Units of Love: A Cancer Journey — Director’s Notes #2

Wednesday night I had dinner at Iron Hill Brewery with Lyn Anderson who is either my co-director or assistant director, or something like that, and with Kate Potter my property mistress. Anyway, we began some preliminary drinking er, ah, thinking, that’s right thinking about things we want to accomplish before the word premier on Aril 12th.

The first thing we need to do is run the script through another edit (or two). There are a couple of changes I want to make to heighten suspense and get it a little tighter.

I have been wrestling with realism or austere. When I saw Erin Miller’s use of space in her version of Romeo and Juliet, I became more convinced that less may be better. I still have to figure that out. I’ll be relying on Lyn a lot for this as she has an intuitive excellence in that regard.

I am envisioning a bright white stage.

WE talked about getting sponsors. I’m  thinking about asking Christiana Care, Helen F. Graham, LLS, and the American Cancer Society for help.

That’s it for now.

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Reedy Point Romeo and Juliet

I got something to say … about Romeo and Juliet put on by the Reedy Point Players – I saw it last night and it was pretty darn good – well  worth your entertainment dollar. I’m going to see it again next Friday – really, I am.

If you’ve read my notes before, you know that I tend to not mention a whole lot of names, but rather focus on pone or two aspects of a production. With that said – Erin Miller.

I hadn’t seen Erin in a year or two, so I was glad to see her back at Reedy Player. This time though it was as a director. Her courageous direction of the Shakespeare classic captivated me.  

She is very clever.

She used an incredibly austere set that really worked. The center of it was empty with the majority of the action taking place in that space. She built two, three feet high platforms with railings and placed them up stage left and right with a smaller platform (about 6 inches in the center to connect the two). While it work great for all the classic Romeo and Juliet lines; it wowed as the mausoleum. Just wowed – Artistic Austere and Creepy.

The set had the effect of a West Side Story kind of vibe.

The West Side Story vibe, hmm; funny I should mention that because Erin’s version takes place in New York.

Another courageous choice she made was tinkering with the script and the setting. She and Kevin Austra (who also played the ill-fated Mercutio) updated sections. They added hand guns instead of swords, introduced cell phones, and threw in some radio broadcasts for good measure.  I won’t tell you much more because it’ll ruin the surprise. But it really worked well – I mean really.

All this had the effect (or is affect, I always get those two confused) of pulling the audience in and at the same time, clarifying points.

A couple of shout outs.

Gina Velardi – A great Juliet. She was determined, naïve, and appropriately tragic. She made you really care about her.

Kevin Austra – An enormous presence on the stage. His timing is wonderful, and his motions forced you t focus.

Ruth Brittain – I had never seen her before last night. But, man, she can act.

The last time I saw Patrick Ruesgegger was in the film “The Reprogramming Of Jeremy,” he did his usual great job, and his diction was superb.

Gunnar Funk – I had never seen Gunnar Funk before, but really enjoyed his Romeo. His death scene was first rate.

Gail Wagner – Was her usual superb self. I love watching her.

I’ve gone this far so I should probably mention everyone.

Matthew Lovlie – Okay Mr. Lovely is another one I love to watch; he gets it. Great job.

Jeff Fentrees – I had never seen Jeff before either, but his explanation of the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt was great.

Max O’Neil – I had never seen him before either, but man, if his goal was to come off as hot head, it worked. You know those people who are just and they are going to go off, you don’t when, but it’s going to happen? He did that great with Tybalt. Loved it!

Sam Vernooy – Sam had a hard job as Paris. That’s a more difficult role than you think. Paris wants to love Juliet, but he has no chance. She barely knows he is alive after Romeo shows up. He did it very well. And he died great!

Sam Dressler – He was great. As the omnipresent whipping boy, his timing was excellent, Thing about Sam is he always remembers his lines.

Lisa Coruzzi – I love listening to Ms. Coruzzi. She has a tenor in her voice that captivates when on stage. I wish the mayor had more line. Anyway, she was a gem.

Ken Guerino – In his first show at Reedy Point, Mr. Guerino held his own with all the vets. He knew his lines, hit his marks, and most importantly, enunciated wonderfully.

Lisa Velardi – I wish I could have heard more from her. She’s a good actor, but I didn’t see enough of her. What I saw, I liked.

MVP Award – Mother and daughter team of Jeanne and Kate Jerzak walloped it as the stage crew. Everything showed up and left the stage on time. BRAVO!

I guess that’s it. If I forgot anything or anyone, it’s because I’m an idiot!. It’s not you, it’s me.

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.

DTA Competition The First Night Blues

DTA Weekend – The Arrival

DSCF5367 (2)Hmmm. The Delaware Theater Association (DTA) festival was this past weekend (23-24 Mar 2018) and I’m pretty sure it was a success. I had fun.

Initially though, it was kind of weird, at least for someone who had never been to competitive theater festival.
At first blush, it seemed so contrary to the “Delaware Way,” I found the first night off-putting. We got to the Barnstormers Theater in Ridley Park, PA and everyone seemed gruff, overly official, or something. In fairness, maybe they were just tired; it had been a long day for them.
We (Reedy Point Players) arrived a bit early and there was a delay here or there for one thing or another, but we were eventually ushered into the theater after hanging out on the street, like a bunch of high school kids smoking behind their parents backs.
I guess a contest must have rules, so one of the organizers gave us the lowdown and it quickly became apparent we weren’t going to be able to behave, the way we do at home. You see, at home it is more of a free-for-all of goodwill. We help each other out move sets on and off the stage, make sure everyone is okay, and run lines with members of other casts. – you know community theater. None of that here.
We were finally allowed to bring our sets in and “Meant to Be” (the other play from Reedy Point) went up for their tech rehearsal, the cast for “Jumping” (the show I was involved in) went down to the basement amidst assorted dressing rooms and a common area referred to as a green room (though it wasn’t very green). We were cold and damp – and stayed that way.
We were in a bit of shock (I guess) and passed about 90 minutes telling silly stories to one another bemoaning our situation. I was going to write hostage notes to slide under the door, but one of the organizers came in and said, “Jumping You’re up.”
We went up the basement stairs this time to find the cutest theater, but it still seemed as if most of the officials were aloof or perhaps just busy. Even so, there was really no welcoming vibe.
Officials huddled at tables chatting amongst themselves and seemingly thinking great thoughts. To be fair, it was likely inappropriate for them to engage the contestants at length for fear of shouts of favoritism. Even so, it still struck me as odd.
We walked the stage, got our bearings, and started to work. Lyn Anderson adjusted the set and Aniela Miendhaldt, L’Tanya Morrow-Cain, and Lance Thompson did a quick rehearsal and realized they had a line or two tighten up. Lyn Anderson worked on lighting, and I walked around moving furniture and gave free advice whether I asked to or not.
Toward the end of our tech rehearsal we had it all figured out and Lyn had put together a pretty stunning visual for the show. We packed up and headed home – many of us disquieted and wondering where the fun went.
That would change the next day.

Just Words Slayed It Last Week

 

DSCF0156
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.