Audition Expedition.

And so it was time to visit the big NY to find our Christmas cast. Driving allllllll the way there in Mr. Sparkle. It was spectacular to finally see Dan and Winston again since the last time we were in NY for the Tempest we saw NONE of our friends even for five minutes. It's amazing how quickly the time zooms by when we are there only a week... and we were doing two projects. We auditioned for two full days and then had callbacks for a day. It's amazing how these things go in waves... this time we had a ton of amazing girls, and fewer excellent boys to choose from. But we managed to snag two that are really really strong and all four of our Christmas cast are now confirmed and ready and raring to go. One of them is a good friend of Angie's - who she scouted for us (also from Indiana University - which will thrill Andy Zay to no end). The other girl coincidentally went to school with Stephanie and is one of her good buddies. So it's pretty exciting that we have our alumni telling people to come audition for us and giving us the thumbs up as a good place to work...it's means a lot. Especially since our kids are already starting to become their own little network. All them run into each other at auditions and facebook and have kind of become their own little Masonic lodge! In fact Katie, Kyla, and Stephanie even sat in through some of the audiitons just so they could hang out with us for a while. And, yet again, it turns out that Skype has proven a hotbed of talent for us. Both of the boys we've ended up hiring couldn't make the New York auditions because they were out of town... and their skype auditions were really great. Here they are... Patrick... 47c0ceff85c13.jpg

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and Anna annamalonefinal2.jpg

Hooorrrayyyy. We're pretty excited. We are NOT excited that Nathan can't come back for Christmas - he was really trying to get time off from his regular steady job back home - but he can't manage it, so we're gonna be without his sunny disposition which is a real big bummer. Hopefully we'll be able to get him back here soon, because we could all use a little Nathan in our lives. Wahhhh. :(

While we were in New York we actually managed to see some theatre - which was a scheduling feat in it's own right. The big highlight was South Pacific at Lincoln Center which was absolutely inspiring and stunning. I'm excited that Ann and Paul are going to catch the touring production of the show in San Francisco in a few days. I am NOT excited that Ann and Paul are going to San Francisco and I'm not :( While Rich went out one evening with his friends from Columbia...University, not the country... I went and saw a show called "39 Steps" that I'd been wanting to see for ages. It's hysterical and just the kind of stuff I love to do - so I hope we'll be able to do the show here sometime.

The MOST important theatre-going event, however, was involved a field trip. Rich and I jumped back in Mr. Sparkle...and drove to Connecticut to Goodspeed Opera House to see Camelot.

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Now I've done about 2388 productions of Camelot in my time... but we really wanted to see ANYTHING at this theatre. BECAUSE it is a very similar venue to the kind of place we want to be but MOST IMPORTANTLY they're backstage area is very, very similar to what we are going to have. This place is famous for doing ingenious, very impressive sets in a relatively small backstage area with no fly area above (so no large scenery can fly up and down into the rafters). They have sort of mastered the art of using various special methods to accomplish an awful lot in a space that has the same challenges as we will have (i.e. no fly gallery). So Rich and I had been dying to see a show at this theatre ever since we bought the Huntington. PLUS we are getting really close to doing major work in there and we really wanted to see their setup before we made any concrete decisions.

So we got tickets and then I called an old boss of mine who has directed there several times. He made some phone calls and arranged for us to have a backstage tour after the show. The theatre's stage manager met us afterwards and was amazing. He spent like a half an hour with us... some crew members demonstrated rigging for us... they showed the grid... they showed us the tracking beneath the stage... the dressing rooms etc. It was fantastic. And it was great because none of it was overwhelming - they do things brilliantly - but all with very sensible and simple logic behind it, so Rich was really excited that it was all stuff we could accomplish. It was a fantastic night AND we learned that their stage area is even smaller than ours will be...so if they can pull of miracles, then we have no excuses :)

The only bummer about the trip was that although mapquest said it would take us 2 1/2 hours to get there it ACTUALLY took like 4 1/2 - so rather than trek back after our backstage tour (Camelot is LONGGGG, people), we stayed overnight. Before our trip was over I was scheduled to direct a reading of a new play called "The Final Table" which is about five ex-Presidents in limbo. It's actually a lot more entertaining than it sounds...and we had an amazing cast including some buddies from the Tempest, some old friends and few wonderful actors I've always admired including an incredible actor named Jeff McCarthy who was nominated for a Tony for Urinetown and a gent named Bob Ari who played Nixon (and happened to have understudied the role of Tricky Dick for Stacy Keach and Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon on Broadway and on tour). The guys were great, it was a wonderful day, and the effervescent and delightful author took us out for a wonderful meal afterwards. At which, Rich insisted I take photographs of the restaurant booths because he liked their shape!

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And then - back in Mr. Sparkle and home. Where, apart from the fact that I'm still sick, it's been nonstop go go go. Let me give you a quick update on where and what is progressing...

SLEEPY HOLLOW I'm toiling away on the show - it's sold extremely well - only a few tickets left. I've been buying some very odd sound effect goodies for us to play with (including... a thunder drum...oooooo) and I'm finally kind of getting my head around the format for the thing.

CONSTRUCTION While I've been in bed on my laptop working on stuff, Rich and Janice have been working like beavers over at the new house.

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In case you aren't caught up with this development, lemme give you a quick recap. We bought a house about a year ago in foreclosure for $5,000. Originally it was going to be more actor housing. But after last Winter (which I was mostly spared because the worst of it was while I was still in Bermuda) Rich determined we would be a lot better off moving into it ourselves. The winter above the theatre was apparently BRUTAL. It cost thousands of dollars a month in heat just to keep the pipes from freezing and getting the apartment warmer than about 45 degrees proved impossible. And Rich is well aware that we can't a) throw money away like that; and b) I will just die living in 45 degrees. Soooo... the Pack Leader is on all-systems go to get at least the main sections of this house finished before Christmas. It will also make an incredible difference in our quality of life. Right now we are all smooshed in a one bedroom apartment - with Janice (and sometimes Bob) living on our fold-out couch in the living room... our bedroom functioning as a dressing room for the actors... with one bathroom that can only be accessed through our bedroom... we're just all piled on top of each other. They have done an incredible job ripping out literally every piece of old drywall and lathe in the place so that now it is basically one great big skeleton inside.

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house-rubble.jpg Which means it will have all new insulation and new drywall (which will be great for my allergies) and it will just be practically a new house. This has been very very messy work. I haven't been able to get over there much - but the one day I did, I think I clearly demonstrated how glamorous it is...

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And if you think that's dirty... Here's Bob after a day working in there... IT'S A DIRTY BOB, BUT SOMEONE'S GOTTA DO IT. dirty-bob.jpg

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We're obviously having to keep the budget very lean - but we just ordered all the cabinets etc. from Lowes and the kitchen is hopefully going to come in at around 5,000 and each of our bathrooms for about 1,000. It's not going to be Trump Tower - but it's going to be really adorable - and give us so much more space to work and relax and function. They have almost got all of the old stuff out (they've emptied out more than 150 cardboard boxes of demo rubble... having taken at least 30 trips of stuff to the dump). Really the only thing that's being left behind are the stairs and the original woodwork...especially these amazing giant pocket doors... HOT POCKET pocket-doors.jpg

The thing that I'm most excited about (which WON'T be ready when we first move in - is the HUGGGGE attic that's going to become our office once it's sheetrocked and insulated. It's like three times bigger than this picture and it's just gorgeous. I've always wanted to have a house with an attic - and it's just fabooo.

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By the time we move in we're hoping to have the kitchen, two bathrooms, upstairs hallway, two bedrooms and the living room complete. The dining room, downstairs powder room, offices etc will be works in progress. Rich swore he'd never have us move into a construction zone again...but we don't have too much of a choice. It's this or freeze.

Now - you may be annoyed that we're having to delay progress on the auditorium to get this done...well - a) people with frostbite don't put on good shows. B) NOT TRUE. After our trip to Goodspeed I got right to work (especially after Rich said "Give me auditorium plans or die")... and started working on construction plans and paint schematics for Rich. Started out with little measurement sketches... measurements.jpg

And decided the best way for me to figure this stuff out was by building a model. I also decided on making it 1/2" scale model - which I subsequently realized is rather large... but what the heck. And, after two years of feeling totally impotent and unable to make any concrete decision about what this freaking theatre was going to look like - I'm actually making BIG progress. The model is pretty finicky work - but it's been a huge help in figuring out colors and design stuff. We figured out a color scheme... Blues and Browns. With some black and grey and silver trim. Choosing the blues and browns was not an easy task at all. I was unable to figure out a design until I knew the color scheme... and Rich was unable to have an opinion on a color scheme until we had a design. But we finally managed to make progress - and I started working with that palette in mind.

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So - I worked with that and started finally forcing myself to try and figure out what on earth we were going to do with those giant walls. The original painted scroll pattern on the wall was now degraded beyond any kind of repair. It's something that I could have probably done a decent job recreating - but I always found it so odd that the architecture is so clean and modern with deco lines, and the scroll work was so Baroque and had no stylistic connection to the rest of the theatre. So I was hoping to come up with something that had a deco feel, and worked with the strong angular architectural lines. This had been plaguing me for a very very long time... I thought it was very cool how the scroll work had incorporated huge letters of 'H' and 'T' into the design - and wondered if I could work with that in some kind of a deco appearance. I also, even though I had no concrete ideas at all, kept thinking about the color geometric patters of Paul Klee:

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And the work of Mary Blair - who was Disney's inspiration for the It's a Small World ride... I have no idea why I kept thinking of Mary Blair. But I did.

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And between trying to come up with a sort of patchwork color palette like they use - and trying to incorporate the initials of New Huntington Theatre into the design... I came up with this...

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The "letter" patterns were originally supposed to be silver - but they just overwhelmed everything. And they looked much better black. Black is a really deco color - and also, since we are going to have table seating - and Rich wants to use black linens (because they don't STAIN as much as white) it was something we wanted to tie in). So the idea is that the black letter areas are like embossed - a raised level above the color swatches with a fine silver line around their edges (which Rich can do with the router). The big rectangles at the top are the auditorium ledges.

And... Rich liked it. And believe it or not... Janice liked it too. Amen. We had something to work from. After two years of head scratching I was actually making progress. So - I got to work on the model and have started figuring the rest of it out as well - the balcony colors etc. The next big step is to design the new false proscenium - which is going to cause me my next state of frozen apoplexy - but baby steps, right?

Originally I was going to do color print outs of my sketch and paste them onto the model. But after the color copies didn't nearly resemble the colors on the screen, I figured it was just wasting a step. So - we went to Lowes and picked ACTUAL paint colors. Yup - Janice sat with me and prevented me from hyperventilating and I got color swatches for each of the tones that we needed (three blue, three brown, a grey and black...NOOO black is not just black...in fact, I bought the wrong black!). They do this great thing at Lowes where they will do you a sample tin about the size of a can of tomato paste - for only three bucks. Which is PLENTY for me to do the model... so I realized I could paint the model in the actual REAL paint colors and test them. Yay. And that's what I've been doing today... The flash makes the colors seem lighter than they are - and the room will never be that brightly lit.

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And - Rich still likes it! And Janice still likes it! And Po likes to sleep on it... which must mean something positive. So you're the very first to see this progress - the paints still wet kids. I've gotta take a picture of the whole model when it's done - but right now (apart from this wall) it's a big heap of black unpainted foam core. But - Rich is working out how to construct the proscenium, pricing out materials...and we're really starting to DO stuff! Hooray.

Okay - there's more big news...but this blog is too long already and Rich will probably split it up into eight different posts...but at least you're in the loop.

Back to the foam core... Jo Jo.