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The Pain and Joy of Closing Weekend

I always get to this point in a show. Do you know the moment? It is when something is almost over–you can see the end in sight–a time you will never experience again–It is  here and I regret that more people haven’t seen this musical. I want to share it. There is pain and joy in the closing of a show.

This year has theater audiences struggling to come back from what they lost during Covid. We decided to do a smaller show for several reasons. We weren’t sure that people would want to sit next to each other. Or maybe we’ve all gotten used to sitting and watching our entertainment inside instead of taking the trouble to go out and actually BE with people.

So…I decided on The Marvelous Wonderettes. It is a jukebox musical. It was an off Broadway success. In fact, so much of a success that there are multiple sequels that are written and performed about these four girls.

These four girls….Missy, Cindy Lou, Suzy and Betty Jean. Entered my world months ago as strangers as did the girls who played them. (Amy Keipert, Jessica Means, Brooke Kassal and Grace Ryan) They worked harder than I think any of them expected as they discovered that this musical was much more than a few great songs strung together. They worked hours daily on their harmonies and choreography and characters and the work paid off. What we have is an amazing show with four brilliantly talented girls who sing difficult harmonies effortlessly.

Here I am at closing weekend wishing that I could convince everyone I know to spend a couple of hours in the theater with this show. Here are a couple of remarks I have received:

What a perfect show to mark the return to live theater. It was so good to laugh and smile and sing along with such fun songs.”

I haven’t had that much fun in years.

This show is better than vitamins. I feel ten years younger.

Honestly, those comments mean the world to me. The reason I am in theater is because I want to bring joy to the world. (well, one of the reasons.) This show did that.

We have one weekend left and if I could convince you to come out and join us for one of the remaining shows, would you? overshadowed.org

Even if you have seen the show before, the beauty of live theater is that it is never the same. Every night has a new audience and a new energy and most importantly a new moment to experience. I see the show night after night and love every second of it.

As we begin this weekend, we are tired, but it is a good tired. We are filled with the joy we have shared with audiences, the satisfaction of a job well-done and the feel- good sensation when you learn and grow from an experience.

We would love to share this joy…this story…this experience with you. We have lots of tickets left for tonight, friday night and two shows on Saturday…and it’s air -conditioned. (It’s a win-win.) Won’t you shake off the Covid hibernation and join us? Let’s get back to the joy of live theater.

Here is a little tease of the show:

Until next time–I’ll be in the wings–

Reba

artist, artistic vision, audience, backstage, christian blog, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, Fear, hope, theater, theater education

Theater Through the Eyes of a Child-By Guest Blogger Kendra Jones

I am so pleased to share these thoughts from Kendra Jones. I met Kendra several years after Overshadowed began, and she instantly became a friend as well as a significant part of the company. She recently moved away, but her impact will stay with us for years to come!

                                           Theater Through the Eyes of a Child

It was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced. My mom had planned a special date for the two of us. I knew this had to be a special occasion since she had me get all gussied up in my favorite dress and my Sunday shoes.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I remember the glass-paned lobby feeling bright and warm as the sun streamed in through the windows. There were lots of other children there with their moms and dads. We walked from the lobby into a room like I had never been in before – their seats sloped up and there was a stage in the middle of the floor. My mom was taking me to my very first play.

At the time I probably didn’t fully grasp what a play was, but I do know I was in awe of every moment. From the time the play began, I was caught up in the story. It was the tale of “Hansel and Gretel.” I clearly recall the Father character with his rugged, lumberjack look, complete with full beard, plaid shirt, and suspenders. Hansel and Gretel were children! Just. Like. Me! Their journey through the magic forest to the witch’s house made of candy had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. When Hansel and Gretel and their Father were reunited at the end, their loving family embrace in the middle of the pink and purple illuminated stage is permanently etched in my mind. It was a true “happily ever after” moment! This experience created a life-long passion for theater in me.

Fast forward to 2009, when Reba and I had discussions about beginning our Kids and Family Series for Overshadowed. While all of Overshadowed’s shows are family-friendly, we felt it was critical to begin offering shows that would be targeted for a younger audience. Why? Because the earlier a child is exposed to the arts, the more likely they are to appreciate and engage in the arts as they grow. And the show I selected to begin our family series with was none other than my first foray into the theater…”Hansel and Gretel.”

Since that time, we have produced eleven shows in our Kids and Family Series. Each time, each show has become more precious than the last. We realize that the time and money you invest for your children is of great value to you, and we have strived to create more than just a production, but a true experience.

Watching this program develop, I have made the following observations about kids and the theater:

1. They want to become part of the story. As much as possible, we try to find moments within each show to engage the audience and allow it to become interactive. Admittedly the times I have enjoyed the most have been when it has happened organically. During a performance of “Hansel and Gretel,” as the witch was stealing the pebbles the children used to mark the path to return to home, a little boy loudly exclaimed, “Oh, no, no! NO! You bad witch! I’m gonna get you!” Good thing we were headed to intermission after that because everyone (audience, crew, and cast alike) erupted into uncontrollable laughter for the next several minutes!

2. They want the special occasion experience. We have seen grandparents come with the grandkids; Daddy/daughter dates; Mom and kids days out; group events with extended family and friends. More often than not, just like I was as a child, they are all dressed up in their finest. One time a father came with his daughter…he in a tuxedo, she in her prettiest dress. Not going to lie…that one made me tear up a bit.

3. They want the story to continue. After every performance the cast lines the hallway, still in costume, to greet the audience and take pictures. Quite frequently I have overheard children “expanding” the story as they engage with our cast members about what they would have done in a character’s situation, or how it should continue to play out.

4. They want to overcome their fears. Most every story has some kind of villainous character. It is in the nature of literature itself. We are always very cautious with our approach to the villains with a gentle hand, because we don’t want to create a fearful situation. But at the end of the day, a villain is still a villain. I always feel a little badly for our “villains” during the greeting time, as they are often left standing there with no children to greet them. After all, who do you want a big, warm hug from after visiting Narnia…the White Witch, or Aslan the Great Lion? After a production of “Alice in Wonderland,” I observed one of the most beautiful interactions. The White Queen (portrayed by Traci Cidlik) noticed a little girl watching her. Traci had figured the girl wanted to approach her, but being a villainous character, the girl was a little afraid. Traci knelt down on the floor and started talking to her. Slowly the distance between the two of them grew shorter as the girl began taking baby steps toward Traci. And before you knew it. The child threw her arms around Traci’s neck and gave her a hug, and wanted to take a picture with her.

Young or old, novice or experienced theater-goer, I hope I will continue to enjoy every theatrical experience as through the eyes of a child.

Suessical!
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Whatever you do today I hope it is magical!

What was the first play you ever saw? Do you have fond memories of it? I would love to hear about it!

acting, backstage, directing, stage, stage manager, stage managment, theater, theater education

What Does a Stage Manager Do Anyway?

When I first began directing over thirty years ago my team was made up of me…yep, just me. (I’ll bet some of you have been in that position!) My best friend, Sue, got talked into turning the lights on and off and I convinced a parent of one of the students to help make a few costumes. In my wildest dreams I never could imagine that I would be lucky enough to have the resources to have a stage manager!

In fact, at first, I simply had done things by myself for such a long time that I didn’t know what to do with a stage manager! Then, they became indispensable to me. I literally don’t know what I would do without one!

But what does a stage manager actually do?

A better question might be, “What don’t they do?”

Stage managers are in control of anything that happens from the front of the stage and back. They represent the director to make sure the production runs smoothly. They are liaisons between the director, actors, stage crew and technical team. They give support to the actors and anticipate their needs during performances.

( Kate Hart-stage manager of Noah!)

The stage manager and director often work together during rehearsals. The stage manager records blocking and notes for the actors and communicates what is decided during rehearsals to the rest of the team.

The stage managers responsibilities might include:

1) scheduling and running rehearsals
2) communicating the director’s wishes to designers and crafts people
3) coordinating the work of the stage crew
4) calling cues and possibly actors’ entrances during performance
5) overseeing the entire show each time it is performed
6) notifing cast and crew of rehearsal times.                                                                                         7) Scheduling  costume and wig fittings.

In the beginning stage managers can  aid the rehearsal process by mapping out the set dimensions on the floor. They also provide props and furniture as soon as possible.

It is important for stage managers to attend as many rehearsals as possible. It becomes their duty to record all blocking, light and sound changes in a master copy of the script. This book is called a prompt book. This book becomes very important in technical rehearsals.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to have a stage manager that calls cues, this prompt book will have all the information the stage manager needs to run the technical rehearsal. (Thus freeing up even more of the director’s time.)

I haven’t been able to “give up” any of my shows, but in professional theater the director’s job is over when a show opens. At this point the stage manager becomes responsible to carry out the the vision of the production until the production closes.

Each stage manager has different aspects they love and different aspects that are their strengths. Join me for this episode From the Wings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWXOGjliWCY&feature=youtu.be

There is something incredibly magical about a stage manager and their connection to the cast and director.

I would be lost without one.

Have you ever tried stage management? Do you have a memory of how a stage manager helped you through a show? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, it would be ever so kind if you followed this blog or subscribed to our YouTube channel!

Until next time!

P.S. A special thanks to my FROM THE WINGS team of Rebecca Leland and Brianna Valentine. You guys are so talented!

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The Finishing Touch

When Overshadowed first opened its doors sixteen years ago we started with a Christian play I had adapted from a novel “Silent Star“. It was a hard hitting, dramatic, cry your eyes out- kind of play with the gospel message strong within it. Why? Why would I start a brand new theater company with something like that instead of a light funny, everyone leave smiling -kind of show?

The very mission of what Overshadowed is- calls to BOTH types of plays. I wanted to declare boldly that I would never shy away from a play that would bring you to your knees even though much of what we do includes the feel good stories.

Twelve years ago we performed Noah! for the first time and it instantly became a show that people talked about and requested over and over. In fact, when our ten year anniversary came around I asked our audiences to pick the season by vote and Noah! came in second….but barely.

So, in 2019 when I was picking the season for 2020, I decided it was time to mount this production again. Who knew that it would tell the story of the first quarantine and reach the depths of our hearts because of the year we recently had?

Well, God did. He is the author, planner, sustainer, comforter and guide. It was the perfect choice.

Noah! has now become the longest running show Overshadowed has done. Not most attended (Because we are limited to 50 audience member still.) But, we have now scheduled 26 shows and we will add more if  we sell Easter weekend out. Did I mention this show would be a fantastic show to see Easter weekend?

Recently, I wrote about the set design of Noah! You may read that post here:

https://fromthewings.org/2021/01/29/the-stage-is-a-blank-canvas/

A great production requires more than a great story, fabulous actors and an amazing set. It also requires a fantastic costume design. Since Overshadowed began, our philosophy has been that we might not have a real stage, or all of the bells and whistles of a professional theater, but that within our power we would make the production elements that we could afford be fabulous. Costumes became the element that we consistently spent more money and time on. We had super talented people who poured their hearts and souls into some pretty fantastic pieces. We knew that one choice alone would set us apart from other theaters close to us. We wanted to “look” professional and we knew that “clothes make the man” or in this case–the character.

It is amazing to me how often an actor really cements his character once he puts those costumes on. It is indeed the “finishing touch.” Perhaps it is the most important touch.

I had the chance to interview Debra Schott and Margaret Sahli for this week’s episode of From the Wings. I love their vision and can’t wait for you to hear what this process has been like for them.

https://youtu.be/HKPFQXR-BKw

I’d love to hear what your favorite costume experience has been? Would you like to join our costume team? We would love to have you!!

As always, it would be such a help to me if you would subscribe to this blog and share it!

Until next time!

Reba

P.S. A special thanks to Rebecca Leland and Brianna Valentine for their help with the recording of Fromthewings!

acting, artist, artistic vision, audience, backstage, christian blog, christian theater, communication, entertainment, theater

Doing “YOUR THING” Matters

I am so excited to share this post from our guest blogger today! Meet Julie Gernand! I’m thankful to have her as a part of Overshadowed and blessed to have her as a friend!

Today’s guest contributor, JULIE GERNAND, is wife to Ted and mom to Benjamin (3) and Peter (5 months). She has been seen on the OTP stage in the summer 2016 musical Guys and Dolls and was honored to choreograph both I’ll Be Seeing You (winter ‘17) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (summer ‘18). She currently resides in Oswego, IL and enjoys teaching theatre classes for Heritage Homeschool Workshops and diving into her new passion of bringing joy to others through weekly online Zumba dance fitness classes. You can join her live on Facebook every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning!

Doing YOUR THING Matters.

I think it’s really important to find “that thing”. 
You know what I’m talking about. “That thing” that brings you joy in ways nothing else does. The creative outlet, class, hobby, or interest that makes you YOU. For my husband, it’s Cadillacs and baseball. Not necessarily in that order. 


For me? It’s theatre.


The fact that you’re reading this blog today probably means that you have an interest in theatre too. Is it “your thing” too?  In my case, I didn’t realize this about myself until about 7th grade. I was cast as Kate, an orphan in the musical Annie, Jr. with a small theatre group that met at a local dance academy. Sure, I had been in some hodgepodge church productions and elementary school music-class plays (for which my mom has saved every playbill and script in memoriam…anyone else?) but this was my first “big deal” role. I knew I liked being on stage, but it wasn’t until this musical that I felt it. The goofy camaraderie among the cast. The butterflies of that moment just before the curtain opened. The “going out to dinner with your show makeup on” sort of giggly pride. I really felt like I had found my people.


 Among these things, one moment that shaped this experience for me was during a live performance. We were performing the scene in which the orphans sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and perform an angsty dance with a rolling laundry basket when the musical accompaniment track suddenly cut out. The bunch of us, all elementary and middle school girls, were left to finish the song a cappella. I remember looking around, making knowing-glances at the other girls as we just kept singing. I mean, “the show must go on”, right!? Part of the true joy and magic of live theatre is learning what to do when mishaps occur, because they will. We threw Molly into the laundry basket, hit our final pose, and left the stage. I was so proud to be part of that cast as our director hugged us after the show, who through tears congratulated us for finishing that song strong and without missing a beat, as though nothing had happened to the music. From then on, I was pretty hooked on this musical theatre thing.


I’ve recently read a book (That Sounds Fun by Annie F Downs  – highly recommend) in which the author talks about the importance of doing something that you love, even if you’re not the best at it. In our world, we often think we have to be a professional at something to be doing it at all. This point resonated with me. Maybe it resonates with you, too.


The thing about my love of theatre was… well, I wasn’t the best at it. Sure, I had sung in our church’s children’s choir for a few years at that point and had a knack for silly faces, but I certainly wasn’t the singer they would choose to be the lead in any show, nor was I an exceedingly convincing actress at 13. But as I think back on this topic, I remember what my third grade teacher told my mom at a parent teacher conference:
“Julie thinks she has to know everything before we’ve covered it. She needs to realize she is learning!”
If I hadn’t found some brave part of me I’m not sure how I found, I never would have tried out for that musical. Well, I do know how I found it. God, in his kindness, gave me the gumption to try something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Over time, I became  better at this craft, and found my true-love niche of musical theatre, dance.  The passion I found as a braces-wearing, awkward middle schooler became my college major, and eventually part of my career.


But sometimes, our passions don’t become our career. At OTP, so many performers hold daytime jobs that have nothing to do with performing arts, but they craft and mold their passion for theatre on the Medinah stage. This matters. Because it brings joy. Doing what you love will automatically bring joy to your own soul and to others sheerly because you love it. It will start to spill over, this thing you love. Sure, it may lead to bigger and better opportunities, but sometimes our joy is just our own. But I believe your thing is a reflection of the creativity and beauty of God. We get to see a little bit of the beauty of his creation through your passion. And that makes a difference, professionals or not.

Julie and Byron Mrowiec From Guys and Dolls Photo by Francisco Montes

What is your “thing”? Is it theatre? Building sets? Writing scripts? Share it with us!

Until next time!

acting, artistic vision, backstage, communication, entertainment, family, productions crew, theater, theater education, theater professions

One Way You Can Be A Better Actor

I’ll never forget my first live theater experience.

My aunt took me to see Showboat at the local high school. As I sat in the audience I was completely drawn in by the sounds of the orchestra tuning. I felt the excitement of the parents and friends as they were ushered to their seats and I was entirely a part of the story as the dancers, actors, and singers performed.

There was more that I didn’t see. I didn’t see the people who designed and constructed the set , costumes, light, sound. I didn’t see the people who moved the set and props to make sure each scene was staged perfectly.

That’s true of so many of us. Do you believe you have to choose between either being on the stage or behind the scenes?

I’d like to encourage you to do both. What can you learn by working in some other capacity of the theater?

1) You get to watch as the actors work. You can learn from the experience others are gaining. Also experiencing the show from off stage sometimes gives clarifying moments of the element of storytelling that you might miss when you are focused on your own acting on stage.

2) You learn about all the jobs and responsibilities of the production crew. Work on the sound or light crew and you will understand why it is important to take mic checks seriously. Or work a long tech rehearsal and you will see why it is so important to be quiet when asked or be serious to get the job done.

3) You learn to respect others. You learn why it is important not to touch other props or to put yours back where it belongs. You learn that it is important to respect the people who do so much for you backstage. Maybe it will remind you to say thank you to each of them.

4) You will make new connections. Collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of theater. Making new connections is a benefit.

5) You might learn new skills. Not everyone comes into theater knowing how to sew or work tech, but be involved with these super talented people might give you the chance to learn and who knows maybe you will end up using that new skill in your life. Your focus might be acting, but there is creativity to learn from everywhere.

6) You get to see the show from a different perspective. When you see the show night after night you hear when people say a line a different way. I actually have people that don’t get certain jokes at first, but after hearing something over and over they begin to understand the humor! You see how the other elements (such as lighting) either aids the story or distracts from it.

Recently, I asked several of Overshadowed’s favorite actors/volunteers to share their experiences from a backstage perspective.

Many thanks to Casey Bender, Al Gorr and Michael Larsen for joining our panel!



If you haven’t spent any time working in an area behind the scenes I hope you will find a place to help out. Here are just a few of the skills I think you will gain:

1) Concentration
2) Organizational skills
3) Confidence
4) Problem solving

The benefit? All of those skills help you ON-STAGE as well.

What are your favorite parts of theater? I’d love to hear from you!

As always, a special shout out to Brianna Valentine, Rebecca Leland and Yohannan Lee for their wisdom, talent and time spent to make this video!

Until next time-this is just me-talking to you-from the wings.