When Competition Turns To Cooperation: Reedy Point Players One Act Festival Turns Into Love Fest

thumbnail_2018OneActFestivalThe lights in the Delaware City Community Center dimmed.

Metal chairs with blue backs in straight rows stretched across the well-used basketball court. Black bunting covered the apron of a stage once used for school productions.

As the crowd of about 75 people trickled in, volunteers skittered back and forth making sure concession tables had the right mixture of snacks and soft drinks; tickets were sold and “break a leg” ducks were peddled to raise needed funds.

It was show night for the Reedy Point Players of Delaware City. But it was more than that.

While the Reedy Point Players were the hosts for the One Act Play Festival on February 16 and 17, 2018, it was a night of collaboration with actors, writers, and directors from Newark, Wilmington, New Castle, Middletown, and points far and wide, coming together to lift each other up.

And oh, by the way – it was a competition.

The One Act Festival would decide which One Act play would go to the Delaware Theater Association’s annual competition, to be held the weekend of March 23rd, 2018 at the Barnstormers Theater in Ridley Park, PA. That’s not important now.

It seemed the only advantage for which anyone was looking was to make good theater happen. Everyone worked on multiple shows, in different roles. If one were to construct a Venn diagram for the evening, it would show a bajillion intersections.

For example, Reedy Point Treasurer Aniela Mienhaldt, acted in “Jumping” and directed “Meant To Be,” all the while counting receipts as they rolled in. Brian Smith, the author of “Meant to Be” worked the lights for “Just Words,” written by Lyn Anderson and directed by Bill Potter. Mr. Potter wrote the play “Jumping,” which Ms. Anderson directed. Meanwhile, Marshal Manlove directed “Screaming into the Surf” written by Mr. Potter and everyone moved furniture for Joseph Pukatsch who wrote and directed “In The Bag.”

Actors from different shows ran lines with actors from other shows and each gave the other tips about voice projection and other stagecraft.

“The group of actors, directors, and writers who participated in the RPP 2018 One Act Festival were a wonderful example of how to behave in a competitive situation,” Ms. Meinhaldt said. “The collaborative and supportive atmosphere was inspiring. If only that type of support and collaboration went beyond our little theater, the world would be a better place.”

As shows went on and off the stage, the audience got to witness what can only be described as controlled chaos. Chairs, tables, wine bottles, and even extension ladders were moved, placed, and toted with lightning speed.

The stage at different times became the Delaware Memorial Bridge, a prison, a living room, and a kitchen.

When the last cast from the last show of the night took their bows at about 10 p.m., everyone leapt into action and dismantled the stage, lights, and put all the chairs away.

The audience, perhaps infected with the collaboration vibe, chipped in and within 30 minutes or so the Delaware City Community Center main floor was ready for the next week’s basketball game or Zumba class.

“Wow. That was crazy,” Mr. Potter said. “So much talent, so much cooperation. It all led to such a great night. Maybe that’s what puts the community in community theater.”

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My Theater Weekend Blog #2 Screaming Into the Surf

I am obsessed – with Veterans reemployment. It keeps me pacing the floors at night. I’m not as smart as Arthur Miller to write some veiled treatise like his Crucible about McCarthyism. Nope.  I have to go to my first instinct – theater of the absurd.

That’s what I did with “Screaming Into the Surf.” I saw a documentary about brigands running all over Europe after the Crusades and wondered what would happen if today’s combat veterans chose a life of crime.

I saw how hard it was for vets to get jobs when they first returned. And wanted to capture that. That’s what “Screaming Into the Surf” is all about.

It got its first script in hand reading several years ago and it sat in my inbox just niggling at my inner conscience when I submitted it to the Reedy Point Players 2018 One Act Festival.

Since it need a director I asked around and Marshal Manlove said he’d do it.

Marshall was a great choice. He brought a wry humor to my absurd script about a guy who gets fed up with having doors slammed in his face and decides to lead a life of crime after returning home. He was in fact going to be a brigand or art thief.

Marshall got it! Bravo!

Anyway, Katie Jerzak played the wife and (returning vet herself) with a depth of emotion that had me choked up as I sat in the audience. She moved across the stage with a tortured gait I hadn’t considered.

Fran Lazartic was excellent as the tortured vet coming to grips with the futility of job searching and the diminishment of his military experience. He was tragic. He too had me twisted in knots as I watched every step and nuance of his performance.

Sometimes it’s a shame there are awards for theater because this show had moments of desperation and deep feeling equal to any on the stage this past weekend.

 

First Auditions — Lots of Talent in Delaware City Last Night

The first set of auditions are under our belts and I have to say it was a great night.
We had guys and gals of different ages, backgrounds, and acting experience come out on a freezing January night to audition for parts in the Reedy Point Players One Act Play Festival set for two shows on the 16th and 17th of February.
The actors were wonderful.
The thing with community theater is you never really know what you’re gonna get, so directors and actors need to be able to rapidly adjust. I am directing a play about a Scrabble game gone awry and the script calls for a mother, daughter, and boyfriend. Depending on the rest of the auditions, I may change it around a bit and have a father, daughter, and boyfriend. Or maybe a mother, daughter, and girlfriend. Regardless, you just have to take the great talent you get and make it all fit.
Frankly that is half the fun.
Back to the auditions.
Every person who auditioned last night was great. There were no weak ones. I loved them all. Each brought something different.
There was a young woman who obviously studies performing arts in college. She was superb and at the other end was an older gentleman – a Vietnam veteran – who was also fantastic.
There was a young woman who I believe never acted before who just transformed into any character she read. It was all quite astounding.
Anyway, tomorrow I will tell you all about the Gordian Knot of who wrote what plays and who is directing what plays. It’s pretty cool to think about.

 

Terracotta Warriors

terracotta3In the late 1970’s a couple of farmers in China were digging a well and doing other farming stuff and unearthed pottery and other odds and ends that turned out to be part of a great burial site for the first Emperor of China, Quin Shi Huang.

A massive archeological dig ensued (it’s not over yet by the way) unearthing thousands of full sized terracotta warrior figurines, horses, and other animals all intended to make after life easier and safer for the emperor in the afterlife. Not terribly different from the idea of Egyptian funerary.

Anyway, I have been fascinated by the whole thing for yeas and yesterday I finally got to see some of the warriors in real life (as real life as 1500-year-old figurines can be, but you know what I mean).

I went yesterday to The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pa. Terracotta Warrior exhibit. Which showed nine of the warriors along with multiple artifacts. The exhibit is outstanding. There are several rooms explaining everything from the construction of the warriors to the life of the royal court.

It’s kind of pricey at $35, but if you get a chance – go.

First Night On Stage

Last night, Thursday 18 April 2017 was the first night the cast of “The Maltese Duck) hit the Reedy Point Players stage in Delaware City, Delaware. I’ll talk more about the actual stage in a different post, but it has a proscenium arch and I love that word.

Kate and I (co-directors) watched as the Sherry Stricko, Brooks Black, and Nicole Pierce took to the boards. Since we are a few weeks from the June 17 “One Stage, Many Stories” event, the stage was empty. We got a bench and a few chairs from a back room and simulated the set.

Kate and I blocked the movement on a white board before coming to rehearsal, but we wanted to run it through without blocking to see what the actors did and see if an “organic” blocking was better.

Glad we did.

The actors surprised us with some imaginative things we had not considered; it was really quite beautiful.

Kate and I gave some initial notes and the blocking changed a tad and the actors used different emphasis on their parts. It all went better the second time around.

Being first time directors, Kate and I were a bit hesitatnt to give notes because we figured the actors knew more than we do. On the way home, we talked awhile and had an epiphany.

Part of our job is not only to create a production in line with our vision, but the actors are counting on us to make sure they have a safe place to apply their craft.

Part of making the safe place is to see things they can’t because they are right in the middle of what they are doing and don’t have an outside perspective.

Lucky for me, I chose great actors so my life is easy, but that idea of keeping the stage a safe place is pretty important stuff.

First of Two Auditions — The Weather Won

 

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Writers and director watch actors at Reedy Point Players Playhouse

Sunday at about 1200 Kate and sat at the kitchen table. I had drawn a copy of the Reedy Point Players stage on a small dry erase board. As she read the script we moved coins – representing actors – across the dry-erase stage to take our first whack at blocking our first show.

 

We lost track of time discussing sightlines, movement, and unit.

At about 1240 we realized we were running late and took off for Delaware City, home to the Reedy Point Players, which is about a half an hour away. We hit all the lights right so we made there only five minutes late.

The stage is in a community center; kind of like an old high school stage adjoining a basketball court. At center court were about eight director/writers/contest organizers of one flavor or another. We all there to watch auditions for what we hoped would be throngs of actors dying for parts in the super big spectacular Reedy Point Play Contest show set for June 17th.

It turned out a little different.

Only four souls dodged the beautiful Sunday afternoon weather to spend time with us. Apparently, we couldn’t complete with such a gorgeous day.

 

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Me thinking about pie.

We now had four actors to divide up between six shows unless more show up Tuesday night, or the writers and directors suddenly develop acting skills – community theater being what it is, it as likely as not that writers and director can act too.  

 

Anyway, these four lovely people acting their hearts out reading from four or five different scripts. It was actually pretty cool.

We will reconvene there Tuesday night, hope for terrible weather, which might drive some people inside where we can ambush them with scripts as they enter the community center.

More to follow

Chapel Street 24 Hour Play Festival

 

20170429_154132Kate and I sat at in the darkened Chapel Street Players Playhouse at about 8 p.m.. The house was mostly full.

 

When Bethany Miller laid down, wrapped in an old Army olive drab Army blanket my chest tightened a bit. She coughed and next Lacey Eriksen came on stage. And off they went

 

I held Kate’s hand so tightly, she wriggled it from my grip, shook it and the held mine again.

 

The actors threw themselves into their roles; the entire theater seemed rapt. I moved and twisted my body with every syllable; like a bowler trying to body English a spare from a 10 – 7 split.

 

The night before five other playwrights and I were partnered with five directors and the writers eventually picked actors from a group of talented trusting and wonderful people. Then the writers went home and wrote a ten minute play.

 

I started my writing at about 830 p.m.; not a lot of time to chart things out or meticulously plan anything; barely enough time to start typing. Somewhere around midnight several of the writer text or Facebook IM’d each other.

 

I took a two-hour nap from 0230 to 0430 and started whacking way at it again. I won’t go into the angst of looking at your page and realizing you were in deep trouble, but it was too late to switch, so you just had to power through.

 

At about 0700 some of the writers met at the Chapel Street Theater and kevetched; we all made the deadline and six shows were on tab for the night.

 

I trekked over to Brain Touchette’s –my director – house to give my last thoughts and have coffee. At about 0930 the actors arrived and they did a cold reading. That would have been enough for me – I was bowled over. I left them to do their magic and took a nap.

 

I later went to the tech rehearsal and the director had specific goals he wanted to achieve. He wanted to restrict the lighting and make the space as enclosed as he could. I watched amazed as they ran through the ten-minute show. I was transfixed.

 

The rest of the afternoon dragged; I wanted to see the show.

 

I more than watched; I silently cheered. Every word, every sound, each movement were purposeful. There were no wasted steps. It was graceful in its austerity. It was better than I hoped.