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!!!

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