Mark Salentine

Sunset Playhouse Q&A


Sunset Playhouse‘s annual Event I Can Never Remember the Name Of is coming up this Saturday. I’ve turned in my ballot for Best [___], and chosen which dress I shall wear (grandma’s cast-off), leaving naught else to do save answer the following questions that arrived with my invitation:

“Tell us something about you… your favorite story from the season, how you found Sunset, why you volunteer, what you love about Sunset, funniest backstage antic….”

“Tell us something about you…”

Well for starters I’m a Pisces, Year of the Dog. I don’t put any stock into that sort of thing, mind you. I just thought you should know those things about me in case they mean anything to you. When I was three years old a dog bit me in the face, leaving a row of short scars from my eyebrow to my chin. One day I’d like to rent a cottage in the Appalachian Mountains for a few weeks and just write. I like my pizzas deep dish, my theatre community, my screwdrivers sonic, and my sagas set in space.

Also: Ferrets.

“Your favorite story from the season”

I was only involved in one show at Sunset this past season- 6 Degrees of Separation- so I hope you’re up for tales with a limited scope.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much fancy-pants candy as I did during rehearsals for 6 Degrees. Every day we’d show up to a decadent sugar buffet courtesy of Jim Santelle and Sendick’s, and every day we’d clean that sucker out. And then there were the people there like Donna Daniels, man. They wear their little khaki pants, you know? And their little cardigans? And they drink their tea and they eat their veggie snacks and you think they’d never belly up to a processed sugar smorgasbord. But wouldn’t you know she totally did every time? Admittedly she wasn’t matching the rest of us bite-for-bite, but I will say this: Girl is not afraid to put away a few sweets. Admirably so.
  • And then there were the nights when it was time to go home, but it wasn’t time to go home. It was time to congregate outside the door to the back parking lot to shoot the breeze for an hour over bottles of Red Stripe while the bad kids smoked and the short kids had their pictures taken next to the tall kids.
  • The good times weren’t restricted to post-practice rolling, much to our collective great fortune. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal to find our director, Jim Farrell, sitting out in the grass with Spence Mather, the two of them swapping stories and guitars. As our 7pm start time ticked closer and more cast members arrived, the number of lawn hippies would increase. The stories that went around the circle are theirs to share, but I will offer you a prompt: Track down Joan End some time and ask her how not to dispose of a cigarette while traveling. Bad to the bone, that one.
  • And then there was the party at Jim Santelle’s. Oh Jim Santelle, sender of eloquent emails and hero of high-school smokers everywhere: You are great! And your stove is great! And your books are great! And I love your taste in fruit trays and cheesecake decorations!
  • Then there was the time after we opened when I dreamed my mom and I gave JFare and his non-existent elementary school-age daughters a ride back home to their Tuscan villa in a community of theatre folks, all tucked away past miles of farms and fields and hills. The girls wanted to show me their room and their books, then wanted to share their cake. I’m more of a brownie person, but that was some mighty fine cake.
  • Plus we acted in a play, which was pretty cool. (This’un is mighty good for monologue mining for anybody with auditions coming up.)

“How you found Sunset”

Turned left at Greenland.

I’ll be here all week.

But seriously, folks…

I graduated from Carroll University- though we called it Carroll College in those days- back in aught-four. Toward the end of the school year an event was held honoring department chair Dave Molthen, complete with a snack table and places to sit, so naturally plenty of Carroll theatre alumni came to call. Among them was Mark Salentine, the fella who’d directed me in The Nerd my second semester at Carroll. A bit of a nerd himself, I quite liked the man. One of those sorts you can’t help but smile about. So when I learned he’d be directing Cabaret at Sunset that summer I decided to have a go at auditions, in spite of my being neither a singer nor a dancer. And wouldn’t you know the fool cast me?

And that was it. One show was all it took. Cabaret came and went and left me hooked, and I’ve been going back ever since. Occasionally racing head over heels toward my own disaster. Ask me some time where it still hurts from Noises Off!

“Why you volunteer”

Yeah, I mean… I’m gonna keep doing it, I’m just sayin’ if they offered me a paycheck I wouldn’t turn it down, kapeesh?

“What you love about Sunset”

There’s nothing quite like having a hobby where the Venn Diagram of the cool kids and the weird kids is a circle, and Sunset has its fair share of both.

Thank God.

For me, Sunset has had a “home base” feel ever since the first time I crept off-key, and off-beat, through “The Telephone Song” for Donna Kummer, my heart in my throat, my throat in my sinuses, my brain long since flown into hiding so I’d never be able to fully reconstruct my memories of that particular part of the rehearsal experience. The rest of it, though? Not nearly as scary. Brilliantly fun, even. I’d never have believed you if you’d told me I could have such a blast doing so many new, difficult things in front of hundreds of people at a time for weeks on end. But then I did it. And it was wonderful.

It was all wonderful. Every show. There hasn’t been a single one that hasn’t fulfilled some acting dream, or given me a reason to spend countless hours plugging away at exciting work with lovely people, or proven to me that yes I can memorize a stupidly large number of lines. Shows like:

  • Bedroom Farce, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • Rehearsal for Murder, where I got to run around in a robe while married to Ken Smith
  • The Seven Year Itch, where I got to run around in a nightie while haunting Brian Zelinski
  • Jake’s Women, where I got to run around in flats while my boyfriend was haunted by Coleen Tutton
  • Noises Off!, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • It’s A Wonderful Life, where I got to run around in wigs while my husband was haunted by himself
  • 6 Degrees of Separation, where I got to SUFFER OUTRAGEOUS EMOTIONAL TORMENT AS THE ONLY TRULY INNOCENT VICTIM

Themes. I’m sensing themes…

Really it’s the people, though, that made those experiences so memorable for me. The directors, the designers, the crews, the other actors, the beautiful, beautiful audiences. I forget all my lines within two weeks of a show closing, but the people I keep with me forever, tucked away in random brain folds, smiling and laughing and shining.

I love how you all shine.

“Funniest backstage antic”

I– I mean I can’t… Aw geez.

I can’t even begin to think of how to answer this one. Randall Anderson’s slot machine anecdote comes to mind, and Jim Bloomingdale and Mark Salentine with sleeves full of shaving cream are floating around up there too. But as with most great “backstage” stories, the element that made the moment truly magical is lost in the retelling, especially if the tale can’t be acted out since most of the hilarity occurs in silence.

That is, you hope it occurs in silence.

I’ll tell you what: I’ll see what stories come up at Saturday’s Annual Theatre Volunteer Annual Event for Theatre, and if there are any that can stand on their own without the aid of miming and the quaking laughter of onlookers, I’ll post one or two of them here. ‘S’good?

‘S’good.

*Read about 2009’s Annual Theatre Thingy here: The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards

The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards


Sunset Playhouse‘s Annual Volunteer Choice Awards were last night and everything about them made me feel so proud, so utterly delighted, to be connected with such a fabulous network of people. But before I begin delivering my run-down of the evening’s events I must first share my amazing new culinary discovery from the reception for those of you who can’t abide reading more than a paragraph or two of blogs: Tim Gensler’s much discussed and highly sought after…

Jell-o Powder Covered Grapes

grapesAccording to Gensler, one of Sunset’s resident Jacques-of-All-Trades and chef extraordinaire for the evening’s appetizers, you take the grapes, right? And you get ’em a little wet– not too wet or they get all clumpy– and dust them with Jell-o powder; cherry for the red grapes, lime for the green. Pop ’em in the fridge or the freezer for about an hour to get them to firm up a little, and voilà: A tasty summertime snack guaranteed to get a hundred+ people asking “what those little grape looking things are” and then coming back for seconds, and thirds, of “whatever the heck they are.”

“Let’s go out to the lobby…”

Sunset’s special night officially began at 6pm with a wine/ beer/ soda bar in the lobby, catering to some of the choicest mingling this actress is likely to experience until next year’s awards show. Everywhere you turned was a person, a conversation, a memory which served as a brilliant reminder of why this room was filled with all these people in the first place: We love creating theatre together.

What a place!

(And thank you thank you thank you to Jean J. and Chuck U. for the wonderful conversation and the extremely kind words. You warmed my heart more than you can possibly know!)

The Awards Ceremony…

…got rolling at 7pm with a song from Vasiliki Fafalios, an area high school student participating in Sunset’s “Rising Stars” program. It sounded like no one in the audience realized she was so young until we were told as much after her delightful rendition of “You’re the Top,” at which time the audience was filled with whispers of “She’s in high school?!” I’m fairly certain it’s a good sign when you leave an entire audience shocked by your age in the wake of your obvious talent.

Next on the stage was MC Ken Smith, presumably given the honor because he has the best beard on the Board of Directors. Hey: When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. He introduced Inge Adams who was to present the award for Best Supporting Actor. It went to David Kaye for his performance as Tim Allgood in Noises Off, but unfortunately dude wasn’t there to receive it. I made sure to give him what for on Facebook as soon as I got home, though, so that’s all taken care of.

Cindy Zauner then floated onto the stage in a lovely… in a colorful… in… in– well in just a joltingly godawful mess of a bridesmaid’s dress to sing “Always A Bridesmaid” from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! As though I didn’t have enough reasons for being terribly disappointed in myself for not seeing that show, I can now add this little number to my list of reasons to kick myself for missing it. Cindy was too stinkin’ funny. The audience ate her up.

The only award one can give when dressed in something so, so, so terribly unattractive is, naturally, the award for Best Costume Design, which went to Sue Fromm for her work on Escanaba in da Moonlight. Rock on, Sue! Besides being one of the sweetest people on Sunset’s volunteer roster, she’s also quite the talented hand at dressin’ folks it would seem. She certainly got my vote.

Social Security: S. Loveridge, B. Krah

Social Security: S. Loveridge, B. Krah

Bryce Lord, director of this Spring’s Social Security, had the opportunity to present the award for Best Supporting Actress to one of his own: Bonnie Krah. I could fill an entire blog entry with praise for Bonnie, but I would no doubt lose the few of you still reading due to the length of it, so I’ll leave it at this: Bonnie Krah was hands down the best choice for this award. She gave a fantastic performance and the voting could not possibly have gone any other way. Bonnie was also not in attendance, much to my dismay, so I shall have to rib her good naturedly for it the next time I see her before proceeding with my usual Bonnie Accolades.

Another musical number to keep things hoppin’? Don’t mind if I do! Kyle Breitzman performed “Luck Be A Lady” because he figured, as Ken Smith shared with us, “It’s short, easy, and relevant.” Smart fellow, that Breitzman. Smart indeed.

Brenda Gravelle, last year’s recipient of the Unsung Hero Award, presented this year’s to Sue Fromm, who you may remember from such awards as Best Costume Design. Way to rake ’em in, Sue. There’s a lot of heart and a lot of drive in that woman. An asset to any company and dearly appreciated by Sunset.

Best Lighting Design went to Marty Wallner for Escanaba, presented via a flip tablet by Erika Navin, winner of the Ruth Arnell’s Annual Best Glasses Award. Marty really pulled off some pretty neat effects in this one that were hopefully as much fun for him to put together as they were for us in the audience to watch.

Escanaba: R. Zimmerman, A. Lien, J. Bloomingdale, M. Patten, G. Villa

Escanaba in da Moonlight: R. Zimmerman, A. Lien, J. Bloomingdale, M. Patten, G. Villa

Mark Salentine’s remarks on the importance of sound design in theatre, a fun little giggle-inducer to remind us all how much we truly depend on ringing phones and Jan Pritzl, was delightfully punctuated by Matthew Patten, the presenter of the Old-Timer Award to Inge Tiberius Adams. Wait- scratch that. Make that the Newcomer Award to Andy Lien. Lien swears up and down he hasn’t acted since high school, but his spot on comic timing and delivery in Escanaba sure do make a body wonder. Terrific actor, friendly guy, can grow a decent beard; Lien’s a gem and Sunset’s all the better for having found him.

More music? Bring it on! The fourth song of the evening was from next season’s Mid-life! The Crisis Musical, with Mark Salentine and Doug Jarecki as Mary DeBattista’s hapless, helpless would-be lovers. There’s something so charming about a woman who can maintain artistic composure and powerful breath support while straddling a park bench…

Jacquelyn Ranallo and Lena Tomaszek went home with the No Small Parts Award from Anne Gorski for their contributions in I Love You… It was kind of a cute award to see given as the adorable Tomaszek had been the one actually handing out all of the evening’s awards. It was nice seeing her finally get to hang on to one!

Doug Jarecki and Jason Powell were up next with a little improv game (the Alphabet Game, for the curious among you) to entertain the troops, who were duly entertained. Incidentally, JASON POWELL’S HILARIOUS ORIGINAL MUSICAL COMEDY INVADER? I HARDLY KNOW HER! OPENS AT THE ALCHEMIST THEATER ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2009, which is cool.

Same Time...: C. Gamino, S. Hughes

Same Time…: C. Gamino, S. Hughes

Doug was also there to present this year’s Best Actress Award to a very talented young woman, Sarah Laak Hughes, for her performance in Same Time Next Year. This was another show I did not get to see, but having seen Sarah’s work elsewhere I can only agree wholeheartedly with the vote on this one as I’m sure she was teriffic in the role. Not to mention the mad props you’re almost duty-bound to give to any actor who survives a two person show with their sanity so graciously intact.

The Best Actor Award, presented by Mary DeBattista, went to Matthew Patten for his performance in Escanaba and I figure there’d’ve been a bona fide mutiny had he not won for his work in that show. You want a brilliant character actor? This guy’s the real deal, and he works flatullance-joke-loving audiences like a charm. And no, they did not let him keep the red long underwear.

An Awards Night tradition I was glad to see continue was that of Mark Salentine delivering a review of the season as a whole to the tune of a well known song from a musical. This year’s review, to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, allowed us to reminisce together about the joys of Sarah Laak Hughes, and the pain of patrons who are shocked at the idea that infidelity might make its way into a plot. Ah theatre.

A Sunset original, the Rudy Award, is presented every year by Rudy Miskowitch to a volunteer who goes above and beyond the call of duty to bring the season’s productions to a whole new level of quality through their hard work and dedication. This year’s recipient was Marty Wallner, a man who embodies the phrase “to know ‘im is to love ‘im.” Congratulations Marty!

Escanaba: J. Bloomingdale, A. Lien, M. Patten, R. Zimmerman

Escanaba in da Moonlight: J. Bloomingdale, A. Lien, M. Patten, R. Zimmerman

The biggest award of the night, Best Show, was presented by Sunset’s new Managing Director Jonathan West, he of bow-ties-and-blogging fame. The top three nominees were Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner, Escanaba in da Moonlight, and Noises Off. And the award goes to: ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT!

I couldn’t see this award going anywhere else. If Sunset could remount one production to present year after year with the same direction, actors, and set, it would have to be this one. Featuring an absolute dream cast under the delightful direction of Mark Salentine (and my God do you see the costumes and the set in these pictures?! Gorgeous!), this was far and away my favorite show of the year and a true testament to the professional quality theatre one finds at Sunset Playhouse.

Another “Rising Star” at Sunset, high school student Allie Babich, brought the awards ceremony to a close with a performance of “Stars and Moon” which I heard one audience member say brought tears to his eyes. When people tell this young lady “You’ll go places, kid!” I sure hope she knows they aren’t just whistlin’ Dixie. Beautiful voice, lovely presentation. Thank you Allie.

Reception

Tosa Jazz, directed by Donna Kummer, serenaded the audience into the studio theatre for a swingin’ reception. One thing for which you can always count on Sunset Playhouse is a delicious, buffet style spread at every event they host. Last night’s was no exception, and yes I went back for thirds. Oh and happy anniversary to Jim and Susan Loveridge! Y’all were so cute out there on the dance floor.

Music, dancing, food, wine, art, friends, laughter. We who had the opportunity to enjoy such things together on a warm, summer night should be thanking our lucky stars. And for those still looking for such a place of their own, well it’s real easy…

You take 94 West from Milwaukee and get off at the Mooreland Rd. North exit over by Brookfield Square Mall. Hang a right on Bluemound, a left on Elm Grove Rd., and a right on Wall St. Sunset Playhouse will be on your right. Shouldn’t miss it. ;)

“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”


“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”
Alvin Barkley

Opening weekend of Noises Off is officially over and now the worry can set in. Review worry, that is. If you are prepared for an entry devoted entirely to typical actor neuroses, read on. If not, may I recommend this page as a fun alternative? All right– on with the show…

The thing about reviews is that they’re written by one person. You’re getting one person’s opinion and even if it’s an educated opinion from a person who genuinely knows what they’re talking about and who you may’ve agreed with in previous theatre considerations, you can’t ignore the fact that it is still, ultimately and always, One Person’s Opinion of One Performance of the production in question. That said, the only time you really want to dismiss this Singluar Opinion is when it’s bad, or merely mediocre. Figures, right? So there’s:

You thought our production was only “all right”? *feh* Your review is only all right. How d’y’like that? Yeah? Yeah? Yeah, that’s right. Your review is only all right… Yeah.

vs.

You thought our performances were a riot and loved our work? Cleeeeearly you are above average in all respects and your review is Gospel!

And it happens that way every time. Without fail. Do you or don’t you trust the review? It all depends. All depends and never matters.

*hee hee hee*

*hee hee hee*

The other thing you’ve got to sit and chew on for a while ’til the review actually comes out is: What performance did the reviewer see? Was it Friday evening when the laughter flowed freely from a crowd eager to leave the work week behind them? Was it Saturday night when the audience applauded individual bits as well as act breaks? Was it Sunday afternoon when entrances were missed, lines were dropped, props were mishandled and– and so forth?

It’s maddening not knowing. It really is. And only slightly less maddening is the fact that the performance that was taped for the theatre’s records of this particular production was this afternoon’s performance in which everything that could go wrong did. I mean– that’s unfortunate, right?

And then there’s the focus of the review. Will it concentrate on those bits you feel are the show’s strongest selling points? Or will the reviewer become so hung up on a costume choice they didn’t agree with that a pair of socks or a necktie will end up getting more mention in the review than the acting or the directing? Will all but one actor get mentioned, leaving them feeling absurd and forgotten? Will the entire review take no more than a paragraph because the writer was so uninterested in your work that they couldn’t come up with anything more to say?!

Or will the review be a book report? You know the type: 90% synopsis, 5% “what, where, when, how much,” and 5% actual review. Because come on: What the heck is even the point in writing something like that?

Luckily the audience feedback has been truly exciting this weekend so the review that actually matters regardless of all the above conditions- the audience’s review- has been a very happy one to receive. It’d still be a drag to get a mention in the local whatever and have it be poor when I really think there’s some wonderfully funny work going on in this production, but the things audience members are saying so far are just– well gosh. Gosh gosh gosh. I mean it really is just such an uplifting and fulfilling feeling to put in so much hard work, so much time, so much creativity and energy and everything, and have it met with this kind of laughter and positivity. It’s fabulous. Makes you want to not do anything else with your life but this.

Hot Toddy

Two, please...

Except for the fact that “this” happens to be so exceptionally draining that all you want to do after the curtain call is whip off your shoes, strip down to baggy shorts and an enormous, ill-fitting tee, and down as much of a hot toddy as you possibly can between the kitchen and BED.

I don’t know how people can run this show for any longer than the four weekends we’re running it; it’s exhausting. All that up and down on one flight of stairs after another in suits and ties, corsets and heels— Egad! Even just our three remaining weekends have got me wondering how we’ll manage. Especially as roughed up as we are. Never in my life have I worked on a show that’s provided opportunities for quite so many injuries as this one has. I wish I had a picture of my latest addition. It’s rather a beauty, really. A 1″ wide by 3″ high scraped bruise on my right bicep. Watch for it this weekend if you stop out. Made it all by myself with a piece of arm and a bit of door frame.

There’s not a one of us that doesn’t have a scratch or a scrape somewhere, and some of the injuries sustained are definitely more major than others, but the average Wound Roster for each of us includes a body full of oddly shaped bruises of indeterminate origin; bright red scrapes from running aground of backstage corners; scuffs and splinters from brutal railings; and flaps of angry skin hanging precariously from knees, shins, fingers, feet, and elbows as reminders that doors and door frames, windows and window frames, buckets, mops, plates, mallets, and staircases are not items to be trusted nor trifled with. Ever.

It’s nearly midnight and I begin fulfilling my meager addition to the department-wide mandatory overtime at work tomorrow. Best head off to bed and save these worries for daylight. Nighty night, all, and may your neuroses not be as ridiculous as these.

************

ETA: The first review- the only review?- is in, and it’s a good one. Very solid, very positive. Keyed in on a few folks whose work I am so happy to see recognized in print. (Extra big hoorays for my buddy Matthew who is super awesomely funny in this show!! :D)

From “Noises Off Delves Behind the Scenes” from the Waukesha Freeman

Director Mark Salentine bravely took on this challenging play but was greatly aided by a very talented, competent cast, which made the difficult look relatively easy. Matt Patten, the consummate comic actor, led the way with his singular antics as Garry Lejuene. Randall Anderson was quite engaging as the insecure hemophiliac Frederick, and David Kaye as the stagehand who filled in for any missing person was quite funny with his deadpan style. I liked the way Cindy Zauner, always reliable in any role, played the dumb housekeeper Dotty Otley, too.

The other competent actors included Nathan Berish, who played Lloyd, the harried director; Ruth Arnell, always good at the dumb blonde roles; Jenny Kosek, who’s convincing as the overwhelmed stage manager; Belinda Blair, who tries to keep everyone happy and focused, an impossible task; and the well-meaning Robert A. Zimmerman as the unreliable burglar.

Kind of hoping there’s another review in the works so there’s an additional outside written opinion that paints the rest of us as perhaps a bit more than “competent.” Yikes! If anything else does come around I’ll post a link here, but until then… um… Yeah I got nothin’.

************

ETA: Review Numero Dos, From “Noises Off! at the Sunset Playhouse is great summer fluff” from Vital Source Magazine

This exuberant and fast paced farce requires the ablest of actor bodies for as it is intense physical comedy, along with synchronized timing to complete in rapid succession while appearing effortless. Each member of the cast successfully provides this, including the lanky Matthew J. Patten (Garry Lejeune), who falls down a flight of stairs and integrates a most appealing hand dialogue with coordinating dialect into his role. Ruth Arnell (Brooke Ashton) pertly gives her character, both the ‘on’ and ‘off’ stage persona, a delightful pout. The returning Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair) remains a charming addition while Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas) directs this entire on stage house of fun with proper British arrogance. The production indeed takes an entire team effort to perform this complicated play, and does so with a confidence that deserves applause.

Yay! Pretty nice, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. :)

“I got a river of life flowin’ outta me…”


We had our first dress rehearsal for Noises Off tonight, right? And everything’s going pretty great so far, right?

So we’re about 4 minutes into Act III, and I’m supposed to go through a door and catch a prop as it’s thrown in after me. The space I enter after going through this door is only large enough to allow the door into it to open to a 90 degree angle, and then immediately to your left there are two large set braces, directly in front of you there are the bottom four steps of a curving stair case, and to the right is a cubby hole with a four foot high ceiling.

Not exactly the most accommodating spot on set, but at least it’s not 20′ off the ground like other parts of the set so generally I don’t much mind it.

Or at least– I didn’t mind it.

So there I am. I’ve run through this door, bent over in the small space so I could tuck my rear end into the cubby hole, and brought my arms up tightly to my body so I can thrust my hands forward at just the right moment to catch the prop about to be thrown my way. I see the prop, I see it’s about to be thrown, I lift my right hand up and out AND CATCH MY FINGERTIP ON MY RIGHT NOSTRIL WITH SO MUCH SPEED AND FORCE THAT I TEAR OPEN THE INSIDE CAUSING AN IMMEDIATE GUSHING OF BLOOD.

Re-enactment. May not have actually occurred to this degree.

**Artist's rendering. Actual injuries sustained during rehearsal may or may not have been this severe...**

There is a lengthy pause.

“Is everyone all right back there?” questioned the director.

“Oh… f*@#…,” I explained, as I begin catching the blood in my hand.

I leaned forward to keep from getting blood on my costume and squeezed my way past the wooden stage brace, only to find that in the past 7 seconds my hand had literally filled with blood and my nose was still streaming merrily away.

Enter: Sarah Laak Hughes, to the rescue.

Now the funny thing about it being Sarah who came to help out- before anyone else even realized anything was wrong- is that this is exactly the same thing her character does, and for the exact same reason, in this show.

The equally funny thing, though perhaps painfully so in this case, is that my character in the show is probably the most likely to accidentally give herself a bloody nose while “acting.”

It’s about the most unfortunate case of type casting I’ve ever been a part of. May I live it down in peace. *cross cross cross*

So there I am heading for the scene shop sink to let myself bleed out, only to get there and find it filled with painting supplies waiting to be washed. I like Sunset’s Technical Director and have no desire to bleed on his paint trays, so it was fortunate that Sarah arrived at just that moment to hand me an enormous wad of paper towels, which I promptly bled straight through, while she cleaned off my bloody hand like the champ she is.

My God it was disgusting.

Then came wad number two of paper towels, followed by our director, Mark Salentine, to whom I proceeded to explain that I had not actually been hit in the face with the thrown prop, as was the current suspicion on stage, but that I had in fact bloodied my nose my own damned self. I couldn’t tell you which of us was laughing more loudly at this, except that his was probably the clearer laugh as mine was still muffled by a face full of bright red towels.

After being given a kitchen towel filled with ice cubes, onto which I promptly bled a perfect rectangle as I sought to ease the burning sensation, I thought: Yes! At last! I’m ready to go on! But wait– I’m now standing up straight and– what’s this in my throat? Why am I suddenly unable to speak?

Oh of course. My uvula is playing tether ball with a blood clot the size of a jelly bean and I’ve no sink into which to… to… you know…

That poor under-sink trash can. Never saw me coming.

So there you go. An evening of creation, of art, of design, literature, friendship, and self discovery, in which I learned for good and for always that I was not built for street fights, my friends. I wasn’t even built to meet the dominant kickball team by the playground after school. And now here I sit, none too worse for the wear, but infinitely the wiser as I realize the only thing I have to fear is finger itself, and that I truly am my own worst enemy.

“Noises Off” at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove


NOISES OFF opens this Friday, May 29, 2009 at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, WI!

"Noises Off!" Read Thru at Sunset Playhouse

"Noises Off!" Read Thru at Sunset Playhouse

Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, widely regarded as the granddaddy of all farce comedy, follows a troupe of British actors as they put on a touring production of the fictitious sex farce Nothing On. Act I, seen from the front of the stage, features the gang struggling through their final dress rehearsal before opening night as one thing after another goes mildly awry. The true comedy, however, begins in Act II, seen from back stage, when the gloves must come off as the show must go on amidst feuding actors, jealous love triangles, and the agony of being forced to rely on the unreliable. Act III, seen once again from the front of the stage, continues the mayhem and hilarity when all-things-bad become all-things-worse as the production gives Coarse Acting a run for its money.

This has been a delightful show to work on– from the week+ of auditions and callbacks, to the Saturday morning dialect sessions, to the Saturday afternoon pizza bribery, to the all day tech rehearsals. I attribute this in great part not only to the fact that it really is just a fantastically fun and funny script, but also to the tremendous asset this production enjoys in being put together by a group of folks who work so well as a team. A truly enjoyable experience through and through.

An added bonus for me personally is that through this show I got to work with a few folks I haven’t worked with in a while- Mark Salentine (director), Amy Macali (Stage Manager), and Cindy Zauner (Dotty Otley/ Mrs. Clacket)– as well as a few folks I love working with and with whom I’ve shared the stage fairly recently- Jenny Kosek (Poppy Norton-Taylor), Matthew J. Patten (Gary Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain), and Randall T. Anderson (Frederick Fellowes/ Philip Brent). Got to work with some new faces in this one, too, which has been a lot of fun given that they’re such cool folks- Jennifer Allen (Stage Manager), Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair/ Flavia Brent), Bob Zimmerman (Selsdon Mowbray/ Burglar), David Kaye (Tim Allgood), and Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas).

If you’re looking for a fun night out I cannot recommend this show highly enough! It really is a great, laugh-out-loud comedy, and with 19 performances (including Preview) there is sure to be a showing that fits your schedule. Sunset also features great discount options on tickets (details below) making it that much easier to head on over.

Here’s the full scoop, featuring info from the Sunset Playhouse website:

Noises Off SunsetNOISES OFF!
A side-splitting farce by Michael Frayn
May 29-31, June 4-7, 11-14, 18-20, 2009

“Called the funniest farce ever written, Noises Off returned to Broadway in the 2002 season and sent reviewers searching for new accolades. This extremely popular play-within-a- play by Tony Award-winner Frayn has the same act of a fictitious play performed at different times in different theatres, showing the onstage and backstage antics at ever growing levels of madness. “As side-splitting a farce as I have seen. Ever? Ever.” – New York Magazine (Samuel French, Inc.)”

Days and Times:
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturday, May 30 at 8:00pm only
Saturdays at 5:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday, May 31 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, June 7 at 2:00pm
Sunday, June 14 at 2:00pm

There is also a preview performance on Thursday, May 28th at 7:30 pm. Tickets for this performance are $9 (cash only) for General Admission seating and are available one hour before curtain on a first-come basis. This preview performance tends to sell out very quickly so if you plan on attending I would strongly encourage you to arrive early to ensure you’re able to get a seat.

Tickets: $18, $16 for seniors, $10 for students, plus $10 Rush Tickets available one hour prior to each performance. A $2.50 per ticket processing fee applies for tickets ordered online. Tickets are available online until two days before the performance. After that, please call the box office at 262.782.4430.

Hope to see you there!

Want to keep tabs on other great projects Sunset has coming up? You can follow them on FacebookTwitter, Flickr, and blip.tv for details on upcoming mainstage and studio theatre shows, classes, musicals, and more!