Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Don't Call It A Comeback.


(LL Cool J, Photo Credit Saquan Stimpson, Creative Commons license)

Friends! We are back! As you may or may not know, our little group took a hiatus. Thanks to scheduling, and of course COVID, other than producing a short film SHELTER, we have not produced any work since January of 2019. Thanks to the amazing work of scientists and public health officials producing and distributing a vaccine in record time, COVID is no longer a major public health threat (it is still out there, but between vaccinations and anti-viral treatment, it is much less dangerous).

We will be opening our next show on January 5, 2024. Exact show dates are still being determined. Exact show has been determined, and will be announced soon (but the date might be a clue...). 

See you soon!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated


Mark Twain, 1907 - By A.F. Bradley, New York - (public domain)

So... haven't heard much from me lately. South Stream didn't have a show last year due to my trip to Shakespeare & Company. And then ... well we're in the middle of the COVID epidemic. So we're probably not going to have live theatre any time soon. 

COVID has been a huge national and international problem. For those directly affected it has been tragic. For the many more whose lives have been disrupted, it has been difficult. Some are struggling to make ends meet after losing work as the economy shrinks. As I write this, expanded unemployment and eviction protections have expired in most places. People are hurting. 

I wanted to start by recognizing that first. Because I can recognize that other people are hurting more. I can see that they are facing larger problems and know that I always need to do what we can to help others. But I also know that I should still honor my own loss and sadness, even if it might feel small in comparison to the burden of others. And I miss theatre.

I miss performing. I miss being an audience member. I miss collaboration. I miss being in a room with a group of other great people making something new together out of nothing. 

I was supposed to be in a play this summer. That was one of the first to get cancelled, but it was only the beginning. Not one but TWO of my short plays were accepted for production this Summer/Fall. Both were cancelled. Being without this part of myself has been hard. And I won't be participating any time soon as an audience member or as a cast member. My parents are over 65, and my father has a history of health problems that make him very high risk if he were to get this disease. I don't want to participate in any activity that might jeopardize his health. That means for me to participate in a rehearsal process, I would have to not see my parents in person for the entire rehearsal, run, plus two weeks after. That's just not going to happen for me. And I miss it.

But I and South Stream have not been completely dormant. Because I can't sit around and do nothing. Well, I CAN. I HAVE. Trust me. But just, you know, not ALL the time. ;-)

I've been working on a film, shot entirely in quarantine. It's in the can, and it's being sent out to film festivals. I won't be able to share the whole film with you unless you come to a festival (depending... some festivals are online... I'll keep you posted!), but I'll be posting more information about the film and where to see it as it happens. 

Stay tuned. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Learning, Growing, (not showing).

Hello friends,

I have been remiss in blogging here of late, but as my interview with Artist Soapbox was recently featured on their blog in an end-of-the-year post, I thought I ought to put an update here in case we had a few new visitors.

As you may or may not have noticed, the first weekend in January is rapidly approaching and ... we're not promoting our show. Yes, South Stream will not be producing a January show this year. And the reason is mostly me.

This story goes back to February of 2019. We had just finished This Doesn't End Well. It was artistically successful, but to be honest, I was feeling a bit drained. Writing, producing, and directing takes a lot out of you. It puts a lot on the line too. And while I am absolutely proud of the show and pleased we put it on, it wasn't perhaps quite as successful as I imagined it might be.

While in that state of mind, I saw that my friend Lucinda had helped arrange a workshop for the the last weekend of March presented by Shakespeare & Company. I was a bit skeptical. The price point was not out of my reach, but high for an acting community with very little in the way of paid work. I was also was unsure if the instruction would be at an appropriate level. I have taken many classes. Some have been well worth it, but some have perhaps not been quite at the right level to provide a quality experience. But Shakespeare & Company had a good reputation, and I was creatively in a place where I needed to participate and learn rather than lead. So I said "what the heck" and signed up.

And I am very, VERY glad I did. I thought the workshop was frankly excellent. The instructor was an inspirational artist and really a gifted teacher. He was an example of how to be open and honest and caring in the process of making art. And the work that we did, I mean, I was really pleased with what we learned, and how the monologue I had grew and changed, but zing-pow at least half the pleasure was getting to witness with others as you saw them really experience growth in their art and life. Just ... well I thought it was great.

Afterwards, I did some things that tried to carry forward the work we did there and reinforce it. Lucinda was kind enough to work with me and another participant to facilitate some exploration of Linklater. But Shakespeare & Co also offers a month long winter intensive. And I decided that if I could make the money work, I would take the time and do it. I love leading this little company. I love the challenge of taking a script and just saying, hey, we can do this, and then doing it. As an artist it's incredibly fulfilling. It really forces you to grow in important ways as an artist. But it also prevents another kind of growth. It keeps you from really questioning your process, of doing an examination of your technique, and it keeps you too busy to really do structured learning of any kind.

SO, this coming January, from December 29-January 24th, I will be doing exclusively that at Shakespeare & Company's main campus in Lenox Massachusetts. They are promising to keep me very VERY busy - the schedule promises 10-12 hours of instruction six days a week. I'm excited and nervous. I'll try to keep folks updated, but given the schedule, once per week is likely the best I'll be able to manage.

Until then have a Merry Christmas (or winter holiday of your choice) and a happy New Year.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Talking. So Much Talking.

Hello fans and followers of South Stream.

We have some cool South Stream news for you. Our artistic director, Brook North, was interviewed on Artist Soapbox, and the episode was released today. If you want to hear him discuss producing independent theatre in the triangle, down load this hour long podcast. Tamara really takes the time to go in depth with her guests and produces a great show.

Find it here:

And if that's not enough, I thought I'd included a few other recent interviews. As part of the promo for This Doesn't End Well Brook sat down with Cary Playwrights Forum radio program. That interview is mostly focused on writing. You can hear that interview by clicking on these words.

Finally, Brook participated in a video interview with RDU Onstage as part of the promotion for the staged reading for Birds of a Feather along with author June Guralnick.You can find that discussion here. 

And if that's not enough talking for you... you clearly have too much free time. :-)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Dear Jeff Daniels: WTF?

[UPDATE at end of post]

Let me be clear: I know it's not your fault Jeff. It wasn't your decision. But WTF man?

Look, I'm happy for you that you're in this new adaptation of To Kill A Mocking Bird. It was written by your boy Aaron Sorkin, and you get to play the iconic character of Atticus Finch with a new script based on the novel. That's great. By all accounts people seem to like you in it (Washington Post loved you! Sure WSJ called the script a grotesque caricature but what do they know?). They're certainly buying tickets. I listened to your interview with Marc Marron. You genuinely seemed into it, and you're an actor and producer I really respect man. I dig it.

But then this happened. Scott Rudin's production company started sending cease and desist letters to all of these small regional and community theatres that had secured the rights to an entirely different script. You know, the Christopher Sergel version has been a staple of high school, college and community theatre for almost 30 years. These theatres weren't trying to produce a play without authorization or paying royalties. They had fully paid licenses from Dramatic Publishing - the company that has had the rights to that script since it's first performance in 1990. And not surprisingly, these local theatres are cancelling performances because of these legal threats.

Look, Rudin might have the right to do this on the letter of the law. Apparently Dramatic Publishing's contract specifies that if a "first class" production is going on in NY or touring, their right to license is extremely geographically restricted. I think you can make an argument that it was intended to restrict productions of the same script, but hey, maybe they do have the right to send these cease and desist letters.

But DUDE. You understand small regional theatre. You run one! I am really impressed that you used your success (in part) to create a small regional theatre - Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan. You're still on the board. Man that's great. But YOU KNOW what kind of bullshit move this is. Scott Rudin's profits aren't threatened by a production of the Sergel script in the Dayton Playhouse or the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo. And YOU KNOW how much work goes into making a production, and how far in advance - set, lights, costumes. YOU KNOW that the work of regional artists is no less valuable, and of no less quality and art, than the work of productions in New York.

This is an outrageous assault on regional theatres from a large production company - just because it can. And you know it is wrong.

There are two possible explanations. I know you have worked with Scott Rudin for quite some time (he produced The News Room after all). And maybe this is some mistake by over-zealous lawyers. Maybe Scott is a great guy who also values regional theatre the way you do, and just needs you to step in and explain this to him. The other explanation is that you are working with a shitbird that doesn't give a damn about local theatre. Someone who sees cancellations of regional theatres as insignificant events, and the loss of work of local theatre artists and revenue of local theatre organizations as essentially second in importance to his wants and desires. He might get a small theoretical additional profit for his show, so good enough.

Either way, Jeff, it is up to you to stand up for your friends and compatriots. For the local theatre community at large. You are the one in the room that understands what this kind of action means. You get the kind of havoc this creates in a local theatre's schedule, and you get the kind of damage it can do to a local theatres bottom line. Most importantly you get the kind of damage it can do the the spirit of a the people involved in local theatre. You started in local theatre. Most actors do. Think of 11 year old Olivia Mongelli in Ohio, who just had her starring role as Scout pulled out from under her. You understand the damage this is doing.

And make no mistake Jeff - you are not only in the room, you have the power. If you left that production, it would close within two weeks. Sure people love the idea of seeing a new adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, with new modern sets and great production values. Sure some people want to see what Aaron Sorkin did with the story. But for better or worse, Broadway dramas draw based on the cast. They're also coming to see you Jeff.

I don't blame you for what Rudin's company is doing. I know you're just an actor, and their sending out these letters did not go to you for approval. I don't hold you responsible for the actions of the production company. But I do hold you responsible for your response. Because you ARE the one who has the power to do something. I know you like the role you're playing, and I know it sucks and that Rudin put you in this position which is completely out of your control. But here we are.

YOU have the power to call up Scott Rudin and tell him to stop this. You understand why it needs to be done. You need to do it.

And if you don't... I mean ... Can you really work with this guy? Can you really continue to make money for him? Seriously? Is that who you are?

Jeff Daniels: What the fuck?

Apparently Rudin's company is offering companies the ability to produce their (Sorkin's) script instead. That's an interesting turn of events. If I was a company in the middle of rehearsals, this probably wouldn't help much. If I had this planned for summer or later though... I'd probably jump at it. I'd imagine it would sell even better.

As a solution - I don't know what to think. Not really my money or butt on the line. Probably good for some folks and bad for others. But at least it's something.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Good Night!

Good Night Moon
South Stream put our seventh production to bed Sunday night. It was also the night of a total lunar eclipse in Raleigh. As far as I know, those two events are not related, but it MIGHT just be that my show was the appeasement necessary to keep the ancient gods from stealing the moon forever. We'll never know.

It was a special one for me. In addition to co-producing the show, and directing the show, I wrote the show. That meant every person who came was sharing a very special part of me. So thank you to everyone who came to share these stories with us. It meant a lot to me.

We have to say thank you to a lot of people for helping make this show happen. Thank you to Burning Coal, RLT, Christine Rapp and Michael Babbitt for letting us borrow stuff, and to Andy for letting us borrow your voice. Thanks to Laser Image Printing and Marketing for that cool "INFORMATION" letters. And thanks to the Petrones for helping with the lights and letting us use a few extra.

Big thanks also to Ian Finley for helping us with rehearsal space. Such a huge gift to a small production. I'm looking forward to speaking with his class as part of our "payment" for the space. Of course thank you to Michelle and Josh and Sonorous Road. Wonderful hosts as always. Without space for theatre, theatre never happens.

Thank you to Tara and George for choreographing the stage combat for us. You helped us make it look unsafe while keeping the actors safe. Clear, clean, effective choreography is a great asset to any production. Y'all made it look easy (and good)!

Thanks to our amazing technical crew. Will on sound. I think you've provided the sound for every South Stream Productions production. Thanks for your excellent professional work as always. Todd Houseknecht for Technical Direction. Also a veteran of every show we've ever done. The set pieces were smaller this year, but they were so well done. Thank you to Rachel for costumes. This is the first time we've worked with you but I sincerely hope it won't be the last. You were so professional and on point. Everything was just handled with efficiency and flair. Thank you to Jenn for your fantastic images again. And for keeping me sane. And for putting up with my stress. Meant all the things in my bio. And Alyssa, thank you for your work on lights and as ASM. You stay so busy in theatre for a reason. As a crew member you're reliable and care about making sure the show looks as good as possible. As a friend, you're great at telling me when it's ok for me to step away. Really appreciate your support on the last weekend.

To the cast - Ben, Katie, Lou, John, Julie, David, and Natalie - what can I say? It was such an honor to have artists of your quality work with me as a director, and to speak my words as a writer. I really can't thank you enough for sharing your craft to bring my text to life for an audience. You nailed it.

Kelly, our SM - you were excellent. Professional, conscientious, thoughtful, and kind in your way. You were with me every step of the way in rehearsals. You were a comfort and a sounding board and an absolute rock. And once the show was in tech, you ran it like a dream. It just worked. But it didn't "just work." It worked because of your hard work. It is so awesome to have a competent, intelligent, reliable stage manager. I never had to worry about how the show would be run. Never. If you have a good SM, you never notice what they do. But I did notice the fact that I didn't notice. So thanks.

And John, as my co-producer - thanks. We did it again. Thank you for believing in my work and writing, and for encouraging me to put this on. I am certain I would not have done it without you pushing me to do it. And of course I couldn't have done it without you. You're good at the things I'm terrible at, and I'm happy for that. Yet another South Stream show in the books. Thanks.

And finally, to everyone who came. Paid or comped. Critic or Patron, THANK YOU! Really, I SO appreciate each and every one of you for attending my show. It really means so much to me that you would take your time to share these stories with us.

To everyone, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now I'm going on vacation. Directing and producing a show is stressful. For fun, here's an actual measure of my resting heart rate during tech week:
Yes. This is my actual resting heart rate as measured by my fitbit.

See that peak there? That's opening night. Time for some rest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Special Event - Knock Back

Event not sponsored by RBC... but they're happy to have us.


Special Event! This Thursday! A special meet the author event! Just don't call it a talk back!

This Thursday, January 17, we will have a special event after the show. A knock-back. Anyone who attends is welcome to join the author for a discussion at Raleigh Brewing Company after the show (it's just across the road) and knock one (or possibly two) back.*

The event will be informal. After the show we will simply walk across the street to our neighbors, Raleigh Brewing. You are welcome to come, ask questions, and otherwise discuss the work with author and director Brook North, and any cast members who care to join. So if you're the sort that enjoys a post show discussion with the artist, come out to the show Thursday.


*No purchase or consumption of alcohol required, of course. :-)