Category Archives: Theatre Journal

Marley’s Ghost Appears

Marleys Ghost Appears

I captured one of my favorite moments from this past weekend’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” Scrooge (expertly performed [and I don’t use those words lightly] by Lonnie Appleby) arrives at his home unknowing that he stands on the threshold of a fateful night filled with four visitors. As Ebenezer approaches his door (complete with an amazing gargoyle-like, lion’s head door knocker painted by set designer Mat Kelly), the ghost of Marley (hauntingly performed by Pat Moriarity) appears in a apparition and foreshadowing of things to come.

I loved standing outside the theatre during performances to hear the gasp of both children and adults as they found themselves as surprised as Scrooge himself. I love the magic, live moments that theatre creates.

Speaking of Scrooge…

Wendy and me with our Fezziwig daughters.
Wendy and me with our Fezziwig daughters.

If you read my earlier post, there’s a good reason that Ebenezer Scrooge was on my mind this morning. Wendy, Suzanna and I were in Union Street Players production of Dickens’ Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, this past weekend. We performed five shows between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. In addition, Wendy was in charge of ticket sales and organizing our patron lounge during intermissions. After yesterday’s matinee performance we struck the set and had a cast party last night.

That’s it for Wendy and me for a while, I’m afraid. With our house being completed, an impending move at the end of February, and our settling into the new digs we are going to take a hiatus from performing for a while.

2014 12 07 USP Christmas Carol2

Top Ten Blog Posts of All Time (So Far)

Blog HeaderI’ve been blogging since 2006. In those years I’ve published just short of 3,000 posts. My blog has basically followed three main themes:

  1. General Posts about my life, what I’ve been up to, and etc.
  2. Chapter-a-Day devotional posts. I’ve blogged through the entire Bible once and have blogged through the entire New Testament twice.
  3. Theatre posts about my experiences in the art form I love.

Below I’ve listed my top ten posts in each of these themes, ranked by the number of “hits” or “views” for each post. I found it fascinating to see what posts have received the most traffic.

General
Speaking of Changes in Life
Top Five Things Wrong with “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”
Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 24
Looney Tunes Boat: Lake of the Ozarks Shootout
Day 5: List Things That Irritate You About the Same/Opposite Sex
Day 2: How Have You Changed in the Past Two Years?
Three Indelible Life Lessons from the Game of Baseball
Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral
Tom Vander Well Meet Tom Vanderwell
Day 3: What Kind of Person Attracts You?

Chapter-a-Day
Getting Away from Crazymakers
Art Heals (Continued)
Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 10
Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy
Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 11
The Curse of Being Religious
Here I Am: Did You Call Me? (My Story)
Abraham, Typology, and the Tolkien Geek
10 Ways I Tried NOT to Exasperate My Children
An Old Concept We Still Don’t Get

Theatre
10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success
Ham Buns and Potato Salad
Preparing for a Role: How Do You Memorize All Those Lines?
Preparing for a Role: The Rehearsal Process
Theatre Majors Unite!
Theatre is Ultimate Fitness for Your Brain
Preparing for a Role: Digging Into Character
Keeping Focus When Siri Joins You on Stage
Preparing for a Role: The First Rehearsal
Preparing for a Role: Digging Into the Past

Ham Buns and Potato Salad: Epilogue

The past week has been spent resting up from the premiere of Ham Buns and Potato Salad. After a flurry of activity getting ready for the show, Wendy and I hit the wall as soon as the show closed and the cast party was over. We’re just beginning to feel like life is getting back to a sense of normal.

The show went really well. Attendance was above average for a spring production, and our final performance had the biggest crowd of the run which is usually a sign of good word-of-mouth. The cast and crew were fantastic and I was extremely pleased with everyone’s performances. I was so impressed with the effort the actors put in to their characters:

  • Jana De Zwarte and Karl Deakyne had a monumental task of pulling of the critical second act scene between Marian and Thomas (It became known as the “mini-play”). They had me in tears most nights.
  • My wife, Wendy, and Arvin Van Zante did an incredible job of taking two extreme characters and making them authentic without losing the humor.
  • Lily Villalobos was amazing in her stage debut, bringing sweetness and charm to her portrayal of Abigail.
  • I was so pleased to get Griffin Hammel on the stage before he heads to grad school. His energy on stage as Matt pushed the rest of the cast to raise their game.
  • Mark Moreland and Doug DeWolf did a fantastic job of creating interesting contrasts in Arl and Dean.
  • Denise Gregory and Cyndi Atkins, likewise, nailed their portrayals of Betty and Lola. They became the archetypical small town mother and aunt many of us know.

Mat Kelly and Anne McCullough Kelly did an incredible job designing and constructing the set. It captured the feeling of Hebron without being over the top. Props to Arvin Van Zante for his light design and Cody Kooi for his work on the sound. Anne McCullough Kelly and Liz Keeney were invaluable stage managers and kept the production on track.

I have to give a ton of credit to the show’s director, Ann Wilkinson. Ann did an amazing job of navigating a new and original script. She contributed so many key touches to the action and worked her usual mastery with the actors. The show would not have happened were it not for her commitment to helping with the script from its early stages and her invaluable encouragement and feedback through the entire process.

Last, but certainly not least, my love Wendy has not gotten near enough credit for the contributions she’s made to the play from the beginning. She has been muse, cheerleader, critic, and contributor. She has believed in the script from the beginning and given constant investment and encouragement from first draft through production. It wouldn’t have happened without her.

It was fascinating for me to sit around the post opening night party and the final cast party and listen to the actors and crew continuing to talk about their characters and the story itself. I loved the after show conversations and debates with family and friends about the end of the play and the characters’ choices. I was quietly pleased that the script prompted such on-going discussions. The truth is that I found those conversations more gratifying than the audience’s ovations. My desire all along had been to write a play that both entertains and prompts post show conversation.

What’s next for Ham Buns and Potato Salad? I’ve already been asked permission for a 2015 production of the play by Newton Community Theatre in Newton, Iowa. I’m hoping that other productions will follow. I will continue to pursue production and publishing opportunities. We’ll see where it goes. For now, I’m looking forward to a little break.

More video clips from the show:

“They were in a love triangle.”
“Old Man Schuler”
“All the tact of an atomic bomb.”
“I’m in the book.”

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They Say the Neon Lights are Bright…

The Broadway Theatre, showing the musical The ...
The Broadway Theatre],Manhattan, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a quick post this morning. For any who follow my chapter-a-day posts I want to let you know that a rather insane business travel schedule coupled with it being production week for my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad is going to make my posts a bit sporadic this week.

There is, however, a bit of irony in the way things have unfolded which I’d like to share. In all my travels around the country and and around the globe, I’ve never been to New York City. Late last week I found out I had to make a quick business trip to the Big Apple to visit a client. So after a long day of meetings today I’ll fly to New York for a day full of meetings tomorrow at my client’s office…on Broadway.

The day before my play opens in Pella, I’m going to be standing on Broadway for the first time. :-)

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So, I Wrote a Play. Here’s Your Invitation to See It.

Ham Buns Poster

So, in case you haven’t heard, I wrote a play and it’s being produced by Union Street Players here in Pella. If you’re in the area I would love to have you come see it.

Pella Community Center
712 Union St.
Pella, IA 50219
Thu-Sat April 10, 11, 12 @ 7:00 p.m.
Sun April 13 @ 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are $8 in advance for adults ($10 at the door) and $6 in advance for students ($8 at the door).

Tickets are available on-line by clicking HERE, and can also be purchased at the door of any performance. If you need assistance contact USP’s virtual box office 641.204.1094.

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Five Lessons this Playwright is Learning in Production

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We are a couple of weeks into rehearsal of Ham Buns and Potato Salad, which is a play I’ve written and re-written over the past five years. It will make its stage premiere April 10-13, 2014 in Pella, Iowa thanks to the hard work of Union Street Players.

FYI: I do not have a part in the play. I am working with the director, Ann Wilkinson, and am enjoying the luxury of observing the process as writer and playwright. Most rehearsals I simply sit back and watch and document things with my camera. I’ve had to make some small changes to the script, and have chosen to make others. Ann consults with me once in a while on whether I think this or that choice will work. She and the actors are doing a great job, and I’m anxious to see the finished product.

Here are five things I’m learning in the process of watching a script I’ve written be produced:

  1. The contribution of others makes it stronger. Over the past five years Wendy and I have hosted a number of readings in our home with a number of different people. I’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback and have revised the script based on that feedback. I also had the privilege of taking the script to the Missouri Playwrights Workshop at the University of Missouri where I received incredibly valuable feedback from objective sources who understand the writing process much better than I do. What I’m discovering is that not only did the feedback allow me to make my script better, but all of the readings allowed friends and community members to feel a vested interest in the piece. They’ve had a hand in it. They feel a sense of ownership and responsibility that I find humbling.
  2. You can’t please everyone. Because I received a lot of feedback, I had to make very thoughtful and sometimes difficult decisions about which feedback I wanted to embrace and which I wanted to respectfully leave alone. In the end this is still my vision, my story, my characters, and my script. I have to be true to the voice inside of me and what I’m expressing.
  3. It will never be exactly what you envisioned in your head. I can picture the little town of  Hebron. I see the houses, the yards, the porch, and the swing. I envisioned these characters. I heard their voices saying their lines in my head. Now that the show is in production, I’m finding that the set doesn’t look like I envisioned. The characters aren’t always saying the lines the way I heard them in my head. Sometimes the director and actors don’t get the things which I just intuitively know and understand about these characters and this story. Perhaps a movie script writer can storyboard, direct, shoot, manipulate, and edit the video to get exactly what they envisioned. The stage is a messier artistic playground. The bottom line is that I have to accept that I will never see on stage exactly what I envisioned in my head.
  4. There’s more there than you ever knew or intended. At the same time, I am finding that Ann and the actors are finding things in the script and characters that I never envisioned and that’s a good thing. I’m finding that there are layers to the story and the characters which I didn’t consciously write into the script. In the hands of capable artists the script takes on a life of its own. Things emerge. I’m blown away by it.
  5. You’ve got to let go. A professor of mine, and a playwright, always spoke of the process of writing in terms of birthing. You conceive an idea, it grows and is knit inside you, and then you give birth to it. The birthing process can be scary, painful, and messy. As with parenting, you’ve got to let go and let your baby become the person it was meant to be. Trying to cling and control will ultimately only serve to harm all parties involved.

Ham Buns and Potato Salad will be produced by Pella, Iowa’s award winning community theatre, Union Street Players, and performed April 10-13, 2014 on the stage of the Joan Kuyper Farver Auditorium in the Pella Community Center, 712 Union St., Pella, IA. Tickets are $8 in advance for adults ($10 at the door) and $6 in advance for students ($8 at the door). Tickets are available on-line. Click here to order tickets online.