This weekend I had the incredible opportunity to attend a portion of The young Americans 50th Reunion. I am completely overwhelmed by the scope of all that happened this weekend, and I have started a new job that is taking all of my creative energy so can't reflect and write about it just yet. That being said, my friend, Addam, wrote this beautiful observation and I wanted to share:
What an amazing era to be a part of this organization. While the 60s and 70s had so many incredible opportunities to work with legendary performers and the 80s had a seemingly unending line of divas I think we were afforded the witnessing of what seems to me, perhaps the greatest period of change.
At some point in the early 90's there was no Young Americans. The dream may have lived but for all legal purposes the organization was officially extinct.
Of the seemingly massive group that I had seen in the 80s, only a tiny group of people remained. Those folks that didn't jump ship are (nearly to a person) some of the most resiliant, headstrong, dependable, and admirable people I will ever know. Even at an age we now think of as children. It's hard to say if the group taught them to be these things or if these people were just this way by nature and happened to converge at the right place and time to keep things going.
It occured to me last night there was a magic that happened in the bankruptcy. If the group was to survive it had to change. I don't know if it ever would have on (what I know of) the course it was on.
Much like the Boyne shows are built around the individual people in the cast. The new incarnation of the organization would grow from the stuff these folks are comprised of. Greatly talented as performers, but more importantly as people.
This foundation gave birth to the NMOT. I don't know if the YA's could have done an outreach tour with the folks in 88. I'm not being critical of them, just saying their experience was different.
On paper, none of this should have worked out. An group that had seen glory days in the era of Perry Como should not have been able to survive in the same time frame as "Smells Like Teen Spirit". And it wouldn't have if we had continued relying on convention center shows and Boyne. We may have been able to draw out the death, but I don't believe the group would have made to to 2000 without NMOT. And I personally don't believe Milton and Bill would have had the confidence to send out the first one without knowing the kind of people they had at their disposal.
Once the NMOT started, being a part of the group felt much like entrepreneurship (without that pesky making money part). It was a world where hard work became reward. Our style of teaching grew from nearly nothing into the core principles of how the tours are conducted today. We learned by trial and error like some sort of music education pirate-gypsies. There were times where we had no money, times when we had no place to stay or food to eat but somehow just before the last bit of shit was about to hit the fan some inventive line of thought would solve or at least bandage the issue. These experiences helped shape all of our lives within the group and beyond. Seeing the current activities of the group really brought to mind the value of the folks that stuck around. Who they are as people casts a shadow you can still see in the mission and spirit of the modern organization.
So thanks to you guys. You know who you are
February 26, 2012 REVIEW: ‘Smoky Joe’s Cafe’ at Derby Dinner Playhouse Let the music take you back in time BY CHARLES WHALEY Local Columnist
CLARKSVILLE — How fabulous it would be if every neighborhood sported a cozy, companionable joint much like Derby Dinner Playhouse’s “Smokey Joe’s Café,” the (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller songbook celebration now on the Clarksville stage.
It’s a place where nostalgia jostles with good times, hard-driving romance, male-female contretemps, sexy dancing, and dynamic takes on more than 30 songs by a multi-talented cast of nine.
There’s no story line or dialogue, just song-after-terrifically-sold song on Lee Buckholz’s handsome streetscape set dotted with lamposts and benches. Associate producer Buckholz’s direction keeps things moving at top speed with Heather Paige Folsom’s vigorous choreography and Sharon Murray Harrah’s spot-on costumes ramping up the enjoyment.
And what a song list it is of early rock ‘n’ roll from the ‘50s and ‘60s immortalized by such as Elvis Presley, Dion, the Coasters and the Drifters.
“On Broadway,” that 1963 Drifters hit (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill were collaborators) brought forth an appreciative howl of recognition as spiffy Alonzo Richmond, Lem Jackson, Christian Bradford and Lamont O’Neal, dressed in black and white and wearing shades, resurrected the era as they tapped, blended voices and postured.
Then there was force-of-nature Willie Illeana Kirven blasting out “Hound Dog” as a latter-day Big Mama Thornton, shoving aside thoughts of Elvis. “The Pelvis,” however, got a masterful “Jailhouse Rock” tribute from Matthew Chappell and company. Chappell also soared in an impassioned “I Who Have Nothing.”
Slinky, leggy Brooke Aston, trailing a mile-long red feather boa, was electrifying in “Don Juan,” matter-of-factly telling her man who’d lost his fortune that “when your money’s gone, your baby’s gone.” And she knocked out of the ballpark the cheekily erotic “Some Cats Know.”
“Dance With Me (and we’ll be lovers when the music ends)” switched gears hilariously when determined Willie Illeana Kirven went after guys scared to death that she’d get them.
The four women did booming right by “I’m a Woman,” their feminist manifesto, and the whole company, led by Alonzo Richmond, brought the festivities toward a close with a heartfelt “Stand By Me.”
It was a nice touch when musical director Scott Bradley from his piano bench sang a soulful “Stay a While.” His splendid fellow musicians in the show produced by Bekki Jo Schneider were Darryel Cotton (drums), Mark McCulloch (bass), Jim Schweickart (guitar), and Tim Whalen (saxophone).
“Smokey Joe’s Café” runs through April 1. For tickets and information call 812-288-8281, toll free 877-898-8577, or www.derbydinner.com.
I have often said that one of the most difficult parts of being an actor is that you are constantly unemployed. From the moment you book a job the knowledge that the show will close and you will be sent back to the daunting task of hawking your time, talent, and passion for the arts to a group of people who hope you will solve their casting dilemma but say no 100 times more often than they say yes is the nerve-wracking reality. I recently told a dear friend that the worst part about an “in-house” audition is that your competition isn’t the other women auditioning for the part, your competition is the casting authority’s imagination. Now fast forward and you’ve booked a job and are on the eve of your first rehearsal. If this is your first time working for your new employer than they are expecting great things based on what totals about three hours of time spent with them in auditions, and if you are returning to a company then you have to live up to the expectations that they have created in their own mind about what it is that you can do. Three weeks ago, the pre rehearsal jitters had taken hold the day before I was to go into rehearsals for Smokey Joe’s Café at The Derby Dinner Playhouse. It is one of my favorite companies to work for, but after spending last year being on tour for 5 months, working and training for a summer in New York, and then heading home for 5 weeks to help my Mother recover from knee replacement surgery the reality that I hadn’t been in rehearsal for a musical in over a year had me a little shaken.
Fortunately, after a lot of years working in the theater it seems that rehearsing for a show is a little bit like riding a bike. Things seem tenuous at first, but eventually you just put your feet on the pedals and go, go, go. The process of putting on a musical is not quite as glamorous as it looks on TV, and there is an adjustment period while each individual’s creative process influences the entire creative process. In our case, the recently redecorated hotel ballroom that we called our rehearsal hall had been covered in dark brown wallpaper, barely there lighting, and the ceiling was caving in from a recent leak. In any case, an off-handed remark is taken the wrong way by this person, another person seems to be catching on a little bit faster or slower than everyone else, a dance routine seems like it will never be executable in a clean and precise way, and everyone is just trying to find their way. All of that doesn’t even include everyone’s personal lives which inevitably encroach on what is happening in that rehearsal room. Eventually, all of those things converge into an understanding between the creative team and the actors, and after a few days everyone knows where they are supposed to stand and what they are supposed to say. For us it was no different.
After about a week in rehearsal we were humming, not to mention singing and dancing, along. We had established a language and referred to different parts of the stage with clever nicknames like, “the tongue, the uvula, and the doughnut”. The dances were detailed and difficult but the bosses were not only confident, they were supportive. Things were starting to stick and everyone was getting along as well as you would expect 14 individuals with strong personalities thrust into this situation would. Then little things started to creep in. I have an old neck injury that is irritated by repetitive movement which I had completely forgotten about until we learned the hair flying choreo for Jailhouse Rock. The next morning, I couldn’t turn my head to the left. Our youngest cast member came down with Bell’s Palsey that has paralyzed one side of his face for an indefinite period of time. Then the artistic team had to make the tough decision to let one of our cast members go and replace him with a member of the core company. The issues were largely personal so I won’t divulge them, but the challenge of incorporating a new cast member fell on each and every one of us. Fortunately, the replacement is so competent and capable that we only lost about one day of rehearsal in order to put him into his “track”, and all of us were able to use that time for some much needed review and solidification of what we had learned up to that point. In order to re-choreograph the very number that so offended my neck injury and to do some polishing, we had to revoke one of our two precious days off in the 18 days that lead up to opening night. That’s right- we had one day off in 18 days, and to my cast’s credit no one complained.
As we went into tech, things went back to normal. The inexplicable confidence started to take hold that only comes when you feel like a show is really settling into your bones. The boa and hats that had been ordered weeks in advance finally appeared the day we previewed the show. Did I forget to mention that the 18 foot long prop that I use in an extremely intricate way didn’t arrive until the same day we had our first paying audience? I must have blocked that out. I took a chunk out of my shin and another cast member tripped going up the stairs and went flying into a guard rail, but, you know, that sort of thing is just another day at the office for us theater folk! Finally we headed into preview, and as we like to say “no one died!”. The next day we spent another 5 hours in rehearsal once again polishing what we had accomplished so far so that our show would really “shine like the top of the Chrysler building” (a metaphor and a quote from Annie…too much?). I came home and commenced my afternoon routine of food, Facebook, backstage, and email and discovered that a patron from the night before had visited this very blog, created a fake email account, and sent me a hateful letter that said that while they liked me in the show they thought that I should be ashamed of what they had found about me on the internet. My first hate mail! It was pretty hurtful, especially when you consider that what I believe was the offending blog was all about overcoming a pretty dark time that I had last summer. On the other hand, I never said I was an angel, I promised my two biggest fans, my mother and my godmother, to give an honest account of my triumphs and struggles as an actor, and the patron/hater was too much of a coward to use their real email address. In Smokey Joe’s Café, I sing a song about being nothing but “Trouble” then later extol the virtues of “Cats who know how to make the honey flow”, what on earth did they read that was more shocking than my performance? At least they liked me in the show.
Tonight I say with more than a little pride that we open Smokey Joe’s Café at The Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, IN just across the bridge from Louisville, KY. I am honored to be working for such a fantastic artistic team, thrilled to be working with such a talented cast, and proud to be one of the “regulars” who gets hired again and again by this incredible company. MUSICALS ARE HARD! but there is nothing better than when a musical comes together and you are in it! Here’s to the next six weeks! (Oh god! Then what?!)
Smokey Joe's Cafe
The Derby Dinner Playhouse
Playing February 21- April 1
and look out for my next blog: Musicals are Hard!
Come and see
The New York
Holiday Singers on
November 19th at
For Tickets visit: http://brownpapertickets.com/event/208840
My title should be read with a very quick, ascending pitch, starting at the word "headliner:
"Divas! A Cabaret...soon to be headliner show?" because, let's face it, that was all I really wanted to begin with.
I wouldn't say my cabaret went off without a hitch. The first night started 30 minutes late, and when I realized my cousin was in the audience on the second, I nearly yelled an obscenity. She had driven to surprise me, and, to tell you the truth, that wasn't a hitch- it was AWESOME! I would never do that in a classy joint, like say...a showroom, but I do like to riff a little on what is happening, in the moment.
Anyway, all in all I felt good about it. I am so grateful to all the crazy people who came out to watch. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And to anyone who missed: next time. No worries. I felt a lot of love this weekend, and I am grateful for that.
Hey Friends! Remember all the times we said let's get together and have drinks? Well, here's our chance! And I'll even sing to you...
Me- "I guess I just miss being creative." Abigail- "But you get be creative you are going to auditions." Leave it to my new friend Abigail to always look on the bright side. As we lumbered down Broadway headed away from the bar and towards a fabulous, rooftop, Fourth of July Party, over looking the Hudson, there was one thing that was clear, my fabulous summer had resumed, and the deep, dark depression I had slipped into during the month of July had subsided at last. A few fabulous parties, a free ticket to The Book of Mormon, and a visit from my best friend Amanda with baby bump in tow, and I am feeling good.
When I first told my Father I was moving to New York, he said that, "every city is the same, just with it's own quirks. What matters is that you surround yourself with good people." Soon after I realized that I was feeling a lot of inner turmoil in regards to my career, living situation, and tenuous relationship. My friend, Derek, called me out of the blue and took me to Cleopatra's Needle for a little jazz and martinis. My verbal diarrhea combined with my inability to keep track of what I had just been talking about prompted him to say, "what the fuck is wrong with you?" at least once. Every time I get depressed, my body seems to start working independently of my brain. I have a hard time waking up and going to sleep, and the slightest provocation can send me into a fit if tears. On occasions like that, I simply tell myself as often as I can, "nothing is as bad as it feels." I also try to heed Dad's advice, and wrap my self in my own warm blanket- conversations with my friends.
My other dear friend Chris had slipped into a similar state despite the fact that only one week prior he had won tickets to the fan performance of The Book of Mormon, the foul mouthed, religion mocking, multiple Tony award winning show created by the same guys who brought you...wait for it...South Park. Since my tip about going to the daily lottery had lead his name to be entered into the drawing for this special performance, he thought it was only obvious that he would take me along. It was not, however, so obvious to me. Me- "I can't believe you won those tickets?!" Chris- "yeah! It's on July 1st at 2p. It's general seating though so there will be a line. And if they try to make me work I swear to God...", Me- "soooooooooooo- who are you taking?" Chris- "You, dumbass. I think that's only fair!" He showed up at my door around 11 am and I cooked us a quick lunch. After he spewed a string of verbal attacks on the city that I recently decided to call my home, I made him promise to spend the day noticing and remembering the charm of the city, and we were off. As we followed the line from the doors of the theater to it's end, I ran into one person from almost every sphere of my life. Winners of the fan performance tickets stood in a line that snaked across 50th street, down eighth avenue, east on 49th encompassing an entire city block, had it not ended up switch-backing under the shelter of a hotel parking lot. Claiming aisle seats in row Q of the orchestra, laughing until we cried, and heading down to Union Square for dinner at a cute little place called Chat and Chew, I definitely felt like we had recaptured the charm of the city.
The past week was a whirlwind of auditions, bars, restaurants and Amanda et Alex, my best friend and her husband, in from Paris for five nights. They brought the eldest of her younger brothers, Scott, along with them and the youngest, Jeff, is here for the summer, working as intern at a financial company. My busiest day went something like this: 8:30 wake up, 9:30, work, 5pm done, 45 minutes at TJMAXX for some quick shopping for an upcoming wedding, 7pm dance class, 9:30 home, 10:30 Hiptix party with the cast of Death Takes a Holiday, including my buddy, Mara Davi, midnight to a bar opening, 2:30 in a cab, 3:15 bed. Swap out an audition here and there, or maybe a morning of laundry, a trip to a piano bar, or possibly apartment hunting and you will have a clear depiction of my five days with the Louis'. Today I am so tired my eye is twitching.
Which takes me back to Abigail's comment and my need to recognize when I am doing good things for myself, my career, and my life. My never ending quest for work in the theater and beyond has taken me to Chelsea Studios, Actor's Equity, Pearl Studios, and Ripley Grier more times in the past two months than I would ever describe here. Which, when you think about it, is ironic because this is my "professional blog". Instead I am describing my depression, frustrations, relationships, and daily happenings. Well at least I am doing it in a creative way!
A 1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers Surfaces by Janet Thielke | August 11, 2009 While appearing on Broadway in her Tony-nominated role of Jeanette in The Full Monty in August, 2001, Equity member Kathleen Freeman died of lung cancer. Equity Councillor Jane A. Johnston, a longtime friend and executrix for Ms. Freeman’s estate, later discovered among Ms. Freeman’s papers a document containing A Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers. Ms. Freeman was a daughter of a small time vaudevillian team. Her childhood experience of touring with her parents inspired this Code of Ethics, Ms. Johnston writes. She also notes: “What is particularly interesting about this list of dos and don’ts for the theatre is that it was written in 1945 when Kathleen was establishing one of the first small theatres in Los Angeles and she was 24 years old. I wish I had been told some of ‘the rules’ when I was a young actress instead of having to pick them up as I went along.”
The theatre was the Circle Players (with Charlie Chaplin among its backers), which later evolved into the Players’ Ring. Although there is no record that either company used an Equity contract (they certainly pre-dated the 99-Seat Code in Los Angeles), Ms. Johnston confirms that all the participants were professionals.
Foreword to the Code
“A part of the great tradition of the theatre is the code of ethics which belong to every worker in the theatre. This code is not a superstition, nor a dogma, nor a ritual which is enforced by tribunals; it is an attitude toward your vocation, your fellow workers, your audiences and yourself. It is a kind of self-discipline which does not rob you of your invaluable individualism.
“Those of you who have been in show business know the full connotation of these precepts. Those of you who are new to show business will soon learn. The Circle Players, since its founding in 1945, has always striven to stand for the finest in theatre, and it will continue to do so. Therefore, it is with the sincere purpose of continued dedication to the great traditions of the theatre that these items are here presented.”
The “rules” follow:
1. I shall never miss a performance.
2. I shall play every performance with energy, enthusiasm and to the best of my ability regardless of size of audience, personal illness, bad weather, accident, or even death in my family.
3. I shall forego all social activities which interfere with rehearsals or any other scheduled work at the theatre, and I shall always be on time.
4. I shall never make a curtain late by my failure to be ready on time.
5. I shall never miss an entrance.
6. I shall never leave the theatre building or the stage area until I have completed my performance, unless I am specifically excused by the stage manager; curtain calls are a part of the show.
7. I shall not let the comments of friends, relatives or critics change any phase of my work without proper consultation; I shall not change lines, business, lights, properties, settings or costumes or any phase of the production without consultation with and permission of my director or producer or their agents, and I shall inform all people concerned.
8. I shall forego the gratification of my ego for the demands of the play.
9. I shall remember my business is to create illusion; therefore, I shall not break the illusion by appearing in costume and makeup off-stage or outside the theatre.
10. I shall accept my director’s and producer’s advice and counsel in the spirit in which it is given, for they can see the production as a whole and my work from the front.
11. I shall never “put on an act” while viewing other artists’ work as a member of an audience, nor shall I make caustic criticism from jealousy or for the sake of being smart.
12. I shall respect the play and the playwright and, remembering that “a work of art is not a work of art until it is finished,” I shall not condemn a play while it is in rehearsal.
13. I shall not spread rumor or gossip which is malicious and tends to reflect discredit on my show, the theatre, or any personnel connected with them-either to people inside or outside the group.
14. Since I respect the theatre in which I work, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to such work or not.
15. I shall handle stage properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.
16. I shall follow rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life (and especially in a business in close contact with the public) when I am in the theatre, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre where I work.
17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.
In addition, the document continued:
“I understand that membership in the Circle Theatre entitles me to the privilege of working, when I am so assigned, in any of the phases of a production, including: props, lights, sound, construction, house management, box office, publicity and stage managing-as well as acting. I realize it is possible I may not be cast in a part for many months, but I will not allow this to dampen my enthusiasm or desire to work, since I realize without my willingness to do all other phases of theatre work, there would be no theatre for me to act in.”
All members of the Circle Theatre were required to sign this document. And they must have-because the theatre, and the group into which it evolved, was successful for many years.
Since the age of sixteen my adventures in music have taken me all over the country. After years of bouncing around I've made Orange County my home. Here are my stories.