Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Live Theatre--Gotta Love It"

So.  Sydera hung her wig on the 'hot lights' (we really should have put tape over that switch) and it melted.  The inside was blackened in several areas.  The blond hair fused together and turned dark brown in places.  When they brought it to me, it was still too hot to touch.  But a serious session with a curling iron, scissors and the addition of a feathered bow made of feathers from her boa and it was passable.  The show moved forward and she went on, just as hilarious as usual.

Trever went to pick up the kitchen chair for his 'lion-tamer bit', and the top of it just popped off.  He took it in stride, waving it about as if he were Charles Atlas himself.  Glad Rachelle wasn't there to see it.  That vintage table and chair kitchen set is a favorite of hers.  Chris entered moments later and point-blank asked him, IN the show, "Did you break this?"  Trever said, "I'm sorry!"  And Chris proceeded to try and put it back together as best she could.

Zane's phone, upside down and tangled in the legs of his ladder; and then, when it came time for him to stand, his foot got caught in the ladder.  Thank goodness he's already playing a doofus....  (<3 p="">
Then, during Trever's frenetic dash to try and get his mother's head out of the oven, the flat rolled a little and the refrigerator door swung open.  Dennis, our Safety Chairman, had us remove the latch so that no kids would ever get locked in accidentally.  The door just very slowly opened all the way up--180 degrees.  Glad I took the time to fill the 'never-seen' inside of it with a painted milk bottle, fruits and vegetables, bowls, and other stuff to give it that 'real fridge' look.  Trever eventually glanced over at it, gave one of his patented Trever-startle jumps, got up and closed it.

It's funny, that in theatre, we strive for the flawless, perfectly-executed performance, yet it's these stories--of which there are many, worse and funnier than these--that live in infamy.

  • Geoffrey's inability to 'find Freddie'
  • the picture that fell off the wall during 'the chase' and each cast member that ran by stopped and tried to rehang it, but then was forced to resume the chase sequence before the job was completed, until finally 'the mystery hand' appeared through the door and slowly slid it into place
  • an orange juice glass that went flying
  • Austin stuffing his mouth with the picnic cookies backstage during the final performance, forgetting that he had to come on stage and say a line immediately after
  • Jesse forgetting his photographs 'in the bushes'
  • pants that fell down during the dance
  • a fake cigarette accidentally set on fire
  • fog machines that set off the smoke alarm
  • An 'F-bomb' dropped by the Catholic school teacher during the Lord's Day matinee 
  • a missed entrance, leaving two 6th grade girls to ad-lib ten minutes of dialogue while sitting on a bench at the county fair--until they finally decided to 'call it a day' and go get a lemon shake-up
And many more....  Classics, now.  These are the things we talk about, late into the night at Steak n' Shake, remembering.  Laughing hysterically.  And me, the director, trying to frown, insisting that a mistake-free performance is the bar we're reaching for, but laughing in spite of myself all the same.

Live theatre.  You gotta love it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Let Me Wake Up in the Morning to Find I Have Somewhere Exciting to Go...."

     I leaped out of bed this morning.  Song lyrics coursing through my head.

     "Let me wake up in the morning to find I have somewhere exciting to go....."  Okay, yeah, that's from A Chorus Line but it applies here.  There should be an actor's version of this song.

     I'm just coming off of three nights of auditions for Bye Bye Birdie.  It will be the first ever CrazyLake musical.  Yes, I've come full circle now.  Bye Bye Birdie was the show I did in high school that started this whole theatre mess.  Reid LeFavour and Hilda Studabaker, wherever you are, thank you, thank you.  You have no idea how you have impacted my life.

     My co-director, music director and choreographer is Amy Studabaker--no relation to Hilda, but...certainly serendipitous, don't you think?  Last year, she was the music teacher at Mt. Vernon High School and I was the drama director--a job I stumbled into quite by accident.  I insisted upon meeting the person I with whom I would be working before even applying for the job.  We discovered that we were both from the same home town. of Bluffton...serendipitous x 2.  My family knew her family, and we have many touchstones in common, but to make a long story short, after she toured me through the building, we knew we were meant to be a team.

We worked one show together--The Music Man--at MV, and then she left on maternity leave and never came back.  End of story?  Not on your life!  When our high school production ended, she asked me, "So.  If I wanted to do some theatre, where would I go?"  [Oh, darlin', I'm so glad you asked!!]  And right then and there, Amy Studabaker and Christine Schaefer, two homegrown Bluffton girls, began laying the plans for CrazyLake's first musical, Bye Bye Birdie.

In the meantime, I directed Laughter on the 23rd Floor, a comedy that Amy took a small part in.  It was pretty much love at first sight between Amy and my CrazyLakers; our tight little family grew by one (two, if you count Patrick; three if you count Steve).  Amy directed her church choir; I directed another show at Mt. Vernon and a show at KidsPlay....and finally May , 2014, rolled into town.

Amy and I called in all our resources, all our markers.  We tapped into pockets of people we've been acquainting ourselves with from years past, shows past, jobs, past, friends, friends of friends, talented folks who lives we've touched and who have touched our lives, to come and audition for this show.

Auditions!  Such talent.  Such singers!  A preview of cra-a-a-a-zy choreography.  A demonstration of Amy's vocals.  Girls doing everything but setting their hair on fire to play the part of Kim.  Actors that knocked it out of the park for Albert, Mae Peterson, Hugo Peabody, and Ursula, and Mr. and Mrs. MacAfee.

I do believe that something's coming (thank you, West Side Story).  This could be the start of something big (thank you, Steve Allen).  The moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter is aligned with Mars (thank you, Hair).  What I mean is, I haven't been this excited about a show and a cast in awhile--well, at least since the last show, but this is different.  New.  Alive.  Buzzing with energy and excitement.  And. I. Can't. Wait.

Once again, I marvel at the frantic, frenetic, drama-filled (on multiple levels) life I lead.  How lucky I am to be here, in this time, in this place, collaborating with, quite honestly, the most talented people I know.  HOW did we all end up HERE?  HOW NOW?  What stars aligned to bring us all together?  I don't know, but I like it.  I LOVE it.  Theatre makes every day a holiday.



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What We Are Made Of...

Here is what we are made of:

I have these two young men who are co-starring in this show.  Both have been with KidsPlay since (at least) the third grade.  Both are very talented, but they bring very different skill sets to the stage. One of them, time and time again, has been my 'go-to guy' for the lead role, the dashing young hero, the love interest, the star of the show.  The other has been my 'go-to guy' for roles such as the clueless father, the king, the principal--in other words, the goofy sidekick, the 'funny guy' supporting role.  Both have made the absolute most of their very different characters.

This play, their final show together on the KidsPlay stage, is different.  They are paired together this time around, co-stars, equal billing, equal stage time.  Both are leaders.  Both are on stage for most of the show.  Both, in the past few days leading up to performance, have show the strain of being the ones to carry this show forward.  They have had their moments of stress, but both have bounced back the next rehearsal, ready for more.

A life in theatre is a life of criticism.  A director is constantly telling you what to do, how to improve.  In other words, "You're not good enough.  You're still not good enough.  You're okay now, but here's how to be even better."  And if you're a kid actor, then you have everybody from your older sibling, to your co-actors, to your backstage dad, to the lighting guy, for crissake, telling you what you're doing wrong and how to fix it.

My one lead guy, the one more used to the spotlight, has shined in this show.  I've reigned in his quirks, softened his vocals, and worked on making him more comedic than his previous 'straight man' roles have required.  My other lead guy has worked on slowing down, enunciating, and how to be more of a 'straight man' than he's played before, and how change up his line delivery.  I've worked with both of them on not upstaging each other, on being a team.  And to be honest, it's been a challenge.

Last night, at our Preview Performance, all I had hoped for came to pass.  An equally shared spotlight, continuity, smooth line delivery, flawless interaction.  Their individual performances blended together seamlessly into one co-performance.  Notes following the show, were full of praise for the one who had always played second-fiddle to the other on his spontaneous cleverness, the off-the-cuff bits he added, his clarity of voice and his consistency of character.  Numerous moments of applause from the cast, sitting and listening to the compliments.  Even his co-star jumped on the band wagon with praise for his stage partner.

But afterwards, the young man who had been the star of so many KidsPlay shows, the recipient of many, many good notes, pats on the back, congratulations for his performances, came up to me and asked, in earnest sincerity, "Is there anything I can do differently to bring my performance up to ________'s level?"

That is what we are made of here.  Amazing attitudes.  An amazing sense of team.  The understanding that we are all in this together and that the improvement of one is the improvement of us all.  We are made of this, and more:

1)  Being able to take a beating with a duffle bag full of socks.
2)  Spending the better part of the performance in handcuffs.
3)  Running from stage right to stage left behind the theatre in the rain.
4)  Changing costumes not once, not twice, but three times, and sometimes with in the span of just a couple minutes.
5)  Having to handle a ventriloquist dummy and act like you're not totally creeped out.
6)  Wearing a bald cap for the entirety of the show.
7)  Kissing TWICE on stage ("Ew, boys."  "Ew, girls.").
8)  Dealing with the stuffy and crowded conditions backstage at the Ricks.
9)  Having a 'butt' sewn into your costume, and a brassiere stuff with kleenexes because you're a 5th grade girl playing a 70-year-old woman.
10)  Making mistakes--spilled water, a suitcase that won't open, a prop thrown off stage, costumes that won't stay on--that look like they were all part of the show.

All this, and still more.  And we cannot WAIT to show the audience what we're made of.