Monday, August 2, 2010

v2, d133: WOF #4: Top 7

Sorry for the delay, on to the fun.

I've done a lot of shows. By this age, I think pretty much anybody still in showbusiness has. So, why not do a Top 7 of the productions that were the most fun to be a part of and augment it with pictures when possible? Man, I'm a genius.

Here we go:


#7: Fiddler on the Roof, Wellington Community Theater, 1998

I don't have any pictures for this one, which is a shame. I had thousands of great laughs in my years at WCT, but this one stands out in my mind. I was a freshman in high school. When I joined WCT in 1992, we had a show with a cast of seven, most of whom were from out of town. Fiddler was a cast of forty-eight, two of whom came from outside Wellington. It was so remarkable to look back and see the journey the group had made in those six years. This was also the show with the least amount of "Backstage drama" after I hit puberty (Well, except for 12 Angry Men, which was all men, so I had no drama whatsoever), and the entire cast seemed to get along really, really well. People who I'd never have imagined would want to be in a play came out to play minor roles. And of course, if you're a man in musical theater, Fiddler is a blast to be a part of anyway. You get to sing in a drunken chorus, be a nightmarish specter, dance/fight at a wedding, there's all kinds of goodies! (The fact that I got to play the romantic opposite to the girl I had a major crush on for, oh, three or four years certainly had its perks as well)

#6: Much Ado About Nothing, Oklahoma Baptist University, 2002

One thing I took away from my college theater experience: I wasn't that good of an actor. In the right role, however, I could really get a chance to shine. This was one of few shows I've acted in where I still feel I did a good job with the role. I played the villainous Don John, which was just awesome in and of itself. Those who know my well know that I have relatively playfully evil tendencies, and Shakespeare's bad guys are so over-the-top evil that it was a pure joy to step into D.J.'s skin every night. I loved everything about this show. It was so funny. The set was one of my favorite that we ever built, and this was back when I got to do a lot of shop work, both at school and in summer stocks. Here's a good shot of the set:

And here's me, all hard-core:
Nice, eh?  This was also the first show that virtually everybody in the department was involved in.  And you all know how much I love the ensemble nature of theatre.  We all had fun building this fun, awesome show together.

#5: Pirates of Penzance, The Huron Playhouse and OBU, 2003

I did this show back-to-back, as the last show of the 2003 summer season at Playhouse and the first show of 2003-04 at OBU.  I think maybe the Playhouse version was moderately more fun primarily because the fact that we had a cast that was fifty strong plus a full pit orchestra.  The OBU version was also fun because I had a larger role and I was better friends with several of the people involved.  Really, though, I think I could do Pirates for a full year and not grow sick of it.  The music is so incredibly upbeat and silly and it just lends itself to an awesome show all around.

These pics are from the OBU version, because the only Playhouse pic I have won't fit on the scanner.

Yeah.Love this show.

#4: The Robin Hood show, Oklahoma Baptist University, 2002

I don't want to use the script's actual name, because last time I used it on a blog, the playwright then emailed me a few days later.  It was a little creepy.  Anyway, this was my first ever foray into the world of theatre for young audiences.  Obviously, I was hooked, and still am, and even though I'm actually not that big a fan of this script anymore (hence not using it's actual title and getting back in touch with the playwright) it still sticks out as one of the most dynamic theatrical experiences I've ever had.  The audience sat in the round and were so close they were basically on the stage in two sections.  I played the narrator character, so I spent a lot of time interacting directly with the audience.  There was so much energy at every single performance.  We actually had crowds lined up outside the building wanting to get in.  Everyone who came had such a great time, young and old, and it really impacted the way I eventually decided I wanted to write children's plays: I wanted every attendee to enjoy the show on a level that would resonate with them regardless of their age or experience.  (My intention has been to do so without stooping to some of the 'easy' tricks this particular script employed; sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss, but still)  We also ran this show fourteen times in fourteen days.  It was really a phenomenal schedule (even if I did fall behind in most every class for two weeks) and possibly the best two weeks of my collegiate life.  Sadly, this would be the last time I was involved in any of our department's TYA productions, but clearly, it stuck.  (I'm the one in the back in this pic, by the way.  That was an awesome hat)

#3: Miss Nelson is Missing!, A. D. Players, 2008

Really, what about this show wasn't fun?  The cast was dynamite, the music was fun.  The script left some to be desired, but really it was just there as a vehicle to get from one musical number to the next, and to that degree it worked.  Those of us in the cast were so willing to play with one another that it seemed we were always finding new things in every rehearsal--not in that "Wow, um...he's never done that before" tone two weeks into the run, but in the "Hey, that's kind of fun.  I think that can work!" vein of collaborative creativity.  I had a lizard.  Sarah had her ribbons.  Natalie's jumprope.  Jason's pencils.  There were so many really small touches that, in my mind, separate a good show from a great show.  Of every show I've ever worked on, this is probably the biggest sense of ensemble discovery and creativity that I've ever experienced.  I honestly wish we could have taken this one on tour and played it for a couple of months.  I think it was that good, and I'm pretty sure any one of us would have been okay with that.  (Note: I'm not generally a guy who wants to run a show past its closing date.  Exceptions: This, Much Ado, The Foreigner, Pirates, Robin Hood, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Twelfth Night, and #1 on this list.  Out of 112 shows, that's it)

Let's see, what else was I going to say about this show....oh yes!  We opened the week of Hurricane Ike.  Meant we missed most of tech week, which I know was a nightmare to our tech people, but we opened the weekend after the storm.  We had people coming to the show because they still didn't have power in their houses and they needed an air-conditioned place to take their kids.  It was such a unique experience, being that escapist buffer for a city full of children who'd been through and were still experiencing something so scary.  It reminded me of the kind of powerful tool light-hearted entertainment can be, especially for the family of four.

#2: You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Wellington High School, 1998

Another great ensemble story, but what made this one special was actually my relationship with the director.  He was the first person who really singled me out as someone with potential as an artist.  At least, he was the first one who I believed, and that's just as big a thing.  Sure, your parents always tell you you're great, but here was a guy who had a background in the industry, performing professionally in major productions of musicals across the country before he settled down and started teaching.  He was the first theatre pro I knew, and he was the first who really told me I could make it if I wanted to.

I've done YAGMCB three times now in different capacities, and this was my only time to play an actual scripted character.  I played Charlie Brown, and it was so unlike anything our school had done in at least a decade that it felt like we were breaking some exciting new ground.  It was a bigger production than the previous year's musical (which had been the first one in years), the technical elements were a step up, the cast included some singers with acting experience and some without.  Our school faculty hadn't seen anything quite like it before...and it ended up being a HUGE hit and a stepping stone for what would be a revitalized theatre program in the years go come.  (Sadly, this teacher moved on after this year, but we still keep in touch occasionally) 

Opening night, a sudden hailstorm knocked out the power in the entire school just before places.  We got power back, but all our light cues were gone, so the board op (the director's brother and another professional, thankfully) was pretty much making it up as he went that night.  The show was great, though.  I also had a lot of friends in the crowd that night, so when I took center stage for the last bow, the place went crazy.  It's not an experience I'd had often before, nor have I had since, but it was a magical night.

I apologize that there are no pictures.  I'm sorry more for my sake than yours, because there was so much that happened over the rehearsal and show process, and I'm not just talking about the three guys in the cast getting their legs shaved by two girls in the band director's bathtub, though that experience could be a blog in and of itself.

#1: The Hero Squad vs. The Princess Snatchers, A. D. Players, 2009

I know, this surprises no one.  Well, who cares.  Every once in a great while, an artist gets a dream project.  This was the first script I'd ever written (unless you want to count Big Liar, Little Liar, and I know you do, Holly), and I'd been working with it for three and a half years.  It was my first chance to direct a full show, with a design team and everything, and just about everyone involved with the show was stoked about it.  I knew at the time that I'd probably never get a set of circumstances as favorable as I'd been handed for Princess Snatchers, and I wanted to make the most out of it.  I felt so fully comfortable handing over my work into these actors, designers, and stage managers, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park.  There were frustrations, yeah, and there are things I would have done differently if I'd known then what I know now, and yada yada yada.  But I can't think of a single project into which I've poured so many hours--from writing to pre-production to directing to jumping around as a ninja and a bottlenosed bankrobber during the run of the show--and received such great response.  Audiences were absolutely spellbound.  Almost nobody went to the restroom the entire run of the show.  (When a kids' audience gets bored, they want to go pee.  If they're into the show enough, they'll generally hold it)

I'm currently struggling to get this particular script picked up by a national publisher.  So far, no dice.  I really hope it'll happen.  I believe it should happen, at least.  But if it doesn't, I had the experience of a lifetime putting it together and watching it run, and if that's all I ever get out of it, I guarantee I'll still smile at the memory.

Runners up: Bat Boy: The Musical, Elsik High School, 2009; The Foreigner, The Huron Playhouse, 2003; Alice Now!, A. D. Players, 2010; Secret Identity, A. D. Plaeyrs, 2009; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2002; Honk!, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2004; and The Sound of Music, Wellington Community Theater, 1997

Now, there are two sides of every coin. For every Hero Squad, there's, well, there's one of our next Top 7 . Which I had planned on doing tonight, but getting the scanner figured out took me a little longer than I expected it to. So t'll have to wait another night, when I'll give you the 7 biggest headache-productions of the last eighteen years.(Warning: I have far fewer pictures of those ones ;-) )