Bag Full of Miracles Article

Freelance Star
Orange writer-director’s brainstorm: Comedy in a bag

Some people dream great ideas, but never actually get started. Tom Northam at Lake of the Woods in Orange County is not one of them.

Northam, who has been an actor, writer and federal worker, has written and produced shows in recent years with the Lake of the Woods Players, in addition to acting in various productions at the Riverside Dinner Theater. But his dream, the one that’s never left the center of his radar, is to spread the concept of “senior theatre” across the country. If that could happen with the musical comedy he wrote and directed at Lake of the Woods, A Bag Full of Miracles, well, that would be a double bonus. Instead of simply putting the musical comedy set in a San Francisco bed- and-breakfast on the circuit and hoping for royalties to come flooding in, the tall, opinionated actor known for his shaved head and goatee is taking a different approach.

He’s put together what he calls a “Production-In-A-Packet,” a complete “how-to kit” to help a senior theater group, or any other, produce his Broadway-style musical comedy. His “PIPKIT” is a black canvas tote bag, complete with A Bag Full of Miracles logo, that provides “a project timeline and detailed information for every aspect of production, from initial planning meeting to curtain call.” Says Northam’s marketing info: “The PIPKIT has step-by-step procedures on how to organize, audition, rehearse, direct, learn, advertise, costume, prepare properties, create scenery, apply special effects, fund raise and much more. It provides numerous opportunities to educate and train many people in a wide range of skills, from administrators and support staff to actors and technicians.” Northam says he put together this ultimate how-to package, with sections on everything from programs to actors’ hygiene, to help backstop groups nervous about tackling something as ambitious as a musical.

“I’ve worked for more than a year to include in this kit absolutely everything you need to know,” said Northam, who’s back into theater after retiring from his federal government job. “Sure, I hope the PIPKIT is an idea that sells,” he said. “But beyond that, I hope it’s a concept that will get more people involved in senior theater.”

Northam said that in his work crafting federal policy for seniors, he became aware of how critically important it is for the elderly to stay active and involved. Where better to be involved, he reasoned, than at a local theater? But with one-time royalties high and many senior communities lacking a full range of folks with production experience, Northam knows doing a show is not easy.

To get over one hurdle, he’s got a different concept on price. To buy his “PIPKIT, a group pays $3,995. Before June 30 of this year, it’s discounted to $1,995. “The introductory price is less than $2,000–about one-fourth to one-third of the royalties and costs normally associated with only a limited musical theater production,” Northam said. “Unlike other musicals, there is no limit on the number of times the show may be performed, or to the size of the audience or location.”

In addition to the manual for putting on the show, a technical production script with director’s notes and an actor’s script, the kit contains four CD’s full of everything from rehearsal music to a full musical score and sound effects that can be played through a laptop and sound system, negating the need for an orchestra. “We even have a line of products they can sell to raise money, from A Bag Full of Miracles T-shirts and sweatshirts to mugs and tie tacks,” he said.

Northam said several different groups are looking at the play, and that he recently made a presentation to senior theater representatives at a meeting in Las Vegas. In between acting in Riverside productions and pushing the PIPKIT, Northam has ideas for a new play, is pursuing opportunities in educational programming and more. “I’m busier now than before I retired,” he said, “but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

For information on the play and PIPKIT, call ArtAge Publications at 800-858-4998 or email
Click here for more details and ordering information for A Bag Full of Miracles

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