Stage Door Productions next performance will be the Gregg Coffin musical Convenience. For director Paul Beaulieu, the opportunity to direct this show has been a dream in the making for over 15 years when he first saw the show in 2000 in upstate New York. Let’s find out more about Convenience and how Beaulieu and the rest of the Stage Door crew have worked to bring this show to you this coming February!
In 2000, Paul Beaulieu’s parents Richard and Carol – at that time residents of Webster, New York, – attended a Geva Theatre NextStage performance of a brand new musical by Gregg Coffin. Little did they know that this same show would leave a lasting impression on their son.
The show that the Beaulieus attended was Convenience, the musical that saw such success at its NextStage debut that it would appear the next year as a MainStage feature at the theatre. When the show ran again, Richard and Carol brought along Paul, who was on a break from Fredonia State University where he was pursuing a degree in vocal music.
“My parents were pretty excited about this show,” said Beaulieu. “They insisted that I had to see it, and as soon as the show began, I could see why. The story and the quality of music really comes together so well and makes it so impactful.”
In Convenience a son and mother come together in one difficult week to reveal their news—he must tell her that he is gay, and she must tell him that she is remarrying. Although Beaulieu didn’t necessarily identify with these specifics, he felt that the characters were very relatable to any family. The dynamic of the relationship at the center of Convenience is one that many of us face in familial relationships. He immediately knew this show, with its universal theme of family connections, was one that he would love to direct someday.
“You don’t have to be gay or a single parent to identify with the interactions between the main characters, Vince and Liz,” said Beaulieu. “They are two people who love each other very much and want to have a meaningful relationship, but so much of their past has been surface-level interactions that this is not the easiest thing to achieve.”
In the ensuing years Beaulieu traveled far from his western New York roots. A promising young musician, Beaulieu was a student of Robert Frost and JoAnne Hoffstetter in the music and theatre programs at Webster Schroeder High School. He moved on to study music at Fredonia, first as a piano major and then in voice. Post-graduation plans put his music and theatre pursuits on hiatus, though; Beaulieu joined the Marine Corps and served for nine years as first a data communications and then a network security Marine.
During his service, Beaulieu deployed three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Time for musical and theatrical pursuits was scarce, and he found himself moving further away from his education and experience as a performer.
In 2009, Paul received orders to Marine Corps Base Quantico, and he relocated with his family to Fredericksburg, Virginia, home of Stage Door Productions, Inc., a local community theatre company. Beaulieu’s association with Stage Door first began as an audience member as his wife, Amy, joined the company onstage. Then, when his time in the Marine Corps was up, he devoted his newfound free time to actively pursuing acting and directing roles within the group.
“I knew that I wanted to be able to get back to music, acting, and directing after the Marine Corps,” said Beaulieu. “Being an active duty Marine did not lend itself well to after-hours projects so I was really grateful to be able pursue my passion for theatre arts again when I returned to civilian life.”
During the spring of 2014, Kimberly Kemp, Stage Door Founder, was looking for shows to fill the next season for Stage Door. Knowing that Convenience was on her husband’s bucket list to direct, Beaulieu’s wife mentioned the show to Kemp.
“Paul had introduced the music to me years before, and I had heard him say countless times that this was a dream project for him. I just really felt like this was a special story and that Fredericksburg would really embrace it the same way Rochester did,” said Amy Beaulieu. “Stage Door has always been really great about supporting people when they are passionate and have a vision, so I thought this would be a good fit and I had to tell Kimberly about it.”
Soon Beaulieu shared the soundtrack of the musical that he had purchased more than ten years ago at Geva with Kemp and other members of the company. While they were unfamiliar with Convenience, the excitement Beaulieu had for the production was infectious, and plans slowly began to form for him to pursue direction of the show.
“My favorite theatre experiences have come when the story unfolding on the stage moved me in a life-, mind-, opinion-, or emotionally-altering way … I don’t know if that is what happened to Paul when he saw Convenience or not,” said Kemp. “But the passion and conviction he feels about the show makes me think that was also the case with him. When we feel that strongly about something, it is important to share that experience with others.”
When Convenience originally ran at Geva Theatre, writer Gregg Coffin said in his program notes in reference to “Crawling Forward,” one of the songs in the musical, “How many times during the life of a child does a parent watch and wait for a child to find a way to crawl forward? And then the music started happening. Convenience is not only the story of a mother and her son finding a way to crawl forward; it is metaphorically my crawling forward too.”
Geva Theatre in Rochester, New York
Beaulieu’s journey to directing his dream show has been much the same. In addition his own break from theatre, several challenges presented themselves along the road to Stage Door’s production of Convenience, as well. A full musical with a small cast also requiring musicians is a big endeavor for a small community theatre company. Stage Door also does not own a permanent performance space, so finding venues to present the show at little or no cost was not a small obstacle to the production.
“It has taken a little while longer than initially expected from the time my wife mentioned Convenience as a possibility to now,” added Beaulieu. “But it was important for me that we do this show right, so it is well worth the time put in. For this show, and really any show, funding is always a challenge, which has taken time to work through. This is also actually the first time we are utilizing crowd funding as a way to support a production.”
Despite the challenges, Stage Door believed in the importance of sharing Convenience in the community and decided to pursue the production. When the green light to proceed came from Stage Door Productions’ Board – which coincidentally includes former Webster, New York, resident Amy Relyea Kneipp as Vice President – the rights to Convenience were purchased and rehearsals commenced. The Virginia premiere of the musical will run February 5-7 and 12-13 in Fredericksburg.
“Rochester’s cultural opportunities are fantastic and it’s awesome that Paul can bring a show that started there to life here in Virginia so many years later,” said Kneipp. “I started going to concerts and shows there when I was a toddler, which carried on through to adulthood here.”
February will prove to be a full-circle moment for Beaulieu as he finally brings his dream show to life. The nearly fifteen-year journey has been long from his introduction to Convenience in Rochester to now working with his very talented cast on the show here in Fredericksburg, but he feels the wait has been worth it.
“I’m in the right place with the right people to do this show, finally,” said Beaulieu. “I have a wonderful cast of very talented and accomplished performers and a group of very supportive people within Stage Door. Convenience is not a well-known, major Broadway production, but I will say that it is a smaller show with a heart as big as any show out there. I am honored and thrilled to go through the journey of telling this amazing story with Stage Door and that we get to bring something new to our community.”
For more information about Stage Door Productions, please visit www.stagedoorproductions.org. If you would like to sponsor this production, the Convenience GoFundMe page may be found at www.gofundme.com/convenience.