Twas the night before opening and all through the theater, not a creature was stirring…wait a minute. This was the last dress rehearsal; everyone in the place was stirring; the lights were shining; the sound was at full volume; and, chaos ensued. There’s no calm moment for anyone, but it’s theater so it’s normal and gets everyone energized.
Before we close our last Writer’s Block blog and end show rehearsals, I wanted to share some of the favorite lines of the cast. You’ll have to see the show, though, to know why they’re favorites – can’t give too much away before opening night.
Conrad: “You could get eaten by a bear.”
Bernie: "Maybe he's not the Conrad we thought he was."
The Torkelsons: “Them.”
Madge: “She was probably really good at it, 'cause they gave her an ‘A’.”
Bernie: "So if we don't smoke it, what do we do with it?”
Summer: "It looks like someone chewed up a whole box of crayola crayons and vomited them all over the place!"
Conrad: "I'm bald!"
Karen: "Isn't Cleveland the same as extinction?"
Bernie: "Oh yeah, I feel great!"
Madge: “Are we gonna do it now? While he's in the privy?”
Ralph: "Yeah, keep writin.”
Bernie: "The pleasure is yours."
Conrad: "WHYYYYYYY would I do that?!?"
Madge: “That's yer idea? Kind of stupid ain't it?”
That’s a wrap for this show. Curtains!
The Director, Dave Joseph, started planning the character roles before auditions even started. He thought about what type of personality was needed to bring each part to life. It’s usually an intense process, and this was no different. Then came auditions and so many people came that were so good that it threw that whole thought process out the window, which is a director’s best, worst nightmare.
In the end, Dave says it came down to the chemistry and stage presence with one another that helped him decide. He’ll let you as the audience be the judge of that chemistry, but I can guarantee that the whole cast is hilarious together.
The development for each actor to ‘become’ their character began at the start of rehearsals. It was easier for some in this show than others. Here’s what some of the cast had to say on it.
Travis Narry found a little of himself in his character, Conrad Baker. Some of his actions and sarcastic comments as Conrad are really what and how Travis would say something, which makes the character that much more believable. He describes his character as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which leads to some unfortunate misunderstandings.
Madge Torkelson (Amy Ellefson) describes her character as being “blindly devoted to her man and his conspiracies. She’s big hearted and practical. She cares deeply about the people in her life unless they reject or hurt her. Then, watch out because she'll shoot you where ya ain't got vital organs or give away yer man cave.” Now, she hasn’t admitted to any similarities to her character so I guess you’ll just have to see the show to find out if she was able to ‘get into character.’
Eric Armstrong took longer to ‘become’ Bernie Lebowitz since Eric and Bernie are pretty much opposites. He’s excited by the challenge to re-invent himself as Bernie in this play and has experimented with each scene during rehearsals. Eric admits to only one commonality between them-that they both like to read, but Eric suspects that they have somewhat different tastes in literature.
Then, there’s also Summer Breeze played by Jessica Kowach. She describes Summer as a super happy, Irish hippie, tree hugging, flower child that just wants everyone to love everyone else. Jessica is a wannabe hippie and definitely fills the happy part of that description so these two have had a connection from the start.
In the end, whether these actors are similar or different than their counterpart characters, they’ve worked tirelessly these past couple months to bring this show to life. Soon, you’ll get to see just how ‘in character’ they can be so make sure you get your tickets now and join us this weekend for the show.
So I’ll let you in on a secret about the show…it’s a comedy. And, I don’t mean just any ordinary make you chuckle kind of comedy. I mean a laugh out loud, hold your stomach muscles, rip-roaring comedy. And that’s direct from the cast. They’ve worked tirelessly to make this a show to remember, and I think they’ll succeed.
This motley crew of kooky characters was willing to share their favorite scenes and memories with you so here’s a peak into what you can look forward to…
The egotistical, New York Editor, Bernie Lebowitz (Eric Armstrong) plays his womanizing role to perfection often bringing laughs during rehearsals even to Eric himself. Bernie's fumbled attempt at getting close to Conrad’s wife, Karen (Ruthy Stapleton), reveals the depths that Bernie is willing to sink to, and his attire at the time (or lack thereof) make the situation all the more interesting.
Ralph Torkelson (Devin Phillis) and his wife, Madge (Amy Ellefson), keep the Thanksgiving festivities…ummm…shall we say a gun-toting good time. Some of their favorite experiences were when Madge found out Ralph has sensitive collar bones after they have a passionate reunion. There’s also the scene where Madge produces ‘snot’ on command. Or, there’s the fact that they break nearly all ‘firearm safety’ rules. And, trust me, that’s just the beginning of funny scenes with these two.
This cast also came up with their own language and labeled scenes by unique titles. For instance, there’s susceptical and subscepticle. (And, no that’s no typo. They’re new additions to this cast’s language.) There’s a hug and tug scene that is a favorite of everyone’s. Travis Narry, who plays Conrad Baker, now refers to people who are being jerks as being of the ‘O’Hara Clan’ because of this show. Oh, and let’s not forget the ASSistant.
Now, before we give too much away, I have one final fun rehearsal moment to share. It has to do with the first time the “Winnebenago Warrior” costume was donned and involved a furry tail and dancing. Guess you’ll just have to see the show to figure that clue out.
Opening night of our next production is upon us so that means lots of fun, great entertainment, and more blogs from backstage with the director and actors. To start, let’s find out what Writer’s Block is all about.
Every writer has experienced writer’s block on any given project, and that’s just what Conrad Baker (Travis Narry) is experiencing while his book deadline is fast approaching. Unfortunately for him, chaos ensues when the cabin he’s retreated to fills with unique ‘characters’ that further distract him. Director, Dave Joseph, describes it as ‘what can go wrong, does.’
From the beginning, Dave’s been greatly impressed with the talent that came for auditions and even more so with the cast’s chemistry together. As a first-time director, he’s enjoyed watching the evolution of each character and the whole show. While he won’t admit to a FAVORITE scene, he’s enjoyed, “watching how many things that were funny, stayed funny and constantly discovering new things to laugh at. '...one final tug!!!"
This show was written by R-ACT’s own, Larry Spinnenweber, and Dave previously saw it as an audience member. He enjoyed the show then and says, “I think ours may play out a little more chaotic and edgy. It's all part of the essence of THEATRE!!! There are no 'wrong ways'... just someone else's interpretation.” He’s looking forward to opening night and aims to give the audience “a memorable night with some great people exercising their talents.”
One thing he knows for sure, everyone has worked hard to put on a great production, and it’s truly been a team effort. “I was fortunate enough to have an INCREDIBLE CAST and a FANTASTIC ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (my wife Amy). She is definitely the more cerebral one of us... my vision would fall horribly short if it weren't for her planning and focus!!! Between her and the cast making this show what it is, the rest was easy.”
Opening night…energies are high, nerves are jumping, and attitudes are positive. It’s definitely time to open this show. But before we do, here’s one final peak into the happenings behind the curtains. Let’s hear some of the cast’s favorite lines from the show. See if you can hear why when you’re in the audience.
“Tricks of the trade.” – Brenda Brock
“She was safe because she had a lot of trojans around her.” – Amelia Schwartzberg
“One big happy family.” – Zahi Abdullah
“Give it a few minutes. It will be.” – Brenda Brock
“Pity.” – Gerald Schwartzberg
“May camels spit in your eyes.” – Wes Baker
" My hippopotamus nostril." – Zahi Abdullah
“That’s me, all seeing.” – B.J. Cameron
“I was named after a state.” – Wes Baker (See if you can figure it out.)
“She’s scarier than me. I might get hurt.” – Brenda Brock
So that’s all folks. Get your tickets now before we open the doors and get ready to be entertained.
Upon opening night of Murder with Mummies, you’ll be welcomed to an exhibit of artifacts from the Egyptian tomb of Imhotep, which is being sponsored by Aaron Burr University. While the characters have all led interesting pasts, we soon find out they all have one thing in common-their mutual dislike of Gerald Schwartzberg (Eric Armstrong), University President. Okay, so maybe it’s more disdain and hatred than just dislike towards Gerald.
But who can blame them? Just to put things in perspective for you, here’s the inside information on how dastardly this overbearing, conniving, manipulative, pompous so-and-so is. But, don’t let this blog bias you. Maybe you’ll have more sympathy for the victim than others.
Gerald has single-handedly cheated, stolen from, and manipulated the other attendees of the Imhotep exhibit. Who wouldn’t want to murder someone for all that? And, each have lots to gain from his death.
Having belittled and controlled his wife, Amelia (Cheryl Crabb), for years, she’ll now be able to enjoy past loves-of the human and adventure variety.
With Gerald dead, Wes Baker (Conrad Bianco) will get ALL the credit for uncovering Imhotep’s tomb, which he rightly deserves as the archaeologist of the dig.
Zahi Abdullah (Mark LaMarche) will be able to fulfill his job duties - getting the artifacts returned to Egypt after the exhibit’s tour - since Gerald won’t be fighting to keep them at Aaron Burr Univeristy.
Revenge is sweet – at least it will be for Delilah Holmes (Cassie Culpepper) and B.J. Cameron (Valerie Boyce). Both ladies’ careers were professionally impacted by Gerald’s dishonorable actions.
And sweet Karen Smithson (Jamie Williams) may finally get a chance to help her secret love succeed without Gerald’s interfering ways.
Who’s motive was strong enough to kill? Join us, and you’ll find out.
It’s time to get to know the cast members of Murder with Mummies. Who’s sweet? Innocent? Crazy? Bossy? What kind of person commits murder?
To start, there’s Amelia Schwartzberg (Cheryl Crabb), Gerald’s long-suffering wife. Having fallen for Gerald’s charms years ago, she’s since had to live a life without many charming moments. Instead of dealing with that reality, she’s chosen to live within fiction and history. Does she come around to the present long enough to kill?
Could Wes Baker (Conrad Bianco), the archaeologist, really be as naïve and innocent as he appears? Or, could the notoriety of making the biggest archaeological find of the century alter his ego? Changing him into someone totally unlike himself.
Let me introduce you to the snooty Ms. Delilah Holmes (Cassie Culpepper), the antiques appraiser. Ms. Holmes has made sure she got the appraiser’s position. Why was it so important to her? Could she have past history with Gerald Schwartzberg that would entice her to murder him?
Now Zahi Abdullah (Mark LaMarche) is not only here for the exhibit as the protector of the Egyptian artifacts, but he’s using this time in the U.S. to find himself a second wife too. Ladies, in case you’re looking for Mr. Right, Dr. Abdullah works with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, enjoys walking along the banks of the Nile, being fed grapes in a tent, and traveling to a faraway oasis. Could this wife hunting really be a ruse to distract you from his plot to kill Gerald?
Now, the tabloid magazine reporter, B.J. Cameron (Valerie Boyce), definitely has past history with Mr. Schwartzberg, or should I say Professor Schwartzberg? Can she overcome the need for revenge with pen and paper instead of seeking murderous vengeance?
Finally, there’s the stressed event planner, Karen Smithson, (Bridget Yeager) who needs this event to be a success for her business. When Gerald tries taking over, does that cause Ms. Smithson to snap? Did this shy, unassuming business owner reach her breaking point and commit murder?
All of these people are fed up with Gerald’s domineering, high-handed ways. Any guess yet who finally turned on him? Maybe you’ll just have to see the show and find out for yourself.
Let’s Get Ready to…Solve Another Crime. This week opens Murder with Mummies, and it’s gonna be a killer show.
This is Jamie Williams first time directing with R-ACT, and she’s loved every minute of it. The entire cast and crew put in some long hours and is just about ready for opening night on Friday, October 3rd. Let’s find out what’s been happening:
One of Jamie’s favorite parts of rehearsal was practicing the interrogation scene. The cast has been anticipating audience members’ questions, but we’re depending on you to get creative. The cast has certainly come up with some unique questions and answers to test themselves already, though. “The improv is admirable and can be quite comical.” Do you have what it takes to question this cast?
Now it wouldn’t be a good show without some plot twists and unique character personalities, but don’t be fooled. We’ll get to bottom of this crime together. Jamie warns, though, to be prepared for the murderer’s arrest. ‘Everyone has good reason to kill Gerald Schwartzberg, but you’ll need to pay attention. It’s truly about the twist.’
Finally, creating the scenes made for some fun times too. “Collecting and making the Egyptian props was the most fun. There were so many opportunities to be creative.” She also wants to give a shout out to Tyree Patrick for creating the hieroglyphics and artwork.
Well, that’s the first sneak peak of R-ACT’s latest production. Check back for some more fun facts from the cast and crew in the ‘Behind the Scenes’ blog tomorrow. In the meantime, get your ticket online through our website and enjoy the picture from the show by Tarquinio Photo.
The leaves are beginning to fall, all things pumpkin are starting tantalize our five senses and the R-ACT gang is hard at play rehearsing for our upcoming Spin murder mystery production of Murder with Mummies!
Aaron Burr University is opening an exhibit of artifacts from the newly-discovered tomb of the ancient Egyptian prince, Imhotep. University president, pompous, egotistical Gerald Schwartzberg (Eric Armstrong), attempts to take control of the show and the artifacts, but is stopped by Imhotep’s ceremonial dagger. Who could have done such a thing: Wes Baker (Conrad Bianco), the discoverer of the tomb? Amelia Schwartzberg (Cheryl Crabb), Gerald’s long-suffering wife? Zahi Abdullah (Mark LeMarche), protector of the artifacts? The antiques appraiser Delilah Holmes (Cassie Culpepper)? The tabloid magazine reporter B.J. Cameron (Valerie Boyce)? Or the harried event planner Karen Smithson (Bridget Yeager)? Will security guard Brenda Brock (Janet Hutchinson) solve the murder and remove the mummy’s curse? CAN YOU solve this bloody crime?
Directed by Jamie Williams and Valerie Boyce
WIN FREE SHOW TICKETS!
Let us know you have bought your tickets before September 20th! Here is how:
1. Send us a post on our Facebook Page or a tweet on our Twitter with the hashtag #RACTMummies letting us know you have bought your tickets! (offer available for online purchases only)
2. Share our website link: www.ractproductions.com
3. That's it! You will be entered to win two free tickets to our next production of Writer's Block on November 14th, 15th and 16th on the date of your choice and a $25 Bocktown Beer and Grill Gift Card! Good luck!
BUY MURDER WITH MUMMIES TICKETS NOW!
For in hand purchase, please visit the Hostess Gift Shoppe 600 3rd St. Beaver, Pa.
Doors are at 6:00
Curtains are at 7:00
There will be delicious sweet and savory concessions available from S&D Cafe, Pittsburgh such as unique sandwiches, salads and pastries. (Cash Only). This performance is BYOB for our 21 and over patrons. Please bring your own glasses and openers. Bringing libations that don't require much of a fuss are recommended, as playing Tom Cruise in "Cocktail" during the performance might be annoying to other patrons. Please drink responsibly.
Join us at the Avenue Theater and commence your fall with a spooky curse..eh or a bang!
The long road of creating the world has come to an end. With the show opening tomorrow, the cast and crew spent one final rehearsal learning the ways of the world. Before you see Eve take the first bite of the apple on stage, let’s hear some more memories that happened backstage.
Conrad Bianco (Raphael) remembers being amazed at Andreas O’Rourke (Adam) and Ruthy Stapleton (Eve) as they rehearsed their lines by speed reading and eating potato chips during rehearsals.
Amy Ellefson (Assistant Stage Manager) dubbed Ruthy as the poster child for ‘Wardrobe Malfunctions.’
Jamie Williams (Lucifer) proudly labeled herself the ‘Diva’ of the group saying she drove folks nuts, but she did it all for the show.
Conrad says his favorite moment was a cast discussion during the first week of rehearsal on how big corporations are destroying humans.
Rebecca Rocereto (Azrael) enjoyed seeing Eric Armstrong become God. He embraced his role, and she’s sure the audience will be completely caught up in his disappointment after Adam and Eve ate the apple.
And so with that, rehearsals come to an end. Tomorrow is the beginning of the world…and other business. Well, at least in the R-ACT theater it’s all beginning tomorrow when the curtain opens.