Director’s Notes #11: Lessons I Learned So Far

Evie Riley, the best actor I’ve got gives tips to Gail and Brooks Black. Her mom and Prop Mistress Hailey Denevere humors us. 

We had our first rehearsal last night and it has become apparent to me there is a huge gulf between writing a play and directing it.
The thing is when you write a play it all pretty obvious to you. You see the action in your head and the words (hopefully) flow out. You see. When you get actors (especially good ones like I got) the things you thought were clear turn out to be a bit opaque. They didn’t see it as you wrote it.
For example, you have an actor bring a riding crop on stage and as the action moves to physical confrontational, what the hell do you do with the riding crop? I never even thought of it, but sure enough the manual dexterity gymnastics of what to do with which props as the scene developed popped up. How can

Bill Potter works with Cancer Cells and Blood Cells for the big fight scene

Colonel Rituxin fight unless he uses the crop as a weapon? Or gets rid of it? Where?
As we walked through the blocking, these small pieces and parts that initially seemed insignificant, began to mushroom and multiply onto themselves. Riding crops became how to hand off weapons, moved onto the discussion of where exactly on stage should hand-to-hand combat take place, and on-and-on. It was a lot to take in, but we pushed on through, but I learned a lot.
It was all quite humbling.
Since I wrote the piece, I have to confess a certain arrogance (until last night) when I approached the blocking. I thought it would take care of itself in most regards. You see, I concentrated more on story than staging and probably didn’t do the detailed work on my blocking plan I should have.
Lesson learned.
A bright point. When Bonita (played by Connie Regan) gives her first speech and she is eventually surrounded by the cast and everyone describes the new cancer language, it is devastatingly beautiful. You guys are going to love it.
Anyway, more notes to come.
Can’t wait for next week’s rehearsal.
BTW – A special shout out to our logistics team of Hailey Denevere, Lyn Anderson, Jeanne Jerzak, and Gail Wagner. These guys are walloping the heck out of this.


Directors Notes #10 — I’m The Only Thing That Can Screw This Up

Bearl and Mabel at the Hospital

Okay, well here we are.
Suffice it to say this is one of those “be careful what you ask for, you just might get it deals.”
Tonight is the first official rehearsal for “Units of Love: A Cancer Journey” and I am as nervous as a __________.
You get it.
Anyway I have a great cast, good script, a place to on the show, and the only that can go wrong is me screwing this up.
Last night I was looking at some old files trying to find my copy of “Christiana Cancer Blues” and realized I’ve been working on this – on and off – for about four years. AAAAAA. I never did find it, but luckily, I have it memorized.
Lyn Anderson – my co-director – broke the script down by scenes and which character was in which scene. It was a great bit of detail work I eschew. Anyway, I took it and did some figuring and it was quite astonishing.
• My favorite character, Colonel Riuxin, is only on stage five times.
• Bonita is on stage more times than anyone else – 14
• Sally and Chance (the cancer patient) are on sage 13 times.
It’s funny. When I write a play, I don’t think about this kind of thing; I write a story. It’s strange how it all works out.
The point of the whole matrix exercise is to ensure we are not wasting people’s time. I will review it with the cast tonight.
Tonight’s plan is to warm-up, go over some admin notes, and do a read through so people can record it and learn their lines in the car.

Director’s Notes 9 – Collaboration –It’s Humbling — But Good For You

solid-senderThe Green Turtle in Newark, Delaware doubled as a community theater think-tank Tuesday night, December 18, 2108 when Co-Director Lyn Anderson, Prop Mistress Hailey Denevere, all-around good sport and designated gopher Kate Potter, and I convened an ad hoc production meeting to discuss stage design, lighting, and some needed rewrites.

It was pretty cool

Lyn brought a fancy schmancy cardboard model of the Reedy Point Players Stage (which is in Delaware City Community Center). It was all done to scale and very, impressive. Hailey brought sketches, complete with lighting gel suggestions.

I must confess to being a tad intimidated by the level of detail and deep thought.

Fueled by some beer, fries, burgers, and the odd salad we talked it all out.
Hailey, Kate, and Lyn had some really good ideas relative to a couple things I had in the original script. I had been wrestling with some weak or mixed metaphors in the script but did nothing. You see, I am pretty sure every key stroke in my manuscript is as close to being divinely inspired as a non-religious text can be.

To hear the three of them point out errors I knew were there – but for some reason known only to God – that I refused to edit, was all a bit humbling. I do have a couple of rewrites to knock out before the cast reconvenes.

I guess in the long run that’s what community theater about; taking advantage of all the eyes, ears, and voices available to give the audience a great show and deepen the quality of local art. It’s the synthesis of a collaborative process in an ephemeral art endeavor.

Years ago, I was conducting training exercise in the desert with an infantry unit. After the fight was over and we were assembled for a review of our tactics, the lead evaluator said something I have carried these many years, “All of us, know more than one of us.”

So I guess, with that axiom in mind – I got some typing to do!! Rickety Tickety!

Directors Notes #8 – Units of Love: A Cancer Journey

from L: Jean Jerzak, Lyn Anderson, Charlie Riley, Evie Riley, Hailey Denevere, Andre Wilkins; Connie Regan 

The community room at the Delware City Public Library was dark when I got there. Two small folding tables were arranged in a block seating about eight people.
Lyn Anderson, co-director, added two longer tables and made a bigger block seating about twelve.
We’d need them all – I forgot how big the cast is.
Anyway, we started with an ice breaker game and everyone introduced themselves, while tossing small stuffed animals to (at) each other and shouted our first name. It was a bit unruly — part of my master plan.
I made sure I had plenty of water and candy ready when we sat down to work through the script.
For those of you who may not know, I am both co-director and playwright for this show.
A funny thing happens when you ‘ve done a dozen rewrites on a script (I should say, when I do a dozen rewrites). Stage directions disappear, which I swear to Godwere there once upon a time (probably weren’t). I found out I never really clearly wrote the the new ending once I edited out a scene or two.
There are also weird little nuances to which I didn’t pay attention or remember. For example, one character talks to a white blood cell addressing it as Whitey (you, know white blood cell); I casted a black woman in the white blood cell’s role – kind of weird right?
Stuff like that.
We laughed a lot.
The show ran at about 80 minutes or so. I was surprised and pleased. So we’ll go from there.

“Units of Love: A Cancer journey” Cast Announcement


Auditions Tuesday Night at the Delaware City Library

I am super pleased to announce the most courageous cast and team ever.

Chance Goodman – Andre Wilkins

Bonita Goodman – Connie Regan

Colonel Rituxin – Gail Wagner

Sally the Nurse – Brooks Black

Dr. Betts – Lisa Osicky

Cancer Cell #1 – Kate Jerzak

Kim Caldwell — Sherri Stricko

Julia Caldwell – Kate Jerzak

Mr. Caldwell – Sam Dressler

Platelet – Lisa Osicky

Cancer Cell #2 Sam Dressler

White Blood Cell – Sherri Stricko

Red Blood Cell – Jeanne Jerzak

Neutro Phil – Charlie Denevere

Co-Director, Assistant Director, Deputy director; Award Winning Set designer – Lyn Flather

Tech Genius – Kevin Meinhaldt

Stage Manager – Jeanne Jerzak

Prop Mistress – Hailely Denever

Gopher – Kate Potter

Graphic design — Aniela Meinhaldt

Inspiration – Haley’s daughter.

Oh yeah, I’m working on it too.

DIRECTORS NOTES #7 How we’re going to conduct the auditions


Had an interesting question from an actor about auditions Saturday. If you are coming out (AND I HOPE YOU WILL) here’s some things to know.

Please familiarize yourself with the script at  unitsaudition copy

There is no need to memorize anything.

It’s my plan to have all men and women read the initial scene between Bonita and Chance beginning on page two.

I will ask all women to read Bonita’s speech beginning on page 41.

I may ask a few to read for Col Rituxin (this is roll is gender neutral)

I will also ask a few to read for Dr. Betts and nurse Sally

Some more info to use:

  • WE will start on time
  • There is some paper work to fill out.
  • And we will begin auditions immediately after the paper work is done
  • My goal is to have Bonita and Chance be a traditional married couple. All other roles are gender neutral

Director’s Notes #6 — Audition Thoughts

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.
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.