Gift Guide for Your Favorite Theatre Geek

graduate bear

Wow, it’s April all ready!

It seems like once we pass Valentine’s day time moves a lot faster.

Today, I noticed graduation cards at my local pharmacy.  I always forget graduation is in mid-May.

The high school students in my college classes are quick to share the number of classes  they have before they are finished.  Funny, the other students don’t want to know how much time is left in the semester–they are panicked about finishing all their assignments in time.

Anyway…………..

Each year near graudation, people ask me for suggestions of a good gift for a theatre lover. 

Here are a few suggestions for you:

      1. Tickets to a Broadway play, musical or to attend a touring company production of the graduate’s favorite show.  Most of our students are on tight budgets and having free tickets to see a show would be heaven for them.

     2.  DVD’s of plays or musicals

     3.  A year long membership to BroadwayHD.com. Do you know of this company? They are gaining popularity with their Netflix-like approach to Broadway plays and musicals. These are live performance which have been video recorded by professionals. They are awesome!

     4.  A biography on your graduate’s favorite actor or actress. Just about every actor and actress a student would be familiar with will have a biography.

     5.  Find out your graduate’s taste in stage makeup and purchase some for them in their particular shades or colors.

     6.  Make up a basket, a “care package” for the graduate to use the next next time she is in a show.  Fill it with things like cough drops, deodorant, makeup wipes, a box of tissues, hard candy, throat spray, bandaids, a can of hairspray, a water bottle, a trade magazine (like Stagelight magazine https://www.stagelightmagazine.com) a pen and journal, etc.

      7.  Have a tee shirt quilt made. You can find companies who will create it for you by checking on line.  Most theatre kids have scads of show tee shirts.  I had a friend of mine make a quilt for my daughter.  She LOVED it!  She dragged it off to college and it finally wore about five years ago (she’s twenty-nine.)

     8. A gift card to a particular dance supply company if your graduate is a dancer or Sheetmusic.com so they can purchase sheet music for auditions.

     9. A glitzy picture frame is fun. Obviously, theatre geeks have lots of photos.

    10. Just a plain old VISA gift card is nice, too!

One of my favorite high school graduation gifts was an umbrella.  It was a great gift.  It never occurred to me I would be walking to class in the rain. Ha! (naive me)  I can’t even tell you how many times that wonderful umbrella came into use.  I think I wore it out!

graduate bear

Do you have favorite graduation gift memories?  I’d love to hear them.  Contact me here or at dhcbaldwin@gmail. com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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Arts Education

Arts Education: Fostering Creativity and Innovation

I’m all about any research or editorials supporting arts education fostering creativity and innovation whether it’s in the United States or elsewhere.  I ran upon this piece on Stemeducation.news:

Read on…

Image result for arts education

Arts education is vital to help foster creativity and innovation

By Susan Davis

I have a dream that this nation will achieve its full creative and economic potential and that Arts education will rightfully be seen as central to making this happen. It worries me that current thinking and policymaking around national innovation concentrates on increasing participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects while the teaching of the Arts (dance, drama, music, media arts and visual arts,) is rarely even on the innovation agenda.

It is not that I begrudge the attention STEM is getting, it is just that I believe if we want to be a truly innovative and creative nation we need to put the Arts, very firmly, back in the mix. We should be talking about STEAM in schools and universities with the Arts very much in the centre of it all.

There exists a popular narrative, used to drive the STEM education agenda in Australia (and elsewhere), that says there are significantly declining enrolments in the Sciences and other STEM disciplines. However I question this narrative as justification for major initiatives. I will come back to that later.

First up what are we talking about, when we talk about innovation and creativity?

Innovation and creativity

Creativity and innovation involves putting things together in new ways, it involves risk-taking, experimenting and refining, valuing the role of productive failure, it involves making and doing, and is often collaborative and co-creative. While creativity is about the capacity to putting things together in new, novel and different ways, innovation is often seen as putting them to work and out into the world so that they meet a need, want or interest.

However these capacities don’t get switched on when people hit the world of work, they need to be cultivated across the education lifespan in all subjects in as many ways as possible.

Unfortunately the nurturing of creativity and innovation often seems to be at odds with the direction of many current initiatives in education. I have concerns about mandated curriculum and standards and everyone doing the same thing, the same tests, meeting the same benchmarks. I am particularly concerned about certain subjects or areas of learning being valued as more essential or more important than others.

Why the Arts subjects are important when it comes to innovation and creativity

The focus on STEM, without similar focus being turned to the Arts and Humanities does not appear to be justified by recent research about the impact of technologies on our lives. It is hard to deny that all aspects of life and the world of work are undergoing rapid transformations, many brought about by developments in technologies across nearly all fields of endeavour. Recent research from Oxford University notes however, that while robots will assume the role of many people in many sectors, growth continues in those that rely on creative capacity and social interactions, people, services and experiences. They are not optional areas of focus for education, but essential for opening up future study and work opportunities.

The importance of valuing other areas of learning and related industry sectors is also evident when examining economic development within various industry sectors. Industry growth and projection reports identify that education itself is one of Australia’s major export industries. Other projected growth areas identified by the Reserve Bank include household and business services, food, arts and recreation.

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A Deloitte report also identifies industry sectors such as agribusiness, tourism, international education and wealth management as ones that are growth sectors for the Australian economy.

To do well in these sectors may require knowledge and skills in some or all of the STEM areas, but also relies on understanding people, design, experience and communications: the Arts subjects.

Is there really a crisis in the uptake of STEM subjects?

A review of senior secondary enrolments in several states over the past 20 years reveals that in most cases all students have to/or tend to study an English and a Math subject. When it comes to the sciences, Biology is the top or near top elective subject and while there is some drop in the percentage of Physics and Chemistry enrolments it is not perhaps as extreme as we have been lead to believe, and in fact in recent times in Queensland, for example, there has been an increase in the numbers for Chemistry enrolments.

Enrolments in sciences have not been dropping more substantially than other subjects over the last 20 years using Queensland data as an example. While percentages of total year 12 enrolments might be 5-10% lower, this has to be considered in the context of increased subject choices including vocational training courses. It is clear that the pattern of enrolment of the Arts and Humanities also shows similar decreases in percentages too. When it comes to the most dramatic drop in enrolments over the past 20 years it is actually Accounting (20% to 7%) and Economics (19% to 5%) that have seen the most dramatic declines.

Similar trends can be identified in New South Wales and Victorian data, though the strength of Chemistry seen in Queensland is not necessarily reflected in other state data.

While there is no doubt that there are still issues with enrolments in STEM by different target groups, including girls and students from low SES backgrounds, regional areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, these are not new issues. However a focus on increased enrolments in STEM per se is not likely to change that. Other strategies that focus more on pedagogy, combining STEM and arts based approaches are more likely to have impact (and have been the basis for strategies in places such as Korea).

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So what should we be doing?

It is important that capacity building in creativity and innovation be supported across the years of formal education (including early childhood, primary and secondary education) and tertiary study, including teacher education. This requires a shift beyond STEM and the ongoing focus on ‘basic skills’ in major educational drives, and to look at the cultivation of ideas and passions, calculated risk taking, how to work through failure, problem-finding and problem-solving and resolution of ideas into products and forms.

This requires an approach that recognizes that creativity and innovation can be cultivated across diverse learning and industry fields. If the current obsession with STEM is to continue, as I said previously, it should be converted to STEAM, with the Arts at its centre, at the very least, or perhaps ESTEAM to recognize the importance of Entrepreneurship as well.

Other key points

Here is my list of other key points and issues we need to tackle.

  • We need to see the arts, education and teacher education as being integral to a national innovation agenda

  • We should be specifically teaching teachers and children about innovation and creativity and to value the different knowledges and skills that can contribute to innovation

  • Include scope for more specialisations in primary education degrees, including in the arts and humanities

  • Recognise that there needs to be space for people to develop different interests, depth of knowledge and experience. Some of this can be supported through formal learning programs, but can also be supported through after school programs, partnerships and informal learning

  • Reduce the focus in educational agendas on NAPLAN and standardized test instruments and reports. We can’t mandate that everyone learns the same things in the same ways for 10 years of schooling and then expect them to do things ‘differently’. We need room for people to develop interests and expertise in diverse areas, so room for electives, special projects and enterprises.

If our governments recognize the importance of creativity and innovation for our future national prosperity (as the current parliamentary inquiry would indicate), attention must be paid to learning that promotes problem-solving and inventiveness, social innovation and entrepreneurship, and multiple forms of communication and expression. To do this effectively Australia needs to give just as much attention to the Arts as it is currently to the teaching of and participation in STEM. These areas are all fundamental to cultivating innovation for the future of our economy and our world.

Perhaps you’d like to read my own views on drama education.  Go to:  https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/08/14/top-seven-reasons-drama-education-is-important-to-your-childs-life/

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

I’d love to hear from you.

credit to Shakespeare

Did You Know All The Credit Goes to William Shakespeare? 

View this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plcp&v=W-u_3Kg65JM

Let’s give credit to William Shakespeare, shall we?

This is what I am all about–good material which reaches everyone at some level. When I see people of different cultures, ages and socio-economic background  all attending a production, my heart swells with pride.

What is fascinating about theatre, and not everyone understands this, is the simpler the performance the more complicated it is. In that, we strive to make the pretend seem real. It is in the here and now when it is performed–it is fleeting and now gone.

The audience member thinks, “Was what I saw my imagination making it real to me? Or did it actually happen?” The emotions shared with us by the actors are raw and less guarded even when they are subtle.

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Next to Normal produced by the University of Kansas theatre department. I am familiar with the show as I attended another performance at Denver at the Performing Arts Center with the original lead actress. If you haven’t seen the show, you must.

 Next to Normal

Next to Normal tells a story about a family whose son dies and their coming to grips with the loss of him.  The mother is bi-polar and her emotional stability is in constant flux because of it.  Both parents see the spirit of the son and talk to him, but they never see at the same time. What makes this musical so intriguing is the juxtaposition of the mother’s emotional withdrawl and ultimate breakdown coupled with the family’s grief at the loss of their son. It’s a riveting piece and I can relate to it, although I can’t quite explain why.

This makes some people uncomfortable which is part of the experience. We must allow ourselves to suspend our disbelief in order to understand the play’s message. Simulataneously we feel what they feel and for some people this is scary, but it is the thrust of theatre.

So to William Shakespeare it is easy to give him all the credit and I say thanks!

Playwright Tony Kushner explains it best.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=C87fblpBGmA

It’s Cyber Monday Every Day at Dramamommaspeaks.com

Bumbling Bea copy

At Dramamommaspeaks, every Monday (or every day for that matter) is Cyber Monday.

I have a great gift for you here at Dramamommaspeaks.com

Are you beginning to think about purchasing gifts for the up coming holidays?

Do you have a reader in mind?

Maybe they’d enjoy mine.  Here is a short description for you:

Beatrice thinks she has no acting talent but that doesn’t stop her from auditioning for the annual middle school play. Easy! Except Michiko, a new girl from Japan, shows up and ruins everything! So begins Beatrice’s diabolical plan to scare away Michiko. But Michiko has goals of her own with no plans to leave soon. Beatrice is sometimes sarcastic, sometimes very funny and always honest. What’s a girl to do?  Plenty.

I bet they’d love a book with the author’s autograph.

Do I have the deal for you!

We are now on Etsy.com where I am only selling autographed copies.

For the same price as I would sell the book at a festival or book talk, I will sign your book for FREE.

Go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dramamommaspeaks

Part of the challenge for indie authors is getting the word out about our books.  You can help me with this by purchasing a book for a young friend.  Or, you can purchase the book yourself.

I’m always seeking more reviews for Bumbling Bea, too.  You’d be surprised at how many people of different ages have read Bumbling Bea.  That’s one of the most fun parts of my journey as a writer.  I get to see how the story affects different people and what they take away from it.

I will try to impress you now…

I have been a drama teacher and director for thirty-nine years.

I have won awards for both.

I am an award winning author. I’ve been interviewed several times about Bumbling Bea, the most recent was a podcast with a world wide membership.  Check it out here:  http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/9/3/0/930c33253e57a3ca/Deborah_Baldwin.mp3c_id=18480362&expiration=1515362648&hwt=f6571e878f770624d2dd0babf9fa6108

Check out reviews at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.com  I think you’ll be pleased. Remember:  Cyber Monday is every day at Dramamommaspeaks.com.

And as always–

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

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backstage of theatre

Amazing Photos: What Actors See the Audience Does Not

https://www.buzzfeed.com/lauragallant/15-photos-of-what-actors-see-when-theyre-on-stage?utm_term=.ciWqJPYW6#.faDWzre9d

I have a little story for you which complements this post.

When I was in college, my college had its own summer stock theatre.  It was built out of an old airplane hangar way up in near Okoboji, Iowa. I spent two summers there–one as an actress playing several leading roles and one as the properties mistress.  I learned lots both summers.  I’m not big on defacing property, but we were invited to leave our autograph backstage somewhere.

Fast forward thirty years and guess what?  Our youngest daughter attended the same college and performed at the same summer stock theatre.  When we went to visit her at the end of the season, she took me aside and told me shhe had a little gift for me.  We walked backstage and she showed me her autograph which she left on the wall backstage right.over. mine.

It’s a special memory between us and one I will not forget!

So when I saw this photo of backstage, I was immediately reminded of my own experiences backstage during a play.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do.

 

Architectural photographer Klaus Frahm wanted to take people through the “fourth wall” that separates actors from their audience. To do this he photographed some of Germany’s most beautiful theatres from the perspective of the actors, looking out into the audit

Theaters backstage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is so cool to see the theaters from the view point of the actors.

If you haven’t visited backstage of a professional theater, you are missing out. They are fascinating architecture.

Do check it out!

Like Halloween? Then You’ll Enjoy This Costume Sale

Do you like Halloween like I do?  Tomorrow, it’s October! Yippee! Have you found a theater’s costume sale you can peruse?

October is one of my most favorite months–the leaves begin to change to scarlet and gold, pumpkins are everywhere, the air is crisp.

When our daughters were children, we had a rule: you couldn’t talk about Halloween until September 1st. No drawing pictures of what your costume should be, negotiating for some extravagant costume piece, and NO buying Halloween candy.

Recently,  I ran on to an article in the New York Times about the Royal Shakespeare Company’s costume sale. Wow, that would have been a neat thing to see. I was in England in August and visited Stratford in Avon where the sale was held. If only I had visited a bit later…

Read on.

Ball Gowns, Lace Ruffs and Fairy Wings: Theater History for Sale

By Holly Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England — Have you ever wanted to step into the shoes of a great Shakespearean actor? Over the weekend, shoppers here in Shakespeare’s birthplace, which is also the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, had a chance to walk away with a piece of theatrical history, as the legendary company held a sale of 15,000 costumes and other items.

By the time the sale opened at 9 a.m. Saturday, a line snaked down the street; the first fans had arrived at 5 p.m. the previous day, camping out to secure a spot. Such patience was rewarded, and customers emerged clutching treasures, from the sublime — period ball gowns, lace ruffs, fairy wings — to the ridiculous — gold lamé lion tails and grotesque pig suits.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has the largest costume department in British theater, and it employs 30 members of staff, including experts in armor and millinery. The sale was raising money for the company’s Stitch in Time campaign, to renovate its costume workshop and to finance specialist apprenticeships. Around a third of its stock — items too worn or too specific to be reused — was on sale at bargain prices: from 50 pence, or 67 cents, for a fan to 30 pounds, or roughly $40, for a velvet cloak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The life-span of Royal Shakespeare Company costumes, recycled across productions and for up to 100 performances, is among what makes them special, and every item has a sewn-in label identifying the actor who wore it last, and in which show. Beady-eyed rummagers could pick up Anita Dobson’s grubby underskirt from “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” or Joanna Vanderham’s silver gown from “Othello.” One happy shopper claimed to have found a dress worn by Jane Asher.

It can be bittersweet, however. “What makes this so emotional for someone like me — I put on my first R.S.C. costume in 1966 — are the name tags,” said the British actor Patrick Stewart, who fronted the Stitch in Time campaign. “I already found one item worn by a dear friend of mine, long gone.”

Indeed, among the armor, I came across a breastplate with “Tim Pigott-Smith” written on a label; the British actor died in April.

Even stars of Mr. Stewart’s caliber are not immune to feeling awe when taking on the mantle (at times literally) of acting giants. “I was once given a jacket which I did not really like,” Mr. Stewart said, adding that he had then seen from the label that it had been worn by Paul Scofield, a British actor who died in 2008.

“So of course I wore it,” he said. “Although it had to be cut down, because Paul was a much taller actor than I was, in every sense.”

Performers often highlight how vital costumes are, and by trying on a vast crinoline (used in the “Tempest”) and an absurdly heavy cloak (“Henry VIII”), I can understand why: They completely change the way you move and hold yourself.
“There were times when the costume had a significant impact on the work I would do on that character,” Mr. Stewart said, recalling the transformative effect of a luxurious pale gray three-piece suit worn for a modern-dress “Merchant of Venice” in 2011 — “which I should have stolen because it fitted me so well.”
I unearthed a kitsch, frothy wedding dress from the same production, worn by Susannah Fielding as Portia. Indeed, a whole rail of wedding dresses were available to make wedding days extra special — once they’ve had a good clean, at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside, members of the public emerged enchanted with their hauls. Jenkin Van Zyl, whose parents drove up from London so that he could fill their car, went on quite a spree: “I only wear theater costumes,” he said. “So I just came to top up, but I didn’t realize how cheap and amazing the sale was going to be. I spent £800.”
Shelley Bolderson from Cambridge, England, also wears costumes in her daily life. She said she had been delighted to find a coat made from pages of a book, created for the dancing satyrs in the 2009 production of “The Winter’s Tale.”

“I just hope it won’t dissolve in the rain,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sale is also a godsend for amateur theater groups. Miriam Davies, from Stamford, England, is a costume designer for a company specializing in Shakespeare.
“You can’t really miss something like this,” she said. “Having R.S.C. costumes is a special thing — it’s history.”

Lots of theater companies have costume sales prior to Halloween.  Their costumes are worth the money they ask for them.  Trust me on this.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com

Unique Method to Fight Boredom on Your Next Long Flight

https://www.nbcnews.com/business/travel/bored-your-international-flight-icelandair-just-tried-live-theater-n800956I LOVE unique ideas. Do you? 
How about this one–live theatre performed on a long airplane flight. 

Read on. 

Even with a kooky safety video and a variety of film offerings, long flights can still be boring.

But Icelandair is trying something new: An 11-hour immersive theater production took place last week on a flight from London to New York, with an on-the-ground bonus performance during the layover in Reykjavik.

“We’ve made theater in unusual places but never made a show that started in one country, bounced to another, and ended up in a third on the same day,” said Kate Hargreaves, Founder of Gideon Reeling, the London-based theater company that helped develop the program.

The cast was a mix of professional actors along with pilots, engineers, accountants, ground workers, cabin crew, and other real airline employees who had volunteered to attend a special stage school to prepare for the event.

The characters they played ranged from film stars and flight attendants from various decades to business and leisure travelers, a perky party planner, a vulcanologist, and a farmer — as well as flight attendants from the past, present, and future.
And the performance, which reeled out in entertaining, story-filled, one-on-one encounters at check-in, at the gate and during the flight, hopscotched through time, with some actors playing multiple characters.
There were even a few sing-a-longs and several Icelandic-themed meals during the “Ahead in Time” performance.

Passengers met and had an opportunity to interact with Maria, dressed in a stylish suit from the 1950s, who said she’d be flying the plane; Richie and Cynthia, hippies from the 1960s who met on the road and were hoping to get to Woodstock; Alex, an exuberant, if disorganized, backpacker from the 1990s in search of his passport; and numerous grandchildren and other far-flung relatives of Edda Johnson, a world traveler and former Icelandair flight attendant who had invited everyone to her birthday party but (spoiler alert) was too busy traveling the world to show up.

Icelandair’s one-off immersive in-flight performance (and a series of on-the-ground events in Iceland over the next six months) was sparked by a recent UK-based study in which the majority of air travelers reported being bored during their flights. Three quarters of the study participants thought the people on the plane, especially the cabin crew, could have a greater hand in making the flight more enjoyable.

Responding to that research, “Our program aims to transform wasted time while traveling into time well-traveled,” said Icelandair CEO Birkir Hólm Guðnason, “We’re pleased to pioneer a new form of entertainment and value-added service for passengers.”

‘Hippies’ on Icelandair’s immersive theatrical performance. Harriet Baskas

 “That notion of offering passengers some sort of ‘surprise and delight’ is great,” said travel industry expert Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research, but he notes some passengers would rather use their in-flight time to work, rest, relax, and make their own choices for entertainment.

Still, Harteveldt approves of Icelandair’s effort to be creative and stand out from other airlines, especially as the competition for flights to and through Iceland from WOW air and other airlines heats up.

And while live theater in the aisles might be seen by some as a negative in the air, Harteveldt believes the airline’s Stopover Pass program, which gives passengers entry to special art, culture, and sporting events through April 2018, can be a huge positive on the ground.
“I applaud them for thinking of different ways to distinguish themselves, offering this value-added amenity so that passengers see Icelandair as passenger-centric,” he said. 
Contact me at dhcbaldwin.net or Deborahbaldwin.net

How Fulfilling is Life Without Theatre?

How fulfilling is life without theatre? Not much.   To me, theatre is the Pièce de Résistance!

My favorite of all the arts. I would be lost without it. Life is better with a dash of theatre now and then.

For instance, last night my husband and I attended a community theatre performance of The Crucible.  I don’t know when I last saw this play.  The Barn theatre in Kansas City produced it.  It’s difficult material and can be exploited by those performing in it if the director isn’t careful.  Twice I watched a cast butcher the court room scenes, but this one was tremendously impactful.

This morning, I shared with my husband my brain felt different today.  As if I swallowed some unusual vitamin and I did, of sorts.  A vitamin filled with excellent dialogue,  a well crafted plot and  brilliant metaphor.

The play’s message stayed with me and I have pondered it from time to time today.  That’s good theatre.

My acting teacher at Stephens College, Jean Muir, was blacklisted and never worked again in Hollywood.  Her crime?  She attended a Russian ballet and wrote a letter of congratulations to the company complimenting them for their excellent performance.  I believe her ex-husband reported her. Think about it–she complimented the ballet company. That.is.all.

Jean-Muir-studio-portrait[1]

I met Jean in 1974, nearly thirty years later. She never completely recovered from the false accusation.

 Lucille Ball & Red Scare

Here is Lucille Ball.  Even she was accused, but her career wasn’t ruined.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a metaphor about the age of McCarthyism and the Red Scare but it is as timely now as ever.

And timely, don’t you think?  This week I viewed a short video of an innocent young black man who was accused of doing something he didn’t do.  Hmmm.

The Barn made a good choice in producing The Crucible.

When I attend a live production, I can immerse myself in the story as it plays out before me.  I feel some of the emotional intensity at a movie theatre, but it isn’t the same as watching an actor only ten feet from me as he sweats and cries, begging his wife to forgive him.  Powerful stuff.

I know people who dislike theatre, but love movies. They say theatre is boring.  Really? You can’t compare them to each other, but I understand the reasons for their opinions.

It’s easier to access movies than attend a play. It’s all about convenience.  Movies are available to us continuously. The wonders of the internet have given to us 24/7 access to nearly any movie you’d like to view.

The most important difference between the two is theatre is LIVE. You can’t just sit back in your recliner, take off your shoes and fold your laundry while you watch.

When you decide to see a theatrical production, you make a personal commitment to it. Generally, you’ll need to transport yourself to the show.  You must arrive on time, take the seat you reserved (with a good or bad view of the stage), pick up the play program and deal with audience members around you.

If it’s a comedy, it’s most appreciated by the cast if you laugh or at least chuckle.  Musicals require you to applaud at the end of scenes if they are outstanding.  Have you ever applauded when a famous actress enters the stage the first time?   You have a job to do as an audience member.

 As we view the production, we must concentrate, focus.  We can’t rewind a scene or fast forward through the show to intermission just so we can get a snack. We must suspend our disbelief when viewing a play far more than we must while seeing a movie.

The magic of a live performance makes it all the more poignant.  There is something very special when one observes the dramatization of a particular thought right before our eyes. It is a unique experience.

The actors tell the story as if it is the first time it has been told.  We share the moment with them and others seated around us.  This is human interaction at its best.

Theatre discusses the human condition.  It educates, inspires, broadens our world view, explores self expression, and encourages self empowerment. Besides, it’s a fun way to learn!

As an actor, I’ve experienced what is like to be someone else.  I’ve stepped into their shoes, so to speak.  A well crafted character has flaws and strengths.  I may not have the same strengths and weaknesses. Whenever I perform, it’s a heady experience and one I never forget.  You never view people in real life with the same attitude you had prior to the production. It changes you.

We could lose more than we bargain for if we lost theatre.

 Have you considered theatre uses all the arts–visual art, dance of movement and music? It’s a one stop shop.

Art–Through designs of set, costume, and lights we utilize color, texture and silhouette to suggest themes and mood.

Ponder this photo from “Sunday in the Park with George”, a musical by Stephen Sondheim. In an earlier post, I shared  Seurat’s painting,  “La Grande Jatte”.  Notice the levels, colors, textures, silhouettes? Good stuff.

How about dance?  Or movement?

Image result for Newsies Broadway Musical

If you haven’t attended Newsies  you must.  The dancing is fabulous.  I call it “boy dancing”, because it is.  The choreography is outstanding, clever and joyful.  Musicals use dance to convey a particular message–“Look at us!  We’re Newsies and no one is going to bring us down.”

Physical movement in a play is far more effective than words.  Humans are visual thinkers.  For example, we need the actor to show the character’s depression, so he uses a hushed voice, slouches his shoulders, walks with a slow gait and heavy steps.  Blocking, the physical movement around the stage, encourages the audience to view the production like a living photograph.

As I mentioned above, one doesn’t need to know much more about a play’s story than to merely observe the action.  The above photo is from a production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller.  The Crucible tells the story of the Salem Witch Trials, however it is a metaphor for the Red Scare of the 1950’s.  Isn’t it effective?

How about this one?

I chose this photo at random, because it proves the point.  If you look closely, you’ll see the dancer is behind a scrim.  Yet the actor’s image is reflected in a mirror, but where is the mirror? Look at the positions of  bodies. He is leaning toward her, she is leaning toward him. His right foot touches the floor, as if he’s anchored on earth. She stands on her toes, as if she’s pulled to heaven. It’s so effective. (If you are dying to know the production, it is The Picture of Dorian Grey.)

Music:  When I direct a play, it is my habit to begin my pre-planning by selecting music to be played during the production.  The music inspires me.  It nurtures my creative process while I block the production.

Music does an excellent job of creating mood for an audience.  I will choose period music for a play if it depicts a particular time period in history.

While I directing The Giver, a  play set in a dystopian world, I was stumped on my music choices.  Then I remembered Philip Glass. Several moments in the play call require the falling of snow.  I considered various ideas and finally decided on Glass’ “Music Box”. A  gobo light rotator was hung. It displayed a snow flake-like pattern.  We selected the first 45 seconds of the piece.

Every time the music played, the audience was encouraged to imagine the falling of snow.

Theatre pulls the arts together.  In the world we live in at present, whenever we can come together and consider a social issue, we stand to win.  It’s very easy to become isolated now. Without theatre, we’d lose more than we’d gain.

How have you been fulfilled by attending a play or musical?  I’d love to hear from you.

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

stage manager

Your Backstage Life Saver: The Stage Manager

stage manager

From the Kansas Public Radio Website:

Stage Managers: You Can’t See Them, But Couldn’t See A Show Without Them

On Sunday night the spotlight will be on Broadway stars at the 71st annual Tony Awards. The evening also includes honors for some people behind the scenes — writers, directors and designers, for example — but there are many more, working backstage, who aren’t eligible for Broadway’s highest honor.

If you peek into the wings at a Broadway show, you’re likely to find a stage manager, sitting at a desk with video monitors and lots of buttons and switches. He or she will be wearing a headset — sometimes called “the God mic” — to communicate with the cast and crew.

“I like to think of a stage manager as the chief operations officer of the corporation that is the show,” says Ira Mont, stage manager of Cats.

Donald Fried, stage manager of the Tony-nominated play, Sweat, says stage managers are kind of “the Captain of the Enterprise.”

“I would call us the hub of the wheel,” says Karyn Meek, production stage manager for the Tony-nominated musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. “We are … in charge of communication across all departments. … During the show, we are in charge of making sure the lights happen, the set moves, sound happens, all the things … we are the person who’s controlling all of that.”

Donald Fried was formerly a dancer, and is now stage managing the Tony-nominated play, Sweat. Jeff Lunden for NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Jeff Lunden for NPR

Donald Fried was formerly a dancer, and is now stage managing the Tony-nominated play, Sweat.

Jeff Lunden for NPR

Long before a show starts its run, the stage manager is an integral part of the rehearsal process, explains Fried. “Everything begins and ends with the script,” he says. “I’ve got to read the script, read it several times. Once, just to read it as a person, not as a stage manager or an artist or anything. Just to have an initial emotional feeling for it. Then, I go back and read [the writer’s] stage directions, so that I know what would happen light-wise, how she envisions the props, how she envisions the set moving, people entering and exiting, whether or not they’re changing costumes.”

Once a show is up and running, Meek says stage managers and their teams put in long hours. Her day begins at 9:30 a.m. with cast members telling her whether they’d be in or out of that day’s shows, due to injuries or illness. Depending on the day, she’ll arrive at the theater around 12:30 for a matinee or rehearsal. There’s a dinner break around 5:00 or 5:30, and then everyone’s back at the theater for the evening show.

Shows that feature complicated choreography or simulated fight scenes require daily rehearsals. Sweat manager Donald Fried says they do a fight rehearsal before every show. “We want to make sure everyone is safe and limber, and that the props are working,” he explains.

In the half hour before each performance, the stage manager walks through a beehive of activity, making sure everyone’s ready for curtain.

Meek climbs a ladder to her perch, high above stage left at Great Comet. Actors perform throughout the theater and Meek can keep an eye on them all. Once the show starts, she follows a musical score, with sticky notes showing all of the lighting and tech cues.

Karyn Meek, production stage manager for the Tony-nominated musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, describes stage managers as “the hub of the wheel.” Jeff Lunden for NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Jeff Lunden for NPR

Karyn Meek, production stage manager for the Tony-nominated musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, describes stage managers as “the hub of the wheel.”

Jeff Lunden for NPR

Through one of her video monitors, she can see Josh Groban, who plays Pierre, standing at the back of the stage. By the time the opening number really gets going, Meek is calling cues to the lighting technician every other beat. She literally calls hundreds of sound and tech cues for each performance.

All the stage managers I spoke with started out doing other things — Meek was a costume designer, Fried was a dancer. As a former actor, Cats manager Ira Mont was used to getting applause — but not anymore.

“I don’t expect or look for praise or acknowledgement,” he says. “I am here to support the shows I work on and the actors who do them and that’s what gives me the joy. And I’m very fortunate to have had a 30-year career in a profession that is not easy to get into and is not easy to stay in. I’m a lucky guy.”

He’s got lucky co-workers, too. Even as Mont juggles countless cues that go into a Broadway performance of Cats, over the headset he reminds the cast and crew of one more detail: to gather for a cast member’s birthday toast at the end of the show.

The backstage lifesaver is the stage manager.  Make no mistake about that!

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

Easy Peasy Appetizer Recipe #3

celebrate

You must be looking for an easy peasy appetizer for a party.  I’m here to help you!

This is a continuation of a short series on appetizer recipes which are my go-to’s for any award show or cast party.

Oh cast parties!  Having directed over 250 plays and musicals, I can safely say I am an expert at them.  Most of these productions had some sort of celebration at the end.  Actors LOVE parties, especially when a show closes.  They go through withdrawl when the production comes to end.  No joke.

It’s separation anxiety.  The experience is so very intense and usually joyful, one begins to think she’ll never experience this feeling again.  Your brain is absorbed by your emotions and you really think you’ll never see these people again.

Usually, it takes me about two weeks to “come off” a show.

I walk around my home not knowing what to do with myself.  I’m not used to being home at night, because for the last six weeks I have been rehearsing and/or directing.

It makes me antsy.  My body doesn’t understand the extra energy I have and sometimes I’m pretty gritchy while I adjust back to my normal life.

But I do adjust, sometimes begrudgingly.  A cast party allows for the catharsis one feels at the end.  Good food at the party helps that along.

Check out the others here:

Easy Peasy Party Appetizer #1

Easy Peasy Appetizer #2

Baked Cream Cheese with Toasted Sesame Seeds:

Directions:

Let cream cheese sit out overnight to soften.

In the morning, poke holes in the soft cream cheese and pour soy sauce all over it.

Roll the block of cream cheese in toasted sesame seeds.

Finish by slightly warming the cream cheese appetizer in a low temp oven in an oven proof baking dish.

Serve with apples, pears and fancy crackers.

I hope you enjoy the Tony awards as much as I will.  They always restore my faith in the performing arts, specifically theatre.  For me, the Oscar awards come and go (I understand they are very political) but I truly appreciate the Tony’s.

Break a leg!