Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Show - What You Need To Know




Common Ground Theatre

4815B Hillsborough St.

(If you're using a GPS - we recommend  using 110 Brenrose Circle in your GPS)

Jan 2 & 3 at 7:30
Jan 4 at 2:00

Jan 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 
Jan 11 at 2:00

Jan 15, 16, 17 at 7:30
Jan 18 at 2:00

(PLEASE plan on being early. Late seating may not be possible and it is VERY EASY to get lost)

You can also get tickets by email or phone. See below for details.


(919) 417-2477


Raleigh News & Observer calls it "mesmerizing"!

Classical Voice of North Carolina's Jeffery Rossman says "All I could say is that I was transfixed for 90 minutes."

Katie Dobbs Ariail at FivePointStar... well she just pretty much liked the whole thing. 

Read up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Promo pictures!

Our director spent some time making promo pictures for the show.  Some of them came out pretty great.

This one of John is pretty great. I think it captures Davies quite well.

Here's one of me as Aston:

This is one of Ryan as Mick. It's kind of "Shepard Fairey-ized"

And one of all three of us together:

As you can see, we're going for a 70's look for the show. Why? Resonance. A story with a setting of hard times in post war Britain was something that really resonated with British audiences in the early 60's, but here in the US, the 50s are seen as a time of prosperity. People don't have an intuitive connection between 50's clothing and difficult circumstances. Rather than copying the specific costume descriptions, the idea was to invoke ideas in the mind of our audience that are closest to those intended by the script.

Plus, it's fun. :-D

Saturday, December 6, 2014

You Did It!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Kickstarter!  We made our goal again this year.

We're truly honored and humbled that you believe in our project enough to make it happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And we're really lucky to live in a community with such a thriving local theatre scene. We have so many groups doing a great and diverse array of work. Being part of this community, and having the support of so many people really means a lot.

Thank you for your support. Now we can get down to creating a real first rate production. We went costume hunting today, and let's just say that the results look pretty great. Can't wait to see you there!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Don't Know What To Say

So, we have just more than 24 hours left in our Kickstarter campaign. I've been a relentless promotion machine on that front, partly because I have been nervous about hitting our goal of $1,100, but also because I genuinely want to share this project with you. I'm excited about the cast and crew and the work we're developing.  We've blocked the show, and we're all really excited about it.

All this is great. But. Yeah. Some shit has gone down in the US while I was in London and now, again, just after I have gotten back. And I'm ... well I'm at a loss for words.

I am excited about my show and I am eager to share it with you and I do need to promote it but all that shit seems so selfish, so artificial in light of what has been going on in this country in the last couple months. How can I not talk about this? And at the same time, what can I say? What can I contribute to this conversation. No, screw conversation, to this cry of outrage? Sharing memes on facebook? I mean, sure but... that's not political activism. Or rather, it is, but it doesn't feel like enough. It feels insignificant.

We had a long conversation among some of my fellow Iron Curtain cast members in the UK when news of the Ferguson verdict broke over here in the US. It was similar to a lot of posts I've seen about the responsibility of the artist. What do we do? Both what CAN we do and what SHOULD we do? Is any of that effective?

I think back to the slave narratives presented by Bare Theatre for the past few years. They're powerful. They were gathered in the 1930s. It's great that they were preserved, but did anyone LISTEN to them at the time? Or the slave narratives of a few generations before. Those that came out prior to the civil war (12 Years A Slave was  based on one of these, but there were many of them published by abolitionist societies in the period). Did it make a difference? Solomon Northrup was quite well known after it's publication, but where did those lessons go? And what about Uncle Tom's Cabin. I remember from American history learning about the impact of Harriet Beecher-Stowe's book (and not Northrup, though obviously we did hear about Fredrick Douglas and his work). It makes me wonder. Was Uncle Tom's Cabin actually more influential, or did the history books over emphasize Beecher-Stowe's book because it was the product of a white woman rather than a black man? Or was Uncle Tom's Cabin actually more influential, but it was so in part because it was written by a white woman rather than a black man? White identity politics is so entangled with our national narrative, it's not a question that, I think has a real answer.

Society's role (and the power of white-male-christian etc... identity) is so big, it's a bit silly to say "setting that aside." But on the idea of art and the responsibility of the artist... well what can we do? I am a strong believer that we, as human beings, are creatures of story. We experience our lives as story with ourselves as protagonist. Understand events, history, even science as a story. Cause and effect. Input-output. What stories we tell and from whose perspective shape our very understanding of our world. That's why media is so powerful. People who watch Fox News have a very different understanding of the world than people who listen to NPR. Marshall Mcluhan isn't terribly fashionable or well known anymore, but his thoughts rattle around in my brain. As the global village advances, it's increasingly oral, increasingly tribal, and increasingly driven by fear.

Part of what we can do, I think, is simply present more stories from people who need to be heard, who haven't been heard. Having these stories listened to and validated, having them raised up as part of the conversation is important because people need to feel like they are being heard and respected (and, you know, obviously actually BE heard and respected). That is critical. But I worry that these stories will only be heard by people who already believe them. When I look at the attendance of plays (and movies etc... I discuss theatre because that's what I do) it seems like the audience is there for a self-affirming function. It's preaching to the converted. Which is good! It's important. But to change... I wonder. How do I reach the person watching Fox News. I mean, to some extent, mostly I never will. I accept that. But how do I tell a story that someone who might be convinced, or at least who disagrees with me, will actually listen to, sit through, but still GET THE POINT. Even if they don't walk out agreeing with me, that they will understand the disagreement.

The Caretaker does deal in racism and xenophobia. Fear of foreigners and "blacks." I think it's pretty clear it's not presented in a positive light. That the views expressed are rejected rather than endorsed. That said, it's hardly advocacy. It's peripheral to the plot. Am I doing what I ought to be doing? Am I responding to society? I feel like I don't know anything.

I feel rage and impotence and frustration and horror. And I don't know what to do. I'm going to keep making art. Maybe something will come out of this. I have to think each step, each play, each story, it's an opportunity to see other people as human beings. And that's what I think seems to be missing. Seeing danger, seeing "the other" instead of seeing a person. A child. A father. A son. I don't know. Maybe just saying, just telling any story of another with truth and conviction, maybe any new perspective is enough. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself. I don't know. I just don't know what else to do, and I just don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And We're Off!

Picked this up at the Samuel French Bookstore in London.
We've been working hard on our lines, and we've had a few rehearsals, but December 1 was the start of a short, intense rehearsal period. We have about three weeks (plus tech) to make this happen. So I hope we've done our homework!  We have the play mostly blocked at this point. To take a sculpture metaphor, we have the shapes roughed out. Now it's time to repeat, repeat, repeat. Getting it ingrained in our bodies and minds, and slowly taking out a finer and finer tools to shape and round the performances.

I picked up this book and read some of it on my trip (through the part where they talk about The Caretaker) but I wonder how helpful it is. Even when he was directing his own work, Pinter was insistent that the work stand for itself. David Jones (an actor and director who played McCann in the first revival of The Birthday Party) asked Pinter for insight on his character, Pinter replied "I have no fucking idea. I know everything about McCann after he walks through that door. I know nothing about him on the other side."

So in a sense, learning more about Pinter and the circumstances of the writing of the play (it was, in fact, inspired by people he knew when he lived in a flat in Chiswick), doesn't really help. In fact, it may actually work against the purpose that Pinter brought to the play itself. I think I'll file it away as "interesting to know."

Luckily we have a great director and cast. At this point we're just remembering the words. But I know as we progress the shapes will emerge in finer detail from the stone.  They'll be his shapes, and hopefully ours too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The Globe Theatre

So you may have noticed (or not) that there haven't been many updates here. This time last year I was posting regularly about our production in the rehearsal process. This year, not much. Why? Well, we haven't been rehearsing. We did have several rehearsals in October where we started working on the script together. We went through the entire play once and broke down the "beats" (actor talk for the sections, each "beat" is usually a new topic, goal, or idea). We even started blocking a little. But for November, I have been in London acting in another production. This has meant that John has had to step in and do a lot of the production.

Big thanks to John, and I know we are all working hard on getting off book so we can make the most of our rehearsal process. Being overseas makes me nervous. I worry about the short rehearsal period. I worry about not being able to help make sure things get done on time. But it comes with benefits too.

One of the things that is very special about being here is inspiration. I've seen 5 plays (so far) and visited Shakespeare's home town and the Globe Theatre (both the modern recreation and the original site, part of which lies under some Edwardian row houses and Southwark bridge). And it's been splendid. Not just as a tourist, though it's been that certainly, but as an artist. It's so inspiring to see work by other committed, talented performers. It's invigorating to visit the home of theatre in the English language. It's simultaneously humbling and energizing.

How can you not feel a sense of wonder, of purpose, of energy standing in the room where Shakespeare was born. Because he's not just a legend, he was a man. Gifted to be sure, but a human being who lived and died just like you and I. Knowing that, seeing that, just a man with a gift for language has given so much joy, knowledge, laughter, tears. How can one not be inspired?

Getting to perform a play in one of the centers of theatre in the English speaking world is an honor in its own right, and not something I'll soon forget. And the opportuntiy to see a host of other plays has triggered so many ideas of my own. I'm excited to come back to the triangle and produce another show. I don't know if my experiences here will make my performance any richer. I hope it will, but I don't know. But it certainly has inspired me to want to create more, to share more, and to find more in myself.

See you all soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Caretaker Kickstarter is here!

Guess what? It's that time again! Time to help fund local theatre by participating in this year's kickstarter.

>>CLICK HERE to be taken to our Kickstarter page!<<

We have a great cast and crew for this show. The Kickstarter campaign is a great way to get a ticket. It saves you a little money, but the important thing is that you get to be a part of the project's success. By buying a ticket through kickstarter you are showing your support for the play. You're saying "yes, I'm going to be part of this. This year we're also asking people to consider sponsoring one of our Buddha statues. The script calls for a statue of Buddha to be smashed each night (to be clear: we love Buddha, it's just what the play requires). That's 11 statues we need to smash, plus extras for rehearsals and spares. So consider donating another $15. We'll even give it to you after the show if you want. Well, maybe a few pieces. Even if you can't make the show, consider sponsoring a Buddha.

One more point: Seating for this show will be limited. We will have less than 50 seats each night. By getting your ticket through kickstarter, you will be able to ensure seats to the performance of your choice.

So help us get this show up. Be part of the team. I hope to see you in January!

Monday, November 3, 2014

It Takes a Village

Or a virtual theatre community. Or whatever.

We shot the kickstarter video yesterday, and we are gearing up to launch it later this week. But before we do, I wanted to talk a bit about Kickstarter/Indiegogo/etc and the theatre community.

These crowd funding sites are great ways to get projects rolling. Funding theatre, even small, independent, local productions, is challenging. You either need generous donors and grants or a large checkbook to even get stuff off the ground. For South Stream, crowd funding has been an important part of our financial mix. Most of our Kickstarter money is pre-selling tickets. Because of kickstarter and transaction fees, it's slightly worse for us financially to sell tickets this way, but we also get some generous additional donations each year that help significantly. More importantly, our audience, in a very real way, is making the show possible. It's YOU that are our financial patrons, and we need YOU to succeed. I believe this show is going to be great, and if you believe it too (and share it with your friends) it will be. It's a way to include our audience in the collaboration early, and an audience is a critical part of theatre. More than most other art forms (except perhaps live music), it really depends on you.

But before we launch our Kickstarter campaign (coming soon) I wanted to mention a few others by friends of mine.

hiSTORY Stage is currently running a campaign for their production of "The Maltese Bodkin" the weekend of November 13. My housemate is directing this cast in a "radio play" staging in 40s style. The script is film noir meets Shakespeare. It should be good fun. They even have a USO dance after one of the performances.

Maltese Bodkin Kickstarter

On a more serious note, another friend is producing a short film "NO MORE" about the aftermath of domestic violence. It's an important topic on a subject very close to more people than you might think. Go to their page to learn more and help the project happen if you choose.

NO MORE Kickstarter

Having a way for fans to contribute to theatrical and film projects is really a great benefit to our artistic community. It's financial help, but it's also spiritual and emotional help as well. Having a bunch of people, friends, acquaintances, and strangers, look at your project and say "Yes, I believe in you. I want your idea to happen," that is as important as anything else.

... but yeah, the money is important too.  So support your local artists. :-)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Updated Venue

Please note the change of venue. We thought we would be one of the first productions to inaugurate a new venue in Durham, but red tape being what it is, that is not to be. BUT, we're enormously pleased to be back at Common Ground again!

Common Ground Theatre
4815B Hillsboro St.
Durham, NC

For the third year in a row we will be opening the new year at Common Ground. I'm really pleased we're going to be in a great place we like to call home, and we have something special in store for you in the staging of this particular show that you'll have to see to appreciate.

The process has begun. More updates soon.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Announcing: The Caretaker by Harold Pinter

Citizens of Earth:

I am proud to announce South Stream Production's third annual show: The Caretaker by Harold Pinter. 

The show will be directed by Jay O'Berski, stage managed by JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell with the following cast: 

Mick:  Ryan Brock
Aston: Brook North
Davies: John Honeycutt

January 2-4, 8-11, 15-18.
7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:00PM

Common Ground Theatre
4815B Hillsboro St.
Durham, NC

I am thrilled with this lineup. Choosing The Caretaker was an interesting process. John and I were kicking around script ideas for a while. One of the scripts we were considering was The Caretaker but, while I really liked the play and the writing, I have to admit that I was simply... well confused and a bit intimidated by it. While we were in the process of kicking things around, I happened to mention to Jay over email that we were considering the script, but "I don't know if I even get it. I'd need a director that could really help us figure it out." To be honest, at the time I was fishing for recommendations for other plays. Jay is such a well known artist and busy with his own company (the excellent Little Green Pig) that I didn't imagine he would be interested. When he said he would be willing to work with us on the show, John and I made our decision then and there that this was the show we would do. 

Ryan Brock will be returning to our company as a cast member. I loved working with Ryan as a director last January in Seascape, so I'm excited and honored that he (1) likes us enough to come back, and (2) I get to share the stage with him. 

I'm also happy that JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell will be joining us as our stage manager. I've never worked with JaMeeka before but I'm looking forward to it. It's great to work with friends and people with whom you've collaborated before. It can foster a certain comfort level that allows experimentation. But if you stick only with people that you run the risk of being too comfortable, of getting stuck in the same tricks. Having new people in the room adds something to a show you can't get any other way. And make no mistake about it, a stage manager is very much part of the creative team.

So, after you've eaten all the Christmas cookies and drunk the New Year's champagne, when you're ready to start your New Year with something a little more nourishing, a little more substantive, make plans to join us for our show. I think it will be a rewarding experience.

NOTE: This post was updated to reflect the fact that we will be performing in Common Ground.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

On Saying No.

I've been holding off on writing this post for a while, but it's been ruminating, and I think it is about time.

The incident that prompted this thinking is not something I'm particularly proud of, but I think it ought to be said simply as a mea culpa.  Basically, I accepted a role in a production, and then, after the cast list was announced, I withdrew. Let me state: this is very bad form on my part.  You should not do this unless you feel you absolutely must. The proper thing is to either accept or reject the role as given.

That said, I wanted to talk a bit about why, what I learned, and maybe some of the larger lessons one might take away from it.

So, saying no... First, for actors saying no is really something we don't like to do. We spend so much time scrambling, auditioning, hoping to be cast. To actually get cast is an achievement! How can you say no? And it's nice to be offered a role after an audition. It's flattering. Even if it isn't the role you wanted. So while it wasn't the what I was hoping for, on the call I thought "well heck, why not, I'm not doing anything else." But in the 24 hours or so between when that call happened and the announcement of the cast, I really started to feel conflicted. When the cast list was posted publicly, I wasn't excited. It felt like an obligation more than an opportunity. And I felt bad about that too.  Eventually I decided if I really felt that way, I ought to withdraw and let someone else have the part.

If I had stayed in, would I have gotten over it? Sure. I wouldn't have spent the whole time pouting. If you know me that's just not my nature. Would I have had fun? Almost certainly. I really enjoy the creative process, and building a show with dedicated people. But... and here's the thing: there are other ways to have fun right? I mean, I didn't do the part... and I still had fun in that time. I just wasn't doing it in a theatrical context.

And I think what it came down to is: as actors, the ONE thing we have control over is our choices. That means our choices in a scene, our choices in our delivery, in our character, but also WHAT shows we decide to do. Which roles to take on. And ultimately, there's only one you, and how you choose to use your time matters. And acting in a show isn't the only way to grow as a performer or as a person. I was able to take a class (several classes actually) I might not have otherwise done. It was great. It pushed me to grow as a performer. I also did a lot of physical work on myself (that's exercise thank you, mind out of the gutter) and especially yoga. I think yoga is almost a must have for an actor. When you act, your body is your tool, and being in touch with your body, where you are in space, and practicing stretching, balance, and flexibility is taking care of your tools.

Ultimately, while it was somewhat embarrassing, I learned something from this experience. I want more than just having fun. I want more than to simply pass the time in good company. I want to grow as an artist and a performer. That means I want roles that challenge me. Now this doesn't necessarily mean "starring role" (though that doesn't hurt). It means situations, productions, collaborators, and roles that push me out of my comfort zone. That make me work. This could be a challenge like working with a new (to me) company. It could be working a type of character I don't do often (or at least recently). But ultimately, if I don't feel like a part is going to challenge me and make me grow in some way, then it's not right for me.  There's only one of me, and if the goal is growth, well there's more than one way to do that right? You are a valuable thing. Value yourself and do what you love. Make art. And don't apologize for wanting to grow.

That's actually the fun of South Stream. It came out of "well I want to do this play, so I could either hope someone does it, then hope I get cast, or I could just do the damn thing." And with Seascape: I'd never directed before. No one is going to come to me and ask me to direct. But you know what? I wanted the challenge, and I knew I could do it, so I gave the job to myself. And I don't mind saying, it came off pretty damn well. I'm proud of that work. And I feel the same about our show in 2015. It's a really challenging script that I've wanted to do for quite some time. And I'm excited to bring it to you. What is it you ask??

Well that's a different post.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Coming Soon...

If you come here regularly (and you probably don't) you will have noticed a new look to the website. We've moved out the Seascape background and the Seascape show logo is back in the "Past Productions" area. The look now is... different yes?

This isn't the final look for our next show. Daniel Ira McCord, our wonderful graphic design friend, has agreed to help us again to produce a poster/look for our 2015 production. When we make a formal announcement we'll adjust the look and feel to match his art. But for now I wanted to give you maybe a bit of a flavor for what's coming. Southstream's Facebook wall has changed too.

We DO have the rights for our next play, but I'm holding off on a formal announcement until we have our cast in place, but it's coming soon, so stay tuned.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Deserve's Got Nothing To Do With It

I think this has been bubbling up lately. Every so often it comes back around.  Money and Theatre.  What got me thinking about it was a post from Devra, and another post from... someone, and then the meeting about the (possible) new Carborro ArtsCenter.

There are a few standard variations on this one. Artists deserve a living wage. We shouldn't do work for no pay, you don't expect a banker to work for free. Bakeries don't give away bread, we shouldn't give away theatre.  Etc...

The basic thrust of it tends to be that people feel they ought to be compensated for producing/performing/ creating art. Because it's hard, it takes skill and training, because it's important to a community.  Let me assure you it is all those things and more. It's heart and faith and being willing to expose yourself (sometimes your physical body, but more importantly your psychic self, who you are in an honest way) which takes incredible commitment. It takes hours upon hours of rehearsal and line study, not to mention set building, lighting, etc... It takes a lot of work to make it look like it's easy.  But just because something is hard doesn't mean you get paid to do it.

Let me preface this by saying in a societal "ought" yeah, it would be great if artists (theatrical performers the only group I can speak of, being one) were paid a living wage.  I would love nothing better than having a full time job creating theatre.  Creating good theatre takes a whole team of talented, dedicated people. People with really amazing skills and training.  And I would love, LOVE for each and every one to get paid what they are worth.

But that doesn't happen, and it WON'T happen, and people just need to get over that and decide if they are willing to create and share art anyway. Even if they know that the hours they spend will get them much less money than working at McDonalds. And it's not because it's not deserved, it's just the simple economics of theatre.  Our last show was at Common Ground, which holds (in the seating arrangement we had) 56 people.  Even if I sold out all 11 shows at the maximum full price ($16 per seat) that would be a total of less than $10,000 ($9,856 to be exact).  That's with NO critic comps, NO cast member comps, NO student/senior discounts and NO kickstarter discounts.  There are venue costs, set costs, costuming costs, then we have a graphic artist, and promotional help (kickstarter video), ASM, and THEN we have cast, director, SM and designers.  We had probably 150 hours of work between rehearsal and performance (not counting work outside of formal rehearsals and work calls).  Federal minimum wage as of our production was $7.25 per hour with no benefits. That would work out to $1,087 for each actor, the director and SM. Even if we max out revenue (which won't EVER happen) there is NO way we can pay even minimum wage, no benefits and still cover costs.  Now of course bigger venues are bigger, higher ticket prices, etc... but those spaces come with higher costs too.  Theatre just doesn't scale. The reason that TV and Movies pay money is that they can show it to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions at once, over and over again.  Theatre just doesn't and can't ever be that way with the exception of a few places (New York and London principally in the English speaking world, plus touring companies) where people will go specifically to experience live theatre and where you can rehearse a show for 6 weeks and run it for 6 months (and even then it's a precarious business).

Theatre then, is charity. Sometimes it's the charity of foundations businesses and philanthropists who donate money to regional theatres to enable them to pay actors a living wage. More often though, it's charity of actors, designers, back stage hands, spot light operators, etc... who do what they do because they love it. Because they like being in theatre and sharing it with people. Because story, creating, re-enacting, sharing story, is one of the most human things we can do.  Other animals cooperate and specialize, other animals use tools, but no other animal (as far as we know) will create and share story. And theatre really is a democratic art form.  Honestly, all it takes is an empty room, a story and a group of actors willing to put in the work.  As long as you're not trying to make a living at it, the costs can be quite small.  Small enough that I and my partner can afford the up front costs.  Small enough that if we fail, if we lose money, we don't have to declare bankruptcy.  So we do it, and we love it, and we should keep doing it, but unless you are selling toothpaste or fighting a giant robot, chances are you will ALWAYS be engaged in a charitable endeavor. Most likely it will be you donating your time, or perhaps you will be one of the lucky few whose performance is a gift to the community of from a wealthy patron or business concern. But art, theatre at least, is simply not a for-profit business.

Now I want to be clear again about what I'm not saying. I'm NOT saying artists shouldn't be paid, or that they don't deserve to be paid.  When I produce, I pay my co-artists as much as I can because their contributions are valuable and ought to be valued. I'm not saying that art isn't important, or that performance skill and training are not valuable. I'm just saying that "deserve" has got nothing to do with it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Unified Auditions: Why You Should Go, Or Shouldn't

So, the big unified triangle audition day is tomorrow.  Judging by how fast the slots filled up there is a LOT of interest this year.  I will be attending again this year on behalf of Southstream, so I wanted to write a quick word about what it is and what it isn't.

First, let me say about auditions generally: I really like what Taylor Mac wrote here. I'm not crazy about auditions in general, either as a producer or as an actor.  And let's be honest, I know a lot of people in the area.  When I'm looking to cast a role, I am probably going to invite people I know or have seen on stage to work with me (that's one of the reasons I go to see so much theatre). I think it's more respectful to the actor and the process.

That said, if you only stick to what you know, your circle will never expand.  As many shows as I've done and seen, I haven't seen everyone, new people come to town, etc...  You NEED a way to find new people or you wind up ossifying. Unified is really a great way for me to see who else is new, to think about new options.  I didn't cast anyone from unified last year, but I did call someone back based on it (the actor's schedule didn't fit with my show).

So: why do unified auditions?  Jaybird describes them as a "one minute headshot" and that's a pretty apt description. It's not about getting cast in anything. It's just about being seen. It's "saying hello." So if you are new to the area, or if you haven't worked with many of the companies here, it's a great way to introduce yourself.  It can also be a good opportunity to show you've grown as a performer.  If you feel you have really learned and grown and can express that, it's a nice opportunity to let that show.  Notice, I am not saying "if your resume looks better" because honestly, no one is going to look at your resume until after the audition. If you get my attention, that can be a nice bonus, but it's your growth as a performer people want to see.  It can also be a nice opportunity to show a new side of yourself.  If you are always cast as the heroine and you want to play a villain or a clown, bring it!  Finally, it can be a fine thing just to remind people you are still around.  Most people last year really were quite good. You never know when someone is going to want to cast someone your age/shape/race/youness/etc... and stopping by is a good way to remind people you are an option.

So, why should you NOT go?  Don't go because you feel obligated.  Don't go if you are just going to do the same thing you did last year.  Don't go if most people in town already know you (well you can, but you don't need to). Don't go if you expect to get feedback or get cast in something.  Most people are just looking. Sort of a memory bank so I know what is out there. Heck, maybe I'll get an idea from some cool people I see and change my mind about the play I do... Who knows?

Really and truly it's an honor to watch auditions.  Everyone last year was so good.  I know that's cliche bullshit, but really, maybe 5-8 bad auditions out of 80. You people were damn good!  And know, KNOW that everyone in that room is loving you and wanting you to nail it. And if you don't hear something it's not because you weren't great, it just means you didn't fit in a particular show.  So relax, have fun, and break a leg!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We did it, but not alone.

Wow.  We did it.  Ten performances, something like 450 people in attendance, amazing reviews, enthusiastic audiences and a very happy director.  What a show, what a run, what a great time.

But we didn't do it alone.  I want to say thank you again to everyone who helped us along the way.  I will probably miss someone, though I hope I don't.

So, John and I did Copenhagen last year.  It was really a great success that far exceeded our expectations. We really were just hoping to break even, and maybe entertain a few people, but we had large and enthusiastic crowds the whole way. It was a lot of work too, but a few months after we closed, we started kicking around plays for our second show.  We read a number of scripts, and we eventually settled on Seascape.  It was a play I loved and I knew would be perfect for John, and John liked it too.  The problem was, it was a much bigger undertaking.  The set was going to be more than 3 chairs.  And the costumes... yes the costumes.  We absolutely could not have done it without the help of many people.

Thanks to John McIlwee (the last person to direct Seascape in the area) for the encouragement and the perspective.  Thanks to my parents for the encouragement (as always) and for bringing driftwood in the car all the way from Florida for me.

Thanks to the design team.
Todd Houseknecht - Set and Lights, the hardest working man in local show-business. Todd came up with the plan for that great dune, and his garage still has the paint spot from painting the canvas to prove it.  Todd worked all day for two days with me to put that thing together. His effort and dedication (and tools) helped make that set happen.
Shannon Clark - Costumes - I mean, really.  Those costumes were amazing.  I knew going in I needed GOOD lizard costumes, and boy did he deliver.  I actually asked Shannon for a recommendation on the assumption I couldn't afford him. When he said he was interested I jumped at it.
Will Mikes - Sound - Sound was a much bigger element of the show this year.  Those ocean sounds under the entire show were great, and the airplane effects had to be good.  They were.  A critical and under appreciated aspect of theatre.

Thanks to our friends that provided rehearsal space.
Tina Vance and Hope Community Church - Thank you for helping us again this year. They're rapidly becoming major patrons of local theatre.
Kevin Ferguson and Cardinal Gibbons High School - Thanks to you too.  Being able to use your theatre space while school was out was a great help.  
Let me tell you that if I had to pay even $10/hr for rehearsal space, this show would not have made money. Rehearsal space is a HUGE contribution.

Thanks to our publicity and promotion team:
Daniel McCord, who designed another amazing poster.  Having a key art/image/font is SO important to start creating messaging.  From the first facebook post and blog post to the last poster we printed, the same "look" tied everything together.
Jason Bailey for shooting our kickstarter video, and Patrick Campbell for editing it AND for shooting those promotional pictures. If you saw a review of our show with a picture, it was taken by Patrick.

Speaking of Kickstarter, thank you to all our backers!  The kickstarter raised enough money to cover the costumes and set, wow!

Thanks to our stage management team.
Kieth Bugner, our fill-in stage manager who stepped in for a rehearsal incredibly seamlessly.
Our ASM/Lizard Wrangler Michelle for stepping in and helping with make-up and props for the show. That lizard makeup you saw was really a collaboration between Michelle, Sam, and Shannon.
Our amazing Stage Manager Andy Hayworth.  Last year he was our director and did a great job, so he got a promotion.  Heh.  Seriously, the stage manager does twice the work and gets half the credit compared to the director.  Having a good SM is key to a good production, and Andy is a damn good SM.

And thank you to an amazing cast.
Thank you for sharing your gifts with me and with our audience.  Each of your performances was just fantastic.  I loved working with such a talented cast.  It really made my job easy.  Thanks for making me look good.
Ryan was so amazingly solid throughout the rehearsal process, and that lizard walk, the staunch physical presence was believable and intimidating.
Samantha brought a great physicality, and such an aware emotional presence to Sarah.  She was always so very present, thinking, reacting, I learned so much from you.
Julie, wow, really, again what can I say? She drove the first act with her energy, but also her emotional range in a way that I found gripping and funny night after night.
And John... he gave a great performance as always, the love and warmth he brought to Charlie made his longing and eventual change make sense.  It hit home every night. But more than that - my partner in production, I couldn't and wouldn't have done it without you.  WE DID IT AGAIN!  It feels great John. Thanks.

And finally, thanks to you.  We do this, rehearse and rehearse, create stories and hone them until they're real, to SHARE them.  Without you, without having someone to share these stories with, it isn't theatre.  So thank you for bringing these stories to life with us.  It's been a great journey.  To everyone who helped make it happen - thank you!

We're off to other things.  John will be appearing in Wit with Justice Theatre Project.  Ryan will be in Arcadia at Deep Dish.  Samantha is teaching trapeze at Cirque de Vol.  And Julie is spending some quality time with her couch and the Jay Hawks.

Me, I'm off to New York for some auditions.  But I'm planning to spend some extra time being thankful for all these people, and for the many blessings in my life, something I probably don't do enough.  Thank you.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Final Show - important

Citizens of Earth: 
We are sorry to announce that one of our cast members was hurt and cannot perform this afternoon (January 19). Since it is the last show, we will still perform, and I will read in the lines. 

That's the bad news. The good news is, we are not going to charge for the show. So if you want to come and see what we got for FREE this afternoon, come on down.  If you bought tickets ahead of time on Brown Paper Tickets, we will cancel the transaction.  I will not be accepting money at the door, though we may take donations after. Think of it as a high production staged reading. If you'd rather watch football, hey, that's ok too.    

We apologize, but sometimes this stuff happens. I swear it has nothing to do with the show. This isn't Spiderman I promise.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Final weekend!

It's the last weekend to see Edward Albee's Seascape!  

Only four more chances to see a show that critics agree is one of the best in 2014 (so far).  

But don't just take my word for it, read the reviews right here:

News & Observer
Triangle A&E 

Now get your tickets!  


Common Ground Theatre - 110 Brenrose Circle, Durham NC

(the mailing address is 4815B Hillsboro, but use the Brenrose address in your gps)

7:30 PM Thursday/Friday/Saturday
3:00 PM Sunday
(please get there early, NO LATE SEATING)


More Info:
Email -
Call - (919) 417-2477
... or check out the links on this website.

See you at the show!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Seascape - read the reviews, see the show!

Seascape is getting great reviews!  Read the whole article at each link!

In CVNC, Alan R. Hall says: "[A] funny and beautiful work that expresses tremendously well what Albee is trying to say, which is, change is the only thing that we know will come about, and it will come about whether or not we are prepared for it."

Roy Dicks in the News & Observer finds "knee-slapping humor and forehead-smacking insight, both signaling that we should never stop seeking to understand and experience our world."

In Triangle Arts & Entertainment, Martha Keravouri and Chuck Galle say "set and lighting designer Todd Houseknecht and costume designer Shannon Clark, have done an outstanding job"

"[Julie Oliver] goes to town with it, delivering Albee-esque bombshells with utter cool. ★★★★" according to Kate Dobbs Ariail in the Indy.


Common Ground Theatre - 110 Brenrose Circle, Durham NC

(the mailing address is 4815B Hillsboro, but use the Brenrose address in your gps)

7:30 PM Thursday/Friday/Saturday
3:00 PM Sunday
(please get there early, NO LATE SEATING)
If you can't come this weekend, we run Thursday-Sunday the next week too (Jan. 16-19).


More Info:
Email -
Call - (919) 417-2477
... or check out the links on this website.

See you at the show!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Putting It Together

Wow, what a great opening weekend.  We had to cut it short due to an illness, which is too bad, but we still have two more weekends, Jan 9-12, and 16-19!

We had a number of comments about the set, so I thought I'd put up a little picture post explaining the construction.  Todd's plan started with a series of platforms.  These platforms formed the "practical" part of the dune, the parts actors could actually walk on.  As you can see, there are two large platforms in the back, and a series of lower platforms forming a ramp going down along the up stage side of the dune.  You can see the first transition ramp as well right nest to John.

You can also see the first layer of carpet foam on the top platform.  We used several layers of carpet padding, plus some actual carpet (part of my house had just been recarpeted, so we used the old carpet that had been ripped out).

Once we had constructed the ramp and platforms we strung chicken wire along the sides of the dune.  We also put extra 2x4s and constructed a few wooden posts (you can see one in the center of this image) to give the dune some shape.  Here Todd is attaching the Chicken wire.  you can also see the ramp has been carpeted.

Once the chicken wire and wood frame was in place, we draped it with a large canvas.  Todd seemed several large canvas pieces together with carpet glue strips, then he pre-painted it with a mixture of sand and paint to give it a textured look.  We draped this over the frame and we cut off the excess canvas (we used strips of this canvas to help form the rock we made).

After that was done, we dressed it up with some extra stuff: a few plants (small plants are from Michael's, the big one is just some pampas grass in pvc pipes attached to the platform) and a fence.  The fence we got at Lowes I think, we pulled out some of the pickets and broke some off to make it look worn.  Then I cut slits in the canvas and stuck them through at varying angles and Todd screwed them into the platforms from below.

After that we poured some sand over it to give it a bit of texture and added some seashells.  Tada!  Dune accomplished.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sunday January 5 show canceled

We regret to inform you that the show on Sunday, January 5 has been cancelled due to cast member illness. If you have made plans to attend, we hope you can reschedule to one of our eight other shows, Jan 9-12, and 16-19. If you cannot and you have already purchased tickets, we will be happy to refund your money. 

We hate to cancel a show, but sometimes things happen that are beyond anyone's control. Thank you to our amazing audiences Friday and Saturday night. We'll see you next Thursday!

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