Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

John and Katie - they're not always serious

It's time to be thankful.

We've begun rehearsals on Blackbird. We've done some table work (that's actor for "sitting around talking about it) and a bit of actually getting on it's feet. The rehearsals have gone very well so far, and we're excited  -- we're happy.

And today is a time to be happy. Not to wish for what we do not have but to reflect on what we do. And that's a great reminder for us. Blackbird is a serious and dark drama. It's a story we are a part of. We try and connect to it as fully as possible - in the rehearsal room. But we also must always remind ourselves that the play is not US.  Part of caring for each other is what you do in the room, making sure people feel safe physically and emotionally is very important with this kind of material. But another part is making sure we end each of our rehearsals with smiles and hugs, and a reminder to leave the characters in the rehearsal room. We must do this with joy.

I have so much to be thankful for. Thankful for John and Katie. Thankful for Andy, our stage manager, who helps guide us. Thankful to Jennifer for images like the one up there (nice pics right?). Thankful for rehearsal space. Thankful for collaborators like Todd Houseknecht who is our technical director. Thankful for Sonorous Road and Michelle and Josh. Thankful for a theatre community that supports companies like mine by letting us borrow flats and props and helping hands (I'm going to be asking for more help on this soon...). And thankful for you. our audience. Our supporters. Our friends.

This show doesn't come together without you. This is YOUR show as much as it is ours. If you want to get involved, you can help produce the play through the Kickstarter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Poster Photoshoot

Taking pictures of Katie for the poster. (L to R Jenn, Katie, John, Brook). Photo by Kimber Graham.

Theatre is about art! Theatre is about character and empathy and humanity!

... Which is great and all, but part of putting on a production is getting people to actually show up and see the thing. Because theatre doesn't happen without you. "Interactive" has taken on a different meaning in the digital age, so when you say theatre is "interactive" people look at you funny. With the exception of some divised theatre productions (like Beertown recently at RLT) most people don't think of theatre as "interactive." But it is. There's a magic, an alcemey, an energy that an audience brings that breathes life into a performance. It's not just the audience reaction, the laughs and gasps and claps, but the sharing of space and time and story. After all, there's a word for a theatrical performance without an audience - rehearsal.

So, we have to get YOU to show up. To that end, we shot the poster for Blackbird today. Jennifer is our graphic designer. She designed the image you see at the top of this page, the show logo, and soon the poster. Having a great graphic designer is so key. We are indebted to Daniel McCord for our first few shows, and now Jennifer Sanderson (Hughie and now Blackbird).

I think, for theatre artists, the business side can often feel cheap and tawdry. I think there is an impulse to feel like "we're artists, we do this for the sake of art, not for money." And trust me, to some extent that's true (I'd be surprised if this play broke even). There's an element of self-promotion to marketing that feels alien to actors. It feels some how improperly self-aggrandizing. But marketing IS important. And truthfully, it is incredibly creative as well. Seeing Jennifer work has been a real pleasure. There is a real skill in understanding the play, the mood and the characters, and turning that into an image and a font. It sounds weird, but that's literally her job. You want the images and the feel of the marketing to match the show. You don't want your audience to come in expecting a comedy and then hit them with something totally different:

And you want it to be compelling. You want the people who respond to the image to understand what they are getting in a general sense, and to be the right audience. I think that is what we will get.

But I suppose that's ultimately for you to judge.

Want to get involved and support this show? Join the Kickstarter here!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why Blackbird? Why Now?

Is this story what we need right now? And will anyone come and see it?

Let me be honest: the first question is one that we, as a cast, and particularly I, as a director, have struggled with over the last two weeks.

The election of Donald Trump came as a shock to me, to many of us. Partly, of course, due to the fact that he was consistently behind in polling. It was unexpected. But also because of what it said about our country. Donald Trump's message relied a great deal on fear, on division, and on prejudice. He mocked the disabled, he demeaned women, and he promised to register Muslims. And since his election, we've seen a great increase in incidents of racist aggression (which it seems the media has decided are not racist, but "racially charged"). And this is my point: these feelings - this positive response to Trump's bullying behavior when it's targeted against the weak and the other, this is a symptom of pain. As Yoda said, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side. This election is the result of so much fear and anger. Fear of the future, fear of change, fear of immigrants and gays and people of color, and a deep frustration about feeling left behind, and left out. It is behavior that evidences an underlying pain in our society.

And that left me, left US, wondering why this play? And why now? Because this play does have a beauty to it, but it is a dark and terrible beauty. It is not going to lift people up and celebrate the spirit of America like Hamilton or provide a message of civic virtue like 12 Angry Men. It is not, I will be honest, an uplifting play. It is a play where, as Jeff Daniels said in an interview, "We hold hands and run together into the wall."

In the week after the election, we had a meeting to discuss this. We met to share our fears, to discuss our plans, and to consider our alternatives. We needed to know that if this was the journey we wanted to take, if we wanted you to take it with us, it had to be important - now. Because it is a great story, it's very much an "actor's play." Great characters, excellent dialogue, high stakes - an absolute gut punch of a show. But what does it mean more than that?

This is my answer. First, it certainly is relevant. It is a story where you want the woman, you want SO MUCH, for her to win, and (I hope this isn't giving away too much) she does not. And it's devastating. And as Katie pointed out to me, sometimes ... sometimes he gets away with it. It's a story that echos, perhaps even mirrors some of the emotional journey we (well, the majority of the audience for this play anyway) have been on. It's not a pretty journey, but there may be some catharsis there. Second, in our meeting Katie passionately pointed out that this is the sort of story, and Una is the sort of character, that simply does not get heard from. Granted the script is written by a man, but Katie felt strongly that Una's voice, and Una's journey, fraught as it is, deserved to be heard. And finally, we all felt that this would be a great show. That art is and can be uplifting even if it's about the darkest parts of people's lives. And that, hell, if we cancel our show because of Trump's election we're letting them win. Donald Trump is demanding an apology from the cast of Hamilton today, artists are being told to sit down and shut up and just be entertainment. That's not what we do.

Will anyone come and see it? That I don't know. Our Kickstarter (donate here!) is off to the slowesst start we've ever had. The show will be good. GOOD. We have a great cast and crew. I have a very high level of confidence that our preparation will pay off in an astounding way in terms of performance. But will people see it? In this terrible new world, will people be willing to watch art about the dark places, or will we only seek comfort? Will we seek out distraction and entertainment? I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for doing so. But I hope they are out there. And I hope they come. I hope people see value and purpose in what we are doing. I do.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kickstarter for Blackbird Lauches!

Exciting news everyone!

The Kickstarter for our latest production, Blackbird by David Harrower, is now live!  Check it out here:

Direct link here:

Your contributions are incredibly important to us. Every donation through kickstarter goes to the costs of production and to the actors themselves.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Work Before the Work

The play has been selected and cast. The venue contract signed. The team is being assembled. We don't begin rehearsals until mid-November, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I still have to write a press release. We need to finalize our rehearsal schedule. We need to set up a promo photo shoot. 

And as the director, I need to work, work, work. In some sense, once rehearsals start a director has less work to do than the actors. I don't have to go home and drill lines sometime between the end of the last rehearsal and the beginning of the next. Once rehearsal ends, my work (at least my creative work) on the play is done for the day. But that's deceptive. Because as a director you have to do a very great deal of work before hand. One of the things I try very hard to do as director is to think of as many possibilities as I can. I know I will never think of everything, so I don't worry about trying. If ones actors are good (and the people I cast are quite good), they will do more work on their character specifically than I ever could. They will surprise me and think of things I never would have.   But as a director, I will do the same. One MUST. 

I think that my primary job as a director is asking questions. Lots of questions. And to do that requires preparation. I want to open up possibilities. Occasionally, yes, directing is telling actors where to stand (don't stand in front of your scene partner), but since I do small cast plays, I have the luxury of doing that very little.  I don't want to tell you where to go or where to look, but I DO want you to think about WHY you are standing there, or looking there. And I want to play with the words, the intentions, the conflict, the love and hate, the relationships and events. So I'm reading, and reading. I hope I can do it justice. We've got less than a month until we start rehearsals. There's a lot to do between now and then. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

January Show Announcement!

People of Earth:

South Stream Productions is proud to announce it's fifth annual January show. 

We will be producing Blackbird by David Harrower. 

The production will feature John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett.
It will be directed by Brook North.

January 6-8, 12-15, 19-22, 2017.

Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Road, Raleigh.

Blackbird is a gripping confrontation between a young woman and the man who abducted her when she was 12. David Harrower's script is both poetic and raw, beautiful and terrible. Inspired in part by real events, this story asks us to confront whether it is possible to confront our past traumas, and dares us to see our own humanity in victims and even perpetrators of unthinkable crimes.

This production is not recommended for younger audience members. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hughie - Goodbye Old Pal

That's it. It's over. The flats are back in the warehouse, the costumes are back in storage, and I have a trunk full of sand (anyone want play sand?).

Hughie was a great adventure, a great challenge, and a production I am very proud of. But of course, I did not do it. We did it. A lot of people helped out to make this happen, and I want to say thank you to all of them.

First - Thanks, as always to Kevin Ferguson and Cardinal Gibbons High School. We were able to rehearse in their space, and, as always, it was probably the single biggest contribution to the production we received. Two weeks of free rehearsal space is such a blessing.

Second, a huge thank you to Cary Players. Again they let us borrow flats and use their warehouse to paint them. Such a big help!

Theatre in the Park also deserves a thank you. They let us borrow several lamps, plus that big mailbox. And Jeff snagged that desk for us (which we got from Mortal Coile's production of Master Harold). He stored it for us (and painted it black).

Big thanks also to NCSU theatre department for loaning us the costumes. They looked great, and there's no way we would have been able to source anything nearly as good without your help.

Ok. Take a minute and look at this list of thank-yous so far. Four theatres in the area gave us major assistance to put this show up. That's cooperation. That's a theatre community.

Thanks also to the people that helped us out with load in and out. Chris Hayworth and Matt Spitler were a huge help, and veteran theatre volunteer Jamie Marlowe also pitched in for our load in, helping us rig the lights. We also got help from Ami Kirk-Jones with painting the set, and Kieth Bugner was a fill-in stage manager for a day. Olivia Griego coordinated our front-of-house volunteers. Big thanks to all of you.

And then, of course, there's the production team.

TODD HOUSEKNECHT - our technical designer, and who I forgot(!!) the first time I drafted this. Wow. Todd has been a key part of the team for every single production of South Stream. He was our technical director. Making sure we had the flats, and jacks, making sure the walls were properly supported. and supervising load in. I would not have been able to do any South Stream show without him. Thanks so much Todd!

Mia Carson our Lighting Designer (who is in Boone for the summer running their show) helped set the mood for the show. So did Will Mikes, our Sound Designer. Sound and lights create the atmosphere for a show. Often under appreciated, sometimes not even consciously noticed, but there. Thanks to both of you.

Laura Parker designed the costumes. She selected our outfits and made sure they fit the character, the period, and the actors of course. She even made the vests specifically for the show. Costumes are a huge part of creating the character in a piece. I often feel like the character can't be fully there until you have the clothes. Until you're literally walking in that characters shoes (and pants) you don't know who they are. Thank you Laura for everything you did for the show.

Huge thanks to Jennifer Sanderson, who designed the set AND was responsible for the awesome graphics. That cool neon sign? Her. Those cool pics of me and David? Her. The look of the set, the paint on the flats, the damn brass fixtures on the mailbox and the green tassels on the keys? Her. I meant to get a post up about the set, and how it tied into the story. Maybe soon. But thank you Jenn!

Thanks to my producing partner John Honeycutt. John didn't have a huge hand in the show, but he secured the rights, and he was there providing support when he could. It's always great to have someone else who believes in the show and helps on the production end. The reason John wasn't a bigger part of the show? He's in Ragtime with Justice Theatre Project. Go get a ticket to their show!

Huge thank you to our amazing stage manager Elaine Petrone. I always say, SM'ing is the hardest job in theatre. You have to be at every rehearsal just like the director, but you ALSO have to be at every performance, and you don't get any creative control. Well, put an asterisk on that one, because I think a good SM knows when and how to offer creative suggestions. They shouldn't try to direct the show, but the absolutely should be part of the creative team, not just the principle organizer. Elaine did all that and more. We were so, so lucky to get her and it was a pleasure to work with someone so skilled and accomplished.

Thanks, of course, to Andy, our director. Andy has directed three of the five South Stream shows. He's not only fun to work with, he has a great eye and a strong and confident voice in the process. I love working with him and spending time with him, and for a two person show, both are important. He is next directing Tuesdays with Morrie at Temple. (Also with John)

Finally, huge thank you to David Klionsky. It's absolutely true that when I first brought the idea of switching roles to Andy, you were one of the first names we thought of, and we both instantly agreed you'd be great in both parts. And we weren't wrong. I was so lucky to have you in the rehearsal process. It was such a pleasure to work with you on both Erie and Night Clerk. Thank you for agreeing to take this adventure with me. It was incredibly rewarding and educational as an actor, and damn fun. Thanks for being the other half of this crazy experiment.

Well, that's it for now. Erie and Charlie and Hughie are gone but not forgotten. Thanks to everyone who made the show possible, and thank you to everyone who came to the share the show with us. We hope you enjoyed it.

Until next time,