It’s a bit premature, but…

I TOTALLY love the cast of Bless Me, Ultima!

Boy, oh boy, Saturday was a blast.  The day started with a welcome by our director Ms. Elisa, then followed by the exciting news that Bless Me has actually just wrapped up filming as a feature length movie!!

Next up were the sound, lighting, and set design presentations.  The set designer said that the stage will be raked, or slanted.  The plan is to keep the show minimalistic to keep the momentum as swift as possible.  There are mini-scenes inside larger scenes, and if there was a need to pause, even the slightest one, for each shift, we could be in trouble of losing the audience’s attention.  In keeping with the less is best idea, the raked stage is supposed to have images of the landscape on it.  I am curious how this will work.  Will the images be projected from behind the platform, or from above? If it’s from above, isn’t the image going to show up on the actors as well?  We shall see…

One element I am really impressed with is that there will be a massive attempt at using as much live music as possible.  Hooray!  I can’t seem to do a show without having to sing.  Haha! Even in the last play I did with Teatro, Hero,  I sang the line: High School…High School Musical 2!

After the presentations, we all introduced ourselves to each other. We took a short break, and then dug into the script.  Things have been changed and reassignments were adjusted, and the train began to move forward.  At first as we began to read, things felt a little tense to me. Not for any particular reason.  It could be that sometimes it’s uncomfortable to read aloud.  It could be that the cold in the room was a little distracting.  It could be that some of the people were missing parts of their script.  After we got about six scenes into the read thru, Elisa stopped us and asked about the themes that we’d come across so far and how we feel about them.  People brought up religion, good v. evil, and duality just to name a few.

Then it got a little weird.  I understand what was meant, but I think it’s a bit trivial as far as the issue went.  What happened was someone said they didn’t like the fact that the word “magic” was used to describe the things that Ultima could do.  The reason was that the term “magic”  made them think of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or something along that line,  or that “magic” was only used for evil things.

I am a little torn that there is talk about changing a word that is the supposed school of altering things either by supernatural means or through knowledge of natural laws unacknowledged by science. It goes back as far as alchemy does. Magic was used long before the likes of Harry Houdini and others had began to create tricks and illusions for entertainment.  What I wonder about is was that something that offended the person who purposed the change due to their religious beliefs or was it because it truly reminded her of parlor tricks?  If its the former, isn’t that why we are here to do this play?  If it’s the latter, do we really have the power to change the words of the playwright if a wording change diminishes the power of the script?

It also made me wonder why no one had problems says “miracles.” Aren’t those just magic?  The difference that was told to me was that one is religious based while the other was more of a hedonist term.  WTH?  This lead me to believe that this group was more religious that I thought and that’s where the whole Magic debate stemmed from.  That makes me a little sad.

When I read the book, what I came away with is that you should question religion.  It’s not something that is only contained inside of four walls.  There’s a lot of back and forth for the main character, Tony, about the belief in the churchy god and the energy that’s everywhere that just is.  That church god and cosmic energy are one and the same.  It’s okay if you wanna believe in both! Now, I don’t mind either way what anyone believes.  That’s what makes the word go ’round.  However, with the church being all greedy and stuff, it acts like a child.  If you were to compare the two, Magic is much older than most religions.  Just sayin’! Churches say, you can’t do this or that.  You can only worship in a confined space surrounded by others as witnesses to make sure you are doing what you’re supposed to.  With the energy, there’s just possibility.  There’s no one saying you can’t.  You must follow your own moral compass and decide if what you do will hurt someone else.

It was a great conversation, sometimes it did go off track, but THIS is why I love working with Teatro Vision.  I don’t get anything like it with WVLO, or Sunnyvale Players, and Saratoga Drama Group.  The people in this cast are all fun loving and easy to laugh with.  It’s going to be a happy, happy experience working with these folks.

Also, for those of you interested in another fellow theatre blogger, my cast mate Jess is the author behind Theatreg33k.blogspot.com.  I am thinking a podcast with her will be a blast!  I’ll keep you posted on that.

My Vision?

On Friday, I got an email from Bill asking that I come to the paper tech rehearsal that night.  A paper tech rehearsal is a meeting between the director, the lighting designer, the stage manager, the producer (sometimes) and from what I learned that night, the choreographer, too. During this meeting, lighting cues are discussed while combing through the script, and sometimes other issues like set change problems.  Well, as I said before, I had no idea that I was supposed to be part of that, and I sent him a reply email that I  had made plans for Friday night.  Those ended in disaster, thanks to parking issues.  I did go to the meeting beforehand, but only could stay for an hour.  I felt like a jerk for leaving, even though they said that it was fine that I leave.

Today, Bill sat with me for a few minutes before (he’s an intense fella; see the video at the end of the post), we began our cue-to-cue session (it’s basically, setting the lights for the actors through out the show, and a lot of time is just the actor standing) and told me that next time I work on a show,  (The fact that he thinks I will do another show in this capacity is encouraging, I think)  I should think about what I wanted the “look” of the number to be.

I never really thought about that aspect of the numbers.  Because of this, I spent the rest of the day analyzing the dances of the show.  I know that I made some choices that a lot of people will stand on their soapboxes and decree as blasphemous, because I didn’t copy the original show.  Here’s a couple of examples:

Big Spender:  Bob Fosse kept the hostesses behind the bar and singing in their poses until they got to the chorus in which they would then explode with energy.  For 95% of the number, the ladies have blank expressions on their face showing their jaded disposition regarding this life.  It’s genius.  However, I wanted a more visceral and predatory in your face type of number. Watch closely, and you will see some of the things that the ladies refer throughout the show.

Something Better Than This:  When I see this number, it’s always a huge dance number, but it hardly ever has any meaning behind the steps. In the original production and the movie, the dance builds as each of the characters begins to believe their dreams and dance with glee.  To me,  the hostesses are in their situation because they either don’t have a choice or like Rosie, they go into the business just to earn some quick money, and then get comfortable with that life.  Because of this, they find it hard to leave.

Rhythm of Life: Bob Fosse almost always pokes a fun finger at religion.  In the movie, when the assistants roll up the doors to allow the congregation in, there are a few people walking and sounding like zombies.  When other people have done this number, it’s usually just about the hippie-ness of it all.  For me, I find that religion is a little crazy with a pops of logic sprinkled in for fun.  I’ve tried to show this, I hope you can see it.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I just figured that this wouldn’t be something the public would get to know.  Since that’s what this site is all about, why not give you some of my thought process.

But back to my thoughts about my vision…while the numbers are sort of what I want, but I had to simplify a lot of what I really wanted.  The changes were made for varying reasons.  So, while I am pretty satisfied with the project so far, I think once the show opens I will be SOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy.  The cast has been wonderful to work with and I would love to do so again.

Speaking of people that I would love to work with again, Bill Starr is a great guy to work with.  I’ve learned quite a few things from him this go round. I worked with him back in 1995 when I played Tulsa for his version of Gypsy.  It was so much fun, but so much work.  Late nights during hell week, and would find me sleeping in the wings or the isles.  Pretty much anywhere that was flat.  Even though, it was 15 years ago, Bill is still intimidating.  And active!