About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life- Shameless Self-Promotion

So I'm not just a costumer--I actually didn't start costuming until college (although I started dabbling in makeup a few years before)--up until then I was an actor. I've seen the life of an L.A. actor and while it's not for me, I do still enjoy acting from time to time, and I am lucky enough to have found a theatre company that values both my skills equally.

So right now I'm having a lot of fun rehearsing a one-night-only production of It's A Wonderful Life. We're doing it as a fundraiser for the theatre company, and I'm playing Mary Bailey! The production is a staged radio play, set in the 1940's, so it's set as if the audience is attending a live taping of a radio broadcast (like if you went to see a taping of Prairie Home Companion).

The cast is a really fun group, and everyone is doing a great job. One of my favorite things is working with my co-star, Jim, as George Bailey. It's A Wonderful Life is his favorite movie ever, and I don't think we've gone through a single rehearsal without him getting choked up at the end. I just love that he's so moved by the show, it's really sweet!

Ok, first off, some press for the show; if you're in the L.A. area, swing by:

Also, every day I read the theatre pages in the New York Times, LA Times, and Boston Globe online. The other day I noticed in that The Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island is doing the same production. However, the Boston Globe's critic had some issues with it.

For one thing, she wasn't that thrilled with the choice not to have the actor playing George Bailey sound like Jimmy Stewart. "Stewart’s demi-quaver, with its hint of lingering adolescence, perfectly suits George’s rocky path to full maturity. You can’t say the same for Sullivan’s burgher-like delivery: He sounds not only quite settled, but decidedly urban".

I honestly think our George Bailey made the strongest choice, to quote Jim, "everyone has a Jimmy Stewart impression, and they all suck. Including mine". So he channels Stewart rather than impersonating him. The quaver is mostly intact, but the character is entirely Jim's. Actually, I sometimes feel a bit inadequate performing opposite him; he knows the character back-to-front, and I'd only seen the film maybe twice, so I was a little worried our performances wouldn't be consistent. But I've gotten more comfortable with the character since then, and we're very much on the same page about how we want to play each scene.

The Globe reviewer's other issue seemed to be with radio theatre as a concept--"From the outset, though, I was perplexed as to our — the audience’s — role as witness: Are we meant to close our eyes and imagine the scenes as remembered? Or perhaps marvel at the Foley sound effects and the array of gadgets employed to produce them?" Well, the foley is part of the fun of watching radio theatre, as is seeing a group of 8 actors play the roles of 30 or more--you should see one of our actors go back and forth between old man Potter and Uncle Billy in the same scene! And there is still interaction between the performers, we're not just standing there at the microphones. Although the conceit is of recording a radio show, the fact is we're only performing for a live audience, so we have to be interesting to look at.

So maybe radio theatre isn't for everyone (like that critic), but I think we have a good solution for people who don't know whether to look or just listen--we're performing at a restaurant. It makes a good fit for a "dinner and a show" kind of evening--you don't feel like you can't take your eyes off the stage to look at your plate, but the show is more than just background noise.

So I'm ridiculously excited about doing the show tomorrow night--we're actually the only company in Los Angeles that will be performing it this winter, although funnily enough a director who's a friend of the company is mounting it in Pennsylvania. So I think it'll be a great night out for those who come see it here in L.A., and hopefully if it does well, we'll do more shows next year.

Atta boy, Clarence!

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