Onward

Just a quick note of congratulations and thanks to all the folks involved in “The Grand Duke.” After months of good old-fashioned work and dedication on everyone’s part, it was a joy to see the various elements come together to form one beautiful and cohesive production!

Now it’s on to the next one…

If watching the show perhaps inspired you to join us onstage, make plans to audition for our productions of “Thespis” and “Trial by Jury” in the fall.

Public Sing-through: Sunday May 7 @ 2 PM

Auditions: May 22 and 23 by appointment. Click here for details/information. 

Callbacks: May 25 by invitation.

Performances: October 12-15.

Hope you to see you at auditions!

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Grand Opening

“The Grand Duke” had a grand opening last night!

You have two more chances to catch a performance.  Tonight at 7 PM and tomorrow at 2 PM.

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Preview Pickles

I like pickles.  (More about that later.)

I arrived early to the theater for pre-show prep before tonight’s preview performance of “The Grand Duke.”  I had three specific problems to solve. And I wanted to be there when the actors arrived so I could have as much time as possible to work through the possible solutions.

All three actors in question showed up early as well!  First problem practically solved itself.  Second problem only took a few moments; and its resolution was an absolute joy to behold as it unfolded.  Third problem took a bit longer, but was also easily resolved — and was a lesson in the art of editing.

So, less than an hour after arriving at the theater, everything was settled. And I had some time to burn.

I ran out to a nearby deli (yes, downtown Durham now has a deli!) and ordered a salad to go.  At the last minute I said, “Can I also have a pickle?”  I was told the salad came with a pickle. But I insisted on paying for another one just the same.  ‘Cause I like pickles.

To-go bag in hand, I returned to the theater; saw that everything was in order and going according to schedule; found a quiet spot; and sat down to eat my salad and pickles.

The pickle I’d paid extra for was in a separate bag. I ate it first.  Then I opened my salad and found there was… No. Pickle. In. The. Salad.

I’m certain it was an accident.  But I’d paid extra for a second pickle and they’d basically just taken the “free” pickle out of my salad and put it in another bag. I wasn’t happy.

Funny how the euphoria of having a show ready to open, and of solving three last-minute problems with relative ease can be dampened by being shorted one pickle.

Mid-grumble, I noticed the house had opened and there were lots of people in the theater.  It was a really big turnout, and the show was about to begin!

My missing pickle suddenly forgotten, I quickly touched base with the crew to make sure we were ready to go. Then I took a seat in the house.

The lights dimmed, the murmuring crowd hushed in anticipation…. and then, low and behold, Theater was made.

The cast, the crew, the orchestra — they all brought it. And the audience dug right in!

I’ll just say this: if tonight’s performance had been a deli to-go bag, there would’ve been plenty of pickles for everyone!

Opening Night is Friday, March 31 at 8 PM.  There’s another performance Saturday, April 1 at 7 PM.  And we close with a 2 PM matinee on Sunday, April 2.

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Brave New World

I lied.

Yesterday I described “The Frenzy” of our dress rehearsal and promised we’d do it all again tonight.  But we didn’t. Not exactly

While those thousand independent and overlapping things were certainly happening again, tonight — our final dress rehearsal — was about as calm and un-frenzied as it could be.  Everywhere I went before the run-through, folks were focused and quietly going about their business.  Set pieces were being placed on the stage. Hair was being styled and make-up was being applied. Musicians were warming up. Costumes were being ironed. Actors were reviewing scenes and choreography.  Everyone had a clearly defined job and everyone was doing their job as expected.  Far from a frenzy, there was an energized hush about it all.

I almost felt extraneous.

Oh, there was a hitch or two. But the theater was filled with a calm certainty which tells me one thing — we’re ready for the kick in the pants that only you can give us!

Adrenaline, butterflies, stage-fright.  That’s what we need.  We need to stand in the wings listening to the anticipatory murmur of a crowd in the house.  And then we need to bravely/anxiously step onto the stage as if for the very first time.

One of the oddities of theater is that it doesn’t really exist until it has an audience.  Up until now we’ve had rehearsals and run-throughs, but not performances.  Not theater.

That all changes tomorrow (actually today at this point).

It’s like that tree falling in the forest — does it make a sound if no one is there?

Preview Performance is today — Thursday, March 30 at 8 PM. 

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The Frenzy

 

I walked into the theater carrying a box of fabrics and costumes, a new prop, and a shoulder bag weighed down with script, score and laptop.

Before my eyes had adjusted to the dim light; while I was still standing there holding probably fifty pounds of varous items, I heard, “There he is.”

So I dumped my stuff onto the nearest surface (strictly against backstage protocol) and went to work on solving problem number one for the evening.

Let me pause here to make it crystal clear that I’m not complaining.  I’m just giving you a hint of what it can be like for a director during tech week.  At this point in the process my job is to make final decisions and to help resolve any problems which may arise with the actors, the crew, the design team,  the production staff, the set, the costumes, the props, the lights, or any other vital component of our production.

I walked in tonight with a plan for what I needed to accomplish.  But I immediately had to “acquiesce” — which is what I always advise my cast and crew to do.  Have goals, but be prepared to go with the flow when you enter the theater — that sacred space where a thousand independent and overlapping things are happening at the same time in preparation for “the show”.

I addressed that first issue, which was about the set.  Then I addressed an issue with props.  I answered the same question at least seven times to various people I encountered backstage.  I worked on a set dressing project in the hallway — where I was blocking the traffic pattern of cast members going to and from the costume room. I received several progress reports. I answered some more questions. I went into the house and talked through some issues with the stage manager and lighting designer. I went backstage again and touched base with actors on specific notes I’d given from last night’s rehearsal. I made corrections to the pre-show set-up.  Then I watched and took notes on Act I.  During intermission I gave notes to the lighting designer and board operator.  I weighed in on changes/additions to the Act II set.  Meanwhile I’d thought further on that first set issue, and I gave my new ideas to the crew.  I discussed mic placement with the sound technician. Then I watched and took notes on Act II.  Afterward, I re-worked the curtain call; gave more notes to the lighting designer and stage manager; answered more questions in the hallway backstage; told departing actors they’d done a good job, to get some rest; gently dealt with some personality conflicts; and gave notes to the costume crew.  On my way out, I touched base with the producer and gave feedback to the ochestra supervisor.  Then I drove home, where I found several show-related emails waiting.  I answered those.  Then I sent a few more of my own.  I typed up my notes from the run-through and sent them out to the cast.  And then I wrote this.

Now.  Here’s something I can promise you.  Every cast member, every member of the production staff, the technical crew, and the design team; everyone involved in those “thousand independent and overlapping things” had an equally full evening.   And we’ll do it all again tomorrow.

God Bless Us Every One.

The run-through — with orchestra, costumes, hair, make-up — went very well, by the way!  We’re rip-roarin’ and ready for our first Preview Performance on Thursday!!

THE GRAND DUKE 4

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The First Fleeting Day

We’re in!

The set crew started bright and early and spent the entire day loading in and installing the platforms, columns, trees, frames, carts and many other pieces that make up our complex and ever-changing set design. The costume and props crews were also there unloading, organizing, and working on finishing touches.

The cast arrived early in the evening and, after taking care of some initial spacing and reconfiguration issues, we ran the show in its entirety.    While we did stop once or twice to make corrections and/or resolve issues, it was pretty much a clean run — with almost everything working the way we’d planned.  The few things which didn’t work just right have been re-imagined and now work like a charm.

So…. Our show fits on our set.  That’s our first big hurdle of the week!

Tomorrow night we’ll add costumes, hair, make-up, stage lights, follow spot — and the orchestra!

Reminder:  Preview Performance is Thursday night (8PM).  We then perform Friday (8PM), Saturday (7PM), and Sunday (2PM).  Please join us if you can!

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The Grand Duke (Stuart Albert) wants to see YOU at the Carolina Theater this weekend!

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A Director’s Advice

About this time every year I send a note to the cast to prepare them for the week ahead.

This year it struck me that some of my advice to performers might be extracted and interpolated as advice to the audience as well.  There will be a “show.”  That’s obvious.  And we all want to make the most of it — no matter on which side of the footlights we might be. While the cast and crew are doing their best to prepare backstage, I wonder what sort of preparation will be going on in the house.

Here’s my note….

 

We move into the theater tomorrow.

Then we’ll have three fleeting days to take this production from pretty-good-rehearsal mode to Knock-Their-Socks-Off performance mode. After that, we’ll have a scant four opportunities to show ‘em what we’ve got; and to make ’em glad they decided to leave their sofas and spend a few hours of their time with us.

By this time next week it will all be over. The performances will all be done, the set will be struck, we’ll have taken everything back to the warehouse, and folks will be saying their goodbyes at the post-performance cast party.

Basically what I’m saying here is that you should get set to say your goodbyes to “The Grand Duke.” It’s one of several “little” G&S shows that only comes around every fifteen years or so. And we will certainly not ever all see it together again.

So let’s seize the moment!

To my mind, the best way of saying goodbye is with a heartfelt embrace. Let’s love this show while it’s here. Let’s love each other. And let’s love every opportunity we have to make our audiences love our “Grand Duke”.

A lot will happen in the coming days. I know each of you wants to give the absolute best performance you can. And I can promise you that you will surprise, astound, and also disappoint yourself in that endevour. Some of you will overcome what seemed to be unsurmountable hurdles. Some of you will break through to an entirely new realm in your personal performance history. Some of you will make unimaginable mistakes. There will be high notes. There will be flat notes. There will be missed cues. And there will be unforeseen spontaneous rounds of applause. Each of us will find ourselves in the midst of all of these scenarios to some degree. That’s theater. That’s life.

Here’s my advice…..

Breathe. Find a way to take a moment before each rehearsal and performance to relax and to calmly think about the task at hand. Put aside whatever may be stressing you in the outside world and strive to peacefully and competently enter the space; dedicated to joining the ongoing process of perfecting and presenting this production.

Focus. Once you’ve entered the theater, you should be 100% focused on this production and completely dedicated to preparing yourself to perform. If at all possible, don’t bring cellphones, laptops, homework, or any of the other myriad anchors which keep us tethered to the outside world. The theater is a sanctuary. Let’s treat it as such.

Acquiesce. That means to accept without protest. What I’m asking here is that you enter the theater with no carryover emotions from the outside world, nor with a firm agenda. There will undoubtedly be work going on before you arrive. So, while it is good to enter with your own personal goals to move you toward performance mode, please be prepared to go with the flow. We will do our best to establish a collective pre-show routine and to allow each of you the time and space to do what you need to do. But there will be moments of chaos. If we can each enter the space quietly and with a receptive attitude, we’ll have a much better chance of taking on the chaos in our stride.

Know Your Place. Each of you will be assigned a backstage space. It may be only a few square feet, but it’s yours (it’ll most likely be in front of a mirror). Please find your space and try to confine your “stuff” and your personal business to that area. Don’t encroach upon someone else’s space and (gently) don’t allow them to encroach upon yours.

Listen Big. There will be calls throughout your time in the theater letting you know how much time you have before opening curtain and second act curtain. There will be calls summoning you to the stage. There will also be calls requesting your presence at warm-ups and company meetings. Listen to these. Gauge your activities accordingly and be ready to perform/participate when called upon.

Listen Small. We’re about to cram a lot of people into a small space to do a big job. Cast, Crew, Orchestra, Production Staff, Theater Staff, etc. People, each and every one. People have strengths and weaknesses. People have emotions. People have needs. Most of the above advice has been to encourage you to be prepared, to be self-sufficient, and to be strong. But everyone won’t be able to do that at all times. Please be aware of the signals folks around you may be giving. Someone may need space. Someone may need quiet. Someone may need attention. Someone may need help. Try to tune in to those needs. But be careful not to over-react. Often the best thing we can provide to someone in distress is space. Help if you can, otherwise get out of the way.

Start Again. Okay. You’ve gotten yourself into the space. You’ve gotten yourself ready to perform. You’ve dealt with whatever problems/emergencies have come up (or you’ve backed away and allowed others to take care of the problems). You’re standing in the wings and about to make your first entrance. Now it’s time to go through the entire process again…. but this time you’re applying the mantra to your onstage life: Breathe. Focus. Acquiesce. Know Your Place. Listen Big. Listen Small.

And for goodness sake “Sing Out Louise!”

 

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(Dean Kivotidis as Ernest, Stuart Albert as The Grand Duke, Jim Burnette as Ludwig)

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