Theatre Thoughts: Throw Back to High School

Erin Karll

  • OnStage Missouri Columnist

I am from the St Louis area, and we are known for asking one question of locals....Where did you go to high school? For me the answer is St. Dominic. I was a typical theatre kid. I joined the spring musical, took 'acting for theatre' which cast the fall play, joined the choirs, joined the speech team competing in meets in the surrounding area, and was even a member of the writers guild that met after school. All of my friends followed the same path for the most part. Those years on the stage, a simple proscenium built into the gym, helped me grow has a confidant person. I went on to study Arts Management in college. I could type up stories about my experiences all day because arts education was part of my formative years. Please take a moment to look at your local education system.

Many schools are now forced to cut programs due to lack of funds. But these classes and groups help every student in countless ways. These programs are not just for the future Broadway star, they help the next generation of doctors, lawyers, and business owners gain the skills of public speaking and creative thinking. The creative thinking comes into play when you have to problem solve on stage in front of an audience. Here are just a few of my favorite mishaps. 
 
When I attended St. Dominic the theatre did not have many bells and whistles. In fact we were known for making due with less. The backdrop had been used for years and had layers of paint chipping off. Throwing that out was a joy for the stage crew. The lighting was also always a surprise to work with.There was also a night during our production of 'HMS Pinafore' when the lights went out. We had not only thrown the whole circuit breaker, but it started to melt. Our lighting tech drove to his home down the road and got a generator. After intermission we had full lights. 

I played the duck in our production of  "Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass". During the caucus race scene I was suppose to run up and down the side aisle and bump into the rest of the race in the middle of the gym/audience. Opening night one of the spot lights went out and I missed the memo. I did the whole race in the dark and made a note to change my route for next performance. 

What are your favorite high school theatre horror stories? Use #HSTheatreMishaps and tag @onstageblog to share. I love reading these types of stories and look forward to seeing some great moments in High School theatre. 

Photo: Tri-School Theatre

Accessibility in Theatre: Live Streaming

Erin Karll

  • OnStage Missouri Columnist

Recently the off-Broadway play “Daddy Long Legs” live streamed a production. Playbill, via Facebook, streamed the song “Never Can Say Goodbye” from the musical “Disaster”. “She Loves Me” was streamed from Studio 54 in its entirety making history as the first Broadway show to be live streamed thanks to broadwayhd.com. The phenomenon “Hamilton” was recently filmed also, although there is no word on when or where this footage will be used.  As it was stated in the pre-show introduction of “She Loves Me” Broadway is live every time eight times a week, and this trend could lead to something incredible.  Theatres could use live streaming to increase accessibility, not only for those who cannot afford to travel to New York City, but for those who need assistance once they arrive in the building.

While none of the above examples included closed captioning, that is not far off in the future. I ask broadwayhd.com when the first launched if they would provide CC with their videos. They replied to my Facebook post by saying they could not at this time, but hoped to soon. These captions could not only assist the deaf, but also include other languages so international fans could watch their favorite shows. Once the captioning is set up, more aids can be added. For example, American Sign Language interpreters in a split screen. Also a descriptive audio track could be added for the blind.

Those plans are not even touching on the need for those theatre fans that have physical limitations that can make going out to a show unimaginable. Trying to navigate the big apple in a wheelchair or crunches would be enough to deter the even the diehard fans. The Theatre Development Fund host Autistic friendly theatre nights. Being able to just pull up a show on your phone or computer and host a group in a home setting would be a great way to attend a show. The joy of show tunes without the fear of not having access, what a wonderful concept! 

My mind is filled with many ideas on how this hopefully successful new trend can help theatre fans all over the world connect and access their favorite art form. What are some other ideas on why live streaming is great for the theatre industry? 

The more shows that establish streaming and filming rights for public release the easier it will be to set-up accessibility requirements and aids. Nothing can compare to the feeling of sitting in a dark theatre watching actors, musicians, and crew create live, but these glimpses into the theatre will go a long way to connect the theatre world. That connection is what makes the theatre a unique experience. Live streaming could give many the opportunity to join a whole new world.

Catch an encore stream of “She Loves Me” on BroadwayHD.com until July 10th, and then look for it to be released in your local cinema later this fall. Watch out for more shows to join in the live streaming trend. Contact streaming websites and ask about captioning. Support those shows that are making an effort to step outside the ten blocks of the big apple.  These are a few things you can do now to help accessibility in the future. I’ll see you at the theatre, which may just be my living room.

"Trash Macbeth": Equally Represented Arts (ERA) hosts a Shakespearian dinner party to die for

Erin Karll

OnStage St. Louis Columnist

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I have to confess that I am a fan of a small theatre ‘experience’ where more than just the show is presented. For example the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening at Inner-City Arts’ 99 seat black box theatre. ERA made a small chapel into a Scottish castle ready for a feast. Half of the audience was seated in the round, circling a long table in the middle of the room. The other half was seated at the table and cast as King Duncan. ‘Brush up your Shakespeare’ indeed. Everyone was greeted by the cast and shown to their seats just like a dinner party. The audience chatted until our hostess (Emily Post) called for order and began the show with some advice on how to host a party. The foreshadowing and irony was not lost on anyone.

This production uses the classic Shakespeare text and inserts 1950s culture via Emily Post’s “Etiquette” and Dr. Spock’s “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” rounded out with Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and the book of Revelations from the Bible. All weaved together like the fates threads, which also takes center stage during the show. That also leads to the ‘Trash’ part of the title. Many of the props and staging seemed to be found items. I really enjoyed the coronation scene with the royal robes in all their trashy glory.

The costumes (Meredith LaBounty) were what you would expect from a dinner party set in the mid-20th century, women in A-line length dresses and pearls, men in suits smoking pipes. They were very fitting for the theme, with special mention of Lady Macbeth’s dress which reminded me of a beautifully done fashion class project.  Erik Kuhn did a wonderful job with the lighting and fight choreography. The lighting was powerful and dramatic when needed, and the fights and deaths (spoiler!) looked realistic. I will never look at shredded newspaper again.  I would like to say that the whole crew did a amazing job. This production kept everyone moving, and I could see that hard work everyone put into the show.  The same goes to the actors.

Mitch Eagles (Macbeth) spun his lines like a masterful storyteller and brought layers to the character. Rachel Tibbetts (Lady Macbeth) was a powerhouse. The Macduff’s (Carl Overly Jr and Maggie Conroy) displayed regal airs in both their Shakespeare lines and the 50s era adverts.  Ellie Schwetye (Emily Post) played a wonderful guide through this production. Nic Tayborn (Banquo) was a strong performer who changed from character to character with ease. The women also covered the part of the witches and the men were the murderers filling out the drama of the dinner party.

If you enjoy your Shakespeare mixed with surrealism “Trash Macbeth” is the perfect show.  This ERA production is at the Chapel 6238 Alexander Dr. in St. Louis. Performances are Wednesday thru Sunday April 27th – May 1st and Wednesday May 4th until Saturday May 7th starting at 8pm. Check out eratheatre.org for more details. 

Lessons from the Stage Door: Politeness

Erin Karll

As a theatre fan I have had the experience of stage dooring after many shows and concerts.  It is not for everyone, but following some of these tips I will discuss can help you have a great time while waiting outside. I will share some of my personal experiences to show you tips of the stage door trade over the next few columns.

My first tip would be to have a positive and polite attitude. I cannot count how many smiles and ‘thank you’ replies I have received for a simple kind word after a show. One time after a concert I was holding my program over the barricade and waiting for an autograph. A tired band member came out and worked his way down the line. I saw autograph hounds, those people who didn’t even see the show but have stacks of photos and other items they want signed.  There were others who ask why he took so long to come out and then complained more because it was so late. I was almost at the very end of the line when he approached. I ask “Can you please sing this program for me? I really enjoyed the show tonight.” Without even looking up he said “sure”.  I added “Thank you so much for the autograph” and was taking the program back when he stopped in his tracks, looked me in the eyes, and said “Thank you for saying thank you!” I was shocked with the look on his face, and how happy my politeness had made him. Now I not only have an autographed program, but I also have this awesome experience to share.

Simple politeness can be an assist to everyone. I have been to many high profile stage doors where there was extra security, even police for crowd control, because of the performers fame. After the recent run of “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway I waited to see if I could meet Orlando Bloom. There was one officer stationed there who was trying to give everyone the advice I am giving now. Remain calm and polite and he will stay and sign for a while, any rudeness or pushing and he will leave quickly. I listen to the police officer and even chatted with the people around me about how we should stack Playbills when Orlando arrived. After an hour he exited the theatre and the crowd went crazy. People ran from across the street to get a picture.

They had us divided into two sides off of  the door and the other side started to scream because he started with us. Again I was towards the end of the line and I have to admit that some people around me were getting a little over excited. He backed away right before me, so I did the only thing that popped into my head. I shouted over the noise “Thank you for a wonderful show! You were amazing.” He turned and smiled so I then ask him to sign my poster. He did! Then he tried to sign over on the other side. It lasted about 15 seconds before he jumped in his car. That side had not stopped yelling from the second the door opened and, rightly so, he couldn’t risk their safety by standing there for a long period of time.

Too long, didn’t read? Be polite and positive and you may be pleasantly surprised about what you receive at the stage door. Stay tuned for more advice and stories from the stage door.