Elephant's Graveyard in Rehearsal by Barbara Biddison
I was encouraged to sit in on an early rehearsal of this extraordinary
play. I had read it a couple times, so I knew what was coming. I
was also very familiar with George Brant the playwright, who wrote
Into the Breeches which HG produced last year. It's really soon to
catch a rehearsal, but I was very interested in how it sounded and
looked at this point.. It's a large cast, almost all male. Two
females last night, and they held their own quite well. thank you.
Some cast members were still holding a script, but most had lines
pretty well memorized. All had a handle on their characters.. It was
amazingly well done "to page 41 tonight," as Thomas Putnam the
director announced when they began.
Ten individuals on stage at first, And they "come-and-go,
"come-and-go" as the town gathers. As the rehearsal progressed I was
struck by the very strong "feeling" that "something" was going to
happen. Well, you might say, don't you always expect "something" to
happen in a play. Yes, you do, but this was different. And I don't
know how the cast did it. How they conveyed that "something is going
to happen" feeling. For an instant I might think it's because the
circus is coming to town. But then I realized that it was more than
that, and that I would just wait, and watch, and listen. And that is
what the audience will do as they hear lines like, "an elephant is an
elephant " and much later "an elephant is an investment."
Another observation, and I think this has to do with casting. With so
many male voices, it might be hard for the audience to keep track of
who is speaking when many are on stage at the same time and they're
not wearing name tags! "Now is that the tour manager or the marshall
or the engineer?" Well, fortunately the Tour Manager (Gerard Doran)
and the Marshall (Sean Bartlett) and the Engineer (Herb Johnson) have
very different-sounding voices, which helps a whole lot.. And they,
like other cast members, have a very solid presence on stage.
I hope to see another rehearsal or two before this play opens on
September 22, about five weeks from now. Stay tuned......
WHAT A WEEKEND THAT WAS! by Barbara Biddison
Whole bunches of us had this plan to go see BROADWAY UNDER THE STARS
on Saturday evening at the Stony Fork Creek Campground. Hamilton-
Gibson had done this last year about this time. Everybody loved it
out there with great individual and group performances and good food
and a very pleasant evening. Children welcome to run around. But by
early Friday evening this year, about 24 hours before the scheduled
performance, it was pretty clear that the weather was not going to
cooperate.with our plan, and that no one would want to sit in a lawn
chair in pouring rain with probably some lightning thrown in!
And then the notifications about the change kicked in. Change all the
Stony Fork information that had gone out!!! The facebooks and the
websites and the signs in yards and word-of-mouth plans to share rides
and telephone calls to those HG knew had planned to go. The Wellsboro
High School was generously made available. and all the performers and
the food sellers and the ticket sellers got notified too and figured
out how to adjust to the new location. Well, these are theatre people
after all, and they are used to adapting to all sorts of things, and a
stranger who entered the high school auditorium would never have
known that this show should have been outdoors at a campground!!
And what a wonderful show it was. Kacy Hagan was director for this
event that involved putting it all together--songs and dance and
rehearsals and all the performers and volunteers and sponsors. And
the program lists about 20 "special thanks" to individuals who helped
in specific ways. We heard/saw selections from over a dozen favorite
musicals, some as solos and others as group numbers. During
intermission as well as before and after the show there was FOOD in
the school hall right outside the auditorium.
Last year and this year, we all were treated to the most wonderful
assortment of talent!! Performers came from right here in Wellsboro
as well as from surrounding communities. And I know I was grateful
when a storm DID hit close enough to showtime --- we would have had to
cancel at the last minute---and we changed the date because THE SHOW
MUST GO ON !.......as they say.
But that was not the end of the treats for the weekend, The Gmeiner
hosted a tribute to Alice Mickey on Sunday afternoon. The place was
full of her art --we were amazed at the number of pieces hanging--they
filled the walls of the Gallery. Both of Alice's daughters were there
for the full time of the reception, and Ann gave the artist's talk
that usually opens a show. I had no idea how prolific Alice Mickey
was!! But I have some personal
knowledge of the kind of influence she had on art students. When she
taught in the Don Gill school, my older son was in her class Today,
decades later, he says she's the reason he's an artist now.
I remember going into that school in the days when a parent could walk
in the main entrance and go down the hall to Alice's room. (I'd bring
her things like scraps of fabric and other "artsy bits and pieces"
because she liked that.) She would greet me, and if a student tugged
at her sleeve, she'd say something like."Not now, Johnny, I'm talking
to Mrs. Biddison." She taught manners, too
And. Sunday's reception shows how highly regarded and fondly
remembered she still is.. .
During the "Downtime" About Singing by Barbara Biddison
What do HG people do when they're not in a play, or not reading new plays, or not painting the stage floor? When they have so-called "spare time." One option is to spend a few hours helping to prepare the HG newsletter for mailing, which I just did during the past two days. And now I have read the opening article in that newsletter about the Treble Choir, and I am so moved to be reminded of my own first choir experience beginning when I was about 15. The HG Treble Choir offers the same kind of experience as I found in my McAllen High School A Cappella Choir directed by an extraordinary man, Bev Henson.. I always mention that we met and sang before classes in the morning because so many football players wanted to sing and football practice was after school. You have to love it to be willing to warm up and
start singing at 7:30 in the morning!
So, this Bev Henson put together an a cappella choir, singing without accompaniment, in a mixed up fashion on the risers. He said that if you could hear the other parts you would stay on pitch . I might be singing my 2nd soprano part with an alto to my right, a tenor to my left and a 1st soprano next to a baritone behind me. We memorized--did not hold music in concert. There was nothing temperamental about this man. We all loved singing under his direction (just hands, no baton), and we all worked diligently to learn the music. And, by the way, when we walked into the high school music room, he was always at the piano playing whatever struck his fancy that day.
We had regular school concerts, and we traveled. I especially remember a trip into Mexico where we stayed with families (Mc Allen is on the border) and sang for their local audiences. Again all music was memorized.
When we were on a bus on the road he insisted that we dress well, claiming that the group's behavior was affected by our clothing choices of dresses for girls and dress shirts with slacks for boys. No one complained---it was just "expected" for all. He also expected that we would welcome a challenge, and he produced Menotti's AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS just a few years after its 1951 first performance anywhere,, casting all of it with high school kids. I played Amahl and the girl who lived across the street from me played the mother. (I kept the rough cane/walking stick for this crippled shepherd boy for years after.)
Though I never studied to be a professional musician, and, in fact, do not really "read music," I often learn a part before others because I can tell if notes go up or down, and I can count for rhythm, and I listen carefully and pay close attention. I think I learned long ago the "concepts about music" such as melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, and performance practice that Thomas mentions in his newsletter choir piece. And, as I think back on my initial exposure to music, I realize that my appreciation for the joy and beauty of choral performance lasts for me at least until now. I began singing with Wellsboro Womens Chorus in 1982, and so far, at 80-something, I'm still singing with WWC today.. For me it has been truly "a lifelong relationship with music." Thank you, Bev Henson. Thank you, Thomas, for reminding me of the gift of music throughout our lives.