Monday, November 30, 2009

Let It Snow 2009 Week 2

Check out the Let It Snow Interactive Map, featuring every town the show has ever featured, complete with performance date, show description, and a picture from the town itself!


Blinking Red, Blinking Yellow – Friday 11/27/2009
After Cletus (Christian) breaks his leg playing the angel in the mortuary’s Angel Pageant, Marcia (Susan) takes a shot at winning his heart. When she misses, she uses the Saturday night Blinking Light Social as an opportunity to make him jealous by kissing another boy. Only she ends up the jealous one when Cletus dances too close to Sara (Merrill). There’s more to life than being dead in Leakesville, MS (pop 1,026).

Life is Not a Game – Saturday matinee 11/28/2009
Twins Jeff (Christian) and Judy (Mandy) share a deeply uncool secret in Mercer Island, WA (pop 22,650). Neither of them are in the 400-person-strong high school marching band. Instead, they trade off being inside gorrilla suit, the Marching Islanders’ mascot. Their tech-geek parents (Scott & Trish) can’t understand why their kids aren’t happy in spite of all the technology-based hoops they make them jump through everyday to keep them sharp. Can the holidays save this family, or will they crash like the blue screen of death?

Barbs of the Heart – Saturday evening 11/28/2009
Different generations clash in DeKalb, IL (pop 39,000) when the new NIU agriculture students show up for their first day of work on a real farm. Meanwhile Luke (Michael) gives his family’s stockpile of barbed wire to Sally (Mandy), but he can’t bring himself to tell her he loves her. When Luke’s brother Peter (Bryce) returns on break from rival school U of I, he threatens to steal away Sally’s heart. Love is a thorny issue in the birthplace of barbed wire.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let It Snow 2009 Week 1 - All Performances

Check out the Let It Snow Interactive Map, featuring every town the show has ever featured, complete with performance date, show description, and a picture from the town itself!


The Same but Different – Thursday 11/19/2009
After finally asking Mary (Alyssa) out on a date to the Holiday Parade, Chet (Alan) gets conflicting advice from his friends Max (Bryce) and Carl (Dave) on how to treat women. Meanwhile Mary takes advice from her cougar mother (Karen) and octogenarian surfer father (Bryce). Watch your step in Vero Beach, FL (pop. 16,939) where the old folks still have lots of pep!

Not So Secret Spots – Friday 11/20/2009
Brothers Jack (Clay) and Christopher (Christian) work for their father Edward (Michael) at the family gas station/apple orchard, but Jack hardly works. Instead he chases the love of Susan (Lisa) who’s really in love with Christopher who’s too busy working to notice. Throw in a crazy poet (Jodi) who’s in love with both of them and the junk shop/moonshine still owner Agnes (Merrill) who’s in love with Edward, and you’ve got trouble in Paradise, CA (pop 26,408).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let It Snow Week 1, Performance 1

The show was a lot of fun last night and probably one of our best first performances of a run. The audience seemed to really enjoy it. (You can read a lovely email one of them sent me here.) I ran the opening and interviewed the audience member about the town. In the middle of it I realized I’d never done the opening of Let It Snow before and really had no idea what questions I was supposed to be asking, but I think I faked it pretty well. We got some good feedback during the talkback session after the show about what types of questions to ask. Very helpful.

The town was Vero Beach, FL. Here’s the official blurb:

The Same but Different – Thursday 11/19/2009
After finally asking Mary (Alyssa) out on a date to the Holiday Parade, Chet (Alan) gets conflicting advice from his friends Max (Bryce) and Carl (Dave) on how to treat women. Meanwhile Mary takes advice from her cougar mother (Karen) and octogenarian surfer father (Bryce). Watch your step in Vero Beach, FL (pop. 16,939) where the old folks still have lots of pep!

Things were very relaxed backstage throughout the entire show. No one was panicking about what should happen next or how we were going to get out of some hole we’d just dug for ourselves. The show itself was also very relaxed and character driven. For the first time ever, we had a show without enough plot. We just needed a little something else to happen to bring in a little more conflict and dramatic tension.

Why was there so little tension? Largely because of a split second decision I made in the first scene. Alyssa and I quickly became the protagonists and love interests in that first scene. After establishing that I’d been working up to asking her out to the Holiday Parade for two years, and singing a song about how I needed to ask her, I had to decide: Do I chicken out at the end of the song and make the show about asking her out, or do I just ask her out at the end of the song? Not wanting to bridge, I asked her out at the end of the song, and immediately felt the giant sucking sound of the plot flying out the window.

That is the sweet spot I need to find: when bridging isn’t bridging, but building tension. Still, personally I’m overjoyed that we finally went too far away from plot. Now we can pull back the other way and hopefully find the sweet spot.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rehearsal #8: Holy crap we have a show tonight.

We had our “last” rehearsal Tuesday night before the first performance. I put “last” in quotes because we continue to rehearse throughout the run. Why? So we can learn from the shows and make them better as the run progresses.

We did two first-halves of shows, talked through the second half and then performed a closing number. I was in the first one. It was pretty much the train wreck I expected it to be. We had a lot of offers on the table. Every character seemed to want to get of the town. We didn’t have clear environments. People weren’t listening all that well, and instead of swimming around in the characters, we got lost in plot.

That said, there was some really strong stuff. Good characterization. Good singing, etc.

The second was much better. Learning from our mistakes, they had very clear environments, kept from veering to hard into to plot-land, and did some wonderful things.

I’ve been trying to crystallize what I think I learned down into one bullet point, and here’s what I think it is: If something happens in the story (i.e. a “plot point”), nothing else should really happen until we know how all of the pertinent characters feel about that something that happened.

I’m excited about being in the show tonight! I think we’ll learn a lot doing an entire show in front of an actual audience. (I was so caught up in the rehearsal, that I didn’t take any pictures.)


Mandy posted to the show blog:

A Let-It-Snow Letter from the Past!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Play Schedule

So here's when I'm performing. As always, this is subject to change:

Thursday 11/19
Friday 11/27
Saturday 11/28 – evening
Friday 12/4
Saturday 12/5 – matinee
Thursday 12/10
Saturday 12/19 – matinee
Saturday 12/19 – evening

All shows are at 8pm except the matinees which are at 3pm. If you'd like to see the entire cast list for a given night, you can check out the Un-Scripted Events Calendar and just click on the show you're interested in.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rehearsal #7: 7 Kinds of Love

Last night at rehearsal we had a photoshoot for headshots for the program. We take our own headshots for our programs so that we can keep them consistent and give them themes that go along with the particular show. For Let It Snow, everyone’s dressed in hats or scarves or holding something that indicates “winter”. Fortunately we didn’t have to take a new shot for everyone in the cast as many people have already been in the show.

While the last few people were getting pictures taken, this week’s choreographers taught their dances. When the photos were done, we had our last round of choreography. Once again we saw how talking during dance numbers doesn’t take anything away from them (and by talking I mean counting or describing the dance moves, not just rambling about something) and how important it is to sell what you’re doing from the waste up even if your feet are hopeless inept. Oh, and diagonal movement is cool.

Then we warmed up our voices, did a round of DNP, and tried our hands at improvising rounds. That was incredibly difficult. I think it might be impossible to do in this show but perhaps possible in a short form or cabaret type show. We also did a very interesting dynamics exercise where we experimented with singing at different volumes. One takeaway from that exercise was just how effective singing quietly can be, especially mixed in with singing loudly.

Next Susan ran us through “7 Kinds of Love”. Everyone got to sing a love duet, and Susan set everyone up in a different type of love duet (for a total of 7 duets in all). I sang with Jodi, and our set up was that at the start of the song one of us was in love with the other, but the other one wasn’t. Then by the end of the song we were to switch points of view. Oh, and we were singing such that the other character could hear what we were singing. Oftentimes in duets your singing inner thoughts that the other character isn’t hearing. In any case, it was a very fun song to sing.

Then we moved into point-of-view trios and large group songs with an eye towards finding different types of songs that could be used to end the first half. There are no hard and fast rules for ending a half, but generally something with a lot of energy and a lot of characters is a good way to go.

We have previews next week! We still have to load-in the set and have one more rehearsal before we unleash this puppy on an audience. I can’t wait. This show’s so much fun.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rehearsal #6: Exit Pursued by a Bear

Last night’s rehearsal was all about improv! We’ve spent a lot of time working on singing and dancing, and it was finally time to focus on some scene work.

We warmed up by playing “Bitty Bitty Hop”, which is similar to “Bippity Bippity Bop” only you have to physically hop before the person in the middle says “hop”. The game then proceeds as usual.

Then we split up into groups of three and did a “coloring” exercise. For the first iteration, one person flipped through an imaginary Town Annual (like a town yearbook) while the other people asked detailed questions about the items discovered in the book. Then who was being asked the questions rotated and the imaginary record became a time capsule and then an actual high school yearbook for the final iteration.

Next, we split up into pairs and talked about our improv goals for the show, what we’re working on, etc. I want to play more characters that aren’t in control of their situations. My characters tend to have an answer for everything, and I’d like to explore playing some that get in trouble and don’t know how to get out of it. I’d also like to improve my space object work and push the show into new and interesting locations. Of course there are other things too, but those are the big ones.

After that we did some quick protagonist work. We just had 3 or 4 people start a scene and everyone watching raised their hand once they thought they knew who the scene was about. Once most people had raised their hand the scene was stopped and we found out if we all agreed. Generally we did. In the past we’ve spent entire rehearsals on protagonist work, but everyone seemed to have a handle on what made someone the protagonist (being likable, the most normal, effected by what was happening, set apart from the other characters somehow, etc).

Then, we moved into some large group scenes. Six people would go up to perform (we’re planning casts of six people every night) and do two scenes. One a public scene with lots of people and then a second private scene between just two. Somehow we naturally fell into doing these two scenes seamlessly without any sort of blackout or hard ending between the scenes. We’d have a group scene and then eventually the side characters would leave two people alone for the private scene. It felt very “play like" as if the actors had scripted entrances and exits.

We capped things off by doing two 15 minute long forms, figuring in an actual show we’ll only have time for about 15 minutes of plot anyway. The first one involved a pair of identical twin teenagers struggling to date and find their own identities. The second involved a group of co-workers. The twin story reminded us all that, like in Shakespeare, even if the actors playing the twins look nothing alike, the other characters can find them so identical that they can’t tell them apart. The co-worker story reminded us that a workplace can be an even smaller small town within a small town.

We finished off by splitting up into groups once more to discus the main takeaways from rehearsal. I think one of the biggest was “listen, listen, listen”. We had a lot of missing offers, multiple names, confusing family relationships, etc. Name people. Repeat names. Be obvious about the environments you’re creating. Things of that nature.

We also learned that Bryce can wrestle a bear.