Blog Archives

My thanks to all of you who responded to my personal notice yesterday…


I can’t tell you how much your sympathy and suggestions meant to me. Just getting through this part of my life is so difficult. This poor old fatman (22 pounds down on my diet in the second month) has to come to some kind of way of extending his purpose.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to direct theatre again… can’t get to rehearsals and can’t find a theatre group that might want to do one of my experimental pieces. That is pretty depressing, too, having been creating such events since 1967.

Oh well… lots of blog writing to do what with a big election coming up (that’s how this blog started years ago)…at least that exercises my mind.


I’m on my way over to CATF this morning to interview Ed Herendeen…

Ed Herendeen

Given his tight rehearsal schedule, I have been lucky to snare 20 minutes with Producing Director Ed Herendeen this morning at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. I am doing this for Fluent, Nancy McKeithen’s forthcoming on-line arts magazine which will appear on or about July 1st.

Ed is a theatre professional that I greatly admire and his festival is one of the reasons Elly and I moved to Shepherdstown. Indeed, because of the CATF even more arts organizations and programs have built up here and, if you can’t live in short travel distance to NYC, this is a great place to be.

Anyway, I’ve got to get out of the house. I’ll be back on line later…

The Memorials the Oscars Left Out…

My pal Joe Bratcher turned me on to this in Facebook. As I looked at the list, I realized that there were some great… and important to our cultural historyactors and actresses left out of the Academy Award‘s “In Memoriam” segment.

Nicole Williamson? How could they?

Alice Playten (August 28, 1947 – June 25, 2011) died today…

I was so sad to hear of the death of Alice Playten in a posting from Charlie Leipart on my Facebook Page. Playten was 63 years old.

Originally a television face in a 1970 Alka-Seltzer commercial, Playten went on to act on and off-Broadway, in films and on a number of television shows.

I first saw Playten onstage in the rather abstract off-Broadway musical Promenade by Al Carmines and Maria Irene Fornes, where she played Miss U. She went on to appear in shows such as The Last Sweet Days of Isaac and National Lampoon’s Lemmings (for which she received one of her two Obie Awards.)

Alice Playten was liked and admired by so many in the Theatre.  As Charlie said in his Facebook post:

“What a light and joy Alice was to the theatre. I am stunned and so very grateful that her life touched mine. She brought her amazing talent and joy for living to all who knew her.”

Here’s something for Memorial Day: Dance at the Jefferson Memorial and get arrested!

This happened last week. Did you know you can’t dance in a public place? Can’t kiss your girlfriend either.

Welcome to America.

I don’t usually give such coverage to Libertarians… but this is something that really bothers me. I don’t care if there are demonstrators doing what we really saw as demonstrating in the 60s and 70s… public spaces like National Monuments should be open for such demonstrations as long as there is no violence, no interference with others getting to go to or pass through the area, and no profanity or pornography, etc. This little police action… plus the shutting off of a Press camera (freedom of the press should extend to public places)… is more than irritating. It is frightening.

Adam Kokesh is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War and former US Congressional candidate from New Mexico. Adam has testified before Congress and has been interviewed on CNN, Fox, and ABC. As a Marine, Adam was sent to Fallujah in 2004 and received the Combat Action Ribbon and Navy Commendation medal as a sergeant. Kokesh attended graduate studies in political management at George Washington University and holds a B.A. degree in psychology from Claremont McKenna College.

Show Business Quote…

What a way to start off a Sunday. This is Steve Martin comparing himself with Frankie Valli after seeing the musical The Jersey Boys (about the early career of The Four Seasons), a very talented group:

“I really had no talent at all. I didn’t sing. I didn’t dance. Having no formal talent actually made me original.”

Yeah, sure.

Today marks 40 years since my first Directing project in NYC…

On March 11, 1971, Systems Theatre (the group I originally started in Evanston, IL) did it’s first NYC production: Thomas Merton‘s ORIGINAL CHILD BOMB, which we presented at St. Clement’s Church in their downstairs theatre space.

St. Clement's Church, NYC

Upstairs at St. Clement’s was the famous American Place Theatre which was doing their last season at the church before moving to their new building, where they still perform. While we were doing our production, they were doing George Tabori‘s PINKVILLE, a play about Viet Nam. ORIGINAL CHILD BOMB was about the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the effect they had on people.

This was the first production I did with Edwin Roberts, a great composer (we have done several productions together… most recently the revival of our 1973 Opera for Children THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK) who turned sections of Merton’s amazing original into Gothic Chants. Choreography was done by my friend and dancer Claire Henry, who I had worked with at Northwestern.

The cast was eight people, many of whom I have lost contact with. Court Miller died of AIDS in 1983. Sheila Burns owns a bookstore in Ashland, Oregon.

Steve Schwartz is still in the theatre somewhere (we are connected as “friends” on Facebook). Jenna Holland (which was my ex-wife’s stage name) is retired in California. I wish I knew where Norman Parker was… back in the 80s I saw him on a couple of TV shows. I don’t know where Mardee Kravitt is, either. Last I heard she was doing television producing.

ORIGINAL CHILD BOMB received a very good review from Show Business, a local theatre weekly in NYC at the time. The theatre was small and it was full during the 4 performances we did. We were doing an Actors Equity showcase, which allowed us to use Union professionals for up to 8 performances without pay… we, however, could not charge for the show. So people got to see it for free.

Michael Douglas and the late Raul Julia were starring in PINKVILLE upstairs and they came to most of our shows. Michael told me it helped them get in the mood for their show.

I wish it had gotten more notice… I might have been picked up by Joe Papp or Ellen Stewart and built a really strong Directing career. As it was, I lasted in NY Theatre for another 3 or 4 years before I went into Arts Administration to earn a living.

But, on the 40th anniversary of this production, done long before the internet and with no record remaining except my memories of it, I’m feeling pretty old.

I’d really like to direct The Fantasticks…

I was watching a piece on Ovation today about the history of The Fantasticks, the Harvey Schmidt/Tom Jones musical that ran for 42 years off-Broadway. It made me start thinking, as I have several times in the last year (and some of my friends are really bored with hearing me talk about it), that I have a production of this great show in my head and I’d really like to do it. Right now, if I were going to do it anywhere, I’d do it at Full Circle Theater… but I don’t know if they would go for it.

Since it only requires a piano, it would be ideal for my friend Ruth Raubertas at the Bookstore who did my piano on Hunting of the Snark last year. And I’m sure the voices I need are around… even though it is a seven man one woman cast (we usually have a majority of women who come out for shows). The scenic requirements are minimum and it works wonderfully in a small theatre (compared to the Sullivan St. Playhouse where the show resided for 4+ decades, Full Circle with its 90 seats is like a huge auditorium!)

So I sent an e-mail off to the executive directors and Board President (Robin, Laura and Joe) asking if they had an interest in doing The Fantasticks in the 2011-2012 season. I don’t know when I’ll hear from them… they don’t often respond to my e-mail… I’ll probably have to bring this up in person. If it could be decided early enough that we could do it,  I would have time to raise some of the money necessary for royalties and scores, etc. We don’t usually do advance fund raising for productions here, but I remember when I did Ride The Winds at Laurel Mill Playhouse and had time to go out and raise funds through program advertising and other inventions-of-promotion, we brought in close to $3,000.00 which gave us the set and hall reconstruction allowing us to create a classical Japanese performance space.

Maybe if Full Circle won’t do it, I can find another of the local (say within 50 miles) Community Theatres that will. I’ll keep you updated on this project (and welcome suggestions or leads relating to it.)

Between Cues…

Here in the light booth again on the second night of Thurber Carnival and we’re in the middle of the Grant at Appomattox scene. This gives me a few minutes to start an entry here.

My dear friend Linda Bartash called this afternoon to say she was buying a new car and would have to get rid of one of the other two she has left. One is close to 20 years old, one is ten years old, both are in good condition (Linda takes care of her cars) and Bluebook Values on each are under $2000.00 bucks. The older one has 220,000 miles on it (Subaru), the other has 90,000.  I’m also on line for 2 other cars around here. I don’t know how long it will take to get everything finalized, but I could have transportation back soon at a reasonable price.

— we’ve changed scenes… now in the Macbeth Murder Mystery —

I’m really tired tonite… didn’t get much of a nap in this afternoon which I try to do to keep up with the evening schedule. At least on Sunday I can sleep as late as I want in the morning. We do, however, have a Matinee tomorrow and I have to be at the Theater by 1:30. I’ll have to see what time John can give me a ride in.

— now it is Gentlemen Shoppers… this scene lasts at least 5 minutes —

At intermission I’ll call home to see if my wife has gotten back in for the evening. With luck, the dogs will get their late walk before I get home.

The frustrations of a poorly structured piece…or don’t revise the blocking during the tech rehearsals.

I’m up in the lighting booth, of course, with a show that opens in three days, and the woman who plotted the opening dance number (I hesitate to call her a choreographer)  is changing the blocking AGAIN. On top of that, the music has never really been heard in one piece and the cast really doesn’t know when to start or finish a move.

And I’m trying to light this piece based on where they stop and read lines. Did I tell you we open in three days? One of my cardinal rules when I direct is you freeze the blocking during tech week. If you don’t, you run major odds that the lights will not fit on cue and the show will look like hell.

Not to mention what it will sound like. Using a computer stored score, you should have the music edited down by the first rehearsal… or at least by the start of the second week. I wonder if I mentioned we are three days away from opening?

So now they are calling an extra tech rehearsal tomorrow at 5:00.  Maybe we will FINALIZE something.

But I doubt it. Then again, we open in 3 days.

Today is not working out as well as I wanted…Nobody at the Theatre!

So… I went over to Full Circle Theater and found it all locked up. And apparently my combination for the back door is old because it didn’t work. So I came over to the Mellow Mood to have a cup of coffee, check my e-mail, and wait an hour before going back to see if anyone has shown up.

The Mood is in a Saturday Afternoon, Good Weather, Busy Mode. Students, tourists, a couple of regulars and all the tables are now full. It’s a really pleasant day out and German Street (our downtown drag) is crawling with people. I ended up parking in the hidden space in the Alley in back that I discovered a couple of weeks ago… which will be available until the finish building the new Town Hall and the whole stretch where I am now becomes Employee Parking.

If the weather stays this good, Farmers’ Market tomorrow should be crowded as well. I suggested to Candi that she use Farmers’ Market as a venue for selling ACFF tickets… set up in front of the Library as many non-profits do when they have something to push. I didn’t hear from her on if she was going to do it (I would have volunteered to help her cover the event), so I don’t know if it will happen. Too bad.

Second Cup and still writing! Just called John Case and found out he recorded the radio spot for Thurber Carnival this morning with some of the cast and the Director and they were supposed to be over at the Theatre afterward… he was surprised that they were not. Maybe they took a late lunch break? After I finish this Cup o’ Joe I’ll go over and check once again. If they aren’t there I’ll go home.

Saturday Morning… got a lot of sleep and ready for the day…

Just have to get the dogs walked and I can get off to Full Circle Theater to work on the lights for Thurber Carnival, which opens next Friday. I hope they are building the set today, especially the tent made of alternating strips of fabric and emptiness, just the suggestion of a carnival tent as I understand it. It’s the kind of construction which affects the final placement of all light instruments and I have had to hold off on the final light design until it is finished.

Stage lighting at the Community Theatre level is often highly simplified from major, professional stage lighting. Usually there is the limitation of equipment (for instance, while we have plenty of lights we only have one dimmer board with 16 levers) and certainly there is a limitation of time and number of volunteers to hang and set units (no union crew, no paid staff). We don’t get a lot in the way of technical rehearsals (in Community Theatre these so called “techs” often have actors performing at the same time, taking a lot of time away from the technician), usually 1 on the schedule. So we make just about every rehearsal through the “dress” a tech rehearsal.

As yet, I haven’t seen a full run-through of the show (although I understand they had their  first on Thursday night while I was getting ready for my last set of medical tests.) Monday night will be my chance to plot cues into what I hope is their final blocking. We’ll see.

The last week of setup, rehearsal and opening is very time consuming and crazy and I have one more medical test on Tuesday…EEG at Washington County Hospital… and, of course, the Friday radio show, my Social Security income transfers to Elly’s bill-paying account, grocery shopping, etc. This will be a nutty week and will not have the usual week-end release (we have two shows on the weekend.) As I get older, these final weeks get harder and harder.

Fortunately for this blog, Full Circle Theater has full web access and I can keep the computer up in the booth with me. The blog will go on!

I’m over at the Thurber Carnival Rehearsal…

We’re moving closer to opening and I still haven’t seen the whole show in sequence… therefore the light cues are not set. I’ve got all of the playing areas covered with pools of light… it’s when to switch them on and off (dimmers, of course) and how to group them that haven’t yet been decided.

I don’t think it’s going to be difficult to set up, but I really don’t like waiting until the last minute. I like to get my cues run enough in rehearsals that no mistakes are made during show times.

The cast is doing notes in the middle of rehearsal right now, so I can write this instead of watching where they are moving on the stage. I have about a page of notes so far to reposition some lights… but I understand the Director is changing her scenery concept and it will be going in soon and that will affect the position of lights.

OK… she’s starting up again… back to work

A new application for my Theatre friends to put on their web sites…

I got this from my Thomas Cott theatre mailing this morning… “talkbkr”, a way of getting audience comments from your web site.

From their promotional:

Talkback n – A theatre term referring to a situation in which an audience offers feedback to a production cast/crew.

This is your chance to offer an informal, anonymous talkback/feedback mechanism for your audience members. Put the name of your event below, along with a contact email, and follow the instructions on the next page.

Best of all, it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!

If you want it, go HERE. I’m going to see if Full Circle wants it set up for their shows.

Watching a “Thurber Carnival” Rehearsal…

I’m over at Full Circle Theater (Shepherdstown) tonite watching a rehearsal of Thurber Carnival, picking up a script and a (preliminary) lighting cue sheet and having a talk with Melinda, the Director.

I’m doing the lighting for this one and my Friday morning Radio Buddy, John Case, is in the cast.

The fuzzy picture has John in the second from left position (sorry about that, I used the camera in my laptop with rehearsal lights).

This show opens next month and I’ll have more on it later.