It happened again! I got so busy I didn’t have the time or inclination to keep up with my blogging. Too bad, cause I still had the same sense of outrage and entitlement that most bloggers possess. So, if you’ve been waiting for this, let’s trip through the past year quickly, with brief, impressionistic comments rather than in-depth, highly personal analysis, of some of the highlights and get back to today.
MISTAKES WERE MADE Great run, fun show. Lots of laughter, lots of delighted reactions. Mistakes were made scheduling two Saturday shows. One would have done. Other mistake was made anticipating that MISTAKES being a new show, acclaimed in New York, highly publicized and well reviewed in St. Louis, a play about theatre, playing the convenient Kranzberg at a time of year when little else was going on, would draw an audience from the so-called St. Louis theatre “community.” My mistake. (Sidelight: In December of 2011, American Theatre magazine got in touch, planning an article featuring the faux posters of previous shows produced by MISTAKES character Felix Artifex. I was concerned they would be getting themselves in hot water with this (as these posters would highlight Felix’s flops featuring real (but often second-rate) actors.) They eventually decided this as well, but the magazine’s staff got a big laugh out of our posters anyway – SHATNER – LEAR, with Pauly Shore as his fool; Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan in MY FAIR LADY; and one that never made it to our stage, but one I liked: ELLEN – LEZistrata.
9/11 At the same time, we were presenting MISTAKES (and losing lots of money – Midnight is one of the only non-non-profit companies in town – we don’t ask for money to support our “dream”) – a strange article appeared in The Riverfront Times about a 9/11 commemorative production of THE BOYS. Featuring two seasoned, and good, local actors, the entire article was about the unexpected challenges of producing a play for the first time. The article, and/or the actors, struck me as very disingenuous. Both had worked extensively; you’d think they’d have picked up just a bit about production issues. They also had a producing partner – he must have been only a phone call away. And the kicker was printing the sum of $11,000 that was raised for this show. (Thus, they weren’t inexperienced enough to know that the best way to do theatre – and a lot of other things – is with other people’s money.) It all made me theorize that the RFT writer was sandbagging these actors. (After all, though there was a plea that everyone get out to see this and honor 9/11, you didn’t have to read between the lines to figure out at least half of this eleven grand was coming right back into the actors’ pockets as equity paydays.) Made you wonder.
THE BLACK REP I joined The Black Rep officially in the Fall as Director of Marketing, and now have perspective on what has been an extremely busy six-seven months. I love working here. love the people. I’m so proud to be associated with the work that goes on stage. I hate the fact that the Company has to struggle financially as it does. Founder and Producing Director Ron Himes has been at this here a lot longer (35 years), and I can see where his well-known brittleness comes from. Though a first-class, nationally known company, The Black Rep does receive second-class treatment, second-class funding and second-class overall support (from everyone but the press, who seems, rightly, to love us as well.) I do know our work – mainstage shows, childrens’ touring productions – are the equivalent of the (fill in the blank here – Other? White? Webster Groves?) Rep. Our shows are just as big and just as accomplished (but a little more exciting, I think.) But the Rep gets theirs done with a staff of dozens and millions of dollars sitting around. While we struggle for every dollar and have a handful of intrepid multitaskers toiling away. I’ve learned a lot this year – that the old way of selling subscriptions is gone forever, that selling theatre these days is tough, tough, tough. But Ron is keeping on keeping on after 35 years, and I hope I can help keep the flame burning hot.
BUBBA MOON FACE This little film, shot in a week, with a crew of two, had a featured screening at the St. Louis International Film Festival. What a day! The Festival made it a free screening at 11am on a Saturday at The Tivoli (free because they felt this film needed to be seen). The house was packed, the audience at the talk-back after full of praise and enthusiasm. Cast photos (a la any red carpet premiere) were taken, and a celebratory lunch after at Blueberry Hill gave everyone a chance to pat some backs. Great seeing director/writer Blake Eckard again (he’s since cast me in his new feature, shooting this summer) and making the acquaintance of Aaron Coffman (who had a film in the Festival, and since has cast, and shot, me in his short, BLOWBACK.) Reviews, from indie bloggers around the country, continue to come in full of wonder at this little wonder of a film.
NO CHILD… For a month of rehearsal, then several weeks of happy viewing, had the chance to direct NO CHILD… by Nilaja Sun. Foremost in the delights was working with the actress taking on this one-woman show, Patrese McClain. I was convinced of her talent, very confident of her emotional commitment, and sure of her work ethic. But none of my past experiences working with her prepared me for the passion she would bring to this show. The rehearsal process was a joy, helping her put together the 16 characters that would eventually come to life on stage. It was great working with The Black Rep production crew and designers – a fabulous team to help bring a vision to life, and The Grandel is so cool to work in. Everything I hoped for with the show came true – from the acting to the set that cut the Grandel stage down to one-woman’s (albeit 16 characters) size, the projections that helped tell the story, and the music that combined the edge of today’s hip-hop with some Joe King Oliver Creole Jazz Band. An opening weekend visit from playwright/original performer Nilaja Sun was another highlight. I got to spend most of a day with her, as we visited a radio station for interviews, and not only was she full of New York theatre stories and gentle tips about her show, but incredibly sensitive that she was in town only as a playwright. Patrese was the actress, and Nilaja kept that very clear.
And what an actress. Patrese got better every night, and it wasn’t just the technical skill that staggered people. The depth of her emotional investment in the show brought tears to a show that also featured lots of laughter and hope. As the run went on with increasingly larger and larger crowds, the audiences were wonderful. You could feel and hear the excitement as they entered the theatre. Everyone had heard about the show, and many people came to see it several times. At the end of the show, you could sense them so eager to leap to their feet, applauding and screaming for Patrese. And, for me, that was the ultimate satisfaction of the show – collaborating successfully with such a talented artist. I thought the primary accolades for Patrese came from two reviews of the show. (I call them ST. NICHOLAS reviews, after the critic character in the Connor MacPherson show I performed several times. In that show, a jaded, middle-aged alcoholic theatre critic is brought back to a semblance of life by an actress he sees in a show.) Not that these critics are are jaded or alcoholic, but both of their reviews started very similarly. (And I paraphrase) “You all know me. I just don’t like one-person shows. And I especially don’t like one-person shows where the performer plays multiple roles. Grumble Grumble. But Oh My God! Patrese McClain!” I’ll second that. Oh My God! Patrese McCLain!