WHAT DO COMMUNITY THEATRE PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY ARE NOT ON STAGE ....by Barbara Biddison
Hamilton-Gibson is between shows right now, and I've been thinking
about that time when a show is over and the actor asks something like,
"What did I used to do before I was cast in this play?" All of a
sudden there are 3 or 4 or 6 hours a day when I'm not memorizing
lines, or learning blocking, or trying on costumes, or rehearsing
scenes. After the last performance the actors often help with returning borrowed stage pieces or costumes, but the real question has to do with what was my normal life like? I remember asking others when a show was over, "What are you going to do with all your time now?"
I think my favorite more-than-once answer has been "Balance my checkbook." Which may say something about actors' priorities, either just letting bills go during the play process OR resolving to pay bills right away as soon as time allows. Some answers have been brief: "Sleep." "Spend time with my family." "Play with the dog."
"Cook real meals." "Don't know...I've forgotten what normal is." OR "I've auditioned and been cast in the next musical. No spare time for me." And, of course, most community theatre people actually live in
the "community" and they also have jobs and actually "work." which really is a challenge when it comes to the cast where everybody works, and each one has a different work schedule.
Bless the directors who have to figure all this out as they try to plan rehearsals.
So I guess the answer is different for everyone. And I know this: There are strange and conflicting feelings when the play is over.
Some young parents are happy that they'll be able to put their young children to bed on time. Some oldsters like to plug into regular activities again. A few just appreciate returning to "normal" whatever that is. And many of us simply miss the activity on stage and all the challenges that go with it. No matter how we feel when
it's over, most will return for the same challenges with old friends and new ones who come to "tread the boards."
A TRIBUTE TO THE TRIBUTE by Barbara Biddison
Opening night of MY WAY! I was an usher so I got to see everybody go
into the theatre. Some who waited for the doors to open asked to see
a program so they could read it before the show began. I felt a
greater sense of excitement and enthusiasm as the to-be-audience
approached the doors and then finally entered. I think there is a
different kind of anticipation when you know what the show is about.
This one was about the music of Frank Sinatra, and that's why they
Four singers carried the show, all dressed in formal attire and placed
in what looked like a nightclub. And these singers know how to sell a
song. I've known Lilace Guignard for a long-time association with Hamilton
Gibson, and I know she can act and sing and be in character when she's
not "on." And she does all that while singing Sinatra's songs.
Laureen Wolgemuth has been involved with HG most of her life. For
this show she provides a lovely presence and voice for her
songs--songs that are especially suited to her and her personality.
Chris Eckhert is relatively new to our area, though hardly new to
singing. and he latches on to each song that he sings. (I see him
coming and going between Women's Chorus and Men's Chorus. rehearsals
on Thursday nights too.) And the fourth singer, Ian Brennan,, plugged
into the show just a few days before opening. Many of us have heard
his opening solo for Town Band Concerts on the Green in the summer.
That's just the singers.
There's a pit too. Adam Brennan on percussion, Dan Krise on bass,
and Derek Young on Keyboard.. We all know Brennan's positions
conducting/directing bands at MU as well as with our own summer Almost
World Famous town band. And Krise played standup bass for HG's own
RING OF FIRE.. Young was involved with HG before he got his Master's
and moved on to Binghamton U--he has played piano for more than a
decade. That's quite a pit!
Thomas Putnam has put all this together. Even though he doesn't claim
much credit as the director, we all know that this talented group of
experienced musicians did not just jump up on the stage and sing and
play last night. Someone had the vision. Someone knew this show
would appeal to a lot of people. Someone found the talented and
experienced performers. And we all get a show like this. It still
has this Saturday and Sunday to go. I plan to go again..
Y'KNOW...THAT SONG YOU CAN'T GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD? By Thomas Putnam
Does everyone have times when they find themselves humming a tune, but not quite sure what it is or where they heard it or if it is even a song. It happens to me all the time; there is always a tune running through my mind. (I often wished I had a sound track for my life; it would make some things so much more bearable.)
Whenever we produce a musical the tunes from it are running through my mind from the moment we begin rehearsals. The last big musical I directed was Mamma Mia, and though I hadn't been a regular listener of ABBA songs, some of those were floating through my consious- and unconsiousness for months. I heard a street musician this summer playing a tune and it was haunting. I sat there and listening and knew that I knew the tune, but for the life of me could not figure out how. I asked the sole violinist what it was and there it was, plaintive and wistful and lovely...”The Winner Takes It All.” You can be sure it was in my brain for a few weeks after that.
Now, frankly, I have not been an ardent listener of Sinatra music in the past. I knew that MY WAY would be popular and I certainly didn't have anything against Ol' Blue Eyes, but I wasn't intimately acquainted with some of the 1300 songs he recorded. Sure, the biggies: “New York, New York”; “My Way”; “The Lady Is a Tramp” and a dozen or so more I could probably actually sing the words. Some were completely unknown to me.
The current mind- and soul-filler is in the SUMMER medley. All the songs are grouped in medleys for this show, and all three in this one take turns in my brain. Right now it's “Indian Summer.” All three have this dreamy, relaxed feel to them, and then comes the last one. Derek begins an easy two measure intro and Lilace just melts into that first low A: “Summer...you old Indian summer...You're the tear that comes after...June time's...laughter...” And on it goes...simple, no rush, mellow. I find myself breathing...a sort of sad sigh...but not sad: the music won't allow us to be sad. The music makes it possible to live through a missed opportunity or a broken romance or dreams that don't come true. It's the soundtrack we need for some rough moments in our journey.
THE OVER-55 FOLKS RECONVENE by Barbara Biddison
Suppose you're 65 or 85 (or older or younger or in-between) and you wake up one morning and wonder when Acting Up is going to start meeting again. Or suppose you're that age and remember that you have heard about HG's Acting Up and wondered if that would be something you'd like to do. Or suppose a friend wants to go and is reluctant to go alone. Well, it's time to give it a try, or to return to it for the umpteenth year!
It's time for ACTING UP to gather together for Hamilton-Gibson's opportunity designed for folks over 55 (no age limit on the top—we've welcomed in recent years at least 2 who have reached 90). We meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at 2PM on the second floor of the Deane Center. All are invited to "just show up" for an hour of reading aloud to each other, a casual ReadersTheatre experience.
People come and go as their lives require. You can still go to your grandson's birthday party, or to a doll club meeting, or south for the winter. No gold stars for perfect attendance! We do like to know
about how many will be there on a given Tuesday so we can plan an appropriate group reading, but we like to keep it loose. That's probably how we have been able to keep Acting Up going regularly since
Who is this "we" newcomers may ask. It's Larry and Barbara Biddison. We both have some background in literature and in theatre, and we love helping people develop skills in the oral presentation of all kinds of literature. Yes, we read plays, and also prose and poetry. Y'all come! We welcome newcomers as well as longtime regulars.
THE SCENT OF A MELODY by Thomas Putnam
I was in a play at Mansfield University in the summer of my 16th birthday. (I remember it was my 16th because I had just gotten my driver's license and got a ticket driving home very late one June night from rehearsal! Yeah...for speeding. It's a good thing the policeman wasn't around when I had turned off my headlights because the moon was so bright and I wanted to see if I could drive without them.) Sorry...I digress.
I was in a play with college students and faculty (I was the only high school student) and in one scene my character climbed up into the bedroom loft with his former but still dear girlfriend and we were to make-out on the bed. The most memorable thing about that romp on the bed was the actress's perfume. It was mesmerizing...and memorable. I don't remember that co-ed's name, nor have I ever had any contact with her since. But, over the many decades since, I have instantly thought of her when I happened to smell that perfume. I don't remember the name, but wow, does that perfume take me back to those nights on the old Allen Hall stage.
What makes MY WAY work is hearing a melody that Frank Sinatra used to sing (or still sings if you listen to recordings or other avenues.) None of the four singers in this revue which opens on September 16 even begins to try to sound like Sinatra, but the tunes....oh, those tunes. In this case it's not the sound of Sinatra's singular voice that stirs us, but the remembrance of that melody.
Like that perfume from long ago, the scent of a melody transmits us back to another time or place or company or situation. Some of these melodies most of us have heard, I bet, a hundred times, and that scent is strong; sometimes triggering a very, very specific moment in our lives (like making out in the loft on Allen Hall stage), and for better or for worse we are broadened by the memory. Breathe deeply.
WHAT WERE YOUR PARENTS LISTENING TO? By Thomas Putnam
MY WAY opens September 16, so many of my waking moments (and many of my sleeping moments!) are taken up with all things Sinatra. Even in the midst of the past few weeks' muddled-Covid-brain, my thoughts go to that voice, that face, that phenomenon. With a singing career that lasted so many decades, there is a lot to think about.
One of the lines in the musical revue indicates that “half the U.S. population over 40 was conceived while their parents were listening to the music of Frank Sinatra.” Actually in our script it says “over 80” but I've heard that age modified in a few different productions. Regardless of the age indicated, how in the world would this be a statistic that could be verified?
I think it's a fun thought, however, and probably one that at least during many of the years between 1945 and the early 1990's there probably would be a good chance that a large percentage of conceptions occurred while the participants were hearing the voice of Frank Sinatra. He had at least three career wanes with equal number of career revitalizations; and the wanes were fairly short-lived. He also recorded somewhere between 1200 and 1600 different songs. Uh...that's a lot of air-time.
This might be a fun question to ask couples around an extended family picnic: what were they listening to when their children were conceived? Of course, for many of us who are of a certain age we can't ask our parents that question. The sheer number of Sinatra recordings however, makes it plausible that the Crooner was present.
Our musical revue is family friendly so there's no need to worry about such questions being asked when you attend on September 16, 17, 18, 23, or 24. But “family friendly” takes on new meaning when considering this question, yes? Good ol' Frank.
FOOD AND WINE...AND SOME IVORY by Thomas Putnam
I've been reminded the past few weeks of a particular person who means a great deal to me...and ultimately to you. The person is “the accompanist.” With the commencement of the new season of the HG Choral Program for kids in grades 2-12, and planning ahead for music gigs in October and even the musicals for 2023, and the fast-approaching musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, I am reminded that I and the projects I direct are worth very little without an accompanist. Wait, let me clarify that...without a really good accompanist.
I don't think most people realize the value of a confident, talented, flexible, selfless accompanist. HG has been hugely blessed with just such people. Over the years Kay Galloway, Marian Miller, Cheri Ayres have all bolstered our choirs and shows. More recently Parker Neal, Adam Mahonsky, and others have sat on the bench, which we might call the Mercy Seat. Without the strong support of those who sit at the piano, the choir or the show simply falters.
In the past few weeks, two guys have reminded me of this. Gary Citro became our accompanist for the choirs last year, and as we begin this year, he is once again is faithfully providing the support the singers need. He also played for the melodrama and the Animal Crackers show this summer! We couldn't do it without him.
Derek Young was the choir accompanist a few years ago. He also accompanied a few shows and traveled with the choirs on tour. Last month he came to our rescue when we were in great need of a solid accompanist for MY WAY, which opens next Friday. Though now living in Sayre and with a full schedule, he's making the time to accompany the four singers as they croon their way through 50 songs made famous by Sinatra. We couldn't do it without him.
When you attend an HG event, or a high school concert, or a Wellsboro Men's or Women's concert, take the time to thank Pat Davis and Judy Smithgall and Marian Miller and whomever is on the Mercy Seat, tickling those ivories and providing the support the singers need.