Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lillie Richardson - BLOG #2 - "Dream Roles"

Last week was tech which meant we were stuck with each other for 10 hours a day. During our two hour dinner breaks some of us would eat together. I made it clear that I wanted a gourmet burger for dinner last Thursday. Since it was payday most people agreed to join me for a delicious meal at a wonderful restaurant in the Arizona center called “1130”. I tell you what…they make the BEST hamburgers and French dip. So, as we ate I asked each person at the table what their “dream role” would be and here are the answers.

Natalie Ellis wishes to play the Witch in “Into the Woods”. I can totally see that, especially after she plays Alfaba in Wicked on Broadway!

Dion wants to play George “Sunday in the Park”. I can’t wait to see that!

Beau Heckman wants to play the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera”. I think that role is just around the corner for Beau.

Robbie Harper’s dream role is Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors”. Can’t you just see Robbie in that role? When he mentioned it, the whole table let out a resounding “yes!”

But he also wants to play Lloyd in “Noises Off”.

David Rogers want to play Javet in “Les Miserables” and the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera”. He certainly has the power in his voice for both roles!

Those were the only cast members at the table but I would like to know what the dream roles of the other cast members are too. Maybe they will blog their answers.

I already know that Casey Likes (Tiny Tim) will be famous director some day. I certainly hope he has my headshot and resume on file.

Rafe Arlotti - Peter Cratchit BLOG #2

To revise a line from the show: "This show is a bother." An expensive, inconvenient affair that doubles my work, jangles my nerves, and reminds me, between the battles, how very blessed I am with these people. I never consider myself wealthy until I rise before this hearth each year. I gaze into the fire-lit faces of the actors I love, talented, helpful, and generous, and I am embarrassed by my riches. “Believe that the world is yours. Measure your riches by what you can give. Look to find hope in the hope you can offer. And know that, so long as you bring the world goodness, there is no hardship or obstacle you cannot overcome.” Merry Christmas to everyone! God bless us! “God bless us, everyone!”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Maxx Carlisle-King (Young Scrooge)

This show (A Christmas Carol) has been so much fun. Everyone is so nice and friendly. I am honored to be working with such fantastical actors.

I’m glad that everyone is patient with me when I am learning dances, songs, and lines…I’m kinda slow (tee-hee) so yeah.

Oh wait!!! I have been having fun on breaks casting an imaginary production of RENT! It is also a great cast starring everyone in this show…Lillie Richardson will be playing Joanne (she told me to say that). I am Mimi! I LLLLLOVE this show and everyone in it. Yay! Ok. Peace, Love, GaGa!!! (ed note: Lady Gaga for the uninitiated.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keilani Akagi - Belinda Cratchit

“Boo!” A smile creeps across my face as I watch the bewildered faces of people passing by. Their perplexed expressions seem to ask, “It is December, right? Who would yell ‘Boo!’ on Christmas?” I walk past them and my smile grows bigger as I picture David Barker in his multicolored coat of ribbons. I rush towards the doors at the end of the hall ready for another wonderful Christmas.

This is my third year returning to this wonderful production as Belinda Cratchit and I enjoy it more each year! It’s wonderful to walk into rehearsal and greet the friends of Christmases past, meet the friends of Christmas present, and exhilarating to think about the cast of Christmas yet to come. This year we had many new people coming to join the cast and it has been a pleasure to get to know each and every one of them.

There are six young performers in this production who are brimming with energy, maybe a little too much at times! This year Casey (Tiny Tim) and I were the only two kids to return this year and we were eager to meet the new kids who would join us. They have been AMAZING! I remember my first year how overwhelmed I was by how fast we were learning an entire show. They have done a phenomenal job! We have a strict rehearsal schedule and those who are new must learn their part as fast as they can. All the new cast members (kids and adults) have been absolutely delightful and have contributed fun filled memories to make another wonderful Christmas!

Now that I’ve mentioned the new cast members, the older cast members deserve just as much recognition. They bring joy, happiness and energy to every rehearsal and performance that…“Place please! Places please for top of show!” Well I suppose I must be off, time for our first run through! Lots of muffled kafuffle going on and if it gets too loud, well…“EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM NOW!” Merry Christmas, happy New Year, keep the season warm and bright!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rafe Arlotti - Peter Cratchit

Where would your average 16-year-old be over Thanksgiving weekend? -- Probably at the movies, mall, or any number of social settings. Black Friday, however, brought not a race to the stores for shopping, but a race to Herberger Center Stage to an eight-hour rehearsal. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! A sprained ankle impeded my dancing capabilities, but Christmas cheer was in full flourish. Being in a show like this brings so much warmth into one’s heart, like a steaming mug of cocoa on a cold day. It is my debut show with Actors Theatre, and it has been a whirlwind adventure so far. I remember Matthew said at the first rehearsal: “We’re throwing you right into the deep end, and you will swim.” And swim we did! Everyone helps you out and is ready to offer a helping hand. And some of them have been doing it since the show first began! It is an amazing journey and I certainly cannot wait till December 12th and Opening Night.

P.S. Alan Ruch is a genius.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

by Kiana "Kiki" Brown - age 12 - playing "Fan"

A Christmas Carol is so much fun! We have so much to do in such little time. I am a new-comer so I sometimes take the wrong steps, for instance, when I left my mug dirty on the counter after rehearsal and it was put in the “mug punishment area”. Of course there are many people that help me through the long journey: Keilani is a great help in the dances, Sally Jo in the alto section, and Robbie, April, Matthew, and Alan for directing me. I give a “thanks” to them. People have begun getting nick-names, like Rafe is called Rif-Raff, named so by Lillie. And Robbie has his signature reason for assigning a dance move -- Baby Jesus. “Baby Jesus on top of the Christmas tree” and “Rock the Baby Jesus” are two of his dance moves. He also tells me to move the imaginary fire from under the imaginary Christmas tree many times. And of course the classic move “flappa-flappa-down.” It is a joy to work in A Christmas Carol, and thanks cast for being the best ever.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gene Ganssle (Fred) - or is it Mr. Fred? (see Lillie Richardson's character name below)

Back into rehearsal...
It never gets old for me. This is my twelfth season with this production, and I cannot believe how we get back into the groove so quickly!
No matter how warm Phoenix is around Thanksgiving, you can't help but be caught up in the spirit when this show begins work.
This year, we have a bunch of new people, but they have stepped up and will be so wonderful that it is amazing.
They have a tall order to learn complicated dancing, songs and their lines in a "remount" schedule of two weeks. Woof.
But we sound better and have a fresh energy that will make this time around even better for our audiences.
Stay healthy, take time to rest, and enjoy the beauty and joy of the season!

Gene Ganssle (Fred)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

From Lillie Richardson - "Mrs. Fred"

As an old-timer in the Christmas Carol has been fun to get to know the new people in the cast. And I love meeting new people. Anyone who knows me...also know how I LOVE my friends. And I love the opportunity to have a new conversation.

So, I had lunch with Raif (I call him riff-raff), Mike Lawler, Beau and Gene Gansele Friday and we were talking about working out. Mike shared with us that he ran into Cale Epps when he went to work out at the YMCA, that morning and Cale invited him to join him in his yoga class. Mike said it was the hardest work out he has ever done! And Mike has been working out for a LONG time...ya know, with weights and everything. So, I asked Riff-Raff if he has ever done yoga. I knew he played sports and he looks like he is in pretty good shape. He said he has been doing yoga since he was three years old. "What"?! We all exclaimed!
He said it was part of his spiritual upbringing! "Awesome!", I replied. I totally get into anything spiritual. I just know I am going to like this kid!

Okay, so I had another insightful conversation with another "new" cast member. I was talking to Dion and asking him what it felt like to be new in this cast. He said that he has always been the returning cast member for years in Quiltmakers Gift as the king and now he knows what the new members of that cast must have felt like...year after year joining their cast. So he said he chuckles when members of our cast are assigned something new to do or a line is changed because then they have to work too!
Then I asked if he has observed any "divas" in the group. And he said he has noticed a few. And I asked if I was one. And he said he didn't really want to say. So, Dion thinks I am a "Diva".
Hey, I take that as a compliment. Not all divas are bad...they are just confident!
Thanks for the compliment Dion! We are going to have a blast!!!!!
Next blog, I will tell you about meeting miss Kiki
That's it for now,
Lillie Richardson
Kathyrn (Scrooge's nephew's wife)

Monday, December 7, 2009

David Rodgers - playing The Miner - on being "The New Guy"

This past Monday I was invited to become part of a new family, I’m now a new actor in the tradition that dates back a millennium (okay maybe not that long, but it goes back into LAST millennium) called Actors Theatre's Christmas Carol. The tradition is part of my real family too. My father, Ralph Rodgers, managed the Promised Valley Theater in Salt Lake City when I was young. As a teenager I played Peter Cratchet, as a young man I played Bob Cratchet. Dad always played Scrooge. Even the Christmas before he passed away, in 1995, he played the part from a wheelchair, making me cry for the hundredth when he sang “I’ll Begin Again.” So you can imagine how excited I was to be invited to join other friends in a new Christmas Carol tradition, coupled with the fact that I would be performing Dicken’s icy story in a place I could wear shorts and flip flops while driving to the December rehearsals.

What I didn’t realize was that the entire cast had, apparently, already plotted to haze the new guy. First rehearsal, Monday November 23, the cast gathered around a large square of tables to read and sing through the script. I’m one of the new guys, I have a name tag saying “Dave,” and I’m seated next to David Barker, a friend and ASU theater professor. We start and Director Matthew Weiner welcomes everyone, including the “newbies.” He points out that the new people have never seen the script or score before, but that we’re just going to be thrown into the water – he hopes we can swim. Swim? I’m about to become a Jack Dawson ice cube. Nice innocent little set up Mr. Benedict Arnold.

Off we go. First song. Third line into the first song, I’m supposed to sing-- but no one told me. So third line in, 3 minutes into rehearsal, I cause the first stoppage in work. Everyone stares; no one says “here, I’ll sing it with you.” Nope, just stares from the veterans. “Did you get the sheet there Dave?” Uh, no. “Oh yes, you did, it’s conveniently buried in the reams of paper we gave you.” Fine. I’ll be the new guy.

Three pages later, the Gent’s are going to sing a duet, yeah, me and another new guy; just a little two-line phrase. Easy, huh? I’ve sung before, but no. This little two-line phrase looks like some composer has dumped every single hard note and accidental symbol onto the page. It looks like an old comic book swear word of punctuation marks. It’s like four key changes and thirteen sharps and flats over the course of ten words (yeah, I know there aren’t that many … but this was my first time). The composer, Alan Ruch, who is also our music director, is sitting in the corner with the look of Putty Tat just after Tweety Bird vanished into his mouth. I’m not saying anything, but I swear I saw a little yellow feather on the corner of his lips -- just sitting there, watching the torture proceed. Very slight grin. I try singing the line, which was like trying a Japanese reality show obstacle course. After waiting an appropriate amount of time for the torture to settle, Alan says “it’s actually the same tune as ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story.” I look at the line again and think to myself “yeah, dude, if this is how you feel ‘pretty’
you’re as demented as your chord structures.” Yes, three pages into the show and I’m 2 for 48 in getting the notes right. I’m a bigger loser than the Clippers.

But then the real fun starts during Christmas present. This guy next to me, David Barker, is going to reprise his role as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He’s a friend of mine; we play golf sometimes. Well, he’s got this line where he yells “Boo” as loud as he can, then cackles a hyena laugh. And I’m right next to him. Oh, and he’s a professional actor. He can support his yells. A lot. And of course my ear is right next to his mouth. In fact, I swear I saw him lean a bit to the right (I was sitting on his republican side). And trust me, I know how hard it is for him to lean to the right, considering that he’s already politically to the right of Glen Beck. But he leaned just for me. Thanks. And how many times does he yell this “BOO” – for comic effect, of course over the course of a few pages? You might guess three times, cause anything isn’t funny after three times, right? No no no no, you’d be wrong grasshopper. Six times? You’re still cold. Ten times? Oh no, this “BOO” joke goes on and on and on and on. Ever had a meat tenderizer pound your eardrum? What about Mike Tyson?

Now I’ve thought about this and I’m convinced that Barker was hazing the new guy. He picked my seat for me, and there is no way in Provo that the Ghost of Christmas Present actually says “Boo” for comic effect that many times. No way. I mean, how many times can you tell the same joke. No, I’m convinced that Barker sat up all night re- writing that part of the script to add in 43 more Boo’s just so he could keep yelling in my ear. You have to remember that Barker and I play golf … for money. BIG BIG money. Well, okay, enough money for the winner to buy a handful of fancy French beans, but to us it’s big. So he wasn’t just doing his part -- he was conditioning me. Just once, when I go to hit a golf ball, he’s going to whisper “BOO,” just loud enough for me to hear, and my ball will go sailing toward El Paso. Kerching kerching. My golf swing will never be the same. He’s cheating, I tell ya.

Even the Director got into the act. The next rehearsal, with everyone watching from the wings, Matthew had me and one other new guy practice funny walks across the stage. “Here, hold a stop watch, stare at it, and do a funny walk across the stage.” Huh? Really? Yes sir! He even referenced Monty Python’s Ministry of Funny Walks. “Go ahead, just come up with funny walks.” So with everyone watching, we tried different speedy walks across the stage. Happy, legs kicking, low- head-down walks, slow, fast, dorky, -- everything but Nathan Lane doing John Wayne -- everything. I did happen to notice how everyone was watching and snickering. Hmmmmm, even the Director in on the hazing -- Et tu Brute?

Don’t think the Choreographer was innocent either. Robby Harper, my friend Robbie Harper from Producers, was in on it too. Yep. See, me and the other new guy have a little song and dance routine in an English Pub – with food. We sing about our food. Snoopy stand aside! And I was okay with holding a plate of food and singing about wonderful eats, that’s pretty much type casting. It's a cute little song. I mean, it's not Putting on the Ritz from Young Frankenstein (and neither is my dancing), but it's not bad.

But then Robbie went on and on about what side of the plate the asparagus was supposed to be on. You got it. If the asparagus isn’t on the correct side, critics will pan the show. He kept on and on and on about the precise location and positioning of a little sprig of asparagus. And it wasn’t even asparagus, it was a freaking artichoke! But no, we had to rehearse and rehearse to satisfy Robbie that we had the asparagus on the correct side of the plate. But I’m not too dumb, I could see Alan and others sitting in the corner, again with that Putty Tat grin on his face. Funny dudes.

Now I’m quite sure that after we leave, these veterans sit around and talk about the hazing. Yep, “did you see how we got the new guys to do the goofy walks,” or “try to sing that alphabet-soup music,” or “pratice the asparagus choreography?” Laugh laugh laugh. Then Barker would say “Boo,” and they’d laugh and laugh again. Nice work there, FRIENDS. I see how it is. But don’t worry, I’ll take the hazing, I’ll take the laughing and the jokes. Robbie, I’ll even try to hold the Aspari-choke on the proper side of the plate. Because this is one family I really want to be a long-term part of. I can’t wait until I get to watch faces of children in the audience laugh and cry at the humor and heartbreak of this wonderful story.

See I get to sing for Christmas this year, like I did as a boy with my Dad. Now that’s a Merry Christmas. Oh, yeah, and for the rookies who come in next year -- have I got plans for you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mr. Fezziwig (Ben Tyler) speaks...

Well here we are again, knee deep in joy and not a cloud on the horizon. Of course that’s not really how things are. I just read in the newspaper today (yes, I’m the one who still does that) that Arizona’s economy is worse than Michigan. Michigan, the poster child of the rust belt, home of Jurassic Park, better known as the automobile industry! But what do we got? Well this is the time of year when people like to point out that you don’t have to shovel sunshine. But in a way it’s too bad that you don’t. It might create some jobs for sunshine shovelers, because what we got is 9.9% unemployment in Arizona. In addition to theatre, I am a teacher or educator, as they now say, or underpaid lackey as we refer to ourselves. And last month I was recently the lucky recipient of a pay cut. What this state spends on education makes me want to put on one of those big foam rubber hands you see people wearing at sporting events, only Arizona’s would need to have 49 fingers on it!

So why all the kvetching? (Sorry, I just finished a show with AZ Jewish Theatre) Well…talking about the bad stuff gets me to the good stuff and that is returning to play Fezzywig for my third year with one of the best theatre companies west of the Mississippi, Actors Theatre. Let me tell you something, acting, if you’re doing it right, is a wonderful mental vacation. All trouble and conflict evaporates. It’s better than any drug, legal or otherwise. And when it’s doing that for the actor, chances are pretty good that it’s doing that for the audience too. Just as some people feel about food, this show is a comfort play for me. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel comfortable and as corny as it may sound, this not a just the company line, it brings me joy. These days I need as much of that as I can get.

We’ve just started rehearsing and April Smith (coincidentally, the best stage manager west of the Mississippi) kicked things off with a warning about spreading H1N1 Flu. We were issued personal sized bottles of hand sanitizers, and there are large vats of it on either end of the rehearsal room complete with diving boards. Then she said a line I will never forget: “The hugging and kissing has got to stop. I know you all love each other, but you’re making each other sick!” I wanted to lick her face at that moment.

So I’ll try to make a good faith effort to keep this up. I believe that is the customary line for every first blog. We are like one big family by the time this show gets on stage, just one big air kissing clan.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

David Barker - The Ghost of Christmas Present (and jokes maybe a little past?)

We have nine new cast members this year! Very unusual (the number, not the actors) and very exciting. I look forward to this show every year. This is my fifth year playing the Ghost of Christmas Present and it never gets old; not even for a moment. This year is particularly rewarding for me since nine people have not heard my jokes yet, and I can't wait to see the sparkles of joy in their eyes and the abdominal convulsions as they respond to my repertoire of comic material.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Carol Blog - from Mike Lawler (Marley's Ghost)

I have a Springer Spaniel named Obie. Best Springer Spaniel in the world. She is a humane society dog. I was lucky to get her. She was 1 ½ when I first did Christmas Carol in 1995 (the old version). After some time away from the show Matthew cast me as Jacob Marley in 2005. Now Obie is 15, this is my 5th year of playing Marley, and yesterday was our first day of rehearsal for the 2009 Christmas Carol. I’m so excited. I love this show.
So, I have the night off from rehearsal. And I’m at home sitting at my dining room table trying to write this blog. I’m trying to figure out how to start. I’m sitting, sitting. And I hear Obie, my Springer, making all this noise. I look over and my 15-year-old dog is walking in circles in the middle of my sofa. Making circles around the same cushion on the sofa figuring out where to sit. I’m thinking: “What are you doing”? She keeps circling, circling. She sees me looking at her and her look back says: “What are you looking at- I’ll know it’s right when I find it”.
That was it! I could identify. That made sense! That’s what Christmas Carol rehearsal feels like to me. Once again going back to this story most of us know so well - and looking, poking, pushing, exploring until it is alive and feels right. And it’s a great story (with a great adaptation). I love rehearsal. I love the discovery, the laughter, and the sorrow. I never get tired of it. We have a great cast. Many of us are returning but we have 9 new members this year. Matthew is a fabulous director - I love watching him break down a scene. Alan Ruch’s music is terrific. I’m proud to be a part of this show and thrilled to be back.
I guarantee you this show will be right and feel right on Dec. 12 opening night. If you have seen it before, come again. Your experience of the show will be new. If you haven’t seen it - just come. You’ll believe like we do.
O.K. Obie has had enough of this blog. She wants some attention. Really she wants a walk. So I gotta run. See you at the theatre!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Impressions from the first day of rehearsal – A Christmas Carol 2009 by Matthew Wiener

1. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day (the movie) - I’ve done this day over and over again. This is my 15th year of directing Xmas Carol, and about the 10th or 11th of this adaptation. Every year it’s the same (I mean we know how it ends) and every year it’s a bit different. The story is the same – but the voices are different – cast changes and all. And I suppose I am different too – just not sure how.

2. This show works like a well oiled machine. And the first day is no different. Name tags. Introductions. Housekeeping. The bathrooms are out the door and to the left. Talking about safety. Talking about health – this year we gave everyone their very own bottle of hand sanitizer! There will be no H1N1 in this cast! Talking about Dickens. Talking about this adaptation. Trying to say something profound. Trotting out the old lines: “This play is about reminding us we all have the ability to change our own lives and in doing so; change the lives of those around us”. Yeah. Sounds good. That’s it.

3. And then the read/sing through. It starts tentatively, timidly. The returning cast members try to find the groove. The new cast members (especially the younger performers) have no idea what’s going on. Kim Bennett, our Scrooge for the past many years, starts off-book and quickly picks up his script, scrambling for his glasses. The opening number is kind of quite – “What part do I sing?” and “How does that go again?” and “Oh, that’s where we do the sotto voce thing!”

4. The Ghost of Xmas Past is a metaphor for the entire moment. “Marley is dead” – yeah, we know. Dead as a doornail. And like Marley we bring this story back from the dead with every page of the script.

5. The music starts to bring us together. The score, by Alan Ruch, is very special. Difficult but special. As each number goes by the musical motifs for the show start to re-accumulate in our collective memories. And our muscle memories. Oh yes, I remember that. The Crow’s Nest number – which we all think is goofy – has everyone tapping their feet, bopping their heads – and smiling. And then The Travels – the most striking trio. We thrill to the memory of what that number can be. We can’t help but applaud – a little. And Silent Night. A carol sung in the key of JOY. The moment that on stage can stop an audience from breathing – or so it seems.

6. Lines start to jump out. “If they would rather die, they had better do it! And decrease the surplus population!” “Bah! Humbug” “Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” “Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen.” “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” Dickens really did know how to write.

7. Jot notes to myself. Rehearse the Joy. Lean Forward. Athletic Acting. Double up on Echinacea. Smile. Believe. Make a Joyful Noise. Wash your hands. Hit the Verbs.

8. 92 minutes. And we’re done. And we’re just starting. Again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's not a disaster flick...

End of the world, doomsday scenarios are nothing new.
Especially when the stock market collapses as it did recently.
It’s no wonder boom is the most produced show regionally this season.
It’s something that’s on people’s minds for sure…
“What if everything I thought I could count on…was wrong? And I can’t?”
Fortunately for us, boom doesn’t wallow in the seriousness of all that.
Fortunately for us, it’s told by an insanely inventive and hilariously funny playwright.
And not by the people who brought the world Deep Impact.
My apologies to anyone who actually dug this movie…
But if there’s one question I’ve been asked more than any other after people hear the
synopsis…it’s invariably “OH! So it’s like Deep Impact! But funny?!?”
We have lots of booze…and Cathy Dresbach.
Deep Impact has Ensure (you know what I’m talking about if you saw it)…and Tea Leoni.
We soooooo win.
Seriously…I know the end of the world doesn’t exactly sound like fodder for a laugh riot.
But if you still think that…
You probably just haven’t seen boom yet.
So what are you waiting for?
It’s the perfect solution for your “My boyfriend dressed up as a pregnant Heidi Klum for Halloween and it didn’t go over well and how will I ever find happiness again?” conundrum.
Plus there’s a timpani.
Seriously…how bad can that be?
Hope to see you at the theatre!
p.s. the only significance of the picture i used is because it makes me happy. it will make you happy, too...if you come see :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To pee or not to pee

An opening night haiku:

No intermission

Must pee before “places” call

Timing is crucial

There are many, many things that require concentration and attention on opening night. Lines, of course; props, costume, hair and make-up; last minute notes from the director; awareness of the audience's response (don’t want to step on any laughs); microphone placement; telling the story as we rehearsed it. All cylinders must be firing.

I can say from personal experience that nothing turns your brain to mush faster than a full bladder. I have my pre-show toilet routine down to a science. At ½ hour before curtain, I put on my make-up, curl my hair, and get dressed. At 15 minutes, I’m stretching, warming up vocally, maybe running a few lines. When the stage manager calls “5 minutes”, I am in the bathroom. Then we go to places.

On this particular opening night, Matthew Wiener gave his curtain speech… and then came the dreaded announcement: “We’re holding for technical difficulties.” NOOOO!!! 5 minutes pass… 10 minutes. Should I return to my dressing room and go again? Can’t risk it. (Dang, I shouldn’t have had that iced tea with dinner.)Before full-blown panic sets in, the curtain goes up. I climb the stairs to my position on stage. The show begins. The lights are hot… my mouth is dry. Sweet dehydration! I can do this after all.
by Cathy Dresbach

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kerry's Confidential

So glad to be back! This will be my fourth production for Actors Theatre and it’s shaping up to be really fabulous. I have played a lot of quirky characters but they are all so different and special. When I played Izzy last spring in “Rabbit Hole,” I enjoyed being the comic relief in such a dramatic show. “Boom” is more darkly hilarious with physical comedy that is right up my alley. I have drawn inspiration from the shows I watched as a kid: Carol Burnett, early Saturday Night Live, and Monty Python.

“Boom” was my top pick for all the local shows this season and I am so grateful and proud to be a part of it. I found myself laughing out loud when I read the script, high praise from a jaded old bird like me. In rehearsal we can be talking about The Rapture one minute, and “crumping” the next. There is never a dull moment. I love the fact that the playwright studied both science and theatre in college. As the child of a biologist and an artist, it is a comfortable blend for me.

It is also a pleasure to work with Ron May every chance I get. We have a long, happy history that includes Stray Cat Theatre and Nearly Naked Theatre. Our last show together was “Augusta” here at Actors Theatre several years ago. It is a real luxury working with a director that you can trust completely. I feel like everything he touches turns to gold, and he makes sure everything I do is genuine and nothing is false. It frees me as an actor to try anything and push the boundaries.

I am also lucky to have such great cast members. Cathy Dresbach and I worked together previously in “Kindertransport” at the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company. She is lovely, whether she is being serious or funny, and in this show she’s seriously funny. Sam Wilkes and I are working together for the first time, something we’ve both been looking forward too. I loved him in the many shows I’ve seen him in and I’m so glad our theatrical paths finally crossed. I can’t wait to share our hard work with the audiences. Hold on to your hats and glasses, it’s gonna be a wild ride!

- by Kerry McCue

Monday, October 12, 2009

Through the fish bowl

Actors Theatre at The Herberger. I still can’t believe it. I can remember seeing Angels in America and feeling like I couldn’t even imagine doing a show there. So many incredible actors. Such an amazing set. It had a serious impact on me. I didn’t know who any of the actors were at the time, but I knew that I wanted to be where they were.

I’ve worked with Ron on a few shows before and I was really excited when I was able to audition for this show. I was even more excited when I was able to read with Kerry McCue at auditions. She’s the type of actor who is not concerned with boundaries. She’s willing to take risks and have fun in auditions to make sure she gets the part. When we read together, it felt right. We got into a rhythm and it was a lot of fun. Shortly after callbacks, we got our offers and I was insane with anticipation. I love being directed by Ron, I loved seeing Kerry in everything she’s done, and to top it all off, Cathy Dresbach was cast in the show; one of the actors I admired so much from Angels in America. I was cast in my first professional show with a team and in a company that I have admired for years.

We recently had our First Rehearsal Party and performed the first part of Boom out on the stage. It was an incredible night for me; on stage in the Herberger. I’m so proud to be here with these people and working around these designers, but no one is prouder than my mom. She called me the other day to say that she was reading an article in the paper and saw “the H word” and started to cry with pride. The H word? It took me a second to realize that she meant Herberger. It may seem silly, but she knows how much it means to me and because of that, it means a lot to her. She’s going to be there crying all the way through a comedy on opening night, and I just may have to cry a little bit too.
- by Sam Wilkes

Monday, September 21, 2009

100% + 10

Hugh Butternut, the character I play in Triple Espresso, has been alive for about 14 years, and I have let him out of his cage about 3,000 times to entertain audiences all over the world.

The number one question I get is “How do you keep from getting bored? How do you do a show that many times? Are you insane?” I know, that’s three questions, but they all have the same point. What’s the secret?

Take a moment and imagine with me. Let’s say you got together with a few friends over breakfast, and you decided to start an adventure together. Let’s say you, oh I don’t know, wrote a comedy play. Imagine people spending their hard-earned cash to see it, laughing big and telling their friends. Then suppose you’re an actor and you have steady work for over a decade, all because you and your friends had this idea.

You might just be grateful enough to give 110% every night for every audience.

I have had my share of setbacks in life, including 2 bouts of cancer, and so I know how to spot a blessing. God somehow chose this little show to help people feel better. And all I can be is grateful.

And that gratitude extends to Actor’s Theatre, who have chosen to bring us back to blow some cool Minnesota laughter into the Phoenix desert. So I’ll be there every night, letting Hugh out of his cage, giving 110 percent.

- Michael Pearce Donley of Triple Espresso

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A day in the life of the pr gal

My co-worker walks through our slanted doorway, and I greet him with my usual mumble in a foreign language. We have become accustomed to each others grunts. It doesn’t need to go beyond that for a greeting. It’s understood. By this time in my work day, I have checked up on any comments on our Facebook and Twitter sites, fighting any urge to play one of the thousands of games I blame my friends for introducing me to on Facebook. Sometimes, I smile at a clever fan’s post. Other times, I ruminate about what to say next to every one who follows Actors Theatre. As I ponder, I begin to write out my list of “To-Dos” for the upcoming day. At one point at the very start of my public relations tenure at Actors Theatre, I believe I even had time to color coordinate activities by using different colored pens on my “To Do” list…a fact I laugh at with a snicker of someone who knows better then to waste my time doing that. I glance at it, knowing I am missing 10 things, also knowing that 10 more things will be added to the list within the hour by any one of my 5 co-workers. For each press release or photo shoot I cross off, there are other things waiting to take their place…lingering to be done. I am sure I am not the only one who experiences this “list that is never done.” It goes on in business settings everywhere. But somehow, there is a heavy sense of responsibility here with this one, knowing that if I can’t get things done, someone in the family of 6 dedicated, theatre-loving souls, will get screwed. I can’t have that. We can’t have that.
What’s it like working in a small not-for-profit theatre company as the public relations coordinator? What’s a typical day like? No such thing as typical. Playing with the impact of social media and its use in communicating with the public has been an ever-changing road. Countless hours have been spent in meetings determining the best course of action to take. All of it seems relevant. All of it important. When I ask my boss where he would like me to start on the list of “To Dos” he responds, without hesitation, “All of it.” Ok. And when would you like it done? “Yesterday.” Ok again. I get it…in order to stay on top of this ever changing public relations/social media frenzy, you need to be one step ahead of the game. Sometimes I can be. Sometimes, I just want to do a face plant onto my keyboard and take a nap. Again, something I am sure has been felt by people in any business.
So, we trudge on, making noises and talking to ourselves as we pound away a the keyboard or race to the theatre to set up a photo shoot or call the restaurant as we gear up for the Opening Night party. Ahhh, yes. The world of the non-profit-theatre requires you to wear 14 hats in one day. But I am thankful that at least I have something to keep my head warm in these tough times.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bill Blogs

The nice, generous people at the Actors Theater are once again treating this Minnesota guy like royalty! They just sent me my bus ticket, and it looks like after 6 days and 37 stops I will arrive in Phoenix fresh for opening night. It was only a slight bummer the bus doesn't have air conditioning. But the much anticipated return to The Hamburger Theater will feature the original writers and actors of the show. I have done about 3,000 performances with these guys. We like working together, except they hate it when I write my lines on their foreheads. I keep saying," how else am I am supposed to remember them?"
I'm a magician, not Allen Einstein.
Does the show leave an impact? Will you laugh? Will it be memorable?
Not sure for you, but for a couple in Sarasota, Florida... yes! We were at the Asolo Theater in 1997. A couple that attended just recently had a conversation saying, "Honey what would you like to do for your 80th birthday?" She said, "I want to see Triple Espresso
again." So the husband found out we were going to be in Phoenix,
bought two tickets to Arizona, and will be at the opening night with his bride for her 80th birthday present. I hope they adjust their watches so they don't get there 3 hours early.
If you don't know about this show, one critic said, "it's like spending an evening with the Marx Brothers." If you come and don't like the show, bring me your ticket and proof of purchase and I will personally tell you how sorry I am. - Bill Arnold, author of Triple Espresso