Thursday Pic Post

We start previews for 1984 this evening, at Williamston Theatre. Having an amazing time working with a fantastic cast and production team! 


It’s been a heck of a few weeks. We, like many people, lost power at home for several days. Fortunately we have a fireplace! 

Once the power was back on, we found ourselves with a rare occurrence this month: everyone home at once! We played some games….


…and I got Tommaso and Max to eat some vegetables! 

Speaking of kids – here’s a pic of Maggie with her significant other, Beni, at a dance in Finland. 


And here’s a picture of Max and his significant other, Sophie, going to the Winter Carnival dance a couple weeks ago!


Now, we’re a couple hours away from first preview for the show. There is some really cool artwork in the theatre gallery by Anita Brett:


Also in the gallery is a very cool “Orwell Installation” from the MSU Department of English students, with some great displays about Orwell and the novel. 

And now, no more time for writing. Gotta get ready for tonight. Excited to introduce audiences to our version of Orwell’s dystopia! 

Quick Tuesday thoughts…

Got to hold some callbacks last night for The Turn Of The Screw that I’m directing for The Penny Seats in October.  Man, I love watching what good actors do with good material. Blessed to have spent the evening with some fine performers!

Speaking of good material and fine performers, we start rehearsal for 1984 today at Williamston Theatre. I’ve been excited about doing this show for a couple years, can’t wait to get to work with this amazing script and team! 

And, boy, Facebook Memories, you are just hitting me right in the heart this week. 3 years ago I was starting to wake up from my coma. I don’t remember much about that time, but I remember being amazed at the kindness of people who were inexplicably wearing shirts with me on them. This week 3 years ago is, I think, when the shirts started arriving in the mail, because there are so many pictures popping up in my Facebook Memories feed of people wearing them – Check them out here, if you like!

I’m just overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of people. Overwhelmed, amazed, and so grateful.  

So Much Goodness…

So many great things going on in my work life right now, I just have to share my excitement!

Coming up next week, on Friday the 20th (Inauguration Day) is a reading of the hilarious, biting play The Taming by Lauren Gunderson:

THE TAMING
By Lauren Gunderson
A Staged Reading
Friday, January 20, 2017 at 7pm

The Taming, Lauren Gunderson’s raucously funny political comedy, will have both parties laughing in the aisles. In this sharp, witty, all-female “power-play” inspired by Shakespeare’s Shrew, Miss America contestant Katherine has political aspirations to match her beauty pageant ambitions. All she needs to revolutionize the American government is the help of one ultra-conservative senator’s aide and one bleeding-heart liberal blogger who will do anything for her cause. Featuring Alysia Koloscz, Robin Lewis-Bedz, and Melissa Mercieca.

Read more about Lauren Gunderson’s readings of The Taming across the country on Inauguration Day. (This is an article from American Theatre)

This is the website about the play specifically: THE TAMING

Join us for an evening of insight, laughs and optimism as we celebrate Inauguration Day. Call to reserve seats: 517-655-7469. Admission is free, but donations to the Williamston Theatre will be graciously accepted at the door.Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 4.48.08 PM.png

Also at Williamston Theatre, we are RIGHT NOW in rehearsal for a beautiful, beautiful play called A Painted Window, by Christy Hall.  The writer is in residence, Frannie Shepherd-Bates is leading a terrific team, and I can’t wait to get into previews with this show.  Check out the details here!

We’ve begun the pre-production process for 1984, the show after A Painted Window, and I’m very excited to be directing it.  This is a super-cool adaptation of George Orwell’s novel, by Michael Gene Sullivan, and the team I get to build this production with is just fantastic.

The next show I’m directing AFTER that won’t be until October, but it’s going to be a treat: I’m working with the Penny Seats Theatre Company in Ann Arbor on an October production of the super spooky The Turn Of The Screw!

We’re nearly finished putting together our lineup of plays for the 2017/2018 Season at Williamston Theatre, too!  I’m not allowed to talk about it yet, but I’m just champing at the bit to share it with the world!

So, as I sit at my desk today, answering emails and working on schedules, I’m listening to the construction of the set for A Painted Window downstairs.  Tomorrow I’ll come in and watch a stumble-thru of the show, and chat afterwards with the director, playwright, cast and the design team, make sure everyone has what they need to bring the piece to life.  Next week I’ll head to another state for a reading of a play we’re going to produce soon – a day in Florida will be nice, but a nice discussion with staff from another theatre and a playwright with whom we’ll be collaborating is the real prize.

Oh – also.  This appeared in my office:

I don’t know who where it came from.  It’s awesome, and I’m grateful for surprise gifts!

I hope everyone is having as good a week as I am!

Progress is good!

So many good things going on. I’m slowly starting to get back to work, it’s been a good week – I got to be involved in some creative stuff, which is always fun, and man did it make me realize how much I miss directing! Haven’t done it since last Fall, but I’m scheduled to do “Sirens” at Williamston Theatre next season, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be working on a staged reading at the Lansing Renegade Theatre Festival in August, also, which will be fun.

I have been able to read a bunch of plays, see a lot of movies, which has been a nice way of “refilling the well”, as they say. Also saw “Book of Mormon” at the Detroit Opera House, which was hilarious, irreverent and fabulous. And let me recommend the films “The Rover” and “Snow Piercer”, both of which are out now and both are really, really terrific! “Chef” was fun and sweet, also.

And, just for fun, here’s an interesting breakdown of “Visual Comedy In the Films Of Edgar Wright” that I really enjoyed, and I think there’s a lot there for stage directors as well.

Now, I’m off for some arm surgery. Wish me luck! Have a good Tuesday everyone!

Lessons, my season in review.

So the 2013-2014 Season has officially ended, and it was pretty satisfying for me as both a director and as a producer.  Along with producing, I had the chance to direct 5 shows at various places this year:  A remount of Ernie, the post-apocalyptic love romance adventure boom, the heart-wrenching Sweet Mercy about Rwanda, the gorgeous and funny End Days, and the world premiere of the terrific 10:53.   I’ve been organizing my desk and office, putting away old notebooks, clearing the remains of this season away and preparing for the next one, and it’s been fun.  Lots of reminders of lessons both learned and RE-learned.  Lots of stuff I did right, lots of things I did wrong, and lots of things that may take time to figure out which category to put in!

*Having fish onstage can be a fun but distracting choice.

*Make sure, as a director, you get everyone on board about What The Story Is About.  Once you do, just remind them to check in on that with every decision.  Then let them do their thing and see where it goes – that’s one of the fun parts!  (Well, *I* think it’s one of the fun parts!)

*My kids will never, as long as they live in my house, be too old for me to wake up in the middle of the night and hug.  Especially when I’m directing a show about something like the Rwandan genocide.  Hell, we’ll see what the future holds – ten years from now I may be driving to their houses after rehearsal to wake them up and hug them anyway.

*Do your job.  Let others do theirs.  If you’re not getting what you want, chat with them.  Don’t jump in and do it.  (Or, if you have to jump in and do it, be sure to talk about WHY with them, because just doing it and not explaining it is kind of a dick move.)  Made this mistake this year, regretted it.

*Keep It Simple.  Man, this one comes back every time.  What’s the story about?  Tell that.  Got the opportunity to add bells and whistles?  Neat.  Do they HELP?  Do they CLARIFY?  Do they make us CARE and CONNECT?  Do they move us viscerally?  If so, YES.  If not – rethink.

*Not everyone will agree with every choice… AND THAT’S OKAY.  This was, is, a frequently re-learned lesson by me.  Listen, I don’t mind admitting that I’m just as egotistical as everyone else.  Probably more.  When I like something, the idea that someone else doesn’t can be both baffling and offensive to me.  The challenge is to not take any of that criticism personally.  This is a thing with me because, well, I’m Italian and Scottish and if I feel I’m being wronged my impulse is to launch myself on top of people shouting “I don’t care, you SUCK, eat a bag of D!@K $!!” in a full out Berserker rage.  Not surprisingly, over 22 years or so in my career, I keep learning that this is not the best response.   The proper response, of course, is to pack away the ego and shut up, and realize that most everyone cares about their stuff as much as you care about yours, and different ideas can and SHOULD co-exist so, seriously, shut up and appreciate the differences in the world.  This year I had one instance of berserker rage that I really really regretted, and then several moments of shutting up that made me think I may at some point be comfortable calling myself a grown-up.   (Not eager to do it, mind you, but comfortable.)  The lesson of co-existing ideas really was spelled out nicely for me this year, though.  In fact, see below…

*Lesson from the gorgeous play End Days: Different ideas can and should co-exist. The play was about religions, lifestyles, but it can and should relate to everything.  Everything.  Do your thing, and shut up just because someone else wants to do theirs.  This was a good lesson for me this year.

*Mosquito netting can look REALLY amazing onstage.  (Nice choice Milly Parker!)

*Coolest effect all year: A simple bit of dust falling from the ceiling when, in the story, the upper stories of a building collapsed onto the ceiling of the set.  A little bit of talcum powder in a tiny tube, a crew person backstage blows in the end of the tube and the powder falls through the shaft of light as the sound effect of the crumbling building echoes.  Simple, gorgeous, and always got a great reaction from the audience.  (Nice choice Janine Woods Thoma!)

*Transitions.  Lots of plays are episodic and need scene breaks.  Don’t forget – if you give the audience a minute to drop out, they will.  So use every opportunity to tell the story, even if that means inventing the story between scenes.  Sometimes you need actors to change costumes.  What happens in the world of the play while they’re gone?  If the choice is between “Sit in black and listen to music while actor changes costumes offstage” or “Explore what happens in the world of the play while the characters are offstage, and do something to support the play until the actors can come back on”, choose b. Just make sure it’s not contradicting the “Keep It Simple” rule!

*Talk with actors.  Simple direction.  One of the best moments all year:  Working with a fabulous actor, I said “It feels like you’re getting really worked up, I think it’s just a simpler conversation.”  She said “Yeah it does!  Why am I all freakin’ out?!” – and that was all it took, she took that scene and it became one of the most simple, moving beautiful moments we had all year.  I have to remind myself of this on exactly EVERY show.  I’m chatty, I’m Italian, I’m a storyteller, and I need to shut the hell up and give simpler direction and stay out of the way.  In years past (and at moments this season), I could’ve made that direction go on forever as I got deep into examples and analogies and what we’re feeling as an audience and blahblahblahpleasegodmakehimstoptalking.

*You can tell the coolest, most fabulous story, and some people will still want nothing more complicated than an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”.  You know what, that’s fine, I like that sometimes too.  But don’t forget, for every person who wants JUST that, there is another person who NEVER wants that, and a person who wants that today, but something more substantive tomorrow.  You can’t please everyone every time, but getting them to trust that coming to see EVERYTHING is worthwhile – that’s the goal.  To keep a small professional theatre going, you need to create that relationship with a couple thousand people who say “You know what, we’ll see every production this season.  Two out of six may not be the kind of show we normally like, but we trust this company enough to tell us well done stories, so we’ll support them.”   And then, in turn, you need to follow through and make EVERY MOMENT engaging and committed and professional and follow through on your obligation, because those people are your patrons.  They’re why you’re making theatre.  Respect them.  Take that journey together, or get a different job.

Finally! Williamston Theatre’s FULL 2013-2014 Season!

We’ve finally got the rights secured to our 6th show for next season, so we can eliminate that pesky “TBA” from our 2014 Summer Slot!

So, here’s the COMPLETE Williamston Theatre 2013-2014 season.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Adapted by Stehen Mallatratt from the book by Susan Hill
October 3, 2013 to November 3, 2013

It was a dark and stormy night…
Join us for a spine tingling tale of things that go bump in the night. A neighborhood is held hostage by the shadowy figure of a woman who haunts the locale where her illegitimate child was killed years before. Legend holds that any soul encountering her will perish on the spot! Two men attempt to solve her mystery, and release their neighborhood from her spell, by recreating the events leading to her first sighting. But will they solve the mystery before they, too, fall victim to her deadly gaze?

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS
By Joe DiPietro
November 29, 2013 to December 29, 2013

Meet Nick – a single guy from New Jersey with four adoring, and adorable, grandparents. Frank, Aida, Nunzio and Emma fold Nick into their warmth every Sunday for a traditional dinner with la famiglia, and try to impart to him the importance of family, a good meal and a good wife. When he tells them of his plans to move across the country for the job of his dreams, the news doesn’t sit so well. They go into full crisis mode and pull out every scheme in the book to get him to stay close to home – including baiting him with pretty Caitlin O’Hara, the girl next door. This is one to share with your family this holiday season.

THE LION IN WINTER
By James Goldman
January 23, 2014 to February 23, 2014

Uneasy is the head on which the crown lies, and uneasy the truce between a matchless king and queen. This is the legendary story of King Henry II of England, and the battle between his fiercely competitive sons to be chosen next in line for the thrown. Add in his banished Queen, the notorious Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of said sons and equally competitive, and King Louis of France, and two countries find themselves on the brink of bloody war at the whim of a temperamental and power hungry family. This classic tale of deception, manipulation and world dominance will draw you into its irresistible web, and might not let you go without a fight.

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE
By Terrence McNally
March 20, 2014 to April 20, 2014

Frankie is a waitress at a second rate restaurant who gives in to the temptation of a one-night stand with her co-worker Johnny after a few weeks of working together. But Johnny has other ideas. A compulsive talker, and hopeless romantic, Johnny begins the process of wooing Frankie, hoping that she will return his proclamations of love. World-weary and battle-worn, Frankie needs a lot of convincing that this won’t be yet another disappointment in life. As their night together unfolds, they are surprised by the discoveries they make about each other, and themselves. Winner of the Dramatists Guild Hull Warriner Award, this bittersweet comedy combines poignancy and laughter as it traces the unlikely romance that begins to develop between two middle-aged “losers.”

OLD LOVE
By Norm Foster
May 15, 2014 to June 15, 2014

He’s recently divorced. She’s newly-widowed. He’s a man who won’t give up, and she’s a woman who won’t give in. In a story that spans three decades, we travel with two unlikely companions who encounter each other at strange and inopportune times. When the time is finally right, will they be able to give in to their desires for courtship? Find out if a trip to the circus is what it takes to start over, again.

THE BIG BANG
Book and Lyrics by Boyd Graham
Music by Jed Feuer
July 10, 2014 to August 17, 2014

Jed and Boyd need your cash!  Have you ever wanted to invest in a Broadway Musical?  In this outrageous musical comedy, two wanna-be tycoons are desperate to line up funding for their new project, “The Big Bang”, so they’ve set up a “backers’ audition” and you’re invited!  With a cast of hundreds, the overblown extravaganza they’ve written is the biggest thing Broadway has ever seen and depicts the entire history of the world – from the formation of the planets right through the most important events – Adam and Eve!  The Pyramids!  Cher!  Will Broadway ever be the same?  This zany song-and-dance romp will leave you breathless!

——–

I’m really excited about this season, some terrific pieces and some challenges for us.  I love the blend of the contemporary stuff and some classics, some heartwarming stuff and a lot of life affirming joy.  Plus, next season we’ll be bringing back our Dark Nights In Billtown festival, as well as announcing a few more special projects.  The future looks good!  🙂

Williamston Theatre 2013-2014 Season

I’m so excited about next season!

    WILLIAMSTON THEATRE
    2013-2014 SEASON

THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Adapted by Stehen Mallatratt from the book by Susan Hill
October 3, 2013 to November 3, 2013

It was a dark and stormy night…
Join us for a spine tingling tale of things that go bump in the night. A neighborhood is held hostage by the shadowy figure of a woman who haunts the locale where her illegitimate child was killed years before. Legend holds that any soul encountering her will perish on the spot! Two men attempt to solve her mystery, and release their neighborhood from her spell, by recreating the events leading to her first sighting. But will they solve the mystery before they, too, fall victim to her deadly gaze?

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS
By Joe DiPietro
November 29, 2013 to December 29, 2013

Meet Nick – a single guy from New Jersey with four adoring, and adorable, grandparents. Frank, Aida, Nunzio and Emma fold Nick into their warmth every Sunday for a traditional dinner with la famiglia, and try to impart to him the importance of family, a good meal and a good wife. When he tells them of his plans to move across the country for the job of his dreams, the news doesn’t sit so well. They go into full crisis mode and pull out every scheme in the book to get him to stay close to home – including baiting him with pretty Caitlin O’Hara, the girl next door. This is one to share with your family this holiday season.

THE LION IN WINTER
By James Goldman
January 23, 2014 to February 23, 2014

Uneasy is the head on which the crown lies, and uneasy the truce between a matchless king and queen. This is the legendary story of King Henry II of England, and the battle between his fiercely competitive sons to be chosen next in line for the thrown. Add in his banished Queen, the notorious Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of said sons and equally competitive, and King Louis of France, and two countries find themselves on the brink of bloody war at the whim of a temperamental and power hungry family. This classic tale of deception, manipulation and world dominance will draw you into its irresistible web, and might not let you go without a fight.

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE
By Terrence McNally
March 20, 2014 to April 20, 2014

Frankie is a waitress at a second rate restaurant who gives in to the temptation of a one-night stand with her co-worker Johnny after a few weeks of working together. But Johnny has other ideas. A compulsive talker, and hopeless romantic, Johnny begins the process of wooing Frankie, hoping that she will return his proclamations of love. World-weary and battle-worn, Frankie needs a lot of convincing that this won’t be yet another disappointment in life. As their night together unfolds, they are surprised by the discoveries they make about each other, and themselves. Winner of the Dramatists Guild Hull Warriner Award, this bittersweet comedy combines poignancy and laughter as it traces the unlikely romance that begins to develop between two middle-aged “losers.”

OLD LOVE
By Norm Foster
May 15, 2014 to June 15, 2014

He’s recently divorced. She’s newly-widowed. He’s a man who won’t give up, and she’s a woman who won’t give in. In a story that spans three decades, we travel with two unlikely companions who encounter each other at strange and inopportune times. When the time is finally right, will they be able to give in to their desires for courtship? Find out if a trip to the circus is what it takes to start over, again.

TBA SUMMER SHOW!
We can’t reveal the title yet, still in negotiations, but our final show of the season is going to be one you don’t want to miss!!

Friday Pic Post

Some pics from Sweet Mercy, now running at MSU, that I took with my iPhone!

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Beginning set sketches for the next show I’m directing, 10:53.

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My son in Schoolhouse Rock, cracking up the audience as he reacts to being given a shot during the “Interjection” song. Horrible photo of a hilarious moment!

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I know I’m easily amused, but this is the coolest cream pitcher any coffee shop has ever had! (cravings in Stockbridge, MI)

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Continuing my efforts to improve my diet and fitness, so I thought I’d share this. Copy it, use it!

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Lastly, a snapshot of a script page from Sweet Mercy: A phrase in Kinyarwandan, and the English translation.

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Have a safe, wonderful weekend everyone. Amahoro iwanyu.