Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alumni Q&A with James Magedman, TADW Program Collector Extraordinaire!

(Editor's Note: Perusing the social network recently, TADW's Facebook moderator Danielle Fairlee stumbled upon a wonderful collection of scanned-in TADW programs.  Facebook members will find it here:  The extensive album covers the years 1981 to 1991. Needless to say, this terrific find just begged for more information.  Herewith an interview with the collector, James Magedman, who attended TADW from 1982-1987, and worked in the program during the summers of 1988 and 1989.)

Q:  You have an extensive collection of TADW programs scanned in and posted on Facebook -- probably the best we've seen. How did you come to have so many programs?  What has been the reaction to your collection on Facebook?

A:  My mom took my brothers and I to our first show at TADW in 1975.  I believe it was “Androcles and the Lion.”  She took us to all the shows every year.  I believe she enjoyed it as much as we did.  My older brothers, Seth and Max, became students in 1979.  I joined in 1982 and my younger brother, Neil, hopped on board in 1986.  

Most of my collection came from the years I attended the Workshop. My older brothers were in "Oliver" the year before I showed up.  I have a few friends from the years after I had left so I have a few of those as well.

All my friends on Facebook that viewed the collection loved mentally transporting themselves back to the days of the summer lovefest that is TADW.  No one seemed to have any adverse reaction to it.  Several comments included the phrase “best years of my life.”  I concur.

Q:  How has Facebook helped you keep in touch with TADW alumni?

A:  I have remained in personal contact with many of my TADW friends over the last couple of decades.  After I joined Facebook, that group multiplied 10x or more and (is still) growing.  Friends are in contact with friends in contact with friends.  My TADW programs collection helped add to that as well.  

An amazing thing about my experience at TADW was that I made friends with teenagers several years older than me when I was in Group 1 and several years younger than me when I was in Group 6.  I met thousands of wonderful and talented  people over my many years.

Q:  What years did you attend the program?  What shows were you in?  (Did you go to CSUN?, etc.)  What is your favorite memory of the Workshop?

A:  I attended TADW as a student for 6 years, from 1982 to 1987. During my time I acted in 3 plays onstage - “The Prince & the Pauper,” “Rags to Riches,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”  In addition, I worked backstage on countless other plays. I ran sound and lights on several shows. I stage managed “The Fabulous Fable Factory.” After classes, when I was not rehearsing or working on a show, I very much loved to help build and paint sets in the construction shop as well as help out hang and focus lights.  I was a happy monkey on a ladder.

In my final year I received the Alan Oldham Memorial Scholarship to attend CSUN.  However, I received most of my college education at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) in Santa Maria, CA, along with several other TADW Alumni, and received a B.F.A. In Theater from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

I also worked at TADW in the summers of 1988 and 1989, both in the office as well as assisting in classrooms.  In the afternoons I assistant directed 2 plays - “Story Theater” and “Golliwhoppers.”

I cannot name a single favorite memory from my years at TADW.  I was there for a total of 8 years.  I've seen over 60 brilliant children's theater shows.  I've had dozens of amazing teachers, including Candy Sherwin and Ed Archer.  My elective classes included juggling, mime, story theater, musical theater and many, many years of back-cracking dance production.  Professor Jerry Abbitt, technical wizard, gave me a such an amazing education about all things backstage, I should have paid twice the amount to TADW.  I owe my teenage happiness to the great Dr. William Schlosser, co-founder of the Workshop and the magnificent Professor Maryellen Clemons who succeeded him.

My memories of TADW go like this:  I need to find an audition piece.  I'm a nervous wreck.  Auditions.  Call-back board.  Great happiness and great sadness.  Cast lists go up.  Greater happiness and even greater sadness.  First day of classes.  Old friends reuniting.  New students feeling left out for maybe a day (if that) until they become new friends.  Back on Your Elbows.  Breaks spent in the Green Room.  Horace the Ghost in the basement.  The 39 Cent Hamburger Stand (where Der Weinershnitzel is.)  Invitational and going to Farrell's Ice Cream (which closed and became Fuddruckers – Farrell's was better).  Break rehearsals.  Dance Finals.  Munch and Crunch.  Everyone cries.  See you next year.
Q:  What advice would you give a current TADW student?

A:  If you love theater, go for it!  Put your entire heart, mind and soul into it.  Don't let anyone tell you it is a waste of time.  Skeptics of the profession are often the same people who love a good show. 

More importantly, DO NOT let lack of ability keep you from trying.  In my first year at TADW, I was cast in a show and had one line.  I was not cast again until 4 years later when I landed a fantastic, funny and memorable part in a great show - "Rags to Riches" directed by a genius, John Dantona.  

I was a horrible singer and dancer when I had begun my training.  It wasn't until I reached my early 20s (post TADW) when I found my natural ability.  Believe in yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  Go out of your way to promote those same attitudes toward your friends.

Q:  What are you up to now? Professionally, personally? Fill us in.

A:  Recently, I got engaged to Jackie Shaffer (who is the cousin of one of my best friends from TADW).  I moved to Sacramento to be with her.  I am still a SAG and Equity actor, however, my focus has shifted toward writing and production.  I work with a video production company just north of Sacramento.  In a couple of weeks I will go on the road be Production Manager for a reality show in L.A.  

As far as acting, I will be in a film short later this summer as well as a feature film set to shoot in the Fall.  Meanwhile, I am editing a script for a producer up here and I run a small online business –

Q:  Anything else you'd like to add?

A:  There was a time when the future of TADW was unstable.  I would love to thank Doug Kaback, Brent Rosen and anyone else involved for keeping TADW alive.  

Below, James shares some of his favorite TADW photos, along with a few present-day shots. From top to bottom:  In the TADW dressing room, 1987; Group 5 with Candy Sherwin, 1986; James with Julie Goldman; Group 5 with Plant, 1986; Recent photo of James in a lighter moment; James on his engagement day with fiancee Jackie Shaffer.


  1. Director John Dantona...was he an alumni, too? It seems to me Dantona may have been in TADW with Arye Gross, Wendie Jo Sperber, Leslie Patterson and me in the 1974 production of "Storybook Theater". Your thoughts?
    Marylata E. Jacob aka Latie Elton

  2. He was (1973-1975) and he remembers Latie Elton well!