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."

    Twelfth Night Review!

    So all this week I've had the privilege of house managing Austin Peay State University's production of Twelfth Night written by William Shakespeare. Earlier in the week I gave two of the actors the opportunity to give a short blurb about their roles and the show in general. Now having seen it it's my turn to tell you all of the awesome stuff and all of the down and dirty details. Just to let you know the Austin Peay Department of Theatre and Dance hasn't paid me to say any nice things about them they're just so awesome that I say all of this stuff for free! So let's get going!

    When you first hear the name "Shakespeare" unless you're a lover of his work like I am you may have flashbacks of your high school English class where you were forced to watch some tired taping of some British guys hammering out lines that you can't understand and dressed in frilly little outfits. You had to fight to stay awake and only remembered enough to ace the test. Well let me tell you something, this is not your English Teacher's Shakespeare performance. Who knew that you could actually attend a Shakespeare play and have fun and even laugh your head off? (Go figure)

    A Little Intro

    This play deals with the themes of unrequited love, untimely pranks, and mistaken identity. Never a dull moment the play does anything but drag on. This production was set in the frolicking world of The Jazz Age (1920's). The Story (in short) centers around the main character of Viola who is shipwrecked in a strange land and decides to make a living by dressing up like a man and working as a servant to the Duke Orsino. When Viola is sent to woo the Lady Olivia for her employer she is very surprised when Olivia (thinking Viola is a man) falls in love with her instead. That's not the whole play that's just the Cliff Notes version to let you know what's going on. All in all this play is the best performance of Shakespeare that I've ever seen live onstage. From a wonderful revolving set to a wonderful cast with a powerhouse of acting ability. This show starts with a bang and ends on a high note! But let's get into specifics...

    What I liked

    • The set: This set, designed by the department's new tech director Noel Rennerfeldt, was a wonderful multi purpose set that revolved with each scene meaning that it could give a new atmosphere with every scene. That means it was a multi-tasker and everyone knows how much I like those.
    • The setting: In case you don't know every production of Shakespeare is usually transposed to a setting other than what was written. Twelfth Nigh isn't actually set in the Southeast American Coast of the 1920's but for this production we suspend our disbelief and pretend that it is. And this production gave the illusion so well that it seemed like this play has always fit in this setting. It just seemed to "belong" there. That only comes through great production design and good acting so kudos to everyone for pulling it off!

    Cast Shout Outs

    The play was really helped by superb acting by the entire cast but here is a list of my Fave Five! These guys really rocked it out!

    • Anthony Michael (Orsino): One would actually not believe that this guy doesn't have an acting resume as long as his arm. But this guy has only been in a few shows to date and Majors in Business Marketing at APSU. This guy brings a latin flair to the character that can make anybody jealous.
    • Anne Winters (Viola): This Girl is a Shakespeare Veteran. She's been in Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, As You Like It, and Midsummer Night's Dream. She plays her par with the confidence and skill of someone who knows The Bard like the expert she is.
    • Abigail Elmore (Olivia): This Young Actress makes her debut on the APSU stage with this performance and her superb acting stakes her claim in the hearts of the audience. With her chops you would never know that she's just a freshman. if she keeps building up her skills like this I'd love to see how well she can blow you away as a senior.
    • Callum Fedele (Malvolio): As a former student of a the Atlantic Acting School in New York and a New York Native Callum makes his home at APSU for a while and in the part of the comic miser of Malvolio. When so much comedy is happening onstage it's very hard to play the straight man, but Callum plays his part well and with pride.
    • Jarvis Bynum (Feste): As hard as it can be to play the straight man in a comedy it can be equally as hard to play the comic relief. Jarvis's mission onstage is to play the singing, dancing, and wisecracking fool of Feste. When you have to be on point all the time onstage and make the audience laugh it may be easy to cave in under the pressure. But Jarvis keeps the rolling in the aisles and enraptured with his dulcet singing voice.

    Final Thoughts

    This play is a delight to see and I encourage all of you guys to go if you can. You still have three chances to see all the fun this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:00. It's at the Trahern Theatre on the Austin Peay Campus. But get your tickets soon because the last two nights have both had packed houses. Tickets will go fast!

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Writer Wednesdays: Coming out of the Closet

    Yeah I know the title is probably misleading. This post is about a new kind of playwriting I've discovered. And by new I really mean as old as the stage.  I'm referring to the historical art of the Closet Drama. In short a Closet Drama is one that is meant first to be read and enjoyed before it's meant to be staged.  There used to be a time in history that when you had something subversive to say that you might get jailed for the first thing that you did was write a play. But you didn't just put this play onstage where any Regular Joe (or Johnny Law) could see it. You wrote it to be distributed and read in the privacy of one's home or read aloud in private parties. Unlike novels or poetry a play just has something extra that begs a reader to engage in the work, or actively participate. If you were planning a controversial rally or trying to distribute subversive ideas that "Da Man" didn't want people to hear a play was the best thing for it.

    This play by Victor Hugo was never performed onstage but was so widely known in
    it's time that it sparked the style of Romanticism.
    Found at
    But nowadays Closet Dramas don't have to be controversial anymore, and they're not always just written down and distributed in the ordinary way either. With the advent of social media and the internet several playwrights, (both trained and untrained) have been using The Web to get their work out there using the platforms or Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Here are just a few (nowhere near exhaustive at all) examples.

    Publicity for "Such Tweet Sorrow" A good Romance isn't dead. Just tweeted
    Courtesy of the 

    • Such Tweet Sorrow: The Royal Shakespeare Company completely adapted Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to be tweeted out by several actors telling the romantic play in a new and interesting way. Find it here.
    • A Very Potter Musical: Wanna do a musical adaptation of your favorite movie but are afraid of getting sued? Then film your work and put it online. That's what these people did. They can't legally make any money on their work but they now have GLOBAL exposure as artists. I dare you to find anyone in a crowded room that doesn't know about the musical. Not many playwrights other than Shakespeare can say, "Oh, who's seen my play? Only the Globe!"Find it here.
    • The Girl Who Cried Wolf: Okay, I'm guilty of doing a shameless plug. Last month DragynAlly asked me to write a play that would be published weekly on her blog The Dragyn's Lair for her readers. I wrote a short and sweet play called The Girl Who Cried Wolf. It was my first foray into writing a closet play and found a lot of tricks and techniques that make plays easier to be read. While I'll eventually be producing a staged production of it later next year I will always know that it's first stage was inside people's minds. Find it here.
    A Very Potter Musical. Even it's "least popular" post got over a million views.
    Courtesy of Team Star Kid Productions. 

    Final Thoughts

    So what do we take away from all of this? Well the most important thing is that playwrights don't need to wait to get a production anymore to get their work out there. If you want the World to see what you're capable of and other theatre companies to get acquainted with your work writing a play that everyone can see and costs nothing to distribute will be great! 

    The new form of Closet Dramas are still new so all of the rules and techniques are still being written. That means that the work that you do now will help change the face of the art form in the future. Who doesn't think that's cool.

    Think I'm dead on? Think I'm way off base? Shoot me a comment below.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Raiding the Bookshelves: Doing the Time Warp

    So I've amassed a serious library of plays, theatre textbooks, and commentaries over the years. I thought  I might like to let you see some of my favorite books and some memories behind them. Today's focus is on some of the first few plays that i had in my collection, starting in High School.  Just a Caveat: I don't own the rights to these books, either the pictures or the words within. I'm just telling everyone how awesome they are. 

    Well let's get started...

    The Collected Plays of Neil Simon: Volume 1

    This was one of the first play collections that I got when I was doing shows in highschool. I had started off by reading Star Spangled Girl for scenes that we were doing for class. Something about how Neil Simon can weave a drama around the simple and somewhat silly domestic woes that we deal with everyday is amazing! He carries that into his work on the books of musicals such as Promises Promises. He makes much out humanity's nothing, shows us the gold that can be spun out of our straw. And for that I'll always love him.

    Man and Superman and Three Other Plays by: George Bernard Shaw

    When you're in High School I guess you're supposed to be spending your money on Harry Potter books or one of the other Pop Novel fodder. But when I was at a Church Camp at Charleston Southern University in South Carolina when I made my first purchase at a college bookstore this was the first book that caught my eye. I devoured the book...starting a Mrs. Warren's Profession (Which being a play about a prostitute rocked my Southern Baptist world). Bernard Shaw has a way of using epic strokes to compose wonderful stories. A lot of his plays seem to fit that style of British Plays (rich people dealing with rich people problems) but the are others that deal with the terrors of the conscience and the darker struggles of the everyman. If you're ever looking for a great play from a good time period for the theatre Bernard Shaw is the way to go!

    Hide and Seek by Lezley Havard

    As most theatre people know you accumulate more plays by working on them than by browsing the book store. This was the first play that I worked crew on in High School. The playwright isn't that famous (as in I haven't read anything else from her) but makes a great domestic story. Hide and Seek is a psychological thriller that centers on a family that moves into a new house (not original I know). But she incorporates the skeletons in every family's closet and the power of forgotten secrets to make a truly scary story. She's a playwright that I should be looking at more.

    The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance

    Any one who knows the movie that this was based off of starring Anthony Hopkins knows the story of this play. I picked this play up by rummaging through a siblings books that she was going to give away to charity. I picked it up and sat down to read. Three hours later I was done and crying. There are times when we find ourselves having to deal with the ugliness that we feel inside. Sometimes we feel so ugly that no one would ever want to touch us. Bernard Pomerance uses this Docudrama to teach us the beauty in everyone.  This is a play that I HAVE to direct someday because it still moves me every time that I reread it.  If you ever want to find a play with such touching romance and an inspiring story please pick this one up.

    Final Thoughts

    It's been fun looking up some of the mainstays of my collection. These plays have touched my life in a very special way that I just have to share with someone else. And that's what a good playwright does. He offers a great play that touches the reader in such a way they have a compelling feeling to do something with it. 

    Have you ever felt that way about a dramatic work? About another work of art? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    A Look-Ahead to Twelfth Night presented by APSU Theatre and Dance!

    • So most of this week I'll be house-managing for Twelfth Night which is being presented by the Austin Peay State University (APSU) department of Theatre and Dance. It's opening Wednesday Nov. 14 @7:30 thru Sunday Nov. 18 @2:00. It's in the Trahern Theatre on campus and tickets are on sale at the door or from 3-5 @the Trahern Box Office. It's directed by a close mentor of mine and EVERYONE needs to come out and see it!

      Poster for the show. Graciously borrowed from Darren Michael.

      Austin Peay is my Alma Mater and I could give you a million blog posts saying nice things about them. But who better to give their own opinions about the show than two of the actors themselves! Two of my friends, Andrea Coleman and Anthony Irizarry, were gracious enough to answer some questions about what it's been like working on the show? But first I think some introductions are in order.


      Andrea in the the Beaux Stratagem (right).
      Photo Courtesy of B. Chris Hardin. Taken by Brett Shumaker.

      I first met Andrea when she auditioned for a student show I was directing. Since then she has gone on to act in such shows on the APSU mainstage in The Beaux Stratagem and other shows in the state such as Grease. She's a sweetheart with a sweet smile.


      Anthony in a staged reading of "8". (Middle)
      Courtesy of B. Chris Hardin

      I first met Anthony in his Freshman year when he played Ichabod Crane for an adaptation of Sleepy Hollow that i was the master carpenter on. He's a marketing major at APSU that also enjoys working on stage. He was also involved in the staged-reading of "8" this past summer where he played Paul Katami. He also was an extra in the movie "Runner, Runner" this summer. He's a great guy with a great heart.

      So without any further ado let's get right to what we they have to say...

      Who do you play?

      Anthony: I play Orsino, Duke of Illyria

      Andrea: I play Valentina.

      Can you tell me a little bit about what you like about the character? What are some things that you found interesting about the rehearsal process?

      Anthony: What I like about the character was basically his key defining principle--the fact that he was a hopeless romantic. Honestly, I didn't like the character at first because I found him to be very fickle and even brash in his decisions. But then I realized that in a way, haven't we all at some point behaved in similar ways when we desperately want to win someone's affection? It was at that point that I found myself really empathizing.

      The thing I found most interesting about rehearsals was how everyone always found different ways of interpreting Shakespeare's work. Personally, I have to say that Darren was very helpful in setting the tone and allowing me to experiment and have that sense of freedom of choice. So the character in the end, felt much more sincere.

      Andrea:  I love that my character is slightly devious, but it's all because of unrequited love. My favorite times in rehearsal have been to watch characters develop. I love seeing actors grow and I love when I can see an actor discover something new about his/her character. 

    • Okay, how do you think Austin Peay's production will be different than other productions of the same show?
      Anthony: For one, everyone has fantastic chemistry. No one is dragging their feet to auditions, and we're all having fun out there. Like Darren [The Director] tells us, "If you're having fun with this show, then the audience will have fun." Everyone here has been working hard toward characterization and making good choices. Some, including me, have met with scene partners outside of rehearsals to work at it further. So, we have a lot of professionalism from top to bottom. The end product should reflect that.Andrea: This production is different because well... I'm in it of course. But it's different because its set in the roaring 20s and that puts a whole new flair to the style of the play. Also, large amounts of the play that were not absolutely required to forward the action have been cut. So instead of a 3 hour marathon for the audience, you get an hour and 1/2 energetic sprint. Also, The costumes are lovely. I may be biased because I helped make them, but so be it. 
      If you could tell the audience the one reason why they absolutely need to come out and see this, what would it be?
    • Anthony: Well, this is one of Shakespeare's best comedies, so expect plenty of hilarious moments. And of course, there's always the classic love triangle that everyone loves to see unfold.

      Andrea: The audience needs to see this show because I think everyone needs a good dose of Shakespeare periodically to remind them that life is significantly deeper and more complex than what we go through on a daily basis. Shakespeare reminds you that you are a complicated being, but at the same time makes you feel alive and yet connected to the past. It's a good feeling to leave the theatre feeling like a smarter and more complex human being. Shakespeare has an uncanny ability to challenge you and knock you off your feet, only to hold your hand while you figure out how to stand again.

      Final Thoughts

      This show's going to be awesome! If you want to learn more about the show or more about the Austin Peay Theatre Season just go to their website here. Have any questions from the cast and crew or any requests? Just leave a comment below.

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    Theatre Humor! My Best Theatre Jokes

    Saturdays were made for laughing. Here are a couple of the best Theatre Jokes straight from the Ricky Young collection!

    Two Classics

    Q: How many actors does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 
    A: 100- 1 to screw it in and 99 to stand in the wings and go, "I would be perfect for that! It should have been me up there!

    A Stage Manager's View of the World: The tech crew trips over ledges that were clearly marked, actors trip over strips of tape on the floor, dancers trip over strips of tape that were pulled up yesterday.

    Los Angeles Theatre Center

    A Fly on the Wall

    A production meeting is going on for a show... the set designer says that they can install a chandelier in the set. The lighting designer loves the idea. The stage manager has a brief question about how it should be brought in during scene changes. The Shop Foreman says he can install it with no problems. The Producer asks whether or not they can buy one used to come in under budget. The Director slams his hand down on the table in a huff. Everyone looks at him.

    "I don't like this idea!" The director screams, "For one thing no one around here can spell it, second I don't know how the actors are going to have to deal with this, and if you look at my memos I specifically gave you notes saying that I wanted some more light on that stage!"

    And my Personal Favorite

    A Stage Manager and a Stage Hand die and go to heaven. St. Peter looks at them and says, "Well you guys did die a terrible, horrific death. I'll make you a deal, if any of you guys have one last wish I'll see if I can grant it. "

    The Stage Hand's last wish is for the best stage crew in the entire world. St. Peter snaps his fingers and an army of angels descends to be his eternal Celestial Stage Crew. The Stage Manager looks at this and is encouraged. He asks for one last blackout, one that encompasses all of heaven and is truly, completely black. St. Peter again snaps his fingers and suddenly the deepest blackness falls all over the world. The lights come back on and the Stage Manager, St. Peter, and the rest of them and they find themselves in the deepest pit of Hell. 
    The Stage Hand and the Crew brush themselves off and say, "Best scene change ever huh?"

    Los Angeles Theatre Center

    Do you guys have any favorite jokes? Wanna hear some more? Post a comment below.

    Friday, November 9, 2012

    Tech Tip: Don't Murder your Actors!

    In today's Tip we'll be looking at Commandment Three of the Set Building Ten Commandments. In this commandment we'll learn how to not kill your actors with your set. It's a real easy thing to get really excited in the design process and you start building the thing and until it all comes together right before tech rehearsal you may not know how well it's going to work until you get some one to walk on it. But you are in a theatre setting and there are a lot of dangers out there. Here's a short, (not exhaustive by any means), list of all the dangers on any stage.

    Onstage Dangers!

    • Structure failure: Something that you built falls out from under an actor or falls on top of them.
    • Flammability: Either a misused pyrotechnic or a piece of the set catching on fire.
    • Fumes: There are plenty things in the shop that give of fumes. And dry ice and fog effects give off some noxious fumes.
    • Accidents with moving scenery: This can be scenery on casters and wagons that run actors over and pipes and curtains that take people out as they come down.

    Why do we make Unsafe Decisions?

    Like all of the things that can screw good theatre up it all comes down to the same four things.

    • Time: You didn't have the time to make the safe choices.
    • Money: Doing the safe thing costs more money.
    • Manpower: You don't have the qualified staff that it takes to do the job safely
    • Management: You either don't have the qualified staff or the safety procedures in place.
    So what are the ways that we can avoid all of these dangers? And these are real dangers, not just for the actors. An unsafe work environment can get your theater shut down. Also if a very bad accident happens on your stage you or the crew member that did it can be held criminally liable for the damages. So what can we do to make a safe environment that will make everyone happy? Here are some tips!

    Keeping your Actor's Safe!

    • When in doubt brace-brace-brace! There is no law against going over board with your cross bracing or putting more screws into something. Double your legs that support the structure. Minimal doesn't mean better sometimes.
    • Fireproof everything! There are several fire resistant additives that you can mix in with your base coat of paint on any of your flammable set pieces safe. Ask your local fire marshal for any special rules that they have. Again there's no rule against going above and beyond the fire code to stay safe.
    • Keep Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all of your materials. Many of these are available from the manufacturer. In fog effects please read the safety directions, have ventilation, and wear safety equipment where available.
    • Drill your actors and crew on safety procedures and routines when moving scenery. This can mean making "safe zones" where the actors stand offstage while scenery is moving, or making hard hat areas while pipes and curtains are being brought in. Your deck managers on both sides of the stage are your captains in this area.  Give them the specialized training and hold them accountable.  When you get the right deck manager they'll make it work.

    One Last Thought...

    Like the best safety on a gun is not the mechanism by the trigger but the person's brain it's your brain and experience that will keep your people safe. you should be the one getting the most training and experience in this field and spreading that knowledge down to your apprentices. And trust your gut, if you don't know how to be safe doing something or if you know you don't have the capability to do something safety then don't do it. What you don't attempt won't kill you.