Monday, April 26, 2010

What one can find on the internets.....

So after a second week of shows and a fine lot of audience members, I found myself relaxing and surfing the web. I was in the midst of researching roles and plays for this coming summer at American Players Theater, but also for fun, I just happened to google 'baseball playing chickens' and this lovely 1955 article found its way onto my screen.
The wonders of the internet never cease to amaze me. I have shared it with the cast and crew already - but now I figure I should share it with our audience as well.
It's crazy to think they actually DO exist.
Check it out. Enjoy.,1544577

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our home opener....

As many of you know we opened Sweetest Swing in Baseball this past weekend. It was great to finally get an audience in the theater and to hear their reactions to the show.
It is the addition of you, the audience, that really creates the theatrical experience. You are what makes theater happen.
A lot of times you will hear people talk about adding the audience as the final 'character' or the final 'element', and this is absolutely true.
The thing that makes live theater such a vital experience and something that film and television will never come close to doing is that we share the same space, breathe the same air for a brief moment in time while we share a story.
And that makes the audience just as vital a part of the experience as the actors, technicians, playwrights, directors, and designers.
We cannot exist within a vacuum, creating our art on our own, for our eyes only. We need to share, and we need to share with a community, to complete the circle.

And this opening weekend felt like just that. So I thank all of you who came out this weekend and shared the show with us. Those of you who laughed, moaned, stood up and cheered, I want you to know that makes all the difference. We feel that onstage. It feeds us. It teaches us as actors. We are there live in the room with you and we are listening and reacting to you as much as you are to us.

And to those of you who have not yet made your way out to Sweetest Swing, we have two more weeks left of performances and plenty of chances to see this wonderful show. The reviews are out if you want to check them out online. But I think maybe you should just take my word for it and stop in to see this show. ;)

On one final note, I really must say once again - it is the audience that makes the show. You are the finishing touch. And as we continue to perform you teach us how to hone moments from rehearsals, where to hold for laughs, what makes you cringe. Mary even said there was a moment this weekend when somebody in the audience blurted out "oh, no. please don't", when her character starts inquiring about her doctor's failed dance career, and Mary said that it kind of put that moment in a new light for her. In that instant, that particular audience member's reaction, shined a light on a part of human experience that we maybe missed in rehearsal. And moments like this happen more often than you think. We will walk offstage and head to the dressing room and think 'why did they laugh at that?' - 'Why that reaction?' - and it helps us to better understand a moment and hone our craft as artists and hopefully better understand the human condition and the story which we are telling.

So I thank you once again. I thank you for supporting Milwaukee Chamber Theater and live theater in general. It is vital to the idea of community in a day and age where interpersonal communication is brought to a minimum in pursuit of the most efficient, almost always electronic, mode of delivery. Any coffee shop in the nation, you will find a lot of people in one room connecting to their online communities, paying no attention to the community around them. But that is a story for another time.
I am happy to say that Milwaukee has a community - I think - that sees the value of live theater, and the importance of that storytelling ritual that makes a community whole and vital. Thank you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speaking of the set...

Read Nick's post below about transitioning into the new space, and then to see what he's refering to watch John McGivern's Footlights Minute in the link below!

Transitioning to the Space....

As I promised, I am back and I wanted to quickly talk about the transition from the rehearsal room to the stage. I began talking about it before but did not get too far into the subject.

No matter how you look at it - even if it looks easy - Art is hard.
Partly the simple act of putting yourself out there to be judged and criticized.
But also the creative act and process itself.
In theater, in particular, it is a struggle to tell the story in the best possible way that serves the author's vision and director's intent. And we spend weeks in a room working through scenes, sculpting each moment beat by beat, tracking the progression through to the very end.
We make good choices, and sometimes we make very bad choices. I am one who is just getting used to making the bad choice to make certain it WILL NOT WORK. And that too is beneficial, as afterward, I can mark that choice off the list completely.
And over the weeks of rehearsing and sculpting scenes, we get used to the surroundings, the intimacy of the small rehearsal room, the warm wooden floor and the rest of the 'white noise' in the visual background behind our scene partner that we, as storytellers, really begin to connect with the language and the person with which we are speaking.

And then .... Tech week strikes!

We move into the theater and we begin adding all of the technical elements to the show. Lights, sound, the set, and costumes. All of a sudden, the intimacy of the tiny wooden floored room is gone, and we a thrust into a larger space, surrounded by the all white set, bright lights and a sound scape we are not entirely used to. And even though we knew this was going to happen - and we knew the set was going to look the way it does, and things were going to sound like they do, we are all of a sudden out of our element.

Peter Reeves and I have told each other - "acting really shouldn't be that hard. All we have to do is walk and say some words" - but somehow, that simplest little thing is sometimes an impossible task.

And it is somewhere within the transition from the rehearsal room to the stage during tech week that we end up losing a lot of the work that we did in rehearsal to simply get used to playing in this new space - with all of the new elements added. And it becomes a process of getting back to that comfortable place again, where you are able to become used to the 'white noise' of a towering set, or costume pieces that you have not seen before. After that happens you can again begin focusing on the text and telling the story. Which is why we are there in the first place.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Tech.....

Today is our first ten out of twelve. Which means we work from 11am -11pm, with a 2 hour break for dinner. Hence the term Ten out of Twelve.
We have been in the space for three days now, on a BEAUTIFUL set, with great lighting, and a really solid and at times chilling sound scape.
Walking into the space the first day and seeing this all white set was amazing. And then when any of the actors come out onstage - you literally cannot take your eyes off them. Any shred of color in costume just pops out against the white. It is truly going to be a beautiful.

And now it is a matter of us all getting used to playing on the set - used to the sound cues and the shifts, and making sure we are still telling the story. More on that a little later, Judy Martel just called us back from break.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Designer Run....

As many of you are probably already aware of, the designer run is NOT a 10k or anything, but rather an opportunity, often the first opportunity for the designers working on a particular show to see how far it has come along.

It allows the designers the opportunity to see the play in a full run, before they have to add their individual technical elements. It also allows us actors the opportunity to follow our character's arc through the whole show - sometimes for the very first time in sequence, since the original read through.

I can say that this particular designer run was one of the best of which I have ever been a part. 'Line' was called by actors made three times - and we were all on top of our game. Listening, telling our story, making sure that moments hit when they needed to land. That everything was in place to take our lead character Dana along her path, to help her end where she does in the play. It was also great to hear people reacting and laughing after being alone in the room for two weeks.

There have been other designer run-throughs that have not been as lovely as this one - and I think that this one, is a testament to the artistic team that Michael has assembled for this project - and how we all jump into it 100%.

So, the function of a designer run, is not only for the actors, but as I mentioned before but moreso for the designers. It allows a sound designer to see how actors are playing certain moments, and how their sound design might support those moments. If there is something that is particularly soft, then maybe a music or sound cue will not be inserted there. Also, if there is shift music between scenes, I can only assume, seeing what note a scene ends on, helps inform what music gets put between that scene and the next to help further the story.
I can only assume that for a lighting designer, it is incredibly helpful to see how the stage space is being used as far as blocking, so they know exactly how much of the stage they need to light and when. For a set or properties designer - I can see how it would be beneficial to see how the actors use the set, if tables are being stood on and need to be braced, if chairs are being thrown against walls or knocked over -and sometimes, not as extreme as that.

But the point I am trying to make, is that these designers sometimes only get this one opportunity to see the landscape of the show before tech week when all their elements get put into practice. And it always amazes me that they are able to design the show well in advance of the first rehearsal, see a run through like this, and then make the alterations needed (if any) off site, and come back a couple weeks later all set to go.

And it reminds me just how collaborative an art form Theater is. How one story, relies on so many different elements working together, in tandem. How, much like I mentioned in an earlier blog that the building of a character is a sequential string of choices, the technical elements of a play, from lights, set, props, costume, and sound, are all themselves created in that similar sequence of choices to support the same story the playwright set down on the page.

So once again, I tell you that this production is going very well. I am extremely proud to be part of this cast and this process, and I cannot wait for you to see the final product.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And we are on our way....

Today rehearsal starts at 5pm so I thought I would drop a quick line before heading in.
Last night we finished blocking the entire show. So now from top to bottom we have a frame work of how the show is going to play, and now, we are charged with the task of playing moments, and filling out the story.
I can say that personally, these next couple of weeks are key for me. I need this time to actually ground myself more within the world of the play and the life of my character. Solidifying choices, and sequences to help tell the story of Michael and Brian, but also to support the overall arc that the character of Dana needs to travel. As a supporting role in a show, it is always a fine balance I try to find. I want people to be engaged by my character and want to see more of them, but I also know that I cannot distract from what the story of the play really is. Whatever choices I make should help showcase, in this case, the story of Dana. The playwright has placed all of the characters into this story to serve a purpose, teach a lesson, form a choice, that will eventually lead Dana from the beginning of the play through to her final moment onstage.
And this is what makes the job of being an actor enjoyable and fun for me. To have that challenge of telling my own character's stories, while at the same time I am staying true to the author's intent.
On a similar note, I have decided since my character of Michael is going through rehab, that I too, as the actor, am going to stay away from alcohol for the run of the show. I know that some people may say that this is too 'method' - and that I should simply act the part... that I do not need to live that part of the life of the character. But I think in this case, it is a very important part of telling the story of Michael, as truthfully as possible. I have had several people in my life, who were/are addicts. To alcohol, to drugs. Some close, and some not so much.
For those people, it is a challenge to stay away from that addiction. I think it would do dishonor to them to play a character trying to recover, and turn around after the show and have a drink.
It may sound crazy, but as I mentioned before in an earlier post - acting and creating a character is, for me, a series of sequential choices that make up a man's life.
This is just one choice in that sequence.