We are back with our friends Joe Recchia and Andrew Rethazi. We talk about the massive creative endeavour that is Oklahoma! presented by Musical Theatre Productions and coming soon to the Palace Theatre. Ceris is directing so the tables are turned as we talk about the motivations behind the show and the challenges it presents. Tune in for an in depth discussion of set design in theatre and the challenges presented to a musical director on such a classic show.
Ceris is off to the Puppeteers of America Festival in Philadelphia, and she is eager to share her experience with you. Tune in to hear all about Ceris’ trip, the people she’s met and the inspiration she’s found.
Tonight was our first foray into a puppet centric event at The Palace Theatre here in London, Ontario.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a great time. So many lovely people came to the theatre to make a puppet and to watch puppetry on our big screen. It was a really special evening.
I know the youngest person there was 3, and with some assistance, she made 2 puppets. I’m not going to guess the top age of our guests, but I know we had folks of every category in the theatre and I know that everyone there was definitely young at heart.
There was a young man there, who was so very intent on his creations. He made his own stuff, no matter what. And no matter what, all of his stuff was inspired by Jim Henson’s creations. This young man hasn’t made it to double digits in age yet, but he knows all the shows that Henson ever created, all the guest stars and the performers who are behind, (or underneath) our famous felt friends. He regularly visits fan sites and I watched him draw a Kermit and Piggy and turn them into wonderful shadow puppets within 10 minutes and then perform them against our walls of the lobby. He stayed to enjoy our screening of Being Elmo and was thrilled to watch the show. His mother saw a lot of her son in the explanation of Kevin Clash’s determination to create. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. This young man will create something wonderful in his lifetime and it will have been largely inspired by the work of Jim Henson.
Another guest happened to be a designer for the new video game of My Muppet Show. It was great to meet him and share with him some of my enjoyment of his creation. He painstakingly worked on his puppet creation and had come prepared with more materials as he knew exactly what he wanted to make – just like our determined fan above. If you’ve not seen his work yet on this great app – then pull out your smart phone and start playing. It’s a great fun, free app!
We only have two more nights of our celebration of puppets, and I sincerely hope that we are financially successful enough to put together something similar next year. It is quite clear that the fans are out there. And I was so honoured to meet them.
So it has been a while….
It has been an intense Spring and early Summer with all the shows and projects and while it is supposed to calm down in the summertime and I generally look forward to that – it really hasn’t happened this time around.
To kick off the season we decided to spend some time in New York City. I registered for the Broadway Teachers Workshop and we visited with friends from the Art of Combat Workshop. It was a super time with lots of shows and lots of exploring the city. We did have a little dampener on the whole trip when our car broke down on the way to New York and for some strange reason New York mechanics could not (even given a full week) figure out what was wrong with it to repair it. (More on that later – details and such)
We saw some great shows including: Once, Peter and the Starcather, Pippin and Alan Cumming in Macbeth. We explored a number of Muppet related locations in the city and that was delightful. Also, we met with some friends from toughpigs.com and it was pretty cool to meet those folks in person – next time we will have to plan for a longer visit!
After making it home (that was an adventure with the car) I had a short, but lovely trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my Mum to see more shows. Still an adventure, but a lovely time. This was after another puppet building workshop at The Palace Theatre, which was another great time with more lovely monsters coming into the world!
And now… I’m deep in the process of building puppets for the City of London. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about the project at this time, but I’m sure they’ll be making a scene around town seen enough, so you won’t have to wait too long to see what they are about.
And next week, I’m off to the Puppeteers of America Festival in Philadelphia. I’ve never been there – and I really hope that my car makes it there and back with no troubles this time. It’s going to be an intense, busy and exciting week. I just hope that I can take it all in and savour the experiences.
It’s been anything but a slow, sedate summer. But what are you gonna do? Take what life brings and make the most of it all, right? I know I’m certainly lucky to have all these experiences, so I’m taking it all in and savouring it. It goes by fast.
We are happy to be back behind the mic and talking inspiration, creativity and spare time (or lack thereof). We chat about where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing and how we’ve been keeping ourselves creative these past couple of months.
So, the final show in my long list of shows has opened. Avenue Q had it’s first preview on Thursday and Opening on Friday. It was great. Really, truly great. The performers have worked so hard and paid so much attention to the details of puppet manipulation. They developed such strong characters and worked diligently to find ways to let the puppet be the star. It isn’t an easy thing for a performer to do – have you ever thought of that? A piece of felt on your hand needs to get all the attention and applause and adoration that you would normally get. The thing is, once they got the hang of giving the puppet the focus, the overal performances improved exponentially. There has to be a lesson in there, somewhere. Something about relinquishing control, or giving over to a higher power, or letting the show be more important than you are… I’m sure there are several lessons in there. I’m just glad they learned them.
I’m not too proud to admit that at certain points in the show, I well up. Not because the story is so moving, but because the puppetry is so moving. These performers picked up felt and fur only a few weeks ago and we spent time working on manipulation, eye focus, lip sync, character, breath, gravity and all of that sort of stuff that makes a piece of fur on your hand suddenly seem to come alive. Also, we had the great privilege of having a guest come to one of their final rehearsals to offer some pearls of wisdom – did you ever watch Fraggle Rock? Zoboomafoo? Well then, you know that the guest we had was someone of influence with these young actors. They took his words to heart. As I always do – and I hope he gets the chance to see what they’ve accomplished. It’s pretty miraculous.
This winter/spring has been intense. Intense with work and commitments all over the place. It’s funny how that can happen – the fall was empty and almost dull and the next season was incredibly packed. So packed in fact that was never any moment when only one project was on my plate.
January began with Sullivan & Gilbert, auditions, first rehearsals and all of those trials and tribulations. If you’ve been following this blog, then you will have read some of those stories. At the same time was Little Mermaid with OKTC, auditions, rehearsals and the show – all between January and March Break – INTENSE. And, if that were not enough, at the same time was Under Milk Wood. My commitment there was a little less intense, but it was another commitment that resolved at the beginning of March – my report to the board and the finishing up of all the finances took a little longer, but that was due to other commitments and my prioritization of them.
So in March, you’d think that life became easier, but no….. Auditions for Avenue Q, rehearsals, and such for that have been ongoing and I’ve been attending as often as possible, which is less than I’d like. With the end of Little Mermaid came the preparations for our Fringe Production: [They Fight!]. That just ended last weekend and we’ve already got a revival planned for July 3rd. Very busy and very challenging, but also very, very fun! If you missed it during the Fringe, I invite you to join us.
All this while teaching and trying to maintain any of my own personal projects that I’d like to continue. For example, I’ve not drawn a thing, in months. I’m looking forward to getting out the sketch book again this summer and seeing what I can create, even if it is just for me. Maybe I’ll share a few with you folks.
Balance is off somewhere in this plan. It wasn’t really my plan, but I did go along with it. It’s been a great ride, let me tell you, but I’m definitely looking forward to the opening of Avenue Q and the summer where I can be a spectator, if only for a few months.
It can be very lonely being the director.
Once the show is open, your job is done and you don’t feel needed anymore. You miss out on all the backstage fun, shenanigans in the dressing room, headset chatter, inside jokes, etc. It’s a very strange feeling because you’ve been so involved for so long and now you aren’t part of the final execution.
Sometimes you can even get filled with great anxiety over the performance itself. If something goes wrong, you are powerless to help. When the lights flickered due to dimmer patch problems in my production of Gondoliers, I was quite stressed and couldn’t sit still in the audience as I was desperate to help the show in some way. You really shouldn’t be trying to help anymore as your people should be completely equipped to deal with any problem, but that doesn’t change how you feel when you are helpless in the audience. You always wonder if you did enough for them and if you could have done more – and if so, what?
Of course, there’s the insecurity as the show progresses with regards to the work itself. Is it good? Will it hit the mark? Is it rich enough?
Perhaps that’s why I feel so compelled to attend most, if not all, of the performances of my show. Maybe I’ll get more confident as I progress. We shall see. Til then, I’ll sit in the audience and imagine what I’m missing behind the scenes.
So… we’ve made it through tech weekend – pretty near flawlessly.
We survived our black out in the middle of dress rehearsal last night and now we are at First Audience. My theatre does something we call Community Preview where at our Final Dress Rehearsal we invite, for free, members of our community who would not otherwise attend the theatre. They come in groups, because they are all members of groups – special homes, they have care-givers or case workers, etc. They mostly know one another – and yet they all sit spread through the theatre. It’s fascinating. Our house seats over 350 and tonight I see about 100 folks spread throughout the house, but they are all talking to one another – some across the rows and some from the back to the front of the theatre. It should be a lively night.
Two years ago, at our Community Preview for The Three Musketeers (the first in my Ken Ludwig Trilogy), near the end Milady was about to poison Constance with a beverage she said would calm her nerves. Someone in the audience yelled out, “Don’t Drink It!” They are a fun crowd and anything can happen.
Tomorrow night is Preview and then Friday is Opening Night! Months and Months and Months of rehearsal and it will all be over in the blink of an eye…. But that’s part of why it’s so addictive. The payoff is, generally huge enough to balance the effort.
I know I’m going to enjoy the payoff of this piece.
Here’s to a successful run!
Break your legs!
Lots of things happen during a tech. Lots of jokes, lots of surprises, lots of mistakes, many funny, some not…. in our tech there’s also lots of food! Thanks to a tradition started by a cast member from Three Musketeers…. but one of the really fun things is the use of head set. These are put in place so that the crew can communicate to one another from vast distances and make certain that everything runs smoothly during the show… but often… other things might get discussed on headset.
That one actor who likes to be the last to their place… they’ll get discussed.
That funny line that never gets said correctly during the show… that’ll get discussed.
Costumes, Hair, Backstage stories… all of that will get discussed on headset – that and much, much more. It’s sort of in line with the idea of “be there or be talked about!”
It is one of my favourite “secret” aspects of the show. If you ever get the chance to be on a headset for show – take it. You won’t regret it.