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.