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Archive for December, 2009

Running In The Red

I just finished up helping a friend of mine out with a show he directed at Heritage High School in Lynchburg. Aaron got a job directing a straight play called “Running in the Red,” set in post-depression era New York. The show has great wordplay and physical comedy & the kids did an amazing job interpreting the plot. In the play, Eve, a college graduate and closet brainiac, is a comic personality on a  radio show with her partner Jerry. Eve plays the idiot for the show, but is actually a very smart and accomplished woman who has written a book on abnormal psychology which is about to be published. She has a secret fiance, who is also a published author dealing with abnormal psych. Also included in the cast of characters are: a pair of Martin & Lewis-esque comic writers, a stodgy and uptight publisher form Columbia University, an unsuspecting sponsor, a morally bankrupt, gossipmongering news reporter, a frazzled maid, a party of Communists, and Eve’s confused but well-meaning Bolshevik cousin. During the course of the play, there are mistaken identities, humorous assaults, people falling out of windows, Communist serenades, spit takes, intentional wardrobe malfunctions, police chases, gunfire, and fast-thinking aplenty to get Eve & Jerry out of hot water. A great read and an even better production.

Originally, I went with Aaron & Tom one day to give some unbiased feedback for Aaron. Within the first 2 minutes of the show, I had already given him some notes about what I thought. He seemed to appreciate it & I went back with him the next day. I laughed just as hard the 2nd time I saw the show as I did the first. It was very well done, and it was still several days till the production’s opening. That next day, I didn’t go to rehearsal with Aaron, and several of the kids asked where I was. The kids apparently had taken a shine to me, so I came back & just kept coming.

A few days before the show opened, Aaron asked me to help him out with costuming. I went and helped pull the remaining pieces they needed and altered the pants that were too long for the guys. The tricky part was that they needed a couple of tearaway pieces for their physical gags. One item I had to make was a trench coat that ripped in half. Another item I had to make was a dress blouse (a silk one at that) whose sleeves ripped off but looked like a normal shirt until they did. The two major pieces I did actually turned out really well 🙂

I had to miss their opening night because of DaShay’s recital. It was his senior piano recital & he was amazing, as usual! He played a Beethoven sonata that was fantastic. His pedal work is so smooth and seemless and I am in awe of his memorization skills. There were a couple of flubs, but no one has an absolutely perfect performance or recital. The people you hear on recordings have dozens of takes spliced together to achieve that polished and perfected final product, but live musicians are held to a standard of being human. It’s the feeling, the emotion, the musicality that makes a live performance, not just the technicality of the piece. A computer can play a  piece perfectly, but it takes a master to interpret and deliver the piece effectively. And DaShay did that and more. There were many a tear during his Schubert number. I could not have been more proud of him if I had tried!

The day after the show opened, Larry Hart, mainstage director for HHS, came up to me and apologized for leaving my name out of the program. He hadn’t realized how deeply I was involved with costuming the show, which is fine with me. I don’t need the recognition. Just the thanks of the people I helped is enough for me. And the kids were so sweet. They really accepted me very quickly & I got pretty close with them. It’s kids like this that make me miss teaching high school. On the final night, they gave Aaron a really sweet scrapbook that all the kids signed and a framed copy of the show’s poster. And then at the end, they drug me up there and gave me a gift for helping with the show. They called me their “Amazing Seamstress” and gave me a giftcard to JoAnn Fabrics. What a thoughtful and awesome group of kids they are.

They asked me to come and see them in Peter Pan, and I have to say, I’m very excited to see it. I love watching children achieve their dreams, and it’s even better when I get to be a part of it.

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So, I get an email on Tuesday night that I am needed in Lynchburg on Wednesday evening to work with a 2 person show opening Friday. Now, I’m often called in last minute to fix things or do something of that sort, so I’m kind of getting used to the time crunch; but when they said 2 person show, I’m thinking “this is going to be a cakewalk.” Oh, how wrong I was.

Now for those of you now familiar with the show, it is based on the show Greater Tuna. Played by these two men, mind you, are a whole host of characters from Tuna, Texas. There are the local radio hosts, Arles & Thurston, a local KKK Clan member named Elmer (yes, think Fudd), a very butch gun shop owner named Didi Snavely & her drunkard husband RR, and her mentally-unstable helper Ike, the dyfunctional family of Bertha Bumiller & her three children, the witless Jody, the Baby Jane-like Charlene (who is in love with Joe Bob Lipsey, the town homosexual, hypoglycemic, community theatre director), and the prison-bound nogoodnick Stanley, the ditzy/whorish waitresses, Inita Goodwin & Helen Bedd, Farley & Phobe (a midget couple who come to the diner where Inita & Helen work), Garland their Coke-a-Cola distributor, the local sherrif, and two cantankerous old women named Pearl & Dixie. Most of the characters have multiple appearances and the changes all have to go off within 10-25 seconds of the actor coming off stage.

I kind of live for quick changes, because I am good at them, but the other girl I was working with had not only never been involved with theatre, let alone dressing actors, but was also Ukrainian and had a sizable language barrier. The two men who were in the show were amazing. They could not believe how much I organized and got everything together so quickly. On Tuesday night, apparently they had had a meeting and said that if the dresser(s) who showed up on Wednesday didn’t catch on, they would just have to cancel the performances.  I came in on Wednesday, masking tape, pad & pen in hand and in my typical cyclonic way, I had everything set up my way in a matter of minutes. All the wigs were labeled and placed in order of appearance, the same with the hats. And all of the costumes were together, labeled and hung up in order. I wrote down each character for each actor so that we could keep track of where we were and what came next without scripts, and had taught Katerina most of the basics of dressing (such as, the wig goes on last, not before the turtleneck… as was her first instinct). I was personally responsible for all of the changes for Tom’s character (19 of the total changes) and then I would help with each or Jeff’s changes as well to make sure Kat didn’t get overwhelmed. By opening night on Friday, I had everything down to a science. I knew where each entrance and exit were, each character, each change, each line cue, and when to tell Kat to get ready for her changes too. My guy, Tom, remarked to me one night that he has done the show 9 times in the past, and I was the best dresser he had ever had. He said that normally there are two dressers devoted to each actor, and it never ran as smoothly as the system I had set up. It was such an awesome compliment.

We had shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then it was done. They were benefit performances for one of the actor’s, Jeff’s, school where he is the principal. At $15 a ticket, they raked it up pretty well. And now onto the next show. Another show, another post.

Signing off,

Red

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