Friday, December 30, 2011

Outlook for 2012: Still Stage Crazy!

This weekend marks the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.

This year, there were auditions and performances for the Diary of Anne Frank at the Palace Theatre and Chicago at McManus Studio. Rehearsals have begun for Treasure Island going up at the Palace Theatre in February and Jenny's House of Joy going up at McManus Studio in February as well. There has also been talk about Arsenic and Old Lace going up at the Palace and I am anxious to find out when the auditions are going to be.This year also was a quiet one for Maybles' Theatre Productions. Since producing Norm Foster's "the LOVE LIST" in 2010, there has not been another production. In 2012, we WILL have another production and you are NOT going to want to miss it!

"Miss. Twiddle and the Devil" and "Miss. Twiddle Meets an Angel" are two one-act plays written by Maurice Hill. They are light-hearted and pure fun. Before I get into some of the MANY pre-conceived notions and ideas surrounding these titles, let me explain why I chose this script for our next production:

In 2001, when I was in grade 8, I was asked to step-in as Assistant Stage Manager for a high school production of Miss. Twiddle and the Devil. We performed this production at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford, Ontario for the SHAW festival. We won Best Actor and were nominated for Best Actress. We had an actor break his wrist during the dress rehearsal and he had to perform with his arm in a cast. The director, Rae Brown, was a teacher at the high school where it was performed and he showed me what a comfortable rehearsal space could and should be. All of the actors became close and confident in each other. Everyone built trust and the relationships that were made during those rehearsals lasted years.

Earlier THIS year, I started reading scripts online and at the library to try and find that perfect combination of characters and story to bring to life in 2012. I've always loved the script for "Miss. Twiddle and the Devil" but I was set on doing a full-length production as I did not want to put so much work and time into a half-an-hour show. Then, magic happend! I had a close friend of mine read the Twiddle script to have her opinion and, while she was researching the production, she found a second one-act play written by the same playwright and with the same characters which takes place immediately after this one! I ordered a copy of "Miss Twiddle Meets an Angel" right away and fell in love with it the very first time I read it. It was decided. These were the plays I was going to bring to life.

This was a play people could get excited about but I knew I wouldn't be able to pull this off alone. After producing one play before, I knew that I would need to find a small group of people I could depend on, confide in and trust to back me up and help to breathe life into these scripts. I am proud to announce that Amber McMitchell, Heather Heywood, Lisa DesGroseillers, Jenny Stapleton, Mike Ge and Trish West have all come on board to help with props, costumes, make-up, advertising, lights, sound and the production as a whole.

A very special "Thank-You" to each of you.

Now, let's talk about the "Devil" and "Angel" words in the titles. In a time when people strive to be accepting of all religions and beliefs, I think some people can forget to just 'chill'. These plays are not meant to convert anyone into believing in guardian angels or the devil. These plays are not meant to be taken as any form of preaching. These plays are strictly fun, light-hearted and are meant to entertain. Yes, there is strange chanting in the play. Yes, there is a battle (of sorts) between good and evil. Yes, there are horned figured dancing around in smoke - BUT - I cannot stress enough that these are tools of comedy and are meant to be laughed at. Nothing more.

For this production, I hope to have on board a cast of 11 actors who want to have fun, learn, grow and work hard to being the best they can be. I hope that my production team remains strong through my emotional ups and downs and times when life gets tough on all of us. I hope to build strong relationships between the actors as well as the characters they portray on stage. I hope that the audience leaves at the end of each night feeling light, entertained and satisfied. Above all, I hope that the actors finish the production feeling like they have learned something new, built new friendships and are more confident in themselves both on stage and in their lives.

Stay Strong. Stay Stage Crazy!

A Very Happy New Year to you all!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jemmy Rathbone: Character Notes (Treasure Island)

In Ken Ludwig's version of Treasure Island, there is a character by the name of Jemmy Rathbone which I have the pleasure of portraying onstage at the Palace Theatre in London, Ontario in February 2012.
I was surprised to find little information about this character online. I only found two movie clips which were far away and out of focus.  I found a review which stated "the opening scene with all the pirates chasing Jemmy around the ship was action-packed" but that's it! I was unable to find a character background, history or even a description.
With the help of a book called "the Intent to Live" by Larry Moss, I have worked through questions and homework and created my own version of the infamous Jemmy Rathbone. I wanted to share these with anyone else out there who might be researching and preparing to portray Jemmy onstage.
I have placed the information I created into an 'interview' format with the questions being asked by Larry Moss directly from his book and the answers given by Jemmy himself.

O' course it toikes place on a bloody ship! It's rainin' and da wind is blowin' a good one and da thunder is louder then I e're heard it before. The waves crashin' against the side o' the ship tossin' us about.
Nasty, back-stabbin' swabbers they are. They be yer best mate one day and yer worst enemy the next. Best be careful who ye tell yer plans to or they be usin' it against ya in your weakest toimes.
They have the nerve to fink I'm a cheatin', lyin' pirate who took somefin' I didn't and was gonna partake in the riches wifout keepin' me mates in the 'know'!
Yeah...d'ere prob'ly roight.
Well I'm not sure what "REVERENT" means but I do know vat I'm a sneaky guy. I prob'ly fink I'm smarter than I really am. I can also tell ya dat I was on the streets as it were before I got me chance to prove meeself as a man o' the sea. To be straight wif ya - I'd prob'ly do just about anyfin' to get me hands on some gold 'r jewels of any koind.
I kant tell ye dat - I've sworn an oath to keep da secrets of the happenins which go about.
Well I kant bloody well tell ya dat either now can I?! ...unless you got a good 'mount o' gold yer ready to part with...?
Uh..I'm confused. Can you say da question wif different words or somefin?
Why didn't you just say dat in first ploice?! I was watch dat noight loike I am most noights. I wasn't tinkin' much but how angry da sea was and how the skies were makin' such a racket that it couldn't mean anythin' good was gonna happen anytime soon.
They don't! Nothin' good DOES come from that noight and don't wish to talk about it no more!
I already told yer that Larry, I want me some gold! But gold ain't any good to ya if yer dead so I guess I want to come out of this alive and able to spend me some gold. Go to port in me homeland and buy a drink or two for a special lady...or two. You know what I mean roight Larry? [nudges him]
You makin' fun o' me knees Larry?! So I ain't as tall as a normal man would be i s'pose but I be fast! Faster than the rest o' these bloakes on this ship! AND, lemme tell you somefin' else! I be the best fighter on this here ship as well!
Oh, you mean loike a theme song? I've always wanted me own theme song...lemme think...well I s'pose if I were a ballerina or somefin WHICH I'M NOT it would be the "Flight of the Bumblebee" but NO I be a sneaky little pirate with a lot of speed and talent with me fists SO, me theme song would have to be the song from the epic scene in Wizard of Oz when the witch sets the flying monkeys on Dorothy and her little friends. She had it comin'.
What the heck is ZAT s'posed to mean?! You comparin' me to an animal dere Larry?! Is ZAT what yer doin?! So I'm a bit like a rat but that don't mean I don't have feelin's and aren't sensitive to those kinds o' remarks Larry! This interview is over! You wanna see more o' Jemmy Rathbone you come see Treasure Island at the Palace Theatre in February 2012. I've enough o' this badgerin'!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Theatre Stress

So, you have an interest in Community, Professional or Alternative Theatre. You may have a full-time, part-time job or even no job. You may still be in public school or high school or maybe even College or University. You might live with a husband, kids or you might live with your parents or on your own. Maybe you volunteer at a home, with a festival or special events.
Now, let's see how we're going to balance these AND theatre.
Rehearsals in Community Theatre usually last three months from the first read-thru to opening night. Out of seven days every week for those three months, there are usually rehearsals 3-4 evenings and often an afternoon rehearsal on the Saturday or Sunday.
SO, hopefully  we are in a  job that we can book the time off ahead of time for evening rehearsals and that management is understanding of our needs.
Let's assume that your place of work (or school and after school activities) have been lenient enough to give you the evening AND weekend time off that you require to attend rehearsals. Now you're rehearsing Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. You're working (or attending school activities) Wednesday and Friday evenings and most likely Saturday during the day. This leaves you the time between work (or school) and rehearsals to spend with your family, clean the house and/or cook - that is unless you have someone else who can help you out in those departments.
So far so good. You work (or attend school) Monday and Tuesday during the day and attend rehearsal in the evening.
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, you work (or attend school) during the day giving you the evening to either work or spend at home with your family or friends.
This leaves Sunday mornings free to spend with the family, maybe even enjoy warm breakfast (assuming you're not called into work for the morning shift). It leaves the afternoon free to attend rehearsals and the evenings open to enjoy dinner. Hopefully.
We are on a roll! We are on fire and so far everything is fitting nicely into place like a puzzle. Nothing is over-lapping. Everyone is happy. Your family is getting their time with you and you're not missing any shifts at work (or practices at school). Your director is happy, your family is happy and your boss (or teacher) is happy.
Now, since everything is working so well, you do the unthinkable.
You audition for another play...and you get the part.
So now, because you just couldn't help yourself, this is what your schedule turns into:
Monday and Tuesday: work/school from 9-5, dinner/snack 5-5:45 and rehearsal from 6:30-10pm
Wednesday: work/school from 9-5, dinner/snack 5-5:30 and rehearsal from 6:30-10pm
Thursday: work/school from 9-5, dinner/snack 5-5:45 and rehearsal from 6:30-10pm
Friday: work/school from 9-5, dinner/snack 5-5:45 and rehearsals from 6:30-10pm
Saturday: work/school stuff from 9-2, lunch/snack 2-2:45, rehearsal from 3-7pm and the evening to chill
Sunday: work/school stuff from 9-2, lunch/snack 2-2:45, rehearsal from 4-8pm and the evening to chill.
At this point, your schedule is slightly hectic and maybe the stress is starting to be felt.
But, we're not done yet.
I've left out the little fact that you don't drive, because you can't afford wheels, so you take the bus and it takes you anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to get to any place in London, Ontario because we ALL know how effective the transit system is in this city.
I also left out that you don't only attend school and have projects, exams and homework BUT you also work 2 part-time jobs because in this economy, no one can get enough hours at only one job AND with 2 jobs you're guarunteed to have at least 1 job when either place of employment decides to "let you go" because your position is "no longer required with the company".
We can only hope that nothing "comes up" in our work or private lives like a surprise visit from the in-laws, a broken arm, buses running late (because that never happens) or a call from work asking you to come in to cover someone's shift. AH!
So yes, theatre can be stressful BUT it is not the time at rehearsals or the time needed to be put aside to memorize your lines. The stress comes from life around rehearsals. Theatre is a world all on it's own and as long as you dedicate enough time for loved ones, time to love and be loved, time to relax, breathe, eat and sleep - the rewards of theatre will be endless. The payback of hearing the applause of an audience or seeing a standing ovation after a performance makes the journey you took to get there, and the stress you endured simply dissapear.
The stress is similar to the situation of a woman who went through the hours of pain and heavy breathing during labour screaming their head off and calling the nurses and their spouse every bad word known to man, only to be handed their child and be so overwhelmed with joy that they istantly forget all the pain they went through to get there.
Remember: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" ;)
It's worth it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm Going to Die Tonight

I know who is going to do it, I know when and where and why they're going to do it.
The only question left is whether ot not I will be able to lie still for 20 minutes or more while everyone else tries to put the pieces together and solve my murder.
That's right. Tonight, I'm going to be killed for the benefit of an audience AND that audience is actually going to pay money to watch it all go down! It's all pretty sick when you think about it - someone actually looked up the words "murder for hire" online to do one of two things:
1) Try to find someone they can hire and pay to kill someone else.
2) Hire a company known as "Murder for Hire" to hold a murder mystery dinner for a special occasion.
Thankfully, someone was not in fact looking to have me killed but rather looking for someone to pretend to kill someone else at their special event or occasion for fun.
I have been working with Murder for Hire now for nearly 4 years and in all the murder mysteries I have performed in, a woman has never been the one to be murdered. In fact, I've played the murderer more often than not. I am PUMPED to have the challenge tonight of being the one to be dragged into the room (preferably by the arms and NOT my hair), dropped on to the floor in the middle of the room for all the guests to gawk at, FACE UP with my eyes closed AND I have to lie there through dessert until the end of the performance without moving (if possible). 
In previous performances, there have been guests who went right up to "the body" to investigate gunshot wounds or see if the 'body' is still breathing or not. It amazes how many people ACTUALLY comment on the fact that the 'body' is still breathing! After all this time, people still think actors in murder mysteries ACTUALLY kill someone for the audience's entertainment.
I'm sure tonight's performance will have it's own challenges, laughs and unexpected audience involvement. I will be sure to update this blog post tomorrow to let you all know what it feels like to play dead to entertain others as well as inform you of the "interesting" things audience memebers are certain to do to me while I'm down.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Favourite Monologues for Auditions

As an actor, I have a sense of what works for me in an audition and how to use my strengths to my advantage.  As a director, I also know what I look for in selecting an actor to join a production of mine.
Before listing my favourite monologues to use in auditions I want to elaborate on two things:

Use your strengths to your benefit in an audition. If you are a fast talker - don't select a monologue which is meant to be performed as slow as molasses. If you are someone who paces or rocks on their feet - don't select a monologue which forces you to stay as still as a statue. If you have a deep voice - don't select a monologue meant to be read by a young boy who hasn't reached puberty yet. In a nutshell - select monologues that will work WITH your strengths rather than against them.

Select a monologue that is APPROPRIATE for the play and role you are auditioning for. If you are auditioning for a classic piece like "the Crucible" or "the Diary of Anne Frank" - don't select a monologue that Jim Carrey used in "the Mask". If you are auditioning for a contemporary comedy like "the Love List" or "Lend Me a Tenor" - do NOT select a monologue written by Shakespeare. If you are auditioning for the role of a sweet-princess type - don't select a monologue of a character telling a story about murdering their children. In a nutshell - choose a monologue that can be connected in SOME WAY to BOTH the play and role you are auditioning for.

Now that those are out of the way - here are my favourite monologues to use as audition pieces and my reasons for my love of them:

#1.the Iron Giant [movie] Hogarth: 
(wired on caffeine, talking very quickly) "So she moved me up a grade 'cause I wasn't fitting in, so now I'm even more not fitting in. I was getting good grades, you know, like all A's. So my mom says, "You need stimulation." I said, "No, I don't. I'm stimulated enough right now." So she says, "Uh-uh. You don't have a challenge. You need a challenge." So now I'm challenged, all right- I'm challenged to hold on to my lunch money because of all the big mooses who wanna pound me, 'cause they think I'm a shrimpy dork who thinks he's smarter than them! But I don't think I'm smarter, I just do the stupid homework! If everyone else JUST DID THE STUPID HOMEWORK, they could move up a grade and get pounded, too! Is there any more coffee?"
I love this monologue because it is fast-paced and is great for auditions requiring a show of facial expression and voice control. This is also a great audition for people who need to move around as this character paces while delivering his speech.

#2. Contact [movie]  Ellie: 
"I cannot simply withdraw my testimony and concede that this journey to the center of the galaxy, in fact, never took place.  Because I can't. I had an experience I can't prove, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the Universe that tells us undeniably how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but... that continues to be my wish."
This is a great monologue for anyone needing to show loss, sadness, desperation and/or vulnerability. This monologue has many words and statements which can be visualized by the actor to create deep feeling and emotion in their voice.

#3. Blood Diamond [movie] Maddy:
"Do you think I’m exploiting his grief? You’re right, it's sh*t. It's like one of those informercials. Y'know, little black babies with swollen bellies with flies in their eyes. It's right here. I've got dead mothers. I've got severed limbs, but it's nothing new. And it might be enough to make some people cry if they read it. Maybe even write a check. But it's not gonna to be enough to make it stop. I am sick of writing about victims but it's all I can f*cking do because I need facts. I need names. I need dates. I need pictures. I need bank accounts. People back home wouldn't buy a ring if they knew it cost someone else their hand. I can't write that story until I get facts that can be verified. Which is to say until I find someone who will go on record. So if that is not you and you're not really gonna help and we’re not really gonna screw, then why don’t you get the f*ck out of my face and let me do my work?"
This monologue affects me personally on a deep, emotional level. This monologue is a prime example of showing desperation AND control. This is a woman who knows what she wants and what she needs. She is a woman willing to do whatever she must in order to get the job done.

#4. Addams Family [movie] Debbie:
"I don't want to hurt anybody. I don't enjoy hurting anybody. I don't like guns or bombs or electric chairs, but sometimes people just won't listen and so I have to use persuasion, and slides. My parents, Sharon and Dave. Generous, doting, or were they? All I ever wanted was a Ballerina Barbie in her pretty pink tutu. My birthday, I was 10 and do you know what they got me? Malibu Barbie. That's not what I wanted, that's not who I was. I was a ballerina. Graceful. Delicate. They had to go. My first husband, the heart surgeon. All day long, coronaries, transplants. "Sorry about dinner, Deb, the Pope has a cold." Husband number 2: the Senator. He loved his state. He loved his country. Sorry Debbie. No Mercedes this year. We have to set an example." Oh yeah. Set this! My latest husband. My late, late husband Fester, and his adorable family. You took me in. You accepted me. But did any of you love me? I mean, really love me? So I killed. So I maimed. So I destroyed one innocent life after another. Aren't I a human being? Don't I yearn and ache...and shop? Don't I deserve love...and jewellery? Good-bye everybody. Wish me luck."
This monologue is perfect for showing a character who has gone over the deep end and crossed the line where sanity and CRAZY meet. This woman feels hurt and taken advantage of (though clearly the problem lies with her and not the rest of the world). This character is cuckoo for cocoa puffs and I love it!

#5. Titus Andronicus [play & movie] Tamora:
(Tamora is caught having an affair and convinces her sons she has done nothing wrong)

"Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?
These two have ticed me hither to this place,
A barren detested vale you see it is;
The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,
Overcome with moss and baleful mistletoe.
Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds,
Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven:
And when they showed me this abhorrèd pit,
They told me, here, at dead time of the night,
A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes,
Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins,
Would make such fearful and confusèd cries
As any mortal body hearing it
Should straight fall mad, or else die suddenly.
No sooner had they told this hellish tale
But straight they told me they would bind me here
Unto the body of a dismal yew
And leave me to this miserable death.
And then they called me foul adulteress,
Lascivious Goth, and all the bitterest terms
That ever ear did hear to such effect;
And had you not by wondrous fortune come,
This vengeance on me had they executed.
Revenge it, as you love your mother's life,
Or be ye not henceforth called my children."
 This is by far my favourite of Shakespeare's plays. This monologue is great for expressing deception, control, power and persuasiveness. Tamora uses the loyalty of her sons to her benefit by making herself to appear innocent and the truly innocent to be the ones who have done wrong.

There are so many great monologues out there and these are only five.  Keep reading, looking and researching and keep watching plays.

The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting a monologue for an audition is to choose a piece that speaks to you - if you don't like it or YOU find it boring, how on earth will you make it exciting for the director watching you perform it?

Break a Leg!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Theatre Therapy

"Wake-up, make your lunch, grab a quick coffee and a granola bar, get stuck in traffic and construction on the way to work, try to find parking in the morning rush, get to work, deal with the day's challenges including deadlines, staff and management THEN get back into your car, get stuck in traffic and construction on the way home, get home, find out what groceries you actually have to make dinner, decide on a dish to make that will please the whole family, make a mess of the kitchen while cooking, scarf down dinner, clean the kitchen, maybe watch some TV, brush your teeth, have the kids brush their teeth, struggle with them to get into bed and go to sleep so mom and dad can maybe have a few minutes of alone time before going to bed themselves...and repeat."
Sound familiar?
THEN, once or twice a week, the schedule changes. Instead of going home, you go to a rehearsal.  You are greeted with hugs and caring words from your co-actors and crew.  You are welcomed with the thoughts, words and support of a whole team.  As a group, you work together to achieve the same goal.  You can talk about your daily stresses and worries, you can brag (or complain) about your spouse or kids and the group will understand.  Theatre IS Therapy - and it doesn't cost $100 per hour!
 Just last night, I attended the first production meeting of the "Twiddle Plays" which I will be directing and producing with my theatre company Maybles' Productions.  The purpose of this meeting was for the team to meet each other, learn about the company's values and goals and discuss marketing ideas.  The stage manager, sound designer, production assistant and leading lady were all present.  Over coffee we laughed, joked around and had the opportunity to start building the foundation of this production.
I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and support of this production.
When I left, I couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed for I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Having been stressed-out and high-strung over issues at work, I left that meeting feeling lighter, more confident and happy.
During this time when people are having less face-to-face time and more "Facebook" time, it is so important for people to have the kind of contact and connection that only Theatre can provide.
When the going gets tough - the tough do THEATRE!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

ACTING - it's not just about 'PLAYING'

Many people think acting is either really easy because all actors do is prance around a stage in silly costumes speaking with silly voices, OR, people think acting is really hard because you have to do and say things in front of other people.  There is so much more to Actors and the world of Acting.
Actors don't just 'play'.   "[Actors] remind people that things can change, wounds can heal, people can be forgiven, and closed hearts can be open again." - Larry Moss

Acting is about making people feel, think and question themselves, others and the world.
Acting is a means of expression.
Acting is an outlet for individuals to show others deep emotions and thoughts that are experienced.
Acting is a way to pretend to be someone else, live in someone else's shoes, have someone else's family, have someone else's dreams and go through someone else's experiences.
Acting is a vehicle to be used as a way of expressing ideas, concepts and physicality that would otherwise be "socially unacceptable".
Actors take nothing from an audience except for applause, tears and laughter.

It is hard work.  Rehearsing twice a week, every week for 3 months to put on only 5 or 8 shows.  It's a lot of lines to memorize.  It means a lot of research into people, places, societies and times in history in order to develop a character.  

There are people who do not understand why actors do what they do. Especially actors in community & alternative theatre as they do not get paid for their time or hard work.  To people who ask "why do you do it?" or "wouldn't you rather do something that pays?" I simply reply by asking them whether or not they have ever volunteered.  

Acting is volunteering and it is rewarding.  Though we do not usually get paid, though we sometimes must endure critics, notes from directors, ridicule from adjudicators and snickers from an audience, we as actors dedicate ourselves to the art of becoming someone else.  We live someone else's life, go through their trials and tribulations.  We survive the torment of thoughts in their mind, sometimes die as them or worse, experience a loss far greater than any death.  We do this so that YOU as an audience member can experience these, through us, from the safety of your seat.

This is the gift actors give to us all for the mere price of an applause.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2 Whole Hours of Fightin', and Bitin', and Pushin' and Head-Buttin'...

...and not a single lad, lass or pirate were harmed.

Surprise! Tis I, Jemmy Rathbone, 'ere again to inform all ye puss oozing, theivin' mongrels just what 'appened at this evenin's rehearsal.
The evenin' started with a good...start. The sun twas shinin' and no rain was fallin' down on us (like it has every other night for the past 2 weeks!). Everythin' was "peachy" aboard the Hispaniola and all the nasty filth known as pirates aboard were all but mindin' their own business, that is, until the sword-shieldin' boatswain who answers to the name of "Brock", did take the evenin's activities into his own hands.
It twere every man for himself then.
Afore I knows what's happend, the entire crew has turned their backs against me, ME I say! They approached me swift as hungry felines comin' in for the kill. They were all shieldin' knives in their mouths and holdin' pistols in their hands - pointed in MY direction! I didn't know what I was supposed to do OR what I did to make all me best mates turn against me in a mere moment with enough hate to sink a whole fleet.
I have the queerest feelin' that I've been set-up! But by who?...I think the univarse is tellin' me that I ain't to be findin' out just what has got these powder monkies' knickers in knots until opening night: February 3, 2012 at the Palace Theatre.
Be there to support yer fellow mate, me Jemmy Rathbone, and the rest o' them scurvey dogs upon the great spanish ship - the Hispaniola!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ACTORS WANTED for "the Twiddle Plays"

~Maybles' Productions~
the same company that brought you "the LOVE LIST" by Norm Foster in 2010 which won the "Best Comedy of the Year" Award at the Brickendens
is holding auditions for:
Miss. Twiddle and the Devil

"2 one-act comedies about a woman so evil that the Devil himself tries to save her he can avoid spending an eternity with her in Hell."

This is a family-friendly comedy and is not meant to be taken as a religious display or tool in any manner. This production is purely meant to be a source of entertainment for all and should be taken as such.

Maybles' Productions is a theatre company founded in 2010 which produces comedies - TRUE comedies.
Frankly, we think ife is too short for Tragedies.
We bring productions to life through quality acting and hard work. We focus on character development, back story, connections between characters and creating lifelong relationships between our actors.
Our goal is to take the stresses of everyday life and turn them into giggles. Let us take you on a journey to a happy place!

Group Auditions will be held at the Palace Theatre 
(710 Dundas Street, London, Ontario) on:
Thursday, January 19th from 7-9:30pm
Saturday, January 21st from 1-3pm
Friday, January 27th from 7-9:30pm

-Actors are asked to come willing to play with the script, the words, the characters and each actors :)

-Actors are asked to bring a headshot but do not require to bring a resume. Actors will fill-out a brief information sheet upon arriving to the auditions.

-Actors are welcome to attend more than one audition if they choose.

-Actors will participate in group work and cold reads of the scripts. They will not be required to prepare a monologue.

We will be auditioning for the following roles:

[*Please Note*
the celebrities I have referenced are purely for
entertainment purposes only and are not to be taken too seriously.]

1. Nicholas Q. Nicholas (the Devil)
age: early 30's
deep/sultry voice
suave & smoothe
a "ladies' man"
ie. Jack the Pumpkin King

2. Harry (Devil's aide)
age: flexible
*must be comfortable wearing full-body tights*
not too bright
unique sound to his voice
ie. Danny Devito

3. Justice (the Guardian Angel)
age: late 30's
the perfect specimen of a MAN
ie. George Clooney or Sean Connery

4. Biff (the angel's apprentice)
age: early 20's
young and new at angel...ling
eager with angelic looks
possibly large eyes & curly hair
*also must be comfortable wearing full-body tights*
ie. Cupid

5. Carrie Simons (the landlady)
age: 40+
grand and motherly
"imperious about the establishment she owns"
ie. Rita MacNeil

6. Emmy (the maid)
age: 20's
clumsy but likeable
bit of a psychic
spooks easily
ie. Kenzi from Lost Girl

7. Letitia Marchbanks (the drunk)
age: 35+
she's a "happy drunk"
drinking is due to some deep, previous loss in her past
ie. Feebie from FRIENDS

8. Aloysius Humperdinck (always asleep)
age: 40+
could have been a member of the mafia in his early years
snorts, snores and makes strange noises in his sleep
lazy and only wakes up when food is mentioned
"don't care" attitude
ie. Steven Seagal

9. Leona Plum (sweet old lady)
age: 55+
always smiling
still has "pep in her step"
looks like she'd have 50 cats if she lived alone
old & gray on the outside but bursting with energy on the inside!
ie. Mrs. Doubtfire

10. Abraham Dooley (a charming gentleman)
age: 55+
*this character has the most wiggle room and can be custom-built by the actor portraying him*
he has eyes for Plum but it's a subtle romance.
ie. Richard Dreyfus...with a HAT!

*the role of Miss. Twiddle has already been cast.

Wednesday, May 16th at 8pm
Thursday, May 17th at 8pm
Friday, May 18th at 8pm
Saturday, May 19th at 2pm
Saturday, May 19th at 8pm

For more information and to let us know you'll be attending the auditions, please contact the Director, Heather May via Facebook, email ( or phone (519-280-4188)

Break legs and keep laughing!

Produced by special arrangement with Pioneer Drama Service, Inc., Englewood, Colorado

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stage Fightin' - It's a Shrew'd Business

Arr maties! Tis I again, Jemmy Rathbone, here to tell ye all 'bout the happenins and goin ons at the Palace Theatre jurin last night's combat workshop.  Never before did mine eyes see such a sight as they did lay 'pon last eve.

I was surrounded by nasty, dirty, snarlin' pirates both men and women alike-fallin' to the cold, dirty and dusty floor beneath them like maggots.  To any onlooker that should'st peak there noses into Procunier Hall last evenin', would have discovered a sight which would have appeared to look like an epic swordfight and perhaps, at times, a mass suicide. Bodies fallin' to the ground in every which way direction, swords were drawn and shots were fired!  It were a magical sight seein so many bodies sprawled all over the place like feta cheese on a nice Greek salad. What...pirates go on diets too ya know!

I did get meeself acquainted with the fair and lovely Reverend's Wife and Ms. Hawkins - though I fancy mine women to'have a few teeth missin' meeself.  I also did have such luck as to fight a few of the greatest pirates who e're did walk the face of this earth!: Cap'n Flint, Black Dog, Calico Jack, George Merry, Israel Hands and Long John Silver hi'self!

The fella in charge of last eve's fightin' and brawlin' and the man entirely responsible for all the sword sheildin', punch throwin', face slappin' and guns a blazin' was the mighty Brock Brockenshire! If ye want to learn how to fight like a REAL man, give him a call or check out his website & company called Shrew'd Business. If he can't put yer men in place, no one e're shall.

The next set date for pirate meetin' at the Palace be this Sunday - stay tuned!

Don't miss Ken Ludwig's Treasure Island coming to the Palace Theatre in London, Ontario February, 2012!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"There was a young lad on the sea - THE SEA!" by th'name Jim Hawkins

Tis I again, Jemmy Rathbone 'ere to inform you swashbucklers of the night passed...
A cold brisk eve it twere last night at the Palace where o' such sea filth did meet.
Read'ist we we did from the script "Treasure Island by the infamous scoundrel himself, Ken Ludwig.
We did'ist encounter the wick'd Black Dog who came'st all the way a long journey from Spain 'cross the sea.
Actually a close friend o' me own.
Both the wretch'd Squire Trelawney and the smooth-talkin' Doctor Livesey were present and the words which came'st from their mouths did sound so heavenly that I wanted to strangle 'em both silly with their own tongues.
The cleverest George Merry did'st get under the fingernails of the cap'n momentarily but once he was promised a spot 'mongst Silver's most prized collection o' heads -  he did'st shut his trap.
We also come 'cross a strange, stringy man with a beard o' white as snow and he did'st make the strangest requests o' the young Jim Hawkins...
The Captain Flint, mine hero and role model, doth inform me that we are soon to be in the possession of a treasure more brilliant than that e're imagined by man.
Next week, the common heresay 'round these parts be on Thursday - we be trainin' o' the ways o' the pistols and swords. Once complete, we shall'st be prepared to face any man or beast, armed to the teeth and ready to fight on rockin' boats, rope ladders, taverns and even in the middle o' a jungle riddled with snakes and the Lord knows what else.
Ne'er a man shall get in mine way of that glorious treasure awaitin' me and me mates 'pon Treasure Island!

Friday, September 30, 2011

"Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest..." and 18-25 Actors onstage at the Palace!

Arrrrrgh Maties!
It is I - Jemmy Rathborne here to tell all ye scoundrels that Treasure Island (adapted by Ken Ludwig) is comin' to the Palace Theatre.
Keep yer eyes peeled for clues to lead the way and yer ears on guard for future bits of worthy information.
I have seen with me own two eyes the dark corners of Precunier Hall at the Palace where there be auditions held and I did there witness a ray of extraordinary talent.  Think not of the price of yer ticket but instead the treasure to be found from the seats!
On the day I meeself walked through the doors of the hall, I nearly bumped into a stranger who I did come to learn was goin to be teachin' some sword fightin' for all men worthy of the challenge - INCLUDIN' - yours truly.
I have infiltrated the Captain's Blog of madame Heather May, and I have procured a space where I may inform all ye who be interested in the happenins and on goins of the rehearsals and secret meetins of all the pirates of the underworld which is Treasure Island at the Palace.
It has come into me knowledge that the first meetin' of such vile, filthy biters will be this upcomin Tuesday.
Keep watch and stay alert!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Words of Advice for Opening Night...

I do not like to give advice unless it is first asked for SO, if you would like some advice on what to do or prepare for opening night - read on; if you do not wish for advice or think you cannot possibly gain anything or expand your knowledge as an actor - stop reading and please remove yourself from the world of acting. 
A true actor never stops learning and never stops seeking knowledge. I type this, in the nicest way possible - honestly.

Three One-Act shows are coming to the Arts Project in London, Ontario this Wednesday night (which I am directing & stage managing).  Today (Sunday) we had our first full run of all three shows and it was uplifting to have so many actors and crew members show-up on time and ready to go - EARLY.  Lines have been memorized, costumes have been purchased, blocking has been rehearsed and permanently imprinted onto the brains of the actors, now, the actors have a few "last minute" homework assignemens and items to keep in mind.

#1. As an actor, you WILL deliver your lines faster than you have been duiring rehearsals.
This is for three main reasons. One is that your brain creates adrenaline which makes your blood pump faster and your heart rate increase. Your brain does this so that your body has enough energy to maintain the performance in front of an audience without passing out.  "Theatre is an exagerration of life" and as such, your body needs more energy to keep up with your larger-than-life actions and your louder-than-usual voice. The second reason is due to the reactions of an audience.  When an actor has been rehearsing the same lines for months, they quickly forget which lines are funny or may get a laugh. The first time infont of an audience soon reveals the jokes that have been long forgotten.  It is only natural to want to keep that laughter going, so, an actor will try to make other lines funny. As it is uderstood that comedic timing is quick and without pauses, an actor can unintentionally lose pauses where they have been during rehearsals.  The third main reason is the most obvious one - nerves. When performing infront of a live audience and when awaiting your cue to go onstage during a show, it is only natural to get excited, nervous and anxious.  This also causes lines to be delivered quickly.  My first tidbit of advice to actors is to be aware of this and prepare to deliver their lines slower than usual. If an actor intentionally delivers their lines slowly, they will most likely deliver them in real-time once they're onstage infront of a live audience.

#2. Don't Panic but something WILL go wrong.
As much as you try to prepare ahead of time and as often as you rehearse a play - something will not turn out the way you've planned or rehearsed - it's inevitable.  Whether someone forgets a line, skips ahead in a script, misplaces a prop, the lighting cue isn't on time or a sound cue lasts a few seconds longer than it should - deal with it.  This is community theatre people and it is rare to have a "perfect production".  As I stated, don't painc.  As long as an actor prepares as best as they can ahead of time and as long as the cast & crew supports each other NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, you can ensure a pleasant evening.  The biggest piece of advice I can give regarding this is the following: "If you mess up but the audience didn't notice you messed up - you didn't!".  The show must always go on and if you can maintain your character and push through whatever obtacles may come your way AND if you ensure that the audience leaves satisfied - you have done your job and done it well.

#3. It's hard to believe BUT - you might "Over Act"
As an actor, you have rehearsed until you were blue in the face and all the while during rehearsals, the director has drilled into you NOT to over-act or upstage the other actors on stage with you.  In a nutshell, upstaging or over-acting means making your character louder, bigger and moreso the primary focus compared to the other actors onstage. THIS IS BAD. Actors should always keep in mind what Harry Edison once told me, "an actor should aim to be a player in the best play rather than be the best player in a play." You only shine as bright as the weakest actor in a production and though you KNOW this and try so hard NOT to do this - come opening night - you might.  This is due to hearing the first laughs and getting the first audible feedback for all the work you have done leading up to your first production. Don't let it go to your head! Stand your ground and try to remember that you are playing to the script rather than playing for the laughs.

#4. Try not to get ditracted - it's harder than you think
Many actors believe they have rehearsed so much and put so much work into their characters and lines that nothing could possibly throw them off their game. They're wrong.  No actor can prepare for someone in the front row sneezing so violently that snotty spray hits them in the face or someone's chair in the back row breaking and forcing them into someone else's lap. These are exagerrations of course but let me tell you - something may and probably will distract you. Actors should review their scripts during the run of a play - it can't hurt. And though you think you know everyone else's lines as well as your own, you never know when a situation may arise when it is you who must give another actor their cue or nudge them to say a certain line because THEY got distracted. It happens! If you think nothing can distract you - maybe you're right BUT chances are, during the run of your show, someone WILL get distracted and as an actor you WILL have to save their chops. That's one of the main difference between theatre and film by the way. NOTHING gets edited out. Work as a team to make sure everyone in the production looks good - not just you.

#5. Have fun
No one you know might show-up to see the show, a prop may go missing or worse - explode, an actor might show-up with a sudden serious case of leringitis and can only speak in a whisper, the lighting guy might go missing 5 minutes to curtain and a critic might be in the audience on the night that everything goes wrong.  It is during times like these that we all must reflect on why we got involved in the first place.  Whether we're involved with theatre because it gives us pleasure to make people laugh or we want to be a part of a supportive group working towards the same goal. Whether we need to be infront of an audience for attention or we need a break from our hectic lives (the kids, the bills, the wives, etc. lol). We are involved with theatre to give an audience the opportunity to escape and to have a night away from it all.  No matter what happens, we as the cast and crew of a production owe it to the audience (and to ourselves) to ensure that the show goes on and that everyone has a good time.  At times, it may be hard to smile and "sluff it off" but for the run of the show, we must all stick together, support each other and make sure we all do the best and deliver the best we have to offer.  If you see the director pulling their hair out, the stage manager pacing backstage or an actor biting their nails and hyperventaliting - give 'em a nudge, a hug or words affirming that they are doing a great job and that you're in this together.

To the cast and crew of "An Out of Sight Night" opening this Thursday at the ARTS PROJECT - break a leg!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Respect for Acting...AND your fellow Actors

Actors involved with Community Theatre are usually involved as a volunteer and are offering their time, experience and abilities as such for free. Having said this, one would assume that anyone and everyone who is involved as an actor would be doing it for the passion and love of acting.  How is it then that so many actors quit, don't show up to rehearsals, arrive late and don't apologize to their director and fellow actors when they have inconvenienced them all?

I must admit that I do not honestly know how professional theatre is run or what the expectations are of their paid actors.  I do however know that they expect their actors to show-up or they will be replaced by someone else.  In Community Theatre, actors cannot always be simply replaced because of time restrictions, deadlines, etc.  Most directors will choose to continue working with someone who continuously arrives late to rehearsals or isn't learning their lines or doing their homework because it's easier or because there's only a few rehearsals left before opening night. I am NOT one of those directors.

I am appalled and infuriated when an actor in MY show decides to simply "not come" to rehearsal.  I consider myself an understanding individual however, I cannot understand how an actor can NOT show up for a rehearsal, NOT call me to inform me that they won't be there AND NOT apologize to their fellow actors for not being there! The whole purpose of rehearsals is to become familiar and comfortable with your fellow actors so that when it comes to show time - you've got each others' backs.  A rehearsal cannot proceed when only half of a cast shows up.  The actors that DO show up cannot rehearse and practice acting and reacting to someone who is not there.  These missing actors are not just letting their director down - they are letting the entire production down.

People who know me as an actor or director know that I'm always saying "don't shoot yourself in the foot".  I cannot seem to say it enough and still, the meaning is lost on people.  What I mean by this is simple - if you don't do the work, if you don't show up, if you let down a single director, if you abandon your fellow actors in a single production, people WILL NOT work with you again.  Theatre is a close community (here in London, Ontario) and everyone quickly gets to know of and about EVERYONE.  If you have one actor or one director who won't work with you again, you can bet your life that they will convince someone else not to work with you as well.

I understand that things come up with work and personal life and, sometimes, an actor won't be able to make it to rehearsal or make it on time.  THIS is why each actor is given a contact sheet at the onset of rehearsals so that they can give the director or stage manager a call and inform them of the situation.  By not calling, you are disrespecting your director and your fellow actors who are depending on your being there. 

In Community and Alternative Theatre, the most important thing you can bring to a production as an actor is your dependability. NOT your acting ability. People can be taught and trained on how to express emotions, feelings and thoughts - they CANNOT be trained to show up.

As an actor in Theatre, whether it be professional or amateur, you WILL gain a reputation.  
The type of reputation you acquire - is YOUR choice.

Monday, September 12, 2011

And Now...We Wait

I went to an audition Sunday night and at the end of the audition, all 25(or so) of us were told that we would know by the end of the week whether we got a role in the production or not. Five roles are available, over 30 people auditioned for these roles, all roles are female parts and I am in the age range to play only 2 of the 5 parts available.  When you want something so bad and all you can do is wait, each 'tick' the hands make on a clock seems to take a minute to finish.  I cannot call the director and beg or grovel or tell them how dedicated I would be to any role given to me or how much I would be willing to give to the production or who's feet I'd be willing to but seriously.  I can check my email inbox every hour and keep my cell phone in my pocket so I can grab it the minute it rings -but in the end, all I can do is wait.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Before you can truly become a character - you must first know yourself.

Most characters have descriptions written directly in a script by the playwright - "he is an exceedingly handsome youth, dressed in a t-shirt, dirty jeans and cowboy boots." or "a pretty young woman with anxious lines in her face, enters the bedroom..." or even "she enters dressed in business clothes and carrying a briefcase.". A character description may go on to state the age of the character, an accent (if they have one), what they're wearing or how they enter the scene.  These character descriptions however, usually, do not state how the character walks, what they are thinking as they enter a scene, any bad habits or compulsions they may have or mannerisms they display.  It is these that take an actor from simply 'acting' to 'creating a life'.

When I am directing a play I make it very clear to my actors that, before any character notes are given, they will receive notes on themselves as actors.  During the first read-through of the script as a group and the first few rehearsals, I take note of my actors' mannerisms.  I play close attention to who they are. Do they sniffle because they have sinus issues? Do they tuck their hair behind their ear every other line? How do their eyebrows move when they are trying to think? Do they sigh during pauses? Are they a fast or slow speaker? Do they rock back and forth or side to side? Are their feet planted or do they like to travel about? Do they grind their teeth when they're angry? Do they fiddle with their hands, chew their fingernails, crack their knuckles or twiddle their thumbs? I pay attention to the small details which make them human.  I then take these notes and give them to my actors for one reason: They need to know what they do as a human being so they can either use them or lose them to create another human being different from themselves.

As I said, I am very forward and honest with my actors and reassure them that the notes I give them are not to hurt their feelings or to point out flaws.  I give them these notes because I want them to know what they do and say, how they walk and what the 'human being' that is them - looks, sounds and feels like to help them better understand who they are and what they need to do and/or change to become someone else.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Actioning: A Technique for Actors to Give Purpose to Each and Every Line

"Actioning" came from Stanislavski (1863-1938), a Russian actor & theorist who sought to enhance depth of emotion and honesty in the performances of actors.  Actioning, in a nutshell, is the choosing of a verb (action word) to think of subconsciously during the delivery of a line to another actor. One line, one sentence, one breath - one Action. This technique comes in handy when trying to find meaning to a sentence or line which is confusing or the purpose of delivering such a line is unclear.  If an actor puts action words to every line they deliver in a script, it is ensured that every line will be delivered with meaning and purpose.

When putting actions to your lines it is best to fill in the blank: "I ______ you" with a transitive verb (a 'doing' word).  To better express the effectiveness of this technique, I will use a simple line as follows: "How do you like your coffee?".  Think of the following action words prior to reading the question.
-[I avoid you] "How do you like your coffee?"
-[I seduce you] "How do you like your coffee?"
-[I disturb you] "How do you like your coffee?"
-[I aggravate you] "How do you like your coffee?"

Actioning can also prove to be extremely effective when two actors, who share several minutes of dialogue within a script, work together to create action words that can motivate and drive a conversation into a specific direction. For example, let's take an excerpt from PICNIC by William Inge:
HOWARD: [I soothe you] Here we are, Honey. [I show you] Right back where we started from.
ROSEMARY: [I puzzle you] Uhh.
HOWARD: [I encourage you] You were awful nice to me tonight, Rosemary.
ROSEMARY: [I disregard you] Uhh.
HOWARD: [I coax you] Do you think Mrs.Owens suspects anything?
ROSEMARY: [I seduce you]  I don't care if she does.
HOWARD: [I assure you] A business man's got to be careful of talk. [I praise you] And after all, you're a school teacher.  [I dismiss you] Well, I guess I better be gettin' back to Cherryvale. [I avoid you] I gotta open up the store in the morning...
ROSEMARY: [I tackle you] Where you goin', Howard?
HOWARD: [I beg you] Honey, I gotta get home.

You can take the EXACT same dialogue and give it a different feel and meaning by simply changing the action words:
HOWARD: [I disgust you] Here we are, Honey. [I repulse you] Right back where we started from.
ROSEMARY: [I avoid you] Uhh.
HOWARD: [I fondle you] You were awful nice to me tonight, Rosemary.
ROSEMARY: [I annoy you] Uhh.
HOWARD: [I worry you] Do you think Mrs.Owens suspects anything?
ROSEMARY: [I oppose you]  I don't care if she does.
HOWARD: [I ignore you] A business man's got to be careful of talk. [I cheapen you] And after all, you're a school teacher.  [I educate you] Well, I guess I better be gettin' back to Cherryvale. [I dissarm you] I gotta open up the store in the morning...
ROSEMARY: [I idolize you] Where you goin', Howard?
HOWARD: [I humiliate you] Honey, I gotta get home.

I use "Actions: The Actors' Thesaurus" by Marina Caldarone & Maggie Llyod-Williams when putting action words to my lines in a script. The book also includes a forward by Terry Johnson wich goes into greater depth & detail about Actioning, the origins, how to identify action words and select the most effective actions for a line.

Whenever you can't grasp why you say something or what your intentions are or what you want to do to another character, ACTION!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Producing a Play? Read the script! Be Prepared & Keep an Open Mind!

There are no excuses for having a set without a window when there's a line in the script, "Get away from that window!".  There is no reason why a character should be wearing pants if another character comments on her skirt.  I do not understand how a props person can fail to add a coffee cup to the props' list when an actor is supposed to throw one!  I understand that mistakes happen but I am not talking about mistakes or the ONE night someone forgot something.  I am referring to the lack of commitment to take the time to read, re-read and get to know a script inside and out before mounting the show.

Many professionals plan their theatre season ahead of time by choosing the script and holding auditions ahead of time for all the shows they intend to put up.  Along with this selection process comes the reading of scripts and analyzing the details.  I do not own a theatre or have a board of directors. I do it just for fun but I still have to respect the playwright in anything I produce and do the same amount of preparatory work as "the big guys".

After selecting a script which interests me, and before holding auditions, I do three things: 
First, I purchase a journal which I will use for the sole purpose of writing ideas, putting down questions, drawing costumes or set concepts and recording the notes I give my actors once rehearsals begin. 
Secondly, I contact the theatre where I intend to mount the show and work out an opening date and start making the payments for the rights, the scripts and the stage rental.  This ensures a reserved spot for me in their busy schedule and also gives me as much time as possible in advance to make small payments towards the (otherwise "hard to swallow") amount due.
Lastly, I read the script again and again until I have a good feeling of the set & cast requirements...or until I get a headache.  Then I put the script down, sleep on it, dream about costumes, cast, set, sounds, pauses, mannerisms, music, timing and whatever pops into my head. The next day, as soon as I have a moment free, I read it again and this is what my life looks like until I hold auditions.

The best and most important part about preparing to produce a play (in my opinion) is knowing your script and the playwright's intentions AND keeping an open mind.  Once auditions start, the live actors will sound differently than the ones who have been in your head for the past several months.  Once rehearsals begin, actors will move, converse and interact differently than you had dreamed and it is important to stay open to their input and ideas.  As a director, you may have had a script on your brain and in your dreams for months but in a rehearsal, it is the actors who are living and breathing as the character you've placed them in and it is the actors who will blow YOUR mind...if you give them room to do so.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Working with Blind Actors - Truly an Eye Opening Experience

I am currently stage managing and directing a one-of-a-kind piece of theatre with Out of Sight Productions in London, Ontario.  This theatre company uses both sighted and sight-challenged actors in their productions.
Listen to the owner, Kelly MacDonald, talk about this theatre company and hear what actors are saying about their experience here: I Only See Shadows

It is amazing what I have learned about myself and others through directing actors who cannot see me.  At first I was nervous about saying the wrong thing or offending someone by my ignorance but the actors on this project have helped me to better understand what life is like for them everyday.  They are also very good at taking a joke and dishing them out!

I remember at the second rehearsal asking an actor  to make the hand gesture of someone talking and the actor did not know what I meant.  It made me stop.  My mind went blank and I feel as though, right there and then, that I experienced something that changed who I am.  As a director, I often tell actors what I want them to do and when I want them to move their hands or body in a certain way to express emotion or inner thoughts.  It was magical being able to hold the actors hands in mine, and show her what I meant.  "The thumb  is like the jaw of a mouth, " I said "and the other fingers are held tightly together above the thumb representing the top of a mouth.  When you open and close your hand making the thumb touch the bottoms of your fingers and separate repeatedly, this looks like a mouth opening and closing - like someone who doesn't stop talking.".

At another rehearsal, I caught myself asking an actor to put up her hand to make "the peace sign" with her fingers towards another actor.  She did not know what I meant.  I felt a piece of my heart break a little just then.  The "peace sign".  Something many of us have seen as a symbol of love, change, revolution, hippie times, acceptance, the Beatles and diversity.  Something we all take for granted.

The most powerful part of working with this group (for me) is being able to share body language, hand gestures and facial expressions with people who have never seen them before.  As a director with this group, I can't simply ask an actor to frown as if she smells something rotten, I have to show her by having her touch my face while I frown or by touching the areas of her face I want her to move.  I can't ask an actor to "pop out her hip like a young teenager giving her mother attitude".  I have to stand beside her and show her which leg to straighten, which leg to bend and which hip to place her hand on.

I have never felt more connected to a cast than I have with this group.  The show will be dedicated to the memory of my late Uncle William Douglas Baker who was blind since the age of 12 and passed away this year at the age of 47.  May he rest in peace.

It has been a wonderful journey and the best, I'm sure, is yet to come.  The show goes up at the ARTS PROJECT on Dundas Street in London, Ontario on September 28th at 8pm. Tickets are $15 and all are welcome!

Friday, August 26, 2011

And so it Begins!

The Verdict is In!
As of today at 2:49pm, I have chosen the play I am going to produce next year in May and I have booked the time slot at the theatre where it will be produced!

Thanks to everyone for their feedback regarding the plays I was (and still am) interested in.

The show I have chosen to direct and produce will open on Thursday, May 17th at 8pm at the ARTS PROJECT on Dundas Street in London, Ontario.  Tickets will be $15 and only $10 for those 12 and under.

Many people will think that this is too early to announce ahead of time but I AM EXCITED!  The last play I produced was in my head and on my mind for a full year before it opened. This time around - just under 10 months.  The last play I produced had a cast of 3 - THIS play, has a cast of 11!!! Go big or go home right? ;)

Auditions will be posted in early January at and rehearsals will run twice a week from February till opening night.  Auditions will be held in January at the Central Public Library in downtown London, Ontario and they will be open to everyone!

Character descriptions of the specific roles in this play will be posted on this Blog in December later this year. I can however tell you that the lead character will look as close (as possible) to the image attached of Nurse Wilson from the movie "Return to Oz".

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

""The Shape of Things" by Neil Labute - A masterfully disturbing script that makes you think

I recently finished reading "The Shape of Things" by Neil Labute and the words and characters have still managed to remain on my brain.  Though the vocabulary used within this script is quite simple, the messages portrayed are far from juvenile.  This play will mean something different to each person who reads it.
It was first published in 2001 at the Almeida Theatre, London.
It has four main characters: Adam, Evelyn, Jenny & Phillip.
It takes place in various settings around an arts college in a conservative Midwestern town.
This play could be produced in a small black box theatre to create intimacy between the actors and audience members but the scene & set descriptions are very vivid and I could also see this piece produced for film.
It HAS in fact been made into a movie. See the clip here: THE SHAPE OF THINGS 2003
It is a story of how far one can go in the name of art.

The story opens in a museum. There is a tall statue of a nude man in the center of the room wearing nothing but a leaf covering his genitals.  A woman (Evelyn) is giving off a vibe that she is about to do something to the statue.  A security guard enters (Adam) and he is wearing an old jacket, his hair is slicked back and is described as "bulky".  Evelyn, is an artist.  She believes that art should make a statement and make people think.  These two characters end up falling in love.  At least, HE falls in love with her.  Both of these characters have very different goals in mind as to the outcome of their relationship.

During their 18-week relationship, Evelyn drops little hints to Adam such as "you shouldn't style it so much.  Your hair.  Just let it go..." and "it's cosmetic, not's no big deal. I promise..." pertaining to him getting a nose job.  Throughout these 18 weeks, Evelyn manages to change the way Adam looks, feels, acts and even thinks.  He throws out his favourite (but tacky) jacket and thinks it was HIS idea.  He goes under the knife and has a small amount of flesh shaved from his nose and THINKS it was his idea.  He also starts jogging, toning and losing weight all the while recording everything he does and thinks into a journal which he ALSO thinks is HIS idea.

Without giving the actual ending away, I will close this post with this:  "The Shape of Things" forces the reader to make up their own mind about what ART is to them.  Is it about making a statement? Making people think? Making people feel? Is it about showing something people don't often get to see? Is ART about opening a window into hidden rooms and forgotten dark closets?  This is a script which plays both sides of the "Morality Coin".  If one is able to create a piece of ART that will challenge humankind and our ways, just how far is too far? Is is ever okay to cross the line between right and wrong in the name of ART?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Old, Yellowed and Used Scripts - My Second Obsession

I love old scripts! I love the way they smell like "comfort" and "hard work" at the same time. I love how they feel beneath my fingertips like tissue paper that may fall apart if I turn the pages with too much excitement. A used bookstore, which carries used stage scripts, is my comfort place and safe zone. If the selections were any larger and the aisles any longer - I could get lost for hours and take enough books home with me to push me over the edge into bankruptcy. I am obsessed with these hidden, lost and forgotten treasures.  What is truly a special treat is when I find a hidden treasure inside one of the scripts like a signature, an old program for a production, an actor's notes or contact information.

Today, on my lunch break from work, I found myself walking towards the local bookstore where I purchase my scripts every time I get my pay cheque. As I enter the store the man behind the register waves to me and gives me a smile. He recognizes me but he doesn't know my name.  I b-line it right to the aisle second from the last near the back of the store.  First, I stand tall and skim the top shelf. Second, I slowly bend over so that I am completely at a 90 degree angle from the waist AND THEN, by the time I reach the second last shelf, I am on the floor sitting a dress.  I didn't fully realize just how much I adore reading these pieces of art and skimming the shelves until I found myself sitting on the floor in a dress. Oops!

When I finally left and returned to work, I had spent almost $40 and was almost 40 minutes LATE coming back from break.  Thankfully, my current projects at work are theatre-related and THUS this trip to my favourite special place was (in fact) all in the name of research and preparation. It's better than my last trip there which cost me $46 ;)

In the past 30 days, the $86 BEFORE TAXES allowed me to bring home the following treasures:
"High Pressure Homer" by Bruce Brandon, 1937
"A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams, 1947
"Moo" by Sally Clark, 1984
'Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe" by Edward Albee, 1962
"Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)" by Ann-Marie MacDonald, 1990
"The Diary of Anne Frank" by Goodrich & Hackett, 1956
"The Night of the Iguana" by Tennessee Williams, 1961
"The Importance of Being Ernest" by Oscar Wilde, 1961
"Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett, 1954 (still not sure what I think of this one)
"Bus Stop" by Tennessee Williams, 1954
"Four Great Plays by IBSEN: 
          A Doll's House, Ghosts, An Enemy of the People & The Wild Duck", 1932
"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller, 1952
"Two Plays by Edward Albee: The American Dream 
         & the Zoo Story", 1959
"The Country Wife" by William Wycherley, 1973
"The School for Scandal" by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
         (1751-1816), 1991
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" by Tom Stoppard, 1967
"A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" by Tennessee Williams, 1955
"William Golding's Lord of the Flies"
          adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams, 1996
"Sight Unseen" by Donald Margulies, 1992
"Beside the Seaside" by Leslie Sands, 1956
"And Things That Go Bump in the Night" by Terrence McNally, 1966
"Deathtrap" by Ira Levin, 1978
"My Fair Lady" - a musical play by Alan Jay Lerner adapted from Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, 1956

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Pressure of Finding ANOTHER Perfect Play

In September of 2010, I worked with a dedicated production team and three passionate actors to bring Norm Foster's "the LOVE LIST" to the Arts Project.  There were challenges when it came to finances, deadlines and one of our actors even had a back injury.  This play, however, is a piece of art filled with comedy and drama as two best friends have their frienship challenged and tested when "the perfect woman" comes into the picture.  This production went on to receive the Bext Comedy of 2010 award at the Brickenden Awards in January of this year. Now, I have to find yet another gem to direct and produce for next year.

Since June of this year, I have borrowed from the central library and read over 50 scripts.  These scripts were a collection of comedies, farces, abstract fanstasy, drama and theatre of the absurd pieces. Out of these 50 scripts, I have found four that I would personally consider producing. Since producing the Love List, it has been a challenge for me to find a script that I fall in love with the FIRST time I read it.  This doesn't often happen and only after a few read-throughs can one truly grasp the intentions of the playwright and the magic that it could bring to a stage and audience in performance.  I fell in love with Norm Foster's "the LOVE LIST" the first time I read it and that magical experience has yet to strike my passion bone this second time around.  But these plays have come VERY close ;)

The four plays which I have come to consider (at this point) are the following:

Sunshine Boys, by Neil Simon: Two men were once stars as they played across from each other in a comedy show in their younger years. Now, both in their 70's, the public has requested that these two characters get back together to do one last show. The only problem is, they can no longer stand each other. This play peaked my interest because the unique relationship between these 2 characters anad the realities of their dealing with getting older.  It is a full-length comedy for 5males and 2females and the royalty owed to the playwright is $125 per performance.

6Rms Riv Vu, by Bob Randall: An apartment with 6 rooms is for sale, that is until it becomes sold - but 2 perfect strangers don't get the memo.  These strangers come into the apartment for their review only to find that the doorknob is missing and now they are both stuck in this emtpy beautiful aprtment together.  What happens when 2 perfect strangers get locked in an emtpy space for hourse on end with nothing else to do but "talk".  I appreciate this play for all that these two characters are holding back and holding in.  I like the idea of having a simple set for a play can have a simple set without it being a bad one.  I love the balance between comedy and drama in this piece and, to me, these characters are so real and multi-dimensional.  Full-length comedy for 4males & 4females. Royalties are $75 per performance.

Miss. Twiddle & the Devil followed by Miss. Twiddle Meets an Angel, by Maurice Hill: *though this production has subject matter dealing with the devil, god, angels & Hell, this is supposed to be a purely etertaining piece rather than a religious sermon* The Devil, is bored. He decides to challenge himself to "convert" an entire household of innocent beings over to the darkside (so to speak).  When the Devil arrives at the chosen abode, he discovers a new tenant he was NOT aware of - Miss. Twiddle. This woman is so evil that the devil himself does not wish to spend an eternity with her "down below" SO he changes his plans and tries to save her soul~! In the second half of the play, durastic measures need to be taken and a Guardian Angel is called in as reinforcement.  This play is fun, light-hearted and family-friendly.  It is done all in good fun and the characters are nothing less than entertaining. This is 2-one act plays which I would produce together as a full-length comedy for 4males & 5females. Royalties are $65 per performace.

Jake's Women, by Neil Simon: Jake LOVES women. He loves women who love him and he is nothing without them. He is a writer who likes to be in control SO, all of the women in his life - he rewrites to better suit him and his needs.  He is on the verge of going crazy as he cannot distinguish the differences between the REAL women and the women in his imagination.  After his wife asks for a seperation things go from bad to worse. In jake's Women, we discover just how much a man is willing to give up for the most important woman in his life.  I enjoy the back and forth between the characters and I admire any actor who steps up to the challenge of playing Jake as he never leaves the stage and every other line belongs to him.  Jake is on a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions and we, as the audience, get to go along for the ride. 1male & 7females. Royalties are $125 per performance.

As you can see, I'm faced with a dilemma - I want to produce them all! But all in due time.  If anyone has any feedback or opinions and/or preferences as to which I should start with - all comments are welcomed and I would appreciate any input.