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,

Monday, June 6, 2016

HUGHIE by Eugene O'Neill is open!

Our last show is today, June 5, at 3PM. Hillsborough Road will be closed until 5PM. Roads to the north of the theatre (Wade Ave/Cameron Village) should be fine. Please plan accordingly!  Here's a partial map of the road closures:

Please plan accordingly and drive safely.

Don't look so excited David.
Hughie opens tonight, May 27! The actors have done their work, the show looks great, it sounds great, and our invited audience last night had a great time. Here's all the information you need to join us for a great time of your own.

How do I get tickets?
Tickets are available through the Sonorous Road Box Office. CLICK HERE TO GET TICKETS.

Will tickets be available at the door?
Yes. Almost certainly. If we are close to selling out I will post it on our facebook account.

Where is the theatre?
Sonorous Road Productions
209 Oberlin Street, Raleigh
(Very close to the NCSU bell tower and Cameron Village).

What time is the show?
Most evening shows are 7:30, Sunday Matinee at 3:00. Saturdays we have an extra show at 9:30, and Sunday, May 29 we have an evening show at 7:00 PM (since the following day is Memorial Day).

Here's the complete breakdown:
Friday, May 27 - 7:30 PM (Brook as Erie)
Saturday, May 28 - 7:30 PM (David as Erie)
                                9:30 PM (Brook as Erie)
Sunday, May 29 - 3:00 PM (David as Erie)
                             7:00 PM (Brook as Erie)
Thursday, June 2 - 7:30 PM (Brook As Erie)
Friday, June 3 - 7:30 PM (David as Erie)
Saturday, June 4 - 7:30 PM (Brook as Erie)
                              9:30 PM (David as Erie)
Sunday, June 5 - 3:00 PM (Brook as Erie)

How long is it?
The show runs a bit less than an hour, depending on how fast we talk. ;-)

What's all that "as Erie" stuff?
You missed that? The show has two characters, Erie Smith, a small time gangster and "teller of tales" and Night Clerk. Brook North and David Klionsky will be alternating roles during the production.

Is there a discount if I want to see it twice?
YES! After the show, keep your program. When you come back, simply present the program at the desk and we'll sell you admission for only $5 more!  It's only $20 to see it "both ways." See it twice, and compare the performance. Discuss the different interpretations of the characters. Vote for who is best! (no not really)

What is the show about?
It's 3:00 in the morning, and Erie Smith is looking for someone to talk to. He needs an audience. The only one he can find is someone who can't get away: the night clerk at his residential hotel.

In a larger sense, the play is about loneliness and the need for human connection in a disconnected world. Seems pretty relevant today, no?

Is the show appropriate for children?
I don't know. The language is mild by today's standards. There's some comments about sex and tramps, but it's all talk about "makin dolls" and that sort of thing.  But it probably isn't something most kids would enjoy.

That's about it. GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Who Is Better? (Nobody)

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
-Oscar Wilde

Actor cage match?

The reviews are in, and they are... decidedly mixed. CVNC... didn't like me. Byron at the Indy liked David, ..  and also didn't like me.  I have it on good authority that at least some of the folks at Triangle A&E did like me (Kurt posted a review on my facebook page, though as of noon Wednesday they have not managed to publish a linkable review [EDIT - it's up! Read it here.]).

So why link to "bad" reviews? Why even acknowledge them? Well, a few reasons, but first I should note I've written about reviews before here. As an actor you can't let them in (good or bad). But as a producer, I don't have the luxury of not reading them. Normally, I'd be linking to good reviews (previously we have had exactly one negative review of a South Stream Production) but I'm ok with linking to bad reviews too, in context. Let me explain.

First of all, I would rather have people say bad things about me than say nothing at all. Partly it's the "any publicity is good publicity" but more importantly, I feel what I do is worth artistic consideration. I would rather spark an argument or discussion, even personal criticism, than not have any reaction at all.

And part of this process was about creating something interesting to talk about. David and I made a very conscious effort to develop our own truth with each character. We didn't try to avoid taking ideas from each other, but we also did not try to create a unified interpretation. Even as we agree about most points of the character, we found different expressions of that journey. That's what's been so exciting about this process. I feel that we achieved something really special. Two very different interpretations of the same character, each effective and honest, but each different. Is there a "better" performance? I honestly don't think so.

Of course, people being what they are, tastes vary, and comparison is, I suppose, inevitable. And I'm fine with that. They are very different shows, and of course, people will like or dislike them as they wish. Am I disappointed that people (and despite what some actors will tell you, reviewers are people) came to the show and did not enjoy my performance? Sure. But would I change that performance? Hell no. I absolutely gave the performance I intended.

So is my show any good? I think so. I can only present what I feel is the truth of the character. And David will be out there doing the same. This weekend we run five shows:

Thursday 7:30 (me)
Friday 7:30 (David)
Saturday 7:30 (me) and 9:30 (David)
Sunday 3:00 (me)

Come see the shows, and decide for yourself.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Don't Come Support My Show

Yeah, I'm talkin' ta you.

"Come out and support the show." You see that all the time. And let me tell you, I need your support. And so do other theatre companies.

We need your support in our fundraisers and kickstarters. We need your support in your donations of time and effort and occasionally your furniture (we'll get it back to you in one piece I promise). We need your support at the ballot box to elect legislators who value the arts and are willing to fund them. We need your support in so many ways, because art does not pay for itself. Because this is not a profit making endeavor, it's a community making one.

But don't come to my show because you want to "support" it. Come out because you want to enjoy it. Come see my show because you want to be entertained and challenged. Come because you want to see some damn good theatre and you think what I've done in the past fits that definition.

"Support"implies a sacrifice. It's a donation of time or money. When you come see my show, I hope you don't feel that way. I hope you're feel like you got your money's worth. Truth be told, if we talk about what the actual costs are to produce theatre, you are getting more than your money's worth.

So please, by all means DO support theatre. Bare Theatre is performing Two Gentlemen of Verona for free! If you want to support theatre, go to their kickstarter page and donate to support the production:

But come to my show because you like theatre. Because you value the experience of having a live connection with the performers. Because you want to see something worth your time and money.

Because you will.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trading Places

Tickets to this show available HERE.

We needed every minute of rehearsal today. But it was great.

You know, I tell people that I always try to work with people who are better than I am. I want to work with people who challenge me and push me to be my best. And that's definitely who David is, and tonight's rehearsal was a great example.

Because Hughie runs a bit under an hour, we actually ran it three times in rehearsal tonight. In the spirit of the play, we rolled dice to see who got to do Erie twice, and I won. And let me tell you, the first time we ran it I was rough. Keith Bugner (who was filling in for our stage manager Elaine tonight) did an admirable job of keeping up with my line calls, especially because it was the first time he had seen the script. I was holding on and basically was just making it through.

Then we ran it with David as Erie. And he did a damn fine job. Really great. I wanted to hug him when he finished it was that good. That made me feel great. Partly because I figured - "well, if I can't hack it at least David can cover." But mostly because I respected his work and his craft. Erie really came alive for him in a way he didn't for me.

It also inspired me to do better. I saw the work David had put in, it was evident, and I didn't want to let him down. And sure, I was helped by the repetition, but I also think it was that feeling of being pushed - because when we ran it the third time tonight (with me as Erie again) it was pretty damn good. Not perfect to be sure, but pretty good.

I felt good about it. David felt good about it. I'm sure Andy felt good about it. And that's why you should always work with people who are better than you, who you respect, and who push you to do your best. Because that's when you will.

PS: Here's a schedule of who plays who when

Friday May 27, 7:30 PM (Brook as Erie)
Saturday May 28, 7:30 PM (David as Erie); 9:30 PM (Brook as Erie)
Sunday, May 29,  3:00 PM (David as Erie); 7:00 PM (Brook as Erie)
Thursday, June 2, 7:30 PM (Brook as Erie)
Friday, June 3, 7:30 PM (David as Erie)
Saturday, June 4, 7:30 PM (Brook as Erie); 9:30 PM (David as Erie)
Sunday, June 5, 3:00 PM (Brook as Erie)

Buy tickets now!
(PS, if you see the show once, you can buy a ticket to see the show again for only $5 with a stamped program! See it "both ways" for only $20! Offer in person only, not available online)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rehearsal Can Be A Lonely Process

Brook in an action packed rehearsal.

We open in 12 days! Yipes! BUY TICKETS HERE!

We're about to start our second week of rehearsal. But that statement is pretty deceptive. David and I have had our scripts for at least a month before that. Since then we've been drilling our lines and drilling our lines, so that we came into rehearsal more or less off book (David more, me less). And that means repetition, repetition, repetition. It's not just getting the order of the words. It's connecting it to the idea. It's getting to the point where, when you want to express the idea, the words you've practiced have become the words you WANT to use to express that idea. I've talked before about the process of learning your lines. And it really is true, it's nothing magic. It's just hard work.

I know some people actors don't want to be memorized before they start rehearsal, and I can understand why. There is a risk that in the process of learning them, you will become stuck in one "reading" of them (reading here is an actor term of art that means the way of delivering the line, the intention and the emphasis). The worry is that if you practice it one way, you won't reliably be able to adjust to the moment, and you won't be able to listen and let the other actor in. You can be stuck acting instead of reacting. Which is basically the definition of bad acting.

So I get it. That definitely is a pitfall that we always want to avoid as actors, and especially when we've worked so much ahead of time and so much apart. That said, there are advantages to this process too. First of all, it allows us to have a much shorter "formal" rehearsal process. We started rehearsing this show on May 9, and we open on May 27th. That means we'll have two weeks in the rehearsal room, and 4 days on the set before we open. That is a very tight timeline. Typically we would have two-three times as much time in rehearsal (4-6 weeks) in addition to tech week. So coming in memorized (or mostly memorized in my case) allowed us to save time. I'd argue, however, that there's another advantage too. Yes there's a risk that you will be stuck in one line reading, but it's not a given. And being more comfortable with your lines can allow you to listen MORE to your partner, and be MORE open to the moment, because you're not worrying about saying the right thing. When you stop thinking about the words your saying, because you know them, it's easier to let everything else in. Finally, it was a bit less of a worry with this play because, well, a good part of the play is about not listening and why we do or do not let another person in. So if we don't listen do each other sometimes in this play, well, that's intentional.

The thrills of rehearsal never stop

Our rehearsal is about shaping the play. Not just the physical movement in the environment but the shape of the characters themselves. It's been exciting (really), and having much of the line work done really has freed us to focus on the characters and their world. Switching off with David has been a real thrill too. I've never worked with another actor playing the same character (or in this case, characters) in the same production. It's an amazing resource to have another perspective on the characters. I've found that we agree on quite a lot, but our performances of Erie are still very different. I find it incredibly fascinating that we have such different embodiements while sharing so much of the underlying ideas. It's a fantastic lesson in making a character your own. I think for me part of the lesson (so far) is that you can't NOT make it your own if you're acting honestly. My Erie is different from David's Erie because it has to be. The actor must draw on him or herself to find the sympathy, the empathy, the thing he or she has in common with that character. And what that is will be different for all of us.

This is why acting is not a competition. It's not a race, and it's not a fight. It's different because we are different. Each actor, if they're doing it right, brings their self fully to the character, and that is what is beautiful.

Andy finding the beauty within us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Should Independent Theatre Be Illegal?

This post has been on my mind for a while. Lots of things have been circulating on social media related to this topic, but I think this article is what made me really want to say something. It was circulated by a number of folks, and generated some discussion, but it kind of drove me crazy. The actual headline of the article is "Should the Minimum Wage Apply to the Arts" but to me it really should have had the title of this blog post. Because that's what it would mean for my art form.

Look, I want to pay people. I would LOVE to pay people. I've already addressed this topic on this blog here. Maybe I should leave well enough alone, but I wanted to give people an idea of what I'm talking about.

Our more recent production was a huge critical success. The audiences loved it, and every review was glowing. It was a good show. And we lost money. Even borrowing everything we could for the set, including flats, platforms, and a lot of furniture out of my home, cutting as many costs as we could, there is a certain minimum cost associated with a show, especially if you want to put on a quality production.

Here's what that looks like (I'm rounding off a bit to make the math easier to follow):

Venue: $3,250
Royalties and Scripts: $1,160
Props: $260
Costumes: $230
Set: $290
Posters/Programs/Handbills: $170
Food for volunteers (load in/strike/set painting): $175
Total: $5,535

Our total revenue (including $544 of extra contributions from Kickstarter over/above ticket price):

So we lost about $1,015 WITHOUT paying our actors anything. We decided to give everyone a small check to say thank you for their work because we felt it was the right thing to do. If we had to pay people minimum wage it would be impossible. I would never have done a show.

Now you might say: well, you need to raise money. If you can't raise money to pay people from donations, you don't have the resources to put the show on in the first place. I see that point. But think about what you are also saying:

Only people who know enough people with disposable income are allowed to make this art.

Is that really what we want to say?

I admit I've struggled with these ideas personally. I really want to respect people's time, and I value the work that people put in to make my shows happen. I would love to pay people more. And frankly, I could spend more time trying to fund raise. I could formally organize South Stream as a 501(c)(3). I could hold fundraisers and ask for donations and corporate sponsors. But honestly, I haven't because what I want to be is an artist, not a fundraiser. I work a regular job. I have a limited amount of time after work. I could spending it trying to raise money, or I could spend it in rehearsal. And frankly, if I HAD to raise the money. If it was ILLEGAL for people to come together and volunteer their time on a collaborative art project, well, I wouldn't do it.

And it's not just people like me, who are disinclined. It's also people who are disenfranchised, displaced, and disadvantaged.  Are they not allowed to make theatre? Am I?

The truth is, there is simply no money in independent theatre. Independent theatre is made with donations. Usually it's those of the actors and directors, the set designers and the props finders, the people who donate countless hours to make a show come together. Sometimes, it's the donations of wealthy people and corporations (and the hard work of people who write the grants and make the phone calls to make that happen). But there simply isn't enough money in the actual product to make pay anyone. So when people complain that they aren't paid for the theatrical work that they do, or they make analogies to bakers giving away bread, I mean, I'm right there with you! I agree, with your point! But also... I just can't pay you. It's not like I'm sitting on a pile of money and keeping it back from you. The money I paid to my performers (who were worth every penny and more) came from reviewing documents, not from the audience.

Should independent theatre be illegal? Yeah, I hope not. Even if it was people would still do it. Because even though you can't make money doing it, you also can't stop people from doing it. All you need is a script, a cast, and an audience. That can happen in a church basement or a public park or an abandoned lot. It can happen on a soccer field or a slum. As long as there are stories to be told, people will tell them. Not for money, or for fame, or for power, but because it's one of the most human things we can do.