Talbot Spy readers are used to seeing interviews with Tred Avon Players (TAP) directors and actors, usually right before a play opens. However, we thought we’d catch up with Zack Schlag, who recently became their new President. TAP fans might recognize his name as someone who has both acted and directed at TAP for years. So how did this computer science major, a self-proclaimed introvert, get to thrive being with theater people? Here is what he had to say.
How did you get involved with theater?
I was in my senior year in college and needed to take some fun courses. So, I took an acting class the first semester of my senior year, and then a musical theater workshop in my final semester. Suddenly, I’m thinking, ‘these are the people that I want in my life.’ I’ve been involved with theater since then.
What do you do when you’re not on stage?
I’m currently working at Miller Metal Fabrication and doing a 3-D modeling of the sheet metal parts that we’re making in the shop back there. And I’m also programming a welding robot.
I’m more of an analytical person, but there is also a creative part of me. I love the fact that I’m doing the 3-D modeling, bringing attention to detail, plus the creative stuff. That’s very freeing.
How long have you been with TAP?
It was 2008 when I did a director’s workshop called, ‘Acting Out,’ where we were all paired with a mentor who had directed before. There was a shortage of actors, so besides directing one of the seven one-act plays, I also ended up acting in two.
Do you have a preference: Acting or directing?
I prefer to act. I enjoy the feeling of being part of a family, with everyone working together for a common goal. It’s not the same when you’re directing a show.
Which brings up the question, how does TAP choose the plays that will be put on yearly?
Myself, Ed Langrell (former President and longtime director), and Lynn Sanchez (actor and TAP board member) are on an Artistic Committee. We’ll read a bunch of plays and try to come up with a season that fits together in a cohesive unit.
What is a TAP season?
Generally, it’s one musical and three plays. I mean, who doesn’t love a musical? Unfortunately, they’re not always profitable, because we spend so much more on royalties and orchestra and all that. Musicals draw our biggest audience by a long shot. But we generally lose money on those.
For those not familiar with the process, can anyone audition?
Absolutely, we encourage people to come out! I know that some places want you to have a prepared monologue, but TAP generally doesn’t do that. However, if you’re auditioning for a musical, we ask that you come prepared to sing 16 bars or a song. We’ve also done ‘Audition Workshops’ to help overcome the unknown of the audition.
I’ve heard people say, ‘Why should I come out for an audition when the same actors are in the plays?’ But that’s really not the truth at all. When choosing between somebody, we had before and somebody new, if they both fit the part, I will tend to lean towards somebody new. So, please come and audition!
Tell us a little bit about the TAP committees?
We have a hospitality committee, who check people in and help with concessions, etc. There is a committee that reaches out to businesses to buy ads for next season’s programs. We have a scholarship committee that looks at nominations we receive from candidates. We vote on it and hand those out during the May performance. There’s also costuming, lighting, set and tech, etc. We’re always looking for volunteers.
What is on tap for the 2020 season of TAP?
Charley’s Aunt will be the first play. Agatha’s Christie’s And Then There Were None, the musical will be Camelot, and we’re ending the season with The Great Gatsby. I’m very excited about this season and hope that more people will decide to do a season pass.
Have you thought about your TAP legacy?
Right now, I’m working on making TAP more than just four shows a year. I want to try to get more things going on. We performed a staged reading (a form of theater without sets or full costumes) of Mr. Morris! Mr. Morris! earlier this year in collaboration with the Robert Morris Inn. I think we’re going to do something like that in 2020.
We have so many musicians, dancing groups, and art around here that we need to incorporate into more shows. I want to have more workshops, in auditioning, even things like dancing, building sets, etc. We want more people in the community involved.
I also want to look at the entire experience from the moment people walk in our doors through ticket sales, getting refreshments, looking at the program, just the whole thing. I want to look at it from beginning to end and see where we can make improvements.
TAP, organized in 1982, is a non-profit corporation presenting plays and musicals at the Oxford Community Center, in Oxford Maryland. To keep up with what’s going on with the group, check out their website.