Producing a Play is Like Having a Baby

[According to a person who has never, ever had a baby.  But I have watched Father of the Bride Part II multiple times.  So, I’m basically an expert.]

Let’s have a baby – The Beginning

The part when everyone is excited.  The happy couple tells everyone they know that they’re expecting and people crying and congratulating and then crying some more.  

You are a part of a small theatre company.  There’s this wonderful little play that you are all crazy about.  So everyone agrees, we should produce this play!  What a wonderful idea.  Auditions are held, designers are hired, and everyone marks their calendar.  You start to make plans, but no need to rush things.  Opening night seems really far away.  There’s plenty of time to get everything done!  Isn’t this going to be great?

The Pregnancy – The Rehearsals

Maybe being pregnant isn’t the best, but it’s not all bad.  You’re nesting and painting a nursery.  Maybe you feel a little sick sometimes and your feet are swollen….but you’ll survive.

Before you know it, it’s time to start rehearsing the play.  This is the time for everyone to buckle down and have some meetings and get a few things figured out.  You’re going to need costumes, lights, props, a set, a place to rehearse, a place to perform, a photo shoot for marketing, and money (cause that’s how you pay for all those other things).  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  But nobody’s worried. You open in 6 weeks…you got this.  That’s lots of time.

Sure, going to rehearsals every night can get a little tiring.  Eventually you will get sick of telling your friends you have no time to go out.  You have to go to rehearsals.  And if you aren’t rehearsing, you’re working at your second job (because ‘following your dream’ meant accepting a job that couldn’t possibly support you completely).   And you are really, really tired.  Just one night you would like to get home before 11 p.m.

But you shouldn’t complain; you should be thankful.  This is what you love.  This is what you want to do for the rest of your life.  This makes you happy.  You should just think more positive.

Child Labor – Tech Rehearsals

Hold the phone!  This is awful.  Why did no one tell you about the pain?  

How did this happen!?!?!?  You have less than a week before an audience will see this production, and let me tell you: it’s a mess.  The lights look shit, the set is only partially constructed, and how did nobody know the floor needed to be painted?  Is that in the budget?  But it has to get done.  You thought you were tired before – you weren’t even in the same time zone as tired.

You’re staying at the theatre until 2 a.m. to put one more coat of paint on the set, and then going to your ‘real’ job because you still have to make money.  But sure, you’ll run by the dollar store to look for that very specific prop, and you’ll stop by Subway next door to grab your dinner.  Is it unhealthy to eat Subway for dinner 5 nights in a row?  Doesn’t matter, because your bank account couldn’t afford any other establishment.  You would bring your dinner except your fridge is empty and when are you supposed to go to the grocery store?!?!?!

And the baby is breach??  And it’s too late for an epidural??  Is it too late to change your mind?

But it gets better.  One of the designers is mad at the director, and almost the entire cast has a cold.  And every department is over budget.  And you watch rehearsals, but you doubt every decision that has been made up until this point.  Maybe this is all really dumb and no one will like it and maybe this was the wrong play to do.  Ahhh!

At some point during all of this madness, you start to wonder why you decided to be a theatre artist.  This is insanity.  Who would choose this for their life?  So, you secretly promise yourself that you won’t do this ever again.  Maybe you’ll just become a kindergarten teacher or a banker or a barista and live a normal life.

It’s a Baby! – Opening Night

But then, something kind of crazy happens.  Everything gets done, and the audience shows up.  And they seem to like the show – so maybe it’s not a mess.  And when you watch the show, you feel kind of proud.  This actually is a pretty good piece of theatre.  Wow, this production has really come a long way.  And now people are applauding!  That’s pretty awesome.

You go to the party and have a great time.  Then, you sleep for 12 hours straight.  Hmmm…what play should you work on next??

I just realized that this is really nothing like having a baby, because the baby is going to stick around for 18 years or more.  The play is over in just a few weeks (I’m pretty sure you didn’t just present the next Cats).  Oh well, you get the point.  

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when theatre people watch the Sound of Music Live

I know I’m late to the party, but I have some opinions and what’s the point of a blog if I don’t share them!

I learned about the Sound of Music Live a little over a week ago.  I heard a conversation how the whole nation was anxiously anticipating the ‘live musical’.  Since I work in a theatre office, we were all a little outraged at this comment.  I don’t know if you are aware, but every time (every SINGLE time) you go to see a musical at a theatre (or a play for that matter) it’s live.  I realize it’s not usually broadcast to the entire nation, but every actor in the theatre is doing live performances every night!!

Friday morning in the office, the first priority was letting everyone share their opinions about what they had seen the night before.  Unfortunately, I do not have cable and I had a baby-sitting job on Thursday.  But through the magic of facebook, I was able to keep up with all my friends’ opinions in real time.  And then, tonight, I discovered the entire broadcast (and the making of special) was on Hulu!!  And I didn’t have to sit through the strange Wal-Mart commercials.  Below, are my thoughts on the show, and I’ve included some of my friends facebook comments from the live broadcast.

The most brilliant decision of this entire spectacle: Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess.  She is perfection.  I can’t wait to here her sing Climb Every Mountain!  After we meet the nuns, we move to Carrie and THE SONG.

  • opening song transposed down at least a fourth – ohhhhh Carrie!!!!!!!!! – Kate’s facebook friend

Now, we’re back to the nuns and Ms. McDonald.  Even I don’t deserve to call her by her first name.  America is shown the first difference between the stage show and the iconic movie: My Favorite Things happens in the abbey.  Mr. Ashford, why would ask Carrie to continuously circle the desk during My Favorite Things?  Are we playing musical chairs?  Oh no, now Ms. McDonald is circling the desk?  No, NO!  I’m starting to notice a lack of emotion from Carrie.  She’s begging to stay at the abbey, but I’m looking at her face and thinking, “Do you really want to stay, Carrie?  DO YOU?”  I’m not buying it and neither is Mother Abbess. So, we move to Von Trapp household.

  • Supporting roles such as Butler 1 and Housekeeper stealing the show! – Kate’s facebook friend

It’s becoming very obvious to me that this classic musical just doesn’t play well on a sound stage.  Vampire Bill (aka Capt. Von Trapp) and Carrie are letting any chance to show us any emotion just fly by!  Maria wins these kids over WAY too fast.  It’s just so unrealistic.  The cameras are too close for these cheesy lines and (at moments) petrified actors.

  • Carrie keeps looking at us. Ever so briefly. It’s like she’s asking for help. – Kate’s facebook friend

Let’s skip ahead to Liesel’s big moment (and my personal favorite from childhood): Sixteen Going on Seventeen.  Liesel is cute, but Rolf looks so old.  (I watched the making of special, and I know they say he’s a senior in college.  But compared to Liesel, he looks like a creeper).  Plus, I’m getting a little seasick from the camera moving back and forth to follow all of this frolicking in the hills.  And his little short pants?  He looks ridiculous!  And the roll down the hill at the end!  My friends say it best:

  • He is thirty …she is 16. But, I don’t think he likes girls, so it’s cool.  There is a murder weapon. There is rolling. He’s trying to kill her why doesn’t somebody TRY AND HELP HER!!!! – Kate’s facebook friend

Now Carrie is praying.  No, not for the end of this experiment, it’s part of the show.  It’s her first night at the Von Trapp’s, and she must pray for all the children.  It’s at this precise moment that I remember Julie Andrews in the original movie.  I LOVED this movie as a kid (along with much of the nation, I’m sure).  As I watch Carrie’s version of this moment, I really miss the great Julie Andrews.  She really was wonderful, wasn’t she.  Voice of an angel and a splendid actress to boot.  Time for the goatherd song.  Kids under the bed during the yodeling – ok, I’ll give you that one, Rob.  Super cute.

The pros are here!  Laura Benanti.  I love you.  (I actually kind of liked Go On.)  Christian Borle.  I love you.  (And I really miss Smash.)  I guess this was NBC’s way of apologizing to both of them for cancelling their television shows.  Now we have actors with some timing, and faces that move. Wait, did she say smoke a big cigar?  I don’t remember the kind of innuendo from the movie.  And even though I love the two of you as Max and Ilsa, I’m not really going to pay attention to your song.  Sorry.  At this point in the show, it’s hard for me to give any part of this my full attention.

Time for Vampire Bill to show us the Captain’s big turn around from cold, unfeeling navy man to warm, loving father.  Oh wait, there’s no difference.  I know your dad just started singing for the first time in who knows how long, but that hug from Marta and Greta in the background is a bit much even for me.

Party time.  Why are all of Carrie’s dresses SO unflattering?  C’mon costume designer, the Captain is supposed to find Maria desirable.  This is the moment – they are falling in love.  Here’s my review of Carrie’s acting so far.

I love the hills, and I’m very happy:

I don’t want to leave the abbey.  I’m very upset:

The Captain is singing with his children.  I am very moved:

I think I might love the Captain:

No really, I LOVE the Captain:

  • The doorknobs are giving me more than Carrie is. – Kate’s facebook friend

Yes, that is the same face.  Every time.  And we are only at the half-way point.  Luckily, we get to go back to the abbey and listen to Ms. McDonald again.  Dear lord, she is perfection.  And only her beautiful rendition of Climb Every Mountain gets Carrie Underwood to show a glimpse (although slight) of true emotion for the first time during this telecast.  She’s crying.  Oh wait, she stopped.

The children are sad because Carrie is gone.  We could just end the show there, but alas, we must soldier on.  Laura Benanti you are beautiful, and I love this pink top red/pants ensemble.   Another song for the pros (with Vampire Bill).  Why is this song is so upbeat? Aren’t we talking about the inevitability of the Nazis invading?

Carrie’s back.  Laura is leaving (why?!?).  I’m actually rooting for the Baroness at this point because she’s showing some real emotion about being left for the nanny.  Now that Laura is gone, time for a ‘love’ song between our leading lady and man.  All I can think of is how I wish the Baroness was still in the show.

  • Is this that thing where Carrie is the pretty girl in high school and it’s her senior year so she had to be the lead, and the actual girl who can act is playing the governess and smoking cigarettes behind the field house saying, “…I’m gonna get so much work when I’m forty…goddamnit.” – Kate’s facebook friend

Back from the honeymoon, but the Von Trapps are in trouble!!  Better think fast, Carrie.  It’s a good thing you had those matching outfits lying around to go so you can fool those Nazis and escape!  Oh my there are a lot of swastikas at this concert.  Luckily your costumes match the flags.  And thank you Christian Borle for showing us some real emotion about the family taking a risk to escape the Third Reich.

It’s the last scene of the play!  Back in the abbey.  Wait, I didn’t realize that Rolf DIDN’T rat the family out in the stage play.  It makes me like him a little more – but kudos to the film for making a more interesting choice.  I know it’s night…but it’s really dark.  I could barely see Rolf’s gun.  This doesn’t feel dangerous at all…but maybe it’s better this way.  I also can’t see Carrie and Vampire Bill’s dead faces.  Oh lord, Thank Goodness it’s Audra and the nuns that sing the last number of the show.  Ok, I’ll admit, I may be getting a few chills watching the family climb the foothill to freedom.

Overall, not completely horrible, but it definitely had it’s problems.  I’ll let my friends wrap it up:

  • It’s a creepy intersection of not-theater, not-television and it’s a deep pit of hollow. I love every second of it. – Kate’s facebook friend
  • Her bra’s all cattywompus and she can’t fix it cuz she’s on the television! – Kate’s facebook friend (also from the South.  See cattywompus.)
  • …dammit, it needed a little more fore-thought. So, NEXT TIME, let’s agree to hire a real costume designer and give the pop star an acting coach. SUPPORT OUR PLAYERS. – yet another facebook friend
  • From henceforth, let all situations where an artist signs up for a project only to realize it’s out of their league but it’s too late to back out, be known as getting “Von Trapped”. Example: “It’s only the first day of my Cirque training, and I’m already feeling Von Trapped.” – arguably Kate’s most clever facebook friend

 

How I Became a Thief

First, I must apologize for my absence.  Many factors have contributed to my lack of updates – but the most important one is that I was the assistant director for a show that just opened.  As is often the case, the show eventually took over every spare moment I had, but since it’s opened I have free time again!

Now, if you have ever been involved in any kind of theatrical production before, you know that the week before opening is tech week.  Tech Week is really just code for ‘lots of stress’ and ‘really late nights’.   Costumes and lights and props and set changes are all being added in for the first time, which means the wonderful show you have been rehearsing completely falls apart and now we must put it back together.  Everyone is sleep deprived because rehearsals run longer, and it takes a room full of intelligent people 10 minutes to decide what door the actors should exit from to avoid being hit with the set pieces coming onstage for the next scene.

So let’s just get to the thief part of the story:

During tech, I was arriving to the theatre early AND staying late.  One day, the director asked me to run down the street and buy paper towels, snacks for the actors, and caffeinated beverages before everyone arrived.  I didn’t mind, sometimes assistant directors do shit like that.  She gave me her credit card so she could treat everyone to some pretzels.  I walked down to the convenient store, greeted the nice man who is always working, and made my purchase.  But I got so wrapped up in choosing the right chip flavor for snacks that I forgot the paper towels.  Later that evening while there was a very intense conversation happening about lights, I realized I had forgotten the paper products and  offered to run back down to the store.

Back at the store for round 2, I picked up the paper towels and two candies just for me. (Hershey’s Cookies and Cream and Reese’s Pieces, in case you wanted to know)   When I checked out, my debit card was declined.  This is literally one of my worst fears ever.  Even when I have PLENTY of money in the account, I get a twinge of anxiety when my card runs through the machine.    I realized the deposit I had made earlier in the day hadn’t gone through yet.

I informed the gentleman that I would not be buying anything and that I did not have another card.  Nothing feels worse than walking away from a counter of items you can’t afford.  How embarrassing!  I couldn’t afford paper towels and chocolate.  But I was also too embarrassed to go back to the theatre and tell everyone the reason I had no paper towels was because there was only $5.78 in my checking account.  What was I going to do?  I remembered that a friend of mine had just moved in across the street.  So what do I do?  I call him and ask to borrow ten dollars.   I was much more willing to let him know I was broke than the theater full of actors and designers.  And I could just pay him back the next day when my deposit went through.

Back at the store for round 3, the cashier giggled to himself as I grabbed my same items.  Paper towels, Hershey’s, and Reese’s.  He handed me the candy, “I know you want these in your purse.”  I smiled as I left the store.  While I was walking down the street I went to put the candy in my bag when I saw a Hershey’s and bag of Reese’s in purse already!!  When my card was declined, I didn’t realize that I had already put the candy in my bag.  II had been in such a hurry to get away from the shame of a declined card, I forgot to give the candy back.  Now I had two of each candy….but half of that was STOLEN!!  I was a shoplifter, a thief, practically a hardened criminal.

One half of the stolen goods.

One half of the stolen goods.

I had been in that same store three different times at this point.  I know the right thing to do was to just go back and return the unpaid for treats…but I didn’t.  I’m a coward.  But I felt so guilty!!  Guilt or embarrassment?  That’s a very tough choice to make…and I chose guilt.  To top it all off, I totally forgot about the Hershey’s bar until yesterday when I found it at the bottom of my purse.  (Yes, I am the kind of girl who loses track of candy and granola bars in my purse.)  The feeling of shame over what I had done came rushing back, so I ate the candy bar to comfort my guilty conscience.

This Man is a Hero 

This Man is a Hero

I’m not big on reblogging or reposting or what-have-you.  But I saw this article and I just had to indulge.  This man (a theatre critic) was ejected from a theatre for throwing a woman’s cell phone because she was on it during the entire show!  The best part – he’s not sorry.  This man is my hero.

It all goes back to manners people.  The world would be such a better place if we considered those around us and how our actions affect them.  I admire this man in the article because he did something about it.  Too often I give a dirty look or roll my eyes, but ultimately I ignore horrible behavior.  Read about this gent who took a stand against improper audience etiquette.