Archive for the ‘theatre’ Category

the magic formula for theatrical glory

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

I really don’t know what to do with the data life hands me sometimes. A coupla weeks ago I finished the run of a play. I was acting as Marley, and half a dozen minor roles, in a one-hour adaptation of A Christmas Carol at the Mendocino Theatre Company. It was a smashing success. Why?

I’ve done many shows at MTC. I’ve acted, I’ve stage managed, I’ve directed, etcetera, so forth, and so on. The typical MTC production goes something like this: A bunch of people toil away for months (for little or no pay), trying to squeeze every subtle, meaningful nuance out of an excellent script. The show opens. About twenty or so people a night show up. They yawn. They clap politely at the end, then they promptly forget about the whole thing.

This production started as a staged reading. We’ve always known that Christmas shows are great from a marketing standpoint, but they’re tough to pull off, as everybody is already tooo busy during the holiday season. But people should be able to make time to fling together a staged reading.

The staged reading thing turned into a cartoon snowball rolling down a mountain. We got a pianist. We got cute kids to sing songs to open the show. We choreographed a little dance number. We got nice costumes. We got an elegant lighting design. We learned our lines.

Once the show opened, we has a little show that was… I don’t know… elegant? meaningful?

Whatever it was, it did well at the box office, pretty much selling out nearly all the shows. And people seemed genuinely moved by it, too. But what were the keys to its success? The familiar story? Dickensian magic? The lean, condensed adaptation? The acting?

What lessons is MTC supposed to draw from the show? Stick to familiar material? Short shows? Simple, emotional plays? Keep the staging very simple? Make sure there are always some cute kids in every show?

I’m flummoxed.

But, you can see the show for yourself and derive the formula for theatrical glory. The show’s on Youtube.

confessions of a pedophile

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I was so looking forward to writing this post a couple of months ago. It was going to be dramatic. [Un]Fortunately, the story didn’t turn out as interesting as I thought it might.

Anyway, I acted in a play. Theatre has been a major life-defining interest for me, but for the last few years I’ve been so busy with websites and stuff I haven’t had much time for theatre projects, but I managed to squeeze in Autobahn, my second show in the last three years.

Autobahn is a series of playlets by  Neil LaBute. Each has two characters in a car. In my scene, the characters are described simply as “Man” and “Girl”. During the course of the scene, the audience gets a series of clues about the relationship between the two characters and recent events: The two have been driving continuously for nearly 24 hours. The man is the girl’s drivers ed teacher. They had an altercation earlier in the day where the man dragged the girl away, kicking and screaming, from a rest stop bathroom. They are headed to a remote cabin. As the scene ends, the man… I won’t give it all away.

I played the scene with two different actresses through a five week run. The first actress was a little younger than the script called for— there are clues suggesting that the girl is around fourteen—this girl was ten. We were wondering how the audiences would handle the very sensitive material, particularly with the extra jolt of the younger girl. There was backstage discussion of how playing such a role might affect my reputation in our small community. Would I be shunned, spat upon, or publicly insulted?

Well, our local audiences seem to be better able to tell theatre from reality than some think. I received a smattering of high praise, and quite a few complimentary “oooh, creepy” comments. But nobody got really upset, or at least they didn’t vocalize their upsetted-ness in my presence.

I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or relieved.

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