Sunday, November 15, 2015

Now It's Time to Say Good Bye...

I started writing this blog post last night as I sat backstage listening to Janelle sing “Kindergarten Boyfriend”. She really rocks that song EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I have so many emotions coming up to this final performance of Heathers the Musical. I’m relieved that I won’t have to worry about keeping my voice healthy. I’m looking forward to getting back into a real life routine again. But, there are so many things I will miss about this beautiful cast and crazy show.

I will miss watching Zach and Alex dancing in the wings before the show and between scenes. Let me just tell you – Zach’s interpretive dance solos in the dark corners of the theater are frighteningly on point. Abby Lee’s crew has nothing on you. Alex, you brought so much color to the stage. Thank you! You calmed my nerves on more than one occasion and made me smile.

Courtney, Madelyn, and Katherine – I will miss watching you beautiful girls get ready to roll nightly – the giggles, the crud convo, the selfies. THE SELFIES. The selfies. You make it all look so easy and that’s the magic, right, because it’s a lot of work I know! Thank you for sharing the dressing rooms with regular bitches like me and bringing the Heathers to life.

DJ, Austin, and Tim – I’ve been so blown away by your vocal talent and presence on stage. You bring energy to every space you inhabit. You’ve taken three relative small roles and made them memorable. I will miss our silent interactions on stage and passing glances. I’m pretty sure that Dwight has become Ms. Fleming’s favorite student and that she’s called social services on Mr. Bitter Geek, DJ. Tim – that pink sweater! Seriously. Do you think it’s my size?

Todd and Jon have been my anchors in this show – my partners in crime. Jon – thank you for the lifts home after rehearsals and shows. Todd – thank you for not freaking out when I’d forget to move the stairs every other performance. I’m sure that was frustrating for you! I loved that we all were dressed first and waiting for mics together. I will miss your eye rolls, Todd, every time I beg you for a raise silently and in slow motion. And, Jon, those knees! No one rocks men’s short shorts like you, buddy.

Hailee, little Miss Stoner Chick, you brought perspective to the show nightly for me. It made me smile to see you doing homework and studying between scenes. Keep working towards your goals. You’re a bright, warm spirit. So glad I got to meet you.

Sydney it’s been so fun getting to know you after sharing the stage with you all those years ago when we did that benefit for the Carp High Muses together. Your confident, smiling face got me through more than one “dead gay son” scene. And, thank you for covering my bench misses and keeping me on key.

Terry, our resident make up expert and dance captain – thanks for reviewing choreo with this old lady so I didn’t look like a complete idiot nightly. Having you in the show has been a blessing in so many ways. You are always prepared and willing to help where needed. Thank you!

Trevor, you are equal parts creepy and heartthrob. Every night, you bring tears to my eyes when you say your final farewell to Veronica. And, you are such a nice guy in real life. Truly. If someone were to ask me what I thought of Trevor Shor, I would say, “God, he’s such a nice guy.” Can’t wait to see what you do next!

Samantha Eve – you are perhaps one of the hardest working people in the Santa Barbara theatre community. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to perform with Out of the Box. I have really loved sharing moments with you on stage – you’re not afraid to look me in the eye and that doesn’t always happen on stage. Thank you for being fearless or, at the very least, enjoying the rush with us.

To Dr. Kasey Link – I will miss your heavy breathing and kind instruction. Truly – not worthy! You’re on a completely different level. You broke this show down for us into bites we could manage. Thank you. Luis, Paul and Noah – you added so much depth to the show. Thank you!

Maggie, Katie and Brad – we could not have done this without you! Maggie – the outfits! I look forward to see you again in the future just to see what you’ve thrown on your body and deemed worthy to wear. Brad – you know my number and that is, like, theatre goals achieved! Katie – thanks for putting up with this crazy crew. It never ceases to amaze me how your voice can cut through any chatter and motivates movement. That’s not a learned skill. You have to be born with that!

I honestly have loved getting to know our high school volunteer backstage crew, Al, Diana, Clarise, Delson, Rose, and May. However, I owe all my achieved fast changes to, Al. Calm, cool, collected and paced perfectly so that I made it out for my next scene. Thanks, Al!

Lastly, I would be remise if I didn’t mention Jenny, our director. The last three weeks, despite her physical absence, I know she’s been with us in spirit. I miss her excitement and energy. We did you proud, Jenny. We did you proud!

You always feel sad when a show closes. The art you spent so much time creating simply disappears, never to be re-created again in the exact same image. We leave it all on stage – no regrets. Videos will never capture all the moments shared, the magic created, or the bonds formed. But, for the few of us brave enough to take the stage to entertain the masses, the memories will be forever cemented in our hearts.

Farewell, Heathers the Musical. It’s been so very. Six out of eight performances sold out. I couldn’t have dreamed or asked for more. Let’s go be seventeen, one last time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

If You're Going Through Hell...

Tech week, also known as hell week, has earned its nickname – it’s always hell no matter what show it is and some shows are more hellish than others. If you haven’t been rehearsing in the theater, you essentially have to re-space the entire show in a matter of days, add lights, add costumes, add make-up, add band, add mics, add sets. You’re meeting new faces and trying to remember their names, your lines, your choreography, and your music. Rehearsals get longer and become more tedious. Everyone’s nerves are fried. Things are said. Lots of things are said. People are constantly reminding you to be quiet, to be patient. Folks get crabby. No one likes hell week. It sucks. No, really. It sucks.
Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” That is exactly what a production team has to do in order to open a show. We have to just keep going. And, the moment that you let go and just accept that hell week is going to suck but it won’t last forever, you start to enjoy the process. You notice things that you didn’t notice before during a scene. You get inspired. You remember why you love the craft.
Last night was our first run with all the magical theatre ingredients: sets, props, mics, lights, costumes, make-up, and the band. There were enchanting moments and there were train wreck moments. I blundered a few lines, but I nailed my choreography for the first time. Yay me! I got my pre-show ritual down and felt healthy at the end of the night. Success! And, I must say that this cast looks damn good! The selfie action backstage is pretty epic.
Tonight is our last run without an audience and I think after one more go at this, we’ll be ready for an audience. After all, theatre isn’t truly theatre without an audience. It's the last magical ingredient that makes a show a success!
No more “what ifs” – ready for “let’s do this”. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Waiting for Donelan

In 1996, the indie film Waiting for Guffman hit select theaters throughout the country. The story is set in the town of Blaine, MO, where a musical revue called “Red, White and Blaine” is being produced to celebrate the town’s sesquicentennial. Corky St. Clair is praying that this show will be his ticket back to Broadway. Mort Guffman is a Broadway theatre producer who everyone is expecting to show up on opening night.
Waiting for Guffman (a mockumentary) perfectly captures what it’s like to participate in small town theatre. If you haven’t ever watched the movie – you must. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, and held my breath through parts.
This blog was created so that the cast and crew of Heathers the Musical could document and share our experiences during the production process. Great idea, but difficult to pen what the experience has truly been like. First and foremost, it’s just difficult to be honest – you don’t want to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s also difficult to find time to write – we all have lives outside of this production and other commitments (not unlike the characters in Waiting for Guffman who were travel agents, a dentist, a Dairy Queen employee, a taxidermist, etc. – we’re a cast of cupcake bakers, a film maker, a bartender, a safety coordinator, a make-up artist, a Kings Ice Crew member, etc.). Ultimately, however, I do think it’s important for non-theatre folk to understand that what we do on stage doesn’t just happen overnight and it’s not all BIG FUN. A great deal of work goes into these small town productions and we really do take ourselves that seriously.
To date, I’ve logged about 116 hours of rehearsal time. Collectively, that’s approximately 2,000 hours of rehearsal time for the cast and production team and we have about 1000 hours of rehearsal and performance time left to log together. In addition to rehearsal time, I have spent countless personal hours memorizing lines and learning music.
I work a full time job, nine hour days. I literally walk two blocks from my office to rehearsal most nights. That means I leave my house at 7:15 a.m. and don’t come home again until close to 10:30 p.m. (and sometimes later) on nights we rehearse. I am not alone. Every person in our cast has a job or goes to school. We're burning the candle at both ends to make sure that the show you see is worth the price of admission.
The last two weeks before a show opens are always the hardest. If you haven’t been sick during the rehearsal process, you’re waiting to get sick during tech week. I fall into the latter category and I’ve basically become a germaphobe, washing my hands two to three times a night during rehearsal and taking extra Vitamin C. Of course, the fact that we’re rehearsing in a school and touching desks and chairs isn’t helping my neurosis.
An unusual twist to a normal production experience for our cast is that we recently said good bye to our director, Jenny. She had a project that conflicted with the last week of rehearsal and run of the show. This was not a surprise, we knew it was coming, but it was surprising to me just how much Jenny’s absence affected the dynamics of the last couple rehearsals.
I’ve been performing locally for thirty-five plus years. I’ve been a part of some amazing productions. I can honestly say that this cast is one of the most talented groups of people I’ve ever worked with and they LOVE theatre. THEY LOVE IT. And, they make me LOVE it, even when I’m tired and hungry and I just want to go home and watch Vampire Diaries. It’s the kind of infectious energy that you want to be around. It makes me want to go out and audition again, even though I always say “this is my last play”.
I know we’re all nervous about opening night. One of our local theatre reviewers, Charles Donelan, is expected to make an appearance. Any actor who tells you that they don’t read their reviews is a liar. We all do. His opinion and every other person sitting in that theater has an opinion that matters to us all. We all want to knock your socks off! Be the best we can be! 
What will Mr. Donelan think of our production of Heathers the Musical? Will we exceed his expectations? Will the production be so magical, so inspiring, that we make all of his theatre dreams come true?
To be determined. We still have five rehearsals left before we have a live audience and I really want this show to be AMAZING. With this cast, I know it can be. Uber talented cast. Seriously. I feel honored to share the stage with them. They have made this whole experience worthwhile.
Five rehearsals left until we open. Fan-freaking-tastic!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Heathers, Back to the Future, and the Power of Nostalgia.

It is October 21, 2015 and the 80's are making a comeback. The ever heralded "Back to the Future" day, coined by time traveling events in another 80's Classic, has finally arrived. Publicity stunts involving hoverboards, self lacing shoes, and 'Pepsi Perfect' of all things have all  sprung up within the last month. A new car with delorean-esque eagle car doors is soon going on the market for an insane amount of money. Hell, I just bought a 1:24 scale model delorean time machine for my desk at work. Back to the Future is back, baby.

But here's the thing: we as a culture are collectively obsessing over a movie that is 30 years old. A film that is firmly planted into the childhood psyche of its fans, but many of us that have fallen in love with this movie weren't even born when the movies were released. I just turned 21 today- my parents hadn't even met when Marty Mcfly got back from hooking up his parents at the enchantment under the sea dance. And yet, this 80's Future flick is still relevant as ever.

This begs the question of how a movie from the 80's can have a nostalgia connection to 90's kids and millenials. It isn't just a fond memory of some childhood time way-back-when, it's a memory of a memory. Can nostalgia really be nostalgic if the person wasn't there to remember what they are feeling nostalgia for?

The same phenomenon is happening to the 80's cult classic "Heathers". After more than 20 years, this movie about High School and lip gloss is still resonating with teens. Teenage-dominated Internet spaces like tumblr and Instagram are flooded with pictures and gifs from the movie and the musical. Teens love this show. As overly 80's as the fashion and attitudes of the movie are, it has stood the test of time.

That's what makes Heathers: the musical so special. It's not a commercial endeavor to bank off of a popular movie- it's a wonderful stand-alone peice that has brought a relatively unkown 'cult' film into the vernacular of a new generation. It has brought the increasingly relatable story back into the future.

To travel back in time with us, come see Heathers the Musical this November! Get your tickets now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Art of Getting Off Book

There is an art to getting off book and no two actors do it the same way. Getting off book means the actor is ready to put down their script and run scenes from memory.
A script to an actor is like a child’s blanket or pacifier. With it in hand, we are confident that we know what to say, when to say it, and where to move on stage. All in the same breath, we’re limited by the script. We can’t really suspend disbelief when we’re still on book. Our characters don’t have a chance to really develop when there’s a script in our hand.  
No two scripts are alike after they are passed out. We all have our favorite highlighter color, different ways of marking stage directions, and so on. I don’t highlight my character name, but I do highlight my entire line, while some just highlight just their character’s name where it appears in their script. I prefer a super bright yellow, while others prefer pink, orange, blue, or green. I actually draw little stick figures in the margins of my script and diagrams that look like football plays. I write down weird words or thoughts.
By this point in the rehearsal process, my script is almost always warped with water stains, covered in ink and pencil, and basically a wrinkled mess. My script looks like a scary dark corner of my brain. I love my script. It’s comforting. It’s mine. And it’s always painful when the stage manager or director tells you it’s time to get off book. Off book means letting go of your road map and trusting yourself to know where to go. Going off book sometimes feels like driving without GPS in a large city you visited once as a kid – you kind of know where you’re going, but it’s a big unfamiliar place.
To get off book, I will sometimes write my lines over and over until I can see them in my head. Or, I will record my cue lines and play the recording back while I run my own lines live. My daughter indulges me on my nights off from rehearsal and runs lines with me. But just like our scripts, no two processes are alike. Some shows are harder to get off book for than others. Heathers has been mostly challenging for me musically since singing at my desk during the day isn’t really an option. (If you know the show, you’ll know why. If you don’t know the show, come see it. We open November 5th!)
I never fully give up my script. I’ll study it every day and every night before we perform. Sometimes, I even review it during a show to help me stay focused.
The first time you run a scene without a script in your hand it feels like ice skating for the first time. You’re wobbly. You’re unsure of yourself. You have a weird scared feeling in your gut. You struggle to remember your cues. There’s a lot of distractions when you finally look up at the world. You want your script! But, thankfully, after running a scene a few times off book, your stage ankles get stronger. You find your balance. And, suddenly, you’re gliding along without a care in the world. This is when the real work begins. Where connections are made. Where real feelings emerge on stage. This is why we do live theatre – for the thrill of performing in front of an audience. And you can’t achieve that high without getting off book first.
Last night, we ran Act II for the first time off book. Was it scary? Um. Yeah. Was it fun? Hell, yes! Were there moments when you saw flashes of brilliance? Absolutely. Are we ready for an audience? No. Not even close. But, I can tell you this: if last night was any indication of what this show can be, watch out Santa Barbara. Here comes Westerberg!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Finally! That's What She Said...

It's been like ridiculously hot through this entire rehearsal process. I mean like Africa hot, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. The cast is just dripping with sweat most nights - except for the Heathers. I don't think the Heathers sweat (wink, wink).

Anyway, despite the heat, we've made tremendous progress. Act One is shaping up and we'll be putting the entire show together by the end of next week. It's really exciting!

I'm one of the older cast members (aka Ms. Fleming/Veronica's Mom) so I tend to think I should show a little maturity, set an example, but, sometimes, the teenager in me takes over and ANYTHING anyone says during rehearsal turns into a "that's what she said" moment. Is that still a thing? "That's what she said"?

Anyway - here's eight solid, word for word, examples of "that's what she said" moments, overhead during our rehearsal process:

1. Can I get more slut?

2. Can I get more ladies on it?

3. She likes to pound it out first and then work through it.

4. More hips, less distance.

5. Let's keep going and then when we get to the bathroom, we'll work the bathroom.

6. Should we just go from shit?

7. The other holy shits were so good.

8. Oh it's so big!

FINALLY! FINALLY! Last night, in response to good old number eight, I heard someone (no names) mutter, "That's what she said." I couldn't stop smiling in response! Ah! There! We've finally bonded! We're all on the same page! Our cast chemistry is finally flowing in the same direction!

Three weeks. We open in three weeks. (That's what she said.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Six Truths Anyone Who Sees Heathers The Musical Can Relate To

Heathers The Musical isn't just some run of the mill, ordinary musical. It's extremely funny, sometimes tragic, poignant, and totally relatable. Here's six truths anyone who sees Heathers The Musical can relate to.

1. Kindergarten Boyfriends Are Rad.

In Heathers, Martha sings an amazing song about her kindergarten boyfriend.

My kindergarten boyfriend was named Andy. We met on the first day of class and we just clicked. Of course, he didn't know I considered him my boyfriend. Back then, you didn't have to label your relationship - everyone was just cool like that.

We were five. We liked to paint together. I brought my prized wooden monkey to school one day and let Andy play with it, which was a very big deal because it was delicate and I really hoped he wouldn’t break it. Andy and I remained friends until the end of elementary school and then we fell into our different cliques.

Interesting side note: The last time I saw Andy was in a movie theater when I was 21 years old. I was on date with my (future) husband and the movie was “Reality Bites” – another Winona Ryder classic! I haven’t seen him since, but I think of him often.

2. Blue Balls Really Are Painful.

Jocks Kurt and Ram try to convince Veronica to make out with them in the super hilarious song, "Blue".  "You make my balls so blue," they declare. And, they aren't kidding around.

When a dude is physically turned on, blood flows to his penis, which is what gives him an erection, and his testicles then swell. If he doesn’t ejaculate, pressure builds up and this causes men pain – serious pain – like kick-me-in-the-balls-pain. But, don’t fret. It’s not life-threatening. At some point, the blood drains and the pain goes away on its own.

(This is where I tell you that my back story for Ms. Flemming includes her subbing for the sex ed teacher on occasion. You're welcome.)

3. Nobody Really Read Moby Dick in High School, But It’s Totally On Point.

Show of hands...who read Moby Dick? That's what I thought. The truth is, none of us have really read Moby Dick.

But, here’s some quotes that I’m sure were highlighted in Veronica’s copy of Moby Dick, thanks to JD.

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”

“...and Heaven have mercy on us all - or we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

“God keep me from ever completing anything.”

“Call me Ishmael.”

Okay – that last one was just because HELLO! It’s Moby Dick! 

4. Cemeteries Really Are Fun to Make Out In.

I'm sure some of our audience members are going to think, "What? Did Veronica really just invite the jocks to the cemetery for a threesome? That's so weird."

TBH, cemetery make out sessions are super hot. If you’ve never made out in a cemetery, you need to get on that. Like now. Why are you still reading this blog post? Go. NOW.

(Again, you're welcome.)

5. It Really Isn’t A Party Without BQ Corn Nuts.

Does this really require any explanation? I thought not.

6. Life Can Be Beautiful.

I grew up in Carpinteria and went to school with the same kids from kindergarten through the end of twelfth grade. Something mysteriously tragic really does happen sometime around junior high that splits everyone into a social hierarchy. And, trust me - I wasn't one of the cool kids. 

Here’s the really great news: high school does not define you and it doesn’t last forever. You get to grow up and make choices that will take your life in whatever direction you choose. And those kids that made fun of your ass or bullied you…they like your posts on Facebook when you're both 42 and planning your 25th high school reunion. Honestly. It’s amazing. Just wait.

It gets better. It can be beautiful.