Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How embarrassing!

Yep, I took a nose-dive into the floor last night. Not long after, I also tripped backwards and got stuck in the heavy layers of my skirts. Ahhhh, the comedy that is a first dress rehearsal. The frustrating part is that I have experience wearing elaborate costumes with a corset and a hoop skirt and 50 pounds of fabric (ok, that's an exaggeration, but it can sure feel like that much). A hem should fix most of the problem, but I think the adjustment to the poofy, weighty dress was more difficult than I anticipated because we hadn't taken it into consideration when blocking, and now it was first yesterday a factor that affected some of our more physical blocking. Tonight I am going to request that we take some extra time to look at some of those issues (on the side so as not to take time away from teching) and hammer them out so they're no longer causing concern!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tech for YPF

So this is when it all falls into place. Whether the "fall" is more like a laboring effort or a graceful landing has to do with everyone's preparation prior to this week as well as the professionalism of each person involved during this week's process. Tech week can be so exciting because all of the technical aspects like lights, sound and costumes - it's when the production really comes to life! Without crews and designers, there wouldn't be a show, so it's important to remember that Tech rehearsals are really a collaborative effort!

From the administrative side, I helped Jacque Troy lay out the playbill for the show. It is quite the detail-heavy task, requiring lots of coordinating and editing several times, so it helps to have multiple pairs of eyes to proofread because it's nearly impossible to get every detail straight the first time and not miss a single typo!

Astray The Sun rehearsals over the weekend were primarily for fine tuning. A couple of minor, very specific changes were made with how actors deliver a line or two, but mostly we just used the rehearsals to run through the show without stopping, keeping in mind the most important performance aspects: our energy, connection with each other, and diction. We had some really fantastic runs, despite the fact that one of our actors was very ill and had to stay home.

Well, my call for Tech is in 40 minutes and I'm nearly jumping out of my skin with anticipation! I'll keep you posted on our progress!!!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Progress with ASTRAY THE SUN

Last night's rehearsal went well enough. Although when we had another run through, we all felt that our performances were a little inconsistent. We each made a handful of really strong choices that we were very happy about, but then we all had "duhh" moments of forgetting a line or dropping our energy from time to time... And that'll happen in a rehearsal or even sometimes during a performance, but the trick is to really maintain your focus and energy as an actor to make sure you stay on your toes and in the moment!

One thing that our director Carol really stresses too is to keep our energy up for the whole show. There are incredibly high stakes in this short play, and so it takes a ton of energy, passion and intensity to convey this epic play in half an hour!

Another important thing that we're really working to perfect is the connection between characters. We've had lots of fun in rehearsals playing and discovering the levels of the relationships, and now we're just tweaking minor details in their interactions to really highlight the different moments that the characters experience in the play.

We also tried on costumes last night. Amelia Figg-Franzoi (Marquette student) brought over some beautiful Elizabethan costuming for us to look at and get a feel for how they will affect our movement. So that's another aspect we're looking forward to adding during tech week because adjusting our movement due to our clothing will be another fun challenge (especially for myself and Peggy Strand, the other female actor in the play, who will wear hoop skirts!)

So today is our last day off. We are super excited going into technical rehearsals and the performances this coming week! It will be busy and exhilarating, so tonight is the time to rest and stay healthy before we forge ahead through the last rehearsals!

- Bethany

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rehearsals for ASTRAY THE SUN

This week we moved over to the Chamber Theatre to work in a rehearsal hall so we could practice in a space comparable to what we will have on the stage. For the most part we had been rehearsing with a similar space, but we ran into some differences with entrance/exit options, so we had to adjust a little to that.

We're all feeling pretty great about the show overall. There is some fight choreography, and we are lucky that one of our actors, Randall Anderson (a local professional), has 20 years of experience and has helped us to be safe in the process of planning out exciting violence that appears as realistic as possible. We have all been memorized for over a week and just ran lines last night to check and make sure we were getting every detail correct.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Update from Sam!

Hello again! Thanks Bethany for explaining everything, I probably should've done that.

Anyway...my cast has started to rehearse and so far it's going great! Our first meeting was yesterday (11/30) and we met again today. Right now we're working on blocking and pacing. We're focusing on getting the energy where it needs to be, and putting the movements in with it. The actor and actresses are doing wonderfully. They're mostly memorized which makes it much easier to just keep working away at blocking and getting the emotions and intentions right. We didn't get quite as far as we wanted yesterday, but I know it'll all come together quickly.

I love working with Sheri (my director). We're pretty much always on the same page and she's got awesome ideas for how everything should be staged. I'm having a lot of fun watching everything begin to come together and I can't wait for the next rehearsal Saturday!


Acting in Young Playwrights Festival

As an actor, I was thrilled to be cast in Astray The Sun as Aurora! It's a fantastic play, Charles (the playwright) did an amazing job with the language. Of course, Samantha and Kevin (the other winning playwrights) are wonderful too, we have three great plays for the festival! They are all so unique and interesting.

Astray The Sun is a one-act set in Vesper, a fictional Renaissance town. It is an inventive play with themes about love, friendship and duty. Vibrant characters provide for colorful relationships, unexpected humor and clever dialogue written entirely in verse!

These first two weeks of rehearsal have been a blast! We started out by working through the text in a read-through to analyze the character relationships and intentions. Then we worked out the blocking to help our bodies get an overall sense for the flow of things. This was especially helpful to our cast for memorizing since the language is hightened and takes a little more to get to a place where it comes naturally. Carol, our brilliant director (and a founder of Windfall Theatre), also had fantastic tips for how to use the language given to us. As with Shakespearean lines, it is powerful to use the sounds in the words to feed your emotion. For example, words with soft sounds like "fff" "ww" and "sh" help to connect to sad feelings, just as plosive sounds like "k" "T" "D" and "B" can help feed the frustration in the moment.

So we're all finishing up our memorization so we can really dive into the details of our character relationships and their emotions in each moment!

Monday, November 16, 2009

About Young Playwrights Festival (YPF)

Greetings. My name is Bethany Ligocki, and I have been given the opportunity to blog about the Young Playwrights Festival from both the administrative and actor viewpoints.

For the past handful of weeks, I have occasionally assisted Jacque Troy as the Administrative Coordinator. My major responsibilities were to create publicity for the auditions, set up and help Jacque run the administrative end of the auditions, and I am currently working on creating the program with the bios of everyone involved in the YPF production. I am happy to be able to assist even in this small way because it takes a lot of time and hard work to collaborate any production.

Young Playwrights Festival is such an awesome project and I am honored to have the opportunity to be involved. The Milwaukee Chamber's initiative to cultivate new art is greatly appreciated from everyone involved because The Young Playwrights Festival encourages emerging artists to collaborate. From area actors and directors, to student designers and playwrights (of course!), everyone is provided the opportunity to create something new together.

The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre partners with area high schools and local theatre professionals to develop three brand-new one-act plays written by high school students. Chosen from a large pool of entries, which were reviewed by a panel of local theatre professionals, the three winning plays are awarded with the opportunity to be brought to life on Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's stage!

Performances will be December 17 - 19 at 7:30 p.m. and December 20 at 2 p.m.
Please come out and support all the aspiring artists involved!

Thank you,
Bethany Ligocki

Friday, November 6, 2009

Greetings from a YPF Playwright!

Hi anybody and everybody! I'm Samantha and I wrote "A Brother's Goodbye," one of the plays selected for this year's Young Playwright's Festival. I have to say that I'm INCREDIBLY excited to work with all the amazingly talented professionals at the Chamber and I can't wait to see the finished product come December.

I had a lot of fun at rehearsals in October. I learned so much from watching the directors and the actors interact. It was really different from auditions for schools plays, which are so informal, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The first read through with the casts last Monday (11-2) was awesome. I got to hear the other two plays in full for the first two times and I loved them. Hearing them it's hard to believe that my play was deigned worthy to be performed alongside them. Right now I'm just waiting for full rehearsals to begin, which will be on the 30th of this month. If anybody has questions for me I'll be happy to answer them if I can.

Up next

MCT opens the Milwaukee premiere of MOON OVER THE BREWERY on Fri. Nov. 13. Angela Iannone makes her MCT directing debut with this charming romantic comedy. The show features Amanda J. Hull, Dan Katula, Travis A. Knight and Melinda Pfundstein. Performances will be in a newly reconfigured Studio Theatre.

Get more info here: http://www.chamber-theatre.com/3rd_of_season.html

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thank You

As we go into some of the final performances of Picnic, I wanted to take a few moments to say thank you. It has been such a joy to perform with our wonderful cast every night and for such great audiences. You all have been generous, giving and active participants every night. It makes doing what we love so much more rewarding, knowing you all are enjoying yourselves. Thank you for taking this journey with all of us. Truly, without loyal theatre goers such as yourselves, where would we be?

Thank You,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reviews Are In

Hi Everyone! I am Michelle Grimm and I work in the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre office part time as the Audience Development Coordinator. Since we haven't heard from anyone in awhile because they are busy in performance, I thought I would post all the reviews so you could see what the press has been saying! It seems like all the hard work has paid off. Well, here they are!

Shepherd Express

Third Coast Digest


Waukesha Freeman

Milwaukee Magazine

Russ Bickerstaff’s Express Milwaukee Online Blog/review

Friday, October 16, 2009

Opening Night!!

Hey all...just wanted to check in before the opening! I've been here for about 2 hours now...I am feeling great and I can't wait for you all to see the show...it is truly a wonderful piece of theatre! I have a superstition that I've followed since my first show 3.5 years ago...I walk to the theatre for every opening night! So today was a bit of a long walk, but it's no good messing with tradition...it took about an hour...very relaxing. I hope you all love the show and thank you for following our show on it's journey, and supporting this wonderful theatre! Cheers,

Another Openin'...

Here we are! It is Opening Night and we have made it to the next chapter in PICNIC: the run of performances. Everyone has been working very hard, and after last night's Preview performance are excited to open the show and to continue to share their artistry with an audience.

There is a line in the show where Mrs. Potts exclaims, "I think we plan picnics just to give ourselves an excuse. . . to let something thrilling and romantic happen to us-", and there is no better sentiment than this to describe the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre on the verge of their run of PICNIC. The groundwork has been set, and now the depth and beauty of the characters told in William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning play will be felt by all who attend the performances.

The journey is just beginning...

Fight Choreographer

"I love fight scenes" Mark Weinberg exclaimed many times throughout our talk, and his creative energy and fondness for stage combat proves infectious. Mark, a fourth degree black belt karate instructor and UW-Milwaukee Theater Professor has been teaching for 36 years. A self-taught fight choreographer, he has coupled his vast theater teaching and directing experiences with the knowledge and discipline of his karate achievements to create exciting and memorable fight sequences for the stage.

Many details have to be minded when staging a fight, including first and foremost the safety and abilities of the actors. The goal is to create realistic looking movements that do not cause the audience to be worried for the safety of the actors, but allow them to believe the action that is seen.

For PICNIC, Mark needed to create fights that were appropriate and reasonable for the characters that were involved. They needed to be 'quick and simple' in look and able to be done on surfaces that were not flat, including on a large dirt mound and on the steps of one of the back porches that is featured in the set design. While the sequences are not long, they took much practice to make them appear natural, and Mark asks the actors to rehearse the fights before every performance to keep them consistent.

While it was challenging at times to split his time between UWM, rehearsals, and the Black Belt Leadership Academy that he owns in Wauwatosa, Mark has enjoyed the pleasure of working on PICNIC and the collaboration that he has been able to do with Michael Wright and the actors, who did a great job of modifying the movement to make it their own. Furthermore, he has enjoyed working with his wife, Jenny Wanasek, who plays Flo Owens in PICNIC. Not only will the time, talent, and training that Mark has dedicated himself toward be apparent, but his strong sense of family and collaboration will be unmistakably discernable through the work that he has created.

Backstage Beauties

Here's a shout-out to the lovely ladies that are working hard to keep the backstage orderly and efficient. . .

Eva Rebholz is the Stage Management Intern for PICNIC. A UWM student, she has worked many hours in assisting the Stage Manager in the organizing and setting up of furniture and props, keeping the rehearsal hall orderly, giving the actors line notes during rehearsals, and doing an assortment of jobs that need to be done. She has been an invaluable asset to the production.

Kat Danielsen is the Deck Chief, and she makes sure that everything onstage and backstage is properly set, clean, and safe for the actors. It is her duty to see that everything functions efficiently and timely backstage to ensure that every performance runs smoothly. She must always remain calm under pressure and be resourceful to correct or tend to a wide range of backstage demands.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Long days journey into preview!!!

Last night went well! I was really happy with the feedback we got from the audience. I felt a bit more tense than usual, but I am confident and excited. The Cabot Theatre is a tricky space to try and fill with your voice, and were a few scenes Michael wanted to look at today with Michelle. But Max and I had a great work session, and found some cool things that I think will help! I just listened to my interview on WUWM.com ...I missed it at 10:30am , because I thought it was on at 11! Oh well, check it out on the WUWM web site, it's pretty fun! I think we are expecting a full house tonight, and I can't wait...This has been so much fun...I really hope you all enjoy it! I must leave now to prepare plus I'm hungry and haven't eaten all day...adieu!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First Audience

Hey...It's been a couple days since I've last written, but I was trying to think of something to keep me from getting nervous about tonight, and I thought I'd write a few lines. Tonight is our first audience and it couldn't come at a better time. I'm feeling great about the show and cannot wait for the injection of energy and life that an audience brings. This is it...this is what we have been waiting for. Nothing beats a live audience and it is as true today as it was 4 years ago when I first stepped onto the stage at UWM. Tonight we learn what's working and what's funny...what I really love about the first audience is that we can just play...and feed off their energy and really soak in what they're giving us. I could keep writing but I've discovered writing about being nervous doesn't help...so I am going to go sit alone in a dark room! Ha ha, not really...but I am excited! Hope to check in soon...wish us luck!

Scene & Re-seen part 3

Here is a third look at the scene that we have been following since the read through. In this clip, the actors are onstage for the first time. The scenery is not finished and there are no costumes or set light cues used during this first run in the space. The actors are focusing on their physical spacing and filling the Theater with their voice and presence. A large adjustment needs to be made from the rehearsal space to the stage, and this rehearsal was set up to allow everyone the time to become comfortable in the performance space.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Emily on The Morning Blend

PICNIC cast member (& MCT blogger) Emily Vitrano was interviewed on TMJ4's The Morning Blend today. If you missed it, you can check out the segment online:


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Properties Designer

Meghan Savagian, the Properties Designer for PICNIC, is kept very busy in her roles of hunting for props and decorating and dressing the stage.

The process for Meghan begins with research to understand the types and style of props that are needed for the production. She works closely with the scenic designer to make sure that they both have a coherent vision. For PICNIC, many props are needed, including a bottle of Moonshine, a Lady Baltimore cake, a bicycle, and furniture that is appropriate for a 1950s setting.

In order to be successful as a properties designer, you have to have a little knowledge of a lot of different things. Meghan's interests and experience has provided her with the skills needed to be a success. Her career as a student began at UW-Milwaukee where she studied music. An elective in mask-making led her to change majors and pursue technical theater. She gained experience in prop design with Milwaukee Shakespeare before going on to build props with the Big Apple Circus Production Co. While she enjoyed painting pinstripes on balls, working on 15 foot puppets, and accidentally parking Donald Trump in with her props van at Trump Tower, she also worked for other productions in New York before coming back to Milwaukee and working with the MCT on several productions.

For her work on PICNIC, Meghan has enjoyed the 'nice, stream-lined, and realistic' props that she needed to hunt and gather. Since she was able to find and utilize items that are from the fifties, she also appreciates the stories and collective history that is told by these artifacts. She is fond of the family of talent that has come to be a part of her experience within the Milwaukee Chamber Theater and the range of productions of which she has been an integral contribution.

Scene & Re-seen part 2

Here is another look at the scene that we last saw in the read through. The rehearsal hall has been arranged to give the actors a sense of what the stage setting will eventually be. It is important that the actors wear rehearsal skirts, aprons, and shoes that will give them a feeling for what the actual costumes will feel like. While the rehearsal setting is very different from what the stage will look like, focus needs to be placed on timing and characterization to make the transition to the stage as easy as possible.

In the next post we will see the scene as the actors perform it onstage for the first time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Movin' Out

Today we move from the rehearsal hall to the performance space, the Cabot Theatre. Everyone will have to adjust their blocking and timing on the stage as it is much different from the rehearsal space, but it is exciting to see the scenery and to be working in such a beautiful venue.

The set construction crew has been working nonstop to make sure that everything is ready for the actors, and the set is looking amazing. Each day new elements will be added to the rehearsals-sound, lights, costumes- and it is great to see it all begin to take shape.

In PICNIC, the character of Millie sketches another character, Hal. After each rehearsal, the sketches have been posted to showcase Millie's 'Art Gallery', and it is now time to say goodbye to the collection. If you look closely, you can really see the artistic development throughout this rehearsal process...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feeling Good

Last night's work through went really well. I'm not sure if it's the anticipation of being in the theatre space on Friday, but I feel like we are ready to be on the stage and have things to climb, run, jump, swing, sit and lean on!! Michael's ability to direct continues to amaze me. We have a strong sturdy foundation poured and the frame is built, so this week becomes about the details, filling the moments in the play that we have discovered over the past two weeks, and finding new ones. There a few beats that I feel I haven't found completely, but I trust Michael and I know we will get them ironed out.
Overall I am impressed with our progress.The dancing has been a journey!! When I was young my parents would take ballroom dancing lessons and we had so much fun when they would come home and teach us the steps. So when I considered the dancing that Hal does in the play, I wasn't worried at all...Ha Ha..Boy-o-Boy! Let's just say I have a new appreciation for "Dancing with the Stars." It has been a challenge, but Tony is wonderful and I'm having fun!
We have a run through tonight and hopefully we can take a peak at the stage. Everyone should read the Cue section of the Journal Sentinel this Sunday for interviews with Michael and myself as well as pictures of the fateful dance rehearsals. Also Bill Watson and I are doing a radio interview on WUWM tomorrow...which will air next Thursday. I'm on my way to rehearsal (not literally, but I'm about to leave.) ...gotta go early and practice my dance moves... Stay tuned...Bye!


Costume Designer

An important factor to any production that gives credibility and integrity to the script and aids the actors in forming their characters is costuming. For PICNIC, the person in charge of the costumes is Louella Powell. While her progression to costuming has not been direct, she had always worked with and around clothes before making costuming her profession, currently at UW-Milwaukee where she is on the faculty.

Louella's history in costuming began when she started dressing her cats up at age 7. Later, she earned a degree in Psychology and worked as a manager for a clothing store. She credits her interest and study of psychology to be a boon in figuring out the personalities of the characters that she clothes, particularly in PICNIC where the characters need to be believable as real people. Later, she became fascinated with costumes and began to make them for the Ice Follies in Anchorage, Alaska, leading her to earn a second degree in Theater and Design. She went on to work for Caspar College and the Utah Shakespeare Festival before moving to Milwaukee and working for the Milwaukee Rep and later UW-Milwaukee.

Her role in the production process starts with reading the script and doing research on the particular period and location that the play takes place in. Then she begins to gather all possibilities of clothing, hats, gloves, shoes, aprons, and any other clothing accessories that she might need, and she begins the long process of fitting costumes to the particular characters who will wear them. This is followed by alterations and repair to make the costumes suitable for the run of the production as well as guidance with hair and make-up.

Louella has particularly enjoyed her work on PICNIC due to her fondness for the time period, the 1950s, in which it takes place. She has been challenged by working with such a large cast of characters that needed very particular 'looks' depending on their social classes and interests, but the process has given her a chance to include her students at UWM, giving them a hands-on vantage point of the realities of life in the theater. This type of insight is not easy to come by, and her students will have the opportunity to view a final dress rehearsal to see all of the fruits of her labor in action on the stage. What they will see is the result of a strong commitment to the integrity of the time period that will delight audiences with authenticity and style.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Joan Darling is Really Smart

My senior year of college, Joan Darling came to do a workshop with the theatre department on acting. She was a fabulous character; huge round glasses, bright red lipstick and a personality to match. At the end of the session she turned to us and said, "We owe them who we are and what happens to us." To this day, even as I type those words, I have to take a pause. They have so much weight. So much truth.
At the time, I didn't fully comprehend what they meant. I just remember nodding my head and thinking, "Wow. Yes." And now, almost four years later, I am finally beginning to grasp the weight of those words.
Picnic is such a beautiful play for so many reasons. It is beautiful in it's hope, in it's despair, it's humor and it's sadness. Mostly, though, it is beautiful in it's characters and it's story. Who we are. What happens to us. I have to say, as an actress, it doesn't get much better than this. Every day I come to rehearsal and revel in what I get to do. I have the privilege of being with this young girl on her journey into womanhood. I have the privilege of living her firsts. The kind of firsts we dream about.
And as I spend time reveling and playing every day, Joan Darling keeps coming to mind. Because this story is so incredible, so beautiful, so real. Because I believe in this story and these characters, I now understand just how much we owe you. Just how important this is not only because theatre is our passion and we love to share it, but because this story must be told. It must be shared.
I hope you will join us for our journey. I hope you will fall in love with us, fall out of love with us. Hope for us, cry for us, live and breathe with us. I think I can speak on behalf of everyone and say, we can't wait!


Rehearsal Recap

The second week of rehearsals is through, and there has been much accomplished. The whole play has been blocked and rehearsed with careful attention to all details. Mark Weinberg came to rehearsal to teach some effective moves for particular scenes that required his expertise in stage combat. The dance sections of the play were also rehearsed and the busy week ended with a run of the whole show for the production and technical teams.

Sound cues, including dance music, car horns, explosions, and a very important train whistle are continually being refined and added to rehearsal to make sure that their timing is consistent and precise. It is always a little humorous at this point to hear cues that may not be timed quite right and to see an actor, for instance, arrive into the scene before his car is later heard approaching. These things will all be smoothed out this week.

Costumes are being fitted and tweaked as are props, and everyone is gearing up for the load-in into the performance space that will occur very soon. It is full speed ahead...

For your enjoyment, I will include this clip from the movie, PICNIC. While the movie had some questionable casting and took great liberties with the original play, altering it quite a bit, it was very popular when it first appeared in 1955, and earned two Academy Awards. Here is a little music and dance by Ernie Higgins and his Happiness Boys to give you a taste of the times...

Saturday, October 3, 2009


At the start of the rehearsal process all those involved in the production were given a resource guide that provided information on PICNIC, including biographical information on the playwright, William Inge. There has been much written about the life of Inge, and he spent a great deal of time in his life talking not only about his work, but his ambitions as a playwright. The following are some quotes that I have found very pertinent to finding the deeper meanings of PICNIC and to provide understanding of the nature of its complex playwright.


"I wanted to write a play that took place in the sunshine"
"When I was a boy in Kansas, my mother had a boarding house. There were three women school teachers living in the house, and they were nice to me. I liked them. I saw their attempts, and even as a child, I sensed the sorrow and the emptiness in their lives, and it touched me"

"What I have wanted most to do is to present the lives in PICNIC with all the warmth and humor and fondness and dismay that attended me when I recalled them. In such tranquil lives, I have found the 'mysterious quiet' that precedes a Kansas cyclone"


"My path in the Theater is to find all that I can in the human lives that I know and are available to me- and find the meanings in those lives secondarily, rather than take a theme and work in the characters secondarily."
"I hate a play that tells me what to think. I have to leave my characters for the audience to make their own judgements of."

"All my plays represent something of me, some view of life that is pecularily mine that no one else could offer in quite the same style and form. Success, it seems to me, would be somewhat meaningless if the play were not a personal contribution."

"I regard a play as a composition reather than a story, as a distillation of life rather than a narration of it."

"I compare a play to a journey, in which every moment should be as interesting as the destination. I despair of a play that requires its audience to sit through two hours of plot construction having no reference outside the immediate setting, just to be rewarded by a big emotional pay-off in the last act."

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Well, I just finished all my scenes, and I have to say it feels pretty good. Tonight was difficult, more so than any other, because it was the first time visiting some of these very heavy and layered scenes at the end. I am so proud of this cast, and incredibly excited to feel the whole play conected for the first time this weekend. So far everyone has been really supportive, and I feel a great sense of collaboration...In every rehersal process that I've been through, there has always been a certain day that I get home and realize that everything will be okay, and the show will piece together. Tuesday was that rehersal for me, we went back over acts 1 & 2 after a day off and they felt a little better than we left them. This is by far the earliest I have ever gotten that feeling, sometimes it doesn't come untill the dress rehersal!! The rest of this week will be used to deepen the scenes in act 3 and get ready for our first days in the space!! Time to go, I'm getting a ride because it's raining too hard to ride my bike!! Ciao,

Scene & Re-seen part 1

Today's post is the first in a series that will track one scene from PICNIC through the whole production process. The following video clip is from the first read through:

Soon we'll follow this scene and view it as it has been blocked in the rehearsal space.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stage Manager

While tracking rehearsals and the process of producing a play, I will also shed light on some very key roles that are vital to the operation. The first profile will be of Lydia LaGue (great name, by the way), the guest Stage Manager for PICNIC.
I chatted with Lydia to discuss her ideas of the specific role that a Stage Manager plays within a production as well as to find out a little of the history that led her to work with the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

Lydia views her role as the hub of the wheel, linking the production team with the director and actors. She is the eyes and ears of everyone throughout the rehearsal process, supporting the director's vision while also serving as an advocate to the actors. The Stage Manager is later crucial in the transition that occurs as the play progresses into technical rehearsals and Lydia will also be present for all performances, overseeing that the stage and all props are taken care of in addition to calling the light, scenery, and sound cues and working with the House Manager to ensure that the Theater is nightly prepared for an audience.

Lydia was born the eldest of five children and had a hammer in her hand by the time she was ten, helping her father with repairs at her family's lake house. She gained an appreciation and enjoyment of theater from her mother and as a child would put on plays in the 'proscenium arch' of her parents' dining room. While at the University of Texas she became a Technical Production Theater major, and found her passion at a time when not many females went into this type of study. Later, while working in Kansas City and then at SUNY- Purchase, she found that when working behind the scenes in technical theater that she missed the rehearsal process and strong connection to the actors. This led her to become the Production Stage Manager for the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival before moving to Wisconsin.

Having taken some time off from working in the theater to raise her family of five children, she is now ecstatic to be active with acquaintances that she has not worked with for quite a while, and on a play that she considers to contain great characters and plot. She is further looking forward to calling the performance cues, her talent and experiences providing the essential link that joins the artistic with the technical to present a memorable theatrical experience. Though the audience does not see her, the management and organizational skills that she employs are critical to the success of every performance.

Bein' Pretty Ain't Easy

I can't believe we are only on the second week of rehearsal and already we've run two of the three acts!!!! What an amazing week this past week was. I am having such a great time playing within Madge's world. I feel as if each day I learn so much about this fascinating character and yet I feel as if I haven't even begun to scratch the surface. I don't want to give too much away, but I can tell you this...being pretty ain't easy!
Today we are going back and working through each act to solidify and sharpen what we've already created. I am anxious to get back to work and to continue playing.

'Till Then!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Rehearsal Recap

The first week of rehearsals is over...and we'll start on the second week tomorrow. To catch you up to speed, I'll do a recap of all that has transpired. In a very short time (5 days, count them!...) both Act 1 and Act 2 have been blocked, and this is a tremendous accomplishment. The actors are a bit shell shocked, having spent many hours in the staging and rehearsing of their blocking while becoming comfortable in the memorization of their lines and the dialect in which they are delivered. The complexities of each of the characters are becoming even more apparent as each actor continues to examine their own character's unique relationship on stage to every other character in the play. One evening was also spent on dancing, as a scene requires certain characters to dance with each other. The coordination of counting the dance steps, mastering the jitterbug, and remaining in character while delivering lines can be challenging!

This past week there have also been numerous costume fittings to make sure that everyone's costumes and accessories carry the look and feel of the play. This is the first time that the costumes are examined together, and hats, shoes, gloves, purses, aprons, and hair styles are continually decided upon.

The scenery and props are also adapted to fit the needs of the actors and script and to portray the yard between two houses where the action takes place. Here's a peek at a model of the 'grass' that will carpet the stage:

Here's to another productive week!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mind your Manners

Since its Friday, I thought it might be nice to have a bit of fun... As the actors continue to research and experiment with their own characterizations, one useful tool is to find out as much as possible about the culture and time that their particular character lives in. Often within these investigations, humorous things turn up that provide great fodder for many laughs...

Ah, where to begin?

Ah, where to begin? There are not enough words in the English language to express how excited, elated, thrilled and terrified I am to be playing Madge in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's production of Picnic. Excited, elated, thrilled, because it's an amazing role, in an amazing play, with an amazing company...I don't think I need to explain why I'm terrified. During the first read through, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. Finally, finally it was time to dig into this script and these characters. Not often have I felt the serendipitous energy that I felt on Tuesday. It seemed everything and everyone had fallen into place so perfectly.

In a foreword, written by Inge, introducing four of arguably his most successful plays, he writes, "I think every line and every situation in a play should 'pay off,' too, and have its extensions of meaning beyond the immediate setting, into life. I strive to bring meaning to every moment, every action." Inge has certainly done this with Picnic. Every second of that play is so full of life, meaning and experiences. As Michael told us on the first day, "Everything we say has weight." We've only just begun, and already, I feel as if Madge has traveled so far, experienced so much, felt so much. This is my favorite part of acting. The experiences. The opportunity to experience the character's most important moments. Like Inge, I, too, am striving to find meaning in every moment, every action. To bring life to this beautiful character and what is, in my opinion, the most amazing moment in her life; finding her soul mate. I can only hope to do her justice.

So much more to come. Thank you for coming along this journey with me and all of us involved with Picnic!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Color Inspiration

A powerful influence to the look of PICNIC are the paintings of Thomas Hart Benton, whose colorful works whimsically depicted American life in the 1950s. Two particular paintings, Butterfly Chaser and Picnic (great title!) provide the color palette for the scenery and costumes: the scenery taking cues from the more neutral earth tones and the costumes from the brilliant colors that pop from the paintings. As the production continues to progress, it is interesting to see the impact that all of these factors have on shaping the overall outcome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day one and two

I was feeling pretty confident and excited about our first read through yesterday. I have been reading Picnic to myself for what seems like an eternity. We all gathered for a delightful hour of snacks and greetings to welcome everyone to the process. And then we read the play...it was just as satisfying as I imagined to hear all the voices of such an amazing cast.

Today we are on our feet for the first time, playing around in character...tons of fun! Had to go because break was over...little frustrated because I keep turning my back to the audience … but I think we've nipped it in the bud...Time for bed!

Putting it Together

The company had their first read through of Picnic yesterday and after months of preparations on their own, read through their parts with the others in the show. It is always exciting when all of the characters are brought to life and begin to interact with one another, their written sentiments becoming vivid. For the first time the words of the script leave the pages and become living and breathing emotions. The context, richness, and depth of each of the characters and their relationships to one another begin to form.

The cast sat around tables and carefully read through the script, concentrating on the rhythms and meanings of the dialogue. Periodically the reading was stopped to allow for discussion and insight regarding anything from a character's motivation to an examination of the themes that are being presented.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Endless Summer

Hi, howd'ya do?

I am Jonathan Zautner, a Directing Intern for the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's upcoming production of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Picnic. This blog will take you through the complex and a bit mysterious process of mounting this piece from the moment it was just a twinkle in Director C. Michael Wright's eye right up to its exciting Opening Night. Along the way, I'll also introduce you to the people whose talents and elbow grease will mingle to create the finished product that the audiences will view.

So, back to that twinkle. It would be natural to quizzically ask yourself where a person would even begin to get a production of this sort off the ground. To jump-start this process, several key concepts were considered by the Director to get the creative forces flowing. These include a look into the dramatic life of the playwright: William Inge, the location of the play: small town Kansas, the year that the action takes place: 1953, and the time of year that the play is set: Labor Day. These four details provide a plethora of powerful microscopic springboards that will steer the course of all the pre-production planning, ideas ricocheting through the air at terminal velocity.
It's quite dramatic. For instance, by understanding the life, the depth, and very tortured fiber of Inge, and the way each character represents a part of him, certain character choices taken from the script begin to make sense. Also by examining what life in small town Kansas, particularly in 1953, was like influences many creative choices that will find their way onto the stage. Everything from dialect to the makeup of society, music, costume, commerce, and class will be considered. Collectible Life magazines will be perused to understand the colors and designs that were popular in this era, and everything will be contemplated from the style of bicycle to yes, the delectable Lady Baltimore cake, to remain authentic.
Since the play takes place on Labor Day and the day after, this holiday will have great significance on the tone of the production as well. I think that everyone probably feels a little sense of dread when Labor Day arrives and the carefree, lazy, and long days of summer begin to come to an end. After Labor Day, schedules seem to get busier and days shorter, and the realities and responsibilities of daily life are a bit more apparent. Some of the drama we'll examine in Picnic is due to these startling realizations.

The calendar has officially marked the season as Autumn and the leaves have already begun to turn. With Picnic, it is refreshing to go against nature and spend a few more weeks enjoying the heat and reckless joys that occur before the sun finally goes down on a seemingly endless Summer.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are we there yet?

Hey everyone...My name is Andrew Voss and I am a senior in the acting BFA program at UWM. I have been given the amazing opportunity to play Hal Carter in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's production of "Picnic." I have to admit that I am a little anxious as the first read through is finally only a week away. I was cast as Hal in January and have been working on the part as much as possible since...meeting about once a month with C. Michael Wright our amazing director, just to play around with some character choices, and keep up a dialogue about the play. The sessions have been incredibly helpful, and I am grateful to Michael for all his wisdom and insight. I am ready, and am counting down the hours...for now it's back to work on Act III! Hope to write again soon.
Thank You for time,

MCT enters the blogging world

Ta-da ... here is our very first post! Rehearsals for our upcoming production of PICNIC start next week and we look forward to giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the process. Plus PICNIC is a collaboration with the UW-Milwaukee Theatre Dept - stayed tuned for details about that and more!