Rough night

Great theater moves an audience...It makes them FEEL.  But to get to that, an actor has to be willing to open themselves up to what the script has put on paper.  An Actor must get it off the page and make it three dimensional.  That's true whether it is comedy or drama.  and let me tell you, it isn't any easier to do THAT with comedy than it is to do it with a drama.  With comedy as soon as you get the first laugh in rehearsal, it's easy to "check the box" as "got that one done."  But try getting the laugh in the same place the second or third time... not so easy then. 

And with a dramatic piece, it brings in different objectives.  I mean come many times a night do you want to rip open your emotional life and spill it out trying to find what your character is feeling?  Good thing we are only doing one performance a day of AGNES OF GOD.  Not sure the three of us could take two shows a day. 

So... why do it??  To explore?  To grow?  To question?  To learn something new?  To stimulate conversation?  

John Pielmeier wrote this beautiful play exploring religion, faith, the mind, family dynamics.  The moments in our lives when we lose our innocence.  Questioning what and who we believe in.  All universal topics.  All connecting us as human beings to each other. 

I do it to find my humanity within myself.  It can be so easy to try to hide what we feel.  Or how deeply we feel things.  Much easier to have a drink, hide watching TV, or playing solitaire.  Don't have to talk to anyone that way... I mean REALLY talk to anyone.  Don't need to REALLY see what you are feeling.  If you did... you might have to DO something about those feelings.   So going to a play... you can watch others do something with those feelings.   Well... being the "other"  can be pretty raw at times.  Last night was one of those times. Enough said. 

A little of this... A little of that

Here is my brain download of the am..... So I start the day by sending out e-mail blasts about the Compass Players season tickets... buy, buy, buy.  Then I go check traffic on the Compass Players site, then I check traffic on the FaceBook site - more people need to share the posts to their pages ... .  Breakfast or lunch meetings for The Best Man last week and this week.  A little time spent learning lines for Agnes of God -- more time figuring out the rehearsal schedule for the first two shows -- that's a HUGE puzzle.  Now planning the programs - thank you Dave for execution... and then rehearsals thrown in for good measure. Projections are the next undertaking.   And I'm loving almost every minute of it.  I really appreciate the people in my life who are helping push this Theater Company forward - thank you Judy, Diane, Barbara. And Philip creating the master e-mail list - yeah!!  We have hit the 2000 e-mail mark.  How many e-mails does it take to fill the theater.... A LOT!!  And let me tell you, 2000 has not done the trick yet.  

 I get looks from people that say "You're crazy for taking on creating a Theater?  Why work this hard?"  Because it feels great! I feel alive! And I love listening to the comments that people say when they leave after one of our shows.... except the comment - "How do they remember all of those lines?"  I hate that one......   I like having my hand in all the different parts of the production - thank you UCLA.  I remember having my nose up in the air while there - "I'm an actress! Other people need to know all of this "other" stuff, not me!" Boy am I glad that I paid attention anyway.  

And this season, getting to meet a lot more people and expanding the window of people in my theater world.  It brings back all the memories of how I started with Michael Shurtleff in Los Angeles building The Night Flight Theater, and then progressing to The Road Theater.  Ah growing pains, raising money, deciding on the next script... Yeah gotta get to that soon for our season three and four.  Time to go back to sending out the next batch of e-mails.... why do people wait so long before buying their tickets... it makes me nervous. Buy, buy, buy. 


The first article came out about our second season... it took me awhile to remember how to convert from pdf to jpeg so I could upload to the website... but I did it.  And I was happy that the article came out in Peoria Today considering that is where Theater Works in located.  Now we have to see if Barbara can get them to run the article in Surprise Today.  It was submitted for here in Surprise, but I can see how the decision to publish in Peoria Today was made.  Well... we'll see if we can get it here in Surprise too.  

Ironic though... the four "points on the compass" all live in Surprise and we started the company up here... and we WANT A THEATER UP HERE IN SURPRISE. I'm yelling... oops.  Anyway... the names got spelled correctly, the info is accurate... now let's see if we can sell the tickets.  

Speaking of tickets... the whole Mail Chimp campaign may be a bust.  In the meantime, I'm going to have to go back to the old fashion way of sending out Compass Player e-mails. At least for awhile. Ugh!  Two steps forward, one step back.  Who knew I could dance. 

Okay... now on to the next....



Tonight is the first night of four nights of auditions for THE BEST MAN.  I am VERY excited. I'm going to get a chance to meet a lot of Actor's I don't know and begin the process of creating this new production "world."  Hopefully they will all be channeling Gore Vidal and we can find a great cast. 

I've spent a fair amount of time looking at the resumes - what shows have they done before, what parts, at which theaters.  Who have they studied with, have they studied.  I always hated the picture and resume process.  No matter what you had done, it never seemed quite right, or enough, or really expressed who you are as an Artist. 

But this one is not about me.... it is now a matter of finding the right Actor for each of the parts and making the chemistry of the mix into something we can all be really proud of.  God I hope it goes well.  


Music influences my mood.  I can keep myself calm by listening to classical... Sixties and Seventies songs make me feel nostalgic....Words of love songs touch my heart and I soar or fall.

Because we are beginning production on the next three shows, I am listening for music to bring to each of the three shows.  When you watch a movie, you may not be aware that you are emotionally influenced by the score or by the theme song... but it's there.  Sometimes just sublimely.  

I went to the Phoenix Symphony the other night... they are concentrating on Leonard Bernstein music.  I love his stuff.  I heard a piece I was not familiar with and I immediately thought of THE BEST MAN.  It captures the frenetic constant movement of a Presidential Convention.  The tension, wanting to go faster, but you can't.  I sat bolt up right in my chair and thought WOW, I'll open the show with this and with convention clips, political TV Ads and let it segue into the opening scene.  It gives the audience a chance to feel like they are picking up in the middle of something happening rather than at the beginning.  

Can't wait to see what I get hit with next. 

The blinking cursor

I finished sending all of the actors sides for the auditions for THE BEST MAN.  With every e-mail I sit there for a moment before I type and wonder who the person on the other side receiving the e-mail is.  The cursor blinks and I wonder if I should try to be funny, or go into business mode, of just be matter of fact.  

I get excited with each e-mail thinking.... THIS could turn out to be the perfect person for the cast. This could be someone that I may be meeting and get to know for the rest of my life.  This could be someone that will think I'm funny, or gusty, or pushy, or just "too much."  I'm sounding like Sally Fields... "like me, like me, like me."

So I sit, and watch the cursor blink, and then decide what I want my "first impression" to be.  We only get to make it once.  Yup, all those insecurities are rising to the surface....again.  Ah, show business.  Ah, life. 


Making sausage

So Barbara and I spent 2 1/2 days getting our feet fully immersed in press releases, marketing, bank accounts, e-mail accounts, mailing lists, pdf files, vector files, merchandise, and lists. Lists, lists, lists, lists, lists... I think you get the picture.  

I am always amazed how much more time goes in behind the production to actually get the production on stage. We didn't even get to the production aspects of the show.   So the goal is to raise $40,000.  Ticket sales, donations, sponsorships. Everything just short of a car wash and bake sale.  Went to Surprise City Hall yesterday and dropped off our first yellow packet.  Sort of a "HI, this is us!  Like us, buy tickets, help us."  Yes, I know I need a better description for the packet. 

Barb did a great job organizing and putting the whole thing together.  What a work horse.  

So now with Auditions for The Best Man next week, and rehearsals for Agnes of God starting the following week... as the the expression goes... WE'RE BAAAAACK!  And boy am I happy about that!

love publicity

Been working on getting ready for the auditions for THE BEST MAN and the rehearsal schedule for AGNES OF GOD... I decided to look at the Phoenix Stages website this am to check out our Audition notice.  When I opened the site I was met with all of our shows having the first three slots on the home page!!! Gotta love publicity.  I love the feeling of creating something on my computer and then watching it take off on the Internet.   Yeah!!!

A lot of work in front of me... one foot in front of the other, and all of that.  But before I do that, I am going to go look at the pictures again... and grin from ear to ear.   

Season 2

So I have sent out the Audition notices for THE BEST MAN, we have AGNES OF GOD ready to start rehearsals, and WEST PALM PRIME is ready for it's next reading at the end of the month.

Here we go.  Nervous, excited... and I already feel behind. But I always feel behind.   Raising money is always a task.  I wish I could just concentrate on the work, but you gotta do what you have to do, before you can do what you want to do.. a line from a movie I was watching the other night. 

Scheduling is going to be an issue this season.  This go around, the rehearsals overlap with the performances, so I have to be on top of that.  Still trying to get the structure down.  

Speaking of down... we should be able to cut our printing costs way down.  We bought our own printer and by printing our own programs and flyers we should be able to save a lot of $$.

And this is the first time we are trying a "Season Ticket".  Buy 1 ticket to each of the three plays and get a $10 discount.  

Now back to looking at scheduling.  

secret sauce

Bringing in people to watch a rehearsal is like adding the secret sauce to a recipe.  You can make the same recipe as six other people, but bring your own special ingredient to it, and it can enhance the whole final product.  That was yesterday's rehearsal.  We made it all the way thru with most of the lines intact.  Yea!!!  And the laughs from the audience totally fed the cast... and me.  There are still issues at some spots, but we can fix those.

I could see the whole arc of the play, I could see what the audience thought was funny, I could see what they did not laugh at.  That's tough for actors sometimes.  You think something will get a laugh and it doesn't.... or vice versa... you don't think something will get a laugh and it does.   Definitely have to go back and look at some of the moments I thought would get laughs.

We are off for four days... and then the sprint begins.  Now we all have to take this up a notch to the next level.  Man, I hope I am up for this task.  It's close to really being great.. not just good, but great.  I just have to find the right words to communicate to the actors what to do next.   Well, I got four days to come up with them.


So we did not make it all the way thru Act 1.  I hope I don't end up regretting that on Thursday. But what we reworked I thought went really well.  The trick is going to be to see what sticks for Thursday's run thru.  More lines seem to be sticking... if you repeat a scene often enough, I guess they have to.   Hopefully I can get a pretty reasonable timing on the overall run thru. 

Definitely going to stick with furniture versus folding chairs.  I think having the actual dimensions of the acting area laid out on the floor helps too.  Both the cast and definitely me.  Can't wait to see if I can unwrap the string and lay it back down.  It should work... I hope it works... or I wasted a good deal of time yesterday for one day versus the rest of the rehearsal period.

Today we hit Act 2.  We will see if I can set the pacing in this Act a little better.  I actually think we may have rehearsed this Act more than the first.  Jeez - just today and tomorrow before our holiday break.  Off Friday until Wednesday... I just hope the cast keep working their lines and repeating their blocking.  Okay, there you go... there is the homework for while we are off... run lines - work on blocking... Then repeat, repeat, repeat.  Then repeat one more time.

It's in the details

So we did a full run thru with the costumes that we have so far... that way I could see what we were still lacking.  Thankfully, most of the show is now fully costumed. And fully costumed well.  A few holes but we should be able to fill them without too much effort. 

But it was a rehearsal of looking at the "little things" that were either making or breaking a scene.  Sometimes, it was clothing, sometimes it was props, sometimes it was how an Actor was standing on stage...Open yourselves up, doesn't matter how good you are if no one can see you.   I think the balls may be problematic... they're round and they roll.  Need I say more.  I have to look at that again.  Some parts are a little too frenetic so the audience may be unsure where to focus.  I gotta look at that too.  And I really haven't focused much on Sound as of yet.  Yeah.... more to go.

But the biggest detail is about the size of the playing area.  It's so much bigger than CHAPTER TWO since we changed the seating.  But it is not as big as the space we have been rehearsing in.  I went to the Theater and measured the acting area, then went to the rehearsal space and mapped it out on the floor.   Oy.  So we were constantly adjusting where the blocking was taking place.  I think this may wreak havoc with the lighting for the show.   I keep saying, "Oh, we have time."  Ha, that's running out pretty fast.... the sand is running thru the glass at break neck speed.   Breathe Jeanna, breathe.   Today we are going to rework Act 1, then tomorrow do the same thing to Act 2... hopefully as we find the pace of the Acts I can solve more issues and answer more of my concerns.  It's far from looking effortless, but that is something to shoot for.  But it is funny, you know!  I had to say that.


Random thoughts

We finished reworking the end of Act 2.  Sometimes I feel like I am walking thru molasses and sometimes I feel like I can fly... no, I am not doing drugs.   Everyone's game is stepping up.  I see little light bulbs go off when things are clicking for them... and then I can see the frustration when the next line is just out of reach... thank God for Judy.  It happens when lines are "just lines" and not the next natural step in a conversation.  Listening, listening, listening... progress.  Breathe Jeanna, breathe.

We hit our Kick Starter goal.... One day before the deadline.  Thank goodness or all that pledged money would have been gone.  At least I don't have to worry about THAT. 

Diane brought more costumes yesterday -- some worked, some did not..... This aspect of the show is a little slower than I had anticipated, but we will get there. I think it is a little slower than Diane thought it would be too.  

There was more listening and reacting during the rehearsal yesterday, I think some of the new character discoveries seem to be taking root.  God, I hope we don't run out of time. 

Today we are going to run the whole show straight thru -- first time.  This is like watching a new child trying to walk: they're up... they're down...then they are up again.   I'm rooting for staying up more than down.  I'm hoping to see the overall arc of the play so I can figure out what to solve next... Exciting, nerve racking, anxious... man I love theater.

The sofa goes the other way

Two days ago, when I posted pictures to this website, I realized that the back of the sofa (chaise) we are going to use in this show goes from left to right, not from right to left.  We used the sofa in CHAPTER TWO and I thought it will be perfect for the psychiatrist's office in SYLVIA.  When I looked at the picture, that's when I realized the sofa went the other way, I thought "Uh-Oh" ......

Well there goes all the blocking for that scene.  First thought - get a different sofa.  Second thought - forget sofa, go back to chairs.  Third thought - tell the cast.  I love theater, because of the collaboration....Dave came up with the solution.  Move the sofa to the other side of the desk, re-stage some of the blocking accordingly, and Ta Da... there you go.   The scene worked better and it put the scene more center stage for the audience.  Win, win. 

Art is supposed imitate life.  The biggest hurdle to overcome in acting is making the dialogue of a playwright sound like a natural conversation on stage.  For an actor, you have to get in the head of the playwright and understand the conversation that he or she was writing, and then figure out WHY the characters are having THAT conversation.  Then you have to try to actually HAVE that conversation with the other people on stage. 

So... once you have read the play, then you have to memorize the lines, once you have memorized the lines, THEN you have to figure out what you are trying to say with those lines to the other characters on stage.  When you figure that out, then you have to make the dialogue... a conversation.  The natural back and forth that takes place when two people are together and they don't know what the next thing coming out of the other person's mouth is going to be.  Reacting to what the other person says to you.  Not just waiting for them to finish their line so you can say yours. 

We are at the point of trying to make it natural and funny at the same time.  Stopping sometimes, just to say the dialogue back and forth, before trying to put the blocking with the dialogue.  Trying to find the comedic timing of a moment.  Finding what makes a moment funny.  Add to that, if the play is a comedy, then having to make the dialogue sound funny each time that you have to say the words.  I love when I hear someone in the audience say, that wasn't acting, I can do that.... Yeah? Go ahead and try it.

Like the sofa, conversations can go from left to right, or from right to left... We were reworking a scene I have been struggling with, and I decided to approach it from a different angle -- the end of the scene rather than the beginning.  I explained to the cast that sometimes when you keep struggling from the beginning... if you start at the end... with what the RESULT of the scene is supposed to be and then work backwards, you can have better luck.  So we started from a result oriented base rather than a motivational base and did have more success getting closer to the crux of the scene.  Good job Steve. 

Then we got back to a little straight dialogue work between Dave and Megan - just standing there and saying the words to each other - trying to have an HONEST organic back and forth conversation so we could find the timing of the scene.  Sometimes trying to add props or movement can make the dialogue lose it's organic quality... especially if the timing of the dialogue is off.  Again... we're getting close.  Once everyone really knows their lines better, I think we can pop this scene up timing-wise. 

Act 2 is starting to gel.  I think we finally have the sofa going in the right direction.

Bit by Bit

So yesterday we ran all of Act 1 and took our first look at costumes for that Act.  Cast is about half way off book on the Act.  Some parts work, some parts drag, some parts are funny, and I still have some holes to fill.  But the costumes really help to lend added shape to the characters, and costumes are starting to really fall nicely into place.

I have to keep thinking about how colors help define the character to the audience in subliminal ways -- Greg being in muted and dark blues... sympathetic, in the middle of his mid-life crisis; Sylvia in vibrant colors - pinks, bright yellows... youth,exciting, childlike, fun; Kate in deeper shades of Sylvia's color pallet -- representing the older adult side of the relationship, Kate, in her youth was Sylvia to Greg... but now she is grown up and with that in deeper and richer colors.  Need to add more of the Shakespeare influence into her wardrobe. 

Diane has made some wonderful choices.  Costuming the Phyllis character has worked well, it's just the Leslie character that we have to rethink....again.  The costume is really interesting... the question I am wrestling with is whether the Leslie character we are creating fits the costume I have fallen in love with... Hmmm... will have to see.  This one may be a total overhaul.

So I was taking notes on the rehearsal.  When trying to read them back, it's hard to read some of my chicken scratches.  Hard to write and watch the play at the same time.  Maybe today I will try to record my notes.  I did that before - I think my complaint was that it took too long to give notes to the Actors that way... but then I would at least know what I said.   I think I will try it.

At least we found a new replacement for the dog treats.   Now if I can keep all of us from eating all of the props during the rehearsal process that will be great!!  On to Act 2 today.  

When life gives you lemons

Sometimes I hold onto things so tightly that I think I can turn them into gold.  Not really, but I'm looking for the right analogy.   There was a "bit" in the play and I thought it would be really funny.... we just couldn't make it work the way I had envisioned it.  Soooo, I went back... let go .... and tried coming at it from a different point of view.   I actually think the new replacement is funnier than what I had originally blocked.  

So THAT creates a new dilemma... my mind goes to, "maybe I should rethink EVERYTHING!"  Not gonna happen, but that is how my mind is wired (sometimes).  

Anyway, I feel back on track.  Yesterday was a great rehearsal.  I think everyone is starting to really feel more of a connection to their characters and to each other.  I'm really looking forward to this next week.  It will be interesting to see what happens when we take off for the Christmas holiday.. but, I will look at the glass as half full.   Good thing I like lemonade!


not every day goes up

Boy, when I go off my game... I GO OFF MY GAME.   My creativity "muse" was obviously off doing Christmas shopping, 'cause let me tell you... I came up with absolute dreck at rehearsal.  And the problem when THAT happens is that everything and everyone goes sideways. 

So... how do I right the ship for today??  Good question.  I can't sleep.....just sitting here thinking about the work we did... or rather the work we didn't do.  And what I could have done or said to have had a better outcome.  And so far, I have nothing.... Yup...there's a good leader for you.  I feel really bad because I can see the rehearsal schedule tightening up as we are approaching the holidays.... God, I hate the holidays.   I digress.  I felt like I HAD a handle on the play... and now I don't.   Moments... I'm trying to stitch moments together.... and that's not enough for a successful show .... I can't SEE the thru line.  

Maybe because CHAPTER TWO was our first production, or because I had thought about the play for so many YEARS... that was why the life of THAT production was so organic and alive.  I haven't discovered THAT "aliveness" with this production as of yet.... Maybe I pushed doing the show too soon?  Maybe the three other compass members aren't as connected to this show as they were with CHAPTER TWO... we all have other interests and lives besides this production... all I know is that it's not clicking on all cylinders as of yet.  I feel like it needs a battery recharge.  Maybe I need a battery recharge.  Ugh!  I'm going back to bed... maybe I can "dream" an answer to my problem.



Every day the actors remember a few more lines, another piece of blocking, a character motivation - the production starts to take a clearer shape and form.   Yesterday's rehearsal was about getting three actors in the right place at the right time.  As a director, you want to guide the audience where to put their attention as they watch the play.... and hopefully by doing THAT, you are communicating what the playwright had in mind for the audience to focus on and from that - entertain and move the audience.... TA DA!  Easier said, then done. 

But to get there... actors have to learn their lines, know their blocking, and create characters that communicate and react with the other characters in the play.  We are almost to the next step of the rehearsal process - taking this second level of the production - and moving to the third - freeing the actors. 

When you start a play, it is a clean slate - actors look to a director as to where to start, where to move, where to end up.  Once lines are known, and the blocking is in place, then the collaboration can begin between actor and director... The actor can take what I have given them... expand on it, try different blocking if it feels organic , find new bits of character business.  It is so freeing to inhabit a character fully.  We are heading in that direction, I just hope we don't run out of time. 

But like actors, directors confront mental roadblocks too.  I hit one of those yesterday.  I realize there is one scene I just keep pushing down the calendar line.... I just can't get myself to work on it with the actors.   I've re-read it a few times, I've re-thought it a few times, now I just need to dive in and re-see it in front of me.  I think part of the problem is that the change that the character goes thru takes place off stage between scenes, and this scene is AFTER that change.  The audience doesn't see him change.  The character is reactionary - he is not a driving force.  Other characters make choices and he reacts to those choices.  Even in this scene, he's off stage decision is based on his wife's decision from the prior scene ... or is it?  Maybe it is HIS decision.  I gotta think about this again.... Anyway, I have to get to this scene before Friday.  Certainly before I lose momentum.

Hard work.... Make it look effortless

Yesterday was one of those days where you accomplish a lot, but you don't get thru the number of pages that you have scheduled to rehearse.  We started on the first scene of Act 2.  I thought that would be a cake walk since we had worked it once before, and that I would have plenty of time to concentrate on a later scene that we have worked very little.  But... no.  Best laid plans and all of those other euphemisms.

We kept digging into the scene and mining for comedic moments.  It's true - Comedy IS so much harder to do than drama. You can have more of a "cheat" when doing a drama.  With Comedy, there is a fine line between being truly funny to an audience, and telegraphing "hey, this is funny," you should be laughing.  Sometimes it is the situation that is funny; sometimes the laugh comes when an audience is expecting a character to say or react one way, and they react in a different way; sometimes it's the timing.... timing, timing, timing.  It's always about the timing: How long to hold a pause for, how long to hold a look for, how fast to say a line, or a word.  I hear the dialogue in my head, I SEE it in my head... trying to communicate it fast enough to the cast before I have lost the image, the sound, the timing of the moment - that's my constant repetitive task - sometimes I succeed... and sometimes that moment is lost to the "Void".

All of THAT was yesterday, and all of THAT was in a few pages.  Opening the second act of a show is crucial to the success of a play.  The audience got to leave at the end of Act 1 and come back to THEIR reality.  Now you have to catch them and suck them back into suspending their disbelief and getting back on the roller coaster ride you started.  It has to be a quick, fun, re-entry... engaging them back into the play like they never left.  I think we have come close to doing that with this opening scene of Act 2.  But there is still more to do.

We worked really hard to make it look effortless.  And let me tell you, all three of the cast members put in a lot of work.  We were all drained by the end of the rehearsal - But this scene is now VERY funny. 

Yesterday, the light bulb went off for me - better late than never - this play is really about the male character Greg... even though the play is named Sylvia.  HIS is the character that goes thru the transformation from beginning of the play to the end.  HE is the one who changes.  And Sylvia is the catalyst for helping him make that change.  All the other characters impact him, and have an effect on his growth from the beginning to the end, but it is Sylvia who helps him experience the other characters and drives him toward the change..... it'll make sense when you see it, you just gotta trust me.

Hard work.... Make it look effortless.  More of that today... fingers crossed.


Good rehearsal

I just got home from rehearsal and I am feeling tired and pumped.  It amazes me how three hours of rehearsal can leave me exhausted and drained.  But when I look at the results, I am just so psyched!!  This script is so funny.  And I just keep mining it, the actors, and the moments to get all the comedy on stage.  Now I know why I spent three years on a sitcom -- it was so I could take all of the things that I know make comedy funny - timing, emphasis, looks - and put it into this well written script.

Once the cast connects to their characters, hopefully THEY will stop laughing.  That's how funny this show is becoming.... I have a good feeling about this one.  I hope the rest of the cast does too.  Boy, were they good today.