Thursday, March 24, 2011

Backstage at the Donut Shop

My assistant stage manager is Clark Kent.  Totally serious.  He is tall and lanky with dark hair and glasses and has that 'aw shucks' attitude that I totally associate with Christopher Reeves.  He's also hysterically funny.  He can turn any situation into the most hilarious story.  I wish I could recreate some of them here but I would totally ruin it.

Clark Kent (he has a real name but I'll protect it for the moment) is part of the apprentice program at the Arden.  The chosen few, who make up a class of apprentices each year, work in all departments of the theater so they are not really trained as stage managers.  But I will say this for Clark, he has caught on well and has become the darling of the entire cast.

But he's not the only fun part of this show.  The play starts in the donut shop the morning after it has been broken into.  PUSSY has been spray painted on the door (in our case, on Broadway I think it was on a wall).  This grafitti is wiped off during the course of the show.  So, we (and by we I mean the Production department) had to figure out what paint to use and what would work to wipe it off.  This resulted in a "Pussy Meeting."  Have you ever been invited to a Pussy meeting?  For work?  While my presence was not required, I had to go.  Who gets invited to a pussy meeting?

We decided, Clark and I, that if we get fired we're going to start our own theater company called Pussy Playhouse.  You can imagine the conversations backstage about that one.  Just imagine the marketing:  It's not our pussy it's your pussy.  See, here's the thing about Pussy, it never gets old.  Everything you've thought so far...we've probably already said and then some.  It just doesn't get old.

We also have pot smoking in the show.  We use a nicotine free tobacco product.  I'm not exactly sure what it is but it's not herbal.  You can always tell the cigarette is herbal onstage which ruins it really.  So one night, after a preview, the director says to me, "The joints that Clark is rolling are too thin, they look like cigarettes, can you show him how to roll joints?  I'm sure you know."  How did I suddenly become the resident expert?  Seriously, I have a past, and I've done stuff, but unfortunately, I never did learn how to roll a joint.  Luckily, other people knew and I'm not naming names.  I assume they just did their research on what a joint looks like.

Other than that we have donuts, an awesome fight, and a great cast.  I'm rather sad that the show ends at the end of next week.  Maybe Clark, being so talented, will write about his experiences in a book:  Donuts Pussy and Joints, I'm just thinking out loud here.  He could totally be the next David Sedaris.  I just don't want to be cast as the resident pot expert. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scenes from the Donut Shop

The first thing I have to tell you about Superior Donuts is that the cast is an absolute dream; hard-working, talented, fun, nice, with no egos.  In fact, this entire process has been a dream.  From the director, to the design team, to the Arden staff, it's just been so much fun to work on.

Even during tech, which can get tense and tedious at times, we all (cast, crew, design team) sat around and sang each other's praises.  I can't speak enough about the talent of the design team:  not only are their credentials amazing, their work as evidenced by this show is off the charts.  It's one of those show where you look forward to come to work. 

I'm not saying none of my other shows were like that but this one is especially like that; it's Superior.

The play itself has been well-received and it should, it's really well written.  In case you don't know the story here's a brief snippet:

Arthur owns a donut shop in the run-down neighborhood of Uptown in Chicago.  An aging hippy, he does not engage in anything and avoids people for the most part.  His assistant quits and Arthur hires Franco, a young black kid in the neighborhood full of dreams and possibilities.  Well, you can imagine what happens: Arthur begins to care about Franco but Franco gets in trouble because he is in debt. Arthur finally has to engage in his community.  Sounds like a bit of a downer but it's really very funny and lovely.

Working with Ed Sobel, who was the dramaturg on the original and Broadway production, we learned a few fun facts about the script.  I think my favorite is that Arthur is named after Boo Radley in Too Kill a Mockingbird.  Max, a character in Superior Donuts, says of Arthur "He does not want to be pulled into the light, so I do not pull."  I love those little insights, it just makes the process so much fun.

I'll end this post of praise with a video from my production.  I may only be doing one show this year at the Arden but I really feel like I hit the jackpot!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Priorities in Order

When I was much younger, I told one of my sister's that I wished I had time to exercise.  The ridiculousness of that statement by a young teen with no responsibilities except school is not lost on me.  My sister said,"You have time, it's just a matter of priority." 

Well, she was right of course.  And, I've been thinking a lot about priorities lately.  I've been in rehearsals and tech for the past month for Superior Donuts, a great show by the way but more on that in another post.  With my copious free time greatly curtailed, I had to make choices about what I wanted to accomplish each day.  Obviously, blogging fell to the bottom of the list.  I don't think it was just lack of time that caused me to hit the pause button on my blogging but also lack of mental energy.  As a stage manager, I have to pay close attention to what's going on in the room so at the end of the day, I tend to want to veg out and not think.  Oh, and have a beer.

In thinking about my priorities over the rehearsal period, I realized that working out and practicing singing were at the top of my list; house cleaning wasn't even near the list.  I found that not exercising for a few days caused me to become cranky and irritable, well, more so than usual.  Even 30 minutes of running gave me a new outlook on life.  Singing, of course was important because I'm paying for lessons.  In addition, I found that even though I was working, it was important to me to try to provide good, healthy, home cooked meals for my kids.  That took up time but also gave me some great food to bring to work.  On this production, more so than on any other, I discovered that I didn't want to go out and buy food; I wanted something homemade.

An actor in my cast makes it a priority to write for 2 hours everyday.  I'm impressed with his dedication.   I thought I might try to do that on my breaks but found that I lacked the desire to write.  Isn't it funny, I like the idea of writing everyday, but when it comes down to it, I don't do it.

I guess I have no point really, but c'mon, that shouldn't be a surprise.  It's just interesting to me to think about time and priorities since I went from having my days completely free to working 6 days a week.  I hear so many people say, "I'd so such and such if only I had the time."  But we all have the same amount of time, right?  Isn't it just a matter of priorities?