One show done, and the down time begins, right? WRONG! Auditions for our next show, Murder on the Mesa, is happening this Saturday, May 3rd, so the fun begins again.
This production, written by R-ACT member Larry Spinnenweber and directed by Cheryl Crabb, is all about fun in the 1880’s…with a little bit of murder and a lot of mayhem thrown in. We’ll need the audience’s help to solve the murder of cattleman Hank Trent because this motley crew of suspects (I mean townspeople) all seem suspicious.
Ever thought you had what it takes to be a stagecoach driver, a saloon owner, or maybe a cattle baron? Join us this weekend at auditions to become a member of the Whiskey Flats community of the Arizona territory. Cheryl’s motto for auditions-All Are Welcome! We’re looking for all ranges of experience, and we welcome new talent and volunteers. There’s a first time for everything so if you’ve never acted before, this is could be your chance. While everyone will need to focus on line memorization and rehearsals, Cheryl wants to make it fun and enjoyable. “R-ACT is a fun group, and we’ll work together to put on a great show!”
Don’t want to be on stage? No problem. We still have a job for you behind the scenes. Trust me when I say that we can use all talents. We have prop creation, set design, ticket sales, marketing, concession sales, fundraising, and many other jobs to fill. No show is great without a full team of people making everything work on stage and off.
Even if you only have a couple hours to volunteer, we still want your help. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us you’d like to help. We’ll ‘direct’ you from there-no pun intended (well maybe a little intended-this is theater folks).
The Writer of Writer's Block
Well, the day is almost upon us. If you’ve never done theatre, you know that anything can go through your head in the 12-24 hours before the show. It’s time for the superstitions to emerge, the rituals to take place, and the nerves to surface and (hopefully) be calmed.
The tireless efforts of everyone involved in this show from acting, directing, set design, costumes, tickets, advertising, refreshments, and on down the line feels proud to be part of this show. With that pride comes an indescribable desire to put on the best show for you. I hope these behind the scenes looks into the characters and play as well as the actors/crew’s thoughts have helped you realize that we love what we do, but now it’s time to open our doors so get ready for the lights, stage, drama, and a GOOD TIME!
Enjoy these last few thoughts and comments…
“My experience with the audience of Beaver County is that they just want to be entertained. And this show is very entertaining,” Michelle Donner (Pauline)
New to acting and R-ACT, Michael Draper (Stan Jennings) shares, “The thing about traditions is that this is my first time acting so anything I do is going to become a tradition…so I better make it good.”
The cast jokes that, “It should become tradition that before every play, we dump a bucket of water on Dave’s [Mel] head.”
Dave Joseph (Mel) shares, “I’m hoping that at some level I’ve developed a likable character. I mean he’s going through some bad stuff. I just want to make sure he’s likable and that people will understand him.” Ruthy Stapleton (Edna) puts it this way, “Oh, I love Mel. What’s not to like? I mean he’s sweet, sensitive, loyal, and neurotic.”
Not all characters are meant to be liked. There’s one actor who’s hoping you’ll hate him by the end. Who could it be?
My original plan for today's message was going to be from the cast and crew and what they hope you take away from this show. I think this will give you that perspective AND some valuable lessons too.
Let me just preface this that, if you just want to have a night out of the house, you should see the show; if you don't want to spend a lot of money for a date night, you should see the show; if you just want some entertainment, you should see the show. Frankly folks, if those are your expectations, DONE. We at R-ACT set the bar not just a little, but A LOT higher than basic, cheap entertainment. This show is GREAT! You'll love, you'll laugh, and you'll cry with the characters - and in the end, the cast hopes you'll walk away feeling like a million bucks and getting all that just spending $10.
Want to know why that'll happen? Because it's more than entertainment-you'll learn some valuable life lessons too. I know I did after speaking with the cast and getting a sneak peak to the show this evening. Here’s just a few things I learned from the show’s characters (and a few…suggestions the cast shared from their experiences behind the scenes).
Top Tips I Learned from the Show:
-A snow shovel is the secret to revenge.
-Nothing is safe from a thief-even toothpaste and shaving cream.
-When someone says they need ‘X’ number of dollars…it’s always going to be expensive. And so is 'G' and 'M' number of dollars too.
Top Tips I Learned from the Cast:
-We’re living in the 1970’s today. More than the clothing has come back in style. Life, love, and the pursuit of happiness never died.
-You should not eat dry instant mashed potato flakes.
-Never swallow water that gets dumped on you. You never know where it came from.
And that's just the tip of what you'll learn. Join us for many other invaluable pieces of knowledge.
The cast and crew have spent hours together preparing a great show for your viewing pleasure. While there was a lot of work going on during those rehearsals, some fun and crazy memories were made too. Here are just a few of the things our Assistant Director, Leanne Condron, will remember from this production.
“Jiggle.” Before this show, I never used the word, now I try to find ways to use it every day! (She promises that after you see the show, you’ll feel the same way.)
“How would Tony Danza say irrevocable?” Yes, a full discussion during a rehearsal revolved around how Mel should say “irrevocable” in a New York accent. The answer...Tony Danza style.
We’re perfectionists-I mean professionals folks.
Leanne remembers the day Igor visited during rehearsal (thankfully he didn’t stay). Don’t know who Igor is…he’s the bat (or really fast flying bird) that visited via the back door that was left open by mistake. Again, thankfully he was just a short-lived visitor.
Prop room screams-both terrifying and hilarious. Life-like dummies created for a previous show are living in our prop room. During rehearsals, every time someone walked into the prop room, you would hear a scream and then a lot of mumbled cursing. It was quite funny…until it happened to you.
-Actors cast – check
-Lines memorized – check
-Scenes blocked – check
-Set created - check
Time to put all the props and all the actors into all the scenes with all the sound effects ON STAGE.
It’s TECH-WEEK: where the actors attempt smooth transitions of dialogue and portrayal from moment to moment. TECH-WEEK: where the director, lighting, and sound departments work together to set the timing and mood. TECH-WEEK: where stage and property departments work to make sure every book, ashtray, pillow, piece of furniture and prop are exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there.
This week you’ll really get that backstage pass we’ve been talking about, but you should order your tickets now! I mean you’ve been with us while we created the show, don’t you want to see us at the end of it? We’ll be finding out the actors final thoughts before opening night, and see if anything goes wrong (I mean if any improvements were made to the show). Already the actors are feeling mixed emotions-excited for the stage and sad to see an end to this production.
Dave Joseph (Mel) shares a little more on this conundrum…”It's really going to stink when this is all over... every rehearsal there has been discovery, growth, and development...you can't help but feel that if we were to run this show for weeks or even months every aspect of it would keep evolving and keep getting better. I'm going to be very sad when it's over.”
But, we are down to the end folks…or should I say gearing up for the opening? We have 12 hours of rehearsal left during the 96 hours till the show opens and you join in Mel and Edna’s life. What does all that mean? It’s time to buy your tickets for the show!!!
When designing a set, the crew has to consider the tiniest details. Each prop, set piece, furniture item, even paint color, makes a difference in the production. The pieces placed on stage reflect the characters and create a back story to help, you, the audience members, join in the characters’ lives.
Mel and Edna Edison, the main characters, have quite a complicated back story…at least that’s what we concluded. Every rehearsal we found a new set piece Mel and Edna would have in their apartment. Like an easel and paint set for Mel’s hidden painting talent (learned during therapy), seen on stage during Act 2.
Throughout the show, Mel and Edna also mention that they have daughters in college. We never see them, but they are a piece that completes the puzzle in the characters’ lives. Therefore, something was needed on stage to represent that important part of Mel and Edna’s family, but weeks of rehearsal passed before the prop was ‘discovered.’ There’s a scene where Dave (Mel) needed to have something physical to reach for while he’s feeling despair, concern, and sadness; he’s so desperate to…better stop there; you’ll have to see the show for more! Anyhow, the answer to this question was his daughters. Photographs! We needed family photos.
During a rehearsal photo shoot, Joshua Tarquinio, our in-house photographer, therefore captured some fantastic shots of Mel and Edna’s wedding and then a family vacation (from years later of course). The final photos will be on stage so keep an eye out for them. But to tide you over until then, here’s a sneak peak at the beautiful family. Enjoy!
Director's Chair - A Chat with The Prisoner of Second Avenue Director, Debbie Bowser
I’ve been away from theater for about 10 years, and I must say this show has been a wonderful ‘first show back.’ The cast is amazing, the crew is on the ball, and Leanne Condron, the Assistant Director, is awesome. It’s truly been a joy to be part of this production.
For me, the worst part of any production is casting. I can easily cast some parts with no problem. But it seems that every show has at least a couple parts that can be filled by multiple actors because they are equally talented. That’s when I sit down and analyze the character and see which one ‘fits.’ If that doesn’t work, I try to see who had the best chemistry with the other actors. Then comes call backs. Finally, I can make a decision on the direction I’m going with the play. Whew! The weight is finally off my shoulders and the fun can begin.
We block the play-determining the actors’ movements and positions on stage for best effect. And then comes my favorite part of production, which is helping the actors peel back the layers of their characters. It’s important to make the actors and characters become one-Dave Joseph BECOMES Mel and Ruthy Stapleton TURNS INTO Edna. From there, I love watching as a show develops from being good to great. Then, if you’re lucky, you see some ‘magical moments’ happen.
I have been extremely lucky with this show. Sometime during rehearsal, the shift from practice to production occurred. There are so many amazing scenes; and, the actors had their epiphany moments, merging into their characters. It came time to let go and turn over the production to the actors. I have to admit that I have actually teared up on several occasions because they reached that tipping point from good to great that I expected they could do. This show is evolving every night, and with one week till opening, I’m looking forward to see where else we can take it. I truly feel this is the best show I’ve directed, and I look forward to sharing it with you next week.
Have you ever tried to be someone else? Not just dress like them or talk like them for a brief impression, but to fully embrace another's personality-quirks and all-for days, weeks, even a month. Now try splitting your days between being yourself for half your day and living as someone else for the other half. Sounds like fun, right? Welcome to the world of acting.
While it's not always easy to embrace a character fully-acting like them, breathing like them, talking like them, thinking like them (you get the picture), Dave Joseph (Mel Edison) ended up finding a little bit of himself in Mel. "I hate to admit it, but anyone that knows me will testify...I am Mel. I hate to say that because then it seems like I didn't have to work very hard, and nothing could be further from the truth. It took a lot of trial and error and experimenting, and that's why this is probably one of the most rewarding experiences I've had thus far for a role."
There's been a lot of camaraderie on set during the last month of rehearsal and that chemistry between the actors began as early as auditions. Dave reflects that he's never laughed so hard during a read through and blocking of the scenes, but the fun and laughter just never stopped with all the characters' unique personalities coming to life every day. It's that energy and friendship that occurs on set that actors feed off of that moves a production from good to great. Every rehearsal there has been discovery, growth, and development that has made it a phenomenal production. There are still lines that keep the cast laughing, like...
-Tera Bevilacqua (Pearl) boisterously saying, "Certainly! MY GAAWHD!" in a thick New York accent.
-Dave (Mel) insightfully sharing some advice, "Three things I learned at the doctors, Harry. You have to relax, you mustn't take the world too seriously...and you have to be very careful of what you say when you go out on the terrace."
-Amy Joseph as Jessie says, "Since he was a baby."
-Ruthy Stapleton (Edna) gets them laughing with, "Where will you get the water?"
- Burt Mamula (Harry) fires out, "It'll take him till August to blow up a volleyball!"
These all sound hilarious, right? Trust us...Come see the show, and we're sure you'll be laughing too.
You might have missed the wedding of Mel and Edna Edison, but you can share in their life's up's and down's. Join them in Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue on April 25-27th.
Ruthy Stapleton (Edna) reflects on their married life...
Mel and Edna's relationship is dual-nature. Mel behaves so poorly, disrespectfully, and outright abusively toward Edna at times, and she sometimes has to put up with more than anyone should. Of course, all of the other characters think Mel can do no wrong and blame Edna for Mel's meltdown. And Edna herself would seem pathetic if it weren't for her brassy personality and ability to stand up for herself.
Even though Edna's world does revolve largely around Mel -- she doesn't lose herself. She takes on this role of provider (as well as confidant and comforter) and really becomes Mel's rock in the storm. I think Edna's unshakable sense of self and willingness to take on the world make this play completely relevant and timely for a modern audience.
As you can see, the cast and crew took this production up a notch by staging a wedding as pictured here for a true marriage between Mel and Edna. It was one of Ruthy's favorite moments because they actually had people drive by who honked their horns and others congratulated them while they were taking pictures in their 50's wedding attire-fur coats, toupee, veil and all. Ruthy admits that if she had been one of the people driving by she would have thought it was a strange looking wedding party but 'at least the bride looks happy. . . even though her groom is wearing a WICKED-ugly toupee.'
Welcome to our Writer's Block!
“I AM the current curator of the black trunk and the stories it holds within.” - Hope Barrett, Discovering Oscar. Our new WRITER’S BLOCK section will present behind-the-scenes access to R-ACT productions. Ever wondered what really happens during practice? Want to know what the director was thinking about a scene?
The waiting is over. R-ACT will now share the tales and antics of the cast and crew members in BEHIND THE CURTAINS and a special note from the DIRECTOR’S CHAIR. These messages will begin with this month’s production of The Prisoner of Second Avenue. In between the line memorization, costume selection, and prop creation, we want to share the show behind the play.
Having been in theater for many years, there’s always memorable moments for every cast and crew member that stays with them for a lifetime. Doing theater isn’t just about the stage and audience members. There’s a long road traveled before ever reaching opening night. It’s those memories we’re trying to capture here to share with you and remember when we’re reminiscing about our previous productions.
Along with our written words, we’ll also be sharing the picture story of our productions too. Stay tuned to The Broken Leg Gallery to see show pictures from previous years that will be added soon.
If you captured some of our crazy, fun, and great moments from previous years, share your pictures with us too. Just email them email@example.com with a brief description of the picture or title of the show/event.
Want to join the fun of capturing our highlights and sharing them online (blogging/social media/photography/etc.)? Contact the R-ACT office through our email to help with the archive/history committee (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Writer of Writer’s Block