ūüéľHold On My Heart, Throw Me A Lifeline; I’ll Keep A Place For You Somewhere Deep Inside…ūüé∂

Hello Gentle Reader!

It has been a bit, hasn’t it?

I hope you are well and healthy and had a lovely weekend.

Sadly, I found out about two people passing away. Each dear to me in their own way and neither in the same relation circle so it’s like which ever way I turn to face, I have to look at sadness. ūüėí

On Sunday, I found out that my cousin, Scott, but we always called him Scotty, had passed after he’d been hospitalized and a friend from the theatre, Mike, had passed on Saturday.

If there was one great regret that I have about stepping away from family functions and such it would be because of missing my cousin Scotty. He was fearless. A little reckless, but always willing to try dares, and especially gross food mixing stuff. I remember my aunt always yelling at him for doing something but one of the main things was reaching over and honking the horn while she drove under an overpass near their home. He did it every time, so I don’t know why it always surprised her, but it did.

One of my most favorite memories was when my dad took us and my little brother to see 101 Dalmatians in the small movie theater in the neighborhood. I remember there weren’t many people in the auditorium but we were up near the front. Then the scene came on where Cruella DeVil is driving furiously to catch the large truck the dogs were in and she has to miss the bridge and drive down an embankment and into a pile of snow. As she is driving the embankment, she is bouncing all around in her car and Scotty lets out his crazy laugh that has a sort of Pee Wee Herman quality to it. It sounds to old to be a child’s laugh if that makes any sense. Think Ricky Ricardo having a belly laugh. Any how, he lets out this big “HA HA” that is so loud it makes us laugh. Then, after Cruella has got back on the road, there is a point where her hair is all crazy and there is a close up on her red eyes and they have that spiral going on in them.

For some reason, that just makes him laugh more. This in turn makes us laugh and all the way through the rest of the scene up to the crash, we are laughing so hard because of his goofy laugh.

I am gonna miss that crazy kid, but so thankful that he showed me what being fearless looked like.

Mike was a different kind of cat. He was an excellent lighting designer. His credits are in the hundreds, easily. Maybe even more but I know he worked on many of the same projects that I did. I do believe that the first show I had met him on was Gypsy. I didn’t really get a chance to know him until I was in Smokey Joe’s Cafe.

We would talk about his love of dance, the shows that he saw in New York, the show he was going to see on his next trip and sometimes about when he had done shows. I used to think that he was a grumpy man, but I came to realize that he just had a very serious face unless he was smiling or laughing.

I had never seen this happen ever, but once, I think it was during the opening weekend or maybe after the Friday night show of a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, somehow, all of the lighting cues were deleted. All of them. There was nothing and Mike came in and overnight recreated the entire show. When the cast came in for our call, we had no idea until the stage manager had mentioned it. Insane!

I think my favorite thing that I will remember with Mike was working on the lighting for my directorial projects. As a cast member to meet and interact with the lighting designer is fun and cool but as a director your interactions are much more intense. I always would give him so much sass about having to use a fog element in his designs and once he explained it to me, I couldn’t unsee how much it helped.

On Jesus Christ Superstar, not the aforementioned, at the start of the 39 lashes, the lights were much less red and you could see the faces of the upstage cast. As the lashes continued, so did the deepening of the red and we thought pulling the light from the incredible upstage cast would make a kind of hellish looking landscape as they would show as silhouettes and could bring more to the contrast in their position as encouraging the punishment versus when they had supported him. I wish I had a picture from the actual production. This is from tech week.

On Smokey Joe’s Cafe, above is probably my most favorite shot I have of the entire process. Not that I didn’t absolutely adore the cast, but sitting side by side and trying to find the most perfect hue of various lights in the different areas was the most unexpectedly fun part of directing. The back record neon isn’t on and this little moment before we added any color felt like making magic.

Thanks for piquing my curiosity in lighting design and teaching me other ways of thinking about how storytelling can be fascinating and wondrous. Thanks for sharing your stories and ideas.

So pull up a chair and until our paths cross again, my friend, I shall always remember you at your “desk”

Revenge of the 5th…Goodbye to a legend

It’s a sad, sad day on Broadway and the in the theatre community.

The Tony Award winning director and writer, the legend Arthur Laurents has passed away at 93 years young at heart.  He died while sleeping.

He is the author of such great works as Gypsy and West Side Story.  In light of his revival of WSS still selling great houses, he is featured in  a magazine interview.  Just over a year ago, Out Magazine had an interview with this amazing man and you can read it HERE.  He is brutally honest, and actually quite funny in that honesty.

I was so happy when his latest production of “Gypsy” took home so many Tony’s especially when it came to the actors.

I was stunned to know that he was as old as he was.  He was incredibly active and was still producing some fantastic work.

Dear Mr. Laurents,

In a world that is plagued by hatred and greed and corporations and bad politics, you were able to be yourself for nearly the 100 years you’ve walked the Earth. ¬†You were incredibly blessed that you found love, true love in a time when it was forbidden. ¬†I only hope that I will be able to stay in love for 52 years like you and Mr. Hatcher. ¬†I am so relieved that somewhere in the world two men were able to hold their home together for so long while the world went on.

Forever your fan,

Jery.

Courtesy of Out.com via A. Laurents

Thornton Wilder’s Straight Outta Compton!!

Back in 2000, Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy filmed a project about 2 teachers that had no budget and no stage and 2 dozen students but wanted to put on a play. ¬†It’s called¬†OT: Our Town and was released in 2002. ¬†It’s a wonderfully crafted piece. ¬†Click on the link above and you can watch the whole thing on Hulu.com.

The two teachers, Catherine Borek and Karen Green, from Dominguez High School in Compton, CA wanted to put on a play. That play would be Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It would be the first play at this school in over 20 years!!

The doc opens to interviews with some of the students who talk about the school spirit, or lack thereof, and it’s problems and underlying causes. ¬†They are very bright, occasionally inarticulate, but all of them were engaging. ¬†They understand that people have a preconceived ideas of the town of Compton and it’s residents. ¬†They are aware that many, many people think that Compton is only full of thugs and other unsavory people.

The young lady, Ebony who ends up becoming the Stage Manager, says,¬†with the utmost honesty,¬†¬†that the events of the year are as follows: “homecoming, riots, prom, and graduation.” ¬†Ebony and her classmate spoke of how often there were fights in the school between the different groups of students, which are primarily African-Americans and Latinos. ¬†The main line of thought is that it’s pent up frustration that causes these violent flare ups. ¬†The frustration stems from the poor quality of education that the students are receiving. ¬†With public schools needing money so badly, the curriculum¬†tends to be more busy work and less thought provoking and leadership building type exercises that are in abundance in the private schools. ¬†Not only that, teachers in public schools make a substantial amount of money LESS than private school teachers while dealing with overflowing classrooms. ¬† I feel like if the students can see this degradation of their¬†quality of¬†education, you KNOW it’s bad!

I watched with full attention and I actually felt myself hoping that the teachers succeed.  Throughout the piece, you see how Our Town really is every town.  The themes of the play are so simple; they are what everyone experiences through life.  The play is broken up into three themes: Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and finally Death.

These two teachers, after convincing the students how this old play with it’s very caucasian cast is similar to their lives, were determined to pull off the seemingly impossible. ¬†By infusing this play with images of Compton and personal pictures, it really drives home how it’s easy to make this play fit it’s surroundings. ¬†The only thing that stood in the way seemed to be school spirit. ¬†The school itself was only supportive of one thing and it was their basketball team. ¬†In the gym, banners hung crookedly on the walls signifying championships and various titles held. ¬†In one segment, Kennedy asked a student why they couldn’t use the gym for the stage and the student said that the coach doesn’t allow anyone other than his team to make use of it.

It makes me incredibly sad that something as enriching as the Arts always takes a backseat to athletics. ¬†Something that can have an effect on the world with millions and millions of participants will never be as highly prized as any sport regardless of how inane that sport is. ¬†Golf, anyone? ¬†A comedian once said, “how is that a sport? ¬†You take away the ball, and it’s just walking.” ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that sports builds leadership and team work abilities, and in public schools that is much needed. ¬†But why does it always have to be the one thing that only a very few people can take part in that a school prefers to hold holy? ¬†At least in theatre, you have set, light, and sound design; costumes to be created; make up and wigs to put together; of course actors and crew to pull the whole thing off; and if it’s a musical, there’s the whole music section to add!! ¬†All those people working toward a common goal. On top of that, there needs to be someone to help guide each of those groups so that all the sections of the show fit together. ¬†But then what do you get? Oh yeah, another vehicle to build leadership and team building skills. ¬†How many MORE lives are being positively affected?

That production of Our Town sold out completely.  The long hard road it took to make this play happen proves to have been worth it.  The hand crafted signs that were created with markers and construction paper and posted throughout the school paid off.  The audience was filled with parents students and staff who laughed hysterically at times and cried.  Those 24 kids performed their hearts out and you could see how much the crowd and the actors enjoyed the show.

The year after the documentary took place, Ms. Borek and Ms. Green decided to put on another play. It was a stage version of the movie “Stand and Deliver.” ¬†Not only was it another sold out show, but Ms. Borek and Ms. Green were given a $5000 budget!! ¬†Guess what else happened? ¬†There hadn’t been a riot at that school in over two years.

As Ebony says: “I think we broke down a lot of the thoughts that people have about Compton. ¬†You know, it just shows, you know that people are people. ¬†And it really doesn’t matter about race or background and where your from. We kind of made it a universal message. ¬†And then, other people, you know – people who live in Idaho or something, can even relate to us. ¬†That we’re not that different. ¬†But we’re way different from what you think we are.”

Since OT: our town, Dominquez High School has since seen not only “Stand and Deliver” but S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” and “Inherit the Wind.” ¬† All of which sold out completely. ¬†At the time of “Inherit the Wind,” the drama class still didn’t have a stage. ¬†The site for Dominguez High is out of commission at the time of this post, but there is no mention of any sort of auditorium in any of the school district info.