Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

The Reviews

November 4, 2010

Community theater actors thrive on reviews.  We wallow in self indulgent preening when we get a good review.  We despair in chest pounding, wailing fits of anger when we get a poor review.

Our show?  Great stuff.  Reviewed in three papers, we got consistently positive critiques of our performances.  All recommended folks go see our show.

A couple of the better comments? – – –

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

One thing I know from my theater experience is that it’s not enough to simply act like the character, but one must become the character, thinking and feeling as they would. This cast was incredibly convincing. They truly became the characters.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

There is no question that Broadway could learn a great deal from community theater, especially GnuKid’s Theater Group.  Gifted local theater removes the special effects and production numbers and replaces that hyped aspect with highly personal acting, in this case, perfect zaniness.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

There is one local theater critic who rarely gives out rave reviews…yet he willingly and glowingly gave us just such a review.  Rumor has it that he has a penchant for young, cute actor boys (of legal age, mind you).  Given that one of our actors came out on stage dressed in Indian head dress, breech cloth in front, and in back… well… and a jock strap… just may have had something to do with such a positive reviews.  Oh, and his attending a second time (which he NEVER does for other shows).  For some reason, he sat on the aisle where the young man departs the stage.  Hmmm…

the motley crew...with indian boy up front

We were, of course, thrilled.  It’s very likely that one of the reasons we had near sold out houses for the run of the show was because of the reviews.

The leads got glowing reviews that reveled in their acting and comedic brilliance.  The other supporting actors got great reviews.  The chorus – – to me the true stars of the show wonderfully playing multiple roles each – – were called out for praise by all the critics.

And it’s reviews like that, coupled with big audiences who laugh honestly, loud, and long, that makes it seem – –  not just worthwhile – – but magic.

Me?

Not glowing, but pretty good in my book.

I got a “…flawless accent and perfect comedic timing.” (which, actually, is pretty damn good).

I also got a “…suitably crazy…”.

And finally, a “…loony, yet authoritative…”.

I shared the latter with Daughter Person who commented, “Hmm, that perfectly describes your parenting style as well.”

<sigh>

Yep, she’s my kid.

<big, cheesy grin>

The Director

November 2, 2010

Our director for “The Producers”, C,  is well known in the local theater community.  While not old enough to be considered an “icon” or “pillar” of the community, he is well on his way to becoming so.  A very caring friend and hard worker.

And, yeah, he’s openly gay.

Again, that’s not really important, except for a couple stories that came out of the rehearsals for the show.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

C Story #1:

C is amazing at set design and construction.  He’s won many local awards (it was not so jokingly suggested at the last awards ceremony that it would have been easier to count the number of his sets that did NOT win an award).  For this show, he again put his heart into it and designed a great set.  Great sets often require great effort to build.  Thus the need, in community theater anyway, for the cast to pitch in and help.  Well, he wasn’t getting the support he expected and, not wanting to fail, spent long and late hours doing it mostly himself.  Finally, he’d had enough and called a cast meeting, garnering the support of his choreographer, A, to help share his message of concern.

After an impassioned speech by C, wherein he worked himself to tears bemoaning the likelihood of the set not being finished in time, he had to turn over the verbal spanking to A.  A continued with anger at the lack of support.  It was beginning to get real uncomfortable.  Yeah, the cast was not supporting as they should, but we are volunteers and don’t like getting yelled at.    A was working into a frenzy – – –

A:  “I mean, c’mon guys.  This set will not build itself!  It’s not like there’s some magic set fairy that comes in every night!”

A glances over at C.  Their eyes locked.  And immediately the angry mood was broken.  Both of them smiled and, C, raised his hand slowly and said,

C:  “Well, yeah, there IS a set fairy.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

C Story #2:

After a late rehearsal, one of the actors came back to the green room (where the actors hang out when not on stage) and announced that he had to go, but that C had a flat tire and was looking for help.

Looking to curry do a favor and not in a hurry to leave (hell, there’s only work to look forward to the next morning), I wandered up front to find an seemingly unconcerned C yakking with one of the theater staff members.  After confirming that he did indeed have a flat tire, I offered to change his tire (not a euphemism).  In hindsight?  I should’ve just asked if he had a AAA card and suggested he call them to do the job.  But, he is a caring friend, so I thought, “What the hell.”

We wandered out to the car in a darkened parking lot.  While we…okay, I—C just showed me where stuff was… were getting the spare and jack out, another cast member, B (who happens to be gay as well), came wandering out to go home.  I asked B if he could help by bringing his car around to shine the headlights on the proceedings, which he gladly did.

And then I began the process of changing out the tire, while B and C stood there yakking about the play and community theater and whatever…

B made the revelation and asked,

B:  “Quiz!  You come across three men changing a tire.  One is actually changing the tire and two are standing around watching and talking.  Which one is the straight man?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story #3:

After B’s revelation and pop quiz, the talk came around to C’s infatuation with certain young, male cast members, especially J.  I mentioned in a prior post that a couple of the cast members were undeclared as to their orientation.  Curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask.

GnuKid:  “So, is J gay?  I’m just not sure.”

C:  “God, I hope so.”

GunKid:  “How about Z?”

C:  “Oh, hell no.”

GnuKid:  “How are you so sure about that?”

C:  “Well, his cock tasted straight when I blew him.”

…[blink]… [blink]… [blink]… [blink]…

C [breaking out into boisterous laughter]:  “Damn, I’ve been waiting for such a long time to use that joke.  And it worked!”

Hmmm, I never did get the answer to my question.  And, that’s okay.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More show stories to come…

Loafers Weight Factor

October 31, 2010

It’s a pretty common knowledge that many guys…and even some women…in theater are gay.

Whoops!

Photo Found Here

While less than 5% of the population is gay*, I’ve found that the percentage doing theater soars dramatically (ha!  get it?) above that.

Now before we go further and you think this is a diatribe against homosexuality, it’s not.  I like people for who they are, not for who they’re lusting after.  This is just an observational discourse.  No more.  No less.  So – –

Being definitely and demonstrably (well, as often as possible) straight, I’m sometimes an anomaly in the plays I do.  This is sort of good, because there are lots of straight women in theater.  However, they’re usually bizarre, needy, or just plain flipped out due to their artistic nature.  Or, more commonly, they are not the least interested in my advances because they are entranced with the pretty, gay boys (many of whom do tend to take care of themselves and look quite studly).  They hope to snare one and ‘change his ways’, only to be crushed with the futility of the task.

I fondly recall one show a few years back where the director, set designer, and two of the four male cast were outwardly gay.  The other actor who was straight approached me early on in rehearsal, grasped my hand in a firm, manly handshake, and with great feeling said, “Thank God there’s another straight man in this show!”

My latest show?  Of the 12 men in the cast – –

– 5 were clearly straight (although 1 did play a disturbingly convincing flaming gay man in the play)

– 4 were declared gay (though not flamingly so)

– 3 were ‘undeclared’…that is to say, 1 said he was straight, but acted gay.  Then, 1 said he was straight, but everyone knows he’s gay and still in the closet.  And the final 1 no one is really sure as he never declared nor did he pursue anyone, male or female.

That’s 33% – 50% of the male cast gay.  A tad higher than the ‘scientific’ 5%, yes?

Add in the production staff (director, sound, costumes, stage)?  That’s 5 more men, all of whom are gay, declared and flamingly so.  Over 60% of this group gay, compared with that 5%.

And, again, most of these people are wonderful, friendly guys who are fun to hang out with.  Yes, a few of them are assholes.  But how many straight assholes (that’s ‘straight’ as in sexual orientation, not directionally speaking) do you know?  Likely a higher percentage of twits and assholes there.

Oh, and the women in this cast and crew?  Mostly straight, a couple gay, a couple bi-, and one very, very ambiguous.  Pretty typical to the shows I’ve been in.

This is written, again, as an observational discourse of my theater experience.  It’s also necessary as a backdrop to upcoming posts.

Stand by for (gay) news!

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

*who knows what the real numbers are.  I got this from a compilation of quasi-scientific studies

Da Play

October 28, 2010

My show was a bigger success than I hoped.  We put on “The Producers”, a Mel Brooks musical about a down-and-out Broadway producer who, at a suggestion from an accountant (and later co-producer), concoct a scheme to put on a bomb of a play with 1000% investments, planning to pocket the investments when the bomb closes.  Only the bomb doesn’t close — it’s a hit.  Hijinks and laughter galore.

I got to play Franz Liebkind, the deranged German playwright of a musical (and potential bomb), “Springtime for Hitler”.  And for those of you thinking I was typecast?  Well, all I have to say to that is that I’m only one quarter German.  Nyaah!

Scene from the movie "The Producers" with Franz

Because of the one or two (not!), minor (not! not!) life issues I’ve had over the last few years, I haven’t felt I could get back onstage.  To get such a role (not leading, but very strong supporting) my first time back on stage was…exhilarating!

I had three songs that were ‘mine’ (meaning folks joined in on a couple, but they were primarily my songs to sing).  Two of them had dance steps.  Thankfully, I knew the choreographer who went easy on me with the steps for one of them and let me choreograph my own steps for the other (providing some key guidance along the way).

The rest of the cast?  Mostly wonderful (which, in community theater is not always a given).   And the ‘not wonderful’ parts were mostly backstage.

The house?  We filled the 120-seat house (less a seat or five) eight out of the nine shows we did.  This included two of the Sundays (which are typically poorly attended in community theater, especially in the summer months). We also got a standing ovation every show (also not always a given in community theater).

One of the best audience comments we got came during the final dress rehearsal.  The theater group usually invites a small group as a test audience.  In this case, it was a group of Red Hat Ladies.  After the show, one of the ladies allowed:

“I laughed so hard, I peed my pants.”

I had a ton of fun and was glad to be back on stage.

And best of all?  I didn’t suck!

Will save other stories, including some backstage drama, for another post…

…or four…

…teen.

Back on the Boards

August 10, 2010

…the “Boards” being the community theater stage.

Having done a few minor acting roles in college (and having fun at it), I took the next 20-some years off, instead focusing on such mundane and trivial things as ‘work’* and ‘kids’ and other four letter words.

I got back into acting at the urging of Daughter Person**.  I’m thinking she was just getting tired of my hijinks at home and wanted me to express myself elsewhere where it may be a tad less embarrassing to her.  And, first time on stage in 20 years, I was hooked.  Just loved the ability to be someone else on stage, to hear applause and know it’s for you, and, at the time, to have a ready excuse to escape the failing spousal relationship at home.

Since that restart, I’ve played in numerous local theater groups…

…I started to say “all amateurs”, but that would be a extreme disservice to many of them.  “Unpaid”?  Absolutely.  But I find many of the people I perform with…or merely watch from the audience for the shows I’m not in…are just as professional as some of the paid actors I see wander through town on the ‘big stage’.

Anyway, after doing some 24 shows over the course of 9 years***, I found myself taking an unplanned hiatus.  For the last two years, due to that pesky divorce thing, losing my brother and sister after drawn out illnesses, and a few other nitnoid life issues, I have been reticent about getting on stage.  Okay, yeah, there was this one minor bit part role that I did as a favor to a director friend who couldn’t find anyone to play the doctor in the last five minutes of “Streetcar Named Desire”****.  But otherwise?  Nada Zip Nothin’.

But it was time to get back on stage.  I did audition for two plays last year, but was not selected for either.  The latest audition?  Well,  I didn’t hold out much hope for a role, given the play (“The Producers”, by Mel Brooks), but went to auditions anyway.  I thought I had no chance because I hadn’t been on stage in awhile, plus I felt that the ‘senior varsity’ of the community theater would be descending on the audition because it’s a ‘cool’ show to do.   Nonetheless, I went.  And, amazingly, got a role.  A none-too-shabby role.

Zo… I vill be playink Franz Leibkind, der Nazi Playwright of ze play within ze play (he writes “Springtime for Hitler”).  Und, of course, vill be vorkink on my Cherman accent, jawohl?

Rehearsals have been underway for almost a month…singing, dancing, acting.  Curtain goes up opening night the end of this month, a mere 2-and-a-half weeks away.

Hell, no, we’re not ready yet.

Hell, yes, we will be.

Hell, yes, I’m having fun.

=-=-=-=-=-=

*Some, including myself, would argue that a majority of my work when dealing with other people, especially customers, is pure acting.

**…or, a new one from our latest e-mail exchange – – Female Progeny.

***even going through a phase where I was doing back-to-back shows, putting on one show while already in rehearsals for the next.  Ugh!  I do not recommend that.

****and, boy, did I ham that one up…a doctor pretending to smoke a cigarette, actually drinking from a hip flask (I was very popular with the other actors as I did share whatever inebriatory delicacy was therein), and the like.

Kindness of Strangers

May 4, 2009

Escapism.

Theater has been a wonderful venue for me to escape my own shyness*.  Starting in university with one-act plays, student projects, and one full play, I found myself enjoying the challenge of assuming roles.  I also enjoyed the applause…don’t we all need that**?  After graduation and getting a job, I found I had little time or energy to engage further in theater activities.  Then, about 10 years ago (and at the urging of Girl Child who saw my desire to express myself), I was reintroduced to theater and fell in love with it all over.

Starting out with church plays, I soon expanded my scope to community theater.  Like an addiction, it was.  Doing theater at one theater group which I sort of call ‘home’, I ran into someone who called a different, nearby theater group ‘home’.  Invited there, I got a nice role in one of their plays.  Then off to another theater group.  Then a fourth (yes, there are a lot—too many?—local community theater groups).  While I still call my first community theater ‘home’, I consider myself an eclectic and itinerant actor.

When first getting into community theater, I found myself auditioning for and acting anywhere and anytime.  Some of this was escapism from the situation at home with The Spouse.  Some of it was escapism from the shyness.  Some of it was the raw thrill of being in front of an audience and getting them to react positively to me.  So, I would do one play after another, exhausting myself in the process.  I’ve since been a bit more selective.  Some of that selectivity is based on the quality of the play.  Some on who else would be in the play (friends!).

A couple years back, I was selected for strong roles in plays in the ‘varsity’ community theater group.  While not professional, it is considered one of the better venues to do acting in the local area.  I was honored to be selected to act there—twice!

And on the cusp of acting there a third time, my brother’s diagnosis came in.  Theater was set aside.  I didn’t want to be involved in a show and have to choose between supporting my brother (or going to his funeral) and supporting castmates.  I knew my brother would win that choice.  And, knowing how I would feel if one of my fellow actors bailed on me—yes, even to support a sick brother—I decided to just not act.

…and I missed it…

For 18 months, I demurred from auditioning.  Between the impending divorce and other life issues, though, I didn’t feel that I had the energy to begin again.

…until I realized the “Kindness of Strangers”.  Well, not really a stranger.  One of my director friends was directing a play and was having difficulty filling a bit-part role*** in “Streetcar Named Desire”.  She asked me to take one, knowing I preferred ‘meatier’ roles.  Looking for karma points for future auditions…and wanting to get back into the swing of theater…I accepted the role of the Doctor who comes to cart off the now-crazy Blanche Dubois.  On for only the last five minutes of the play and with only 4 short lines, I’m the one Blanche throws the famous line to:  “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

While it was a small role, it brought me back to theater.

Back to escapism.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers…

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

*Those who ‘sort of’ know me are astounded by my-self ascribed shyness.  “But you’re so outgoing,” they say.  Well, yeah.  That’s cover up.  I consider myself an overcompensating shy guy.  I WANT to be out there and involved with people.  So I push my own envelope and put myself in situations that are less-than-comfortable for me.  It works, though I still consider myself ‘shy’.

**Wouldn’t it be great if, in our day-to-day jobs, we had a mini-audience who would applaud at our smallest successes—“Oh, did you see how he turned a phrase when writing that report?  Brilliant…” <clap-clap-clap-clap->.

***Bit parts are tough.  You may be on stage in the background most of the play…or have 2 or 3 lines… irrespective, despite the size of the role, you are expected to fully support a rehearsal schedule, plus set build and tear down.

Spell Checker

May 13, 2008

In our society of computer based living, we have come to rely on the honestly impressive breadth and scope of tools and capabilities of those computers. One such tool is the Spell Checker.

Included in most every application involving input of words—from e-mail to word processing—it serves as a virtual 3rd grade teacher, perched over your shoulder as you laboriously scrape your #2 pencil across cheap paper with wood chunks still embedded in the fiber, urging you to correctly spell the words.

It keeps us honest.

It keeps us from making a fool of ourselves.

It is illusion.

Many of you already know this, having experienced…and often suffered from…that illusion. For those who have, take comfort in the misery that company shares. For those lucky few who have not, view this as a cautionary tale. For all, I hope you find the humor in this story and can add a smile to your day.

The backdrop – – – I am an amateur thespian…yes, I love women! Oh…wait…ummm, I’m an actor. My theater group recently moved to a new home, via an expensive reconstruction of an old supermarket. Obviously, a community theater does not have money. So, there were numerous money raising endeavors to garner the needed cash.

Aside from the continuing thanks of this community theater, there was a more permanent reminder of that support in the form of a plaque prominently placed in the foyer of the new theater. To specially thank those who contributed a bit more, there were separate categories to recognize the extent of those donations. Staying in the theater theme, the categories were named with theater nomenclature. So we had categories for – – –

Ensemble Cast

Supporting Cast

Staring Role

Director

Producer

As I input the words on this list, my word processing spell checker happily reviewed my typing and declared it correct. Just as it likely did for whoever sent the request to the plaque maker. The plaque maker, eager to meet customer needs, then built the plaque exactly as the request was typed.

So, for those patrons who contributed enough to qualify for that category, I have no clue if they will forever be known as such. I was not so generous to qualify for that level. But, honestly, I don’t want to be remembered as having a “Staring Role”.

Sew, ewe mite still knead two use Spell Checker. Butt, watt dew ewe half too loose? Yule bee glad ewe due.