Thursday, April 16, 2009

Follow up

So, OP4P closed nearly 2 weeks ago, and I'm only just getting around to my post mortem. But, come on! I'm pregnant, fat(ter) and lazy. I'm allowed to slack a little.

All in all, I was pleased with Prime. It was a fast-paced, naturalistic, relatable show that elicited laughter and honest emotion. That's what I wanted. The stage manager's mother - who had lost her sister recently - offered the comment that the scene in the ladies room between sisters Steph and Sierra, when they discuss Steph's failing health, really struck a chord with her and felt very real. I can't ask for a better review than that.

If I had any complaints, it would be these two things. First, as the run went on, there was some line sloppiness from the cast. Not that they were changing or altering any important lines, just that with all the natural interplay and improv that developed between the scripted lines, it occasionally got a little muddled. And it got even more vulgar. Now, I'll admit there are swears a-plenty in the script, but the looseness and improv the cast developed led to a sharp increase in f-bombs. It was just a little too much for what I wanted.

Secondly, the pr. Fourth Wall is a smaller theater than CPT with a lot less resources, but I still felt like we could have gotten the word out there better. More listings. Send a photo to Scene. Really court reviewers into coming. Update the website more frequently and make it easier for people to learn about the show. I ended up creating and running the Facebook event listing myself. I wonder if we could have - had I been more energetic and proactive in suggesting these things -  done some kind of cross promotion with Big Fun or some other cartoon/comic friendly place. The final two shows had good-sized crowds, but the first two weekends were sparsely attended. It was a bit frustrating, because the show was good and needed to be seen.

The question is what do I do now? I'm taking the summer off from theater to be pregnant, with the exception of directing my playwriting buddy Steve's workshop reading in June. So, I'll have downtime at home to focus on the scripts. Because Unethical only ran one weekend, I've gotten a lot of inquiries about when it will be mounted again from people who missed it or who wanted to send someone they know to see it. I need to contact CPT and see if there's any interest at all in doing it there again. They've supported it so far, so I'd like to give them first crack. Plus, we sold great there, so CPT's audience is clearly interested. (Or else my audience is clearly more interested in going there than Fourth Wall.) But, if not, I think I need to do some rewrites to de-clunkify some parts and start sending it out to festivals and contests. Several people think I should send it to Humana. Wouldn't that be a kick in the head if that happened!

Prime won't require nearly as much rewriting, but it's a different style of script and topic. The cast seemed to feel it would be a good fit at fringe festivals. I guess I should start researching those. Josh and Sarah want me to apply to Edinburgh. Yes, the one in Scotland. Sigh...

And I've been excited to get back to Danger Road. I want to finish it by the end of the summer so I can submit it to Little Box in the fall. (Not that I'll be able to even attend my own show with a several week old baby, but dare to dream. That's what in-town grandparents are for, right?)

The research, rewrites, applications, new script. This is a lot of potential work for an ever more tired and increasingly rounder lady who can't stop eating M&Ms. Plus we're working on the nursery, the garden and other house stuff we've been putting off. But I feel like I absolutely have to buckle down and do it. After the baby's born, I'll be so busy with that, I can't imagine I'll have any time to write, even with my very generous 13-week paid maternity leave. So, if I don't do it now, my work will languish. And I can't abide that. It's time to be stronger and more focused than my natural and hormone-induced laziness.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What next?

Prime closes on Saturday, and I will then run out of things to blog about, I imagine. The whole point of this was to track the production of my two shows. Once they're over, what will I write about?

Maybe if I decide to blog about my progress on my new script, it will force me to actually make progress on it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Weekend two is done

We are down to our last two performances of OP4P - Friday, April 4, and Saturday, April 5. Come see it if you haven't yet.

I've been concerned about lack of advertising leading to small crowds. I didn't go to the show this past Fri.-Sun., but I hear crowds were OK, still on the small side. I'm told Saturday had amazing energy in the first half and then became a tear-stained emotion fest at the end. After all that burned off, I'm told Sunday was an off night. It happens. Kind of wish I'd seen the super-charged Saturday show.

However, I did attend last night's special free beer Monday night show. Since most theaters are dark on Monday (stemming from an Equity rule), the idea is to have a night open to working actors who otherwise wouldn't be able to come. It was a surprisingly good-sized crowd, and a receptive crowd. It was fun for me to see the show again after a week off. It's definitely gotten looser over time. That's not to say that it's sloppy (well, a few parts were on Monday), but it feels very natural and almost like improv at this point, which is good. It should feel like that, because that's how real conversations are. Also, the spilled beer moment was the grandest it's ever been, with the beer bottle actually flying halfway across the stage and hitting the wall. I always like when the audience thinks it's a legitimate accident at first.

The cool thing is ... we got reviewed! I didn't think any reviewers were coming to our small venue, but we did get one, and the review was absolutely glowing. Read it here. You might have to scroll down a bit.

My hope for the actors is that this review pumps up the crowds for the last weekend. Their good work deserves to be seen. They deserve to go out with a bang.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Open for business

Prime opened on Friday night. I attended both Friday and Saturday's performances, but skipped the Sunday show in favor of walking the dog then collapsing in the absolute and utterly pathetic fatigue that comes from pregnancy.

Did I mention I announced to the world that I'm pregnant after the opening? More on that later.

Both Fri. and Sat.'s shows were very well performed, but sparsely attended. Which I assume is a function of not a ton of advertising. Which is a little frustrating because the cast is doing such a phenomenal job, I want people to see them. The comments I got after the show were mostly variations on this: "I thought it was just going to be funny. I didn't know it was going to be so sad."

But I also heard many really insightful comments about the development of the characters, the flow of the dialogue, and the architecture of the whole play that showed me people were really engaged and paying very close attention. And pretty much all of those comments were positive, which of course made me happy.

I has great fun buying Transformers comic books for the cast before opening night, too. Apparently, Sarah's comic, titled "Game over, Optimus Prime," is one of the most popular.

And then I told everyone I was all knocked up. About 12 weeks along, due October 8. Kelly cried a little, Marian was emotional, and both offered to knit things. Sarah actually said that while most babies disgust her, she is certain ours will not look like an alien, which is high praise. When Josh complained that the guys in the bar were referred to as "boys," Matt reminded him that we now all have proof he's a man.

The next night Jay gave us a card saying our news made him so happy, he was even inclined to like the French, a group he usually abhors with fiery passion. So that's a big deal!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Talking 'bout my generation

Last night was what I guess you would call final dress. There's no rehearsal tonight to give all the sick, tired, overworked actors a break, and tomorrow is preview. Whatever you call it, rehearsal is over, and it's time for show.

After the run last night (which finished at a tight, fast hour fifteen), Jenna said she felt ready to open, even noting that she just wouldn't know what to do with another week of rehearsal if we had it. The actors all seemed to agree. Josh noted that it was the first run in which he didn't worry about "what was going to come out of my mouth." Aubrey made the comment that she only had one beer for the whole show, whereas usually her character has time to go back to the bar for a second beer. I found that to be a very telling comment whether she realized it or not: she was too focused and too busy being Steph and dealing with Steph's issues to need the crutch of the prop beer or to fill space with a trip to the bar. You can see a sharper rhythm and very natural flow in a lot of scenes that used to feel choppier - Sierra, Matt and Steph at the bar pops to mind. They're overlapping and intercutting their lines without losing the intent or the clarity, which is how I was hoping it would end up.

I really think Jenna's right. They're ready.

At this point, my only concern would be some tech stuff, and honestly, I'm actually not even that worried. Justin is finishing the set dressing tonight while we're gone, and there were a few minor cue snafus last night, but I'm not feeling much in the way of angst about either of those things. I just kind of want to open!

Last night after rehearsal, the topic of "who will get this play" came up again. It's always been one of my biggest concerns and the issue I focused on most at the talkback after the Little Box reading. OP4P is clearly a generational play. It appeals to our narrow little cohort of ... I don't know what you call us ... geeks who grew up in 80s? At readings to date, older audience members have said that it was still relatable for them because the fact that this character likes X-Men and that character references Thundercats doesn't matter to the core story. People have told me that the characters' reasons for why they reference certain cartoons or hide behind certain geek jokes are what matter, and that's clear, they say, whether you get all the references or not. (Plus, people reminded me, all ages get Batman and Superman.)

But last night, they brought up something I'd never worried about before ... are people younger than us going to get it. As we all shared stories of 20-year-old siblings, coworkers or friends who have never seen the Original Holy Trilogy or Indiana Jones and who grew up with childhood cartoons like Rugrats, I wondered if they might be harder pressed to find a connection than people our parents' age and older. Not only will they have a disconnect with some of the references, they might not care about the issues the characters are facing because they haven't yet faced enough of post-college world themselves to realize how hard is to make new friends, find your niche and maintain who you are. 

We shall see.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good questions

I swung by OP4P rehearsal last night just in time to catch the full run of the show with costumes, props and tech. (Before I got there, they were working certain scenes and cues.) It's fun to see the set almost all together; it's just missing a little bit of set dressing. Lighting cues are all programmed, just now need the timing honed. There was music, chicken wings ... everything you need for a real show.

The top half is still flowing with more ease than the bottom half, but it's obvious Jenna has been working with the actors on certain key serious scenes (Steph and Sierra in the bathroom, Steph and Matt at the bar) because they've grown by leaps and bounds as far as energy and intent.

Last night Stuart (the actor) brought the cast lollipops ... because his character Matt, a pediatrician, talks several times about giving young patients lollipops. I love that.

Another thing I love ... while onstage but not in focus, Josh, Sarah and Shawn have developed a massive debate for their semi-pantomimed conversation. The topic: who would win in a fight between vampire ninjas (Vampjas) and werewolf cyborgs (Wereborgs). Now, there's a debate that could truly go either way.

I've been very tickled throughout the process by the questions the cast has asked me about the script. Some of them I have no answer to (like why Steph dismisses Superman as being ineligible for president for being an alien when Prime is an alien too. Which is true. He is an alien, but in my head, that's his least prominent identity after robot and truck.).

Among my favorites: Aubrey asked me about Kevin and Steph's past and relationship prior to the play, particularly their break up. The weird thing is, I've never specifically outlined what that was, I've just always sort of known or had a sense of what it was without scripting it. So, when I tried to offer a brief, general response, I ended up with paragraphs and paragraphs on my "guesses" as to what their relationship was like. 

Aubrey also asked me what kind of beer Steph would drink, and truthfully, I'd never thought about it. In the script, we know Stuey drinks Eliot Ness and Killian's at different points and that Sierra is ridiculed for drinking Coors. I never thought about Steph's beer preferences. Together, we figured, it would probably be something from Great Lakes. Like I told Aubrey, I totally see Steph as that girl who returned to college after spring break with a case of Great Lakes beer, Peterson's peanuts, Malley's chocolates, and Bertman's Stadium mustard. Because she's a Cleveland girl.

Josh astutely noticed that Kevin rarely drops the F-bomb, only if he really wants to piss people off. Rather, he often says "frickin'" as a substitute.  Josh asked if that was intentional, which it is. I just don't have a reason for it. In the very first draft, it was just my natural instinct to have Kevin use the word a lot ... and no one else. Once I noticed that inclination, I intentionally cultivated it, but there's no deep reason behind it. It's just how Kevin sounds to me. Josh thought he might devise for himself a reason.

And of course Sarah asked me why Sierra is only character that doesn't have a "What I want to be when I grow up" monologue as themselves at age 9. I get that question a lot. And there are two reasons. One: she does have a monologue. She tells Matt she wanted to be an astronaut, and tells him why. It's just that she says it within dialogue in the here and now, not in the past and alone in light delivered to the audience. Two: the reason Sierra can deliver her childhood dream in real conversation rather than in nostalgic fantasy is that she doesn't cling to her childhood like the others. She's very comfortable with herself as an adult; she's not afraid of letting go of some of that past to move forward. The others would all go back to being kids in a second if they could, pain, awkwardness and all. She would not. Thus, no monologue ... at least not in the traditional sense.

Friday, March 13, 2009

OP4P rehearsal: Awards

Presenting the winners of OP4P's Wednesday night rehearsal awards.

The award for Best Comedic Moment (planned) goes to ... Nate!
We all fully expect Nate's virtuoso solo dance performance to "SexyBack" to be one of the show's funniest moments. But it became even funnier Wed. night when Jenna asked him to (after his full-body opening flourish) tone it down and just find some sort of crotch-focused repetitive movement he could do in Josh's face until driving Josh to shout "Will you stop that, you freak!" Somehow his subtle groin grinding was unbelievably hysterical and even funnier than much wilder dances he's tried in the past. I suppose this award could also go to Jenna for wisely making the call for restraint.

The award for Best Comedic Moment (unplanned) goes to ... Robby!
Our hardworking stage manager Robby has the difficult task of calling cues from on stage. The board will be behind the bar on set, and Robby doubles as both stage manager and bartender. Generally, he doesn't interact much with the cast other than handing them beers, but in a fabulous moment in rehearsal, he made Josh and I laugh so hard we almost fell out of our chairs. As Stuart, Nate has to complain about how long it's taking the bar to make and serve the wings he ordered. (Spicy garlic wings to be exact, a reference in homage to the cast of "The Gulf" at Dobama's Night Kitchen in 2001.) So, naturally, now that he has a bartender on stage with him, Nate directed his anger toward Robby, who looked up from his script with great disdain and gave Nate a slightly annoyed, shrugging, "what?" gesture. Perfect.

The award for Cutest "Awwwwww" Moment goes to ... Shawnikins and Joshikins!
After the failed fight scene between Jeremy (Shawn) and Kevin (Josh), the two best friends sort of resolve their differences and return to the bar. At Wednesday's rehearsal when Josh asked Shawn "Are you still going to be my best man?" Shawn responded with such adorable sincerity and handed Josh his baseball cap, which had come off in the fight. They exited together with such tentative sweetness (the way only guys who are trying to be manly when they want to be sensitive can be) that Jenna actually turned around to look at me, and we totally cooed "Awwwww!" at each other. Precious.

The Award for Best Use of Bar Props goes to ... Stuart!
The entire cast has become quite comfortable gesturing and interacting with beer bottles in hand (because they never do that in real life). But Stuart gets props (hah!) for embracing all props including plastic forks, bar peanuts (which he tossed into Nate's mouth with great expertise), and napkins, which he turned into a shroud for Sierra's dead beer. Classic.

The award for Best Line Flub goes to ... Sarah!
She asked Stuart H., "Are you and your kids thinking of having wives?" Now, that's an entirely different play! Strike that; reverse it.

Everyone was in partial costume Wednesday night too, which was great fun to see. The top half of the show is pretty sharp, but it's clear they haven't spent as much time working the back half. It was slower and there was more hesitation with lines. But the whole shape is there. Last night, Jenna was planning on working some of the more serious moments, and this weekend tech begins. We're getting close.