Tag Archives: shakespeare

wisconsin-peninsula-state-park-outdoor-theatre

I Left My Heart in Summer Stock

I learned the greatest life lessons in summer stock theater. For five summers, deep in the redwoods, I bounced between the costume shop, wig shop, and backstage running two to three exhilarating shows a season. It tested my patience, challenged my body, and carved a hole in my heart no theater has been able to fill. I’m a better artist because of it, and a better person too.

Lessons in Patience

Summer stock tends to ask artists for immediate results. Time tables are tight; budgets are even tighter. The notion to rush is instilled on day one. But instead—pause, breathe. Good work takes time; fast work is not good, so find your middle ground. There is only one summer of these shows, these people, and (in my case) these costumes. Don’t rush through the moments just because time isn’t on your side. Be patient, the shows will open, and close long before you are ready. Don’t waste time. Take it all in, and know that whatever lesson the summer will teach you may not be apparent right away.

Photo via Good Free Photos
Photo via Good Free Photos

A Different Type of Design

I love repertory theatre, almost as much as I love outdoor theatre. It challenges the brain and body of actors and designers in a whole new way. Costumes are designed for the elements, long underwear becomes commonplace for cold nights, and outdoor-friendly shoes are your only design option. Clothing must read as regular and regal under the hot summer sun and evening stage lights. Scenic elements are designed for easy change-overs or usability in more than one production. Wigs and facial hair play a crucial role, helping actors transition from one Shakespeare role to another. All elements must stand alone as special, without overshadowing performances. Design is smarter, more versatile, and simple: the audience imagines the rest.

While actors frequently rehearse or learn lines for more than one show at a time, repertory theatre asked them to switch gears multiple times a day. While I’ve carried multiple backstage tracks in my head, for summer stock wardrobe crew, I cannot imagine the challenge of playing Iago in the afternoon and Puck in the evening. Factor in major temperature changes between shows, bugs, and seasonal allergies and outdoor theater becomes an Olympic event for actors.

Listening to Your Body

Whether you’re an intern, actor, or designer, summer stock can wreak havoc on your body. Hours on end sewing, building scenery, running crew, or rehearsing epic swordplay for The Three Musketeers challenges bodies in a way they aren’t used to. Eight shows a week feels like sixteen with morning rehearsals, evening shows, and post-show parties. Opportunities for rest are few and far between, and the fear of missing out can overshadow your body’s needs. Summer won’t last forever, and that’s a hard concept to manage. Just remember, summer stock is one of the many theatrical journeys you’ll enjoy in a career; make it count, but don’t forget to put yourself first.

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Matters of the Heart

My first day of my first season, the artistic director told the story of a couple who met years prior at that very theater. They had returned, still in love, still in theatre. This was the dream. But, what I didn’t know, is that summer stock is summer camp for adults. There are summer loves, but often that’s all they are—a fling under the starlight inspired by the romanticism of  Romeo and Juliet and the constant pressure of summer’s end is right around the corner. Years of this tested my heart. There was so much love to give, and love to receive in so little time. I grew to know I value the people over the art any day—the plays were just the vehicle that brought us together. I learned my love of the industry isn’t the work in costumes or hair, it’s the opportunity to interact with like minds as willing the open their hearts as I was.

No Task Is Too Large, No Task Is Too Small

When it comes to the truncated time and team spirit, summer stock taught me no task is beyond my reach. Whether it was simple swing tacks on costumes, crafting turbans for the first time, or helping the prop shop rig a dagger on a belt, I ended each summer with a handful of new skills, and practiced skills I’d nearly forgotten. There is no such thing as projects above or below a “pay grade,” instilling the humbling notion that I am valuable as an individual, but more importantly, I’m a part of the team.

My summers of outdoor theatre fueled my career faster than any class, seminar, or resume credit. I developed a breadth of skills in design, aesthetics, construction, hair, and makeup that I wouldn’t have experienced in college alone. But, most importantly it filled me heart with love and appreciation for every person and every step of the production process.

 

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MOVEMBER

Movember Madness: The Art of Fake Facial Hair

MOVEMBER

November is the greatest month of the year.  No, it’s not the turkey or the Macy’s parade.  It’s the facial hair.  The month-long campaign, entitled Movember, in which men grow out their facial hair for a glorious thirty days to help fund prostate cancer research and raise awareness brings the most theatrical facial hair to the streets.  

We may not all be able to grow out a handle bar or fu man chu for the month, but we can, in theatrical spirit, take some time to admire, discuss, practice, and display the art of artificial facial hair.

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Fake facial hair is theatrical gold.  You may roll your eyes when I call this an art, but it is — not only during November, but year-round.  Playing Viola in an upcoming production of Twelfth Night and need to transform from a woman to a man?  Are you clean-shaven and just got cast as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and the performance is only a couple months away?  Is your company producing an upcoming production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder?

Fake facial hair can instantaneously allow women can portray men, prepubescent boys can age, and a single actor can play multiple characters with the switch of a mustache.

So, in the Movember spirit, let’s start with a quick tutorial on applying facial hair:

Adhesive:  There are several types of adhesive, but you can break down facial hair adhesives into two categories:  tape and gum.

  • Tupee tape is a very fancy double-sided tape that is perfect for a quick-change mustache, but won’t hold up well to an entire evening of wear under sweat-inducing stage light.
  • Spirit Gum is the more traditional gum-based adhesive that will keep hair on through sweaty scenes.  So will its silicone counterpart, Telesis.

IMG_7719Apply adhesive to the back of your facial hair, in the direction of hair growth, using the small applicator brush in a light layer.  Try not to saturate the lace net—if the hair on the other side get’s glue on it, it will start clumping together.

Let spirit gum sit until it become sticky (usually a minute or so) and apply to clean dry skin.  It’s usually best to alcohol swab your face before applying for maximum hold.

Style your ‘stache with some classic Clubman Wax, or a glue stick for maximum hold.

Remove your facial hair with a cotton ball and rubbing alochol.  Then clean your mustache, from the back side. Using a small brush, brush in the direction of the hair with rubbing alcohol to remove reside.  Rinse in warm water when done.

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For those who can’t get their hands on some hand-tied facial hair, try a stippled makeup approach instead!

Cheers to a plentiful Movember!

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Do Your Homework pic 1

Actors: Do Your Homework!

The other day, I got on the subway and overheard a young musical theatre actor say, “Oh no, I don’t know the work of Annie Baker. Honestly, I don’t really read plays.” It took all of my strength not to walk over to this young man, shake him, and scream, “THIS IS YOUR CRAFT!!! YOU HAVE TO EDUCATE YOURSELF OR YOU WILL BECOME IRRELEVANT.” But it was hot and I was tired — so I rolled my eyes, said a wee prayer for his career, and enjoyed my brief respite in the air conditioning.

However, the incident got me thinking about how, more and more, I am meeting performers and industry professionals who are not doing their homework — and it shows. Yes, school is starting for many theatre students all over the world in the next couple of weeks, but — in fact — the homework never stops. Homework should be an essential part of your life, throughout your career. There are a lot of people who believe that if they have gone to school and done well, then they are educated, have a leg up in the industry, and that their education can stop there.  Continue reading

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Macbeth

Top 5 Most Popular Plays

Updated Aug 10, 2015

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, StageAgent members ‘fan’ their favorite shows over 1000 times per week! It provides a great insight into what theatre fans really like.

The slide show in this post displays the top five most plays , as voted by StageAgent members.  Not surprisingly, Shakespeare plays dominant the top five.  Only one play in the top five is NOT written by Shakespeare. Can you guess what it is?

Want your say? Make sure to visit the show database and fan your favorite shows! Without further adieu, here is the list of most popular plays! Continue reading

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Acting class at ACT

Choosing a Drama School: Advice from A.C.T.’s Conservatory Director

So, you want to go to drama school.  How do you find the school, or schools, that are right for you?  The school that will help you transform yourself and your acting?  The one that will be worth taking several years out of being in the marketplace and pursuing work?   There are many, many actor training programs to choose from in the United States, alone — not to mention the United Kingdom.  One can easily become overwhelmed surfing the websites of the top 10 schools, not to mention the top 25.

But websites are a great place to start.  You can do worse than begin with a listing of the top 25 schools — there are various lists, just Google.  Then, as you click from website to website, and later as you connect with current students, faculty or alumni, in person or by phone, keep the following criteria in mind.  In fact, keep a journal. The search for a school that fits you is a journey and a process, and you may be surprised at how your thinking evolves.  Continue reading

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