Sunday, August 29, 2010

Laramie

Okay, I know it's been awhile. All summer actually and I apologize for those of you loyal enough to follow this blog. I will tell you the tale of how the rest of my summer went in another blog post. This one is dedicated to The Laramie Project, the show I am directing at the Stage Co.

The Laramie Project is a show about the impact of the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay man age 21, in Laramie, WY in October of 1998.  He had been beaten, tied to a buck fence and left for dead. Eighteen hours later he was found, still alive, and sent to the hospital, where he died three days later. The show not only tells the story of Matthew's death, but also of it's impact on the town of Laramie. The Tectonic Theater Project, headed by Mois├ęs Kaufman, went to the town and conducted over 200 interviews with the residents. Their stories, and the stories of the members of the Tectonic Theater Company, make up the play The Laramie Project.

I was thrilled when I heard that the Stage Co., the local community theater, was going to produce this show. I honestly didn't believe that they had it in them. I didn't think the play would be accepted by the play selection committee. I was wrong. I applied to direct the show, with the not so subtle encouragement of fellow theater members and I was given the honor.

Well, tonight, we had our first read through. And it was AMAZING!!!! I am so very pleased with my cast and fellow director that I can't stand it. We all sat in a circle on the stage and just read. It was the most powerful, emotional, well done read through that I have ever been a part of. I was speechless after the rehearsal was over. I quoted something that I believe is very important to the production of this play. Father Roger Schmit says that "...I will trust you people that if you write a play of this, that you...say it right, say it correct. I think you have a responsibility to do that."

We have now accepted that responsibility and I, for one, am proud to take that responsibility on. I still have goose bumps thinking back on tonight. I can see the potential and the end, along with the journey, is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. I can't even begin to explain the power and the excitement and joy and passion and love that I already feel for this cast and this production.

People of Laramie: May I do you proud.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Doors

I'm sure those of you on Facebook have seen my posts about doors and wondered what was going on. Let me explain;

I have eight doors onstage for Unnecessary Farce and, as the name implies, the show is a farce with all the typical misunderstandings, pratfalls, and ins and outs that a farce has. Trying to remember which door stays open and which door stays shut, making sure the timing of the opening and shutting of doors is right and trying to get the actors to remember which doors are left open when they exit a room (a feat in and of itself, not to mention them having to remember the blocking and lines and where props go) is difficult. I've spent several hours going over the script and creating door charts and walking the blocking on the set to try to get it fixed in my head so I could direct the actors about the doors and I still feel that I am continually missing a couple of the door moves. It;s very much like a dance. The timing needs to be dead on and if a door is shut, the next action could be completely missed. It is the exact kind of thing that I am not good at and really have to work at to get straight in my head. I have a new appreciation for those '70's sit coms like Three's company. And it only had five doors. But, as of now, I can only give notes and if the actor's miss a door close or door open cue, they will have to get out of it on their own. I will be up in the booth calling the show. Tricia can help them out some with the doors because she is backstage and I think they have it down. They are good at their job and I have all the faith in the world that it will be a good show.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day Two–McLeod Summer Playhouse

Today was the day that we had to tape the stage floors for Unnecessary Farce and Spelling Bee. I felt better going in because I had a concrete task to perform and to get ready for. So I got to the theater around 830am and got a hold of the measuring tape and spike tape that we would need and set about clearing the space in the Lab theater so we tape the stage.  Then Tim (the director) and my scenic designer, Jason, showed up and we began measuring the space for the groundplan. Taping out the stage took a lot longer than I had planned. We had a little trouble getting the measurements right and apparently today was one of my clumsy days. We were measuring out the center line (the line that divides the stage into right and left) and I thought I had depressed the button that would hold the tape open, but when I let go of it, the tape speed toward its end, which Angela (the SM for Spelling Bee and The Drowsy Chaperone) was holding. Luckily it didn't hurt her or anyone else. Then we had to redo a couple of things: the doors to the closets had been placed opening the wrong way and we had to shorten the center corridor and move everything back by about two feet. Then we started getting all the props for the set dressing together which could have waited until tomorrow and given the props master another day to get it all together instead of rushing him this morning. I didn't realize that Tim would have wanted that, but I should have anticipated it and prepared the props department for it. Something else to put in my "What I have learned this summer" book. Always try to anticipate the needs of the production and see if you can get it done earlier than expected. Which goes along really well with my terror of being two steps behind.
   We finally got Unnecessary Farce taped out and then nyself, Angela, Tricia (my other fellow stage manager), Jennie (the director of Spelling Bee) and Jason went to Altgeld to tape out Spelling Bee in that rehearsal space. This took about a half an hour. It went very quickly and smoothly. Angela is great. She basically used a coordinate system and then played connect the dots. It worked really well. She is a major in Stage Managing at Webster University. She had everything planned out and directed the taping easily. I think this is what went wrong with the taping of Unnecessary Farce. I still am not sure how to do the conversions from the blueprint of the ground plan into real space, and if I had known to do it, I would have prepared the way to do it and measured out the space yesterday and had everything prepared so I could come in and direct the taping, knowing exactly how to place everything and direct everything. Again, another thing to add to my "learned this summer" book. Now I know. I will have two more opportunities to learn how to do this and make it work correctly.
   After we got Spelling Bee taped, I went back to the lab and made the props were on the tables and cleaned up the space in preparation for tomorrow's rehearsal. I also got the sticker on my car and so everything is taken care of until tomorrow! At least, I hope it is! :)

Day One–McLeod Summer Playhouse

Well, yesterday started my job at McLeod Summer Playhouse. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure what to do or what needed done. I had finished what I could of my prompt book and had contacted or tried to contact. I had made my copies of the scripts and sent them out, gotten a hold of the rehearsal schedule, and made sure my actors where going to be at the right time and place. I needed to tape the stage (the process by which the stage manager and preferably some helpers lay out the ground plan on the floor of the stage in spike tape so the actors and crew will know where everything is, how doors open, how big of a space they have to play in and what the space looks like generally), but that was going to happen on Thursday. I had decided that I was going to go in, make sure all my keys work, meet the people who I didn't know or hadn't met yet, and get any information I could that I didn't have. Then I was going to go home and spend time with my kids before my 13 hour days started. Surprisingly, this is exactly what happened, in addition to learning how to turn the lights off and on in McLeod and learning what to do if all of the lights go out and I need to reset the lighting system. I met the person who is in charge of costumes right now (our costume designer actually won't show up until Monday) and talked to her about rehearsal costumes for Friday. And I also found out how to schedule fittings and make things work in that arena. I talked to the scene shop supervisor, Bryce, and got a groundplan from him. I got more information from my fellow stage managers which I had not received. I talked to the company manager about getting a car sticker. I think I got quite a bit accomplished and I found out what else I needed to do. All in all a very productive day.
    Although I did happen to feel out of the loop because I had not been sent the company list, which list everyone, what they are doing and their contact information. This in and of itself would not have bothered me, but I also didn't know Bryce so I had to make sure he got me put onto the MSP Google calendar, which tells us every event that is going to happen this summer during playhouse and how things are going to work. Again, just an oversight, probably on my part, and readily fixed, but then it happened again when I talked to John about my parking sticker. He didn't have one for me and I wasn't on his list. Okay, third time's the charm and it starts getting a little worrisome. Again, this was readily fixed, but I was a little nervous that I had completely missed something that everyone else knew about and that I was supposed to do and hadn't done. It's the feeling of being two steps behind everyone else. I have felt this way all my life, which is why, when it comes to stuff like this, that I try to get it done way in advance. I had my prompt book bought and started about two-three months ago. Why, when Bob (the guy who hired me) said that I should send out copies of the script, I had them out about 1-2 months ago. I hate the feeling that I am missing something or that I should have done something that I didn't know I was supposed to do
   But in the end, a very good and productive day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Night Falls on 'night, Mother

There was this magical thing that happened during the performances of 'night, Mother. We started the show at 7pm at which time the sun is still up and it's about an hour to dusk and an hour and a half 'til nightfall, which is how long the show is. As the show progressed, night descended outside. We performed the show in the lobby area of the Unitarian Fellowship in Carbondale. The "back wall" of the stage was a row of large windows and doors that were mostly glass. This let in a lot of light. But as night fell, and the play became more serious and darker, so did the setting. With less light the whole set became more intimate, darker. It was a beautiful touch to the show and something we had not planned on. It made the whole show a touch more magical, mysterious and dark. I really enjoyed the effect the sun setting had on our show. I like the fact that we hadn't planned it, but it just sort of happened. Sometimes the most glorious things happen spontaneously. It was a subtle effect, but it was a beautiful touch.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'night, Mother

The Three Graces, the theater company of which I am a co-founder, is producing 'night, Mother by Marsha Norman as a suicide awareness benefit for the LifeSavers Training Corp, a organization that provides a hotline and counseling services for teens to help them deal with crises. Susie brought up the idea of a benefit dealing with suicide while we were working on Lion in Winter. She thought it would be a great idea for a community theater company to actually benefit organizations within the community. A theater company that helps the community instead of just being another form of entertainment. I thought this was a great idea. So, we decided on producing 'night, Mother because it deals with a topic that is usually never mentioned. Suicide. Suicide is a taboo subject mainly due to religious beliefs, but also due to the painful and confusing emotions is brings up. The problem with this is the fact that suicide and the feelings surrounding it, mainly depression, is extremely prevalent in the world. Almost everyone has thought or knows someone who has thought about it or who has actually succeeded in committing suicide. The statistics were scary when I looked them up for my proposal to the Unitarian Fellowship.
    But how does one bring up the subject of suicide? Why is this such a painful topic? I think it's because the people who are left behind, feel guilt and feel the pain because someone they loved hurt so much they killed themselves. I can't imagine what I would do if someone I loved committed suicide. My uncle did so when I was about 12 years old. He had left a note telling his family where he was and what he was going to do. They called a friend of hi and the police and they made it to the cemetary just in time to hear the gunshot. I remember the shock that everyone felt, along with the pain of losing a loved one. I remember people not being able to understand and the feeling of guilt at not being able to help him. At not knowing how much he had been hurting.
   I have also dealt with this topic in myself. Depression, loneliness and I have never seen those feelings so accurately portrayed as in 'night, Mother. The play revolves around a daughter, Jessie, telling her mother that she is going to commit suicide. The things that Jessie says. The strength of her conviction, of her decision, is a damn good reflection of those feelings. Mama is the embodiment of all the emotions that the people who are left behind feel. The guilt and pain and confusion. I have never seen the topic discussed so openly and honestly. It is refreshing. The play is painful to watch. It hurts in places that you may have forgotten about. The part of you that you don't let show to other people. The part of you that is the rejected lover. The part of you that feels like a failure or like someone who can never get better. But it does what theater is supposed to do. It makes you look at all the hard parts. It makes you look at all of the emotions and examine them. It makes you look at the world around you and see it in a different way. The theater is supposed to change people. Make them better. Educate them about themselves and the the people and world around them in a way that they can comprehend.and relate to on several levels.. It's purpose is not just to entertain. It is supposed to give a message. If you are brave enough to look at those parts and, even embrace them, I highly recommend that you see a production of 'night, Mother, whether it's the Three Graces production or another production somewhere, some time else. If you can look into the abyss and have the abyss look back at you, if you can look into the darker places, you can come out on the other side a different person,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breaking Glass

Okay, so I'm working on this show, Beyond Therapy, at the Stage Co. in Carbondale and one of the sound effects that we have to do is the sound of a vase breaking. Easy, right? Just break a vase, sweep up the pieces with a broom and have done with it. Nope. Can't just break a vase backstage. It's just not safe. So, how do we do this? One of my actors, Jared, who plays Bob the spurned gay lover, mentioned that when they have had to do this foley (sound effect) before at John A. Logan College, they've gotten a box with gravel in it. Okay, good. I take my kids and spend about a half an hour picking up a bucketful of gravel. I get it to the theater and set it up for Jared to throw down the vase. Problem: The box I had wasn't deep enough and glass sprayed everywhere. Remember that safety thing I was talking about? Yup, that was it. So this wasn't going to work. Plus the fact that the sound didn't carry into the house (audience area of the theater). It just sounded like a thump. So, what next? We could have just laid the vase in the gravel and hammer it, but we would have the same issue with the sound and the safety. So I tried putting the vase in a plastic bag and hitting it against the wall. Another Bad Idea. It broke, but it also tore the bag to shreds in the process, so while glass didn't get me in the face, it did get all over the floor. Plus, the sound didn't carry. Again, it just sounded like a thump. Okay guys, we're going for the tinkling sound that glass makes when it breaks, not a thump. Next idea. Still use a bag and hammer the glass in the bag. That way there is nothing to absorb the sound and the safety is there with the bag, just as long as the bag doesn't tear again, which, theoretically, it won't because it won't get caught between the pieces of glass and some other hard, flat surface, like a wall. Just the hammer. Try it. Success!!! The tinkling sound was beautiful and the bag didn't tear and we were able to just dump the glass pieces in the trash. I try it one more time with the same bag and it was successful yet again. Yay! We had our solution. I dump out the glass pieces and get it set up for the show, vase in the same bag that I had been using. No point in wasting bags. Well, Jared breaks the vase during the rehearsal and about five minutes later, Susie, my ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) comes up to me and says that the bag trick won't work because she got a piece of glass in her toe. Not big or bad, just sorta settled there when the bag ripped. New solution: Waste the bags. Use a new bag for each performance and just throw the whole thing away. We will see tonight if that fixes the problem. Never thought breaking glass could be so hard, did you?