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.

 

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

A Wonderful Night of One Acts at Penn’s Place

Gail Wagner and Molly Keifer IN The Body That Spoiled the Vicar's Tea by Albert Them
Gail Wagner and Molly Keifer IN The Body That Spoiled the Vicar’s Tea by Albert Them

I guess as a playwright I should give some flowing intro about Saturday night’s staged reading fundraiser at Old New Castle’s Penn’s Place for the Reedy Point Players. I guess I should, but I don’t really know what to say.

Okay, it was wonderful and everyone’s plays were great. It was kind of intimidating.

Lisa Coruzi’s one act “Letting Go” starring Molly Keifer as Jenny and Gail Wagner as Aunt Gillian was captivating. Ms. Kieffner’s portrayal of terminally ill Jenny hit all the right notes, drawing emotion out of the audience. As Baby Bear said, “It was just right.” Ms Wagner’s portrayal of the (well I can’t tell you because it would ruin it) was superb in its abruptness and sensitivity.

Albert Them had three one act plays. The first, “The Body that Spoiled the Vicars Tea” was a screwball comedy reminiscent of the high octane interchanges of Jeeves and Wooster. Ms. Keifer and Ms. Wagner were in this show as well. They were joined by Matthew Furman playing vicar Polynaise and Kevin Austra as the local constabulary. The show focuses on a misplaced dead body and some slightly scrambled lunatics who are trying to have tea and gloat about successful gardening. I have seen Mr. Furman before and he is always a treat. Mr. Austra was new to me and he has a certain something about him; I’d like to see him in something else.

The second was actually more of a witty sketch than a full-length One act. (Can I say full length One Act? Hmmm). It was quite delightful and all about the trials of diary keeping. Phyllis Diller, the grand dame of comedy, who often said jokes were made up of the set-up, the payoff, and the punchline, would have loved this shorty.

His next One Act “Corpse” at first, seemed like reworking of a Noir whodunit until the coroner played by Ms. Kiefer said probably the funniest line of the night. She was pointing to the corpses shirt – played with skill and aplomb by Dan Davis (I have a dangling modifier, Dan played the corpsmen, not the shirt)—anyway she pointed at the shirt which had a red oval splotch of blood around a blue one. When asked what the blue was, she said, “It’s blood. He was rich!” It was a scream.

Program From Saturday night
Program From Saturday night

My first play was “Memento Mori: Why Marley Saved Scrooge.” This was the second time Erin Miller and Dan Davis had played St. Peter and Jacob Marley respectively and Kevin Furman played Michael the Archangel. It was an excellent job with all inhabiting their roles. This is the third time I’ve heard it on stage from three different sets of actors and each time I pick up something new.

My second show and the one I was most excited about, was the first ever reading of “Screaming into the Surf.” This was a world apart from the Marely play with Ms. Miller playing Beth a military veteran nurse and Mr. Davis Playing Joe, an unemployed infantry veteran. I know I wrote it and I know I’m biased, but I loved it. I thought Ms. Miller and Mr. Davis squeezed every emotion they could out of the script. The direction by Ms. Coruzzi really made me proud. If there was any weakness, is that it went on two lines too long. People laughed when they were supposed and reflective when they supposed to.

That’s it for tonight. It was a great night, with great people, and all for a good cause.

@Elkton Station Emerging Artist Showcase Great Night, Great Event

Justyn Quirk, Alli Graham, and Phil Hanser brought my play to life last night at the Emerging Artist Showcase
Justyn Quirk, Alli Graham, and Phil Hanser brought my play to life last night at the Emerging Artist Showcase

If you live near Elkton Maryland, Northeast Maryland, or Newark Delaware and didn’t attend this year’s Emerging Artist Showcase at the Milburn Stone Theater @Elkton Station, oh man you missed a heck of a night.

I’m not saying this because my play, a one act “Memento Mori: Why Marley Saved Scrooge,” had a public reading, though it was what drew me, it was just this wonderful night of young artists (myself excluded, I am an old bastard) to showcasing their talent and it really worked.

I arrived a little late; I went to the wrong place because I wasn’t paying attention. I got to @Elkton Station at the tail end of the first play and missed most of it. It was one two plays written by Merlyn Quandry.

Alli Graham, Justyn Quirk, and Phil Hanser carried the acting load all night as they appeared, in different combinations, in each One Act. They were wonderful.

The event was emceed by a very funny young man, Brandon Gorin who has great crowd skills, charisma, and just enough quirkiness to make each of his appearances a bridge between acts.

My play was read beautifully by the Graham, Quirk, and Hanser. This is the second time I’ve heard my show and this time I heard a whole different set of corrections and improvements I could make.

Hanser’s Marley accent was excellent and gave the performance a real authenticity. Quirk, who played St. Peter, was wonderfully sarcastic. Her portrayal and cadence made me realize I had some unnecessary word repetition in my sentences. Thanks so much. Ms. Graham was perfect as Michael the Archangel, her precise delivery hit just the right tone. I didn’t realize until I heard her, how tough some of the lines were. I may change something there – I may not.

Madeline Funke enthralled – not a word I use lightly – with a ukulele medley of some pop tunes. It really worked.

Fluid Mosaic – a local quintet – made up of Michael Veiering on guitar and vocals, Alexis Boyd on Sax. Ms. Funke on uke, Jon Luther on Bass, and Seth Tillman on drums, rounded out the evening with some excellent jazzy coffee-house numbers. Tillman also stepped out from behind his drums to do a solo song. It was all quite excellent.

The point is – it was a wonderful evening of quality entertainment put together by great local talent. If they do this again next year, you really should go.

Cope Play “Wisdom” Gets Public Reading, Audience Truly Invested

Playwright George Cope introduces his play Wisdom while Arthur Paul works his role as Sam Saturday afternoon at the Chapel Street Players in Newark De
Playwright George Cope introduces his play Wisdom while Arthur Paul works his role as Sam Saturday afternoon at the Chapel Street Players in Newark De

If the audience’s peppering of George Cope with questions Saturday after the first public reading his new play “Wisdom” is any indication of his ability to make the people care about his story, all is right at the Chapel Street Players.

Given the mixed age of the audience – maybe better than alight, but that ise a different story for another day – there were young people there! Yeehaw!

The play – an original work from Mr. Cope – juxtaposes the idea that wisdom, true wisdom – comes from experience, and personal insight, more than it comes from the opinions of others or technological advances.

The script – in its current form – uses the foils of a young woman and a septuagenarian man, who each must come to grips with newly found and long carried wisdom borne of heartbreak.

Mr. Cope’s insightful use of modern technologies such as smartphones, clouds (the data kind), apps, and older technologies like books to demonstrates what is unknown or unknowable drives the story forward.

Important to remember – a public reading as envisioned by the Chapel Street Players NEXT Playwriting Group is part of the editing, rewriting, and polishing process. Simply, these are roughed hewn works with the knots and rough spots attendant in any foundational artwork.

Even so, Director Susie Moak and her cast of Arthur Paul, Bethany Miller, Alan Harbaugh, Mike Mekulski, and Heather Conrad brought the work beautifully to life with a depth of feeling that highlighted all of Mr. Cope’s superb writing. They were perfect.

From L: Mike Mekulski, as Pell, Heather Conrad as Dina, and Bethany Miller as Clare bring George Cope's "Wisdom" to life.
From L: Mike Mekulski, as Pell, Heather Conrad as Dina, and Bethany Miller as Clare bring George Cope’s “Wisdom” to life.

And that’s what makes this process so wonderful at the Chapel Street Players. It is truly a community endeavor. Local playwrights develop stories in the basement of the theater, local actors help polish the scripts, a director brings the reading to life, and perhaps most importantly, an audience is brought in to hear the work, and comment.

Anyway, at the end of the two act reading when Mr. Cope asked for comments, He got some.

The comment period – facilitated by Mr. Cope – went about 90 minutes and the topics ranged from play structure, to exposition, and finally to character development.

Three themes/ideas dominated the discussion

  1. Something was hidden and we all wanted to know what it was;
  2. Mr. Cope made us care about the characters, we were emotionally invested; and
  3. Is okay to let the audience leave a performance with unanswered questions?

Heady stuff.

This is the second public reading at Chapel Street Players, of a locally written work. The first was last October.

Anyone who wants to try their hand at playwriting or thinks they do are invited to come to the Chapel Street Players NEXT meeting. The meetings occur at the Chapel Street Players Theater every third Saturday at 10 a.m. Actors are needed too!!!

A Note to the Cast of Find Me

Dear Cast of Find Me:

300px-Edouard_Manet_-_Luncheon_on_the_Grass_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis is a picture that changed the world. It is Edward Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass.” It was denied admission to the big prestigious Paris Salon – a competitive art show – in 1863. Manet, not willing to accept other people’s opinions of art, had his own show with two of his buddies, Camille Pizzaro and Johan Jonkind.

The show was called the Salon de Refuses.

Eventually the Refuses would usher in Impressionism, the pre Raphaelites, and a host of other works that changed art, as we know it. Names like Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh, and others too numerous to mention, can draw a line from their success to the Refuses.

So what does this have to do with you?

I saw your show and it was excellent and unless you guys went to ESTA and threw mud at each other I can’t imagine you not performing well. So here is the thing. Some things should not be judged nor should the result of some judging be the final arbiter of art and quality.

Where would we be if Manet accepted the Paris Salon’s judgment that his work wasn’t good enough? We all would be poorer. Can you imagine a world without Van Gogh’s Sunflowers?

So don’t feel bad about your trip. Something’s shouldn’t be judged and when they are, it is inevitable that mistakes are made. That’s just how it is.

I loved your show and I am not easily impressed.