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 Rehearsal With Actors

The green room at the Reedy Point Players Theater isn’t green. It’s more of a storage area really. There are chairs, couches, and other assorted furniture from shows gone by. It’s not green that’s for sure.

Even so, three actors, an assistant director, and I jammed our way in, moved some furniture and started doing some warmups to get things started.

“Bend over and touch your toes,” one of use said. “And slowly straighten you back so you can feel every muscle.”

Stretches tongue twisters were the order of the day.

“Red leather yellow leather; red leather yellow leather; red leather yellow leather. And on it went for about 10 minutes.

“Let’s read this through once without any characterization,” I said. “And then go through it again, this time acting.”

Sherry Stricko, playing Jennifer, and Brooks Black playing the role of Justine, started the reading and were soon joined by Nicole Peirce as Moon Dog.

They hopscotched over the main problem of the play being written for two men and a woman, instead of the three women. They brought the roles to life. The second time they added characterization.

“It’s funny,” I remember thinking. “That as soon as you ask the actors to act, how much more smoothly the readings go. Unfamiliar words seem to dissolve and emphasis is put in places you’d never consider.”

After the second read through, the actors discussed back stories for each character and developed scenarios that were quite marvelous.

The one thing I can’t make up my mind is how to have Nicole play Moon Dog. She can go either crazy like Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death or Like Sean Penn in Fast Times at Rigdemont High.

 

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

Husband and Wife to Direct First Play: Can Marriage Survive

Here’s the haps.

My wife and I are going to direct a play together. Neither of us has ever directed anything before, but I entered this playwriting contest and in order to get it staged you had to have a director, but you could direct it yourself.

So anyway I put out some feelers and people couldn’t fit it into their schedules so I am doing it. And then I thought it might be cool if my wife and I did it.

That starts this afternoon. My plan is to blog about this for the next few weeks until show time on June 17th. It’s a one act entitled “The Maltese Duck and will be one of several The Reedy Point Players will put on in Delaware City.” It’s a semi-comedic mystery.

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.

 

 

 

Bullworth — An Overdue Review

Somewhere along the way – I’m not sure when it happened – I missed a great movie; 1998’s Bullworth. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118798/. It stars Warren Beatty and Halle Berry. Beatty is titular US Senator and Halle Berry a hit woman sent to do him in as a contract killer.
The movie is a lot of fun, but with topical racial overtones, which sadly, still seem relevant– racism, healthcare, graft-loving politicians from both parties, and the omnipresent chase of cash.
Berry is tremendous as the 26-year-old hit woman disguised as a hotty with informed political opinions from the poor side of town (aka the black side).
Beatty– who co-wrote the script – is clever in that he allows the main black characters to make the salient points, which Bullworth later co-opts co-ops for a fall down hilarious political interview.
It is a farcical look at politics and race relations that will have you hooting and thinking – rare these days for a movie.
I guess some call it socialist propaganda, or liberal baiting, but it seemed to go deeper than that. Regardless, as we move full bore into the election season this film is worth another look,

NEXT Playwrighting Memo

It's me talking to you. It has nothing to do with the memo
It’s me talking to you. It has nothing to do with the memo

CSP NEXT!                                                                                                    October 19, 2015

Memorandum for: CSP Next Group

SUBJECT: Process Improvement for Our NEXT Sessions

  1. This memo reviews the notes from our Saturday October 17, 2015 meeting and includes some initiatives that we hop will improve our experiences, increase technical playwriting competence, increase fun, and result in more people participating in NEXT.
  2. Since no one had a reading for Saturday, we decided to conduct some long-overdue house cleaning and establish some goals for the next 12 to 18 months.
  3. We decided we would pursue a project and present it to the Chapel Street Players leadership. Although we didn’t settle on a specific project, George Cope said he would review his notes for a weekend playwriting festival. Regardless, we intend to champion a project of some kind to get something we’ve worked on onstage. We thought this might be a better approach than trying for a full-blown production and navigating the inherent hurdles with that endeavor.
  4. Much of Saturdays meeting was devoted to CSP NEXT structure, outreach, and meeting design.
  5. Structure. We talked about the actual structure of CSP NEXT and decided that we should develop a charter that outlines the rules, roles, and responsibilities inherent in our group. We said we didn’t want to make it too strict or formal, but a charter or some bylaws might go a long way to making things run smoother. I said I would take the first crack at writing a draft charter and would have that for the group for our November meeting. I also said I would try to develop some Standing Operating Procedures (SOP) stuff for between meetings (E.G) Agendas, Phone Trees).
  6. Outreach. This has long been a bugaboo for NEXT. Alan Harbaugh said he would take a whack at developing some ideas we can use to increase exposure of NEXT. Alan used the phrase inclusivity to describe NEXT’s role within the theater community generally and CSP specifically. He will report out next meeting. It is important to note, that the group has become a resource as we have had two new playwrights present to the group, and have been asked on two other occasions if we had One Acts for use – once by the Reedy Point Players and another time by the Emerging Artist Showcase in Elkton.
  7. Meeting Design. Our discussion focused on ensuring everyone’s time is well spent and that writers, actors, and directors had a vibrant experience. We generally believed (at least is sounded that way to me) that we can do a much better job of designing our meetings. Lance Going to take a swing at designing our meetings. He will report out next meeting.
  8. Learning. We were in general agreement that since we were all self-taught, we should include some kind of writing education into our meetings. This could be anything from exercises involving actors to a discussion of dramatic structure. Regardless, since neither Brooks nor Lyn were there, we elected either or both of them for this assignment. I hope that’s okay.
  9. That’s it for now. I will be posting more stuff in the next week or two.
  10. Please pay attention to our Facebook page for announcements and I will soon be using direct emails. I am the point of contact for this memo at 302-242-4743 or Lettice123@yahoo.com.

Bill Potter

High Exalted Mystic Ruler

NEXT