My Top Ten Love Stories for the Stage

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to take the time to talk about some of my favorite love stories in theatre and why I like them so much. I’ll start with number 10 and move up the list so that your anticipation can grow!

10. On almost everyone’s favorite love story list (stage, screen or book) is Romeo and Juliet. I mean, Shakespeare created such a great model that when you speak of couples it’s almost like it is a coined phrase. If you don’t love someone like Romeo and Juliet loved then perhaps you aren’t in love? It is such a tragic story and teaches so many lessons of honesty, loyalty, feuding, that it is impossible not to be touched in some way by this wonderful story.

9. Cyrano de Bergerac. Also, a beautiful tragedy. I feel frustrated that Roxanne can’t see that it is really Cyrano that is writing the beautiful poetry she loves. I love that Cyrano wants Roxanne to be happy and loves her so much that he makes Christian into the man he thinks Roxanne can love. By the time Cyrano allows Roxanne to discover that Cyrano is the man she truly loves – he has been mortally wounded. Another love story gone horribly wrong.

8. Ragtime. Oh, how I wish this musical didn’t have such strong language. I believe the story could be told just as well without it, but sadly permission to change the language is not given so I won’t be producing this show anytime in the near future. This show is an epic love story. It is a love story with America (the good and the bad) and music and the passionate love of dreaming! It contains one of my favorite musical songs, “On the Wheels of a Dream.” If you haven’t heard it–trust me, find it and listen to it. It is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. (especially if you know what happens after they sing this song.)

7. The Phantom of the Opera. This is simply one of the best love stories of all time.  This story is set in the 1870’s Paris Opera House. The Phantom is a musical genius who prowls around with a mask hiding the disfigured half of his face. Even though he has been imprisoned by his disfigurement he feels love and even compassion for Christine. When she falls in love with Raoul, the Phantom’s heart is broken and he turns into a jealous, furious “monster.” It is a wonderful story of how love can conquer all or destroy. The music is haunting and beautiful. It is a timeless genius masterpiece.

6. Les Miserables. Unrequited Love. The song “On My Own”  makes me feel all the feels, after all, haven’t most of us had unreciprocated love sometime in our lives? Eponine and Marius are the couple that never was and how we ache for Eponine all the way to her death. The love stories play out on many levels throughout this celebration of human spirit. There is a reason it might very well be the world’s most popular musical.

5. Cinderella.I grew up watching the 1965 TV remake of this wonderful musical that was written for television. To me, there was no better Cinderella than Lesley Ann Warren. She was pretty, but not so pretty that it put my hopes of one day being a Cinderella out of reach. I loved “In my Own Little Corner” and I felt like I could also be “whatever I wanted to be” and, like Cinderella, it was ok to dream. Cinderella has a magical love. It is a fairy tale that makes most of us want the knight on a white horse-love at first sight kind of love. And honestly, that’s kind of breathtaking. (As a side-note I don’t like the modern version. For more on that read my review here: https://fromthewings.org/2018/05/01/rodgers-hammersteins-cinderella-changing-the-fairy-tale/)

4. West Side Story. Romeo and Juliet revisited. The tragic tale of two gangs that cannot mix with each other until Tony and Maria meet each other and fall madly in love. They defy the wishes of all their families and friends and commit to love each other for life. Oh, the power of love–it makes you believe that all things are possible. I won’t give away the ending, but since I said Romeo and Juliet you might get a hint.

3. Steel Magnolias. This story revolves around Truvy’s Beauty Shop. Everyone in the town gets their hair done there. When your hair is being dyed and cut you can bet some very strong friendships are being formed. This story is a love story between friends, and mothers and daughters. These bonds are powerful, life-sustaining and unexplainable. I wouldn’t give up the experience of playing Ouiser for anything. Life-altering.

2. Wicked. Most people might say that this is the story of Fiero and Elphaba. I believe it’s the story of a powerful friendship between Glinda and Elphaba. These two strong women meet and are instantly at odds because the pretty blonde just doesn’t understand the green-skinned girl. Yet, they each open their hearts and allow the lessons of the prejudice of the world change them “For Good. ” It is very rare that there are two female lead parts that are so brilliantly written for the stage. This one makes me long to be able to sing like Elphaba who does happen to sing my theme song. (Don’t we all want to Defy Gravity?)

1.Showboat. Anyone who knows me would have to know that this is my number one pick. It is the show that made me fall in love with theatre. I have seen it numerous times and have read the book and play just as many.

I love:

the love story that the show people have with performing

the love that Bill has for Julie that he would sacrifice his future by joining Julie’s race

I love that Magnolia loves Gaylord so much that she fights for him even when he is ruining her life

I love the way Old Man River soars and the love affair the people on the river have for the Mississippi.

My all time favorite musical song, “Can’t Help Loving that Man of Mine” (in fact I sing it to my granddaughter-with a few words changed) comes from this beautiful love story.

If you haven’t seen some of these make sure you search them out. If you have, I’d love to hear what you think! Please take a moment to comment, share and like!

In the meantime,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

My Top Six New Year’s Theater Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I know. I know. Every year we all set resolutions that are going to make us healthier, stronger, better. And by the time a week has passed most of us have broken them and at the end of the first month we’ve forgotten them completely. So maybe me setting them a week too late will help me keep them a little longer!

  1. Show more appreciation for all involved. Theatre is a TEAM effort. Many people are involved to create a perfect show. Many more people are involved to perform all the tasks to RUN a theater. I try, honestly I do. I want to give credit and be thankful for all the amazing people who make Overshadowed what it is. So this year will be dedicated to giving more credit to all those who work so hard. Here is a list that you might not think about: Tech crew, stage manager, costume designers plus sewers, ushers, box office, house manager, set designer and builders, advisory board and executive board members and that is just a start. Theater is an ENSEMBLE effort. I won’t ever forget that.
  2. Establish the next step of our business plan. One of the best pieces of advice I received when Overshadowed began is to establish a five-year business plan. I had no idea what that meant, but thankfully I had a few men in my life that really tackled that and asked me hard questions that honestly I had never given any thought to. Looking back I can see that the business plan helped me set goals and even though I thought they were crazy at the time. (I just wanted to produce plays!) I know that was a very important aspect of establishing a company that I hope will last long after I’m gone. This year, the next phase of that business play will start to take  shape. Overshadowed will begin to offer classes. No longer will this be just a shot in the dark, but we will have consistency and variety in our offerings.  Check out what we are starting with here: http://www.overshadowed.org/classes/
  3. Have a stronger social media presence. Marketing isn’t what it used to be. We spend so much time on our phones and all the places that we connect with each other. To grow Overshadowed to the next level I believe we need to up our visibility in those areas. I will admit I have learned a lot over the past couple of years, but there is sooooo much more to learn. My daughter convinced me over Christmas that we need to create a social media position. I’m happy to announce that we now have two! Brad Wendt and  Stephanie Schmidt will be our new Social Media managers. I’m positive that I will learn from them, but more importantly that they will be able to share all that is going on at the theatre so that our audiences will never say….”I didn’t even know…..”
  4. Be better organized. Attack projects sooner. That may look like two, but it’s really combined. Maybe if I’m better organized, our team be able to start projects sooner. Then they can complete them sooner so that the actors and crew can rehearse with all the tools sooner. It all works to make the experience for all involved less stressful and in the end will make our performances even better. I have never been a good planner. I have a tendency to believe things aren’t going to take as long to do so I procrastinate. For about a year and half I have been using a system called, “The Happy Planner.” I subscribe to Scarlet Lime–which is a subscription  which sends me a kit every other month full of paper, a pen, stickers and washi tape. It makes me tap into my creative side in a different way and relaxes me. At the same time I am now challenged to check things off and get things done. It is very motivating for me. I tell people that I love my happy planner, because it makes me happy! Maybe it makes other people happy too if I get things to them faster! It’s a win-win!
  5. Share my process and expectations up front. I think that I expect that people understand that when a director speaks that they shouldn’t be communicating. I then get frustrated when cast members are not listening during that time. In hindsight, I think I expect that people have the same values as mine and that just isn’t true. I haven’t decided if I’ll write them or just speak them, but here are some I’m going to take the time to express at the beginning of our production process.

a)  Important dates. (Off-book.Strike etc.)

b) No cell phones in rehearsal room. That would be a new one for us, but I believe it     will help keep everyone focused. It is so important for the concentration in the rehearsal room to be high and completely engaged in the process.

c) No talking in the rehearsal room or during cast meeting. If they aren’t involved in a scene they should wait outside if they want to talk. Who knows? Maybe it will help us all get in the habit of not talking backstage!

d) Start on time. Give announcements at the end of rehearsal instead of the start. I think sometimes people know I’m going to talk for a while so they think it’s ok to be a little late.

6.  Be off book sooner. Once an actor begins to have his part memorized he really begins to “act.” I’m going to try something new this year! Instead of requiring a date of being off-book out in the future–I’m going to ask that after we block a scene that  the actor needs to be off book on that scene the next time we rehearse it. I can’t wait to see how much of a difference that makes in my directing, but also in the actor’s process!

Wow! Here’s hoping 2019 will be another year of growth for me!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these goals! Please share and comment! And follow me!

Until next time!

Overshadowed by His love,

Reba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Famous Play Of All

What exactly is a Nativity Play?

The word “Nativity” is derived from the Latin word ‘natal” which means birth. So, a Nativity Play is a play that recreates the story of the birth of Christ. Usually, this includes the visit of the shepherds and the Wise Men.

This tradition seems to have started in Italy around 1223. The credit seems to go to St Francis of Assisi for creating the very first one. It seems that during this time many people were illiterate and couldn’t read the story of Christmas in the Bible for themselves. So, St Francis decided to show them what it must have been like on the night of Jesus’ birth. He set a manger, added some hay and live animals and got some people from the town to play Mary, Joseph and Shepherds. It must have been a success due to the overwhelming amount of churches that perform a play during this time of year. In fact, it is so popular a play was written about the process. (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever).

Around the country the Nativity play is a treasured moment;  we all worship together among cameras, videos and a few tears. Sad, isn’t it? That this tradition can’t be done in many schools and communities any longer and that they have to perform winter shows instead?

There was a time that we were not ashamed of Christ. There was a time we boldly shouted out, “Merry Christmas!” and identified with the fact that Jesus’ birth was Why we celebrate this day.

I hope the tradition of the Nativity play never ends. There is something wonderful about the community that comes together out of the recreation of the story.

  1. What could be better than teaching children the important aspects of each part of the story? You might say, “What could be important about playing one of the animals?” There is a verse in Isaiah 1:3-4, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib. But Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” What lucky children! They play the part of giving comfort, even the ox and ass understand and give homage to the King.
  2. Parents and friends who might not usually participate, get involved with a production to help their children.
  3. People will come to church to watch kids when they won’t come for anything else.
  4. The simplicity of a production done by children should focus us on the true meaning of the season.
  5. Don’t forget the reading of the Christmas story, but for this visual learning society we have now–seeing is so powerful.

Amazing isn’t it?  “the hopes and fears of all the years (wow that’s a lot) are met in Christ–the birth of Jesus–in a far away town–on a cold winter’s night.”

Let’s keep telling the story.

Do you have a favorite memory of a nativity story? Please share a comment/and this post if you like it!

 

Until next time!

 

 

Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: A Theater Review

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

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

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

Costumes

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

Set Design and Technical

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

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

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

Acting/Singing/Dancing

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

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

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

Favorite Line

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

Giving Thanks: Not Just on Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything?? 

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

Yes. EVERYTHING.

Here’s my top 5 for today.

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

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

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


Three Things That Should Change about Theater Critics.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe we have it all wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time!

It Not Just about the Award

It’s almost November.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s why:

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

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

Here are the rules:

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

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

Until next time!

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

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

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

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

Here is how it works:

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

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

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

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

The same can be done with props and or costumes.

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

Important note:

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

Take away:

It is what happens not why we feel.

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

Path to Broadway:

Our guest artists were:

Etai Benson (The Band’s Visit)

Will Burton (Ambrose in Hello Dolly!)

Aurelia Williams (Once On This Island)

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

Take away:

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

Two shows today!

My Fair Lady

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

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

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

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

The Band’s Visit

Loved it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Aways:

There are three parts to stage management.

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

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

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

Resources: Production Stage Management For Broadway by Peter Lawrence.

Recommended apps: Wanderlist /base camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next time!

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

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

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

Lessons from Jonalyn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Reba