Back at it

It's the end of the Thanksgiving Weekend, and I am in Florida with relatives.  I enjoy this time, but I am looking forward to getting back, and getting back to rehearsals.  My mind has been racing with lines, direction, nuances, jokes, line readings, costume choices...yada, yada, yada.  Surprising that anything else sits in my head!!

The other thing in there is selling tickets, and Kick Starter.  I think we need to add a video piece to our sales campaign this week.  The show is so funny that I think a little "snip it" might kick up more sales.  

And I REALLY want to get this show reviewed.  So, my work is cut out for me.... But man do I LOVE doing this.  Until tomorrow.  I think I need to write a new press release too.  See... It never stops!!




It's been a while since my last post... I have been what you might say... "busy."  NO... let's go with SWAMPED, or "busier than a one-armed paperhanger," or any of those other inane phrases people use to describe having too much to do... and not enough time to do it in.

And when you ARE in that situation.... have you ever noticed how very few things work properly, or go your way, or happen in a timely manner?  We have been working on the pre-show slide ribbon and all of the slides for the production, and we have been having different kinds of "issues" since this past Sunday when we got into the Theater (i.e., right choice of slide, how long to keep each slide up for, how long are the transitions, too many slides, not enough slides... oh, and the Theater Ghost keeps moving the projector each night).

But yesterday, late afternoon, we FINALLY seem to have gotten our act together and got all the way thru pre-show, intermission, and to the end of the play.  All slides now work - who knows why the cat and the bedpan slide would never come up... but their replacement slides do.

I'm really proud of the work on this production.  With some potential audience members questioning the play's format, it can make you a little nervous that the show may not be as well received as you would like.  However, since it HAS been done a ton of times by a ton of people, I think I am more confident in what the audience's reactions will be than Dave is.  We will know as of tomorrow night. 

Yup, tomorrow night... Opening.  Before we get there, I FINALLY get my Stage Manager back today.  Hopefully Barbara can stay awake since she has been in Europe for the last three weeks and just got in last night at 8:30 p.m.  Today, she has an hour and a half to learn the show and then we have two full run thrus.  Hmmm...  I'll just leave it at Hmmm... I don't want to jinx myself.   

And FINALLY we have our first SOLD OUT performance.... sold out BEFORE the run of the show opens. SOLD OUT for the first Saturday night of the run.   We didn't get that milestone during CHAPTER TWO, but we got it now!!   I think that is pretty cool.  

And I can FINALLY breathe again.  Which is good because passing out was not written anywhere in this play.  But seriously, it has been great to FINALLY get to THIS moment.  I really appreciate all of the work the behind the scene minions have done, and are still doing... that means you Judy. :)   I never say it enough, and I am sure I never demonstrate it enough, but when I stop for a moment, like this, I am truly humbled.

So hopefully we are building on our success from CHAPTER TWO and this next step will lead us forward onto SYLVIA.  I hope I can write and say "we had so many people come and see the show that we did not have enough programs for everyone!!"  That would be cool.



So I have been using a "program" template to put together the program for LOVE LETTERS.  Certain pieces of information are supposed to fit in certain squares on certain pages.  However, as in life, not everything will fit in the certain square on the certain page.  Melissa is like that.. my character in the play.... Hell, I'm like that.  I think of the number of times people look at me like I have six heads because I am so UNLIKE everyone else.   I digress.

Today is one of those mornings that I just want everything to fit in the damn squares so I can mark this task as done and get back to rehearsing the play.   I know, I know... I should have delegated the job.. yes, Judy, I hear you in my head.  Next time for SYLVIA I am going back to what worked when we did CHAPTER TWO... I will bite the bullet, hire Elizabeth back and give myself one less task to deal with.  I will do a KickStarter earlier in the process to generate more working capital... I will not write personal notes in class, I will not write personal notes in class, I will not....

In the meantime, I have to get back to dealing with the back cover of the program...


So I thought I would wait and write this today rather than yesterday because when I go into overload... I go into overload.   I sat in the room during yesterday's rehearsal watching the slides, reading the script, listening to comments and suggestions and all I could do was crawl in my Alice in Wonderland hole and hide....waiting for it all to be over.  Almost nothing worked the way I thought it might.  And everyone had a suggestion.   After everyone left and Steve went out for the evening I just sat there for I don't know how long and waited for the world to stop moving and for life to come back to a regular pace.  Breathe in, breathe out.   Once it did I could go back to thinking clearly and work to figure all of this out.  I picked myself up, and got back to work on all the various pieces of the production....  I think if anyone ever asked me to describe myself with one word I would say "self-reliant."  But when I go into overload... sometimes I wish it was in my DNA not to be. 

I know it is a momentary roadblock, but as someone who views the glass as half full... now I know where the other half of the glass went.... all over me.

Slide Show

So today we get to put the slide show into the the rest of the play... I'm kinda nervous about this.  I have an idea in my head as to what it will look like... or should look like...  and how it will impact the audience's enjoyment of the play (hopefully)... or should impact their enjoyment.  I hope I'm not wasting everyone's time.  Hmmm.. me doubting myself, not good.  

John has put a lot of thought and time into putting this together.  I know he has HIS ideas of what should be included... I just want to make sure we are judicious in our choices and don't have slides, just for the sake of having slides.... Man I hope this works.

I gave him direction, had him listen to us do the play... twice.  But as with all communication, just because you "say" something... that doesn't necessarily mean that was what was "heard."  I am going with glass half full.  Whatever we have today, we have time to tweak and alter.

It's getting exciting as it gets closer.  I just have to stay open to what is in front of me.  Today I am open to the slide show!!



We did a read-through of "Sylvia" yesterday.  I had a strange impression as we sat down in Dave's living room.  It seemed like the five-month break we had after "Chapter Two" had never happened.  There we all were, the Compass Players.  Judy was there, too, which seemed quite natural and expected.  At the same time, I felt like I had completely forgotten everything we worked on during the "Chapter Two" experience.  Steve and I talked about that earlier in the day.  Did we forget everything about acting, or is it still in there somewhere?  Steve, Dave and Jeanna obviously hadn't forgotten anything.  I completely switched gears after the final performance of "Chapter Two".   It's a leap from the solitary and quiet creation of art quilts to the immediate exposure of the character in a play.  My character, Kate, seems to have much in common with me.  She calls Sylvia "Saliva" which I think is hysterical.  It makes me think of our Airedales, Whitney and Ziggy, and how one of their greatest joys in life is to get a big drink of water and come to us for "loves" with drippy beards.  It also reminds me of how Ziggy gets so excited for his food that he flips saliva all over the kitchen.  Oh, how I love it!  Off we go on another wild ride to opening night!

I love reading Jeanna's blogs!  You go, girl!

Once Upon a Time

When I was a kid and would play "make believe," every story - whether in my head or "play acting," began with "Once Upon A Time..." nothing in my child world was present day - I was always looking to the past... or the future.   As I began to get into the career of Acting, I would find myself doing the same thing with the material that I would attack.  

Doing a piece that is set in a different time period can bring about different psychological demands... You have to remember what the morals of THAT time period were... What were the roles of women, what were the roles of men?  How women viewed men at THAT time.. and vice versa.  What people were expected to do... or not do.  What did they hide.. either from themselves or from others... and why.   LOVE LETTERS is making me look at women from 1937 thru the '70s.... I'd like to say that women "changed," but I think it is more that men evolved and learned to either accept or deny what they discovered in women. 

Anyway, I keep exploring what I think was acceptable and non-acceptable behavior for my character thru those periods.  And how I would have judged myself during those times.  I think I would have been a very different person had I not come of age when I did.... I see that in Melissa's character, I see that in my older women friends who came of age in different times.  Not a better or worse time... just a different time.  You certainly can't change the time that you came of age in.....but I can "act" thru it. 

I look to all my older friends when I work on this play.... and I am trying to find all the nuances of the various periods... not the cliches, and then I say "Once Upon A Time...."



Some days

Some days it works, and some days it doesn't.  I can see where the "moments" are supposed to be in this play, then when I reach for them they feel just out of my grasp.  Ugh!  Three weeks from today we open this production... I haven't been able to make a full connection to the character as of yet.  I get glimpses but I really feel like I am "acting" rather than being.  I go back to all of my class exercises, but I still am missing the mark. 

Some days I get a line or two of dialogue to fit just right, and then it's gone.  The arc of the piece isn't quite an arc yet.  This is me rambling and feeling a little bit at loose ends.  Maybe it's that I don't want to really connect to Melissa and her manic behavior.  How can anyone "love" that person?  Or maybe I'm afraid that there are times I am just like Melissa.   What the hell am I talking about.... I don't know....  Fear. 

This is me being afraid of falling on my face in three weeks. Man, I hate when that happens.  Please don't let it happen.  I need the acting gods to shoot me something that makes the lightbulb go off and I see which direction I need to go in next.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The set

Why the set of all things should be the part of the production that has given us the most "issues," I do not comprehend... but it has.  So yesterday, we threw the rehearsal schedule out the window and headed over to TheaterWorks' storage to see what we could find.  

I thought we we get one long table and both of us sit behind it... but we ended up with two separate tables.  This is going to work better because we can isolate each area.  Dave actually brought up the idea of lighting cues that could help us illustrate when one or the other characters are choosing not to answer each other... thank you Dave.

This production has been much more collaborative than the last.  Maybe because there are two of us instead of four of us... All I know is that it works.  

So Dave is off painting set pieces and I am trying to put an audience in the theater.  Right now he has the easier task.

48 hours to a day

I need more time.  I always need more time.  I say "yes" to too many things, I have too many ideas I want to put into practice right away, I don't want to miss ANYTHING.  Life is too short and I want to fill it up with lots of people and plays and emotions.  Maybe right now I am taking on too much of the character Melissa in this play... I hope not.

We had a full read thru yesterday and I thought it went pretty well.  I could see the shape of some of the moments starting to take hold.  Others are still a blur.  Dave and I keep challenging each other to be better.  Not true - we keep challenging to get more of the audience to like us. 

Words.  I have to find the correct words to communicate what I want to get across... sigh, where is Ken McMillan when I really need him...

And almost everyone I talk to has NOT bought their tickets yet.  I want to say "What are you waiting for!!!"  I think I have sent out close to five hundred e-mails so far... I have more to go.  Why marketing should be such a pain in the ass I do not know.. but it is.

Just a little testy this morning. 

But John and I made some good progress on the video yesterday afternoon after he watched the run thru.  We will see the next incarnation next week.

And now getting SYLVIA under way... so where do I sign up for the additional 24 hours in the day??? Man I wish I knew.



it's early.  We are having a full run of the show today.  First one in a while.  First one together with Dave in the same room and not on Skype.... Hmm, did we do a full read of the play on Skype or was it just rehearsing the play in pieces?  I can't remember.  The summer already seems so long ago.  Funny how that happens... first I couldn't wait for it to be here, then I couldn't wait for it to be over, and now it is long gone.

Anyway, full run thru.  Just have to stay in the moment.  This is a very different piece to connect to as a character.  There is so much of the back story right there on the page, but I still have to find how I personally connect to it.  Parts of that are hard since she is not always likeable or loveable for that matter.  But I'm getting there.  Just trying to find all the various connections I can make to me and my life.. or similarities I can draw on.

At least today will show me where the shows weaknesses are at this moment.  Ah the process.  It's always about the process.  Well, let's see where today leads me.  


Podiums and preconceived ideas

So we had to scratch the idea of using podiums for our set.  I get an idea and then I run with it. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Luckily it works more times than not.   I was so excited over the idea of using two podiums for the set rather than a table that Dave and I sit behind.... Well, podiums definitely give off a different sort of "vibe" than sitting at a desk.  It really cut us off from the audience... and made it feel like we were lecturing rather than sharing our characters with the audience.  So much for that idea.

Unfortunately we had bought them online and now have to get a table instead.  And get rid of the podiums.  Luckily they came in boxes to be put together (thank you Dave) so they don't take up a lot of room.

Having to switch out the podiums made me start to second guess some of my other ideas.  Am I trying to accomplish too much with this piece?  Or too hard?  Balance... I'm still trying to get back in balance. 

I was out yesterday getting flyers around the 'hood... did you know you cannot put flyers at our local library because we are charging admission... Learned something new.  

Starting on the programs..... hope this part goes easier.

Getting in the groove

Yesterday was a good day.  John and I focused on the objective of the slide show that will run during the production.  I turned in and ordered our first batch of flyers for the show, and Dave and I got to work on digging deeper into the script.  Yeah, the playwright says to just "open the script and read the play," but it's not quite enough.... Or maybe it's just that I'm rusty as a director to communicate clearly enough, and quickly enough how we are supposed to be effecting the audience.   At least we have more rehearsal time. 

It's funny how rehearsing a show like this one can really exhaust you after about an hour and fifteen minutes of rehearsal.  It wasn't that way with CHAPTER TWO.  So for all of my new found physical stamina from working out... my mental stamina is now what needs excercise.  Well, it's gonna get it now, that's for sure. 

So, I'm back in the groove... up early, focused on Compass Players, the play, selling tickets, new marketing ideas... and then the rest of my life.  I like it this way.    

I'm back

So I took the summer off.  I shouldn't have, but I did.  I "played" at working onLOVE LETTERS, but who am I kidding... I did next to nothing.  I found more comfort in hiding.  But, with the next show a month away, I have to flip the switch and get back on track..... I just hope I can see the track.  And I just hope I didn't wait too long.

Part of the problem is that each piece of this show I have picked up I compare it to the success of CHAPTER TWO.   No one likes to fail... and if something isn't perfect, then in my eyes, I failed.  Moronic I know, but that's how "minds" work sometimes.  

So here we go.... on the journey that is LOVE LETTERS.  First stop FedEx/Kinko's to make some new promotional material so we can put audience members into seats!!  Got a ticket?

Jeanna: One more time for the last time

Okay folks, this is the morning of the last performance of CHAPTER TWO.  I went back and read blogs.  I thought about when we all sat here in my living room reading the play out loud for the first time... and now, here we are getting ready for the last performance of it.  I am so proud, so happy, and moved beyond words as to how well received it has been. 

My three cohorts are amazing people and have transformed into wonderful actors that I would be proud to be on any stage with... Good thing too since we have future shows in the works. 

But let me stay with today.  When I got home last night I was too wired to sleep (and that was after two shows on Saturday).  People had come in from LA, we had sold out last night's show, lots of good notices, the cast was happy, the crew was happy... I was restless.  I can't believe we are at the end of this.  Yeah, I know there will be more... but this was the first.  There will never be another first. It's brought such a phenomenal group of people together.  We build from here.

Maybe that's the restlessness.  I have found myself picking up LOVE LETTERS, and COOKIN' WITH GUS and thumbing thru.... my mind is already going to, "What if...."  But that is for a week or so away. 

Today is about giving the best performance that we can give today.... being true to Neil Simon's words and play.  The cast said it best, "I think Neil Simon would really like this production."  I know I do.  I got everyone, from the cast and crew to the audience to see my vision.  I got the actors to embody the characters, to take them and make them their own.  To build on the play, to add to it, to keep looking for something else to tweak or add.  Theater is such a collaborative effort.  And that is what we did.  We took the compass in hand, and let it guide us on this journey to reach our first destination.  I know there will be lots of shows in the future... and I have no doubt that they will be successful, but THIS, this will always be the one that holds my heart and will remind me of where we started.  THIS will always be MY chapter two.  To everyone living and past who has gotten us to this moment... I thank you, I am beholden to you, and I hope to make you proud.... one more time for the last time.

Jeanna: the last weekend

So here we are... getting ready for our last weekend of performances on the play I had been dreaming about doing for YEARS.  I am a bit weepy as I write this.  Yes, it is wonderful to have reached this goal... And yes, there will be other goals/productions in the future.  But this was the first, and therefore, very dear and special to my heart. 

This play, this cast, this crew, and the audiences have touched my soul in ways that are indescribable to me.  I feel so lucky right now. 

As we prep for this weekend, I keep racking my brain... is there something else I can add?  Did I overlook something?  What can I say to the other three to get them to find just ONE more thing, hone one more joke, make one more connection. 

I find myself thinking of Dan Schay who passed away the night before his play opened at TheaterWorks.  I am lucky.  I am still here.  And I will be here for a long time to come... God willing.  Dear Dan... I would have liked to have shared this with you.  Audiences are wonderful, but when another Theater person can share in your vision, it is like a Vulcan mind meld. 

So now the tears are falling... the words are almost done.  I need to finish pulling together my costumes for tonight.  I find it so hard to do since this will be the last time I do it for this show.

I have written about all the firsts... now I write about all the lasts.  This is too hard.  I am going to stop now.


Steve: 2 Weekends Down, 1 Weekend To Go!


I saw a quote today from a great 2007 interview with one of my all-time favorite actors, Jack Nicholson:  “A question you always ask in acting is, Where were you going if this scene didn’t interrupt the movement of the character?”   A profound question … I hadn’t heard it before but I can sense its value to the actor … but here’s another:  Where would the four of us have been going if Chapter Two hadn’t come along and interrupted our movements?   Something to ponder … there’s no real way to know and I can only speak for myself.  To me, it just feels like it couldn’t have been as good as where we have ended up.

This play and the founding of Compass Players is a total game changer.  I know after this weekend that I’ll get back to those projects I put on hold for the play.  Life will get busy with other things, (Ziggy the puppy jumps to mind), but man, am I going to miss seeing you three beautiful souls on stage every night.

And, I’m going to miss Leo Schneider.  Thank you, Neil Simon, for creating such an “interesting man.”  Thank you, Jeanna, for helping me to find my way into his shoes.  And I am sure that Frances will miss Fay in the same way, and Dave will miss George, and Jeanna will miss Jennie.  I know I sure will. 

Theater is magic and we’ve been making magic for our audience every time we step onto that stage together.  Who cares where we might have been??  We are where we’re supposed to be.

Jeanna: Week 2

I was so damn happy to see the cast yesterday, Thursday, so we could go over the first week's shows and discuss some minor tweaks as we get ready for this week's run.  Actually I just wanted to SEE everybody!!  There, the cat is out of the bag.  Come the month of May I will be going into withdrawal.  Where is the equivalent of the Betty Ford Clinic for Actors and Directors who are between shows??? Oh, I guess that IS the Betty Ford Clinic -- never mind. 

Tickets have been selling, and I am thrilled for all of us that the audiences really like the show.  We got this phenomenal e-mail from another director and it was great to see in writing that someone got all the little nuances I have been feeding into the production.  It's also nice to have it affirmed that I was not NUTS when I told everyone that this was the play I wanted to mount as our first production.  The only thing I could ask for is if we could get some reviewers to come see it and that they would wax as eloquently as some of the audience members.   But, in the meantime, I am still high above the clouds just floating in actor/director BLISS.........  I know that the rest of the cast is too.

Now comes the next step... refocusing for the second week.  You have to take the first week and throw it to the side and work as if THIS is the first week.  Keep what works, try corrections on things that didn't. Relook at the script to see lines that have been inadvertently dropped.  Review the blocking, yada, yada, yada.  It's the equivalent of going to the gym... and we all just LOVE that. 

I made 4 pm the call time for today so we can do a line run thru to "prime the pump" for tonight.  Nobody seemed happy about that...  But by 7:30 they will be.  OK folks, SHOWTIME!!


Steve: Vegging in Surprise

Today I just played myself and I’m kind of boring … at least compared to Leo Schneider, I am.  That guy gets around.  Me, I just vegetate … at least today that’s what I did.  I wanted to run up to people and say: “You’re not going to believe this!”  But how do you explain what we’ve just been through?  Words don’t suffice … not after the great opening week we had with CHAPTER TWO.

I am in the best play with the greatest cast and the finest tech crew, stage manager and caterer in the universe!  Other actors in other plays might argue but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  I feel so blessed … and also kind of lost today without you all. 

I have to be honest though, it felt pretty damn nice to waste an entire day doing next to nothin’ …  soaking in the tub listening to The Beach Boys … catching up on some reading … browsing the new vinyl at Barnes & Noble … walking Whitney, the sweetest dog in Grand … tonight we’ll curl up on the couch for The Voice and 11/22/63.

But I can really relate to Jeanna is saying … only four more days till Friday!  Compass Players ROCK!

Jeanna: Decompressing

So yesterday, Sunday, completed our first week of shows.  I came home, sat on the sofa, turned on the TV, and fell asleep for about a half hour.  I woke up disoriented.  Had I missed a cue?  Was I supposed to be on stage or backstage?  After a few minutes of realizing where I was and why.... I began to get my bearings.  I was home.  The shows for the week were over.  My regular life is supposed to resume.   I realize people are talking to me and it is not dialogue.  Colors seem a little muted now.  My heart isn't racing as fast.  Is that good?  I'm not sure.... I know it's different.

Today will be the first day in a long time when there is nothing to do regarding the show.  Yeah, answer e-mails and try to get more tickets sold for the next two weeks, but no rehearsals, no seeing my other cast members, no going to the theater..... Sigh......  I feel a little lost.

Yeah, I'm going to jump back into my normal routine, but I'm looking forward to Friday.  Is that sick?

This last weekend was wonderful.  Everything that I could have hoped for.  And I am thrilled that my cast mates had such a terrific experience at it as well. This was/is really good theater.  This is how it is supposed to be.  As I always said... Have we got story for you.  Come on... Friday!!!  Four more days to go.