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!

 

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!

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 (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!

Lessons from High School Musical

It’s been 12 years since we first watched Troy and Gabriella ring in the new year, and heard those iconic songs that bring memories of a brand new way of musical dancing. I remember watching the Disney special that proclaimed you could learn the dance moves and dance along with the finale. I tried for awhile and realized that they weren’t really talking to me….(ah, to be young again).

After the movie came two sequels and a stage production and a message, well, actually several messages.

1. Be brave enough to try something new. 

When Troy and Gabriella were first pushed on stage together to sing karaoke, they were totally beyond their comfort zones. In spite of their fear they discovered something new that they really enjoyed! We often are afraid to try something different–don’t let fear stop you.

2. Break the weight and bonds of cliques.

Learning to enjoy things that others do is a wonderful part of life.  The drama geeks can all learn from the jocks who can learn from the tech wizards who can learn from the….well, you get my drift. High school is such a short period of time. Don’t miss something really special by staying in a clique.

In fact, one of my favorite moments as a director was watching one of the “jocks”of the high school I was volunteering at get the courage to audition for Fiddler on the Roof. His hands were shaking so bad! He got the part and proceeded to lead that school in a way that really helped make all the students more well rounded.

3. The “status quo” is a prison that we put ourselves in.

All it took was word that Troy Bolton started singing for an entire cafeteria of students to confess their own secret passions. It’s amazing how people follow the leader. If you have a secret desire to try something new go for it!

4. Communicate with your parents.

This is a part of the movie I feel very strongly about. I think it’s important to be respectful of your parents. If they want you to do something it’s probably because they want the best for you. But, maybe they just don’t know how powerful your feelings are inside of you.  It was hard for Troy to tell his dad that he was interested in theater because he didn’t want to hurt him, but believe me, your parents want you  to talk to them and share what you are going through.

5. There’s room for everyone on stage.

Oh, I could talk forever about this one.  Sharpay and Ryan were the leads in every musical. They intimidated others and thought they were better than everyone else. People–just because you aren’t the lead doesn’t mean that someone is better than you. Every person on the stage is important and sharing the stage makes a much better show! Please don’t feel like you aren’t talented or not important just because you didn’t get a solo or named part. Also, don’t be opposed to playing something other than the lead. Many times being a part of the ensemble can be just as challenging and rewarding.

6. A real friend is in your court no matter what.

It may have been hard for Chad to accept that Troy was getting his head into a game other than basketball, but in the end, he wanted his friend to be able to fulfill both his dreams. Real friends stand by you even if the

IMG_4360
“Breaking Free”

things you have in common start to change. They support you as you gain new skills and encourage you to be a  better person.

7. You’re never alone.

Remember this. In this day and age that the suicide rate is up–this lesson is important. We’re all in this together. Some days are hard. Sometimes you might feel like you are alone. You might feel that you aren’t smart enough or talented enough or loved enough. We are all in this thing together, and there’s nothing that you’re going through that a million others aren’t too. Remember that.

This past two weeks 41 students, 7 directors, 3 costumers and a 3 person tech team came together to put on our own production of High School Musical, Jr. We created memories, made new friends and hopefully were all reminded of these very lessons.

Theater camp is one of the highlights of my year. To all of those involved: thank you for making this experience so delightful! IMG_4346

Musical theatre teaches.

What are some lessons you learned from camp or High School Musical ?? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Reba

                                                                  Photo Credit: Francisco Montes

Life-Changing Theatre Experience

Do you ever wish you could go back and do things over?

Sometimes you might want to have a redo. Other times it might be because it was such a wonderful experience that you’d like to enjoy it all over again. This past weekend someone told me that there is a fad now saying that your life is defined by what song was #1 on your 14th birthday. (Mine, by the way, was “I’ll Be There.” I can’t tell you how much I love that!) Of course, the second I heard that I was fourteen again in my mind.

The years that marked my time between Jr High and High School were spent in North Carolina.  I was a butterfly desperately trying to get out of her cocoon. I didn’t have confidence and honestly I feel most of that could have been changed with the help of teachers in my life that encouraged and mentored me instead of humiliated me….yeah, Jr. High was rough….

But then we moved back to Kinston. I loved Kinston. I loved my grandfather, Pop. We would walk together and he would tell me stories and listen to me and sometimes we would just be. (For more on my grandfather our next season will contain a play about a portion of his life. Look for it in the fall of 2019, “I Remember Pop”) Pop would listen to me and most of the time help me discover what we really important.  I always felt like I could achieve and do something that mattered when I was around him.

Flash forward to those days I would wander into the back of the local high school theater. (a school I didn’t attend. For more on that read:  https://fromthewings.org/2018/04/20/by-no-stretch-of-the-imagination/) The drama teacher stopped me and asked me why I was watching instead of participating. He then told me that he directed a theater group in the summer and he would love for me to get involved. As you know from the other post, I did. Throughout that summer my life changed. I gained such confidence. The confidence to try new things. The confidence to speak up. I also began to gain skill as the rehearsals involved singing and dancing. I loved every moment.

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Overshadowed Camp “Into the Woods”

Next week, our first summer camp of 2018 begins.  (By the way, we still have four spots left! Come join us! overshadowed.org ) Why do we have camps? It’s not to make money. It’s for a list of reasons:

  1. To provide an affordable theatrical experience. We learn everything in two weeks. We have auditions on the first day and teach and intensely rehearse for the next days until the three performances complete with costumes and set are performed the following week. What a rush!
  2. To teach. To help students to find new skills and hone the ones they all ready have.
  3. To provide a safe environment. We do not ask anyone to wear clothes or do something on stage that they might not be comfortable with.
  4. To encourage. (We are all in this together!)
  5. To change lives. Simply put, I believe the aspect of putting a play together in this short amount of time unifies the cast in ways that are unexplainable. I believe that our team of directors really care about the student more than the production and that we work to make each person feel important.

During that summer of community theatre someone asked me why I blushed so much. I 282440_208460605871759_2018874_ncouldn’t answer him because I was too embarrassed to get the words out. His reply, “My goal this summer is to get you to be able to speak confidently. The best gift God gives us is our speech. You ought to be able to use it effectively.”

I have held on to that life changing concept. That. Simply that. Is WHY.

If you are in theater, please remember the power you have. But it’s a good reminder for all of us I believe.

Do you have a story about the power of theater? Or speech? Or camp? Please take a moment to share it with us!

Until next time,

Reba

 

Seven ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem

If you looked in my closet anytime over the past 40 years you would get a pretty good picture of what was influencing me at the time.  In high school it was one style which changed radically when my parents sent me to Bob Jones. Those four years set me on a course of a different style for the next twenty years.  I remember the first time my daughter told me to stop wearing clothes that were at least two sizes too big for me. Traumatic. Now, you might be thinking that everyone’s closet does that, as styles change our clothes change.

Unfortunately, mine was much more than that.

For most of my life I found my self-worth in the people who I desperately wanted to value me. I needed acceptance. I wanted to do the things that I thought were important–not to me–but to get noticed. I can’t count the number of hours I spent in my room trying to do a head stand and learning a cheer, because I knew that everyone loved the cheerleaders. The cheerleaders were the girls everyone wanted to be like and the ones all the boys dated.  I never found the courage to try out.

Until college.

I’m not sure why I was able to change so radically. But, I did things that I never thought I would have courage to do. I found myself as an alternate on the cheerleading squad on Nu Delta Chi. (Thank you, Eugene Banks) From there I auditioned on a huge stage for a Shakespeare production. I was proud of myself for trying. Until my cousin told me the panel almost fell out of their seats laughing at me when I walked off the stage.

I never auditioned like that again.

And just like that in the first month of my freshman year you see two examples that had a dramatic impact on my life. One, a kind upperclassman who encouraged everyone at our dinner table. (we had assigned tables my first few years of college–with an assignment upper-class students to be host and hostess) Eugene might not realize the impact he had on me, but it was lasting and positive. The other, words that might not have been intended to hurt, but did; deeply.

Thus, this self-confidence, self-esteem monster I was fighting inside took control again.

self-es·teem
 confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect; faith in oneself.
Why is it so difficult to have just the right amount of self-esteem? Go too far and it’s pride–equally an ugly monster. But, I think it’s also a sin to not have enough self-esteem.  It cripples you from doing the very things you are passionate about doing.

Ways to Improve Your Self-esteem

1: Focus on the promises of God.
Now, if you are reading this and don’t believe in God–that one is going to be difficult for you. If, however, you do believe, then you know that the scriptures are full of promises. I used to print verses out and paste them everywhere. I needed to win the battle in my mind.  My favorite: Psalm 139:14 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
2: Focus on what is truly important.

Sometimes we spend too much time trying to be something or someone that is important when we don’t realize that something or someone is a misplaced value. Are the things/people you admire superficial or based on image and quantity? Are you allowing your life to be dictated by what is  important to others?

3. Take time to look back on your life and recognize the positive. Scan old pictures and notes that people have written and remember the good. Try not to dwell on a false reality of what might have been, but on the blessings you have been given.

4. Do Unto Others. Think about volunteering. Serving others makes you think about others and less about yourself. It is a positive experience as you meet the needs of others. It will begin to give value to yourself and others.

5. Exercise. It helps improve your mood and your physical health. Do I need to say more?

6. Look on mistakes as a way to learn instead of failure. Don’t beat yourself up your short comings. Realize that everyone makes mistakes. Look at it as a learning opportunity and get better.

7. Find time to do the things you enjoy. If you are enjoying things you will more than likely think more positively.

What does all of this have to do with the stage?

I totally believe that God used circumstances in my life to set me on my life’s course. Francine Rivers said it best in one of her books. She described our lives as a work of tapestry explaining that on the front our lives look all put together and beautiful, but if you turn it over and look on the other side you will see all the places God had to string together to get us in the right spot. Don’t you see? What might look like a mess to you is becoming a work of art!

For me:

God used my shyness to put people in my life that would connect me to drama. The imagination He gave me has allowed me to love stories. My parents sent me to Bob Jones University which shaped my philosophy of Drama, but also gave me courage and confidence. Then from teaching (which I really didn’t want to do at first–that’s a blog all on it’s own!) He gave me wonderful students over and over again–some of them have played on the Overshadowed stage! He gave me their parents to encourage and support, but also be such a part of the team of Overshadowed. I believe that my lack of self-esteemed has allowed me to minister in ways I could not have done. I think without that battle I would not have started Overshadowed not only did He place a wonderful dream/vision, but also provided the people to help it come true. God really did give me the desires of my heart. Trust Him.

What about you? Is this a battle you fight? Do you have a way your lack of self-esteem has ended up being a victory or blessing? Please take a moment and write a comment or share this blog!

Overshadowed by His love,

Reba

 

 

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella-Changing the Fairy Tale

Cinderella has always held a fascination in my  heart. What girl doesn’t dream of the handsome prince picking her out of a crowd, falling madly in love with her and then giving her a “happy every after?”

When I was younger I would watch the version of Cinderella that had been filmed for TV. For awhile I think they played it every year. Most of my guy friends thought that Lesley Ann Warren was a beautiful princess in her own right and all the girls I knew felt the same about  Stuart Damon, who played the prince. I had the piano sheet music and at least once a week I would plunk out each of the songs and sing them with all the gusto I could muster. Of course, I would pretend to be each of the characters as I sang. I’m sure you all did that as well, right?

“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be. On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere and the world will open it’s arms to me.

I’m a young Norwegian princess or a milkmaid. I’m the greatest Prima Dona in Milan. I’m an heiress who has always had her silk made by her own flock of silkworms in Japan…….

Just as long as I stay in my own little corner…all alone  in my own little chair.”

Perfect song for me. It fits the dreamer–the shy girl who lived in her imagination where she could be anything she wanted to be.

So it was with great joy and anticipation I attended the revised version of Cinderella this past weekend. 31531490_10155160365140448_3898038006325444608_o

Here are my thoughts:

Costumes:

The costume design was by William Ivey Long. I found that the palette of colors he chose was less than exciting. While I loved the fullness of the ball gowns, I was sad that they weren’t awe-inspiring. I wanted them to be luscious and rich, but instead I felt like they were just puffs of material. There was a great deal of attention given to the magic of making the dresses transform from rags to fancy (which was exciting) but in the process the rest of the costumes were just well…average.

Set Design and Technical

As we walked past the doors to find our aisle I caught a glimpse of the set.

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“Oh, my goodness!” I blurted out! “The set!” Beautiful! Simple (there was not one blackout in the entire play.) The flat surfaces had leaves and vines attached to them so that it gave them a beautiful 3-d effect. The artistry of the painting gave the set the right amount of realism yet gave a nod to the fact that this is a fairy tale. The technical aspects of the show were brilliant.  I loved the penlights that with the haze created a dreamlike atmosphere. My favorite moment? Well, along with everyone else in the room– the moment that Cinderella turned and her costume completely changed into a ball gown. If you haven’t watched that moment on You Tube–make sure you do. It’s stunning. Cinderella does that move twice and the Fairy Godmother has her own moment when she transforms from a beggar. I will be honest, the transformations were my favorite moments in the show. Doubly honest? Once they changed I was disappointed in the dresses. I loved that the fox and rabbit were hand puppets before Marie made them human. So cute! I also loved that the carriage spun in a circle surrounded by layers of fog to create the illusion that it was traveling.

Acting– Singing –Choreography

I LOVED Tatyana Lubov as Cinderella. She had the right amount of sweetness, gentleness,  kindness and spunk! I loved her voice and the imagery she created as she sang. I felt her emotions and dreamed with her!! I also liked Leslie Jackson as Marie (the character us traditionalists know as the Fairy Godmother) She had a physicality that made her character really come alive. Sadly, the rest of the cast was just ok. There were no stand outs. The play seemed to gain a certain energy when the ensemble began to sing, “The Prince is giving a ball.” and from that point on I did enjoy moments of the chorus singing.  Although, I had a difficult time understanding the lyrics of the songs I wasn’t familiar with. The choreography was also lackluster. I enjoyed the lifts and ballet aspects, but the rest of it made me feel that the dresses got in the way of the choreography. It simply didn’t create the beautiful, artistic picture of a fairy tale.

Favorite lines

“You’d be surprised how many beautiful dresses have crazy women in them.”

“Madame isn’t always terrible. Sometimes she sleeps.”

Conclusion

I was ready to love this play, but the beginning took me out of the story right away. The prince fights a dragon and some creature ( looking somewhat like a praying mantis) that none of us could figure out what it was!

At the end of the first act, Cinderella loses her glass slipper after the ball, but promptly runs back to get it. My friends and I spent intermission thinking that the cast was in the back trying to come up with ways to fix Cinderella’s horrible mistake! But then, there is another trip to the castle — yes, complete with more help from the Fairy Godmother and another beautiful gown — but not to fall in love, rather to push a local political agenda (with the help of her friendly stepsister) and then sort of fall in love anyway.

My interest had waned by this point, but now there was a segment about electing a new prime minister and Cinderella stops and leaves her slipper purposely on the steps. Thus, taking the magic of the fairy tale and making it modern and full of girl power and political agendas.

I’m a little sad at the way everything has to change. What’s wrong with a little bit of romance and fairy tales?

 If you want to see Cinderella fall in love with Prince Charming this might not be the show for you. If instead, you adore the new revised women fighting for political change-go see this. It plays at the Cadillac Theater until May 6th.

 

Did you see this production? What do you think about the trend of  revising fairy tales?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

By No Stretch of the Imagination

On a wonderful spring afternoon in 1972 I entered the doors of the local high school theater auditorium and sat down on the back row. For most people this would not be a matter of importance at all. But for me…well, maybe I’d better give you a few more details.

We moved back to Kinston, N.C. when I was entering the ninth grade. We lived down the street from the town’s high school. But my parents investigated the Christian school that was a little further out in the country and decided that was a good place for me to attend. I guess I really didn’t care which school I was going to attend. This was the one that my uncle was the principal of and my aunt would be my English teacher and my mom would teach there. I might have felt both fortunate and trapped! Looking back, all I really remember is that I made a few good friends, but never really felt like I fit in anywhere until I went to college.

I knew many of the students at the public school, well that really isn’t true. I wanted to know many of those students. I saw them in church and sometimes in the plays the high school would produce. Somehow, it isn’t a big surprise that I would get up enough courage to walk into this auditorium and plop myself down in a seat and just watch.

It was wonderful.

I watched the students running lines. I watched the director giving staging directions. I watched the choreography rehearsal and dreamed. Dreamed that I was the one up there getting all that instruction.

Somehow, I managed to sneak in and out of those rehearsals for days. I couldn’t wait for opening night!

Opening Night!

I bought a seat a few rows away from the orchestra, center stage. I was there and in my seat almost as soon as the doors opened. I can almost hear it now.

One by one each instrument began their individual process of tuning. Each made their sounds and then slightly adjusted the pitch until it was exactly in tune. The piano or drum banged out different notes and then played scales as they limbered up their fingers. This continued for about ten or fifteen minutes. All around me other audience members found their seats and the room began to expand with an aura of excitement. I sat memorized. I looked up at the lights and studied the way they were configured.  I looked at the orchestra members. I devoured the play program. I read all the bios and almost memorized what song would come first and all the synopsis of scenes.

Then, the conductor took his place and the overture began.  Slowly,  the lights began to dim. There is nothing more magical than that moment when the orchestra, audience and actors breathe together to create that unforgettable moment.

I count myself fortunate that I am lucky enough to have a vivid imagination. I believe it is one of the wonderful gifts God gave me when I was created, but also, my mom instilled in me a love of reading. Reading, helps expand a imagination.

That imagination helped theater become a haven for me. Theater, done right, can become a shelter. It is place where dreamers aren’t scoffed and the “uncool” aren’t picked on. It is a place where all talents (both artistic, mathematical and technical) come together as one.

Was my imagination stretched by theater? Yes. And it continues to be every day.

Day by day our culture is wanting things to come to them instead of having to leave their comfy home. Live streaming of events. Uber eats instead of going out.

Please don’t ever replace live theater. The world would be a little less wonderful without all the good that comes from this kind of imagination.

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
 Yep. I might be a little like Anne, with an E. Imagination. It’s such an interesting world.  don’t you agree?
(My first playbill. “The Hanging of Uncle Dilby” My high school drama club play. Can you find me?)
Until next time,
Reba