Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our first press release!

Gallery Players to Start 'Parade' on Feb. 28

Gallery Players will present the Central Ohio premiere of the Tony Award Winning Play, Parade, from Feb. 28 through March 15. The musical chronicles the real-life 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. The event, which gave rise to the creation of the Anti-Defamation League, ponders the consequences of the miscarriage of justice.

"The trial aroused anti-Semitic tensions in Atlanta and throughout Georgia," said JCC Cultural Arts Director Jared Saltman. "The plot stays closely to the historical story's conclusion that the likely killer was drifter Jim Conley, a key witness against Frank at the trial. The true villains of the piece are the prosecutor Hugh Dorsey - later the governor of Georgia and then a judge - and the rabid publisher Tom Watson, who was later elected a U.S. Senator."

Saltman added that the tale also is a love story. "Frank is newly married to an Atlantan, but feels out of place. He has never blended into Southern society," he said. "However, throughout the course of the play, his wife transforms from a shy bride to a passionate advocate for her husband. When she embarks on a campaign to save her husband from execution, she surprises herself and her husband by taking on the Atlanta society in which she grew up. Once the extent of the courtroom chicanery is revealed, the governor commutes the sentence. But it's a small victory as Frank finally realizes the extent of his wife's love."

The play was written by Alfred Uhry, who also wrote "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" and "Driving Miss Daisy." Uhry, who grew up in Atlanta, had personal knowledge of the Frank story, as his great-uncle owned the pencil factory run by Leo Frank. Jason Robert Brown wrote the music and lyrics that is rich in Americana, with gospel, ragtime, and rythm and blues. Uhry and Brown both won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Music Score respectively. The play also won several Drama Desk Awards, and has played on Broadway, and in Australia, London, and Ireland.

In the Gallery Players' production Jon Schelb is starring as Leo Frank, with Liz Wheeler playing his wife, Lucille. Additional cast members include: Dawn Farrell, Michael Wilson, Emily Deardo, Rachel Hering, Jonathan Collura, Laron Hudson, Michelle Conison, Abby Kaselak, Drew Eberly, Jay Rittberger, Denae Rall, Sam Vestey, Jennifer Painter, Randy Benge, Joel B. Cohen, Wilma Hatton, Dani Mann, Eileen Howard, Aaron Henley, Wendy Cohen, Bill Fulk, Vera Cermeans, Quentin Schofield, and Aaron Len.

Directed by Frank Barnhart, Parade will be presented: Saturdays, Feb. 28 and March 7, 14 @ 8 p.m.
Sundays, March 1, 8, 15 @ 2:30 p.m.
Thursdays, March 5, 12 @ 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for JCC members, $18 for nonmembers, $10 for senior members, $16 for senior nonmembers, $8 for children or students, and $10 per ticket for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling (614) 231-2731 or at the door.

Contact Saltman at (614) 559-6248 for more information.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm back!

Well, with the crazy weather we've been having here, I have been staked out at my parents' the last few days, and there's only one computer (long story), so I haven't had much access to this blog. Ice,'s a mess out here! But I am back, and returned to Regularly Scheduled Blogging!
No Parade call for me until Monday, when I do the Factory Girls' scene in Act II. Then rehearsal T-Th--we hope!
My resume was accepted for the Weathervane Playhouse auditions in Newark! They do five shows a season. I am hoping to be case in "Into the Woods" and/or "The Secret Garden". 

Monday, January 26, 2009

A great rehearsal :)

Sooo glad to be able to write that as the subject line!
Tonight we were in the R-R Theater, beginning to run Act I with blocking. We changed a few of the pairings, so I am now with a different actor at the beginning (and he towers over me--and everyone else--so that's really fun). Jay was great on "Old Red Hills of Home". We had to, of course, adjust some of the blocking because the stage is bigger (well, duh) than the room we were in before, and to make sure we are out of the way of moving set pieces!
"The Dream of Atlanta" (or, as Frank calls it, "The Atlanta Song") went well. At the end we are all adoring the Governor and his wife on their float as Leo walks among us ("How Can I call This Home?"). Then we realized that we hadn't run the vocal parts on this number, so we briefly went over those, learned it fast, and went back to blocking. During one part (before we break into our solos), Jon (who plays Leo) is singing about the oddness of Southerners about four inches from my face, but I can't look at him. It's quite amusing. Another amusing part is when I get to beg Aaron (my new partner in this scene) for a balloon, wherein he tells me to "Settle Down". (This is so a scene from my childhood...)
We then get "The Picture Show", Frankie and Mary's duet, which was so funny! Jonathan (who plays Frankie) does this great scat number at the end which the audience will love. 
After that, we turn back to the float, and head off, while Leo and Lucille sing "Leo at work/What am I waiting for?" I have to say, this set is going to be awesome--all these moving parts, etc. This is the first time we are actually offstage. Wow. 
Following this we have Newt's "Interrogation", Leo's arrest, and "Big News!"
This was probably the most fun I have had in the entire rehearsal process. 
After the bar owner (Joel) kicks Craig out of his bar early Sunday morning, Craig bemoans the lack of exciting news events to cover in Atlanta ("Big News!"). While he singing this, he's alone onstage. It's a long number. So Frank decided he needed some people. 
Abby and Vera (Iola and Monteen) are in one group, on stage left, while Dawn (the nurse) and I are on stage right. We come in around the middle of the piece, and improvise things with Drew, who plays Britt Craig. It is so much fun. He, Dawn and I are working together when he sings "Soon the women'll vote/ and we'll all go to hell!" (which the guys in my office will love). He manages to drag us all downstage with him before we scamper off for our lives. 
It was so much fun. Frank was cracking up, and so were we. 
Sadly, though, the funeral scene is almost right after this. So I have to be all sad and stuff. That also went well, although Frank wants to work a bit on the blocking. 
After this, we had some notes. Frank said one thing that really helped me--that if he hasn't said anything to you, it's probably because he likes what you're doing. Whew! He also gave us some pointers on how to develop a character, etc., etc. for the funeral scene. For me, this was pretty easy, and I've done some work in my theater notebook about this. But I just love  stuff like this. 
So it was a great rehearsal. Tomorrow's may or may not happen, depending on Ohio weather (lovely). But it is great to rehearse in the theater, and with such a great cast. 

The Best Show On Earth

Comes of age today

You may remember that I have a slight obsession with this show

The Simple Woman's Daybook--January 26, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook
For MONDAY, January 26, 2009

Outside my window...
MORE SNOW. It was almost gone over the weekend, and I want it to be gone for good. 

I am thinking...
that rehearsal will be OK. 

I am thankful for...
my talents

From the kitchen...
no idea. Need to investigate. 

To live the liturgy...
Magnificat, daily Bible reading, rosary

I am wearing...
the Ann Taylor twin set from last week's picture; a patterned J. Jill skirt; brown tights, my Tiffany heart pendant. 

I am creating...
a positive mindset

I am going to breathe deeply ...
and RELAX!

Bringing beauty to my home ...
Weekly Home Blessing Hour

I am going...
to focus on my music. 

I am reading...
The Iliad; Bleak House (yup, it's back)

I am hoping...
for a good rehearsal today and tomorrow

I am hearing...
Sarah McLaughlin, "Mirrorball"

Around the house...
vacuuming, cleaning, etc.

One of my favorite things...

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Tuesday: Run Act I for the designers

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Frustrations Of Essie

In which she berates the Bionic Ear for its treachery

OK, so having a featured role is harder than I thought. 
Especially when the Bionic Ear Does Not Love Me. 
On Thursday, Abby (Iola) and I ran "The Factory Girls" with our music director, Kristin (Frank and Jen were there too, working on other things in the background). We ran through it a few times, and Kristin says to me, "Can you sing without vibrato?"
I had to think about this. I can, but I have not done it in a long time. After a few more discussion points, I realized that the sound she was looking for was closer to Young Cosette than Cosette. In other words--I had to sing like a kid. 
Remember all that stuff I said about depth of tone? Yeah. None of that. Spread tone. As Jane would say (because everything, in the end, comes back to Jane), Kristin wants "light, bright and sparkling." 
Frank said the same thing, after listening to us. Well, OK, me. I know I am at least 6 years older than the girl who plays Monteen, and I'm fairly sure Abby and I are about the same age. But Abby seemed to have a better handle on the kid thing than I did. 
And, to bring it back to the Bionic Ear, I'm SHARP on the high E. Because I can't use vibrato! And the CI tunes me sharp on high notes. 
Essie is frustrated. 
Part of it is the CI. The other part is...well, it appears I have reached (or will have reached) vocal maturity soon. Kristin said I sound "operatic". (Who knew?) So the position I'm in is akin to asking a Pro Bowler to play like a Pee Wee Leaguer. 
It's really, really hard. 
I'm trying not to whine here. (I think I'm failing) I love this show, I love this part. I will love it a lot more when I feel better about the role. 
Hopefully with the blocking we have set for "The Factory Girls" scene, I will be able to fit the pitch issues with the E and B-flat. I hope so, anyway. I left rehearsal today feeling very, very grumpy at myself. 
Tomorrow and tuesday we run Act I (Tuesday it's in front of the designers--lights, costumes, sets, props).  Then I have Wednesday off, and possibly Thursday. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Health Care Rant

OK real quick--
in a lot of papers yesterday, there was a story about how millions of people can't afford their prescription drugs. OK. This isn't really new. 
Some of these stories allowed comments beneath it. This is where people continue to amaze me. They talk about the evil corporate drug companies who are just out for profit, and it's all their fault!
As Mitt Romney said back in February '08, Drug Companies Are Not Evil. 
Do you know how much it costs to develop a new drug? How many trials have to be done? How many scientists you have to pay, lab time has to be bought, oh, and ingredients? How much trial and error before you get a drug that actually works
This costs money. I'm sorry. And yes, drugs like mine, which fewer people take, costs more, because not that many people need tac or imuran to stay alive. 
Look--the U.S. develops a TON of new drugs. This costs money. So you can pick--have the drugs available, or don't have them available, which means certain things, like transplants, can't happen, because we can't solve the rejection component. 
It's expensive to stay alive. I know. Should it be this expensive? Discuss. But please do not just blame it on the drug companies. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Picture of the Week

A picture's worth a thousand words...
More on this here

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tonight, tonight, tonight...

is my (our) big scene--the factory girls/Come up to my office! I am so excited!
I am called at 8 with Abby (Iola), Vera (Monteen) and Leo (Jon) so we can run the scene. It's less than 5 minutes (closer to four, actually) but I am so excited to see how it will turn out!

The Dream of Atlanta

Ever more lives the dream of Atlanta!
Ever more her eternal pride!
Strong and sure is the dream of Atlanta!
When her brothers are unified!
And the sound of her voice is clearer
When her people are proud and free!
Not a star in the sky could be nearer
Than my heart is, Atlanta, to thee!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Baby baby Baby!

Apparently my cousin, Di, who is pregnant w/ her first kid (whom we lovingly call "skeeter") is having contractions 6-7 minutes apart! When they get to five they are off to the hospital! 
Prayers and good wishes, please. :) 

New CPG post!

Life in the Age of Obama

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Funeral Sequence

Wow. I'm feeling really bummed right now, 'cause you know my best friend died and all. 
Well not really. In musical theater land only. 
Yes, tonight we did the funeral sequence, which is sad and depressing (if I'm doing it right, that is). It's raining, the boy I'm paired with is holding an umbrella over us, and then he and I, and Monteen and Iola, get to go to the grave side (really, the edge of the stage) and mourn her. Then we go all fundamentalist Christian (really) and have a little moment of self-righteous fury while Frankie sings about getting the man who killed Mary. Yup, we are ready to hang someone by the end. 
Throughout the number, I basically put myself in Essie's shoes. My best friend died--but she didn't just die, she was murdered, and she was murdered at the place where we worked. She was murdered while the rest of us were enjoying a holiday in the city. And I probably know the man who killed her! (because the suspects at this point are Newt Lee, the night watchman, and Leo, the boss.) She's only 13, and she's dead. I'm looking at her coffin being lowered into the ground. It's really, really pathetic. (In the original sense of the word)
But you have to be able to convey the emotion without actually doing it. I can't be sobbing on stage. Renee Fleming talked about this once, saying (I'm paraphrasing) that sobbing is not conducive to clear singing. She's totally right. So how do you convey it, using your voice and your body, but not actual tears? 
I am off tomorrow night, but on Thursday I'm back, and we're working the beginning of the trial--Frankie's testimony and "The Factory Girls/Come Up To My Office." Our big scene!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Parade scenes and musical numbers

A more "technical" version of the synopsis. 

Update on practice

OK no call tonight--my schedule went into my 'spam' folder instead of my inbox. BUT I got to work out--the seated stair climber and the treadmill. Go me!The fitness center is really nice--tons of machine, weights, a pool, a spinning room, and classes. Nice locker room, too. 
Also 6 TVs to choose from. 

The Simple Woman's Daybook--January 19, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook
For MONDAY, January 19, 2009

Outside my window...
It's clear and sunny. Snow on the ground and some icicles dangling from my eaves. 

I am thinking...
that there's a lot to do today, but that's OK.

I am thankful for...
days off and Steelers victory!

From the kitchen...
Brioche Day two--rising and baking

To live the liturgy...
Magnificat, daily Bible reading, rosary

I am wearing...
gray yoga pants and a cranberry camisole (my jammies, in other words)

I am creating...
bread, a clean apartment, a theatrical character 

I am going to breathe deeply ...
and enjoy my day off. 

Bringing beauty to my home ...
Weekly Home Blessing Hour

I am going...
to read and practice, and do some writing. 

I am reading...
The Iliad; Bleak House (yup, it's back)

I am hoping...
for a productive week in rehearsal

I am hearing...
The Elton John/ Tim Rice "Aida" soundtrack

Around the house...
vacuuming, cleaning, etc. 

One of my favorite things...
The Steelers :) 

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Monday: Rehearsal
Tuesday: back to work, rehearsal
Wednesday: Rehearsal
Thursday: Rehearsal
Sunday: lots of birthdays! Matt, Alex and Sarah

A picture thought I am sharing: 

L-R: My aunts Patty and Mary with me at our reunion. Yes, Aunt Parry and I are wearing the same cardigan. :) 

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Pittsburgh's goin' to the Super Bowl!!!
Bring on the birds!


Today was rehearsal--yay! After the Factory Girls rehearsal was cancelled last week, I hadn't done Parade for awhile, so I was glad to be back with everyone!
Today we had the entire cast, and we were fitted for costumes. I always think I'm going to have more time to starve myself before this process starts (but we did get our JCC passes today, so at least I can hit the gym before rehearsals now!). Our costume designer is very nice; I think it will be fun to work with her. Since Essie is a teenager, she won't be in long skirts, so I imagine I'll have a costume(s) that are knee-length, with stockings and button boots. 
After we were all measured, we began blocking the first three scenes. We are onstage for, I think, the first five songs, until Newt's "Interrogation" scene, when we get a one-scene break before the funeral (we are blocking this tomorrow). We were in the "dance and music" room at the JCC, since Capital is using the theater for their production of "Into the Woods", which is being performed next weekend. (Incidentally--it's Mel's freshman year at Cap, and "Into the Woods" was the musical during my freshman year. Weird.) 
We also didn't have our accompanist, so we didn't do as much music as we'd hoped, but we did sing "The Old Red Hills of Home" and "The Dream of Atlanta" a cappella (which really impressed Frank and Jennifer, the first time we did it. I was proud). 
Frank's blocking style is "Organic" (his word). A lot of it is very technical; as in, the chorus parts to reveal Lucille at her dressing table; we part to reveal the pencil factory, etc. So some of what we do is scripted. But the rest is sort of loose, at this point. Frank tells us what he wants, and we do it. He broke us up into "family/couple units", so we always have someone with us and can interact with that person/people. The scene between Leo and Lucille went really well--Lucille (played by Liz) is just wonderful. She's exactly who I would have cast. She and Jon (who plays Leo) both look exactly like they should. We sort of walked through "How Can I Call This Home?" but that's hard to do without the music giving all the cues. So that will probably wait until we run Act I sometime next week. 
All in all, a good rehearsal. I love blocking, because that's when you start creating the character. How does Essie interact with others? Who are her friends? What kind of mannerisms does she have? 
Tomorrow we do "The Picture Show"/"Leo At Work"/"Interrogation", with The Funeral Sequence and "Big News" on Wednesday. 


That is all. :) 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Primitive Behavior

I have discovered a truth about my biology. 
When it's -20, and snowing, and generally gray and miserable--I want sleep. And I want chocolate. 
These two things, together, do not make for the most fit appearance. 
But I've determined it's my caveman wiring kicking in. Humans aren't SUPPOSED to be awake when it's this cold. We're supposed to be snuggled in our caves with layers of subcutaneous fat keeping us warm. 
I am just obeying my body's instructions. 
(And yeah, hitting the gym next week.) 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"The Old Red Hills of Home"

(the Parade opener) 

Farewell, my Lila
I'll write every evening
I've carved our names in the trunk of this tree. 
Farewell, my Lila
I miss you already
And dream of the day
When I'll hold you again
In a home safe from fear
When the Southland is free.

I go to fight 
for the old hills behind me
The old red hills of home
I go to fight
for the old hills remind me
Of a way of life that's pure
Of a truth that must endure
In a town called Marietta in the old red hills of home. 

Pray on this day
As I journey beyond them
The old red hills of home
Let all the blood of the north spill upon them
Till they've paid for what they've wrought
Taken back the lies they've taught
And there's peace in Marietta and we're safe again Georgia
In the land where honor lives and breathes
The old red hills of home!

Farewell, my Lila. 

Look there, my Lila
They call me to tell it
The lives that we lead 
When the Southland was free

We gave our lives for the old hills of Georgia
The old red hills of home. 
Not much survives of the old hills of Georgia
But I close my eyes and hear
All the treasures we held dear...

The rustlin of the Chatahochee
The rustlin in the wind
And mama in the kitchen singin'
And me and Lila swingin' in a tree
Oh, I hear it calling, calling
And I would gladly give my good right leg again!

God bless the sight of the old hills of Georgia
The old red hills of home
Praise those who'd fight for the old hills of Georgia
For those proud and valiant men
We'll sing "Dixie" once again. 
For the men of Marietta (for the brothers of Cobb County)
For the fathers of Atlanta (for the patriarchs)
Who gave everything for Georgia and
The old red hills of home!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The problem with Winter Musicals

is that weather cancels rehearsals! Grr!
Oh well...see everyone on Sunday. Hopefully we're still on for blocking the first two scenes! ("Old Red Hills of Home/The Dream of Atlanta/ How Can I Call This Home?")

Winter beauty

is seeing a ruby-red cardinal perched on a snow-covered tree limb, during a snowstorm. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Parade YouTube

"All The Wasted Time" (from The Rosie O'Donnell show/ Brent Carver (Leo) and Carole Carmello (Lucille)
Video: "The Factory Girls/ Come Up To My Office" (not the whole thing)

The Draw of Live Theater

I can relate to how they're enamored of the world of live theater. It's fun to make a play. Each cast becomes a family. Rehearsals give that wonderful feeling of being a lug nut in a well-oiled machine. When you're cast in a play, you belong somewhere, you have  a place to be, lines to say, and a personality to project. A drab secretary from the courthouse becomes a singing nun; a coal miner becomes a handsome sea captain. All it takes is a book and music by Rodgers & Hammerstein. 
Who doesn't love the applause? No one ever gave me a standing ovation at the Pharmacy, or Nellie at the bank, or Greg in his cubicle at the accounting firm. We'll get it tonight, though, and we'll revel in it. If there's one thing in this world that folks need, it's to feel that they've done a good job. How rare that reinforcement is! Most of the work in this world is thankless; parenting, the drudgery of our daily jobs--we contribute so much that no one sees or acknowledges. But in the theater, when it's good, that gratitude is there, audience to actor. They let us know they like what we do with applause and whistles and standing ovations. You can't beat it. 

--Adriana Trigiani, Home to Big Stone Gap

Monday, January 12, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook--January 12, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook--January 12, 2009
For MONDAY, January 12, 2009

Outside my window...
it is totally cloudy and there is snow light snow on the ground. It's supposed to get down to -20 this week with the wind. -20. 

I am thinking...
that I can't wait to read my New Duck Cottage Book Club Book!

I am thankful for...
my Parade co-horts

From the kitchen...
I have to figure this out--menu planning later!

To live the liturgy...
Magnificat, daily Bible reading, rosary

I am wearing...
gray socks, gray pants, and a multi-colored striped Boden button-down

I am creating...

I am going to breathe deeply ...
and enjoy a night off from rehearsal. 

Bringing beauty to my home ...

I am going...
to read and practice, and do some writing. 

I am reading...
The Iliad; Great Expectations; The Commoner

I am hoping...
for a good week

I am hearing...
Renee Fleming, Sacred Songs  (her recording of "Amazing Grace" will give you goose bumps. Guarantee.)

Around the house...
vacuuming, cleaning, etc. 

One of my favorite things...
my Duck's Cottage book, and my Parade vocal score

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Wednesday: Factory Girl rehearsal @ JCC
Sunday: Parade rehearsal!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Goooooo Pittsburgh!

Pitt--#1! Taking on St. John's today at noon!
Steelers--playoffs! Playing the Chargers at Heinz Field, 4:15! (or thereabouts) 

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"That's What He Said"

(No, really, he did!)
Tonight we spent the entire two hour rehearsal on "That's What He Said," Jim Conley's testimony in the first act that basically convinces everyone Leo is guilty of Mary's murder. Jim (played by my friend LaRon from J&H) tells about Leo's other dalliances in the factory, with women, girls, and a "young black man from Chicago". The crowd reacts with disbelief and, then, absolute hatred (we get to sing fun things like "Hang the Jew!" and "bastard!" Not family-friendly language, right there). By the end we're calling for him to be hanged. 

And right after this, Leo gets to tell us why he's not guilty. Somehow I don't think the crowd's going to buy it. (His soliloquy, "It's Hard to Speak My Heart" is absolutely heart-wrenching. I can't wait to hear Jon--our Leo--sing it.) But really, he's singing it to Lucille, to convince her. And he does. 

So the crowd vocal line for this number is the most involved piece we've done so far; ergo, it's probably the hardest in the show. We are all over the place, with solo voices, Jim singing, us under him, Leo chiming in at the end. It will sound great, and by the end of rehearsal we managed to get through the entire thing (with Kristen playing the orchestral reduction) without a train wreck. Amazing. 

Next week is call for separate groups; my only rehearsal is on Wednesday, where me and the other factory girls will learn "The Factory Girls/Come Up To My Office". We have a reprise in the second act, but I'm not sure if we're going to sing that (it's right before our scene with the Governor and Lucille). So Parade notes next week will be light. 

And, in honor of Poetry Thursday, I shall give you the lyrics to Leo's "It's Hard to Speak My Heart":

It's hard to speak my heart
I'm not a man who bares his soul.
I let the moment pass me by
I stay where I am in control.
I hide behind my work
Safe, and sure of what to say.
I know I must seem hard. 
I know I must seem cold. 

I never touched that girl. 
You think I'd hurt a child yet?
I'd hardly seen her face before.
I swear--I swore--we'd barely met. 
These people try to scare you
With things I never said!
I know it makes no sense. 
I swear I don't know why...

You see me as I am. 
You can't believe I'd lie. 
You can't believe I'd do these deeds.
A little man who's scared and blind,
Too lost to find the words he needs.
I never touched that child--God!
I never raised my hand!

I stand before you now
Incredibly afraid. 
I pray you understand. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It goes on...

No rehearsal tonight because of big to-dos at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), where we hold rehearsals and where the Gallery Players are based. So, I will rehearse at home, do yoga, and watch The Tudors! (Oh, and take down the tree!)

Last night's rehearsal went just as well as Monday. We are ahead of schedule, so we learned some new pieces, including the Verdict, which closes Act I, and the show's Finale. We also undertook "Where Will You Stand When The Flood Comes?" which is the "angry mob" sort of piece that comes after Gov. Slaton commutes Leo's sentence from death to life in prison. If you don't know what the words are, or what's going on musically (as in, if you don't have the score in front of you), it sounds like noise for the last half. Really--it keeps modulating up, first a half step, and then a whole--with three choruses going at a time. So it has a sort of freaky effect which I'm sure will be enhanced with staging and lighting. We also rehearsed the opening number and the Funeral Sequence again (which makes me happy, because I get to sing my solo line[well, one of them]). 

Frank keeps giving us more insight on the numbers and ways to look at the characters. For vocal assistance I am also re-reading Renee Fleming's The Inner Voice, which she calls an autobiography of her voice. In it, she talks not just about her training, but about what she learned from different teachers and different roles; how she prepares, vocally, physically and mentally, and vocal technique. Every time I go to perform I tend to re-read parts of this, and right now I am just reading it over and over and taking notes on what she says. While every singer's voice and technique are different, she's done jazz and musical theater pieces, so she's extremely diverse and can use her instrument so many different ways. It helps, too, that the book is well-written. (Trivia: did you know Ann Pachett used her as the basis for Roxanne Coss in Bel Canto?)

So we rehearse again tomorrow. Next week is a bit odd, because it's seperate groups of people. I only have rehearsal on Wednesday. Leo and Lucille rehearse Sunday and Monday; Craig and Mrs. Phagan on Tuesday; me, the other Factory Girls, Mary and Frankie on Wednesday, and Angela, Newt, and Conley on Thursday.  On Sunday (1/16) we start staging. Blocking--already! Yes! 

If you are interested in attending, and/or want to buy tickets, go here

Monday, January 05, 2009

Parade: Rehearsal II

So tonight's rehearsal consisted of getting down to the brass tacks--learning the score. 
After a few brief notices from Frank, Kristin, our music director, had us move our chairs out to the stage apron (that's the front, over the pit) and arrange ourselves by voice type. Sopranos and altos in the front, tenors and basses in the back, with tenors behind sopranos and bass/baritone behind altos. There were only four Altos, and one of them we had to recruit! So I am glad I have had all my choral training, because it comes in handy!

The first song we worked on was the opener--"The Old Red Hills of Home". While most of it is a solo, sung by the Young Soldier in the Prologue and the Old Soldier in the Act I opener, the men come in about 70% through it, and then the rest of us join them for the remainder of the piece. We are split into three ensembles, and since there are only 26 of us, that means there's not a whole lot of people on each part. After Kristin worked each group, we would sing it a few times together and end with Kristin playing the orchestral reduction on the piano.  It came together relatively quickly--thankfully we are all quick studies!

The second piece, the "Anthem: The Dream of Atlanta", went a lot faster, because 1) it's only two parts, and only in certain places, and 2) it's only a page long. :) I am singing the top part on this, because there are some screwy intervals in the harmony that are hit or miss, and I don't want to be worrying about that. Plus my top register should be warm before we get to...

The "Funeral Sequence: There Is A Fountain", where I have my first solo line. But before we did that, we did the reprises of the "anthem" that bookend Leo and Lucille's duet, "Leo At Work/What Am I Waiting For?"

Thee Funeral Sequence is fairly long, and we ran the entire thing, including the solo lines for Frankie, Iola, a boy, Monteen, me, and Lizzie Phagan. It went really well--again, there are two choruses, and Frankie has one and half pages to himself in the middle of it. The song really demonstrates how the town evolves from grief at Mary's death to feelings of anger and vengeance by the end (mostly expressed by Frankie). It's the song that really puts the piece in motion. 

Kristin is a great music director--she gives us the cutoffs very cleanly, and she's methodical in her methods, which I like. We work the entire period--two hours, in this case, with a short break---and we get a lot done. She's friendly and extremely talented. 

Frank also gives us notes after we rehearse each song, so we know the emotional and thematic underpinings. The first number is supposed to be joyful and celebratory, while "There Is A Fountain/ It Don't Make Sense" is somber, moving into anger and retribution. It's so helpful to start that process now, instead of later, when people already have the way they sing the songs cemented. 

One woman asked about the Southern accent, which has been present in some people's spoken dialogue but seemed largely absent form our singing. Frank and Kristin are going to powwow on this, for the simple reason that singing in a dialect is not as easy as speaking in it. To sing, the purity of vowel is paramount. You must have clear tones, with definite consonants. If you're singing with a full-fledged accent it can sound unintelligible. The solution is usually to emphasize a few key words. For example:

One of my lines in "The Factory Girls" reads like so:

"He'll call my name/ I'll turn my head/ He got no words to say/ His eyes get big/ My face gets red/ And I want to run away!" 

The southern accent comes through in the tweaking of some vowels and consonants. On "my", for example, I don't say "my" with a bright "y". I make it darker and sort of swallow it so there's sort of a darker 'i' sound. The same thing with "head"--it's a darker sound, more swallowed, towards the back of my throat. It's a lot harder to explain than to mimic. There is also the dropping of some consonants. In "How Can I Call This Home?" I sing a line that goes: "La, la, la la in the land o' cotton." It's actually written " o' ", so that it sounds more authentic. And of course there's the dropped "g"s in several places. 

With Cockney accents ("My Fair Lady", "Les Miz" [the Thenardiers]), it's things like dropping 'h's, "scooping" the sound (like when Eliza Doolittle sings "All I want is a room somewhere" in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?"). Rhythm is also a big help, as in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" The jauntiness adds to the ease of singing in Eliza's accent. 

Usually, however, the accent is much more pronounced in the spoken lines, as opposed to the vocal ones. 

(Wow, that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about singing in dialect...)

So, after we accomplished all this, we adjourned rehearsal. The Funeral Sequence  was actually scheduled for tomorrow, so I imagine we'll do Wednesday's schedule instead, which is the Closing Statements and Verdict of Act I, and the Finale of Act II (which, for the ensemble, is just another reprise of "The Old Red Hills of Home"). 

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Parade begins

Our first rehearsal was a table reading, which is just what it sounds like--the case, stage manager, producer and director gathered around many and sundry folding tables, with the music director at the piano, going through the entire libretto. (I have always wanted to do one of these, by the way). There are 26 of us in the cast and almost every person is a real character, with a name and lines. That is pretty amazing. 

So we gathered onstage around 1:00, with Jared making some preliminary comments, Jen (the stage manager) passing around forms and scripts, and Frank (our director) giving us a few points on scenery, the show, etc. The set is going to be pretty bare, since it's a very fluid show. 

With these comments out of the way, we began the piece with the opener, "The Old Red Hills of Home", which is sung by the Young Solider, who is played by my friend, Jay (from high school choir and J&H). He did a fantastic job. Even though it was only him and the piano, I had goosebumps. That got us off to an auspicious start. 

We broke right before the Trial part began (the finale of Act I), and by then it was pretty evident we had a lot of talent on stage. The cast was very professional and most of us were already fairly familiar with the score. After a short break (upon which Frank told us we weren't going to sing all the pieces, since we wanted to at least read to the end), the other Factory Girls and I sang "The Factory Girls/Come Up To My Office", with Leo (our Leo and Lucille are excellent). The actually went fairly well, although I realized that Essie has some lines of her own that are in harmony with the other girls, so that needed to be learned. 

The Factory Girls have a brief reprise and a short scene with Gov. Slaton and the Lucille in Act II (in which I have three lines), but other than that it's a lot of choral work. And I do mean a lot. There are several places marked "Ensemble I, Ensemble II, Ensemble III" with the last two usually having some sort of harmony to the melody line of Ensemble I. I'll have to wait to be actually assigned before I know what part to learn. 

So we read through to the end, and the last two scenes--the lynching and the finale--will probably be very emotional and, hopefully, exceedingly well done. It was one heck of a read through. The only other time I got chills was when Lucille and Leo sang "All the Wasted Time", their duet at the very end of the show. It was really wonderful. 

Our rehearsal schedule is--rehearse every day but Friday and Saturday. Next week I have it pretty easy--just one day, when me, the other Factory Girls, Mary and Frankie will run our scenes. This week we have work on the big choral number (heh, most of the show), and, after next week, we start blocking. Yup. Already. We are on a expedited schedule! 

It looks to be a great cast and our leaders (director, stage manager, music director) are great. I love it when I get a good vibe after just one rehearsal. Everyone was ready to go, with binders, pencils, iPods that can record, even a good old-fashioned tape recorder like my voice teacher had! 

I also got to explore the theater itself a little bit--the dressing room looks GREAT! 

The weekly schedule:

Monday: "The Old Red Hills of Home"/"The Dream of Atlanta"
Tuesday: "Funeral Sequence: It Don't Make Sense" 
Wednesday: "Closing Statements/Verdict/Finale")
Thursday: Review all chorus work

Whew. That's the first week!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

Is our first rehearsal! Yay!
Time for another "first day of school feeling" whilst we all check each other out.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Boden Dress

For Liz...

Me and Brendan

Me and Ryan, my godson