Community Meeting- Monday, May 4, 2009

Well, the Playhouse has experienced some drama of its own over the past few weeks and we have heard loudly and clearly that you want to be a part of keeping our organization alive and well.

Please join us for the first of three Community Meetings on Monday, May 4, from 5:30pm-6:30pm in the Playhouse's 2nd level boardroom. The topic for this first meeting is increasing the number of season subscribers for the 85th 2009-2010 Season.

If you have some ideas or would like to help us with this very important task, please attend! Come to share your ideas. Leave with steps you can take to help the Omaha Community Playhouse increase the number of season subscribers for the 2009-2010 Season.

We hope to see you here!

Tech Sunday: Another chapter in the continuing chronicles of Twelve Angry Men

Yesterday was what we in the theatre biz call Tech Sunday. This day marks the first day that the show is run in its entirety complete with lights, sounds, music, and special effects. It also marks the start of the home stretch before opening night on Friday.

Tech Sunday is the most grueling day in the entire rehearsal process due to its length and constant stopping and starting. A typical Tech Sunday rehearsal usually lasts 8 or 9 hours depending on the technical requirements of the production. Once, I took part in a production in which Tech Sunday lasted a mind numbing 12 hours due to the massive number of light and sound cues involved. And we did not get through the entire show! As you can see, Tech Sunday truly tests the fortitude of every single member of the cast and crew.

Most Tech Sundays begin with what is known as a cue to cue rehearsal. This period is meant for the technical crew as the cast only hits the points of a show where a light or sound cue is utilized. The cues are usually run several times as lights and sound are fine tuned and experimented with until the techs and director get a satisfactory result. Fortunately, Twelve Angry Men is not a tech heavy show, so we managed to finish rather quickly and use the extra time to fine tune and fix various scenes.

After 4 ½ hours, we broke for a potluck supper. It’s an enjoyable time where the cast and crew get to do some bonding and simply unwind for a little while. Over dinner we got into a discussion about Henry Fonda and which of his classic films were going to be shown at Film Streams. The talk eventually turned to Mister Roberts and Jack Lemmon’s performance as Ensign Pulver. Some of the actors thought Lemmon had won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. I thought he was nominated as I believed his only Oscar win was for Best Actor in Save the Tiger. Well, here in print, I admit I was wrong. Jack Lemmon did indeed win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Mister Roberts.

After a 2 hour break, we were ready to begin a full rehearsal--and it went extremely well. There were parts of the show that really sang and parts that were a touch off key. And the parts that were off key were worked on after the run to get them in tune. The run was even more impressive when you consider how tired and frazzled all of us were at that point. After so many hours of rehearsal, our minds were sore, our bodies worn out, and our nerves on edge. The tendency to forget a line or miss a cue increases after such a long day and the frustration tends to show when those mistakes are made. But, as the team we are, we pulled through it and we have a good thing going.

Twelve Angry Men opens on Friday and the final chapter of this series of chronicles will be posted soon after so you can learn what opening night is like from the other side of the stage.

Live On Stage- Rock Legends: People's Choice

Billy McGuigan and his band will present 10 performances of his new musical revue, “Rock Legends: People’s Choice” on the Mainstage, opening Friday, April 24, and running through Sunday, May 3.

Classic rock favorites from the top vote-getters will be performed for that day's audience. Audience members will cast a ballot in the lobby before each performance so each show will be unique. Choose from among the following recording artists: Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Buddy Holly, Steely Dan, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Tom Petty and Paul McCartney.
Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $38 and are available by calling 402-553-0800 or at

To the Stage- Another chapter in the continuing chronicles of Twelve Angry Men

By cast member Chris Elston

Two important things have happened this week as we continue to build the reality that will be Twelve Angry Men. We tried on our costumes for the very first time and we also began using the stage.

Costumes are a very crucial element in preparing one’s character. In my last chronicle, I talked about how important rehearsal was in the focusing and development of characters. But costumes are an equally valuable tool in creating another identity. Whenever I try my costume on for the first time and look into the mirror, I see a whole new dimension to my character spring to life as well as countless possibilities for interpretation.

When I first put on the guard’s uniform, I could feel myself stand a little straighter, my shoulders pull back, and the smile leave my face as I slowly transformed into a no nonsense agent of the court. And that was just my first instinct. I honestly believe the typical theatergoer would be amazed to learn just how much physicality can play into the creation of a character. The way an actor sits, stands, walks, and carries himself or herself all dramatically alter the way a line is delivered. As the no nonsense agent of the court, my lines are delivered crisply and briskly and matter of factly as this interpretation is focused solely on his duty. But with a droop in my shoulders, a slower gait, a reaction to the heat, and a brusque turning off of a speaker, suddenly my guard becomes someone who doesn’t really like his job and my delivery becomes short and blasé. Two nearly opposite interpretations and driven completely by how I use my body.

And now we’re using the stage. And this is where the fun truly begins because now the cast can truly begin acting since we’re off book. . .more or less. On the stage, we now have an idea of the space we need to fill with our volume and can begin honing our presences or the “look at me factor” as I like to call it. Presence is one of the most difficult things to define in theatre. It’s not about being showy or upstaging others. It’s an it that spectators merely sense and that an actor grows organically, almost unconsciously. When an actor develops his or her character to the point of perfect presence, the audience zeroes their attention in on the performer and keeps it there. It cannot be forced. It just happens through the continual discovery process of rehearsal. After all these years, I am still amazed when I see other actors reach and when I reach that pinnacle of presence.

Now we’re also in the tedious side of the work. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. But great theatre requires constant repetition of scenes and very minute, detailed work in those scenes to create something great. Last night, we worked mostly on scene 2 of the show. During shows, the scene will be performed in a matter of minutes. But we spent several hours on it so we can make it something great. New line interpretations. New blocking. New discoveries. Repeating the scene over and over again to polish it. All these things are what we do to be our very best so we can best entertain you.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be adding lights and sound as our world ever evolves. I look forward to sharing these stories with you so when you come to see Twelve Angry Men, you will be able to appreciate it from both sides of the stage.

Insider Story on Twelve Angry Men by Chris Elston

Rehearsal. It is the backbone of great performances. With rehearsal, a performer takes a rough, unfocused interpretation and slowly polishes it into a gem of intense beauty and brilliance. It is simultaneously the most grueling, most satisfying, and the most fun part about being an actor.

Currently I am in rehearsals for the upcoming production of Twelve Angry Men in the cameo role of the guard. With this role, I am in the unique position of not only helping this show come to life, but watching it come to life as well. There is something indescribable about watching all the threads come together to form something mighty. It grants a sense of accomplishment on par with the successful performance of the show in front of a live audience.

Rehearsal is really a journey. It’s all about finding the character and discovering what makes him or her tick. And this is true for any role, whether it be a lead or a cameo. On the first night of rehearsal, I decided up front that the guard should be a brisk, efficient sort and delivered my lines with that thinking in mind. After delivering my lines in this fashion several times, Susan, our director, said, “Don’t get married to that line reading.” As I smiled to myself, I decided it was off to the races. Each time I read the lines after that, I tried a new take on the lines ranging from a completely monotone, disinterested guard to one who behaved like Barney Fife. A great deal of these readings, I would never really do on stage as they would not be true to the character or the show. But in rehearsal, an over the top reading can lighten the mood or even open the way to the true interpretation. In doing these multiple readings, I found several takes which I liked and am now striving to blend them together to form the true character of the guard. And that’s what the journey is all about. Throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

But in between my scenes, I love watching the reality of the show spring forth from the other actors as they find their characters. As they do this a very special life is created that enthralls me and will surely grip our audiences. Last night, we blocked a crucial monologue for Juror 10 and the combination of his incredible performance and the body language and positioning of the other actors gave me shivers and will surely do the same to anyone who sees it.

So when you come see Twelve Angry Men, think about what might have gone into creating the show and you will find it is every bit as wonderful as the finished product.