Saturday, September 22, 2012

"A Star is Mighty Good Company..."

Okay, I admit I have blown hot and cold on "Our Town".  It's a well-worn piece of theatre, done by everyone at one time or another.  It is beautifully executed by a director who cares very much about the message, with strong and powerful performances by George, Emily, the Stage Manager, Simon, Mrs. Webb, the Gibbses....  But rehearsals have been long and grueling.  I have three lines.  I move furniture.  And of course, I sit....and sit.....and sit.

Fast-forward through Tech Week to Opening Night.
The young lady, Michelle Wafford, who plays Emily presented everyone with a gift.  I set mine aside at first, in the rush of getting ready.  But then I went to open it.  The box said Oriental Trader.  What trinket, I wondered, did she find at Oriental Trader to represent "Our Town"?  Or would it be just some generic good-luck gift?   I took it out, and unwrapped it--it was a silver star, hung with a satin cord.  Written on it with permanent marker was this:  "A star is mighty good company...."  A line from the show, which just happens to be MY line.  ONE of my three lines. And of course, the tears came.

A star IS mighty good company.  The starlight created by the lights on stage, the stars around me who carry the show so elegantly and eloquently, and the star that burns in all of us to make sure we look as hard as we can for as long as we can, that we live life to the fullest, and that you never know when the tiniest of gestures--a silver star on a satin cord--will touch someone and bring the message home.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Equal Time

I've taken a little grief for not posting about the third show I'm involved with:  Acting Up's production of "Our Town".

"Our Town" is a classic piece of high school and community theatre, but this professional production, directed by R. Brian Noffke, is art on the stage.  Under his meticulous direction and fine hand, Acting Up Productions has created a living painting, a time capsule of turn-of-the-20th-century life, without benefit of a paint brush, a set, or even props.  Only a handful of chairs and tables set the stage for this portrait of the human condition.  Beautifully directed and skillfully, balletically performed by Noffke's actors, we see small town life as it was circa 1901-1913.  You will smile, nod, and perhaps wipe a tear or two, while peeking through the window into the lives of the Gibbs family and the Webb family, as their two children embark into their adult lives together.  You'll love and recognize their neighbors as they go about their daily lives, delivering milk, running off to school, attend church choir practice, and stopping by the soda fountain for some refreshment.  It is an elegant and thought-provoking piece which belongs in everyone's cultural literacy library.


And if all of the above weren't enough reason to see it, far down, like maybe 23rd or even 31st on the list of reasons to see "Our Town" is the opportunity see one Christine Schaefer, Empress of Boundless Energy, doctorate in ADD, Queen of the Fidgets, and Founder of Our Collective Problem, sit completely still for nigh on 107 minutes.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I'm now involved in three productions and have two fund raisers in the making.  Could life possibly more hectic?

KidsPlay rehearsal last night:  we're working on "Attack of the Pom-Pom Zombies".  I have 42 kids in the cast.  It is mind-boggling, but I really haven't thought (or screamed), "Why did I do this to myself?  Never again!  No more than 25 EVER again!!!"  Amazingly, it's been fairly low-key.  I can imagine that if you've sat in on rehearsal that you don't think so, but...really, it's been okay.  I have a high tolerance for chaos and noise.

Blocking is tedious stuff.  It's the time when tempers are most likely to fray.  Mostly mine.  With this age group, when you give a note to one kid--the ten kids in closest proximity all HAVE to try it out themselves.  It's like an unwritten rule.  It drives me crazy,'s just the way it is.

We are way behind in the blocking.  Act I is blocked.  It took double the rehearsals than I thought it would.  It's the fact that most of the 42 kids are on stage all at the same time.  Crowd scenes are the absolute worst.  They're difficult to envision, difficult to manage (getting everyone to stay right where I put them), and slow, slow, slow.  Crowd scenes need to be 100% choreographed--otherwise, they DO look like chaos.  Even if chaos is what you're trying for, every move has to be thought out.

We started blocking Act II last night, almost a week and a half behind schedule.  It was slow, and the kids are SO excited!  They want to add their input, their ideas.  I generally love that, but I'm on a time schedule here, and six kids who want to try six different, tell me about it at the next rehearsal.  I mean, I'm glad they're into it, glad they're thinking about it--but kids!!  We gotta finish this up by 8:30!!!

In the end, we stopped six pages short, at 8:00, and I asked them to rerun what we'd done in Act II.  I call this the 'Lock' part of "Block and Lock".  We block it, and then we run it to 'Lock' it in.  It was amazing how the chaotic look of the blocking suddenly totally flowed.  I was kind of awed, actually.  As I was blocking, I kept thinking, "This won't work because we can't see this person," and "I'll have to go back and reblock that..."  but watching them run through it, well, it looked pretty dang good.

And I'm proud of the kids.  Really proud of them.  Blocking isn't fun--and we're not done yet--but they still all have smiles on their faces.  I haven't crushed any spirits just yet in the pressure to finish this phase of rehearsal.  Lol.

I love those kids.  Lucky is my life.

Under the 'be careful what you wish for' category, I have taken a new job.  I've been hired on as the Drama Director at Mt. Vernon High School.  This isn't the time or the place to revisit old incidences.  Suffice it to say, I'm as excited as a kid in a candy store to be working with teens again.

There's not enough time to write of the optimistic thrill I feel in working with their music director, Amy Studabaker, another Daughter of Bluffton.  What a coincidence!!  Talk about the planets aligning.  I only hope she's as thrilled with me as I am with her.  This might be premature, but I have visions of quite a few shows to come here.  :-)  And THAT thought makes me smile.

The kids.  There have been so many amazing happenstances here and one of them is that so many of them were able to make it to a single audition with barely 48 hours notice.  The casting was so fast, and another one of the miracles of the entire thing is the serendipitous, mutual agreement between the music director and myself as to whom should play the leads.  Again, the stars align.

I haven't gotten too much face-to-face time with them, except to speed-read them through auditions, introduce myself, lay out a code of conduct and throw out a rehearsal schedule that only the kids from Glee could manage.  They seem so excited.    They seem so grateful to have someone step and and direct.  In truth, they seem as excited as I am.  I hope I can live up to my reputation that precedes me and to the expectations they have of me.

My first blocking rehearsal is tonight.  Tonight, we start the real work.  And I can't wait to get started.