This newest chapter in the International Thespian Society bestowed a great honor on my catalogue, as they staged three of my plays in one night. The show was a competition between the freshman (Eggheads), sophomore (The Apple), and the junior (Having Your Cake) members of the troupe. Troupe director, Marcie Clough, had a member of each class direct one of the plays. It was the first time that I've attended a competition absolutely sure my play would win.
Thinking the show started at 7:00 p.m., my wife, Winnie, and I arrived at Pembroke High at 6:30. There were lots of cars in parking lot, but when we entered the lobby, there was no one there, but a few other couples. One guy was peaking through the slit in the auditorium doors. I mistakingly thought the troupe was having a meeting before the show. After 5 minutes, it dawned on me that maybe they started the show at 6:30. I noticed a sign on the door that read "Wait Until You Hear Applause To Enter." We didn't wait. We went in quietly and sat in the back row, just catching the last 5 minutes of Eggheads. The actress playing Boopie was reading from a script. Someone must have been deathly sick or injured for that to be happening. Still, the troupe and this actress responded to the crisis professionally and the show went on anyway. She and the actors playing Beat, Brow, Softy, and Phil pulled it off.
Someone also had to stand in with a script at the last moment for the role of Cally in The Apple, which is a pivotal one that brings the play to the climax. Again, nice job by all the actors. I enjoyed this interpretation. Rachael Donnelly (Sisky), Lindsey Pease (Ebee), and Marissa Kidder (Rope), grabbed their roles by the reins, creating an interesting trio of art critics. Rachel Petitpas brought an interesting blend of eccentricity, high energy, vulnerability, and toughness to the role of Moonshot. She drove the action masterfully. She also played Moocher, and nailed the "Needa Pen" monologue. Several other players took on multiple roles, and also showed great range. Jordan Ennis played the quiet Mime, and then had to go in a completely opposite direction by playing the over-the-top Curly. The Janitor and Peevish were played in superb contrasting detail by Robert McCormack. The first female to play the Elvis role in the shows that I've seen (funny), Shelby O'Neil showed some chops when she switched to role of Mona. Michaela Tower created two completely different characters in Petula and Lara--nice job. The director of this play, Meagan Taylor, did masterful work in getting everyone to know not only what they were doing (and why), but also knowing when and where each should be and in what costume!
This version of Having Your Cake is the first that I've seen live (I have a few video tapes that have been sent to me over the years). Funny. Very funny. The director, Meghan Haskins, and her players presented an interpretation that was clearly drawn, crisp, and nicely over-the-top. A living cartoon. I could hear every actor without a problem (stage acting rule #1: be loud and clear). I liked how when each character was replaced by the new version, something would happen between them (e.g. Jackie #3 made sure cake met with the face of Jackie #2). Awesome job by every single actor in this piece. No holding back!
The stage managers and crew for each play should all be commended. They are the true heart and blood of every play.
After the show, they had a ceremony celebrating the troupe's induction into the Thespian Society. This was followed by an Oscars-style awards ceremony (best play: Having Your Cake).
Thank you, Troupe 7127. If you all keep doing it all (act, direct, stage manage, crew, and write), you will be a tremendous force in the theatre world.
Winnie (my sweetie) and I drove 2 hours up the Mass. Pike to the small town of Chicopee in western Massachusetts. After enjoying a pizza at a local shop, we went to the show at the old high school (due to be abandoned for the new one they were building across the street). Before the show, a group of elves came out and coaxed the audience into singing Christmas carols. One elf in particular was the leader, and was very good at putting herself out there and getting us to sing. I sang heartily. The director, Denise Freisberg, staged a wonderful interpretation of Couch Potato Santa. Santa Claus was played perfectly by an actress! Mrs. Claus was a hoot. The actor playing Dr. Igloo was very adventurous, using an Austrian accent; he handled Mt. Monologue very well. Rudolph and the reindeer--yes! Francis and Alex got huge laughs, and the elves did their raps with good timing and rhythm. Lights and sound were executed flawlessly. After the show, I had the pleasure of meeting Denise and her cast and crew. Time after time, I get blown away by the work directors like Denise do with such young players. Putting on a show with professionals is tough--guiding beginners to a cohesive, alive performance is the work of a true ace.
The R.I. Theatre Ensemble, one of the best local theatre companies in the Providence area (15 minutes from my home), bestowed their good graces upon my catalogue, and blessed it with productions of both The Apple and The House Of Bake (the latter is upcoming on May 12th-21st). The Apple was staged as part of an eclectic evening called Full Circle Fest, which included dance, music, poetry, stage combat, and two other one-act plays.
This version of The Apple was hilarious. Everyone nailed their parts and pushed them to the hilt--large and energetic. The absurdity of the play came across, as did the theme of responsibility of perception. The audience laughed (ultimately, that is all that matters).
I'm eternally grateful to Chris, CJ, Bill, and all the players for the intelligence and care they put into my play. They truly made it their own.
After traveling the world, Couch Potato Santa finally made an appearance for the first time in my tiny state of Rhode Island. The play was staged by the children of the St. Paul Players at St. Paul's School in Cranston--about 20 minutes from my home. The show was great! This was the drama club's first production, as they were just formed this year. Director Julia King expertly guided her players in creating a very funny show. Santa and Mrs. Claus were hilarious. Santa made it very difficult for the others to get him off the couch. The actor playing Dr. Igloo mastered the long monologue about movies being evil and medical school; he created a very memorable character. Alex and Francis got some big laughs. All the elves and reindeer were awesome. The singing elves created some fun melodies and dances. Rudolph had one interesting nose job--it looked like a huge red bow. After the show, I met all the actors, and had pictures taken with them. All these young players should be very proud of themselves for the fine work they did. It takes a lot of courage to get up on stage, and all of them were up to the task. They not only gave the play life, but accomplished the first mission of comedy: they made the audience laugh.
I just finished watching a production of The Apple directed wonderfully by Kay Smitherman, and performed superbly by the players at the middle school of Forsythe Country Day School. This was the first time I had ever received a DVD of a production. It was almost like being there.
The set was beautifully made. Colorful, student-made paintings and water colors were on the walls. From the Janitor to Elvis to Curly, Lara, and Mona, the parts were all played with great energy and understanding. Moocher, Sisky, Ebee, Rope and Moonshot had me in stitches. The smaller parts of Peevish, Petula, and the Mime were well drawn and played with zip. Cally was played with just the right energy; she drove the last part of the play with great zest. I also enjoyed the voice on the intercom--funny.
The audience laughed at this production--which is what you want with a comedy. I was truly impressed with the level of acting for such a young middle school cast. This show was a big success.
I'm very grateful to Jerry Solomon for sending me this DVD. It truly is a strange feeling to see one of my plays come back to me on a DVD from a distant land. I like it!
This theatre troop was so friendly to me at the regional festival, and so caring about their work, I felt compelled to give them support in the finals of the 2004 Maine State High School Drama Festival. Winthrop, just outside of Augusta, was a shorter drive than Bar Harbor, but just as nice. Winthrop High School--just one year old--was a beautiful new school with a spiffy new theater.
The Central High Players did a fine job with The Apple. In the spirit of good theater, they attempted to bring the play to another level from their performance two weeks earlier; they tried several new bits and characterizations. Some choices worked, and some didn't, but they took chances! They lived! That's what it's all about. A play is a living, breathing entity, not something to be repeated exactly from performance to performance. This group showed they understood this important concept. They received great direction from their director, Beth Goodwin.
In the awards department, two cast members (Ebee, Moonshot) were named to the state All-Festival cast, and special commendations were given to the cast for "Best Farcical Ensemble", and to the student playing the Mime for "Best Use of Mime."
Central High didn't win the finals, but I think they learned some very valuable lessons about the theater, creativity, and the nature of perception. The cast, crew, Beth, and Central High School should all be proud of what they created. I was touched by their exuberance, friendliness, intelligence, and talents, and will always remember this wacky troop.
After a nice drive around beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine, I drove to Mt. Desert High School for a nice afternoon of theatre at the Maine High School Regional Drama Festival. A troop of players from Central High School in Corinth, Maine were staging The Apple; I was looking forward to seeing their creation. I sat with director Beth Goodwin and her son. From the time the curtain went up, until the lights went down at the end, I was amazed by the talent and vision manifesting on the stage. Central High is a small Division 2 school with about 400 students, and somehow Beth found 15 players who really knew how to act, a good crew, and a budding genius student/artist/set-designer. The interpretation of the script was alive and inventive. The actors played their roles with big-time energy. They had the audience laughing throughout, and even got a standing ovation at the end.
After the show, I was invited by Beth back to a makeshift green room in one of the classrooms. I had some good, intelligent conversations with everyone. They presented me with one of their team t-shirts. Later, we all went to hear a critique from the judges. Their suggestions were positive, insightful, and educational.
Central High went on to win Division 2. Several cast members (Moonshot, Ebee, and Curly) were named to the Regional All-Festival Cast. A special award was given out to the set designer for his artwork. Central High will move on to the state Division 2 finals March 19-20. Congratulations to Beth Goodwin, the cast, and the crew; thank you for making me feel like I was part of the troop. Good luck in the finals!
This interpretation of The Happy Club was staged at the end of five day intensive workshop for children, ages 7-12. The workshop had the players making the set, costumes, and props; they learned about theater production from the ground up. Director Jacek Zuzanski and Artistic Director Sarah Peters did amazing work with these children. The play was so well realized that one would think that they had four weeks to rehearse. All the players knew their lines, blocking, and cues. If someone dropped a line, the others immediately picked it up. The audience laughed throughout the show, and gave the players a standing ovation at the end. Jacek and Sarah proved that, when challenged, children will rise to the occasion. I believe the players learned a lot about their creative potential, and also about the magic of the theater.
I talked with the cast before the show, and answered their questions. They had lots of good ones like:
"are you famous?"
"what's your favorite character?"
"can you play the piano?"
It was a joy seeing Appleseed's production of Couch Potato Santa. Director Shannon Tompkins and her fine players put on a very funny show. Again, I was amazed how good all the young players were. They all had a good sense of comic timing, moved well, and seemed comfortable on stage--a testament to hard work and good directing. The actress playing Dr. Igloo tackled her long monologue expertly--very funny. Santa was beard-less, very thin, and made everyone work very hard to get him off the couch. The reindeer, elves, Mrs. Claus, Francis, and Alex were all wonderfully drawn. The audience laughed a lot, and really enjoyed themselves. Artisitic Director Jon Wilson and the members of his company were very, very friendly. I enjoyed conversing with them. They even gave me a nice Appleseed Productions T-shirt! Hopefully, I'll see some of their future productions. Appleseed Productions is a top-notch theater company.
I drove 9.5 hours to Pittsburgh to see Baldwin High School's production of The Apple; it was well worth the long trip. Senior student-director Megan Kappel, and her fine cast and crew, did an excellent job. I was truly amazed by the level of directing and acting. The actors were all very interesting and fun to watch. They knew their objectives and pursued them. The play had a nice pace; it never dragged, which can be the death of a comedy. The director has a lot of potential. All the parents and students were very friendly and hospitable, as they invited me to the cast party at a local church. The pizza and conversation with the parents were very satisfying. Pennsylvania was beautiful. A great trip.
It was a hop-skip up to Bedford to see Camp Kettleford's production of The Apple. Director Claire Douglas and her merry troop of actresses put on a stupendous show for the rest of the campers and their parents. The players created a fun looking art gallery full of cool original pieces of art. I was allowed to choose a few pieces and take them home (they now overlook my Mac)!
Everyone did a great job with the script and their characters. Even though the wind was blowing, and the leaves were rustling, the actors projected well. After the show, I was asked to sign autographs. All of the players had me sign their artwork, scripts, and even a buff (on which there was already an autograph by Rex Trailer, the famous New England T.V. cowboy). It was truly a strange, but alive, experience.
Director Lynn O'Connell and her Lawrence Middle School players staged a very funny version of Eggheads at this annual festival. The stage was very wide, and all the action takes place on a park bench, which made for long entrances and exits. The cast filled in the long journey from the wings to the bench with some funny, improvised dialogue and action. The audience laughed a lot; I couldn't ask for anything more. To top it all off, I got to meet and talk with the actors and some of their parents after the show. There was a smile on my face all the way home.
The premiere! The 5th Grade Class had the script for only two weeks before performing it before the whole school! I was so impressed by how well they did. The show was funny, alive, and zippy. They asked me to sit down in front of the stage with the principal. Then they made me stand up and wave to everyone, which is always fun. After the play was finished, the cast and teachers discussed the play with the audience. That was VERY interesting, and scary. I was invited back to the classroom for milk and cookies--best I ever had.