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Westborough High Alum's New Theater Company Finds Niche

The Flyleaf Theater Company is rehearsing its second production.

Performing "Next to Normal" is the latest way a grad's new theater company will be different locally.

The Flyleaf Theater Company's productions' casts will be capped around 10 performers, smaller than other MetroWest-area theater groups, Jonathan Eldridge says.

"We're trying to push the status quo of community theater by keeping things very small, cast sizes especially," the 1999 WHS grad said during a recent interview.

"That gives us the advantage of doing productions -- straight plays and musicals -- that a lot of community theater companies won't do: they're either far too risky, or there aren't enough people in the cast to make it worth doing, or they need the cast and the audience to break even at least.

"When we max out at 10, not only are we doing something intimate, but there's a whole catalogue of high-quality musicals and straight play scripts -- edgy, thought-provoking, deep, dark stuff that we can do that nobody else can do."

Flyleaf, based in Westborough and Berlin, is rehearsing "Next to Normal," "multi-layered rock musical" that's dark, Eldridge said.

The play will be performed at 8 p.m. Sept. 7, Sept. 8, Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, and at 2 p.m. Sept. 9 and Sept. 16, at Berlin's 1870 Town Hall. Tickets are $10.

It's the second of three productions in the opening season for Flyleaf, which Eldridge says he and his fiancee, Amanda Casale, began developing about two years ago.

"Our area, the MetroWest area, is so saturated with non-Equity and community theater that we wanted to have our own company, but also find a separate little niche that nobody else has really tapped into in our area yet," he said.

Flyleaf's inaugural season opened in June with "Songs for a New World," written by Jason Robert Brown, Eldridge noted. The audienes were around capacity, about 100 people, he said.

The season will close in January with "Circle Mirror Transformation," written by Annie Baker. All shows are held at Berlin's 1870 Town Hall.

Flyleaf's board has already planned the second season, which will have four shows, Eldridge said.

"We're going to be doing what we consider to be a Flyleaf large-scale musical, which is going to have about seven characters in it," he said.

"We'll be doing a mystery. We'll be doing a Shakespeare. And then we're going to be doing a fundraiser musical featuring three of our board members.

"We're looking to thrive on our versatility in a wide range of styles and productions."

The group also plans to do a series of workshops.

"In our second season, we'll be having improvisational acting workshops. Movement workshops. Audition workshops. And, for something a little bit different, we're having a burlesque dance workshop," Eldridge said.

"I don't think we'll be doing a burlesque show. But, it's something (where) nothing's going on with that. These are the little things that we're trying to tap into."

The name "Flyleaf" comes from books, Eldridge added.

"A flyleaf of a book is the blank page at the very beginning of the book, and the blank page at the very end of the book," he explained.

"We didn't know exactly how and when this was going to start. And we don't know where this is going. And so, we're keeping those blank pages open for us."

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