Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why It's Hard to Find Good Children's Theatre Scripts: Example #692

From a collection of holiday plays.....

The name of the play is The Christmas Tree From Outer Space.

It is 12 pages long.

Within that 12 pages, it manages to introduce 16 characters, and this includes one double-cast (Man/Tree Salesman).  The list of characters includes (but is not limited to):  the Narrator, E. Tree, Queen Connifer, Treesa, Conifernicus, Palmala, Ministree, and having run out of 'clever' tree names, there are also, Tree #1, Tree #2, Tree #3, Tree #4, and Tree #5.

But wait, it gets better.

Setting:  Simple sets suggesting a Throne Room, the Planet Fred, Hollywood Boulevard, a living room and a Christmas tree lot--all within 12 pages of action.


Oh, the Things We Acquire.....

Things we acquired for the past two KidsPlay shows (Attack of the Pom-Pom Zombies and Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens) that will probably go into deep storage never to be used again:

     1)  Five sets of wolf tales, furry gloves, and and ear hats.
     2)  Three metal period-style napkin holders (@$20 each...!!)
     3)  Four cast iron patio chairs.
     4)  A "Where's Waldo" costume and a mummy costume (that has had the seat sewn back in three times....)
     5)  Sixteen pairs of goggles.
     6)  Three foam core surfboards and 2 oars
     7)  Sixteen white lab coats.
     8)  Some 30 yards of tan and pink flowered ultra-suede material.
     9)  A Cher wig.
     10) A spinning bookshelf

Take note other theatre groups.  We are happy to rent or loan.  :-)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Godspell at Ten West

I went because it was Easter.  I went because I love the music.  I went because I wanted to see the inside of Ten West.  I went because I knew a couple of kids in the show....blah, blah, blah.  A longer list of reasons to go than not to I did.

Godspell.  Done and redone.  Especially around Easter.  As it should be.  Godspell and Superstar are sometimes the only pseudo-religious education today's individual gets.  Nevertheless, a nostalgic show for me; one that tends to leaves me homesick for the friends who shared that time in my life and for the teenager who played and played and played her vinyl copy of that musical throughout the 70s and early 80s.

Ten West.  Clean.  Compact.  Impressive what they've done with their space.  Getting the maximum potential out of the facility, to be sure.  Seating for over 100.  Ceiling fans, windows covered by cloth to keep out unwelcome daylight for matinee performances.  Curtains for backstage and cast-and-crew only areas.

Technically pretty tight.  Decent lighting; good variety; a mix of recorded and live music; clever use of technology in the opening video sequence.

And this is where the detached analysis ends.  What happened next, when the eight teenaged cast members took the stage, was the stuff of theatre magic, and I knew I was witnessing something special.

No, no, they're not bound for Broadway or anything like that.  The show could have used some polish...some microphone help...some minor details...but what set it apart from the myriad of productions of Godspell that came before it was the vibe given off by the cast up there singing and dancing their hearts out.

This was Ten West's first real production, put together by a bunch of Little Rascals-style teenagers and one patriarch with vision.  It doesn't take much to imagine the initial conversation:  "We can sing.  We can dance.  We love theatre and we got this stage!  WE CAN DO THIS THING!!!"  And by Jove and Dionysus, they did.  The joy and the passion and energy that these kids radiated was a delight to breathe in.  New young air, an oxygen-based fountain-of-youth to weary and jaded spirits.  That kind of air makes you sit up a little straighter, open your eyes a little wider, and make a mental note to watch a sunrise in the near future.  It reminded me well of the first production with my peers in the not so-so long ago--the love-fest that was the last week of rehearsal and performance were both surreal and almost holy, the sense of what we were creating together there.  Together.

This was the same.  Same energy, same exhilaration, same sense of the wonder of it all. As I remember that first production, long will these oh-so-talented kids remember this experience:  the joy, confidence, the cohesive, collaborative, chemistry of being at the top of their game; teenagers on the edge of adulthood and all that it brings.  Teenagers with as sure an understanding of who they are and who they aspire to be that it boggles the mind in these uncertain times.  Teenagers who radiate confidence like the warmth of the first spring day in March.

It's always something special, that first production, the heady high that comes from an appreciative audience, the world of possibilities that opens up when you realize for the first time that, yes, you can.  You CAN.  And isn't it wonderful?  Isn't it?  I know it is.  And thank you.  Thank you, Cameron, Derek, Lainy, Lindsey, Ryan, Sarah, Shelby, Stephani, Matt, Andrew and Paul for sharing your rejuvenating, life-affirming moment with the rest of us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How Lucky I Am

Before I get caught up again in the nerves and stress of next weekend's Greenfield Idol Finals, I want to take a moment to sincerely thank the top-notch members of my Greenfield Idol planning committee.  All of you--from the decorators, to the ticket seller, stage manager, and vote counters, to the judges and entertainment, the emcee, the KidsPlay ushers and runners, and the concessions folks--all played an integral part in making Saturday's Semi-Final round come together and run as smoothly as it did.  

Lisa who lent her 'insider perspective' to the planning, ran down great fill for the swag bags, and took some great photos (!).  Julia and Chris, who decorated the lobby, brought me cookies, and made me laugh hysterically with some behind-the-scenes stories.  Renita, who is always willing to fill in wherever she is needed be it decorating, backstage, or videoing (!!).  Corey, a calm voice of reason and practicality, counting the votes.  Oh, and Jim, who devised our vote-tallying spreadsheet!  Trever, the unflappable, natural-born emcee who paced and measured the show.  Chris, the ever-positive encourager, counting votes, selling tickets in the lobby to latecomers.  Catherine, Queen of the Concessions.  I need never worry that we'll run out of Snickers.  Frances and Adrianna, selling tickets at the shop and showing up at the Dungeon and helping with the myriad of last-minute stuff before heading to the theatre.  Dennis, with his bright idea for the ear-bud, and last minute repairs on the sign, his wonderful videos, and his ALL of the other things he does as if Idol was his life's work.  Oh, and Diane and Scott, who made our beautiful Greenfield Idol sign last year.  And all of the KidsPlayers who helped out:  Maggie, the runner; Lucy, Ellie, Ian, Jordyn, Grace and Lauren; and Adrianna, again.  This show was for you, you know--when you get ready to launch your college theatre careers, KidsPlay will be there to help out.  :-)  And to our judges--Mark, Nancy, Katie, Anne--who gave up a Saturday night to come and judge Greenfield Idol--the smiles on your faces told me you clearly enjoyed yourselves.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I realize anew how lucky I am to work with such dedicated and committed people, all of whom know their role in 'the KidsPlay machine' and know how to make it work.  I'm lucky that I have people around me with whom it's a truly enjoyable process to brainstorm on ideas and then work to improve on those ideas.  I'm surrounded by people who follow through on the commitments they make and go above and beyond in that commitment.  And I'm extremely grateful that the people around me are able to work with me, in the ups-and-downs of event planning, that they are there to nudge me on when I get stuck in a blue groove, and that they are there to share in the elation of success and a job well done.  

I am very lucky.  I know that.

Our main goal on Saturday was service:  making sure our judges were treated like royalty; making sure our contestants received star treatment; and that our audience saw a flawless and professional-grade production.  I think we accomplished that goal--and it's because of all of you.

How lucky I am.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Just Getting Started

Reflecting on a amazing rehearsal with the KidsPlayers last night.  I'm pushing them pretty hard and they are rising to the occasion.

We work on accents.  Maggie has made great strides in reining in her tendency towards sounding like Eliza Doolittle.  It's clear she has done some outside work on it and that's impressive.  I do believe she could now pass for British aristocracy.   And although Colin was absent last evening, I have to commend him on his excellent Scottish accent.

We work on character.  The were-hyenas have to laugh constantly, but have to moderate their volume up and down to accommodate the continuing dialogue over the top of their laughter.  Keeping up that kind of laughter without hyper-ventilating can be tricky, but I know we're getting somewhere when I look back and see the parents smiling, caught up in the infectiousness of the constant giggling.

We work on timing.  The screaming Mummy comes in and she's so loud that the kids have trouble focusing.  We go over and over the scene, pushing it until the last word of of one character's speech overlaps with the first word of the next.  By the time we finish, Dr. Evil and Sherman and the Mummy have created a scene charged with dynamic energy that pops and crackles.

We work on physical comedy.  The Mummy gets pushed through a door that she doesn't want to go through.  In the course of it, she bumps her head, her arm gets scraped, fingers pinched in the door.  We work on it until it's a safe, but believable scene.  And it works.

We work on inflection--emphasize THIS word and not that.  We work on facial expression--a quick glance, an eye roll, look, don't look, look and look away.  We work on volume and speed of delivery--louder, then soft; say this faster and it will be funnier; slow that down so it sinks in to the audience.  All are pretty sophisticated concepts for actors as young as these and they get it.  They really do.

The trust is amazing.  I trust them to carry the role, to live up to the responsibility of lines, character, out-of-rehearsal work, and they trust me to make them funnier, better, to push them to the best they can be.

And really, we're just getting started, just getting warmed up.  This is gonna be one for the ages.  Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens.