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Hannah Kohl's Blog

Firing a 4th Grade Star

Posted by: Hannah Kohl (July 22, 2009)

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All I can say was that she auditioned well.

Paula was new in school that year. She was cheerful, bright, talented, and enthusiastic. At the auditions, she seemed like the best choice to play Maria in our elementary production of The Sound of Music. We were in agreement. Paula would take the lead.

Things started out innocently enough... "She has stage fright," we told ourselves. "She's just nervous - she'll find her stride." But as the weeks dragged on, it became more and more clear that to put 9 year old Paula on stage as Maria would not only be a disaster, it would be social suicide for the newcomer. Our school was big into theatre and a very tough crowd. A close-knit community in northern Mexico, a place where you were still a new kid, even if you were a 12th grader and had arrived in 1st grade.

As Paula became quieter and quieter on stage, forgetting her lines, staring off blankly into space, missing her entrances, it became clear that putting her on in a leading role was too much. She didn't want it anymore, but she didn't know how to get out of it.

I arranged a meeting with Paula's parents and explained the situation. Worried that a bad experience in the theatre at such a young age would hold her back from future participation, I asked the parents if they'd noticed any changes in Paula's behavior. They had. She wasn't sleeping. She was quiet at the dinner table. She cried easily. I told them what I had been seeing and recommended that we let Paula trade parts with someone else in the show. They were worried about the consequences - I assured them that I could frame it to both Paula and the rest of the cast so there weren't any.

The next Monday, Paula switched parts with the girl who had been playing the maid. As the ex-maid shot to stardom, Paula began to shine in this less demanding role. She embraced her part, she gained confidence, she excelled. On opening night, she received a giant bouquet from her parents and ran up to me to share. "Look," she exclaimed cheerfully. "I did it! I'm an actress!"

Paula auditioned for the next play, and the next, and the next... growing in increments as her confidence increased. Now in middle school, Paula is firmly established in the theatre community at her school... and doesn't care in the least that she should've been Maria.

 

 

A Gem of a Jewelbox

Posted by: Hannah Kohl (July 10, 2009)

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In May 2008, I rented a car and drove from New York to Boston to see She Loves Me, starring Kate Baldwin and Brooks Ashmanskas, at the Huntington Theatre Company’s Boston University Theatre. For years, my boyfriend, writer and director Eric Price, had been telling me that She Loves Me is quite possibly one of the most perfect musicals ever written. As the theater darkened and the opening number swelled from the orchestra, I thought he may have a point. By the end of the evening, I knew, without a doubt, that he was right.

When thinking of jewelbox shows, I tend to picture Main Street Disneyland - petite, tidy, compact - with storylines and characters to match. What is remarkable about She Loves Me is the show's ability to fully flesh out the stories of seven interesting, individual people. These stories weave together in a setting that, while small, holds enormous possibilities for romantic comedy. The world of Maraczek's Parfumerie is just the right size to capture our hearts. Seeing the characters interact in such intimate settings allows us to translate the story to our own lives and mark the progress of the characters in a personal way.

 

Community and High School Theaters
For community and high school theaters looking for a show that will highlight individual talents, yet fit on any-sized stage, She Loves Me is a wonderful choice. Not only do the seven lead roles have full character arcs, the ensemble is often highlighted and is crucial to the success of the show. In a business where "there is no such thing as a small part" is often sung half-heartedly, it's exciting to find a musical where the old adage rings true.

 

Staging
The interior of Maraczek’s Parfumerie can be built to fit any stage and can be modified during the course of the show with the addition of simple decorations and seasonal touches. Amalia's apartment, the hospital room, and the Cafe Imperial can be as simply or as fully realized as space will allow. Because the characters often interact in close proximity and the focus of the show remains on the characters, the show is as ideal for a small stage as it is for a large theater.

 

Audiences familiar with Bock and Harnick's other shows, including Tony Award-winning Fiddler on the Roof and Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello!, will understand the remarkable talent driving the score. The exceptional characters of Amalia Balash, Georg Nowack, Mr. Maraczek, Ilona Ritter, Steven Kodaly, Ladislav Sipos, and Arpad Laszlo spring to life in Joe Masteroff's masterful book. (Cabaret)

Driving back to New York from Boston, I had the giddy feeling that usually only comes with a first crush. I felt like falling in love. I felt like I was in love. I sang "Ice Cream" until I thought my boyfriend would crash into the guard rail, but I didn't care. I had a new favorite. She Loves Me is, indeed, a gem of a show.

 

Dreamlight Theatre Presents Bright Lights - July 19th at 7pm

Posted by: Hannah Kohl (July 7, 2009)

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Many of us working at MTI are graduates from NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program which has just formed a partnership with Dreamlight Theatre Company. Dreamlight is presenting a cabaret of work of recent graduates on July 19th at 7pm. Tickets are $10 each. Hope to see you there! http://www.playbill.com/news/article/130890-Bright_Lights_Concert_to_Feature_Lambert_Jibson_Hurlbert_Lamon_and_Wills