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 Three) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days…

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

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

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

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

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

Take Aways:

There are three parts to stage management.

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

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

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

Resources: Production Stage Management For Broadway by Peter Lawrence.

Recommended apps: Wanderlist /base camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next time!

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

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

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

Lessons from Jonalyn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Reba

Adventures in New York (Part One)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday.

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

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

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

And so much more…. He was so good.

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

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

Until next time!