Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Long Off Season

We're looking at scripts for next year. We're getting close to making some decisions (we hope). In the mean time, you should check out one of our favorite theatre blogs - Bitter Gertrude. Just because she's awesome.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thank You for Taking Care of Us.

Ok, so this is a little later than it usually is. Due to my work schedule and the fact that I was literally on a plane to NYC three days after we closed, I didn't get to it right away.

But the point of this post is to say thank you.  Thank you to everyone who put so much into this show.

Before I get to the specific thank yous, I want to say thank you to our kickstarter supporters, and particularly for those people (and there were many this year) who gave a bit extra. We had more people than usual, many more, give money, either in excess of their ticket price, or just despite knowing that they would not use their tickets at all, just to support the show. Thank you.  The money that we raised that way basically went directly to our artists.  Buying a ticket is great too! We covered our costs with ticket revenue, which is a pretty big accomplishment. The lights, the space, all the little costs of putting a show on, our ticket revenue covered that. But I wanted everyone to know that the extra kickstarter money we raised went directly to our artists. YOU made the difference in our being able to at least recognize their contributions in a financial way. Of course, we can't pay them what they're worth. We couldn't possibly. But artists deserve support. They deserve recognition for their work, even if it's less (much less) than minimum wage. And your donations went to support them. Fully half of the money we were able to distribute to our artists came from your generous donations. Thank you.

We've got plenty more people to thank though!

Big thanks, first of all, to Kevin Ferguson and Cardinal Gibbons High School. We were able to rehearse in their space again this year, and that is probably the single largest contribution to our bottom line. If we had to pay even $10/hr for rehearsal space, we would have lost money. Using that space was huge, really huge, to our bottom line.

Thanks also to other friends in the theatre community. Burning Coal and Cary Players both loaned us lumber and platforms. They literally supported the chairs you sat on. Big thanks also to Manbites Dog. They not only loaned us a number of platforms, but in addition they let us raid their attic for junk. All that junk you saw on stage? 80% of it came from Manbites. It's so great to be part of a theatre community that cooperates on this level. That supports and encourages other productions rather than seeing them as rivals.

A big thanks to Dolly's Vintage. All those bad ass costumes? Dolly's. The only costume we didn't get from Dolly's was John's costume. And really, you don't want to wear that anyway...  Without their support, we would have had to spend loads on costumes to get the same look. Check out there website here and plan a shopping trip.

Thank you to all the people who helped out and volunteered their time to help with load in and strike, including my parents and my sister and (soon) brother-in-law from Atlanta. Dale, Dana, Jessica, Lisa, Richard and everyone on the program. Every set of hands helped.

Thank you to Jeff for his help with carpentry and his technical help with the space. We would not have been able to do it without you.

Thanks to Todd, our carpenter and master planner. Todd has been a key part of our team for each production. He brings skills to our company that John and I, quite frankly, completely lack. I mean, I know which end of a hammer to use but that's about it. He planned our seating arrangement and he and Lisa put in long days to put that together and took it apart.

Thanks to Shu Cao Mo, our Assistant Director. It's amazing what lengths she went to be a part of the production. Thanks for asking the questions that needed to be asked.

Thanks to Zachary Corsa for our sound design. All that atmospheric stuff, the underscoring the rise and fall between scenes, all Zach's work. Jay wanted to be sure you were part of the team for this show and I see why. Check out more of Zach's music at the website for his band "Lost Trail."

Thanks to JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, our Stage Manager extraordinaire. Stage manager is really the hardest job in theatre. You have to be at ALL the rehearsals and ALL the performances, but you don't get the applause. It takes not just hard work, but concentration, organization, and patience, LOTS of patience to deal with actors. We were so lucky to get to work with JaMeeka. Thank you.

Thanks to Ryan Brock. Again. Last year he was "Leslie" in Seascape. This year he was Mick. I often talk about Ryan behind his back with other actors. And everyone says the same thing: he's fantastic. Because he is. I'd venture to say there is no one in the triangle that most actors would rather have as a scene partner than Ryan. Not only is he creative and intuitive on stage, but he is a rock. Prepared, confident, comfortable and present. We were very lucky to get to work with him again. Thank you.

Thanks, big thanks, HUGE thanks to the Jaybird. It is not an exaggeration to say we would not have done this show without him. It's the truth. Many months ago (I think in May?) I was talking to Jaybird about something else, and he happened to ask what we were doing next. I told him we were considering The Caretaker, but I needed a director who knew what the hell the show was about because I had no clue. When Jaybird said he might direct it, I jumped at the chance. It was an easy decision. Honestly John and I were flattered that Jay would even consider directing us. Without his eye, his judgement, and his vision we would not have even attempted a script this ambitious. And the set? The look? the idea of staging it in the back stage area of Common Ground?  All his idea. Even the lighting. Totally Jaybird. Thank you for your guidance, your creativity, and your faith in us.

Finally, thanks to my partner and co-conspirator John. What can I say? We did it again. The work that John put in ... I mean his part, was a MAMMOTH part. I don't think he knew what he was getting into when he agreed to this. He carried that play. And the character of Davies is so very unlike John. It really was a remarkable transformation, and a remarkable performance. I should also point out that John balances the box office. He makes the spreadsheets and does the book keeping. When I got home I slept. When John got home, he had to balance the box office. I'm so lucky to work with John on each of our shows. He compliments my skill set and he's a remarkable performer.

Well, that's it. We are dark for another year (maybe... ). We are off to other projects. Ryan is in The Pride with Mortall Coile. John is understudying for Playmaker's performance of An Enemy of the People. Jaybird is directing Paris 76 for Manbites Dog. JaMeeka just finished as SM for Hands Up at Common Ground. And me? I'm busy visiting campuses right now. If things go well, I may be out of the area next fall. But then again, if things go well, I might still be here. Because things went pretty well this past year. I think The Caretaker was our most artistically successful production to date. I am so pleased and so proud of what we were able to share with our audience this year. If I'm still here next year, it will be a great challenge to try to top that.

Thank you for helping us create and share The Caretaker with you. See you soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Show - What You Need To Know




Common Ground Theatre

4815B Hillsborough St.

(If you're using a GPS - we recommend  using 110 Brenrose Circle in your GPS)

Jan 2 & 3 at 7:30
Jan 4 at 2:00

Jan 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 
Jan 11 at 2:00

Jan 15, 16, 17 at 7:30
Jan 18 at 2:00

(PLEASE plan on being early. Late seating may not be possible and it is VERY EASY to get lost)

You can also get tickets by email or phone. See below for details.


(919) 417-2477


Raleigh News & Observer calls it "mesmerizing"!

Classical Voice of North Carolina's Jeffery Rossman says "All I could say is that I was transfixed for 90 minutes."

Katie Dobbs Ariail at FivePointStar... well she just pretty much liked the whole thing. 

Read up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Promo pictures!

Our director spent some time making promo pictures for the show.  Some of them came out pretty great.

This one of John is pretty great. I think it captures Davies quite well.

Here's one of me as Aston:

This is one of Ryan as Mick. It's kind of "Shepard Fairey-ized"

And one of all three of us together:

As you can see, we're going for a 70's look for the show. Why? Resonance. A story with a setting of hard times in post war Britain was something that really resonated with British audiences in the early 60's, but here in the US, the 50s are seen as a time of prosperity. People don't have an intuitive connection between 50's clothing and difficult circumstances. Rather than copying the specific costume descriptions, the idea was to invoke ideas in the mind of our audience that are closest to those intended by the script.

Plus, it's fun. :-D

Saturday, December 6, 2014

You Did It!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Kickstarter!  We made our goal again this year.

We're truly honored and humbled that you believe in our project enough to make it happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And we're really lucky to live in a community with such a thriving local theatre scene. We have so many groups doing a great and diverse array of work. Being part of this community, and having the support of so many people really means a lot.

Thank you for your support. Now we can get down to creating a real first rate production. We went costume hunting today, and let's just say that the results look pretty great. Can't wait to see you there!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Don't Know What To Say

So, we have just more than 24 hours left in our Kickstarter campaign. I've been a relentless promotion machine on that front, partly because I have been nervous about hitting our goal of $1,100, but also because I genuinely want to share this project with you. I'm excited about the cast and crew and the work we're developing.  We've blocked the show, and we're all really excited about it.

All this is great. But. Yeah. Some shit has gone down in the US while I was in London and now, again, just after I have gotten back. And I'm ... well I'm at a loss for words.

I am excited about my show and I am eager to share it with you and I do need to promote it but all that shit seems so selfish, so artificial in light of what has been going on in this country in the last couple months. How can I not talk about this? And at the same time, what can I say? What can I contribute to this conversation. No, screw conversation, to this cry of outrage? Sharing memes on facebook? I mean, sure but... that's not political activism. Or rather, it is, but it doesn't feel like enough. It feels insignificant.

We had a long conversation among some of my fellow Iron Curtain cast members in the UK when news of the Ferguson verdict broke over here in the US. It was similar to a lot of posts I've seen about the responsibility of the artist. What do we do? Both what CAN we do and what SHOULD we do? Is any of that effective?

I think back to the slave narratives presented by Bare Theatre for the past few years. They're powerful. They were gathered in the 1930s. It's great that they were preserved, but did anyone LISTEN to them at the time? Or the slave narratives of a few generations before. Those that came out prior to the civil war (12 Years A Slave was  based on one of these, but there were many of them published by abolitionist societies in the period). Did it make a difference? Solomon Northrup was quite well known after it's publication, but where did those lessons go? And what about Uncle Tom's Cabin. I remember from American history learning about the impact of Harriet Beecher-Stowe's book (and not Northrup, though obviously we did hear about Fredrick Douglas and his work). It makes me wonder. Was Uncle Tom's Cabin actually more influential, or did the history books over emphasize Beecher-Stowe's book because it was the product of a white woman rather than a black man? Or was Uncle Tom's Cabin actually more influential, but it was so in part because it was written by a white woman rather than a black man? White identity politics is so entangled with our national narrative, it's not a question that, I think has a real answer.

Society's role (and the power of white-male-christian etc... identity) is so big, it's a bit silly to say "setting that aside." But on the idea of art and the responsibility of the artist... well what can we do? I am a strong believer that we, as human beings, are creatures of story. We experience our lives as story with ourselves as protagonist. Understand events, history, even science as a story. Cause and effect. Input-output. What stories we tell and from whose perspective shape our very understanding of our world. That's why media is so powerful. People who watch Fox News have a very different understanding of the world than people who listen to NPR. Marshall Mcluhan isn't terribly fashionable or well known anymore, but his thoughts rattle around in my brain. As the global village advances, it's increasingly oral, increasingly tribal, and increasingly driven by fear.

Part of what we can do, I think, is simply present more stories from people who need to be heard, who haven't been heard. Having these stories listened to and validated, having them raised up as part of the conversation is important because people need to feel like they are being heard and respected (and, you know, obviously actually BE heard and respected). That is critical. But I worry that these stories will only be heard by people who already believe them. When I look at the attendance of plays (and movies etc... I discuss theatre because that's what I do) it seems like the audience is there for a self-affirming function. It's preaching to the converted. Which is good! It's important. But to change... I wonder. How do I reach the person watching Fox News. I mean, to some extent, mostly I never will. I accept that. But how do I tell a story that someone who might be convinced, or at least who disagrees with me, will actually listen to, sit through, but still GET THE POINT. Even if they don't walk out agreeing with me, that they will understand the disagreement.

The Caretaker does deal in racism and xenophobia. Fear of foreigners and "blacks." I think it's pretty clear it's not presented in a positive light. That the views expressed are rejected rather than endorsed. That said, it's hardly advocacy. It's peripheral to the plot. Am I doing what I ought to be doing? Am I responding to society? I feel like I don't know anything.

I feel rage and impotence and frustration and horror. And I don't know what to do. I'm going to keep making art. Maybe something will come out of this. I have to think each step, each play, each story, it's an opportunity to see other people as human beings. And that's what I think seems to be missing. Seeing danger, seeing "the other" instead of seeing a person. A child. A father. A son. I don't know. Maybe just saying, just telling any story of another with truth and conviction, maybe any new perspective is enough. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself. I don't know. I just don't know what else to do, and I just don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And We're Off!

Picked this up at the Samuel French Bookstore in London.
We've been working hard on our lines, and we've had a few rehearsals, but December 1 was the start of a short, intense rehearsal period. We have about three weeks (plus tech) to make this happen. So I hope we've done our homework!  We have the play mostly blocked at this point. To take a sculpture metaphor, we have the shapes roughed out. Now it's time to repeat, repeat, repeat. Getting it ingrained in our bodies and minds, and slowly taking out a finer and finer tools to shape and round the performances.

I picked up this book and read some of it on my trip (through the part where they talk about The Caretaker) but I wonder how helpful it is. Even when he was directing his own work, Pinter was insistent that the work stand for itself. David Jones (an actor and director who played McCann in the first revival of The Birthday Party) asked Pinter for insight on his character, Pinter replied "I have no fucking idea. I know everything about McCann after he walks through that door. I know nothing about him on the other side."

So in a sense, learning more about Pinter and the circumstances of the writing of the play (it was, in fact, inspired by people he knew when he lived in a flat in Chiswick), doesn't really help. In fact, it may actually work against the purpose that Pinter brought to the play itself. I think I'll file it away as "interesting to know."

Luckily we have a great director and cast. At this point we're just remembering the words. But I know as we progress the shapes will emerge in finer detail from the stone.  They'll be his shapes, and hopefully ours too.