Monday, November 28, 2011

Insanity Starts With This:

I read an article on Yahoo Shine just a few minutes ago. It has caused me such distress that I had to write about it, even though I should be in bed since I have to work tomorrow. The title of the article was enough to make me cringe:

The article goes on to state how a new theatre is being built in Bellevue, Washington that intends to allow texting and tweeting DURING PERFORMANCES!

This is a quote directly from the article:

John Haynes, the CEO of Tateuchi Center, who is overseeing its design and construction, was given the option of putting a cell phone signal block in the performance space. He thought, "That is exactly the wrong direction to go in." For a tech-savvy audience to feel at home at an arts center, Haynes decided to not just let Wi-Fi into the space but also to allow tweeting and texting during live performances.

I am so appalled by this article that I am not sure how to put it into words, but I plan on trying. I am what I consider a young person. Even if someone might feel that I am too old to be considered "young," but I can say that I do consider myself fairly tech savvy. I maintain two active blogs, two active twitter accounts, I have facebook, I email, I ditched MySpace when it became "uncool," I text more than I talk on the phone.

But I DO NOT think that I can't go an hour without texting or tweeting. When I attend a show I tend to check my phone (email, texts, tweets, fb updates) right before the show starts and then again at intermission. I'm okay with that. In fact, I've seen people attempt to text (or whatever) during a show and I find it distracting. If lights going on and off in the audience during a performance if distracting to me, I can only imagine how annoying and distracting it could be to a performer.

What are we saying if we can't be without contact for an hour (two at most)? And what are you missing while you're looking at your phone? You're missing subtle facial expressions and amazing choreography. You're missing actions that "speak" more than the actual spoken words can convey. And you are saying that the actors and actresses on stage are not important enough for you to give them your undivided attention.

Have we reached the end of "please turn off all cell phones, beepers, and other electrical/noise making devices"? I hope not. Because I can tell you it would ruin my experience each and every time I tried to attend a show. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

My alma mater, Tennessee Technological University, is currently showing their fall musical. This year’s choice happened to be The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. One of the most hilarious (and slightly ironic) things about TTU doing this show is that the college in located in Putnam County in Tennessee. This musical seems to have become wildly popular in community and regional theatres. I’d heard the cast recording a few times and I had a basic idea of what the show was about, so I was excited to get to see a production of it.

A cast of six “kids” play the spellers in the bee. Leaf Coneybear, played by Richard McMahon, is as crazy as his name sounds. Leaf is a homeschooled student who makes his own clothes (his costume consisted of some crazy articles of clothing, including a beach towel and a crash helmet) and finished in 3rd place in his last spelling bee. He only made it to the county bee by default when the winner and second runner up had to attend the same bat mitzvah.

William Barfee, played with great hilarity by Josh Rapp, was a “tragedy” at the previous bee, being disqualified when he succumbed to a peanut allergy. Chip Tolentino, played by Adam Combs, was the previous year’s winner. Marcy Park, played by Lisa Shin, is a perfectionist at heart, and ready to take on anyone. Played by Jessie Nance, Olive Ostrovsky is a sweet girl whose parents are mostly absent from her life and she had quite the self-esteem problem.

Logainne Schwartzandgrubeniere was played by Tori Cannon. Logainne is the youngest speller in the bee, and suffers from quite the adorable lisp. She is also child of two dads (which is where her name Schwartz and Grubeniere becomes Schwartzandgrubeniere) that is being held to incredibly high standards for winning (pushy parents anyone?). Ms. Cannon did a great job despite being surrounded by actors much older than her.

Heading up the spelling bee is former bee winner Rona Lisa Perretti, played by Mary Pashley. Every time I see Mary Pashley, I can’t wait to see her again. Her voice is beautiful and she is very active in the theatre community in Putnam County. The best part about Ms. Pashley is that she is a professor of finance at Tennessee Tech, which totally blows my theory of artsy people (myself included) having zero ability in math and science. Assisting Rona Lisa Perretti in her duties are Vice Principal Douglas Panch, played by Phil Horn and Mitch Mahoney (who is doing her community service) played by the lovely Nia Kerlegan.

This show was hilarious. Since there are audience volunteer spellers, it seems you never know what’s going to happen. It was a small cast, which was great for the Backdoor Playhouse, and the costuming was adorable. I won’t ruin the story for you by telling you who wins the bee. Or by telling you what happens to each of the spellers. I will suggest you go see this show, which plays through November 12th.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fiddler on the Roof

A beautiful production of Fiddler on the Roof is currently playing at Cumberland County Playhouse. Fiddler on the Roof is the story of a Jewish family in the early 1900s in Russia. Tevye, played by Jim Crabtree, and his wife Golde, played by Carol Irvin, have five daughters. They are a poor family and depend on village matchmaker Yente, played by Weslie Webster, to help them find good men for their daughters to marry since they have nothing to offer for dowry.

As the three oldest of their children reach an age at which they should be marrying, Tevye has to make some serious decisions on how to approach a turbulent and changing time in his country. Tzeitel, played by Emily Wood, wishes to marry for love, instead of money and security. Hodel, played by Lindy Pendzick, finds love with an outsider, come to the village to teach. Both of these matches are grudgingly approved by Tevye, but when his middle child Chava, played by Ali Gritz, falls in love with a man who is not Jewish and who is a Russian soldier, Tevye is devastated.

Meanwhile, unrest in the area is causing many Jewish people to be run out of their homes by the Russian government. The local constable, played by John Fionte, is considered by and considers Tevye a friend, but in the end follows orders that cause Tevye and his family, along with all the other Jewish families in the village of Anatevka, to be forced from the area.

The opening song of the show was probably my favorite ensemble number. “Tradition” is one of the songs that I remember from the few times I saw the movie. It was a great performance, with the entire cast being on stage (at times looking a little crowded for the small CCP stage). The choreography for this number was amazing, considering the number of people involved and the song itself sets up the time, place, and ideals of this little village of Anatevka.

One of the most famous songs from the show (at least the one I think is most recognizable), is Tevye’s song “If I Were a Rich Man.” The song is full of humor and Jim Crabtree did a great job with bringing in the laughs during this number (and throughout the rest of the show). His constant conversations with God were amusing and completely understandable from his viewpoint.

Perhaps the most touching and beautifully choreographed part of the show is “Chava Ballet.” Ali Gritz and Austin Price do a lovely job with this ballet piece. Seeing the pain and heartbreak that Chava goes through after her separation from her father, and in turn, seeing Teyve’s heartbreak and disappointment with his daughter’s decisions was enough that I heard more than one person’s sniffles around me (and some of them might even have been my own).

This show was nothing less than another wonderful production put on by the Cumberland County Playhouse. They never seem to fail in talent, professionalism, and flat out great shows. So how do you write about a show that was well sung, well-acted, and well performed…but that you still don’t really care for? I always hate to speak negatively of a show. So my disclaimer for this post is that anything negative about this show is simply due to the fact that I don’t really care for Fiddler on the Roof. The story and the music just never really seemed to be my cup of tea. I never really liked the movie and hadn’t watched it in years, so when I saw the Cumberland County Playhouse version this weekend, I was simply reminded WHY I never watch the movie (it kind of depresses me).

I can honestly recommend that you see this show, especially if you are a fan of Fiddler on the Roof. I’ll also say that if I have to watch it, I was blessed to see this fantastic production at the Cumberland County Playhouse. If you’re a fan (or think you might be), you can still see Fiddler on the Roof at CCP through December 18th. You can call the box office at 931-484-5000 for tickets, or visit their website HERE to purchase tickets online.

Go see it and let me know what you thought. Or if you’ve seen another production of Fiddler (or are simply a fan of the movie) and would like to debate *cough*argue*cough* with me about all the great things about the show, please comment (respectfully please). I’d love to hear what other people think about the show (this production or others).

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

This weekend I was blessed to get to see The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Cumberland County Playhouse. It’s a little early for me, considering I usually try to put off all Christmas themed things until after Thanksgiving, but this show was so wonderful that I’m running around with Christmas carols stuck in my head today…and I’m perfectly okay with that.

One of the best things about the Cumberland County Playhouse is their education department. They have a wonderful department and do several shows a year for the children. Most of these shows they double or triple cast to let as many children as possible have roles. I admire CCP for allowing the children to get the taste of being in theatre. The have a “red,” “blue,” and “green” cast for this show. I sought out the “green” cast since a classmate of my younger sister was in the “green” cast.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is what I like to call a play with music rather than a musical. Instead of setting a story to music, this show uses Christmas music at the beginning to set the mood and at the end during the Christmas pageant the kids put on. Throughout the rest of the show there is little to no music at all. Directed by Weslie Webster, this show is perfect thing to get the Christmas spirit going.

The show begins with the entire cast performing several Christmas carols. Being the huge sap that I am, I cried a little. Christmas music makes me cry regularly, and then add to that around 40 people (most of them children) all singing together…yeah, bring on the waterworks.

Bob and Grace Bradley, and their children Beth and Charlie, begin the actual story part of the show arguing about the church Christmas pageant. Grace is insisting that Beth and Charlie be in the show, and that Bob attend, although all of them are fighting it. Bob, played by Greg Pendzick, prefers to stay at home in his bathrobe watching football. Beth and Charlie, played by Molly McKinney and Malachi Banegas, prefer to avoid their overbearing pageant director Mrs. Armstrong, played by Carol Irving.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Armstrong is sidelined by a broken leg and Grace, played by Lindy Pendzick, is roped into directing this year’s Christmas pageant. However, local hoodlum children, the Herdmans, find out that there are refreshments at church and suddenly start to show up. These local bully children have all of the children (and most of the adults) in the neighborhood terrified of them.

The Herdmans have a classically “bad” home life. They talk freely about welfare and child protective services being around. They fight each other, bully the other children, and smoke cigars. Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Molly, and Gladys Herdman certainly add flavor to the practices. And through their bullying tactics, Ralph and Imogene, played by Chaz Sanders and Allie Crain, end up filling the roles of Joseph and Mary in the pageant. Gladys, played perfectly by Emery Smith, ends up being the Angel of the Lord and adds a little….flair to the role. The other Herdman children, Leroy, Claude and Molly, played by Isaiah Banegas, Jacoby Copeland, and Perrianna Evans, become Wise Men.

Needless to say, disaster after disaster happen, right up to the end, including the fire department being called during the final dress rehearsal. In the end, of course, there are some touching moments that show that the Herdman children may have actually been paying attention, and the members of the church congregation learn a lesson about loving people and teaching kindness. While the pageant doesn’t go exactly as planned, the lesson is there, and even more of a special lesson is learned by the congregation by watching the Herdman children learn their lesson.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is heartwarming from start to finish, and done very well. The children are adorable and the story is one to help bring in the season. This is a great show for families and for kids. It is currently playing at Cumberland County Playhouse through December 17th. You can purchase tickets by calling 931-484-5000 or by visiting the WEBSITE.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Broadway World Nashville Awards Voting

This year's BroadwayWorld Nashville nominees are up for awards voting. There is a Nashville category and a Tennessee category. This is a great chance for theatres and actors to be recognized for the work they do. Please take a few minutes to go vote. I voted only in the Tennessee category since I didn't see any shows in Nashville (that weren't tours) last year. Even so, it only took about 10 minutes to get through the voting.

So get to it and support your local theatre!

Remember there are two categories: Tennessee and Nashville.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Secretly Curious

As much as I love theatre, I don't really want to work in theatre. I did some school plays (that weren't very good) in high school and always did drama in my church, but after I got to college, a stagecraft class and one acting class was enough to convince me that I'm not an actor. I'm not a singer. And I'm not a dancer. And I also love WATCHING shows more than I love anything else.

But I won't lie...even as a "grown-up," I sometimes still have that little girl fantasy of being on stage. There is a small (and I do mean SMALL) community theatre about 45 minutes from my house that is holding auditions for a Christmas show to take place in the first part of December. I read the audition post and it crossed my mind to actually do it.

It was fleeting, but there it was. Luckily, there wasn't much to debate; even if I'd decided I'd like to do it, the weekend of the show conflicts with some other things I have going on. But it doesn't stop me from having that brief thought.

I know that it would be stressful and I wouldn't enjoy being in it nearly as much as I would watching it, so I wouldn't do it. But that little girl is still inside me sometimes, telling me to go for it.
Two conflicting sides to myself. I think I'm just lucky enough to know that I'd be more unhappy if I chose to participate instead of observe.

Anyone else have secret thoughts of fame? :) Share your story with me!