Goodbye and Hello

Ghost_Light

After yesterday’s matinee performance we struck the set, packed the props, collected the costumes, and swept the floor.  We’ve now officially said goodbye to “Ruddigore.”

We say a lot of goodbyes in the theater.

First we invest our time, energy, hearts, and souls into building a production. Then it miraculously assumes a life of its own and we breathe along with it during each adrenaline-fueled performance.  But the final curtain eventually comes down and, in an instant, it simply vanishes.  There’s nothing else to do but pick up the pieces and move on.

Luckily, we also say a lot of hellos in the theater.

Hello to a new script.  Hello to a new cast.  Hello to starting the process all over again.

There’s already a lot of buzz about next year’s production of “The Mikado”.

Hope to see you then!

(A review of “Ruddigore”)

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Performance and Response

Last night’s Preview Performance went exceedingly well!  Strong, confident performances and an enthusiastic audience response.
Here are some audience comments that popped up on social media immediately following the show….
“Disregard any preconceptions you might have about Gilbert & Sullivan, or hometown theater groups: this show is FUN! It is zany (a werewolf under a full moon? A troop of perpetual bridesmaids?) extraordinarily well cast and choreographed, with strong singing from leads, chorus, and royal chorus alike…. This is a polished production, a true jewel, with a very professional live orchestra accompanying the antics on the boards above them…. If you are local, I advise you to make every effort to see a performance this weekend: and don’t leave at intermission: there’s a surprise not to be missed in Act Two!
I should also mention the ingenious sets, the sumptuous costumes…and the stunning trio… in the famous “It really doesn’t matter” patter song, that had many of us in the house cheering and on our feet!”
“A delightful romp through the witty and the silly. A wonderful tension tamer.”
“Highly recommended!”

 

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Costume and Character

Ruddigore Costume Plot - Act I

With performances upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at where we started. At least in terms of what the cast is wearing.

Way back in December, weeks before rehearsals had begun, I created sketches of what I thought each character’s costume might look like.  Some have remained remarkably unchanged, and some have evolved through the rehearsal and costume construction process.

In any event, here are the preliminary visions of some of the characters you’ll be meeting  during performances this weekend.

Thirteen Bridesmaids.  Over-worked, underpaid, under-appreciated, all wearing the same dress, and — given a chance — each would have her own tale to tell.

Bridesmaid

 

Rose. She always wants to do the right thing.

Rose

 

Hannah.  Tells us the tale of the Witch’s Curse; and she has a few secrets of her own.

Hannah

 

Robin.  A local farmer. He combines the manners of a Marquis with the morals of a Methodist. He just might be too good to be true.

Robin

 

Adam.  He’s bit over-dressed for a farmhand. What’s that all about?

Adam

 

Richard.  He’s been away at sea for quite some time.  He has a penchant for following his heart’s dictates — especially when the moon is full.

Richard

 

Margaret.  All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Mad Margaret Act I

 

Twelve Members of the Gentry.  For some reason these mysterious dudes swoop in to sing and dance for a spell.

Gentry, Act I

 

Despard.  Oh why is he moody and sad?

Despard Act I

 

Uncle Roderic.  He’s been dead for ten years.  But he says he’s doing “pretty well.”

Gentry, Act II

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Order and Chaos

Yesterday was a whirlwind of well-organized chaos.  It’s what we call “Load In Day.”

From early morning right up until rehearsal, the Carolina Theater was abuzz with various groups of technicians and volunteers bringing in and organizing all the elements which will make our production.

But all with an air of calm about it.  Everything had been thoroughly planned out and prepped in advance.  Everything was ready. And everyone knew what to do. So what could have been a day of frenzied chaos was indeed an orderly and methodical meditation.

And then we had a terrific first technical rehearsal in the theater last night! Again, a testament to all the forethought and preparation (rehearsal) that has led up to this point.

The set is now loaded in, the lights are hung and (mostly) focused, costumes and props are complete, programs are stuffed and stacked, and all the staging and choreography –which has previously only been executed in various rehearsal rooms — works on the actual stage!

We have a lot of moving parts to coordinate — and all of them are working nicely!

Kudos to all the planners, the preppers, and the organizers!

Tonight we will add the orchestra, and hair/make-up, and will have one more chance to work out a few minor issues with technical cues.

Then Thursday will be our first preview performance.  Join us if you can.  I promise it will be a great way to kick-start your weekend!

Thursday is billed as a “Special Invitation Preview”.  Here’s a widely known secret — everyone’s invited!  There are no advance ticket sales for Thursday.  And there’s no set ticket price (suggested donation of $15).

RuddigoreFINAL2

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Lights and Music

So, tonight….

The Cast, Orchestra, and Music Director met for a Sitzprobe — or seated rehearsal.  This is when the singers and musicians sit with the conductor to rehearse and integrate the vocal music with the instrumental.

No staging.  No choreography. Just music.

Up until now all cast rehearsals have been with only piano accompaniment; or a cappella, even!  The orchestra has also rehearsed on their own with the Music Director.  But tonight was the first meeting of the two; and the beginning of what promises to be a beautiful collaboration over the next week.

But I wasn’t there.

I was at a Paper Tech — or technical rehearsal for writing cues on paper. This is when the Stage Manager, Lighting (and sometimes sound/video/etc.) Designer(s), and the Director meet to discuss the particulars of each technical cue, and to make sure everyone agrees on how and where they should be notated in the Call Script.

The Stage Manager will then use the Call Script to call the show during each performance.  Which means she’ll communicate via headset with the front of house crew, backstage crew, lighitng board operator, sound engineer, and two follow spot operators to orchestrate every technical action which occurs during the performance.  Cue pre-show announcement. House lights to half. Cue follow spot. Follow spot out. Stand by for light cue #7. House lights out…  (and the overture hasn’t even started yet).

It took us three hours to talk our way through Act I.  We’ll meet again tomorrow afternoon to talk our way through Act II and will then (hopefully) be ready for the remaining Technical Rehearsals — when everybody does everything all at the same time.

This is just a hint of what happens behind the scenes.

We don’t have any photos or videos of our Paper Tech.  And they would be pretty boring if we did.  So pay no attention to us folks behind the curtain, here’s a little snippet of the magic that was being conjured at tonight’s Sitzprobe….

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Pride and Praising

I’m sending a big shout-out to our wonderful understudies!

Today we ended our rehearsal process by running the entire show with understudies in the principal roles.  And they did a bang up job!

It’s a fantastic way to get ready for tech week.  Understudies get to take the stage and to prove that they feel comfortable stepping into these roles.  Principals get to sit and watch the show — seeing for perhaps the first time the “big picture” of what’s going on behind and around them.

It’s also a fun and loving exercise.  Friends and family have been invited to see the understudies perform.  Principals and production staff are on hand to give advice and gentle direction.  And the understudies are encouraged to give their own distinctive spin to the roles.  Everyone is pulling for everyone else.  Everyone wants everyone else to succeed.

Discoveries are made; things are shaken up a bit, jumbled, and re-imagined; and our story is told in a new way. It’s uplifting, life-affirming, and an all-round feel-good experience.

It’s also a selfish little moment of pride for me as director.  The fact that nine roles can be played by nine completely different actors and that the story is still clearly and entertainingly told proves that we’ve got a solid show.  It holds together.  It makes sense.  We’ve built a magical machine that really works!

Join us this weekend and see for yourself!

 

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Sights and Smells

Our Ancestors stink!

Both figuratively and literally.

“Ruddigore” depicts a scene in which generations of Ancestors return from the dead to ensure their legacy of evil deeds is being carried out.  Kinda stinky behavior, but it’s one of my favorite sequences in the show.  It starts off eerie, then becomes hauntingly beautiful, then high-energy chaos, then hilarious, then genuinely frightening, then hauntingly beautiful again.

There are several different directions you can go with the look of the un-dead Ancestors. We decided to go with ragged and rotten — and we’ve succeeded on both counts!

Our original Ancestor costumes were a bit too flat and plain looking; so I took them home to be re-worked.  They now have several layers of tattered, shredded, and knotted fabrics in various combinations of muslin, gauze, linen, etc.

The layers of fabric helped, but everything was a shade of off-white.  So they still appeared rather flat onstage.

Then came the dye!

I’ve been experimenting with natural dyes for my yarn lately, so I had some on hand. And I firmly believe in the philosophy of working with what you’ve got.

I decided to use acorns and iron acetate (made from soaking iron in vinegar for a couple of weeks).  I love iron acetate in particular because it reacts differently to different fabrics — giving a range of color from gray to brown to a deep rusty orange.  Perfect for tattered shrouds!

I used a variety of techniques including tie-dyeing, dip-dyeing, and applying the dye with a spray bottle.  And I’m quite pleased with the results.

But the smell!

I, myself, don’t find it that off-putting — it’s an earthy metallic smell.  But it is rather strong.  And now each of the Ancestors walks around in their own private little miasma of misery.  Quite fitting for the roles they’re playing.  I would think it would help them get into character.

I’ve only had one Ancestor complain to me personally about the odor.  I feel his pain.  But I do think the smell will continue to fade in time. Meanwhile, I have to commend them all for performing within the whiff of death.

So when you see our evil Ancestors singing and dancing onstage next weekend, just try to remember that they’re stewing in their own wretched funkiness.

Ruddigore Ancestor Costume

For those of you interested in natural dye: the blue/gray yarn in Mad Margaret’s costume was dyed with black beans; and Despard’s purple top hat was dyed with red cabbage.

The more you know!

 

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