The Soul Plays by Nicola Pearson

The Soul Plays by Nicola Pearson
Phillip Tarro Theater, Skagit Valley College Campus
Thursday, Sept. 27 – 2:30pm
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 & 29 at 7:30 pm.

Tickets are $5 and you can call (360) 416 7723 for information and reservations.

This is a great opportunity for those of you who didn’t get a chance to see “The Soul Plays” when they were performed at the college earlier this summer.  Written by local playwright, Nicola Pearson, this series of one acts is delightful, humorous and thought provoking. The cast is charming and obviously has fun with the material. I really recommend that you try to see this, particularly at these bargain prices. Performances will be at Phillip Tarro Theater.

Cabaret Flambe Musician Page

Musician info page for Cabaret Flambe at the Lincoln Theater – Fri October 12 and Sat October 13, 2007.

REHEARSALS:
Tuesday October 2nd – 9-11pm – Band only at TAG rehearsal space
Thursday October 4th – 9-11pm – Band only at TAG rehearsal space
Friday October 5th – 6-10pm band w/cast at Conway Muse

Since most players are also in the RHS band, we’ll combine some rehearsals as needed.

SONGS:

1) Cabaret – Jennings Watts

2) Dance me to the end of love – Peggy Wendel

3) Making Whoopee – Key Eb – Ria Peth

4) Piano solo – Conrad Askland

5) La Vie en Rose – Key C – Jennings & Lynnette?

6) Móðir mín í Kví Kví – Elfa Gisla

7) You Can Leave Your Hat on – Jennings Watts

8) Kiss of Fire – Peggy Wendel

9) Hernandos Hideaway Key Cm – Elfa Gisla?

10) Rock me baby – Key E – Ria Peth

11) Halleluiah – Lindsey Bowen

12) Transvestite – TAG – Rocky Horror Picture Show?

13) Everybody’s Girl – Sarah Simmons

Conrad rehearsal info:

 TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 18TH at 7-9 PM –

 Skits

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7:00 – 7:15 – Móðir mín í Kví Kví – Elfa Gisla

Rocky Horror Show 2007

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Theater Arts Guild presents the ageless cult classic, The Rocky Horror Show, live on stage! Brad (Matt Riggins) & Janet (Karen Pollack) take a wrong turn and arrive at the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (James Padilla). Uh-oh, here come Riff-Raff (Nathan McCartney), his sister Magenta (Joey Van Pelt), groupie Columbia (Martha McDade) and Frank’s delicious creation, ‘Rocky’ (Morgan Witt). Brad & Janet, dazed in sexual confusion, are saved by Dr. Scott (Randy Pratt). Did I mention Eddie (Joe Johnson) gets euthanized?

Costuming is welcome- grab your fishnets & stilettos. RHS contains mature themes, sexual situations, and strong language! Parental discretion is advised.

Rocky Horror Show
Lincoln Theater
712 S. 1st St. – Mount Vernon, WA 98273
http://www.lincolntheatre.org
Oct 26, 27, 31
Nov 1,2,3,8,9,10
8:00 pm
$20 All Seats; All Shows
$1 Preservation Fee
Reserved Seating

SYNOPSIS:

On the way to visit an old college professor, the two clean cut kids, Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss run into trouble and look for help at a light down the road. The light is coming from the old Frankenstein place, where Dr. Frank N Furter is in the midst of one of his maniacal experiments…Follow Brad and Janet on a trip they (and you) will never forget! Get ready for some fun, frolic, and frivolity. Rocky Horror is an ageless classic bursting at the seams with such memorable melodies as Sweet Transvestite, Dammit Janet, and, of course, the pelvic thrusting Time Warp. The Rocky Horror Show can’t stop partying! This is the boldest bash of them all, so fish out your fishnets, and sharpen your stilettos for the rockiest ride of your life!

Response to High School Musical Auditions

To the many who have contacted me about Disney’s High School Musical 3 auditions – I regret to inform you I have nothing to do with them. I have even been contacted by hopeful actors who have told me the Disney Channel is giving out my contact info for auditions. I have a hard time believing that – but again, my regrets to inform you I do not work for Disney or HSM3.

As an additional tip – if you search “audition” on my website you will find many articles I have written about the audition process and tips to improve your success. Emailing people and saying “please fly me to auditions I’m really good” is not really the way to do it. And I say that to be helpful to your careers.

The Conway Muse

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Let’s send a little Google love to The Conway Muse. The Muse is one of the favorite hangouts for local artists in the Skagit County, Island and Stanwood areas. Some of my favorite late night jams have been up there. But the exciting news is that soon they will be open to the public so everyone can experience the magic.

My favorite part about The Muse is the wide diversity of people present. I have never seen a wider diversity in any other setting. Everyone who hangs out there has one thing in common: a passion for the arts (or is dating someone who’s passionate for the arts!).

Humidity Effects on Tuning and Intonation

Here’s the quick read for this post: Humidity changes can severely affect the intonation of orchestral groups. Air conditioning needs to stablize the performance venue temperature before the orchestra shows up. Lower temperature will automatically reduce humidity. If you are still stabilizing the room temperature (which also lowers humidity) when the orchestra shows up on a very humid day, you may have severe intonation problems. Yes, it’s a big deal.

I conducted a show recently where their were wild intonation problems in the orchestra. It was like night terrors I have sometimes, but this was real. All my ace players out of tune. Happened one by one until it was so rampant I could not distinguish who was out of tune and how far, because it was almost across the board.

It became a musical detective mystery story to figure out the cause of the problem. Many orchestra members provided theories about it but they all seemed to fall short. I am not one who buys into the “we’re having a bad night” excuse. Not with all my ace players across the board playing out of tune.

The title of this post has already given the culprit away so there is no mystery for you. After talking with the technical director of the concert hall we determined it was the high humidity causing intonation problems in the orchestra. The air conditioning was turned on a couple hours before the show and this is a mid-sized opera type hall, fairly large with around 700 seats. By the second act the humidity was much lower and things returned to normal. But during the first act the temperature and humidity were still being “conditioned” – in other words the humidity level was changing slightly during the whole act, instruments were warping accordingly to create intonation problems that were changing on a continual basis. To describe the change in humidity over a 90 minute period – it was like going from a Memphis, TN humid sticky summer to the chill and dryness of a typical movie theater. Drastic changes in a short time frame.

It is surprising that no one had come across this in the hall before. But this was a mid-summer day with an almost freakish high humidity on the day of performance. Was also a mid-day show and not in the evening. I asked the technical director of the venue “How do the other orchestras deal with this?”. As it turns out most of the other orchestral performance groups don’t perform in the summer because it’s their break time. So they had never encountered it, much less on an incredibly humid mid-day.

Here’s what you should know about humidity and orchestras, straight from Conrad’s School of Hard Knocks:

1) Humidity is lowered in cooler temperatures. You will cut down your humidity just by lowering the temperature.

2) Instruments most affected by humidity are made of wood and come into contact with non-wood pieces, ie: string instruments (guitars, violins, etc.). Next most affected after violins will be your woodwinds. If your brass is tuning off these instruments by ear during your show, they will fall like dominoes trying to follow the string and woodwind tunings. Argghh!

3) Changes in humidity cause the problems, not just the humidity itself. If your air conditioning system is in the process of still bringing down the temperature (thus lowering the humidity level) during a performance, you may be in trouble. Room environment should be at showtime conditions before your musicians being warming up.

SOLUTION:

The solution for all this is very simple, and of course seen in hindsight with 20/20 vision: Turn the air conditioning on in plenty of time before the performance so the room is at a stable temperature before the orchestra arrives. Ta-Da! Yes, it’s that simple.

I should note that the particular hall this happened at has a very sophisticated air conditioning system. Am told the system monitors Co2 content to know how much new air to circulate.

Thank you to my orchestra that suffered with me through this detective process and to the tech director who helped me figure it out. Hope this helps – here’s more info I found on the web about intonation, tuning and humidity. Surprisingly, I found nothing from other conductors or music directors on this subject. I would think this would be a common bane with MD’s working with large acoustic groups.

The Happy Ending: This story DOES have a happy ending. I was prepared to be thoroughly tarred and feathered for the intonation problems – but thanks to additional sound tweaks we had made with our sound crew, many people felt it was the strongest show of the run. (Wipes brow.) And now I have more knowledge under my belt. Unfortunately, I don’t think many will find this music info post until AFTER they’ve had a problem. We’re all still learning…..

Excerpt of “Wood, Temperature and Humidity”
by B.J. Fine – Original Article

The capacity of the air to hold moisture is proportional to ambient temperature; warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. Given a proscribed space e.g., a room, as warm air in it is cooled and the capacity of the air to hold moisture thus decreases, relative humidity in the space will rise. As cold air in a space is warmed and its capacity to hold moisture increases, relative humidity in the space drops. Such changes in temperature and moisture characterize the temperate climates in which most harpsichords live. In general, in winter, the greater the difference between inside and outside temperatures, the lower the interior RH will be (assuming no inside humidification).

Humidity Effects on Piano
Original Article by “Piano Man Inc.”

By far, the main reason why pianos go out of tune is due to rapid changes in humidity that occur when there is a climatic shift from one season to another. Changes in humidity affect all pianos – new and old, those that are regularly played and the ones kept neglected in a corner. Pianos go flat in the winter months when dry heat expelled from your furnace draws moisture out of the piano’s soundboard. In the spring, when you turn the heat off, the air is usually more moist. The soundboard absorbs this moisture, expands and causes the piano to go sharp by the summer. These seasonal changes in tuning are most obvious in the mid-range of the piano.

Relative Humidity Chart
Note 100% Relative Humidity is “Dew” level

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Intonation Variation by Temperature Change
(Listed in cents on chart – 100 cents equals a half step)

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Should I worry about humidity?
As an owner of acoustic instruments, you should worry about large, drastic humidity changes. While the outside of your instrument is finished to protect against moisture and dirt, the inside is not. In humid conditions, unfinished surface absorbs water and the wood swells. In dry conditions, the wood loses water and shrinks. While small, gradual fluctuations in humidity should not worry you, large, sudden changes and prolonged dryness are genuine cause for concern. Tone wood suppliers carefully select, cut and age woods for a minimum of four years to ensure that the wood is both stable and responsive when used in an instrument. Aged tone woods generally have moisture content between 40% and 60%. And, because wood changes size with moisture content, instrument builders keep humidity in their workshops very stable, typically at 50%. In this way, luthiers ensure that the wood that they shape or glue will not be swollen or shrunken relative to the other wood in the instrument. Relative swelling and shrinking of the wood remains important after the parts are glued together to make an instrument.

What Can I Do About Humidity?
In humid periods:

1. keep instruments in air-conditioning,
2. if air-conditioning isn’t possible and you note undesirable changes, take instruments to a repair technician for seasonal adjustments.

In dry periods:

1. keep instruments away from heaters,
2. use room- or instrument- humidifiers where you store instruments.

Take instruments that crack for repair immediately to increase the possibility of complete repair.

The Brilliance of Steve Buscemi

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Steve Buscemi – You know his face from nearly 100 films. One of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. He hits the nail on the head with this excerpt from a recent interview. When working with artists, let them bring their own vision to the table first. Then tailor it as it fits the directors vision. If you don’t give them the chance to do their thing, you miss out on many golden gems.

Q: How does your background as an actor affect your directing?

BUSCEMI: Casting is everything. Getting the person that you imagined is this character and then seeing what they bring to it. That’s why you hire them, so why tell somebody first what it is you want? I’m more curious to see what they bring to it and then be inspired by it and say: “OK, what if you tried this?” or “What would happen if … ?” I guess it’s the stuff that you don’t get to say as an actor to another actor if you’re just acting in a scene. (Laughs) You cannot do that.

META Performing Arts – Summer Theater Camp 2007

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Mount Vernon, WA – META Performing Arts is holding their summer theater camp workshops July 9-27, 2007 on the Skagit Valley College campus. Workshops cover stage combat, improvisation, vocal skills, auditioning and aspects related to live theater performance.

I will be teaching vocal and marketing classes at the camp. Many well known artists in the local Skagit Valley are instructors to share their particular expertise. Ages run from age 5 up to teens. Many veterans to the local stage attend these classes as well as first timers to the world of theater. A great way to introduce your children to the arts.

Just in the 18 months I’ve been in Skagit Valley, WA – I’ve seen many young green performers start to season and become artists of the craft. It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in Skagit. This summer camp is part of that process.

NEXT SHOW – BYE BYE BIRDIE
Auditions for META’s production of Bye Bye Birdie will be the end of August. Check their website for details. Shows will run at McIntyre Hall the end of November 2007. Last year I conducted “Seussical the Musical” with META and it was a lot of fun. We also did “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at the Lincoln Theater in April 2007.

From the META Website
Visit META at MetaPerformingArts.org

Summer Camp is tailored to varied ages
Professional headshots included in camp price!
Free and reduced tickets to live events!
Teens qualify to audition for the META Improv Troupe!
Backstage tours of McIntyre Hall for intermediate group!
Guest performers during some lunch hours!

Best Song for Child Auditions – Top Ten Kid Audition Tips

What’s the best song to sing for kids auditions? Let me tell you my pick, and why – along with top ten mistakes I’ve seen kids make at auditions. Parents please read this whole post, important information for you that you may not have thought of. It’s really not difficult stuff, just a matter of preparation. “Winging It” is a sure way to NOT get cast.

BEST SONG FOR KID AUDITIONS

My pick is “Consider Yourself” from Oliver. And here are my reasons:

  • Most everyone likes the song
  • It’s a song kids can sing and really sell utilizing their cuteness and smiles
  • It shows a child can keep pitch (assuming it’s sung correctly) through changing key centers.
  • It’s easy to learn, but not stupidly easy like singing “Happy Birthday”
  • If it’s performed on pitch with energy, smiles and big hand gestures – I can pretty much say you WILL get cast if there’s a part for you. Music directors are going to be listening for good pitch transition on the bridge section, make sure you have it right. If you don’t know what that means, have your kid meet with a music instructor (and give them a Starbuck’s gift card, we like that!). They’ll hook you up.
  • The range of the song is a little over an octave, not too demanding on young vocal ranges.

LYRICS TO CONSIDER YOURSELF from OLIVER

Recommend starting pitch: D (ask pianist to play a “G” chord). Or C (ask pianist to play an “F” chord). I think the original is in Bb, starting note F (a little high for many young voices).

NOTE: For auditions sing with your normal accent, don’t use a British cockney accent.

Consider yourself at home.
Consider yourself one of the family.
We’ve taken to you so strong.
It’s clear we’re going to get along.
Consider yourself well in
Consider yourself part of the furniture.
There isn’t a lot to spare.
Who cares?..What ever we’ve got we share!

If it should chance to be
We should see
Some harder days
Empty larder days
Why grouse?
Always a-chance we’ll meet
Somebody
To foot the bill
Then the drinks are on the house!
Consider yourself our mate.
We don’t want to have no fuss,
For after some consideration, we can state…
Consider yourself
One of us!

TOP TEN MISTAKES CHILDREN MAKE AT AUDITIONS

  1. Not having a song prepared. Then the director will say “Just sing Happy Birthday” – and all the directors will put on forced smiles to encourage the child, but inside our stomach is being tied in knots having to hear this.
  2. Singing a song beyond your years. No one wants to hear a fourth grader sing “Ti*s and A**” – it just makes everyone uncomfortable. And yes, I have seen children use that song at auditions. We don’t want something sultry or provocative from a kid’s audition – we just want to hear vocal quality and pitch retention.
  3. “Can I start over?” – Yikes, don’t do that. Just barrel your way through it. If you can’t do it, just stop and do a different song. It’s NEVER better when people start over, it just adds to the agony of the listeners – it shows a lack of preparation and commitment to the project you are auditioning for.
  4. Don’t sing the National Anthem, Happy Birthday or Row Row Row Your Boat. No one sings the National Anthem all the way through well, and Happy Birthday/Row Row Row Your Boat don’t show us anything about vocal quality or pitch recognition. If you sing those songs and you DO get cast, it means there was very low competition on that production for your age group – or singing wasn’t super important for all parts on this production.
  5. Finish Your Audition – If for some reason a child breaks down into tears during the audition process (which is not at all uncommon) and they want to stop, have them ask the directors if they can take a break and do it later. Most directors (in community theater environments) will be happy to do this. Give your kid a pep talk, tell them to own the stage and have them do it again in a half hour or when is available. I’ve seen kids do this, come back and own the stage – then go on to become very involved in theater. If you let your child leave, then they will forever have an indelible fear of theater and always feel like they don’t make the cut. It’s not true, make them go back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get cast.
  6. Keep it fun, keep it light. With rare exceptions, there is no place in children’s auditions for monologues about serious and dark topics like suicide, drug addiction, etc. I actually saw a talented actor not get cast in a show because they did a dark monologue on suicide, while auditioning for a Disney show. It made everyone uncomfortable, and had nothing to do with the show. Save the dark stuff for Shakespear auditions – and only use it when the upcoming production calls for it.
  7. THREE THINGS YOU NEED: Monologue, song, be prepared to dance. The monologue and song you are on your own, be prepared to sing it a capella (without music) in case there’s no piano player. Don’t bother with a CD soundtrack, just sing it. Have a monologue under one minute that lets you show a range of emotion. If you don’t have it memorized, read off a piece of paper – the acting is what’s important. Usually they will have a choreographer show you dance steps so you don’t have to have a dance prepared. So work on your Monologue and Song.
  8. Be Excited. Directors want to see your enthusiasm and confidence for the show. Smile, let your eyes sparkle and give it your all. The Directors are bored from watching so many auditions – make them laugh, entertain them – you’ll have a better chance of getting a part. Always say Thank You when you are finished.
  9. Take the Understudy Role – If you are offered an understudy role, take it. You will probably learn MORE than if you had been cast at the lead. At some point you’ll probably have the chance to take the role over or perform it. When that time comes you have to be prepared RIGHT THEN – so keep on top of the role and blocking. You might only get one chance to show your command of the role.
  10. Your Are Always Auditioning – While you are waiting for your audition, you are actually already auditioning. And when you’re waiting after your audition at the location, you’re still auditioning. Theater folks are a tight knit community and the audition process is a way to field out red flags and trouble spots. And PARENTS, this goes for you too: If you are a “stage parent” and causing friction at the audition location you may cost your kid a role. It happens more than you think. Be easy going and a team player. I know children that have lost out on PAID positions just because their parents are impossible to deal with. As you can probably guess, the parent’s don’t have a clue….

Estimate Preparation Time for Monologue and Song: 3 hours

NOW GO GET THOSE ROLES!

If any of this helped you out and you got cast, please leave a comment let me know!

Audition Tips for Kids

Audition Tips for Kids – Interview with Meridee Stein.

Also Read Conrad’s Top Ten Audition Tips for KidsÂ

About Meridee Stein. For nearly two decades, Ms. Stein has produced and directed family entertainment including new works by Charles Strouse, Richard Peaslee, Elizabeth Swados and Stephen Schwartz. Her productions have been performed nationally at such venues as the NYSF/Public Theater, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Annenberg Center and The O’Neill Theater Center, and internationally in China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Ms. Stein is a member of SSDC, the Dramatists Guild, League of Professional Theatre Women and is a 2004 graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute.

About Auditions for Children

Carol de Giere: As a director, what would you advise kids who are auditioning, or what are some of the biggest mistakes?

Meridee Stein: One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot is singing out of your range. You need to present yourself in the best possible light. If you have a more limited range, find a song that highlights that range.

Also I would say, 12 year olds should not be singing sultry, very mature adult songs and lyrics, which sometimes they do. It’s very off-putting in a way, because it really doesn’t come from them.

CD: So would they pick songs from musicals where there was a child part?

MS: They could. For example, we had some little boys come in and sing from Oliver, “Where is Love” that shows off their beautiful boy’s soprano. We had a girl come in and sing “Popular” from Wicked. That was fine. She was great. She even had the little Kristin Chenoweth sound. Anything that they can really understand themselves and stays within their vocal range would be fine. Otherwise it’s a little off-putting and they don’t sound as good as they could.

CD: Do children come in with an up tempo and a ballad like adults would?

MS: Yes. In our case [for Captain Louie for the York Theatre production in the spring of 2005] we told them to bring a legitimate theatre tune and a pop tune. So some were ballads and some weren’t but they were two different modes. They get 16 bars but they should prepare the whole song because we will sometimes let kids sing all the way through.

CD: What else do you expect of them going into a show?

MS: …We expect them to be prepared, and when they are out there, that they behave like professionals. They are going to have to balance their school work and their performance schedule.

CD: Do you expect them to act a song when they are auditioning?

MS: I do. The more an actor or actress (kid or not) can get across a character in their song, the more I am interested. Songs in musicals aren’t sung without the context of the show they’re in. I’m looking for people who will do a good job in my show, not for cabaret performers. When I audition, during call backs I run scenes with them. I let them read the scene first and I give them directions to see who can follow. And sometimes I give line readings to see if they can get what it is that we want. The ability to take direction, to change what they are doing based on suggestion, is more important to me in the audition than whether they actually nail the specific character or part.

It’s hard to find kids who can act and sing and dance at the same time. We kind of put the dancing on hold, but you can tell whether kids are stiff or can move. And our choreography tends more to be movement than actual dance. In the end, I’ll take more of a chance on a kid who can sing and needs work on the acting side because you can help people with line readings but you can’t give them a good voice. It’s a matter of balance. And the nature of the particular role, as well.

CD: When they perform at an audition, do they look at the director?

MS: When they are up there, they have a reader and they are working with the reader….[So they are looking at the reader]…

CD: For your professional off-Broadway production, what’s the relation of the number who audition to who gets the part?

MS: I would say there were at least 200 people that auditioned and I think we picked six or seven. That’s a pretty tight ratio. It’s a tough business, and these are young starting out with great talent. Not a whole lot of experience, so I’m going to have to work a lot to get the performances. Some of them have great voices but it’s not just about learning the music, it’s about performing the song in context– about making the musical moment work within the show.

CD: So what does that mean to you – the difference between singing and performing.

MS: All songs are performed when they are on stage. Signing is learning the notes and what you have to sing. But for performing it, there are the lyrics, it’s what it says. It’s the context in which you are performing this number in the show itself. And what it’s supposed to be doing and what you want the audience to feel and what part of the story are you telling when you sing this song, and how does it move us forward from point A to point B, what does it serve, and why is it here? It’s the actor’s job to tell that story of the show through the song. So it’s just as big an acting job as it is when you’re talking to somebody in a scene.

Getting the Callback – Theater Auditions

“I GOT A CALLBACK WITH 5th AVENUE!”. Actually she told me the news very calmly. I was the one who was so excited for her.

Up here in the Seattle theater scene and Skagit County in Washington – 5th Avenue theater in Seattle is the first major break. It’s that first line you can put on your resume that says “Yes, other people think I’m good too.” It’s validation and the richest of mana for aspiring thespians.

You start with your local school and college shows and venture into community theater. Then you get your first supporting role in community theater – and THAT’S exciting because they cast you for talent and potential, not because you’re paying to be in a class.

Then you get your first lead role in community theater – you’re excited and you give it your all. But it’s all done with the expectation of where you can go next. Sure, you’re doing community theater now – but is it good enough to go pro?

In the Seattle and Skagit areas in Washington the next step is groups like Village Theater. They are the in-between stop between community theater and 5th Avenue. Community theater strives to be as good as Village Theater, and Village Theater strives to be as good as 5th Avenue (that’s my theory anyway).

So you’ve moved up the ranks and got some gigs from Village Theater, everyone knows you have 5th Avenue on your radar. If you’ve moved up as far as a lead role with Village, you can’t HELP but want to break on through to the Fifth.

Back to my friend. She is a well known talent up here in Skagit County – EVERYONE knows her. I have never heard a single criticism of her acting – she is creme de la creme. And here’s what I like about her best: I’ve seen her in several community theater shows and she always gives her best. Deep analyzation and development of a three dimensional character. She knows her motivations at every single moment AND she knows how to lay back and let others shine when it’s not her moment.

When I first saw her perform a couple years ago I thought: “Why is she still doing community theater? She should be pro.” And that’s where we come to the actual point of this post.

I see people in community theater who have aspirations of moving up, but they give lame performances. Their attitude of “this is only community theater, I’m better than this” is so glaring, I cannot fathom how they expect to move on. A better attitude I think would be to say “I’m going to use community theater to develop my chops, until I am so good it is inconceivable that I could only do this.”

You need to be such a big fish in your pond, that the laws of physics command you out. And I don’t think it helps to be a big fish by having an attitude about your current pond.

Several months ago I had someone say to me, “Well, I won’t take a role unless it’s a lead role. It’s a waste of my time.” This was a person who is doing community theater, but has aspirations of moving up to the 5th. What made me sad was, they’re not ready. They have talent, I like them, they are cool – but they need some more development time. I watched them give a half-assed presentation of a role because it wasn’t big enough for them. It made me sad. That same experience could have been transformed into developing their chops.

My next point. Sometimes, actually many times, people have said to me things like “Thanks for lowering your bar to be part of community theater” or “It must be frustrating working with amateurs.” NOT TRUE. Those comments don’t even make sense to me; those comments are non-sequitur. Now I will admit that I have been slowly understanding the slower pace of community theater rehearsals (Yes, that can be a little frustrating sometimes) – but as long as everyone is giving their best, I have no complaints. (But people that have worked with me know I have MANY pointed and sharp criticisms in store for those that do not give their best.)

If you step from professional jobs into community theater without being kind to those around you, it is the kiss of death. In the trajectory of a career in the arts you will have the super cool jobs, the “resume jobs” and you will also have the not-so-impressive jobs. That doesn’t mean they have to be any less rich or any less in gaining experience.

I owe community theater a lot. It’s a training ground for all of us. Most of the things I have learned in community theater are not the lessons I had anticipated. They are lessons about relationships, being cool when the pressure hits and getting a feel for how hard you can push the envelope.

“Nice post Conrad, but my director doesn’t know what he/she is doing.” Know what? Not your call. ALL directors drive you crazy. They have the artistic vision, and often it’s going to be different than your own. That’s the hard part.

My friend understands this. And I really hope that at her callbacks she wows them and gets a role. And you know what, if she doesn’t; she’ll get one eventually. WHY? Because she uses every single opportunity to develop her craft. While others approach the craft in a pedestrian fashion, she is creating art. Good for her, bad for them.

If the term “it’s just community theater” is in your vocabulary – I would encourage you to rethink that. Your current role in theater is part of your journey. If you think it’s beneath you, then you shouldn’t be there. Whether it’s “beneath you” or not all depends on what you want to take from it.

Wicked – Orchestra Pit Photos

In October 2006 I saw WICKED at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Of course it was an incredible show, amazing singing and a totally engaging score.

The core musicians in the pit that tour with the show are the conductor, drums, guitars and keyboards. The other musicians (like brass and woodwinds) are contracted locally at each venue.

Here are some pictures of the orchestra pit of the WICKED touring crew. GREAT SHOW GUYS!!!!

Wicked Orchestra Pit Pictures

Bass Player
The bass player, (seen here drinking coffee), plays 3 instruments; a stand up bass, a fretless electric bass, and a fretted electric bass.
Bass player Mark

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Guitar Player
This musician plays 6 instruments; a banjo, a mandolin, two acoustic guitars, and two different electric guitars to achieve different effects.
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Percussionist
Chuck is the percussionist and he plays many, many different instruments. Besides the obvious timpani, bells, vibraphone, bass drum, tubular bells, and cymbals, he plays a number of very unusual instruments to achieve special effects including a peanut wind chime and a water pipe.
percussionist Chuck

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more percussion equipment
Another view of the percussion area.
Percussion equipment

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More percussion
This view is more or less the way Chuck sees his area.
percussion equipment 2

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Keyboards
There are 4 keyboard synthesizers in the pit. One of them takes the place of the entire string section, and the other three take the place of other live musicians. Unfortunately, this isn’t good for live wind players, but it makes it cheaper for the producers of the show to stage a large production like this. The synthesizers blend in with the live musicians and make it sound like there is full orchestra in the pit. Here are two of the keyboards.
keyboard player

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Drummer Booth
The drummer has his own booth in the pit. This is for a couple of reasons, but mostly it’s so that the sound man can create a good balance between the drummers sound and the acoustic musicians, and also so that his sound doesn’t bleed into the other musicians microphones.
inside drummer booth

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Drummer booth
Inside the drummer booth. You can see that the drummer also has several percussion effects to play.
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Brass Section
The brass section is made up of 1 trumpet, 1 french horn, and 1 trombone. If you look closely, you can see that they all use a variety of mutes to achieve different effects for different songs. The trumpet player plays a flueglehorn and a trumpet, and the trombone player plays a tenor trombone and a bass trombone.
brass players

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Woodwind section
The woodwind section is made up of 1 clarinet, 1 flute, (me!) and 1 oboe. The clarinet player plays clarinet, Eb clarinet, bass clarinet, and soprano saxophone. I play flute, alto flute, piccolo, recorder, and pennywhistle. The oboe player plays oboe and english horn.

You may be interested to know that each musician gets paid more $$ for every instrument they play!
woodwind players

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The Conductor
This is Bob the conductor. He, the drummer, two keyboard players, and the guitar player travel with the show; the rest of the musicians are local.

The conductor is really the one who runs the whole show. He is responsible for coordinating the singers with the musicians, and making sure that everything runs smoothly.

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Washington State Fun Facts

1. It is America’s coffee capital, with more coffee bean roasters per capita than any other state.
2. “The Wave”, a popular fan cheer for the past 25 years, was started by Husky fans at the University of Washington.
3. Adam Morrison, a Washington State native and Gonzaga University basketball star, led the NCAA Division I in scoring last season.
4. The state is the nation’s largest exporter, representing $34 billion and 5 percent of all U.S. exports: forest products, aerospace products, apples, tulips, hops, mint, wheat and several other quality food products.
5. Leading innovators — Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, wireless pioneers the McCaw family, and the Boeing family — live in Washington State.
6. Washington State is America’s gateway to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.
7. Washington leads the country in technology industry employment.
8. Grand Coulee Dam, the largest concrete structure in North America, is in Washington State.
9. Washington’s residents are educated; it’s the state with most residents holding high school diplomas. (?) Seattle leads the country in residents with more college degrees per capita.
10. Father’s Day was founded here in 1910
11. The state is home to the world’s largest private car collection featuring over 3,000 vehicles.
12. Washington is home to the largest land mollusk in North America, a foraging banana slug that grows up to 9 inches long.
13. In Washington, a Seahawk is an athlete, not a bird. The closest thing to a Seahawk is an osprey hawk.
14. Washington’s entrepreneurial climate has made it the leading state for both startup and gazelles, or fast growing young companies.
15. Washington, the 42nd state in the union, is the only state named for a president
16. Seattle gets less rainfall annually than Atlanta, Boston, New York, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Miami, with 37 inches.
17. Seattle has the highest concentration of aerospace jobs in the world, led by Boeing’s 50,000 workers.
18. Our homegrown musicians include Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Kenny G, Conrad Askland, The Wailers, Pat Boone, Bing Crosby, Quincy Jones, among others. And now add Blake Lewis, 2007 American Idol final two. Oh, yeah, and Sanjaya.
19. Petrified wood is the state’s gem, and there’s a petrified forest here that’s considered the most unusual fossil forest in the world.
20. Washington State defines innovation. Some of the leading employers include Microsoft, Amazon.Com, Nordstrom, Boeing, Costco and Starbuck’s.
21. Washington has hosted the World’s Fair twice: 1962 in Seattle and 1974 in Spokane.
22. Washington produces 70 percent of the nation’s hops used to brew beer. Coincidentally, to overcome beer breath, the majority of the nation’s mint is also grown in the state.
23. The longest accessible beach in the U.S. is in Washington, the 28-mile-long stretch aptly named Long Beach.
24. Washington is a leader in health sciences research; it ranks tops in scientists and engineers as a percentage of workforce.
25. “Tales from the Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson is a Washington native.
26. Washington has the largest ferry system in the nation — 26 million passengers travel by ferry each year.
27. The state’s nickname is the Evergreen State for its abundant Evergreen forests.
28. It is America’s raspberry capital, harvesting more than 57 million pounds of raspberries each year.
29. Washington is the country’s second largest producer of wine, with its more than 350 wineries gaining international attention.
30. More people in Seattle commute to work on bicycles than any other city nationwide.
31. Washington’s Hells Canyon is the deepest River Gorge in North America, deeper than the Grand Canyon at over 5,500 feet deep.
32. One in every six Washingtonians owns a boat in this state where recreational and the commercial boating industry leads the country.
33 Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old skeleton, the oldest ever discovered in the Americas, was found in Washington in 1996.
34. The first revolving restaurant in the continental U.S. was built in Seattle’s Space Needle for the 1962 World’s Fair.
35. The cleanest air in the nation is found in a Washington community, Bellingham, according to the EPA and American Lung Association.
36. Washington’s cows produce more milk pe r cow than any other state, totaling 1.3 billion pounds of milk each year.
37. Seattle’s world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly has put Washington on the international map, second only to Venice in number and skill of glassblowing artists.
38. Mark Rypien, 1992 Super Bowl MVP, is a Washington native and resides in Washington State.
39. Washington is the nation’s top apple producing state, with 10-12 billion apples handpicked annually.
40. Seattle sells more sunglasses per capita than any other major city in the nation

The First Father’s Day

Father’s Day, contrary to popular misconception, was not established as a holiday in order to help greeting card manufacturers sell more cards. In fact when a “father’s day” was first proposed there were no Father’s Day cards!

Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington, first proposed the idea of a “father’s day” in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across American other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.” In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day.

Father’s Day has become a day to not only honor your father, but all men who act as a father figure. Stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, and adult male friends are all honored on Father’s Day.

Script Layout Hints

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Format
In order to gauge more or less how long a film a script will make (very useful for producers), there are certain standards in formatting. Avoid these at your own risk. Americans especially are very rigid about this. These standards allow us to measure a script’s length by saying that: “a page of script equals roughly a minute of screen time”. This is a very rough guide (often action films scripts are short but take longer on screen than a dialogue based script) and not to be completely trusted.

Font
You should use Courier (or New Courier) Size 12. This is a fixed-width font, which many believe makes it easier to read. You’ll be surprised how picky some readers are about this.

Length
Should fall between 90 to 120 pages. Anything longer and your chances of being read begin to diminish. Dumb huh?

Numbering
Avoid numbering scenes unless it is a shooting script which will only be seen by yourself or when actually shootingthe film. Script readers don’t like them.

Layout
A script layout should look something like this. Some will demand exact measured layouts but few are very sticky about exact distances from margins etc. (Note that it is difficult to display exact layouts on web browsers – this is only a rough guide.)
Layout Example

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Dialogue
This one is a toughie. It’s very hard to teach dialogue. One has to develop an ear for the way people really speak and not how we think they speak. Listen to people from various backgrounds and in various situations talk as often as you can. You’ll probably notice that people are not very eloquent in general. They don’t express themselves very well vocally and a great deal of what is NOT said is just as important (often more so) than what is said. Bring these thoughts to your scriptwriting process. And again read lots of scripts and watch many films to become more sensitive to dialogue.

An important thing to remember is that scripts are the basis of the visual medium of film. An old adage is: never say what you can show instead. In other words if a character is angry don’t have her say “I’m angry!”, show it to us. E.g. have her smash a window with a chair instead.

Characters
There is almost always a central character in a Hollywood movie. That is because Hollywood films work on the basis of the audience being able to identify with a character and his or her experiences. More than one central character tends to confuse the viewers (at least according to many studio execs).

Characters are expected to be three dimensional and rounded. By that it is meant that we should get a sense of their history and how it has affected them as well as understanding why they do what they do (usually called Motivation). (E.g. X avoids men because of a previous heartbreaking episode). This is based on the idea that we do things for knowable reasons. Modern psychology came up with this somewhat naïve notion. However we rarely actually have access to the full reasons why we, others (or ourselves) do what we do. Nevertheless Hollywood believes otherwise.

This convention often leads to some awfully contrived scenes in which characters reveal really corny back-stories and traumatic past events. This is also called “exposition” and is very difficult to write without being obvious or corny. Exposition should happen organically and without the audience realising it. Some filmmakers such as David Cronenberg don’t allow us to get close to their characters and we rarely know why they do things except for the obvious. Unlike in most Hollywood films we are not participants in Cronenberg’s films – but voyeurs watching the action from the outside.

Nevertheless it often helps to create back-stories for your characters. These are basically histories for your characters – their life experiences, social and economic background etc. This doesn’t have to all be obviously present in the script but helps to craft more real characters.

Part of having a three dimensional character is that we see him or her develop across the course of the script. They should change in front of our very eyes. Again remember these are all conventions for a conventional style of film.

Camera Directions
It’s usually not appreciated that you include camera movements in your scripts. There are ways of getting around this in sticky situations. Sometimes it can’t be avoided. Tarantino’s scripts on the other hand are full of camera directions. If the script is going to be pitched to outside producers and script-reader

Formatting Scripts

final-draft.jpgHow long should a script be?

How important is the format of my script? And if it’s SO important, how do I go about doing it properly?

While this is the subject of much debate – generally along the lines of individuality versus making life easy for a reader – it seems largely accepted that to be taken seriously you should at least attempt to follow a recognised format for screenwriting. Most of the rules about fonts, margins, page size etc. exist so that scripts follow the very rough formula of one page roughly equalling one minute. The most common way of doing this is as follows:

1. Scripts should be typed in 12 point courier in order to conform to the page a minute rule. Do note that the rule is an average one and the reality is more like 1 page of dialogue = 30 seconds, balanced out by 1 page of action = 2 minutes or more. Either way a script that comes in at longer than 100 pages indicates either a long film or a dialogue-heavy one (or both) with both types of film more difficult to finance and to sell….

2. Margins should be approx 3cm; Text should be justified to the left, with dialogue tabbed approx. 5cm from left; and character names centred.

3. Character names should be centred above dialogue and written in CAPITALS, except when they occur in the actual dialogue. An alternative here is the US method which only puts the character in CAPS when he/she first appears. This makes the first entrance clear for every department – useful for readers and also for make-up, costume, etc, – and avoids the sense that the writer is SHOUTING.

4. Double space stage directions from the dialogue; single space the lines of the stage directions themselves; use a single return between the name of the character speaking and the dialogue that follows.

5. Directions should be written in CAPS (eg INT. PUB – DAY)

6. Number scenes on the left. There is some discussion about not numbering until you have been asked to provide a shooting script, immediately prior to production. From that point on the numbers are “locked” and can never be changed. After the numbered shooting script, any new scenes are inserted, eg: 7a, 7b… and deleted scenes are marked as such, eg: 6 SCENE DELETED. They should also be copied on different coloured paper for each redraft. But none of this should concern scripts which haven’t yet been bought.

Software
It is of course possible to make life easy with a number of pieces of screenplay formatting software, the most common of which is Final Draft. The UK edition of Final Draft Screenwriting Software seems to be the serious screenwriter’s software of choice. It’s widely endorsed by industry figures.

While Final Draft is more popular amongst writers, Screenwriter 2000 has stronger production features and integration with MM Scheduling and Budgeting. Other than that, it’s usually down to personal preference.

Free formats
There are a number of free downloadable programmes which have some of the features of Final Draft though most have not been designed to write scripts and so while templates will give you a perfectly formatted script (as will a typewriter), what they will not give you is flexibility and control over your screenplay as you write.

You can set up a template in your Microsoft office program. Go into ‘Styles’ in the formatting menu, set all your styles as per industry format script, type in some keyboard shortcuts so that you can just select and edit text as and when you want to for Directions, Speech, Parenthetical business etc, and just type away. The master scene script is set in a single column format. With the left edge of the paper at zero and your type preferences in picas, give your copy horizontal spacing thus:

10 – sequence numbers
15 – directions – 75
30 – speeches – 60
40 – parenthetical business – 55
45 – names of speakers
60 – transitions
75 – page numbers (although this is the least important setting)

Assign all the type in Courier New 12pt type, put these settings in your style menu in word and assign them short cuts (ie: ‘control + 1’ for directions, ‘control + 2’ for speeches etc.). You can set your CONT’s and page numbers in your header and footer menu, then save the whole document as a template which you go into every time you are writing a script. Then, just type. When you return to your work later and highlight each section you can use your short cuts to format it.

Fright and Suspense in Children’s Theater

I’m currently working on an original project for a children’s theater group and the question keeps coming up in my mind: How frightening can a scene be when creating for children’s theater.

Many times while talking with the seedy underbelly of society (yes, I am referring to thespians, or as Stephen Dietz says in his Dracula; “that theater crowd”), the subject will come up of our favorite scenes we remember as a child. And in that conversation eventually it will come to the scenes that frightened us the most.

I used to think this was only MY experience, that I was frightened out of my wits by things that now seem borderline comical – but I have been enlightened that my experience has been common for tens of thousands of others as well.

A LIST OF SCENES FROM CHILDRENS STORIES THAT FRIGHTENED ME AS A CHILD

  • Wizard of Oz – Anytime the Wicked Witch of the West shows up – especially the first scene when she meets Dorothy, and ESPECIALLY when she sends her flying monkeys out. I think I was five years old when I watched this for the first time (I still heckle my Mother for the fact that she would not come sit with me and protect me from the witch!)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – When that evil long nosed man in black tricks the two children into entering his candy wagon, which turns into a cage once they enter and they are rushed off to captivity.
  • In The Hall of the Mountain King – In first grade I saw a video of Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King” (which you might not know by the name, but would certainly know it once you heard it) – but they had a chorus singing the melody to “Witches in the Pumpkin Patch” and the witches danced around in a field. Very creepy. I think the adults who made it thought it was supposed to be cute – well, not to this first grader.
  • Pumpkin Head – Just the thought of Pumpkin Head brings a shiver down my spine to this day.
  • Mother Goose – We sang Mother Goose songs as kids and never thought a thing about it. It was great fun. Then one day you make the mistake of actually reading the words – EEGADS! It’s hideous.
  • A Christmas Carol – The Ghost of Christmas Future. In ANY version of the Dicken’s tale I would have to hide behind something and peek out every ten seconds or so.
  • Pinnochio – The whale didn’t scare me, but when Pinocchio gets donkey ears and all the kids turn to donkeys, then they start breying – THAT freaks me out. As a kid you don’t know it’s going to be better, you just know he’s a donkey. Even as a kid, imagining the biological process of turning into a donkey made me almost faint. Do your organs turn inside out? Yuck.
  • Snow White – When the Queen talks to the mirror, that mirror guy was very scary. When Snow White takes the apple and you’re yelling at the screen “No, don’t!” – but she does it anyway (every single time I watched it, which is upsetting she never learned). Then the henchmen take Snow White to the woods to cut out her heart? They don’t actually do it, but the Queen thinks they did and she’s ok with that. DOUBLE YUCK!
  • Fantasia – The whole thing.
  • Land of the Lost – Those darn Sleestak. They move so slow and make that creepy hissing sound, but what happens if they actually catch you? I think they put you in a web or something.
  • H.R. Pufnstuf – The opening scene before the show starts, when the happy pretty little boat turns black and scary. Then Witchie Poo was always scary. I had lots of nightmares as a kid that starred Witchie Poo – when she finally caught me I would wake up and not move for like ten minutes.
  • Sesame Street – Snuffleupagus, Snufflupugus, Snuffulupagus (different spellings). This goes under the “suspense” category. It was SO aggravating as a kid that only Big Bird could see Snufflupugus. I yelled at the screen really loud to, but to no avail.
  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – As a kid the organ playing in the mansion was frightening. And then to find out there was blood on the keys. Now when I watch this movie it’s very funny, but as a kid it was like going into a haunted house (which it was).
  • Fiddler on the Roof – The scene where the grandmother rises from the grave, sings a VERY scary song in that screechy spooky voice, then chases Tevya through the graveyard. I’m including it even though it’s not children’s theater, because that’s my #1 pick for a creepy scene.
  • That’s all I can think of right now. You might recognize some of these yourself and are might be saying “But that was FUNNY, he was scared of that?”

    I am very scared of heights, so I love going on rides that are very tall. I get white knuckles and can’t even speak while waiting for the ride to start. An example is the Tower of Terror at Disneyland’s California Adventure.

    “But”, you say, “I thought you said you were afraid of heights, so you mean you DON’T like going on tall rides.” No. well…I mean I don’t like it, but I DO go on them intentionally because it’s such a rush. To someone who’s not afraid of heights it’s just another ride, but to someone like me it’s something I fret about ALL DAY while at the park – and when it’s over, what a great feeling!

    There’s an exhiliration to these things once they are over. A feeling of accomplishment – you dared to do something and came out ok.

    And yes, I was the kid in swim class you laughed at because he was the last to jump off the diving board. (I’m still surprised I’m alive after that.)

    In children’s theater if there’s a happy ending to a suspenseful scene, should you let the audience know right away or leave them hanging? Is it mean to leave them hanging or part of the adrenalin ride? Fun question.

    You can fill a children’s presentation with morales and monologues on what is to be learned, but for me it’s the adrenalin moments that I remember. Looking at a mountain peak and saying “Yes, I’ve been there.” That’s a great feeling for a child.

    HSM DVD Release Party

    hsm_dvd_sleeve.jpgFrom HSM Producer Harold Paige

    Yea! It’s finally going to be here! Cast, crew and production staff are invited to a premier showing of the DVD of Theater Arts Guild’s presentation of Disney’s High School Musical.

    Cast, crew and production staff should have already received an email with the time and place of the showing – this is a private showing and not open to the public.

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