At first, I was discontented. Well, okay, miserable. Only three awards out of eight possible? C’mon! Couldn’t the judges see the talent, energy, and pathos that went into the production?
Although I don’t usually watch the Oscars, I was curious to see how my favorite film of the year fared against the others.
Best supporting actress? Of course!
Best sound mixing? I agreed.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling? I saw that, too.
But, I wanted them to win all the awards. Then I settled down and realized there are other deserving actors/actresses, especially from other cultures who need a win as well.
Then, I got to thinking about our performance as Christians on the stage of life. Are we winning heavenly awards that will bring glory to God and not ourselves?
For instance (and I’m questioning myself) . . .
Best Leading Actor: Are men taking their roles as leaders seriously? How about church leaders? Or anyone for that matter, in a leading role?
Best Supporting Actress: Are you as a wife taking your God-given role seriously and supporting your man? Or, if you are a young person at home, are you supporting your parents? How about singles? Are you being a good friend, and honoring your boss (no matter what gender you are)? How about pitching in with the gifts God has given you in your local church? Congregations, are you bringing joy and not pain to your church leaders?
Directing: Let’s turn the tables — are you allowing God to direct your life, or are you taking charge?
Best Costume Design: Are you “putting off” the dirty garment of anger, lies, and filthy talk? And “putting on” the fresh, clean garment of kindness, humility and patience? (Colossians 3:3-14) Or, possibly, are you pretending to be someone you are not?
Best musical score: Is your life a symphony of comforting notes and scores that brings joy to those around you?
Visual effects — Does your countenance reflect your heart? Do your deeds reflect your relationship with the Creator?
Writing: Those of us who are authors, are we writing for the glory of God, or for a spot in the limelight?
Sound Editing: How is your tongue? Are you silencing those harsh or untrue words before they hurt others?
Cinematography: if you were to play your life back on the screen in a two-hour movie, how would the audience react at the end? Give it 5-stars? Cry at the tragedies that led to more tragedies without meaning? Laugh uproariously because its so true in your own life, a mirror that reflects your need to change?
I’d love to hear your ideas below in the comments!
So, I leave you with the musical performance of Les Misérables cast at the 2013 Oscars…now that deserved an award of its own! You can find the performance at 1:18
Of course, only God deserves our ultimate praise and worship, but, as we do our best in our work and life, we reflect God’s excellence:
“Praise him (God) for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.” Psalms 150: 2
This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).
I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!
Cooking up Characters with Kady! (did you like that alliteration?) Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.
First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.
An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.
I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like?Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´?And Jane Eyre..modern or historical?How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun?How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)
Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!
And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.
Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.
With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.
Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.
The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.
The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.
I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this: My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.
I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.
From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.
But theater is not a solo endeavor.
Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!
This past Sunday we all celebrated Mother’s Day. Some of us had the luxury of being together. Some of us had wonderful zoom calls from our kids. Some of us mourned the loss of our mothers. In whatever way you celebrated, I’ll guess that the conversations around your table were different than the conversations held in the past. I’ll tell you the most special gift in the world would have been to be with my children and my mom. As the day went on I thought about my mom spending mother’s day all alone in her retirement home. I am so thankful she is safe, but just like so many other mothers…she is alone. On the day that is set aside to remember mothers and celebrate them–countless numbers of them spent the day all alone. Honestly, I grieved not being able to see her or my kids.
So what are we learning through this crisis?
To celebrate life. Each and every moment is important. We never know when we are going to be able to spend an additional moment with those we love. We will never take them for granted again.
We are learning that things we took for granted are infinitely more valuable and necessary than we knew. A hug from a friend. Dinner with a friend. A visit with mom.
Priorities. What are the things you are missing most during this time? What can you live without? What can’t you live without? Is it possible that we could be building new habits as we realize what things are truly important?
Things we need to work on. If there is anything we have now it is time….time to think. Time to reflect. Time to figure out if there are bad habits we need to get rid of or good ones we need to develop.
What do you have time for that you never did before?
I’m not going to say that I NEVER had time for a Bible study because I’ve done quite a few in my life, but at the beginning of our shelter-in-place a friend of mine suggested that we start a book/Bible study. I resisted, but as weeks went on I realized it was a really good idea. My mind needed to focus on God and not searching the internet and Facebook for everything that MAN was saying. We are only on our third week, but it is such a blessing to gather and pray with these ladies. And listen….I do not think I would have joined….if not for the virus. Thank you, God, for giving me time to commit to you in this way. Thank you, for the time we spend together.
I look around me and, while I treasure my mom and my family; I am also spending time thinking about all the hardships I see around me. People out of work. People struggling to pay bills. People who have lost loved ones to this horrible virus. People who are suffering with depression or feelings of hopelessness. People who have loss loved ones! Let’s face it, we can all look at the hardship and hopelessness all around us and start to feel lost, depressed, discouraged.
Or, we can come face-to-face with something else. Jesus is the only one that can help. Someone wrote me this quote the other day, “It may seem impossible, but God….”
God. Healer. Comforter. Prince of Peace. Deliverer. One who Sets Us Free.Mighty God.
There are many more, but these are the ones I am claiming for today….
It may seem impossible….but God!
God understands our loneliness. Our Grief. Our disappointment. Our fear. He reminds us with each name from the Bible to call on Him–He alone can comfort, protect and deliver us! Will you all join me to pray earnestly for healing for our country? A treatment? That God will stop this virus?
Well, this is a theater blog after all, right? So I’d like to end with a song that I’ve been thinking about.
This is from Fiddler on the Roof. It makes me cry every time I hear it.
Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older, When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset, Swiftly flow the days, Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, Blossoming even as they gaze…
Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset! Swiftly fly the years, One season following another, Laden with happiness and tears…
They grow so fast. The days go quickly. Please let us see our families and enjoy the wonderful gifts that come from You. Please help us to understand our purpose here, when we can’t go out , and it seems like months before we even be able to worship together. How are we supposed to act? What are we supposed to do? We walk in places we have not walked before. Thank You for leading the way, because humanly it all seems impossible. But we know You are the Creator of all and nothing is impossible with you. We also know that you love us more than we can fathom and that you feel our pain during this time. We take comfort that as you wept at the grave of Lazarus that you feel our pain. We ask that you send the Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us strength.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are coping and praying during this time.
If you think this might be a blessing to others please take time to follow and share.
I had the chance to meet “Shrek” and loved it when he said I was just a big kid! Don’t judge!
Shrek is the perfect example of social distancing. When he is misunderstood, he decides it is better to live alone and in the swamp. Of course, he meets Donkey and Fiona and well..who can resist a good love story reminding us that we are better with people. The other favorite about this musical is
that it ends with a Monkee’s song, Daydream Believer. I loved the group and this is one of my favorite songs so getting to enjoy that song at the end of this musical makes it a real treat.
2. Les Misérables. I think I can speak confidently for broken-hearted girls everywhere that Eponine is their representative. She has a horrible home life and has really had to take care of herself most of her life. Then she meets, Marius, basically someone that could be her prince charming. Is it love at first sight? Nope, not for this tragic creature. Instead she helpshim communicate with the person he has fallen in love with. She sings the song that many a girl has belted out in their rooms through tears. “On my Own.”
On my own Pretending he’s beside me All alone I walk with him till morning Without him I feel his arms around me And when I lose my way I close my eyes And he has found me
Yep. That’s what we are all doing right now. All alone. Maybe the lesson we learn from her is that we can sing our way through any circumstance in life!
3. Rapunzel. This sweet character was locked away in a tower for most of her life. I mean, you all remember how long her hair was when her prince climbed up to rescue her, right? (And you think you need a hair cut…) One of the main things I love about Rapunzel is that she made good use of her time. She painted and baked and well…everything. What new skill are you learning as you are confined?
Oh, by the way. This story also teaches us about hope. Rapunzel’s parents never gave up hope that she was going to return. In a way, it was the beauty of the lanterns and their optimism that brought her home. So, let’s not give up hope that we are going to conquer this evil virus sooner rather than later!
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I might as well do all my tower characters together! Quasimodo. This tragic character was born deformed. Because of his appearance he was condemned to the cathedral’s tower by the caretaker. Quasimodo yearned to experience the outside world and be among the people. (Sound familiar?) I love the lesson of this show….who the monster is and who the man is depends on your point of view.
5. The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom lurks around hiding and isolating himself. Let’s face it, he was wearing a mask before it was cool! In fact, this beautiful operetta sings an entire song about masks!
Masquerade! Paper faces on parade
Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you
Masquerade! Every face a different shade
Masquerade! Look around, there’s another mask behind you
Yep, masks, masks everywhere I look. In all seriousness, one of the lessons of Phantom is that regardless of circumstances we have a choice on how we live our lives. Such a good reminder right now.
6. Beauty and the Beast. Yep. you guessed it. Another character that is isolated alone, hiding away from the world as we know it. But the Beast is lucky, he has Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts to keep him company. Then, as fate would have it Belle enters his life. What lesson can we learn? We actually learn the lesson from Belle. The fairy tale, happily-ever-after love story might not look like one right away, but don’t give up ! That love story might be waiting for you when you least expect it!
7. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Adam and his brothers lived outside of their town. They had no manners and knew little about love. They thought they could force their seclusion on others and kidnapped the girls in town that had captured their hearts and forced an avalanche so that they could keep them all winter. Lucky for the girls, Milly, Adam’s wife, forced the guys to stay in the barn and kept the couples apart. Lesson? The premise is bad, but thankfully it is seen as a farce and teaches the lesson that love changes the heart of another. We can also learn that it isn’t good to be alone–people make bad decisions! (Seems like we keep being reminded of that lesson)
8. Wicked. Elphaba is green and misunderstood. So….she doesn’t really wear a mask….but again…she is GREEN so I think that counts. But don’t count her out. You won’t find her in the middle of the crowd and that’s ok. There are so many great things to learn from this musical. You don’t always have to do the “popular” thing. Sometimes the other choice is better. Yourfuture is unlimited. Lastly, sometimes you just have to dance through life.
9. The Diary of Anne Frank. I know I’ve mentioned her quite a bit lately, but there is so much to learn from her. As you know, her family went into hiding on July 6, 1942. They continued to live in hiding until they were arrested on August 4, 1944. In spite of Anne’s living conditions, she was aware that her family had more than others. What can we learn? The importance of perspective. We can also learn to look for the silver lining instead of thinking about how horrible our situation is. In hiding she wrote,
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go…somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.”
“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery.”
10. The Trip to Bountiful. I have saved my favorite for last. When the stay at home orders were issued we were in the middle of our production of Bountiful. I had the honor of portraying Carrie Watts and I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the chance of playing another character that is as wonderful as she is. Why Carrie? She says:
“That was what was killing me! To be locked up in those two rooms! I bet I’ll live to be 100 now that I can get outside again!
I think we can all understand how Carrie was feeling! One other thing we can learn from Carrie is that no one can take away our song. We might not be able to get out and do all the things we want to or be with the people we want to be with, but you can keep singing. And I can’t wait to sing again with all of you.
Keep singing, my friends!
I’d love to hear what you think. Are there other characters I should have included? Please share this blog and follow so you don’t miss a post!
For weeks now we have listened to the news waiting anxiously to hear how many weeks it will be before cities around the United States start to “see the curve flatten”. I took heart a few weeks ago when I heard that New York had announced that Broadway would plan to open again on June 7th. It has now become clear that probably will not happen. In fact, the prediction is that touring groups, regional theaters and community theaters will open long before Broadway. In other words, for the first time ever…WE have the opportunity to set the standards for Broadway.How different will things look? How long will it be before people want to come back? These are questions that are ringing in all of our ears.
Each night I record the latest totals of Covid cases per state. I’m not sure why I do it– other than it will make interesting reading for someone who looks through my journal one day. We are making history after all, right? Every night my husband asks me, “Do you really think people will want to sit next to each other at ballgames, movie theaters or live theater?”
Well, I guess we aren’t out of the woods yet, but we’ve definitely had a lot of hours to think about how we are going to act when we are set free. And, I agree, I think things are going to be different.
Here are 7 predictions:
1. Seating is going to be limited. I don’t think people are going to want to sit next to people they don’t know for a long time to come. I have heard that airplanes are not going to be selling the middle seat. (Thank goodness.) If the airlines aren’t going to plaster us in their seats, I don’t think theaters will either.
Just this week I received an update from the company that runs our on-line ticketing. They are working on software that automatically blocks out the seats around a group of seats that are purchased. Now….how do I figure out the percentage of tickets sold so I can quote the accurate numbers to apply for royalties??? New problems….
2. Online sales will dominate. During this crisis I continue to hear people say that, “Money is dirty.” Businesses have offered to have payment options so that people don’t have to exchange money. I think theaters are going to want to protect their employees by only having payment options that don’t require the handling of money. That includes concession time. Perhaps pre-ordering your snacks so that people will not have to stand in line next to each other? Which actually might be a very nice courtesy to offer patrons. What is your average time standing in line at intermission??
Will that change anything for the industry overall? People have been purchasing tickets on line for years. In the long run we will have to juggle the credit card and service fees that go along with it. Have you noticed that some companies charge over $20 in fees???
3. Real Estate is going to be more affordable. Now this is exciting. With all the companies that have had to figure out how to work remotely…I think a lot of buildings are going to become unnecessary which leaves them open for theater space! Before this crisis, there wasn’t enough of it or it was too expensive. Maybe that is something positive to explore.
4. Live streaming is going to be a very real possibility. Man, there is just nothing like watching a live show, but if you can’t find a way to attend then seeing that live stream is for sure a second best. I can’t wait to see how this continues to develop.
5. Theaters are going to be more flexible about the ability to change tickets. Perhaps we will send out instructions with the ticket order on how to exchange tickets if the customer doesn’t feel well. Along with that, perhaps the theater will take temperatures before the customer is allowed into the theater. It will be all about making sure that the audience member feels like we have their safety in mind.
6. Limited seating will be available. I’m not sure how long social distancing will be in place or how long it will take for us to be comfortable sitting next to someone we don’t know. So, theaters will limit the amount of seats that will be available for performances. This will give everyone ample room to spread out and not come in close contact. Perhaps ushers will dismiss people row by row as well. It will all be about how we can limited the contact of the audience. Perhaps we could also have certain performances that were strictly for those at higher risk? Limiting the number of seats even more.
7. Theater will come back. We need it. We have survived wars and TV and Netflix and I believe people will be craving the community that is theater. I’m not sure how long it will all take. We might all have to rebuild. But we will be there for you when you are ready to come back!
Do you remember the first live performance you ever saw? I do! I remember how I felt when I heard the orchestra begin to tune. I remember the energy of the audience and how I felt when each cast member appeared. I cannot wait to sit in an audience and feel all the feels again. Will you be there with me?
I’d love to hear what you think of these idea and if you have others! Please take a moment to like, share, comment and follow!
I am so thrilled to introduce Nathan to all of you. Some of you may remember Nathan from a few year’s ago when we had the honor of having him at Overshadowed just for a few weeks before he returned home to get married. He made a lasting impression on us in just that short amount of time and I can’t wait for you to get to know his heart in this blog! Enjoy!
When Reba asked me if I would be a guest author on her blog, I must admit I felt both honored and nervous—happy to reconnect with Overshadowed, but also a tad afraid of the topic. She asked me a seemingly simple question: “What is a dramaturg?”
But the truth is there’s no official, textbook definition. The role can vary from show to show, company to company. Not to mention dramaturgs are often overlooked in America. But one thing is for sure—dramaturgs are the chameleons of the theatre. When involved, they enrich every single aspect of a production, even though their specific influence may be hard to define. In short, they are Content and Context experts. Their main responsibility? To ask 3 questions about every play they work on. And to answer them as thoroughly and collaboratively as possible.
Question 1: Why Then?
“How much is a guinea worth?” “Where did swing music come from?” “What were French fashions in 1834?” “What does this Shakespearean monologue mean, anyway? Can I cut it?” “Why was it like that back Then?”
Dramaturgs are tasked with answering countless historical questions for designers, directors, and actors alike. Mercifully, they usually join a production before any other member of the team (unless a playwright is involved). This gives them time to gather a wealth of information to share before any acting, design, and directorial choices are made. These findings are gathered into one large document called the Actor’s Packet. Typically, production team members get a copy during preliminary meetings, and actors receive it on the first night of rehearsal.Now you may be thinking: “Don’t the cast and crew do their own research?” And the answer is yes, they do (or should!). But by doing a lot of research ahead of time, dramaturgs help save them hours of work. But even more importantly is how dramaturgs offer insight into questions that aren’t quite so easily answered with a Google search:
“What’s with the scrims in The Glass Menagerie?” “Why is Arthur Miller obsessed with Greek theatre structure?” “How did religion shape Shakespeare’s plays and characters?”
These are questions of culture—specifically the aesthetics of the playwrights themselves and the societies they lived in. And unfortunately too many productions skip right on by these.
“But why is that a problem?” you may ask. Well, think of it this way: Plays, like any art form, are created in response to something—personal, political, societal, you name it. And so if we divorce ourselves from the original context of the play—and the reason it was written—we not only fail to understand the message itself, but fail to know how to translate it to a modern-day world.
Dramaturgs help us make this connection. Which leads me to Question 2.
Question 2: Why Now?
A dramaturg’s job doesn’t end with the Actor’s Packet. He’s not just handing out a bunch of historical facts and aesthetic recommendations–then walking away hoping it’s all done properly.
No—the dramaturg is an active on-going presence throughout the rehearsal process. Serving as the confidant to the director, the dramaturg keeps this question in sight at all times:
“Why this play Now?”
In other words, “What is its significance today?”
Or—if it’s a new play— “Why is it worth the risk to support this playwright and produce it?”
Dramaturgs keep the team focused on answering these “Now” questions in several ways.
First of all, they champion the play itself. If it’s an established script, they make sure that its original context isn’t lost—or worse, misrepresented for the sake of “innovation”—during the production’s process. To do this, they facilitate meaningful discussion and interpretation of the play, including modern-day applications.
If it’s a new play, dramaturgs work with the playwright directly—consulting them on potential adjustments, maintaining the script’s integrity, and ensuring the play’s present-day message isn’t muddled. Because if it is, then the theatre has lost the reason they took the risk to produce it!
Second, by focusing on “Why this play now?”, the dramaturg reminds the team of why they chose to do this play in the first place. For instance, let’s say the director shared a brilliant vision for the play at the table read. A couple weeks in, the dramaturg asks:
“Is this vision being realized?” “Are acting and design choices in line with these directorial goals? With the text itself?” “Based on how rehearsals are going, will the audience receive the intended message?”
Dramaturgs help directors keep the original vision intact, and they serve as sounding boards for the thousands of decisions that come directors’ ways. While directors may feel they’re making one isolated choice after another, dramaturgs are there to point out how each choice influences the overall vision—and ultimately, how the audience will experience the play. Which leads into Question 3.
Question 3: Why Here?
This question is critical.
Why is this theatre doing this play in this community?
And unfortunately many theatres don’t even think to ask it.
But a dramaturg has it on their radar long before a script is selected in the first place. In fact, theatres with resident dramaturgs often task them with sourcing play options for their seasons. And there are two crucial reasons why.
First, we know any established theatre ought to have a clear and distinct identity and mission. We should be able to say, “Oh yeah, that theatre is known for [family/edgy/comedy/etc.]shows.” And so when a theatre company is looking to pull together a cohesive season, dramaturgs go to work to find plays that fit the theatre’s niche, and even specific themes if desired. A lot of times this is how new playwrights are discovered—dramaturgs are dear friends of new works!
But it’s not enough to know why the theatre is doing the play.
Secondly, a dramaturg helps determine why a specific communityneeds this play. Let’s say you’re a comedy-oriented theatre and you want to do a production of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park—a funny play about a newlywed couple in New York City. But there’s a catch: you’re located in southern Mississippi surrounded by an older community of blue collar workers. The play may fit your niche, but it doesn’t serve your audience demographic.
This audience-centered thinking is the bread and butter of the dramaturg. If a play’s appeal doesn’t extend beyond the theatre company itself—if it’s not a gift to the larger community, speaking to them in specific ways—then the dramaturg should rightfully ask:
“Why are we doing it at all?”
But—when a play is chosen that does meet the theatre’s niche as well as its surrounding community, dramaturgs are in their happy place. In fact, this is personally my favorite aspect of dramaturgy and why I am so passionate about it. Because the dramaturg now gets to create meaning that extends beyond the production itself.
Through presentations to cast and crew, dramaturgs get to express why this play matters to the outside world—the one right outside their door! And by creating lobby displays, program notes, and talkback sessions, dramaturgs show audiences that this production speaks to their lives and experiences right now, right here.
It’s a gift. And it’s personal.
When you choose a play for a specific audience, a specific community, you’re saying:
“I see you. I hear you. I know what you value—what speaks to your soul.”
And sometimes even:
“I know this one will be hard for you; but I think you need it—it’ll help you grow.”
Dramaturgs search for plays that serve their audience. And I kind of think that looks like Jesus.
So to sum up a post longer than I intended, dramaturgs are a vital part of the theatre. Because their three questions—why then? why now? why here?—all answer one ultimate question:
Why it matters.
If we fail to answer that, then we’ve failed to give a gift. And if we fail to give a gift, then we’ve failed to make art.
May we as Christians always be gift-givers.
Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy by Michael Mark Chemers
You can follow Nathan @nathan_pittack or contact him at email@example.com
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“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.–Alberto Manguel
At the beginning of 2020 I read page after page of posts on Facebook from friends who beautifully recapped all the books they read during 2019. I was ashamed, informed, entertained and inspired. You see? I love to read, but somehow I’ve gotten out of the habit. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but after reading post after post I decided that the bad habit needed to be broken and I resolved to read at least one book a month during 2020.
I started off great during January and February, but as I was working on “Trip to Bountiful.” reading became a huge luxury because I needed to spend so much time on my lines. I vowed that I would still get back to reading. I just needed to make sure my lines were firmly embedded in my brain before moving on.
Then, our world stopped and reading…well, reading became everything. I must admit, I spent the first part of quarantine reading about the virus and the dangers and all the theories behind it, but slowly I pulled my head away from that and decided I wanted to be entertained instead.
Why is it that some of us love to read and others make ourselves read and still others don’t do it at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that subject because I’m not sure I know the answer and I’d love to hear theories.
For now, I’d like to share my January-March reading experience with you.
I had the honor of being in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank last year. I actually started this book at that time, but just couldn’t fight way my through it. I finished it this year. I’m not sure I could have picked a better book to begin my new journey with books.
Do you know the story? It is the real life account of a young girl during WWII. Anne’s father, Otto, has the forsite to prepare a place for his family and one other to hide from the Germans. Anne faithfully writes in her diary the day-to-day activities during their time in hiding. She was thirteen when she began detailing her accounts. Most of us think of reading this book for school, but I think I learned even more reading it as an adult. I’m inspired at Anne’s intelligence and how prolifically she writes. Was it because she was trapped with adults for such a long time or has the world been robbed of a bright mind that would have given us such immeasurable greatness? When Overshadowed produced this play last year, we talked about living in cramped spaces with people who would grow to get on our nerves. We talked about eating the same things over and over and the idea of not being about to go outside and how that would feel. We talked about the fear of the unknown and dependance on others…..who knew that we would be experiencing a little of the same things? It makes me so thankful for what we DO have. Freedom at the top of the list.
As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?–Anne Frank
This book is available at Amazon! There are also other books that you might be interested in. Some of them are also in the photo above.
I loved this book! I am a fan of all things Titanic and this story about fourteen members of a small village in Ireland who journey towards America is captivating. We instantly love, Maggie, who is torn as she heads to a future that must be better, but ache for her as she leaves her true love behind. The story blends the past with the present as we meet Grace Butler who struggles to find focus on the future until her great-grandmother decides it is time to tell the story of….The Titanic.
This story is inspired by true events and the blending of history, fact and fiction reminded me of so many tragic decisions involved in the sinking of that great ship that changed the world forever.
That night when Titanic went down was so terrible that some survivors, like me, wanted to stop talking about it. I suppose people move on, history moves on, and there will, sadly, always be something more terrible waiting around the corner.--Maggie
Why is that my favorite? Because it reminds us to talk, because stories teach. And it reminds us that life has wonderful times and terrible ones. We need to find the good in all of them.
This one was a struggle to read. In fact, I had to make myself read a chapter a day to get finished with it. I found the disjointed way that she introduced her characters hard to follow. I continually went back and reread portions to see if I had missed something. It finally all came together in the end, but that’s too long to wait for the story to make sense. It also touched upon being very inappropriate at times. She didn’t go into detail, but it just made me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to feel that way when I read!
By the way, I do NOT receive anything for the recommendation of these books. This is just me…sharing things with you!
I’m not sure why I chose these three books for the beginning of this year. They all involved very deep topics and all three brought me to tears at times. My title for this blog was One Book Can Change the World. I truely believe it can. I think The Diary of a Young Girl did that. What books have your read that changed you or the world? Or…should you write one?
During this time of darkness….why not pick up a book and read!
Please take a moment to like and share this! And please let me know about books you have read!
I am honored to have guest blogger, actress, teacher, mom, wife and friend join us this week. From the moment I met Jessica I was astonished by her spirit, wisdom, talent and enthusiasm. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your thoughts this week!
When I was asked to be a guest blogger for Reba, I had two questions: Number One: What do I write about? Number Two: Why would anyone care?
I get why Reba has a blog and people want to read it; she is President and Artistic Director for a theatre company that she founded! She started something from the ground up and took a huge risk. How cool is that!? If people need to learn from someone it is Reba.
So, what do I do? I teach high school, direct theatre, am a mom, and perform on the side for my personal sanity. But then I began thinking, I really do not just perform on the side. Over this past year I have taken a step to become more active offstage, which is in turn helping me better onstage.
The answer to the first question then came to me: What do I write about?
Where God calls, God equips. I am not going to take personal credit for this statement, as it was in my sermon notes from last month. However, it rings true with my connection with Overshadowed Theatrical Productions.
Over three years ago I performed with Overshadowed for the first time in the musical Mary Poppins. Before that I had been performing in musicals for years upon years with other local theatre companies. I did notice that Overshadowed was different. The people were a community, all people. I saw that the crew worked like a well-oiled machine. I was impressed by the professionalism of the company, but I was just a performer, so I did my job, finished the run, and continued working with other companies.
I did not get involved with Overshadowed until the spring season of last year. Involved meaning I jumped into serving. Last spring season, during the production of Seussical, I was asked to join the Gala Committee and I said I would help wherever I was needed. Silly me…of course that was the silent auction. (Who wants to ask people for donations?)
Fast-forward to late July and my afternoon date with Breana Akerberg. She showed me the ropes on how to ask for donations. (If you do not know already, Breana is a Rockstar at accomplishing goals!) At first, I was timid to walk into a business and do “the ask”. But with Breana’s help by the end of the afternoon we had great success (and ended our gala work with a mini smoothie date). That afternoon I gained the confidence I needed and a new friend.
You will never get anywhere if you do not ask (although it is not always comfortable at first). In the end, it was work, but rewarding work. I knew I was serving an important cause. And honestly, seeing the gala’s silent auction room last October I felt so proud that I had played a part in that (especially when I found out the amount raised for Overshadowed!). Laura Benanti said in a podcast interview on the Theater People that theatre “bonds you quickly” because together you are “working towards the same goal”. I think this is true onstage, but also true offstage and in life.
When we work together it bonds us, especially when we can enjoy the fruits of our labor with others.
During the course of a year, I began to take on more tasks for Overshadowed from seam ripping (not a costumer), assisting with makeup, writing news sources to market shows, and eventually overseeing Overshadowed’s social media. I am also now heading up the silent auction subcommittee if anyone wants to make a donation. (See what I did there?) However, I am taking initiative and asking if I can assist where I see a need. People are not always going ask, because much like my adventure with Breana, I was nervous to ask. People are afraid to burden others. So, if you see a need that you can fill, put out an offer.
Where am I going with this? I am a performer. I could just be an actress. I don’t have to volunteer in other capacities. But Overshadowed is theatre with a difference. I serve Overshadowed, because I am called. I am equipped. I am needed. Serving for Overshadowed makes me better and it makes Overshadowed better.
This past Christmas I had the absolute honor to perform in Overshadowed’s winter production of Holiday Inn. By that time, I had immersed myself in the culture and community of Overshadowed. Performing each night was more than just singing, dancing, and acting in a show like it had three years ago in Mary Poppins. I was now bonded to not only the cast, but the crew, and all of the volunteers. When we finished each performance the greatest compliment, I heard from the audience was that there was not a single weak link, even down to the scene changes, lighting, and sounds cues. Holiday Inn was a well-oiled machine, because everyone had invested their time and served during that production. Even more amazing, almost every member of the production has now volunteered their time offstage in the two productions following Holiday Inn by running sound cues, assisting in hair and makeup, as running crew backstage, painting and building sets, or ushering.
Now, to answer the second question: Why would anyone care?
Overshadowed is more than a theatre company; it is a ministry. Overshadowed needs volunteers. But best of all, when we volunteer, we work together on a common goal bonding people together.
If you are called but are unsure where to start, reach out, because there is always something small (remember I first started ripping seams?) and God will equip you along the journey. As you grow in your service you will see Overshadowed grow in strength, the community grow in faith, the audience grow in spirit, and your heart will be full.
Since truly getting involved with Overshadowed Theatrical Productions I have continued to perform, but the experience is vastly different than my first time on the Overshadowed stage. I am a part of the well-oiled machine that I observed during Mary Poppins. In January when I announced on Facebook that I was working on a new project, The Trip to Bountiful, a fellow Chicagoland actor commented on my post saying, “It looks like you found your theatre home”. I laughed and showed Reba. She smiled at me and said, “Yep, it is!” Overshadowed has become a home for me, because I have allowed myself to listen to the call of service and the fruits of my labor are even more rewarding.
If you are called to serve, be it a school, church, community service, or a ministry, I pray that you answer the call and take the initiative to fill the need.
The work will reap rewards.
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts or comments. Please take a moment to follow us so you don’t ever miss a post!
Last weekend was supposed to be the closing weekend for “The Trip to Bountiful.” Our season is designed that after that “March” play– we have a break in our season that allows us to beginning planning for next season and gear up for our busiest time of year–the summer.
Like I said, that’s what was supposed to happen. Instead, two weeks ago theaters all across the United States begin to shut down, suspend productions, and in some cases close them all together, in reaction to the pandemic that is attacking our country. We didn’t want to close–but we had too. We had to for the safety and health of our country, families, patrons….everyone.
This was an incredlbly difficult decision. Why? Because we still do not know how long and what disasters will have occurred when the rainbow comes out at the end. I wish I had dollar for every time I’ve said, “If I only knew…” my whole life. Well, if I only knew….then I could make the decisions a artistic director needs to make. Decisions about how to create theater when the world is falling apart.
First of all, you might be wondering exactly what is a artistic director?
Artistic director: the person with overall responsibility for the selection and interpretation of the works performed by a theater, ballet, or opera company.
In my case, I also have the responsibility to create budgets and vision for the paths we are going to take during the year. This is the time of year I start to make those decisions for the next season.
Panic sets in.
How in the world am I supposed to do that if I don’t even know if I will be able to open the doors of our theater before the end of the summer? My thoughts spin in my head like a tornado. “Do I postpone auditions? Are we going to be able to hold camps? Should I rearrange the season? Should I change shows that we finish the year with? Should I contact the royalty companies now or later? How is this going to hurt us fanancially? Can we survive at all? ” And probably other thoughts as well.
Where do I even start?
Keep thinking and keep creating. The second you stop then the very artist inside of you will stop as well. Even if you don’t know when you’ll perform again or what tomorrow will bring. Just keep creating. How? Maybe it will look different because your safe theater isn’t open, but find another one! Write. or take a lesson, or give one. or read on-line to entertain others. Overshadowed has chosen to open it’s vaults and let others see past shows. Whatever you do, please just do it!
2. Keep Planning. This is a difficult one for me. I feel like the calendar is moving all over the place and I can’t make a decision or decide anything because my target keeps moving. But, I must keep planning. If I don’t have “the next step” ready then we will be behind on everything for the rest of the year.
3. Think about finances. This is a bottom line necessity all the time. God has always been very gracious and has blessed Overshadowed in so many ways. Honestly, this might be the toughest battle we face. Because we don’t know when we are going to re-open or if we will have to permanently cancel part of our season then we don’t know if we will have to reimburse part of the money we have collected up front. In this time of crisis that would be devastating. So, decisions have to be made to keep us going? How do you keep a theater company going when the theater world has stopped? We make decisions based on the future. Do we add something to our fall season? Do we spend less money now? Do we take this time “off” to make sure we inform others of services we have to offer? Classes? Rentals? Original scripts? My mind is searching for ways to help our communities but have services to offer others in the future. I’d like to think, that we will come out of this better because we’ve had time to think differently….time will tell. The one thing I know. This was God’s company when we started. It’s God’s company now. It’ll be God’s company tomorrow.
4. How do we get the name of our company out to people who would be interested? And in this case, how will we KEEP our name in the minds of our current patrons. Entertainment and theaters are going to take a hit along with everyone else in this crisis. We aren’t sure how long it’s going to last, but I want to be there when it’s all over. Small decisions have deep impacts on people. There is a science to marketing that I am not good at, but I do understand that people need to hear the name of your company over and over before it starts to sound familiar and even more times before it becomes something they are willing to check out. So, we are still sending out our weekly updates. We are also offering the link to one of our shows each week. (If you aren’t on our mailing list contact me and I’ll send you the link to one of these shows.) We are also trying to creatively market the people of Overshadowed and past memories. I really appreciate, Jessica Means, who is heading up all of that! She is so creative and is doing such a fabulous job!
5. Keep your tribe around you. Folks, we need each other. We might be bunkered down alone, but that doesn’t mean we should hibernate. FaceTime, text, call, email, zoom….there are many ways to reach out. Keep talking. It will help us stay motivated and maybe even appreciated and sane in the end!
My thoughts have gone back to the stories I heard about WWII and the times families would sit around and listen to the stories on the radio. Do you know what that teaches me? That when times are tough sometimes we need to shut out the world and give voice to hope and laughter and joy and see theater that becomes a means of comfort. We need breaks in times of sorrow and sadness. We need a connection between communities.
I’m thankful for theater. I hope it never dies.
One last thought that I have been clinging to. I was reminded of an old gospel hymn. “I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please take time to share this if you know someone it might encourage. Thank you!
Last night the 92nd annual Oscar awards was on tv. Just like always, I hunkered down to watch the display of all the movies, clips, and songs that had been selected as being worthy of awards for this past year.
You might be a little like me in that as the year goes on you keep a list of your favorites and perhaps even have a list in your mind as who you think should win. For example, Chuck and I LOVED 1917 for its cinematography, but thought it’s story line wasn’t really worthy of Best Picture.
This year, we saw two amazing performances that we thought we so far above the rest that we didn’t see how that could be beat. In fact, I felt a little sorry for the other people in both categories Best Actor and Best Actress. What a bad year to go up against Joaquin Phoenix and Renee Zellweger (Am I the only one who didn’t know she had a thick Texas accent?) I will be honest, I cheered when she won.
When I saw “Judy” last year I meant to write a review, but I saw it so late in the run I decided that it was too late. So now I’m excited to share a few of my thoughts.
What can I say about the real Judy Garland? I loved her when I was a little girl watching her wistfully sing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I then become enamored with her movies with Micky Rooney and then, “Meet me in St. Louis.” I watched her sing and dance as a guest star on many tv shows and to me, Judy was a perfect performer. I will never forget that I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car at my grandparent’s house when the radio announced that the world had lost this tragic soul.
I have since read books about her and seen interviews with her children and know what a troubled life she lived. Am I a Judy expert? No. But I have a vision and a knowledge that is pretty firmly routed.
When I saw the first trailer for “Judy” I started to count down the days until it came out, but then a heard a few more and the scenes that I saw didn’t really scream who Judy was to me. Then, I had a friend tell me how wonderful the movie was and when they described that it was more about the later years of her life instead of the beginning, I really lost interest. I knew the pain of those years and I didn’t want to immerse myself in Judy in her downward spiral years of drug abuse. (She was dependent on pills by the time she was 15.)
Start investigating Judy Garland’s life and you will quickly become outraged at her parents, directors, managers, castmates, husbands….
And, yet, I was a fan.
I sat down to watch Renee and thought…”She’s nothing like Judy. I wish they had used Judy’s voice…” and a thousands of other thoughts.
The Garland of this movie is the Garland close to her death. (She died from an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 47) She is fragile, at times unreliable and perhaps terrified. She is broke and goes to London to take a stab at performing in order to go home with enough money to provide for her children. Zellweger shows up with a performance that shows all the pain, sadness, insecurity and bad behavior with exactly the transparency that we’ve read about. Watching her moved me in a way that surprised me and my heart went out to Judy Garland just as it always has.
It reminds me of quotes from the real Judy.
“Being a living legend is lonesome. It’s like a Statue of Liberty, or something like that, who doesn’t breathe. And so no one calls you on the phone and asks you to dinner. So I just sit by the phone.”
“I’ve sung, I’ve entertained, I’ve pleased your children, I’ve pleased your wives….I tried my…. to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn’t. So What!”
By this time I’m all in with my fascination with the movie. Then comes the moment. Judy has been fired from her London gig, but she goes back to say good-bye. This crowd who had thrown things at her and heckled her not sits enraptured by her raw beautiful performance. I listened as the words “if tiny little bluebird fly then why oh why can’t I?” and I began to cry….and I mean cry…real ugly sobs. It was a moment that I will never forget.
Did Renee deserve to win that Oscar. I say, yes 100%. If you haven’t seen “Judy“–please watch it. If you want to know about the real life of Judy Garland, here are some possibilities:
Rainbow: The Stormy Life of Judy Garland by Christopher Finch
Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland By Sid Luft
Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by Lorna Luft
Judy Garland: A Biography by Anne Edwards
All of these are available on Amazon (and if you buy them on Amazon smile you could select Overshadowed as your charity😀)
Are you a fan of Judy’s? Did you see the movie? What are your thoughts? Join me again next week for more thoughts on acting and the pain behind the mask.