Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: A Theater Review

Based on the 1942 film featuring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, the stage adaptation of Holiday Inn makes some vital updates (for example, cutting the film’s blackface number), while satisfying those of us who love old musicals and including songs like “White Christmas,” “Happy Holiday,” “Blue Skies,” and “Cheek to Cheek.”

Michael Mahler stars as Jim Hardy, a musician who leaves New York and show business to settle on a farm in Connecticut. He proposes to his song-and-dance partner, Lila Dixon (Kimberly Immanuel), who accepts him (seemingly reluctantly) and promptly leaves for a touring gig with the third member of their original trio, Ted Hanover (Will Burton). While Lila and Ted dance their way across the Midwest to Las Vegas, Jim embraces the farming life with the help of lively jack-of-all-trades, Louise (Marya Grandy).

Events collide when some of Jim’s New York friends come to visit as he is discovering that the farming idea is well….a disaster. How do any performers cope when they are in a crisis? Well, of course, they decide to put on a show!  Jim hatches a plan with his newfound friend Linda Mason (Johanna Mckenzie Miller), a charming, reserved schoolteacher ( who once aspired to be a performer). They decide to open the farm each holiday, bring in Jim’s performer friends, and put on a show!

Costumes

I must say, I have never been disappointed in the costumes at Marriott’s; however, this time I was. As you know, wherever you sit at Marriott’s you will be looking at some of the performer’s backs at least half of the time. It would seem to me that it would be very important for the actors to look equally good from the back or front. Unfortunately, it was quite distracting to look at Michael Mahler who’s pants were…hmmmm….baggy. The Valentine’s dresses looked great until the girls turned around and we saw what looked like a huge decal on the chest of their dresses. The Easter dresses were ok, but the Easter bonnets, which were designed to be over-the-top, lost the class that I think that song usually demands. Overall, I would give the costumes a C-.

Set Design and Technical

One of the things I love about Marriott’s is how effortlessly the set pieces move in and out. The cast is always brilliant as they push the pieces on and manage to do it in character. This show is no different.

One of the highlights is the piano. Since it is so much a part of this singing and dancing trio it becomes a central part of the design. As Michael Mahler is such an accomplished musician it is a delight to see what he brings to his character as he skillfully plays.

The other pieces fit the story perfectly. I loved the ladder that rolled around as different characters climbed on and off of it. Masterful use of the space and props/set pieces.

Acting/Singing/Dancing

I must admit I wasn’t fond of Michael Mahler as Jim. I know I shouldn’t compare to the movie, but growing up seeing Bing Crosby in this part it was hard to listen to Mahler’s voice. I felt he was a bit cheesy in his portrayal and I wanted him to be smooth and in control. Also, Will Burton as Ted wasn’t exactly a Fred Astaire either. I wanted to like Ted, but be angry with him for his lack of friendship and loyalty towards Jim. Instead, I didn’t like him at all.

But then, Linda Mason, played by Johanna Mckenzie Miller, and Louise , played by Marya Grandy, walked on the stage and all was well. Grady was brilliant, charming, funny and brought an incredible amount of energy and life to the stage. Miller made us believe she loved Jim in such a way that I ended up wholeheartedly loving it.

The dancing ? Wonderful! If you haven’t seen clips of the tap number with jump ropes then you can’t imagine how breathtaking it is! Hands down a showstopper. Denis Jones deserves an A for his wonderful choreography that brought this story to life.

Favorite Line

Ted Hanover : “Every now and then it’s a good idea to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

Conclusion

I mistakenly thought that this show would be too much like White Christmas. I was so wrong. I smiled most of the time. I loved the music, dance and love story. It made me remember the movies of my youth and just plain made me happy.

If you can get a ticket. Go. You won’t be disappointed.

HOLIDAY INN runs through January 6 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069. Tickets are available at 847-634-0200 or marriotttheatre.com.

I’d love to know your thoughts! Did you see this production? Please take a moment to comment and share this post!

Until next time!

Giving Thanks: Not Just on Thanksgiving

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
– Psalm 95:2

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
– 1 Chronicles 16:34

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”
– Psalm 28:7

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. “
– Psalm 106:1

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.”
– Psalm 100:4

“Let our hearts overflow with thankfulness…”
– Colossians 2:7

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”
– Thomas Merton (Thoughts on Solitude)

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” – E.P. Powell

“That I may make the voice of thanksgiving heard and may tell of all Your wondrous works.” – Psalm 26:7

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart.He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” – Psalm 28:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” – Psalm 69:30

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”
Psalm 50:23

For days leading up to Thanksgiving I see many of my friends posting things  that they are grateful for. I enjoy reading the posts and seeing the photos they share. It is a great reminder that we have so much for which to be thankful.

God’s word is filled with constant reminders to be thankful–yet I see nothing that states this thankful spirit comes during the month of November. Instead, it seems that thankfulness should be a constant state of being.  “In everything give thanks.”

Everything?? 

The snow? The loss of power? Sickness? How expensive things are? Getting passed over for that promotion? The political state of our country?

Yes. EVERYTHING.

Here’s my top 5 for today.

  1. Thank you, God, for Medinah Baptist Church, (Jubilee Bible) who has provided such a wonderful space for Overshadowed and who has taught me much about God’s love in action.
  2. Thank you, God, for my family. (Both immediate and distant)
  3. Thank you, God, for Your artistry in creation. The snow layered on the trees is breathtakingly beautiful.
  4. Thank you, God, for weather, from rain to snow, from cold to heat. (I must admit, to be thankful for cold will be a struggle, but I’m going to try.)
  5. Thank you, God, for friends.

It is truly a wonderful life, isn’t it?

Please like and share and leave a comment! And sorry for the shameless plug…Overshadowed.org….It’s a Wonderful Life….plays for three more weeks.


Three Things That Should Change about Theater Critics.

I have recently been listening to pod casts by Ken Davenport. He invites a professional in to his studio and asks them questions such as how they got in the business, what keeps them going, what kind of training they received etc. I haven’t listened to them in any particular order but the ones I have listened to lately have all made the same point. If they could change anything about the industry–it would be the critics. Now, they each then go on to explain what they mean by that and the specifics are usually different, but the core is the same.

And if you asked me….I might not say that’s the one thing I’d change, but I’d definitely think about it.

Let’s face it–the whole industry is changing a little. And believe me, when King Kong starts to visit other towns–it’ll change some more.

Here are the top things professionals want to change about critics:

  1. They would like them to have more diversity in their responses. It seems that things go in cycles of what type of musicals win top favored criticism, and it would be nice if the critics would judge things with a more open attitude. I think I agree with that. Critics, in general, would not favor wholesomeness.  I would plea that being edgy  does not necessarily make it an award-winning presentation.
  2. They wish that critics wouldn’t have the power that they do. I would agree with this point. I recently learned about the sabotaging of a Broadway musical that is really a brilliant show. I do not understand why the critic has the power to make or break a show, but they do seem to have that authority. Because so much is subjective shouldn’t we subjectively read their thoughts and then come to our own conclusion?
  3. They wish that the critic would have a personal relationship with them–almost like an agent. The critic would then champion the play– giving instructive criticism and giving thoughts on how to fix the performance instead of ripping it to destroy. I’m not sure how that could ever happen, but it is an interesting idea.

Maybe we have it all wrong?

Jonathan Mandell said, “Theatre critics can help careers, boost morale, and even aid a creative team in refashioning a show. But they do not exist to inspire or enrage theatre makers.”

I again would like to state that I believe that theater is changing. In our world of social media there are hundreds of us (myself included) who like to write a review of things they have seen on stage or screen. (look here for past posts: https://wordpress.com/post/fromthewings.org/110, https://wordpress.com/post/fromthewings.org/157 (review of Frozen and Harry Potter)

In short, there are so many of us who have the ability and drive to go to the theater that you can find information about the show from more people than the professional critic who may or may not have the standards/interests that you do.

My thoughts? There is no amount of money that I can spend that has the same impact as getting a review from the paper. Then, if they can print a picture along with it? It would give a huge impact on my sales. What I can’t stand is that for whatever reason, I cannot seem to attract the interest of a critic or a  paper printing  a review by an audience member. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it vexes me that it is true. I don’t want to give the critic that much power, but I think in my lifetime that will not change.

I will admit,  I do read the critic’s thoughts..both to determine if I want to see something and/or to determine if it’s a show I’m willing to think about producing. Do I always follow their advice? Nope. But it still means something.

Ken Davenport always ends his podcast by asking the interviewees a “genie question”. If they could change one thing about the industry what would it be. Two times in a row the answer was the critics. If he asked me….I think I would change them as well. Not because of what they say…but because it means so much. I wish that could be available for us little guys that are just out here trying to make a difference.

What would you like to see change about the industry? What is your “genie question?”

Please take time to share, like, and follow me so you don’t miss a blog post!

Until Next Time!

It Not Just about the Award

It’s almost November.

What does that mean? Every bit of news has something to do with how I should vote–why I should vote–or who I should vote for. I do believe that’s important. It’s one of the privileges of being an American that I treasure.

What does that have to do with theater? Well, we vote in theatre as well. Just think of the awards….the Emmys, the Oscars, the Tonys. Many of the winners are voted on by a group of their peers.

The past week I realized that Overshadowed qualifies for a regional award. They are called the BroadwayWorld awards.

BroadwayWorld is the largest theatre site on the internet. It covers Broadway, the West End and spreads to 100 US cities and 50 countries worldwide. It boasts of 4.5 million monthly visitors and delivers Broadway and regional theater news, interviews, reviews and more. This company has their own awards–anyone can vote. You vote for your favorite theaters, favorite shows, favorite actors/actress, favorite directors and more.

One of the most common conversations I have with people is when they question why Overshadowed’s shows don’t get reviewed. They ask me how we’ve been in business for 15 years and they are just hearing about us now.  The perfect example of this was after our last production of “A Tale of Two Cities.” We had a troop of people who decided to reach out to local critics… such as Dean Richards and Chris Jones (as well as others.) ( I would like to give a shout out to Dean Richards who was kind enough to respond to the inquiry and explain why he couldn’t make our show. Thank you, Dean!)

Sadly, Overshadowed cannot seem to get noticed. Do we want to? In my heart there are  times that I wonder what life would be like to qualify for a Tony or other such award. At the end of the day, I know that it isn’t the praise of man that makes something a success. Still, recognition means something.

The site of BroadwayWorld with their 4.5 Million viewers who regionally might say, “Overshadowed’s “On Golden Pond” wins Best Play–well, that is a pretty big deal.

As I was pondering this I was asked if it really means anything since it’s done by the people who know you instead of a critic. I say 100 percent, “Yes!”

Here’s why:

  1. We want you, our audience, to enjoy every moment you spend at our theatre. We hope that we are giving you great moments of sheer joy and delight. If you take  time to nominate us and then perhaps vote later–we would know we are succeeding.
  2. Marketing is difficult and expensive. This might be the singlehandedly best way to get the word out about “this little theatre that could.”
  3. Let your voice be heard. Do you like the kind of shows that are winning awards these days or perhaps would you like to have a say to tell the world that family friendly still has a place in the industry?

Now, I know I’m not giving you a lot of time to make this happen and I also know that the form takes a little bit of time–perhaps fifteen or more minutes; but I’m asking you to make time to nominate us.

Here are the rules:

  1. Today is the last day to nominate any production.
  2. Only shows within the last year can be eligible.  Our qualifying shows are: “I’ll Be Seeing You”, On Golden Pond“, “Sleeping Beauty” (Best Theater for Young Audiences production), “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”and “A Tale of Two Cities.”
  3. Make sure you vote under the RESIDENT NON-Equity category.
  4. There are so many different fields under each show and you can vote for up to four people. If you need to know who qualifies–please ask and I will help you out.
  5. Here is the link: https://www.broadwayworld.com/chicago/2018nominations.cfm

Thank you in advance. As always please follow this blog, comment and share! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Until next time!

Adventures in New York (Part Four) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days….

Whew! We finally made it to Day four! By this time, we are exhausted and inspired and can’t wait to learn more today!

Our day started with a session called: Devised theater: Tectonic Theater Project.

This session explored movement work that forced us to explore the potential of all the elements of the stage to create a theatrical narrative. This method was used to create “The Laramie Project: Movement work which is highly collaborative and creative. Theoretically it can be used to create new works as well as re-imagine new texts. I have never thought myself to be an out of the box thinker or even claim to think abstractly so this is a huge learning stretch for me. Very valuable.

Here is how it works:

Start in a circle. Each person tells a moment in theater they will never forget. Then the production team reads the script together.

The team should explore movement work together. They should explore all elements of the stage (both on stage and around the room.) When they find an object they start with “I begin” Then proceed to act around that object to show the audience a unique way of looking at that piece. They end with: “I end.”

This exercise can be repeated using gestures and then group movements that now start. “We Begin.” and end with “We end.”

There should be discover time in which anything in the space is analyzed. Architecture (which is anything that can’t be moved) is discovered for what it does. What is the poetry of the piece? Does it move or make noise?

The same can be done with props and or costumes.

Then, the group names the moments so they can remember.

Important note:

Work to create intention that leads to the narrative you are creating.

Take away:

It is what happens not why we feel.

Next came one of my favorite sessions. (Not that I intend to need the direction, but it is good to have it to give those who are pursuing such dreams!)

Path to Broadway:

Our guest artists were:

Etai Benson (The Band’s Visit)

Will Burton (Ambrose in Hello Dolly!)

Aurelia Williams (Once On This Island)

They were each so personable and shared from their hearts the good fortune and hard work that got them to where they are in their careers-not to mention how wonderful each of their solo performances were that we got to enjoy!

Take away:

Go to a college that has a showcase in their senior year program.

Two shows today!

My Fair Lady

By far the most perfect production I have ever seen. Breathtaking beautiful costumes, sets and vocals.

I really can’t say enough about the set. It was a house that rotated and even retracted to hide behind the scrim when it wasn’t needed….Hmmm. maybe it was the stage I really loved!

I will not spoil it, but I was completely disappointed in the last two moments of the play. Message me if you want to talk more about that!

If you are in New York–it’s a must see!

The Band’s Visit

Loved it!

I was completely captivated by this unique story about a band that mistakenly ends up in the wrong city and has to stay there overnight. Strangers house and entertain the band members even letting them stay in their  own homes. The band members unknowingly change the lives of all who come in contact with them.

The band plays on stage and the music is unique, haunting, and beautiful.

There is a reason this musical won so many Tony’s. It is worth every dollar you spend and definitely the high light of my trip!

And just like that my trip came to an end. Why did I choose to go to this intensive week again? I feel that it is so valuable to me personally as an artist/director/manager/writer.

It it refreshing to spend time away and get to see a host of new shows. It is educational to hear from professionals of how and why they design. And it is encouraging to hear that I have some of the same problems other theaters have.

I love having this dream of theater–may we constantly bring joy to others.

What about you? What have you learned lately?  Please share this blog and feel free to ask questions or comment!

Until next time!

Adventures in New York (Part Three) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days…

Tuesday opened to a workshop called. “How Do We Know We Are Good Theater Teachers.” This session was taught by Peter Avery who is the Director of Theatre, NYC Department of Education. New York has one of the largest school systems and Peter oversees all aspects of theater education.

Granted I have never taught in the public school system, but I’m wondering if all states are as fortunate. It was a fascinating example of how theater can teach and inspire students. After discussing what theater education looks like in New York. Peter showed us a video of a teacher in action. Here are my take aways:

  1. The entire class was involved.  Together they inspired and motivated each other.
  2. A student was assigned to be a stage manager. He/she would call time to keep the class on track.
  3. At the end of class they break into pairs and communicate the one thing they learned from class that day and the one thing they need more work on. They communicate it to each other not publicly in the class.

I loved how involved everyone was. I loved that the evaluation took place in a way that forced them to repeat what they learned that day. I am thinking about using that technique as we begin rehearsing our next play.

The next session was on Stage Management and was taught by Matt DiCarlo who is the current stage manager for “The Play That Goes Wrong”.

Take Aways:

There are three parts to stage management.

  1. Organizational. This I all ready knew. Having a good stage manager is such a valuable necessary asset. A stage manager takes care of everything from the stage and behind. They organize the set changes, and oversee the choreography of entrances and exits. They make sure everything is in its place. They also usually keep an emergency kit that has everything from band aids, safety pins, batteries, highlighters, breath mints, flashlights, glow tape, aspirin and anything else that the cast might need in an emergency. Stage Managers are in fact, life savers.
  2. Technical. The stage manager sometimes runs scenes, takes the place of the director  if necessary, keeps track of communication and schedules and run times. They also call cues at times during performances.
  3. Artistic. It is the stage managers responsibility to maintain the product. In most theaters once the show opens the director moves on to other shows checking in only occasionally. The stage manager is then in charge of making sure the actors and everyone else stays true to the production the director created.

The stage manager must have an understanding of what everyone does.

Scheduling goals: They rehearse M-F, 10-6 for five weeks. In that five weeks they have two weeks of tech.

Resources: Production Stage Management For Broadway by Peter Lawrence.

Recommended apps: Wanderlist /base camp

Let me just say–I love being a stage manager. If I didn’t direct, I would want to stage manage.

After lunch we had a chance to meet with Diana Rigg. Those of you who are young might not know her, but I LOVED her in the TV show The Avengers. (Not the marvel comic book characters.) She is currently staring in “My Fair Lady.”

Take aways: “I don’t care what your private problem is. Your problem is to see what’s on the page and to get it right.”

” Actors are here to serve the directors, the play and the audience.” (Hmmm perhaps that’s a blog post all in itself)

I loved her directness and witty sense of humor. My favorite moment was when one of the teachers asked her how she kept a performance fresh after performing it night after night. She looked confused and then answered, “I’m a professional!”

That night we went to see ” Mean Girls.” Imagine our delight when Jonalyn Saxer, our dance instructor from day one, as swing played the lead! She was amazing and we loved her.

I did not like the play. It was upbeat and lively and while I knew the main lesson it was trying to teach, I felt that it glamorized the art of being mean rather than the proper way to stand up to bullies. My most disappointing moment was a song that was dedicated to “giving the finger” to those who mistreat you. I just cannot think that’s the message we want a new generation of young girls to shoulder!

Should you see it? My vote would be no. Even though I could teach you the dance moves to the closing number, “I See Stars.”

Have you seen “Mean Girls”? How is theater in the public school system where you are? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until Next time!

Adventures in New York or Education from One Director (or artist) to Another (Part Two)

On Monday, July 16, a group of theater directors, teachers, community theater personal and even wanna be directors gathered on West 53rd Street in New York for the annual Broadway Teachers Workshop. The opening session was led by Nicole Kempskie (an award-winning writer, educator and theater artist) and Todd Woodard (an actor and previous Managing Director of Arts to Grow). This was a time for us to explore the problems that other organizations face and problem-solve to help each other. The take-away? Many of us face the same problems. There is comfort in knowing that my issues–the ones that make me feel like a failure –when I face them time after time–are not unique to me. We divided up into groups and each listed a problem and together thought of ways to help each other. They left the poster up all week so we could circle the room and see the other issues and answers.

My next session was with Jonalyn Saxer (swing Mean Girls, Holiday Inn, Honeymoon in Vegas). She taught a dance class….no, before you ask, I didn’t dance, but I LOVED watching!  And if I had to do it all over again I would have jumped up and tried.  I discovered many of the teachers aren’t fortunate enough to have a team of people. They direct, teach music and do the choreography. Dancing might not have been the greatest skill of all of them, but they stood up there and did their best and had fun while they were doing it….just like we request our students to do.

Lessons from Jonalyn:

  1. Your body should be stronger than what is required of you. Work out, rest, eat right.
  2. She explained exactly what a swing does. Wow. Easily the hardiest part on stage and worthy of a great deal of respect.

My next session was a projection design session which honestly was WAY over my head. I found myself sending little videos back home to our technical director.

#1 lesson: If your projection light is bright enough, black is a better surface than white. That was eye-opening for me.

The last session of the day was design for productions. We split into groups again and Tobin Ost (Set design for Newsies) assigned each group a different theater space. We all had to design a set for Jesus Christ, Superstar based on the stage space. This was extremely difficult for me as this is a play I’ve never seen so it was difficult to know what each scene required. After the breakout session we each reported on the design and why certain decisions had been made. As we reported on them it was eye-opening to see how the environment plays into the strengths/weakness of each spot.

At 8:00 we went to see Once on this Island.

I have to say, I loved the space. It was theater in the round. The moment we sat in our seats the action on the sand-filled stage began. There were goats and chickens and the actors talked and played and were fascinating to watch. The singing was fantastic although sometimes the dialect made it quite hard to understand. I know this was a Tony award-winning play. I didn’t like it. I find little use for a play that spends most of its time praying to the “gods.” I won’t spoil the end, but let me just say I felt like I had wasted my evening when the girl’s prayer wasn’t answered. When you see it, please let me know if you agree.

We had a talk-back with the cast afterwards. What a wonderful group of people. They explained to us that this show was much more difficult than anyone knew it was going to be because they are singing and dancing on sand the whole evening and sand shifts so they are constantly trying to find their footing.  It seems my day was filled with actors telling me the toil musical theater takes on bodies!

All-in-all it was a tiring day, but very informative and fun!

This is just me, trying to be a better director!

Let me know if you have questions or comments about any of these things or if you have seen Once On This Island!

Until next time,

Reba

Adventures in New York (Part One)

So what does any good director do after tech week? Go to New York, of course! Well, I wish I could go after every tech week, but time doesn’t allow such luxuries!

Every year Music Theater International puts on a workshop called Broadway Teachers Workshop. I had the opportunity to attend last year and decided that this is something I really should attend every year if possible. So I packed my bags and flew out Saturday morning. I decided to add two extra plays to the experience. So, over the next couple of days I am going to let you share my experiences.

First night….Frozen! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The moment the lights came up I was enchanted by Zoe Glick and MiMi Ryder who player young Anna and Young Elsa. They were so precious and did such a fantastic job of portraying the young girls exactly how I envisioned them.  The audience loved Olaf and Sven and were really caught up in all the beloved characters. (one of the things I love about a New York audience is the way they applaud when each new character enters the stage for the first time.)

After seeing the movie I was so curious as to how this production could ever happen, but Disney did it again. The special effects were amazing and we all looked in amazement as the stage turned into an “ice place.” Cassie Levy left us breathless at the end of the first act when she belted out, “Let It Go.” Causing us to say, Idina who?

The one moment I didn’t care for was during the second act when the ensemble sang “Hygge.” At first the ensemble had towels on as they came out of the “warming house”, but on their next entrance they removed their towels and had leaves in both hands that they used to cover their private areas in a choreographed routine. I’m just not sure why that was necessary. I was quite distracted by it.

At one point I looked across the aisle and saw a women a little younger than me singing and smiling with reckless abandonment. That’s why we do it, folks. That face said it all. If you get a chance make sure you see this show. It’s that good!

Sunday.

On Sunday morning I attended a one day director’s workshop. Our speaker was Peter Flynn (most recently credit was directing an off-broadway production of Ragtime at the Ford theater.)

I should write a whole blog post about this one day. He was so fantastic! Here are the highlights:

  1. There are no absolutes.
  2. We don’t tell the story. We interpret the story.
  3. Directing a show is not about our comfort, but rather our clarity.
  4. Always remember we are in a service industry.
  5. Be specific and authentic.

And so much more…. He was so good.

Next I went to see Harry Potter parts One and Two. For more on that check out this video from The Potter Collector who joined me on this adventure! https://youtu.be/o8OqodytIDE

If you’ve seen any of these plays or have comments about Peter’s workshop make sure you leave a comment!

Until next time!

The Battle Known as Tech Week

I have been silent lately. There is a good reason. We opened our summer musical last Friday. The opening went great! The energy of the cast was spectacular and the audience laughed and enjoyed it and we even received a standing ovation! You might be thinking, “That’s all good, right? So why have you been silent?”

Tech Week.

For those of you involved in the theater you know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t well….there are no words.

Tech week is the week before a production opens. This is the week that all the remaining elements are added. (Lights, costumes, set pieces etc) In all fairness it is stressful for everyone involved. People who are normally the most loving and gracious begin to survive on coffee and energy drinks. No one wants to put pressure on anyone else but you can almost hear the very air surrounding you whispering, “When is that going to be done?” The cast who has been perfect starts to forget lines and not make entrances on time because we keep throwing new things at them–like costumes, lights and even new set pieces. And I begin to feel terrible. All these wonderful, talented people from designers to actors, from seamstresses to stage crew–I feel that I’m not giving them the very tool they need the most. Time. (Well, maybe help is a close second.)

Theater is a set of building blocks. The director sets the vision. The designers then create from that vision. Then people start sewing and building and lastly the technical elements can be put into place. Acting is the same. You build your character based on the building blocks of what you discover either from lines your character says or what other characters say about you. When the actor gets to step into costumes and make-up it is the last building block.

So you see why tech week is so important? It all comes together right at one critical moment.

Half way through the week I realize most of us have slept less than 15 hours all week and when they did sleep it wasn’t it their bed! Some of us haven’t even had time to shower. Anyone who walks into the theater is immediately put to work and we don’t even have time to go pick up the playbills.

It is truly a wonderful experience. I look around at all the people who sacrifice and pour their hearts into making the perfect set, having the perfect costumes, adding the magical technical aspects and I say, “Thank you.” Thank you, for loving theater, this theater.

Thank you to those actors who come in and walk the space and think through their lines in an effort to make sure their characters are performance ready. Thank you to the set artist, designers who repaint because the set just doesn’t look like they wanted it to. Thank you to the technical directors who rehang the snow machines because the snow doesn’t hit at just the right angle. It’s really a very special kind of passion.

The result? A beautiful powerful production that brings a laugh and hours of enjoyment to our audience. Those smiles make it all worthwhile. We are fortunate enough to have another benefit. The cast has become incredibly close. We have cried together, prayed together and rejoiced together. And on opening night we celebrate together.

I’m very thankful that these are the people who surround me.

If you haven’t seen it Seven Brides for Seven Brothers runs for three more weeks. overshadowed.org

Do you have any stories about tech weeks that you have experienced? Or tips to help survive one? I’d love to hear from you!

Lessons from High School Musical

It’s been 12 years since we first watched Troy and Gabriella ring in the new year, and heard those iconic songs that bring memories of a brand new way of musical dancing. I remember watching the Disney special that proclaimed you could learn the dance moves and dance along with the finale. I tried for awhile and realized that they weren’t really talking to me….(ah, to be young again).

After the movie came two sequels and a stage production and a message, well, actually several messages.

1. Be brave enough to try something new. 

When Troy and Gabriella were first pushed on stage together to sing karaoke, they were totally beyond their comfort zones. In spite of their fear they discovered something new that they really enjoyed! We often are afraid to try something different–don’t let fear stop you.

2. Break the weight and bonds of cliques.

Learning to enjoy things that others do is a wonderful part of life.  The drama geeks can all learn from the jocks who can learn from the tech wizards who can learn from the….well, you get my drift. High school is such a short period of time. Don’t miss something really special by staying in a clique.

In fact, one of my favorite moments as a director was watching one of the “jocks”of the high school I was volunteering at get the courage to audition for Fiddler on the Roof. His hands were shaking so bad! He got the part and proceeded to lead that school in a way that really helped make all the students more well rounded.

3. The “status quo” is a prison that we put ourselves in.

All it took was word that Troy Bolton started singing for an entire cafeteria of students to confess their own secret passions. It’s amazing how people follow the leader. If you have a secret desire to try something new go for it!

4. Communicate with your parents.

This is a part of the movie I feel very strongly about. I think it’s important to be respectful of your parents. If they want you to do something it’s probably because they want the best for you. But, maybe they just don’t know how powerful your feelings are inside of you.  It was hard for Troy to tell his dad that he was interested in theater because he didn’t want to hurt him, but believe me, your parents want you  to talk to them and share what you are going through.

5. There’s room for everyone on stage.

Oh, I could talk forever about this one.  Sharpay and Ryan were the leads in every musical. They intimidated others and thought they were better than everyone else. People–just because you aren’t the lead doesn’t mean that someone is better than you. Every person on the stage is important and sharing the stage makes a much better show! Please don’t feel like you aren’t talented or not important just because you didn’t get a solo or named part. Also, don’t be opposed to playing something other than the lead. Many times being a part of the ensemble can be just as challenging and rewarding.

6. A real friend is in your court no matter what.

It may have been hard for Chad to accept that Troy was getting his head into a game other than basketball, but in the end, he wanted his friend to be able to fulfill both his dreams. Real friends stand by you even if the

IMG_4360
“Breaking Free”

things you have in common start to change. They support you as you gain new skills and encourage you to be a  better person.

7. You’re never alone.

Remember this. In this day and age that the suicide rate is up–this lesson is important. We’re all in this together. Some days are hard. Sometimes you might feel like you are alone. You might feel that you aren’t smart enough or talented enough or loved enough. We are all in this thing together, and there’s nothing that you’re going through that a million others aren’t too. Remember that.

This past two weeks 41 students, 7 directors, 3 costumers and a 3 person tech team came together to put on our own production of High School Musical, Jr. We created memories, made new friends and hopefully were all reminded of these very lessons.

Theater camp is one of the highlights of my year. To all of those involved: thank you for making this experience so delightful! IMG_4346

Musical theatre teaches.

What are some lessons you learned from camp or High School Musical ?? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Reba

                                                                  Photo Credit: Francisco Montes