Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hats Off...and a Glimpse of whats next!

One of the comments that I get rather often is something to the effect of "I would love to help but I don't know how to..." For those of you who have said this or thought this, I'm about to give you six reasons why that isn't a good enough excuse around here.

There are a number of things that make community theatre special, one of those is opportunity.
In seeking crew for Seussical, I had a response from a new volunteer who said I don't know the first things about theatre. But she was eager to help and willing to learn. When Meghan came into the theatre for the first day of tech, she didn't know upstage from downstage and by opening night she was moving scenery around with the best of them. Many theatres, even in this small community, would turn up their nose at someone who doesn't know their Stage Left from their Stage Right. Here we offer opportunity and the chance to learn from people who have been around the block a few times.

Of the crew on this show, only three have worked a mainstage production here, the rest are rookies! You have to start somewhere and for many people in this town, it has started at 501 Queens Road.

Having a great crew starts at the top with our Stage Manager and works its way down. With Sabrina at the helm, I knew that we would be okay with a young crew that could learn from her experience and learn how to do things right. Throw in John Spinoso(Run Crew Head), who has a knack for moving around heavy objects such as toilets, urinals, couches and people, all without being seen, and I knew we were in good shape. In the absence of our sound designer, I turned to another Theatre Charlotte vet, Jonathan Rast, to cover for him. Jonathan has been a staple behind the sound board for us and does what it takes to achieve excellence.

So now we come to our rookies. Meghan, whom I mentioned earlier, has come along way in a short time on this show and is a perfect example of the volunteer experience here. Come and you will learn.

The Winn sisters, Abby and Emily. Both have helped on previous Theatre Charlotte events, but never a mainstage production. Emily was quick to volunteer to help backstage on this show and has done an outstanding job. Her dedication is second to none and her enthusiasm is what makes this job so rewarding. Maybe it was Emily's excitement that gave Abby the bug, I'm not sure, but she jumped on board as well...literally. With loads of new state of the art lighting equipment brought in for this show (thanks to our Lighting Designer, John Hartness), Abby runs all the lights with the push of a button. Sounds easy, but it takes concentration and good communication skills. I confess...I don't even know how to run this light board. It doesn't stop there, because you can also find Abby backstage during Intermission and after the show helping the rest of the crew clean up and set up for the next performance. I've also noticed the sisters singing and doing some of the choreography in the show. Might we see them on stage in the future?

Speaking of newcomers, how can you get any newer than Charlotte who moved here just a few weeks before the show opened. She didn't know anyone, didn't know how to operate lighting equipment and anyone who has moved to a new city and new school knows it can be overwhelming. I think it is safe to say that she has made new friends and found a home here. That is the "community" in community theatre. Welcome to Charlotte, Charlotte and welcome to Theatre Charlotte, Charlotte.

Community theatre is also a family affair. We were fortunate to have the support of the parents of our Jo-Jo to run follow spot on this production. The Newmans gave up the best seats in the house night after night to sit in the light booth and see the show and their son from the peanut gallery. Again, no experience prior to Theatre Charlotte.

There you have it. Six reasons why you can volunteer at Theatre Charlotte without prior experience: Meghan, Charlotte, Abby, Emily, Mr. Newman and Mrs. Newman. My hat is off to all of you, you have each done an outstanding job on Seussical (no small feat considering the complexity of this show) and I hope that you will share this experience with others.

Next up, The Woman in Black. Enjoy a glimpse of what's to come...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Volunteer Blog by Courtney Johnson

Hello, I’m Courtney. Three years ago, I auditioned for my very first stage production ever…A Chorus Line, which was being done by Theatre Charlotte. I was so honored to be a part of such a fabulous show and to be able to perform in not only one of my favorite musicals of all times but to be able to perform it on Theatre Charlotte’s stage. I’m currently in my 5th production with Theatre Charlotte. You might have seen me in Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©, The Full Monty (Vicki) and I’m currently a Bird Girl in Seussical!

My experience volunteering at Theatre Charlotte has been nothing but glorious! From my first audition to performing on stag
e…it’s become a home away from home. There’s such a talented and passionate group of people involved with Theatre Charlotte. These people pour their hearts and souls into each and every production and put in hundreds of hours of hard labor.

Performing is only one way that I volunteer at TC. I have also helped with the
painting of the sets and striking the sets. I’ve become pretty good with a power drill thanks to theatre. In fact, after The Full Monty, Emily Hunter and I had the job of holding onto the urinals used in the bathroom scene while Chris Timmons unscrewed them from the wall…I have photos of this magical moment and it is hilarious!

It’s truly like working with family when you do a show here. Speaking of family, one of my most favorite things to come out of my volunteer experience with Theatre Charlotte is definitely the life long friendships that I have made. I moved to Charlotte from Orlando 11 years ago and was miserable here until discovering theatre. I am very blessed to have found my new ‘family’ and to be able to share my passion with such incredible people. It’s a wonderful feeling to see so many people give their time to the theatre to bring Art to Life!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Special Events at Theatre Charlotte

Special events at Theatre Charlotte have changed a lot over the past year. One year ago (way back in 2008), we had one major fundraising Gala. It was a black tie event with a live band, catered meal, and silent and live auctions. I served on the committee for this event in April of 2008 and when I started my job as Director of Development we planned to move the event to October. Unfortunately, October of 2008 was when the city of Charlotte was turned upside down and it was not at all the time to hold a $75 per person black-tie-optional Gala. Fortunately, out of this turmoil and panic came a whole new set of special events and opportunities!

We kicked off this plan with a New Year's Eve Celebration. A $35 per person event which featured Theatre Charlotte entertainers, Vito Abate as the emcee, tons of delicious food provided by Board members headed up by Michelle Gutt and Scott Miller, a silent auction, a live feed from Times Square, an open bar with beer, wine, and wassail, and a balloon drop and champagne toast at midnight! This was an incredible event and we absolutely plan to do it again so be on the look-out cause tickets are limited and, if last year was any indication, they'll go fast!

Next, we held a Valentine's Day Murder Mystery Dinner Party called "Wine, Chocolate, and Murder." We weren't sure what to expect from this - we had never done a murder mystery and we weren't sure if people would come to Theatre Charlotte on Valentine's Day. But, they did! We crammed 134 people into our little lobby! The event was a ton of fun and something that we plan to do again on Saturday, February 13, 2010!

A few weeks ago we held our first Junior Cabaret. We had 20 kids ranging in age from 9 to 17 perform on stage. Some sang, others danced, some played instruments. We had a few cabaret tables on stage and held a colorful, sugar-filled candy reception afterwards. The kids seemed to have fun and they were all incredibally talented! This is one that we are looking to do again (possibly as early as Spring 2010!)

Events coming up include:
Lunch with The Cat in the Hat next Saturday, September 19th, and a Sing Along version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show movie after the October 16th just do it.

What was once one big Gala is now lots of smaller events - something for everyone, every budget, and every interest.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Directing Seussical by Ron Law

Several months ago, I wasn't expecting to direct "Seussical." Then the rights to the show I was supposed to direct were withdrawn. So, the search was on for another family musical. I stumbled across the CD to Seussical and gave it a listen. I was instantly hooked. The Theatre Charlotte set designer/technical director, Chris Timmons, and I read the script and our journey into the wonderfully bizarre world of Dr. Seuss began.

The research for this show was the most fun I have had as a director (and this is my 72nd production). Chris and I read the 20 or so Dr. Seuss books that are incorporated into the show. We researched the production history of "Seussical" and the life and times of Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. We wanted to make certain that when the curtain opened, the stage would resemble a page of one of his books.

The show was not particularly successful on Broadway and after it closed, the authors, composer and lyricist massively re-wrote it--cutting songs, adding songs, changing lyrics and changing the focus of the show. It is now so much better.

It is a deceptively hard show to mount. About 98% of the script is music--either songs or dialogue underscored by music. And the dialogue and lyrics (much of them right from Dr. Seuss) are mostly underscored. This is not a collection of Dr. Seuss stories set to music, but rather a brand new story, mainly combining "Horton Hears a Who" and "Horton Hatches the Egg" into one through-line, with a element of many other Seuss books.

The production team--Lisa Blanton as choreographer, Ellen Robison as music director, Chris Timmons as set designer, Jamey Varnadore as costumer, John Hartness as lighting designer and Steph Johnson on props--began to work on the show back in June. And what a terrific team this has turned out to be! All the elements have blended together to re-create the magical world of Dr. Seuss on the Theatre Charlotte stage.

We have selected an energetic, talented cast from the 84 people that auditioned and they have worked long and hard, learning the choreography, the songs and staging. I am so proud of everyone connected with this show.

"Seussical" is a show for everyone--folks of all ages--for all who have loved Dr. Seuss.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This Month in Theatre Charlotte History


September usually marks the beginning of a new season here at Theatre Charlotte. Its generally a month full of excitement, anticipation, and sometimes even panic!

Here are a few of the shows we have opened the season with in the past...
20 years ago - Follies
15 years ago - Assassins
10 years ago - The Boyfriend
5 years ago - Cabaret

All the excitement that surrounds the opening of the theatre season usually results in a few great stories. Stories that are still being told at Theatre Charlotte include the tale of a "wardrobe malfunction" in Cabaret, the panic of a missing actor that almost resulted in a stage manager having to play the part in drag (also during Cabaret), and the horror story of scenery for Act Two being painted during Act One of Barnum!

Take a moment to share your favorite opening night story below...