Sunday, June 28, 2009

Payton Cole is a Class Act

Just an anecdote from Saturday's show. My partner (Cathleen) brought her children to the show. I saw them at intermission and Cathleen told me that they'd each decided who their favorite actor was. Her daughter Elise (sp?) is a BRILLIANT first grader and she picked Payton as her favorite. I saw them (Cathleen and Elise) later having a discussion at the flower table. Elise wanted to send a flower back to Payton. Intermission was nearly over and there was a bit of an issue as to whether it would get back there on time. And as it came to light, Elise wanted to deliver it herself... So I took her back into the wonderful maze of Christmas lights, props, wood, benches, paint cans, costumes, and bodies that is backstage. Backstage is something we all take for granted. It's long since ceased to be a magical place for us, but for just a moment, I really saw it through Elise's eyes, winding through the darkness, the shapes of people getting ready to go on stage, echo-y music from out front and the sounds of the audience on the other side of the set... We went back to the very crowded dressing room (it was running so late that the second act music had started) and we found that wonderful ethereal creature known as The Great Actress Payton Cole and Elise gave her the flower. Everybody 'aw-ed' and Payton bent down and hugged her. Geez, I have tears in my eyes thinking about it. Big-big points to Payton for realizing the importance of that moment and that gesture to a little girl.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Roller-Coaster Week

Good grief, but it's been an emotional week. And it continues. Woke up at 4:30 this morning boo-hooing (again) about KidsPlay. So I'll use this sadly low-visibility forum to organize my thoughts for the curtain speech for this evening's final production of "It's a Howl".

"My name is Christine Schaefer, and I'm the director of the CrazyLake Act-Teen Workshop. I'm also the director of the CrazyLake Acting Company. But mostly, I'm the director of KidsPlay, Inc. children's theatre, and it's on their behalf that I'm making this plea.

KidsPlay has been presenting shows in Greenfield for going on twelve years now. We were here before this theatre was built. We were here before the CrazyLake Acting Company. We were here before Ricks-Weil Theatre Company. When you go out in this community to see theatre at the high schools, there are young people on that stage that came up through KidsPlay. When you come here to see adult shows, you are most likely seeing still more former KidsPlayers or adults who are parents of KidsPlayers. What I'm trying to say is that KidsPlay has been good for Greenfield. This little children's theatre has played an important part in the development of Greenfield into the arts community and a theatre colony it is becoming.

KidsPlay has been rehearsing on the third floor of the Creative Arts and Event Center--thanks to the generosity of Bob and Bev Hunt--for the past three years, but our time there is drawing to a close. We are in desperate need of rehearsal space in hopes of continuing to do what we do best, and that's making people laugh. We are in need of a place to rehearse our next production, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever".

As director of three different theatre companies, I've stepped out on this stage more than two dozen times in the past couple years to introduce shows and ask for help for KidsPlay. In all that time, I've received one check for $20, one for $100 and one very generous donation of $2000. We know times are hard. We know that because we're about to present to you the results of six weeks of hard work and an evening of laughs for just $5. $5--less than the price of a movie ticket.

This little town has done a lot of amazing things--we've reinvented ourselves as an arts community and a theatre colony. We've all pitched in to renovate this building so that we can enjoy live music and theatre. And surely, we can band together to save KidsPlay.

Tonight, as you're watching this show--and laughing, bcause you will--take a look at the faces of these kids. Look at the joy you see there, the confidence, the joy that comes from being given the opportunity to create, and grow, and entertain. Take in the full measure of what they just gave YOU--and you decide if you have it in your wallet, your purse, your checkbook to help us continue to do what we do best--and that's bring laughter to the stages of Greenfield.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Perfect Happiness

Could it be possible to be happier? This evening, we moved our show ("It's a Howl") into the theatre. It's really some of the hardest work you could do--dismantling the set, moving our flats down three flights of stairs (complete with landings and 180 degree turns), loading them into the trailer, unloading them at the theatre, and assembling our set--taping, painting, adding trim.... A good number of my teens showed up to help--Father's Day or no--they were there, working hard, talking, laughing, all of us enjoying being in each other's presence, sharing the common bond of our theatre family...I had moments of perfect happiness. Could it get any better than this?

The show is good. It's more than good. It's so THERE that I'm worried about OVER-rehearsing it. Is there such a thing as over=rehearsing?

I love these kids. I love being alive. I love what we've created. I love our 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts' mentality. Could I be any happier? How could it be possible?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For...

CrazyLake Drama Camp for Kids—Week Two out of Three

My day starts at 4:57 a.m. when my alarm goes off. I drag Charlie out of bed and we're in the car by 7:20 and on the way to pick up Hudson. I wake up Hudson's entire neighborhood with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In". He gets in the car in his KidsPlay shirt and his all important keys around his neck. He's wearing his Peace hat to get in tune with the music blaring forth. We circle back to pick up the Cole children and around to catch Hannah if she's walking. We arrive at the KidsPlay Studio at about 7:45 and there are Jayme and Spenser waiting for me. Hannah arrives, then Carie. Jayme is all business, all about getting me focused for the day: "Chris! What needs to be done?" Carie is all about hugs. Hudson establishes his territory in 'his' house, as if anyone had any doubts. Spenser was an excellent choice as she's great with the kids and I live to make Hannah laugh. We vacuum, lay out a craft activity, and I send her out for the snacks I didn’t have time to get the night before…. The kids start arriving and we engage them in a warm-up activity as we continue to plan out the day. Everyone is finally here and we go downstairs, escaping the grind of the power tools and the third floor construction, to play our Theatre Games. “This is a Pencil”, “Zip, Zap, Zop”, and role- playing games. We play, we laugh, we try to pull Lindsey out of her shell, and get Madison to focus, and allow Ian his Korean Boxer Moment. We go back upstairs for snacks. The counselors and I sneak M&Ms and Pepsis while the kids have apple juice and pudding cups. During Free Time, the kids dress up in the costumes I’ve brought in—hats, high heels, dresses, swords. Fun. The casting for our cutie, little pirate play is done and now it’s time to start the blocking. This is my moment—focusing them, directing them, creating art with these little people. Teaching them the basics, the fundamentals of facing the audience and projecting, of stage presence and movement. Such fun. I’m totally in my element.

And when I think I’ve pushed them as far as they can go, and their attention spans start to drift, we take them all back upstairs for a craft activity—toilet paper tube pirates, pirate bead jewelry, Walk of Fame star posters….and the parents start wandering in. Everyone seems to be having fun, the staff, me, the kids….and as long as the kids are having fun, the parents are totally on board. It’s fun…exhausting, yeah, but fun.

And once all the kids are gone, we jump in the car and go in search of food. We have approximately 55 minutes before we need to be back for our 1 o’clock rehearsal. Only time for the drive-thru….but these are stories for another day. Stay-tuned.