A Hell of a Town.

Howdy Howdy kids. Well - I'm still in Bermuda - immersed in all things Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland (I'm convinced every time I drive past a barn when I get back home, I'll have some desperate residual desire to scream 'let's get the whole gang and put on a show!'). But I've picked all the music out - and I'm working on the script - and it's gonna be amazing. So if you haven't got your tickets now... hop to it kiddies! It's gonna be a humdinger. (See - I've watched too many of their movies. That the is first blog appearance of the word humdinger. Let's all pray it's also the last. I had my appointment with the guy who's supposed to give me an epidural today. We waited for him for fortyfive minutes and then he called the office and said he couldn't make it because he was behind schedule installing a pace maker. A) how dare he do something as insignificant as keep someone's heart beating when I'm waiting; and B) should a guy who installs pacemakers ALSO do epidurals?? Just askin. Anyway - I got rescheduled, so hopefully I'll get to stop having to spend most of my day horizontal (it actually does get boring...believe it or not) pretty soon.

Apparently Rich got a phone call yesterday asking if the theatre had gone out of business! We go away for a five weeks and you people give up on us!!!! Really???? Actually probably people saw Margaret's son Grant (who was pipe-sitting for us... seriously...making sure the pipes didn't all freeze) coming in and out, and might have thought we vacated. And, before you all beat me to it, I'm sure it's a reason for you to say we need more blogs.... to prove that we're not dead. Well - it's nice to know we were missed :) Although Po seems to have gotten rather rotund while at Cindy's - which leads us to believe her cat has probably gotten very skinny (Po seems to have a liking for Fancy Feast).

Well I'd love to say that while we were in New York we managed to see a gaggle of Broadway shows and spend some quality time with our friends. Not so much. I can say without reservation that the three weeks were in New York I got less sleep that I've had since I was cramming for finals in college. It was rough sailin' kids. In fact it was pretty awful that we didn't get to see Dan or Winston. They've gone to so much trouble to stay in touch with us that it felt really bad that in three weeks we couldn't connect with them and we were only a few blocks away from their apartment. But nothing with the Tempest seemed to ever lead even vaguely in the direction of Easy Street.

Basically I didn't feel like i could do toooooo much in terms of staging homework until I knew who our Prospero was going to be... I can't figure out the shape of a show until you know what the tone is going to be - and that's dictated by your cast. And, plus, I was admittedly behind where I wanted to be upon my arrival in the Big Apple. So I buckled down and figured that I'd be able to sketch-out the basic staging shapes for the show in about three days - which is what it would normally take me. Not a chance.

This show was a bear. First of all, when you're doing Shakespeare, particularly this play, it's really like a blank canvas. The show can have so many different approaches - that it's practically like doing a new play sometimes. Plus it's a unit set. A unit set is basically when a show uses the same physical scenery for the entire play - which means the director has to be very aware of blocking patterns and creating different looks and using the space in constantly varying ways - or the audience loses any sense of separate geography - and just visually gets BORED. I LOVED this set - Gordon (a wonderful guy who was suggested to me from Indiana Repertory Theatre) was fantastic - and did a beautiful job. But the more exciting a set is - the more you want to take advantage of it. So I would literally spent three hours staring at little cardboard figures arranged on the model trying to figure out half a page of dialogue. If not less. When I was prepping this show I hardly ever, ever got through one page in less than two hours. It was harder than anything I've ever done. So because it took so much prep work - I was running even more behind than I thought was going to be. I was certain when we arrived in NY that I'd have all the staging sketched out by the time rehearsals started. Instead I spent the entire time trying to stay on schedule - running like Indiana Jones from a big rolling scary rehearsal schedule. I ended up coming home from rehearsal every night - crashing for two hours until about nine pm, then getting up again and working until about six am, and then trying to catch a few zzzzz's before rehearsal started (sometimes at 9am). It was no holiday.

We did get really lucky with our housing. We subletted a place from a wonderful guy named Jimmy Smagula and it was a great studio apartment. At least it was great for the first week until it also turned into a prop warehouse, a costume shop, a production office, a meeting hall, and our sleeping quarters. Then it got a little nutty... seriously - it looked like the day after the Barney's sale the day a freak tornado hit.

On top of all the stuff Rich and I had to get ready before rehearsals started, we also had to make time to audition Judy Garlands for the next Supper Club show. Normally I field all the candidates and make the schedule - but I was so buried in the Tempest, that Rich took the reins and organized the auditions. It was pretty weird to shift gears into that show - even the next ones as well - since we were also considering girls for the summer too. It was also pretty amazing to get the odd person who didn't seem to quite understand the 'MUST look like and sound like Judy Garland' guideline. We asked them in our instructions to sing either 'have yourself a merry little christmas', 'over the rainbow', 'boy next door' or 'the trolley song'. A few of these girls could have been auditioning for Judy Tenuta they were so far off base. But some of them were also amazing. We saw some really fabulous girls - and even got a submission from this fantastic 14 year old girl in Chicago whose agent wanted us to consider her. A girl came in to audition who we had fallen in love with last year at our first auditions for The Supper Club. She was the cutest thing on the planet - but she wasn't quite suited to the lineup of shows we were doing that summer. But she was young, and adorable and funny and had a terrific voice. Even though we've seen like 300 girls since then, she was still very clear in my mind - and when she walked in to audition I was so excited to see her. And she did a fantastic job in the audition. When we called her back (over the glorious technology of Skype...seriously...Skype is now officially the coolest thing in my universe - I would say 80 of the Tempest design meetings were over skype) she had her hair done like Judy and she had really worked on the cadence of her speaking voice. It was one of those great moments where you get to hire someone you REALLY want to work with.

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Her name is JessAnn - and the other great thing is that we discovered that she and David (who's playing Mickey) already know each other. A lot of New York actors have singing church jobs... and apparently David and JessAnn worked together. So maybe we should do 'Babes in Psalms". So anyway - they are adorable beyond belief and you're gonna love 'em. In fact - if you long-term bloggies remember way back, David shared our very first Pioneer Days with us.

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And let me tell you - that was a heck of a relief. Because announcing a show with Judy Garland before you have your Judy Garland can be a little scary. Particularly if you're a confirmed bachelor - because this is sacred ground. In fact - Dan and Winston are flying down especially to see the show...and frankly... if Winston doesn't approve of our Judy he might deem that we are unfit parents and take custody of Po. Because lets face it - Judy Garland tribute performances can go very bad...

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So that occupied us for the first two days we were in New YOrk - and then it was pretty much time to start rehearsin'.

The night before the big day, we had arranged to meet Tony for dinner... And, for the first time, to meet Tony. We had arranged for him to stay at a place on 44th street called AKA Suites that was GORGEOUS - and, for the middle of Manhattan, an amazing price range - so here's the hint kids... if you go the Big Apple - check it out. Anyway - We met tony in the lobby. He was instantly incredibly down to earth and very, very funny. With Rich's and my combined brilliance we hadn't managed to think of booking a reservation at a restaurant at 7:30 on a Saturday night. So we headed over to the restaurant we were planning on taking him too... in the NY cold...and discovered it was PACKED. And I didn't feel that after being with Tony for five minutes, it would be fair to try and pull the "do you know who this is???" card. So we tried another restaurant and still had a half hour wait - but Tony was awesome and we just chatted for while as we waited. And straight away we realized that Tony was pretty popular with the Manhattanites. Straight away people started asking to have their picture taken with him (something which has really changed in the advent of camera phones, and iphones...people ALWAYS have a camera handy). And people knew him by name - not just 'that guy from Buffy'. But the hysterical thing was that Tony had, in the process of his plane trip, managed to come down with a cold. And he's a really sweet guy who doesn't want to get people sick. So he kept wiping his hands down with sanitizer after people would greet him or take their picture with him.... and then we suddenly started laughing hysterically because we realized that people must have thought he was some Howard Hughesy germophobic celebrity who was terrified of contact with the public.

The first day of rehearsals was insane and exciting. We were doing costume fittings for almost the whole cast in the first couple hours of the day.

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which also began our ongoing - 'how accurate should we be?' with the correct size of a period codpiece...

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Because some of these guys didn't have a PIECE of cod....they had enough cod to open a Long John Silvers.

And then we all sat down and began workin' on the script... and so we embrarked upon three weeks of wackiness, exhaustion, exhilaration and the boat scene. And the boat scene. And the boat scene....

xo jojo.