Twelve Important Questions to Ask About Your City’s Community Theatre

I have been involved in theatre for nearly forty years. I have twelve important questions to ask about your city’s community theatre.

Forty years—wow, that’s a long time.

I’ve seen fabulous theatre and some really stinky stuff, too.  Even on Broadway!

I’ve melted enduring out door theatre in the dead of summer until intermission when I could get some relief in an air conditioned rest room.

I witnessed a famous, well respected professional actor break character and fall into fits of laughter and not able to compose himself right through curtain call.

Another time I caught a dancer kicking a cape off the stage that had fallen off another dancer as he exited.

I’ve watched:

  • in horror as a friend’s period wig (1700’s) falls right off her noggin’.

  • a skirt slowly make its way down a high school girl’s behind because it didn’t get zipped,

  • a friend swallows a fly while singing

I have:

  • been bitten by mosquitoes while I sang a romantic song trying to dodge the gnats swirling in to my face

  • heard the crackling sound of beetles squished with my heel while dancing a jig

  • gained five pounds in one week (!!) from eating fruit pies (meat pies) for Sweeney Todd performing a sight gag

You name it, I’ve seen it or experienced it myself.

Image result for award winning community theatre

Despite all of these experiences (and more), I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Theatre is a marvelous activity in which to participate, attend or support.

But how does one know the theatre is worth supporting?

Here are the twelve questions to ask of your community theatre:

1. Does the theatre company have a season?

Is the season varied, sprinkled with a comedy, drama and musical? Or do they merely produce the same sort of shows every year?  (You know, a Disney musical for the kids, a classic comedy or frightening thriller? Does the company ever produce a brand new play?)

2. Do they sponsor a special event, such as a new play contest?

3.  Does anyone else ever rent the theatre for some other activity? Do other theater companies use the venue?

4.  Do they welcome to new directors and actually hire them?

5.  Do you ever see new performers or designers working at the theatre from time to time?

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6. Do the sets and costumes look recycled?  Can you name the show a particular costume was worn in another show when you see it paraded in front of you in the present show you are seeing?

8.  Does every show poster look like others?

9.  Does the company ever try anything new or experimental?

10.  Does the company have a youth theatre program?

11.  How about any programs for seniors?

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12.  Did you leave a performance feeling exhilarated by the show?

If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding “no!”, then I’d suggest you support some other company.

Theatre people are creative people.  If the theatre never changes, it means it’s on auto pilot and frankly, I wouldn’t support it if I were you.  When you do, you are condoning their lack of creativity, their laziness.

So, there you have it–twelve questions to ask about your city’s community theatre.

Trust me, support the new community theatre company who has just opened their doors to the public.  They have more chance of doing something new and exciting than the broken record one.  They need your support.

Image result for award winning community theatre

What have you seen or experienced in a performance or viewing it?  I’d love to hear from you! Contact me at or








Ten Audition Secrets From a Director

Previously, I blogged a list of ten audition secrets from a director.

You knew this subject was coming, didn’t you? It only seems natural to speak about how I make decisions about casting someone in a play.

Remember, these are only my opinions. Someone else will have a different viewpoint, obviously.
Here is my advice (and secrets) to landing the part:

1. Arrive on time for the auditions and stay until they are finished. If you arrive late or are in a rush to leave early, it implies that the production is not that important to you.

2. Dress appropriately for the audition. If you are auditioning for a musical and there are going to be dance auditions, either bring the right shoe wear or wear them. There is nothing more distracting to a director than observing someone flop around in the wrong shoes as they attempt to dance or move about the stage. And ladies, you hair needs to be swept back away from your face and controlled with a bobby pin or something.

3. Read the script prior to auditions. Now reading the script ahead of time does not guarantee you a part in the production, but most scripts are very well written (that’s why they are produced) and worth your time to read. Or at least watch a movie version of the play or musical if there is one available. My guess is some people don’t read the entire script before auditioning because they don’t want to commit their free time because if they aren’t cast, it feels like they have wasted their time. One hasn’t wasted their time. They have enriched it.

I try to be patient with people who haven’t read the script ahead of time, but secretly nothing is more frustrating than having someone say to me, “So, what’s this play about?” I don’t have the time to explain the story to them nor do I think it is my job to do so.

4. Pay attention during the auditions. If the auditions aren’t closed and you are able to observe them, watch other actors. You never know when a director might call you up to read with someone and if you pay attention you are ready to go.

Ten secrets to a great audition5. A director doesn’t need to know if you have a cold or don’t feel well, or whatever the excuse might be at the moment. So, don’tannounce your maladies–just audition confidently. A director will ask the actor to call backs if he thinks he needs to hear the actor once the cold or illness is over.

6. If you mark on your audition sheet that you will accept any role you are offered, please tell the truth. Nothing is more frustrating than taking the time to cast someone and afterward they announce they won’t accept the role you gave them (since the person wanted another one instead.) Tacky! And, if the accused auditions for another one of the director’s plays, chances are the actor won’t even be considered them based on their past actions.

7. If you mark on your audition sheet that you have no conflicts, then a director expects you to have no conflicts! Avoiding informing the director of a few conflicts and spinning that you have none then coming back later with a litany of conflicts does nothing for the actor’s relationship with the director. Better to tell the truth and let the director work around the conflicts if he thinks he can do so. An actor’s behavior gets around in a theater community very quickly, so just be honest and up front.

8. Sometimes a director will put out the word that they are looking for a particular age actor for a role. It is not wise to try and make yourself up to look half your age if you aren’t really able to convince your best friend of your age change. If your friend thinks you look silly trying to be twenty-five when you are fifty-five, then believe them. Audition for a play that suits your age range.

If you are an adult, you can usually appear ten years either direction of your age. Children and teen agers are a bit different in this regard. Personally, I am more likely to cast someone who is taller and thirteen to play a sixteen year old than a short thirteen year old to play a ten year old.

9. No matter what, always finish your audition with a thank you and get the heck off the stage. An actor trying to make conversation with the director can come across as a desperate attempt for attention. If the director initiates the conversation, then I think it is safe to chat a moment with him or her. But I wouldn’t begin the conversation. Directors are usually considering many things during auditions, so it’s best not to interrupt them.

10. Be confident in your audition. If you audition with others and someone does something that is comical (and the director reacts by laughing), it does not mean you must do the same thing if you read the same part. Be yourself. Be clever and memorable, but don’t behave in such a manner that you make others feel uncomfortable by your audition. In other words, keep your clothes on, keep your mouth clean and be polite.

10. The biggest secret to auditions? Listen to what the director asks of you. I am more likely to cast someone who honestly tries to do what I ask of him (such as lowering the pitch of his voice, trying an unusual laugh or reaction), than someone who has a preconceived vision of the character and can not or will not budge from that idea. Also, I really don’t like it when an actor just imitates someone else portraying the role–either someone else at the auditions or someone they have seen portray the role in the film version, for example. Generally, if I don’t think the inflexible person can adapt themselves to my needs, then I can’t cast them. Simple as that.

So, there you go—audition secrets from a director.  I hope this helps you. I would love to answer any other questions you might have about auditions, so send them on. P.S.  If you’d like to audition for Beauty and the Beast, go here for information

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Ten Reasons Everyone Produces The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever







The ten reasons everyone produces The Best Christmas Pageant Ever are pretty simple.  Let me explain.. Recently, our youngest daughter directed her church’s first Christmas pageant.

  The church, Greenhouse Culture, is still in its infancy in my opinion but growing quickly.  Most churches that I have frequented are comprised of middle age citizens and seniors.  But not Greenhouse Culture!  The median age seems to be about thirty years old! My husband and I are twice that age, obviously.

It doesn’t matter though.  These younger adults have their hearts in the right place.  They are a real joy to call friends.

Everything is new to this lovely group–youth group, outreach, Sunday school classes and holiday programs.  They approach every challenge with enthusiasm.

In true Baldwin fashion and a way to have family time, my husband and I volunteered to help our daughter.  My husband erected the barn and manger while I stage managed the show with a cast of thirty, two to sixteen year olds.  It was a rousing success. How could it not be?

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Everyone loves to see kids in animal costumes, young boys dressed as kings and sweet little girls as angels complete with halos and battery operated lights twinkling on their wings. The evening was well attended by this supportive group of younger adults. Our daughter, though exhausted,  appeared triumphant in her quest to create the annual event.

But that’s not what I’m posting about today.  I wanted to write about another guaranteed successful play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Folks, if you don’t know TBCPE, you need to look it up at and get a copy!  Click here:

I have directed this play four times with youth theatre companies.  The pros to this show are evident right from the beginning. I can’t think of one reason not to produce the show.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Elements

Plot–This is NOT only the story of Jesus’ birth, though it is the vehicle for the rest of the plot. It is never maudlin or preachy (sorry, the pun.)

This heartwarming story is told through the eyes of the main characters Beth and her mother.  The Herdmans, ” the meanest kids in the neighborhood”, crash the pageant auditions because they think they’ll get free candy. Then terrorizing the church kids, the Herdmans grab up all the meaty roles,  and kidnap the Christmas story to tell it the way they think it should be told.  It is quite comical, but respectful at the same time. Nice!

  1. A varied cast in gender, age and number–4m, 6f, 8boy(s), 9girl(s)–adults can play the adult roles or have kids portray all of the parts. Your cast can be the suggested size ( or you can add additional angels and shepherds, etc. to give more kids an opportunity to perform.

  2. A simple set–You can use the stage as the main acting space, then place the other locales down left and right.  The most complicated of those is the main character’s kitchen in their home. When the pageant is performed, your audience can be involved serving as the church members observing the actual pageant as it enfolds.

  3. Simple, modern costumes–Always a plus!  Additionally, you will need Christmas pageant type costumes, so check with a church in your area to borrow them.

  4. Props are easy to collect–You’ll need a wheel chair, manger, a baby doll, maybe battery operated candles, and several other present day pieces.

  5. Lights can be area lighting or general.  Whatever your theatre is capable of doing will be fine.

  6. Ninety minutes in length and one act. You might consider breaking it into two acts, however.

  7. Intermission–I suggest you sell the applesauce cake mentioned in the show.  People LOVE that.  One company sold hand made dough art angels as a fund raiser and made a heap of money.

  8. Royalties are $100 per show or 10% of the gross box office.  That’s inordinately fair.

  9. If you need someone to direct it, I’m willing to visit your community and direct it for you.  (Paid with a stipend, of course.) It’s that good!

As you plan next year’s season for your company, I highly recommend you consider The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for your holiday slot.  When people leave the show and compliment you, you tell them “Deb Baldwin told us about this show. She promised it would be a good one.”


I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me at or

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Randall Jones & Deborah Baldwin

What No One Tells You About Full Circle Moments–Part Two

Check out part one post concerning my full circle moment here:

Full Circle Moments

Yesterday afternoon, we returned from my full circle moment.

Every time I do a book sell and signing, I learn something new. This time I learned to be more assertive.  I’ve become fatalistic lately and merely accept what is given to me.  Frankly, I think it’s because then I’m not so disappointed by people. There are important moments when I need to put myself out there instead of accepting the situation as it is.

Full Circle Moments

When we arrived to the theater, there was a nice table set up for us with flowers and a tablecloth. (Notice my face?  I’m trying my best to put on a good show, but wasn’t thrilled with the location.)

Nice, BUT we were stuck over in an anti-room to the lobby.  It was easy for people to walk right by us and either not see us, or pretend not to do so.  It was no one’s fault–just a learning situation for all concerned.

That’s okay.

Then Randy came bounding through, looked it over and said, “We need to move this table into the lobby. You are here to sell books!”

At my ripe age, if there is one thing I’m not afraid of anymore it’s what people will think of me.  We moved the table into the lobby.  So much better!

Full Circle Moments

I was worried before the event.  It was raining. I know what that means for voting days.  People use it as an excuse not to get out of their homes.  Whatever. I kept my expectations low although I hoped people would support Randy and me.

They did! It was a nice size audience.

Randy warmed up the crowd prior to his book talk.  The stage lights emitted a warm glow on the stage.  There was a hanging screen to use for his power point which made it easier for him to walk about, sit and gesture to the screen and so forth. I don’t know how other authors book talk, but I think the format worked well for him.

The nice part of Columbia Entertainment Company is its size which is perfect  for something like this. The theater only holds around 140 seats.

Full Circle Moments

Randy spoke about his journey in writing Show Me.  He is such a funny guy, warm and personable as well.  His hysterical self deprecation resonates with all of us. We laughed a lot.

Using the interviews as a spring board for his thoughts, he made many valid points in his presentation. The one which is most profound to me is his concern over the art of listening to one another.

Generally, I take the time to completely focus on what a person is saying.  I am confused when others don’t do the same for me. Nevertheless, I figure I can show my interest in the person speaking even if it isn’t reciprocatory.

Randy believes if we take the time to listen to one another with an open mind, we have a lesson to teach one another.  This rings true with me.

Have you ever learned something from a complete stranger in only a matter of minutes?  It stays with you.

Full Circle Moments

For instance, last fall when our granddaughter was around a month old, I took her and her mother to a store to find some clothes for the new momma to wear.  Being a young mother, she was overly tired and still adapting to motherhood.  We walked around the store and a lady heard us speaking about our infant.  We were expressing concern about her feeding pattern.

Although the lady stuck her nose in where it was not wanted and I feigned not hearing her, I heard her low and clear.

“You know she can hear you,” the lady advised.

“I’m sorry? Did you say something?” I asked the woman.

“You are talking over the baby, but she can hear you.”

That was the jist of the conversation–about three or four sentences between us.

Her statement has snuck into my mind several times since then.  I understand her point–be careful what you say around a child for it lays upon them molding their persona.

It’s a meaningful statement.

Just like this well intentioned woman, Randy’s book message sticks with me, too.

I will endeavor to be more aware of what I say and HOW I say it.

It’s a tricky thing, though.  One must be in the moment at all times and let’s face it, we aren’t always on top of things. We become overworked, overly exhausted and unfeeling. We grumble at someone, smile and nod when we absent mindedly thinking of something else.

It’s just easier to not listen than pausing and dealing the world around us, right? The main character of Bumbling Bea goes through the same issues as we do in real life. I suppose that’s why Bumbling Bea relates well to my readers.  I’m so glad.

Randy stated, “People, we aren’t going home with any books today.  We are here to sell books!” (I’m gonna remember these two statements the next time I’m in this position.)

Did we sell books?  Yes!  Did we autograph them?  Yes.

Was the event a success?  Certainly.

But I think the full circle moment was even more meorable.

Purchase Randall Kenneth Jones’ book, Show Me.  It’s filled with terrific interviews with successful people such as Suze Orman, Pat Benetar, Shirley Jones, Sonny Jurgensen, Barbara Corcoran, Jack Hannah, Magic Johnson just to name a few.

 Randy uses his personal life experiences as a springboard for the interviews.  They are newspaper column length–succinct, clear, entertaining and helpful.  Although Show Me is listed under the business and professional category on  it’s the HUMOR portion of the category you need to notice. I highly recommend the book to you!

 As a teacher, I know an excellent teaching technique is the use of humor. Using humor relaxes people quickly.  Once relaxed, they can better receive the information.  Ta-da.

Randy has always wanted to be a teacher.  He is one.Full Circle Moments

I’m working on a few book selling/signing opportunities of my own in the near future. If you live in the midwest perhaps you can attend.

Bubling Bea

Are you on my email list?  You should be.  I talk about a few different things there than I do here.  Plus, I offer discounts and freebies to email subscribers.

 Check it out through  You can’t miss the form–it’s huge and pink.

Until next time…..

Contact me at or like I mentioned,

money in suitcase

If I Won the Lottery

Did you hear about the seventeen year old who won the lottery and it supposedly ruined her life?  So, now she is suing her state’s lottery commission because she thinks no one her age should be allowed to buy a lottery ticket?  Give me a break.

True confession:  I’ve never purchased a lottery ticket in my life. A few times they’ve been given to me as presents, but even then I had a difficult time knowing quite what to do with it.  I know… think I’m weird.


I HATE to waste money, especially on chance.  I probably waste enough money as it is–have you ever seen my refrigerator’s vegetable bin?  Talk about a waste of money!

However, if I won the lottery I do have a few idea of the ways in which I’d spend it. I would take care of the usual things you’d expect– Pay off all debts we have left.  Set aside monies for our children and future grandchildren.

  I’m hoping we’ll get our act together in the US and make state colleges and universities tuition free.  In case that doesn’t occur, I’d gift money to our children to take care of any expenses incurred during their college life.

I’d donate to worthy causes such as not for profit organizations that are fighting unending challenges.  I think clean water and air, safe food to eat, inexpensive medications, secure neighborhoods and cities, properly equipped hospitals, police and fire departments and public libraries are essential.


Here’s the biggie, though…..

After that, I would build small community theaters across the country. I’m serious, here.  As you know, I’m keenly interested in sustaining the arts at any cost.  I think every part of the country needs one.

Think of the good a theatre can bring to a community…not only for entertainment’s sake, but a place to explore social issues through the written word. Many our current problems could be discussed through a stage play.  Maybe we would get something ironed out and resolved.

Of course, these theaters would need equipment such as sound, lights, props, set pieces, costumes, box office and publicity.  I’d give each theatre an endowment so they could learn how to budget the money in a wise manner. Occasionally, I’d review the company and award money as I saw fit.

Children dancing

The youth theatre programs would need some help (for scholarships and materials). I’d love to see throngs of kids involved in a youth theatre program after school rather than walking around town bored.

I promise you, if a kids gets involved in a theatre program, they’ll love it and never be bored. They’ll find their place within its walls.  Not everyone wants to be a performer.  Maybe a student would become interested in lighting design? Maybe the kids who participate in an after school theatre program visit children in hospitals?


Let’s not forget programs for our seniors (transportation to the performances), too.  Many senior citizens are looking for experiences and hobbies to occupy their time.  A community theatre with a strong program for seniors would be such help to them.

Creativity and imagination don’t atrophy or age.  I know of a group of “vintage players” who travel to area care centers and perform for the residents.  I think the performers get just as much of a thrill out of performing as the residents do of the performance.  It’s a win-win.


Yes, if I won the lottery I’d save the world through theatre.  What a kick in the pants it would be?

What would you do if you won the lottery?

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Some Interesting Facts About Me

Like most people, I am one of a kind. So, here are some interesting facts about me…. I’m not all that mysterious, but you decide.

Some interesting things about me

  1. I am right handed, however no one taught me to throw a ball when I was a child.  Consequently, I throw with my left hand and catch with my right.

  2. I can’t tie shoe laces the normal way (You know the bunny through the hole in the tree? Yeah, I can’t do that.)  Instead, my brother taught me how to use a Boy Scout knot and it works way better for me.

  3. I LOVE gizmos.  Anything with gears, cool products that are innovative and useful.  I’m a sucker for the “As Seen on TV”  aisle at a store.  I love that stuff!

  4.  I think coffee is one of the best beverages in the world.  A hot cup of coffee in the morning makes me happy.

  5. I’m scared to death of sharks.  I’m also scared to death of murky water.  Even if it’s some fresh water lake, I’m sure there is something in there that will grab me.

  6. I know how to primitive camp–build a latrine, lash sticks together, make a fire, backpack, use a poncho as a tent, paddle and swamp a canoe. I’m sort of a tom boy

  7. I was a Boy Scout in my junior year of high school when Senior Girl Scouts and Explorer Boy Scouts were merged for a time.  We went on a February camp out with the guys and there was a huge snow storm.  The blizzard was so bad that we struck camp and went home in the middle of it. It took us two hours to drive twenty minutes back home.  It was awesome. The boy I liked was a Boy Scout, too so that made the frozen toes all the more worth it.

  8. I’ve never imbibed in marijuana.  That’s no big deal, but I was in college in the 1970’s so you’d think I smoked it a bit then.  Nope, never tried it.

  9. I am the youngest in my family.  My siblings are as many as thirteen years my senior.  Consequently, when I was alone with my parents I felt like an only child.  But when my siblings visited, I was suddenly the “baby” of the family.  It was very frustrating to say the least.

  10.  I was never much of a runner, but in sixth grade my friend and I won the three legged race during an intramural track day.

  11. I was a cheerleader in my eighth and ninth grade years of high school.  At the time, it was the closest thing I could find to performing.  Even after all these years, I am still good friends with three of the girls.

  12.  I can’t watch any horror movies or read it, either.  I have a huge imagination and I’ll never sleep at night because I’ll think the story all night.

  13. I can still sing as high as I could in college–two octaves above middle C. I’m 60 years old.

  14. I should have been a zoologist, because I simply adore animals.  My favorites are elephants, horses, dogs, cats, bears, giraffes, cows, rabbits and birds. I grew to appreciate elk once I lived among them in Colorado way up in the mountains.  I find in the fall when they bugle to find a mate is an awesome experience!

  15. I whined at my father for about three years. Finally, he gave in and bought two horses for me (they came as a package) when I was in eighth grade.  Their names were Playmate and Dolly. Some of my most cherished memories of my father surround the rides he and I would take in the early morning heat of a Kansas summer day.

  16. Watching a movie elevates my mood and can fulfill my need to create if I don’t have the time to do something creative.  I have no favorites, but I’m more interested in characterization than a fancy plot.

  17. I read a lot, but I’m slow.  I think it’s because I am acting out the characters as I read them.  Every character has their own voice (in my brain) and consequently, reading something quickly is nearly impossible unless I buckle down and focus on it.  I think skimming a book is a crime.

  18. I’m a really loyal friend.  That doesn’t always work out for me very well.  People have a tendency to take my friendship for granted.  It hurts and I’m not a very good learner.

  19. I don’t appreciate being ignored and I take great exception to deceit.

  20. I am happily married to my best friend, Tim, for nearly thirty-five years.  What’s the secret?  Find projects to do together.  I direct plays in youth and community theatre. Tim designs and builds the sets for them.  Works for us.

So there I am. 😊

Cadillac Mountain Retirement Vacation, 2016


Critical Steps in Producing a Play or Musical: Stage Makeup


When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to wear makeup. Of course, that was about 100 years ago, so let’s keep it in perspective….. My mother wasn’t ready for that step in my life quite yet, but I was.  Boy, was I ready. I read in a Seventeen magazine that I could make my own “home made” mascara using charcoal and petroleum jelly.  I went to work!

Now I’m not known to be very patient (although I am better now that I have grown older), so I looked around our house for the two ingredients I needed.  Hmmm.  I found a jar of petroleum jelly  in my bathroom cabinet, but charcoal?

The only charcoal I knew of was charcoal briquettes.  Being my impatient self and not taking into account that perhaps a charcoal briquette was the wrong kind of charcoal for my DIY mascara, I mixed it into the jelly anyway.  Yes. I. Used. A. Charcoal. Briquette.

No kidding.

Needless to say, it was a flop. Upon entering our dining room for dinner that evening while modeling my  “homemade mascara”, my mother let out an “Oh my!” Soon after  she drove to a Merle Norman store and enrolled me in a class about makeup.

I have refrained from making any other makeup products since that day.  I will admit that whenever we grill burgers over charcoal briquettes,  I grow a bit misty eyed remembering my DIY makeup days..

The Infamous Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz film

The Thrill of Wearing a Costume

Like a costume, stage makeup ranks up there as one of the most popular aspects of theatre.  For some people, donning a costume and applying makeup IS theatre.

A costume and makeup psychologically comforts the actor and helps him to feel “safe.” A good director, especially in amateur theatre, must be careful not to lean on a character’s costume and makeup as the only characterization of an actor.  In that case, let’s just put the costume designer on stage and let her perform the show (I doubt she would appreciate that…) because the character solely originates with her and not the actor.  Tsk,tsk…

Stage makeup is different than street makeup (makeup worn for everyday use).  It is durable, saturated color and easily blended. It’s sturdy–you can cry, eat and have water thrown in your face and the stuff stays on!

Makeup Designer

Makeup Designer

Since this series of posts concerns producing a play or musical and the critical steps one must take for a successful production, I  knew I should discuss stage makeup.  Do you have a makeup designer?  If not, a good place to find one is through hairstyling salons.  Most hairstylists are trained to do makeup as well as hair.  Many hairstylists LOVE this kind of work, because it is so creative.

If I need special makeup (say, for Ursula in Lil Mermaid), I give them photos of my ideas first.  Like set and costumes, a designer needs somewhere to begin in their designing.  In your budget, you need an amount for stage makeup.

I include wigs and hair needs in that budget, too–hairspray, bobby pins, hair nets, etc. If a designer must build a mustache or beard, that is an additional cost.  If you have someone who is familiar with stage makeup, so keep them around.  They are invaluable.

If you don’t have budget money for a designer, perhaps you could acknowledge them through your program and give them complimentary tickets to the production?

Specific Makeup Products

Every cast member should own their own makeup, however some things can be shared if you are on a tight budget.  If the makeup is selected ala carte, then I suggest you purchase:

  • foundation–several shades (I like crème foundation, but some people prefer pan.)

  • hi-light and shadow for contouring

  • translucent powder to match the foundation

  • eye brow pencil

  • blush–several shades

  • eye shadow–several shades

  • makeup sponges

  • spray sealer

  • makeup remover

  • eyeliner (should not be shared with others)

  • mascara (should not be shared with others)

  • lipstick (should not be shared with others)

You are going to pay more ala carte, than if you buy a kit or collection. Your actors may find that they like owning their own makeup.  I have my own makeup when I perform.

There are several companies and different size kits as well.  Like a “one size fits all” tee shirt (I have never understood that phrase), you can buy kits such as fair/lightest, to brown/Dark.  Ultimately, I suggest you find one close your skin color and work from there with the color provided in the kit.

Ben Nye Makeup is very good as is Mehron.  I’m partial to Ben Nye myself. The kits can run as little as $20.00 and upward to $150 for a comprehensive collection.  You’ll find what you need quite easily on line.

I played Nellie Forbush in South Pacific when I was in my twenties. This was NOT a character I ever thought I’d play.  In my mind, she was “101 pounds of fun” as the song says.  I wasn’t that poundage by a long shot.  The part called for a  bright, cute, sincere and naive young woman.   I worried that no one would believe my performance.

My favorite part of the whole experience (other than my husband, then fiancé who was the conductor) was the shower scene.

  I actually washed my hair and yes, danced with shampoo in my hair. Then I’d rinse it under ice cold water (!) while speaking with another character, wrapped it up in a towel and exited.  In the next five minutes, I dried my hair, reapplied my makeup and donned an elegant full length evening gown, drop earrings and elbow length gloves.  It was a blast to do!

Something about those two scenes helped me past the worry.  Every night as I stepped on the stage,  I knew I was surrounded by a wonderful armor which carried me past my fears and supported my character in a way I could never have done all by myself.

That’s what makeup and a costume can do for you.


No, this is not me in my South Pacific costume…it is Talulah Bankhead which, for some odd reason, my mother nicknamed me.

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Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions My Litpick Article, no. 3

Start a Playwriting Contest in 20 Easy Stepsimg_0641


Twenty-nine years ago, I was president of a community theatre, the Columbia Entertainment Company, in Columbia, Missouri.  Also, I was the director of a youth theatre program for them.   I volunteered hundreds of hours to both programs. It was an amazing learning experience and one that I draw upon from time to time in my career.

Here is the story of probably the most important thing we did in this company:  We created a national playwriting contest for large cast youth theatre plays.  It is called the Jackie White National Playwriting Award Contest and still in existence to this day.  That’s a long time for a contest of this nature to flourish, especially sponsored by a community theatre.


The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large casts—over thirty students in number, ages fourth through ninth grade.  At the time, there were very few plays to choose from, much less musicals for kids.

 I lamented to a board I was having a difficult time finding any suitable plays for the season. In the past, I pad the roles with extra non-speaking characters or ones with little ad libs, but what I really needed was youth theatre plays with large casts, period. The board member suggested our company create our own playwriting contest specifically for this purpose.

So, really out of desperation, we created one!

Please understand, we had NO idea what we were doing.  We merely figured it out as we progressed.  It took us a few years to perfect the contest, but it is still one of the most valuable programs the theatre created.

The Why

Generally, playwrights need their plays or musicals to be produced before a publishing company will represent them. The Denver Performing Arts Center sponsors a New Play Summit each year in February.

Their contest is very clever.  The first time the winning entries are produced as stage readings with minimal set and costumes.  The audience gives feedback after the performance through a survey.

If the play suits DPAC’s needs, during the next season, they mount a full production of it.  My husband and I have attended several years of the New Play Summit and enjoyed being part of the creative process. We feel more invested in the play, because we offered our suggestions. Whether DPAC intends to or not, this is a terrific way to encourage audience members to return to see the production once it is produced.

Your contest could be created by your drama class, community theatre or even youth group.  There is no end to the possibilities a contest of this type affords a group. The contest can be as big or small as your group desires. You could sponsor whatever kind of contest you want—a ten minute plays, musicals for youth theatre, plays focused on bullying or plays concerning tolerance. It’s all up to you.

Now before you look at these questions and think is an overwhelming project, I want you to consider the people who will receive such fulfillment from the contest. Playwrights are always seeking places to get their plays read and produced.  That could be you!

Here are some questions to contemplate when creating your own playwriting contest:

1)      What is the mission of our contest?  What is our end result?  Are we looking for something particular subject to be explored? Reach a particular audience? Attract an underserved demographic?

2)      What are the requirements of the winning script?  Cast size, gender and age of characters, length of play or musical, set, costumes props and the feasibility of producing the script within the confines of our budget are all important questions to consider.

3)       Is any subject taboo? In some social circles, certain subjects are considered appropriate.

4)      How about inappropriate language?

5)      Should we charge a fee to enter the contest?  How much?

6)      Are there granting agencies or donors we could approach to fund the contest?

7)      What is our budget to spend to advertise the contest?

8)      What free media sources will we use to publicize the contest?

9)      Will we fully mount the winning entry?

10)  Should we present a stage reading?

11)  Can anyone enter the contest? Are we seeking only student scripts or adults?

12)  Who will read the scripts and make the final decision on the awardee?

13)  Will we award 1st 2nd and 3rd place awards as well as honorable mention? How many honorable mentions?

14)  What will the winner receive?  A cash award, gift, certificate, life time season tickets?

15)  Where will the cash award money come from? A donor?  A service organization? Your city’s arts council?

16)  After the awardee is selected, will we publicize the winner?

17)  Do we want to bring the winning playwright to the performance?

18)   If the winning playwright attends, is it our responsibility to provide room and board to them?

19)  If the playwright is present, do we want to host a social in their honor?

20)  What is our time line?

A Contest with Their Head in the Right Place 

I am an indie author, too. Recently, I ran upon an indie author book contest in England created by a popular children’s author, Edward Trayer.  The Whistling Shelf Award is a fairly new contest.

When I was perusing his website regarding it, I discovered he charges an entrance fee and donates a portion of money to the Blind Children fund in England. Now, that’s my kind of author.  Because of this, I quickly entered my book, Bumbling Bea into its competition.  I look forward to this year’s awards.

I believe in philanthropy and I believe in the power of theatre.  I bet you do, too.

Try your hand creating a playwriting contest. The Jackie White National Children’s Play Writing Contest is one of the most important programs the Columbia Entertainment Company ever created.

If a desperate, young director like me with no experience creating a contest can be successful, so can you!

Columbia Entertainment Company playwriting contest:

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

Wishing Shelf Book Awards

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Anne of Green Gables

Ten Reasons Why Everyone Produces Anne of Green Gables

Netflix is televising a new series of Anne of Green Gables which begins on May 12.  This is super news!anne-of-green-gables

Anne of Green Gables is a perfect play for your company.  How do I know?  I have directed it (not surprised, are you?) and produced it as well. In fact, I know that many companies have produced the play.

There are certain shows that are guaranteed winners for a company.  Anne of Green Gables ranks up there with The Diary of Anne Frank, The Miracle Worker, Alice in Wonderland, The Best Christmas Pageant to name a few.

If you want to attract people to your theatre, Anne of Green Gables is one of those plays of which you can’t go wrong.

There are many reasons to include it in your season, but suffice to say you will make happy a lot of your potential audience members and your regulars.  In particular, I recommend Sylvia Ashby’s adaptation. It is published by Samuel French at

The strengths:

1.The cast  is comprised of both males and females, BUT two of main characters are females.  Hallelujah!

Anne of Green Gables 3.jpg

2.There are roles for adults and children of many ages. Nine females and seven males.

3.The costumes can be as easy or complicated as your costume budget allows.

4.You’ll have to figure out how to make Anne’s hair turn green at one point, but that’s not too difficult.

5.There are several scenes with many characters on stage at once which means more time for everyone to have fun.

6. It’s a good length, about 120 minutes.

7.The set can be as elaborate are you require (I’ve seen it produced on a revolving stage.) or simple. I have directed it with the house up center and the other various locales down stage of it.


8.There is a need for a boat.  One time a father went crazy on me and built an entire boat (yes, you read that right), but really, that’s not needed.

9.In a school setting I directed it with two  Marillas and three Annes (one for each age we see as she grows up).  This plan was terrific for a number of obvious reasons.  It gave more females the opportunity to perform leads and lessened the number of lines they had to memorize.

10. The themes of family and friendship radiate through the plot.  It is suitable for all audiences.

There are no cons against producing the play, in my opinion.

So, the next time you are looking for a play that will become a guaranteed winner for your  audience, select Anne of Green Gables.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Critical Steps in Producing a Play or Musical: Costumes


Spring Version of The Secret Garden May 2016 St. Vrain Valley Schools

Jill Shepherd, Costume Coordinator

When I was a little girl, Halloween at our house was not a big production.  Actually, I don’t know if it was ever as big a deal as it is now.  This was in the 1960’s and early 70’s (or ‘mid century’ as interior design people label it now…), so keep that in mind. I mean, we used to carve a pumpkin, buy some cheap candy and hand it out to the neighborhood kids.

When I was five years old, I was coerced into dressing as a pilgrim (really?) because my sister had brought home a pilgrim-looking hat from an overseas trip with the Girl Scouts–her present to me.  It was a terrible costume and that’s all I remember probably because I stuffed away the memory.

When I was nine years old, my mother put together a Queen Isabella costume for our class play about Christopher Columbus.  That was about as close as I came to a costume that you would expect, and I LOVED it!  The shoes were too small and crimped my chubby foot and the crown was made of aluminum foil and these blue bauble-looking things flailed themselves around my head.

My only line was, “Rise, Christopher!” because he was kneeling before me.  That was my first play and I’ll never forget it, mostly because of the costume my mother created for me. I also got to be the center of attention…

She didn’t create another for me ever again. Well, she did sew a celery stalk costume for me in high school for some sort of club initiation but I don’t think that counts as  a Halloween costume. Ironically, the celery stalk idea was mine and I thought it was a hysterical.  Don’t know that anyone else understood my vision, but there you go…

Costumes are one of the most creative and exciting components of theatre.  Honestly, they are a critical step in your selection of a play or musical.  Two facts come to mind when I think of a particular production–costumes and set.  Can this company afford the costumes and built them?  Can we rent or borrow?


Mulan, Jr.  Presser Performing Arts Center July 2015

Evelyn Zidick , Costume Designer

Actors and Their Costumes

I find that novice actors are all about their costumes. I try to assuage their fears and trepidations right from the beginning.  Depending upon the company, during our first read thru, I show my cast some examples of what all of the costumes will look like. This includes the color palette for the show.

As a teacher, I know that most human beings are visual learners.  By showing costume examples to the cast, I help them to be more confident (if they weren’t so) and of course give them a rough idea of my director’s concept and a beginning step toward my thoughts about their character.

Do you have a costumer designer?  Or is it you?

Again, if you have a costume designer you’ll need to communicate your concept to them.  I ask for the budget for the show.  Let’s say you are directing Oklahoma! and you are expected to costume the show yourself.  Oh my.  That’s a big one, although somewhat simple to create.

Years ago, I’d trudge to the public library and find photos or pictures of painting that depicted the time period of a particular play.  Now it’s soooo easy!  Hello internet!Look on line and find some examples that you can print for your costumer (if they are inexperienced) and/or the cast. Don’t forget your public library, though.  Sometimes it’s easier to peruse their book shelves than search around on the web.

And….I nearly forgot!  Walk yourself into a fabric store such as  Joanns Fabrics or Hobby Lobby and study the various pattern books. They have a plethora of costumes.  Years ago, we had maybe three patterns to choose from, but since then these companies have done an excellent job of re-creating clothing from several times periods.

In particular, check out the Simplicity costume patterns.  If you are expected to build the costumes yourself, I’d begin my designing at a fabric store.

   Mulan, Jr. April 2016 Apex Home School Enrichment program

Renting Costumes

You can easily find a costume company in your city  or near to you from which you can rent. Generally, costume companies rent costumes for a set amount of time such as two or three weeks, depending upon the length of your production.

Sometimes they will ask for a deposit (per costume, thank you very much).  There will be a contract with the company’s rental policy, etc. Someone will need to be responsible for these rentals. Also, check with other community theatres, college theatre departments and area high schools to see if anyone rents to outside groups.  Perhaps instead of renting, you could do a trade of advertising space in the program?

Thrift Stores

Then there’s the good old thrift store.

I could write an entire blog about the value of thrift stores.  They are that useful to a theatre company. Everyone who works in theatre visits thrift stores at some point in their season. Obviously, it is cheaper than a box store and you’d be surprised at the gold mine you’ll find.

One tricky costume piece is children’s boots.  Recently, I directed Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. (for the fourth time in my career) and my entire cast of forty students, ages ten to eighteen, needed ankle length boots.  I warned the parents about six months ahead of time  (because this was a musical theatre class that lasted the entire school year).  Finding a pair of child’s boots can be difficult in the spring when our show was going to be performed.

Certain costume pieces such as children’s boots, are a hot commodity.

As usual, the diligent, enthusiastic parents went right out and found boots at thrift stores. Ta-da.  Those folks who waited until March were bereft for lack of inexpensive shoe wear. (That’s a funny phrase, I must say.) It was too late. So, start with your neighborhood thrift store in your quest for costumes.  It will save you time and money, I promise.

My One Concern

One thing I want to stress to you, friend.  I dislike present day plays or musicals merely because I find that those involved in the production can think a play set in 2016 will be easier to produce.  Oh contraire…

Recently, I directed On Golden Pond and boy, I grew weary saying, “No, you can’t wear your favorite skirt (or sweater or shoes or hat) on stage because you feel most comfortable in it.

You need a costume that depicts your character, not you.”  Even if you are directing for 2016, the costumes must be treated with the same respect and care as if the show was of the 1860’s.

Remember, theatre is a visual art although I don’t think that audiences often refer to it in this manner.  When the curtain rises and the lights warm the stage, an authentic looking costume which demonstrates time period, mood and character means EVERYTHING to the audience. It is the difference between a good show or an excellent one.

I don’t have the room here to go into great detail about the potential fun of costuming can be for you. But if you write to me privately, I’d be happy to help you.

I’ve costumed shows for nearly thirty-nine years.  Trust me or as my daughter says, “I got it covered.”

Next, I’ll give you some advice concerning stage lights.

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I’d love to hear from you!

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