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.

 

 

 

Recharging the Important

I have a dog.

He is a double dapple longhaired Dachshund.

His name is Spike.

He and I are pals.

barnes1 (1).jpgThat has nothing to do with this blog, but it is always good to start a blog with a dog reference. So there it is – my dog reference.

Sometimes a fellow needs to reset. I did that today by spending the day at the Barnes Foundation http://www.barnesfoundation.org. If you’ve never been, I strongly recommend it.

My wife and I got there at about 11.

The building is about as artful as the collection. You are immediately struck by the use of water in the landscaping. A small reflecting pool dominates the entryway in front of the gray concrete building. The highly polished doors open to a darkened hallway, which eventually open to a bright atrium.

529_600_bf811_i2rThe atrium – lit by a series of skylights – is about the size of half of a football field and filled with artsy cushioned benches. The entrance to the collection is non-descript, but when you enter the main gallery you are bombarded by several paintings, but Georges Seurat’s Group of Figures dominates the room.

The collections of more than 3,000 works of art incudes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modiglianis, and 7 Van Goghs.  I was overwhelmed by the colors, themes, and variety of the work.

As I move from room-to-room, I remembered things of which I had lost sight:

  • The importance of art in our world and humanity
  • The five components of the visual arts: Color, Line, Unity, Balance, Shape
  • How art is as fundamental to society as economics and religion,

It’s funny how you remember the important things when you step away from the important day-to-day things. There is a difference even the two, but that is for a different note.

By the way Spike says, :Hey.”

BACKUP SINGERS – THE CANARY IN THE MINE FOR POPULAR MUSIC

I have long asserted that music from the 70’s and 80’s was richer, more substantive, and frankly, demonstrated greater virtuosity than the music people are making today. With few exception – and there are always exceptions – today’s popular music is woefully wanting.
Case in point. Last night I watch the documentary “Twenty Feet From Stardom” about backup singers — if you haven’t seen it, take the time.
The film gave a great overview of the history of that craft as well as introduced me to many of the faces connected to the voices I’ve heard so many times. One point made several times through the film was the importance of Rock and Roll bands to the singers.
Several of the singers talked about the freedom rock bands gave to backup vocalists. Instead of hemming the singers in, artists like David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder gave them great freedom and as a result, we have songs like Gimme Shelter and Young Americans.
These songs – and so many others – have a color, timber, and depth I find lacking in modern popular music.
Toward the end of the film the backup singers lamented, the opportunities for their talent is has dropped off in recent decades as record producers cut budgets and backup singing is relegated to a “mice to have” role.
It all kind of makes me wonder. Rolling Stone reports that album sales have dropped precipitously in recent years and record industry execs blame it on competition with streaming services. I wonder though.
Backup singers could very well be the canary in the mine and their drop in use might indicate a drop in quality of the music and that is the reason for dwindling record sales.
Just a thought

I’m an addict.

I’m an addict.
There I said it. I’m an addict and I don’t care
I’m addicted to books, but I am in a pickle. It seems I have accumulated books faster than I can read. I’ve got about a dozen and a half books just waiting me to crack them open and bask in the stories, histories, sciences, and the like.
I had planned to read all the books I had lying around the house and on my e-reader, but ,,, I had to get more. I saw a special on PBS about the atomic bomb and realizing I didn’t know anything on the topic, bought Richard Rhodes “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” and then I picked up a couple of Robert E. Howard stories (not just Conan) and decided I wanted to know more about his work so picked up a reader. Did you know there have been several authors of Conan novels?
So here I am up to my hips in Conan stuff, atomic bomb stuff, and all the while my other books are laying around. Don Quixote is on the bureau, several Louis L’amour in my office, Panzer Leader by Guderian is shouting from the bookcase, assorted mysteries in every room, mad James Joyce Ulysses is calling me out from the night stand.
The books are everywhere and the guilt mounts. The only place I can go to get away from all the stress is the bookstore or library.
Then it happens all over again; a new distraction, a new path, and three new books.
This time I’m going to do it for sure. All the books in my house – done. One after another. Unless of course something …

My Review of Major Crimes

majorcrimsRarely does a spinoff find its own identity.
The graveyard of all the Joanie Loves Chachi spinoff wannabes is pretty large. Still every now and then a lucky few find their own way and turn into something special. Think about it. There is NCIS from for JAG and the plethora of Homicides, or CSIs, Still quality is hard to come by.
That’s why I like Major Crimes so much.
This “The Closer” spinoff has really found its own footing. Crisp writing, excellent characters and powerful story lines fuel the action. The show uses inventive approaches to camera work and direction all having the effect of riveting viewers to their sears.
Mary McDonnel portrayal of Capt. Sharon Raydor is/was an excellent crossover for the stickler form IA who found a home with the rough and tumble squad. The character has a significant advantage over Brenda Lee Johnson (play by Kyra Sedgewick in the Closer). Raydor cares as much about her people as solving the case, while the Johnson would sacrifice friend and foe alike to catch the bad guy.
G.W. Bailey always the loveable curmudgeon, is excellent as LT Provenza. The writers have done a nice job humanizing him, but Provenza does his best to keep humanity at bay. It is his shtick, but that is okay.
Lt. Flynn Andy Flynn, played by Tony Denison, has come a long way from his first days of plotting against Brenda Lee. So much so that now he is having a relationship with Capt. Raydor.
I hope the writers can resist the urge to have Raydor and Flynn break up and make things uncomfortable in the unit. It has been done to death.
The one thing I miss are the old Provenza and Flynn screw up episodes. They were always fun. You know, like the time they found a body in the garage, left it there so they could go to a baseball game and serious antics ensue.
I was not a big fan of the Rusty storyline (played by Graham Patrick Martin) until he pulled it all together as a faux journalist who uncovered the true identity of a dead Jane Doe. The writing was masterful and each episode layered the next. I have to admit it was pretty cool.
I have always been a big fan of Raymond Cruz. I think he gobbles up the screen. I would encourage the writers to make more use of him and the Julio Sanchez and his mom storyline.
I was skeptical of Kearran Giovanni as Sykes, but by golly, she has really proven to be a real addition to the team
I guess the real test of any spinoff is whether you forget the source show. Major Crimes has achieved that. It stands alone as a unique work of art.