Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where's The Audience?

Just 20 miles from Lexington, KY is a quaint theatre space in Midway that was the perfect setting  for an evening of 10 minute plays. I love this type of theatre. Short glimpses of what could be. When involved in new works festivals I dreaded reading all those scripts to get to the one or two that you believed were fit to move forward. Weeding. But Banta Productions and the Thoroughbred Community Theatre found seven good scripts, directors and 15 actors to provide an engaging night of theatre and thought.
You might think that this type of production could be slapped together without rehearsal and thought. It could but, not this Festival. I thought they all showed a commitment to this project exposing the art of the 10 minute play. Capture my interest. Bring me into your world. Take me for a ride then take me back home in 10 minutes. Well done. But, one thing was missing, the audience.
This was opening night, and knowing the size of the theatre, I was surprised that we got tickets kind of last minute. The intimate cabaret setting was perfect for these plays allowing you to be involved with the space and the stage kind of like a classroom or study hall. So, where were the people.  I'm sure audiences will grow but a bunch of people missed some exciting rarely seen theatre in this area.
Favorites? Yes, but that is all subjective. Isn't it? Better here worse there? Script. Actor. Director. The three ingredients we were given Friday night. The Test...character potential, Blood Grass...most iintriguing, Violating Uncle Piggy...comical and energetic, Taken For A Ride...taken and imaginative, No Sugar...no coffee but has a twist, It's Impossible to Get Fired from Thrifty Drug Aid...it is possible, but leave Nancy in the store, and Saddam's Lions...needs aging and time. There's my list and it might change later today as I reflect on each unique piece and discuss it with others. If I can find someone else that saw and experienced this production.
Here's looking forward to the 3rd Annual Festival.
 But go see the the 2nd Annual Festival now!
What a great fall season this year.
Get out and enjoy.
ô¿ô

Monday, September 27, 2010

PRODUCTION SPELLED CORRECTLY

videoTwo O’clock on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Woodford County. Downtown is buzzing, merchants outside, lunch, and a Roots and Heritage Festival. Who would want to go inside a theatre for a musical comedy about six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser on a day like today. Me. And I’m glad I did.

Woodford Theatre’s community production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a unexpected light musical comedy that allows us into the gymnasium of this annual event and the cast is going to make sure they take us along into the highs and hells of the Bee. A focused ensemble cast brought together by Kirchner, Stohlmann and Fitzpatrick (director, music director and choreographer) are at play. Looking, listening, reacting and acting with each other in this environment delivers the goods to make this production worth seeing and participating in. Improv with this kind of material could be dangerous. But this cast and crew found a good balance with the music, dialogue and stage/dance movement.  Mostly on stage for an hour and a half, this troupe was involved and engaged with the script and audience. You pulled me in an took me along. Thank you.

I love the element of the guest spellers from the audience. I heard something while in the lobby before of a kid being asked to come up on stage. It was a creative script choice and the cast kept things under control and took care of their guests. I’m easily fooled.

My compliments to the production staff of the Woodford Theatre. I’ve enjoyed your productions I’ve experienced their and should attend more often. You offer and provide a cohesive program and production and take great care of your community assets you have for both local artists and community.

Thank you for bringing me inside from the sunshine and activities outside and giving me another reason to enjoy local theatre. Take another bow cast and crew.

ô¿ô

Saturday, September 18, 2010

PLEASE, CHEW ME SOME SCENERY


As a director, designer or an actor I want to know my home. My space.  How and why is it laid out? Time of day? Forecast? Temperature? What do I eat and drink? What’s in that can on the shelf? Do I have enough change in my pocket for the bus ride home? What’s that smell when I open the door? These and many, many other questions helps the actor build their character. For the director it helps to build the layers needed to tell the story of those characters.

For the actors, this is your home. Your couch, chair, floor, wall, door….your externals. A little more personal, what internal props do you have or need? How does my costume affect my character? For the director these are the tools you have to help the actor develop and explore. Even in design you are directing and putting things in place for the actor. For the character. For the story.

“The Jungle Fun Room” at Studio Players was “A Room” where five actors gathered to take us on an adventure to no where. Aspiring actors working birthday parties at the New York City Zoo has promising possibilities. We got a glimpse of a few of those moments but the characters were not fully flushed out past the page unto the stage. Where, what, when?

Comedy for the stage is not easy. Characters need layers and probably a road map.  Relying on the obvious only takes you to a certain point.  This is a good script but it still needs some tweaking to help the audience relate to these characters and for us to want to take this ride. Each character has their own singular quirks that need to be larger than life. They are actors and for the most part this group was the most tamed group of actors I have ever met. The egos, the competition, the need for recognition the wacky way they dress and present themselves again are the layers they need more of for us as an audience to care about them and their adventure.

My approach is more of an organic discovery for the actors and the designers. The trick is to meld all those thoughts and emotions with the physical world onto the stage to a complete process that tells the story.  Where, what, when and how.

Technical note to self:  The revolving wall for Shelly’s short monologues was not needed.  The time effort put into this effect could have been simplified with her center stage with lighting and a spotlight and the sound effects to create the same effect. The extra time put into these scene changes was unnecessary. And what about letting the audience be the children?  Singing Happy Birthday and responding to our Captain Mammal tour guide?  Get us involved early from the start.  Moving one of her monologues to the beginning would be a better setup and maybe would have pulled us into this party earlier.

New scripts and works are exciting and challenging.  So too with this production.  I always root for the underdog.  Keep working and exploring those layers. The big, the small, the quite and the intimate, the loud and the all out there, "HEY, I AM AN ACTOR!"  But I coordinate birthday parties at a zoo.


Goodbye Summer.  Hello Fall.
ô¿ô

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Early Steve Martin Classic

The Smokers



written by Steve Martin


(This is not a monologue, per se, as there is no one speaking. But it is nevertheless hilarious and (to a small degree) a condemnation of this habit. This is from Steve Martin's first published book, Cruel Shoes, entitled "The Smokers." It appears written on his first album, "Let's Get Small" (1971) accompanied by three images of a very young, dark-haired Steve Martin with several cigarettes in his mouth at once, looking comically suave)
 

He lit the cigarette and smoked it down to the filter in one breath. He silently thanked the cigarette company for being thoughtful enough about his health to include a filter to protect him. So he lit up another. This time he didn't exhale the squeaky-clean filtered smoke, but just let it nestle in his lungs, filing his body with that good menthol flavor. Some more smokers knocked on his door and they came in and all started smoking along with him.  "How wonderful it is that we're all smoking,"
 he thought.

 


Everyone smoked and smoked and after they smoked they all talked about smoking and how nice it was that they were all smokers and then they smoked some more.




Smoke, smoke, smoke. They all sang "Smoke That Cigarette" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Then the smokers smoked one more cigarette and left him alone in his easy chair, about to relax and enjoy a nice quiet smoke.
And then his lips fell off.


ô¿ô




Thanks to Neil for providing additional text that appears in the book ("Cruel Shoes" by Steve Martin) but not on the album cover (not enough room?).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Rules. Fly Your Kite.

ATL's production of "The Kite Runner" is an compelling piece of theatre that begins to teach us about the struggles of the Afghanistan people juxtaposed between their customs and rules. Reminiscent  of "Our Town", this play could become standard reading in theatre classrooms worldwide.

Through the early childhoods of Amir and Hassan we get to learn that the two boys are culturally apart but socially together as friends. One tries to teach the other to read and the other  the art of flying a kite. Act I is full of information about their situation formed in the mid to late 70's. The lessons of  the caste system, of family and traditions, of winning and standing up against the bully and thugs and the loyalty and friendship of two people.  The use of the narrator telling the story allows us to experience Amir's tribulations as a young boy and as a man setting up Act II. Act II's time line of 1981-2002 is a lot of information to deal with in an one hour constraint but Matthew Spangler's adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's novel seems to hit the highlight of the novel.

Upon entering the theatre and seeing the Persian influence within the proscenium and sliding panels was a nice touch but the pattern seemed simple and Americanized.  This pattern was repeated in the lighting on the stage. The stage is sparse only to bring in pieces as needed to denote space and place, aka "Our Town". The "stone wall" centerpiece is used for various situations from a vantage point for the kite running to a run down bus. This might be to simple and probably not needed.  Maybe that is what director Masterson was trying to establish.  But, I see a better  use of the cyclorama and multimedia.  And why don't they bring some of the action and scenery more downstage? Sight lines? Another technical let down were the kites during the kite competition and the final moment in the play.  Kites floating on the wind back to earth can be inspirational but falling from the sky like a stone is a disappointment.

Overall the acting and casting should be commended. A few of the minor roles might have been cast to young. But Jos Viramontes brought enjoyment and wonder to the role as the older Amir and narrator. He relived his youth with the joy and pain involved and faced the consequences of his adulthood with honesty and truth. It's an ensemble piece and a great ensemble told a great story and brought forth a great production. Special mention to Salar Nader the onstage Tabla player. His composition, arrangement and commanding performance sets the tone throughout the play and makes him the silent yet musical actor on the stage.

This play has a lot to accomplish in order for us to understand and learn about the Afghan lifestyle and culture. But as this production reminds us about the common elements of loyalty, forgiveness, redemption and sacrifice hopefully we start to learn about our self and others far from the comfort of home. This play needs to be seen. To be discussed. To fly. To run. To chase and catch that kite.  ô¿ô

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"A Place for Your Stuff"

"A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see it when you're taking off in an airplane.
You look down and see all the little piles of stuff. Everybody's got his own little pile of stuff. And they lock it up! That's right! When you leave your house, you gotta lock it up.  Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. 
Cause they always take the good stuff!  They don't bother with the crap you're saving."
George Carlin Braindroppings 1997

Due to the time spent scanning and posting past local theatre programs and pictures on facebook and the digital world, people are asking "Where did you get all this stuff and/or crap?" How much of everyday life is devoted to "stuff"? Well, after being fired, no laidoff, no on vacation now for 4 months, you have to fill up your days cleaning house, buying groceries, sorting laundry, organizing the garage and finally cleaning out those closets and dresser drawers. Time to down size your stuff.  Throw out some stuff. Give away some stuff. What the hell is this stuff?

The theatre programs? This collection started in 1977 when I saw my first "Broadway" play at the Opera House.  Any guesses?  Grease. Since then I collected or kept programs from plays as an audience member or as a participant whether it was as a producer, director, actor, tech or general flunky. They all are important to me. Memories of people, memories of theatrical moments (both good and bad) and of a time. I wish I had the program from my first appearance on stage as the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz" at Garden Springs Elementary. More stuff
and more memories.

So I have now passed these crumbled stained programs out into the digital world. Hopefully, to bring some memories back to others. Good or bad. How do we dispose of stuff? Recycle it? Sell it? Give it away? How about sharing it? I think I'm finished with this stage of my theatre history archive.  I would love to make some new history and fill up a new box of programs and pictures.  ô¿ô


"So you keep getting' more and more stuff, and puttin' it in different places. In the closets, in the attic, in the basement, in the garage. And there might even be some stuff you left at your parents' house: baseball cards, comic books, photographs, souvenirs. 
Actually your parents threw that stuff out long ago."
George Carlin

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Live with Regis and Kelly at 9am for God's Sake!

Why aren’t we allowed to watch “Live with Regis and Kelly” at 9am live with the rest of the country, should I say world? Are they hiding something from us? Is there something going on in NYC that we have to wait an hour before seeing our past?


I then want to watch Saturday Night Live at 12:30 am on Sunday. I want to watch Katie Couric at 7:30pm or 8 instead of 6:30. I want my Noon News around three in the afternoon.

I guess I could move. I could buy a satellite dish and watch it Live from the studio. Or drive to Ashland Kentucky and watch it Live in some little diner. But I would probably get beat up for asking them to change the channel.

Well it's almost noon and it's time for breakfast.  ô¿ô

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is It Really A Fair?

I was still in high school when the Woodland Art Fair started 35 years ago in a parking lot and needless to say I wasn’t that impressed. Hey, I was in high school and I had more important things to do besides walking around looking at “art”.
Flash forward. AFB Art Fair. I have been almost every year and have enjoyed watching the changes and growth of the fair over the summers. The “Fair” has taken focus in the last few years proven by the quality of artists brought into the park. And I think they have listened and acted with their public in meeting certain needs. Kudos to all the sponsors, volunteers and the Lexington Art League.
To get to the fair you have to get in the thick of the atmosphere and side streets that surround the park. Kentucky, Lafayette, Park, Oldham, and Woodland to name a few. Locals sitting on their porches drinking coffee, neighbors talking over fences and yards sharing daily updates from the night before and cats taking morning naps. High Street and Kentucky Avenue prepare you for entrance into the fair. Yard Sale? Maybe. Art Sale? Yes. Antique Sale? Hmm, let me double check on this. But mostly this is their neighborhood, their park and their fair.
Enter the fair.  First thing, food and fruity beverages needed for the upcoming tour of artist's tents. The smells call out "Eat Me" this must be a fair. And we follow. One of everything, please. Do we have enough cash? Can Gypsy have that fried pork tenderloin that Louie Hillenmeyer just offered? Gypsy, on loan while Paul visits San Diego and our first adventure taking a dog to the fair. Aah she's cute.  How old is she? Oops, I almost stepped on her. Comments that got old over the day and a good reason for leaving her at home next time.
So we make the loop to look at all the juried artists in this year's fair. What an incredible range. You have to see it to experience it.  But I like the filler. The people. Mostly strangers that want to talk about the art and wares in a particular tent, the colors, the skill, the talent and time and the artist and artistry. The only thing missing was more artists and tents. Problem? Take over more space in the park? Move the venue? No!!! It is the Woodland Art Fair and artist, neighbor and patron need this space. And yes, I stopped by the "Shakespeare" tree and said a little prayer.
The hit of the fair? It had to be the penny floating in bags of water to keep the flies away from some vendor's areas. Does it work?  You will have to Google and decide. But I did not see any flies. With the cooler temps and the doors and windows open these days I might have to give this a try.  And yes you can buy this contraption or just make your own.
2010 was a good year for the AFB. Will I go again next year? Yes. I hope I'm around for the 70th anniversary.  ô¿ô


 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Summer Almost Finished

I guess the foreshadowing for this summer started in October of 2009 when the Canadians bought Liquor Barn in Kentucky and I started having stomach cramps.  I predicted things would change and most of that came true by April and July of 2010.
When I was called into the boss's office on April 9th, 2010, I thought we were going to talk about upcoming changes and new opportunities not expecting to hear "your services are being out sourced and we no longer have a position for you."  What?  You look to your local management "friends" seeking support and some sort of explanation and all you get are eyes diverted looking away.  Thanks.  You showed your true colors and suckered me into your "friendship" after all these years that really was never there.  Angry?  Yes.  Moving on?  Trying but, still confused and very mistrustful of a few people and some more specific.
So you start all over and take a few weeks off to relax and digest what has happened then start looking for a new job.  When one has done some sort of theatre work for years and then spend 13 years in the retail liquor business new jobs are hard to come by.
Then, the stomach problems start up again. Pain and discomfort that can knock you down for a couple of days.  Go to the doctor.  They think it is a acid reflux problem.  Take a pill. OK. But wait, you turned 50 a few months back so why not have a colonoscopy to check everything out.  OK? Two times in less than four weeks and I am going to get reamed in the ass again.  Results?  Everything plumbing wise checks out just fine. Shew.
Then May 17th rolls around and it is time to celebrate 13 years of wedded bliss. I love you Diane.  Instead of a big vacation we decide to stay local and see the sights of Kentucky. Lots of fun capped off with a day trip canoeing down the Elkhorn Creek.  Thank you Canoe Kentucky
June and July roll along. Our annual July 4th of parades and fireworks with Tom and Michael is always fun and a great time.  Then we get to spend a wonderful weekend with our friends Kevin and Evelyn in Nashville.  We need to see them more often. 
Then one morning BAM!  I wake with a lower stomach cramp and pain like I have never had before.  Nurse Diane decides it's time to go to the Emergency Room and see what is causing all these problems. OK, I'm in pain, don't like pain, make it stop.  So, I spend four days in the hospital, the first two with no food or liquids just intravenous liquids and vitamins.  Someone please feed me!  So, what is this? I was having an acute pancreatic attack.  Dammit.  I guess 30 years of hard drinking and trying to live like a twenty something rock star is starting to catch up with me.  So now what?  Low fat and high fiber diet and STOP DRINKING!!!
Well that has been hard but making good progress. And today I feel better than I have in months. I need a CT scan at the end of August then wait for the results in two weeks. They found a cyst on my pancreas while in the hospital so they want to see if it has decreased after all this clean living. I hate waiting.
So the summer is coming to an end.  Local kids are back in school, UK will be starting soon and that brings back the football season and soon basketball.  GO BIG BLUE! So I'm thinking about writing and sending my thoughts about local theatre and local happenings out into the cyper space and see what happens.  Maybe a real job?  Peace and love until the next time.  ô¿ô