‘Rehearsing in Rosendale' - BlueStone Press
June 15, 2021

‘Rehearsing in Rosendale'

Lifelong friends mount show about Rosendale past and present


Even if you miss this performance, it's a great local story, read on... “Rehearsing In Rosendale” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18, and at a matinee, 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Rosendale Theatre.


One of the most fabulous things about this region is that for every story about someone from the city discovering the area and eventually ending up a full-time resident there are least two stories about folks who either decided to never leave or found themselves back here after trying out other places. It’s part of what gives the area the wonderful mix of artsy, authentic and industrious that keeps the city folks coming back and the locals local. Brian Mathews and Sean Roche fall into the latter two categories and will be taking the stage at the Rosendale Theatre on May 17 with their two-act play “Rehearsing in Rosendale,” a love letter to growing up in Rosendale.


Mathews and Roche first met in the fall of 1968 attending seventh grade at St. Peter’s Catholic School (which closed in 2001). The pair remained friends throughout school, but by the time graduation rolled around their paths led them to opposite coasts. Mathews headed to Manhattan College (and eventually to ABA Stonier National Graduate School of Banking), and Roche revved up his ’69 VW and zoomed west.


“My family was moving to Los Angeles in 1974,” recalled Roche. “I got into the drama departments at NYU and USC, and I had to pick: East Coast or West? That was a pretty easy choice for an 18-year-old. California here I come!”  


Roche went on to have a very successful career in the entertainment industry. He credits growing up in an “industry family” (his father, Eugene Roche, was an actor).


“The entertainment business was always a major presence in my life,” explained Roche. “So, it was very comfortable for me to just dive in and try to make my own way in it when I was 19.”


Roche was quickly making a living as an actor, and during the course of his career would add more than 250 credits in television, theater productions and films, picking up seven Emmy nominations and one Emmy win (for producing the popular children educational show “Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego”). In the 1980s Roche began writing, which would eventually lead to writing for shows such as “Punky Brewster,” “The Simpsons,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “X-Men,” “Veggie Tales” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”


Mathews’ career took a very different but no less successful direction. After college he made his home in New York City and began a very successful 26-year-long banking career. By 1986 he was ready to be back here and moved to the area full time.


Since returning, Mathews, who is a founding board member of the Rosendale Theatre, has been performing locally quite steadily. His most recent credits include “The Weir” (Jack), “Our Town” (Doc Gibbs) and “Guys and Dolls” (Harry the Horse) with County Players in Wappingers Falls. Some of his earliest roles were performed with New Paltz Summer Rep, starting in 1979 and continuing for five seasons. He’s also enjoyed working with River Arts Rep New Works Series, Back Alley Theatre, Performing Arts of Woodstock, Pen to Stage Productions and the Rosendale Theatre. He’s studied with Wayne Pyle, Beverly Brumm (Meisner Technique), the Upright Citizens Brigade and HB Studio. Oh, and he also happens to be a founding member of the Rosendale Theatre Collective.


The pair remained friends throughout the years, and by 2004 Roche and his wife had moved from the West Coast to Gardiner to open a bed-and-breakfast. The dynamic duo was back together!


It would be a number of years before “Rehearsing In Rosendale.” The idea for the new play came about when Roche and Mathews met about eight months ago to read through a short one-act comedy that Roche had written some years ago. The plan was to perform it somewhere just for fun. It quickly became apparent that there was much more material than had been committed to the page.


“As we met to work on it, life and memories had a funny way of constantly inserting themselves into our rehearsal process,” Roche said. “I was busy producing a children's animated Bible series at the time, so my thoughts would veer back to the years Brian and I spent together at St. Peter's in Rosendale, receiving a ‘full-frontal Catholic school education,’ oh-so-forcibly but lovingly administered by the nuns. One story would lead to another – Brian’s laugh-out-loud recollections of his father, Pete … my memory of going to a movie at the Rosendale Theatre with Brian one night when we were 14, and tossing Jujube candies at a couple of girls sitting several rows ahead of us in the dark … and how amazing that I would one day wind up marrying one of those girls, Patty Fay. So, I eventually took our stories – some funny, some touching, some true, some exaggerated – and evolved them into what is now a two-act play.”


The autobiographical show centers around two lifelong friends (you guessed it: Roche and Mathews) meeting for rehearsals for a show to be performed at (you guessed it!) the Rosendale Theatre but getting, often hilariously, sidetracked with memories as well as some real-life gravitas.


The process has been collaborative. Roche, who wrote the piece, said, “I had a clear vision of the shape of the piece from the outset. But the wonderful part of developing this with Brian has been putting it on its feet, trying out individual moments and scenes, and then going back and rewriting to strengthen what worked for one or the other of us, and cutting whatever felt inauthentic.” 


One couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting for “Rehearsing in Rosendale” than the Rosendale Theatre. The show pays tribute to both Rosendale past and Rosendale of today, the place where Roche and Mathews grew up, with memories that couldn’t have been made anywhere else. For example, Mathews recalled an unusual fundraiser: “The fire department had a raffle where you had to guess the day a car they put out on 4th Binnewater Lake fell through the ice!” And Roche has some hair-raising ones of his own involving the then still working train trestle.


“When I was 13 I lived up on Campbell Street, and Dave McClusky lived almost directly across the Rondout from my house, up on Mountain Road. One day we were leaving my house to go to his and he showed me the ‘short-cut.’ Instead of going down 213 and up the hill behind St. Peter’s, he dared me to walk across the trestle with him,” Roche said. “We did it. I still remember there were these big gaps between some of the ties – big enough to fall through. I was absolutely petrified the whole way. Even today, walking across it, now all secure with decking and those high railings, I still get shaky if I lean too close to the edge. Looking back now, that was a bit insane, but you used to do things as a kid, right?”


While both Mathews and Roche once had SWORN they’d never move back, there’s a good chance that audiences will be glad they did.


“Rehearsing In Rosendale” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18, and at a matinee, 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Rosendale Theatre.


Tickets are $18 at the door, $15 advance. Advance tickets may be purchased online (with small service fee) by visiting https://rehearsinginrosendale.bpt.me.



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