Sunday, January 31, 2010

Everyone Died

And that was the perfect end to the run of Friends Like These. 4 gunshots, blackout and curtain. I hope they took it all in, I hope they remember what they created on that stage. It certainly was the definition of the magic of live theatre.

I woke up this morning feeling very sad. It took me a few moments to determine why my glorious Saturday morning of sleeping in was being interrupted with sadness and then all of sudden it came rushing back to me. Tonight would be the end. The true night of lasts, the last time I'd have to go to Carl's Jr to pick up prop food, the last night Sari would cover her hair in lotion and draw in some of the thickest eyebrows I've ever seen. The last night that I would bring Ryan his preset hanger at the end of the show, the last night we'd use the slurpee cups that 7-11 refused to give us for free, the list goes on and on. It truly was a night of lasts.

The sadness, the desire to not move on is particularly strong for me. I've been with other shows that I've loved, but usually when a show ends I'm ready for the end. It feels like it's run its course and it's time to say goodbye. This one is different, it's not done, and I'm not ready to say goodbye. Not to the play, and especially not to this cast. They are such a unique yet cohesive group. True professionals, anyone working in theatre, television or film would be lucky to cast any of these six amazing actors.

We didn't actually say goodbye to each other. The plan is to go to Hollywood Fringe in June and hopefully New York fringe in August. With those plans in our heads, it is a bit easier to walk away for now. If I had actually said goodbye tonight I think it would have been something like this, "As a stage manager you hope for a cast as talented, professional and nice as all of you are. I will miss your smiles, and your hugs, I'll miss seeing you each weekend and most of all I'll miss watching you perform. When I called you to tell you we'd like to offer you a role in this show I had no idea we were putting together such an amazing group of people. We were truly blessed to find all of you, thank you for making my job incredible easy." I could go on, I could embarrass each one of them by telling them how incredible they are and how much each of them contributed to the production. I won't, I think they know, at least I hope they do!

So for now, the book holding Friends Like These has not been closed, it has merely been bookmarked. It will be set aside for a while, but like all favorite books, we'll rediscover it again in the near future, dust it off, re-read it and fall in love with it all over again.

Thank you Matthew Scott, Ryan J, Sari, Sarah, Alex, Jacob, Vance, Sean and Greg for letting me be a part of this fantastic journey.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Goodbyes and Beginnings

We are two thirds of the way through our remount of Friends Like These. When we first started this journey back in July 2009 with casting I don't think any of us imagined it would last this long. We were fortunate to know back in October when we closed FTL the first time that it wasn't goodbye. The remount had already been planned and we knew that roughly 10 weeks later all of us would be gathered together again for part two of this incredible journey. Last night we said goodbye to one of our original cast members. Alex won't be with us next weekend. We have a fantastic understudy joining us, but it was definitely hard watching last night, knowing that would be the last time (for a while at least -- currently the plan is for Friends Like These to come back in the summer at both the Hollywood and NYC Fringe festivals.) that this cast will perform together. I'm not ready tocompletely say goodbye to this show and this cast.

When I came home last night I changed my facebook status to "I have probably seen that show at least 50 times including rehearsals and I could probably see it at least another 50 more. They never cease to amaze me, how incredibly talents they are and yet how humble and nice they are to everyone. Together they have created something that is truly special. I hope they know that :) I do hope these five actors really know much life they have breathed into this great script. I will miss them and I will miss Friends Like These after we close next weekend. For the moment I will tell myself that this isn't goodbye, it's just "see you in a little while." That will make next weekend easier.

While I prepare to put Friends Like These off to the side for a bit, I am preparing for my next project, directing, Torrid Affaire. Auditions were last Sunday and our first couple rehearsals were this past week. So far I am in love with the process, the cast and the show. I discovered my least favorite part of directing so far is the casting. Too many good people for only 6 roles. If only I could cast them all. Other than a brief moment yesterday, when I had a slight panic that someone had accidentally left me in charge, it felt pretty natural. I have to thank the directors I've worked with over the past 4 years. Observing them has been an incredible introduction to the world of directing. The frightening part for me is that we only 17 rehearsals. 17 rehearsals until we open -- that's a bit crazy. Good -- but crazy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unexpected Sadness

As I walked into our theatre this morning to prepare the space for company auditions I found myself walking down the aisle to the stage and being overcome with a strong feeling of emptiness and sadness. Not for myself but for the space. It struck me as odd that a feeling like that could come from a building, from an empty stage and yet it was very powerful. Perhaps I'm a bit of a romantic and it had something to do with the dimly lit stage and the ominous rain clouds outside, but to me as I walked through it felt like the building, the stage, even the seats were sad and lonely this morning. As I gathered chairs and swept the floor I tried to figure it out. What occurred to me was maybe it wasn't sadness, maybe it was a mourning over the loss of the packed house from the night before, two shows back to back both nearly sold out. Maybe the theatre was sad, cold and empty not knowing when that excitement and energy would return to it's space. I wanted to reassure it somehow, tell it that we'll all be back next weekend, different crowds, but the bright lights, the voices, the audience, the cast we'll all be back to perform again, to make the space come to life and be happy again. I'm not sure how to convey that to the four walls and 36 empty seats, it's not really a conversation you can actually have. I hope our auditions today helped cheer it up a bit, make it feel useful and alive again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

And So It Begins

Please forgive The Lord of Rings reference I'm about to make. This is the only part of me that leans at all towards the geek side of things. In Two Towers just before the battle of Helm's Deep, King Theoden is standing on the top of the wall in the middle of the night with his entire army ready to battle the forces of Sauron and Saruman. As it starts to rain off in the distance they can see the opposing army approaching. He stands there getting wet and very stoically says, "And so it begins." There is no fear in his voice, it's very matter of fact. He has no idea what will happen that night but he's ready for it, no matter what.

I had my "and so it begins" moment late Monday night. Vacation is over, everyone is back and our season is kicking into full production mode. I had two back to back meetings on Monday evening. Both good meetings, things were accomplished. I came home with a ton of things to do, so as I sat working late into the night on Monday night, that phrase, "And so it begins" popped into my head. We are looking at another ambitious year, full of fun, excitement and uncertainty. Uncertainty because with any theatre company or performance for that matter you never know what could happen. The good thing is that like King Theoden, we are ready for it, there is no fear in us. We will jump into this new year, embrace it, have fun with it, create and live in it. It truly is exciting!