Sunday, August 26, 2018

Camp





One of the things that I always loved about working in the theatre is that everyone has the same goal. Yes, each departments specific goals might seem different... but in the end, everyone wants a successful production. Each persons definition of success is slightly different, but everyone has the goal of a successful production.

Camp isn't much different.
Our goal is to create an amazing week of camp. How we do that as individuals may be different, but that is our goal.

This year at camp had challenges, like every week of camp does.

But every-time I took a step back and watched these campers I was thrilled.

I was thrilled to see a camper return to camp and try many things that he had not tried the year before.
Last year this camper was always at each activity, but he was hesitant to really get involved. this year it was like a different person has arrived at camp. At our first campfire he jumped RIGHT in at every song. When it came times to go to the giant swing and the high ropes course, he tackled every challenge. To see the look on his mother's face when she picked him up told me that ... yes, we had succeeded in a successful week of camp for this camper. This camper challenged himself, pushed himself to do things he had never tried before. More importantly, he felt safe enough to take those challenges with us.


When the bus arrived at camp and the campers came barreling out the door one camper stood out to me. She certainly wasn't sure about all of us singing and dancing in our witch costumes. One of my favorite moments of camp was walking past her bunk and hearing giggling. She was sitting on her bed putting make-up on another camper. After dinner they were giglingg again trying to figure out how to use an eyelash curler.

We had 2 campers with mobility issues. Both of them used crutches to get around. one would think these would be the campers that needed the most assistance. Aside from buggy rides..... these two campers were some of our most independant campers of the group. During our water fight I was with one of these girls. I assumed she would need extra assistance. For your information, if you ever encounter this camper with water balloon, you will lose.... she WILL get you with the balloon.


Our other camper was no different. She wanted to go down the slip and slide. This was something she needed assistance with. So she sat down and two counselors made sure she could get down the slip and slide. this same camper was up and dancing more than others at our all camp dance.

Sitting back and watching our campers just have fun and enjoy themselves was THE best part of the week.

Seeing older campers take initiative to help with younger campers made my heart explode.

Hearing campers choose their names for when they are counselors helps me see the camp of the future.

I have so many other thoughts, and I may find time to write them down in the coming weeks. right now I am trying to get used to a quiet house, no slamming doors, not wearing a name badge, responding to my actual name, and not having all of my meals made for me.





Oh, in case you are curious.... washing cottage cheese out of your hair IS as gross as it sounds.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I learned about being a theatre technician from The Wonder Years

I just finished rehearsal number 1 for the weekend, and I am sitting in Starbucks killing some time before heading over to see a production of "Our Town." THis is a show that I adore, I always have. People ask me "Wow, how many times have you seen it." It's not a matter of how many times I have seen it, it's about the first time. I was introduced to Our Town when I saw Winnie Cooper perform the role of Emily on The Wonder Years.

But it wasn't Winnie's performance that stuck with me. It was Kevin.I found this perfect breakdown of the episode, so you can read it here, I won't try and summarize it. It was the connection that Kevin had with Winnie on stage, he knew that if he was there for her, this performance would be successful. It was him realizing that shining that light meant something.



Even before I started dressing n black clothing with a C-wrench on my belt, I knew the importance of the people that were running the show. This was taught to us very early in our High School theatre department. I was actually offended when I went to one of the technicians and said "Congratulations" he looked at me and said "You don't even know what I do." But I did, I knew that the show could come to a screeching halt if he were not there to do his job.


I could go on and on about all of the other roles that I have had in the theatre and why I love them, but every-time I run a spotlight I think of Kevin Arnold and Winnie cooper, and how the Wonder Years taught me how to be a theatre technician.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Memory is a Crazy thing - When Sand and Water came on ER

On a daily basis I forget many things. I forget to take my iron pill, I lose my car keys, I forget my wallet with my train pass.

At the same time, certain memories come back so vividly it's crazy.

I have been binge watching ER, and I knew a certain episode would come up eventually. Tonight it happened. Tonight it was the episode called "Sand and Water."

I don't just remember this episode, I remember where I was when I saw this episode. I was living in High Point, North Carolina. It was the time of Napster. I watched the episode and I immediately went online to find the song. I went to wok the next day and my boss told me more about Beth Neilson Chapman. I wanted to know more about this artist.

I remember everything about the first time I watched this episode.

Now if I could just manage to find my keys

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When I saw Hello Dolly. . . .

If someone told me "That production of Hello Dolly was the last Broadway show you will ever see again" I would be perfectly fine with what I have seen in my past, and having this be my last Broadway show.

When I received my Hello Dolly Tickets for Christmas I was shocked. In my family, you know when the gift is special because people pull out cameras. I hadn't really asked for anything big for Christmas, In fact I don't think I asked for anything. I wasn't really expecting a camera worthy gift. My family shocked me with 2 tickets.

I try not to be the type of person that only wants to see one performer in a show. Of course I wanted to see Josh Groban perform in "Great Comet", but if I had seen Dave Malloy, or any of the other people that would have played Pierre, I would have been happy. Yes, when we saw Come From Away I wanted to see Jenn Colella, but I had other reasons for that. Normally, I look forward to seeing anyone in a production, I am there to see the entire production, rarely am I there to see one person.

Early in my theatre going experience I saw an understudy that was amazing. When we went to see Rent, Anthony Rapp actually didn't go on. We had all slept out overnight for our tickets and he came to those of us on the evening line and said that he wouldn't be able to perform that night. I saw Giles Chaisson perform Mark. He was absolutely wonderful. Many years later I met Giles through my current job. I told him that I saw him go on for Mark. He only went on 2 or 3 times. It made an impact.

So, let's start talking about Bernadette, that's really why you are here right?
When I learned that Hello Dolly was being revived in 2017 I was thrilled. I love Hello Dolly. How can you listen to it and not be filled with joy. I dare you to listen to "Put on your Sunday Clothes" and not smile. I dare you to listen to "elegance" and not start walking to the beat. Go Ahead, just do it.... I'll wait. You did both right? I knew it. One day last year my coworker and I were both just having a rough day. We had both had a bunch of "stuff" happen. He said "I'm in a mood, I'm listening to Dolly." It worked, just listen to Dolly.

When I heard Better Midler was going into the role I thought that is incredible. Then, I found out Bernadette would be taking over the role when Bette left the show. I think I cried. I think I cried real tears. Bernadette is one of those performers that I adore. I remember watching Annie as a little kid sitting in my grandmother's station wagon in my brand new baby doll pajamas at the Drive in movie. Yes, I liked watchng the villains (Until that whole train bridge thing, that freaked me out).

I've seen Bernadette in concert, I've listened to soundtracks, I've watched the videos of Sunday in the park more times than I can count. Seeing her play Dolly, this is something I could not have imagined I would get to do.

I chose to take my aunt Christine with me to see the show. I know she loves the show, I also haven't been able to enjoy a show with her in years. I also think she was the one that orchestrated that trip to the drive in. It seemed appropriate.


We decided to only head in for one show that night. We took in a nice dinner and then headed over to the theatre. Of course it was raining, but no big. I got our tickets from the Today Tix Concierge and we headed in.


Just seeing her name on the Marquis gave me chills. I had to mentally prepare myself in case she didn't go on for some reason (I know she is human, I know things happen, I know there are understudies, I know that understudies are wonderful.... But this would be me seeing my queen Bernadette)


Our seats were way up in the balcony (Note to people afraid of heights, don't sit in the balcony at the Shubert in New York) Chris and I are both balcony lovers, so we were fine. In fact, it was great to see the show from above. The only thing that you "miss" is some of the action on the far downstage apron that goes in front of the orchestra Pit. If this bothers you, don't sit there. If you don't care (like me) or if you know you will be seeing the show again (like me) you have nothing to worry about.)



The overture started and I got chills. First things first, I LOVE overtures. I have a playlist that is only overtures. I realize what they are for (To let people get to their seats and to tell people the show is starting). To me, it's like previews at the movie theatre, miss them and you missed something important. The overture for dolly does not disappoint. It is perfect, like everything for the next 2 hours and 40 minutes of your life.

I had the chance to see Carol Channing play dolly back in 1995. She was wonderful. She was funny, she was, and is, Dolly Levi. However, all I remember is her being funny. Maybe it's because I was only 18 and wasn't looking at everything about the character and the show. Dolly Levi is more than a comedic role. Bernadette brings so many layers to the performance and it is perfection. I was bought to teas not only because I was watching her, and couldn't believe my luck in life. I was brought to tears barbecue I truly saw who Dolly is and what she is looking for. She has many fiends, but she is truly lonely. She misses her love so much.

Now, I have only been gushing about her. Let us discuss everyone else and their perfection as well. I cannot end this ridiculously endless post (you're still with me and that is shocking) without mentioning Kate Baldwin. Her performance is wonderfully Sassy and fabulous and I completely understand her Tony nomination. Again, I saw a character that I had never noticed in the past. He portrayal of Irene Malloy is one to be studied. Gavin Creel..... Oh Gavin Creel. . . . I left the show remembering so much, but the line.


Even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I shall be a ditch-digger who once had a wonderful day.

His physical and comedic timing is amazing. His performance is absolutely flawless. Charlie Stemp is absolutely adorable and Molly Griggs is hilarious and wonderful. This cast is a true ensemble. From the principals to the chorus it is a seamlessly perfect production.

Now, of course you know that I cannot end this post without talking about the technical aspects. One of the things that made this production even more perfect was the costumes and set. A friend mentioned that this show brings back to the true golden age. Yes, they could have used many fancy technical tools to create the set, instead they used classic drops that looked absolutely beautiful.


This is a production that is not to be missed. If you aren't sure if you like Hello Dolly, see it anyway. This is musical theatre at it's best. The show is a truly joyful experience that everyone should see.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Arts for Everyone

So, I explained why the volunteer experience was perfect, but let me tell you a little bit about why I chose to travel from Salem, MA to New York to Volunteer for this Sensory Friendly Performance of Wicked.



Let's go back in time a bit:
Right out of College I was fortunate to receive an internship position with a wonderful regional theatre. I was a Company and Production Management Intern and to this day I consider it one of the best Professional experiences of my career. During a performance of a family oriented event in a packed house, a child became very vocally responsive to the performance. The family was sitting in the front orchestra in the middle of the aisle. While the child was not in danger and the child was enjoying the performance, the other audience members and the cast were having difficulty. The audience was distracted. The cast felt that the responsive nature would cause them to possibly make a mistake on stage (of note: This was an incredibly technically advanced production. The cast and crew were also dealing with another situation that was causing adjustments to the show on a daily basis)


I remember this situation causing a lot of tension, not just for this performance but for future performances.

I'll be honest, I don't remember the outcome (I don't remember if the family returned for the second act). I just remember how much tension this caused among the entire company.

Over the years I have thought about this experience a lot. Many experiences have brought it front of mind. In my current job, I work with Box Office professionals and many of them are working to make more accessible environments for their audiences. It is from these people that I learned about organizations that present sensory friendly performances. Again, I thought of this family. 20 years ago nobody would have thought of sensory friendly performances, and here we are in 2018 creating these environments.

So, I certainly had this child in mind when I signed up to volunteer for this performance.

A couple of months ago I was trolling twitter, and of course keeping tabs on my favorite Come From Away Cast. They were all talking about the TDF performance that they had just experienced. They talked about how welcoming the audience was, how responsive they were, how wonderful the experience was. I was touched, I was moved. I thought of that child 18 years ago. In other pictures on twitter I saw people in volunteer T-shirts and thought "Hey, I want to do that." Thankfully the folks from TDF were super responsive and got right back to me with a form to fill out. when they announced sign ups for Wicked, I was THERE!





I arrived for training and was presented with my name badge and my T-shirt. The training was so perfect. They ran it so well.




After training and breakfast we headed over to the gershwin, I forgot how huge that theatre is. We packed u our backpacks with fidgets. Kooshballs and stress stars. These would be handed out to the guests as they arrived at the theatre. These fidgets are one way to help make the theatre experience more relaxed for people with sensory issues.



As guests arrived at the theatre, being able to give out these fidgets brought so much joy to so many faces. My name was also very popular among so many visitors (It's amazing how many people know someone names Elizabeth. also, apparently Joseph's girlfriend is named Elizabeth. I assured the group of girls that were so beautifully dressed up that I was not Joseph's girlfriend).



I'll admit that I had to put a lot of my own theatre etiquette standards aside during this performance. This was a relaxed performance. This was a day where if someone needed some food to keep them comfortable, they were able to bring food into the theatre. If someone needed an ipad to communicate, an ipad was allowed in the theatre. While this is normally something that would drive me crazy. Today, it is what made the day perfect. The message of the day was "relax".. If you know me, you might know that is not the easiest thing for me to do. The message of the day was "don't say no" but rather "Let me see what I can do". When parents ask "is this okay" It was wonderful to be able to say "Yes, it's totally fine today"



It was more than the experience that was perfect. Everything about this day was more than I expected. Wicked is a show that I have always enjoyed, but experiencing it with this audience was so much more. This audience was truly cheering for Elphaba. Elphaba, a girl who is different. A girl who is misunderstood, a girl who doesn't want to be different, a girl who can't always control her emotions.

I look forward to more experiences like this in my future. I am so thankful that TDF offers this opportunity not only for people with sensory issues, but for those of us that need to remember that Arts are truley for everyone.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Why this Volunteer experience was perfect

I consider myself to be a really good volunteer. I can take lead if you want me too, I can stand back and wait to be told what to do when needed as well (that one is harder, but I can and will). Sometimes being a volunteer can be frustrating. You feel like you are a burden to the staff, you don't feel respected, you are told to sit and wait and nothing actually happens. Yesterday I volunteered for the TDF Autism Friendly performance of Wicked. I'll tell you more about the actual day later, I want to tell you specifically why this Volunteer experience tops the charts for me.

Responsiveness leading up to the event.

I learned about volunteering for these performances on Twitter. The Come From Away cast was posting about how amazing the experience was. After following a few hashtags, I then saw pictures of people in volunteer T--shirts. I posted on Twitter "How can one Volunteer" I received a tweet within an hour and was signed up to be notified.

I got the email about Wicked, I signed up immediately.

I received a prompt reply that I was on the list.

I received emails with good information (addresses, instructions, phone numbers). The one time that I had a question (Would I be able to lock up my bag) I received a prompt reply back.

Why does this matter? Volunteers have questions, they deserve a response. You wouldn't ignore a coworker, don't ignore them.

Well Planned day
- I had specific directions to Ripley Greer, even a follow up email that day with an address reminder.
- I arrived and we started PROMPTLY at 10 am (I used to stage manage, I don't like things starting late)
- We quickly went around the room and everyone introduced ourselves.
- We were introduced to the staff.
- We heard from the staff and collaborators about the event (Why this performance was different, why we have to be aware of the Gershwin)
- We were told specifically what we would be doing, and what we would NOT be doing.

Volunteers don't deserve to have time wasted. Time at this event was VERY respected.

Proper training
- I received the exact amount of training needed. No more, no less. I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew who to reach out to for what. People wore color coded t-shirts designating their roles. We were also told what to say to guests as they arrived at the theatre (never no, only "Let me look into that for you")

Training is important to volunteers. It's just as important to teach us what we are supposed to do, and what we are not supposed to do. At this performance, we are there to assist. We want parents and children to feel comfortable. If a parent had said to me "Would you watch my child while I get something" My normal response is "OF COURSE". Having been specifically instructed not to, I knew that I would need to put my normal "let me help with everything" aside. That is was okay for me to say "I cannot help with this"

Proper identification
Name tags, color coded T-shirts. This made the day SO MUCH EASIER!!!!

recognition
We were always told exactly how much our help made the performance and the day better. I genuinely felt that. I never felt like I was getting a pat on the head. I genuinely felt that my presence was respected.

food
Okay, this will sound silly, but it is SO NOT!!! We were told there would be breakfast. I assumed bagels and danish. NOPE! ACTUAL breakfast. Toast, eggs, potatoes, etc. This is not frivilous. Volunteers need to be FED! especially on a day like this. We left Ripley Greer at 11 and we were ALL on our feet until the end of Wicked (Have you SEEN Wicked? FYI.. It's long). If they had served danishes and muffins we would have all been sugar crashing before defying gravity. Having an actual meal was so appreciated!


I obviously have more to say about this experience. It was amazing and I'm still trying to find words. I didn't want today to pass without this shout out to TDF for creating a wonderful volunteer experience. I am looking forward to the next one.



If you want to be on the notification list for future volunteer opportunities, sign up here.

If you want to sign up to be notified about purchasing tickets to these autism friendly performances, sign up here.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

knitting monstrosity

I keep my copy of "At Knit's End" on the window sill next to the tub, because I frequently read it while taking a relaxing bath. I find the Stepahnie to be one of the most honest authors that I have eve encountered (she also really helped launch PatPat's Hats to a whole new world).

Last night I came across the Knitting monstrosity. I have about 4 of those in my house. They are taking up residency on needles that I really need for other projects. They are sitting in piles waiting to be noticed. Some of them I may get back to, others I know will never tun into anything so I really should just give up.

One that I hope will not meet it's ugly fate is my Snow WHite. I love the seweater, I love the pattern, I love the yarn. I wanted it to be my christmas sweate but sadly, that was not to be.

So, we shall see. HEre is hoping.