Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some time away at (Skywalker) Ranch

My parents have a house up in the mountains near Hazleton, and I spent the last few days there on a mini-writer's retreat. I took my computer and my research materials and went away for a few days hoping to force inspiration to strike. I also took a stack of DVDs with me, the exciting part being that this all qualifies as "research" for me too. The first day I watched a lot of those movies, including making the brave choice to watch "Psycho" when I was alone in a cabin in the woods. But I suffered no ill side-effects, and even took a shower the next morning without having to lock the door to the bathroom. I was once again in awe of the performance of Anthony Perkins in that movie. It's both subtle and creepy at the same time, and you can understand why Marion Crane doesn't run away from him. As dangerous as he might be, he's still harmless and ernest. Great performances all around.

Then I checked another off my AFI100 list with "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." It's been on my to-watch list for years, and I've even checked it out of libraries before, but this is the first time I actually got to sit down and watch the whole thing. Another great movie with some terrific performances, including a little clip of Walter Huston doing the "happy prospector" dance that is so often copied. But this is the film it's actually from. Not to mention the line "We don't need to show you no stinkin' badges." There is something wonderful about all those old films, films that are made fast and relatively cheaply, and then they stand the test of time as "classics." I hope to someday be a part of a movie like that, although it's so hard to identify those movies before they have the 50-year history to be a part of.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Closing up

Tonight is our final performance of MND, performing live down at LOVE park in Philly at 6.30. By then, hopefully, all the traffic noise will have died down. But at least we don't have to contend with raccoons and bears, as recently reported by Ellen Gamerman in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Surprised I read the WSJ? My dad pointed it out to me.

Her article looks at the various natural and man-made disturbances that occur in some outdoor venues. The raccoon incident apparently happened while Anne Hathaway was playing Viola in Twelfth Night with NYC's Shakespeare in the Park. With CCTC, we haven't had to handle a whole lot of that this summer. The company has moved upward in the last five years since their creation, and our use of lighting instuments and microphones has helped us out lately. For example tonight, at Love Park, we'll be able to use the microphones to help the sound so we won't have to blow our voices before we hit the bar to celebrate afterwards. Then we can blow our voices because we don't have to do anymore outdoor Shakespeare.

It's going to be bittersweet to see this show go. I have a lot of other projects coming up, and I'm excited that I will be able to dedicate time exclusively to them. But this has been a really great cast to work with, and I will be disappointed to say goodbye to them. Casts aren't always as wonderful and supportive as this one is, and it will be a shame when all of us have to go our separate ways.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Church basement theatre

Last night was our rain date performance out in East Falls. Since it had rained all day yesterday as well, the production was moved indoors to our alternate performance space... in the basement of a nearby neighborhood church. It was lovely and generous for them to give us a space on what was rather short notice. The space, however, presented a new set of challenges because of its size-or lack thereof. Instead of one open space, we had a two-level space, including the tiny stage that is a part of numerous church basements. We had only a little bit of time to adjust to our new space, and then we were thrust into the performance.

Overall, the performance went very well. There were a few times when we did some business on the stage, and as soon as I exited I thought to myself, "Now, I could have done that differently..." But on the whole, we as a cast did a great job of making some on-the-fly adjustments to the situation in which we found ourselves. Tonight is a much different space, in the sense that we are now going to be playing on a large grassy lawn. The amphitheater is lovely (we were there last year), but it does take some serious vocal heft to get your voice past the first thirty feet of incline. Only three shows left.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The results are in

We recently submitted a short film to an online contest. You can see the film at this link: It's only 8 minutes, so please click on it, watch our movie, and then vote on it and leave a comment. Thanks so much!

In any case, the judging happened over the weekend and the results of the contest were posted today on the website of the sponsor. We ranked fifth overall, but we were in the top three for almost all of the individual categories. We were the number one ranked film in terms of production design, which is a major feather in the cap. The webseries on which the contest was based has a strong comedic flair to it, and our piece was lacking that sense of humor. We were always convinced that we weren't going to win the contest, but we were rather using the contest as a way of forcing ourselves to have a finished product of this vampire movie we had in our heads. So there will be no money coming into our wallets as a result of this project, but it is a really strong short film on its own. Now it's a matter of finding some more contests where we can get our investment moneys back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

500 People and 6 Dogs

That was our audience on Saturday night out in West Goshen for MND. And what a rowdy and smart audience it was. The crowd was laughing very early on at all the text-based jokes in the first scene in the Athenian court, so we knew they were just going to laugh even harder when the rude mechanicals came out and started to fall all over each other. Our act-ending four-way fight scene was really cooking, and we walked away from the scene with another round of applause for our work. Some of the pieces of combat were the best that they had ever been, and the audience was more than willing to go along for the ride. The community out there is very supportive of the theatre that this company brings out there, and it really shines through. When we ran out on stage for the first time, we could feel how much the audience was with us, and we were being pushed along by their support. It was a wonderful performance to end the week with.

And now we have two days off before we come back for our final week of shows. We have a show Tuesday night (a make-up performance from one that was rained out), and then Wed, Thurs, and Saturday shows as regularly scheduled. We are also heading off into a venue that we've never been to before, as well as some of our largest and most challenging spaces. Saturday at Love Park in Philly, we'll have to compete with street noise and traffic noises. But then after that, we've got two different cast parties planned on the same night, and then we all go our separate ways. It will be sad when it happens, but for now we still have four shows left where we get to play together.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Writing the Credits

Now it's 6:52 am on Friday morning, and we've just finished typing up the list of credits for the film. Which is a good thing, since we've just lost our editor. We've been working on this movie for hours and hours and days and days and weeks and weeks now, and we're all a little loopy from being so tired. But the credits are now firmly in place, the movie is rendering itself. We still need to "code" it for the interwebs (whatever that means), and hopefully we can submit it to the contest before noon today. The night has been pretty long and tiring, but now we're rapidly reaching the end of the road. It's always this post-production work that takes such a long time....

Final Mixing

So it's 4:37 on Friday morning as I write this entry, and I'm sitting at the DRF office working on the final sound mixing and recording session for "E.D.E.N." We have to finish this for the contest deadline, and it needs to be posted to the Internet tonight so that the judges can see it. For such a short little movie, at only 8 minutes, it's taken a serious amount of work. Between all the sound work, the visual effects work, the music composition, and then the general editing and sound mixing time, I think it has taken far longer to finish this project than anyone thought it would. We can't leave tonight until it's done, but the sun is about to come up and that is challenging all of our creativity to solve the problems and not just let our brains fizzle away. It's now 4:45am.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And the Thunder Rolls....

Well, perhaps my last blog post turned out to be prophetic, as our show tonight in East Falls was rained out with extreme prejudice. We set up the show in a rapid-quick rush, since our truck with the costumes and set was about an hour late to get to call. Then as we were changing, we started seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder rattle in the distance. As the show approached, the sky got continually darker and darker. The rain started to drizzle down upon us when our director walked out to announce that we were postponing the show until the rain date. No sooner had he made than announcement than the heavens rumbled. Within seconds it was raining, and within minutes it was pouring. We ran around as best we could, grabbing our clothes and bundling the set into the van as quickly as we could.

We lifted a whole lot of heavy things into the van, and by this time all of us are soaking wet from head to toe. I was coiling up some extension cords and XLR cable when the pouring got even more intense. I have never seen rain that was falling so thick that I could barely see through it. We grabbed everything and pulled it all over to the truck just as the rain stopped falling. We paused for a moment to do a photo shoot while we were soaking, fulfilling all of our 'wet dream' jokes, and then took a little breather and re-packed the truck more correctly than we had before. Heading out to bar to start all of our drinking early, I hung around for a quick pass at the free chips & salsa, and then ran back to the office to finish up the final edit on "E.D.E.N."

Bringing the Thunder

Last night, we were out in Lansdowne for another performance of MND, and it was strong right out of the gate. We had two days off, the cast had dispersed into their own various projects and lives, and then we had to come back together to rock the ground with another performance. The show rocked, and it didn't have any rough patches that I was expecting it to. The four-way fight between the lovers really cooked, and there was only one moment in the entire show that I blanked out on my next line. Lucky for me, it only took about a second to find it again, and the show continued without even a hiccup. But now I know the part of the lines that I should review before every show, whether or not we've had two days off. And what really shocks me is that it wasn't that part I thought I was going to forget - it was something completely different! We have three more shows this week, and then three more next week, and then it's on to the next show.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A First Weekend

So I'm a little late at this, but we opened MND this weekend, and it all went really well. We had great audiences all four nights of performances, and the show has really been cooking along. We've done shows both on grassy plots and on concrete slabs, and now we have another two weeks coming up. But now that the show has opened, it also means that a lot of my time frees up to work on other projects. It's always funny to me that the performances time involved with a show is never as long as the rehearsal time. Going from six nights a week, four hours a night, now we have three or four shows a week, and the show is only two hours long. Of course, this timetable is completely different is it's a touring show we're talking about, since that means that the performance time will also include a whole lot of travel/hotel time. So now I'm going over the script for D&S, the Philly Fringe show I will be a part of in September. I start rehearsals for that almost immediately after MND closes, which I always think is the best way to keep working. Have a day off or two, and then go to the next project.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coming out of Tech

Over the last two days, we've massaged all the technical issues out of MND. We worked with the set for the first time on Monday night, solving all of those problems of where we are entering and how we should play the different scenes. My scenes aren't all that complicated, so there was just a matter of figuring out how to make different moments work now that I'm actually running through curtains and not just pretending to run through curtains. It's also much more challenging to work my puppet through a split in the same curtain, but it's something that I was working to figure out by the end of the night. Then we started working on the very first truck-pack, and then I was off to listen to the highlites of the Phillies game on the radio. (22-1? WTF?)

Last night, we went out to a lovely park in West Chester, and we did a full run of the show outside for the first time: costumes, sound, lights, set, the works. Everything went very smoothly for the most part, even if we had some "rust on the works" as the director put it. We've got another run-through tonight, and then we open the show on Thursday night before running for three weeks. I'm excited to get on our feet and get this show going. I've had fun working with this cast through the process, but I really think that we need to have an audience soon to get all the best next step forward.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Going into Tech

I've been a little bit absent lately, but that is always a sign of being very busy on different projects. In this case, MND. We've been rehearsing and working every day for a few weeks now, and we are getting ready to go into the tech process with the show. Tomorrow is going to be our first day on the set, where we get to figure out all of the details about scene changes and entrances/exits. We've been pretending to move around the set so far, and tomorrow we will learn how to actually move around the different columns and curtains that we have been imagining up until now. And then once we get all of our clothes and all of our props, we'll be good to go for our opening on Thursday night. I'm excited to really start running this show to see what we've got once it gets in front of an audience. Now if I can just drop this Philly accent of mine....