Even Though I Rehearsed It, This Is What I Ended Up Telling Them…


Last night, we held our orientation for JCS! I don’t know if anyone saw, but after saying hello to everyone, I sat down and scanned the room.  Just seeing all the excited and smiling faces kinda got to me.

When it came time for me to introduce myself and explain how I look at the show, I forgot almost everything I had practiced. I told the cast that “I believe the show is all about love.  Why do the Apostles follow this man? What is he saying that makes them love him?  Why does his legacy entice people to do the same?  I always try to look for the good things and what is supposed to have happened to this man is a tragedy.  So I need for all of you to find your own motivation as to why you love him so much.  On the flip side of loving this figure, what is the response to his death? In our production, no one is to “blame.” Jesus is our puppet master that forces all of the events that need to happen.  He does it out of love, though.  That brings in the guilt.  What could have been done to prevent this from happening?  This is where I hope we can start a dialogue for the people.  In life, we have those feelings of ‘what could we have done to have prevented this tragedy?’  It’s too often that everything we hear is negative, but if we can put more love into the world, maybe we can get that thought out there that showing love to people can help to prevent them.”

My voice was shaky and my thoughts were zipping through my head at a mile a minute and as soon as I began, I knew that what I was saying wasn’t what I had practiced. Then I told everyone they could go, even after we said that we needed to get some info from people .  Ugh, I was a mess.  Not a hot mess, just a mess.

My personal philosophy is to always look at and for the positive things that happen in life. From the daily news to the internet, we are constantly bombarded with negative imagery and words.  Granted, there are a few small rays of light like Positive News and Daily Good.

While I got the end of my rant correct(ish), I feel like I may have confused some of the people, like my Priests, Pilate, and Herod.  I had a great short chat to clarify my intent with Aaron, the actor playing Herod.

Here’s how the spiel went down in my head:

Love is the greatest motivation of all.  That is my personal belief.  If Jesus was sent here for the reason people claim, in the show, why does he doubt his purpose?  Why do the Apostles follow this man?  What is he saying that makes them love him so? Why are Mary Magdalene and Mother Mary the two main people who remain at his side even during the crucifixion?  Why are the priests so threatened by him, if they call him a madman?  Those are just a few of the questions that I would like to present at the moment.  We’ll look further into it as the days go by and by all means bring in your questions too.  It’s things like this that make me feel like JSC is really a story about love.  While this show talks of some of his miracles it never really focuses on them, so in that spirit I would like to present this show to you actors while also adding in the elements of reality and reason.  Going back to the purpose of Jesus, doesn’t his whole existence rest on the idea that he was sent here to die for the sins of the people?  If so, is there really a person to “blame?”  Could this have been prevented? If so, why didn’t they try? In our society today, don’t we look at tragedies and ask “How could this have been prevented?” Can’t we take that thought and become proactive? If we spread love through this world to all people, wouldn’t we suffer less tragedies? This brings me back to my first statement.  Love is the greatest motivation of all.

So, tonight we begin to dig into the songs of the show.  This is such a talented cast (I know every director says that)  I absolutely cannot wait to hear them.  I think I may get verklempt.  I am so grateful to be on this journey with them.  I hope that I honor their work with this show.

Let’s start at the beginning one more time…

Woo hoo!! The countdown to my first rehearsal for the next show has begun! Less than half a day to go and I have to say that I am very nearly biting my nails with nerves and excitement. Orientation for Bless Me, Ultima with Teatro Vision will be held tomorrow.  It’ll be great to finally get to meet everyone that is in the cast.

A brief synopsis of the show is as follows: The Marez family is one full of conflicts.  The central character of the play is the youngest son, Tony.  His mother wants him to grow up to become a priest “which will bring honor to their family.”  His father wants him to be a vaquero or cowboy because “his people are of the llano” and long to be out in the open.  A friend of the family, Ultima, one day comes to live with the Marez family.  Ultima is like a a female shaman; she uses herbs and natural ingredients to cure illness and even curses.  Tony, who has been conditioned to believe that god is only found in church, becomes confused with knowledge that Ultima shares with him regarding what she’s able to do.

One of the things that usually happen during the first rehearsal is a table read, or a read thru.  Basically, everyone just sits and reads the script.  It’s not exciting to describe, but as people settle in to the reading you get to hear the beginnings of the possibility that is held within.  Sometimes, that simple exercise of the table read, creates a great bonding experience if the script is powerful enough.

I’ve read the book and there are a lot of things that couldn’t be fit into the play.  While reading the script, I sort of feel like the transitions between the scenes are a little abrupt.  I will be eager to see what the lighting and scene design team are going to come up with.

Something else that I want to accomplish tomorrow is to set a time for an interview with the director of the play.  I hope to talk to her about not only the play but also Teatro Vision and her experience in theatre.  Maybe I’ll be able to get her to help me score an interview with the playwright.

I am so excited for this next project, and I will keep you posted.

White Christmas Update #1

Wow, we are beginning our third week into rehearsals for the show, but so much has happened so fast that I couldn’t keep up with the rehearsing and taking notes and pictures for these updates.  So, I will have to try my best and do it all from memory.  Bear with me!

Orientation night for the show always carries with it a unique kind of tension.  It’s not defensive or uneasy, it’s just kind of there.  We are all there for the same reason to put on a great show and to have fun while doing it, so there isn’t a need for ego or drama.  It’s not like going to a party where you have the cliques of people who exhibit that kind of behavior.  While there are people who do hang out more often together than with others, they are still approachable and welcome the interaction.  But back to the show…

Everyone was very nice and kinda chatty.  We watched the presentations from the designers and other staff members as they explained the vision and look of the show.  One thing that made me nervous was the Set Design presentation by Stephen Wathen.  In all honesty, I have no idea where they are going to put this massive set and still have room for the orchestra and the cast to move on and off stage.  That will be one feat of theatre magic that I am anxiously waiting to see performed.  If anyone can do it, then I know that he can. The Saratoga Civic Theatre has maybe about 50 x 65 feet of wing space on either side of the stage, and I may be exaggerating that measurement a bit on the high side.  From my understanding, and here comes a huge sigh of relief from the audience, the orchestra will be set up in the wings and not across the front of the stage as the often times are.  There are 15-20 people in the orchestra, so that nearly takes up half of the space on one side of the stage.  I can’t remember exactly how many people Rachel Michelberg, our Music/Vocal Director,  said she will need, and at the time she needed a few trombonists.  You should’ve seen how quickly some people, myself included, whipped out or phones and sent out the call on Facebook and/or Twitter.  Luckily, that’s all taken care of now.  The rest of the orientation was introductions of the cast to one another, and with that we were excused for the rest of the  night, but warned to be ready to work on Monday night.

The first night of rehearsal was the usual figure out which vocal part everyone will be singing, and skipping around the score to familiarize us with the sections of music that we will be singing.  I did arrive to rehearsal nearly 6 minutes late that first night and was given grief, in a lighthearted and non-accusatory way, right as I walked in the door.  I slinked to my chair, and people laughed.  I don’t know if it’s because I got in “trouble” or if I played up the pity tail between the tail puppy dog eyes.  We carried on with the rehearsal, but nearly 5 minutes later, my buddy Brett Carlson saunters in like he’s right on time and quickly grabs a seat as he puts his feet up on the empty chair in front of him.  Throughout the night, he was the target of friendly jabs from Rachel and some of the other cast.  I know it doesn’t seem like it reading this, but as a group we were really beginning to bond already.  Most of the time Rachel would have us sight read the section just to see what we can do.  With me not being able to do that, I would focus my ear to hear what Brett was singing, because luckily he knows how to read music.  So, thanks Brett for the help!  ‘Preciate it.

During most of the rest of the week, our vocal focus was on the number “Snow.”  I personally, am not a fan of the number.  It’s not that it’s a bad song, or anything like that.  I think I just may be over-Snowed or something.  Nothing too interesting happening during this time except when Rachel would stop us because we were creating a few brown notes during the process.  Um, you don’t know what a “brown note” is?  I don’t know if it’s something that my friends had created during one night of our many “rousing” game nights or what have you.  Without being too vulgar, I’ll just say that a brown note is a note that makes your stomach cramp in that bad seafood kinda way.  Nuff said.

Week number two vocally continued with the intricately harmonized “Snow.”  Although, I do have a question, what the hell is “shussing?” I am assuming that it is the sound the skis make during the activity, but I’ve never been skiing, so I can’t say for sure.  It’s just a really weird word to hear and say.  Ms. Director/Choreographer lady, Katie O’Bryon got us moving for the number “Let Yourself Go” and I freaking LOVE it!  The movement is so Gene Kelly/Jack Cole in style that it is a pure joy to dance.  It’s kinda hard to get pictures of it when I’m dancing, but I will try and have some for the next post.  I got partnered with the AMAZING Valerie Valenzuela.  She’s a ball of incredibly supportive positive energy who is always ready to work and laugh.  I am so jazzed that I get to work with her on yet another show.  Speaking of which, I am also delighted to be working with Ben Perez, Stephen Evans, Sven Schultz, Sean Carson-Hull, Frank Sherlock, Heather Schweitzer, Paul Hale, Andrea Stanley and of course Katie who were all in Sweet Charity earlier this year.

Then somewhere between week one and week two, one of our cast members Michael Carey who was supposed to play Sheldrake was nowhere to be found.   The role of Sheldrake has now been picked up by Sean Bender.  I didn’t get to see any of the rehearsals with Michael, so I can’t tell you the differences between the two, but Sean is making the most of Sheldrake and I am enjoying watching him play with this character.  With crisis averted, the show plugged onward.  Then some time over this past weekend, the wonderful Peter Schuurmans, bowed out of the show due to familial issues, and the cast has, in my eyes, lost a great performer.  I hope that everything works out and that he is back on stage as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, this departure has left the role of Private Phil Davis available.  For those of you only familiar with the movie version, it would be the Danny Kaye role.  Then I got a phone call Monday morning from Ms. O’Bryon, asking me if I would be interested in assuming the role.  Well, yeah, I would, but the acceptance was a little bittersweet.  There were many reasons why this isn’t a straight up joyous arrangement.  First, I was truly looking forward to the camaraderie that seems to build throughout the run of the show by being in the ensemble dressing rooms.  Second, I don’t get to dance with Val anymore.  Third, I have to learn two weeks worth of work in four days to keep the show from falling behind schedule. Fourth, because it was under this particular situation.  If it came to this because of  an injury, then maybe I would be a little more happy about it.  And NO, I am NOT wishing him any harm.  He’s a great guy and performer, so don’t you try and twist my words around.  Katie’s called ended with, “so…now this means you have rehearsal tonight.”  Not that I mind, but I was all set to have the night off like the rest of the ensemble.

My first night in the new role was a bit stressful.  I made sure to study the script and music for most of the day, but the music was still a train wreck when I got there Monday night.  In my head, those little voices that said, “Why on earth did they choose you from such a strong cast,” began to play with my head making focus a little more difficult than usual.  Luckily I was recording every note of that night, so I have something else to practice with.  Also, the publishing company has this software called “Accompanease” which is what will be saving my hide during this transition.  I have managed to create a playlist with most of the orchestrations and only the parts that I need to sing.  Lucky for me that little bit of help is available.

Last night, I had to learn the dance break for “The Best Things Happen While Your Dancing.”  A lot of fun, but I was expecting that.  What I wasn’t expecting was how long the song was! The best way that I can equate it is, it feels like I have done so much cardio and I am getting to the point of where I have to stop, but then I push a little further past that.  I don’t know how much I retained, but I know we will revisit that number again, so I am grateful for that.

So my friends, that’s how White Christmas is shaping up thus far.  It’s going to be AMAZING!  Katie’s staging/choreography is spot on and brilliant, the entire cast is strong and great to work with, and Rachel is drilling these numbers into our heads so well that we should know this music for YEARS.  Even me, the guy with the awful memory!

I don’t have a lot of pictures right now, but you will be able to find them by clicking HERE.