Friday, February 17, 2017

A Few Minor Challenges Of Production


I'm not opposed to all this theatrical mumbo jumbo monkey business. It's just I'm out of my element when it comes to this stuff. In other words I rely on the guys for direction - I trust their sensibilities on all things production-wise ...

... which (sometimes) might not be the wisest of reliances, if you know what I mean. Because, here and there, there are elements of what Clark comes up with and/or what Jeff ultimately realizes on stage that are ... well ... let's just say "suspect" and leave it at that.

Take for example Jeff's favorite from a while back Ello, Ello, Ello, What's All This Then?

And, honestly, it wasn't the story or the staging or any physical aspect of the Ello production itself that was a concern. But the actors with their multitudes of quirks and kinks ... they were another story entirely.

(Clockwise from left) Pez Peters, disillusioned vampire hunter; Carla Sylmar, worry wart; Billy "Four Eyes" Batson; Henrietta Toss, instigator; Barry McFief, chef-wannabee; Denise Walker and Denise Standish, rumor mongers; Shultz McGuilicutty, image problems; Frap Chico, Shultzie's "enabler" and Pat (or, sometimes, "Patricia") Rammstein, resident drama king/queen

Somehow, this collection of misfits turned out to be the best actors for Ello's core featured players. Little did we know there would be a bevy of "side theatrics" during rehearsals, however.

The short list:

- Pez Peters carried a hand-made wooden sword wherever he went. He reasoned it was better to have it handy and not need it than need it and not have it, especially in light of any undead lurking behind stage curtains. The damned thing was attached to his hip and he wouldn't put it down to save his life. He'd fly into hysterics if someone tried to take it away from him. Somehow, he convinced Jeff it would work to the production's advantage if the first through fourth dimensions showed up during the run of the play. In an effort to avoid any production delays Jeff let Pez have his way. (Let's just say the love scene with Pez and Carla was ... interesting.)

- Carla was forever worried about her lines - miscuing them, stumbling over them, out and out forgetting them, acting them out with inappropriate vigor ... and then breaking down in a sobbing mess. We had a staff psychologist on hand exclusively for her. That was an unexpected (read: unnecessary) cost of production. You should have seen the first couple dozen rehearsals of Pez and Carla's kissing scene with Pez' ever-present sword.

- Speaking of acting foibles, Billy was near sighted. He was forever with script in hand, quoting his lines woodenly and verbatim. We discovered his inability to memorize his lines was due to the fact he wore tighty whities two sizes too small for his frame. "They make me feel secure" he confessed. The problem was they cut off his "circulation" which, in turn, was a direct contributor to his memorization skills. (Blood cutoff to the brain, y'unnerstan' ...)

- Henrietta. Damn, did that girl have anger issues. Personally, I think it was her ponytails. She wore them much too tightly. Severely. But they gave her focus she claimed, especially when it came to her stamping and carrying on during the Yellow Brick Road segments of the show. Still, she drove fragile Carla to tears during their scenes together.

- Barry was the mirror image of Pez and his wooden sword in that he was forever playing with his dagger, insisting on it being called his "special little meat cleaver." Though he was studious and attentive, the dude drove everyone nuts off stage with his tales of failed attempts at entering the prestigious Cordon Bleu schools. "Scorched water is one of my biggest obstacles" he would explain.

- Denise Walker and Denise Standish never left each other's sides. Ever. Never, never ever. They had a weird symbiosis in their need to support each other. When one was on stage performing her part, the other shadowed her from behind or just off stage, in clear sight of the audience. It's the only way both girls could work. And Jeff played into that quirk hook, line and sinker. When questioned about it he would yell "Hey ... who's directing this play?!? That's right it's ME!" Go figure ...

- As well, there were similarities to the girls' antics with Shultz and Frap. They were the "Horatios" in the show, interchanging rolls despite their obvious height differences. One thing was certain: It kept the scenes interesting and the audience engaged.

- Pat/Patricia insisted on the part of the Yellow Brick Road in Ello. The thing was, there was never an actual part to be played for the Yellow Brick Road. But Jeff accommodated her and - much to wonder and concern of both Clark and I - she made the part hers. That "A triumph" accolade from the Stiletto Flats Bugle was in no small part due to Pat/Patricia's innovative efforts and self-stylized costume designs. You had to have been at one of the curtain calls to truly appreciate her abilities.

Oh, there are tons more stories and back stage drama than what's been touched on above. I've given you a small sampling of what had to be dealt with. But, somehow, Jeff made it all work to the production's advantage. He's a wizard that way ...

And it's why Clark and I are pretty much leaving the inner workings of The Unbelievables: The Musical in the capable hands of Mr. Hickmott. Neither of us could work with such a collection of freakazoids actors as noted above and turn their schizoid mannerisms talents into a well-oiled dramatization as Ello ended up being.

The Unbelievables: The Musical will be no different.

Stay tuned. We'll inform you of its premiere when the finished product is ready to roll out.

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