I’m not sure why I have fallen away from my schedule to write once a week. Every week I think about what I would say to you, my readers–then before you know it–the week is over and I didn’t write.
I feel so busy. I’m not sure if it is because I am older or that the COVID hiatus took more out of me than I knew? Or maybe it is that Overshadowed lost many of their volunteers during the “break” and I really am doing more than I was before….or maybe my focus has shifted and it just takes more out of me.
Whatever the reason..I will try to be more faithful to writing.
There are so many parts that make up this world of theater.
Today we had a special guest, Jonathan Wessel, visit us to explain more about why he has such strict rules while he is on stage.
I hope you will enjoy watching!
Can I just say one more time how brilliant, Rebecca Leland is?? Thank you for all of your work on this!!
Do you know someone who might be interested in stage work? Please share this with them!
Over 10 years ago someone told me we should produce “12 Angry Men.” They suggested that we have a cast of all women and another cast of all men. They thought it would be a clever marketing ploy. I declined for several reasons. One of them being that I didn’t think I had 12 men that could pull off the acting that this show requires. I put it on the back burner of my mind and waited. In the meantime, I saw the Theater in Chicago production with Brian Dennehy and George Wendt and John Boy Walton…oh, I mean, Richard Thomas as Juror # 8. I also spent the time visiting local community productions and waited until the time was right.
As I have complained about for now, over a year, Covid has really done a damage to our theater. In our area, several shut their doors for good as they couldn’t continue with the costs of rent etc. while they just waited to entertain again. We were able to produce an original Biblical drama that kept us going with 50 audience members a night until we thought everything was getting back to normal. Not quite trusting, I decided to mount a smaller musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, for the summer. It was fantastic, but the audiences didn’t come. A summer show usually brings over 2500 to our doors. This summer we didn’t even get 1500. So, what better time than now to pull out that old marketing ploy? We decided that we would mount two shows with two casts. We would have four directors, two of each gender that would each be in the play and direct the opposite version of the play.
At auditions, we were thrilled. People came. We even had to turn people away. (Which always makes me sad.) We began the character studies and blocking and somehow in the middle of the process I stopped enjoying it. It was difficult. Why didn’t I notice that we were actually going to be producing two shows at the same time? One is hard enough…but two? I think I might be a little crazy….
What made matters worse is that I’m not sure that any of the other directors were enjoying it either. We were all feeling the stress of having to be in two places at one time plus carry on with our outside duties. The creative experiment of working together didn’t gel the way I thought it would. Instead of being inspired by each other we did the opposite. At times we were afraid to speak up, or at times we didn’t want to make an issue about something, or at times we felt competition, or that we weren’t as important as the other directors. Emotionally, it was difficult. One week ago. I would have told you that this theater experiment was a failure
12 Angry Women opened last week and if you asked me now I would tell you that I probably wouldn’t want to direct with four directors ever again, but that I did learn. That’s a good thing. I want to learn each and every time I decide to be involved with a production.
Here are some facts:
12 Angry Men is the play many of us, of a certain generation, had to read in high school. This courtroom drama by Reginald Rose has been around since 1954; first as a live Television play, then in its more well-known incarnation, the 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda, directed by the great Sidney Lumet. (Did you know the film was nominated for three Oscars?)
Question #1 that we faced: Isn’t it dated? What relevance does it have today? Come see the play and you will soon find our that Juror #10 leads the way with his immigrant and minority comments. Unfortunately, we all go in to any conversation with a great deal of bias and maybe realizing this would help all conversations end more peacefully. We can learn from each other. We adopted a tag line #Don’t confuse me with the facts. Sadly, many times we don’t care enough to step out of our own selves and into someone else’s.
The drama begins when a lone holdout, Juror #8, believes there is a reasonable doubt in the case of a youth “from the wrong side of the tracks” on trial for the murder of his abusive father. The stakes are high and the jury is mandated by the judge to think about it wisely and carefully, because the punishment for conviction is the death penalty. Since the decision must be unanimous the deliberation begins. The Jurors range greatly in personality, economic and educational background and ethnicity. A thrilling ride when you realize this is real life. Every jury is made up randomly and everyone does walk in with different personalities, educational backgrounds and ethnicities.
As Jessica Means (my co-director) and I watched the 12 Angry Men rehearsal last night we were thrilled. It was tense, riveting and thrilling–just as people had told us the women’s production was last week. Every juror looks as if they walked in off the street in 1959 Manhattan. The set is beautifully simple; it manages to be both artful and authentic. The cast is constantly moving to almost be “the camera” and allow the audience to see the jurors from each angle.
Why 12 Angry Men/Women?
It is a bucket list love of a classic theater piece that I always wanted to tackle.
To learn from a totally unique theater experiment.
To take an old classic and see that even after years some things never change.
People. It’s simply great theater.
So, the marketing ploy? Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since this summer. Our tickets sales are horribly low. Even with 24 people in the cast–I’m not sure we will even hit our numbers from the summer. I’d like to ask for a little help. Don’t let Covid kill this theater. If this is a play you weren’t planning on attending…could you decide to come? If you are seeing one of the versions could you decide to see both? Could you spread the word? Please tell your friends and neighbors that this is one show that should not be missed.
One last thing: 12 Angry Men is a timely, riveting drama that will get you thinking about your preconceptions and stereotypes. It is a reminder that we must question apparent facts before making tough decisions. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.
Okay. I lied…one more last, last thing. My co-director’s are all brilliant and now that we’ve all gotten past the hard parts we all admit it was a crazy great experience. Thank you, Jessica Means, Brad Holloman, and Mike Larsen for sharing your time, creativity and inspiration with us all.
Now, will you all please go to Overshadowed.org and buy tickets? Let’s show everyone there is still a place for theater!
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Until next time, this is just me, talking to you from the wings.
This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).
I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!
Cooking up Characters with Kady! (did you like that alliteration?) Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.
First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.
An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.
I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like?Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´?And Jane Eyre..modern or historical?How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun?How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)
Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!
And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.
Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.
With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.
Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.
The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.
The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.
I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this: My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.
I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.
From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.
But theater is not a solo endeavor.
Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!
When I decided to start a community theater I will confess I had no idea what I was doing. Don’t get me wrong. I had been directing plays/musicals for over twenty years. However, that did nothing to prepare me for the difference in attitude in both audience and cast, as well as all the work that went into marketing and so many other areas. I naively thought that the people who came to see my church and high school productions would be excited about a Christian theater and would follow me to that venture. I quickly learned that Overshadowed Theatrical Productions had no name recognition. Quickly, my number one focus went to marketing. I began to feel stress for my new “product.” My desire never changed though. I wanted to provide professional type theater in an unconventional non professional way.
My goals, desires, standards never changed, but I soon discovered that the rest of the world either has the same problems I do or they are not bothered by things that I wish I didn’t have to tolerate.
The question is this? If you apply rules, standards, restrictions to a production experience–does it take the fun out of it for the performer?
Fun: it’s a word frequently thrown about in non-professional theatre circles. Fun. When someone asks why you are willing to put so much time into a production the number one reason is: “It is a lot of fun.”
And believe me, I agree. Putting a show together and performing it to a live audience is an experience like no other. Pure magic.
However, there is so much more than fun to the process. I don’t want to scare anyone off, but theater is hard work, especially to anyone that is going to devote their life to this field.
I will write more about this in a separate blog, but we amateur theatre artists always struggle to be recognized. It takes commitment to stay up late rehearsing and memorizing lines and creating character development. Most people have full-time jobs that they still work hard at, but of course, we as an audience don’t see that part of it.
I actually love that theater is hard work. I love that when you pour yourself into a character you are exhausted at the end of a show. It is a rewarding experience to pour yourself into a process like that. Is it hard work? Maybe. Time-consuming for sure.
Maybe it boils down to the reason why you participate in theater. Some do it for fun, some do it professionally, and some do it because they believe in the show or purpose. Isn’t it true that most of us will put up with almost anything if it is for something we love?
I love that theater brings people together. We make new friends and create something that lives. The danger is when some people treat the show as a hobby or something they are just doing for “fun.” Tensions sometimes arise when people have to work hard to cover for what some of the cast isn’t bringing. t is wonderful that community theatre brings together people with various levels of experience, but it is hurtful to the whole production when cast/crew treat the show as something secondary which does not deserve their full attention.
Please remember this: being paid or volunteering should not affect the quality of the work you provide. I think when the work suffers it is because we see ourselves as inferior when we don’t get paid, or don’t get the reviews or awards. Do not settle, but always push yourself to achieve more than you thought possible. Mediocre? Never! Let’s shoot for the top!
When producing a show, I think about the audience. What do I want them to enjoy, learn, feel? If I think about the cast instead, then we become a group of divas and honestly, become a little selfish. Sometimes we have to put personal thoughts aside to put on the best show possible.
Is theater fun? Yes! Exciting, creative, rewarding and fun! Theatre is all about creativity, exploration, and play. It is exciting, enthralling, and, yes, very fun. It is also hard work and commitment. Let’s stick together and make each show better than the last. Someday we might get the recognition, but until then, the show must go on!
I’d love to hear your comments or thoughts! Please take the time to follow my blog or to share it with others!
When I was in third or fourth grade I read a book that I will never forget. The Diary of Anne Frank captured my attention in a way that no other book has ever done. The idea that a girl (who was not much older that I was at that time) could write so proficiently and express her thoughts in such a spell-binding manner was fascinating. For those of you who don’t know, Anne Frank went into hiding with her family in 1943. She was only thirteen. Her crime? She was Jewish.
I didn’t understand how anyone could treat another human so terribly. How could one possibly live in such a tight space, dependent fully on the help of outsiders who put their lives on the line day after day? Yet this girl said something that is life changing.
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
She was positive, joyful and dreamed that her writing would change the world. It did.
Flash forward to 1976. My husband had the privilege of playing Peter Van Daan in a University production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Flash forward another twenty years and my daughter played Mrs. Van Daan in a production I directed at her high school. Another six years pass and my oldest daughter directs a production of “Diary” at the same University that Chuck portrayed Peter all those years before.
And now, I have checked a dream role off of my bucket list. For one more weekend I get to step out on that stage of become “Mrs Van Daan.”
She’s not the lead, but I think she is fascinating. She is insecure, flirty, frightened, industrious and loving. She is the most complicated character I have ever played and I have loved every second.
In the play you see Mrs. Van Daan through the eyes of a thirteen year old girl. I can only imagine what my daughter’s diary might have said about me at times she was angry with me. The point? The writings give us a unique view into the secret annex, but we must remember Anne’s writings were Anne’s thoughts and expressed honestly through Annes’ emotions.
In talking about the personality of Mrs Van Daan I began to realize that at the core of her personality were all the traits Anne writes about, but there must be something that drives her to act the way she does. I chose insecurity and love--those traits are at the root of every reaction she has.
Did you know? She was born in 1900 in Germany. She had three siblings: Gertrude, Lotte, and Gretta. It was Anne who gave her the name of Mrs Van Daan as a code name, as she did everyone one in the diary, in case the diary was ever discovered it would protect those she wrote about. Her real name was Auguste van Pels.
She was real. She lived, loved, laugh, feared and hoped. Much like 6 million other Jews that we may not know anything about. This play is for everyone that died during that horrible time in our history. May we never forget.
I am thankful for a young girl who decided that writing her story was important. I am thankful that the Germans didn’t discover and destroy the book. I am thankful Otto allowed the rest of the world to see the diary.
If you haven’t documented your life in some way why not do it? Your life, your story is important. Please leave your legacy!
If you can–treat yourself to one of the remaining performances. It is one of the finest casts I’ve ever had the privilege of sharing the stage with. The lights, set, story…it is truly special. Please hurry though. Only four shows remain. Overshadowed.org
What about you? Have you read the book? Please take a moment to like this post, share, comment! Thank you!
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.
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!
When I originally wrote this a few years ago I thought nothing would ever rob us of the joy of seeing Nativity Plays at Christmas. Sadly, I was wrong. We’ve lost so much this year. It is disappointing to add this to the list. Perhaps we will be better able to embrace this season and all that it represents if we are stripped of the “activities.” Whatever the reason, I hope you will be able to remember all the special Christmas Eve services and plays you have seen over the years. I hope you will be able to focus of Jesus and the Best Gift 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 wintershows 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 Whywe 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.
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.
Parents and friends who might not usually participate, get involved with a production to help their children.
People will come to church to watch kids when they won’t come for anything else.
The simplicity of a production done by children should focus us on the true meaning of the season.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Ted Hanover : “Every now and then it’s a good idea to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
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 INNruns 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!
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!”
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.
Marketing is difficult and expensive. This might be the singlehandedly best way to get the word out about “this little theatre that could.”
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:
Today is the last day to nominate any production.
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.”
Make sure you vote under the RESIDENT NON-Equity category.
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.
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.
Work to create intention that leads to the narrative you are creating.
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!
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
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!