Monday, December 9, 2013

Home for Christmas: A New Old Fashioned Musical: Countdown to Opening

After a little time off from blogging I've decided to head back to the webisphere to catch all of you up with the latest projects I've been working on.  After Sherlock Holmes and The Final Vow premiered in September I took a break from writing and producing to focus on costuming for the world premiere of A Thousand Times Goodnight with new company TheaterRed.  I had a blast on that show, but after it wrapped I threw myself into the Christmas show at the Brumder Mansion.

I had started working on the show last March with local composer Brian Myers.  I worked on the script all summer, started casting in early fall, and last week we started in on rehearsals.  Yep, this is like any other show at the Brumder, six rehearsals and then we go up.  It's a quick turn around time, even quicker for a musical. Although, due to the professionalism and positive nature of the cast the fast schedule has been going off without a hitch. 

This is the first show that I've written that isn't based off of an existing piece of work like a fairy tale or a literary source.  Home for Christmas is still in the cannon of Reconstructing Grimm because it is meant to be a throw-back to old movie musicals of the 1940s and 50s.

Here's a brief synopsis of the show:

WWII has just ended; Herb and Birdie Wallace are overjoyed to have their sons, Fred and Howie, safe at home. To celebrate, the Wallace Family decides to resume their annual Christmas Party for the town. Howie Wallace's new wife Clara is excited to have her sister, Vera, join them for the party. Everyone is in the Christmas spirit... except for Fred. The war has left him a changed man, and to make matters worse Birdie and Clara have invited Fred's ex-fiancee, Trudy, over for the Holidays. No one knows what ended Fred and Trudy's engagement, but the Wallaces are determined to find out and hopefully get the pair back together again. Like any family get-together there is singing, laughter, a few misunderstandings, and a lot of heart. Join us here at the Brumder Mansion as we take you Home for Christmas.

I also thought it would be good to throw together a quick blog post to introduce you to the characters.  With Sherlock Holmes there was an understanding of what you were seeing before you even walked into the door, here it's a little trickier.  Consider this a visual guide that will give you a head start before you walk through the door.

Tom Marks as Pappy

Pappy is the patriarch of the Wallace Family.  While Pappy loves and cares for his family his age has left him a little eccentric.  More than half the time Pappy still believes himself to be in the Great War, and considers house guests to be the enemy.  The family cares for Pappy and makes sure to humor him when they can.

Randall Anderson as Herb Wallace

Herb is a man who wants nothing more than to have a simple Christmas at home with his family for the first time since WWII ended.  He just wants a simple night for his wife and kids and to give his traditional Christmas speech.  Herb tries to maintain an even keel when the night starts to get out of hand, after all there is only so much a man can take.

Marcee Elst as Birdie Wallace

Birdie is Pappy's daughter and the apple of his eye.  Birdie wants to expand her family with a few grandchildren, while she means well she does have the tendency to push a little too hard for her sons tastes.  Birdie has a few surprises up her sleeve for the Wallace Family Christmas party, but while she's sure that mother knows best the rest of the family may need some convincing.

John Glowacki as Fred Wallace

Fred is the eldest son of Herb and Birdie Wallace.  Fred is having a tough time readjusting to civilian life after the war.  He is a talented composer and musician, but can't seem to get back on track or forget his old girlfriend Trudy.  He would prefer to sit out on the holiday festivities, but at the insistence of his mother he reluctantly joins that party.

Mark Puchinsky as Howie Wallace

Howie is the younger of the two Wallace boys.  Newly married to his high school sweet heart, Clara he is living the American dream.  He has a new house, new dog, and a new job as a high school band director.  This Christmas the only thing he wants it for his family to be happy and healthy, especially his older brother  Fred.

Amanda J. Hull as Clara Wallace

Clara is Howie's new wife.  She's sweet and cheerful most of the time.  The Wallace's could've love her any more if she were their own.  Clara and Birdie are also known to work together to "help" the boys whether they want their help or not.  Even when Clara is under pressure she see's the glass as half full, and will force the rest of the room to see it that way as well.

Kelly Doherty as Vera Rieke

Vera is Clara's older sister is brassy and full of sass.  She is fiercely protective of her sister and her best friend Trudy.  Vera wants to have a good time this Christmas and is determined to find someone to sit with her underneath the mistletoe, even if she has to drag him there to do so.

Liz Shipe (ME!) as Trudy McClain

Trudy would like to have Fred back in her life in some way.  She has also had a hard time adjusting to the end of the War.  Trudy can't help but be a bit sad this year, even while Vera keeps pushing her to keep her chin up.  Trudy is trying, but no matter what she tries she seems to stay in her holiday mope. 

Nick Vanden Heuvel as Miles Harper

Miles Harper is an official of the city that finds himself accidentally at the Wallace Family Christmas party.  Miles is a bit shy and awkward, but he is on the whole a good guy.  He doesn't know if he should stay, however as he has no where else to be Miles sticks around for a drink or two.

There you go! A full character guide.  Stay tuned this week as I give you more behind the scenes info on HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and our countdown to opening!  Hope to see you all there!

-Lady Grimm


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho

So we've reached that point in Stoyteller Theater of Milwaukee's Pirates of Penzance.  The part where you need a stiff drink.  Not because things are going badly, not at all. Quite the opposite; things are moving along swimingly.

I don't know how many of my readers are involved in theater, I'm assuming quiet a few, but for those of you who don't know there is a point in every production where the show becomes your life.  It's in my opinion kin to that of a buddist monk learning the ways of their religion. The show is all, the show is everything, you must give everything to the show. 

For example, I had two days off in the last week and thirty-seven hours of those precious two days off was dedicated to costuming, set building, dressing or painting.  It's just the way these things work.  Our Pirate King, Zach Zembrowski and his father, Bill Zembrowski and I have been working around the clock to make sure the show goes off without a hitch. Yesterday we were working after rehearsal til about one a.m. with a few really dedicated members of the cast, Rachel Zembrowski, Sam Butchart, Steven Thomas, and Issac Brotzman.  We were all putting some work in on the pirate ship.

So far the costuming is nearly done, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Most everyone has the peices they need, which in imparitive for the cast photo shoot this weekend so if you don't mind I'm going to take a moment and pat myself on the back. (Moment over.) I'm never sure if a general audience member looks at the final product and understands all the work that goes into one moment on stage. How many different hands touch a few seconds of movement or music.  It becomes the tapestry of people who get there early and stay late. That is how shows like this are put together. The people who sarcrafice most of their time and energy deserve credit and I hope whoever reads this post will give a small golf clap to Zach Zembrowski, Bill Zembrowski, and my stage manager Steven Thomas for the countless hours they've put into this.

This is the cool thing about shows like this that I love.  It doesn't matter how much sleep you loose or how frusterating some moments get. When you see the work on stage, and how far everything has come you feel overwhelmed.  You get to look at this product that was the last month of your life and is comprised of all the sweat and heachaches. It's really very cool.

I know I'm circling myself in my writing at the moment. Weeks of sleep deprivation and improper eating habits are taking their toll. Mornings are dizzy and nights are a fight to keep moving.  I can tell you if you are planning to come that it's more than worth it.  The effort shows, it's a nice gem of a project and if you don't like musicals you'll love it, if you do like musicals you'll really love it.  The show is coming up quick, join us as we hoist the sails and weigh anchor, it' going to be a great deal of fun.  Til the next post people of the interweb!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yo Ho, Yo Ho: A Pirates Life for Me

Hey There Everyone!

So I'm a horrible blogger. Sincerly. I'm really quiet bad at this. Ideally a blogger should post once a week, I'm lucky if I manage at least once every two months.  So everytime I head back to post the whole process is so foreign to me.

Anyway, here's what's up in the world of Reconstructing Grimm.  Lately I've been working on a massive project.  Storyteller Theater of Milwaukee is producting Pirates of Penzance this summer and I am their director/costumer/co-scenic designer.  While I am still wearing many hats on this production it is the first time that I am not acting in the show.  It's a strange feeling, and also liberating. I don't have to memorize lines or blocking, I can simply focus on the task at hand and get the work done. It's kinda nice.

Also I get to work with an extremely talented, dedicated cast. It the largest show I've ever been at the helm for.  A cast of twenty-three total. Now that doesn't sound huge, especially if anyone reading this is comparing it to a Broadway, Community theater, or any single high school production on the planet.  However, this is the first musical I'm directing.  People also tend to forget that Gilbert and Sullivan has soooooooo much movement in it and keeping everyone going and doing and being interesting is like juggling oiled ducklings on a wobble board.  Now that combined with the massive history of this piece.

Quick History Lesson:
The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty was the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera to have its official premiere in the United States. It was the fifth collaboration of  G&S and it introduced the world to the much parodied Major General Song. Pirates opened on 31 December 1879 in New York and was an immediate hit.

On 2 January 1880, Sullivan wrote, in another letter to his mother from New York, "The libretto is ingenious, clever, wonderfully funny in parts, and sometimes brilliant in dialogue – beautifully written for music, as is all Gilbert does. ... The music is infinitely superior in every way to the Pinafore – 'tunier' and more developed, of a higher class altogether. I think that in time it will be very popular." Sullivan's prediction was correct. After a strong run in New York and several American tours, Pirates opened in London on 3 April 1880, running for 363 performances there. It remains one of the most popular G&S works. The critics' notices were generally excellent in both New York and London.  The show that has been re imagined over and over again different productions both profession and amateur for over 130 years.  Including, perhaps  the most famous production, Joseph Papp's 1981 production on Broadway.

This production ran for 787 performances, winning the Tony award for best revival and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, and spawned many imitations.

End of History Lesson

It's just such a daunting task. And this is a show that is very much in the tradition of, "Hey kids! Let's put on a show." Hearkening back to the summer stock era of Micky Rooney and Judy Garland. There are nights that can be so overwhelming looking over the sea of people I'm working with and I feel awful that I seem to be drowning in the sheer vastness of it, there are other nights that are so perfect that it's just smooth sailing for hours.  As a young director you don't want to feel like you're failing anyone, and when stress is at an all time high and things have to get done you can't be as nice as you want to be.  It's a tricky place to be.  Now that I've pounded most of that paragraph with what I feel to be the appropriate amount of seafaring puns I'll move on to talking about costuming for a bit.

As I said, twenty-three people.  It's. A. Lot. Of. People. To throw on top of that, there is no budget. Well, there is a small budget, essentially whatever comes out of our producer's pocket, which at this point will be somewhere under $100 dollars. It's also a period piece, and one thing I have always stood by is that the actors have to look good and feel good on stage. This will not be an easy month for me, or probably anyone in the cast. At this point I'm theater bottom feeding, whatever I can beg, borrow, or steel is what we're going to use. Surprisingly, we have more than half of our pirates costumed at this point, but that's the easy part. Now I have to make sure that everyone looks like they belong in the same world. That goes for set building too, we've put together a minimalist set concept that should show case the costumes (Which if all goes according to plan will look like we had a lot more time and money that we do, and the performances.) We as a cast and crew are determined to pull it off.

Seriously, the whole cast is in this for the long haul.  Marcee Elst, who plays Ruth has donated money to the costume fund, and volunteered the use of her husband the wonderfully talented actor/fight choreographer Chris Elst, she's also just been wonderfully helpful and cheerful on the nights that I am not. Zach Zembrowski who plays The Pirate King is also doing most of the tech and set building with myself and his father.  Matt Zembrowski, our Frederick is pulling double duty as well doing the music direction for the show.  Bob Zimmerman, a man with whom I hadn't had the pleasure of working with before is a comedic god, we are so lucky to have him. That and having Jillian Pequet is helping with the "daughters" hair and make up design. Milwaukee dancer and choreographer Danielle Lemanczyk is providing the show’s choreography. The ensemble has also put in long hours and a ton of effort into this "stone soup" type project.

The show’s cast include the talents of Lori Nappe, Dane Bauman, Brittney Bonnell, Jillian Pequet, Connor Zimmerman (Bob’s son), Matt Kiedrowski, Michael Travia, Isaac Brotzman, Magdelyn Monaghan, Christina Schauer, Aamer Mian, Doug Nogrady, Michael Teske, Sam Fitzwater-Butchart, Robert Schmeling and St. Thomas More senior Kaitlyn Serketich.

If any of my cast reads this and I forgot someone, my deepest apologies, I am tired and it is very late.

I do intend to do a photo shoot with whatever cast members I can pull together, however as I have not asked Perry (The Photographer) yet, and with as quickly as this show it approaching, that may not be an option.

If you want to check out how we do; here are the dates:

Friday 7/12 7:30pm
Saturday 7/13 7:30pm
Sunday 7/14 2:00pm
Friday 7/19 7:30pm
Saturday 7/20 7:30pm

I'll be back soon with more details of my journey as a director. Should be an interesting read. Later all.

**On a full blown Grimm note, we will be doing a Fairy Tale shoot this weekend. I'm not saying what, but it's my day off and I want to, so keep watching I should have a few shots up by next week!!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and A Regrettable Engagement

Tonight we start rehearsing the sequel to Sherlock Holmes and A Most Irregular Tea Party. 

I am thrilled and excited to be jumping into some new material.  We've been working on the script for a while now, and the best thing to do at this point it to put it on it's feet.  We did the promotional photo shoot this last Saturday.  This post is mostly about the costuming for Sherlock 2.  Just to give you a little more insight on the process.

You'll notice a new face in the full cast photo.  Fourth from the right is Matthew Ecclestone joining the cast as Professor James Moriarty.  Matt and I have been friends for a long time, he also happens to be just and incredible actor.  He's worked all over the country, he's a stellar musician, and just a funny human being as well.  He fits right into the cast.

Now, I've said it before and I'll  say it again, when it comes to costuming I never give myself enough time.  I had three days this week to get everything prepped and ready to go.  Moriarty's vest was made for the shoot.  Here's a better shot of it.

That vest took me the better part of eight hours to make.  It's completely lined, and I love it. However, because of the rest of his costuming, you're barely able to see it.  So you'll have to take my work for it.  

The other headache of the week was Mrs. Hudson's new dress. 

That dress is comprised of five different types of fabric, three different types of trim.  That dress took me the better part of two days to make, logging 16 hours at the sewing machine a day. I think it looks great and I love it, but I need to start planning better before photo shoots.  I also made a new vest for Dr. John Watson (Max Hultquist), but I don't have a good shot of that yet, so you'll have to take my word for it.  It's incredible.

Sherlock wears the same costume for the photo shoot as he did for Sherlock Holmes and A Most Irregular Tea Party for the simple reason that putting him in his actual show costume would give away spoilers.

 He looks great though.  For Amanda Hull's costume we wanted her character to look a bit more "relaxed" than the first show, or at least as relaxed as Victorian society allows.

The skirt was pulled from my own costume stock, because I live in a world where owning a floor length velvet skirt with fur trim is completely normal.  Then Amanda found the blouse at Goodwill, my favorite store.  I should say both she and I found a ton of blouses at Goodwill and then picked the one we liked. It was kind of an exhausting process.  We put all that together with this great suede belt in a hunter green to give her costume a bit more color.  I also made her a hairpiece for the show, it's not as intensive as the I made for the last show, but if I get off my duff maybe I'll be able to put together an online tutorial for that.  She will also be getting a cape in the next few days that I have yet to make.  It'll just finish up her outfit and give it that last bit of polish.

I actually should get back to working on some costumes for the show.  So more on the show later, and we hope to see you all there!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Returning to Sherlock

We're back!

"Sherlock Holmes and a Most Irregular Tea Party" returns to the historic Brumder Mansion this week!!!  

The entire original cast is back in this remount of the show.  The show only closed last October, but we found that enough people either hadn't gotten the chance to see it the first time around or wanted to see it again we put the show into the fast track to bring it back.

Over the last week we've jumped back into rehearsals.  It was slightly surreal to walk into the basement and see the set put back together, all the props in place as if no time had past.  The other thing that the actors love about the remount it getting to hang out again.  As a director I probably shouldn't share this kind of thing as it makes me seem horribly unprofessional, but there are a good deal of our rehearsals where we have to break because I'm laughing too hard to keep going.  The group of people that I get to work with are so talented, lovely, and funny it's a joy to go to work.

We've added a few new things to keep the audience on their toes.  The script has gotten another polish, the costumes are being slightly revamped, we're making sure everything is in proper working order.  Right now we just need an audience to make it complete.  

Last October we sold out very quickly so grab your tickets early.

Also I'd like to take this post to make the official announcement that in April just following "Sherlock Holmes and A Most Irregular Tea Party"  there will be a sequel to the show.  "Sherlock Holmes and A Regrettable Engagement"  is being prepped to go by our talented cast.  We're also going to see some new faces.  Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson will have to face off against their most famous and dangerous adversary...

More on that later! Hope to see you all soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rapunzel: Part 1

Once upon a time...

There was a woman that lived in a small shack all by herself.  She was a simple woman, who practiced the art of healing with herbs and potions.  She wanted nothing more than to help people, but because her strange ways and solitary life people shunned her.  Over time she grew twisted and filled with anger, and became nothing more than The Witch the towns people thought she was.  The Witch turned her back on the people who so hated her.

The only thing she wanted in her small life was someone to love her, without question and without the influence of the outside world.  The Witch knew of a baker and his wife that we're about to have a child.  She waited until the child had been born and was sure of the baby's heath, then the witch stole the baby in the night.

The Witch built a tall tower with her magic and locked the baby girl away, keeping her hidden from the outside world.  The Witch named the little girl, Rapunzel.

Rapunzel grew up into a lovely young woman.  The Witch taught her all kinds of things, how to sing and sew. How to heal with flowers and herbs.  Rapunzel even learned to read the stars to reveal things to come.  Rapunzel loved her mother and she loved her life, but she couldn't help but feel as though she was missing something.  There had to be more to life than her small tower.  However, when she asked about the wide world The Witch would tell Rapunzel horrible stories of robbers and knaves and how she should forget about the world because in her tower she was safe.

When Rapunzel was old enough The Witch would leave her alone during the day, and come home at night with supplies.  The only way in or out of the tower was to climb Rapunzel long chestnut hair.  So that was how things were, Rapunzel would watch The Witch leave every morning.  Then in the evening The Witch would stand at the base of the tower and yell, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your hair!" Then the two would eat their dinner and go to sleep. This was just they way things were.  One very ordinary night while The Witch was sleeping, Rapunzel looked out her tower window and read the stars.  Something new was coming.  Something exciting.

This brings us to The Prince.

The Prince was restless.  He never wanted to be royal, he never wanted anything except to be treated like a normal person.  The Prince would often spend his days walking in the woods far, far past the borders of his kingdom alone where he could think.  Then on a very ordinary day following a very ordinary night he stumbled upon something that would change his life forever.  He heard singing. Sad lonely singing, but more beautiful than any voice he'd ever heard before.  The Prince followed the singing and found a tower he had never seen before. And he had shown up just at the point in the evening when The Witch was returning home for the night.  He heard The Witch yell, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your hair!  

Then The Prince saw the longest, richest chestnut hair he'd ever seen fall out of the window and pull The Witch into the tower.  He decided to wait the night and see if perhaps he could discover what was in that tower...

Friday, January 25, 2013

The View from a Tower...

Right, so I had a goal at one point to keep the posts coming much more often... If you follow my blog at all you probably realize that really hasn't happened.  My apologies, life gets going and you well you know.

Anyway, guess what?  There is to be a photo shoot.  A good old-fashioned Grimm Fairy Tale photo shoot and it's soon.  Tomorrow in fact.  What are we doing?  I thought it was time to tackle Rapunzel.

I'm very excited about this.  First off we have a new face to Reconstructing Grimm who will be playing the "Prince" role.  Not going to announce it though.

I just finished the dress for this shoot as well, and I really like it.  I realized that one of the things I'd never created was a ballgown.  Beauty and the Beast had  gown, but I'd never made a proper fairytale ball gown and I desperately wanted to.  I also wanted it to look sort of homespun at the same time.  I spent maybe two weeks hitting goodwill every few days and buying up curtain panels that were complimentary to each other and then all of today piecing them together to make the Rapunzel dress. 

I'll explain in better detail when I have a photo to reference, but I also wanted the gown to look as the Rapunzel in my version had no real concept of the world outside, so it's got influences from all different time periods.

The initial idea, was to make the skirt out of wire so it looked like a bird cage, but that would be, heavy/extremely hard to move in so I scrapped that idea for something a bit more practical. 

There was something else that was amazing about today.  I forgot how much I loved just putting together the small things together, like the dress and figuring out how to do the hair.  Sherlock Holmes and A Most Irregular Tea Party was great, I loved every minute of it, but doing that show put me out of commission for Grimm for the better part of seven to nine months.  I forgot how this whole thing started, it was just Perry and I goofing off having fun, and at some point with all the other work, and my drive to make this something bigger with the gallery shows and the video blog, and the magazine submissions I lost sight of that.

I love this series, and I love that my strange little hobby is something that other people enjoy watching and keeping up with.

This is going to be a lot of fun for me, and I think all of you at home will enjoy it as well. Until the next post! Good night dear readers and thank you.