July 3, 2011-- the Ghost of Exile Yet To Come
Cooking Up the Perfect Season
Summer time is a strange time in Exile. It feels like only a moment ago we were happily celebrating the successful opening night of Iron in our new Studio X. And now, we are on the cusp of a whole new season. New Shows. New Actors. New Designers. Hopefully new faces in the audience and at our parties as well....
Back in December, when last season was still just a teenager- this season began its infancy. Bryan - my managing director and best friend- and I joke sometimes that he is drowning in Exile present. But I often feel like the Ghost of Exile Future. There is barely time to enjoy one season before it's time to start worrying about the next. I often feel like an army commander- yelling "Go! Go! Go!" at actors and plays as they jump out of a plane to attack the world below. Get them in. Throw them out.
It can be very exciting to be in the thick of seasonal planning. So many wonderful plays. All sorts of possibilities. But it is nerve-wracking too. It's like planning a dinner party for your incredibly cool friends. And there is no cookbook. Will the delicate and subtle taste of the first course of the Aliens clash with the hearty and flavorful Knives in Hens in the third course? If I put Gruesome Playground Injuries in the oven in November, will there be enough time to get Behanding ready for a delightful desert in April? Did I use too much dill?
And these aren't just any dinner guests. These are the most important, most beloved people I know- you, the audience. We love what we do here in Exile. And we want to share these amazing stories, amazing faces with you and make you feel as great, as excited and as thrilled as we are about them. But can we? When you are planning a season, it can make you really question "Why theater" at all? Why is it so important to me to get you all in a room, and create something living and breathing for you? In today's world of bleak economical forecasts and budgets cuts- why do I feel so vehemently that people need theater.
It is not a question that is easily answered. But I know, back in February, during the previews of Lieutenant, Matt Pfeiffer and I made a hasty hand off. He had a collection of plays by Rajiv Joseph. I did a quick curtain speech and grabbed the script off Matt while he settled in to do his directorial duties for Lieutenant. I went upstairs to Quig's Pub, ordered a special and proceeded to tear through Gruesome Playground Injuries. Maybe downstairs- Exile's most successful show ever was about to launch. But upstairs, I was swept away by these two lonely characters on the page. I knew them. I loved them and I knew I wanted you all to meet them. And that is all I can really say for sure sometimes.
I hope you like these crazy, beautiful characters as much as I do. I think you will. I can assure you we have never had such a collection of lost, funny, gritty souls all onstage in one season. And on opening night of Knives in Hens, I hope you will come up and tell me what you think of them. But you will have to pardon me just a little. I will be worrying about the next season's character before I have had a chance to say hello to these ones.
June 17, 2011-- Boy Wonder: Hello and Goodbye from Alex
Working in Exile
I started at Theatre Exile in December as the new office intern, an opportunity I learned about through my good friend and current Theatre Exile Box Office Manager; Joe Wozniak. His passion for it got me interested. Soon after, I contacted Bryan Clark, Exile’s Managing Director, and the rest is history.
Working at Theatre Exile is incredible! I recommend it to anyone, it’s honestly a complete dream-come-true for any young theatre fan. First off, the people are amazing. They are some of the best, most talented, imaginative minds in the city not to mention the coolest and the most down to earth. Also there are so many great moments to be had at Theatre Exile, like the first time you walk into the space we’re producing in. My favorite was Plays and Players Theater, where we did Lieutenant. That place is nuts! It felt like being a little kid in haunted house. Or the first time you see any of the artistic directors give a direction (just one, that’s all it takes). Mine was during a read through; I had a total geek moment afterwards in which I thought to myself “Wow…I just saw Joe Canuso direct… that’s amazing.” Or when you get to meet any artist who’s work you admire. The place is crawling with them. I got to meet Noah Haidle, the playwright for Saturn Returns, whose name I had typed a thousand times in our ads, he turned out to be one of the most mysteriously cool people I’ve ever met.
I could go on forever but for the sake of time I won’t. As I said before it’s the people who work at Theatre Exile that are truly amazing. If you ever get the opportunity to meet them, take it. Deborah Block is one of the kindest and most beautiful people in this world. She’ll offer to make you dinner and maybe even give you the chance to be destroyed in a game of chutes and ladders with her son. Joe Canuso is as down to earth and easy to talk to as you can get. He’s also one of the best directors in the city and shops at thrift stores, which is why he always has sweet coats and T-shirts. Brenna Geffers is pure talent. If you’re fortunate enough to be complimented by her you should remember it. She’s clever and creative and always has a sassy outfit, very badass. Clara Elser is Theatre Exile’s evening flower and a person that will make you laugh time and time again. But don’t let her innocent appearance fool you; she’s a wild woman at heart. Bryan Clark is pretty much the greatest boss anyone could ask for. He’s the type of guy you don’t want to let down because the thought of losing his respect is heartbreaking and he’s hilarious to boot, few people I know can boast that. There are many other remarkable people dwelling in Exile; Matt Pfeiffer, Sarah Chandler, Doug Smullens, Joe Wozniak (already mentioned), Harry & Harriet Philibosian, & Trish Kelly. All of whom are so amazing and so easy to work with.
At the risk of this sounding like a long Tony acceptance speech, I’m going to wrap it up.
At the end of the month I leave for Chicago to continue on with my education in Theatre at Columbia College. A decision I would not have been able to make had it not been for my amazing glimpse at life in Exile. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked here and to have made such incredible friends. I will miss them all dearly and think of them often.
To those of you thinking about Working in Exile - DO IT! - Live a little, learn a lot.
Best wishes and all of my love,
May 23, 2011-- 5 years in exile: A reflection by Bryan S. Clark
The first day I met Joe Canuso I was immediately struck by how easy he was to talk to. He asked hard questions, but I had good answers. When he offered me the position I was unbelievably excited. It was my first real break, an opportunity to prove myself and my place in the community. I told him that day that I felt comfortable enough to be able to get married. He told me (and this is definitely paraphrasing) if you can’t do the job after 6 months, we’re going to get someone else.
I’d just begun and was quickly swept away by what was widely considered the modern starting point of theatre exile. The show that put us on the map. It’s still the most highly Barrymore-nominated show at seven. I was introducing myself to a lot of people in those days and it was when I met one of my best and long-time friends, Brenna Geffers.
Red Light Winter
My first full project that still remains closest to my heart. A great cast and a story full of sadness and about nothing. Our set designer (a good friend of mine) bailed on us. I worked until midnight many nights in those days. My first real interaction with Matt Pfeiffer whose work I admire greatly.
Hearts & Soles
Our first PTI project and my first foray into a World Premiere. Deborah Block’s directorial debut for exile and the first amount of real influence she had on my administration. The first time I met my good friend Chris Colucci as well.
Glengarry Glen Ross
Another breakout production that raised the bar for exile and a winner of 2 Barrymores. We were flooded with ticket orders and I lost a lot of extra help. Despite a successful production, I learned the hard way that one person is not enough to cover the growth of a company. The first dawn of forward-thinking.
New season, new vision. We continued to “ride the wave” with a box office and critical success. We hired Jenny Jacobs for the season who was quintessential in the development of exile. I’ve also never met a nicer person in my life.
Our second PTI project that met with mixed success. It began the development of our outreach program “Paper Wings” that is still in place today helping the young adults of Norris Square.
Another great piece of work that met with critical acclaim. Our last show in Christ Church before their renovations began. With a system now firmly in place for a company our size, we planned on how to take it to an even greater level.
dark play; or stories for boys
A cute little show that helped us touch base with a younger generation. We’ve had a strong student following ever since. Before this show went up I married my wife, Katrina O’Toole. We planned our wedding and honeymoon so that we’d be able to return home before the Barrymores and dark play’s first rehearsal. It was also my longest stint away from exile: 8 days. Life waits for theatre.
My favorite work. It still stands for me as the greatest work we’ve ever done. It was completely overlooked by the Barrymores for which I will never forgive or forget. It again reset the bar as our greatest achievement. Just before this production we moved to our new offices and rehearsal space in South Philadelphia and the company grew again as a result. We hired Sarah Chandler as our production manager and it was around this time a little intern named Clara Elser started to work with us. Some months later, she’d become my #1 go-to person and the other half of my brain.
A fascinating piece of work and the first time I disagreed with a critic’s review of an exile show (good or bad). Because of the amount of accumulated “junk” from the show, we ended up holding a flea market at our new space to sell it all off. The end of that summer marked the end of the time Jenny Jacobs could give to us, although she would return as a board member years later.
New changes brought Tenley Bank to exile, an entirely new Front of House staff and health insurance for all administrative staff. The playwright of the show visited with us and loved our production – was a nice box office to boot.
Any Given Monday
World premiere of Bruce Graham’s newest play and won the Barrymore for as much. Attendance was plagued by mountainous drifts of snow but still ended up doing very well for us. Our first co-production with another company, which introduced me intimately to how another company runs their business. I learned no Managing Director has it easy. Anywhere.
A perfect play but a shorter run. Brought a lot of new faces to exile. Subscriptions for the next year were the highest they ever were.
Back to the birth of exile: The Fringe. Back to her baby, too, as Deborah Block directed our first production in our newly renovated studio x in south Philly. I was plagued with illness during the run making me reexamine how much time I spend working.
That Pretty Pretty; or the Rape Play
Not my favorite play but a critical success and a production that definitely served our mission. Our first return to Christ Church. Probably the most controversial work we have ever done.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Resetting the bar once again. The highest box office numbers ever and this time, we were ready. Newly integrated systems in our office saved our butts and simultaneously we launched this new website. Our first show under an SPT (Actors’ Equity) contract as well. People will be talking about this one for years. It was not without its hiccups, though,; we lost 3 employees during the run and are still recovering.
Brenna’s first direction for exile; a beautiful play and a dream come true. The playwright also personally came down to see this production. It was also the return of our long-time collaborator Harry Philibosian to the stage.
60 months. Still here. Guess I passed the test.
Bryan S Clark
May 16, 2011-- Meeting Noah - by Brenna Geffers
One very normal, drab winter’s day at the office, I get a phone call. “Hey Brenna, it’s me. Noah.” Oh! Ok…. He says he is calling because he wants to make sure that I know that he is real. That he is not imaginary. Now if you have ever read any of his work or if you know me at all- this statement is not as frivolous as it sounds. It is in fact a pretty important fact to establish.
Because the fact of the matter is- no matter how many emails we have exchanged or how many status updates I may get from his facebook page, Mr. Noah Haidle is (or was) mostly imaginary to me.
And I liked it that way.
Directing a play can be both overwhelmingly social and incredibly lonely. But no matter what, there is always this little secret presence at your side. An aspect that no other person can come between. You and the Play. It is a selfish thing really. In my mind, I am the expert on the play. I know what every words means, what every image resonates with. But to be suddenly met with an actual voice, an actual expert on the play? It sort of interrupts the secret world I built.
But none the less- like it or not- there is a person on the other end of the line. After about an hour of talking about classic music, ninjas, Robert De Niro and whether or not heroine jokes can ever be funny, he says he is coming down in the spring to see it. And I hang up. Oh! Ok……
Skipping over the details of him moving twice- to two different coasts. Of him changing his cell number- thus not getting my texts. And skipping over my early spring panic that he wasn’t talking to me anymore. And him calling again randomly with his new cell number. And the flight info and all that jazz....
And so – he arrives. Actual. Luckily for me, he smokes. Marlboro Reds. A Lot. This is first thing we do. The second is to go buy more cigarettes. He buys me a pack. A peace offering. Then there is the small talk. How do you have small talk with the personification of your own aesthetic? And unluckily for me- Noah is not good at small talk. At all. He wouldn’t mind me saying that. Because he really isn’t. But I can assure you- it got better.
And we watch the final run of my show. Of his show. Of what is - like it or not- our show. It is the final run before opening the next day so there are only a few other people in the house. And we sit together in the back. And the lights go down. And all I can think is- he will hate it. But if he does- will I care? Should I care? The show begins.
It is worth mentioning here that – no matter what else may happen- That Night my cast gives the best performance possible of this show. It is lightening crackling up there. Vicious. Funny. Not a fake or cute or sentimental moment. It was perfect. For me. This was the show I had wanted to create. Maybe it would never exist this sharp, this honest, this immediate again. That’s the funny thing about theater.
After the first scene, Noah pokes me. Actually. And he says. “This is beautiful.” And I sigh. We watch the show. He points out things he likes. I get a poke every time something is “kick-ass.”
I see him watch his own show too, hearing words that ring out clear. And ones that he no longer likes. I mention to him after he flinches at one line that “that moment normally happens better.” He whispers back that it is his bad art, not mine. And for a moment I get what it must be like to be a writer- wandering into worlds that are your own. And not your own. We watch the rest of the show.
And then it is over.
We go to a dive bar and play Lady Gaga and Johnny Cash on the jukebox.
I walk him home. We talk about time. And parallel universes. And things you might expect from a playwright who writes plays like he does. And other things that are none of your business.
The next day is opening night. We go to the Mutter Museum to see the skulls. We eat salads. We invent the next great American Novel. And sing songs. He buys a new suit. We go to the Society of Exile champagne toast. We walk to the theater to see the show.
There is nothing either of us can do about Saturn Returns anymore.
We are useless to it.
It was nice to not be the only useless artist in the room for once on my opening night.
And then it is over.
So that is what it was like to meet the playwright. It was in some ways really awesome. And in some ways- really not. I compared it to someone – I don’t remember who- that is was like Darth Vader. Do you really want to see the weak, old man behind the mask? I don’t know. But for now- Noah Haidle will go back to being mostly imaginary for me.
Just how I like him to be.
May 6, 2011- Second Time Around- by Amanda Schoonover
Saturn Returns is the second Noah Haidle play that I've been lucky enough to be in (Mr. Marmalade being the first). I love Noah's work because of his inventive story telling. When I first read the script, I cried. I thought, "Wow. I've never read anything like this. It's brilliant." He tells the story through one character at different stages of his life (played by three different actors) and the women who have had a profound effect on his life (played by one actress). My challenge in this piece is to create three distinct women with just the right amount of similarities to cause echoes for the main character. It is much harder to describe the process than it is to experience it. In some ways, it's a very simple (and heartbreaking) story. Love, loss, regret. Things I experience everyday of my life, which is why I feel such a deep connection to this piece. Another reason I love Noah's writing is his ability to put into words things I feel, but have no way to express. To quote: "please let this be the promised glorious evening please show me the glory of living please name for me all that I feel but cannot sing please." Please come see our beautiful production of Noah Haidle's Saturn Returns!
April 26, 2011 - "You Must Be In You Saturn Return"
An excerpt taken from an interview with Noah Haidle conducted by the Orange County Register.
OCR: What was your inspiration for this play?
Noah Haidle: It happened actually during a conversation like this about a different play. The person on the other end of the line was the newspaper's horoscope writer. And she told me at one point, "You must be in your Saturn return." I said, "Excuse me?" She explained that when Saturn comes back every 30 years it interrupts the life cycle of the person. I wouldn't put it on the Joycean level of epiphany, but it did stick with me.
OCR: Is it autobiographical?
Haidle: Well, that brings up an interesting question about autobiography and writing. I don't think you need to live through something to write about it. I think my writing is more of an emotional biography rather than a literal one. I don't know how much of me is in there. I don't find my life particularly interesting. Most days I spend a lot of time staring at a wall. I'm of the school that it really doesn't matter what an artist has gone through. I don't discount Ezra Pound's poetry because he was anti-Semitic. There's something in the imagination that when somebody says "this is based on a true story," people prick up their ears a little more. Why does it matter? I'm more interested in what I would call a poetic transposition of reality.
OCR: Do you let your characters lead the way?
Haidle: A little bit. But I don't believe playwrights when they say, "They were in the room with me and they were telling me what to do." That sounds to me like schizophrenia. I think the best quote about it that resonates with me is Saul Bellow: "I write to find the next room of my fate." My theory is if I'm surprised then an audience will be surprised as well. When writing is going well I think of it as kind of a math proof.
OCR: Do you learn a lot from observing actors perform your work?
Haidle: Absolutely, every time. I mean, theater is at its essence a collaborative medium. The more people you can activate in your imagination the better your final product will be. The playwright has a rarefied position. lt's illegal to change one word of the script without their express consent. I like to think of myself as a little more flexible. I say, "If you come up with a better line than mine then I'll use it." I ask my actors, "Do you have a problem with this? Does anything sound clunky or untrue to who you feel you are?" Plays are delicately symphonic.
April 10, 2011- From the Dramaturge- David White
Astrologers call the period between ages twenty-eight and thirty "Saturn Return." That's because it's the first time the planet Saturn completes its
cycle through your birth chart and returns to the spot it occupied when you were born. Internationally respected astrologer Rob Hand calls Saturn
Return "one of the most important times in your life. . . a time of endings and new beginnings."
Saturn strips away illusions and points out limitations, allowing you to view yourself in a harsh, often unflattering light. At the same time, it endows you
with prudence, practicality, and the perseverance to work hard toward achieving your purposes. Consequently, this is a good time to rearrange
your career or lay the foundation for a new one. Saturn Return almost always requires some major adjustments in lifestyle,
attitudes, and relationships. Anything you have outgrown, or have tolerated but not found satisfying, must end now or be altered to meet your
emerging needs. According to Hand, "Consciously or unconsciously, you are pruning your life of everything that is not relevant to what you really are
as a human being."
Often interpersonal relationships are deeply affected by Saturn Return. Gail Sheehy writes in Passages: Predictable Crises in Adult Life that during this period "Almost everyone who is married will question that commitment." The U.S. Census Bureau lists the peak divorce years as ages twenty-eight
to thirty. Some people experience more subtle or private adjustments in their patterns of relating, such as shifts in responsibilities. Many couples
decide to become parents, not only altering their relationships but their financial obligations and perhaps their vocations as well.
If a relationship is sound, based on mutual respect, honesty, and sharing, it will probably survive the test of Saturn Return and become even stronger.
But a relationship begun before the partners knew what they really wanted is likely to fall apart. Relationships that start during this period may have a
"fated" or "karmic" quality about them.
"Saturn. . . is never easy to deal with because his function is that of promoting growth," explains astrologer Liz Greene, author of Saturn: A
New Look at an Old Devil, "and it is only frustration and pain which at present are sufficient goads to get a human being moving." This frustration
and pain have given Saturn a bad reputation. But the planet's often misunderstood value lies in its very ability to evoke pain. Like the pain of
an illness, it warns that something is wrong. Saturn doesn't create the problems, it merely illuminates them.
Growth is often accompanied by trepidation and turmoil. As the old self is pushed aside to make room for the new, you may feel weak and vulnerable.
You want to move ahead, yet are frustrated by a fear of doing so, torn between a compelling urge to throw off everything connected with your
past and an equally frantic need to cling to the familiar rather than brave the great unknown.
Even if your external world seems to be in order, your internal structure may feel as though it's being assaulted with a battering ram. Nervous
conditions, irritability, depression, insomnia, and feelings of insecurity are common. Most people go through some sort of identity crisis. Even though your Saturn Return may be disturbing, ultimately it reveals what you truly want and sweeps away the clutter that may have been impeding your progress. Your Saturn Return is a personal spring cleaning. No matter how difficult it seems to let go of inappropriate people and things, the first Saturn Return is the time to do it. For if lessons are not learned, the problems will come knocking again during your second Saturn Return at about age fifty-eight, when you are more set in your ways. Once the conflict is confronted, the tension usually subsides. You feel stronger and more capable of moving ahead.
Saturn Return is one of the most crucial turning points you ever experience, when you assume the greatest responsibility of all:
responsibility for your own life
March 28, 2011- After the Bourbon- Philly girl at Humana Fest
I love Philadelphia’s theater scene. Watching my favorite actors surprise me in roles I never thought they could do. Getting ready to see my most admired directing hero’s worlds unfold in front of me. Waiting for the lights to go down and be overwhelmed by the set that emerges, the sound that carries me away, the lights that immerse me into the world. I love Philadelphia and the work that we do.
But this weekend, I had the most amazing experience of flying off to Louisville and take part in the Humana Festival at the Actor of Louisville. And it was filled with completely new faces, designs and worlds. And it was awesome.
The weekend started off with a bang with the world premiere of Bob by Peter Sinn Natchrieb. Peter penned Exile’s awesome Hunter Gatherers circa 2009. I was really excited to go into this unique imagination once again. And what an imagination it was! I am not exaggerating when I say that my mouth with agape. Fun, fast and completely cosmic- Bob razzle-dazzled its way through the story of one man seeking greatness. This is truly my favorite type of story; epic, universal and unflinchingly theatrical. This is what I want to see. And I couldn’t help but see some of our most imaginative and agile Philly actors creating this carnival of existentialism. I mean, come on. The actors each perform dances embodying luck, despair, loss. It was fantastic and a great way to kick off the weekend and wins best new play from my personal Barrymore awards.
Later that night, I had the pleasure of seeing the Actor Theater of Louisville’s intern company perform the finale to their year long commitment to the company. It was great to cheer them on and I was reminded of our own Arden Aprenti and their yearly showcase. And my heart went out to Justin and Georgia and the rest of the APA Class of 2005 whom I met my first year in Philadelphia.
The next day brought Adam Rapp’s The Edge of our Bodies- which I was very curious to see. Like a bad Ex, I both love and get so mad at Mr. Rapp. And Edge of our Bodies made me remember the way my stomach flipped the first time I read his Red Light Winter. It was like old times again. The show also boasted the best performance of the weekend, the young Catherine Combs who shouldered the one man show with grace, with beauty and with a ferocity that will haunt me for weeks.
Next came A Devil At Noon by Ann Washburn. Evocative and mysterious and completely engaging. I don’t want to say too much about this piece- as watching the mystery unfold is truly a pleasure. I will say it has goggles and ninjas and was one of the most unique pieces I have seen in years. Boasting an excellent cast and it also wins best director for the weekend. I will read more of Ms Washburn’s work as well, since her eyes seemed to be focused on the horizon of the future of theatre. And it is a future I want to be part of.
The night ended with Elmeno Pea by Molly Smith Metzler. I will be honest and say that on paper, this was the piece I was least excited about. Bringing audiences to a lavish guest house on Martha’s Vineyard, I was expecting to see a feel-good chick-flick where two working class sisters bring those snooty rich yuppies down a notch. But it wasn’t. Digging far deeper than just a reflection on class, this piece brought up an incredibly insightful and inflammatory outlook on a women’s issue. Amazing set design and great performances from the entire cast. It also featured one of the most exciting and stirring monologue for a woman I have ever heard. So actresses take note. I do hope that we see someone like PTC bring this amazing piece for women to the stage.
The next day, after a director brunch and a great panel on Mentoring Women in the Arts, and then it was off to see Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison. It was always amazing to see the design work featured at the Humana Fest and this piece takes the best costume award.
The last show of the weekend was Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat. And it was a lovely way to end. A coming of age story with three of the most well developed young characters I have seen in a long time, I laughed and cried a little too. Best ensemble for the weekend, I was so glad to have the chance to see so many new non-philly actors. My loyalty remains, but my imagination has been ignited.
Of course there were plenty of late night conversations over bourbon with artists from all over the country, sharing mission statements and experiences. It is nice to remember- you are not alone out there. So many amazing artists are working together to create and develop and evolve this craft that we have dedicated out life to. It felt great to feel a part of it.
All in all, it was great to get away from the world I know so well and see a whole different style of acting, directing and even design approach with scripts that are so new and fearless. Most of the plays were over 2 hours- which is alone a daring feat in this world of 85 minute dramas about mean people fighting in an apartment. If these new plays indicate a return to the imagination, to the delight in suspending our disbelief, to the bravery to not make easy narratives or domestic debates- then I am so very excited to be a theatre artist right now. And I am so glad to have returned to Philly to see if we can also tap into this new work. I think our audiences will thank us for it.
March 20, 2011
March 10, 2011- Tough Girl- Elena Bosler
I am the youngest of three girls…so I’m accustomed to being picked upon…not the one doing the picking on. I was Little Miss Apple Dumpling at age 6…10 years later I was Miss Apple Dumpling then…Miss Congeniality…Homecoming Queen…Miss Kempton Fair…---so what’s it like to play a tough girl? It’s feckin’ refreshin’. Cut my hair off…grow out my arm pits… My Nana…a beautiful make-upped and beehived woman has a whole lot to say about my haircut…which she hasn’t seen yet. She said my “beauty” was in my hair. She said “You’ll never get a boyfriend.” (way ahead of ya Nana). She comes from the age of aprons, baby-making, and hair hopping—so she also asked, “Will you be wigging yourself when you go out?” This really got my goat. I told her it’s not like that anymore. A gal really shouldn’t and doesn’t need the excuse of a show to be a “tough ole git”.
Being the only girl in the cast, though great in theory…and pretty kick ass most of the time…can really fire a girl up to being a “tough”. ‘Tough” got me into a lot of trouble during rehearsal. I felt I needed to prove something. I needed to push more. Spit more. Grab the balls I don’t really have more. The best way I recently discovered to learn about tough is to ride the subway. Everyone is trying to act like they aren’t looking at one another. Not scared of the loons singin’ their hearts out. Not skeeved out by the smelly lady sleepin’ next to ya. Not worried when the train gets real loud and its rush hour and all the wild kids bash around. Toughest woman is the Mom who rides the subway with four kids. Anyone can act tough. But who really is tough?
I think about when I trained for a marathon. I think about when I’m feeling the burn doing push ups with Padraic before every rehearsal and show. I think about how I didn’t cry when I had to put my dog to sleep…just so Mom could cry. Finding “tough” for me was not applying…but finding my own version of it and refining the playful kitten-cutesy stuff that gets in the way. Cute. Feck Tough. Feck Cute. Sometimes it takes me thinking about my own pets or other people messin’ with animals. Other times I just have to look at Davey’s long pony tail and it sets me off. One night in particular stepped it up for me—my gun. My beloved “Lucy-gun”. She broke right in two as I fell to the ground. I never knew how much I could be attached to a gun. My cat, sure. My baby blanket (shh don’t tell), sure. Even my softest pair of sweatpants…but a hard plastic gun that can shoot a cow’s eye out from 60 yards? I once saw a stage hand who I didn’t know handling it and I could feel my palms sweating. The rest of the broken-gun show I was pumped. I was enraged…on fire. The guys were a little scared…as they should be. The fecks. So tough for me….its not just spittin’ and shootin’ and hangin’ out with the dudes and cuttin’ my hair. (although I’d be lying if I didn’t say those things were a part of it too). Yeah. Just break my gun…make me take an ice cold shower after the show, or just mess with my cat. It’s a blast and I am still learning.
– Elena Bossler "Mairead"
March 1, 2011- Accessory to Murder - the backstage crew
This is a bloody show. I won’t spoil whose blood it is or how it gets there, but suffice it to say a lot of blood ends up on stage by the end and it all has to get cleaned up every night. The clean up process begins even before the show starts. A crew of six arrives about two hours before every show. In addition to the basic pre show set up (setting the stage, making sure props and costumes are ready to go) we also prepare for the post show clean up. Trashcans are lined so bloody props can immediately go downstairs to be cleaned. Bins of soapy water are placed backstage and downstairs so costumes can begin to soak as soon as the actors undress. Cleaning supplies are always at the ready.
The cleanup begins in earnest as soon as the actors exit after their final bow. As with any mess, the first step is containment. The backstage area is already lined with sheets of muslin and plastic. We have tarps offstage that get placed on either side of the stage to place dirty furniture on and to reduce the amount of blood that gets tracked off stage. The stage of Plays and Players is raked, or sloped, so the blood immediately begins to trickle downstage. A line of sheets tied together is placed along the edge of the stage to stop the running and to help absorb some of the blood. The stage has to be cleared first, so furniture is placed on the tarps and props are sorted and placed in the appropriate trashcans. A wet vac is brought out to suck up the liquid and the stage gets a once over with a squeegee. The furniture and walls then have to be wiped. The blood begins to dry very quickly so the key is keeping everything wet. In addition to making it easier to clean, this also reduces the amount of scrubbing which can begin to strip paint off the set. A hose is connected to the sink downstairs and run up to the stage so it can be sprayed down. We also have a handheld sprayed, which is designed to spray weed killer, to get those hard to reach places. To clean the walls, I have learned, you have to alternate between a wet sponge and wiping with a dry towel which cuts down on the streaks. Finally we finish with two rounds of mopping. On Sundays (the end of our performance week) we have a few added duties such as stripping the offstage muslin and leaving our cats out to dry for the two day hiatus.
The first time we ran the show with all the blood the clean up process took us over two hours. A lot of tech week was devoted to figuring out a master plan and how best to execute it. Two weeks into the run everyone pretty much knows their tasks and what needs to happen. We have become something of a well oiled cleaning machine. By now we have gotten the clean up down to about an hour and a half. However, when we come back to the theater the next day we somehow always manage to find something else to clean. Without fail you can find a pool of blood under the deck of the stage or a spot we missed on the walls. There are also eight loads of laundry that need to be done before every show. The washer and dryer are usually running right up until the next day’s show, particularly on Sundays when the turnaround between shows is so much faster due to the matinees.
All this cleaning has had some unanticipated side effects. My hands have taken on a peculiar orange hue from all the contact with the blood. I also find that audience members tend to linger after the show is over. They make their way up to the stage to get a better look, sometimes they even ask us questions about the clean up. Opening night I even noticed a man up in the balcony. He had gotten a beer from the after party and it appeared he had decided to kick back and watch the action. I like to think of ourselves as the post show entertainment. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
– Clara Elser
February 2011- Life in Exile- Robert DaPonte
2nd week of rehearsal begins. I always feel that the 2nd week can be the toughest in that all of your choices that seemed so fresh and spontaneous (after the first read and first week of rehearsals) have to be refined, developed, taken further. The cast now speaks with their full Irish accents as soon as they see each other and enter the Exile space. Certainly we still have a way to go before we are at performance level with them (mine definitely needs a lot of work) but the level of comfort communicating casually with each other in character is clear. At the same time the richness of the ensemble comes through as we see how each different actor approaches their separate obstacles in the play. Not always separate; Donny and Davey certainly are both at least attempting to work together a good amount of the time to try and save their own skins. Matt has done a pretty tremendous job in casting when you can feel the different personalities and energies that are feeding this mad story. So far we have moved fast and furious in attacking the play: up on our feet, blocking, moving, trying different things. It also feels as if the entire cast (especially the core four characters) have a voracious desire to continue working with one another, either before or after the rehearsals are in progress. The story is filled with so much laughter and violence that it seems to become quite addictive at times. That added to the strong family connections (father and son, brother and sister, brother and brother) make for a tale that is quite undeniable in it's telling.
– Robert DaPonte, 'Davey'