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Unique musical celebrating television's guilty pleasures opening in Branford, CT

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Teresa Castracane
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Courtesy of the Legacy Theatre
Broadway veteran Anne Runolfsson in a live performance of her one-woman show, "My Unauthorized Hallmark Movie Musical" at The Legacy Theatre in the village of Stony Creek in Branford, Connecticut.

A new musical is opening this week at The Legacy Theatre in Branford, CT. The one-woman show, called My unauthorized Hallmark Movie Musical, stars award-winning actress Anne Runolfsson. There are four performances starting Aug. 11. Morning Edition Host Lori Mack spoke with Runolfsson about the unique production.

Lori Mack:
This is a musical with a little something different. It's a combination of live theater and cinema. Talk about the show. How does the show combine live theater and cinema and why?

Anne Runolfsson:
The show follows the story of a woman who, during lockdown of the pandemic binge-watches Hallmark movies. So the woman who wrote it, Eloise Coopersmith, had this idea that she would need to act with people on a screen because at this point, we were not able to perform with other performers during lockdown, and actually for quite a bit longer, I'm sure as you know. So she wrote this show and made it so that one actor could do it. And so therefore, if there was any sort of problem with actors being onstage at the same time, we wouldn't have to do it. And so I find myself onstage, acting with eight actors on the screen. And it's a unique experience for me, I've never done this. I've seen things kind of along these lines. But I do think it's quite unique.

Lori Mack:
So your character interacts with other actors. And this is where the cinema comes in. They're on screens, which are onstage with you. How challenging is that?

Anne Runolfsson:
It's not as challenging as you would think. In some ways, it's easier, because you know exactly what you're going to get. And it always happens exactly the same way, you know, they're not going to forget their lines.

Lori Mack:
Because it's already taped.

Anne Runolfsson:
Exactly. And so this whole movie was shot during the pandemic, but it's interesting like to relate to the character on screen. And I'm working with such tremendous actors, and that I feel very much in the moment in terms of dealing with them. And when they're relating to me specifically, it feels very authentic and real. I was a little bit concerned. You know, I mean, your question is a good one. I mean, I was like, Oh, how is that going to be? It's a little harder sometimes, though, just to rehearse. Because when we start a show, we'll typically do a read-through with all the actors and you find your way together. So I would say that was maybe the most challenging part of it is that they've already done their work, and now I'm fitting into that part of the process. And I'm still working on that — we're in rehearsal right now. So I'm still finding my way with just getting very, very comfortable with its three different screens. So sometimes the characters on one screen on stage, right, and then they pop over to stage left, and sometimes they're all in the center and sometimes one moves from one to the other. So that's really fun, too, but it also, as the character, often I get to be surprised by that. So I don't have to anticipate it.

Lori Mack:
You've played big roles on Broadway in bigger theaters. The legacy theater in Stoney Creek is a smaller theater. I mean, maybe 150 seats. How much different is that for you as a performer or is it different?

Anne Runolfsson:
It is and it isn't. The show is the show. But there is a thing when when you're an actor is walking into the space and honoring the space that you're in. So, you know, my whole life has been in many, we're actors, right; We're going from small theaters to big theaters to big arenas to concert stages. You build in this sense of stepping into a space and like almost forming your own relationship with that space. And that informs how you're going to behave or what the performance level is going to be. But somewhere like The Legacy, that's just a beautiful little jewel box, it's like a hug. It's warm. It's wonderful and you can absolutely feel people all the way to the back row. I love that.

Lori Mack:
This was fun, Anne Runolfsson, thanks for your time.

Anne Runolfsson:
Thank you.

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.
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