"Hysterical, campy fun!"
- Tony Brown, cleveland.com

"Full of suspense, romance, drama and lots of laughs!"

- Dan Shaurette, Out of the Coffin podcast

This extraordinary one-act drama deftly explores the evolution of the centuries-old vampire myth.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Internet is a cruel mistress.

Today's "google alert" brought the following (certain high school) student's paper to my attention:
I thought the performance was rather boring at times, but it certainly had enough value for what it was trying to accomplish ...

... The beginning parts seemed to drag on too long, and since the playwright/”Man #1” actor admitted in the post-performance questioning that it was the first play he had written in which there are multiple actors, this is quite forgivable, when one also considers the venue at which the play was being performed and the student ticket price ...

... seeing this performance was a lot better than attending class.

How To Dance Like Nosferatu

Episode 1: Push It

Episode 2: Presentation & Give Away

Episode 3: Running Deadman

Episode 4: The Count

Episode 5: The Creepy Peek

Episode 6: Get Fangsta'

Thursday, March 11, 2010

At last, my arm is complete again!

Picture's worth a thousand words.

We closed today, our final performance was at Firestone High School. Always a favorite of mine, Mr. Z. has a vast number of dedicated performing arts students. Only "VPA" students (visual performing arts) are invited to the outreach tour performances, but at a school like this one that still means we have at least 150 people in the audience. And they always get the real obscure stuff, too - there's a Winter's Tale reference in Dark Lady of the Sonnets and theirs was the only venue that got it.

A letter from Porlock's guardian.

Sure, it was early - 7:30 arrival for a 9:15 performance, but really, we had this down to a science. Until we discovered that their set for Sweeney Todd (opening next weekend!) was already built ... with a raked stage made of planks with half- to three-quarter inch gaps between them.

Dr. & Mrs. Jonathan Hartwell.

Now ... our set was a little wobbly on the best days. Slamming that door made the whole set shake. Gave it a real "Ed Wood" feel. But placing it on an incline seemed downright disastrous. So we took every bungee cord we had, and strapped the thing to the floor - the spaces between boards was actually a benefit. We also got a number of extra stage weights from the school, and don't you know, the set was more secure than it had ever been, seriously solid.

Eddie's brother.

Many students assisted getting everything together and tearing it apart. In between, it was a rolicking performance, the three of us were really pushing it for our final go-round. I think we even made some very wise discoveries. Hate doing that on closing night. Morning. Whatever.

The post-show discussion was very interesting, and went on for a while ... what has been most interesting about these talkbacks was the opportunity for people to quiz the playwright, about writing, about rehearsing with the playwright there, editing, the future of the production, and so on. A number of the students picked up on some of the minutiae of the play - about the conceit of using "found documents" (see: Dracula) the setting for the Interview (see: Interview) even the origin of Lucy's name in the final arc (see: Dracula.)

After the show, Dusten, Emily and I had burgers at the WInking Lizard, and then it was off to dump the set and props, store all the education department materials, and return the van. And today was a beautiful, seventy degree day - the end of the tour always means the beginning of spring.

Is it you, Xanthe?

I am really going to miss this one, a lot.

Father's Day FAIL

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And then you die ...

Allow me to begin by saying YEEELLLAAAGGGHH!!! I went running tonight!

(I have not gone for a run in almost two and a half weeks. You can read all about that on this blog.)

Final public performance today at the Akron Public Library Northwest Branch. Always a great mix there - it is usually a 1 PM performance and there are traditionally a number of seniors, members of reading groups, and maybe fifty or so high school students from Firestone who can't attend the performance we do at their school. That performance is tomorrow, that is our last performance of On the Dark Side of Twilight, period.

Today was good. There were odd things happening, my voice cracked at one point, Emily fell down backstage, and Dusten's Eddie just keeps getting dumber.

A woman came up to me after the performance and told me she doesn't like vampires, she doesn't know anything about vampires, by she like the Chekhov plays last year so much that when she heard I was in this she just had to come. That made my afternoon ... and my afternoon needed making because I had a sinus headache sending a spike into my left eye.

One more performance, tomorrow. It's been an incredible run.


Newsies (1992)

So it's early in the rehearsal process, and I make some comment about this boyish cap Emily has her hair pushed under, I say something about her looking like a turn-of-the-century paperboy. Then she starts busting lyrics like
Try bottle alley or the harbor ...
Try Central Park it's guaranteed ...
And I'm like, what the hell is that, and she asks, "Ain't you never seen Newsies?" and I'm like, "I am 40 and under what circumstances would I have seen Newsies?" So she starts singing selections from a number of songs from the movie and I am reminded of a night when I was eleven, sleeping over at a friend's house when I shared the entire production of Annie with him in my pajamas (which I realize is a sincerely gay thing to do) and I invite Emily to bring the soundtrack in sometime and we are listening to it while putting together the set at Our Lady of the Elms and she's all defensive about certain songs and I keep telling her to take it easy, I am liking what I am hearing and ask if she has a copy of the movie.

She says yes, unfortunately it's on VHS and I say, I am over 40, I own a VCR!

Last weekend, my kids and I settle in to watch the entire thing. I can understand two things. 1) Why it became popular enough when broadcast on cable for Disney to stop distancing themselves from it and release it on DVD and 2) why it was one of the bigger flops in Disney history. Em mused why they haven't turned this into one of their Broadway extravaganzas. After all, Tarzan wasn't a huge movie and they went ahead with that. The answers are simple enough to me:
A) It is about boys singing and dancing. Billy Elliott is an exception to this rule because it is about how weird it is that a boy wants to dance.

B) There are absolutely no strong female characters at all, and you can't make any money on a new musical without them.

C) As the tale of paperboys organizing against unfair wages, it has a strong anti-corporate, pro-labor message.
I did find it refreshing in that in spite of its few scenes of violence, there are absolutely no guns at all (this, as early as 1992) and then there is the joy of seeing Christian Bale sing and dance, and not particularly well. Apparently he signed on before they decided to make it a musical (wtf?) and has long derided the film. Ah well. It may not be Sound of Music, but then he is no Christopher Plummer.

We were listening to it again today, setting up for the performance at the Northwest Branch of the Akron Public Library. We close tomorrow with a show at Fiorestone High School. I never would have guessed Newsies would become one of my stronger memories from this tour. But you never really get to choose those, do you?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The moon is takin' a header

That was crazy.

Meet my little friend.

I think we may have set an attendance record for the outreach tour at Olde Town Hall tonight - over 70 people turned out. And what an incredible mix, kids and teens and adults young and old, it was incredible. And they were excited for an evening of vampire fun, let me tell you.

I don't know who started it, them or us, but there was a silly energy in the air - and I mean that in the best way possible. When I start "hypnotizing" Maria in the second arc, Emily got all sleepy and bedroom-eyed and I almost lost it.

During the Nosferatu segment, I actually drooled blood down my chin.

And Dusten was on freaky-fire, his timing was great all night but by the final scene, he was just milking it - and I mean that in the best way possible. He's never had so much sex in his voice when he's telling Lucy how much he wants to cut her and drink her blood. He's also never sounded so stupid in the final scene.

I don't know if we are giddy with all the touring or if we are finally relaxing into our performances. I think each of us are trying to get everything we can out of this show before it closes on Thursday.

Dynamite crowd, great discussion afterward. We ask (sometimes) why the vampire remains a compelling figure, and several times, including tonight, the "bad boy" thing comes up. But there was also some discussion after we all broke for punch and cookies about theology. I had someone at LAK ask why there was so much talk about God in the third arc. And then, of course, Michael was asking about comparisons to the Eucharist on Sunday (thanks for that, Michael.) Today I had a nice talk with a man following the show who wanted to know if I were a person of faith - if I were Christian, to be specific. What happened on stage tonight made him feel as though I were, the way issues of faith were handled, he assumed I was. This comes to me as a relief, because though this is a satire, I am not really comfortable with denigrating or demeaning anyone's faith. Anyone's.

It's almost embarrassing the amount of help we have received lately, loading out the set. But I am grateful for it. We had GLTF company members - and students from Elyria Catholic who returned to see the show again - helping us lug everything down the big staircase. I am too wrung out and sore to say no.

Wow. This tour has been so much fun, I can't tell you.

Did I mention we were performing on the set of Oklahoma?

"That night must go nothing wrong."

Monday, March 08, 2010

A little help from my friends ...

Three more performances? Really, that's it?

Very nice night night, full house at the Lakewood Public Library, and lots of new and old friends, familiar faces and downright strangers on hand. Several actor-teachers, from today and years past, GLTF company members, PlayhouseSquare representatives, roommates, teachers from some of the high schools we work with, bringing their students ... it was a lovely turnout.

This evening has been filling me with anxiety since I saw how the set worked, and how deep it needed to be. Thank you, Daniel, for ordering that extra pole, it has come in very handy. I do not know how we could have managed this without it.

Using the drapes as masking - and angling them downstage - we had much more room to the sides and did not have any of our "business" showing when the doors were open.

I borrowed several key lines in the play from last fall's residency program rehearsal process, and as this was the night half of them were able to make the performance, these "private jokes" got some serious play, most notably, "Girl's gotta eat."

"Yeah, I'm looking at YOU, Mike Gatto."

I pressed several of our comrades into service to get everyone out by 9 o'clock, and dang if that wasn't the faster load-out we've ever had. You people are pros and have my endless gratitude. Thanks to Lakewood Public Library, they always do an amazing job of promoting the outreach tour, and I think we finally have the knack for handling their space. These photos look pretty good, don't they?

Tomorrow: Olde Town Hall. I love this venue, the people are always so happy to see us and excited for the show. It's a great, historied space, a 127 year-old building with a lot of style - the perfect joint for a VAMPIRE PLAY. Every year we attract a devoted, yet intimate crowd. Maybe thirty or forty. The space holds maybe two hundred. Every year I want this one place to get more people through their doors for the outreach tour - and we have been directing excited students in Lorain County (and elsewhere) to come see us again and tell their friends about the show here at Olde Town Hall.

Tomorrow we see if any of that effort has paid off!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Near Dark (1987)

Directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow.

Twinsburg High School Drama Club REPRESENT!!!

This charming assemblage of young people from Twinsburg made the trip to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Main Public Library to see our little show! Seems they recently had their own production of an adaptation of John Polidori's The Vampyre in their black box performance space, and just had to check this show out.

AND they stayed afterwards to help us pack up and load out in record time! It was an incredible afternoon - the first truly beautiful sunshiny day in ages, and yet around a hundred people turned out to check out the tour in my hometown. Lots of friends (large and small) in attendance - and GLTF company and staff members! I saw you, Heather, Chris, Terry and Todd! Also board members, GLTF subscribers, and just a whole roomful of familiar, warm faces. And Kelly's oversized laugh.

And somehow, after the show began, I lost a finger. Really, there were ten fingertips on the prop table when we started, and when I needed them, I was missing one. One of the kids said they noticed. Damn! Not sure what to do about that, I may need to contact some novelty stores tomorrow morning.

This is my girl.

Friday, March 05, 2010

"The Hunger" (1983)

10 vampire books that are BETTER than the Twilight series
by Kate Kotler, who was in my production of Lysistrata in 2000.
(Hi, Kate!)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Nordonia! Nordonia!

"Down For the Count" by Poopbear

Dusten broke the decanter.

The Akron Public Library in Nordonia has been a stop for the GLTF Outreach Tour in long-standing. Always a great, supportive turnout - a small space, but they always serve coffee, lemonade and cookies. We had a pretty full room - Charlie came to see us! So did Tamara, and she brought her daughter and her friends. A great mix from young to old in the house this evening.

Have I mentioned yet how much I enjoy working with Emily and Dusten? I am grateful for all of the humor and high spirits, it makes schlepping big heavy set pieces much more enjoyable.

That's quite a head I have.

Tomorrow: A new venue! We visit Actors' Summit in Hudson, it's a great space to catch a show. Come see us!

Oh - and we got a new table, to replace the one Dusten broke.

For Todd ...

... did I mention Bat Boy: The Musical opens April 8th?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Getting it

The high school performances have truly rocked this year! We visited Elyria Catholic High School today - a higher number than usual were in attendance in the gymnasitorium, the floor was filled and there were a lot of students in the bleachers.

Some guys believed this play was only about "Twilight" and were not necessarily looking forward to it. We do not give high school students programs before the show, out of concern that they may read them during the performances, or leave them lying around if they don't really want them - most students are compelled to attend assemblies, don't you know, and may not even like plays. But the program does explain what the show is, which is helpful if you are seeing it for the first time. So whoever is moderating the show that day (today: Lisa!) has been providing a brief explanation of the concept before curtain.

And wow. The EC kids liked The Giaour! I am not suggesting previous schools didn't, but usually they have had to just kind of take it in, and don't laugh or respond vocally until The Count. But they were with us from the very beginning, it was sweet.

Then, of course ... there's Dusten's "Lower Power." Andrew had directed that delivery to be ... potentially ... I mean, let's just say ... there was the potential for a double-meaning. Today was the first time I think anyone got that. Unfortunately, the very next line is:
LUCY: You sound like my dad.
Okay. That was wrong.

Big ups to all the students who helped us load in before and out after - I cannot tell you how much we appreciated that. Some said we would see them again at Olde Town Hall in North Ridgeville!

"Remember Me!!!"

I did not know about this.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Slow'd Out

Man. That was the longest load out we've done. The three of us have gotten load-out to a science - and with assistance we can get it done in about an hour. Tonight I think we clocked in a 1:45. Just taking it easy. Because honestly, and just between the two of us, we're a little tired.

Check out the curtains - and the table!

Tonight we were hosted by Kendal at Oberlin - and thank you, Kendal! We have a sizeable crowd - apparently there are those of a certain age who have been turned off by the promotional materials, not just here but at other retirement communities. This is a good thing, I think, because I'd rather people knew what they were in for. However, there were a larger than normal number of people who came from the surrounding community to attend the show. You know who I mean. TEENAGERS!!!

Or maybe college students. Fans of Twilight. There was one guy there who raised his hand admitting he'd read the book. I was proud of him.

And the table lives! In the time I had available to me this afternoon heading way across town, I had the choice of either a) getting a replacement table from the scene shop or b) picking up the extra curtain pole Daniel had ordered --
Brief explanation: three upright poles, two across and two curtains = one big curtain with a split down the middle. Four poles means the possibility of two separate curtain units - which is much more conducive to shallow performance spaces.
-- I got the extra pole. And what a difference! If we'd had this baby in Amherst, it would have cut down set-up by maybe a half-hour.

Life is good. We even got dinner, ordered from a menu! Thanks again, Kendal.

Tomorrow: A high school!

Funny cartoon.

(Thanks, Dad.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

"This is a very old table."

That is what I said before launching into the second arc. After being attacked, Young Porlock hit the table, as usual, and the same leg that busted yesterday collapsed. The books and everything hit the floor. Lord Darvell did not even deign to look at the destruction. Hang Poor Porlock, bleeding on the divan, he had crushed our beloved table, and there was nothing to be done.

The Narrator brought out the sound case, and put the table onto that. It was too important to simply haul off-stage. There was too much at stake.

Get it? Get it?

The major piece of the table I restored yesterday is still stuck firm, but that leg ... I have reattached it with wood glue and the clamp (which had been relocated for the larger damage and then set aside) and it may see another performance.

Kids! Read those vampire books!

The crowd at Fairview was very nice, though strangely low on Twilight fans. I mean, I was really surprised. But the folks there have always been very supportive and the turnout was high.

Margaret led her first post-show discussion tonight, and it was really great. It went into some new places, especially into the sanguine. It is so weird that Bella describes Edward's breath as smelling sweet. He eats blood, that is his diet. It doesn't matter that it is animal blood. Have you ever been hit in the face? Had dental surgery? Have you ever had am amount of blood sit in your mouth? You know how it tastes? How it smells? Now imagine that is what you eat. Stoker nailed it with his description of Dracula's personal hygiene, sweet his breath was not.

A woman came up after and asked me about Kent State. She wasn't critical, she just wanted to know why. The Interview has references to historical events in the way the other three do not. And yet, none of them are mentioned by name, not specifically. But if it weren't obvious, she was struck by the reference to "13 Seconds." I did not know that was a book, I just knew it was a fact.

Setting up and striking, Emily treated us to the weirdest mix CD I have ever heard. She's big into Wicked, apparently.

I have made this observation before, but not here. How much did Margaret Hamilton owe her performance as the Wicked Witch to Max Shreck? She is diminutive, to be sure, I am not sure she is even taller than Judy Garland. And while all around her is brightly colored (including her face) she is dressed all in black, a black which light seems to fall into. So she creates these silhouettes with her joints - her elbows, her shoulders, making shadows against the background, with those long fingers, jutting UP into Dorothy's face.

Well. It's obvious, isn't it?

Brief update

Dusten broke the table again.

Land Joke - Revealed!

HARKER: But professor, vampires only exist in ghost stories.

HELSING: The vampire, Mr. Harker, is a thing that lives after its death by drinking the blood of the living. It must have blood or it dies. Its power lasts only from sunset to sunrise. During the hours of the day, it must rest in the earth in which it was buried.

- From the screenplay for Dracula, 1931
... and he brought some of it with him. Get it?