The Herald-Dispatch |

Tri-State Theater
Let's discuss upcoming shows, secrets behind the scenes, things you never knew about the theater and why live theater is so darn entertaining.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Happy National Gorilla Suit Day!

Enjoy it, because it's our silliest holiday.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So You Want To Put On A Show... (Part 2)

OK, so you’ve tracked down enough money to do a show. Now you have to answer the musical question: which show? Of course, the amount of money can determine the kind of show - if you have lots of money, you can tackle a big-name musical, and if you have limited funds, you might want to try a small non-musical. Budget constraints can also affect the size of your set, the kind of costumes you’ll be able to use and what stage effects you can incorporate.

You also have to consider the talent pool you have available. If you need a cast of 30 kids and only five show up for auditions, you’re in trouble. If you need a dozen guys to play the brothers of Joseph (“and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”) and only five guys show up, you’re in trouble. If you need singers and none are available... well, you get the idea.

You have to consider the auditorium you’re using. If you’re putting on a show at a small theatre, you don’t want to tackle a show with a big cast and a huge set. Likewise, if you’re in a big auditorium, you don’t want to stage a “small” show, where the actors get lost in the expanse.

The most important question you have to answer is: why are you staging this show? Is it for artistic expression? Do you want (or need) to make money? Do you want a show that will provide a great experience for the performers, or are you more concerned about bringing in a big crowd? Is it a show you’ve always loved and just want to be part of?

There are lots of reasons to choose a particular show, but it’s the next vital step in putting on a performance. Once you’ve decided on your show, you're almost ready to start. But first, you’re going to need help.

Next: Assembling a team.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Grease is the Word

Well, I did my duty and watched "Grease: You're the One That I Want" on NBC tonight. For those who don't know, the show gives the viewers the chance to vote for the leads for the upcoming Broadway production of "Grease." They're fighting it out for the parts of Danny and Sandy, played in the film version by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Olivia was a guest on tonight's show, and she looks great - I've always been crazy about her. (Don't tell my wife!)

I was certainly impressed by Derek Keeling, whose hometown is listed as Charleston, WV. I thought he was from Scott Depot? Still, he was the first singer on the stage (after an opening group number), and he was terrific.

The show itself is obviously an "homage" to "American Idol," using the same format for performances, the same number of judges and the same incredibly enthusiastic audience. The hosts I could do without - they're a bit plastic for my tastes - but the performers are all very talented. Since I came in on the middle, I'm not at all familiar with the performers, so I don't find myself as hooked on this show as I am on "Idol," but since it's theatre-related I'll hang with it.

I certainly like Derek's chances - he's a handsome guy who certainly looks the part of Danny, and he has a great voice and a strong stage presence - he was working the crowd.

We'll keep you updated as the show rolls along.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Auditions - The Music Man

Auditions are coming up next week for 5th Avenue Theatre's "The Music Man." They'll take place at the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium in Huntington's City Hall over two days: Saturday, Feb. 3 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 4 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Be prepared to sing a song (or part of a song) that's no more than one minute long. Good luck!

Oh, and to jog your memory, here's a clip from the recent Disney version of the musical with Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On Stage Tonight - 'night, Mother

Theatre students at Marshall are putting on a show tonight - and the proceeds go to a good cause.

'night, Mother is directed by Courtney Susman and will be presented in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theater in the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse at 8:00 p.m. It's the story of a young woman who tells her mother she's decided to commit suicide.

The show is free, but a donation will be taken up for victims of the Emmons Jr. apartment building fire. You can read more about it here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Holiday We're Mad About

It has nothing to do with local theatre, but just for fun, here's a preview of the greatest holiday you never heard of:

Hat tip to my pal Mark Evanier for the graphic - you can read all about this holiday here.

Quick Hits

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to see the Marshall Artist Series presentation of "Wonderful Town" last night. If you saw it, drop us a line and let us know what you thought. You can see a dozen photos from the show at the Herald-Dispatch's nifty Photo Gallery.

In other news, I'm told that the planned production of "The Quilters" ran into some unforeseen obstacles, so the show will be postponed until the Spring of 2008.

"Cats" rehearsals are continuing, and even though they've only been practicing for a few weeks, the cast sounds amazing, and the dancing is awesome. I'm predicting people are going to love this one! (You heard it here first.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Grease: You're the One That I Want

Since I write this blog about theatre, I should probably be watching the new reality show based on casting the leads for the new Broadway revival of "Grease" - but for some reason I haven't caught it yet. (There's so much TV and so little time.)

I didn't realize a "local boy" was in the running - there's a story about it here.

I'll have to check Angela Henderson's blog about TV (click on the "Stay Tuned" blog over there on the right of this page) to see if she's been following it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

So You Want To Put On A Show...

What does it take to put on a local production? Lots of things: determination, time, effort, people to help - the list goes on and on. But it really comes down to some basics, and that's what we'll be talking about here over the next week.

So assuming you're willing to tackle the job, what do you need first? That's easy: money. In fact, you'll probably need more money than you might expect. That's because putting on a show - even the most modest local performance - takes quite a bit of money. Shows can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to upwards of $100,000 - and remember, I'm talking about community theatre productions here. Broadway productions routinuely run into millions of dollars.

So why is it so expensive? Well, you have to pay to rent the hall (depending on how many days you need it) - it can costs several thousand dollars to rent a theatre for two weekends. You need to pay for the right to use almost every play in existence - again, that can run from a few hundred for a tiny show to several thousand for the more recent (and popular) shows.

And that's just the beginning - there are costumes to be made or rented, a set to be built, props to acquire, rehearsal space, printing costs (for posters and programs) and much more.

All this is why the first job any director or producer faces is coming up with a proposed budget for each show. Then you have to figure out where the money is coming from. Then you can start working on the show.

Next: Picking a show

Thursday, January 18, 2007

On Stage - Wonderful Town

Coming up Jan. 22 (Monday) at 8:00pm at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center is the latest Marshall Artists Series presentation - it's the musical "Wonderful Town."

You can learn more about it right here.

It's a great show - after all, it won the Tony for Best Musical when it premiered in 1953. It was revived on Broadway in 2002 and ran for two years. You'd better order those tickets before they sell out!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MLK Performance

Well, a couple of months blogging and I've already dropped the ball - I missed the announcement about a special performance that was part of the 14th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium at Marshall.

If you missed it, too, there's a nice story recapping the event here. You'll also find a link to a photo gallery.

Sorry about that!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tragic Fire

So the whole family is sitting around the house Saturday night around 11:00pm and my oldest son's cell phone rings - it's a friend, telling him that he just heard that the Emmons Apartment Building in downtown Huntington is on fire - and that's where my son's apartment is. We rushed downtown and found that the building next to his - the Emmons Junior Apartment Building - was the one on fire. (The two buildings aren't attached, and are separated by a narrow courtyard.

A terrible scene, as bad as any I've seen in Huntington (and I went to lots of fires in the early '80s as a TV news photographer) - at least seven people were killed, maybe more. My son was lucky - his building was spared, and his apartment has only minor smoke damage.

Check your smoke detectors, everyone!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Auditions for "Quilters"

Didn't I tell you that auditions would be coming up soon?

This Saturday (January 13) from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School) is holding auditions for "Quilters," a musical by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek. Roles are available for seven women between the ages of 16 to 60 (sorry, guys). That's all the information I have so far, but presumably you'll want to be prepared to sing a short song at the audition.

And they're not wasting any time - rehearsals will begin next Monday night. Good luck! (I never bought into that "Break a Leg" stuff.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back in Town

I'm back after a little jaunt to Washington, DC for some corrective surgery on my left eye (fear not - it went well and didn't hurt a bit, other than my hotel bill).

I didn't get to take in any shows while in the capitol, but wife Jeanette and I did visit the National Portrait Gallery - and was it ever amazing! We spent more than two hours and didn't get past the first floor! It's filled to the brim with amazing artwork and paintings that you've seen in many books (or, in the case of a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, on actual currency). You could spend days in there and still not see everything. If you get the chance, pay it a visit!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Second Act

For most theatre groups, this is the time of year that they get started on the second half of their season. Like the school year, they start in the fall and stage one or two shows before the end of the year.

Now it's time to start the second act of their season, so it's time for auditions and rehearsals. Since it takes four to 10 weeks from auditions to the first performance to get a show ready (depending on how complex it is and how much rehearsal time you have available), you'll start seeing shows sometime in late February or March.

"CATS" is already way ahead of the game - because it's such a dance-intensive show, they had auditions months ago, and have already held several dance rehearsals. If you'd like to be involved in a show, keep your eyes open - those audition notices should be showing up in the paper anytime now (and I'll try to mention them here, too).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Getting Into Local Theatre - Part 7

(In which your author finally ends this series about how he found himself involved in local theatre. To recap, his sons started acting in local shows, which led good ol’ Dad to helping with sound, then producing, then acting, and finally directing.)

The auditions for "A Christmas Story" (in 2001) were amazingly easy. If someone had looked at every kid in the Tri-state area, I doubt they could have found a group of young actors more perfectly suited to their parts.

Chuck Herndon was perfect in the lead role of Ralphie, the boy who wants a BB Gun for Christmas. It’s a tough role to play because the young actor spends a lot of the play complaining and scheming, but the audience must always be sympathetic to him. Chuck did a fantastic job in the part (and he was the first lead to memorize his lines).

As his friends, Flick and Schwartz, Clint Wilson and Taylor Miller made a great team. Flick is the comic relief - he’s the one who gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole, and he’s always getting roughed up by the bully - Clint was perfect for the part - his comic timing was (and still is) excellent. Schwartz is the anchor of the group - dry and very funny, and Taylor nailed it perfectly.

Ralphie’s little brother Randy was played by Shawn Crews, and he was terrific - he played the role of the quirky (but very funny) little brother, and nailed it.

One pivotal role is that of the bully, Scut Farkas, and to fill the part we cast a young man who was the exact opposite of the character. Andrew LaCara is not at all menacing in real life, but I knew he could act out the role to perfection, and still wring every last laugh out of it - and he did.

For the role of Miss Shields (the teacher) we cast Ingrid Olson, one of only two young actors to play the part of an adult. She did a great job balancing the stern disciplinarian with the sillier fantasy roles the teacher plays (at one point she doubles as the Wicked Witch of the West).
The other young actor who played the part of an adult was Michael Moore, who doubled as both the wicked Black Bart and a neighbor who admires the legendary leg lamp.

As the "love interest" for Ralphie we had Esther Jane, sweetly played by the talented Sarah Hayes in one of her earliest roles. Her best friend is Helen, played by Anna Fahrman, a talented actor who was great as the incredibly smart but equally tough friend who looks out for Esther Jane.

Robyn Welch and Kelsey Bellamy were great as the grouchy elves. Filling out the roles of the classmates (and assorted extras) were Owen Reyolds, Hailey Bellamy, Sarah Bledsoe, Sara Crews, Hanna Elliot, Kaytlin Hall, Zack Spaulding and Ellen Weed.

So the cast was assembled, and six weeks of rehearsals began in the friendly confines of the First United Methodist Church. But where were we going to stage the show?

For a "small" show - which is to say, a non-musical with a cast of about 25 actors - "A Christmas Story" has a big set. (And kudos to Jack Welch and Jerry Morse who built the huge set together, with some help from assorted parents.) You have to re-create the home of the family, with a kitchen, living room and Ralphie’s bedroom, you need a classroom and Santa’s throne (with a slide, of course). We’d need a big stage to handle that - and were amazed when we were offered the best stage in the city.

Lang Reynolds, the dean of Marshall University’s Department of Theatre, gave us an early Christmas present - he offered to let us use the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center to stage our show at a very reasonable price. I was stunned - the only time First Stage had been at that facility was when we were part of the production of "Oliver" with Marshall (we provided the kids - they did everything else). It was an incredibly generous gesture and we didn’t hesitate to take them up on their offer.

And not only were we allowed to use their stage, they also provided the tech crew. James Morris-Smith, Deb Carder-Deem and Kevin Bannon were amazingly generous as they trained our young tech crew and allowed them to operate their state-of-the-art equipment. It was an invaluable experience for our young tech crew, which included stage manager Emily Asbury, Peter LaCara on lights, Evan Minsker on sound effects, Griffin McElroy on props, and stage crew Laura LaCara, Nicole Gray and Rachel Bailey (apologies to anyone I'm forgetting to include). I’ll always be grateful to everyone at Marshall for their generosity and kindness to our cast and crew. It was an amazing experience.

And that’s the funny thing about theatre - sometimes the breaks all go your way and you end up with a great show and an unforgettable experience. That’s exactly how it was with "A Christmas Story" - the show went off virtually without a hitch, the cast was amazing, the audiences appreciative, and it actually made money for First Stage - it was a great experience and really rewarding.

I should also mention that it would never have happened without tons of help from the First Stage board members and the family and friends of our actors - not to mention the producing team of Clint McElroy, Jerry Morse, Tom Hastie and Bev Miller, who saved my neck many times over.

It was the first show that was really "mine." I was hooked - and I’ve been involved with local theatre groups ever since.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You...

Lots of shows are on tap for the next few months - here are the ones I know about offhand:

CATS - In March 2007 First Stage Theatre will present the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on stage at Huntington’s City Hall. (I listened in to some of the rehearsal the other night, and I was impressed - the cast, made up of the most talented teens in the Tri-State, are going to amaze and impress audiences.)

I Hate Hamlet - Marshall’s Dept. of Theatre offers a different look at Shakespeare when they stage this production Feb. 21 - 24. The word on this show is: don’t miss it!

The Musical Arts Guild is planning a Choral Presentation in March (we’ll tell you more about it as information becomes available).

Fifth Avenue Theatre Co. will present The Music Man in April (I think) at the City Hall auditorium.

The Marshall Artists Series has a couple of top-notch shows coming up: Wonderful Town on Jan. 22 and several performances of Menopause: The Musical beginning Feb. 27.

Marshall’s Music Department will present an opera performance March 2 and 3, 2007. I’m not sure which opera they’re doing yet, but I know it’ll be tremendous.

All that and much more (as they say on TV). We’ll do our best to update those show dates and times as we get a little closer to showtime - but it’s shaping up to be a great spring for shows!


Happy New Year!

The holidays are over, so life (and blogging) should return to normal. Lots of shows are coming up this year, and I'll have a (more or less) complete list posted here as soon as I track down my notes. (Some things never change.)

Hope you had a great holiday!