Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Long Day

It is what it is--the long day.  There are many, many tasks to accomplish:  dismantling the set in the Dungeon, packing it and EVERYTHING else we might possibly need (costumes, props, make-up, shoes, hats, concessions, headsets, backstage box, extension cords, power tools, paint, etc,) into the KidsPlay trailer (thank goodness we have it), moving it the theatre, unpacking, sorting, reassembling the set, dressing up the lobby, costumes in the dressing room, concessions under the table, make-up station, sound checks, under the lights for the first time.  It's a day I anticipate--a huge milestone in the life of the production--and a day that I dread, dread the pressure of it--dread being confronted, however innocently--with things I hadn't thought of, or worse--haven't yet had time to accomplish.  I dread technical difficulties which set us back an hour or two, and dread the reproachful look of parents who have long since gotten over the novelty of the demands of theatre.  Their mouths smile but their eyes say, "And HOW long did you say this would take?"  "WHEN can I take my child home?" And, "Seriously, you want to run it AGAIN?"  It's a stressful day, a day when the worst has happened and the best has happened.  Ask me.  I'll tell you.

It's always a blessing when it goes smoothly.  Set fits in nicely.  A limited number of times back to the Dungeon for what we forgot.  Parents smiling and laughing.  No ghosts in the machines.  People show up when they're expected and everything stays on schedule.

So, you're asking.  What's the point of this entry?  What went wrong?  Right?  What anecdote do you have for us?  Here it is.

Water.  There was no water at the theatre on that Sunday afternoon, on that Long Day.  They were working on the water lines in the street, confident that on a Sunday, businesses would be closed and not be too inconvenienced by no water.  The streets were empty, the shops wre closed, except for the hustle and bustle of the Little Theatre That Could and the 42 children in the cast....  42 children who needed to use the restroom....repeatedly, constantly.

And I thank god for my stage parents:  the one whose child is long gone from KidsPlay, but pulls our trailer and helps with our set; the one who engineered the decoration and design of our fabulous award-winning ( SHOULD be award-winning) lobby; the ones who manage the costumes and 'wrangle' the children; the ones who are involved for the first time and get totally caught up in the KidsPlay magic; and the one who walked those children over to Little Italy's Pizza and back EVERY time someone needed to go to the restroom.  How many times do you think 42 children NEED to go to the restroom between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.?  Hmmm?  Have you done the math on that?  I hate to think.

Was I made aware of this?  Really, not until late in the day.  Because the Little Theatre That Could is made up of Parents Who Can...and Do.  Why bother Chris with it?  She's worrying about other things--we'll handle restroom duty.  In fact, we'll handle everything.  Don't you worry.  Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  We've got this one. 

An amazing group I'm blessed with.  Truly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shelby's Face

Our original dance teacher was preoccupied.  She was in "The Producers".  She was going to Italy.  She was thinking about starting a family.  In short, she was busy.

Another dance teacher we tried, as it turned out, had other obligations also.

So I went to rehearsal that night prepared to tell the dancers that there would be no dance.  No teacher.  No pre-show entertainment.

But God watches out for the Little Theatre Group That Could.  Although I didn't know it yet, there was a reason that I didn't just call everyone and cancel rehearsal.  If I've learned one thing in theatre (and theatre has taught me everything I need to know), it's to wait.  Wait and see.  Wait to see what happens, wait and problems will solve themselves.  Wait and a miracle may walk through that door.   At five minutes until six, in walked Shelby.

A freshman in high school.  Barely a year older than some she would be leading.  I had my doubts.  What did she know about leadership, about working with kids?  About KidsPlay, for that matter?  Oh, I knew she knew dance.  But...could she lead?  Could she inspire?  Could she gain the confidence of my little non-dancers?  Would she be able to teach even them?

She spent the first ten minutes learning their names.  Wow, I thought.  That was a really smart way to start.  Especially considering that *I* don't often learn ALL the dancers names until the performance.  The actors, yes, but the dancers--they belong to the dance teacher.

The interim dance teacher had given Shelby her choreography.  Shelby looked it over, ran them through it, and picked up right where she left off.  A difficult task.  The tendency would be to start over and make it her own.  As it turned out, that wasn't a problem.  At all.

And so, Tuesdays and Thursdays, in 30-minute stints, she drilled them, taught them, loved them.  Praising, hugging, counting out the measures in 8-counts.  Worked in small groups.  Worked in large groups.  Kept plugging away, dancing, reteaching steps as needed, tightening the weak parts.  Creating a dance number.

Usually, during the dance segment, I am busy--answering questions, getting stuff together, preparing announcements, talking to parents.  But every once in a while I would stop and look up and see miracles happening.  Our rag-tag bunch of non-dancers, most of whom had never danced before, were dancing.  Counting.  Smiling.  Putting together a terrific dance number.

And Shelby was dependable.  Always there on time.  Always ready.  And always going over time.  So into what she was doing that 40 minutes would go buy before I'd finally look up and say, "You have one minute.  It's time for the actors now..."

Last night, with her permission, I asked if I could have the dancers one at a time to try their costumes on them.  So first went Jillian, into the restroom with a hanger and a bag.  She came out in her leotard and cowgirl printed vest and skirt.  Shelby turned and saw her and her mouth dropped open.  "Oh, she's so CUTE!"  she said.

She couldn't take her eyes off the young dancer in her costume, who would soon stand next to twelve other dancers, all in that same costume.  And dance on the big stage.  The dance that Shelby, herself, had taught them.  And I saw in her face the big picture.  You know the one.   That vision of the future that keeps us all going.  In that moment, she knew then that it wasn't all sweat and toil, drilling and counting.  That there was a bright spotlight ahead for the girls, for her.   An opening night in the future.  That she was part of a something bigger than herself.  That we all are.  And what we do touches lives that touch other lives and other lives like ripples in a pond, ringing out farther and farther...perhaps far into the future.  She looked at Jillian, she looked at me and she grinned from ear-to-ear.  And turned back to the task at hand.

The shining face of Shelby.  One of the sum of the parts that is greater than the whole.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lake Crazy

Well, it's been a not-so-quiet week at Lake Crazy.

It's been a long week, a short week, depending on how you look at it, but for all involved, it was a week that marked the culmination of months of planning and preparation for this bunch of fiercely independent theatrical types.  All of us gathered together--in assorted capacities but with a single purpose--to bring laughter, to bring tears, to transport Greenfield theatre audiences to a small carport beauty shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana.  

It went well.  No one said 'chicken' when they should have said 'dog', or 'gun' or 'baby' or 'tomato'.  A glass broke, the coffee had enough sugar, and issues with purses, coats, hats, food, doors, shoes, and hair all remedied themselves through the weekend run.

 The captain of our ship was all smiles--he and the first mate handing out hugs, notes, flowers, and praise like candy.  Our audiences were modest, but enthusiastic.  Their laughter and applause--music to our ears--encouraged each of us to bring what we each needed to bring, and in doing so, we earned their ovation at curtain call.

It was quite a week.  We all learned something.  We learned there's no need to be a high-maintenance diva because the stage crew treats us like royalty.  We learned that we enjoy being nice to each other.  We learned the chicken walk and that the show goes on--even after a mistake--and that life goes on.  We learned that audiences full of the ones we love are the best audiences.  We learned that it's what we have inside that matters.  We learned how much it takes to do what we do.  We learned that it's OUR opinion of ourselves that matters most.


It was an amazing weekend.  The Mama brought a year's worth of grief and joy to her performance and left us weeping in our seats and wondering at the strength of the human soul.  The daughter left the tatters of a paper bag on the Dungeon floor, broke a glass in her realistic portrayal, and broke through the fourth wall into the hearts of the audience.  She had point to prove and did so with no reservations.  The mouse showed us that she was ever so much more than Daddy's Girl.  She's theatre's child.  And even one-word lines can bring a chuckle.  The former mayor's wife acted with such a natural presence that if she showed up at your door with a tin of pecan tassies, you'd mistake her for your grandmother and invite her to stay through the holidays.  The laughter of the singer turned actress turned hairstylist was the glue that held it all together, as she brushed and teased and primped for two hours and 15 minutes, holding ever fast to her tenet that "There's no such thing as natural beauty".  And that grouchy ol' broad in the wacky hat finally learned to relax, delegate, and enjoy the ride.  If she's not careful, she'll get too comfortable in that back dressing room.

We all shared.  We wept together as sisters on stage and shared hugs as a cast, as a production team, as CrazyLake Acting Company, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  That's what we know and we do what we do, and next weekend, we get to do it again.  We'll be heading back to Chinquapin Friday night and Saturday. Come and go with us.  Get your hair done at Truvy's.  Share the love.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Machine

All this time, we've called it 'the KidsPlay Machine'.  By 'machine' I mean the tried and true, tightly efficient, time-perfected way that we band together to accomplish anything huge--Move Day, the performances, our day-time matinees, community projects--anything we do.  It always amazes me the parents who come out of the woodwork to 'make it happen'.  And it does.  I'm always amazed at their willingness to work hard, the above-and-beyond the call of duty and detail that putting on a production is--and how we make it happen.  Whatever we've done, whatever grand schemes we concoct, I know that the ever-amazing KidsPlay machine will be behind us and it will be successful.

But I may have to rethink this a little.  We are most of the way through the 'heavy-lifting phase' of "Steel Magnolias".  Our director (Dennis Cole) and our assistant director (Christy Laudig) assembled a team of more than 25 people for building, painting, set, props, costumes, moving, lobby, tickets, concessions--and a good number of them have never worked on a KidsPlay production.  They are a CrazyLake Machine.   Every bit as efficient, dedicated, and HARD-WORKING as the KidsPlay parents, and every bit as amazing.

In fact, I have to say, that following our very long day of Tech (the one day where we dismantle our set in the Dungeon rehearsal space, load it onto a trailer, reassemble it in the theatre, work with sound and lights and all the technical  aspects for the first time, and finish with a full run-through of the show), I was quite touched by the number of Facebook posts commenting not only on weariness and the length of the day, but by what a good time they had, what a good group of people with which they worked, the camaraderie of the team, and the 'good tired' feeling of having worked hard to accomplish a common goal.  I was moved by that.  It made me smile.

And I think that's what sets us--KidsPlay and CrazyLake--apart from the others:  the sense of team, the sense of family, the sense of appreciation from those of us who plan and dream and see the vision of what we're trying to accomplish.  Without these good friends, this strong support, this theatre family that is willing to band together to move the mountains we imagine, we are leaders of nothingness.  Without them, it would not happen.  And without them, it wouldn't be nearly as fun.  So here's to you, Bill and Joe and Ted and Jim and Rachel and Amelia and Pat and Johnny and Aaron and Amanda and Lex and Beth and....  You are the power behind the dream.

Missing the KidsPlayers....

My dear KidsPlayers--

You'll be rehearsing without me again this evening.  Please don't think I've forgotten you.  You're in my mind all the time, and I hope you'll forgive my missing presence.  But as I know you know, I'm in a play of my own this time (only the fourth one ever--most of you have more theatre experience in your short lives than I've had in 51 years!!) 

I do, hope, however, that you'll all make it to see "Steel Magnolias" some time over the next couple of weeks.  It's September 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, at 8 p.m. (6 p.m. on Sunday).  Then you'll see what all the fuss has ben about.  You'll see Jim Vetters' mom, you'll see Mr. Jacobs' wife, you'll see Ian, Alec, and Aubree's sister Payton.  I think we're pretty good and I think you'll enjoy it.  And if you make it to the show, don't forget to hang around in the lobby to give me a hug.  That's what we theatre types live for, you know.  Laughter and hugs.  ;-)

So do a good job this evening.  I look forward to seeing you all on Thursday to block the last part of the show.  I love flowers, but I love cowboys, too.

Love, love, love--


Friday, September 3, 2010

Ouiser Inside

There's always something about a full's a milepost, a turning point, a breakthrough moment. 

We ran through the whole show this evening, and I come home with almost an other worldly detachment from the mundane aspects of life.  My body is here, but my brain and my soul are still at the Dungeon...thinking about it, smoothing rough spots, pondering the differences between last night's rehearsal and this one.  I feel calm, relaxed, triumphant, immersed in character and in thinking through my parts and my character portrayal again and again. 

I think I found her tonight--Ouiser, the whole person.  Standing outside the door waiting for my entrance, I straightened my back and held my chin up, a different carriage than I've had before, and it was her.  I felt it in my bones.  I moved through a range of postures and finally found the way SHE stands.  Proud, backs down to no one, a mixture of Jayme, and my grandmother, and the restaurant owner, all stirred into one person. 

We are working so hard as a cast.  I think we make great leaps with each rehearsal.  Some leaps are more obvious on given nights than others.  Shelby is good, getting more so every night; Payton IS Annelle--she's perfectly cast; CVett also gets better every night--her emotional scene at the end will ultimately be her best moment ever on stage; Shari's laughter adds so much to the whole 'feel' of the show, each scene; and Jan as Clairee could not be more natural on stage if she tried.  It's all very true.  Very human.


I'm too tired to wash my hair this evening.  I should, but it will have to wait until morning.  My sadistic director and my like-minded cast-mates seem to be deriving great pleasure from ME being the one selected for the facial, the mustache waxing, the 'goop in hair'.  Me, probably the lowest maintenance person on the stage, and I have to put up with all these 'beauty' treatments.  Tonight, I got medical tape on my upper lip, cream all over my face, strands of hair pulled through a cap of sorts for...what...? Highlights, and then, the coup-de-gras:  they painted on a mixture of creme rinse and baking soda.  Gooey, then stiff and icky.  Ha.  Yeah.  Funny, guys.  Hope you're having a good time.  *I* have to take my curtain call in that mess.

An epic and memorable moment coming to the Ricks.  September 17, 18, 18, 24, 25.  If you don't have your tickets yet.  Probably should get them:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Becoming Ouiser

Yes, I'm in another show.  I believe I thought, in the weeks heading up to Yente, that I simply could NOT do that to myself again--put myself through the nervousness  and the stress of being on stage.  Sooooo much more comfortable in FRONT of the stage than I am ON it.  ;-)

This is a pretty interesting experience, this drama with funny parts.  There are just six of us in the cast--all women, with our one male director.  The process has been interesting, as we walk through rehearsal trying different things, trying to find that 'groove' that fits, that feels right.

I feel myself floating in and out of Ouiser.  I know how she sounds, how she feels, her facial expressions, but I'm not yet sure how she walks, stands or moves.  I know my lines inside and out, but they don't always come into my head during rehearsal because I'm not standing, moving, sitting like Ouiser.  Chuckle.  The lines seem to float in the air above me looking over all the characters to identify which one is Ouiser.  If they sense Ouiser, they dive down into my head and come out perfectly.  But if they don't see her, believe her to be Ouiser--if she isn't moving, standing like Ouiser should stand--then I have to reach up and grab them and force them out.  Dtrange theatrical psycho-babble, I know, but that's the best I can do to describe it.

Working on it.  Today, tomorrow--I will go to the Dungeon and walk through my blocking and internalize it as thoroughly as I know my lines.  Go over it again and again in a way there isn't time for in rehearsal.  I like her.  I like Ouiser.  I will be her.

And if you're reading this, you'd best not miss it.  This is going to be the best piece of drama ever to hit the stage at the Ricks.  :-)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Drama Camp--a Mountaintop Experience

I have to say that the Drama Camp has been one of the high points of this summer.  It has been some incredibly hard work, true dat...  But it has also been a wonderful experience mostly because of my amazingly dedicated, focused, and upbeat camp counselors who--get this--VOLUNTEERED their time to work with the young actors and actresses of the K-3 set.

The first good thing is that both camp sessions sold out.  At $75 for two weeks of half-days, it was a bargain.  And for what we gave, it was a steal:  a t-shirt, crafts, a snack, free play, theatre games, special presentations by guest actors, a field trip to the theatre, a framed photo of each kid, and a complete mini-production, complete with sets, costumes, and sound effects.  

The second good thing is that the framework of the camp was well set-up.  With me as overseeing director, two counselors assigned to each group (as director and assistant director), and two floating counselors to fill in anywhere they were needed, it worked very well.  I provided the structure, the content, and basically produced both plays, but it was the drama-teens who did the hands-on with the campers.  It ran SO much more smoothly than last year.  We worked a lot of the bugs out, expanded the camp from 15 to 20 kids, and broke the big group up into two smaller groups.  We came in every day with a plan; everyone had their assignments and for the most part, everything ran like clockwork, unlike last year when so much of what we did was 'what can do to fill the time until the end of the day?'.  We met each morning before the kids arrived to review the plan for the day; and at the end, we debriefed what was working and what needed tweaking.  In this way, it turned out to be not only a camp for the campers, but for the counselors as well, giving them experience in working with children, practice in being role models and on the job training in directing plays. 

 This is not to say that everything was perfect.  We learned that two weeks was not really enough time to produce the polished plays that we like to present.  The counselors were young and being theatre people, easily distracted (said the pot to the six kettles).  We did have to be flexible is the space we have, which could not support more than two groups of ten, each working on a play in a separate section of the room.  And we had issues, some larger than others, that needed hammering out each day. 

But the amazing third thing that worked and totally made the entire experience a high-point for me was my hard working camp staff.  They are truly to be admired for their dedication, their hard work, their patience with the kids.  There were amazing challenges in working with such youngsters, but their commitment to their craft, their desire to share their love of theatre, their patience, their faith, their good humor, their dedication never wavered, not once.  At the end of the first session, I asked who wanted to come back and five out of the six returned (the sixth had to go on vacation).

Aaron, Amanda, Charlie, Hannah, Jayme, Joe, Mitch.  My faithful, devoted camp counselors.  Working for nothing but the love of the game.  They remained undaunted and amazingly positive in the face of campers who were non-readers, had short attention spans, and possessed virtually no understanding of lines, cues, voice projection, or presentation, at all.  It was their upbeat attitudes, their dogged determination to join me at the ungodly summer hour of 8 a.m., their willingness to do the mundane and un-fun chores of mopping up spills, taking children to the restroom, cleaning up after crafts, sweeping the Dungeon and taking out the trash that kept me going.  At the end of every day, listening to them share stories of their interactions with the kids, the small theatrical victories, the funny stories, their laughing complaints, the touching moments, made my heart swell with love.  Knowing that we all had the common link, that love of theatre connects me to them and fills with love and admiration for these focused and dedicated young people.  

It was an amazing, uplifting experience, and I'm lucky, proud--and honored--to know them.  And I can't wait to do this again next summer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Favorite Memories from "Sleeping Beauty and the Beast"

1)  Wesley dancing with the sleeping Avery.
2)  The gorgeousness of the dancers in their costumes.
3)  My steady and protective young people in the booth; my faithful stageparents in every corner of that theatre.
4)  So many friends and former KidsPlayers in the audience.
5)  Beautiful and ethereal Ariel as Princess Rose.
6)  Tough, coy Megan as Snow White.
7)   Queen Julia Child.
8)  "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
9)  Alec preparing to lick his fur clean.
10)  Striking that set in an hour and half...
11)  Our elegant medieval lobby from ratty old lace curtains and material scraps.
12)  Prince Charmless and the breath spray.
13)  Attendance at all three performances.
14)  Igor in the dance.
15)  The poems and roses moments...

My Least Favorite Day...

I'm thinking that my least favorite day might actually become my MOST favorite day.

For the longest time, I hated the day after the show, because that was the day that everyone came up to me and apologized for not attending the show over the weekend. (I have an entire 'act' that I do surrounding--ask me some time....)

But now I'm thinking that my least favorite day might become my most favorite day. The amount of positive feedback I've gotten from this show has been absolutely amazing. I've had parents calling me up and telling me about OTHER children (besides their own) in the show who were good. I've gotten FaceBook messages and e-mails. On Monday morning, I was at GCHS and a woman that I see there frequently (but whose name I don't know) saw me and stopped dead in the doorway, gave a loud 'aahhhh', and proceeded to tell me how wonderful the show was, that she'd seen several and this was our best, the whole thing was totally engaging and when such-and-such character did this or that, oh, it was SOOO funny!

Wow. And not to mention the fact that we smashed attendance records. Over 700 people saw the show and that doesn't even count the matinee. Totally amazing.

And I don't think ONE person stopped me to say, "Oh, was this---this wasn't---it was! It was your show weekend, wasn't it? And I missed it! Oh, I'm so sorrrrryyyy...." Not one.

So, the day after the show, when I usually spend most of my time telling people, "Oh, it's okay. I know you're busy and you couldn't make it. Don't worry about it...." was spent with, "Thank you. Thanks. Wow, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!" instead.... My least fave day is now my most fave day. ;-)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

These days won't come again...

As director, I watch the same show over and over and over again. You think I'd get tired of it. I never do. Never. Today is the last day ever that I'll watch "Sleeping Beauty and the Beast". It seems impossible. And I feel the precious moments of my life slipping by before I can grab them. I don't want to take my eyes off the stage. I might miss something, something that will be important to remember years down the road. I want to memorize every nuance of every performer and permanently imprint it on my brain. I want to soak it all up--the color, the lights, the music, the warmth of the young people standing near me in the tech booth, the smell of the coffee in my hand. I want to walk around and burn every detail into my senses. I want to personally speak to each and every parent who has helped make this happen. I want to hug every single child in this show one more time before it's over.

Over. Too soon. Where does the time go?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Worries Falling Away...

I'm exhausted this evening. I've felt SO stressed for the past week, worrying about this presentation that the KidsPlayers were to make for the Hancock Community Foundation. There were costumes to finish up, lines to be learned...the details for the event were one knew exactly what the timeline for the event would be because no one knew how long any of the acts prior to our performance would take. And then I had an untried actor as my lead...a very talented young man, but undisciplined in the ways of character and the use of the actor's tools. And I had no idea how he would react in front of a crowd.

We spent a great deal of time last week working on just the scene we were presenting--the timing, the lines, the bigger-than-life characters I was asking for... We even went down to the theatre one evening to walk through it a few times.

And then yesterday--a very busy day. We moved the Gallery in the morning, and the preview performance was in the afternoon. My actors showed up in plenty of time--one concern alleviated. They looked GREAT in their costumes--another hurdle down. We ran the scene out back a couple of times and all the lines and characterization were there). Finally, it was time to do it in front of the crowd--and it went spectacularly. My leads gelled, they meshed, the shone!!! And I could feel my worries falling away, my shoulders straightening, my smile returning.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a show!!

Plot Summary of "Oklahoma"

Now don't get me wrong.  I LOVE the musical theatre.  I never tire of those old Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, the Lerner & Lowe gems.   I truly believe that musical theatre enhances my quality of life like nothing else.  Still, looking at "Oklahoma", one has to reflect at just how simplistic the plot for this delightful classic is....

True to expected male behavior, Curly shows up ON the day of the box social to ask Laurey to go with him.  He disses her; she sasses him.  He paints her this fantastical castle-in-the-air lie about taking her to the box social in some pimped-up carriage and when it turns out not to be true, she is pissed and promptly marches straight to the smoke house to strut her stuff in front of the creepy, sullen hired hand, Jud.  What Jud’s issues are, I’m not sure, but I suspect they’re related to the displacement of Native Americans from their homeland by the Oklahoma Land Rush.  In any case, Jud asks Laurey to the Box Social; she inexplicably agrees to go.

A ‘Box Social’ is apparently an event where, upon walking through the door, everyone immediately forgets with whom they came with because the apex of the evening involves bidding on various picnic baskets and then leaving with the owner of said picnic basket as arm candy.  Laurey came with Jud, Curly came with that harpy skank, Aunt Eller.  Of course, Laurey’s basket is the last one to be bid upon and, until the very end, it looks like Jud is going to be the victor.  Curly takes note of Laurey’s terror at being ‘won’ by Jud (even though this WHOLE scenario is HER fault) and proceeds to sell off all of his personal effects to members of the crowd (his saddle, his horse, AND his gun, which we suspect he may regret later) in order to outbid Jud and win Laurey’s goodies (so to speak).  Curly does manage to persevere and, in spite of having ransomed all of his available means of support (saddle, horse, gun), he and Laurey run off stage to wedded bliss.

The final scene finds Laurey and Curly about to go off on their honeymoon when Jud shows up.  Curly decks him with just one punch, and the drunken klutz falls on his own knife and dies.  For some reason, this is Curly’s fault and he’s due to be arrested and go on trial for murder.  Ten minutes before they’re to hop the train for their honeymoon, someone in the crowd who professes to be a judge (ah, the justice system in the old west) pronounces Curly not guilty.  “Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self-defense.”

Finally, finally, after suffering through petulant female performances, chauvinistic male posturing, and those tedious ballet interludes, we are treated to “Oklahoma”, the finale, for which we’ve waited the entire performance.  We immediately forget about all that and leave with a bright golden haze on our meadows and a song in our hearts.  The end.

Next up:  Ado Annie—Pre-Feminist Role Model or Frontier Slut.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Crossing the Bridge

I usually call this moment 'turning the corner', but because we're using Eileen Ivers' "Crossing the Bridge" as part of our musical interlude collection, THAT'S what I will call it this time.

I always have to write about this moment because it never ceases to be magical for me.  Every show starts with such high hopes.  I cast to the best of my ability, filling the parts with just the right people, and we rehearse--regularly, plodding along, running the scenes, adding to them, building them, putting in 'bits'.  We work and work and work, and suddenly, we reach a crisis moment.  I'm so stressed by rehearsal, pressured by self-imposed deadlines, trying to reach seemingly unfathomable standards for performance, character development, and actor's skill.

It seems especially difficult this show.  It seems like show after show, I pound home the idea that 'you are a real person, with real feelings, real language, real reactions...'  But this time, I've asked them to be something different.  Our spoof fairy tale requires larger than life characters, big Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd mugging, double-takes, asides to the audience, over the top reactions and movements.  That, combined with comedic timing, lines and blocking has made this show a pretty big challenge.  But...they're getting it.  Slowly but surely, they're getting it!!

We're doing a scene for the Hancock County Community Foundation's event on Sunday.  I've been so nervous, because I knew we weren't good.  Not up to our usual standard.  What we had was ordinary, amateurish, child-like.  But last night, the magical moment came...with patience, hands-on directing, and repetition, it came.  Working with my leads on the scene we're going to do--it clicked.  It was funny.  The parents I had in the audience laughed.  *I* laughed.  The timing was there, the playing to the audience, the facial expressions, everything!!  And it makes this week's restless, toss-and-turn nights, the stressful, high tension days TOTALLY worth it.

We have a show!!  My Kids are BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, TALENTED...  They never cease to amaze me. Mmwahh, my KidsPlayers!!!  ***  I adore you!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little

I just spent a delightful afternoon with the Clay Middle School Drama Club--the cast of "The Music Man" at the Hook's Drug Store Museum and Soda Fountain (at the State Fairgrounds). This was a pre-arranged visit for them...the producer, Patty Keller, wanted them to have a field trip experience back to the turn of the century, which was the time period for "The Music Man", and thought our little step-back-in-time would fit the bill nicely.

I got to the Museum early. Barb (the soda jerk) was there already, so the place was open and warmed up and ready to go and as their arrival time grew near, I felt my anticipation growing. Although we've given tours before, this one was different; there were theatre kids coming, and I felt a kinship with this group. This would be fun.

And oh, it was!! They tumbled off the bus, all in their show shirts, talking, laughing, and LOUD!!! I stood on a chair to address them about the history of the building and the role that the old time pharmacy played in small town America. I showed them some of the things I found most interesting and intriguing in the museum. They weren't shy with their questions and they laughed at my answers. And then I turned them loose to get a soda. They knew...they I, in my KidsPlay hoodie, was one of them.

It was then that the fun started. Standing in line for sodas (all 45 of them), they chattered and sang. I heard snatches of "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" and "Trouble" and some choruses from "Les Mis". They zipped around, looking at the various medicines and oddities in the museum, buying and sampling the retro candy. They bought up all the candy cigarettes and sen-sen. Guess later on they'll be "tryin' out tailor-mades like cigarette fiends and braggin' all about how they're gonna cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen...." Heh-heh. Too funny. One of the parents that was with them was the props mistress, and she bought a bunch of the big lollipops and some of the retro signs. She asked about our bags printed with the name of a pharmacist, and I gave her a stack of them. How could I not. She talked about her suitcase collection and I talked about my telephone collection. We bonded.

Finally, when everyone had a soda and had bought up all the candy they could afford, they piled back onto the bus, still laughing, talking, and being loud. I was sad to see them go, and I promised to try and make it to the show. It was a wonderful afternoon--and just what the doctor ordered...

What fun, what fun! And it was just what the doctor ordered...

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Actress's Journal...

Every show is a journey, a lifetime...and I'm about to begin another.

We're doing "Steel Magnolias". We, meaning CrazyLake Acting Company. I'm not directing, but producing, with hopes of being IN the show.

The director is my close friend. This is his first venture at directing. He's nervous and he's excited. As am I. Nervous and excited. I think back to the thoughts I had just moments before taking the stage in "Fiddler". So nervous was I, that I thought, "I can't do this to myself again." Yet here I am, poised to do just that in "Steel Magnolias". But it's an opportunity I can't pass up, a once-in-a-lifetime part. It's a goal I'm working towards.

So today, I sat with my friend, the director, with whom I will make this journey, in whom I have entrusted something that is most precious to me--my theatre group, our integrity, our reputation for quality. We talked about the show: about character, costume, hair (the whole show takes place in a beauty parlor), the relationships between the women. The collaboration between us, the melding of ideas is something to behold, almost magical.

I wanted to try out my southern dialect on him. He listened and then he said, "Leave the hiccuppy thing out; use just YOUR voice with the dialect." I stopped, imagined it, listened to it in my head, and mentally made the changes.

When I looked up, he was watching me intently and seriously. It was a very tentative moment. His 'note' for my voice was out of his mouth almost before he thought about it--and our decision to switch roles suddenly became reality. He slowly smiled, first with his eyes, and then the corners of his mouth, and I started to laugh. Oh, friendship is a wonderful thing! The secret brotherhood of making good theatre is a joy that cannot be rivaled. And I knew at that moment that my friend, this student of character and script, would not betray my trust in him.

I took his direction very seriously, and I know that, when all was said and done, I will learn something from from him, from this journey, this experience, this collaboration, this chance to act, rather than direct.

And all is right in the theatre world.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Watching the Boy Direct...

The Boy is directing his first play--a one-act called "Eternal Life: The Show", written by John Andreini.

I sit silently, watching seriously and with an outwardly critical eye, looking for ways to help, details to suggest.  I'm the responsible "overseeing adult" in the room.  But the smile inside pushes its way to my lips.  Inwardly, I feel as warm as the sun.  The Boy is directing his first show.  He's talked about it since last spring, when he was given the honor of being one of four upperclassmen drama students to do so.  And he is in his element.  Oh, yes he is.  Absolutely and totally.

He has been by my side, two, three, four, five shows now?  I've lost track, but I can see that it was time well-spent.  I see definite earmarks of 'the Schaefer School of Directing'.  I see him watching intently; I see him mentally acting along with his actors as they go through the scenes; I see him up on his feet, demonstrating what he wants from them--yes, a hands-on director.  Good.  I see him pushing them, nudging them, encouraging them.  But mostly, I see him smiling and laughing, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying the process.  His eyes light up when he adds a new bit, a defining detail, when he gets what he wants from his cast.    It's beautiful to behold.  His delight in his craft is infectious.  It infects his cast--they would follow him anywhere.  It infects me.  He's 'making magic', he says, and he's right. 

His show is cutting edge.  It's exactly what he would choose--something that will raise eyebrows and cause controversy:  Satan and God appearing on a game show together to vie for someone's soul.  Eek.  It's, uh, not for the easily shocked, it definitely pushes the envelope.   

He has a good and dependable cast--all are experienced actors; some are great; all are talented--perfect in their assigned roles.  He cast it perfectly.  They are malleable, directable actors, and he is their leader. There is but one director and it is him.

Many shows, I've done now.  Each show I've directed has been an experience unto itself, a lifetime, lessons learned, new friends and alliances made, a spiritual journey, a covenant between the director, the actors, and the audience.  I've done 30 such shows.  This is his first and I'm thinking that it won't be his last.