June 7, 2010
Freeport Players’ by-laws state that our mission, in part, is “to encourage and promote the theater arts by the development of skills, education, and appreciation in all phases of theater arts for the community.” Education is an important aspect of what we do, but it might not be immediately obvious how we do that.
Other organizations — such as our friends at Acorn Productions — have committed to theater education by offering classes in acting for learners of all ages. Instead, we’ve got a “learn by doing” approach that has served us and our volunteers well over the years. Sometimes by design and sometimes by accident, we bring experienced theater people together with people just getting started. By working together to bring work to the stage, both parties learn more about the craft.
Like all our volunteers, I’ve had the chance to work with and observe directors, designers, technicians, and actors who have taught me a lot about theater. When I was in Crimes of the Heart, director Barbara Buck taught me the importance of character development and basic tools to analyze a script, lessons that I have built on by observing and working with other directors since. Technical director Adam Klein has taught me a substantial amount of what I know about lighting design and installation. David and Dorothy Glendinning are beginning to teach me about set design. Each of them has taught me much more than what I’ve said here, and they are but four of the many people from whom I have learned.
Sometimes I learn by doing. I didn’t know how to select and process sound effects for theater or play them through an old stereo on cue when we needed thunder and rain for Deathtrap. But I knew it was possible and I figured it out because Freeport Players let me try.
It is one of the significant roles community theater plays to provide these opportunities to experience theater from the inside and to learn and grow in the process. Kat Sirico, who designed the lighting for our most recent show Cabin Fiver and is now working on the design for I Hate Hamlet, has made it her mission to pass basic knowledge along to young people to keep the fire burning. She takes the time during loadin to provide instruction about how to hang instruments properly and safely, how to maintain the equipment, and how to speak the language of lighting technicians so they will be able to step into any theater’s tech crew with confidence.
The Glendinnings and Sam Hunneman have been working with Beth Paterson, Tim Ryan and the high school drama program for years. They have devoted countless hours to supporting and mentoring students, helping them envision critical aspects of a production and teaching them how to execute that vision.
One of the most satisfying byproducts of my new role as Managing/Artistic Director of the Players is I get to carry on that tradition. I have a front-row seat in watching the learning happen.
So next time you come see a show at Freeport Players, remember you are seeing the final results of a process that started with people of all skill levels coming together to learn from each other and entertain you.
March 20, 2010
I spent today painting…again. This time I remembered to bring my camera.
Our work for today: eight of the ten pieces of the Cabin Fiver set, prepped for painting.
I sent out a call for volunteers, but this was the first sunny warm weekend day we’ve had since last fall. The usual suspects all had lots of work of their own to do, cleaning up the stuff that they meant to clean up last fall, but then it got cold, and then the snow came and covered it up — out of sight out of mind. But the snow is gone now, and there’s no getting around the fact that if that stuff is going to get put away they’re going to have to do it. So I forgive our volunteers for not turning out in large numbers to paint.
I did have one helper. Cole T stuck with me until base coats were brushed and rolled onto all the pieces I hadn’t done during the week — insides, too. Yay Cole! One of the things that makes these projects fun is that you get to know people better. Painting isn’t rocket science, so we could chat while we worked. I now know embarassing things about Cole’s taste in music and film with which to blackmail him in the future…but I won’t, because he now knows an equal number of embarassing things about me. My best friends are people I met through theater, and projects like we worked on today were the starting point for some of those friendships.
I do my impression of Jackson Pollock.
While Cole worked on base coats, I tackled spatter painting. I’d never done this before, but Dorothy Glendinning, set designer and painter extraordinaire, got me set up and showed me what to do. It looked so easy when she did it. It took me a little practice on scrapwood before I got the hang of it. Eventually I worked up the courage to spatter the real thing. Dorothy inspected my work and says I did fine. I learn at least one new skill every time I do a show. This time it was spatter painting. I am one step closer to earning my Set Design & Construction merit badge.
By the time we stopped working, all the pieces that have been built were painted and spattered. Dorothy thinks we should spatter one more time in a different color. She has chosen a deep burgundy. The audience won’t really see this speckling, but when you come see the show — I know you will — sneak up at intermission and take a look. The three colors are really pretty together. I might have to paint a room in my house this way. [OK, maybe not. That might just be paint fumes and sunstroke talking.]
With just under three weeks until the show opens, set construction is ahead of schedule. All that’s left to do is that second spatter coat and some lettering. For now, I am tired but very very happy.
Come see the results of our effort in Cabin Fiver, April 9-25 at Freeport Performing Arts Center.
March 18, 2010
I joke about theater merit badges a lot. If you volunteer with a community theater, you’ve probably earned a few yourself. This week I’ve been working on my Set Design & Construction badge.
Our upcoming production — Cabin Fiver — has a spare setting. We share the Freeport Performing Arts Center with Freeport Schools and other community groups. In the next two weeks alone, Figures of Speech is staging The Snow Queen there and the Freeport Lioness is having their annual talent show. Because time on the stage is at a premium during the school year, for our spring show I chose short plays that lend themselves to a somewhat minimalist presentation. This saves us time setting up and clearing the stage so other groups can use the space when we’re not there. It also gives the actors lots of room to explore their own creativity in making the staged environment “real” for the audience and each other.
It’s not giving away all that much to say that in place of a realistic set — a fully decorated living room, for example — we’re using a bunch of wooden blocks in various sizes. Actually, I considered calling the show Cubism, but I decided that was too obscure and didn’t really tell you anything about the plays. The poster could’ve been super cool, though. [It turns out Cabin Fiver, a play on the cabin fever we all felt during the winter when we brainstormed show titles, wasn't quite right either. Who knew we'd have temps in the 60s in March!]
But back to the cubes. Or blocks. This is my first set design. It seemed like such an easy concept to execute. We’d just build six or seven cubes. Heck, we have a bunch of these things already; we surely must have most of what we need, right? Then I read the scripts and talked to the directors. It got complicated.
After a bunch of hen scratches on graph paper and even a few construction paper blocks made to scale, I settled on the minimum blocks to create everything we needed. I made cardboard “footprints” for the actors and directors to play with, and it was instantly clear I was way off base on the scale. I was so glad I hadn’t started construction! A few more chewed pencils and conversations with trusted advisors Dorothy and David Glendinning later, I worked it all out and handed the drawings to David to work out how to build them.
There are nine blocks. In various combinations and with just a few accent pieces they become a kitchen, a restaurant, an efficiency hotel suite, a bedroom, a living room, an airport gate and even a Mesopotamian construction site. (You’ll have to come see the show to find out how I did it!)
David’s been FCP’s master carpenter for as long as I can remember. Dorothy has designed the majority of our sets over the years. With each design she raises the bar, and I’m proud to say that even with our very limited resources — anyone got any lumber and lauan they want to donate? — Freeport Players’ sets are as well-designed and well-built as those I see in even professional theaters. So, upstart that I am, it’s been great to have their help. David figured out how to build these things sturdy and light, which I know the actors will appreciate when they are moving them for scene changes. He put in a lot of hours in his magic workshop and has them almost all finished.
That’s where I came back in. Tuesday was a beautiful day, and I got spring fever. I had to be inside all day and it was driving me nuts. When Wednesday looked to be even warmer and sunnier, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I was going to wait until Saturday to paint, in hopes of getting a few volunteers to do the work, but instead I put on my “grubbies”, packed up my painting supplies and headed to the workshop. We set up a station on the lawn and I spent a glorious six hours painting boxes. When I left, the base coat was on six of the nine boxes. Weeellll, I did miss one side of one box. Oops. nevertheless, it was a very good day.
Today I snuck in another hour of prepping and painting, and I can’t wait until Saturday to finish the base coats on the remaining pieces and get started spatter painting them. Dorothy says spattering “gives them a more active surface” for the lighting. I say it adds texture to them so they don’t look so plain. We probably mean the same thing, but Dorothy’s way of saying it sounds much cooler.
I’m not selfish. If anyone wants to volunteer to help me paint on Saturday, I’ve got plenty of brushes and rollers!
You can see the results April 9-25, 7:30pm Fridays & Saturdays, 2pm Sundays, at Freeport Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale now at www.fcponline.org. Purchase your tickets in advance and get them at the bargain price of $10, saving $5 off the at-the-door price.
January 17, 2010
I’ll tell you right up front: auditions scare me. I’m a nervous wreck for days. It takes every ounce of courage I can muster to put myself out there for scrutiny and judgement. If I’m auditioning for a role I really really want, I’m an even bigger mess. I do ok once I have a role. I get butterflies before I go onstage, but it’s no big deal. It’s auditions that kill me. Does this sound familiar to you?
With auditions for our spring one-act showcase and for the leading roles in our summer play just two weeks away, I thought this week I’d tell you a little bit about how auditions generally are handled at Freeport Players…a “what to expect” kind of thing. I hope this will help ease the nerves and encourage you to give us a try.
The first thing you’ll do when you arrive at the auditions is check in with our very friendly audition manager, Sally. She’ll give you a form to fill out. It asks you for your contact information, theater experience, and any conflicts you have during the rehearsal periods. Nothing you write there will be used against you. We’re a community theater; we like to take chances on people who don’t have a lot of training and experience. If you have a couple of conflicts in the early stages of rehearsal we can usually work around that. What matters most is that you be thorough, accurate, and honest. (Of course, if you don’t fill out the contact information, your chances of getting a call with an offer a role go down dramatically.)
TIP: Bring your theater resume with you to save time filling out the paperwork.
NOTE: On January 31 we are auditioning two shows at once, so you’ll be asked if you are auditioning for the showcase or I Hate Hamlet or both.
After you complete the paperwork, the specifics of what happens can vary depending on how many people are auditioning and what the directors want to do. There are some common practices, however.
We often start by having the actors meet with just the director, no other actors. There might be a “reader” in the room to read other roles when you’re cold reading. We don’t usually have everyone auditioning in the same room at the same time.
You’ll probably be asked to “cold read” from “sides”. This means we’ll give you a copy of a couple of pages of the script and ask you to read one of the roles. Sometimes the director will bring in another actor to read with you, sometimes you’ll work with a reader. It’s OK to ask for a couple of minutes to read through the excerpt to get a sense of how you want to play it. Certainly if the director offers, you should take advantage of the chance.
Check the audition notice. If it asks you to prepare a monologue, please do so. You’ll be asked to deliver that monologue when you first meet the director.
After you cold read, the director might ask you to wait in the waiting area, prepare to cold read another excerpt, or read with another actor. Or the director might tell you are done. (None of these says anything about whether you are still in the running for a role.)
Sometimes our directors ask actors to do a little improv. They’ll set a scene for you, give you a minute to think about it, and ask you to play the scene however you think it should be played. Our directors understand that most actors, at least in community theater, don’t have much experience with improvising scenes. It’s not meant to torture you. Dive in and do the best you can.
For the I HATE HAMLET auditions on January 31, the director, Dan Burson, wants to work with the actors in a more freeform way so he can really get to know them. There will be cold reads and possibly a little improv work. There will probably be several actors in the room at the same time right from the beginning. He might even do a little character exploration with the actors, talking about what’s going on in a scene from each character’s perspective.
For the ONE-ACT SHOWCASE auditions on January 31 and February 1 we have two directors and multiple plays to cast. I won’t lie to you… it’ll probably be a little chaotic. If we have a lot of people at the auditions, we won’t have time to have every actor read scenes from multiple plays. But these directors are smart. They’ll be able to tell from how you read one role whether you’d do well in another role you’re interested in.
Here’s the most important thing to remember in your audition, no matter what happens: LISTEN. If the director asks you to try something a different way, do the best you can to give them what they ask for. It’s a test. The director wants to know how you react to being directed. As you are reading with other actors, listen to what they say and how they say it and try to react to what they are doing when you say your lines.
After the auditions, the directors will deliberate. They may call/e-mail you and invite you for a call-back audition a day or two later. This happens when the directors need to see more from actors before they can make a decision. A call-back doesn’t guarantee a role, and not getting a call-back doesn’t necessarily mean you have not been cast.
We’re committed to notifying all auditioners about whether they have been cast by the end of the audition week. Expect either an e-mail or a phone call.
Are you still a nervous wreck just thinking about auditioning? My advice is to go to the auditions anyway. Audition often. It gets easier with practice. Really it does. I’ve never encountered anyone mean at an audition. Our directors, at least, really want you to do well, and they understand how hard it is to put yourself out there.
I hope to see you all at auditions soon!
For more advice about auditioning, read our interview with director Barbara Buck at http://www.fcponline.org/auditioning_advice.htm. She talks about what directors are looking for during each part of the audition.
For ONE-ACT SHOWCASE audition information, visit http://www.fcponline.org/2010_AUD_oneacts.htm. For I HATE HAMLET audition information, visit http://www.fcponline.org/2010_AUD_hamlet.htm.
January 8, 2010
The Players have been trying out new ways to communicate better with our fans, volunteers, and “talent.” We launched our Facebook page last fall, and now we’ve entered the blogosphere. It’s a brave new world!
First, the standard disclaimer. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author — Managing/Artistic Director Elizabeth Guffey – and do not necessarily reflect those of Freeport Players.
Now, let the blogging begin…
I started as Managing/Artistic Director on January 1. I’ve been with the Players for over 10 years, but this is a new role for me and a new way of doing business for the Players. The Board of Directors has entrusted me with the day-to-day business of our troupe (that’s the Managing Director part) and with making the choices that will define our artistic “statement” for the rest of the 2009-2010 season and the 2010-2011 season (that’s the Artistic Director part). While I hold down the fort, the Board – led by President Louisa Picard, Vice President Cole Tamminen and Treasurer Daric Ebert — will be planning for the Players’ future.
I’m excited to be part of writing this new act in our collective script. We are blessed with marvelously creative volunteers and never lack for great ideas. Perhaps the greatest challenge I will face is choosing which of those ideas we will pursue. Our other significant challenges are finding good places to perform, finding funding to support our shows, matching volunteers with the multitude of tasks required to stage even the most minimal production, and building our audience base. I’ll be reaching out to everyone we know to solicit their — your — help in conquering those challenges.
THE REST OF THE 2009-2010 SEASON
My first priority has been to fill in the blanks in what remains of our 2009-2010 season. Since October I have been working with key members of the Players Board and committees to review the work they had already done to prepare for the second half of the season and continue that process. I’m pleased to be able to announce some details…
COMEDY, COMEDY, COMEDY!
The rest of this season we’ll be playing it for laughs. Let’s face it, everybody’s stressed out and tired of bad news. You need a break. We’re going to give it to you.
In April, we’ll present a showcase of one-act and short comedies by contemporary playwrights, directed by Sara Stelk and Mike Clements. The showcase will be modeled on our co-production with Paint Fumes Productions last January. Our two directors will assemble a group of actors to perform the plays in a minimalist setting. Our very clever team will make sure the audience doesn’t miss elaborate sets and costumes. As of this writing, we are planning to stage these plays:
- “The Spot”, Steven Dietz
Inside the making of a political TV spot and the search for the perfect “soccer mom”.
- “Controlling Interest”, Wayne Rawley
Four 8-year-old boys (played by adults) negotiate with two girls (also played by adults) the terms under which they will like each other.
- “Check, Please”, Jonathan Rand
Seven couples meet at a restaurant and endure hilariously bad first dates.
- “The Blueberry Hill Accord”, Daryl Watson
Two high-school girls negotiate the breakup of their friendship.
- “The Tarantino Variation”, Seth Kramer
Three “wiseguys” face each other in a Mexican standoff.
- “Chocolate Cake”, Mary Gallagher
Two women — a “country mouse” and a “brassy city dweller” and both compulsive overeaters — meet during a women’s conference.
For the summer, we will break with our tradition of producing a musical and stage the full-length comedy I Hate Hamlet, by Paul Rudnick. In this hilarious comedy, young soap opera star Andrew Rally is cast as Hamlet with Shakespeare In The Park and rents an apartment haunted by legendary actor and larger-than-life personality John Barrymore. “The laughs are nonstop as Andrew wrestles with his conscience, Barrymore, his sword, and the fact that he fails as Hamlet in Central Park.” (Dramatists Play Service)
Of course we will end the year and begin the 2010-2011 season with the 7th edition of The WFCP Home Time Radio Hour. I can’t wait to meet with the creative team to get them started choosing the music and writing the script!
COMING BACK HOME
I’m pleased to say that we will be returning to the Freeport Performing Arts Center for all our major productions in 2010. We’ve been able to find performance dates that fit in among the many school and community uses of the Center and find plays that suit the space.
Keep checking our website, this blog, and our Facebook page in the coming months. We have a lot of things in the works! And mark our show dates on your calendar. You don’t want to miss any of the fun!
All the best to all of you in 2010,