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First Post!

Posted by: Lizzie Swerdlin (March 11, 2010)

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Hello, all! I'm Lizzie, I'm from Long Island and I'm in the second semester of my senior year of high school. For the normal teenager, this means slack-off central. Time to go to the beach instead of math class, abuse my teachers and take a few extra "well deserved" off periods.

Not for me! Despite the fact that I do have 3 off periods, I have two musicals to be a part of in the period of 3 months. Mid-February brought casting for Kiss Me Kate, and the show is next weekend. "What? Kiss Me Kate? The 3 hour Cole Porter encore-heavy phenomenon? 4 weeks? Can that be done?" Yes, indeed it can! Granted, I'm in the ensemble, but I've spent more time at school in the past few weeks than I'd like to admit.

Immediately after this show are auditions for Grease, a student run "road show" production. We have 4 weeks, including Spring Break, to put this one on... it'll be guerilla warfare, theater style. As the assistant stage manager of that production, I'll probably be running around like a chicken with my head cut off to make sure everything runs as planned, while helping to choreograph all of the musical numbers. Needless to say, I'm going to be very busy. I'm excited, though! I love spending time with my school's Thespian Troupe. 

"CSI--Miami" Writing Secret?

Posted by: Rodney Robbins (March 11, 2010)

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It's a good thing I watched "CSI--Miami" this week--otherwise, I wouldn't be able to finish writing my new play.

You see, I am about to write the Big Reveal that is the climax of the story. Sadly, my scene cards indicate the story has 6 more scenes AFTER the ending. There is no way my audience is going sit around for another 20 minutes after the play is over! So, what is a playwright supposed to do?

"CSI--Miami" to the Rescue!

On Monday, I watched our hero, Horatio Cain, wrapping up another case. He had the bad guy dead to rights and justice was served. Then the writers stuck in a little scene that was just a couple of lines of dialog in the hall. Then, there was a little bit of action out in front of the CSI building. Finally, we saw a cute little scene about the lab rats being afraid to take the elevator (a dead body came through the ceiling of an elevator in the show's opening). THEN, they were done. I thought, "I can do that!"

So, I still have my Big Reveal, only the next scene combines two short bits the audience will want to see wrapped up. In the following scene, my lead character is holding an important prop while he says his goodbyes. And finally, the epilog is still there, but has been shortened by getting rid of one character and given a shocking VISUAL TWIST in the last two seconds of the play.

You too can combine the important elements from two scenes into one scene, make props carry their own weight, reduce unnecessary characters and make your plays more visual and therefore faster paced. When you do, thank Horatio Cain.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Posted by: Nicole Nason (March 11, 2010)

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This show is quite an undertaking and I am so glad that we had LOTS of extra rehearsal time.  Every group number is large and where I usually have chorus people play multiple roles I'm glad that I didn't with this cast.  I'm also glad that we rented the largest costumes as the rest of them is enough.

Philadelphia: City of Brotherly (and Artistic?) Love

Posted by: Kaitlin Davis (March 10, 2010)

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As a youngster growing up in South Jersey, if I mentioned a trip to "the city," friends instinctively knew what I was talking about... Philadelphia, of course! Don't get me wrong, I adore New York City... but I will forever love the city that introduced me to professional theater, my favorite and most magical dancewear shop, and a beautiful museum only thirty minutes from my doorstep. Geographic superiority complex ignored, apparently I am not the only one who sees the beauty of our nation's former capital. Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, recently lauded Philly as a model "arts city." To read the complete text of the article, click here... and if you get the chance to visit, don't forget to try the cheesesteak!

Guys and Dolls cue-to-cue

Posted by: Matt Spencer (March 9, 2010)

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Cue-to-cue, can either be alot of fun, or a painful long experieance.

Luckily for Guys and Dolls it was a fun time. We worked alot on just the lights, and not concentrating on anything else.

We open next weekend, I'll try to get some photos up before then, but We're really excited. the Gold Cast (my cast) worked the cue to cue. the Blue cast will run tomorrow for a full run.

We add our 4 principals to the show tomorrow as well, our main principle and our assistant/sports principal will act at the Trainer and the Heavyweight.

Our other two assistant Principals will act as the M.C.s in the Hot box!

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Posted by: Stephen Infantino (March 9, 2010)

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Well, once again our dear friends at another licensing agency have decided to pull rights for our May production. Thank God MTI doesn't do that. Now the casting begins for FOREVER PLAID. That should be fairly easy since we seem to be male heavy lately. Let's see if we can get the show up in 6 weeks. Stay tuned for updates.

Measuring the Impact of the Arts

Posted by: Kaitlin Davis (March 9, 2010)

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Often when working in the arts, you are called upon to demonstrate and occasionally defend the impact the activities are having. This can be a challenge because some benefits-- improvements in self-esteem or creativity, for example-- can be nearly impossible to quantify. Recently, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art began a comprehensive project to do just that, and the article about their process is really fascinating. I hope that it provides as much insight for you as it has for me.

You can check out the complete text of the blog right here.

Budget Battle..."Man Your Battle Stations"

Posted by: Larry Wilson (March 3, 2010)

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As a retired music teacher with 35 years of experience. I can attest to the fact that being prepared for the "budget battle" is the least favorite part of our profession, but often the most necessary.  The life or death of your program is often at stake.  Even if you are not facing an impending budget crisis, you must be prepared for one.  No one anticipated the financial effects of 9/11 or the meltdown created by the Recession of 2009.

All battles require an Army, Ammunition, a Battle Plan and Perseverance.

Your Army consists of the parents and extended family members, the community organizations, the professional organizations you belong to, the alumni of your past programs and members of the general public.  The artistic excellence of your program and the impact you make within your community creates numerous “supporters” of the arts.  The more they are inspired by your efforts, the more likely they will accompany you in battle. Don’t be shy to ask for their help.  Enlist your parents at open house, parent/teacher conferences or in the “congratulations line” of audience members as they form after each successful performance.  Set up a data base of parent contact numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses, so you can contact your troops in an instant. 

The Ammunition in your battle can often be quantified.  The number of students you impact in your program, the number of performances you  provide for your community, the number of small ensembles you take to the monthly service organization meeting and the number of inter curricular activities you conduct with the classroom teachers. It's the partnership with the community that develops when you lend the music department PA system to the chamber of commerce for their annual awards dinner.  When you volunteer your drum section and flute ensemble for the American Legion's Veteran's Day ceremony, you add to a reservoir of "good will" that returns to you when your program is in "budget jeopardy".

Yes, and don’t forget the volumes of data compiled on the MENC website that  supports the effect of music on academic achievement. For centuries, philosophers and politicians have defended the need for the arts in education.  Include these quotes when you submit your budgets,  prepare position papers and print your concert programs. 

The Battle Plan is paramount.  Give your Army of supporters tasks to do.  Arm them with the phone numbers of the Board of Education members, along with a carefully scripted message that is strong yet respectful.  Encourage them to write letters to the local newspapers. Ask them to network with fellow members of the local service organizations. Network with music staff from other districts who are fighting the same battle so you can share tactics.  Including your students in the actual battle is a  professional “no no”, but involving their parents and extended family members is appropriate. Meet with your Army of supporters often, so that you have unified messengers and not a bunch of loose canons.  Strategically, schedule your "All District Band and Chorus Program" on the night of the district budget vote.  That is a sure way to get your pro music parents to the polls.

And lastly, get your Army to the battle by setting up a phone tree to remind everyone to attend the important public budget meetings. Setting up a Facebook page for your Army will also be helpful. 

Perseverance wins in the end.  Budget time is a long and stressful process.  The rumors of impending doom can wear you down.  Your Army will take their cue from your attitude.  Your message to them is that the arts are worth fighting for and surrender is not an option.  As a colleague of Cindy Ripley for nearly 30 years, I can attest to the fact that the quality of her program was our department’s biggest asset.  Her tireless pursuit of excellence, that was recognized by USA Today in their “All Star Educators Team”, became a tireless pursuit for the survival of her program when the budget chips were down.  As conscientious music educators, we adopt a maternal or paternal instinct regarding our program that fortifies us for the battles ahead.  And, we all know how strong that bond can be.  Cutting a program can take a moment... restoring a program can take years.  Proactive measures must be taken so that this does not happen to your program. 

Guys & Dolls three weeks out

Posted by: Matt Spencer (March 3, 2010)

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Hi out there,
    We are now three weeks away from opening our show. With the two consecutive 4 day weekends from mother nature, we're all pressed for time.

With the nature of double casting we have to rearange the schedual alot. The blue cast opens first so they will run the show first, then my cast, the gold cast will run next week.

We're reworking Havanna and the Finale this week. We're going to have a lot of late nights. 

I've brought my camera this week to film some adventures and misadventures of the cast.
On top of all this alot of cast members are getting sick, including me. And a student teacher is giving us three days to write a reaserch paper on the Apartheid in South Africa. Oh yea new teachers!

More this weekend from a long rehearsal.

m

It Helps to Get Enough Sleep

Posted by: Rodney Robbins (March 3, 2010)

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Theater is inherently hectic and exciting. It can leave you pleasantly drained and relaxed. On the other hand, trying to act in a show, or write one, while dragging your tail is tough. Students, production crews, staff and talent all need plenty of rest to be their best. Here are some tips for getting restful shut eye.

1) Keep a sleep schedule--whenever possible--and especially the week of opening night.

2) Don't go to bed starving hungry or thirsty. Something light helps the body relax and sleep through till dawn.

3) Get some exercise. Stress feels like exercise, but it's not.

4) Sox. Try them.

5) Some theater people are natural vampires. May the Queen of Darkness bless them! If you are functioning fine on 5 hours of sleep, roll with it. Try to leave room in your schedule for a nap--you may need one.

It's amazing how much easier everything is when life doesn't feel like such a struggle. Sleep, blessed sleep, makes everything and exciting again.