Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tips for Student Organizations that want to do Theatre

When I was in college I was heavily involved in two student organizations that did regular theater productions as well as Alpha Psy Omega the theatre honor society. While I never held an executive board position I did direct and act in most of the shows and were friends with all of the leaders. I've seen great things that work and some things that don't. So let me give you a rapid fire session of tips for for those guys that want to branch out and try their own stuff.

I got one of my first great roles from a Student Organization


  • Be general in your mission statement: I was in one organization that did different style productions throughout the year. I also in one organization that did only children's theater. Once all the people in the latter organization that were really gung ho about children's theater graduated were were left with a dedicated core but none of the general assembly were true believers. When people stop showing up to meetings you're dead. 
  • Be reasonable in your expectations: I'm supposing that you started this organization because you wanted to get to do the shows or opportunities that you can't get anywhere else. You're not going to be able to beat your department's mainstage at it's own game. Start out with creating an atmosphere of experimentation (like a lab setting). When we started trying to get bigger sets and bigger production value from our shows we started burning people out...the very same people who were giving their all in mainstage shows. 
  • Be department neutral: The first organization I got in on was very hostile to the department faculty. They had a valid point (there were no opportunities to use the skills they learn in class) But they took the wrong way to go about it. They often tied up theatre classrooms in rehearsals and let their homework slide as they spent countless hours on rehearsal. They even had anti faculty style meetings right next to where the faculty offices were located. What ended up happening was that the faculty ended up resenting the organization and after the graduating class that ran it left they did everything they could to squelch it...even three years later when someone wanted to bring it back up. The next organization that came up started holding meetings and rehearsals in a different building and even had a non-faculty advisor. That makes all of the difference.
  • Embrace the temporary but plan for the future: Other than Alpha Psy none of the organizations that I talk about here are still around at my alma mater. You have to understand that after the cult of personality that surrounds the founders dies off when you leave the interest will dwindle unless you do something to keep people interested. Just remember that you started this to bulk up your resume and portfolio. The theatre department you're in is where you should be really focusing. Have fun but realize the degree and the job reccomendations from faculty are what's going to last in the future. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Play in the Key of You!

So I've been seeing a lot of what I call "guitar jock" or music machismo out on the internet. What am I talking about? Well if you went into Google right now and went on any guitar forum half of all of the threads will be either "you're not a real guitarist unless you can play with this certain instrument with all of these certain parts." or "what parts/tubes/amps or lessons do I need to play like (insert famous musician here)?" Or go to any video of a guy playing his guitar or of a young girl and her ukulele playing music that they've practiced over and over for days. What you'll see in the comments of each one are these guys and gals that believe that unless you play a certain way, with a certain brand of guitar, then you're just a poser and the equivalent to the cowpies on the musical landscape.

Be the King of your own Musical Style
"Well, Dr. Fronkensteen," I hear you saying, "that's just the internet of course everyone is a bit more rude on internet comments." I would love to say that I haven't seen this out in the real world but I'm firmly convince that if you were in a room full of musicians at an open mic for every one guy that you saw that said "great set" you'd get four guys that would say "you played Hendrix on a Squire? What a cheap piece of junk!"

All of this gets me a bit irritated because I know at least in my narrative my Tourettes made it very hard to practice on traditional instruments and get my fingers to cooperate, and my bank account never allowed me to buy anything more than a "student model" guitar. I think that in a lot of people's mind is that if they throw a lot of money into an expensive guitar, like the kind that B. B. King plays, and if you take all of the internet tutorials to learn to play like him then eventually you'll be able to play good just like him. That's great if you're going to do covers of B. B. King songs all of your life. But at what point do you start letting your own artistic expression come out? At one point do you start sounding like you?

Do your own thing.

It's great to start out wanting to play like all of the artists that you respect. But if you go out trying to be the next Hendrix then you gotta get in line behind all of the other Handrix wannabe's out there. Why not be the first person in line to play like you? Try playing the best that you can and play the way you feel best. Play the music that makes you feel great on the inside and don't care about the people who call you a wannabe. Because you'll know that all you wannabe is yourself.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

6 Mistakes you make as a Beginning Director Prt 1

So you're getting your first directing gig. You got your script and you're about to hold auditions. You know that you're ready for this. But first make sure that you're not going to follow into the same kind of holes I fell into my first time...
There's no bridge over these troubled Theatrical Waters

#1 Not keeping your stage manager/design team in the loop

It's so easy as a starting director to think that you are God in this show and start making all kinds of intricate blocking and imagine all of these light cues and music coming at key musical moments. You may think that as the director you have the right to add these things at a moment's notice or look at offending parts of the design and just say "get rid of that".

But remember your Stage Manager has to call the show and your design team reserves the right to make sure their artistic vision is protected. If you aren't talking about these things with your team and coming up with answers together then you take the risk of walking out on a ledge with no one to support you. If your stage manager doesn't know how to call the cue and your lighting designer won't light it you don't get it in your show.

Quick Fix: Encourage your design team to sit in on rehearsals with you as much as they can or have production meetings in the rehearsal/performance space. Sometimes designs are set well before the show starts rehearsals but if you bring in the people to the places where you have these ideas and you can talk about them in terms of the actual space they can get behind you. And spend the first five minutes and the last five minutes of rehearsal with your stage manager.

#2 Giving orders that won't be obeyed (or will only be obeyed grudgingly)

In your first directing gig you probably won't be having a professional setup where all of your actors are paid and you have a bit more leeway to throw your weight around and have people obey your every whim. You'll probably have people who are donating their time for a community theater or church function or they're in some kind of extracurricular school project. It's very tempting to start getting very authoritative and demanding that everyone get warmed up before rehearsal and that actors start cutting their hair or quit bringing in food to the rehearsal hall. They may obey you and it may work for a while but you may be shocked to see that they'll start doing it anyway (or not do it however your case may be). You can just keep shouting orders but after the third time everyone will know not to listen to you.

Quick Fix: Look around and try to find the reason for the disobedience. You may find that the person bringing in food all the time at rehearsal is coming straight from work and this is the only time that they'll be able to eat dinner before they get home at ten in the evening. If they're hungry they're not putting all of their mind into the play. Instead yelling at everyone to be warmed up before rehearsal find a fun warm up that all of you can do together.

Look for part two next week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Having fun in Rush Hour @ThinkFun

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy in exchange for a review. Think Fun didn't pay me for saying great things about them. All opinions are my own. 

Hey guys it's Dr. Fronkensteen here with another great Think Fun Brain Fitness Game. Have you ever thought that other puzzle games and apps were just a little bit too easy for you? Do you have a kid in the gifted range that is just bored with your ordinary puzzle games. Well here is a game that not only is challenging it's approved by MENSA, an organization for people with genius level IQ's. (You know it's going to be hard then)

Inside this box is the hardest game you've ever seen. 

I only point this out because it seems like this game was invented by evil geniuses. I remember saying in my last review that Chess Solitaire was a breeze and I was on the expert level in a matter of hours. When it comes to Rush Hour, though, I'm still staring at the intermediate levels and smelling the smoke of my brain shifting gears without the clutch. It sounds relatively easy. First they set up one Red Hero Car up in a play parking lot in a straight line to the only way out. And then the evil geniuses at Think Fun devised over 80 ways of putting other cars in the way and leave it up yo you the find the way to move them to get the red car out. It sounds relatively easy but once you get to the intermediate levels what seems like an easy task seems as hard as taking a little ring into the fiery pits of Mordor.

And that's the part that I actually like. The greatest part about this game is that it's insanely hard and that you can feel your brain getting better every time you play. The core motto of the Think Fun Brain Fitness line is to "Cross Train Your Brain" and the fact that the game is insanely hard at the easiest levels even for the most avid puzzle solvers means that no matter what your level your brain is getting a real work out!

Another thing that I love about this product is that even though it's hard it's so fun to play that you don't get the "rage quit" that I've found on other games. Rage quitting is where a game is so hard that you give up at a certain point before finishing it and throw it away. Even when I'm completely exasperated at the game and even tempted to cheat by looking at the answers in the back I'm not picking up the game and throwing it at the wall. And I even find myself looking at the box and wishing I had more time to play. So kudos to Think Fun for creating a game that I just have to play.

So do you really think it's time to take your brain to the gym and make it a fine toned thinking machine? Then pick up this great game and see if you can get farther than me!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Three Great Toys from @HogWildToysLLC

Disclaimer: I was given stuff by Hog Wild Toys LLC to review. All opinions are my own.

Dr. Fronkensteen here, channeling my inner child. Hog Wild Toys sent a huge box on my doorstep. Inside of it were three of the coolest new toys. So awesome that I couldn't split them up into three separate posts. They're their own little cornucopia of kid fun! So here we go!

Zip Stix

Test your aim with these Babies!
Do you remember the slap bracelets we used to have when we were kids? Well what if instead of a fashion statement you could get a launcher and shoot those things at small cones or take to the air with cool ramps? Awesome right? Well wait no more because Hog Wild Toys brings you Zip Stix. These rigid little stix come with their own launcher. You just press a little bit and off they go with some wicked speed.

I love them because even though they can do some great tricks and get some real speed going you can shoot them anywhere and they're totally safe. You can give these to your kids and drop them off at your mother's china shop and still be assured that they won't break everything.

Poppers

Take me to your leader. And Pop my eyes out!
Have you ever wanted to let your younger kids play with a toy dart gun but feel that's it's not the best for their age group? Have you ever wanted to give them a toy that can shoot things across the room that won't hurt the cat? Welcome to poppers! No only are they cute little collectible toys but when you squeeze their tummies that ball shoots right out their mouth and clear across the room. And the coolest thing about them is that they're totally safe.

I work at a nursery with little kids all the time so I know how to test toys the way that kids will play with them. And let me tell you these Poppers will take a beating. You can squeeze them as hard as you want and they're still ready the next day.

The Flash Stache

These whiskers get extra sparkly!
Have you ever seen a toy that you know will be popular but you just don't know why? Welcome to the Flash Stache. It's just like your regular fake mustaches except that when you press a button on the back it lights up! I think it would be a cool thing for kids who like to do activities in the dark or have glow in the dark parties. (Flashlight Tag anyone?)

I would show you a picture but with my real mustache already getting long enough the fake one kind of disappears. But for those kids that love creative dress up or cool flashing lights this is definitely a must have!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Think Fun Chess Solitaire @thinkfun

Disclaimer: I was given something for free in exchange for a review. Think Fun didn't pay me to say nice things about them. All my opinions are my own. 

Did you ever look at the peg solitaire game at Cracker Barrel and wish that it was just a little more exciting? Do you or your children love chess but never have anyone to play with or need to hone up on their skills? Or do you just want to have your child learn some extra problem problem solving skills? Then Think Fun has the perfect game just for you! Meet Chess Solitaire the deceptively fun and addicting game that will ensure hours of fun and a more efficient brain at the end of it.

What you get is a little section of the chess board and 80 challenges at different levels. You set up your pieces on the board and make it your mention to capture every piece until only one piece is left standing. Sounds easy right? Well you would think so. But as you get out of the relatively easy beginner challenges and move into the harder levels you start to stare at the board and look to the heavens and yell "why me"! No worries though, whenever you get stuck Think Fun has provided answers to all the puzzles in the back of the book. If you can actually go through the whole game without looking at the answers you are a certified genius! But the epic thing about it? Once you start it you can't put it down!

When you open this box don't plan anything to do for the next few hours.

I think that this game is one of the most addicting games I've ever played. DragynAlly can tell you that when I first got it that I was thoroughly engrossed. I started playing at the beginner level and when I looked up it was three hours later and I was staring at the advanced pages. I think it's a great game for your kids that are often bored with easier games or excel in the critical thinking and problem solving arena. The motto of the Think Fun Brain Fitness Line is "cross train" your brain. And it is a workout. After you get done with playing this a while you can start feeling like your brain has been lifting weights.

I liked how this game can not only teach you how to solve problems quicker but can also help improve your chess game. The only criticism that I have is that after I solve all of the puzzles I'm gonna be left feeling like I need an expansion pack or something with new challenges or even a bigger board. This is a game that I really got hooked on. But as someone with TS who's not a linear thinker I know that other children with disinhibition disorders will be able to use this tool to help them think even more creatively.

So do you think you can prove that you aren't an ignoramoose? Why don't you grab your own copy of the game and give it a try?