SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2012
by Karen Grim
Captain's Log, Stardate 45047.2: My ship has crash-landed on a strange new planet called Darmok. There are two tribes: the Meisner's and the Strasberg's. They don’t really see eye to eye, but they seem friendly enough. I’m out of place in this alien world, the Universal Translator isn’t working, and I’m afraid I’ll never learn the language.
For the nerds of you out there who read my blog – you’re welcome; for those of you who aren’t nerds and therefore do NOT get what I just did there…well, I’m sorry (losers ;-)).
That’s how I feel right now. Directing is another world to me. I’m having a hard time expressing myself, and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get my vision for the show across because of it (which if you know me, and I assume that most of you do, you’d know that expressing myself is not usually a problem).
Luckily my actors are talented, and they’re working really hard.
I’ve been searching the web, looking at some old college notebooks, and reading up on “how to be a good director.” I’ve found a few questionnaires for my actors to help them in their character building processes, and I’ve got a great assistant director to bounce some ideas off of, provide some ideas of her own, and help my actors decipher my meanings.
I promised that you’d get to “follow me” during my process so I’m going to give you a brief break down of what’s happened so far.
So after my interview with the playwright, I cast my show. We had two rounds of auditions and a callback. Auditions were great. Everyone who came out was really talented, and I had such a hard time figuring out what combination of actors would be best to help carry out my vision, but in the end I know I got a really great cast, and I can’t wait for you guys to come see them in action.
As you can see, we started out with a read-through (which if you’ve read my blog before then you know what it is), then moved into blocking. I plotted out my stage and the set and read through my script to figure out visually what I thought would work best for each character and how best to have the audience view the show. We ran it a couple of times after that and the actors have it pretty much memorized.
Now (being the second week of June) at rehearsal we’re starting to break it down into “scenes,” though in this One-Act there’s really only one scene. But I want to work each section and really find the pivotal moments so that you as an audience can really understand the message that both the playwright and I want you to discover.
By the time you read this we’ll be moving into tech week. Long nights coordinating lights, sound, costumes, the whole shebang; it all has to come together. I expect at that point to not have any hair and to have lost about 5 lbs from stress (woohoo!), but I’m hopeful.
Like Captain Picard, I’ve come to a strange planet, my universal translator is broken, and it’s scary, but I’m brave. I’ll make it work. I’m going to use what I know as an actor, keep researching good techniques, and pick the brains of the people I trust to make sure that what I have in my head gets translated properly so you guys as an audience don’t have to search the audience for a universal translator when you come see my show ;)
Man I was super nerdy this blog...
(still not famous :), but I’m working on it)
FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2012
by Karen Grim
Hey guys! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable month. I know I did. It was nice to have a bit of a break from the theatre, though I did go see Going to St. Ives. It was amazing. I hope you didn’t miss it!
Anywho, on to this month’s blog. If you’re a regular reader of the blog then you’ll remember that last month I said I was going to branch out at Colonial Players and try my hand at directing. I’m thrilled to be making my debut during the One-Act Festival where I got my start as an actor at Colonial Players. It was a great experience for me, and I highly suggest auditioning for the shows. There are so many different parts to choose from; it’s like an acting smorgasbord!
The show I’m directing is called 12:21pm by F.J. Hartland. This is actually not my first time directing this show. I directed it as a student at Jefferson High School, West Virginia in 2002 for our One-Act Festival. Unfortunately, at the time there were not enough men to go around so I did the show as a role-reversal and cast only women. It was still an amazing show! Not only did I win the Best Director award at the Festival, but all 3 of my actors won awards as well! *Toot toot* (That’s me tooting my own horn.☺)
I’m sure you’re probably wondering why I would want to do it again. Well, there are a couple of reasons. One: I would actually like to do the show with men. The ladies I cast did an amazing job but the story is about men coming to terms with the changes in their lives and how they deal with it. I think this play is so much more powerful with a cast of men because it’s about a man dealing with his thoughts and feelings, etc. Two: I’d like to see how I have grown and changed as a director. High School Karen and 27 year-old Karen are two very different people. I’ve learned a lot in the past 10 years, and I’d like to see how that affects my directing style.
I feel like I have a lot to offer as a director because I know CP, and I know what I like in a director so I hope to be able to use that to my advantage. That being said, I am new to this. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on more responsibility. I really want to do a great job for my cast, the audience, and for myself. Part of doing a good job, though, is doing your homework. Directors have a responsibility to the show as a whole; it’s not like acting where you’re just one part. If the play were a body, actors would be limbs and directors the brain. I need to be able to use my knowledge to help my limbs work perfectly in sync☺. The first thing I wanted to do, homework-wise, is really dig into my script. I wanted to discover what the meaning of the show was. I obviously had an idea already since I’ve directed it before, but I wanted to really know what the playwright was trying to say when he wrote this. So, I asked him ☺.
F. J. Hartland has a reputation as a published playwright, professional actor, award-winning director, and respected theatre reviewer. He holds a BA in English from Westminster College and an MFA in Playwriting from Carnegie-Mellon University. He made his NYC debut as a playwright at the age of 23 when the Ensemble Studio Theatre presented a workshop of his award-winning play A Piano Player with Sad Brown Eyes. Other NYC credits include the Emerging Artists Theatre, GayFest NYC, Lovecreek Productions, Quaigh Theatre, 13th Street Theatre, Don’t Tell Mama and Lincoln Center Library Theatre. Five times he was a finalist in the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Short Play Festival—winning in 1983 and 1985. In 2008 he was the recipient of a Playwriting Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In Pittsburgh his plays have been performed at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Bricolage, Rage of the Stage, Cup-A-Joe, South Park Theatre, Upstairs Theatre and a record-setting eleven times in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival where he has taken home the “Donna Award” for Best Play in 2005, 2010, and 2011.
A member of Actors’ Equity since 1991, F. J. has performed at Off The Wall Theatre, the Pittsburgh Playhouse REP and at the Mountain Playhouse. He has directed more than fifty production at Mount Aloysius College while serving as their Director of Theatre. Locally, he has directed at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre and McKeesport Little Theatre, where he was named “Best Director of 2009-2010” for his production of The Wizard of Oz.
For three years he served as the theatre reviewer for outonline.*
Honestly, I’ve been kind of a nerd about this. I Google-stalked him, and then I found him on Facebook. I sent him a message and asked if he would be willing to do an interview, and he said yes!! I was so excited! I’ve been so giddy about this whole thing, and it’s so great to have been able to talk to him and learn about the show from his perspective. Below is our interview:
Karen Grim: Why did you write 12:21pm?
F.J. Hartland: I originally wrote it as part of a trilogy of one-acts. I was a senior in college and was applying for graduate programs in playwriting. I directed the three plays so that I could do re-writes on each before using them as my portfolio for graduate schools.
K.G.: Is there symbolism in the title? Why that specific time?
F.J.H.: Each of the one-acts I wrote for the trilogy had a time as a title. The evening was then called "Time of Departure" because each play was about a relationship ending.
K.G.: Are your characters based on anyone you know?
F.J.H.: I can honestly say all three characters are works of fiction.
K.G.: Kevin and Joel are best friends. Did you model their relationship off of a friendship you've had?
F.J.H.: No. Although I was getting ready to graduate from college, I was thinking about how all of my friends would be going in different directions. Like Kevin and Joel, our lives would be changing and none of our relationships would ever be the same.
K.G.: How did you begin writing the play, and what was your inspiration?
F.J.H.: My creative writing teacher who was also my college advisor) always talked about the unique relationship of a groom and a best man. He said it was so ripe with emotions. So I decided to try writing about it.
K.G.: Colonial Players of Annapolis is a theatre-in-the-round. Do you think that this will help or hinder your script?
F.J.H.: When I originally directed it (back in 1980...yikes!), it was done in-the-round. Other than the door, the in-the-round style shouldn't be a problem.
K.G.: Have you seen a production of 12:21pm?
F.J.H.: I saw it when I directed it. Later a friend of mine directed it at the Quaigh Theatre in NYC. The Quaigh nominated it for the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Short Play Festival--it was one of the winners, so that's how it got published. I have also seen the occasional production--but it's been quite a few years since I've seen it.
K.G.: Were you impressed by the directing and the performances?
F.J.H.: I love seeing what actors do with the roles.
K.G.: What were the pros and cons of directing it?
F.J.H.: The play I see in my head when I am writing it, isn't always the best interpretation of my words.
K.G.: What would you have done differently?
F.J.H.: I think I should have allowed someone else to direct the original production. Since I had written it, I didn't have anything new to bring to it. A fresh set of eyes is always best.
K.G.: What would you look for in the actors?
F.J.H.: Honesty. I want to see real emotions, real relationships.
K.G.: Do you wish you could change anything or rewrite it?
F.J.H.: I'd probably like to update some of the jokes.
K.G.: How do you feel about Directors who take a script and completely change it? (i.e. setting it in a different time period, doing a role reversal. etc.)?
F.J.H.: If it brings something new and fresh to the story, it's great. If it's just a director saying, "Look how clever I am," then it's not such a good idea.
K.G.: Of the three characters in the show (Joel, Janet or Kevin), who is your "favorite" and why?
F.J.H.: I really feel for Kevin. Something is happening in his life, and he isn't equipped to deal with it. His friendship with Joel is the only positive thing he has going in his life...and it's being taken away.
K.G.: What do you want the audience to take away from the show?
F.J.H.: Change is inevitable. We are powerless against it; we can't change it. Enjoy what you have while you have it because it could be gone in a flash.
“The only constant is change.” I’m not sure who said that, but it fits. Not just because that’s what my show is about, but also because I’m changing. I’m branching out and trying something new. It’s scary, but it’s also thrilling, and I think that’s something we can all identify with.
(still not famous :), but I’m working on it)
*Bio taken in its entirety from F.J. Hartlands blog, Pittsburgh theatre Today, http://pittsburghtheatertoday.blogspot.com/
TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2012
by Karen Grim
“Passion: A powerful force that cannot be stopped.” -Moliere
You know what ,though? I’m tired. I’m going to be 100% honest right now and let you all know that I’m a little (ok, maybe a lot) tired…of acting. Gasp! I know…who would have thought that was even possible? It’s my biggest passion in life, it’s what I love to do, and it’s when I am working on a show that I’m happiest. But to tell you the truth, after this show, I’m ready for a break. And I’m ready to do something else. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and I’ve decided to branch out. I’m going to…wait for it…direct!
Now, maybe for some of you that isn’t a huge shock. If you know anything about actors (or me personally), then you probably already know we’re extremely fickle and it’s very hard to satisfy us. We’re always trying to go further, push our creative limits, and really test ourselves. I should mention that I have directed before, not professionally or anything, but while I was in high school and college, I did try it out for a bit. I like it. And I think I’m pretty good at it. I think that directors who have acted before have unique insight into being able to help their actors really understand their characters and the overall vision of the play.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Great Karen, but where are you going to be having your professional directorial debut?” And the answer is the Colonial Players One-Act Festival. It’s a chance for new directors to get their feet wet without committing to a large production, and it allows them to learn the ins and outs of the process of putting on a show the CP way. My acting debut at Colonial Players was at the One-Act Festival two years ago, so it seems only fitting that that be where I make my directorial debut as well. I’m super pumped about it, but I’m also a little nervous too. This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve never done a professional show before, and there’s a chance I’ll be in way over my head -- but that’s the exciting part.
Acting and directing are very different, and I don’t want to make light of the hard work that goes into it. I know I have to do my homework. So here’s what I’m going to do: I want to take you guys with me, every step of the way. This is blog is acting as my declaration or my mission statement. I declare that I will do everything in my power to make sure that my show is a success. I’m going to run head first into this new pursuit of mine, and I want you to learn along with me!
So this blog really is the beginning of a series of blogs that will be about my becoming a director. I’m going to learn everything I can, and then I’m going to teach you everything I know about being a director at CP; that way if you decide you’d like to direct, you’ve got a leg up on the competition. Next month, if you can wait that long, I’m going to interview a playwright. I feel like being a good director starts with understanding the show you have, your vision for the show, and your knowledge of the script. What better way to try to decipher the script than with a playwright giving you insight into the writer’s psyche?
So there you have it. I’m a little burned-out right now on acting, and I feel like this is a natural progression for me. I will still be able to continue working in theatre, but now I’ll get to work behind the scenes for a change. Don’t worry, I’ll be back onstage, I’ll never give that up, but who knows? Maybe this could be my new passion. What about you? Anything you’ve been dying to try?
(still not famous :), but I’m working on it)
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