Producing v. Acting: Lessons Learned Via Twelfth Night

I really don’t have a problem wearing multiple hats but I prefer not to when I am working on a show. It gets very confusing. I especially do not like to act when I am producing. It can become weird for the director. Is he talking to his boss or his actress? However, sometimes…sometimes, I just like to break my own rule.

This past Sunday, we closed Twelfth Night after four months of being in pre-production and a five week rehearsal process. In the beginning, my job was to produce and publicize our show. As we got closer to the our first readthrough,  the actress cast to play Maria was unable to do the show. We were on the fence about recasting or letting me do the show. I was stuck. I know the process of all things theater. I know the difficulties that arise just doing one job. Yet, Maria is a role that I wanted since I was 18, when I played a minor character in my college production of Twelfth Night. Fast forward to this summer…I guess the universe was giving me a gift…or two. I wore the two hats but had to be very clear when I was wearing them. I was producer by day and actress by night. However, as we got closer to opening, I sometimes had to wear both on my head and I felt like the Mad Hatter.

I learned so much about myself. About theater. About passion. I really did my best to give all of me to the whole process. That’s all I could do. I was also very fortunate to have amazing and talented actors cast. Though I occassionally act, I do prefer producing for my company and doing the publicity. I enjoy the Ps more than being on stage. (Though, if you need me in a pinch, email me).

The run of this production was both exhilirating and exhausting. I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to be able to play one of the three of roles on my Roles I Must Play Before I Die.  So with all that gushing, here’s a quick rundown of the run for those of you who couldn’t make it. We will start with:

Our opening show at McCarren Park was interesting to say the least. In addition to our performance, we had a kickball game with loud music at the other field; aerialists practicing off of the tree limbs behind the audience; cyclists cycling through; a frisbee game and who knows what else. It’s a busy park. It was also warm. Not as warm as…

 

Sunday’s performance at the Forest Park Bandshell. As a matter of fact, we managed not to be rained upon but boy was it HOT. We were dripping through the performance. It reminded me of our performance of Much Ado About Nothing at Snug Harbor in Staten Island in 2010. It was the hottest day that summer. Anyway, at some point towards the end of the our performance, I actually felt myself checking out. I had to pull it together (which I managed). It was intense. Thank goodness my parents provided food and water for us. And thank goodness we had an audience.  

 

 

Monday’s performance at East River State Park (Brooklyn) reminded me to always demand a permit. Even though I was allayed my fears of needing one, I had to deal with the park rangers right before my entrance. I had to switch from actress to producer to actress in a matter of 2 minutes. Thankfully they didn’t pull the show but the stress level made it hard to enjoy the performance. Plus the audience saw the whole thing. On  the plus side, I will say that the location is pretty cool because it’s on the river and the ferry stops right there. Great skyline.

We had a few days off and were ready to rock at Central Park on Friday when the skies opened up and rained all day. We had to cancel that performance which hurt us donation wise. The lesson there is to consider an indoor venue as a contigency. We were able to have a lovely performance there on Saturday. I think it was our  best show even thoughI nearly killed our Aguecheek in one scene when I pushed him and our Olivia slipped because we were on an incline. However, we pulled it off and it turned out to be a great day.

Our closing show was on the red steps in front of the Van Cortlandt House Museum. By far, our least attended but our most favorite to perform. There were many levels to play on and we had a great cast party afterwards. Lots of fun. Nothing brings together a cast than sweat and burritos.

 

 

 

 

Today I drafted the notes for our post-mortem production meeting. I talked about where we can improve for next summer and what we learned from this experience. One of those points was to begin planning even sooner. Like by the end of the year. Why so early? Well, Black Henna really enjoys doing Shakespeare in the summer. That is the seedling of the company. If we are going to produce one show a year then it better rock and it better stand out. Plus next year marks out 10th Anniversary. We have tons to celebrate.

Super kudos to you for supporting near and far!

And if you are wondering how come Ian and I aren’t in a picture together, simply Orsino and Maria aren’t in any scenes together. Here we are pre-show!

Auditions and Other Life Lessons!

We held auditions for Twelfth Night last weekend and I am always astounded at the level of talent that exists. The best auditions were done by actors who chose monologues that most spoke to them. I have written and given advice on auditioning many times but this time I had a true aha moment. I realized that in addition to having a good headshot and a professional resume,  it is also important to prepare a monologue that speaks to you. At the end of the day, the audition process should not solely be about getting the part but also about doing your best.

One of the many lessons I learned in school and continue to apply is asking myself  have I done my best. Not only in acting or directing or producing, but in just about everything I do. If I know that I have done my best then I am mentally prepared for whatever follows. I also try to find the lesson. There is always something to gain from an experience. The moment I started doing that I find that I don’t get as crazy if things don’t go my way. That’s a big deal for me because I want everything to go my way,

So getting back to the audition process, here are my observations from last week’s auditions from the other side of the table:

  • The most interesting monologues were the most natural ones. We can see the passion in the your eyes and body if the monologue brings that for you.
  • If you are comfortable and in love with the monologue, it is easy for you to take direction and apply it when asked to do so.
  • It says a whole lot if you ask if we have a preference of monologue as it shows you are versatile and prepared. 

Here are my additional thoughts on the audition process as a whole. I have always said that you never know what goes on in a director’s head. I think it’s important to keep this in mind:

  • Don’t take it personal
  • Don’t think about the competition
  • Do your best work

And here is the information for Twelfth Night:

After a sudden summer squall, twin campers wind up on the wrong side of the lake and find themselves at Camp Illyria! After getting separated in the storm, Viola and Sebastian must contend with lovestruck Administrators and Athletic Coaches, vivacious Accountants, Kitchen Staff that has to be seen to be believed, and the surliest “Camp Cheer Counselor” they could possibly imagine, all the while trying to meet back up with each other, and get back to where they came from! Their twisted and madcap journey of fun and discovery takes place this summer in:

Brooklyn at McCarren Park on July 14th & The Waterfron on July 16th
Queens at the Forest Park Bandshell on July 15th
Manhattan at Cherry Hill in Central Park on July 20th and 21st
The Bronx in Van Cortlandt Park on July 22nd

Random Musings I

Sometimes I have nothing to write about but I know if I don’t write something then that muscle will not be exercised. Mostly this week has been full of one timers for me.

1. I didn’t watch the Oscars because I didn’t see any of the movies that were nominated. I have been so focused on the theater and tv, I haven’t been seeing many new movies. I’ll wait until they are On Demand or Netflix. 

2. I saw Missed Connections down at The Kraine which was awesome. We saw it with a special guest, George Salazar from Godspell and tonight, Julie Mattison is guest starring.

3. I spent the whole weekend in the theater taking care of the audience and cast. I got to exercise that PR muscle. Matinee audiences are a tough one.

4. I spent time with my family which was really lovely plus I got fed.

Here’s what else is going on.

 The Man Who Came To Dinner is having a great run. Ian and the gang close this weekend.  Check out www.parksideplayers.com for more info.

I am also doing a reading of Pirandello’s Sicilian Limes at The Players Club.  You can check out my Facebook event for that info. That will be on March 6th at 7pm.

We are also in pre-production for Twelfth Night which is part of the Black Henna 2012 Summer NYC Parks Tour. That’s always fun. If you know anyone who’d be interested in audition or being part of the production team, have them email your_friends@blackhennaproductions.com