“Food, Glorious Food!”

The New York Times recently ran an article about Eating and Opera, which I found interesting and instructive. I haven’t had to eat much onstage, but I do for Bernarda Alba–Act III opens with a dinner scene. Our director has concocted a rice/peas “main dish” for us to eat, and there’s also a bowl of grapes and three bottles of liquid–although those aren’t able to be drunk, since they are tough to open (as I found out during tech week). So the tumblers on the table stay empty.

I eat a few bites of rice, and try to get a few grapes. The grapes work the best since they’re liquid, essentially. The rice can be OK, but if it’s dry, then it’s not so great, because it can get stuck in the throat and cause issues (again, as I learned during the first few performances, since we didn’t have the food during tech). Some of the other actresses, though, don’t have this problem and plow through their helping. The director knows how much to give each of us by now–the food is plated during the Act II/III intermission. We also have bread and a few other things for the first act.

When I did Earnest, there was food involved–those cucumber sandwiches, and tea!–but I didn’t get to eat any of it, sadly. I’ve never had to eat as part of a musical. Even in Oliver!, “Food, Glorious Food” is mostly imaginary. 🙂 There’s no “pease pudding”, “hot sausage and mustard” or “cold jelly and custard.”

The biggest problem I’ve ever had with food is backstage–you have to be careful not to knock it over! We do eat the grapes throughout the performance–a healthy way to keep off hunger! And I was known to sneak a few sugar cubes (yes, actual sugar cubes!) during the Earnest run. (hey, it was a long show. Needed sugar.)

I think it’s fun to have the food. It definitely adds to the realism of the show. But it also has its drawbacks, in that property needs to be washed (all the plates, and cutlery) at some point, plus keeping us stocked with food. I wouldn’t mind something to drink in the dinner scene, but then you have to worry about spills on costumes, so I can definitely see why we’re not doing that.

But some “opera chicken”? Heck, I’d say yes.


Fall audition #1

My first fall audition is on the books, and I am really excited!

It’s Columbus Civic’s A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by a former Earnest castmate of mine (he played Jack Worthing in the show). He does great work, both adapting, writing, directing and acting, so I would love to be a part of this show.

The audition consists of reading from the script.

I’ve actually never been in a production of A Christmas Carol, so this would be a fun challenge, because it is one of my favorite Dickens works (and works, period). The novel itself is so rich with story, character, and detail, so every adaptation pulls something new from it. But it’s also beloved because of the character that we know–Scrooge, Marley, Bob Crachit, the Spirits, Fezziwig, and of course, Tiny Tim.

Do you have a favorite adaptation of the story? (movie or stage version) Mine are, in no particular order: The Muppets’ Christmas Carol (“This is our island in the sun!). Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, (especially the music!), and Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which is animated beautifully, and Scrooge McDuck is a perfect, um, Scrooge. 🙂

How do you solve a problem like…

Porgy and Bess?

The American Repertory Theater in Connecticut is putting on a new version of the Gershwin American opera classic. And some people–most notably Stephen Sondheim–are not happy with it.

Why isn’t Mr. Sondheim happy? Because it’s much more of a “rewrite” than a “revival.” The director is adding “back story” which, apparently, isn’t in the original P&B. Audra McDonald, who’s playing Bess, sees her character as one-dimensional. So the powers that be are changing that. The highly-praised ending, Porgy’s “I’m On My Way”, is being tampered with in (some say) unacceptable ways.

The crux of the debate is: When is it re-staging–bringing a fresh eye to an older work–and when is it against the composer’s intentions? Sondheim states that he’s overseen several re-stagings of his works–most notably with Company and Sweeney Todd–and that he approves the changes those directors have made. Obviously he’s not against new ideas, per se. The big difference, however, is that Sondheim is alive, and able to give a thumbs up or down to what directors do to his pieces. The Gershwins aren’t. Whose to say, as the director does, that they would have changed Porgy and Bess eventually? (I think that’s a bit presumptuous–what, is she having seances with the Gershwins on a regular basis?)

Obviously, directors have a vision for their pieces. Sometimes they set Macbeth in the 1940s, and sometimes Hamlet is a modern-day retelling. These can be very brilliant. They can also be awful. But what the current production is doing is fundamentally changing the show as written. This is equivalent to what people used to do to the end of Lear–Cordelia lives! Lear lives! All is well! But that fundamentally changes what the story is about, and what the audience is meant to take from it.

One of the biggest problems I have with this is the way the director talks down to the audience. Apparently, she thinks we have the attention span of gnats. (She’s quoted in the link above.)

There is a fundamental difference between reinterpreting, and rewriting. For example: The recent production of Earnest that I was in moved up the story period to the Edwardian era, instead of the end of the Victorian era, where Wilde originally placed his story. This happens all the time in opera. Some people actually have fits about this. But really, sometimes it works. And again, sometimes it doesn’t. But we didn’t change the characters, or add extra speeches for Earnest, or anything like that. We stuck with what Wilde wrote and made our interpretations based on that.

Opera, especially, is where people tend to be very sensitive on this subject. Audiences boo interpretations and directors they don’t like. Mary Zimmerman’s La Sonambula is one example of this. It sounds like what’s happening at the A.R.T is a director taking original material and then adding/subtracting to serve her own needs and what she thinks “today’s audience” wants.  As an audience member, I find that insulting. As an actress, I’d be sort of horrified. Not that a play is a SACRED TEXT, but messing with authorial intention? Not something I’d be really keen to do. I’ve been very lucky to work with directors that haven’t done this.

Bottom line: if you want to gut something, write your own version.

(And a note: In the case of Zimmerman–I have to say I like what I’ve seen of her opera direction. She gives her actors/actresses something to do, and I love her version of Armida)

“The Era of Ragtime had run out”

“…as if history were no more than a tune on a player piano. But we did not know that, then.”

The Little Boy, “Epilogue/Finale”

The Immigrant Chorus Women


And with that, ’tis done. Ragtime–and summer musical–are over for another year. Some of these people I will see between now and next summer, but most of them are summer-only folks, and seeing them is part of the summer musical tradition. The HAC show next year is Cabaret, so I’m not sure if I’ll be auditioning for it. I can sing all the major female roles (ROCK the contralto-ness, people), but I’ll have to see what else is going on. I try to do at least one musical every year, but I’m picky about them. I want to have music I can sink my teeth into, or a show that’s going to be lots of fun–preferably both, like this year. It was a LOT of hard work, but it paid off in spades when we got a standing ovation every night!

So now I’m pretty “not busy”, theater wise, until the fall. I’ll still post here, but it’ll be on more general theater/voice/music stuff, as opposed to show-specific posts. There will be stuff on voice, acting, pointers, all sorts of goodness, and probably more ragtime photos. 🙂

So, the final fan club list:

  • Chris B.
  • Andrea G.
  • Tiffany
  • Bill
  • Mom and Dad
  • Robin
  • J.R.
  • Bryan (my brother)
  • Kelly Z.
  • Matt Z. (These two are siblings, and my cousins!)
  • Sarah N.
  • Missy, Katie and Sarah

Thanks again to everyone who came out! We had more than 1,000 people see the show over three days.

Consistency is key…

And with that in mind, we turned in another great performance, to another standing ovation! Tonight’s crowd was even more enthusiastic than last night’s, which definitely keeps our juices flowing onstage. 🙂 (As does doing awesome numbers like “The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square.”)

And a sweet bonus: My friend Abby got engaged on stage after the show! I knew he would ask soon–they’d picked a date, booked the church, and she was reading bridal magazines, but apparently there was some snafu with the ring, so she didn’t have that yet. Well, the ring story? Total lie. 🙂 Tonight her fiance told the director (who told us), that he wanted to do it onstage after the final curtain fell. So we all knew it was coming–but she tried to leave the stage! Ha! I pulled her back and he came out with the gorgeous ring. We yelled. Loud. 🙂 It was lovely.

Ain’t love grand? 🙂

So that was tonight–the middle show of the run. And tomorrow is the last show. I am really going to miss this piece when it’s over.

Additions to the fan club:

  • my parents (well, duh. :-P)
  • JR, a friend of mine from church (he’s engaged to another friend of mine from church)

Tomorrow my brother, his girlfriend, and two of my cousins (who drove down specially from the ‘Burgh!) will be in the audience. And then we’re going out to dinner!

And, again–you have one more chance to see this show! 3:00 tomorrow! Go to church and then come see us! We will make you laugh, we (may) make you cry, but we will definitely make you cheer by the end!

Happiness is…

A Standing Ovation!!!!!

The first one I’ve EVER gotten.

I am thrilled, humbled, incredibly pleased. It’s so nice to see that sort of awesome audience reaction! We had a great crowd tonight, filled with friends, and from beginning to end, it was EPIC.It was such an amazing, enjoyable experience. Truly a thing I will remember forever–raising my head after my bow and seeing people standing in the seats, applauding. It filled me with joy!

And now, for a tradition: The Listing of Emily’s Fan Club! This is friends of mine who come to see the show! Bold print means they have seen all my shows (well, since 2008, anyway). They are dedicated. I’ll be adding to this after each night:

  • Chris B.
  • Andrea G. Thanks guys!!!
  • Rita and her daughter Hannah
  • Tiffany
  • Bill

You have TWO MORE CHANCES to catch the good stuff!


Opening Night! Squee!

I always get excited about Opening Night. Those two words are magic. No matter how long or short the run, opening night is always something special. It’s such great fun to put a show up before the audience and share our work with them.

I do hope you’ll make it to Ragtime! (If you’re in the area, that is) Friday-Sunday (this weekend) at Hilliard Davidson High School. Friday/Saturday 8:00 curtain, Sunday 3:00 curtain.

Bringing the show to you

The last tech rehearsal was tonight. So now…we present the show to you, the audience. Which is really the best part. Because no matter how much we may think something is funny, or moving, or great, we really can’t tell until you are in the seats, reacting as we tell you this story.

Audience energy is a vital, but ephemeral, thing. When I was doing Parade in 2009–which is a very heavy show–there are some laugh lines in the second scene. And if people didn’t laugh in those scenes, we knew it would be a long, heavy show. Because there’s precious little humor in a murder trial and a lynching. Drama, yes. Pathos, yes. Awesome musical moments, yes. But not humor. And when the audience isn’t with you, then it can be a long show for even the most dedicated actor.

That doesn’t mean force a laugh. But come to the theater ready to experience what we are offering you. Come with your full attention (NO GAMEBOYS, or texting during the show!), and be open to what’s about to be performed for you. Because theater before a live audience is such a wonderful and glorious thing. Every night it is different, and you, the audience, have a very important part to play.  We feed off your energy. We want to give you the best possible experience.

In the words of Jerry Maguire–“help me, help you!” Or, from Gypsy, “Let (us) entertain you!”

Live theater is a fantastic experience for everyone. But to get the most out of it, come engaged, come prepared to enjoy yourself. (And, of course, come. We did an Earnest performance for four people in a snowstorm, and let me tell you, we were really grateful for those four people!) We do what we do for YOU, the audience! (And, yeah, a little bit to satisfy our overweening egos–ha!)

So if you’re in the area, come on out and support local live theater! We would love to see you!

(RAGTIME is NOT appropriate for kids. It is a very PG-13 show due to racially charged language. So as much as I love kids, you might want to leave them at home.)