Are You Missing These Kind of People in Your Life?

Are you missing these people in your life?  What is special about community theatre actors?

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That’s my student portraying Mary Poppins!

This is a subject near and dear to my heart.  I have a very long relationship with community theatre.  I helped to create one in Columbia, Missouri back in 1979 I believe.  It is still in existence today.

In fact, I co-developed a national playwriting contest for youth theatre plays while being involved with  Columbia Entertainment Company.  You can find more information about the contest at:  Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

But I digress…

Sometimes, although less now than in the past, people who aren’t involved in community theatre have sort of scoffed at it.  As though the people who enjoyed it were dopey or something.

It is no different than playing on a adult intramural soccer team or bowling with your league buddies.  My community theatre friends just enjoy performing on a stage under stage lights.  (It’s the next closest thing to playing dress up and make believe and didn’t we all enjoy that when we were kids?)

summer theater 1

Community theatre actors come from all walks of life. Many simply love theatre, but chose to have another vocation other than performing.

I direct many doctors, lawyers, teachers, fireman, policeman, nurses, college students, business people,  and whole families from the youngest only six years old to the eldest in their eighties.  I  work with people from television shows I watched several decades ago.

I have a varied acting resume as well. Through community theatre, I’ve been directed by a Yale graduate, a Broadway professional, a high school drama director and even a priest!

Image result for community theatre actors in dressing room

What is special about community theatre actors (and let’s not forget all the technical people either,) is the comradery one feels when you work with them.  There is simply no other group of people quite so warm and supportive.

Think about it.  These people put in an eight hour day at their jobs, rush home to eat a bit of dinner and head out to the theatre in under an hour.

It can be grueling and…it can be boring but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun! Many times they rehearse for three hours with no breaks. Or they sit around for an hour and chat with their cast members while they wait to rehearse.  It’s all part of the experience.  (Note:  Professional theater can look the same.)

They memorize their lines while driving in their cars, during lunch breaks or watching their child’s soccer games. I am sure there were times where my husband and/or daughters knew my lines as well as I did from quizzing me on them.

Usually, community theatre actors bring in their own personal items to fill out their costume.  It is not uncommon for them to purchase several pairs of dance shoes, tights, leotards, wigs or purchase contact eye wear since they can’t wear their modern glasses in a play set in the 1800s.

But the costumes can be outstanding and exciting to wear.  These aren’t generic Halloween costumes or something dragged out of an attic.  I’ve had costumes custom made especially for me.  Here is one from Cricket on the Hearth:

cricket on the hearth (2)
Dot in “Cricket on the Hearth” a straight role

The men are known to grow mustaches or beards if need be.  Or the opposite.  They’ll cut off their long hair or shave off their beards if it gives them a look of  authenticity. Women have dyed their hair for a role as well.

If the show is a musical, the musicians bring in their own instruments, music stands and whole drum sets. I know some musicians accompany for little to no stipend.  That’s okay with them. They enjoy the experience just as much as the cast.

Building the deck: Anna Townswick, Indigo Fish, Jesse Fish on top of the structure. (Photo: Mette Hammer)

You want to talk about a time commitment?

Usually the rehearsal schedule is four or five evenings straight for about six weeks and then the run of the show.  A spouse might not see their partner for weeks on end. (If the spouse is smart, they’ll get involved in some capacity and now the couple with something new to talk about!)

Sometimes the actor will help build or paint the set, create props or sew a costume or two on the weekends. And….when the show is over, they help strike the set!

They throw the BEST cast parties too.  Check out one my favorite cast party recipes here:

Easy Peasy Party Appetizer #1

Easy Peasy Party Appetizer #2

Easy Peasy Appetizer Recipe #3

They hand out gag gifts, act in funny parodies of songs from the show or sit around singing songs from the show yet. another. time.

They can go overboard a little, but that’s because the experience is very intense.  I’ve even been known to have separation anxiety from my cast members and that’s the worst feeling of all.

Image result for community theatre cast party

But they persevere and sign up for the next audition or merely serve as ushers, but generally they continue to be involved in some capacity.

In other words, they are completely invested in the production!

So the next time, you see your neighbor dash off to rehearsal and he doesn’t have time to chat, just remember he isn’t sitting around home in front of the television or on his phone. He could be sitting around wasting his time, but he’s not.

He is doing theatre and he loves it!

Sound like fun to you?  Try it.

The American Association of Community Theaters is a not for profit organization which can give you more information about community theatre and a whole hosts of subjects you might be interested in.  Check them out here:  https://www.aact.org

What community theatre productions have you been involved in?  Tell me about it.  I’d love to hear from you.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

Start a Playwriting Contest in 20 Easy Steps

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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.

columbia-entertainment-company

The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large student 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!

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

http://www.denvercenter.org/events/colorado-new-play-summit

Wishing Shelf Book Awards

http://www.thewsa.co.uk/

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net I’d love to hear from you!

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Critical Steps in Producing a Play or Musical: Stage Makeup

Let’s talk about steps in producing a play or musical:  stage makeup

Staging, Theatre, Emotion, Drugs, Misery, Black, Stage

 

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..

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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!

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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.

tallulah-bankhead-401476_960_7201

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

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or Bumblingbea.com

I’d love to hear from you.

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Playwriting Contest

Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

This is my most recent article I penned for Litpick. I hope it’s helpful to you.


Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

by Deborah Baldwin

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 play-writing contest for large cast youth theatre plays. It is called the Jackie White National Play-writing Award Contest and is 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 that 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 did!

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.

honk-jr

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—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!

studenst-reading-play

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 a 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 inappropriate.

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, lifetime 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?

I hope these twenty questions will help you create your playwriting contest.  Do keep me informed.  I’d love to hear from you.

wishing-shelf

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.

Since the penning of this post, I received word I was a finalist in the children’s books division in the Wishing Shelf contest.  What an honor!

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:

http://www.cectheatre.org/playwriting.html

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

http://www.denvercenter.org/events/colorado-new-play-summit
Wishing Shelf Book Awards
http://www.thewsa.co.uk/

—————

Deborah is a veteran drama teacher having taught in Missouri and Colorado for nearly thirty-eight years. Specializing in youth and community theatre, Deborah has directed more than 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike. Recently, she and her husband moved to Kansas to be near their family and first grandchild. Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea, can be purchased through Amazon.com.

Check out her blog at: Dramamommaspeaks.com or her website Deborahbaldwin.net. Deborah serves as handmaiden to her beloved cat and sings harmony to most any song she hears.

Two actors in The Fanstaicks

How Theatre Saved My Life

dramamommaspeaks.com

This is how theatre saved my life.

My imagination (and later, theatre specifically) saved my life. When I was a child, my mother was quite ill and consequently to show respect to her, I controlled my emotions. so I didn’t want compound her stress.

I was the youngest in my family. With ten years between me and my next closest sibling, I rarely had anyone to play with or talk to. I depended upon my imagination to comfort me and take me away from loneliness I felt but wouldn’t admit to anyone. I learned how to slap on a smile and pretend everything was good with me.  I was quite a little actress.

When I saw movies, I would act them out and sing very dramatically while sequestering myself upstairs on the east porch of our house. It had no heat and I remember freezing to death for my “art”.

I was born and raised in Kansas in a small town.  Our only claim to fame is we had two colleges, one university which was a teacher’s college and another one a religious affiliated.  Oh, an an enormous beef packing plant which made our town smell…..unusual. Ugh!

I thought I was crazy, though. I never told my friends about my make believe playing and when I would visit their houses, they never played make believe. So I decided I wasn’t like everyone else. I played make believe until I was twelve.

My father was a physician and my mother was raised in Japan when she was a child. Consequently, her wander lust was difficult to satiate and we traveled to many countries when I was quite young.

If it wasn’t hard enough being the youngest, my world view was very different from my fellow classmates. Just another thing to make me an oddity, at least in my mind.

My mother wasn’t at all supportive of my interest in theatre. She intimated I could end up like Elizabeth Taylor, “She’s been married seven times. Look at her…”Something was mentioned about me ending up on a “casting couch.” I didn’t know what that was, but by my mother’s attitude I knew it must be bad.

Trying to be the good daughter,  I left behind my imagination and became a cheerleader in junior high school. It makes sense if you think about it. That worked for two years and I loved the performing aspect of it.  I was a rotten jumper.  No one taught me how to do a round off or cartwheel, so I taught myself.  But I could yell loudly and lead the crowd in cheers.  At least I could do that!

When I was in high school, I found exactly what I was seeking –the stage! I was cast in my first play as Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit”.  Since I had no previous acting experience, but lots experience playing the piano, I notated my script as if I was playing the piano. I used fermatas for pauses and crescendo and decrescendo signs when I wanted to speak louder or softer.

To this day, I grow nostalgic whenever I step backstage. The scent of sawdust, newly painted flats and the warmth of the stage lights are a magical elixir to me. I brush the back of my hand across a velvet grand curtain and immediately I feel I’m home.

This is how theatre saved my life
In college, I experienced an epiphany. It was the early 1970’s, and society impressed upon me to hide my negative feelings or only express those feelings most accepted by others. I realized by sharing myself hiding behind a character, I could express  all my feelings and thoughts. I felt accepted universally.

That’s a heady experience which made me come back for more. Nearly forty years later, I’m happily stuck here.

this is how theatre saved my life

I became a director for a community theatre production of The Miracle Worker because there was no one else willing to do the job. Ha! I have a leader type personality and directing fit into my life. I was quite young to take on such a challenging production but I took to it right away. I saw the potential of affecting people through stories that I created in my own manner.

Now, I adore making a statement through words and actions.

As of this writing, I have directed over 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike.  I chose to direct and act at the community level for most of my career.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy professional theatre.  On the contrary. I’ve appreciated the professional positions in which I have been employed.

It’s just not where my life’s journey has taken me.  I’m always open to work in whatever venue needs me.

I’ve portrayed many beloved roles–Maria in “The Sound of Music”, Marion Paroo in “Music Man”,  Dot in “Cricket on the Hearth”, Penny in “You Can’t Take it With You” and many others. Above all, more than any particular role or any special production, I have learned about myself.

Theatre saved my life.  It has given me great joy, creative challenges and great friendships (I even met my husband while acting in a show).

I don’t know where I would be without it.  image

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net.

I’d love to hear from you!

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?

Image result for award winning community theatre

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?

Image result for award winning community theatre senior program

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 dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 http://www.theatrelawrence.com/index.html

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborrahBaldwin.net

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 SamuelFrench.com and get a copy!  Click here: http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2282/best-christmas-pageant-ever-the

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
Creche

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.”

jesus-and-mary

I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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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:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/03/20/what-no-one-tells-you-about-full-circle-moments/

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 Amazon.com  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 DeborahBaldwin.net.  You can’t miss the form–it’s huge and pink.

Until next time…..

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or like I mentioned, DeborahBaldwin.net

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…..you think I’m weird.

money.jpg

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.

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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?

senior-ladies

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.

theater.jpg

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?

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or visit my website at DeborahBaldwin.net

pennies