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.

 

Maltese Duck/Reedy Point Players Playwriting Contest Moves Forward

 

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Directors choose actors for June 17th Festival

There’s big doings in Delaware City.

 

Tuesday night eight directors met about 18 actors auditioning for about roles in eight plays a part of The Reedy Point Players Playwriting Contest/Festival, which will showcase the one acts on June 17th.

The directors – a good mix of novices and old experts – watched as the actors brought pieces and parts of eight plays to life in an austere – what looked like a classroom – room with chairs and an old chalkboard which probably need a nun to be complete.

Anyway, the auditions started at about 6 pm. I was a smidge late as I took a wrong turn because I got distracted talking on a hands-free while driving (really state police I had the blue tooth thing going). The actors were wonderful. (special shout out to 12-year-old Logan, who did a great job against all the older actors).

As the actors went in and out the directors (aka playwrights) scored them based on some secret system which was probably neither uniform nor scientific (my God we’re writers. What do we know?).

At about 9:30 the auditions ended and the directors/writers started to divided up actors. (Not the actors themselves, but the stable of actors; I should have said corral).

What I thought was going to be a contentious event turned out to be quite pleasant. We all said who we wanted, swapped some names around, and pretty soon we all had wonderful casts.

My show was originally written for two men and a woman, but (not unlike the Voice) I was able to steal three glorious women actors. I was more focused on making the role fit actors than the other way around. I must do a little rewriting, but who cares. I felt like Jerry Jones must have when he drafted Emit Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irving – I guess I was giddy.

Now it is off to rehearsal. More to follow

 

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.

 

 

 

While You Weren’t Looking The National Security Council Changed

Lost in all falderal about the refugee bans and protests at airports was an Executive Order, which reorganized the National Security Council (NSC). That reorganization excludes the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs (CJCS) from regular committee meetings and instead has him attend only when his/her expertise is needed. Moreover, it installs the controversial White House adviser Steve Bannon as a permanent member.

This is an especially worrisome development as the military members are specifically trained to develop estimates and play the role as the strongest advocate AGAINST their own position. The CJCS provides presidents and the national command authority apolitical continuity.

The second part of order is the ascension of Mr. Bannon as a permanent member. Mr. Bannon is a longtime rabble-rouser and purveyor of questionable journalistic products. He has been accused of catering to white nationalists at Breitbart News.

It is important to remember that during the campaign Mr. Trump was quick to remind that he “knows more than the generals.”

While council and committee assignments lack the visibility of protests at airports, it is in these bodies that policy and priority are determined. Assigning the right people matters. By adding Mr. Bannon and subtracting the CJCS president, Trump may be creating a body that lacks the gravitas needed for complex, dangerous decisions.