The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 5, 2004


Corey Jackson: director of the musical The Secret Garden

This is the fourth in a series of weekly articles on the Savoyard Light Opera Company's production of The Secret Garden, running from November 12 to 21 in the Corey Auditorium. This will be the group's last show to be performed in Carlisle.

Martha, the cheerful Yorkshire maid, bustled into Mary's bedroom, singing a little ditty as she tidied up. "Me mother asked me, lassie, tell me what your lad mun do, before you give your heart away, and make a nest, and all the rest"

"Wait a minute," interrupted Corey Jackson. "What is this song about?"

Martha, (actually actress Jessica Theriault of Littleton) glanced up from the table and folding chair serving as bedroom furniture on a makeshift rehearsal set and peered thoughtfully at the director. The song, she said, was clearly about finding a man.

"How do you feel about that?" Jackson asked. "Let us hear."

Theriault sang the song again, this time far more lustily, to the delight and laughter of her fellow cast members.

Encouraging actors to explore the actions and emotions of their characters is just one facet of Corey Jackson's job as director of the Savoyard Light Opera Company's (SLOC) presentation of The Secret Garden, opening on November 12. Jackson, of Watertown, also oversees sets, costumes, lighting, sound and makeup.

"I enjoy having control over the entire artistic vision of the production," says Jackson, who also has extensive acting experience — including the memorable role of a gangster in SLOC's production of Kiss Me Kate in Carlisle in 2001. "I find that very rewarding. I also love teaching and helping actors find and develop their characters."

Jackson accomplishes this by leading the actors through various exercises during rehearsals. In one, he says he asked the actors to make lists of verbs (not adjectives) describing their characters, so they will focus on actions instead of merely acting. He also insists that the actors think at length about the history of their characters, to explain why they respond as they do.

"There's also the whole concept of the 'moment before,'" says Jackson. "They have to think through what just happened before a scene opens. They can't just walk onto the stage and start there."

Christopher Porth of Acton has played his lead role of Archibald Craven in another production, but admits he didn't prepare for the role quite like this. "I've never dug in, in depth, into the history of the character and the history of the relationships. It has been quite an intrinsic experience," he says. "Trying to find out all you can to bring a person to life is radically important.[Under Jackson's direction], I've had more of an opportunity to feel who Archie really is."

"Corey really helps create three-dimensional characters, and reveal their complexity," agrees Kim Bolling of Hollis, New Hampshire, who plays opposite Porth in the role of Lily. "There's a real atmosphere of professionalism on the set."

Jackson, who works by day as a software product manager for Novell in Waltham, was first bitten by the acting bug when he was in second grade and had the lead role of the professor in a show called Wackadoo Zoo.

"It was my first experience with that feeling you get when there's a live audience and they just love you," he says. After that, he appeared in every elementary, middle and high school production he could, and attended summer theater programs. During his college years, however, he took a break from theater to focus on computer courses. Although he has a few regrets about not studying theater (he attended Syracuse University, which has a well-respected theater program), he acknowledges that it's "kind of nice to have a job that pays the bills."

Over the years, Jackson has made up for lost time, appearing in an estimated 60 shows overall, including some forays into professional theater in Boston. Most recently, he appeared as Detective Fleet in Lizzie Borden at Stoneham Theatre, and has been cast as The Ghost of Christmas Present in the regional group's production of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, opening December 2. But in the meantime, Jackson is focusing on his other passion, directing. "I've had bad directors and good directors, and I've learned a lot from both kinds," he says.

Michael Lague of Sudbury has appeared on stage with Jackson numerous times, and worked under his direction in The Boys Next Door with the Sudbury Savoyards last summer. "[Jackson] takes a lot of focused time, even with the smaller characters," says Lague, who plays the role of Major Holmes in The Secret Garden. "That doesn't always happen in community theater, although that's what I always imagined a director would do. As for Corey as a performer, I've always thought of him as very talented, in the upper tier of actors in this area."

Craig Howard of Bedford has also performed often with Jackson, (including his role as Petrucchio in SLOC's Kiss Me Kate), and is now working for the first time under Jackson's stage direction in the role of gardener Ben Weatherstaff. "I have loved every second of this. Corey is consistent and his love for the show is evident," says Howard. "It's beautiful. I can't imagine there will be a single heart in the audience who's not touched by it," he says.

If the cast has a high regard for Jackson, it's clear the feeling is mutual. "When we get the cast together, they sound beautiful. Every time they sing, I melt," he says. "This group is able to attract incredibly talented people. The cast has an unusually high performance value, the orchestra is brilliant and the sets are amazing. It's like a little professional theater that does one show a year."

Performances of The Secret Garden will be Fridays and Saturdays, November 12, 13, 19, 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, November 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. at the Corey Auditorium. Ticket prices for all performances are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $15 for children 12 and under. For tickets call 1-978-371-SLOC (7562) or visit the web site at

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito