Director’s Notes #6 — Audition Thoughts

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Well the week of auditions has finally arrived and I’m as nervous as a (insert your own simile here). It feels as though we are going to have a good selection of actors to bring “Units of Love: A Cancer Journey” to life.
The more often I read the script, the more convinced I am that that the success of the show rides on the role of Bonita Goodman, the cancer patient’s wife. She has the more reflective moments and speeches (I think soliloquy might be the correct technical term).
That being said, there really are no less important parts in this show. Some have fewer lines, but all are key. I know, I know, it’s cliché to say there are no small parts, only small actors – In this case it’s true.
When I wrote the show, I heard distinct voices and emotions as I typed each sentence, I must remember that’s my art, not the performers. If they see a key, a phrase a movement that better tells the story, I have to be brave enough to let them explore their craft and not pigeonhole them with my preconceptions.
It really has to be a collaborative process.
AAAAAHHHHH! My words. My words. AAAAAAAAA
Anyway this isn’t your normal cancer play, so I hope the topic doesn’t scare anyone off – thinking it will be maudlin city.
Gotta go to work.

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Full Frontal Nudity – Letting it All Hang Out

I got something to say.

If you missed Full Frontal Nudity put on by the Reedy Point Players, you blew it. Thankfully you’ll have one last chance this afternoon (Sunday) at 2 pm at the Delaware City Community Center.

Okay my notes. What ever group of people picked this show, written Jerry Rabushka and directed by Aniela Meinhaldt, knew exactly what they were doing. The show was the perfect match of available talent, space, and stage. Simply it was a perfect fit. The Reedy Point selection committee got it exactly right.

Since this was a huge cast I may miss pointing someone out, so I apologize ahead of time.

Let’s get started.

Whatever Sam Vernooy ate before coming to the theater last night, he needs to make it a constant part of his pre-show diet. He was excellent. I have seen Mr. Vanooy several times before and thought he was a good, competent actor, but last night he really upped his game as Conrad and blew the doors off the place. Hokey Smokes!!!

The last time we saw Erin Miller on stage she was giving the welcome to the audience of Romeo and Juliet. Last night she played a critic who had already written before seeing the show. She was delightful.

If anybody can lay claim to stealing this show it is likely the perpetrator was Shannon Carter. Her deadpan choices as the box office woman were spot on. If there was an accomplice to it all, it was Andre Williams.

I have to confess a partiality for Mr. Williams. I love everything he does. His timing and vulnerability is superb. WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE HIM THE LEAD IN SOMETHING.

I love watching Katie Jerzak. She is a gem. Last night’s performance of Shelly as the soon-to-be naked object of a town’s leering was great. Katie’s preparation shows on stage. Every performance is nuanced. If she has one great characteristic, it is she makes wonderful faces. I think that skill is wonderful.

I had never seen Lisa Osicky on stage before last night. She has a certain tonal quality I find fascinating and consistently interesting. Her portrayal of playwright Camilla was appropriately snooty. Loved it.

Brian Smith, Brian Smith, Brain Smith. Another favorite. This local playwright traded in his keyboard for a script and played Bart the gay construction guy to hysterical effect (or is it affect).

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a big fan of Brittany Wilson. She is a delight to watch. Last night ‘s portrayal of Lana Thompson (a self-indulgent actress who doesn’t need rehearsals) was great. She can make flipping a magazine page interesting. You’ll see.

Sherry Stricko made her acting debut last year in the Maltese Duck. I don’t know what she has been up to in the intervening 18 months, but she needs to keep doing it. Her performance in multiple roles showed depth, comedic timing, and a vocal range that was thrilling.

Frikkin Tom Slater. What else can I say? As a dirty old man, he was excellent. He slouched, leered, and drooled his way to everyone’s favorite degenerate.

Ken Guerino, you may remember was in recently in Romeo and Juliet. This was a great follow-up for him. He has a voice built for announcing. Great casting choice! Great acting.

Fran Lazartic has been a Reedy Point staple for a while. His portrayal as Dillon the homophobic, abusive, and ultimately cowardly beau of Shelly, was excellent. The scene he does with Brain Smith hammering a mantle piece is about as funny as it gets.

The most nuanced and sensitive acting award of the night has to go to Grant Kelley. Mr. Kelley took the role of Brad – a disabled gay man in love with Conrad – and pulled bucket loads of tenderness out of it. His vocal pitch was right on.

Erick Stricko played several parts in  the show and was at his best when complaining about having to eat squid for dinner. God, that was funny! I don’t know if I will ever eat calamari again.

Sam Dressler is as dependable as the tides. He shows up, knows his lines, has great vocal range and leaves it all on the stage. His portrayal of the reverend railing against nudity on stage had all the earmarks of the self-righteous. Well Done! Bravo!

I had never seen Kandee Boone before, but she was delightful and Tom Slater’s long-suffering wife.

Christine Graham-Besco. Was delightful as the equally long-suffering daughter of Kandee and Tom Slater. Her use of a cell phone in the middle of the production was just dandy.

Jacob Hunter’s light work was superb. It was the most complex lightning I had seen yet at Reedy Point. It really made a huge different.

You know a stage manager is doing the job right of you can’t tell there is one. Bravo To Jeanne Jerzak for being a steady hand behind the scenes.

Aniela Meinhaldt directed the show to success. Her austere set, creative use of space throughout the theater, and the use of the well in front of the state made it all work.

Murder on Cue — Great Cast Work

Somebody asked me to review “Murder On Cue” this year’s fund raiser for Newark’ Del. Chapel Street Players, playing this weekend and next. For more info go to http://chapelstreetplayers.org/.
Anyway.
The cast is so huge I won’t be able to mention everyone; they were all wonderful.
The show starts out, it seems, as an homage to the 1976 Neil Simon comedy “Murder by Death” and the longtime favorite board game Clue. I could be wrong, but it sure felt that way.
There’s the deaf housekeeper, the nun with a vow of silence, the beauty queen, and the usual suspects in any mystery spoof. It was actually quite effective. This campy tribute goes on for about 15 minutes.
That’s where things change.
Scott F. Mason, the Writer and director of “Murder on Cue,” is shot. The house lights come up and an investigation of the entire cast, crew, and house staff begins under the watchful eye of FBI Agent Sawinski played with pitch perfection by Andre Wilkins.
I knew he was a good actor, but his performance last night cemented him as a great leading man kind of guy.
A plug for Nicole Pierce. She has a certain indescribable vibe (or presence) that I just love; she was her usual superb self this particular evening. Will someone please put her in a leading role!? Jeepers.
Back to the show.
I don’t know if I had ever seen Courtney Lynahan before, but I really liked her as the vow of silence nun and the pilfering cast member (oops don’t want to give too much away).
I can’t go any further without mentioning five of my favorites in the CSP stable of stars. I just love Michelle Cullen, Judy David, Peter Kuo (who is hilarious btw), Michelle Opaleski, and Brian M. Touchette. Each one was superb and acted with great skill. They heightened the tomfoolery and suspense. Bravo!!
As I said in previous reviews – I love Susan Boudreax and Susie Moak. They knock my socks off.
I had never seen Ann Matthews act Before, but she too, was a delightful surprise. She appeared with her husband of 33 years Pete Matthews. I had never seen him act either. Whenever I see him he has a hammer in his hand; this time he had a cigar. Regardless of hand tool, he did an excellent job.
Remember the gloriously evil bad guy in CSP’s production of 1984? That was Zack Jackson. In this show, he played a hilarious loudmouth plumber and then himself as the show progressed. BTW, he has one of my favorite actor skills – he makes great faces.
I’ll tell you who doesn’t get enough credit around here — Heather McCarty. She is a blast to watch and also makes great faces. I always see her doing something interesting down stage left. Isn’t that weird?
Renee G. O’leary celebrated her 55th consecutive fund raiser. She was delightful as Boddy and took a second to show off her great legs to audience.
Danielle Jackomin played bestselling murder mystery novelist LC. She is always fun to watch. Pay attention to her last couple of minutes on stage, those are pretty special.
I don’t know who Darin Bishop is. I think he got swallowed up in the crowd of actors after the shooting of Mr. Mason. He is listed as the EMT in the program, so maybe I had a bad seat and just couldn’t see him.
The last time I saw Patricia Lake was last Spring when she appeared in Holy Traffic. She was delightful.
I really enjoyed Matthew Brown’s performance of Newark policeman Bernhart. It had an honesty and naivety that was really refreshing when juxtaposed to the snarky witness interviews of Mr. Mason’s shooting/murder.

Walt Osborne played Major General Cleopold Poupon and was especially good throughout the sho0,w but really shined in the first few minutes with a small dance bit that got entire audience clapping.
I guess that’s it. Not a whole lot more to say. There is a bunch of people acting and you’ll like them. The show and the cause (CSP Fund Raiser) are a good place to spend your entertainment dollar. So go see it.

Just Words Slayed It Last Week

 

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The amazing cast of Just Words From L Shannon Carter; Sam Dressler, and Tom Slater

The cast and directing of Lyn Anderson’s play “Just Words” have been overshadowed by “Jumping” and “Meant To Be.” That’s probably my fault – at least as far as these blogs have gone.
So let me state for the record – such as there is one – that the cast of “Just Words” knocked it out of the park. They did exactly what I asked, and they worked their tails off.
They did great, but I should have done more.
I should have gone bigger. I should have added sight gags. I should have had Sam Dressler do a whole Art Carney routine about getting the scrabble tiles out of the bag; I should have had Shannon Carter really ham it up getting the cork out of the wine bottle; I should have added cell phone sounds, and I should have put Tom Slater in a dress.
Poop, poop, poop!
If I get another change with Tom, HE IS WEARING A DRESS! I don’t care what the role is.
Anyway, it was a great month and a half and am very proud of my cast. I just wanted to tell the world, that although two other shows are going forward to the state competition, my guys were superb, and they got the audience to laugh when they were supposed to. .
Oh by the way – we had a lot of fun. I guess that’s all you can hope for.

 

One of my favorite stupid short plays

Mrs. Johnson about 50 walks up to a pharmacy window, her hands are full of different things she ‘s bought to pad her order. She quietly puts the items on the counter and organizes them to make it easier for the Diane. She is very reserved – shy. The woman nervously pulls a prescription out of her pocket. The Diane begins ringing up the items

 

Diane

Okay. Spearmint gum. Mouthwash. Spice drops. You know I love spice drops they’re one of those quiet sellers. Everybody loves them, but nobody ever talks about them.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Yeah, I know.

 

Diane

When was the last time somebody said, ‘I had a great spice drop yesterday?’ You know? I mean I don’t think I ever heard that.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Nor I.

 

Diane

Weird huh? Let’s see what else we have? You’re Mrs. Johnson right?

 

Mrs. Johnson

Yes. Surprised you know that.

 

Diane

I try to remember everyone that comes here. You’ve been coming here for years. Customer service, that’s what I’m all about. Dishwashing detergent? A hand towel. What’s this? (beat, shouting) BETH! BETH!

 

Beth (the Pharmacist, shouting back)

WHAT! WHAT

 

Diane

How much are the Trojan condoms?!

 

Beth

WHAT!

 

Diane

Trojans? You know the ribbed condoms?

 

Mrs. Johnson

No that’s okay. I, I, I …

 

Beth

How would I know? You know the last time I needed condoms?

 

Diane

It doesn’t matter. Mrs. Johnson wants them. There not for you. (To Mrs. Johnson quietly) If she could get ahold of the stock boy she’d find them pretty quick.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Okay. I can do without.

 

Diane

Do without? Not on my watch. I’m getting you condoms. I got this. (the Diane gets on the loud speaker). Price check! Price check! (to Mrs. Johnson) What aisle?

 

Mrs. Johnson (in shock)

Nine.

 

Diane

Price check aisle nine Trojan ribbed condoms – color black. Do they have to be black?

 

Mrs. Johnson (quietly)

No uh, any color’s fine. I didn’t notice they were colored. Can I say colored? Should I say black? This is so confusing.

 

Diane

If you want it black, we’ll get you some black. (on the loud speaker) Any color’s fine, but she really likes them black.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Thank you but …

 

Beth (shouting)

Got ‘em. They have lubricant here too. Would you like some lubricant?

 

Mrs. Johnson

I, I, I don’t know. I, I, This wasn’t my idea.

 

Diane

Shoot some lubricant over too!

 

Beth walks over and hands the condoms and lubricant to the Diane.

 

Beth

I brought the regular stuff and the stuff that heats up after you apply it, you never know.

 

Mrs. Johnson

I wasn’t expecting so many choices. (beat) Thanks. I’ll take them both? It used to be easier.

 

Beth

Good thinking.

 

Diane nods conspiratorially

 

Diane

Is there anything else?

 

Mrs. Johnson

Just this?

 

Mrs. Johnson hands her a prescription.

 

Diane (Shouting again)

BETH! We have a prescription; need you over here.

 

Beth walks up and looks at the prescription.

 

Beth

Your doctor called this in already.

 

Mrs. Johnson

Thank you.

 

Beth

Diane can you get this for me? It’s right over there.

 

Beth gives Diane the prescription and

Diane rifles through some bins on a shelf

 

Diane (talking to herself really)

Viagra, Viagra, where is that now. It shouldn’t be that hard to find. You’d think it would just stick out.

 

Mrs. Johnson just watches in horror.

 

Beth

It’ll just be a second. Can you give me your insurance card?

 

Mrs. Johnson starts looking through her wallet.

 

Mrs. Johnson

It’s right here. Wait a minute.

 

Diane

Got it!

 

Diane brings a small white bag to Beth. Mrs. Johnson gets frantic looking through her purse

 

Mrs. Johnson

I can’t find my card.

 

Beth

I really need the card or your insurance won’t cover it.

 

Mrs. Johnson

But, I’ve been coming here for years. My insurance hasn’t changed.

 

Beth

I know that, but I need the card.

 

Mrs. Johnson (Almost hysterical)

And I need those pills. I need to see my husband’s manhood in full flower. The heat of his loins fully exposed. His hardness between, between, between my um, um, um. I (beat) Need (beat) Those (beat) GD pills! And I swear to God I will bring the insurance card in the morning. Do you have any idea how long it has been since I, I, I aaaaaaaaaaaah!

 

Beth and Diane stare at her for a moment

 

Beth

Okay. It’s not that big of a deal. They are only $15 bucks a pill without insurance. How many do you want?

 

Mrs. Johnson

$15 dollars! That’s just a bottle of wine! Give me thirty dollars worth – now. And ring this shit up.

 

Diane moves in and finishes ringing up the purchases

 

Diane

That’s $65. 33.

 

                                                                                    Mrs. Johnson gives her some bills grabs her

                                                                                    bags and runs out

 

Diane

Your change! Your change! (beat) Jeez what’s her problem?

 

Beth

She needs to get laid.

 

Diane

NO kidding!

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.

 

Husband and Wife Team Tackle Directing Someone Else’s Work

It’s just about start.
Actually, it starts tomorrow at about 7 pm. when the directors for the Reedy Point Player One Act Festival have the first round of auditions at the Delaware City Community Center from 1900 to 2100 (okay 7 pm to 9 pm).
It’s going to be pretty cool. I have two shows being staged by two different directors. Each is kind of a fractured story (ala Fractured Fairytales). One is about Veterans unemployment and the other is about suicide (kinda).
That’s not what is causing me anxiety, I am directing a laugh-out-loud riot about a Scrabble Game gone awry.
I am pretty nervous about directing someone else’s work, but t he script is so strong, I might not be able to screw it up. I do have that going for me. I am thinking about casting it a bit differently than the great author Lyn Anderson intended. I’ll have to see how the spirit moves me.
For the next few days I’ll be reading and rereading the script to make sure I know what I need.
Since it is a festival I am thinking the more austere the better for my set. I only have two lighting cues to sort out. I need different parts of the sage dark at different times to pull this off.
More to follow.
I hope people come out.