Community Theatre

My (Not so Good) Thoughts on Community Theatre

Jyothi Cross

I was born and raised on community theatre, it helped me grow from a tiny 8-year-old with too much energy and no acting skill to what I am now. I will be forever grateful to the gifts of confidence, improvisation and voice projection (it’s never not useful) that community theatre has given me but over the past year I have come to understand the dark underbelly of community theatre and, in some ways, have come to resent it.

This week I directed my first show, a production of Peter Pan for a school competition, with a cast of mostly 13-year-olds and it rocked. The process was hell, but the show itself – which involved Tinkerbell flying in on a fishing rod to the Mission Impossible theme song and around 20 lighting cues – rocked. Nonetheless, one quote stood out just as we were preparing for our second out of three shows that day:

‘Let’s go show them that theatre kids can be cool!’

It’s a nice sentiment, but a sad one too. These 14 kids worked their butts off to produce a 30-minute show in 6 weeks, giving up most of their lunchtimes and spending however much on costumes and make-up. My co-director and I fell out 5 times over the course of the show and had both lost our voices by the end of it. Every single member of our production gave their soul to that show and all the audience would think of them was that these kids were ‘Theatre Nerds’ who weren’t worth their time. This is the first thing I hate about community theatre, the fact that this audience who would spend their weekends idolizing actors like Zac Efron or Zendaya don’t recognize how amazing these people are to even get up on the stage. Community theatre actors don’t want praise or fame, they act because that’s what they enjoy but are considered leagues below the football team who spend 80 minutes faking injuries and kicking a ball – Theatre Kids are cooler than them any day.

My second reason for hating community theatre? It all stems for the downfall of my local theatre group – my lifeline if you will. I had spent 4 years in a cold Church hall watching numbers slowly decrease until eventually, last November, the group kicked the bucket. I’m not afraid to admit that I cried pretty much all that evening, with my childhood gone there was nowhere to go and in a little town like mine, there were no other opportunities. Community theatre is addictive; it draws you in and then, unless you’re lucky, it doesn’t go anywhere. We get addicted to the lights, to the characters, to the rush of adrenaline when you step on stage in front of an audience even if that audience is just your mum and dad. Unfortunately, this addiction isn’t sustainable. 

Of course, my perspective is from one town in the UK and I know in bigger areas or bigger countries like America the opportunities are more common and there is more space for development but, nonetheless, the facts stand. Unless you are the best of the best community theatre doesn’t go anywhere, instead, it simply becomes a fun story you’ll tell your kids one day. However, people get bored of seeing the same crazy show again and again. They get bored of doing the same workshops again and again. In the moment it feels great but from the outside? People start looking for unique and varied theatre which often leads them to larger theatre companies and slowly but surely your local theatre group dies out. 

Do I sound bitter? Perhaps. I hate community theatre because I love it so much. I love the family, the characters, the training, and I hate it because no-one ever seems to realize how cool a person that makes you. Does that make sense? Put your thoughts in the comments!

 

An Ode to the Small Theatres

Jonathan Fong
Here’s an ode to the smaller ones among us.

Here’s to the actors who toil away in closet-sized rehearsal spaces, warm up in public bathrooms, and stretch on odd tables and benches. To the leading lady bursting with excitement to be let loose, even if only on a makeshift ‘stage’ that’s actually a cornered off part of the gym. To the boy cast in his first show, frantically going over each of his ten lines to make sure he nails each and every one of them.

Here’s to the artists who have to make do. Here’s to the painters who paint masterpieces of backdrops with dollar-store paint and decade-old brushes because they don’t have anything left in the budget to use. Here’s to the prop designers who stuff old top hats with underwear to make them stand and painstakingly tape together broken props that just need to last one more show five minutes before curtain. Here’s to the costumers who play Dr. Frankenstein each time a new show’s put on, mixing and matching costume parts and hats and wigs to make something that, in the end, surprisingly looks like it might actually be right.

Here’s to the crew, scurrying about and coordinating with runners and messengers because they can’t afford radios. Here’s to the volunteer stagehands dressed in varying assortments of black, grey, and the odd white sock from the newbie on their first production who didn’t know they were supposed to wear all black for a reason. Here’s to the stage managers, clipboards filled with unintelligible scribbles and minds filled with unintelligible cues they have to call right. Here’s to lighting, to SFX, to the technicians using decade-old mixers and forever entangled rigging, braiding old cables and wires if only to make do for opening.

And here’s to the director, hair in a constant frazzle from telling people where to go and what to do while himself trying to juggle his brilliant creative direction with the demands and limits of what he has now. Here’s to the choreographer struggling to teach the 10-year-olds in the ensemble how to do the finale song’s choreo the night before opening. Here’s to the friends, the family, those loved ones who inevitably come to support all this controlled madness on opening and closing night (sometimes, the same night). Because one day, maybe all of these people might move on, graduate to bigger and better productions, command Broadway stages and garner appreciation, while the next generation fills their place in the wings, waiting for their chance to shine.

Here’s to the small theatres and what they bring us all.

The Aha Moment

SarahLynn Mangan

As someone who was introduced to the concepts of performing at a very young age, I have never really had that Aha moment of “oh my gosh theatre is amazing!”

I am very involved in my school’s performing arts program and yet did not have the time in my schedule to take the drama class until my senior year. Unfortunately, my school does not have enough drama classes to have a beginning class and an advanced class, making the two that they do have all levels. However, the amazing thing that this does create is an opportunity for everyone to learn from each other. Something I have learned is that when you experience someone else’s Aha moment it can be magical.

I am currently taking part in a workshop that focuses on the “August Wilson Monologue Competition” which takes place in our region in January. This workshop allows students to stay after school and really delve into the works of August Wilson and become exposed to an amazing playwright. There are about seven students who are regularly taking advantage of this workshop and three of them are students who have never really had anything to do with performing before. On the first day of the workshop, they were given monologues randomly that happened to be the mentor's favorite ones and once they had finished reading their eyes lit up with confusion. Confusion at how the monologues were so relevant to their lives, how the words intrigued them, and how they felt the need to tell them to the world..



Another day at the workshop we had to stack chairs that would visually show our characters burdens and then had to push them across the room as we read the monologues out loud. One of them noticed that a lot of the same burdens the character had, they had as well.

The final day of that week of the workshop we each performed our monologues for the group and got feedback on what could be improved and how we could really push our limits. As the mentor was speaking to one of the students urging them to keep going and take the monologue further into the depths of their own lives, they had their full Aha moment. They couldn’t believe how theatre was pulling emotions out of them that had been dug into a deep hole long ago and how the character that was created three decades ago could relate to them in the modern day and a modern life. After that, they became even more engaged in what was being taught and even commented on how theatre is something like therapy.

To see someone have their own Aha Moment was amazing, and I hope to someday be able to give someone their very own moment of discovery in theatre.

 

 

 

 

Performer Misconceptions

Show business is tough. No one’s denying that. But people tend to say things about performing and Broadway sometimes which just strike me as a bit off. So, without further ado, I’m going to be addressing the issues I have with four common Broadway misconceptions.


Getting on Broadway is about being the most talented.

It is. But there’s so much more than that. It’s about checking the boxes.

Broadway isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ deal. The casting director will have specific – sometimes very specific – preconceptions about what they want and who they want for it. You could put a fresh new spin on old material, and yes, even if you can belt a high A like nobody’s business, sometimes that’s just not what they’re looking for. Maybe they specifically want someone of a certain race (a practice I despise, but that’s beside the point) for the role, or maybe they want the entire ensemble to have a particular ‘look’. Maybe they’re trying to find a replacement for an outgoing actor and they don’t want to pay to re-fit the costume (I’ve actually spoken to a Broadway actor who said that they got turned down at final callbacks for one show, then got cast for the very next show they auditioned for, both for that very reason). If you don’t fit what they already have, both metaphorically and literally, even if you’re a just as (or more) talented actor, singer, or dancer as those waiting in the audition room behind you, you might not get the part. It’s just showbiz.

Changing the key is taboo.

Yes, I know no one ever wants to tell their director that they want to change the key for fear of derision and scorn. But sometimes, it really is necessary – and not only that, it can help so, so much. I will admit that songs are often written with a specific key in mind – different keys do sometimes convey different emotions simply by way of the ‘sound’ they produce, something I’m sure those with perfect pitch often sense either consciously or unconsciously. But I say changing the key doesn’t ruin a song - it just lets a performer put their all into their performance in a way the original key wouldn’t have allowed them to. In Legally Blonde, the key for the ending of So Much Better has been lowered three full times since the first demo recording – originally written in A major, the song was first shifted down to the original Broadway key of G major then all the way down to F-major for all subsequent professional productions (as licensed by MTI). And yet, the sheer power of the song hasn’t been changed at all – most people, quite frankly, haven’t noticed, and I for one am continually impressed by the blonde belters who pull off the number with pizazz. During his tenure in Newsies, Dan Deluca had the key of Something to Believe In shifted down a step from G major down to F major, a key change allowed him to pull off one of the most romantic performances of the song I’ve ever seen.

The lead performer is always the best in the cast.

This one goes along the same lines as the first one about being the most talented. The lead might not have the best voice or acting chops in the cast, but they might have the best work ethic or, dare I say it, the star power and appeal to draw audiences to a show (yes, I’m talking about stunt casting), all things essential to a show’s financial success as a business. In other words, they just happened to tick the right boxes. But that in no way diminishes the talent of the rest of the cast. The supporting character might not have the high G in their repertoire that the lead does and which might be necessary for a certain role, but given the chance maybe they too could make a full audience cry on cue. The understudy might be an up-and-coming talent who simply doesn’t have yet the resume of the established lead actor (Jeremy Jordan, known for his Bonnie & Clyde and his Newsies exploits but lesser well known as a former understudy for the role of Tony in West Side Story on Broadway, comes to mind). Suffice it to say that someone having top billing in a show’s Playbill doesn’t equate to them being the best in the cast



The best performers are those that never fail.

For this last one, I think the following saying conveys my thoughts better than anything else: “Don’t judge a blooper reel by a highlight reel’s standards.” You might have seen a star deliver moving performance after moving performance to an enthralled crowd of thousands leaping to a standing ovation. But you probably haven’t seen them cry after being turned down for the part again or rip up their sheet music in frustration after the tenth vocal crack of the day on that one high note (Laura Bell Bundy in Legally Blonde comes to mind – not vocal cracks specifically, but you can tell from recordings she struggled at times with the ending note in “So Much Better”, even if the rest of the performance was good enough that you were too distracted to notice when she took a breath in the MTV recording of the show). You probably haven’t seen them shudder with nerves in front of an opening night crowd or fall in rehearsal three times in a row. And I know for a fact that some of the best performers in the world have done these very things. Why? Because the best performers aren’t those who never fail. Those don’t exist. The best performers are those who work through and work with their failures, using them to make themselves better and more consistent as performers and stronger as people.

Getting Ready for College Auditions: Part 1

Henri Tomic


It's almost Halloween and Holiday Season, and what does that mean for high school age theatre kids?

Right: College Auditions, Unifieds, Preparations, getting your book sorted, and oh wait, that's not even everything yet, for many there is this small detail called graduating from High School. It is very easy to get caught up in this jungle of new things, decisions and constantly having to prove yourself. But trust me, in the end, everything will be worth it, and you will look back on everything you learned in this intense time.

But to make it even a tiny bit easier for you, I will answer a few burning frequently asked questions (aka what I wish I had known back then)


When is the right time to (apply/) audition?
In general, there is no right and wrong, and if you're incredibly talented, you might just as well get accepted if you attend the very last audition. However, bear in mind that each school has a certain number of places to fill, and if you therefor the first audition, you might benefit, as they still have all their places available, and they can't really know who else will come up for the other auditions. Meanwhile, you might experience that at certain schools for later auditions either all applicants compete for just one or two remaining places, or even that they are already full before you even enter the audition room. In the end, it's all a matter of luck and who comes in at the right moment (e.g. after a terrible applicant) so go with your gut feeling, but as a general rule of thumb the earlier, the better. (Also you might have less stress with your exams then.)


How to find the right school/college etc. for me?
This is a tough one. First of all, it is important to acknowledge that there is no school that is right for everyone. Some people need a high standard, big groups, and a lot of competitions to thrive; others need a more personal experience with teachers tracking their individual progress. Some want to be close to a theatre to get inspiration in all the hard training; others want to save on accommodation. So really and truly there is no right and wrong, and if you have it in you, you can make it on Broadway or West End, regardless of your school and background. This doesn't mean your choice is irrelevant, though. In fact, it is crucial that you get to the very place you can be. Don't let yourself be fooled, though, by glamorous reputations or big names, acting, singing and dance are about connections, on stage or camera. This means you need to be able to fully connect to your tutors and open up to them, if for some reason a world-renowned college felt wrong for you, and you didn't feel a connection at your audition or research, forget about it, and you might find that your heart leads you to a very different lesser-known school. And fast forward ten years you will be their first big name on their homepage.



What to expect at auditions?
All schools have their very own method of finding their students. Nevertheless, everyone (for MT) will want to hear you sing, they will see you act mostly by using a monologue, and they will see you dance/move.

When it comes to singing they will more often than not ask for two contrasting songs, i.e. a classical one and one that is more contemporary, of which one is more upbeat and uptempo than the other one. Here it is important to make the right choices and choose songs that highlight your talents, but at the same time come very natural to your voice even under pressure and allow you more for storytelling than just forcing these high notes. Keep in mind that you might not have had a sufficient warm up before an audition that might be either very early or very late and you will be very nervous especially in the beginning. The panel is looking for you telling a story and performing in front of an audience rather than you showing off (and potentially failing).

Consult a vocal teacher and experiment with a number of different songs that work for you. Try to surprise the panel and find something that they haven't heard a million times already or reminds them of their last breakup etc.

When it comes to acting, nine times out of ten, they will ask you for at least one monologue. Obviously, I could give you hours worth of advice about posture, diction, intentions, objectives, Stanislavski, pauses and so on, but that's not the point here. Something that helped me a lot to boost my performance and to improve in all of these areas was to drop the idea of it being a monologue. When we think of monologues, we think of somebody delivering over-dramatised lines, standing in front of a panel. But guess what, they weren't written in that way, in fact, did you ever see a (good) show and even noticing a monologue (although they were guaranteed many)? No one writes a monologue (at least no playwright), they are merely part of a play, and we must think of it as a mini-performance (think off-off-off-off-off- Broadway). This idea helps a lot, but there is something about the idea of being on stage, in a play, that automatically makes us slow down, move, and not weirdly wandering of into acting land. In your audition you're performing a one-man play in front of a tiny audience, and you need to behave that way. Think back to some of the great plays (or movies ) you have seen where the character bursts into a very dramatic and emotional or inspiring speech. For once, now, that's you, and you want to make an impression.

Other than the monologues you probably will have to do some kind of improvisation, physical theatre or any other interacting acting exercises. Here they want to see how you can pass energy back and forth. The key here is simply to go with it (as crazy as it might seem) and not be afraid to make yourself a fool. Because if you're doing awesome everyone will admire your performance, if not, you won't see any of them again anyway, so why even care about them. Make sure to be kind and friendly to everyone and collaborate well, communication is key here.

When it comes to dance and movement, there isn't much you can prepare, other than to attend as many jazz dance and ballet classes as you can, preferably by several different teachers, so that you get used to different lesson- and choreography styles.

Make sure, to be honest in the audition room and ask whenever is unclear, if you consider yourself more of a mover, don't try to hide this but work as hard as you can. Dance teachers love it if you're trying to go the extra mile working extra hard to get it right, practice even everyone else is taking a break and ask them for advice if just don't seem to get it right. If they know you are a fighter, they can get you anywhere in three or four years.


How to deal with nervousness/anxiety?
Everyone is nervous at auditions and that is completely fine, the key is to channel your nervousness to give you energy and focus, rather than to hinder your performance.

There are a couple of things to think about that might help with that:

Number one, everyone behind the table is on your side. I know this isn't easy to process, but what I mean by that is, each of them is hoping to get the best students for them, and they are sitting all day there waiting for that to happen. In fact, they might even have higher hopes in you than you in yourself, because if you were this perfectly talented student, they wouldn't need to keep searching and staying there every week/month looking at more and more applicants. This means if you mess up you're beginning or don't hit this important note, don't let it determine the rest of your performance, they want you to be good, and they want to get to know you. Because after all the one thing they are looking for is if they seriously want to continue working with your for all these years, so if you're enthusiastic, open to their feedback and kind they will see that and overlook where you still need training. They are looking for potential and passion and not perfection because it would be incredibly boring to teach a perfect student.

Another image that helped me a lot was to see the whole thing as a performance opportunity:

You want to be on a stage in the middle of hundreds of spotlight, performing in front of thousands of people, many of you will have done some kind of performances before, and I'm almost certain you had more than 2-4 audience members ;) This might just be the most relaxed performance you will ever have, an incredibly tiny audience who are all on your side and haven't paid thousands of dollars to see you perform, they have no expectations and want you to be good, you will never experience such a forgiving audience in a Broadway theatre.

So dive right into you're work from now on, every minute can be used productively, you got this! Fingers crossed and break a leg, and see you on Broadway!!!




Adventures in Community Theatre

Amelia Nolan
As someone who has been involved with local theatres since the age of seven, I can verify that theatre truly does shape a person, in more ways than one. Over the past eleven years, I have gained experiences and created memories that will forever be part of who I am both on the stage and off the stage. I’m going to take you on a trip down memory lane and recall what a few key shows meant to me or the lesson that they taught me, starting at the Yellow Brick Road.

Photo by sshepard/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by sshepard/iStock / Getty Images

 

My very first show was The Wizard of Oz. This experience started off a bit weird because I did not even go to the official auditions. My mother was signing me up for one of the acting classes at the theater and the director asked if I wanted to audition for the show, but since the auditions were actually the next night, and we lived almost an hour away, he decided to let me just audition while we were there. I sang “Reflection” from Mulan, which I had been competing with in the vocal categories of dance competitions that year. I was cast as a principle munchkin and I had a few lines, one of which was to sneeze and then blame it on my sinuses, which funnily enough kind of foreshadowed my sinus surgery that I had to have when I was seventeen. I was the only one in my class at school who did this kind of thing, so my teacher convinced the principal to take the entire second grade to go see it during one of the shows that were specifically for field trips. I can’t recall anything this show taught me because I was pretty young, but it definitely instilled in me a passion for performing on stage as an actress, and not just a dancer, singer, and pianist.

 

The next show that sticks out to me would be the second time I was in Annie. This time was at a different theater. My parents had grown unhappy with the original one because of the increasing cast fees and the fact that the director would double cast the entire cast, not just the leads, so I was only able to be in half of the shows. My new theatre was a lot smaller, actually provided costumes to the cast instead of having to make them, and did not have any cast fees. I was ten going on eleven at the time, and I noticed a difference as soon as I stepped foot into the building. Everyone was very welcoming and kind, and they actually took time to get to know me a little during my audition instead of just allotting me thirty seconds. I got a callback for the part of Annie, but unfortunately the role went to a girl a bit older than me and I was cast as Kate, for which I was still very grateful and excited about. This show with that particular group of girls was so much fun, and even though there was a little preteen drama, a lot of us are still in touch even today. This show taught me that you don’t have to just stay at one theater all your life, but it is alright to have one that will always feel like home.

           

The next show is Murder on Center Stage. It was my first straight play other than the small ones my acting classes had put on. The theatre has a teen/young adult program called Explorer’s Post, which is chartered through the Boy Scouts and only people between the ages fourteen and twenty-one can participate. Therefore, this show was completely teenagers, including the director and tech people. We did have adult supervision, of course. This show is about college theatre kids who get locked in the theater all night. Spoiler alert: there is no actual murder in this show and I was disappointed when I found out. I played a character named Alice, who had a crush on one of the guys, but he didn’t like her back (story of my life). This show taught me that it’s okay to be imperfect. There was not a single time where there were no mess ups. I knocked over a chair one night because my jacket got caught on it as I stood, one guy fell too far upstage and hit his head on the ladder that was part of the set, and one guy even accidentally revealed the fake murder because he said his lines out of order. It also taught me that having a small cast (there were nine people in the show) is really fun, but it is also more challenging because it is harder to cover up mistakes.

 

Next, I want to talk about Cats. This was an interesting experience because we had to change a lot due to unforeseen circumstances. First, we had to get a new Old Deuteronomy because of scheduling conflicts. Second, our Rumpleteazer was basically kicked out of the show so someone else played her. Then, our Demeter broke her leg, and this is where it gets tricky. I played Demeter in Act 1 and another girl played Demeter in Act 2, but only the other girl was named that in the program; I was technically playing Tantomile. The absolute strangest thing to happen was that our Skimbleshanks quit a week and a half before opening night so the guy who played Munkustrap just sang the song in third person point of view instead of actually having someone play Skimbleshanks. This show pushed every limit I had. I was a dancer, so I was used to heavy dancing but nothing of this caliber. While I was at rehearsal or during performances, I had an immense amount of energy but as soon as I got home, I would crash for a few minutes before getting right back up because I was balancing this show with not only several Honors classes, but also my other extracurricular activities. I actually had to leave my dance recital after my last dance and go straight to a show. This show taught me that as a performer I need to be flexible and versatile because you never know what may happen and when you may need to step up and replace someone.

 

Right after Cats, Explorer’s Post put on a production of Snoopy. I was originally cast as the understudy for Peppermint Patty. Because I lived so far away and my mother expressed concern that I would have to go to all the rehearsals but only be in one show (I wasn’t old enough to drive yet so she had to take me), our director offered for me to be the stage manager instead, which I gladly accepted. Fast forward to opening night: the headsets the director and I were using broke and the walkie talkies didn’t work either. This resulted in us texting each other about cues. This show taught me that things don’t always go as planned and that being back stage can be just as fun as being on stage.

 

The last show I want to talk about is Willy Wonka, another Explorer’s Post production. This was my last show because senior year of high school and freshman year of college didn’t allow me any time to be in any shows. I played Mrs. Gloop, and it was a challenging role for me because I am an alto and her parts lean more towards soprano. Also, I’m a bit introverted and I had never had to play a very dynamic character before. so I had a hard time being as loud and dramatic as I needed to be, especially at first. I also learned about the joy of quick changes. We all played children in “Candyman” and then I had to run into the costume workshop, which was right offstage and completely change costumes. I had to put on a “fat suit” that had the stomach padding removed so it was really just huge breasts and a huge butt, and I also had to put in three hairpieces because our director decided that I didn’t have enough hair. This show brought out a confidence in me that I didn’t know that I had before, and it will always be one of my favorite experiences.

           

In conclusion, community theatre is so unique because not only is it accessible to more people than Broadway or West End it is something you can immerse yourself into. If you haven’t already been involved with community theatre, I highly suggest that you do so; it is never too late. The friendships and memories you will create are so special and they really allow you to discover new aspects of yourself, other people, and the world around you.

ATB Drama School Packing List

Drama School Survival Guide - Part 1: Getting ready to rumble - BFA / MT Shopping List

Anyone who ever chose to go for a course in Acting, Drama, Musical Theatre etc. knows this weird feeling you have the weeks before your course start: these buzzing sensations of excitement and happiness on the daily, and yet you’re somewhat scared. I mean, leaving your hometown, family and school is pretty scary enough, but there is also that sudden realization that you might no longer be the strongest dancer, singer, and actor in town.

You might be asked to compete with 2nd and 3rd years and mostly you don’t know anyone. As the weeks pass, suddenly you are facing all sorts of burning questions: “What do I take with me?", "Am I good enough?" and “Do I have what it takes?".

Consider this series to be written by ATB Members for ATB Members, and we will try to address all your questions and worries. We will make sure you take the most of your course whether it is at a small school, or a highly recognized university; whether it’s in the US, the UK or anywhere else in this world.

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

 

This week we’ll start with the basics, what to do to prepare, what to pack and some general advice to calm your nerves.

We collaborated with nearly a hundred ATB Members, and here it is:

THE ULTIMATE ATB PACKING LIST


For your Course

This is certainly only a guideline to help you with the process, most schools will give you some kind of an (often times) incomplete checklist, but obviously if in doubt, always go with what your school says and ask someone there. The Obvious:

-          Loose and fitted plain black clothing (i.e. jogging pants, leggings, t-shirts etc)

-          Jazz shoes/trainers make sure to try a couple of different ones on, some people prefer harder soled, some softer, some splitter and so on

-          Ballet shoes

-          Ballet tights/Leotards Make sure you have enough, you will be dancing a lot if you do MT and that might get really sweaty, start stocking up!!!

-          Tap shoes

-          running trainers  (indoor and outdoor) most schools won’t have special colour regulations here, but if you want to be on the safe side go for pure black

-          Girls- Character/practice skirt, character shoes (black or tan, with a heel of at least 2-3” (think LaDucas), Sports bra

-          Boys- black character shoes (smart brogues), Jockstrap/dance belt (look for something in either nude or black, but make sure you feel comfortable in it, it doesn’t help anyone if it’s perfectly tight, if you’re not going to wear it)

-          Bone prop (Especially UK Schools will ask you for that, it is a device to train your acting voice ) and Hand Mirror for your voice lessons

MUST-HAVEs

-          a pretty/cool/handy water bottle (keeping yourself hydrated is crucial)

-          A Bag where you can carry a lot with you (dancing stuff, sheet music and scripts do need a lot of space)

-          I found it useful to get packing cubes (google it), one for each style of dancing etc., that allows you to find the stuff you need much quicker and make sure no drinks or ink spills on your expensive shoes.

-          headache pills, vitamins, skin care, heating pads and cool packs for muscle pains, cough drops and any other things you can think of to secure your health

THINGS YOU MIGHT USEFUL

-    good speakers and headphones this might sound very random, but it actually might be one of the things of this list you will need the most. First of all, being able to just relax and calm down with an hour of Netflix, will energize you for all that is ahead of you, but more importantly you will be introduced to a lot of fantastic music, and you want to do the music justice and listen to it in a proper manner. It will also come in handy for warm-ups and practicing your routines with your classmate.

-    microphone/camera to record yourself while singing and acting to improve yourself, and later for potential self-tapes, when your phone isn’t doing a good enough job.

-    yoga strap - stretching is important and won’t kill you :)

-    some acting and theory books to read - we will be giving you a more specific list on that throughout the year

-    a piano or an app that allows you to fine tune your pitch

-    basic costume items sometimes, especially if you work on your own pieces, it might help you to have things like a hat, a scarf etc. at home to get into character.

-    songbooks and sheet music usually you will have some sort of a library in school, but having the score of Hamilton at home won’t only seem professional and prepared but also makes a pretty item on your shelves.

-    pointe shoes many schools don’t require pointe work, but if you’ve been trained on pointe shoes before, why not continue your training outside of class.

-    barre this might sound crazy, but getting yourself a small barre for your room allows you to train on your own, and they start at around $50 (think about getting a used one), it also makes a lovely decoration item for your room and shows everyone what your passion is.

Gender Neutral Makeup Essentials (as recommend by the make-up-artist of WICKED UK

This is like a cheap and easy starter set for people with less make-up experience (aka most guys). It works perfectly both for stage or camera work and I created that list for myself with the help of a make-up artist working at the London Production of Wicked. I keep everything in a small transparent bag (the ones that are actually made for taking on an airplane: they are handy, waterproof, and really cheap). I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with make-up, because more often than not you will have to apply your own make-up, and you better get some practice while you’re still in the learning phase.

-          facial moisturizer - this is crucial, all the sweating and any products will dry your skin. Keep it hydrated and there is less work for your make-up artists. There are tons of products for both guys and girls

-         mattifying powder - get one in your skin town or transparent, you will need it for the stage as well as camera work

-         oil blotting powder - these are awesome, they take away your sweat and work similar to the powder, but you just wipe over your face and you can go back on, you will find them on any movie set especially for male actors

-         concealer/cover stick - we all have our tiny imperfections, and especially if you have no makeup experience, a cover stick is much easier to use than any kind of foundation

-         large brush to apply powders

-         cosmetic sponge - always useful

-         hand cream - not really makeup, still very useful

-         sunscreen transparent spray (for filming/outdoor productions) - this is something I’ve discovered on set, these are sprays which you can just apply, they are completely invisible and no rubbing in required; Great between takes.

-         lip balm

-         toothpicks - there always might be some food stuck in between your teeth, and it can be really distracting to the audience

-         fixing spray - the very first thing to apply to your face, and everything stays where it should

-         fixing powder - if you want to be sure, add some fixing powder at the very end

-         Good deodorant - Did I mention how sweaty your course is gonna be?

More advanced (for girls or experienced guys):

Won’t explain anything here, you girls know your make-up best, but just to put it out there:

-         base / foundation makeup

-         blush

-         eyeliner

-         lipstick

-         eyeshadow

-         mascara

Stationaries - because come on who doesn’t love them?

-          extra pencil - trust me, you’re gonna need them.

-          a highlighter because you’re basically gonna live from scripts and sheet music

-          black binders, auditions might come up sooner than you think. I recommend getting two, one for sheet music, and one for scripts etc.

-          a couple of pretty notebooks (one for each class plus one for random ideas)

-          sticky notes make you look so professional ;)

For Your (New) Home

Dull but useful

-          Storage containers (or IKEA blue bags) Towels, one big and one small

-          Hangers

-          Stool or chair*

-          Laundry bag to hide those dirty socks and leotards

-          Bedside lamp*

-          Bin*

-          Dustpan and brush

-          Alarm for when your phone dies - trust me it happened to most of us

-          Plates, bowls and mugs

-          Spatula

-          Cutlery (and a sharp knife)

-          Can opener – tinned tomatoes are your new BFF

-          Corkscrew/bottle opener yeah, drinking is still important

-          Pans including frying pan

-          Food containers (for the fridge and cupboard)

-          Duvet, a double is a good idea

-          Duvet cover and sheets (x 2 sets)

-          Plants you can’t kill, and that won’t kill you. Guys leave your Audrey at home!!!

-          Rug to cover up that hideous carpet you might get in certain dorms or flats

-          Everyday Clothes - might be obvious but bring enough clothes for potential filming, nights at the theatre etc.

-          Toiletries - whatever you’re used to

* Might be already provided

To make your life more enjoyable

-          Cuddly toy to see you through the sad times, get out you’re Olafs and Pooh Bears

-          photos and posters for once homesickness kicks in

-          Fairy lights and candles (if allowed) for instant atmosphere

-          Humidifier and a steamer - must-haves for every singer

-          Washi tape (doesn’t mark the walls)

-          a mini fridge this is something almost everyone who lived in halls/dorm recommends

-          Lots of cushions, you’ll live in your bed whenever you’re not at the studios

-          Throw/blanket

-          you might want to get a big mirror to allow you to go through your dance routines once again

-          spare cables and chargers - these tend to always break when you really need them; having a couple of them in store will make your life so much easier.

-          talking about charging, listening to music and watching your routines on your phone will really drain its energy, a good power bank, will safe you when you don’t have a plug nearby.

 

This is everything we could think of, but obviously, not everyone is the same, we had really opposing viewpoints from literally “take everything, trust me you will need it” to “Bringing too much unnecessary not only makes it more likely to forget something, but it wastes time and energy to transport. Only bring as much as you need. “

So, the truth lays somewhere in between, go ahead and customize your personal list, it might be you have more or less space, more or less money, and so on…. But this list should serve as a starting point and provide some inspiration. 

Here is a selection of quotes from what I have collected, to make it a bit more personal:

"I had a bag of clothes just for theatre. The bag included my obvious dance clothes and shoes but other things like I had my own corset for period shows, long consecutive skirts, big flowy ones, cute flirts ones and of course all the super fun Halloween tights and shorts for dancing rehearsal. I also was great at making things as I needed them. We did Beauty and the Beast, and the plates were having spacing issues during dance rehearsal, so I used hula hoops and strapped them to their backs to get an idea of how much space they needed once they had their costumes. College was where I learned to live a minimalistic lifestyle. I learned quickly that everyone you meet at college brags about all the roles they had and the shows they were part of, but most of them have never been on crew, or built sets, made costumes or been in the pit. Having been on every aspect (required on my high school and at desales) made surviving easier. I didn't bring anything from home with me, except my music note bedspread my grandmother made. “- Deanna Young

“Bring a mini fridge that you can stock with food/drinks that remind you of home or foods you love! But also put some fruits and veggies in there, love yourself. A pitcher with a water filter will save you soooooooo much money on plastic water bottles. I suggest getting Amazon Prime, especially with the student discount, it makes life easier!” - Ashley Offmann

“Pack a bunch of nice clothes/things you look really good in. You're going to be performing a lot and (at least for me) I'm one level less anxious when I have my outfit together.” - RJ Christian

“For packing you definitely need jazz shoes and ballet shoes and pointe shoes. Being a theatre student, your best friend is to always have tea and water and cough drops! I don't have a roommate, so I brought all my posters and playbills but really, bring pictures of friends and family because theatre can be a hard major and you need to remember all the love and support you have!” - Marcus Thomas

“For starters...make sure you're allowed to have some of these things. A Keurig sounds nice if you're a coffee drinker (caffeine yuck) but it might actually be a banned item. 

"In the movies, dorms are these awesome spaces. Room for everything. In real life it's nothing like that. If you're going to get a humidifier get the smallest one you can get. The rooms are small and outlet space is at a premium. 

"Speaking of - curved surge protectors are the way to go. Something like Flexigon on Amazon. 

"Invest in a good mattress topper. Even getting one of those foam egg crate things. Dorm mattresses are evil and do not do a body good.

"Get sticky poster tac. My first dorm room had block walls. Couldn't use push pins for my posters.

"Unless you're renting from the school don't go halvsies on anything with your roommate. That way you know what belongs to whom if one of you leaves mid-year or decide not to room together the next year. Instead talk beforehand and decide who is bringing what. This goes for traditionally shared stuff like fridges, microwaves, and TVs.

"Get a smartkleen ball. They ionize the water in the washer to clean your clothes. They last over 300 washes. 

"Oh, and don't get one of those expensive shower caddies from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. A plastic basket with a handle from the dollar store suited me just fine.” - Kristin Márie Veronica

“Must haves (health-related): steamer, all manner of sports guards (e.g. knee, elbow, ankle), all manner of heating and ice packs for those sore muscles, all manner of heat ointments, sports tape, compression gear (I slept in them a lot of the time to improve blood circulation and the promote faster healing), all manner of medical ointments (hot and cold), a gym roller and hockey ball for deep tissue massage

"I made a (vile-tasting but incredibly effective) concoction of apple cider vinegar, raw ginger, fresh lemon and chopped garlic which I drank every day to keep the bugs away. Add a teaspoon of it to juice every day!

"Must haves (performing related): video editing software, audio editing software, a selfie-stick with a tripod (for self-tapes), a keyboard app on your phone

"Must haves (sanity related): a really good set of earphones to block out all the noise and drama” - EuJin Hwang

Last Words

 Last but not least, everyone at ATB really believes in you, and we know you’re gonna have an awesome time wherever you are headed, that’s why we collected some words of encouragement and advice for you:

“I think it helped me tremendously having a sense of purpose for my art. I am very fortunate that my program was designed in such a way that we had to think about what we wanted our art to stand for, and to explore any manner of expression.

"I also think it is EXTREMELY important to become aware of how you need to take care of ALL aspects of yourself – physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. I saw so many people who were talented, but who did not have a healthy way of dealing with the pressures of a career in the performing arts. This is why I have embarked on a journey to help actors develop a “Healthy Inner Life Practice”. In this way, you build a career that you own, that grows and that stands a much better chance of being sustainable. And if you have a healthy inner life, there’s a high chance that the work you create as a performer will also be more authentic, more connected and touch more people.

"Talent will only get you that far. The rest of sheer and deliberate hard work. You can’t meet the Universe half-way. You have to meet the Universe 99% of the way. You have to look under every rock, explore every possible nook and cranny to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. And the final 1% that you can’t control, you let it go.

"Find your OWN WAY to stand out. Compete with yourself. I went to school with 2 identical twins and if you want to talk about identical casting, they would be it. But even they found a way to shine as individuals. So, the rest of us who don’t have our identical twins on our program have absolutely no excuse. The thing is – what is probably the most unique thing about you. There is NO ONE else like you on the planet even though the industry is going to want to pigeon-hole you immediately. That’s OK. There is enough time for that once you are working. For now, find the unique story only YOU can tell.

"Finally, your time in drama school is limited. Don’t waste ANY opportunity. Show up. Every single day. Take care of your shit and don’t bring it into the room. Stay present and when magic happens, you’ll be there to see and learn and experience it.”  - EuJin Hwang

“Don’t give up! You’ll be rejected over and over again but it’s so worth it when you get an opportunity to do what you love!” - Gemma Forsyth, Australian/American Actress ( Mako Mermaids, Akoni, Scrap)

 It’s okay to be nervous. My first musical theatre class was terrifying and I thought I was going to pee my pants. I told myself that if this was what I wanted to do I would just have to deal with it. It ended up being my favorite class! We’re only allowed to take it twice but the teacher is letting me take it a third time because it’s just so much fun! It’s ok to be scared, but you shouldn’t be afraid to try things that are new and different! Just be yourself and have fun, make it your own.” - Rachel Blugrind

 “A piece of advice would be to keep on top of the work, if you need help, ASK! There are so many times where I was stuck and didn’t ask for help which lowered my grade. As well as this, positivity is key. A negative attitude is no fun and to be a performer you need to be willing to push through the tough times and try and think of positive things through each situation that you may come across!” - Sammy Terry

 “You have to want whatever your goals are because they are truly spilling out of you. You have to know what you want and go after it fiercely. My dreams weren’t always theatre based, but I had this unignorable need to create art. Find what you love, hold it close, and surround yourself with people who lift you up!” -Chris Medlin - Mean Girls on Broadway

 With that, I would like to thank everyone who helped to make this article happen, it wasn’t possible to feature every single one in this edition, but there is so much more advice that will help many people, so I decided to make a series out of this. If you have any advice to share, or you have questions or worries yourself and recommendations for future topics, feel free to comment below or get in touch with me. If you know of any freshmen, go ahead and share this source with them, because I believe it sometimes really helps to remind yourself that you’re not alone in your situation and to get some advice from the experienced.   

Hear Those Bells Ring: A Discussion on Hunchback of Notre Dame

Photo by straannick/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by straannick/iStock / Getty Images

 Now, ok I hear you all saying, “Hey Taylor didn’t you just do an entire article about Disney?” and to that I say look at the official logo for the musical, not the movie logo. You will notice the standard Disney’s (Insert Animated Classic Here) is absent. Even though it uses the music from the Disney film, it technically is not a Disney Theatricals show in the same way of - Ok, who am I kidding. It totally is. Anyways, if you haven’t been able to tell by now, I love Disney and I love their musicals. The company may show up very frequently in my articles, but hey, they’re slowly taking over the world anyways, so just preparing you to worship your new overlords.

Oh yeah, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, let’s talk about that.

I guess, somehow it is possible that maybe people don’t even know in the slightest what Hunchback actually is, and that’s fair - some of us aren’t as fond of the Disney renaissance as others are. So for many the most popular example of Hunchback is the 1996 Disney movie, but that itself is based on the classic story by Victor Hugo (you know the guy who wrote Les Mis), which in America is known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but in France, the books origin and location it is better known as Notre Dame De Paris. Which for those who need to brush up on their French is...just the name of the Cathedral. Victor Hugo didn’t really care much for fancy titles. That book went on to inspire an opera, several movies (most notably a black and white one in the thirties that came to be used as a huge reference for the Disney movie, the two drawing many visual parallels), the not Disney version musical, (it actually looks really cool and I believe it’s being shown in theatres temporarily soon and you absolutely should go see it), and of course a Disney movie! The story behind the movie is actually really cool because the movie was made after Beauty and the Beast did extremely well on Broadway, and Disney wanted to make a movie specifically to later be able to be turned into a musical and well…

It didn’t go the best. You see the musical was first adapted in Germany under the name Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame, which didn’t adapt much from the 1996 movie, and it actually did really well, there was of course plan for an American adaptation but it took years and years to happen. This is most likely because of the new songs and much closer story to Hugo’s that made this story overall much different than the 1996 movie. The show ran at La Jolla Playhouse and looked as if it was Broadway bound but, in the end, Hunchback got no further than that and was soon placed into licensing territory.

Hunchback tells the story of Quasimodo, the son of Jehan Frollo who, after being cast from the cathedral and dying from disease, gives his son onto Claude Frollo to take care of. Frollo appoints the deformed boy as the bellringer of Notre Dame who, after many years of ringing the bells and only being in the company of statues and gargoyles and his master, wishes to see the world outside of the cathedral and out there among the citizens of Paris. Quasimodo gets his chance to during the Festival of Fools, the one day Romanies, or “gypsies” as they are called, can walk around without being subject to arrest. During this, Quasimodo is decided to be the ugliest man in Paris and crowned the King of Fool, where he is then whipped and mocked by the citizens. He is saved by Esmeralda who, without knowing that the citizens would react so harshly, encouraged Quasimodo to enter the contest. Quasimodo retreats back into the bell tower where Esmeralda runs after him. Phoebus, the captain of the guard. stops her upon entering, but eventually lets her go. She finds Quasimodo and the two share a moment on the top of the world. Frollo who has developed a deep lust for Esmeralda, begins to stalk her, vowing to either maker her love him or burn her at the stake, while Quasimodo has fallen in love with Esmeralda and views her as the one bit of heaven’s light in his cold dark world. Esmeralda is then tried as a witch and arrested. Phoebus defies Frollo and refuses to turn her in and the two flee to the cathedral where Quasimodo is ringing the bells to sound the alarm that Esmeralda is in danger. Phoebus is injured, and left there while Esmeralda goes to seek refuge. She gives Quasimodo a map he must decode to find her, and the two, after much trial and error and almost being hung for entering the court of miracles, find her and warn her than since Esmeralda has fled, Frollo has found the hideout and will attack at dawn. In reality, Frollo has not found the hideout but follows Phoebus and Quasimodo to where it is and arrests Esmeralda and Phoebus while Clopin, the king of the gypsies, manages to escape. Esmeralda imprisoned is cornered and assuaged by Frollo overcome with lust, and then she and Phoebus are granted to spend their last night together, as Quasimodo who is now chained up in the bell tower is hopeless and would rather be made of stone than screw up anything else. When Esmerelda is about to be burned at the stake though, Quasimodo changes his mind and breaks free in order to save her. He swings down to the pyre and fights off the guards declaring sanctuary and climbing back up to the bell tower with an unconscious Esmeralda. Clopin returns and frees Phoebus who both rally the citizens to fight after Frollo breaks the sacred laws of sanctuary that states no one can be arrested inside the holy place. Quasimodo dumps hot lead into the streets below moments after Frollo manages to bust down the doors and make it into the cathedral. He confronts Quasimodo at the tower as Esmeralda dies in his arms. Overcome with rage and grief, he throws Frollo over the edge of the tower to his death. Quasimodo then goes into the streets with Esmerelda where the people who once wanted her to die realize their mistake and paint their faces and distort themselves in order to sympathize with the poor boy. The cast then delivers the final epilogue that Quasimodo would go to die with Esmeralda before closing the show with the question they asked in the beginning, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”

Now, I absolutely love Hunchback. I mean, makes sense really, I wouldn’t be covering it if I didn’t. I had the chance to see it at Thesfest 2 years ago and I have had the pleasure of being a part of it. The music is incredible and serves to drive forward the message and the overall dark tone of the story. It covers a variety of topics such as racism, disabilities, and class without ever focusing on one specifically.  It covers the age old theme of accepting and embracing others differences in a very meaningful and impactful way. And oh my god did I mention the music. It is absolutely amazing, I mean I love everything Alan Menken, but this is spot on. The lyrics are written by Stephen Schwartz and this duo is absolutely incredible. It leads to already amazing songs like “God Help the Outcasts” and “Out There” being outranked by songs like “Made Of Stone” and the incredible show stopping Act 1 Finale, “Esmeralda”. I mean the soundtrack absolutely deserves a listen and the story as you just saw is compelling, interesting, and very engaging.

So I love it, it’s gained quite a sense of popularity in community theatres and high school, and its many people's favorite musical despite never going on Broadway. So why didn’t it? Well a lot of people would think it’s because of its dark theme. I mean three of the five main characters die by the end so… but actually, it’s an entirely different reason. See, just about every musical has a gimmick and while most are visual, Hunchback’s is an entire choir of 15-30 people who provide background vocals to the songs. Believe me when I say the choir is what makes the show different from any other musical, and Disney said they just simply could not make the show work with the cast and that large of a choir. It’s a shame, but for very reason Hunchback is one of the coolest recent musicals is the same reason we may never see it on Broadway and subsequently never tour, but it, as I mentioned, found success regionally, and recently had a critically acclaimed deaf west version.

I would highly encourage you if you haven’t seen or listened to Hunchback before to give it a try. It is one of my favorite musicals I’ve seen and one of my favorites I have been a part of. This show is truly incredible and I encourage you to see for yourself exactly what makes a monster and what makes a man…

And you can, because once again it’s The Upcoming Production Segment, where I show you where in the world Hunchback is currently or about to play so you have the chance to see the show for yourself…

Stage Door Repertory Theatre in California from August 25th to September 22nd http://www.stagedoorrep.org

The New Paradigm Theatre Company in Connecticut from August 18th to August 19th http://nptheatre.org

Music Theatre of Denton in Texas from October 19th to October 28th http://www.musictheatreofdenton.com

And I am starting a new thing this go around, if I missed any local production you would like to list go to this spreadsheet- https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LRfWXoigYMOL03ZlNH5rw9xffaOzgMMIdZOj0RQ1wNg/edit?usp=sharing and add your own. You can also view this list to find a production that may be closer to you!

....And that is all I have for you today. Thank out for reading and please keep checking back in on the blog. We release a new article every Monday and Thursday and they are all just as, if not more entertaining than this one. I hope you enjoyed reading and until next time, have a great week everyone and I will see you later in the month. Goodbye

The International Thespian Festival

Recent studies show that 99% of the people currently reading this are either in high school or have at one point attended one, the other 1 percent is Michael Kape who’s older than any high school in the world, and there's a good chance that if you have an alma mater they had a theatre department of some sort, whether that means you performed the same version of Grease 4 years in a row or were the very first high school ever to perform Cats (Either way I feel sorry for you). There’s a possibility you may know about and be an alumni of the International Thespian Society, and I’ll be honest I don’t really know much about what that means. I think if you get enough points in the society it helps you get into a college or something, but what I do know is being in the thespian society grants you access to some of the incredibly cool events they do over the year, such as attend your states thespian festival no matter where you are across the US. However, I much more prefer the big event to end all high school theatre events that take place at the end of the school year and what a coincidence, it’s beginning right now on June 25th, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska! I am course talking about the International Thespian Festival.

Photo by m-gucci/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by m-gucci/iStock / Getty Images

So, allow me to help those of you who have never attended this festival try to understand what exactly it is. I want you to imagine 4,000+ theatre kids on a college campus and, before half of you scream, “That’s the best idea ever!” while everyone else prepares for the apocalypse, let me tell you, it’s some of the most fun you can ever have as a high schooler. I mean, after you finally figure out how to get back to your dorm after walking around in circles for three hours. The rest is great though.

The History
I guess since I sort of specialize in history with this blog I should tell you how all of this began and at what point someone decided this was a good idea, and no for those of you who read my “History of the Tonys” article I promise this time I’ll just cover the event and not the entire history of theatre and the world along with it. So, The International Thespian Festival began in 1941 at Indiana University, the festival was then briefly suspended because of World War 2 but held again in 1947 and 1949. However, the next ITF did not take place until 1952 and was then held every other year until 1982 when it became an annual event. The festival has had multiple homes in Indiana as well as where it is currently, The University of Lincoln Nebraska, and has been there since 1995. However, in order to accommodate more students, ITF is coming back home to Indiana and the IU Bloomington campus in 2020 which means a lot less driving for me.

 Alright, so now you should have a general idea what this thing is and where it comes from but where it’s held and who holds it barely matters, what matters is what happens during the event and from out of control rave-like dances to people who will teach you how to dance like you’re in the cast of Kinky Boots it’s like nothing else. There is so much to do at the festival!

Workshops
Well, speaking of workshops, I mentioned the Kinky Boots dance workshop, but it’s worth noting that this year it’s a combination of Kinky Boots and another recent dance heavy musical that has the single best name I have ever heard: “The Kinky Showman”. If that doesn’t send whole lots of weird messages to your head such as, “I wonder what Hugh Jackman would look like in heels” I don’t know what will. These workshops are held be teachers and professionals from across the nation. My favorites are definitely the many improv workshops offered on basic games to learning how to improvise Shakespeare, they always end up being quite a bit of fun. There’s also workshops on how to play a believable villain, and how to turn one button down shirt into 20 different costumes. You’ll find that no matter what you do, whether it be act, dance, sing, or work in the dark on the technical side, there is something for you.

Festival after Dark
I mentioned before the dances which allow you to dress in different themes and relax and move a little after a very busy day. Thespians will get into their sharpest suits and ties on Tuesday and show their Lincoln pride by wearing blue and gold to the dances on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday the color code continues with a black out honoring some of the often unsung heroes on Thursday and  then wearing all red on Friday to celebrate Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, the organization founded to fight against the AIDS virus.

Individual Events/ Showcase
At the state thespian festivals, I told you about earlier you have the chance to audition for individual events through monologues, songs, etc. If you receive a high enough score you proceed on to showing off your I.E. at the International Thespian Festival where you have the chance to get your final score and show it off at a showcase taking place at the end of the week.

 Next Generation Works
Whether you write plays, musicals, critique works, or work in film, you have the chance to submit new works to be developed at the International Thespian Festival. Winners will have their new plays or musicals or etc produced, and others at the event have the ability to audition for them.

 The Auditions
Of course, being a theatre event there is bound to be some auditions of some sort and because colleges send out representatives to the festival, juniors have the chance to go ahead and audition for the college. Also, this year the touring cast of Dear Evan Hansen is having auditions for older high school students at the festival. In addition, through workshops you most certainly have the ability to practice and improve your auditions.

The Performances---Chapter Selects/Freestyle
However, it’s undeniable that while there’s plenty to do whether it be wander off campus to see a movie at the Lincoln Grand Cinema or visit what my school has deemed the “Black Market”, a nearby thrift store, or find the book store that’s home to many adorable felines or just attend the many workshops and activities provided by the Thespian Society. the best part of attending the festival is the many performances offered, and while the main stages are the biggest performances, there’s also a ton of other shows you can see at the event for free in your spare time such as the chapter selects which different performances taken by a high school theatre to be shown at one of the theatres on campus. The following is a list of all of the shows being presented as chapter selects at the festival this year.

Waylen - Owensboro High School, Troupe 3161, Owensboro, Kentucky

A Thousand Cranes- Centennial High School, Troupe 7997, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Becky's New Car - Flower Mound High School, Troupe 6154, Flower Mound, Texas

The Final Dress Rehearsal - Pennsbury High School, Troupe 830, Fairless Hills,Pennsylvania

12 Hour Life - Pleasant Valley High School, Troupe 856, Bettendorf, Iowa

Check Please: Take 2 - Queen Creek High School, Troupe 6152, Queen Creek, Arizona

The Bible In 30 Minutes...Or Less - Pomona High School, Troupe 4203, Arvada, Colorado

13 - Perry High School, Troupe 7424, Gilbert, Arizona

Picnic - Hopewell Valley Central High School, Troupe 7964, Pennington, New Jersey

Down Came the Rain - Caddo Parish Magnet High School, Troupe 3594, Shreveport,Louisiana

The Machine - Riverton High School, Troupe 1887, Riverton, Wyoming

Aida - Rock Ridge High School, Troupe 8104, Ashburn, Virginia

Every Brilliant Thing - Smith-Cotton High School, Troupe 4261, Sedalia, Missouri

Stupid F Bird - Patuxent High School, Troupe 6194, Lusby, Maryland

The Bible in 30 Minutes...Or Less - Olathe North High School, Troupe 3310, Olathe, Kansas

Be the Light - Omaha Burke High School, Troupe 4138, Omaha, Nebraska

Stressed - Russellville High School, Troupe 7260, Russellville, Arkansas

The Women of Lockerbie - Cambridge-Isanti High School, Troupe 8406, Cambridge, Minnesota

Waylen - Northwestern High School, Troupe 3924, Kokomo, Indiana

Grandma Duck is Dead - Paul M. Dorman High School, Troupe 3322, Roebuck, South Carolina

Shipwrecked - American Leadership Academy, Troupe 7597, Spanish Fork, Utah

Digging Up the Boys - Great Falls High School, Troupe 1364, Great Falls, Montana

Bury the Dead - Bridgeport High School, Troupe 7549, Bridgeport, West Virginia

21 Chump Street - Grimsley High School, Troupe 7993, Greensboro, North Carolina

The Yellow Boat - Fullerton Union High School, Troupe 2498, Fullerton, California

The Shape of the Grave - Northwest Rankin High School, Troupe 5727, Flowood, Mississippi

20 Play in 40 Minutes - Singapore American School, Troupe 3674, Singapore

Laundry and Bourbon - Glencoe High School, Troupe 7125, Hillsboro, Oregon

As well as chapter selects, you can also see shows never seen before written by someone involved with the high school to be performed for the very first time as a part of the Freestyle Theatre at festival, those shows this year are the following...

 

 Speak Up! - Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Troupe 5524, Long Beach, California

Dark Road - Los Alamitos High School, Troupe 7944, Los Alamitos, California

A New York Minute - Nuview Bridge Early College High School, Troupe 8117, Nuevo, California

18 Plays in 30 Minutes - Denver School of the Arts, Troupe 5869, Denver, Colorado

Radium Girls - Hayden Catholic High School, Troupe 7275, Topeka, Kansas

Under the Radar - East High School, Troupe 2162, Cheyenne, Wyoming

It's Hansel and Gretel - Alice High School, Troupe 5191, Alice, Texas

Lunch - Dandan Middle School, Hopwood Junior High School, San Antonio Middle School, Troupes 89328, 88755, 88752, Northern Marianas Islands

Chairs - John R. Mott High School, Troupe 417, Postville, Iowa

The Mad Breakfast - Sam Barlow High School, Troupe 1145, Gresham, Oregon

Cycle of Life: A Devised Work - New Kent High School, Troupe 7644, New Kent, Virginia

LOVE - Henry J. Kaiser High School, Troupe 6721, Fontana, California

Gardens - Council Rock High School North, Troupe 5028, Newtown, Pennsylvania

Spontaneous Combustion - South Dade Senior High School, Troupe 3637, Homestead, Florida

The Sibling Support Group - Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, Troupe 8334, Scottsdale, Arizona

Overtones - Brownell Talbot School, Troupe 8093, Omaha, Nebraska

Crimson Thread - Shadow Ridge High School, Troupe 7547, Surprise, Arizona

The Mainstage Performances
Out of all the performances, by far, there isn’t any bigger or better than the ones presented on Lincoln’s prestigious main stages, The Kimball and The Lied. A show is determined whether it goes to The Kimball or The Leid based on the size of the show selected. In order for a show to be able to perform on a main stage it must first be adjudicated by one of the representatives of the International Thespian Society. This year high schools from all around the country fought for only 11 spots to perform at the festival. Those adjudicated in the fall were given the first 8 spots and then 3 more were chosen from those adjudicated in the spring. Having a show selected to perform on of the main stages in Nebraska is an incredibly difficult task as well as a huge deal. This year also marks the first year in a while that saw a change in Monday's opening show, what is usually a cabaret featuring Broadway stars as well as high schoolers who auditioned to perform in the show has been replaced with an award winning documentary about the high school that took The Color Purple to Nebraska in 2013, called Purple Dreams. The other shows will be shown throughout the rest of the week.

(I have also reached out to a few people involved in these shows for an interview to give you a better idea what a massive task as well as a massive reward it is to be able to perform on the main stage.)

Playingon the Kimball and truly being the first performance to open the festival is Blue Valley North High School’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors, the play is an adaptation of the play Servant of two masters and tells the story and antics of a man employed by two people at once who has to keep the two from meeting each other and finding out his secret.

One Man, Two Guvnors performs at the Kimball Theatre Monday June 25h.

Playing secondly on the Kimball is a musical based off of celtic folktales put to celtic music. It is Paola High School’s production of Celtic Tales.

Celtic Tales performs at the Kimball Theatre Tuesday June 26th.

Opening the Lied stage as the first non movie performance its the story of unlikely hero Jack Kelly who organizes a band of newsboys and a spunky reporter to show the world just what they can do as they go on strike for fair wages, its of course Disney’s Newsies. I interviewed a member of the technical crew to tell you more about what’s it’s been like being apart of the show is Jorah Heitz

When I asked Jorah, who went in 2016 with 42nd Street what has been different with that show and Newsies she responded with

“I was a level three tech in 42nd Street which meant having a lot less responsibilities and a lot less time spent at rehearsals.”

When I asked her what her responsibilities as a technical member is, she responded with,

“I am a deck chief which means a lot less paperwork and other preshow responsibilities that come with being an assistant stage manager. My responsibilities are making sure other technical members are near me and ready for their cues, and when told by the stage manager to give them their cues.”

Disney’s Newsies performs at the Lied Theatre Tuesday June 26th.

Based on the book, and the two Disney movies of the same name, it’s an all new musical about a mother and a daughter who find out just what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes when they switch bodies and have to figure out how to switch back. Its Bradford High School back again to the main stage for the 8th year in a row with the pilot production of Disney’s Freaky Friday playing on the Kimball stage and here to tell you more about this new production is Colin Swanson

When I asked Colin what it’s been like being a part of Freaky Friday he replied with

“it has been so much fun being a part of Freaky Friday!! I love the show and I love the music and I love that Disney Channel is getting involved and that they are going to be filming us in interviewing us throughout our whole process”

And when I asked him what he was most excited about taking Freaky Friday to ITF he responded with,

“The most exciting part about bringing Freaky Friday to the festival is that we get to premier Freaky Friday for Disney and that Disney Channel is coming along with us on our journey”

Disney’s Freaky Friday performs at the Kimball Theatre on Wednesday June 27th.

An incredibly wealthy lady returns to her old home town with a dangerous offer to reward whoever can kill the man who got her pregnant, this showing of The Visit will be performed by Edina High School on the Leid

The Visit performs at the Lied Theatre on Wednesday, June 27th.

Imagine a world where it’s a privilege to pee and you have the setting of the hilarious musical comedy with a production showing on the Kimball stages by Pittsburg High Schools, Urinetown!

Urinetown performs at the Kimball Theatre on Thursday June 28th

Based on Tim Burton's movie of the same name is a heartwarming musical about family, friends, and what truly is fact and fiction join Will the son of the storytelling Edward Bloom as he tries to figure out what of his father's life and the stories he’s told are real and what isn’t. It’s the Illinois all-state production of Big Fish at the Lied center, and here to tell you more about the musical is an ensemble member of the production, Nolan Rice

When I asked Nolan what it was like having to wait to see if Big Fish would be able to perform at the festival he had this to say,

“I remember being in the rehearsal room when Wilson (our director) was telling us about the Nationals experience. From there, all we were able to do was look forward to our closing performance at Illinois State University and wait for the six or seven judges to see if we would make it. Funny enough, all but one judge missed their flight to the performance, so it all relied on one judge! Receiving nearly perfect scores, we found out one night, then discussed how we would meet up again weeks later. All there was support and love for being around each other again”

When I asked him what he was most excited about taking the show to Nebraska he also had this to say,

“we’ve been so excited for meeting new people at nationals and learning new things, that I’m basically forgetting that I AM in fact performing in front of the whole country. I’ve been studying theatre for the last few years, and the greatest thing that I think can apply to performing Big Fish is that we are all here to tell a story. ESPECIALLY in a story like Big Fish, which is about when you have nothing left in the world, the greatest thing you have is the power to make someone smile through storytelling.”

Big Fish performs at the Lied Theatre Thursday June 28th

A woman astronomer in the 19th century dealing with prejudice, family troubles, and the possibility of love. Its Mount Carmel Academy’s performance of Silent Sky on the Kimball stage

Silent Sky performs at the Kimball Theatre on Friday, June 29th.

Experience the tragic and touching tale of Alice Murphy, set in the mountains of North Carolina it’s the pilot production of Bright Star performed on The Lied stage by West Orange High School and here to tell you more is the actress playing Alice herself, Kassidy Weideman

When I asked Kassidy what is was like piloting the musical she responded with this to say,

“Piloting Bright Star was one of the most INCREDIBLE opportunities I’ve ever had. Bright Star was one of my favorite musicals before we found out we were doing it so I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was”

When I asked her what new challenges were thrown at her doing Bright Star she replied with,

Bright Star is such an incredibly realistic show especially since it is based on a true story. Having to incorporate the realism into the actions and emotions on stage was definitely the biggest aspect that changed me as an actor and performer!”

Bright Star performs at The Lied Theatre on Friday, June 29th.

A fictional spelling bee set in the fiction Putnam County, it’s of course the comedy musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performed by the Denver Schools of the Arts on the Kimball.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performs at the Kimball Theatre on Saturday, June 30th.

Stephen Gregg renowned playwright returns to tell the chilling story of a dangerous event and disappearance in a theatre. Nothing else can be said about because I am legally obliged to not tell the secrets of what this Lied center play holds. It is Olathe South High School’s production of Trap, and here to tell you more about it is the director himself David Hastings

When I asked him what was it like deciding to do Trap and deciding to have it adjudicated for the festival, he responded with,

“It was easy. I love Stephen Gregg’s plays. The impulse from the beginning—since it was a new play—was to get it in front of as many people as possible.”

And when I asked him what he thought about closing the festival he responded with,

“I’m most excited to watch my students see the Lied Center from the stage, as well as watching them perform on the 30th. I hadn’t really thought much about closing the festival. We are excited, and we are humbled to have this opportunity. We can’t thank EdTA and ITF enough for giving us this opportunity. But for now, the play’s not over. We have our work to do. Our rehearsals are finished. Our set is ready to go in our truck. We have two more performances in Kansas City. And then … our goal is to scare our audience to death.”

Trap performs at the Lied Theatre on Saturday June, 30th.
So there you have it! From star studded performances to incredible learning opportunities, The International Thespian Festival is the way to be and while it’s too late to go this year. Even more incredible shows and similar workshops and almost identical opportunities will be available next year!

Well, I got a campus to explore and shows to see and so many things to do, so until next time, I’m Taylor Lockhart and thanks for reading the blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't Tony Worship

Jonathan Fong

In light of the recent Tony Awards, I just thought I’d write something that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve seen this happening a lot, in both community and professional theatre, and I thought it should be addressed

No, it’s not about people judging whether what won should’ve won. There has been enough debate about The Band’s Visit winning everything already, as there always has been and will be when a show sweeps the Tonys, and I’m not going to open that can of worms. In fact, what I’m going to talk about isn’t really something specific to this year nor any year in the past.
I’m going to talk about something else. I call it Tony worship. No, I’m not talking about those who have shrines to Tony from West Side Story in their rooms. I neither confirm nor deny the presence of one in mine. I’m talking about people treating the Tony Awards, and everything associated with or related to them, as the entirety of theatre itself.


Every year, I see dozens of small-scale productions, some community/amateur and some professional, of musicals mimic the Tony-winning set or costume designs of that musical’s original Broadway production. Every year I see other productions attempt to copy the original choreography, with varying degrees of success, of the original Broadway production. Every year, I see, whether online or in person, dozens of performances of the same songs from the musical theatre canon sung in the exact same way - intonation, tone, delivery, you name it. 
And every year, when I ask the person in charge of set design or the performer why, they say the same variations of the same thing - ‘(insert-famous-theatre-person-here) did it and won a Tony for it’.


Let’s ignore for a second the copyright issues which come with copying things such as set designs or costume designs (you don’t get the rights to copy a production’s set design when you get the rights to a musical, in case you were unaware). Let’s also ignore the real risk of doing things like mimicking an actor’s vocal tone in a song without proper vocal training to do so, which can actually do harm to your voice.


Thing is, yes, they won a Tony for it. But do the Tonys define theatre? Do they define your production and what direction it should take? Do they define you as an actor?
Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone, Idina Menzel - they’re all incredibly talented actors. No one’s doubting that Andy Blankenbuehler or Christopher Gattelli are wonderful choreographers, neither is anyone doubting the amazing designs of David Zinn or Mimi Lien. They’re all clearly good at what they do and the fact that they won Tonys for their work is proof of that. But at the end of the day, what they did was take the material given to them - librettos, plot synopses, the like - and interpreted and developed it in their own unique ways. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone’s supposed to do?


As actors, choreographers, directors, designers, or whatever role you might have in the theatre, isn’t it our job to make our own interpretations of what we’re given? To creatively stretch the boundaries and go beyond the text or the libretto? Why are we defining what we should do by what others have done, and not the limits of our own creativity? Why are we copying other’s creative work just to feel secure in what we do?


I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek inspiration in any way from other sources. Inspiration from others is one of the most valuable things you can get in the arts - it can offer insights you might have never otherwise considered. And I most certainly would be lying if I said I’d never looked at what other artists have done as guidance.


But please, for crying out loud, don’t just copy Sutton Foster’s Tony-winning performance in Anything Goes for your recital, or the minimalist set design of the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd (yes, that actually happened) for your local community theatre production of the show. Don’t just sing Defying Gravity ‘that way’ because ‘Idina Menzel did it’, and don’t light the stage or design your props ‘that way’ because ‘that Broadway show did it and won a Tony’. That’s not justification for a creative cop-out. Yes, they won a Tony for it, but they won it not for copying what someone else did, but because what they did was original and creative.
Be creative. Be brave. Be theatrical. Stretch the boundaries; don’t be content with being ‘safe’ with what others have successfully done. Make your work as an artist unique and your own, not a mere imitation of what someone won a Tony for.
Don’t let the Tonys alone define what theatre is for you.

Grief and Depression: How Theatre Pulled Me Through

SarahLynn Mangan

Everyone is told their life is going to be a roller coaster and you won't get anything out of it unless you just keep riding and moving forward, I have found this to be very true.

As a young child life was wonderful, I had four amazing older siblings and two wonderful parents. We were all into performing arts either being on the stage dancing in ballet, singing at school shows or performing in theatre camps. Especially two of my older sisters and I as we are the closest in age, (my brother being twelve years older than me and my other sister eighteen years older than me). Our parents were very supportive and were known to always be willing to get us to rehearsal, give us flowers after performances, provide food for cast members and help backstage. We were known as the family that always wanted to be working in a theatre.

Unfortunately, just twenty days after my tenth birthday my father passed away. He had a disease known as ALS or as I like to tell people “that disease that the ice bucket challenge was for.” He was diagnosed when I was seven and died in his sleep just under two and a half years later. I am grateful that he was no longer a brain trapped inside a paralyzed body- the disease does not affect the brain but rather shuts down every other motor function within the body-so I was happy to see him finally released to serenity but also was reminded of all the things that a daughter typically does with her father.  He will never me down the aisle when I get married to someone I love, never intimidate the people I date, and most importantly to me was that he would never be able to see me nor my other siblings perform again.

I recently stumbled upon my father’s old blog that he used to document his life with the disease and at one point he had written “I really want to beat this thing that is trying to take me before my girls have a chance to grow up” and “I would like to live to see the rest of my daughters and son married, and to see my daughters at least graduate from High School” unfortunately he never even got to see me graduate elementary school.

My entire family had hoped he would have lived just four days longer so he would at least be able to see my sisters and I in our summer ballet performance, but that was not the case. So instead we were told to perform to the best of our abilities and dedicate it to our father. This I did so without delay and wholeheartedly, for I believed he could watch us and that he would be proud to have called me his daughter.

After that performance, we all quit dancing and performing to be able to grief.

That was my first mistake.

I knew that performing was my passion ever since taking my first step out into the lights as a little bon-bon in The Nutcracker and I knew it was an outlet. When something tragic happens to someone so young, they don’t know how to process it and neither did I.

After taking the summer off I jumped back into theatre with being cast as Suzi Spider in Tiny Thumbelina in my fifth-grade musical at my expressive arts elementary school. I continued to participate in theatre camp shows as well, but I knew something was missing from my performances and that I was slowly but surely retracting from my extroverted self who would start singing and dancing musicals anytime I deemed it necessary (which was always).

Almost a year after my father's passing I was given the opportunity to be in my first community theatre production. I was ecstatic because I knew that if I could do this I would be able to show my father he could still be proud of me. I was a part of the youth ensemble for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and in this production, the rehearsal process was quick, we hardly interacted with the adults, and were on stage for the entire show except for “Potiphar.” I remember on opening night I was dancing downstage center in the song “Go Go Go Joseph” and I started to tear up because I felt as though my father was somehow watching me and applauding me on.

After that production, I truly felt as though I would go back to normal, I got confidence back and was ready to continue in life. I had found a way to still feel connected to my father and not feel so alone in my journey of processing my grief.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Tacoma Musical Playhouse 2012    Photo courtesy of Kat Dollarhide    

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Tacoma Musical Playhouse 2012

Photo courtesy of Kat Dollarhide

 

Skip forward a few years in life and I had become deeply depressed. I went to a middle school that was promised to be getting a great performing arts program but after my sixth-grade year, dance, theatre, and choir were all taken away because funding for the programs had fallen through. With my mom now being the households only income and still taking care of three children (one soon to go on to college) we didn’t have the money to do all the theatre camps that I had become a regular attendee at.

I was too scared to tell my mother or even my family about my depression which didn’t help me with feeling valid for my emotions. Everyone who states that they have depression are doubted until they have the doctor's diagnosis. I also didn’t want to admit to failure of living the best life I could in honor of my father, but I knew things would just get worse if I didn’t find a way to cope.

When I entered high school, it had gotten so bad that the only ways I would find relief of my depression was from being an unhealthy person, telling myself that it was my fault my father had died, and doing many regrettable and stupid things, (but that is for another day).

My sophomore year had come around and rumors in my family had been spread around about my depression and unhealthy lifestyle, but no one believed it because I only showed who I used to be to the world and not who I had become. No one believed it until my mother found me crying in the bathroom before school one day. She finally made an appointment and brought me to the doctors.

I got diagnosed with clinical depression and was put on antidepressants and encouraged to seek therapy (however therapy did not seem like a feasible thing due to the expense and inability to connect with a therapist). After four weeks when they finally started working, everyone could tell. I was more flamboyant and always singing and dancing to show-tunes just like my younger self.

However, during this time of healing, my grades were suffering and the possibility of graduating in two years was slipping away before my eyes. I failed two classes which meant I had to spend my summer in school to try and get my credits back. Many of my friends I had made in choir and old theatre friends were going to do a summer theatre camp that I used to attend and would have attended if I could have. When I saw their performance, I wanted to cry because all I wanted to do was be on the stage with them.

At that moment, I decided that it was time for me to get back into the theatre scene and make my mark again. I auditioned for the play “Blithe Spirit” which was going to be put on at a local community theatre and directed by someone who had helped first spark my interest in theatre all together. When I got the call that I would be playing the maid Edith I started screaming of happiness before I even hung up (the stage manager and I laughed about it later because she clearly heard me screaming for joy). I was finally going to be back on the stage and with people who are highly thought of in the theatre scene in my county.

When rehearsals started, I knew that those people and that show would be the show to truly bring me out of my depression. I had a schedule, people who relied on me, and a family who believed in me. That theatre experience was what finally helped me achieve my goal of being a healthy person who didn’t have to rely on supplements to be able to live a semi normal life.

The cast of Blithe Spirit at Tacoma Little Theatre 2017

The cast of Blithe Spirit at Tacoma Little Theatre 2017

It has now been five months since that show closed and I am currently performing in my third community theatre production and in rehearsals for my fourth of my junior year of high school. I reconnected with my old drama teacher in elementary school and assistant directed her production of “Charlotte’s Web” at my old school. I have also been accepted into a performing arts college (yet to decide if I will attend due to financial and such), and am exploring other options for college.

Although it may not seem like such a major triumph to some people, I have had the ability to discover myself again and be the person everyone knows I am again because of theatre and it is truly remarkable. It has always been there and will always be there as a reminder of the first time I felt a connection with my father after his death and the first time I felt free to be myself and come back out of depression again.

 

Community Theatre From the Perspective of a Theatre Kid

It all started when I was six years old. I had been involved in preforming arts for four years by that time since I started dance when I was two, but it was not until then that my parents noticed my flair for dramatics. They then decided to have me audition for the Wizard of Oz at a local theatre and I scored a role as a “principal munchkin” and I fell in love with being on that stage, not as myself like in a dance recital, but as a completely different person.

A photo from the second time I was in the Wizard of OZ (2009)

A photo from the second time I was in the Wizard of OZ (2009)

           

Over the past few years, I have noticed a few people online downing community theatre, which really irks me. One of the most common reasons I have heard for people bashing it is that they aren’t as good as their Broadway/West End counterparts. But here’s the thing: they aren’t supposed to be. The definition of “community theatre” from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is “the activity of acting in or producing a play in a theater for enjoyment and not as a job”. The people who partake in community theatre productions do it because they love it; not because they are getting paid to do it. I drive forty-five minutes to the closest theatre and stay there for many hours because I love the people there with me and the art we create.

So many people around the world have had beautiful experiences within its realm, whether they happen because they were part of the cast and crew or because they were part of the audience. So many performers have left their small-town stage and made their dreams come true by earning a chance to be on Broadway. Although for many, that dream may not become a reality, there are still many incredible features of community theatre that many people overlook when they harshly criticize it. 

First, these theaters create an atmosphere that you would not be able to find on a Broadway stage. Many people who participate community theatre, myself included, have done so since a very young age. Personally, I started when I was six, but I know of people who have been on those stages since they were literal infants. Community theatres tend to have recurring cast members. Especially in my theatre, since we are such a small area it is possible to spend years with the same group of people, which I have done. This in turn causes people to form very close bonds with each other. Because of school, I have not been able to be in shows very often, but most recently I was in Willy Wonka, in which I portrayed Mrs. Gloop. That was in 2016. Still to this day, we have a group chat and we talk regularly. We all keep up with each other’s achievements and support each other in times of hardship, as we recently lost a member of our group unexpectedly. I will be friends with these people for the rest of my days and I am so grateful for that experience because I never would have met some of my absolute best friends if I had not participated in these shows.

A photo from a 2011 production of Bye Bye Birdie

A photo from a 2011 production of Bye Bye Birdie

 

Along the same lines, I love seeing “regulars” in the audience and also being a “regular’ at other theatres in the area. I live in what could be described as a small town, so there is a very tightknit theatre community. There are people who go see every show, no matter what it is. If I am not in the current show, I still try to go see it if I can work it into my schedule. We also try to get groups together and go support other theatres at their shows. It is really uplifting to see people from another theatre come to your show and tell you how much they enjoyed it.

The final thing I'll mention which I love is the opportunity for growth that it bestows upon its participants. Most people start out in the chorus before moving up to supporting roles and then lead roles. However, those are not the only positions that need to be filled. Community theatre is a good way to delve into all aspects of the trade. In the past years, I have not only been on stage but backstage as well. I was the stage manager for a production of Snoopy in 2014. One guy I know started off as a chorus member and has now directed 2 shows. Another guy’s sister dragged him along once and he now does lighting for the majority of shows the theatre puts on.

Amelia photo 3.jpg

 

In closing, do not be so quick to judge a community theatre production of your favorite Broadway show. While they may not have the budget or the extensive training that a professional theatre has, they have just as much passion that they put into the production. These people have taken time out of their busy lives and gone to countless rehearsals so they could put on a show for you. In the end, it does not matter if their sets are perfect, or if the costumes looked a little cheap. All that matters is that everyone involved- the performers, crew, and audience- enjoyed the experience that the art of theatre created.

Nothing Without You

Rachel Hoffman

One of the most beautiful moments I have experienced is the moment before a show begins. The house goes dark and the audience is holding its breath, anticipating the first note from the orchestra. All eyes are fixed on a stage that is empty, but soon to be full of life.

During this brief moment between silence and song, between darkness and light, I like to glance at the people sitting around me. Gathered in one room are people of all ages, races, political stances, and religions. Yet, in this moment, all have the same desire: to see a beautiful work of art.

This past summer, I auditioned for and was cast as the role of Julie in my community theater’s young adult production of The Theory of Relativity by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill. Theory is a mix between a musical and a revue- audience members don’t realize that the seemingly unrelated scenes and songs have actually been connected to each other all along until the very end. The show centers around the theme “I am nothing without you,” a phrase that may seem simple on the outside, but ended up having more meaning to me than I could have imagined.

I was both excited and intimidated when the cast list came out. I knew I was the only cast member who hadn’t done a show at this particular theater before. I recognized a few names from school and other activities, but I wasn’t close friends with any of them. I knew that there were already close bonds and friendships between many of my castmates, and I also knew that I was entering a world where I might be viewed as an outsider. I was worried that my differences would prevent me from feeling like a true part of the cast, and that I’d spend the next two months feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome.

My worries turned out to be incredibly illegitimate. While a love of theatre may have been all I had in common with some of my castmates, I discovered that just like the characters we were portraying, we needed each other. Sure, on the stage, the need may have been surface level- without each of us, the show would cease to exist. But as we dug deeper into the show, I realized that “I am nothing without you,” meant more than just my role as an actor. In the show, many of our characters had never met each other, and yet their lives were changed by the others. In the same way, I began to realize how many people that I haven’t even met have probably impacted my life. I can conjure a picture in my head of a person who I believe is the exact opposite of me. And yet, there’s a good chance that this person, who I have never met, has changed my life in some way. “I am nothing without you,” means that if you weren’t here, I wouldn’t be the same as I am today, even if I have never met you.

Need photo.png

 

The cast of The Theory of Relativity performing at Beatrice Community Players, August 2017

This isn’t to say that I became best friends with the rest of the cast immediately. Rather, I felt that because we all had the same goal- to create and perform art for someone who may need to hear our message- it was easy to look past the things that made us different. Instead of noticing the things that set me apart, I began to notice the things that connected me to the others. Maybe we liked the same bands or books. Maybe we’d played the same sports, or liked the same bad movies. I began to understand that humans are more alike than we are different.

But “I am nothing without you” goes beyond the stage. I believe that this same phenomenon happens between any group of people that come together with a common goal. In the theater, this also applies to the audience members. The actors on stage all need each other to create their art. But in the same way, the members of the audience need each other. Two people from completely different backgrounds can sit next to each other and experience joy or heartbreak simultaneously. When you experience a beautiful work of art, and the person next to you is experiencing the same emotion, for a moment, it doesn’t matter what makes you different from that person. In that moment, all that matters is that you are both human, and you are both able to feel. You may leave the theater not knowing that person’s story. Had you met outside the theater, they may have been your best friend or your worst enemy. But either way, their life impacts yours, just as yours does theirs. Without the person next to you, your life could be completely different.

I truly believe that my love of theatre has helped me grow into a more kind, compassionate, and accepting person. I feel that I’m more slow to judge, and much more quick to think, “I need this person in order to be alive.” Without each other, we would just be a speck on a marble. Without each other, we’re nothing. I am nothing without you.

“You’re a reflection of me: I reverberate; you reply. If I have a purpose, if I count at all, you are why. You measure, compare, you make me aware that I’m neither small nor obscure. I’m alive. You make sure.”

 

 

Audition Jitters and How to Beat Them

Shilo Nelson

So you've got an audition coming up. Whether this is your first audition or you've had dozens of them, chances are you still have some pesky butterflies in your stomach. I'm going to start by letting you in on a little secret: no matter what you do, you will probably still be nervous. Let yourself be nervous. You're putting yourself out there, and most likely it's for a role that would mean a lot to you. I'm not going to tell you how to not be nervous, but I'm going to tell you how to remain positive and confident in spite of your nerves.

Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock / Getty Images

The first step is to be prepared. This one is probably obvious. Practice your song and your monologue as much as you can. The more familiar you are with your material, the more confident you will be. If it's for a pre-existing show, listen to the show. If it's a brand new show, read the character descriptions and come up with some ideas of how you'd like to play it.

Sometimes the only people who see your audition are the people you're auditioning for, but especially for dance auditions you may be auditioning with others. Even if you aren't, you'll probably see people warming up and rehearsing. Remember Cathy in "The Last Five Years"? She notices all of the other girls auditioning and can't help comparing herself to them. Depending on who you are, different things will help different people to not compare themselves with others. You could try not to pay attention to them. Focus on your audition and what you are doing. Everyone has something unique that they can bring to a role, including you. If ignoring them doesn't help, or it can't be avoided, make friends! Sometimes we have a tendency to put other performers on a pedestal, but they're all feeling the same nerves. Talk to the other people in the room. Ask them what part they are auditioning for, what was their favourite role, talk about theatre. You're auditioning for the same show so there's a good chance that you'll have something in common.

Remember that you don't know exactly what the director or casting team is looking for. They may have an idea of what they want the character to be, but sometimes even they don't know what they want until they see it.

When you are rehearsing for the audition, critique yourself (get others to critique as well if you want) but here's the catch: don't just talk about what you want to improve on. It's just as important to recognize what you do well. Often when we're nervous about an audition, we are afraid that we will make a mistake. It can be harder to recognize your strong points, but the more you acknowledge them the more you will start to believe them. Figure out how to highlight these strong points in your audition. Do you have amazing comedic timing? Do you have remarkable range? Maybe you can emote your ballad in ways nobody else can. Find the very best of you, and let the casting team see it.

This may seem silly but smile as much as you can (if you're doing a scene or a song that isn't a happy one, obviously portray that), but while you are waiting and while you are introducing yourself, smile. If you look happy and confident, eventually you'll feel it.

Now, what if you don't get the part you want, or don't get in at all? Let yourself be disappointed, just like you let yourself be nervous for the audition. But don't let sadness take over. Auditions are learning experiences. Once you're through grieving, ask yourself what you have learned and what you can take from this audition for next time. On that note, let there be a next time. What I've found helps me most after not getting a part is finding my next opportunity. Give yourself something else to hope for and don't give up.

This is easier said than done, and it was something that I heard many times before it finally sank in, but it's true that there are several factors that contribute to not getting a part. These factors are often things that you as a performer have no control over. It can be hard not to take it personally but keep reminding yourself that it usually isn't personal. Yes, there are directors who play favourites but that's a different matter. A good director will be encouraging. If they say that they want you to keep trying, believe that they mean it! They may have you in mind as a perfect fit for a future project down the road.

Think of your favourite performers, the ones that inspire you. Remember that they have all been there. They still feel those nerves in the audition room, and they still feel the disappointment of not getting a role. That will always be a part of theatre. It is the hardest part, but it's not the end.

 Break a leg, you can do it!