DROWSY – 1ST DAY ON THE SET

Me  as Aldolpho in Vancouver, Dec. 2008.

OH MY GOD, MY PEOPLE, LISTEN UP!  THE SET IS AWESOME.  Michael Gianfrancesco’s design is so gorgeous.  I haven’t talked to him about what his actual inspiration was but the stage is framed in these descending sizes of rectangular arches as it goes away from the audience.  (I know they have a technical name but I can’t remember.  I know – “Bad member of the theatrical community.  Bad member of the theatrical community.”)   But it looks like the rest of the stage is just floating in Champagne.  I know that sounds odd but when you see it, you’ll know what I mean. Not in a glass of  Champagne  – that’s not the shape – but it’s like you look into a bottle of Champagne and you see this jewel of show.  It’s like Whoville living on a speck of dust. (Hmmm, too obscure??  Dr. Seuss?  No?   Oh well, it’s my blog. I get to be obscure)

The rest of the set is equally as beautiful.  It looks so rich and chic.  It has “1920’s” all over it.  Very Art Deco and the colours are so incredible.  But it’s smart and functional.  We had a spacing rehearsal yesterday.  Basically that just means that we get on stage and our director and choreographer get in the audience and we see how things actually look from the audience and we make sure we are in the right spots to be seen by everyone and the shapes that the choreographer, Tracey, has created makes the right patterns on the stage.  It’s always funny when people hit the stage for the first time.  There are things that just become different when you get to the stage but it’s like actors suddenly become developmentally challenged for a day.  “Is this where I am?”  “This feels closer now.”  “Have I always been here?” “I thought I was behind him.”  It’s very funny to watch and be part of.  I totally admit it, I usually have at least one of those moments . . . and in fact did.  What happened, you ask?  Well . . . the details aren’t important (he says trying to hide his shame.)

Today should be fun.  We have our Sitzprobe.  That’s a lovely German word that basically means that we sit and sing with the orchestra for the first time.  It’s always one of the most thrilling days to finally hear all of the musicians, all of those amazing players and instruments, the trumpets and trombones and saxes and percussion.  And with a show like this, the way the instruments are used for the music is so inventive as they were just discovering such bold sounds in the 20’s – all kissed by the Jazz Age.    Can’t wait, y’all.  I’ll keep you posted.”

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

LITTLE MORE DROWSY

It’s been so crazy busy I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and write something.  But here I am on Boxing Day and I finally have some time to myself to jot down some thoughts of how it’s been going.

I had a wig fitting the other day and  . . . . WOOHOO, it’s awesome.   It wasn’t totally finished yet but it had been roughly styled for the designer to have a look. The shape is great, the streak is fantastic.  It’s sort of Cesar Romero on steroids.  Seriously, it’s wonderful  And I think the sideburns are my favourite of all three hair versions I’ve now worn for this role.   Isaac (wig maker/wig designer), Charlotte Dean (costume designer) and myself laughed so hard we all had tears in our eyes.  And the mustache hadn’t been cut yet but the shape was spectacular.  It’s how the details become so important in something like a moustache – how thick; what angle; how long; pointed or rounded ends; does it curl up or curl down. And it’s all about the designers taste and when it’s a good designer (and Charlotte is amazing – one of my favourites), they also take info from the actor in terms of how you see the character looking.

Then we also had to look at a mask for a section I won’t talk about but it is, perhaps, one of the funniest parts of the show and there are some FUNNY parts in the show. It always makes the audience go wild when they realize what is happening and it’s the moment that consistently gets talked about as a favourite moment by the people who see the show.  I can’t really describe it without giving something away but it so politically incorrect in the most hilariously cringing way. It’s one of the things I love about this show. It lovingly shows us how far we have come as a society by hilariously showing us how far behind we were in 1928.    LOVE IT.

We’ve started doing “run-throughs”.  For the uninitiated, a run-through is simply going through the show from beginning to end to actually put it together and link everything so we can all start pacing ourselves and get used to the show in terms of sense, and stamina.  It’s also the time when the director and choreographer can see what the show is and how things work.  They can start fine-tuning, changing, fixing, filling in any holes in the storytelling.  It’s always fun when we get to see each other’s work as there is often a lot of work done on scenes we’re not in when we’re not there.  People . . . there is some crazy funny shit going on.

One of the great things for me is that the cast and character choices are so different, I don’t even feel like I’m doing the same show so it’s great to go in and play each day and they’re really inspiring me to make different choices and refine some other choices.  There are seriously some incredible things happening.  And I can honestly say that everyone is bringing their A game – from top to bottom.  Two standouts are Diana Coatsworth’s “Kitty” – she’s created this character who is so goofy and mercurial, every line out of her mouth is an adventure in comedy.  And Kyle Golemba – who is our sole male ensemble member.  He is a thinking actor who is constantly finding fun, interesting, detailed choices.  He’s a young performer who has the respect for the craft and the talent to go really far.  What I really like is he doesn’t complain about how he is “just in the ensemble” and then not do the work.  He reminds me of myself when I was a young actor.  (Not that I’m old, I’m just previously enjoyed.)  An older actor once told me, “At any given moment onstage, at least 5 to 20 people are watching you, no matter how small your part.  And for that moment, YOU are their show and if you don’t have a story to tell or if you’re fooling around or you decide that what you’re doing isn’t important, YOU LET THE STORY DOWN AND KILL THAT MOMENT FOR THEM.”

I never forgot that.  Even when I was in an ensemble of 20 guys, I would treat the show like it was about my character.  ie Wizard of Oz – “The Wizard of Oz is about this guy named Zeph who has a job with the Oz glee club, cleaning up guests who come to visit the Wizard. If I do a great job, I get medicine for my mother. If I don’t, I won’t get paid and I can’t even bring her food, let alone medicine.  One day, a group of four and a dog come to see the Wizard. The folks in charge tell me to clean up this guy made of metal or something and to sing him a song because he’s heartbroken so if we cheer him up and make him sparkle, I’ll get food, medicine and a longer skirt (the doorkeeper keeps checking me out.)”  You get the idea.  I see the same care in Kyle and it heartens me.  Not all of the performers of his generation have the same integrity.  I look forward to seeing where he goes in his career.

We’ve had people coming in to check out the show – lighting designer, sound designer, costume designer, set designer – just to see what they need to be thinking about and looking out for in the show.  They all seem to be enjoying themselves.  Rob Patterson who is the artistic director of the Tom Hendry Theatre and Zaz Bajon, General Manager, came and saw our last run-through before our Christmas break.  I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school (how old am I to use that line?) to say that Zaz had a big smile on his face when he left the rehearsal hall at the end.  And Rob laughed so hard through the run-through, I thought we may have to pay for his dry-cleaning.

We now come into a long week.  Those of you dear people who think that what we do is all glamour and parties. Bite me!   We are about to enter a 7 day week.  Included in which are three 12 hour days.  Not so glamourous.  But thankfully, it’s such a great group, we basically laugh for 8 (or 12) hours a day. It’s what we call “tech week”.   A couple of days refining in the rehearsal hall and then we go to stage, which will involve re-spacing on the set, walking through lighting states to make sure we are in the right places, then adding the orchestra, which is always a thrill, then costumes, make-up, wigs.  To quote the Chaperone, “Yes, life is a mad whirlwind.”

Published in: on December 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm  Comments (1)  

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

There’s not much else to say.  I’m so thankful and grateful that you all come to my blog and read and keep up with my bits and bobs.   I’ve so loved sharing my life with you guys.  Thanks for sharing my life with me.

Happy Holidays.

Published in: on December 25, 2009 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  

WEIRDNESS

So I hit that dangerous yet not surprising place in rehearsals yesterday.  Because I have known where Aldolpho lives since we started having done it already, I’m not getting consistent laughs in rehearsal where you normally feel out what works and what doesn’t.  So now the instinct of “I’m not funny.  My shit doesn’t work.” finally started to roll over me yesterday in the stumble-through.  I have to find a way to breathe through that and start really stretching and finding other stuff – whether it’s right or wrong.  Just so I can 1. find some new breath in the work and 2. come back to the things that I realize do work best for me but with fresh eye.  Otherwise, I’ll start falling apart.    Woohoo.  But I thought this may happen so I’m ready to just breathe throught it . . . . pray for me.

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

GOD BLESS TRACEY FLYE

Just a quick word of praise and glory for our choreographer, Tracey Flye.  So much of the show is musically staged that her job is huge.  She is so calm and so thoughtful in her work.  I don’t mean “thoughtful” as in nice or caring, though she is definitely both of those things.  By “thoughtful”, I mean filled with ideas about character and relationships and connections.   She and Steven Schipper, our director, are a great team.  They seem to really be on the same page and he clearly trusts her and rightly so.  She just jumps in fearlessly and gets things swirling.  She comes with fun ideas for the numbers but is completely open to the thoughts, instincts, impulses of her performers; always willing to amend or enhance or pare down.  And her taste is incredibly well balanced.  Again, what I mean by that is what she thinks is funny, how she thinks something is funny.  She really knows the balance between broad humour and cheap humour and knows how to use or avoid one or the other.  Amazing.  We’re very lucky.

By the way, y’all, I woke up today and luckily was able to walk.  After the rehearsal for my number yesterday, I wasn’t sure that would be happening . . . so soon.

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  

MY NUMBER – “ALDOLPHO”

So yesterday, we get to my big number “Aldolpho”.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous going into the rehearsal hall.  The last version I did with Dayna Tekach choreographing was so great and fun and she really knew how to use what I could do and was still really able to push me further physically.  I knew Tracey Flye (our choreographer on this version) was creative and clever but my God, we had a blast.  For about two hours, I laughed, sweated, tangoed, showed off, brainstormed and begged for mercy.  By the time I was done, my leg was bruised, my back was killing me, my knees hurt.  I COULDN’T HAVE HAD A BETTER TIME.  It is going to be soooooo freakin’ hilarious.  Seriously, people, there were times we simply had to stop because we were laughing so hard.  Deann DeGruijter, who plays the chaperone and is my partner in crime in the number, said it best about half-way through, “Can you believe we get paid for doing this?”  Because Aldolpho believes himself to be a great lover but his seduction “technique” is wanting, how he goes about   . . . . hmmm  well, I don’t want to give too much away . . . . .  hahaha suffice it to say,  slapstick has never been so “spicy”.   hahaha

We seem to be getting through the show – staging and choreography.  I think we will have gotten through the whole thing by Saturday.  Then we can start cleaning numbers (refining, changing, making improvements, polishing) and rethinking moments in the show, making them better, cleaner, clearer, funnier.

At any given point during the day, if you didn’t know we were at a rehearsal, you would think the room is full of the mentally unbalanced.  Someone is always working through “bits” (moments of comic business), coming up with things, physical things that will be funny.  But it looks like a room full of schizophrenics and Tourette’s syndrome sufferers.    (Nothing’s funnier than fake mental illness around the holidays!!!!!)

The cast is so great and funny and insane – in the good way.  It’s really fun watching them clue in to certain story bits and find their characters, making discoveries.  And seeing everyone get excited about each new thing that happens . . .  a costume fitting, a wig fitting, a shoe fitting, a song being choreographed, a scene coming together.  You can feel the excitement.  And though no one feels ready for an audience yet, you can feel how excited everyone will be to finally share the show, once it is better rehearsed.  I think Winnipeg is going to poop a little bit.

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 3:46 am  Leave a Comment  

GOLDIE SEMPLE

A light has dimmed on this earth today.  Actress, wife, mother, angel Goldie Semple has left us after a long battle with cancer.   She was one of the most generous human beings and actresses I’ve ever had the pleasure to be near, let alone work with.  She brought such joy and peace to everyone whose lives she touched but there was always that twinkle in her eye.

I feel so honoured and blessed that I was able to share a stage with her.   When I was a young actor, I saw Goldie give some of the most astonishing performances.  I saw her fiery, longing Kate in Richard Monette’s famous Taming of the Shrew; her sensuous, tempermental Cleopatra; her terrifying Tamara in Titus Andronicus.  I worshipped her work, I had known her casually over the years, I had been awed by her sweetness, her availability, her immensity of talent.   Never dreaming I’d have the chance to share a stage with her.  Then last year, it happened.  I will never find the words for how grateful I am to have played Goldie’s lover in my favourite musical, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.    To watch Goldie play Desiree every show was a lesson in simplicity, grace and  . . . humility.

I will miss watching her pretend to be offended when I toss off a dirty joke.   I will miss her cursing me for bringing in baked goods as she reaches for her second piece.  I will miss that glowing smile that says “It’s all fine.  There are bigger things to worry about in the world.”  Rarely do you find someone who is so loved, respected and revered by so many people where it is all worth it.  She was one of a kind.  A jewel in this industry, this life.  Her like will not come around again for a long time.

Rest in Peace, Divine One.

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 4:08 am  Comments (1)  

DROWSY CAST

Okay I realized that no one knows who’s in the cast so here we go:

MAN IN CHAIR                 Dean Paul Gibson

MRS. TOTTENDALE       Debbie Maslowsky

UNDERLING                     Patrick R. Brown

ENSEMBLE                       Kyle Golemba

ENSEMBLE                       Alexandra Frohlinger

ENSEMBLE                       Alison Jantzie

ROBERT MARTIN           Kyle Blair

GEORGE                             Tim Gledill

FELDZIEG                          Douglas E. Hughes

KITTY                                   Diana Coatsworth

GANGSTER #1                   Eric S. Robertson

GANGSTER #2                   Julius Sermonia

ALDOLPHO                        Me

JANET VAN DE GRAAF  Naomi Costain

DROWSY CHAPERONE  DeAnn deGruijter

It’s a good group y’all.

Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 4:55 am  Leave a Comment  

CHRISTMAS CUTENESS

I just came across this on youtube.   Made me laugh.  I love LOVE Christmas.  Had to share this.

watch?v=ddVZOK_9UUI

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

DROWSY #2 (OR #4 DEPENDING ON HOW YOU’RE COUNTING THESE) 1ST DAY OF REHEARSALS

What a day.  It was full, my friends.   So the day started with a Meet and Greet.  It’s where you meet the staff of the theatre and they get to meet you.  You get to see who is signing your cheques (always be really nice to them) and who is selling the tickets and who is running the theatre.  And then you see the design presentation.  Wow, y’all.  (Yes, “y’all” is still alive and well.)  The set looks so beautiful,  simple in some ways and ornate in others.    I won’t give it away for those of you who will be coming to see it.  But it’s a bit of a combination of the Broadway production where we start in the apartment of the Man In Chair and then things just burst through and co-habitate . . . and our production from the Vancouver Playhouse where the bits of the Man’s home were on the sides of the stage but the whole stage playing area was Mrs. Tottendale’s estate when the curtain came up.  It’s what seems like a very happy mix.

And the costumes look fan-freakin’-tastic.  Great colours.  I want to say unusual but that can sound not positive.  I mean in it a totally positive way.  I love Michael Gianfrancesco (who did set) and Charlotte Dean has the coolest eye for colour and combination and luxury.  I think it will look gorgeous.  I have my first fitting tomorrow.

The cast is  a great bunch of people.  And what I love the most is they are totally different types than basically everyone who did the same roles in the last production.  Love that.  I can already see choices being made that are surprising and funny.  And Marek Norman has such joy and feeling for what he does as our musical director.  He’s already layering texture into the piece.    Oh, I didn’t finish telling you.  So after the design presentation, we read the script.  We didn’t do songs as people didn’t know them yet.  And then lunch and then we came back and started in on music.  That was basically the rest of the afternoon.

Such a great feeling at MTC.  I kept getting welcomed back by familiar, sweet, smiling faces.  I’m hoping that means I’m not an asshole and people like having me around.  hahaahahahaha.   I think it’s going to be a great time.  I’ll keep you posted.

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 4:25 am  Comments (1)