An Open Letter to Tech Week

An Open Letter to Tech Week

I’m writing this letter from the battlefield. It’s Wednesday—well, early Thursday now—of Tech week and the show I’m working on opens Friday. I’ve slept 8 hours in the past 3 days. The paint in my hair is at least a couple of days old and I haven’t changed my clothes in a week. I can’t remember the last time I saw the costume designer without some sort of sewing in her hands. At least I’ve seen her—I asked the props designer to go find gaff tape a couple days ago and I haven’t seen her since.

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Making the Jump from Amateur to Professional Theatre

Making the Jump from Amateur to Professional Theatre

So, you want to work in professional theatre? That’s a question that I have been asked many times but didn’t always know how to answer. And up until recently, was also something that I didn’t realize that I really wanted. Mostly because for me, doing theatre at any level besides community was just a pipe dream. I used to say that someday when I am working on Broadway but didn’t believe it.

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College Auditions: The Parent Perspective

College Auditions:  The Parent Perspective

By now, you’ve completed some auditions and may still have a few more to come.  Depending on the school, you may have already received acceptances and rejections.  If this process didn’t seem real to you yet, the moment is about to arrive. Don’t worry--I’ve got your back on this, parents.  You and your student will survive and thrive, although you’re probably both going to have some scars to prove it.

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‘Intimacy director’ helps stage actors navigate love scenes

‘Intimacy director’ helps stage actors navigate love scenes

Towards the end of John Dryden’s play, All for Love, there is a scene in which Antony and Cleopatra declare their love for each other as they near death.

In the University of Alberta’s Studio Theatre’s production of the play, opening Thursday, the actors are expected to demonstrate those feelings physically.

There was a time not long ago when actors might have been left to their own devices to make such passion look convincing, without it getting awkward, triggering uncomfortable emotions or crossing the line of consent.

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You Wish to Go to the Festival?

You Wish to Go to the Festival?

Every odd numbered year, the American Association of Community Theatres hosts AACTFest, a nationwide theatre festival showcasing the best of community theatre around the country.  It is a culmination of months of smaller festivals, starting in the individual states, then moving on to surrounding regions, with the Regional winners being invited to a host city to perform their 60 minute show in front of appreciative audiences of like minded theatre aficionados.

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How Do You Feel When You Screw Up on Stage?

How Do You Feel When You Screw Up on Stage?

We have ALL been there. There are many times that we’ve been on stage and suddenly forgotten our lines, cracked while belting out a song, tripped and fell, forgotten a prop, missed your cue, I could go on and on. I will tell you that ALL of these things have happened to me.

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8 Reasons We Love Les Miserables

Anthony J. Piccione

Let me start by stating the obvious: Theatre people LOVE Les Miserables. There’s plenty of reasons why it’s still one of the most popular musicals in the history of theatre, and why it continues to be produced over and over again even today. Personally, I can name quite a few highly popular Broadway musicals that I consider to be overrated, but this is not one of them.

However, there are some people out there who might actually be wondering why those of us who love theatre LOVE Les Miserables. Maybe they think it actually is overrated, or maybe they’ve never actually seen a production of it (*gasp*) and – as a result – cannot possibly understand why we won’t stop talking about this show three decades after it first premiered. For this reason, I’ve decided to make a short list that can help make things clearer for those people.

So without further ado, here are just a few reasons – in no particular order – why many of us theatergoers love Les Miserables.

•    The music is phenomenal – From “I Dreamed a Dream” to “One Day More” to “Do You Hear The People Sing”, there are so many great songs that are favorites of musical theatre everywhere, it’s easy to see why I ranks highly among musicals that local community theaters everywhere would love to produce one day, if they haven’t already. Indeed, it is hard for anyone – even those who aren’t typically musical theatre lovers – to listen to this music and not appreciate it.

•    But it’s not too cheesy – Let’s be honest. For many people, Broadway musicals are always enjoyable simply because of the pure spectacle of singing and dancing. But for some of us, the music in some of these musicals can get WAY too cheesy and are a guilty pleasure at best. But for me, this is a show that is just as heavy on great plot and character development as it is on great music. Speaking of which…

•    Unforgettable characters – You can’t tell a great story without some great characters. From the protagonist seeking redemption for past sins Jean Valjean and the young and beautiful Cosette to the villainous Inspector Javert and even the comic relief of Thenardier and Madam Thenardier, it is hard to argue that this is a show that is lacking in strong lead and supporting characters, and it is even harder to argue that they aren’t well remembered by theatergoers across the world.

•    And several powerful moments – Don’t tell me you’ve never once shed a tear when watching Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” moment early on in the show. If you haven’t, then you must have when Eponine delivers the highly poignant number “On My Own” or at the end when (*spoiler alert*) Jean Valjean passes away and is reunited with a grateful Fantine. Personally, at least the first time I saw this show, I was deeply moved by each of these three scenes, and it is largely why I still love this show today. 

•    It’s a musical adaptation that actually works – Before it was a hit musical, Les Miserables was originally a novel by Victor Hugo. (While we’re on this subject, a future musical based off The Hunchback of Notre Dame that is NOT toned down for kids by the lovely people at Disney would be most welcome.) Adapting pre-existing material for the stage – whether it is from literature or film – is not exactly an easy task, yet this is one of the rare musicals that not only pulls it off, but does so seamlessly. Having said that, while we’re still talking about adaptations…

•    No matter how hard they try, Hollywood can’t possibly replicate the original musical – I honestly can’t say that I dislike the film adaptation of Les Miserables as much as others in the theatre community do. On its own, I’d say it makes a good film with lots of good acting and singing. However, NOTHING beats the real thing. For those of us who prefer seeing great live theatre over seeing a great film on the silver screen, the fact that this is a show that the film industry can never move from stage to screen is something I think we can deeply appreciate.

•    It’s politically relevant – This might be a fairly controversial reason for some people. However, I personally believe that in America and across the world, where there is a growing dissatisfaction with government and politicians in general, the story of Les Miserables depicts events which - while perhaps not a perfect comparison – aren’t that far apart from today, in terms of showing the way many people in the world feel about their leaders today.

•    Vive la France – Normally, my inner Italian would be telling me not to write a reason such as this. However, in light of the recent tragic events in Paris, we could use some more ways to celebrate the things that make France a great country. If you ask me, there aren’t many other shows that do a better job at showing the idealism and resilience of the French people than Les Miserables.

So there you have it. Any reasons that you have for loving Les Miserables that you didn’t see on the list? Are you, by any chance, one of those people that have a reason for believing that Les Miserables is overrated? Either way, be sure to let us know in the comments section!

This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Student, playwright, actor, poet and blogger currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Anthony and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione

 

Auditioning: Why Wasn’t I Cast?

Auditioning:  Why Wasn’t I Cast?

Auditions.  We’ve all been there.   Trying to channel your nervous energy into a productive adrenaline.   Hoping to put your best foot forward.   Wanting to make a great first impression.    Anxiously waiting until your number is called.   Finally, taking the stage for a minute or two, and giving it your best shot.   Maybe you get another chance to read.  Maybe even a callback.  And then waiting … and waiting … and hoping and praying.   Hopefully, you got the part, but more often than not, you didn’t.   So, what went wrong?  What, if anything, can you learn from this experience?

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The Impenetrable Wall of Theatre

  • Mia Stubbings

It's sometimes really easy for me to view the theatre industry as an impenetrable fortress. A really intimidating, steel-walled, towering fortress. I've heard it's great on the inside; people make things and create productions and explore their passion for live performances and stagecraft. But on the outside, it can be a pretty cold and lonely place. It's like all your resources are on the inside, but you're stuck on the outside, trying to peer in.

Unfortunately, that is how I sometimes feel. No matter that I love theatre with every ounce of my being, or that it's the one thing that makes me truly happy- it's still an industry that is notoriously tricky to get into. I know this because I've been trying to climb that steel-walled fortress for three years now, but my ladder just isn't quite tall enough. It can be a depressing thought, and the reason many people give up and try something else, but I don't feel like giving up is an option. I will get inside, and I will make theatre, but not knowing when is what makes it difficult.

I have had some fantastic experiences since leaving school and having the freedom to explore my interest in theatre. I've worked as Front of House at a rural theatre, marketing the new shows and creating events to help spread the word about productions touring to our little venue. I've worked with a theatre company who I have adored since I was a little girl, and lived the dream by working on their productions including 'Wind in the Willows', 'Macbeth', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'The Legend of King Arthur'. I've shadowed a brilliant mixture of directors, on productions ranging from the Jacobean tragedy 'The Duchess of Malfi', to a devised piece with classical music for children called 'Hubbub'. I've loved all of it. But so far, the experiences I have had are just glimpses and snatches of what I want to do all day, everyday. I'm plunged into a world I love for the briefest of moments, and then pulled right back out. 

Pursuing a career in theatre is tiring and difficult and frustrating, but those brief moments are what keep me going. When I'm in a rehearsal room, that is when I am truly happy. When I am surrounded by a team of people who share your passion and your vision, that is when I know that my efforts haven't been in vain. I'm getting there. Just very slowly.

I think it's difficult for a number of reasons, but I'm trying to change my mindset and view these difficulties as strengths rather than weaknesses. Living in a rural village has meant that I have had to actively look, and find, and sometimes even create, my own opportunities. But although I find my geography my biggest barrier, it can also be my biggest strength. I have a passion to make theatre accessible to everyone, no matter where they come from, and I think this comes from living in an area that sees very little in the way of live theatre. I love touring companies, because they travel to many different places in the country, and bring productions to people who may never have had the chance to see them. I visit London a lot, but I find it hard to connect with the theatre there, because all I can think is that people living in villages like mine, probably won't get to see these shows. And so this thing, living in a village, the thing that I have always viewed as a weakness and a disadvantage, has become my strength. It's something that I can use to my advantage as I carry on trying to climb the Impenetrable Wall of Theatre. 

For me, I only realised that I wanted to pursue a career in theatre when I started on the wrong path. I took a path somewhere else, and realised that I needed to go back and start again. So I did, but it's taken a long time for me to figure out where my place is in the theatre industry. I still don't fully know, but I've got an idea. This has meant that I've been able to explore a vast array of different roles and have a lot of different experiences, from directing to prop making, to film making and marketing. I see all of these experiences as equally valuable, and I've started to view life as one big experience. I want to collect as many experiences as possible, whatever they are, because they will end up giving me plenty of stories to tell. And that is important to me. 

I have recently realised that it is children's theatre that I really want to create. I like to see 'Grown-Up Theatre', but it doesn't often get me excited or passionate. Stick me in a rehearsal room for a children's production, however, and my brain goes wild and my imagination starts to whizz about in a frenzy. I know this can only mean good things. I know what I am passionate about, and that's a good thing to be able to recognise. I am passionate about inclusive, accessible theatre. I am passionate about children's theatre, and I want to learn more about how story-telling is possible through the use of puppets. If that's not a good place to start, then I don't know where is.

But that's the thing. You get excited when you finally figure out what it is that you want to spend the rest of your life doing, but you don't have a clue how to get there. And that is infinitely infuriating for me. There is no definitive path or method or way to get into that fortress. You have to make a way in for yourself, and you have to keep at it. Opportunities can be sparse, and it's up to me to facilitate them for myself when there aren't any around. It's all up to me, and that is both reassuring and terrifying. But I'll get into that fortress, one way or another, whether that be with a ladder or a disguise or a month digging a tunnel under the foundations; there's a way in. I've just got to find it. 

Audience Member Etiquette for Millennials

Audience Member Etiquette for Millennials

Hi my name is Alex and I am a Millennial. Something I really hate to admit. 

As a performer and a theatre goer and fellow millennial, I have seen the decline in the audience member. They have no clue as to how to behave at a show. And to be perfectly honest the "normal" theatre goer is dying out. I also blame social media and reality TV, and guess what? I blame my fellow Millennial's. Our attention spans suck. 

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