Ninety Miles President Lupinacci has been on the board for 20 years, but she started with the group earlier than that. She comes from more of an acting background.
She remembers the trial by fire of her first show.
“The first show I did was ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood.’ It was so much fun, and so much more intense than anything I’d ever done,” she said. “The book was written by Charles Dickens, who died before it was finished.”
Since ‘Edwin Drood” has no real ending, the musical’s authors allow the audience to vote on the outcome. Each cast member is a suspect. Each actor has to learn their own murder confession song.
“I, in those days, was the ingénue, never ever thought they’d pick me,” she said. Lupinacci’s character was so unlikely a villain that she hadn’t rehearsed her confession song with the full band. “On opening night, they voted me to be murderer. We didn’t know until right before.”
As an actress in 90 Miles, Lupinacci’s favorite memories are times like that — moments on stage that tested her.
When 90 Miles did a performance of “Nunsense,” she played Sister Mary Amnesia.
“Sister Amnesia sings very high, and operatically, which I could do. And then she also has this puppet, Sister Mary Annette. There’s a number where the puppet is a belter and sings low and says inappropriate things, and the nun is like horrified,” she said. “So it’s playing the two characters at once — one which sings very operatically and the other one that’s belting.”
Roles where a character has split personas fighting for supremacy are tough to begin with. Having to sing that conflict octaves apart is another. For her, 90 Miles is at its best when the stakes are high and actors, crew members and everyone pulls through in the nick of time.
“It’s a great feeling to find out you can do something you never thought you could do,” Lupinacci said. “I love to do 90 Miles, because it’s how I play with my friends as a grownup.”
Back to the future
For some people in New Paltz, 90 Miles has been around longer than they’ve been alive. Becca Cotton, one of the newer 90 Miles board members, remembers the theater group from when she was a kid.
“It’s actually been ever-present in my life growing up, because my dad used to play in the pit,” she said. “Actually, I think he started playing in the pit in the ’70s.”
Cotton got involved with 90 Miles as an adult after getting out of college in 2010. She’s been a costume designer for both 90 Miles and productions at New Paltz Central High School with director Nancy Owen — another person with 90 Miles ties.
Living up to the legacy of the theater group also keeps Cotton on her toes, mostly because she knows how much 90 Miles means to New Paltz. While Kim Lupinacci has traditionally filled the production manager role, Cotton is in charge of producing “Little Women: The Musical” this May.
Each year the group puts on a cabaret night, which allows the 90 Miles to highlight its vocalists and feature a hodgepodge of songs. Next week on March 14-15 at the New Paltz Reformed Church, 90 Miles will hold its annual cabaret.
One of the biggest problems for the group — and it too dates back almost 50 years — is a lack of steady rehearsal space.
“Finding affordable places to perform — it’s very difficult. And it’s hard when you rehearse this day at Lenape, you rehearse this day at Bright Beginnings, you rehearse in the Reformed Church — wherever people will let us,” Lupinacci said.
For 90 Miles, the focus is on paying to rent the theater to perform a play. Rehearsal space takes a backseat to that top priority.
“The schools are very well used in this town. There’s not a lot of space. Obviously, when the high schoolers are practicing their musical we can’t use that stage,” she said.
The Arts Community and 90 Miles have been searching for a home since at least 2008. But their abiding quest is to seek grants, hold fundraisers and make the dream come true.
“The goals of 90 Miles and The Arts Community dovetail quite nicely,” explained Lupinacci, who is involved in both groups.
The Arts Community started in 1975, and it offers low-cost art classes. Lupinacci sees a day in the near future where kids can take their Arts Community painting lessons, step over to the theater and apply them to painting sets for 90 Miles.
In the way that The Arts Community keeps things affordable for art lessons, 90 Miles tries to keep live theater accessible and affordable to the everyday man. And that’s why finding a permanent home is important.
“Definitely, I think getting our own space is goal No. 1,” Cotton said.
Volunteers and donations for 90 Miles shows are always welcomed. If you have spare fabric, old clothes, antiques that could be used as props or set pieces, the theater group will take them. And 90 Miles is also seeking new board members as well.
Besides the normal musical, cabaret, children’s show and drama, 90 Miles also plans to hold a special 50th anniversary show in November — one which will feature multiple directors and actors from the organization’s history.
Tickets for the cabaret or “Little Women” are available online at https://www.90milesoffbroadway.com/. You can also get tickets by calling Kim Lupinacci at Bright Beginnings at 256-9657.
Members of 90 Miles get a discount on tickets, but typically shows cost $15 to the general audience. Make sure to get tickets prior to the show — especially for the cabaret — since the Reformed Church has limited space.