Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ten Lessons I Learned During This Production

1) I am ultimately responsible for ALL decisions.
2) People really do forgive.
3) Talent-schmalent.
4) Home is where the heart is.
5) Most people are content to settle for 'just okay'.
6) You can't please everyone, let alone make them happy.
7) Believe in your OWN vision.
8) Actions speak WAY louder than words.
9) People do what they want to do.
10) In the end, the only one you can really depend on is yourself.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Beloved Studio

I'm up in my beloved Studio right now. It's so cold that my fingers hurt, but typing is helping to warm them up. I don't want to turn on the salamander because I only have one tank of propane and I need it for auditions tonight. (If you don't know what a salamander is--and I didn't before the Arts Council bought it for us--it is a propane fueled open flame blower, used to heat warehouses and construction areas--and our rehearsal space. When it's going, it heats this room pretty well.)

My Studio is on the third, heretofore unused, floor of the Creative Arts and Event Center at the corner of state road 9 and US 40 (State and Main) in Greenfield. It is a huge beautiful room-1500 square feet, with windows on three sides and wood floors. I LOVE it...probably more than I love my own house. It's like the loft where the Flashdance chick lived, but without the firepole. It's spacious, well-lit, and wonderful.

We lucked into the room because no one was using it. The man who owns our building first renovated the first floor into a soda shop and an art Gallery, and a common space for groups to use. Then he began working on the second floor, dividing it up into artist studios. For almost a year and a half, this room has been ours--for cheap! It was the space at the top of the building, the last space to be noticed and to receive renovation attention. Perfect for us in every way...except for the fact that there is no air-conditioning in the summer--and no heat in the winter.

Last winter, we froze up here. You could see your breath. Everyone invested in flannel lined jeans and wore hats and gloves during rehearsal. Even the kerosene heaters couldn't make a dent in the cold. Then we got the salamander. It helped a LOT. This winter, it's not quite that bad because some heat from the now-inhabited second floor seeps up. You can't see your breath anymore, even when it was 20 below a couple weeks ago. The salamander keeps us warm, but it's loud--and scary--an open flame in the room. Last summer, we bought some air conditioners, because the third floor of a brick building gets VERY hot. The sun shines in the windows and no amount of curtains seemed to keep the temperatures from rising to 80...85 degrees. It was really hot. Hot, I don't mind. It's the cold that's the worst.

Today, I'm up here cleaning. The third floor is finally getting noticed. They're working on the front room of the third floor now, but they're carting all the construction waste through our room to throw it out the window into the dumpster below. It is a dusty, unholy mess. There is a thick coating of white plaster dust on EVERYTHING, making me wonder how kids with allergies and asthma, colds and bronchitis, are going to manage. As if the cold, the three flights of stairs, the inadequate restroom facilities weren't enough to contend with. Now we have construction dust. There's dust on the candy, on the cups, on the chairs and the upholstery. What will the parents think? And we don't always have electricity. Yesterday, it came on for awhile in the bathroom and I quickly scrubbed the toilets and swept the floor. Today, it appears that after all my work--one of the construction guys threw UP in one of the toilets. Good grief. And it has to be cleaned again. And the floor. I mopped some areas of the floor, but all it did really was move the dust around... It's really bad.

It's cold, it's dusty, but I LOVE this room. This temporary space we're in....where we go from here, I don't know.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I Adore Those Kids

I love, Love, LOVE the kids I work with in the theatre.

*This started out as a post called "Happy Together/Unhappy Together" about my travails with my adult theatre group, but I decided that writing about the theatrical journeys with my various and assorted youth theatre groups and their 'love of the game' would be a much more positive expenditure of my time.

I love my KidsPlayers. Oh, are they wonderful. They're dedicated and they work SO HARD. I hold them to a very high standard, behavior-wise, work ethic-wise, and performance-wise. I've been working with KidsPlay for nigh on eleven years--a lifetime in kid years.
Some of them come late to KidsPlay and I only get to work with them for a couple years before they move on to the high school. Some come early and I've gotten the joy of watching them grow up in the group.
In any case, once a KidsPlayer, always a KidsPlayer. I have undying loyalty to those kids for all they give and all they give up to be a part of KidsPlay.

Jacobs asked me once how I got the kids to hold fast to their off-book date. I told him, "I just do. We have a date for being off book for each act and I hold them to it."
"What if they don't?" he said.
I said, "Well, I expect a rough rehearsal on our first night off book, some, but not a lot of cueing... however, if I have somebody who's really slowing us down, I just say, 'Get your book. Go on, get it. You're slowing us down.' And THAT, to the kids, is devastating to them. I don't have to say anything more. They REALLY want to please me." And it's true...and almost hard they work for the small crumbs of praise I hand out. I'm way too stingy with my praise, but when it comes, they know it means something.
I have a wealth of wonderful stories with these kids: Katie, and Jesse, and Sam, and Blair, and Maddie, Payton, and Charlie...some REALLY wonderful kids have come through KidsPlay and left funny, poignant, heartwarming memories in my heart that I'll have forever.
I take joy in their happinesses and successes and I work very hard to make sure they reach their potential in the shows we do and that they recognize their own growth and talent. Oh, my KidsPlayers--this week are auditions for "A Tough Act to Follow" and I can hardly wait!

I love my Act-Teens. We 'test drove' this group over Christmas this year and I had the time of my life!! What a GREAT bunch of kids they are. I guess it's contradictory to say they make me feel young, because I certainly don't feel old (at 50), but when we all get going on our 'collective problem', I know I will ALWAYS be 16 in my heart. Their enthusiasm, their cleverness, their devotion to their craft--it overwhelms me. Rehearsals with them are exhausting, but I always come away exhilarated by their energy. There is more ahead for me and the Act-Teens and, chuckle--again--I can hardly wait.

The third group of kids isn't really mine at all--it belongs to Jacobs. The Greenfield-Central Drama kids are awesome. They welcomed me, as his assistant, early this fall and it's been a love affair ever since. They are the warmest, huggiest bunch of people I know. They are erudite, clever, and INTERESTING!!! And they've found their own place in my heart.

And those are my theatre kids. I love, love, love them. The time I spend with them--in theatre and NON-theatre time--is ALWAYS time well-spent, my work with them is my life's true calling.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On Stage (?): a Stress Dream

So...last night I attended a script-reading for a possible 'next production' for the CrazyLake Acting Company. For this production, which will be performed in September, I am turning the reins of directorship over to my most reliable, experienced, and trusted actor for his first venture into 'in front of the stage' instead of 'on'. In doing this, it is my hope that I will have a chance to perform for the first time in....twelve years(!!!). The play that we read had a medium-sized part, a wacky old lady, just right for me, and for which I will most certainly be auditioning, should we decide to do this play.

So...this morning after the script-reading, I wake up from my first stress dream.

I am on stage...and watching the action, watching people say their lines, when all of a sudden, I realize they're all looking at me. Oh. It must be my line...but as a director, I'm so used to just standing and watching the action that I sort of forgot I was IN the play. I look at them; they're all there: Kelly, Rachelle, Dennis, Chris, Joe, Terri... They're staring very hard at me. A couple of them mouth something to me, but I don't get it. (I never was any good at lip-reading.) I just sort of shrug...I really have no idea...I realize that I don't know my lines at all. AT ALL.

Shudder. This is enough to make me want to take last night's script and IMMEDIATELY put my lines on CD to start learning them whether we decide to do this show or not. Eek.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Show Turns the Corner

Whenever I'm directing a show...which, lately, is constantly...there's always a moment when the show 'turns the corner'. It's then that you know it's going to be okay, all the hard work, the worrying, the time that you've put in, it's all going to be worth it. It's the 'we've got a show' moment. For the CrazyLake Acting Company's production of "The Odd Couple", last night was that night. The show turned the corner.

We sent the poker guys home early--we've worked and worked with them; strangely, it's Oscar and Felix, who live right here in town, who have been neglected. So last night belonged to them.

Directing is a search for truth: truth in movement, truth in voice, in reaction, in facial expression, body position, physical location, and juxtaposition to others near you, etc., etc. When I’m watching, I’m watching for what rings true and what appears false. So when we say, “Does this work?”, we’re really saying, “Is this true?” The difference between what is true and what is false can be as slight as two steps this way, looking down instead of up, tone of voice or inflection. And sometimes it’s true one time; and it’s not true the next, because everything is always moving...

We worked on Act III. We stopped and started, backed up, discussed scenes and motivations (always humorously harking back to "Why am I carrying this box of groceries into the study, Lloyd?"). We tried it again in different ways, trying to find 'what works'.

And in the end, it was good. The collaboration between the three of us is good--it's more than good. I don't know what other directors do, but I like to listen to my actors. I think, for the most part, they ultimately have a much deeper understanding of their characters than I do. What I understand is the big picture of the scene, but THEY understand their characters. So we work together on what feels honest to the character and what feels right to the scene, the constantly moving painting we're creating. And when we get it right, we look at each other and nod and smile--and we keep working. Always looking for truth. I smile now just thinking about it. It's good; it's all good.

The CrazyLake Acting Company: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.