Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stumbling thru

Last night at MND, we tried stumbling through the first half of the show. We have almost the entire play blocked, and now that we have a framework on which to play, Josh (the director) encouraged us now to start experimenting with our characters. That first week as we work on staging the show can often be fun but a little limiting, and now with the overall structure in place, we can really start tightening up comedy bits and make everything as funny as it is supposed to be. It's also an interesting part of the rehearsal process; we've spent a week putting everything together, and now we have to spend another week taking it all apart in order to put it back together again by this weekend. When all this process happens organically, it's the sort of work that is hardly noticeable in the final project. It takes a lot of work to make something look effortless, and that's the stage we are entering for MND.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Puppet day!

At MND this afternoon, we finally got to play with our puppets. Let me explain. The show features four fairy characters - Moth, Cobweb, Peaseblosson, and Mustardseed - who are usually played by other actors in the show in some sort of costume. For this production in the park, the designers have created four puppets to play these characters, and I am one of the puppeteers responsible for bringing them to life. We met them for the first time today, so we had to figure out the best way to work with them.

The puppets require two hands to operate - one hand works its mouth just like a sock puppet and two rods control the hands of the puppet. The first challenge was to decide which of my hands would operate which part of the puppet. Once that was figured out, I had to figure out how long I wanted his puppet rods to be. We trimmed one of them down, then installed the handles on the end of the wire rods, and Mustardseed was good to go. I'll try to get one of the pictures we took so I can post it on the blog.

After we figured out how the puppets worked, then we had to figure out the best way to make them act. I had a leg-up based on my previous work with Enchantment, and I could figure out how to make him run and act. We took some photos outside for publicity, and all the puppets posed with their designer as well. I'm really excited working with this puppet in the show; it's almost as if any other work I do onstage will be outdone by a three and a half foot, floppy-haired puppet.

I love my job.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Project E.D.E.N. - More Rehearsing (#3)

Getting back on track with our other film project, here's another update on the work on "Project E.D.E.N." We had gone through our pre-pro and our first day of rehearsals, and then two weeks later we went out for another day of rehearsing. We didn't get the chance to try out everything that we wanted to when we were there the first day, so we took the ropes and wires back out to try things again. Our friend Adam was with us this time, so he was around to help with the rigging and to help strap Mason in. It was also lucky he was able to help us out, because when we went to unpack the bags, we realized that we had forgotten to bring our coil of rope. We asked Adam to use his, tied two of them together, and were lucky that we could make everything work. We were looking to try out two different rigs when we were there, one that would let Karina fly through the air, and another that would drag Mason along the ground. The dragging one went without a hitch, but it took a long time to work on the former. We kept trying things that didn't seem to work, and so when we broke for lunch we hadn't really solved any problems. This photo is of Rob and Mason checking a take.

After we came back from lunch, we tried a couple of other setups for the flying rig, but we never really got it to work the way we wanted it to. Something was always a little off with the stunt, and the action in the stunt didn't really look natural. We tried a couple more ways of doing it, moving the pulleys and re-rigging some of the rope, but we couldn't ever make it work. So while the last rehearsal day was productive and satisfying, this second day wasn't quite as satisfying. It was just as productive, however. We spent a lot of hours figuring out that our idea would not work, and those were important hours. It was much better to learn that on a rehearsal day as opposed to the day when we had Karina there waiting for us. We also spent the last hour of the working day looking for another tree to use for a stunt for her. After rigging something up on a larger tree, we spent the time deciding that we liked our first tree better. Overall, the day was very useful for our purposes. It wasn't as cool as the first day, but it was very important to us to figure out that our ideas would not work, so we could use the time to come up with other ideas. Filming is next.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First readthrough of "Double & Small"

Last Tuesday evening was the first readthrough "Double & Small," the Philly Fringe show that I'm in. Some of you may remember when I participated in a reading of this play. After that reading, the director offered me a role in the show if they were going to produce it at the Fringe. They even asked me which role I would be interested in, so I got to pick the one that appealed to me the most. As I mentioned before, the script walks the line between real and abstract, and it reminds me of the recent show I worked on, "Big Love." In the reading, it was fun to hear all of us trying to find the best way to balance the competing elements in the script. This show goes up in September, and even though we don't start intensive rehearsal work until July, but the director wanted to give us this basis for any work that we do on our own. We also have a few scattered days of table-work through June until we get back to the business at hand in the end of July. The process should be pretty fun, I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

First readthrough for "Dream"

Last night, I headed into Philly for our first reading of Shakespeare's "Dream" for the summer production of CCTC. I had a great time working on a short scene for a preview performance that we never did, and working on the show itself promises to be a lot of fun. The first order of business was to say hello to a lot of old friends that I haven't seen in years. Then we heard saw the model for the set, and Josh the director discussed a little of the general ideas that he has as to what the show is about. We didn't see any design sketches yet, but we were told generally what the designers are working on. After that little meeting, we all sat down to get to the business at hand. We started at the top of the show, and we read through the entire script, pausing only for the intermission break.

Overall, it was a very good first reading. The last reading we did with Josh was an absolute laugh-riot, with each of us trying to find the funniest moments and lots and lots of trying to one-up each other with punchlines. This time, however, it was more about a group of actors exploring their characters and testing their relationship with one another. It was a calmer, less hilarious reading, but one that showed some of the potential for the summer. It was an interesting dynamic to be aware of as I read through the script, and I'm very happy to be a part of such a talented ensemble.

Project E.D.E.N. - Rehearsing (#2)

In preparation for our short film, Rob, Mason, and I went out to scout the location twice before we brought our actress and film crew out to the woods. We wanted to make sure we knew what we would be doing before we had to use the time to film, and both days were very valuable. The first day involved location scouting; we had to find the best set of trees where we could hook up our wires. Mason scouted a field we wanted to use (but didn't due to bug-related reasons.) We also wandered around back in the woods, finding a lot of cool locations, but none of them were very accessible from the house where we would be staging a lot of our activity. So we had to keep looking, and we eventually found a great set of trees near a relatively well-kept path. The lawnmower and the saw cleared out a lot of our space, and we were ready to start the rehearsals for the wires.

We headed out to the local hardware store to pick up some chains and wires and the other stuff we'd need, as well as the burgers and dogs for our BBQ dinner, and then we headed back to do some work on the actual rigging. It took some work to figure out how to rig up some stunts, and on the first day we got two of our rigs fully operational. Here is a photo of Mason, stunt coordinator, rigged up in a harness with his fall mat beneath him. If you look really carefully, and I mean really carefully, you can see the two wires coming off his hips and stretching into the rope over him (out of camera.)

Each rig that we set up is for a specific action sequence. And not only that, but each sequence requires a different harness on the stunt man, and different padding to keep him safe. Unlike theatre, where everything has to be designed to be strung together, film stunt work relies on different setups for each individual stunt or camera angle. That's going to take up some time on the day, but that kind of time is not something that can be avoided. We also set up two cameras while we were out this day, both to check some camera angles for the actual shoot, as well as to record some behind-the-scenes footage for any bonus features that may be on the disc.

This first work day was productive and satisfying. We managed to set up two different rigs that we are going to use for several different stunts, and we got some test footage that looks great. The schedule gives us another rehearsal day before we go to the filming days, and I have more stories and photos from that too. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Project E.D.E.N. - Preparation and Casting (#1)

Recently, I have been the executive producer on a short film titled "Project E.D.E.N." that we are producing for an upcoming film contest. The film involves a fight scene between a female vampire and her victim, but they are both unaware that the fight in being monitored by a high-level executive with plans of her own. Co-producer Dave Mason is playing the guy in the fight sequence, and I was cast as the technician in the room with the executive. We had a set of auditions a few weeks ago, and we found two wonderful actresses for our project. Playing Lillith, the vampire, we cast Karina Croskrey:
To play the calculating executive, we cast Jensen Bucher:

The schedule had two days of rehearsal and practice for the stunt crew, so we could figure out how to rig the wires and ropes without using up any of our filming time. I have behind-the-scenes photos from all of our work days, and I'll be posting them online as I go through them and release the press kit. Reports on the rehearsals and shooting days will soon follow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making Plays

Last year, I worked in Trenton with the Passage Theater on a project called Playmaking, where professional actors and directors perform shows that have been written by students. I did the show last year, and I had a great time. Last year I played a globe that wanted to be a singing star, and this year I was a Superbot that had to save all the other robots in the world. I was foiled by a Superbaby, however, since I was afraid of babies. The shows this year were even funnier and stranger than the ones last year, and there were some truly amazing lines that could only have been written by someone under 10 years old. The audiences generally had a good time, and we the actors had great times saying such crazy things that you couldn't imagine. Below is a photo of me and Jeremy as Superbaby and Superbot. Crazy, huh?

I knew a lot of the people involved from last year, and the new additions to our group fit in perfectly. Everyone was there to perform for the kids and work for the young playwrights, who obviously took such delight in the show they had written. These kind of shows are not the ones we do for our own glory or the amazing scripts, but rather for the joy of working with kids. They got such a kick out of seeing their words come to life, and our playwright actually told us that it was "exactly" how he pictured it in his head. Now, I'm not sure that I believe him exactly, but I certainly believe that he now imagines it exactly as we appear. And then after the kids really enjoyed their shows, the actors really enjoyed themselves out at the local saloon. So everybody wins.