Friday, October 14, 2022

A Wide Range

    In the middle of a rehearsal on a Sunday evening, my mother texted me to update me

about the Kansas City Chiefs game she was watching, and how exciting it was. I texted her

once I was done with rehearsal to let her know I was done, and that I didn't respond right away

because I was in rehearsal. She responded, "... that's a bit of a shift, huh?"

    She was referring to the fact that I just got out of a rehearsal for this year's production

of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," but for the previous two nights, Trident Theatre led the

storytelling tours at Fort Phil Kearny for their "Full Moon Fort" event. Quite the shift indeed.

    While this year's Full Moon Fort tours told the story of the Fetterman Battle with intense

description of life in the post-civil war frontier and frozen and mutilated bodies, the tours were

nonetheless intended for a more general audience (although families were warned that ONLY

the first tours of the evening would be scaled down for kids to enjoy). So jumping from a

detailed theatrical retelling of history to a niche cult classic with strong sexual themes told in a

hilarious campy format ... perhaps my mother was surprised I didn't get whiplash.

    At the time she said it, I guess I didn't think much of it, other than counting my lucky

stars that I was able to land two great theatre gigs in one season. But, once she said it, my

introspective gears started turning. On one hand, being the head of a theatre production

company allows for the sovereignty to choose projects that would be interesting to pursue. On

the other hand, it's hard to turn down a job.

    But, upon reflection, I think it's an absolutely wise thing for artists to be able to have a

breadth of diversity to their product. For the photographer, it must have been quite the shock

to switch from film to digital, to not actually need a darkroom anymore, and just how that

change made photographers view the world. And still, there are photographers who still prefer

film over digital, but again, I think it's fascinating to have such versatility within a single art

form.

    I also realize that not every show can please every audience. Try to name a play that

meets all needs. I'll debate anyone on any play, even my favorites. I know I've been guilty of

thinking, "How can anyone like THAT?" But yet they do, which I believe speaks to the diversity

of tastes that are out there. There is something for everyone.

    But all in all, I do appreciate the fact that since its inception, Trident has evolved into

something that can offer a variety of not only types of plays and productions, but also delivery

methods by which it entertains its audiences.

    For those of you who attended Full Moon Fort, I sincerely appreciate your patronage.

And, if you think it might be for you, I encourage you to give "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

a shot. I've got a lot of high-minded reasons about why the experience is still a valuable part

of collective culture. But, you could just come and let your inhibitions loose for a night, and

have a crazy fun time. It plays ONE NIGHT ONLY on October 29, 2022 at 7p at the WYO.

Oh, and by the way, the Chiefs eventually won that game. I personally am not all that

entertained by football, but I'm glad mom has that to rely on each week.

    I'll see you at intermission! 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Theatre for Grown-Ups

  On July 29th of this year, I presented the first episode of my podcast in which the episode was recorded in front of a live audience. I was quite careful to remind potential ticket buyers that the show would most likely include adult language, and I knew the topic was going to be fairly scandalous. So, I made sure to help people understand that the show was rated "R."

While discussing this with a fellow Sheridanite one evening, he commented about the "R" Rating by simply saying: "That's good." This led to a conversation about how frequently entertainment in Sheridan is marketed as family-friendly, or otherwise non-offensive. While neither of us disparaged relatively clean entertainment, this conversation delved deeper into respecting diversity of tastes, and addressing specific entertainment needs in the community. My friend said that it was nice to know that there was something that maybe didn't have to edit itself for more mass consumption; that maybe it was okay for adults to go out and hear some dirty jokes on stage.

At this point, I could continue this tangent, in which I would probably end up soliciting people to "let their hair down," and "enjoy themselves more." But, that's not always the best thing for everyone. I think we have to remind ourselves that there is almost no stage performance that will please everyone, or be suitable to everyone. It's virtually impossible. However, on the other side of that coin, we do have to understand that there are a variety of entertainment needs that need to be addressed.

But, I think more than anything, its been fun to see how Sheridan has accepted a little more grown-up entertainment recently. I'm still seeing people who saw my friends and I in "First Date" in April, and they're still lighting up just talking about it. On the other hand, if you look at that show from a certain angle, it more or less forced two


 adults to air their dirty linens in public amidst a pretty heavy amount of adult language. And people loved it.

I'm reminded of Shakespeare's Puck in the closing monologue of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in response to people who may not be seeking more adult content, but accidentally find themselves in a show that contains something they find objectionable: "If we shadows have offended/ Think but this and all is mended/ That you have but slumbered here/ while these visions did appear ..." Mainly to say, what you just saw on stage wasn't really real. So maybe try not to take it too hard.

In that vein, I guess I'm one theatre artist who doesn't mind telling a few naughty jokes and doing more prurient stuff on stage, just as long as people have a good time. I guess I'll just keep serving that need a little bit, since people are happily buying tickets for these shows.

Speaking of which, don't forget - The WYO and Trident Theatre will be partnering up again around Halloween to present "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." It was an amazing time last year, with a big crowd. This year, let's make it even bigger! If you're interested in getting involved, just drop me a line at trident@tridenttheatre.com!

I'll see you at intermission!

 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Burned-Over

 In a few episodes of my podcast, "Euripides, Eumenides: A Theatre History Podcast," I talk about the "Burned-Over District" of upstate New York in the first half of the 1800s.  This is in reference to the fact that virtually everyone in that region had firmly committed themselves to a religious institution.  So, anyone trying to recruit new members to a church didn't have a lot of luck there.  At times, being the host of a podcast that isn't even two years old yet, I can empathize with those ministers looking for new parishioners in the "Burned-Over" District.

One thing you learn pretty quickly in the podcasting game is that you have to find your audience.  A statistic I heard earlier this year is that 99% of people polled watch videos on YouTube, whereas only 36% of people listen to podcasts.  But, those who do listen to podcasts consume them voraciously.  So, it's basically a matter of putting your show in front of people who would find the content interesting, and they'll devour it.  While I've been fairly successful with that - I do love seeing how many countries my episodes get played in - I want to give myself even more of a challenge, and try to convert that other 64% of people who don't listen to podcasts.

I've learned a lot about what listeners like as far as podcasts are concerned, which make it easy for first-time listeners to engage.  I've learned the pace that will keep an audience listening.  My episodes generally range from about 45-75 minutes in length, and I consistently release them every two weeks on Wednesdays.  A new episode will be out this Wednesday, in fact.

But, in order to get new listeners, fresh tactics become necessary.  So, I'm taking another approach this summer.  At the end of July, I'll be recording a live episode of my podcast at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.

Here are somethings you can expect:

You don't need to be an expert in theatre.  I make my shows quite accessible.  More than anything, you need to be someone who loves to hear juicy gossipy stories, or just truly baffling "oh wow" stories.  The ones I tell just all happen to be about theatre history.

Often, my shows are a little more grown-up in nature.  So, they may not be the best for kids.  For those of you who saw me and my colleagues in "First Date," it's more like that: some good adult humor.  We'll probably have some adult language and talking about adult things.  So again - probably best to consider it rated "R," or "E," for the podcast lovers out there.

We'll probably also have drinks for the show, so if that isn't incentive....

PLUS!!  By purchasing a ticket, you could have the chance to win 1 of 4 gift cards to Frackelton's, valued at $50 each!  I'd like to here and publicly now thank Frackelton's for sponsoring the show in this way!

My guests for this episode will be Photojournalist Matt Gaston from The Sheridan Press and past guest and Theatre Instructor Dustin Hebert from Casper, Wyoming.

Finally, if you've listened to my show before, you know that I don't tell my guests what topic we'll be discussing for the episode.  So, just to keep your curiosity bubbling, I won't tell you either.  But, I will tell you that it's a story from recent theatre history, you'll most definitely be familiar with the people involved, and that I giggle and blush a bit every time I think about it.

So, that's it!  A live episode of "Euripides, Eumenides: A Theatre History Podcast" will be at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center on Friday, July 29.  Tickets will be available soon.

I'll see you at intermission ... or after the show in this case!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Silver Linings


"You've no dough, so relax. / You don't have to pay an income tax."

"When your car runs out of gas, then no red lights can you pass!"

These are some of the lyrics from the song "Sunny Side to Every Situation," from the Musical "42nd St." This show played a huge part in my development as an actor, and I keep getting struck with epiphanies from its words even decades after I was in it.

I'll give you a little set up.  The play takes place in the Great Depression, and the lyrics above are sung by a company of actors and dancers who have just found out that the play they were getting ready to take to Broadway has been cancelled.  Thus, they are all now unemployed in an absolutely dismal job market.

But, they take the time to remind themselves of what they actually still have going for them with the song "Sunny Side to Every Situation."  Not that their fortunes changed all that much, but they at least feel better about their current circumstances.

I'm thinking of this song while writing this, as I'm in the cast for the WYO/CTG's co-production of "First Date," which opens April 8th in the Mars Theater at the WYO.  When I was contacted by the directors to come audition, I didn't really know the play.  It took me about 10 minutes of listening to some of the songs to say, "Absolutely yes - I will audition."

I made my decision based on just what the play is reminding us.  Even earlier in my development as an actor and theatre artist, I was told that theatre must be for the community in which it is being performed, meaning it must relate to them, or connect them with something beautiful in this world, and here "beautiful" can have a multitude of definitions.  Overall, the theatre must connect an audience with feelings they haven't felt in a while, and get a chance to exercise them.

I know we're probably all tired of hearing about the pandemic.  Those of us who got through it fought some pretty tough battles, and the world often looked pretty bleak.  I would suggest that for the better part of two years, we all got to experience just about as many negative feelings as we can.  Not that I'm suggesting that we aren't still feeling those now that the surge of the pandemic has subsided.  But rather, I'm saying now that it has, and we can start living in a post-COVID world, we get a chance to take stock of what we DIDN'T lose during the pandemic.

Here's some feelings you may have forgotten: the anxiety of meeting someone for the first time, with the mutual intent of determining the feasibility of being life partners, all determined over this initial meal or drink.  The flashes of terror as red flags start to wave, and at any moment it could all end in disaster!

I'll also remind you of what humor is on stage: it's pain happening to someone else at that exact moment.  It's the pain of being insufferably human against a personal expectation of perfection. It's watching the groom's pants fall down on his wedding day.  It's the bucket of water poured over someone else's head.  Or, it's watching two people stumble through a blind date.

Without spoiling too much, there isn't too much heavy with "First Date."  It's a fun night to leave the kids at home and have some good grown-up comedy.  But, deeper than that, it's just the kind of show we need right now.  We need to be reminded that somewhere deep in us, we have things we didn't lose during COVID, things that weren't necessarily altered by COVID.  We do have delight and joy, and we get to come into contact with them again.  So, I invite you to come share a date with us, and go home sufficiently connected with things you thought might be gone ... but they're not.

I'll see you at intermission (just kidding, we don't have an intermission for this show)!


Friday, January 14, 2022

Year in Review 2021

        On January 27, 2021, I published the first episode of "Euripides, Eumenides: A Theatre

History Podcast." I pledged to do a new episode every two weeks, and on January 12, 2022, I

published by 26th episode, which effectively ends my first year in the podcast game. It's been

quite a journey, and one I'm happy to still be taking.

        For the past several years, I've touted shows I've been a part of, or shows that I have

coming up, and I will do that in some of the paragraphs below. I've waxed on a wide range of

topics that all relate back to not only the global theatre situation, but also to how the art is

presented in Sheridan. Again, we are so blessed to have a thriving arts community here, and

it's wonderful to see how it grows and develops.

        The past couple years ... do I even need to say anything about how strange or difficult

they were? So much of our society was challenged by something that seemed impossible to

prevent, and we all just wanted things to resemble some sort of "normalcy." Unfortunately, we

can't pick the times in which we live, we just have to figure out how to maneuver our lives

through the circumstances.

        But, that takes a toll; mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially. There is a reason

people would just rather erase 2020 and 2021 from our collective memories. And, I'm not sure

that we're out of the woods just yet.

        So, in my estimation, there has been a general malaise. Not just in Sheridan, but

everywhere.

        In a webinar I recently attended about podcasting and growing my personal brand, it

was suggested to take an inventory, meaning that each show has certain elements that make it

unique in the business. These should be the selling points. So, here's my inventory for the

year, and these will be the finer points that Trident Theatre plans to focus on until we can

determine that this malaise has subsided.

        Frankly, I believe we need the performing arts to connect us to beauty again, which can

take many forms. But, what I mean by this is that we need to help people find joy again.

        Let me see if I can explain. I'm currently re-watching the HBO series "Westworld," as I

never finished upon initial viewing. For those of you that haven't seen it, I'm not so sure that

the superficial meaning of the word "beauty" could apply. The show is quite dark, quite

gruesome at times, and manages to cram in deep existential thoughts to ponder on long after

an episode is complete. There is very little that is pretty or warm about that show. But, the

beauty I refer to is the impressiveness of the writing, the scale of the production, and the power

inherent in the acting. There is just a lot to admire. So, when the credits roll, I have gone on an

hour-long journey that left me feeling more enriched than when I started, which makes me

happy.

        Now, Trident is not planning to launch anything near the scale of "Westworld." But,

what I can say is that the productions that Trident has been involved with the last year have

helped remind its audiences what is good and right and self-affirming; helping the audiences to

see that in a world of dark, there is still light. Our team-up with the WYO Theater for the

"Rocky Horror Picture Show" got people to feel comfortable in their own skins, and be around

people who felt likewise. I was involved with Aspen Grove Music Studio's "All Together Now,"

which reminded people just how much connection we have on a global scale, rather than

feeling isolated during a time in which many are feeling despair. And, the podcast - if you

haven't enjoyed it yet, there's still time - brings joy and laughter to a subject that, as I say in the

intro to each episode, "... could be considered rather dry and stuffy."

        Frankly, Trident is focusing on the positive. Feel free to join us.


        I'll see you at intermission!

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Touchy-Feely Side of "Rocky Horror"

            It’s the genuine hope of the WYO and Trident Theatre to present “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on an annual basis.  Our production goes up tonight, and each year presents new and amazing challenges.

I’ve been involved with the production for several years now, and the show is in its ninth year running in Sheridan!  But this is the first time I’ve ever directed it, and I’m proud to do so on the main stage of the WYO, the nexus of performing arts in Sheridan.

While “Rocky Horror” is a staple piece for the LBGTQ+ community, there is so much for anyone to appreciate within such a show.  Of course, there is the dressing up, the audience interaction that truly breaks the fourth wall, the props, the dancing and signing; all of which are required to have the full “Rocky” experience.  And, if you’ve had a good time, then most of the work we did behind the scenes won’t leave too much of a trace.  But, since I’m talking about it, let me give you a “behind-the-scenes” look.

As many of you know, this show is quite sexual in nature, and many patrons may not realize just how much personal work can go into being somewhat intimate on stage.  It can be even more difficult for an actor to be as generous with their sexuality that this show requires.  In the past in the acting world, it was just expected that an actor gets onstage and does what is written on the page for them to say or do with very little question about how the content will affect them personally.  For many, performing such actions could unlock unfortunate past traumas associated with acts such as kissing or cuddling or even dancing provocatively.

Thus, we employed intimacy training and choreography, which is a big thing in the theatre world right now.  At the beginning of every rehearsal we would conduct personal body and emotional “check-ins,” an honest audit of sorts.  Sometimes, someone might say, “My shoulders are off limits tonight,” or, “I’m having a difficult mental health day.”  Knowing that we still had to deliver the content on the page while still keeping each other safe, this group maintained much more professionalism than I have seen in many productions I have been involved with before.  If any body restrictions came up, we would ask what could be appropriate, and honest answers came out with positivity, such as, “Instead of putting your hand on my shoulders, how about my hips?”  All parties would agree, and we’d move on.  If someone would be having difficulties with mental or emotional health, a bevy of therapeutic solutions would be offered and would require consent from the actor before proceeding.  It’s really been something.

I don’t think we could have had such openness as a group without the suggestion of one of our actors early in the process.  It was suggested that, since we would have to be so open with our bodies, we should be open with our emotions as individuals, too.  Therefore, we sat down and each gave a personal reason as to why we wanted to be part of this production.  Once we started sharing, it became clear that everyone needed this show to be part of their lives right now.  Some were getting over stage fright.  Some were answering very personal questions about themselves.  Some planned to use this show to help heal psychological wounds.  Knowing that, each of us gained such profound respect for each other that we’re going to have a hard time letting this go.

So, yes, this show still has all the makeup and glitter and fishnet stockings and corsets and feather boas and sexual freedom that “Rocky Horror” fans have come to expect over the years.  But just know that for us, this means something a little more, and we’re going to give our all.

But, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be back at it next year.

I’ll see you at intermission!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Theatre On-Demand

It's been a pretty exciting time on my Instagram feed in the past couple weeks as Broadway shows have been rolling out their re-opening dates for a post-pandemic New York City.  Most of them are looking at opening in the fall or winter 2021, and I've seen a lot of people on social media buying tickets to their favorites.  This is the moment I've been anticipating: the moment when we start to figure out what the world will look like after over a year in relative isolation.

But for those of us who can't necessarily afford to see all these new shows, what's in it for us?

On my podcast, "Euripides, Eumenides," the subject of streaming rights to live performance has frequently come up in conversation.  Before the pandemic, rights to record video of a live performance such as theatre were strictly prohibited.  There were only granted under either very special circumstances, or if additional fees were paid.  In my understanding, as far as the theatre is concerned, this was to ensure that the only way to see a performance would be to pay for it.  While this wouldn't affect smaller markets as much, this definitely would affect larger markets such as Broadway.  But also, Broadway shows usually have something bigger in store for audiences.  For example, while it would be incredible, it's probably not likely that I'll be able to convince someone like Hugh Jackman to appear in a musical in Sheridan, Wyoming.  So, by limiting performances to be solely for a live audience, buzz can generate, and more tickets can be sold. 

However, maybe we don't live in that world anymore.  I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that we've gotten accustomed to preferring our live events to be streamed to our living rooms or mobile devices.  But, it could be another method of allowing access to people who might not otherwise be able to attend EVERYTHING.

One of my recent guests on the podcast teaches theatre at a high school in Wyoming.  During the pandemic, he found out rather quickly that while Broadway and most regional theaters were shut down, playwrights and publishing houses were almost desperate to have any of their productions staged.  So they quite willingly allowed streaming rights to be available.

Now, it's a pretty common thing to see an option for streaming rights when requesting  rights to perform a play.  And, I hope that trend doesn't go away.  This same theatre teacher  I mentioned earlier stated that streaming rights would make professional theatre productions available to his students who simply do not have the means to travel far out of town, much less afford to see them live.

Another recent guest - who is a major producer in London - opined that while streaming   performance should not be a replacement for live theatre, it definitely should be a component of it going forward.  There are a lot of students who formally studied theatre during the pandemic, and saw it provide them opportunities to connect with audiences on a much grander scale than just within their individual communities.  They now have the opportunity to change the industry for the better.

Of the many episodes of my podcast I have done, only one of them has been in person thus far.  All the rest have been via Zoom.  But this has allowed me to have guests from virtually anywhere, and thus to reach an audience in several different countries.  Frankly, I just don't see much of an argument for this part of show business to "go back to normal."  I've been saying it here and elsewhere: I'm not sure if that "normal" exists anymore.  But what does exist in its place is an opportunity to evolve, and that is honestly quite exciting.

Please feel free to listen to my podcast "Euripides, Eumenides" on any major podcast provider.  I've also got links to many of them on the Trident Theatre website: tridenttheatre.com/euripides-eumenides/.

I'll see you at intermission!