Wed, Oct 19, 2011 08:33 AM
Editor's note: Two truths and a lie is a popular social
icebreaker. Can you pick the lie out of the three statements? The
answer will be revealed throughout the story. Look for this profile
• She is a professional model for life drawings.
• She spent $6,000 to make kids fly.
• Her dog won a Dock Dog Championship in Killington.
Saskia Hagen Groom talks quickly with more enthusiasm than a stage
full of kids. At least she hopes so, because that's exactly what
awaits her everyday.
It's "tech week" for the upcoming production of Alice in
Wonderland, she explains. Tech week is the last chance the cast and
crew have to correct glitches with lights, sound, sets, costumes or
staging before opening night this Friday.
Groom is the producer and director for Rutland Youth Theater, a
division the Rutland Parks and Recreation Department. She casts
students K-12 in two plays and two musicals each year, plus many
workshops and camps in the summer.
The shows are big. Casts of 60 to 80 are common, and they are the
full Broadway production, not the shorter, easier "junior versions"
rendered for most casts 5-18 years old. "This is a multi-age
endeavor, kids learn by watching other kids," she said.
"The biggest show I've done here was Peter Pan at the Paramount. We
had a cast of 64 plus the crew," Groom said, adding that 110
children had tried out for various parts when she was planning to
cast just 40 roles. Instead of turning away all these budding
actors and actresses, Groom made 20 extra roles by adding to the
lost boys ensemble.
"It was a great way to expose children who may be terrified to sing
or dance by themselves to the stage," she recalled.
Peter Pan at the Paramount Theater marked the first time that
theater had been fully rigged for flying. "They had had a circus in
there before, and they used safety harnesses, but nothing like the
contraptions we had these children in," Groom said. The "flying
kits" cost $6,000 and everyone had to be trained carefully for
safety, but it was worth it, she added.
"As I sat in the balcony of my own show, I saw kids who were
crying they were so excited to see the children flying." They were
completely mesmerized by the magic, she continued.
"Sitting in the audience of your own show, as the director and
producer, you usually take notes so you can give the kids
feedback," she said. But during Peter Pan "I found myself just
sitting, in my own production, totally forgetting to take notes.
That is a huge compliment to these kids."
Rutland Youth Theater and the Paramount Theater, both non-profit
organizations, have created a "creative partnership" in which they
split the cost of production and the proceeds from ticket sales.
Typically, tickets cost $5 for seniors and children, and $8 for
adults. This way they can keep the costs low and provide the best
show for the community.
When working with the young actors and actresses, Groom instills a
consistent message: "I always tell the kids, 'It's great that
you're on stage, but this isn't about you…This is for the community
out there. You're on stage to tell a story. You're the
Groom has decided to produce Miracle on 34th Street for this year's
holiday show the week before Christmas, "it's a lively, fun and
spirited performance," she said.
Auditions for Miracle on 34th Street are scheduled for Oct. 23-24
and are open to youth and adults. "We will kick off the 10th season
of Rutland Youth Theater with this special musical that the whole
family could be in," Groom said. The production will also be the
tenth full performance Groom has directed in her two years with
When choosing which play or musical to produce, Groom tries to pick
"shows that are fun or something with a great message… Willy Wonka
was goofy; Peter Pan was magical… I also like to pick one that can
have a large cast to give lots of people the opportunity to
perform," she said.
The first musical production Groom produced was Willy Wonka. Up to
that point musicals had always used the junior version performance
with CDs to sing along with instead of an orchestra. Groom asked a
RYT alumnus if they should try an orchestra instead and he said
"yes" and agreed to manage it.
"I have a pretty good ear, but I cannot teach singing or conduct an
orchestra," she said, "but he was willing to, so we had a full
blown Broadway production in May 2010."
Big ideas can have big price tags, but Groom always says, "Why not
start big? If you shut me down once in a while, that's a good
It's worth dreaming, she continued, adding that sometime good ideas
can be produced creatively for a lower cost. She admits, however,
that she is "so techno-challenged… I'm always asking is this
possible? And sometimes they look at me like 'you've got to be
Groom couldn't pull off a show without lots of help and she seems
to have it.
Mikki Lane has been the stage manager for nearly all of Groom's
musicals. The stage manager runs all the cues during the show,
controls the lights, the green room (which lets kids know when
they're up) and coordinates with the tech crew and orchestra, she
"The stage manager is my right and my left hand," she said. "Mikki
knows the Paramount Theater inside and out… she's a real
Shawn Dayton, however, will be Groom's stage manager for Alice in
Wonderland. "Mikki needed break before Miracle on 34th Street,"
Groom said. "Shawn is an actor and director just like me."
It will be his first play as a stage manager, Groom said, adding
that while such a transition can be tough, "he is doing great
Katie Ahearn, is also a great new addition. She is a professional
costume designer and "has made most of the costumes in Alice
in Wonderland herself," Groom said.
Additionally, Groom would like to thank David Lane, the assistant
director for the Paramount Theater and the RYT lighting designer,
Kit Hastings, set designer, and Rose Kennedy, costume
"There are so many integral members to put a show together," Groom
continued. The Friends of Rutland Youth Theater is certainly
another. It's the group that comes up with on-going fun and
innovative ways to fundraise for these productions. Right now they
are running a raffle, which is one of the year's most profitable
initiatives, she said.
Born and raised in Amsterdam, Groom came to America for the first
time when she was 20 years old seeking adventure.
"I wanted something totally elsewhere and knew friends that had
gone to America to be nannies," she said. Groom followed that path
and moved in with a nice family in Rye, N.Y., just outside New York
She briefly returned home for more schooling, but was soon back
with a backpack and set to travel. "I never thought I'd stay here,"
she said. But she started to believe it in 1998, when she became a
business manager for Killington Resort.
After 10 years at the resort, Groom decided to go back to school
for her masters in theater and education. During this time she
started a non-profit called Cause Productions.
"Before Rutland Youth Theater I directed Vagina Monologues and
Steel Magnolias for charity," Groom said. Vagina Monologues raised
$20,000 for Rutland's Women's Shelter one year and Steel Magnolias
was produced as a benefit for American Diabetes.
In addition to RYT, Groom has a ten-year-old son, Sam Groom, who
"is my muse," she says. She also works part-time in community
outreach for Marble Valley Regional Transit (more commonly know as
"The Bus") and is currently working on a short film called The
Model, a film about a person who poses nude for life drawings and
sculpture at area colleges and art studios.
Of all the skills, hobbies and projects she entertains, training
her dog to jump off docks is not one of them.