Well we're knee deep into the summer. We're about to go into the 2nd night of Sinatra after a week of living and breathing Elvis. Dusting off Blue Eyes should be a treat tomorrow at 10am. We've got three numbers left of Elvis to stage and we've tackled about half of the one-hit wonders music. The kids are starting to get that cross-eyed sponge-full look that happens every summer at around this point. All you can do is reassure them that everyone else has survived and that we'll do everything we can to give them all the tools they need to carry such a vocal workload. This group has been really special to work with... It's been a really organic, creative process and the actors seem to be thriving on the unique performance relationship they have to the audience in the supper club. The first night they told me they couldn't breathe for the entire first hour (don't forget - they can't ever get offstage for a minute, shake out the nerves, and regroup. They're always 'on show'. So at intermission they apparently went back to the dressing room and jumped around to music on their ipods and got the jitters out of their system. And they knocked it out of the park. I was really proud. Each of them has already grown in so many ways - and I am cherishing all the days we have left to get the other two up and running. Due to circumstances beyond any of our control (primarily replacing a stage manager two days before we started technical rehearsals) we got a little behind with Sinatra playing catchup. There are many things i might say I am adequate at doing - scheduling isn't my strongest suit. But we're back on track and basically (yikes) have a week to prep elvis and a week to prep one hit wonders before we go into tech for both.
Elvis has been the beast! Sinatra was, so far, the greatest acting challenge - approaching these classic songs with real respect of the lyrical content and how sensual and passionate and raw the lyrics really were both on and under the surface. These really are songs you can chew up and spit out... Filled with anger, and sex and addiction and adoration.
Elvis is it's own monster - we don't want them to be doing 'impressions' but it needs to sound like they are celebrating the songs in the right world... so we sort of have three stages - a couple full-on elvis numbers, a number of memphis-style numbers, and then ones where we are really just celebrating the song itself and his connection to it. It's so much fun watching the cast rehearse this stuff - they just light up during the music rehearsals and dig into the real soul and blues and attitude that elvis poured into his material. Staging for me is no easy task - particularly when i don't have a stage manager holding my hand through it. I will try out fifty things and then we'll try and stick them together again and without a stage manager we sometimes just look at each other like we've just had a stroke and realize it's all disappeared. So i've started using my phone to video tape the rehearsals which I think has turned out to be really helpful for everyone. Rich can use it to prep lighting cues before tech, Janet the stage manger uses it to practice calling the lighting cues... and the actors review it to check up on things that need brushing up.
Obviously this week has been an emotional one for all of us - but Adam, our musical director, (who hated to see the restaurant go because he ate their every day), said the whole building seems to be in a calmer, healthier place. We're all still walking around a little bit like zombies - sleep isn't the guarantee of rest for which one always hopes.
I'm planning on doing a blog video all about Adam and how he creates our orchestrations. This guy is just a wonderful human being, and the greatest collaborator you could dream of having. He cares so much about what he does - and cares just as much about what we are trying to do. He works through the night every night... and still manages to play piano as brilliantly as billy joel in rehearsals! I wish he could play the show live - he's amazing on the keys. But his arrangements are just stellar - and so creative and collaborative and a total bi-product of his taste and my humor and our desire to steer clear of the obvious. I'm hoping to track through him creating an entire arrangement so you can see that being played and created. It's pretty nifty stuff.
Anyway - I'm so proud of these guys. Got last semesters evaluations back from IPFW - apparently my students think i'm pretty good. I always do pretty well, but I was particularly pleased with this set - they really seem to feel like the class benefits them in their real lives, which is what my goal has always been.
Ok - i'm gonna leave you with a little preview of some Elvis magic in the making:
I had forgotten to tell you all we won a 'Huntington Alert' restoration award for the renovation of the ThEatery... which was a great validation of all the care Janice and Rich took making that original brick and the tin ceilings and tile look so good again.
I wondering - would any of you guys ever like to do a talk back with us and ask questions after the show? it's something we've never considered - but people always ask me interesting questions after the actors are gone - and maybe you'd like to ask them? Maybe we could pick a few nights in the summer run - one for each show - that offered a panel discussion after. Lemme konw what you think.
My ambien is starting to kick in - and i've got lots to do tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get some more blogness going soon. xo jojo.