Still catching my breath after a wonderful trip to Actor’s Express in Atlanta for the NNPN National Showcase of New Plays (followed almost immediately by a trip to Buffalo with family for some much needed family holiday time!)
The NNPN Showcase was terrific. (NNPN is National New Play Network, in case I haven’t mentioned it in a while.) We saw 6 readings, some of which I absolutely loved, and I had a ton of good conversations and chats with theatre makers from all over the country. I love the readings, but sometimes just being immersed in that energy is the perfect thing to recharge my batteries. It’s energizing to get that reminder that everyone deals with the same challenges and struggles, the highs and lows of this industry – all on a variety of wildly different points on the scale, of course – from companies with a $50,000 annual budget up to ones with many millions of dollars to spend, and raise, every year. But the wonderful part is the belief and faith in the power of storytelling, and of having an impact on your community, and the pursuit of excellence in the craft – AND allowing for a whole variety of opinions on HOW to make all that happen. It’s really good stuff.
And then our trip to Buffalo was fabulous. We continued our decades long family Christmas tradition of holding a big dinner at one of the relatives houses, and that person (or family) cooks a giant dinner for everyone that consists of food from some other country, or culture, from anywhere in the world. No one knows what it’s going to be until we get there, and it’s a big fun reveal and feast, with lots of lovely family time and board games and presents and laughter. This year my brother and sister-in-law made an amazing Jamaican dinner that was delicious! The kids played games, built an igloo in the snow, and generally had a good time. It was fun to see all the cousins together, the six of them don’t get to visit as often as they used to. The age range goes from middle-school up to college now, and it was terrific to see them having such a good time just enjoying each other’s company.
Now I’m neck deep in prep for 900 Miles to International Falls, by Annie Martin, the show I’m directing next. We start rehearsals at the end of this month, and I can’t wait. It’s a big thoughtful, meaningful piece about mothers and sons and war, but it’s also about trust, and compassion. We get to do a lot of “world building” because it’s set in 2054, when the planet is at war with an alien race who have landed seeking a new home! I have an amazing production team to work with, and I’m so excited to launch into rehearsals for this world premiere in a couple weeks. Learn more about the show here!
Until then, though, our production of A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show is going wonderfully! It’s essentially completely sold out this weekend, except for the occasional person calling in to cancel one or two from a group, but then those are scooped up by someone calling wanting to see it before it closes. Aral Gribble is wonderful in it, and the whole production team did some really fantastic work. Check out more info here!
Now I’m looking forward to the next couple days, when both kids will be back home with Jeanne and I for a couple weeks, and we can all enjoy some holidays relaxing at home with the Christmas tree, the dogs, and some friends and family.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Taking a minute to acknowledge and thank the universe for all the wonderful things in my life.
With Thanksgiving just happening, and then so many wonderful things around it, it’s easy to take for granted the things I have. Sometimes I just need to look around and, to quote Kurt Vonnegut’s Uncle Alex, say out loud “If this isn’t nice, what is?”
It was so great to have the kids back home with Jeanne and I for a couple days. Just talking and hanging out and eating and playing games and watching them play with the dogs. Loved it. Going to sleep that night with everyone in the the house, knowing they were safe and home and happy, it was pretty terrific. And soon we’ll do it again for a few days for Christmas.
Plus we had a wonderful Opening week for A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at the theatre, which is just lovely and so engaging and such beautiful storytelling, it gets me every single time, and watching packed houses fall in love with it is both inspiring and affirming.
Then we had a fantastic “Giving Tuesday” Play Reading Marathon, where we read a seasons worth of plays onstage in a day, 12 hours of readings, all open to the public, and we had so many people stop by for a play or two, or three, and a big group who stayed all day to see five or six plays! It was amazing, people came and went all day as their schedule allowed, and it felt like such a day of communion and togetherness and magic as we shared and discussed six wildly different pieces. Truly it was a humbling thing. Someone asked “Did you ever imagine this when you started this place 14 years ago?!” and the question AND answer got me all choked up because, no, we hoped but had no idea if it would work. Tuesday was pretty damned great.
And now I’m getting ready for the National New Play Network annual Showcase of New Plays – a weekend of staged readings and chatting about new plays and the challenges, joys and pitfalls of producing them with people from all over the country. This is going to be fun.
So much to be grateful for.
I hope you’re able to look around this weekend and find the same things in your life! ❤️
The calm before the….. well, I was going to say storm, because that’s the phrase, but that’s not really accurate. A good tech day is nothing like a storm. So really, I guess this is the calm before the…. well orchestrated day full of hard work and creativity that results from months of planning combined with in-the-moment inspiration? Sure, let’s go with that. So here we are, a deliberate air of busy-ness in the building, with 8 different things being tended to by different teams of people, all working together with, or around, each other. All so that when the Stage Manager calls “places, top of show” everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen.
I love Tech Day. When you add in the lights, sound, sometimes projections, later in the weekend costumes, all of the technical elements blend with the cast and you really get your first true look at what the play is going to be. Some people dislike the tech day process but for me, as a director, I love it – it’s like Christmas! You work for months with the design team and look at sketches and images and discuss renderings and 3-d computer walkthroughs and you listen to sound samples and play with fabric swatches and plan each moment….and then on tech day you GET THEM! All these magical little moments! AND you get to work with a team of creative, passionate people who combine ideas and talents and brainstorms and suddenly things from your imagination are there in front of you.
A college professor of mine, George Bird, once said to me about theatre “It’s not magic, Caselli, it’s hard work.” I think about that often, and it inspires me. Because he’s right, of course: But the thing is, all that hard work can give us magic in the end!
pictured above – the set from A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show at Williamston Theatre. Set design by Kirk Domer.
The current show at Williamston Theatre is a lovely, moving piece by Kristine Thatcher and directed by Casaundra Freeman. Reviews have been universally wonderful, and this is one of those shows that SO many people can directly relate to, people are loving it. Charming, funny, heartbreaking and uplifting, it’s a beautiful piece about family, change, and the power of being there for each other. A terrific start to our 14th Season!
Karen Sheridan and Dani Cochrane
Tobin Hissong, Karen Sheridan and Dani Cochrane
Dani Cochrane and Karen Sheridan
Opening Night production team photo.
Little timeline things pop up now and then and say “Hey, remember this?” and it’s fun to look back at old writings I did here. Sometimes I forget that I’ve been writing this for over 14 years.
13 years ago I posted about a nice October week we were having in 2006, including some fun times in the yard with family. This bit cracked me up:
Today was a nice day; family time, some work around the house, Jeanne’s sister Jackie and her family came over and we played a bunch of catch, and enjoyed an unbelievably beautiful October afternoon. I’m absolutely exhausted, from the whole week, but also from racing my son’s Razor scooter around the driveway with the kids and my brother-in-law Joe. (Zipping around the circular driveway were two scooters, a couple of motorized kid-sized jeeps, and a couple of bicycles.)
For the record: those scooter things are a blast.
Also, for the record; it’s been a while since I rode on anything like one. Witness the following exchange, which is pretty close to accurate, if you allow for the whole “my mind was scrambled so I might not get all the details right” part:
Dad?! Are you okay?
Yes, Maggie, I’m fine.
You kinda crashed!
Yes. Yes I did.
At least you missed the tree.
It doesn’t feel like I missed the tree.
Are you just going to lay there?
Yes. Yes I am.
Can I use the scooter?
Yes. Yes you can.
Yeah, that sounds pretty much like the 8-year old Maggie! Now she’s 21 and spent the last couple days back at home for Fall Break, and it’s been wonderful having her home from school. We’ll get Max back for a few days, too, their breaks almost overlap. So we get a little time with the kids, they get some time at home visiting us, and the dogs! I expect nowadays if they found me laying on the ground next to a scooter they may panic a little more quickly, but I’ll try not to test that theory!
Sat down to update my journal, and realized it’s been two months! Amazing, where did that time go? Well, life got crazy:
*We sold our house in Chelsea and moved to Williamston!
*We have officially become “empty-nesters” with both kids now moved out of the house and into their universities, University of Michigan and Western Michigan University!
*A BIG renovation has been taking place for the last 7 weeks at Williamston Theatre, at the same time that we’re rehearsing and about to go into previews for the beautiful play The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher.
So – life has been busy! And WONDERFUL. We’re about to open SEASON FOURTEEN at Williamston Theatre!
The building renovation. We tore out our old Stage Manager tech booth and put in a new one!
How it looks now:
How it looked a few weeks ago:
and a couple weeks before that….
…aaaaaand from the other side….
Also, here’s our new house!
AND here are a few rehearsal shots from the BEAUTIFUL show The Safe House by Kristine Thatcher, directed by the wonderful Casaundra Freeman, and starring Karen Sheridan, Dani Cochrane and Tobin Hissong.
So, the last 8 weeks have been insanely busy, but also pretty darned wonderful. I’m so grateful for my family, and my work, and the people I get to work with!
I hope everyone else has had a good summer as well – now that Fall is upon us, and my that wonderful Autumnal feeling is in the air, I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up. I hope you all are too!