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.