Amanda Plummer (“Pulp Fiction”), and Charles Durning (“Rescue Me,” “The Sting”).

Applegate also continued to perform and do costume work at other venues, including the Adirondack Opera Festival in Schroon Lake, NY, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

In 2007, Applegate made the move into a career in banking.  He has continued his theater passion by working part time as a costumer for local high school productions, including the Peddie School, Dunellen High School, and the Lawrenceville School.  Applegate has also pursued his interest in voice over work and graphic design by attending seminars and taking online classes.

Giving back to the community, Applegate has volunteered with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in New York, a nonprofit fundraising and grant-making organization where he’s donated handmade teddy bears for its annual auction for the last seven years.  This year's bear, Mazeppa from the Broadway production "Gypsy," earned the charity $1,800.  It was signed by Stephen Sondheim and Faith Dane, who played the part of Mazeppa on both Broadway and in the film version.

It wasn’t until Applegate saw the audition listing for “Drowsy Chaperone” that his itch for acting got rekindled.  With tickets virtually sold out for all six performances, he is gratified that so many people came out to the show.  “It was the best role I’ve ever had the opportunity to play,” Applegate said.

When asked why students should pursue a career in theater, Applegate said it’s a field that requires a lot of passion and enthusiasm, but can be well worth the time and effort.  “For me, theater is something I will always go back to.  The hours are long, but the end product is always very rewarding and satisfying,” he said, adding that he may find himself back on the Kelsey stage again in the near future.

Update: Applegate is starring in Maurer Productions Onstage performance of the adult musical comedy "Avenue Q," coming to MCCC's Kelsey Theatre March 1-10, 2013. Read about the show here.

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