In 2006 I received a phone call from the York Symphony Orchestra. That, our first year, we interpreted eleven pieces of music including Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, E.T., Superman, and the overture from William Tell. Since that time we have done Harry Potter, animals and famous stories galore, and last years multi ring Circus! Though it takes very little time to tell you about all these wonderful opportunities … putting them together is quit a process indeed.
First a cast is needed. I usually pull folks from those that indicate interest in the doing Symphony show on the most resent main stage audition forms. The largest group I can recall taking was 25 cast members always between the ages of 7 and 50 something. Then comes A LOT of listening to the music to first ‘See’ a story and then do the blocking. Rehearsals are always interesting. Trying to give the cast what I see in my head without the benefit of them having words to say is always daunting. While all of this is going on costumes, props and sometimes set pieces are simultaneously being dealt with. Costumes are always the largest need. In 2006, we gathered, fitted and transported 61 costumes for those first performances. We also needed a climbable tree, a fence and a pond for Peter and the Wolf’s set. There were also some fascinating props such as: giant cat toys for children size cats, 15 magic wands for wizard training at Hogwarts, Safari gear, bows and arrows and an apple that could be shot off a head without being touched. And of course all of it must be moved from DreamWrights to the Strand and back again. It’s a great deal, like running a marathon or cooking a meal. The preparation is lengthy, and then it’s over or eaten comparatively quickly.
If this sound like a lot of work that’s only because it is! So why did I say, “Yes” for the past Nine years? “Oh, my, there are so many reasons. It’s a wonderful opportunity for both the actors and the audience to share the visualization of a piece of music. The opportunity for the cast to perform with the YSO, and at the Strand is a forever memory. Finally, the challenge of putting it all together helps keeps me young!”
This year’s Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is the most difficult piece I have ever encountered. It is so fast and has such extreme emotional highs and lows. Though it is true that there are as many stories possible for a piece of music as there are listeners, I struggled with this one. I saw color first, and had an idea that was fun, but physically impossible for humans to do at tempo Beethoven has provided. As I carried the music and ideas around in my head, eventually the story you can see Saturday morning May 2nd, at 10:00 AM took shape. Some early rehearsal photos, that follow, may give you a clue.
No, I’m not going to tell you the story. It has to be seen, and heard, to be best appreciated. You can get tickets at the Strand or online. We hope to see you there!
No, my fingers are not stuttering. At DreamWrights we have two opening nights for our four double cast shows. So all the excitement, nervousness, high energy, hugs and flowers are experienced two nights in a row!
How do subsequent performances differ? Well, all of the above are present, but the degree of intensity is different. For a casts’ first performance the energy level cannot only be felt but actually seen! I always say, “If only the energy from these casts and crews could be captured we would be able to run the theatre for a month without electricity.”
Another favorite of mine is seeing someone receiving flowers for the first time. The joy felt by all ages and genders at that moment is … just so special. We seldom think about it, but men don’t often get flowers … they are the givers right? However we all like pretty things, and everyone likes to be congratulated, in this special way, for a job well done.
After weeks of rehearsal, having your first audience is almost magical. All of the previous work now has a purpose … to share the story and characters with other people, aka the audience. And in turn, the audience teaches sometimes more then the director ever can. When there is laughter and/ or applause it’s like a light bulb goes off.
Actors often don’t understand something is funny until the audience tells them by laughing. And applause is, like flowers, a way to tell the cast and crew that they are doing a good job. The director, is much like a parent, you can tell your child something over and over again … but if someone else tells them the same thing then it is validated. To that I say, “Whatever works.!”
Enough from me … here are some thoughts on opening nights from both casts plus:
My favorite part of opening night is always my first scene, because its fun to think you can see lots of people then you go on and you see… black!!! The stage lights are so bright you can’t see the audience at all. Julia Ferrell, 10
Opening night we had an almost full audience, and I enjoyed working in the new preshow play area fishing pond before the show! Jacob Schlenker, 15
There is a new wonderful opportunity for DreamWrights friends to prepare the minds for seeing Tom Sawyer. Now, before seeing the show, there is an interactive area with games and activities for children of all ages. The fun games include fishing, treasure hunting, and there is even a place where they can dig for worms! There are also beautiful fish that can be colored after they are “caught”. I love this new, creative and engaging way to include everyone! Carol Alvarnaz, Adult Audience Member
I loved it so much. I wish that opening night was every night. Addie Steel, 10
Opening night was nerve-wracking but exciting. I loved dancing in my costumes with the twirly skirts. Michaela Wagner, 16
Everyone who has done a DreamWrights show before knows about the pre-show circle! Tonight we welcomed some new friends to this fun tradition – And then we were off! All the work, all the time, all the effort – it paid off tonight and I was so proud to be a part of it. Thanks to everyone who made tonight’s show a success! Bill Steel, adult
The time has arrived! It is Tech for both casts this weekend. What that means is it’s time to add … costumes, props, lights, sound, projections and the actors can no longer call line!!
For some it will be like starting all over again. There is a huge difference, for example, between someone saying blackout, which is when you enter, and you walking to your place versus there being a blackout and you trying to get where you need to be.
Costumes themselves offer a whole new world. Imagine the total freedom of pants and knitted fabric sans buttons, zippers or ties being replaced by slips (what are they?), tights and dresses that can’t just be pulled on over your head. In addition you need to have your hair look like the period, and be out of your face! Also your shoes/boots have no velcro! And if all of this isn’t stress enough … you have to learn how to Hang Up your costume! You adults may be laughing, but many young actors find a lot if not all of this totally foreign. So you see how much live theatre can teach?
It’s a 13 hour day for the Director and some staff members. And an 8 1/2 hour day for cast and crew. The general agenda for the day is: Arrive 1:00 PM and enter through the stage door, check your props, go up to the greenroom and sign in and join a cleaning crew, learn about your costumes and but on your first one, go to theatre and learn the curtain call. All of these are first time events. Then you finally begin running Act One! Next comes everyones favorite part of the day … we get to eat together, after we hang our costumes and get into our own clothes. Following the meal the crews setup for act two, actors dress and we run the second act complete with the curtain call. The final thing to do is go home and sleep!
A few of us then do this all over again the next day! Yes it’s a lot of work, but it can be fun too and it’s mandatory. Without Tech the show could never go on. We sometimes think how pretty the set, lights, or costumes are, or how did they make that sound, or do that illusion, but generally we have no idea about all the thought, time and work that goes into making any of it happen. The truth is that all the weeks the actors are rehearsing the designers, sewers, builders, painters and various technicians are also hard at work creating the ‘world’ of the play.
Tech rehearsal introduces the actor to their world, and allows them to experience a whole new way of life. Not to mention what it is really like backstage! The following are some thoughts from cast W and pictures of Cast W & O & Staff:
“Tech is always our longest rehearsal and a very busy day! But it’s also one of my favorite days during each show because we finally get to see everything really come together for the first time! It’s so much fun!” Kierstin Foltz, 19
“I always love seeing the sets under stage lights for the first time. The theatre becomes a magical place that is full of fascinating characters, and fabulous adventures.” Michael Ney, 40ish
“It’s dark and different. It’s very exciting and fun.” Stella Wolf, 9
“I forgot my ABC’s! I’ve never been in a show before so I found out that tech is fun.” Audrey Johnson, 12
“Tech is a full day of fun, fashion, friends and fantastic characters.” Scott Seitz, 55
“I thought my costumes were absolutely beautiful. The costume people did an amazing job.” Annabel Alford, 11
Tech is an amazing experience because it’s fun to see the skeleton of a performance. It’s also fun to see our silly mistakes and instead of laughing at that person, your laugh withthem. Lydia Alvarnaz, 9
With only five rehearsals left per cast the last thing we needed was a lost rehearsal! However, on Wednesday, April 1st, at a few minutes past our start time of 6:00 pm the lights went OUT! No it wasn’t an April Fools prank … unfortunately. DreamWrights is a huge building and our emergency lights came on immediately giving off enough light to keep us from bumping into each other. Could we rehearse in our Black Box (aptly named) theatre? There would be no way. We do the obvious, and pick up the phone to call Met Ed. Right … the phones are all hooked up to electric. Hurray for cell phones. We were not only using them for flash lights, but also as telephones! We were informed that we were the first ones to report the outage, and they would send someone out to investigate. The earliest we could anticipate them solving whatever the problem might be was 8:30 PM. Our rehearsals run until 9:00 pm. What to do now? It was still light outside. Everyone was asked to stay for awhile to see the the electric would come on again. It is a magical thing, right? We all went outside to the parking lot. To assure that those who use our lot as a street could not do so, two cars were moved to block access to our new dance rehearsal space. Singing and dancing commenced in this improvised open air space. There was only one problem. It was cold, and it would be dark soon. So, close to 7:00 we commenced the second round of cell phone usage. We were able to contact drivers for everyone, and alert those signed up for costume fittings not to come. All this was accomplished and the building vacated by 7:20. Just when you stop worrying about snow cancellations … something you never thought you would need to be concerned about happens. I suppose this only helped teach yet another skill necessary for live theatre … improvisation! Yes, we did take some improv rehearsals photos. We will post them as they are received.