acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian theater, communication, costume design, directing, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Take a Chance on This Classic: Don’t Let Theater Die.

Over 10 years ago someone told me we should produce “12 Angry Men.” They suggested that we have a cast of all women and another cast of all men. They thought it would be a clever marketing ploy. I declined for several reasons. One of them being that I didn’t think I had 12 men that could pull off the acting that this show requires. I put it on the back burner of my mind and waited. In the meantime, I saw the Theater in Chicago production with Brian Dennehy and George Wendt and John Boy Walton…oh, I mean, Richard Thomas as Juror # 8.  I also spent the time visiting local community productions and waited until the time was right.

As I  have complained about for now, over a year, Covid has really done a damage to our theater. In our area, several shut their doors for good as they couldn’t continue with the costs of rent etc. while they just waited to entertain again. We were able to produce an original Biblical drama that kept us going with 50 audience members a night until we thought everything was getting back to normal. Not quite trusting, I decided to mount a smaller musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, for the summer. It was fantastic, but the audiences didn’t come. A summer show usually brings over 2500 to our doors. This summer we didn’t even get 1500. So, what better time than now to pull out that old marketing ploy? We decided that we would mount two shows with two casts. We would have four directors, two of each gender that  would each be in the play and direct the opposite version of the play.

At auditions, we were thrilled. People came. We even had to turn people away. (Which always makes me sad.) We began the character studies and blocking and somehow in the middle of the process I stopped enjoying it. It was difficult. Why didn’t I notice that we were actually going to be producing two shows at the same time? One is hard enough…but two? I think I might be a little crazy….

What made matters worse is that I’m not sure that any of the other directors were enjoying it either. We were all feeling the stress of having to be in two places at one time plus carry on with our outside duties. The creative experiment of working together didn’t gel the way I thought it would. Instead of being inspired by each other we did the opposite. At times we were afraid to speak up, or at times we didn’t want to make an issue about something, or at times we felt competition, or that we weren’t as important as the other directors. Emotionally, it was difficult. One week ago. I would have told you that this theater experiment was a failure

12 Angry Women

12 Angry Women opened last week and if you asked me now I would tell you that I probably wouldn’t want to direct with four directors ever again, but that I did learn. That’s a good thing. I want to learn each and every time I decide to be involved with a production.  

Here are some facts:

12 Angry Men is the play many of us, of a certain generation, had to read in high school. This  courtroom drama by Reginald Rose has been around since 1954; first as a live Television play, then in its more well-known incarnation, the 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda, directed by the great Sidney Lumet. (Did you know the film was nominated for three Oscars?)

Question #1 that we faced:   Isn’t it dated? What relevance does it have today?  Come see the play and you will soon find our that Juror #10 leads the way with his immigrant and minority comments.  Unfortunately, we all go in to any conversation with a great deal of bias and maybe realizing this would help all conversations end more peacefully. We can learn from each other. We adopted a tag line #Don’t confuse me with the facts. Sadly, many times we don’t care enough to step out of our own selves and into someone else’s. 

Reba Hervas (Juror #10) and Jessica Means (Juror #7) discuss how miserable Juror #8’s thoughts are.

The drama begins when a lone holdout, Juror #8,  believes there is a reasonable doubt in the case of a youth “from the wrong side of the tracks” on trial for the murder of his abusive father. The stakes are high and the jury is mandated by the judge to think about it wisely and carefully, because the punishment for conviction is the death penalty. Since the decision must be unanimous the deliberation begins. The Jurors range greatly in personality, economic and educational background and ethnicity.  A thrilling ride when you realize this is real life. Every jury is made up randomly and everyone does walk in with different  personalities, educational backgrounds and ethnicities.  

As Jessica Means (my co-director) and I watched the 12 Angry Men rehearsal last night we were thrilled. It was tense, riveting and thrilling–just as people had told us the women’s production was last week. Every juror looks as if they walked in off the street in 1959 Manhattan. The set is beautifully simple; it manages to be both artful and authentic. The cast is constantly moving to almost be “the camera” and allow the audience to see the jurors from each angle.

12 Angry Men. It is amazing how different a play can be based gender.

Why 12 Angry Men/Women?

It is a bucket list love of a classic theater piece that I always wanted to tackle.

To learn from a totally unique theater experiment.

To take an old classic and see that even after years some things never change. 

People. It’s simply great theater. 

So, the marketing ploy?  Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since this summer. Our tickets sales are horribly low. Even with 24 people in the cast–I’m not sure we will even hit our numbers from the summer. I’d like to ask for a little help. Don’t let Covid kill this theater. If this is a play you weren’t planning on attending…could you decide to come? If you are seeing one of the versions could you decide to see both? Could you spread the word? Please tell your friends and neighbors that this is one show that should not be missed. 

One last thing: 12 Angry Men is a timely, riveting drama that will get you thinking about your preconceptions and stereotypes. It is a reminder that we must question apparent facts before making tough decisions. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

Okay. I lied…one more last, last thing. My co-director’s are all brilliant and now that we’ve all gotten past the hard parts we all admit it was a crazy great experience. Thank you, Jessica Means, Brad Holloman, and Mike Larsen for sharing your time, creativity and inspiration with us all.

Now, will you all please go to Overshadowed.org and buy tickets? Let’s show everyone there is still a place for theater!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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

acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian, christian blog, christian theater, critics, directing, entertainment, family, hope, theater

Crusade: The Musical and What I Learned About Theater From It

The tag line reads:

“A modern musical about the historical events and relationships that helped shape Billy Graham’s faith as he became the most iconic evangelist in the world.”

(Sadly, I have searched for the author/composer’s name and cannot find it. They announced it at the performance Sunday evening, but I thought it would be on my program so I didn’t pay attention. I am deeply regretting that. I also wished I had stayed  after the show and asked more questions. If this musical was a part of a residency program I probably would be  a little softer in my review. My encouragement to this group would be to publicize those details…maybe there is a financial backer or someone who wants to produce your musical that is trying to get in contact with you.)

Years ago, I heard Karen Kingsbury speak. I have followed her blog ever since. In July, she wrote a blog about the passing of time and how the clock stops for no one. She went on to say she had been watching Crusade: The Billy Graham Musical and was struck with the fact that a” blink ago Billy Graham was young and preaching and now he is gone. Just like we will be one day.”

I loved the points she was making, but more than that I was fascinated that there was a new musical out about Billy Graham! After research, I realized that it was performing very close to where one of my daughters lives…and with great anticipation I bought tickets.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I found.

I was expecting a big venue. Why? Karen Kingsbury’s son-in-law (Kyle Kupecky) and daughter (Kelsey Kupecky) were the leads. Kyle is a singer that has actually toured with Mercy Me and together with Kelsey has authored the book “The Chase.” My preconceived ideas  decided this musical was going to be in a big venue, with hundreds of people attending per night. Stars plus subject matter? It’s a win-win.

When we arrived we pulled into a small parking lot that held perhaps 100 cars….I think that is stretching it, but…maybe.

We walked into the lobby and discovered that to get to the performing space we had to walk up a curved staircase. When we entered the theater area I realized this small space, that might have seated 100, was packed and literally had no empty chairs. One of the workers gave up three seats that she had saved for her family saying, “It’s okay, we’ve all seen it.” Hmmmm. Did  they oversell the show? Why were there no seats?

As the show begin we were seriously blown away by the projection and the graphic design. It was vivid, always in motion and brightly conveyed the scenes of the play as it progressed through Billy’s life. Many of the actors played multiple characters moving through the timeline of his life.

The music was loud. I don’t want to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I really like to understand the words to the songs that the actors were so  passionately singing, but I couldn’t always hear them. One of my costumers also attended with me and was bothered by small details, like no flash bulbs in the prop cameras. These things are easily fixed.

The music was current and passionate. It was played by the author and composer with a keyboard and guitar. I’m sure there were some pre-recorded tracks as well. I’m not totally a fan of all of the electronic music, but it was performed with such power that I enjoyed it. In fact, the honest response is that at times I felt more like I was in a church service than in a play. All of the actors sang as if they were singing worship songs. I’m not sure why I was bothered by that except  that I went expecting to see a musical and this was a different kind.

As they were telling the story of Billy they mentioned that he had first attended Bob Jones College. Well, I wish they had just mentioned it. Instead, they had a scene that included Dr. Bob yelling and really chewing Billy out for failing and having so many demerits. Trust me, I am not always proud of everything Bob Jones has done, but it felt more like the author was making an attack on Bob Jones. When I asked about it at intermission, I was told that this attitude was from Billy’s perspective. Hmmmm. perhaps. I’m just not sure why it needed to be such a big point in the scene. Did that one incident become a turning point in some way for Billy?

Did I like the musical? Yes, I really did. I am not sure what  message the author was trying to present, but this is what I received:

Billy Graham was a typical kid. He loved movies and playing. In fact, wanted to be just like Tarzan, but God had other plans. Billy ran from God. He sometimes questioned authority and even “bucked the system.” God had other plans. He had a magnetic personality and could charm  even people like, George Beverly Shea. He was loyal to his friends. He questioned religion but then firmly believed in the infallibility of the Bible. He was passionate about all people, all races, and become their advocate proclaiming like Jesus,  “Do not forbid one to come and hear.”  Billy Graham is a man who has gone on to heaven. 

The more important message? This is a story about a man who lived in a different time, his time has past. But you can still be a Billy. You, today, could make the same decisions that Billy did. What will you choose?

In the beginning I made the comment that I felt like the whole cast was singing as if they were singing worship songs. They were. This cast poured their hearts out and sang for Jesus. They cried over us as they sang one last song and, honestly,  I might have even shed a tear or two as well.

Here is what I learned and they are important lessons for me as an owner of a Christian theater company.

  1. The venue doesn’t matter. I spend so much time thinking about what people think or about how comfortable they are. Believe me, our seats and views of the stage at Overshadowed are so much better than what we experienced and yet, people came. Night after night they were sold out….just like a Crusade.
  2. Christian themed plays can still attract sold out audiences. Sometimes our original Christian works are poorly attended. It is sometimes discouraging for me, but this gives me hope. I know this, but a good reminder is always important.
  3. God moves in the audience’s hearts. He doesn’t need great acting, big theaters, grand sets. He just needs me to be willing to follow His leading
  4. We should pray over our audience more. To be honest, it felt a little manipulating to be told that the cast prayed over each seat: for our spouses, future spouse, children etc. But in the end, I was comforted by that. That’s pretty incredible and felt pretty personal.  

If you get a chance please check out this musical. You can purchase the soundtrack from their website at http://www.crusadethemusical.com

Here is a sample:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjJTkOmmvoA

Who was Billy Graham to you? What are God’s plans for you? Is He calling you to be a Billy? Do you think you would enjoy a musical like this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! And as always, it would mean a great deal to me if you would like and follow my blog!

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

acting, artistic vision, audience, backstage, broadway, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, intermission, planning, stage, theater

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!

acting, artist, artistic vision, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, family, Fear, hope, stage, theater, theater education, theater professions

This is Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do

My learning curve for social media has been much slower than most people’s.
I started off being afraid of it because I was taught not to trust all the people that were getting information about me.
Then I was afraid no one would ask to be my “friend” or “follow me.”
It wasn’t until way down the line that I realized it was okay to just be who I am and spread my message to the people who want it.

Even if it is only one person.

During the shut down this past year I tried to learn and follow the suggestions of countless mentors and advisors.

1) Start a blog.
2) Have a personal Instagram account as well as a business account. (reba.hervas)
3) Start a personal YouTube account.

What??? Why????

Because Reba is different that Overshadowed. Yes, there is a merge most of the time, but advisors teach that it is important for me to have my own name recognition in order to have another road that leads to Overshadowed.

So, I did. You can watch the first episode here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dc_ITOkFULA&t=27s

As you will see, we’ve come a long way.

But again, I was advised to not be discouraged by what we have done, but to constantly strive to be better the next time. (Which fits in with our mission at Overshadowed)  I think we’ve done that and I’m happy that we are finding our rhythm. Hopefully, we will continue to grow.

Now, I was advised again, who are you? Why should people watch this? What are you all about and why do people need to subscribe to your channel?

Hopefully, this will explain it all.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW4dsRj_ml4&feature=youtu.be

Mr. Perry, thank you for investing your love of drama in hundred’s of students at Kinston High School. Thank you, for noticing a student like me and introducing me to a world of theater. To Mr. Unknown Tech, thank you for your life-changing words of wisdom.

To all of you: Remember, your speech is a valuable gift. Use it wisely. Be empowered by the unique gift that you have been given. You are truly blessed.

If you want to thank a speech teacher somewhere you can start by following my blog and my YouTube channel and I’d love it if you’d share this message as well!

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

artistic vision, backstage, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, costume design, directing, theater, theater education, theater professions

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, audience, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, stage, theater, theater education

It’s Not What You Say-It’s How You Say It

Meet Guest Blogger Anna Johansen Brown! I’m excited to introduce this charming, cleaver, talented writer to all of you! 
 
 
Anna Johansen Brown is a current journalist, former debate teacher, and eternal nerd. She writes for a daily news podcast called The World And Everything In It and the topical podcast Effective Compassion. In her free time, she creates fantasy worlds and plays DnD with her fellow nerd husband, Wesley. One day, Anna aspires to become a dog owner.

My husband has been educating me on Star Wars. I think he sees it as his duty to make me a well-rounded individual who fully appreciates cultural icons. And while I’ve seen the original trilogy, I’ve never watched Revenge of the Sith…or that one about the clones…or that other one whose name I can’t remember.

So we’ve been watching them together. And I have thoughts.

My first takeaway was that battle droids are adorable. Why did no one tell me this before? But my second takeaway was the dialogue. Like this infamous line, delivered by a mawkish Anakin: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like you. You’re everything soft and smooth.”

NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT.

Or if they do, you probably should be running away fast.

So I started thinking about dialogue, and how crucial it is in maintaining immersion for viewers or listeners or readers.

In real life, people are unscripted and say “um” and “uh” and “like” and “y’know”…and they really don’t drop similes into ordinary conversations. In real life, people fumble for words and speak in sentence fragments. They’re unscripted.

The way people talk also tells you something about their background. Certain words are unique to certain locations. (Y’all, anyone?) The words people choose indicate what they like to read and where they grew up and who they hung out with. So for writers, getting dialogue right is important. It’s important for general realism (your characters shouldn’t sound scripted, even though they are), and specific realism (your characters shouldn’t use words they wouldn’t know or have heard in their context).

When I started writing for a news podcast, I had to learn the difference between print and radio. In print, you can cram lots of details and clauses into a sentence. Like this frontpage Washington Post article from the mid-2000s:

“President Bush yesterday said he takes responsibility for the federal government’s stumbling response to Hurricane Katrina as his White House worked on several fronts to move beyond the improvisation of the first days of the crisis and set a long-term course on a problem that aides now believe will shadow the balance of Bush’s second term.”

Perfectly acceptable print sentence. But try reading that out loud. It doesn’t work.

For one thing, it’s too long. Normal people don’t speak in long, full sentences with correct clauses and subclauses. They use short sentences.

It also doesn’t make sense the first time you hear it. When you’re reading something, you can go back and re-read parts of a sentence or paragraph that you missed the first time through. If you’re speaking or reading to someone, you only get one shot.

So for stage and for radio, you have to translate it into something speakable. When I write scripts, I’m constantly saying the lines out loud as I type, to see if it feels natural. Once, my editor flatly refused to include “transmogrification” in a script because who says that in real life? (Well, maybe you’re writing a character who happens to be a super nerd. If so, you can use transmogrification in their dialogue. I’ll allow it.)

Bottom line: Choose words that your character would actually say. And that means you have to know who you’re writing about. Spend time with that demographic. Listen to how they speak, their sentence structure, their slang, their word choice, their pronunciation.

Kids don’t think in abstract terms, so don’t write in deep moral thought processes for your 6-year-old character. Women tend to say “I feel like [insert opinion here]” more than men do. Americans don’t call elevators “lifts,” and Brits don’t call an eggplant an eggplant. They call it “aubergine.”

So listen and mimic. But…only to a certain extent.

You want dialogue to sound natural, but the same time, you don’t want to write in all the ums and uhs and filler words so common in real-life conversations. That would bog down a script and sap all your artistry. There is a place in between ordinary conversations and scripted dialogue. That’s the sweet spot. National Public Radio calls it “speech that has been washed and pressed.” You mimic natural speech without being strictly accurate.

You can use rhetorical devices in scripts and dialogue. Scripted lines can (and should) have flow and rhythm and lyricism. But if you read it out loud (or have a 6-year-old read it out loud, or a Canadian, or a 40-year-old man, or whoever your character is most like), it has to sound like something they would actually say.

Whoever is voicing or reading your script will thank you. And if you do your job right, your audience probably won’t even notice, because they’ll be immersed in the characters and setting. There won’t be any sand…that coarse, rough, irritating stuff that gets everywhere…to distract them.

Have you ever performed in a play where the dialogue was difficult? Do you have certain authors that just make everything sound natural? I’d love to hear from you!

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

acting, artist, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, stage, theater, theater education, theater professions

Why Do Theater?

This week I looked out over an audience of only 38 people. We are allowed 50, but Illinois had a huge snow storm and some of our audience decided not to come.

I always stand in the corner of the balcony at curtain call and glance over to see the audience’s reactions. Will they give the cast a standing ovation? Will they grudgingly stand or enthusiastically reward the cast for their performances? Were they moved by the performances or bored silly?

This past Saturday the cast of Noah! finished the first part of an extended run. We had performed for three weeks. We will now take three weeks off and then come back ready to perform again. Covid restrictions has reduced us from allowing 198 audience members to only 50. It is really empty in there.

(Photo by Francisco Montes)

This show is emotional and tiring and these eight characters give it their all. In fact, so does the technical crew, stage crew, box office and front of the house. So when I saw the audience enthusiastically stand to applaud, I was thrilled. We all worked as hard for 38 people as we would have for 198.

Still….

I felt a little badly for them. As an actor, director, we all want sold out, full houses. It is so quiet in the theater with such a small house.

Don’t get me wrong! We are super thrilled to be able to perform! But, what would it be like if night after night we could have the audience of 198? It might not change the performance, but would it change us?

Acting involves a great deal of collaboration from many people. As you build/create your characters you also build/create a relationship with the other cast members. The costumes add a layer to your performance as the hair/make-up and tech also does. Live theater is important because you must be FULLY PRESENT with another group of FULLY PRESENT people to truly be authentic. And especially after this past year, I believe that live theater is not only good and enjoyable, but also necessary for the human spirit.

Why?

  1. Theater reminds us that we are not alone. We share each experience with the audience and actors. We connect. Actors and audience agree for a time period that we will take a journey together.  Perhaps we will laugh, perhaps cry, but we will do it together.
  2. Live theater is never the same. The script is the same and the actors are consistent. But acting is reacting so if one actor has a little different emotion or reaction it might cause the next actor to react differently. It is a unique experience each night.
  3. Live theater allows us to forget, laugh, weep and many other emotions. For just a brief moment in time we are insulated and can forget the troubles of our days and lives.

So why do we do theater?

Because we want to be that person that can share that experience with a room of strangers. I heard recently that audience’s hearts beat together as one. I’m not sure how that was proven, but if it is indeed true it is a beautiful thought. We are sharing a moment that is so unique that will never be the same. We also want to be that performer that makes the woes of the world disappear.

If that is true, then changing even one person’s life is worth it all.

Large audiences might be a rush, but there is an intimacy in a smaller one. The person is the same. Let’s connect. Let’s take this journey together.

Why do you do theater? How do you feel about performing for small audiences? How does it make you as an audience member feel?

I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

This is just me-talking to you-from the wings!