FIRST THINGS FIRST - Fair warning.The new batch of tickets for the Holiday Show go on sale tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8am. The last batch have been sold out since August - and we've added 6 more performances. It's advertised on the marquee - and it's been in the Fort Wayne paper and the Huntington paper as well. Which means, kids, I think they're gonna go fast. So - since I'd hate for any blog fans to NOT see the show who wanted to - please please call early to avoid hating us. There's only SO many days between Thanksgiving and Christmas - so unless it starts becoming a Halloween show...that's all we got.
BACK TO THE MATTER AT HAND...
Sooo as we soldiered on with the war show... we hopped onto our banana boat and started getting ready for Island Fever. Which was really when we started running on fumes... Not like we were sucking or anything - but everybody, by the end of the first week of the war show was a little cranky. Cuz let's face it - they were TIRED...Rich was TIRED... I was TIRED. Tired tired tired.
And, of course - the kids were now bearing an additional 8.3% of material (1/4 of the original assignments reassigned amongst four).
Ohhh yeah that math took three hours and the pack leader had to double check it. Did I ever mention that the only thing I ever failed in my life was calculus. Yuppers. Well - that's the only thing I ever took a class in that I failed - I'm sure there's an endless list of stuff I would fail if it was required. Pole Vaulting comes to mind. Fire Walking. Seducing a Polar Bear.
There were a few wacky and wild nights during the war show that did keep us on our game, however. Even though it was, at least in OUR intention, the show with the highest 'tone' it oddly had some of the wackiest goings on. Probably BECAUSE they seemed much wackier when we were trying to be serious. Frankly, if three people show up very stoned and feel like clapping along when you're singing 'day-o' it ain't a problem. If you're trying to sing "They'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover" it's another story. And when I say stoned...I mean STONED. The individuals (whose names are not being mentioned to protect the innocent-ish) were actually rowdy enough that people accused Rich of giving them too much to drink. When, in fact, they'd only had one glass of wine. Eeep.
So that contributed to one weirdo night. Another night, we had the most delightful and engaging audience with one particular patron who was VERY delightful and engaged with the performance. They were seated RIGHT next to Colleen and a) thought it was a great idea to converse with her through the whole show and tell her how well she was doing. And b) happened to know the words to almost EVERY song Colleen sang. And, back in the day, had been quite the songbird. So - every time Colleen got up to sing she had some major backup. And not like quiet-like-humming-along backup. This was full volume participation - even going for the high notes at the end of songs. On the positive side it was really touching and wonderful that someone cared so much about the music and was having a great time. On the other end of the spectrum it was giving us all fits of laughter and we were biting through our cheeks trying not to completely lose it while we were doing songs about dead loved ones. I will be giggling about this memory for years and years. And, the next time this adorable person comes to see a show, we'll probably seat them a LEEEETLE bit farther away from the stage. In an iso-booth like they used to use on that "21" game show.
The next particularly memorable night wasn't nearly so much fun. It's kind of amazing and a testament to the fabulosity of the Pack Leader that we only had one technical erg moment DURING any of the shows. We had a couple 'almosts' but they were all fixed by show time. In fact I forgot to tell you that opening night we lost all stage lights up until about two minutes before the audience arrived (eventually the pack leader figured out it was a mistaken setting on the light board).
Anyhoo... First the show started and about forty seconds in the sound completely cut out. Just sent totally silent. And then came back in. The opening number happened to be one of the ones that was on a prerecorded track (one of the ones Tim had orchestrated and then played on top of live so that it was really full sounding). So when it cut out it was completely impossible to catch up to the track again. So we stopped. We had no idea why the music stopped.
So we did a mic test. I stood up... we made a couple of nervous jokes with the audience, and then started over again. Fun, right. So - from the top. But I realized something was weird. The sound was wrong - not balanced right at all. It sounded not good... and the singers, I could tell, knew something was off. so - for the second time in five minutes I did something I've never done... and stopped the show AGAIN. Because there wasn't any choice really.
And the cast tried to chat with the relatively perplexed audience of octogenarians (it was an out of town group that had booked the entire night - so they didn't know us from Adam so our normal cuteness and rapport or blog-goodwill did us NO good at all. It was a little tense). AFter about two minutes we realized what the problem was. Between the movie show and the war show we had swapped out speakers. We upgraded to a pair which Tim generously loaned us - because the bass tones in a lot of the mixes for the war music were seemed very garbled and getting lost with the ones we had been using. The new speakers were really great - powerful and crisp and never capped out when the music peaked so Rich had to ride the levels a lot less for troubleshooting. (We retained the same two onstage monitors for the actors) The difference in sound quality was really nice. Now the one drawback was that these speakers could overheat if they were used day-in, day-out. Which is why they had (like most amps) a power switch on the back of them. So one night, between rehearsal and the show, they had been turned off to let them rest. And no one realized they hadn't been turned back on again. Now this is an easy fix if you KNOW that's the problem. The reason why the sound had all cut out the first time was because the main speakers weren't turned on so everything was trying to come out full blast through those two smaller actor monitors - and it it was just too much and it cut them out (protecting itself).
Luckily - after that...it was pretty smooth sailing. Of course - with our luck - it was a religious sorority which ordered the least amount of alchohol. So we couldn't even convince them that they'd imagined the whole thing.
And as all this merriment unfolded we were toiling away during the days on the Island show. Which Rich was still kind of nervous about... From the very beginning he was like "but i just don't understand what it IS." And it was probably the most obtuse of the three themes of the summer. The real reason I wanted to do it was that the music was GORGEOUS. A lot of those Belafonte songs were just beautiful and full of life. The challenge for the actors (I was hoping because they were all youngsters) was that they didn't know almost all of the music. So everything had to be learned from scratch pretty much. The very nature of it also required it to be the most active of the shows - which also involved a fair amount of trial and error.
The biggest challenge was that these songs were very cyclical... they usually had a standard verse and chorus - but often on bridge - and they built through repetition. Each new verse had something different to say - but it didn't necessarily matter in which order you said them. It was tough for an actor to memorize them because they didn't have a traditional arc. Plus some of them had a similar feel or rhythmic chord structure - so every once in a while Tim would start playing one song, Jordan would start singing a different one... and it would take about thirty second in before we realized what the heck had gone wrong. Jordan really did have the worst load of this stuff - a vast amount of these island songs are about the girl-I-lost... or the girl-I-miss, or the girl-I-left behind. (Not the girl I, Jo Jo, personally left behind - those songs are very few and far between. "I met this girl in Kingston town... I had to leave her behind...but I was pretty ok with that, reallllllyyyy". Not so effecive). Anyway - originally these songs would have been spread between two men...but now it was all down to the J-man. We managed to shift a few genders around and reassign some of them to a girl (Yellow Bird was the easiest of these) - and we added some new stuff to balance the show out so it seemed less like "Jordan and the Coconuts". And I will say that the J-Stan was doing a very nice job of butching it up...in a few short weeks he was nicely progressing from 'cute and cuddly' to 'young leading man'. Onstage he was coming across as much more of a ladies man...
We added in Bali Hai and then at the very last minute - like the day before we opened - I suddenly had the brainwave of giving Katie the chiquita banana song. Which, and I am serious about this, was only available in sheet music in which the musical notes were little bananas.
The entire time we were rehearsing the thing we were all kind of keeping our fingers crossed. I kept saying it had to be 'fun fun fun fun fun' - which when you're singing 12 hours a day can be pretty exhausting...and frankly...anything but fun. The good thing was that it was all in lower keys than the other shows - so it wasn't too big of a strain on their voices. But we kind of went at it with a no-holds-barred approach which we figured the audience was either going to love - or they would stare at these three white-bread lunatics gyrating their hips four feet from them in dumbfounded disbelief. Rich was still painted a very pleasant hue of skeptical.
Katie had a real knack for 'do-able' choreography and she saved my butt a whole lot during this show. The deal was that I'm not a choreographer - but I can do 'movement' pretty well. The problem is that I have so many tricks in my grab-bag and after your audience has seen you do three shows in a row...back to back...on the same stage with the same people...the grab bag starts to look a little big empty. So Katie Doodle (they had all by this point developed completely nonsensical nicknames... Katie was Doodle...Jordan was Critter... and Colleen was, regrettably Oscopy. As in Colleen-oscopy. Classy, right. That's just how Steven Speilberg does it.) Anyway - Katie was great and thinking up great dancy stuff - so she helped out a whole heap, especially when the Coconuts were required to do copious amounts of backup dancer stuff.
At this juncture btw Rich was rapidly reaching a point where if you said the word "linen" to him he started to twitch and say "burble burble glerg".
OOooo - I forgot to mention that by the first week of the war show - the bar was fully stocked. There were some challenges at first from both the patron and our ends... Two of our servers - Lindsay and Cindy were not drinkers. Lindsay not at all - so when it came to taking liquor orders they were a little at odds for the first day or two. My favorite bar tab of the summer (I wish we'd kept it) was written by Lindsay and said simply:
It took rich about five minutes to figure out that, since Lindsay (who is an AMAZING waitress) doesn't drink - that she'd never heard of a Gin and Tonic. Bless. The wines also proved a challenge - since some folks would order white zinfindel and then be upset that it was pink (we added "blush" to the menu description) and some people would just say 'white' or 'red' and kind of leave it up to Rich to decide what kind. We weren't in France, let's face it. As Rich became more confident and speedier and gauged what was selling we would adjust the menu every night highlighting certain drinks and stuff - so after rehearsal every day I'd have to zip upstairs and do the new menu and get it on the tables 'hot off the press'. No biggy - but since I'm not the best proofreader, it was a little disconcerting to be flying around that fast.
The war show, 99.9 percent of the time was a such a joy to do. It was really sad to let it go at the end - because it struck a chord with so many people and a lot of these songs meant something to the audience. We had many veterans come... a number of WWII vets and we had one very special lady who we adored who served. She was such a cutey and the girls were really thrilled to have someone there who could relate to their material so directly. In fact we had so many experts than on several occasions we got costume advice. Jordan's costume was a real vintage uniform - but the hat and the shirt were from two different sources. His shirt had a certain number of stripes on it - and the hat had a pin that apparently implied a different rank. Oops - so we fixed it. :) It was awesome that folks were paying that much attention. Jordan also got a handy lesson in how to correctly adjust his army-issue belt which had previously been wrapped around him a little like an anaconda.
Another last minute addition to the island show (we decided that there wasn't enough 'goofy' to kick off the party tone of evening) was the theme to the Enchanted Tiki Room. And why not...
Adding it made me soooo happy and it was just the silliest thing ever. It highlighted one of our new challenges though - which was that there were only so many ways to configure songs with three people who needed to hold mics and couldn't move around too much without getting tangled. Rich had pointed out to me during the war show that my staging was still favoring the 'front' view of the stage - like a traditional proscenium theatre - when in FACT the majority of our seats were on the side. When I thought about it - he was kind of right. So a few days before we opened Island Fever I jiggled things around a little and really forced myself to start staging the show as if we were doing it almost in the round... and it worked much better. Tiki room particularly got completely restaged as did the opening number - to a much better effect - immediately now, from the very start of the show, nobody felt like they were going to be in a bad seat - or that the performers were going to ignore them. which is pretty darn important, really :)
Around this time we also got some incredible press... A really gorgeous magazine (think Town and Country for Hoosiers) called Northern Indiana LAKES Magazine had taken an interest in us. The editor was this wonderful guy named Greg to whom we had been introduced, and he took a tour of the theatre and had lunch with us - and he just really thought what we were doing was cool. And his readership, really, is our audience. And he wanted to help and said that he would try and give us coverage when he could. Well - he did MORE than that. The first time we were mentioned in the magazine was for their 'Best of the Best' in the region awards - and we were named "best use of an old theatre" (obviously there was not an ENORMOUS amount of competition...but he clearly invented a category for us to give us coverage - and it was wonderful). But THEN the next issue, they said they wanted to do something a little more extensive. So they sent a photographer to take some pictures (at some ungodly time of the morning :) and Rich did a little interview on the phone. Well, flash forward a few weeks and the new issue of Lakes comes out. It's their 'Hometown Heroes' issue featuring people who are doing important things in their communities. And we were the first Heroes in the spread - with a big headline that said "the Visionaries" with a full page spread on us - a full half page picture in color. It was amaaaaazing. So many people saw it and commented on how beautiful it was. It just blew our socks off.
Ok - anyway - we are making headway right? Things are gonna speed up once we get to the end of the shows - we're gonna do a cavalcade of picture over the past month or so and I'll catch you up real fast. But - to be honest - the contribution of these three actors was so great - and the importance of our first shows so relevant to what this blog was supposed to cover - that I really thank you for bearing with me. Cuz attention must be paid.
Next up - the Katie guest blog. Ooooooooo.