Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Doubt begins rehearsals!

First read-through of Doubt just finished. The four actors sat at a table and read through the play, the stage manager read stage directions, and the GSP staff and Doubt creative team sat back and listened. And responded—with laughter, gasps, and at the end, much applause.

Before the read-through began, the staff had the opportunity to meet the actors, designers, and director, take a first look at a model of the set, and nosh (there were some particularly fantastic fudgy brownies). Three of the four actors are GSP newcomers. The fourth, Meghan Andrews, revealed that, sixteen years ago, when she was only a child, she appeared at the Playhouse. This revelation led Properties Master Jay Duckworth, who was here at the time, but hadn’t recognized Andrews, to shout, “Oh my God! I had hair then!”

What you get at the first read-through is a group of actors feeling their way through new and complicated material. They’ve read the play, they’ve probably done some research, but most of their questions are unanswered; many of the questions haven’t even been formulated.

But what the first read-through lacks in polish, it makes up for rawness and freshness—intelligent actors hearing themselves together, sensing the relationships, for the first time, which makes for a very exciting experience. It’s not usually an all-out performance—the actors aren’t asked to be emoting at performance-level—so I’ll refrain from discussing the performers in detail. But every compact, intense, and funny scene, was filled with the chemistry the actors brought. Let me just say, this show has been very well-cast, and I look forward to seeing them perform this material many more times.

Doubt centers not only on the titular concept, but also more tangibly, on the question of a man’s guilt. It was hard not to leave the reading discussing the ‘did he/didn’t he’ debate. In the Broadway production, the only actor who knew the answer to this was Brian F. O’Byrne, who played Father Flynn, the party in question. Our Father Flynn, Dylan Chalfy, will have to decide with director Anders Cato what exactly his character has done. While the audience can (and probably should) be in doubt, the actor has to make a choice. As productions crop up across the nation (and ­­Doubt­, having concluded its national tour, is now being performed at regional theaters around the country), the possibilities will become endless.

When I saw Doubt on Broadway, I admired it, although I didn’t get the hype. It’s short, and I left feeling less than full. As a parable, it paints in quick, broad strokes, and I left wanting more. Seeing it again, I had to reevaluate. The play is written with a sparseness that forces the audience to fill in the gaps. One of the most complicated characters appears for a single scene. Many meaty arguments occur onstage, but one can imagine just as much drama occurring in between the scenes.

Good comedies can make you feel light, refreshed. Good musicals can fill your head and your whole body with song in a way that is both overwhelming and invigorating. But great dramas leave you feeling out of breath, dazed, tingly—like you just saw a ghost, and sat with it for a couple of hours while it told you shocking tales. That’s what I felt walking out of today’s read-through. With Anders Cato (a gifted, on-the-rise talent who directed GSP’s Souvenir and I Am My Own Wife) at the helm, it’s surely just going to get better.

posted by Jeremy Stoller, Literary Apprentice

On the Road with GSP!

Kristin sent us more pictures from the tour! Here's a look backstage at a school performance of In Between by R.N. Sandberg.

Left:The cast waits backstage. Chris Behaur as "B", Meredith Pierce as "Mrs. Blazer", Laura Credidio as "Cue", and Dan Lazar as "Tad" Right: Dan and Laura backstage Photos by Kristin Pfiefer

Chris and Laura backstage

That Tad is always causing trouble!

Setting a good example...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Enter...Laughing! (Part 2)

When the GSP Blog Team asked me to reflect a little on The Sunshine Boys, I thought of some of my favorite moments from rehearsals through performances....(continued from previous post)

  • That final scene. Klugman and Dooley are rightfully hailed as masters of American comedy, with careers spanning classics of television, film, and of course, theatre. But The Sunshine Boys also gives them the opportunity to remind audiences of their unequaled strength as dramatic actors. The last five minutes of the play, in which the team of Lewis & Clark make (an undoubtedly brief) peace, never fails to choke me up and make me laugh at the same time. Those contradictions? Just like real life. And it's beautifully, touchingly captured by Klugman and Dooley, still in their prime and at the top of their game. One can't learn the kind of timing these masters naturally possess.
  • Ebony Jo Ann's scene opposite Jack. The rapport and admiration shared between these two actors (they first played the acerbic Registered Nurse and the equally-cutting Willie Clark, respectively, opposite each other on Broadway ten years ago) shines through despite the combative dialogue. The result is one of the funniest scenes in the entire play (and that's saying something!) and a scene that has just "clicked", from Day One of rehearsal.
  • Jack's "Enterrrrrr!" Has a line ever been spoken with more relish than Klugman's immortal proclamation as Willie which raises the ire of his partner Al? Not only does this prove the old comedy adage that the funniest line in a play is rarely joke-oriented but more often situational, Jack has made yet another Neil Simon moment his own. Remember Oscar Madison's immortal frustration with the notes his roommate keeps leaving around which read "F.U."?...
  • Just watching the play, night after night. As we celebrate a week's worth of performances, I still marvel at how every audience is different, finding laughs in new and unexpected places, and intuitively responding to subtle differences in the cast's performances from one night to the next. The audience really is a character in the play, and it's like having a new cast member join the company each evening! This is why theatre will always move me more than film; each audience gets to see something that will never be seen again. Every performance is living and breathing, and especially when you're working with a company of restless creators led by Jack Klugman, you never know when a new flourish or discovery might instinctually show up.

You can probably tell that the thing I'll remember most about The Sunshine Boys is this company. And isn't it always that way? As with any enterprise, theatrical or otherwise, it comes down to the people. Among the many, many things I've learned from David Saint is the importance of surrounding yourself with the best people, both as actors and as human beings. David has the remarkable gift of assembling groups that start out merely as actors of various backgrounds, and end up as a family. I'll always cherish these individuals and our time together. While I'm certain our paths will cross again at George Street and elsewhere, these past weeks at The Sunshine Boys will be hard to top, indeed.

posted by Joe Marchese, Assistant Director, The Sunshine Boys

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Enter.....Laughing! (Part 1 of 2)

There's nothing quite like an opening night, and the occasion was doubly special last Friday as George Street pulled out all the stops to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Artistic Director (and our director) David Saint. That meant lights, a red carpet, special guests, champagne and a packed house -- all creating an evening to remember. But with opening night comes the realization that my work is done, along with that of the director. That's always a bittersweet moment; it's thrilling to know that what you've worked long and hard on is now ready to be enjoyed by 400 people nightly, but a little wistful, too. The daily excitement of rehearsal is through, and it's time to move on. Your child, the show, is off to find its place in the world...It's a bit like empty nest syndrome, I'd imagine! So when the GSP Blog Team asked me to reflect a little on The Sunshine Boys, I thought of some of my favorite moments from rehearsals through performances.

  • Working with GSP vet Michael Mastro. Mastro basically jumped onto a moving train when he joined our company late in the game. The train never stopped speeding along, but Michael quickly caught up with it, and created his indelible portrayal of Willie's harried nephew Ben. Michael's rampant creativity and inquisitive nature, not to mention round-the-clock striving for the best, brought a number of humorous flourishes to the production, while his sensitivity as Ben underlined one of the important themes of the play: the exploration of the bonds and responsibilities of family, especially in the face of aging. Which brings me to...
  • Our discovery of what's just underneath the text of this fabled comedy. The Sunshine Boys may be one of the funniest of all plays written by Neil Simon, or anybody else for that matter, but there's also an emotional core honed by David Saint and the company that I'm proud to see explored nightly. The play truthfully addresses the meaning of family and true friendship; the harsh reality of aging; and the passing of an era. Watching the GSP audience really listen shows how much they're "getting" it, too.
  • Stories, stories, stories! Paul Dooley really is King Raconteur, and Storyteller Supreme. I can't believe there was a more fun lunch table in all of New Jersey than the one presided over daily by Dooley, aided and abetted by Klugman & company. Who needs the Friar's Club? Stories of persons familiar and unfamiliar, onstage and behind the scenes, all inspired gales of laughter one minute and wistful remembrance the next. There's not a topic in show business Dooley and Klugman can't address with stories of their years in the "biz".- The day the Vaudeville Players (Peggy Crosby, Paul Stolarsky, Joe O'Brien) joined the cast. Never have I seen so much done with so little, as these actors created full, rich characterizations from a small number of lines. Peggy brings a fantasy to life in her turn as dream nurse Miss MacKintosh ("You know, like the apples!"), while Paul's befuddled patient finds laughs where even Neil Simon couldn't have imagined them. Joe keeps the whole vaudeville scene rooted in reality in a role near and dear to me, that of Eddie, the Assistant Director! When these troupers joined the company, nearly doubling the number of actors we had been working with, it finally felt like a really big shew, as Ed Sullivan used to say!!
  • The day Jack came into rehearsal and announced his & Peggy's engagement. Jack just beamed sharing the news of their engagement with the company, despite his great, ever-present modesty. Peggy is as beautiful as she is kind and talented, and she & Jack deserve every moment of the happiness they share together in life. Onstage, they enjoy their double entendre-laden scene with big smiles and evident pride nightly. I particularly enjoy the evenings when Nurse MacKintosh is greeted by catcalls from ardent audience members -- she deserves each one!
  • Tech Rehearsals. Tech rehearsals, during which time actors first take the actual stage, and finished costumes, sets, props, lights and sound first enter the picture, may be my favorite time in the rehearsal process. Unusual? Definitely. Tech is known as a time of high stress as the creative team races around the clock to get the show ready, and cast members may get lost in the shuffle of the physical production. (After all, the preceding weeks have been spent just with them in a bare rehearsal studio.) But tech is also the time when the backstage folk work together and define the art of collaboration -- a number of individuals working together on a common goal, all with aims of excellence. During tech, David and stage manager supreme Tom Clewell remained the epitome of "grace under fire", and worked with each department head to refine the show until a number of disparate elements came together as one. That, to me, is what theatre is all about.

posted by Joe Marchese, Assistant Director for The Sunshine Boys

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Report from Previews

The Sunshine Boys will play it's final preview tonight before opening tomorrow and everything seems to be coming into focus. The audience response has been extremely encouraging, and many performances are already close to sold out! Following each performance, David Saint, the director of the show and members of the cast have spoken with the audience about the rehearsal process, working together, comedic timing and the like. I really can't talk about the show too much because I'd give away the best parts. All I can say is that the entire cast is really terrific and fun to watch. Paul Dooley has shared some great stories from his days in the original Odd Couple on Broadway (as one of the poker players) as well as his many film credits. Some of the same stories are told in an interview with Doug Doyle on WBGO and is available on our website.

Following the talk-back and after each performance, Jack Klugman will be signing copies of his book, Tony and Me. The book chronicles his long relationship with Odd Couple partner Tony Randall, includes a forward by the series creator Gary Marshall (Happy Days) and includes a DVD of outtakes from the series. In addition to books, Jack has also posed for photos, signed programs, postcards, photos. One of our patrons actually had a TV Guide with him on the cover!

Here's a teaser photo taken at our dress rehearsal by T. Charles Erickson.

GSP On the Road: with the Rock

So part three of GSP on the Road, our beloved touring actors adopted a toy mascot. A Duane "The Rock" Johnson toy. Here's a few moments relaxing with The Rock on the playground (and Wendy's)

"Do you smell what the Rock is cookin?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Master Class and so much more

So Sunday Night was the invited dress rehearsal before our first preview and what a night it was! It’s the first time the cast has an opportunity to perform for someone more than the director and tech staff. The goal is to run the entire show, with intermission with sound, lighting, and scenic shift cues. Staff members attending included marketing and front of house personnel, the production staff (taking notes of course),and a few select friends. We always knew we had terrific actors in the production, several of whom appeared in the Broadway revival in 1997, but watching Jack Klugman and Paul Dooley on stage together is like a master class in comedy that you can’t get anywheree else. While Neil Simon has written some of the funniest lines ever to appear on stage, Klugman and Dooley find some of the greatest comedic moments in silence. Dancing to a TV commerical or sipping tea, a frustrated look at a wall socket, or lock on the door, everything gets a laugh.

But why give it all away? See for yourself, but hurry, tickets are selling fast. Next time, I’ll post some photos of the production and give you a report from previews!

-- Scott Goldman, Executive Assistant

Friday, October 12, 2007

On the Road with GSP: Photo Blog

Ever wonder what our touring company does when they have some downtime? Here's a look. Stay tuned for the next edition of the GSP on the Road Phto Blog when we let actors loose at an elementary school.

Chris Behan as Wendy
Dan Lazar as Wendy
GSP Tour Mascot "The Rock" as Wendy

photos by Kristen Pfiefer, Tour Stage Manager.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Where are They Now?

As we're preparing for Opening Night we're contacting artists who have worked with us in the past 10 years, celebrating David Saint's 10 year anniversary season.

Obviously there not all available, as many are working! But I'd thought I'd share with you a brief list of the whereabouts of GSP alumni...pretty impressive if you ask me.

  • Matt Cavenaugh - You saw him in 2 Lives (2005)
    Recently appeared in Grey Gardens on Broadway, currently in A Catered Affair the new Harvey Fierstein and John Bucchino musical at the Old Globe Theatre, headed to Broadway
  • Maria Dizzia - You saw her in Agnes of God (2001)
    Recently appeared as the title role in Eurydice at Second Stage in NYC

  • Wally Dunn - You saw him in Inspecting Carol (2005)
    Currently appearing in Spamalot at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Casino
  • Tim Jerome - You saw him in The Sisters Rosensweig (2002)
    Currently in My Fair Lady on National Tour, previously in Tarzan on Broadway
  • Michael Mastro - You saw him in Inspecting Carol and The Pillowman (2005 / 2006)
    Recently finished a year long run in Mamma Mia! on Broadway

  • Malcolm Morano - You saw him as Jason in Falsettos (2007)
    Currently appearing in The Farnsworth Invention by Aaron Sorkin on Broadway
  • James Sutorius - You saw him in 2 Lives (2005)
    Currently appearing in The Farnsworth Invention on Broadway

  • Mary Testa - You saw her in Lend Me a Tenor (2004)
    Currently appearing in Xanadu on Broadway
  • Monica West - You saw her in The Last Bridge (2003)
    Currently appearing as Baby in Dirty Dancing on North American Tour

Have you recently spotted someone with George Street in their bio? Let us know!

-Scott Goldman, Executive Assistant

On the Road with GSP

On the Road with GSP is a series devoted to George Street Playhouse's Educational Touring Company. Four issue based productions are performed for school grades K - 8. The tour cast includes Chris Behan, Laura Credidio, Dan Lazar and Meredith Pierce. The Stage Manager is Kristen Pfiefer.

Wow, I can't believe that this is my second year working on the Tour; things are going really well, the four actors who I get to work with are amazing. We started rehearsals in August with two shows New Kid and In Between. Then we started touring in September, and so far so good. Right now we are both rehearsing our next two shows Peacemaker and Wasted as well as out touring.

So October and November are going to be pretty crazy for us. One of reasons I love this tour is the kids we get to see everyday. Watching them react to what they see onstage is amazing. Then during the post play discussion hearing their questions and listening to what they have to say is great. They understand these shows a lot better than the adults think they do. Especially with Peacemaker, which is geared towards grades K-4, the little guys see past the Reds and the Blues and just really understand the meaning behind it.

Being on the road is tough. Those 5-5:30AM calls; traveling in a van (with not a whole lot of room) with five people to a school that's two hours away; dealing with NJ traffic as well as really bad directions; constructing a set; doing one maybe two shows early in the morning; striking the set and loading it back into the van; is pretty much our everyday routine. Once in awhile you get a break and have a show that's in the afternoon, but sometimes that's rare. And we never really know what to expect when we arrive at these schools, some days it's a fantastic space, huge auditorium, some days it's a tiny stage in a cafeteria. But the rough parts are worth it when you hear the kids interacting with what's going on onstage.

In my second year as George Street's Tour Stage Manager I've picked up a thing or two on what to do if:
1) Your set completely falls apart five minutes before the show starts.
2) You accidentally leave half of your costumes at the theatre and the school you are performing at is at least 35 minutes away.
3) You forget an important prop at the theatre.
4) You accidentally leave part of the set at a school that is an hour and a half away.
5) And you need that set for the show you are doing the Next Day.
6) When the sound system decides not to work a particular day and there are important sound cues.
7) Your tour van decides to not accelerate and break down while you are on the Turnpike.
8) You get to a school and realize the space you have to perform in was not as big as what they told you it was.

I wear a lot of hats being a tour stage manager, whether is being technical director/ front of house manager/ and stage manager; and what I realized is black gaff and duct tape pretty much fix almost anything, even if it's only a temporary situation. Also to always have a hammer and a hot glue gun on hand and to know how to improvise making costumes and scenery out of fabric and paper is something I will take with me. In the mean time it's back on the road for me, but I'll have the actors themselves write what it's like to tour and they can tell you their outings with "The Rock". ;-)

-Kristin Pfeifer, Tour Stage Manager, Green Company

Monday, October 1, 2007

Six Degrees Of...GSP?

Well, two weeks of rehearsal have flown by, and we're about to start Week Three of The Sunshine Boys. Each morning begins much the same as the last -- a relaxed but intense scene, for sure. One cluster of actors will be running lines, some will be grabbing the morning coffee, others may be comparing notes on last night's television, while the stage management team is setting up for the day's work. But those are about the only ordinary things about rehearsal and its participants.

John Guare famously wrote of Six Degrees of Separation...this, in turn, became a game in which players traced Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The phenomenal cast assembled by David Saint and the GSP team for The Sunshine Boys makes it possible for us to trace six or fewer degrees of separation from the luminaries of American show business history.

The cast collectively boasts well over 150 years of showbiz experience in the worlds of stage, screen and television. Our two "sunshine boys", Jack Klugman and Paul Dooley, are the recipients of recognition from the Emmys, the Tonys, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the National Board of Review, and even the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sunshine veterans Klugman, Peggy Crosby & Ebony Jo-Ann return from the acclaimed 1997 National Actors Theatre production which played Broadway and a national tour. Yet these talents, joined by Dooley , Paul Stolarsky and an alumn of the GSP touring company Joe O'Brien, amaze day in and day out as they bring a fresh eye to this all-new production. Not a day goes by in which these actors, under our "fearless leader" David Saint's direction, don't discover something new and surprising in their characterization and interpretation.

They bring with them the experience of counting many all-time favorites as friends and colleagues, regaling us daily over lunch with stories of everyone from golden greats (Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) to Golden Girls (Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan), Paul Lynde to Paul Scofield, E.G. Marshall to Garry Marshall -- and everyone in between. The rehearsal hall's walls echo with reminisces of the stars of yesterday and today: Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ethel Merman, Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, Robin Williams, Larry David.

The Sunshine Boys celebrates a rich legacy of American comedy, and stars Klugman and Dooley truly embody that legacy. So there aren't many degrees separating you, the audience member, from any of the men and women mentioned above. And by the way, you can reach Kevin Bacon, too!

GSP Patron ---> Jack Klugman ---> Neil Simon (worked with Jack on The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys) ---> Kevin Bacon (worked with Neil Simon on an early film role, Only When I Laugh).


GSP Patron ---> Paul Dooley ---> Michael McKean (co-starred with Paul as part of Christopher Guest's "rep company" in modern comedy classics such as A Mighty Wind and Waiting For Guffman) ---> Kevin Bacon (appeared with McKean in Planes, Trains & Automobiles)!

Can you reach Kevin in fewer degrees from one of our illustrious cast members? Let me know, c/o this blog! In the meantime, it's back to rehearsal for what I'm sure will be the perfect show to celebrate ten years of David Saint's artistic leadership of George Street Playhouse. On with the show!

-- Joe Marchese, Assistant Director, THE SUNSHINE BOYS