Monday, December 31, 2012

What will the Next Generation Little Theatre Look Like?

This isn't so much a blog post as a wish list. The theatre world was changed forever by the Little Theatre Movement that faced of against the Syndicates early in the last century.  The concept was that instead of us getting all of our theatre and culture from a few central hubs in the nation that every town should have a little theatre in their Downtown area that would provide theatre and cultural enrichment vital to the town and custom made for it. Now we're a tenth of the way into this new century and we're in desperate need of a new Little Theatre Movement. Broadway and all except a select few of the best regional theaters are nothing more than a theatrical Walmart. But instead of backing out of the fray it's time that the local artists stood up and took account of themselves. Here is my wish list of what the New Little Theatre Movement Should be....

The New Little Theatre Movement

  • Homeless: A new Little Theatre doesn't need to tie all of its resources into a building. Make theatre wherever you are, with whoever you're with.  Be flexible and move to wherever you can call home. Nowadays a stationary theatre company is dead.
  • Internet Savvy: In today's world if you're not on the internet then you don't exist! Every theatre artist and Little theatre should be engaging an online audience and not be shy about it. The internet and streaming video doesn't kill live theatre, apathy kills live theatre! Start a blog, have a youtube channel, get a Facebook page, etc. When used properly the internet builds community and a fanbase for your work. (And potential revenue...more on that later)
  • Don't be Ashamed of Merchandise: Put your name on anything you can print and sell. Get a t-shirt line. Publish your own plays. Get a CD out. Have your own action figure! Just get the swag out there.
  • Be your own boss/Advocate: Stop waiting for the big companies to hire you stop waiting for that moment when you're going to be "discovered" by someone and make it big. You discovered yourself and know you're own potential. Find your niche and try everyday to take that next step to reach your full potential. You are your own agent, publisher, producer, employer, publicity agent. Start acting like it.
  • Be friendly: Work with anyone you can find and team up with as many other companies just like you. Find your tribe of followers that wants to see work like yours done and create a network. 
  • Be a Consultant: Help other people and companies out there. Be an educator and have apprentices. There are traditions that need to be preserved and new innovations that need to be expanded upon.
  • Be innovators: Invent your own style and make sure that it's being seen. Define you're own philosophies and manifestos and share them with the world! What you create today will be what the next generation studies in the textbooks. Be diligent about it.
This wish list is quickly becoming my own business model and my manifesto for what real Small Town Theatre is. I encourage all of you to make your own manifestos and models about how your art gets made. The responsibility lies with you and no other. Make good art and above all else get yourself out there and do it!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thoughts on Newtown: Never Looking Away

So a couple weeks ago America took a big shot to the gut.  Anyone who had any connection to the world outside heard about he shootings in Connecticut. And just like the rest of the world I was shocked to hear the news...the horror that could befall a several lives were snuffed out at once.

That weekend was already hard for me. That Sunday I was going to be taking the stage with a wonderful group of kids in our Church's Christmas play. These kids were amazing and even though they were just beginners in their journey in the arts they had worked so hard to make everyone proud.

I don't care who you are or where you are. Tragedies like this hurt. You most likely didn't know the the victims and their families. You never can understand the kind of hurt that these people are going through. But you do know people. You do have or know children that are very close to you and the very possibility that this kind of thing can happen reminds you not of your mortality but the knowledge that your life is so short and that sweet innocence in your life can be lost instantly.

I saw a lot of the ways people reacted online. And I'm going to bite the bullet and say that neither reaction was completely wrong. Some people bring anger, some people bring tears, some people only bring more questions to the table. All reactions are welcome and bringing them to the forefront so that the world can process them is good.

But some of the people that I kind of envied were the people who chose to stay in denial. The ones that chose not to look at the footage, read a paper, or hear about the tragedy. These were the people putting their backs to the world and refusing to move forward in their grief. Refusing to accept that they don't have all of the answers and seek to find just a few more.

I forget who said it but one of my favorite quotes is "The true artist never looks away". No matter what the turmoil, the personal hurt, and the heart ache, the artist must force himself to watch and feel and PARTICIPATE in the world that he lives in. I pitied those people because they got to choose not to see it. They could choose not to face the emotions and grief tapping them on the shoulder. And the true artist can't make that choice. In our guts we can't not watch.

My heart goes out to all the families and friends of the victims. My heart goes out to all of those who weren't involved but are feeling their own version of survivor's guilt and hugged their children and loved one's tightly because you knew how fragile life could be. When we were done with our performance at church our pastor prayed and we took the time to lift up the families and victims in prayer. And then we and the kids had a big group hug. We didn't know where we were going but we did know that with God's help we could move forward.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Fronkensteen Lounge!

I've kinda had a soft spot for Christmas ever since I was born. In fact Christmas was the start of my acting career. At the very first Living Christmas Tree Pageant at my old church I was the Baby Jesus. I was only a month old, I was born a month premature, yellow with jaundice, and just out of the hospital. So what did my mother do? She put me in a show. There are no pictures of me that I can find wrapped in swaddling clothes being held by a young lady playing Mary, barely in this world playing none other than the infant  Jesus Christ. All I have is stories told by my mother and several other ladies from the church.

And that was where my acting career kicked off. I actually put it on my resume for a couple of years because of it's double take potential. I never had time to prepare for the role, and how do you prepare for such a role anyway? But I took the stage when I was called for and did what was needed.

And that's not much more different than how my life is now. I sit here. Christmas all but come and gone and when I look ahead at my life for the coming year I feel a slight bit of trepidation. I have a goal that I set for myself, 10 production credits in two years and I know that somehow my company is going to figure out how to do it. I'm going to be working on my thesis by then and this is the make or break time. I have to figure out how to make money in my trade and keep moving forward. I've spent my time  preparing in college but now, just like all those years ago I just have to take the stage and go.

So to all of you fellow artists out there I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Relish in your family and friends and loved ones and the period of togetherness that you have. Don't let the task ahead make you afraid of moving forward. Pursue your craft without shame and do the best that you can. Be ready to embrace the new year with pride.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life with Tourettes in the Theatre Chapter 3

Chapter 2: Depending on the Cruelty of Strangers

The kids never really understood what Tourettes is. I grew up in the world where not that many people heard of it or knew that it existed. Even having a diagnosis and all of that never helped. People had never heard of it and therefore I was a freak. A lot of people say that kids can be very cruel and they are very right. I could get blamed for just about anything in class (someone makes a rude noise and I must have done it) and kids often felt that they got carte-blanche  on making fun of me because there was no way I was normal like them. There were often times where I would walk home and kids would be there ready to throw rocks at me.

I don't often relive these moments and as time passed I learned how to have compassion and live again. But it formed this irrational fear in me in my adult life. When were they going to start making fun of me again? When were they going to start excluding me? Were they getting close to me just to hurt me or were they really trying to be my friends?

This affected my early theatre career in a weird way. I felt that I had to be better than everyone else in my college department. I felt I had to be the super student. When you have a disability you can often feel that that's all that people can see. So I tried to excell to hide  my disability, rose above all of the other people. But because of that I didn't have that many peers in the department. The teachers knew and loved me but most of the students thought I was shy, withdrawn, or awkward. Being the super student meant that I was excluding myself, in effect bullying myself. in order to keep people from bullying me.

After time I corrected this behavior. I let people in and started educating people about my disability and focused on just being a person instead of a superman. It took a lot of doing and trying but it eventually all turned out well in the end.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Heroes and Villains 4

Last week we went through a writing exercise about how to make a good Hero out of a personal wound or trauma.  This week we will look at an exercise to make a fitting villain as a worthy opponent to your hero. Like I went over before writing exercises aren't about you being a good writer. It's about getting the juices flowing and giving you an idea. If the writing is bad don't worry, it's expected to be.

But first let's make some lists...

Take those lists and the exercises that you worked on last week. Today I want you to make a few lists about that hero that will give you all the inspiration you need to make a matching villain. Just get your pencil and paper ready, set the timer to ten minutes and start thinking about your character's...

  1. Physical Attributes: What does your character look like? Are they skinny or fat? Are they weak or strong? Pretty or Ugly? Think in broad, epic strokes. This isn't about specifics right now.
  2. Social Attributes: Where does your hero stand in society? Are they rich or poor? Are they famous or unknown? What race are they? Where do they come from? What do they find socially unacceptable?
  3. Psychological Attributes: What does our hero want more than ever? What makes them happy? What makes them sad? What scares them to death? What hurts them to the bone? 
  4. Moral Attributes: How far will your hero go to get what he wants? What rules will they never break to win the battle? What rules are they willing to give up? 

Now go to the opposite end of the spectrum

Now that you have this list I want you to take ten minutes to think on the opposite end of the spectrum. You're going to make these lists again and this time you're going to think the opposite. This list is going to craft a character that is so opposite your hero that he will have no choice but to be in conflict with him. 

  1. Physical Attributes: If your hero is big your villain will be small. If one is athletic the other will be a weakling. Remember think in broad strokes.
  2. Social Attributes: Where ever you hero came from your villain came from the other side of the tracks. If your hero doesn't have a penny to his name then the villain will be super rich.
  3. Psychological Attributes: You are your villain are going to want completely different things out of their world, their life, and their society. They will each be driven by separate things, will each have their own fears and desires. The goal of the villain is to destroy the psyche of the hero.
  4. Moral Attributes: The villain will scoff at the morals and the rules of the hero and push him to break them. The goal of the villain is to unmake the morals of the hero.

One exception to the rule...

One variation to this is to make the hero and the villain very similar in physicality and social status. This is very fine. Sometimes your worst enemy is the guy that grew up right down the street from you and was your best pal two years ago. They key factor is to make these two as morally and psychologically different as possible. These are the factors that will cause conflict.

Exercise: Evil Speech of Evil

Now it's time to write a monologue in the voice of your new villain. I call this the evil speech of evil. In ten minutes I want you to let the character outline every evil thing he does and how he plans to do it. But I want you to let the villain justify everything that he does. The important thing to remember is that the villain is always the hero in his own story. He always thinks that the things that he does are morally right. Remember to give your character plenty of action words and let him describe things. These give you a better idea of the characterization.

Exercise: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Next take that monologue and make your character do something... Write a description or long stage direction that shows your villain accomplishing as task. How does he hold things? How does he see people? How does he walk or look around? What does he notice? All of these things will give you practical information to help you write your character interacting with the world of your play.

Final Thoughts

Again this is just an exercise aimed at getting your juices flowing about a good character. Whatever you wrote isn't supposed to be "good" yet. You're just digging around to find things that you can use to write your story. Again I encourage you to destroy or lock these exercises up when you get ready to write the story. You'll always remember what you like and want to use. And as you right the story you'll be rewriting and revising as you discover knew things about your characters.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tech Tip: Make a Nice Package

This weeks Tech Tip is something I see all the time. The play is a great hit with solid writing, music, and professional acting. But the set looks like it was made by a bunch of elementary school kids. The set's all wobbly, the paint is splotchy, things are held together by duct tape and hanging from the ceiling by shoestrings. You have great actors doing your show and making the big bucks but your set just doesn't match that quality.

There are several reasons why this happens just a few are...

  • Not enough money to buy quality equipment or materials.
  • Not enough people to get the job done right.
  • Not enough time to make everything right.
The other problem is that people just focus more on the acting and the music than they do the lights, the sound, or the set. They know that they need it but they feel it just has to be standing. As long as it's there you get extra points. But it can make you look pretty amateurish. And when you look like amateurs people treat you like amateurs. Especially people who would be writing checks or recommending people to see your shows. Here are some easy points that will help the not-so-tech-savvy make their set into a "nice package".

  • If it wobbles or shifts when you walk on it/touch it/go anywhere near it fix it. 
  • Anything that looks like raw wood/fabric/chain/anything the audience shouldn't see should be painted black. Or it can be hidden behind some kind of black fabric. Black=Invisible in the theatre world.
  • All the audience really needs in the lighting world is lights is a full stage, zones, and blackouts. These can shift the play in the audience's mind to something else. Practical lights (candles, flashlights, lamps, headlights,etc.) help in the situations where professional lighting isn't a possibility. At any department store you can find cheap lighting fixtures that will get lots of light on the stage. Just make sure these things can be dressed up so that they don't look cheezy. 
Remember. The audience doesn't know a lot about what is done "right" in the theatre. But they CAN pick out a shoddy piece of work any day. All you have to do is dress it up nice.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Theatre Rant: Is Theatre supposed to make money?

I remember a personal idol of mine that I had the great pleasure to meet through an event at my Grad School. He's is the greatest inspiration and role model to me about what makes a great play. But during a conversation one of the most touching things that he told me was that he had lost faith in the theatre as a profession. To sum his comments up he basically said, "I turned to Corporate America for a living because the non-profit world has failed me!" It made me so disheartened because the only thing that I ever wanted to do in the world was to write plays just like his and he was the one telling us all that we shouldn't bother. I started wondering, there are so many theatre professional playwrights and theatre people out there! In all this world there has to be someone earning a living at this!

This is a common question or complaint that comes along whenever you get two or more playwrights in a room. "We spend so much money and time on these plays we write! Why can't we make any money on it?" But the problem is that the theatre world is just too scary right now. Money is a big problem in the arts everywhere. From very little government funding in the to the fact that solid theatre's in the industry just aren't taking the risk on New Works it's enough to make any newcomer dubious about making a career in the Theatre Arts. And the fact that thousands of older, more established artists are leaving the business because there just isn't any advancement opportunities in the theatre right now.

Here's my stand on it all... No, you can't make money in the arts anymore. But that's to say that you can't make money in the arts playing by the Old Rules. Theatre has gone through many revisions and format changes throughout it's history. The Greek Style was different than the Elizabethan Era. The Neo Classics were different than the Restoration. As society changes the arts must change also.

So yes you have this big movement that's making the theatre into a big Wal-Martization of the work of a chosen few. So what if you can't make money in the old style? How can you change it up? How can you become the counter culture that changes the face of theatre for the next generation? What you do for a career now will be what your grandchildren are studying in textbooks later. How are you going to influence them?

And I'll be the first person to admit that I don't really know the answers to my own questions. I do know what the definition of insanity is. We can't keep trying to live by the old style anymore and expect different results. We have to keep plodding forward and create our own style. What will yours be?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life with Tourettes in the Theatre Chapter 2

Last week I started a journey on talking about my life with Tourettes Syndrome. It's a neurological disorder that I've lived with most of my life. I started sharing about the struggles I've had after learning that my story was touching some of the readers out there and being of some help to people. So this week I continue remembering some of the memories I still hold most dear.

Chapter 2: Someone that believed me.

It was in therapy with my psychologist (I'm going to call her by her fake name, Ms. Rose) I found a miniature heaven. She was an angel. To a nine year old that has only had friends abuse him and family members ignore him Ms. Rose was an adult that won my heart. But I would have fell in love with anyone who would have showed me as much attention as she did to me.

I was a mess from the moment she first met my grandmother and I in the waiting room. My grandmother explained my symptoms to her and then Ms. Rose turned to me. I had been making this noise (it's called a vocal tic) for the entire time but when Ms. Rose turned to me, she looked at me expectantly, wanting to make me do the noise. But I couldn't. I don't know whether it was stage fright or what but every time someone looked at me and wanted me to do the noise I couldn't. That was the point where they would snort at me and never believe that I couldn't help it.

So at this point I'm feeling low. I wanted Ms. Rose to hear it and be able to help me out. She had one of those kind faces that made me want to tell her everything. But Ms. Rose just looked at me with a kind smile and held out her hand. We took it and she led me to her office. An office with action figures on the shelves, a sandbox in the room, and a ton of crayons and paper. When I sat down she didn't ask a lot of questions about a disease, or a neurological disorder. She told me that would be handled by a friend she had down the hall, a neurologist.  She first wanted to ask me how I was doing.

And that's all we did that first meeting. She asked me about my home life, my family, my friends, but mainly about me. We talked about what I liked, everything about me while she gave me the warmest of all smiles. When I talked about something sad her face would scrunch up and look concerned.

As it was time for me to leave I had realized that from the few stray tics my Tourettes had decided to not make an appearance. I looked at her as she led me to the door and said, "I really can't help it, you know." Ms. Rose smiled widely at me and said, "I know, we'll figure it out."

Ms. Rose and I would have several such conversations in her office for the next year or so. By that time I was diagnosed with Tourettes and was given a course of treatment for the symptoms. Tourettes doesn't have a cure...yet. I was told that I was going to have to live with this for the rest of my life and while the different neurologists gave some different therapies and treatments to deal with the symptoms. Ms. Rose gave me the tools to deal with life. She never sugar coated anything and she helped me deal with a lot of the baggage that I had.

But what helped me a lot more was the fact that she, besides my grandmother, was the first person to believe me. I don't think I could have ever made it if it weren't for people like her who were willing to look past all of the trash going on in my life and see a scared kid that had no idea why his body wasn't working with him. Sometimes I miss her, but I'll never forget her.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Theatre Rants: Is the Internet Killing Live Theatre?

I read a lot of theatre magazines and blogs in the course of my work and like every industry it has it's share of annoying members. There seem to be only five types of theatre articles out there:

  • Reviews of certain shows.
  • History or Biographies
  • People Complaining that the internet is killing it. 
  • People complaining that the industry is dying.
  • People complaining that you can't make money at it.
I don't know how other industries work but it seems that this is true about just about all of the performing arts. When 60% of your articles, that means a majority of your leading professionals are complaining it's very hard to realize that there's hope or a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not going to go through all of the complaints right now but lets start at the first one.

I personally don't believe that the internet is killing live theatre or performance. For that to be true there would have to be no one willing to go out and see a show. But people still go to gallery openings, people still go out to see their favorite band in concert, and people still go out to eat. Even with streaming video and instant downloads people still go out ot the cinema to see their movies. Everyone used to think that the internet would cause everyone to never leave the house and get all their stuff delivered to them.  But still people leave their homes? So what happened?

People still like going outside the home to get things. They just need a reason to go. And when they leave the experience they get when they arrive has to be something that they never could have gotten at home. People are experiential beings. They need to go out and get something. 

The question it seems that artists need to ask themselves the question, "Do I have a live event which is worth people getting out there to go see?" For a typical family to leave for a show they have to hear about it, get the tickets, hire a babysitter, go out to eat, and then see your show. If your show isn't worth all that time and money then not that many people will like it. 

Back in the day when there wasn't much to compete with the theatre people used to go because that's all they could do. Now there's a lot of things to keep their attention. You just have to offer them something that they can't get at home. You're selling them a night out on the time. Ask yourself what your audience wants on a night out? Where do they go out to eat? What are they doing afterwards? If your show was part of a package deal with a restaurant or other event what would they be? When you know how your show answers these questions then you know if it's worth coming to.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writer Wednesdays: Heroes and Villains 3

So for the past two Writer's Wednesdays we've been talking about what makes good heroes and villains. Today I'm going to give you a writing exercise to help you make a great hero. Writing exercises aren't about being good or having a polished product at the end. It's all about getting the creative juices flowing and organizing your thoughts. So just get out a stack of paper and pencils and let the prompts take you into a writing fury. Relax and enjoy!

Making a Hero: The Wound Exercise

This is an exercise that I stole from Sean Christopher Lewis, a great writer and solo performer. I jiggered with it and made it mine.  Be sure to tell me how you like it.

  1. Think of an old wound that you've had (physical or emotional). Briefly write about how you got it. What were you doing? How did it make you feel? What were the other people around you? How did it make you feel? Take 5 minutes or so to write it out.
  2. Now take that story and turn it into a FAIRY TALE. It can be as flashy, showy, and epic as you want as long as it's completely FAKE! Put this story in a character that isn't you in a land that isn't yours and a place that you've never lived in with people you've never met. This is your chance to blow every little bit of the wound out of proportion and get outside the box. Take 5-10 minutes to do this.
  3. Now take that fairy tale piece that you did and make a GRITTY-ACTION FLICK out of it. Channel as much of your inner Quentin Tarantino and take that over the top epic fantasy into the grittiest. rawest, bloodiest slash-em-up that you can think of. This time take the characters that you were working on and make them the skankiest, meanest, most brutal characters you've ever seen. What changes about them? What changes about the place that you set this in? Where does this brutal side of things belong? Take about 10 minutes to do this.

Now for the Lists

After you have that stack of papers from the exercise it's time to make a few lists...

  • List all of the Characters that you created: Just give them a working name and a few notes about them. Especially note changes in the characters from one exercise to another. These can become story arcs.
  • List some of the  places your characters go in each story. What do they make you feel? How do they change? In mood? In style? Who lives in these places?
  • List very briefly (bullet points are best) what happened in the general story. Use as broad of strokes as you can. A good example is... "Sandra conquers_____" or "Victor wounds _______" Don't get into specifics. This is just a foundation, not your final work. 

Final Thoughts

Remember this isn't your final work. This is just a foundation for a story and a character that isn't made yet. By the end of this you should have the beginnings of a great hero. Notice in your writing how the character embodies all of the attributes we talked about in the previous Writer Wednesday and make a note of them. This could be the hero you need for your next work!

Also don't feel that just because you used a personal trauma in your life that you have to make this character anything like you. This wasn't a diary post or an autobiography. You're just using something that you can relate to to make a believable character. In fact I encourage to take your workings from this exercise after you did it and tear it up. You're going to be rewriting several more times so you don't need to get connected to things too early. In short you'll always remember the things that you want to keep no matter if you have it written down or not.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nick Guess Who Review and Nickelodeon Giveaway!

Here are the bullet points of my Nick Guess Who Game Review

Who here doesn't like a few un-boxing pictures? 
So I've been a Nickelodeon Fanboy for ever and know just about everything about all the shows and characters. (I'm often known to sing out all the songs shamelessly in public too). So it was my pleasure to review the Nick Guess Who game for DragynAlly when she asked me too. It's already become a welcome addition to my game collection and it's going to be yours too! I just know it! Here are some points below.

Here's how the main pieces look out of the box. 

I was so glad to get these things, especially knowing that iCarly and Victorious are in their last seasons. These games make me feel that somehow the great memories of watching these shows are still going to be with me every time I play the game. 

This game is so easy to put together! Very little assembly required!


  • The Game is a great package for kids, has all of your favorite characters from the Nick Universe!
  • Parents will find this the easiest assembly ever! A pair of nail clippers and an emery board is all that you need to get the pieces apart and within three minutes you're ready to play!
  • This is an awesome game for all the Nick fans. Not only can you narrow choices down to things like hair color and age. You can also show of your Nick know-how in your questions (ex. is your mystery character a domineering "puppet"? If I met you character in an alley would they slap me with a stick of butter in a sock?" 

Me and my Brother Playing a Quick Game


  • The trap doors that hide your answers have a slight problem staying open when you want them to. I know that I would keep knocking them over all the time. This is a game made for little fingers.
  • Because all of the characters are so well known and there are only two sheets of them game play goes very fast before you've gone through all of them. And there isn't a lot of strategy involved. This is a game made for quick fun.

And if you want to win a Spongebob Clue game of your very own you can enter to win a giveaway in the RaffleCopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thoughts from Ricky's Brain 10/9/12

A One-Sided Conversation

This Monday I happened to read this article of the Huffington Post that really irked me. Not because it was wrong but that it was far too true for comfort. I hate to say it but "Wal-Marting" of the theatre world has engulfed the entire nation. We have been programmed over the years to defer our artistic souls to big cultural hubs of the arts like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles etc. Think about it: where do all of our arts awards come from? Where are all of the major publishing houses for plays centered? the majority of these are in the major cities.

Now look at your local regional theaters. What shows are they doing? Have any of them been written by local playwrights or are they just remounts of the latest Broadway Plays or adaptations of some Movie? Are there local actors or theatre artist working in those shows? Are they even allowed to audition? If you look at any of the bios of the actors or staff you'll find that many of them have either just come from New York or are trying to get the resume creds to get to New York.

And don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with pursuing your training, living, or getting a job in the big cities. Like in every field you choose where you want to live and then you choose your career. But it disturbs me so much that our communities are being fed their theatre from a supply chain that trickles down from the big producers in New York to your regional theatres and then to your local theatres.  Our ideas of what makes good theatre and who is important in the theatre world have been told to us by books and plays published in New York. If I asked you to name your favorite musical you would probably name a Broadway Musical. Why? Because New York is the only place where musicals come from?

Theatre was and still is the art of micro media, members of the community fullfilling the needs of the community. I've said many times before that the majority of theatre in this world is done by highschools, churches, colleges, and small community theaters. But due to the national nature of the market and our umbilical cord to the big cities it's become harder and harder for these organizations to get funding or make a living doing what they do without becoming part of this big supply chain of big city theatre. Very often it's hard to get them to do new work or more enriching material because of fears that no one will show up because they don't have a big name attached. And thus...

I'm not worried about the mainstream market taking us over, I'm more worried that it's all a one-sided conversation. That in response to this mainstream movement, in this great age or global exposure that the theatre world can give you, that more local companies haven't risen to the occasion to carry on the conversation with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. etc. and share their artistic talents with them. And anyone who likes to talk knows that a one-sided conversation is never fun.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Life with Tourettes in the Theatre

Just a little while back I wrote a blog post and mentioned that I had Tourettes Syndrome. I have lived with it for my entire life and sometimes it's hard to remember that the struggles that I've had every day of my life can be touching to other people.  The response to just one little part of my post was overwhelming and told me that telling the whole story might be something worthwhile to do. I won't give a full autobiography just yet. These are just flashbacks of personal events that still hold some meaning or personal significance to me.  I just hope that somewhere someone who also has been struggling to make art while impaired with a disability can be inspired to follow their dreams.

Chapter 1: The Beginning 

When I was around nine years old I was taken by my Grandmother to a specialist in Nashville to diagnose a problem. I had been sent to the principal several times for "acting out". Several times I'd been reprimanded by family members for "being annoying". 

This annoying behavior and acting out that everyone thought I was doing was centered around one little noise. I kept making this loud grunting sound not just once or a few times a day, but several times a minute like I had a metronome inside of me that I was keeping time to. And that was all that started it. One little noise. 

I don't remember exactly how long it had been going on. I know it was long enough to get most of the family mad at me. Long enough for most of the kids in school to start treating me like some kind of freak. Long enough for my Fifth Grade teacher to call me "her little pig boy" and the principal to have my grandmother's phone number on speed dial. And that's what I was, just a problem. I was just another kid that would go out of his way to make everyone miserable. 

But my Grandmother didn't see it that way. I had lived with her since kindergarten and I had given her a good dose of grief on a number of occasions but she saw something different about all of this. She knew that I was a very dramatic kid (probably saw the theatrical flair in me before anyone else did) and would go to great lengths to have some fun at other people's expense. But she also knew that I wasn't one to hold on to something that was getting me in trouble. The minute that I started to get punished for it I'd drop it like a sack of hot potatoes. No I had endured too much punishment, ridicule from other kids, and torment from my family to just hold on to something so trivial as an annoying noise.

Thus why we were here in the waiting room. My grandmother reading a Better Homes and Gardens and me reading a Highlights and trying to do the mazes. We looked over the side table at each other and she gave me a sympathetic look and touched my shoulder affectionately. Of all the people who had written me off she never did and to this day she never would. We didn't know when we took this appointment that I had Tourettes and didn't know all of the hurdles that I was going to have to jump over to get where I am today. But I know that the first hurdle that I had to jump was knowing that there was at least one person that wasn't going to write me off and be in my corner. And that's the first thing that I remember. That even from the very beginning she was always there for me.

Do any of you know someone that is also struggling with a disability? Do any of you have a story to share? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writer Wednesdays: Hero vs. Villains 2

What makes a great Villain?

  • A good villain does everything that you have always wanted to do but are afraid too. He's ultimately a wish fulfillment. Have you always wanted power? Sex appeal? The ability to crush everyone who's ever wronged you? That's everything a good villain has.
  • A good villain is all of your fears personified: A villain is everything that makes you squirm, you're nightmares realized. 
  • A good villain is the personification of injustice or evil in the world: Villains are always the representatives of the unpopular side of society. In the past the villains were robber barons and foreigners, now the villains are ceos. As society changes our villains change.
  • A good villain is a personification of morality: This might sound a little counter-productive. Or maybe the more accurate description is that the villain personifies the breaking of a MORAL RULE. Take the classic horror example... A couple making out in the back of a car...the man with the hook for a hand comes by to slaughter them. Why? Because they were breaking the rules. A good villain comes to punish us for our past sins.
  • A good villain is the personification of amorality: A villain does everything that society thinks is wrong and has fun doing it. He even makes fun of people that play by the rules.
  • A good villain is the personification of a certain philosophy: a good example of this is the Joker and Two Face from The Dark Knight. One is the epitome of anarchy, the other the epitome of chance and blind luck. The conflict between the villain and the goodguy becomes the struggle between two ideals.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tech Tip: Never Throw Anything Away

This may seem a little counter intuitive since I told you in my last Tech Tip to never become a pack rat. But where last week we talked about people keeping things that people were never going to use this week we're talking about never throwing away things that you know you can use.

Let's call these your assets. Your assets are the flats, platforms, furniture pieces, and backdrops/curtains that are sturdy, reliable, and able to be used again. These are your life blood for the company, more valuable than gold. When they're built right and have enough of them they'll never fail you. And more importantly you don't have to pay money to buy the material to make them again. And anything that helps you get the show done under budget is your FRIEND!

I would even encourage you to go further with this. Why should you have to even throw anything that you buy for the set away after the show closes? Should you just dismantle your custom set pieces and leave all of that would lying around in the shop? Should you just take all of your scraps at the end of the day and throw them in the dumpster? I think not! Plan now to have a second and a third use for everything!

I am a big proponent of not having anything lying around that's not serving a direct purpose to you. That means that custom builds can be dismantled and turned into stock units, oddly cut backdrops can be cut up into standard sizes, and odd furniture can be remade into a new use or put into the office or green room to liven things up! Even your saw dust and scraps can be reused to help you out with other projects. Someday I'll give you my recipe for "painters goop" which is made from sawdust and leftover paint.

If at the end of the day you take out the trash and have the peaceful feeling that everything in that can is something that is completely worthless to you, that none of it feels like you're throwing money away, then you'll know what I mean when I say it is a rush.

Keeping your assets well maintained is a great feeling. It saves your company money, build time, and causes less clutter. When you store up these little treasures and learn to use them well you'll start to realize, even if you don't have all of the money you need, how rich your shop really is.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Great Writer Steals!

Okay, I can hear all of the English Teachers and College Professors yelling at me from here. And let me assure them before their blood pressure rises any higher that I'm not talking about Plagiarism which is described as "intellectual theft". I'm not talking about stealing another writer's work. That I utterly deplore. What I'm talking about is the common and essential practice of every writer of stealing people's ideas! Here is an old joke that I found in an old magazine that will show you what I mean.

The Paradox of Writing

  • If you steal from only one author it's called plagiarism.
  • If you steal from two authors it's called literary contrast.
  • If you steal from three or more authors it's called "masterful discernment and mastery of the literary form and narrative techniques."
  • If you steal from a hundred authors and no one recognizes it then it's called a NY Times bestseller.
It's the elephant in the room every where that every good writer steals the ideas from everyone else. Whether they are plot points of the movie they saw last night, the argument that they overheard on the bus to work, or the conversation where a colleague will say, "hey, you know what would make a great story?". Everything that a playwright puts in a story is little stolen tidbits of life that will make up an "original play". 

Why do we do it? Possibly because there are no original ideas anymore. There are only so many things that human beings can do, so many permutations of words or deeds that we can perform on each other that the idea of creating something that no one has ever seen before is practically impossible. How many plots have you ever seen that remind you of a Shakespeare play you read in high school? A book you read last week? A movie you just watched? 

So what makes an original play? It's taking all of those stolen bits and putting them in different orders or executing them in different ways. How can you do a romance in a different way? How can you make conflict in a new way? What is different about the ways your characters interact?

In fact I believe that it makes the playwright's job a lot harder. We have to take things and tropes and situations that everyone has seen before and make them believe that they are watching it for the first time. Look back at all of the good stories you love. You can probably see that all of the great parts of the stories can be found somewhere else. It doesn't make the story any less good, does it.

As a playwright I encourage you to steal hard and steal often. The main idea is that you have to take the story and STEAL it. Chop it up and rearrange the parts. It's when you don't take pride in making the story yours and only "borrow" it that you've let the rest of us down and committed a crime against all of the arts. Please steal and steal well. And as always have fun!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hitting That (Blogging) Brick Wall

Most of you might know this lovely lady already. It's my pleasure to announce DragynAlly, she has lovingly volunteered to offer us on advice and all things social media. As artists who depend on people knowing who we are we need to be on top of social media and maintain a good web presence.  And since I'm still an apprentice to the blogging world who better to give us the scoop than a pro. And did I mention she's a looker? I now turn it over to her...

R. S. Young

DragynAlly on Blogging

Hey all! I'm DragynAlly, R.S. Young's social media coordinator and girlfriend... Yes I know. But I digress.

One of my professors said that being an artist is like running into a brick wall at full speed and hoping you can get it to move an inch. Blogging is very similar.

Because I work with Ricky to help him build up his social media and blogging presence I often give him a list of things to do and expect that he will do them. But recently he admitted that he was lost... And worse yet felt like he let me down.

I had to take a step back and realize that he has reached his first brick wall. And if his blogging experience is anything like mine it would be the first of many. I forget that his site is not even 2 months old and my own site The Dragyn's Lair turned 2 this past August. In blogger years that's like 20. I'm telling him all of the stuff I know often forgetting how much I went through to reach this point.

I hit my first brick wall really early in the game when one of my first big  blog projects was a giveaway that didn't seem to be going as planned. I wanted to cry and give up right there. But I kept running into that brick wall and it moved. Just a little bit but it boosted my confidence which allowed me to keep going.

As I sit here writing this I am at another brick wall. It's telling me what I do doesn't matter and no one really cares. It's telling me to give up blogging and find a "real" job. It's telling me every negative thing it can to keep me from running into it with all my might. But I will anyway.

What I realize (and what Ricky still needs to learn) is that the moment you walk away and the moment the wall moves are about the same time. Not always. But if I had given up any of those times I would have never seen what I was capable of.

2 years into the blog game and I have a site that gets over 13,000 hits a month and is steadily growing. I have made connections with bloggers and other people in my field that have lead to opportunities I never dreamed possible. And sat 2 years in this is only the beginning.

Consider this as well with your art or any adventure you undertake. It may seem like you are running into a brick wall and BOY does it hurt! But keep at it. Keep hitting that wall. I promise you it'll move.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writer Wednesdays: Heroes vs. Villains

So these days with the advent of The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, other Superhero Movies, the local news, etc., we have a pretty good idea about what makes a good superhero and an awesome villain. Bur how do we write them? Is there a "recipe" for a good villain or hero? Well while I'm still looking for that great recipe myself here are some of the observations I've made while playing both heroes and villains and making putting them into my plays. I'll also give you some writing exercises to craft the best heroes and villains ever!

Batman, a hero with plenty of demons.

What makes a great Hero?

Perseus was sent on a quest to achieve his destiny.

  • A good hero is an everyman (someone we can all identify with). He should be someone that we could all see our selves in.
  • A good hero has demons to deal with. There are either dark tragedies in the past or sins that he's not proud of.  The hero's story is a story of retribution.
  • A good hero has a debt that must be paid back or an crime that must be avenged. The need to relieve that debt or have revenge is so great. The hero's story is a story of revenge.
  • A good hero has wounds. A hero is always scarred from past battles or has an injury that cries out to be made well. The hero's story is a story of healing.
  • A good hero has a destiny: A good hero has a calling to be answered, a journey to start. He must fulfill that destiny at all costs. The hero's story is a story of reaching your potential.
  • A good hero has talents: A hero has hidden talents that he never thought that he had before or always took for granted. At the end of the story the hero's talents will become super powers to let him win the day.  The hero's story is a story of finding your super powers.
  • A good hero has flaws: A hero has tragic flaws that keep him from achieving his true potential. Over the course of the story the hero will get past these flaws to win the day. The hero's story is a story of overcoming your shortcomings.
The Lone Ranger was a man that righted the wrongs of others.

Look here soon for ideas about what makes a great Villain also look for great writing exercises to help you create your own heros and villains.
The Leverage team is the heroes of today. And everyone can relate to them.
Who are some of your favorite heroes? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holidaze Giveaways: Krave Jerky

So hey boy's and girls it's time to look at another wonderful thing up for grabs as part of the Holidaze Giveaway.  Up for today is Krave Jerky. And if you play your cards right this wonderful delicious goodness could be yours! 

Now my friend, DragynAlly, ate every bit of this jerky and gave me the low down. Here's all that she has to say about it. 

Some Selling Points

  • Garlic Chili Pepper(beef): Mostly spicy and slightly sweet. Leaves a slow burn in your mouth after eaten. If you like spice you'll think this is mild. If you have an aversion to spice it's not bad but is spicy.
  • Chili Lime (beef): Very spicy. Instant burn but bright flavors because of the lime and slightly sweet.
  • Sweet Chipotle (beef): Don't let the name fool you this is spicy. The first thing you taste is the strong brown sugar-like sweetness. Then the fiery peppers kick in for a slow lasting burn.
  • Lemon Garlic (turkey): Tender and moist with flavor permeating it. Sweet and not overpowered with the taste of lemon. The lemon and garlic is balanced. Not spicy.
  • Smokey Grilled Teriyaki (pork): Sweetest of the jerky I tried. Almost tasted as if it were covered in sugar. Mild flavor and tangy.
  • All the jerky flavors were surprisingly tender. More tender than any jerky I've had.
-Dragyn Ally

If you want to see the rest of her review just go HERE

Now if you want this yummy goodness inside of you all you have to do is follow the instructions in the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There you go! Rock it out and may the best man win!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thoughts of a Small Town Theatre Artist

So as I'm sitting here writing this I keep wondering about how to describe what a Small Town Theatre Artist is. Maybe it comes from giving you a look into where I am in my career right now. Who is R. S. Young? How did I get to where I am now? Well trust me I'm not about to go into a big autobiography. But maybe I should give you a little look back. Here are four snapshots into my artistic past.

Life with Tourette Syndrome

When I was nine I was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome which is a neurological disorder that causes severe tics (involuntary muscle movements or sounds). I came up against a lot of obstacles just trying to live my ordinary life. But especially I came up with a lot of obstacles trying to get in the theatre world. In high school I wasn't allowed backstage because I made too much noise. I didn't know much about theatre at the time but I did know that I really liked it. I didn't like that a simple disability that I was born with was going to keep me from pursuing it. So I decided I was going to have to be better than the "normal" people. I decided that I was going to have to learn better, train harder, and do better to make sure people saw my talent and not my disability. I still get asked to leave performances sometimes if I've been making too much noise. Because of this I've been an avid supporter for disabilities in the arts.

College Life

When I first stepped into the Theatre Department at Austin Peay State University (APSU) I was really scared. I knew that I was determined to be the best that I could be but I didn't know the first thing about doing real theatre. I just knew that I wanted to do all that I could. I decided that the best way to do this was to never leave the building. I think that the first mistake the freshmen make in college is to not spend as many of their waking moments in the department as they can. There are valuable relationships to be made and a foundation of experience to be laid before you can expect to get the big responsibilities. For me I tried to work on every show and volunteered to work in the scene shop building sets. That was usually work reserved for scholarship students or work study but I decided to do it for free. That and several other things got me so many opportunities and I ended up graduating with the honor of "Most Outstanding Graduating Senior". You may put in a lot of work and effort that you may think will never be noticed but it's the little things that you do now that pave the way later.

Grad School

I currently just finished my second year of Grad School at Hollins University. I'm pursuing an MFA in Playwriting. When you're used to being a leader in undergrad...the super's dizzying to realize that everyone in Grad School is the super student from their undergrad. All of the students, people that I hold dear as close friends and colleagues now, were always on top of their game and there wasn't anyone there to outshine. That's where I learned that Grad School is about outshining yourself, breaking past the limitations that you thought that you had. There were great professors there and a great program director that really challenge you to strive past the status quo. One summer session at Hollins undid all of the preconceptions I had about the art and myself about the artist. And that's what I believe makes a great grad program. It unmakes what you were when you came in and builds you into the seasoned professional that you were destined to be.

And Here I Am Now

This year has been a slow year for me. I've started up a production company that I'm running all by myself and planning a series of shows to try to pay the bills. It's a scary thought... that moment when you finally decide that you're going to trust your art to support you financially. You never think that your passion is going to become your career. But that's how good career's start don't you think? You have a dream early on as a kid you overcome all of the obstacles and hit the wall more times than you care to admit. You learn your trade and discover your identity in this world. And now you're trying to set out on your own. But if you laid the right foundation, your life will stand firm. Let's just hope my foundation works out.

Friday, November 23, 2012

$200 #Holidaze Gift-Away

So I hope you guys had a great time enjoying Thanksgiving yesterday. Now is the time that we start looking towards Christmas and all of the shopping that we're going to do. what better way to start all that off than to get $200 dollars in extra spending cash!?! This give-away sponsored by DragynAlly is for a $200 gift card/paypal dollars. but we're not just giving money away, we also raised money for a family that lost a lot during Hurricane Sandy that wrecked the Northeast. What better way can you think of to spread a little Christmas cheer?

All you have to do is follow the bit of the rafflecopter instructions below and it could be you that has a little extra folding money this Christmas Season. Who knows?

Peace and Love to you all!
a Rafflecopter giveaway If you want to look at the other guys and gals that helped to make it happen you can look up their blogs below.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Play Smell Part Three: Open Submisisons

So again we're rejoining our lovely Heroine Susie Q. Playwright on her next step in getting her play out in the world. In Part One we talked about the general opportunities out there for for playwrights. In Part Two we talked about the pros and cons of staged readings. Today Susie Q. is visiting the world of open submissions. Let's take a look.

What are Open Submissions

Say you run a theater company and want to produce the work of new playwrights from all across the country. How do you find them? Well nowadays theatre companies will put up an ad in the local paper,  on their own website, or on websites designed for that purpose that let every playwright know that they're looking for new works to produce. There are three main types of submissions out there.

  1. Submissions for the Season: You submit your play and if it's picked up they consider it for their new season.
  2. Submissions for a Special Event: You submit your play (usually a one-act or a ten minute play) and they include yours with a series or festival that they're including in their regular season. 
  3. Submissions for a Convention or a New Works Festival: You submit your play and it gets a reading or production at a regional convention or new works festival.
There are a lot of good things that regularly submitting to things like these can do for your career. 

  • A production: The more resume credits that you get under your belt the more desirable you look to other theatre companies. And the money from the royalties isn't bad either.
  • Exposure: It's a great way to build a relationship with a theatre company and get their audience to know who you are. Especially in the world of conventions and new play festivals that are attended by theatre professionals and producers all over the country. If they like your play enough maybe they'll want you to produce it when they get home. 
But there are some cons out there. There are several reasons why a certain submission opportunity may not be great for you. Here are some of the pet peeves that I have with open submissions that I've seen. When I see these warning signs I stay away. 
  • Submission disguised as commissions: You see these when the criteria they give you says, "Only plays dealing with life on the farm...or only serious adaptations of the work of Dr. Seuss will be accepted". They really want someone to just write a specific kind of play for them but they don't know that they can just commission one playwright to write it for them. 
  • More interested in the industry/mission than you: If they seem more interested in whether you have an agent or if you are of a certain race or nationality. There a million submission ads out there like this and that seem tailor made for people of different races, people that come from different cities, people born on the left side of a watermelon under a full moon. My personal belief is that unless your focus is on producing good plays by good playwrights you won't be that focused on making a good piece of art. Unless you're a shoe in for a certain demographic just give all of these a pass.
  • Submissions for Theatre Companies you've never heard of: They may be a wonderful company to submit to and be pillars of their community but if you don't know who they are and have never heard of them how do you know that they're going to give you a good deal. It's all about advancing your play one step up to being the best it can be. It's all about advancing you one step up to the next level in your professional life. If you don't know for sure that submitting your play to this company is going to get you there then maybe you should stay back and do your research. If they're any good they'll be offering it again the next year.

Final Thoughts

Sending that play in to be submitted can be the gateway to launching your career. Or it could be just a waste of time.  Here are just a few final tips to make your submission go even better.

  • You're goal is to get a production and expand the network. Keep these things in mind when you look for the best opportunity for you.
  • Research every opportunity before you submit: Ask yourself the questions: "Are these the people I want to produce my work? What other plays have the produced before? What other playwrights have had plays done there before? Where are those playwright's now?"
  • Mark all submission deadlines on a calendar for the following year: Plan on doing maybe ten. That way when you start to write a play or are in the revision process for a play that's soon to be finished you have an idea where you're going to submit it. Make the submission process a part of your writing routine.
  • Visit some of the places that you plan to submit to. Try to bump into them at receptions or conventions. Be courteous and introduce yourself and tell them about your work. Never talk about the fact that you might submit to them just let them know you exist. By the time they receive your submission they'll know who the flesh and blood person on the other end.
There a lot of things concerning submissions. As a playwright it's a lot of work and a lot of grey areas. Someday I hope to write more tips and tricks, or answer all of your questions. If you have any questions, or you think I'm really off base, leave me a comment below.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tech Tip: Don't be a Pack Rat!

In this week's Tech Tip we'll talk about a problem that plagues every theatre. And like most plagues it starts small and builds up until it debilitates your shop. It's called set piece hoarding. You walk into the prop storage to find your things for the next show and you can't even walk through the place to find what you need. After strike for a show you try yo put all of the set pieces you used back into the basement but you have to put wherever you can because there's no bare patch of floor to set it. It hurts efficiency, causes injury, and in some cases can be a fire hazard. So how does this start? Let's look at some common causes....

Causes of Set Hoarding

  • Non-Standard Set Pieces: Most set pieces are all of a specific size (usually four feet by eight feet) depending on your company's specific needs. A lot of the time the needs of a certain show require custom pieces (stuff of an odd size) to be built. But that doesn't mean that you have to keep them.
  • Odd Man Out: That one chair that you were so grateful to have for that one show you did two years ago is just lying around in everyone's way. But the minute that you throw it away you just KNOW that you're going to need it again. That's fine for one or two pieces...when it comes to a DOZEN like that then there's a problem. 
  • Turn-Arounds are too short: After every show or high point in the theatre there is usually a period called "Strike". It's equivalent to pressing the "reset" button on the theatre and making it a neutral empty space for the next show to happen. Sometimes the time between the strike for one show and the start of rehearsal for another show is very short not allowing you to clean everything up before you go. This means that the basement and your storage space doesn't get the proper tlc that it needs for reorganization and cleanliness.  
Either way that it happens this pattern can become a serious problem if it's allowed to spread. Here are some ways that you can combat this. 

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Keep an accurate inventory of all of your stock units. "Stock" units are those basic platforms, flats, backdrops, wagons, and curtains that you're going to be using to build every show. These things should be numbered or tagged in such away that MAKES SENSE TO YOU. Keeping a list of these and what they are keeps you from having to wonder what it is you actually have.
  • Have a place for all of your stock: Have a rack or shelf ready for everything that you're going to need. And it may help you also to keep everything that you use most often close to the stage or the shop. The less you have to lug stuff from place to place the more you can be building things.
  • Don't keep what you're not going to use! I don't care how much work you've put into it or how much money it cost if you're not going to be using it for the rest of the season or even the next... GET RID OF IT. If you can tear it up for parts and use it for something else. 
  • Only keep furniture in sets. You can find a better use for four chairs that all look alike than one chair that has no mate. Those things are easily thrown away. 

Final Thoughts

In the shop sentimentality doesn't have a place. The shop has to be able to work at full capacity all the time and anything that clogs the gears has to be pulled out. And like most of my tech tips this problem can best be solved by proper planning and good organization. If you fail to have proper planning in your shop you've planned for your shop to fail you.

Have you seen instances of Set Hoarding in your shop? Do you have a tip for me? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Theatre Humor: Classic Actor Terms

Every industry has those jokes out there that are pretty common knowledge. You never know where they come from they've just always been there. Well here's one that's been floating around forever that is graciously borrowed from Enjoy!

The Actor's Vocabulary

ETERNITY:  The time that passes between a dropped cue and the next line.

PROP:  A hand-carried object small enough to be lost by an actor exactly 30 seconds before it is needed on stage.

DIRECTOR:  An individual who suffers from the delusion that he/she is responsible for every moment of brilliance cited by the critic in the local review.

BLOCKING REHEARSAL:  A rehearsal taking place early in the production schedule where actors frantically write down movements which will be nowhere in evidence by opening night.

DRESS REHEARSAL:   The final rehearsal during which actors forget everything learned in the two previous weeks as they attempt to navigate the 49 new objects and set pieces that the set designer/director has added to the set at just prior to the DRESS REHEARSAL.

TECH WEEK: The last week of rehearsal wh
en everything that was supposed to be done weeks before finally comes together at the last minute. This week reaches its grand climax on DRESS REHEARSAL NIGHT when costumes rip, a dimmer pack catches fire and the director has a nervous breakdown. See also Hell Week

SET:  An obstacle course which, throughout the rehearsal period,defies the laws of physics by growing smaller week by week while continuing to occupy the same amount of space.

MONOLOGUE: That shining moment when all eyes are focused on a single actor who is desperately aware that if he forgets a line, no one can save him.

DARK NIGHT: The night before opening when no rehearsal is scheduled so the actors and crew can go home and get some well-deserved rest, and instead spend the night staring sleeplessly at the ceiling because they're sure they needed one more rehearsal.

GREEN ROOM:  Room shared by nervous actors waiting to go on stage and the precocious children whose actor parents couldn't get a baby-sitter that night, a situation which can result in justifiable homicide.

DARK SPOT:  An area of the stage which the lighting designer has inexplicably forgotten to light, and which has a magnetic attraction for the  first-time actor. A dark spot is never evident before opening night.

HANDS: Appendages at the end of the arms used for manipulating one's environment, except on a stage, where they grow six times their  normal size and either dangle uselessly, fidget nervously, or try to hide in your pockets.

STAGE MANAGER:  Individual responsible for overseeing the crew, supervising the set changes, baby-sitting the actors and putting the director in a hammerlock to keep him from killing the actor who just decided to turn his walk-on part into a major role by doing magic tricks while he serves the tea.

LIGHTING DIRECTOR:  Individual who, from the only vantage point offering a full view of the stage, gives the stage manager a heart attack by announcing a play-by-play of everything that's going wrong.

ACTOR [as defined by a set designer]:  That person who stands between the audience and the set designer's art, blocking the view. Also the origin of the word 'blocking.'.

STAGE RIGHT/STAGE LEFT:  Two simple directions actors pretend not to understand in order to drive directors crazy. (e.g. "...No, no, your OTHER stage right!!!!")

MAKE-UP KIT:  (1) [among experienced Theater actors]: a  battered tackle box loaded with at least 10 shades of greasepaint in various stages of desiccation, tubes of lipstick and blush, assorted  pencils, bobby pins, braids of crepe hair, liquid latex, old programs, jewelry, break-a-leg greeting cards from past shows, brushes and a handful of half-melted cough drops; (2) [for first-time  male actors]: a helpless look and anything they can borrow.

FOREBRAIN:  The part of an actors brain which contains lines, blocking and characterization; activated by hot lights.

HINDBRAIN:  The part of an actors brain that keeps up a running subtext in the background while the forebrain is trying to act; the hindbrain supplies a constant stream of unwanted information, such as  who is sitting in the second row tonight, a notation to seriously maim the crew member who thought it would be funny to put real Tabasco sauce in the fake Bloody Marys, or the fact that you need to do laundry on Sunday.

CREW:  Group of individuals who spend their evenings coping with 50-minute stretches of total boredom interspersed with 30-second  bursts of  mindless panic.

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:  Individual willing to undertake special projects that nobody else would take on a bet, such as working one-on-one with the brain-dead actor whom the rest of the cast and crew (including the director) has threatened to take out a contract on.

SET PIECE:  Any large piece of furniture which actors will resolutely use as a safety shield between themselves and the audience, in an apparent attempt to both anchor themselves to the floor, thereby avoiding floating off into space, and to keep the audience from seeing that they actually have legs.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Blog Tidbit Special!

During the course of writing a blog there are some things that just don't fit. There are some thoughts that come in after a review has been posted, little tips, and other stuff that just doesn't fit in a full article. Well here's a special post just for them! So without further ado here we go.

Two Mini Posts

Rocky Horror Extra: Date Night

So I admitted in my review of the Rocky Horror Show that opened at the Roxy Regional Theatre I admitted that I had never seen the movie and thus couldn't give an opinion of whether or not the production was faithful to the version everyone knows and loves. My Girlfriend Dana happened to be visiting a while back and we got a chance to catch the show again. She's a Rocky Horror nut and had some extra things to say.

Me and Dana. We're cute aren't we?

What She Liked

  • Loved the fun that the cast was having. 
  • Didn't love 2 extras [the characters of the phantoms] 
  • Loved the singing.
  • I did love that audience participation was encouraged.
  • Some of the set up with the cast movement (I say movement because it wasn't just the dance) was quite wonderful and was good use of the stage.
  • Janet could belt it out like no tomorrow.

What She Didn't Like

  • Hated the two extras didn't see their point (I'm a jerk). 
  • Didn't like how raunchiness was over done.
  • Wish the staging and sound was better.
  • Thought acting was over done by some.
  • Also rocky talked too much.
  • He's supposed to be almost mute.

Twelfth Night: An Actor Prepares

You may have seen my friend Anthony's blurb about his acting experience in Twelfth Night. Well one of the readers asked if he could go into details about how he prepared for his role. Well here are the details straight from the Horse's Mouth.

Anthony and fellow actor Anne Winters rehearsing for Twelfth Night.
Taken by B. J. Sawyers. Graciously borrowed from Facebook.

"For Shakespeare... Read... Over and over again until you have a full understanding of every line and every motive behind them. Shakespeare is very challenging in the sense that there's so much metaphor and symbolism used, and there is always an intent behind that--and it's not just because it sounds pretty."

"While you get familiar with the script, make sure whenever you get a chance to read it aloud and to enunciate, so you get your mouth used to working that iambic."

"Any opportunity I get to I try to read different analyses for my specific role, so I can get a full idea of what this character is about. After that, I determine the GOTE (Goals, Objectives, Tactics, and Expectations) which gives me a decent framework to perform under." 

[Side Note: See me explain what GOTE is here]

"My GOTE for Shakespeare was never rigid, and shifted as I discovered more things about the character."

"And of course what better way to prepare than rehearsals. I never go into a rehearsal without doing my routine (which will always be different for everyone). Around 15 minutes before a rehearsal, I'll sit by myself somewhere and listen to music while I rehearse the lines with as much enunciation as I can. I'll stretch, take deep breaths, and warm up my voice. After that, it's just a matter of executing based on my preparation."

"And that's basically it."