Noises Off

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. ;)

Resting Before I Get Tired


I need to ease into this entry, much the way I need to ease into my chair for the next few days, so I’m going to start with the lighter fare…

Part I: Life Outside the Theatre, or: Life’s OUTSIDE the Theatre?!

Half Price Books comes through once again

Stopped by HPB this past Saturday before heading to Sunset for my weekly two-show workout. I’ve got a nice little routine in place for every time I visit. First I hit up the clearance section, then head over to the children’s books, then Plays and Poetry, non-fiction end caps, and a then the CD bargain racks. To each their own, but this system’s the one that keeps me going.

I picked up six neat-o music selections the other day, and because I know you’re just as interested in hearing what they were as I am in hearing how they sound…

  1. Mrs. Fun: “They Are Not A Trio,” feat. kd lang and Milwaukee’s own Flora Coker
    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Summerfest, so I imagine/hope Mrs. Fun is still part of the lineup there. Acid jazz isn’t generally my genre of choice, but I have to say I do always enjoy watching and listening to these women perform. And they draw the best audiences! I see from their website they were involved somehow in Phranc‘s “I Enjoy Being a Girl” (’89) but does anyone know in what capacity they worked together? Phranc. Can you imagine? Gosh– how fun! How– how Mrs. Fun… She’s a life lover too, you know.
  2. Loreena McKennitt: “Live in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts” (05/94)
    Every time I listen to McKennitt I think of this family I babysat for when I was in high school as every time I went over I’d pop in the mom’s “Book of Secrets” cd. The oldest boy was friends with my brother and he and his siblings were all geniuses, the children of creative genius parents. The mother covered about 40% of their home’s floor space in extravagantly luscious trompe l’oeil paintings that made you want to stick to the carpet to ensure her work would last longer. That family made me happy, just knowing people like them were around.
  3. Jem: “Finally Woken”
    I figure I’ve got to see what she’s all about, and I assume a better way to start is with the older stuff before fame entered the picture in quite such a potentially influential way.
  4. k.d. lang and the reclines: “Angel With A Lariat”
    Don’t know a darn thing about this one, just know I enjoyed “All You Can Eat” an awful lot and this disc was only a buck.
  5. Luscious Jackson: “Natural Ingredients”
    With cover art that screams1994!” I can only imagine this album will chuck (Taylor) me back into a desire to pair a small print floral dress with Docs and a cardigan. That was such a comfier time. Can we go back to that? Please?
  6. Nelly Furtado: “Whoa, Nelly!”
    This is an absolutely fantastic and fun album. Every track is at the very least enjoyable, and at the most downright super great. Too bad she got all trashy when the money started rolling in. *shrugs* At least we’ll always have “Whoa, Nelly!”

I also picked up a book of Spanish literature of the 1700s – 1900s. It’s great because the intros and biographies are in English, but the texts are in their original Spanish, and I’ve been looking (casually) for something like this for a while now. So yay for that.

*nom nom nom*

Okay– but have you tried the California Topper? OMG, fellows. Oh. Em. Gee.

Sun and Stars

I’m re-reading the first four A Song of Ice and Fire books in preparation for the eventual release of A Dance with Dragons. (No rush, George. Didn’t mean anything pressing by “eventual.” You take your time. Do it right. Release it around my birthday in March and I totally owe you a Coke.) It’s amazing to catch all these tiny details, these character subtleties, this second time around. I love- or hate- every character even more upon re-reading their stories, and am even more excited than I was before about book 5 coming out. If you are even remotely a sci-fi fan, a fantasy fan, a historical fiction fan, a regular fiction fan, or able to string letters together to form words: Read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Amazing books. You will not be disappointed.

Matthew, James, and Joel: You have to live the life of a ASoIaF character for a year. Who do you choose and why?

Part II: The Remaining 94% of Last Weekend

JanethePhoolePhoolish Liaisons

Jane the Phoole came to the show on Friday night and let me tell you: I was ecstatic. I heard from a fellow actor that she was in the audience that night and I was instantly aflutter with nerves and excitement and– well and worry! You’ve got to be at the top of your game when Milwaukee’s official jester is present!

I look forward to seeing her every year at the Bristol Ren Faire, so it was a real treat to see her at Sunset– sans the usual regalia, no less. She said she enjoyed the show, which is either a wonderful review for us, or a moment of great acting from a great actress, because she was entirely believable when she said it. So good for us or kudos to her. Either way somebody still wins.

Bore me once, shame on you. Bore me twice…

“It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get in.” Charles Dickens in “Nicholas Nickelby”

An interesting quote, that, given the fact that the four people in Sunday’s 2pm front row LEFT after the first intermission. I guess when people realize they can get into a theatre they may be faced with the prospect that they have no desire to remain there. Actually, I had no desire for three of those four to remain either so perhaps it’s just as well.

First there was an older couple on the end of the row, featuring a grumpy looking woman with an expression that’d curdle gasoline, and a man who kept sprawling out to find the best position in which to GO TO SLEEP during the performance. If you don’t like comedies. folks, don’t waste your time or money on attending them. No one will mind if you’re not there. In fact, most would probably prefer it that way, yourselves included.

Then there was a couple in their early 20s in the middle of the row. The girl was smiling and laughing throughout the first act, but her boyfriend could barely bring himself to remove his chin from his hand as boredom with our antics ate away at his soul. I know none of you ladies would ever leave something you’d already paid for and were enjoying just because your boyfriend was a humorless Philistine, but this poor young woman did exactly that. Take care, sister. This promises to be one pointless sacrifice among many, I fear…

“Ruth Arnell sat on a wall…”

Because people leaving at intermission should not be an event in itself but rather a hirbinger of greater ills to come, I proceed with caution as I dive into the rest of Saturday’s rather distressing 5pm show.

So first the light board reboots itself at the top of Act II just as the intermission music fades and the curtain opens. No lights, no sound, no action. Just… darkness. Darkness and actors stranded on stage in that darkness with no clue what’s going on, forced to stay in character and improvise as nothing continues to happen. That, ladies and gentlemen is what we call the “joy of live theatre.” It is also what we call “a real drag.” No matter– these things happen. The show must go on! And eventually– it did.

And then Act III hit.

All in all it was fine, and to tell you the truth I don’t think a darn thing happened for most of the act that anyone not involved in the show would’ve noticed. A key prop malfunctioned, cutting short a rather involved and quite comical bit, but again: who’d know?

Things are moving along just fine from then on until about 5 minutes before the end of the show when I’m on the upper mezzanine of the set and I accidentally catch my earring on my finger and hurl it down onto the stage floor below. An annoying, and clearly unintentional, attention grabber from the action in front of me, but again: these things happen.

fallingImmediately thereafter I’m supposed to run down a flight of stairs in 3 1/2″ heels to talk to another character. This is something I’ve been doing for a month down these same stairs, with this same actor, in these same shoes. But for some reason… For some reason this one time my right foot- my dominant foot for crying out loud!- slips in my shoe and I crash onto the stairs, landing hard on a rear end not nearly as padded as I’d thought, before sliding down four stairs to the sound of gasps from the little old ladies in the audience.

And let me tell ya, folks: That fall hurt more than my pride. I finished the scene and then burst into tears as soon as the set door closed behind me. Ain’t no pain like a pain in the ass. Luckily Jenny was there to literally *run* to me, throw her arms around my shoulders, and offer the kind of sweet, tender encouragement that only the awesomest among us can offer. She’s a gem, that Jenny Ko. A diamond in the rough.

The tears eventually subsided, the 8pm show came and went (awesomely, I might add), and much to my delight there doesn’t appear to be any swelling. (Leave it alone…) Still quite a lot of pain, though, as it’s tough for something to heal when you keep sitting on it. Work especially is a real bear as every time I go to get up from my desk I end up spending about a minute wincing and rising at odd angles a few degrees at a time, hoping that either no one is noticing or that they’re all doing me the embarrassed courtesy of pretending not to see. I’ll take what I can get.

Vlog Update

Finally! Geez louise. You know– I’d intended to make this video a good month ago but just never got around to it. I wanted to make a couple, make them kind of informative, include pictures from rehearsals, get footage of people involved with the show talking about why in the world they’d voluntarily get involved with something like this. Yeah. You see how that didn’t happen?

Video homework: What play should I get people together to read this summer?

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” Edgar Bergen

“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. :)

Barack Him Right: A Dream


Birds singing in the Joshua trees/ Dream a little dream of me…

Had a visit from the Weird-Dreams-About-the-President Fairy last night, and unless I’m forgetting some random presidential visit in a previous snooze, this may very well have been my first of such visits.

In my dream there were all these reporters giving Barack Obama a hard time for not being in touch enough with his African roots. I remember being a little annoyed at what they were saying because– well: who really cares? It’s the fact that an American president is an American that’s supposed to be the preliminary- and final- deal clincher, right? But there they all are pushing and pushing and egging the guy on, saying he couldn’t survive in the African wilderness and daring him to try. As though it mattered, folks. As though it mattered.

Barack Obama SwimmingFinally, when he’s just had it with this crowd of noise and know-it-alls, he tells everyone he’s going to spend a week living out in the bush with a tribe of hunter gatherers in Africa. Just to prove them wrong. Just to get these people off his back. Just to make this dream weirder.

The crowd is glibly pleased.

Fast forward to a few months later when the crowd is sending back footage from the bush of a loin-clothed Barack flipping off the cameras as he dives into a rushing river accompanied by a dozen or so other men from this tribe he’s joined as they head off to hunt away from the bleating of the confused “journalists.”

This is the last we ever see or hear from the man again.

So I guess the moral of the story is… Don’t push people towards things you’re not willing to lose them to? Man cannot resist the call of the wild? Mother nature trumps a life in politics? Loin cloths are comfier for day wear than suits?

Noises Off Preview

Preview for Noises Off went well last night. I have to say I was genuinely surprised at the low turn out. Previews tend to sell fairly well at Sunset, particularly for more well known shows. And what with tickets being half price and the large number of people everyone in the cast said they’d been told would be there last night– well yeah. Genuinely surprised.

Nice, though, to have an evening to sort of ease into it all. It’s an exhausting show! We’ll see how it all differs this evening given that it’s Opening Night and it’s a Friday, and Friday houses are consistently the best houses. Perhaps on account of everyone being so happy to be done with work for the week that they sit there actively wanting to enjoy themselves?

I think they’ll enjoy themselves. I really do. This one’s a funny one, folks. C’mon out– enjoy yourselves. :)

“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!

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