An Actor's Perspective - When the Show Ends...

An Actor's Perspective - When the Show Ends...

Post Show Depression, some laugh and say it’s not real, but those who have felt it know that it’s very real. The end of a show can hit different people in different ways. It can also vary from show to show, but let me back up for a moment. The final curtain has fallen, strike is complete and you have partied with your cast mates to celebrate the success of your show. You get home and suddenly realize, that’s it, there are no more lines to be said, no more rehearsals, no more performances, it is simply, over!

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Theatre: Why Do It At All?

Theatre: Why Do It At All?

Every time I audition for a show and deal with the pre-audition nerves, the waiting-to-hear-if-I-got-a-callback nerves, the waiting-for-the-cast-list nerves I (and others) ask “why?” Why put yourself through that agony. Why spend weeks rehearsing taking time away from family and friends, potentially missing out on other activities? Why? Here’s why.

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When Theatre Makes You "Whole Again"

When Theatre Makes You "Whole Again"

What if you don’t know the life you were born to live? What do you do when you feel you simply don’t know anything anymore?

It’s easier to face life when you have a script, when it very clearly says how you should think and react and what you should say. When someone else tells you how you should move and even how you should look and dress. 

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And The Whitewashing Kept Rolling In : Controversy Over 'Evita' Casting at MA Theatre

And The Whitewashing Kept Rolling In : Controversy Over 'Evita' Casting at MA Theatre

On September 5th, 2017 North Shore Music Theatre announced the cast for its upcoming production of Evita. To no one’s surprise, the cast features all non-Latinx white leads that include Nick Adams as Magaldi, Briana Carlson-Goodman as Eva, John Cudia as Peron, and Tony Award Nominee Constantine Maroulis as Che. This casting announcement follows a tradition of whitewashing a musical that features real life Latinx political figures. The production is directed by Nick Kenkel who manages to find an authentic Latinx cast (of volunteers) for Broadway Bares’ annual Latino number.

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The DASH Awards

The DASH Awards

EMACT (Easter Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres) is a great organization dedicated to assisting its member theater groups in various ways. One of which is through an awards program. The DASH (Distinguished Awards and Special Honors) awards are essentially the Eastern MA equivalent of the Tony Awards. I don’t know if other areas of the country have organizations dedicated to recognizing local theater and talent but if not, they should. It’s amazing- here’s why.

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Behind-the-scenes Q & A with the cast of the HUB's ‘Waiting for Waiting for Godot’

Behind-the-scenes Q & A with the cast of the HUB's ‘Waiting for Waiting for Godot’

Opening this weekend at Club Café is Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s production of ‘Waiting for Waiting for Godot’ by Dave Hanson. Directed by Paula Plum, the production runs Friday, July 14 through Saturday, July 29 at Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. All performances are Pay-What-You-Can and donations of non-perishable food items will be collected at all performances for local charities. For tickets and more information visit www.hubtheatreboston.org.  

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The Joy of Working on Period Shows

Jennifer Butler

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

I have recently discovered that I enjoy working on period shows as opposed to modern shows. More specifically, the early 20th Century is my favorite time period, and if you want to get more specific, just take a look at my resume. That just seems to be what’s in tow this theater season and in the local theaters around me. But I can’t say that I complained at all. It also doesn’t help that my favorite show is Finding Neverland and I love J.M. Barrie’s original play Peter Pan.

In the past, I really enjoyed working on both Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and Enchanted April by Matthew Barber. Prior to that I worked on period shows that included Ken Ludwig’s The Games Afoot and Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Both Table Manners and the first show I worked on in community theater Deathtrap weren’t modern but they weren’t the eras that I received the most enjoyment out of working on. The most modern show that I worked on was Getting Sara Married which in itself was a funny show but finding the costumes and stuff weren’t as much fun to hunt for.

There is something about the thrill of the chase in finding the right props for the show. Going to place after place to find a tea pot that will pass for being both British and 1922 or finding the right champagne glasses that will pass for 1940’s Connecticut is exciting to me.

I also think that is because I love learning. And the period shows give me something to research and gain knowledge from. I feel that with any show there is always something to be learned and fun ways to do so. For example, I started watching Downton Abbey because it was recommended to me by someone to learn the accent but shortly into the first season I fell in love with both the show and the story. Then for my most recent show Enchanted April, the director also recommended us to watch the show and I thought to myself “how great it was that it didn’t seem silly to re-watch my new favorite show if I called it research for the theater production I was currently working on”.  Not that I needed the reason, but it did make me feel less silly when talking to others.

However what I really enjoyed most was researching very specific time periods for a show to recreate a prop newspaper for the characters to use.  For example, I needed the newspaper headlines that I made for The Mousetrap to be changed from February 1947 that related to the show because it was a murder-mystery type show to be changed to the newspaper for Enchanted April because that show took place in 1922. Double the research may seem crazy to some but it doesn't bother me one bit. I wanted both of these newspapers to be accurate to the time period of the show. I am not saying it was easy, because it was nowhere near easy, but in the end it was worth it, to see it up on the stage fitting in with the show. 

We all love what we do or else we wouldn’t be involved with theater and the same goes for me. I will take any opportunity to work on any show that will give me experience, but just as it is in life, we all have things that interest us and perhaps might be why sometimes we enjoy working on some shows more than others.

Photo: 'Little Women' Northwestern University

Behind-the-scenes Q & A with the team of "Don’t Give Up the Ship"

Angelica Potter

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

Opening this weekend at Boston’s Fresh Ink Theatre, is the World Premiere of Don’t Give Up the Ship, a new play by Laura Neill. The play is performing at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Blackbox, in downtown Boston, February 10th-25th. The play follows Diana, a middle-aged mother of two, who wakes up as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the War of 1812. As she faces the challenges of her life in 2017, she embarks on a journey of discovery and finds her true identity. In this interview, I was able to hear from Laura Neill (playwright), Tonasia Jones (Martha), and Alex Alexander (Diana) about the play, the rehearsal process, their thoughts on how this play will resonate with audiences and more. 

Q: How has this play changed during the rehearsal process from when you first finished writing it? 

(LN): “The Fresh Ink process begins with a reading, progresses with a workshop, and then heads into rehearsal. The workshop this August--three days with dedicated actors and my director Joshua Glenn-Kayden--was incredibly useful. Hearing the pages aloud with the actors' talent and Josh's shaping of moments led me to shift the arc of a key character and create a fiery monologue towards the end of the play (stay tuned). In the rehearsal process itself, which began in December, I added two new scenes that expanded character as well as adding, changing, and cutting countless lines within scenes. Hearing lines aloud and seeing how they come alive with actors' voices is the most useful way to know what the play needs.”

Q: How is this play relevant in today's society? 

(LN): “In these times, it's important to remember that courage doesn't mean a lack of fear; it means matching fear with a willingness to overcome. Diana is a woman who finds her courage and stands up against all odds to take control of her own life.”

(TJ): “I think this play is relevant to today's society because it really shows the extremes an older woman, who has all of these "responsibilities" society put on her, has to go to, in order to be herself, and have her family accept her.”  

(AA): “I think we all have places in our lives & our communities right now, where we need to have the passion & commitment to do what it takes no matter what.” 

Q: What drew you to this play when you first read it? 

(TJ): “What first drew me to this play was the amazingly well written, witty writing.  Laura really knows how to make characters in a scene “POP” with their humor.”  

(AA): “I liked how dynamic the play is and how it is a real ensemble piece. All of the relationships are important. And I thought the premise was really creative.” 

Q: When you auditioned for this show, what was the biggest factor that made you want to be a part of it? 

(TJ): “The biggest factor that made me want to be a part of this show was the amazing team of people behind that table. I had worked with Josh (the director) and Jessie (the dramaturg) before, so acting in the auditions was basically like a rehearsal. I came into the room with thoughts and intention. We flipped those on its head, fooled around, explored options that didn't work and options that worked. When I realized Laura and Louise were completely down to play as well, that's when we really started picking up speed and just having fun.  It is one of the few auditions I walked away from just feeling good because of the communication within the room.” 

(AA): “I wanted to be a part of it for a few reasons. One was the fact that I love new work and the process that goes into bringing it to the stage. Fresh Ink is a great company full of smart, creative & professional individuals. Plus, the role of Diana is just such a great combination of acting challenges. Getting to explore being a commander from 1807 is pretty darn fun.” 

Q: What were some the exercises or techniques used during the rehearsal process to help the cast get into character and into the world of the play? 

(TJ): “One technique/exercise I go to, to play MARTHA, is I have a little motto/through line for every scene.  Right before I go onstage I repeat that through line in my head while getting centered.  It really made MARTHA pop from the beginning of the scene and come out the cannon hot and ready.” 

Q: What is your favorite scene or line? 

(LN): “I'm a fan of "Elvis doesn't waltz." But my favorite line is in the last scene, so I don't want to give it away. I'll tell you after the show!”

Q: What is your favorite characteristic of your character? 

(TJ): “That's hard because MARTHA and I are so much alike.....In a scary way. I would have to say my favorite characteristic about MARTHA is that she has this way of just narrowing focus in a professional manner that weeds out all the bull and gets to the pin point of the problem. When it comes to family: that gets warped most of the time to meet her own ends. But you can tell if she uses it in a work experience she would be unstoppable.  Also her humor is on point! Sarcasm out the butt.” 

(AA): [on Diana] “She’s bold & vulnerable all at the same time. She’s in a really critical moment of growth & transition in her life.” 

Q: What makes this play special? 

(LN): “Don't Give Up the Ship is about a woman who uses her imagination to command her life. It's not a story you see every day onstage.”

Q: What parts of this story do you think the audience will relate to most? What will resonate most with audiences? 

(LN): “Every person in this play wants to be loved and accepted for who they are--and it's frustrating when that doesn't happen. I think the audience will relate to having to deal with that frustration and picking the best path forward.” 

(TJ): “I think what will resonate most with audiences is the extremes people go to for the people they love. Most importantly, for the family they love.  This play does a very good job at exploring families and how the person you bump heads with most is the person you are most alike. It's really beautiful that way.”

(AA): “I think that people will resonate with the courageous act of being in and telling your truth no matter how disruptive & difficult the process may be. Also…on a lighter side…love at first sight.” 

Q: What was the scenic design process? What were the most important scenic elements in the play that you knew had to be a part of the production? 

(TJ): “Most important scenic design elements are the nautical props in Diana’s room. I think they all feed into each character’s relationship with Diana in a different way.”  

Q: If you could sum up this play in one sentence, what would it be? 

(LN): “When Diana wakes up as an 1812 war hero, she has new battles to fight in 2017.”

Q: Why should audiences come see this play? 

(LN): “We've got pirates, sweeping romance, family drama, swashbuckling--it'll be an adventure.”

(TJ): “Audiences should come and see this play to realize that we tend to hurt the people specifically that are close to us. We hurt them more because we know what buttons to press.” 

(AA): “First of all, people should come because it’s entertaining & has unexpected twists & turns. It’s sweet & funny & moving. It is full of love and adventure.” 

Special thanks to Laura, Tonasia, Alex and Fresh Ink Theatre for taking the time to give us a behind-the-scenes look at their upcoming production of Don’t Give Up the Ship.

The show runs approximately 90 minutes with one 10 minute intermission and is suitable for an adult audience. Running February 10th-25th with performances Wednesday & Thursday at 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, and matinees Saturday 2/18 and 2/25 at 2pm. Tickets are General Admission for $25 with matinee performances $25 online or Pay-What-You-Want at the door ($6 min). Groups of 8 or more get $5 off.

For more information or to purchase tickets online visit: www.freshinktheatre.org/dont-give-up-the-ship/ or http://www.bostontheatrescene.com/season/Dont-Give-Up-the-Ship/ 
Special events for the show include: 

--Post Show Social following the performance on Saturday, February 11th
--Cheap Date Night on Wednesday, February 15th and 22nd - Buy One Ticket, Get One Free, online only with code DATE
--Playwright's Night on Thursday, February 16th and 23nd with a Tootsie Pop Talk following the performance
--Pay-What-You-Want performances ($6 min) on Friday, February 10th and the 2pm matinees on Saturday, February 18th and 25th

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com

At the Ballet...

Jennifer Butler

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

Growing up I did not have the interest in theater that I have now. Sure, I enjoyed being a part of my second grade play but most of my time was spent playing soccer, basketball and t-ball outside. Going to the ballet didn't happen when I was child, it just wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I didn’t get involved with dance or theatre until high school and up until that point the only show I remember seeing as a child was “Annie”. After seeing a few shows as an adult, my interest in theater peaked more and more, which lead to becoming involved, and actually obsessed with theater. Theater allows me to take trips to many different places.

However, a trip that I have been unable to take, until recently, was a trip to the ballet. That all changed this past week when I had the opportunity to attend a performance of the Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”  I walked in pretty excited and left more thrilled than ever. 

What I think captured my attention most about the ballet was that it was a story that was told without any words. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to both hear and tell stories as often as I can. 

But what the ballet does in getting the story across with just the music, costumes, acting and dancing is unlike anything I have seen before. It was the first time in a long time that I was able to actually follow the story and enjoy it for what it is, an incredible art form (instead of trying to figure out how somethings were done or being distracted by something that happened in the wings). I didn’t count how many turns the ballerina did, I just watched the jumps and turns happen. I just sat (on the edge of my seat, I might add) and watch the hand painted set changing like the flipping of a page in a story. And just because the ballet didn’t have any words to tell the story, did not make me like it any less, in fact it allowed me to enjoy it more. The costumes, props and sets only enhanced the dancing to help tell the story.

To be honest, I could have just watched the dancers dance and still have had a great time. But to me, a story teller, the other elements were needed for the audience to understand what was happening in the story. 

Over all, I was enthralled in every moment, captivated by the steps and have officially decided that this is my new tradition every year. Whether it’s the holiday season or not, after this past week, I am most certainly looking for more opportunities to have another night out at the ballet. 

 

An Actor's Perspective - That First Performance

Jennifer Kuzmeskas

- OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

There is nothing like the thrill of performance. Yes, there are opening night jitters and even jitters that continue into other performances. Whether you have one weekend of performances, three weekends or five, something will happen. A tree will fall, a door won’t close, someone will miss an entrance, something will fall off the wall, etc. It’s the thrill of live theatre.  You have to think on your toes and be able to adapt to whatever is happening. 

Every show will leave you with memorable moments – whether you’re on stage or behind the scenes. In every production I’ve been involved with, there has been a point during rehearsals when the cast sits around swapping stories of their Theatre Horrors. We all have them, whether we’ve done 1 show of 525,600! It is inevitable!

You are on stage with a cast mate, sharing your scene, everything is going great and then out of nowhere, your scene mate can’t remember his next line. He doesn’t just forget his line, but goes completely blank. You need to improvise! Your brain is searching as quickly as it can for something to say, but nothing is coming. Then, as if by magic, you open your mouth and something pops out. It made sense and fit in the scene. The scene was recovered and no one was the wiser. You have no clue where that came from but it’s one of those moments you won’t have forget, not even 525,599 shows later. 

Then there is the infamous prop table. We all know the saying, “If it isn’t your prop, DON’T TOUCH IT!” Yet, you go to get your prop, right where you put it and it’s no longer there. What are you going to do? Sometimes you can find a similar prop to use. Maybe you can create something with the supplies back stage. Ask the people around if they’ve seen it.  Could you pantomime the prop? There are a myriad of options but only one outcome, the show must go on, and it will – with or without that prop!

The thrill of performance isn’t just a matter of waiting for something unplanned or out of the ordinary to happen. A big part of it is adding a live audience. People are pretty unpredictable…they will laugh where you don’t expect them to, they will talk when you don’t want them to, one audience will applaud longer than another. Just another thing to keep you on your toes and force you to adapt to what is going on around you. 

There is an exhilaration that comes from having an audience in front of you. You have an opportunity to pull those people out of their normal world and for a few hours transport them to another place and time. They can be taken on a journey through a story, where they don’t have to stress about work, worry about what’s happening at home or deal with life in general. 

If you are really lucky, you won’t just take them on a journey.  You have the opportunity to make them “feel.”  Take your moment! Let your character’s emotions loose! Let them be raw and real! Let your audience feel your joy, fear, amusement, sorrow, love and elation. If you can move the audience to laughter and tears, congratulations! Your job as an actor has been done.

The last piece of the formula that completes that thrill of performance is applause. We all like recognition for what we do. The applause between scenes and songs keeps us going. It’s the audience’s way of saying, “Yes, you have entertained me, you have done a great job, keep going.”  

In what seems like the blink of an eye the show is over! It’s time for curtain call! You can hear the crowd begin to applaud! As more and more actors come out to take their bow the audience is getting louder and louder. Then the best thing happens, the audience begins to stand. There is no better recognition than a standing ovation. You can feel the happiness and satisfaction deep in your soul. The stage is a second home for you, theatre is your passion, you have worked tirelessly for months on this show and you just got the confirmation that it was all worth it. 

For our show we were fortunate to not have many mishaps. We had three shows, there were some dropped lines here and there, the three audiences were all very different from each other and no one missed their entrance.  As a brand new theatre group, we were not sure of how we would be received by audience. Much to our amazement we received enthusiastic applause and three standing ovations. It was a highly successful weekend. 

Next time you go see a show, remember the feeling you had the last time you were on stage and heard the applause or saw a standing ovation.  If you enjoy the show, give that cast the opportunity to experience those same feels. Make sure they know how much you appreciated the escape from real life by taking you on a journey to somewhere new and different.  

Photo: Ocala Civic Theatre