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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

February 29, 2008

A Director’s Thoughts On Opening Night for Fiddler on the Roof

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 8:22 pm

“Are they ready?” Are you excited?” “Will it be good?” These are the questions I hear most often before the curtain goes up the first time for an audience. The day of opening is always a bit strange for me. I make notes for my actors, little things to adjust and improve. I write opening night cards trying to thank the many many people involved in getting a production ready. Mostly, I wait. It is actually sort of a lonely day, like when you send your child to school for the first time. We have had 5 weeks of intense time rehearsing, adding sets, lights, costumes and a full symphony orchestra this time around).  Theatre truly is an amazing collaborative process.   With the symphony, cast and backstage crew,  almost 100 people will be backstage or in the wings for this show.   But now though I’ve enjoyed working with this incredibly talented group of artists,  now I have to step back and let it go. I will go to the backstage tonightand  answer last minute questions, offer encouragement and sneak in a few last bits of direction, but then I will leave backstage and join all of you in the audience. I will watch the show for the 50th time, but this time I’ll be watching the audience too, listening for every laugh, watching for a tear or two and yes making a few mental notes of things that could be improved.  So, to answer those questions “Yes, they are ready and yes, I am excited and yes, I am pretty sure it will be wonderful” See you at the theater. 

Marybeth Clark, Director, Fiddler on the Roof

February 27, 2008

Both Sides Now . . . .My Second Fiddler on the Roof

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 9:01 pm

motel.jpgFiddler on the Roof…the 2nd time around…I’m Patrick, one of the 5 resident actors at Charleston Stage this season, and I am part of the huge undertaking that is Fiddler on the Roof.  We open this week!  Ah!  The rehearsal process has certainly flown by and we’re about to put it all COMPLETELY together tonight…sets, lights, costumes, and the unbelievable Charleston Symphony.  I feel pumped and ready to go.  It’s hard to believe that almost 4 years ago I was getting ready to open this show, but for another theatre.  This would be the 3rd show I have gotten to do twice and every time I am always so fascinated by all the different ways the same show can be approached.  I played the Russian, Fyedka, the first time and will be playing Motel, the tailor in Charleston Stage’s production.  There were scenes that I always admired and wanted very much to be a part of when I did it 4 years ago, but couldn’t because I was a Russian.  I didn’t even get to do the famous opening number, Tradition!  But now I am a proud Anatevka villager.  Playing Motel for Charleston Stage has given me the chance to feel the other side of the story.  It isn’t easy for Motel at first to gain Tevye’s respect and blessing to marry his eldest daughter, Tzeitel, but he ultimately wins Tevye over and he and Tzeitel are married.  The entire wedding sequence was also another major part of the story that I was not in when I played Fyedka, so getting to experience the moment of ultimate tradition and community is absolutely thrilling.  Everyone singing Sunrise, Sunset is so incredibly powerful.  I even find myself getting a bit teary in that scene…yes…that’s right….TEARY. I said it.  When you hear them all and with the symphony…you will understand.  Fiddler the first time around brought a lot of fun, but being a part of such wonderful numbers like Tradition and Sunrise, Sunset in Charleston Stage’s production has made me appreciate the beauty of this show even more.

Patrick Tierney is a member of Charleston Stage’s Professional Resident Acting Company 

February 26, 2008

Two Faces of Fiddler

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 3:33 pm

Last night was the first dress rehearsal of Fiddler on the Roof,  on stage for the first time at the Sottile Theatre.  Our technical staff had less the 36 hours to move all of the sets and over a 100 costumes backstage to get ready for this important rehearsal.  (Because Charleston’s theatres are used for so many events,  we only have a few days to rehearse on stage before a show opens, so its a very hectic time. )Rehearsal went well and I snapped the photo below of two of the actors who I think represent so much of what Charleston Stage does well.  Here are two great performers,  one a professional actor (John O. Fennel as Tevya) and the other a talented young musician  (Nicholas Bentz) working side by side by side. Charleston Stage strives for the best in professionalism but keeps a door open for the next generationof performers as well.  We think there is great value in having young performers work with seasoned professionals.  John, himself began as a young performer with Charleston Stage and Nicholas’s older brother Andrew, now a PHD candidate at Duke,  performed with Charleston Stage as well.  dsc_0054.jpg 

February 24, 2008

Wunderbar Sitzprobe for Fiddler on the Roof

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 11:28 pm

What’s a Sitzoprobe?  (Pronounced “sits probe”)    A  sitzprobe is a German word that means sitting down and singing with an orchestra and that’s just what the cast of Fiddler on the Roof did this afternoon.   This special rehearsal is the first time the actors and musicians get to work together.  In a rehearsal room at Charleston Southern University the 40 cast members of  Fiddler on the Roof sat down with the 35 members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, this afternoon to sing and play through the entirescore.  The sound was wunderbar (wonderful)!  Sitting down in a room with 75 people to play and sing through one of the most beloved Broadway scores of all time was quite an experience.   From Tradition to Sunrise, Sunset to Matchmaker, Matchmaker the room was alive with these soaring melodies.
I realized how incredibly fortunate we are to have the entire Charleston Symphony in the pit for Fiddler for it is so rare these days to hear a musical played by a full symphony.   Even on Broadway,  orchestras of 10-20 are the norm today and we have the entire 35 players of the Charleston Symphony playing for this production.
Conducted by Charleston Stage Music Director Wendell Smith, the music soared and soared and soared!  And what a sound!   The cast’s voices were enchanting and magical enriched by all those musicians including such special touches as accordian and mandolin,  instruments added to the Symphony just for this production.  fiddlercso10.jpgfiddlercso14.jpg Next,  the Symphony joins us for two dress rehearsals later in the week and then it’s opening night on Friday!  I can’t wait to see the show onstage with lights, sets and costumes which will all be the icing on the cake for this gorgeous musical. If you haven’t gotten your tickets for this special production don’t delay.  Tickets are going fast.!

Julian Wiles, Producing Artistic Director 

February 20, 2008

Matchmaker! Matchmaker! Designer’s Runthru for Fiddler on the Roof

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 1:43 pm

On Monday, we had a designer’s runthru for Fiddler on the Roof.  This is the first full runthru of the show in our Mt. Pleasant rehearsal studio with both Director Marybeth Clark and Music Director Wendell Smith.  At this point, actors have all lines, music and movements learned (almost!).  The Designer’s runthru allows the lighting, sound, prop, and costume designers to have a look at the show to be sure all of their design elements will work . . . can they dance in that dress?  Do I need more light in that area?  Is that chair strong enough for them to stand on, etc.   It’s an exciting runthru because it’s really the first time actors go through the entire show without stopping.  With the designers in the audience, it’s more of a performance than a rehearsal. Of course in rehearsal, skirts and hats replace real costumes, there’s no set, only a few tables and benches, but seeing and hearing a cast of 40 perform a full blown musical in a small room while sitting only 10 feet away is quite an event.  I can’t wait to see this cast of thousands onstage.

Julian Wiles, Producing Director 

Here are a few snapshots from Monday’s Designer’s Runthru for Fiddler on the Roof .

dsc_0015.jpg  Tradition!   dsc_0023.jpg 
Matchmaker Matchmaker, make me a match!   dsc_0028.jpgTo Life!  Tevye (John O. Fennel and Lazar Wolfe (David Halat) share a drink.  
dsc_0037.jpg The Bottle Dance!

February 13, 2008

Simon, Paula and Randy, Eat Your Heart Out!

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 10:05 pm

It’s hard to believe that it was time once again for our annual trip to the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions (UPTA) in Memphis, Tennessee. These auditions are where we select our Professional Resident Acting Company for the upcoming season. So last Friday Marybeth, Julian and I landed in the hometown of the King (Elvis that is . .  below Marybeth and I pay our respects at Graceland.)

img_0008.jpgand hunkered down to see and hear nearly 700 actors strut their stuff. UPTA is hosted each year by Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, and we joined representatives from over 120 other theatre companies also on their yearly quest. Each performer has only 90 seconds (90!) to sing and present a monologue and prove to the theatre world, or at least we luminaries in the room that they have what it takes to be a star. Age range of the actors is anywhere from college student to Senior (citizen, that is), most being within a short time of graduation one side or the other. As I mentioned, we saw over 700 actors in the course of three days and as you can imagine, much like on that popular, infamous TV contest, not everyone is star material. I am extremely proud to report, however that some of those who shone brightest (in my humble, unbiased opinion) were indeed the members of our current Resident Company – Nicole Nicastro, Autumn Seavey, Charlie Retzlaff, and Sam Weber, as well as four other actors from the Charleston Stage family – Kim Rogers, Warnell Berry, Jr., Lee Anderson and Trané. (A fifth Resident Company member, Patrick Tierney, was auditioning at the Illinois Theatre Association auditions in his hometown of Chicago this same weekend, with equally glowing results.) We also saw three of our former resident actors Sheridan Essman, Andrew Cotlar, and Mallory Goode who were also auditioning and great as always. As each one of our folks finished their minute and a half pencils across the room would fly, and heads would glance our way as if to say “Wow! That’s one of your people?” Of course, the three of us beamed like proud parents. Charleston Stage rocks, don’t ya know?!

After the mass audition came “Call-backs.” A call back is a second chance for a company to see an actor in an individual meet and greet to further inform casting choices. We chose, out of the 700, about 50 of the best to call back. In each ten minute one-on-one interview (or three-on-one in our case) we got to know each actor, maybe have them sing again, and get an idea if they would be a good fit for Charleston Stage, and Charleston Stage for them. No easy feat in ten minutes, you can imagine, but let me assure you that Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director and Resident Acting Company Champion could and probably will write the book on how to do this thoroughly, efficiently and fast. After nine years, she’s batting nearly a thousand so far.

Oh, yeah, group dance Call-backs. Just what it sounds like. We watched those, too. Suffice it to say that Simon, Paula…uh, the three of us were plum tuckered out after our whirlwind weekend. We did manage to squeeze in a short side trip, and Julian will probably tell you that his favorite part of the journey was visiting Graceland, home of King Elvis. No, it wasn’t open, but we do have some dandy pictures of us from the front lawn.

It’s always sad each May to see our current Resident Acting Company (formerly known as “the Interns”) move on, but they will always be a part of our family. So from 700 to 50 to our 6 new Season 31 Professional Resident Acting Company Members. Who are they, who are they? Ah, stay tuned…

Wendell Smith, Charleston Stage Resident Music Director

February 5, 2008

The Star Reflects

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 6:49 pm

Opening weekend of Bad Dates was exciting, especially playing to 4 sold out performances. It was great to have an audience and a set! Up until our tech rehearsals last week, I had been rehearsing in the Charleston Stage rehearsal studio in Mt. Pleasant where I only had a few pieces of furniture, taped marks on the floor to indicate where doors and walls were and where all those piles of shoes would be when we moved into the American Theater. Once we moved to the American, tech rehearsal was a fun and challenging experience. I now had doors to work with, mirrors, more piles of shoes, and had to adjust my volume and projection since I was in a bigger space. We rehearsed every night up until our Pay-what-you-will /Preview night, and you can imagine the crew, my director Megan Link and myself were pretty exhausted. Since I’m the only actor in the play I’m onstage by myself for over 90 minutes for each runthru.

But those rehearsals aren’t just for me, the lighting and sound technicians and my dressers worked very hard right up until the last minute to get everything just right. Thanks to Katherine, CJ, Kathryn, and Heather for all your help! PWYW/Preview night was my first audience and what a great one! How can I describe how much the audience affects an actor’s performance on stage? Their excitement and energy really help to feed an actor’s own energy on stage. It was the audience’s laughter and reactions which feed my energy and my character’s progression throughout the play. My character, Haley, talks to the audience throughout the show, so if I feel like she is getting support from the audience, this makes the show for me a very fun and exciting ride. I was so blessed to have such great audiences this first weekend! Director’s Circle was such a great night to perform for our Theatre Society members. Their support and feedback were much appreciated! Audience enthusiasm grew through opening night and the double Saturday performances and knowing that they were enjoying themselves, helped reassure me that the story of Haley Walker and her bad dates was connecting. I mean who hasn’t had a bad date every now and then? I can’t wait to get back onstage to see what’s in store for Haley this weekend.

Beth Curley, star of Bad Dates

A Director Reflects on Bad Dates

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — admin @ 4:26 pm

Thoughts from rehearsals of Bad Dates

This was a whirlwind experience unlike any I have had before.   Included in my directing experience are large musicals, small dramas,  realism… surrealism… Shakespeare but I had yet to direct a one person show.   When Mary Beth called and offered it, I jumped at the chance. Why not?   Here I was in a different town, a different climate; why not tack on another new experience?  I also was looking for more professional theatre opportunities and was thrilled at the chance to work with Charleston Stage.

My plan of attack was simple: block the show (for those who don’t know what block means; to choreograph the movement on the stage) then flesh out the moments…  seems easy enough right?

As Beth and I began our adventure we both were floored by the difference in the rehearsal process.   They were a little more informal than we were used to. When you work on a bigger show, much of the rehearsal time is devoted to blocking; making sure that that no one is running into each other,  and that it supports the story.   With Bad Dates we set the blocking in 3 days and spent the rest of the time finessing character.   Beth got to play with Haley.   Any time she was unsure about  character it showed through in the blocking.   We were able just to stop and really work that moment until it came alive.

Due to the intimate rehearsal setting I think it was safe to say that I became invested in the piece like I never had before.   At the designer run, though I was excited to show our work, nervousness crept in much like it would have if I were acting.  I know Beth was feeling it, too.   After the showing we both laughed at ourselves.

Working with Beth was a dream and I hope to do it again soon.  She is creative, smart and willing to try anything.  She truly found Haley and really brought her alive. I know that she was worried in the beginning about “animating” Haley rather than “being” but if you see the show I think that you would agree with me, that she is simply Haley.

Working with the staff was also a great experience.    It is evident that they work well together. At times they all were able to speak about five things at once; following each others thought process, while I was just trying to keep up.  Working together for the time that they have worked together really allows that.   I am glad that I was a part of it for a while.     I hope that you get as much pleasure out of watching it as I got from the process.   Enjoy!!

Megan Link, Director

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