Category Archives: Bella’s Dream

State of the company…address(?)

So, I know the State of the Union Address usually comes in the beginning of the year, but I figured, (so as not to detract from the president’s speech), I’d jump in now and give everyone the state of things on our little island.

Last week we had our (now annual) ensemble meeting/holiday get together at GTTP. Wine was imbibed, snacks were eaten, and great philosophical discussions about the nature of theater were held (actually we just talked about what the year had brought and what the new year would bring). Regardless, it’s been an exciting and active 2013 for us. Here, are a couple of accomplishments (by the numbers).

21 – number of active ensemble members currently in the company

3 – number of shows GTTP produced in 2013 (Bella’s Dream, The Sandman’s Coming, and Cat Lady Without a Cat)

18 – number of actors employed in our shows during the year

23 – number of crew members employed in our shows during the year

3 – number of workshops held (directing, improv, audition)

1 – number of managing directors GTTP found to help run the company (yay, Molly!)

So that’s what the past year has held for GTTP. Now it’s time to sit down and ask, “where are we going” (or, as a favorite, canceled-too-soon, TV show would say quo vadamus – if you know the show, mention it in the comments and you’ll get a shout out on Facebook). So, where are we going? I’m glad you asked:

Cabaret – because of holiday travel plans, we’ve decided to move our cabaret from December 20th to a January or February weekend. Stay tuned for updates about our cure for the winter blues, our storytelling cabaret - GTTP Talks…Sex.

Within Arm’s Reach – everything is moving forward with our theatrical adaptation of Within Arm’s Reach, the novel by Ann Napolitano. We’re hoping to announce performance dates and space very soon. We’re currently in the process of holding crew interviews and Molly and I are deep into script revisions. Most likely we’ll be holding auditions in late January and will start rehearsals in early February. It is so exciting to see the play starting to develop…at least on the page, and we’re thrilled to soon be all-in on the production. More (many more) updates to come.

Social Media updates – some of you may have noticed we’ve started a regular Monday theater quote posting on Facebook, we’re getting better about weekly blog posts and we’re starting to run weekly Friday GTTP tweets. That’s right, my peeps, we are all over the interwebs. We’re also hoping to bring back the Tahiti Dispatches (our home grown, locally sourced, podcast), so like us on Facebook, subscribe to our blogfollow us on twitter, and keep a eye out for podcast updates.

Updated website – and, last but not least, speaking of our internet presence, in the next few weeks check back at the website for long awaited updates to the “About Us” and “Past Productions” pages. Molly and I are hunkering down next week to get the website all shiny and new for 2014!

Thanks, all! Stay warm out there.

-Jess

Five years is wood, right?

That’s right folks! As you may have seen in our newsletter, GTTP is FIVE YEARS OLD this month!!!!!

And, in celebration of this milestone, we’ll be having a whole bunch of events throughout the season, including shows (of course) – speaking of which, have you bought your tickets for The Sandman’s Coming? (I may have mentioned – they’re on sale now) – workshops (we’re planning two workshops – improv and audition skills – for October and several throughout the rest of the season – stay tuned for details), cabarets – we’re ironing out the details of a storytelling cabaret that will be happening during the run of The Sandman’s Coming (tickets on sale now) that we hope you will join us for – seminars (we’re currently putting together a seminar for early career directors – details to follow) and parties - at the very least we’re planning an anniversary celebration that should coincide nicely with the winter holidays – so we hope you will stay tuned…but, that is actually not what this post is about. This post is brought to you by the number 5 because this post is about our 5 year anniversary or our 5th birthday or however you want to look at it, this post about us having made it, in an over-satureated, theater town, to our 5th season!!! A milestone we would not have seen if it weren’t for all of you out there!!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your continued support. And, since this post is about a specific number, I thought I’d give it to you by the numbers – 10 to be exact – so here you go…

1 – as in – ONE DREAM that refused (and continues to refuse) to die. For me the dream of directing was so powerful that it started us all on this journey. It’s been a weird and wonderful trip so far – a dream trip, one might say, and I hope we’re just at the beginning…

2 – as in – the number of novels GTTP has adapted into stage productions (Dreamers of the Day, and Jane Austen’s Persuasion) – see our Past Productions page and previous blog posts for details on these amazing and exhilerating shows.

3 – as in – the third novel GTTP will adapt for the stage after we premiere our adaptation of Ann Napolitano’s Within Arm’s Reach, in late winter/early spring of 2014. I know, I know you’ve been hearing about this for over a year but it is now OFFICIALLY on the calendar, people! It is on the calendar and the script is halfway completed. We’re currently deciding on a performance venue and we are aiming for a late February/early March production run. Stay tuned for details.

4 – as in – the number of times GTTP has performed at The Secret Theatre. One of our all time favorite performance spaces, The Secret Theatre is consistently bringing new and innovative productions to their little corner of Long Island City – not so secret anymore. We hope to be back at our unofficial home in the spring, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for quality indy professional theater in Queens, check them out and take in a show.

5 – as in – we’re five years old, y’all!!!! Haven’t you been reading this post?

6 – as in – the number of theater women (who haven’t worked directly with GTTP and aren’t Tahitians per se but that) I have connected with thanks to/because of my work with GTTP. Connections I would not have made if GTTP didn’t exist – women I can’t imagine not having in my life. They include – Jane Dubin, producer - ANN, Peter and the Starcatcher and unFRAMED; Patricia Klausner, producer – Pippin; Caroline Rothstein, writer, performer and producer, http://bodyempowerment.tumblr.com/Bailie Slevin, a former theater professional who is now on a mission to bring fiscal health and education to the entertainment community – a mission she pursues through her company Entertaining FinanceMelanie Jones, writer, performer, dancer and producer – Endureand; last but not least Jake Lipman, actor, director, producer and founder of Tongue in Cheek Theater who will be doing a performance of How I Learned to Drive at the other Shetler Studios Theater during our run of The Sandman’s Coming. These women have been incredible – helpful, motivating, supportive, and generally wonderful people I’ve been honored to share the female theater community with. I hope that they are only the beginning of this circle of incredible theater women that GTTP has entered into.

7 – as in – the number of different aviatrices (the aviatrix is what we call our logo), our incomparable graphic designer, Christine Diaz, has designed to individually accompany each production (we don’t have one for Dreamers of the Day or the first In the Ebb  as we sadly hadn’t yet discovered the awesomeness that is Christine at the time we were doing those shows). When she came on board, she branded GTTP and continues to design all of our beautiful production art. To see all of the aviatrices, check out our About Us page.

8 – as in – the number of productions presented by GTTP since we opened our doors (curtains) - In the Ebb, by Camilla Ammirati, Dreamers of the Day, adapted from the novel by Mary Doria Russell, Skin Flesh Bone, by Camilla Ammirati, Full Disclosure, by Ruth McKee, Cat Lady without a Cat, by Carrie Keskinen, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, adapted for the stage by Laura Bultman, In the Ebb (Redux), by Camilla Ammirati and Bella’s Dream by Dana Boll. More details on each (except for Bella’s Dream because I haven’t had a chance to upload the pictures but will hopefully do it soon) can be found on our Past Productions page.

9 – as in – the number of productions we will have under our belts when The Sandman’s Coming opens on October 24th. Did I mention? Tickets are on sale now.

Which brings me to: 

10 – as in – years – our next big milestone – that, with your help, we’ll reach in another five.

Thanks for getting us here! We hope you’ll continue to join us on this extraordinary, exciting, incredible journey!

See you at the thater!!!!

Welcome, Molly Ballerstein!!!!!!

SO! It has been an inSANE summer. I cannot believe that it is mid-September and that we are already moving into the cooler months of the year…I know, I know, this is what EVERYONE says as the fall begins, but really? Where did the last 6 months go?!?! For people who read this blog religiously (Hi, Mom!) you know that Bella’s Dream took up a fair portion of GTTP’s time from February to July but, I guess that doesn’t really explain where we’ve been for July and August and the first half of September. And, you’re right, you deserve to know. The one thing I will say is that, though I haven’t been particularly on top of blogging and website updates and keeping you all up to speed, that does NOT mean that I have been idly twiddling my thumbs and eating bon bons.

What I have been doing instead is strategizing and re-organizing the very existence of Going to Tahiti Productions – I know, you minds are totally blown, right? You were all – “hmph, Jessica’s just been sitting on the couch all summer eating bon bons” but now you know the truth – and the truth is, GTTP has some news, Peeps! We got us some genuine bona fide news! And that news has a name – Molly Ballerstein.

A little history – when I started GTTP, I always intended for it to be an ensemble and I always wanted a partner to help me run the company. I mean, although I’m capable of doing it on my own, it’s really more fun to have a like-minded buddy to bounce ideas off of and help run the show and…the shows… So, for years, I’ve been asearching high and low for that like-minded buddy but it wasn’t until I found multi-hyphenate Molly, that I began to really see how a partnership would work. So I asked if she’d like to take an extened trip to Tahiti, and lo and behold, she said yes!

So now, finally, I’m officially announcing that Molly Ballerstein – Director, Writer, Stage Manager, Lighting Designer, Costume Designer, and all around fantastic human being has agreed to join GTTP as Co-Managing Director and Co-Executive Producer with yours truly. As you know from previous blog posts, Molly first landed on our island when she agreed to stage manage Bella’s Dream. Although I initially had some hesitation in bringing a fellow director on as stage manager (“what if she decided she wanted to direct instead of stage manage and started challenging everything I was doing?”, “what if she saw things differently than I did and tried for some sort of power play?”, or even “what if she’s not all around awesome?”), those fears were quickly dispatched about 30 seconds after I met her and realised that she might be that “like-minded buddy” of which I spoke earlier. After a particularly challenging tech week, (which found Molly and me pulling an all-nighter in the theater), my realization that she IS all around awesome was permanently cemented. It also turns out that Molly has a very similar directing style to me and we just generally hit it off really well…so well, in fact, that I couldn’t NOT ask her if she wanted to help me run GTTP. I get a partner, she gets a company, and our audience gets shows from two directors instead of just one. How awesome is that? Talk about a win-win-win.

And so, as you may have seen from our home page, we’re jumping into our 2013-14 season with The Sandman’s Coming. A show conceived and directed by Molly. The Sandman’s Coming marks a bit of a change for GTTP – a dance/theater piece that explores issues of identity and addiction – you’re about to see a whole new voice and vision from GTTP because it’s a whole new director. Don’t get me wrong, this is still GTTP so you’re still going to get innovative female-driven work, but make no mistake, GTTP’s got some fresh new blood. And I don’t know if you’ve heard but fresh new blood ain’t just good for vampires – it’s good for audiences too. There will be lots more on the production itself in the days and weeks to come, including a few blog posts directly from Molly as we move into rehearsals; but, in the meantime, mark your calendars - The Sandman’s Coming opens October 24th and runs through November 3rd at Shetler Studios in Manhattan. Tickets will go on sale next week.

So, please join me in welcoming Molly into the GTTP world!!!

Check back next week for a blog post from Molly herself…

Bella’s Dream is done for now…what comes next?

Ah, my dear gentle readers,

Everything I know about fundraising and marketing and general business practices says, “never start with an apology” but alas, I owe you all an apology. Throughout this whole production, I was really good about posting weekly on updates about the show and then just as the show opened, the time when you most want updates on the inner workings of a theater production, when all the juicy stuff comes out, I left you all in the lurch and the desired update was nowhere to be found…and continued to be lost in the ether – indefinitely. I heartily apologize for having abandoned you all…(and because my comments thing doesn’t work and I have no idea if anyone other than my mom reads this blog, I, when I say “you all”, of course mean, mom). All I can say as justification is – it’s been a crazy summer…

So, as I’m sure you know from Facebook – what’s that you say? You haven’t liked Going to Tahiti Productions yet? Well, let’s just remedy that right now. Click here to like us on FB and get all the up to the minute details…but I digress.

The run of Bella’s Dream was extraordinary. We started slow but built, over the two weeks, to a few great reviews and a final SOLD OUT performance. That’s right, a SOLD OUT performance! It was a fantatstic end to an intense show. So, what’s next you ask? Ah, a very good question. As far as what’s next for Bella’s Dream – the answer is, I honestly don’t know. I know that Dana and I both have no plans to abandon Bella and feel that there is much more life left in this little (or, should I say, not so little – it is a 14 member cast) show and we are exploring more options…that being said, I don’t think either of us anticipate any of those options happening before 2014 – but, who knows? The life of the theater is unpredictable to say the least so we shall just have to see. As far as GTTP’s production of Bella’s Dream is concerned, keep an eye out on the website for production photos which will hopefully be on our past productions page in the next few weeks.

Four weeks down…and ONLY ONE to go!!!!!

…and so it begins…

When I was little and still thinking I would ultimately have to have real babies (as opposed to the theater babies that my shows always are) I remember asking my mom what pregnancy was like and she answered “long”. I said, “but it’s only 9 months, right?” (Seriously, my 7 year old brain couldn’t really process 9 months, I mean to me – I thought years were long, months were short). And my mom said, “nope, first of all, technically pregnancy is 10 months, not 9, AND it feels like 9 months and a year! That last month goes on forever!” Of course then she said, “and yet, there’s still never enough time.” Again something my 7 year old brain couldn’t process (too long but also not enough time) so off I went to make my Barbie dolls re-enact scenes from Sesame Street. Ok, ok, I know, you’re all thinking why is she telling us this story? I thought this was a theater blog. I’m getting there, hang with me.  Whenever I go into a tech week I always always think of my mom saying “9 months and a year…and…never enough time.” As an adult, of course, I totally understand how something can be both things-too long and too short-and every time I do a show, as the first performance approaches, I feel that pressure – too long/too short – building in my entire system. Now, at last, I get to the point. Tech week is about to begin – my own final month/year of pregnancy with this particular show-baby.

So, for everyone keeping track, here’s a quick recap of this past week. The week began with the last of the scene work. It’s always amazing to me how the closer you get to the end of the rehearsal process, the more you find in the work. All of the actors start to come off book and as scripts leave hands and actors are free to really connect and communicate on stage, the discoveries start to flow. The moments come together and the show really starts to take shape. We spent the first half of this week finishing scene work. On Thursday I also got the chance to work individually with the actors who have monologues during the show-a chance to really delve and play with those moments. On Friday we did a line-through with the actors (basically everyone sits in a rehearsal room, and runs the show for lines. The stage manager, in our case, the luminous Molly Ballerstein, is on book and at the ready when an actor calls “line” to feed them their text and we cruise through the show). In my experience a line-through right before tech can be extremely helpful for getting everyone ready for the runs that are about to begin…and then, and then, and gentlemen and then…(sorry, a little PIPPIN moment there. I promise, that review is coming soon. ANYWHO I digress (big surprise, I know)). And then! This past weekend we jumped in to run-throughs. Finally we got a chance to see if our running time is anywhere close to the run time we quoted on all of our promotional materials (turns out it is) and we got to see a glimmer of what the show will be.

It’s also during this last week before tech when the slow hand off of the play begins. Although, as a director, I am of course needed through opening night, this subtle shift in control and responsibility starts in that last week before tech where, with each passing rehearsal the show becomes less and less mine and more and more the actors’ and Stage Manager’s production. As producer and director I’m always still up to my ears in the production until the end – it is not a rare occurence that I’m at every single performance, but officially, I start handing my baby over to others to let it find its legs. It’s always an exciting time in the life of a show (and also a teensy bit sad).

So, now, we head into tech week and I get back to that pregnancy story-too long and yet too short. So, for those of you not particularly familiar with theater…how to describe tech week? Organized chaos? The definition of chaos theory? Chaotic? (Are you sensing a theme?) I can’t speak to what it is like on Broadway, or even Off-Broadway (though I suspect, that though there’s more money in those worlds, it’s not that different from the off-off-Broadway environment) in low-budget, independent theater it’s like this: You remember finals week from school? The lack of sleep, the intense studying, the feeling like at any moment some little thing will go wrong and you’ll ruin your entire future in one fell swoop? Remember the fear but also the exhilaration that a screw up, as bad as it would be, would launch your life in a totally new and unexpected direction? Remember the stress building up so much that sometimes you needed a primal scream or two to get you through the day? That’s amateur hour compared to tech week. Pfft. Child’s play. And the director/producer keeps all the plates spinning; makes sure all the decisions get made – God I love this job.

My tech week will (most likely) look like this:

It will begin with load-in. VERY early in the morning, I’ll make my way to the space and open up the theater and get my first good look since we booked it. I’ll realize exactly how big a playing area it is and start to envision what the final

The hat in the foreground as the owner of the hat (Molly) hangs lights in the background (on the ladder – I guess less backgound than mid-ground).

product will actually look like. If possible, I’ll sit for a minute, on the stage, by myself, before anyone else arrives, and just soak in the empty-theater-ness of the place – that feeling of potential magic that an empty theater practically oozes. Then, I’ll meet up with the tech director and start unloading the set from the truck. Soon after that, or during that, some helpers will arrive, as will the order from the lighting rental house. We’ll hang lights, and put set together and throughout the day we’ll prep the dressing room, and clean the space. The costume designer will drop off costumes and the projections designer will start testing images in the space. We’ll have some sound tests of the speakers and slowly but surely, an empty open space will turn into the world of Bella’s Dream. And then we’ll do it all again (well not the unloading the set part, just the turning the empty space into Bella’s Dream part) the next day. Tuesday, Molly and I will test out every set piece and walk the pathways of the show for safety – as a director, I’ve always said, I won’t ask any actor to do something I wouldn’t feel 100% safe doing myself and as a stage manager, Molly would say the same so only after we test everything and know it’s safe will we hand set pieces off to actors. We’ll also glow tape the crap out of everything so that the backstage looks like the game grid from TRON. Then, Tuesday night, the actors will arrive and we’ll have our first walk through of the show in the actual space. Wednesday will be a long tech day, doing recordings and filmings for elements that are featured within the show, costume fittings, and general tech stuff before we start to really look at the lights and hear the sounds and see the projections, projected larger than life on the screen. Thursday is our cue to cue. For those not familiar with a cue to cue, it is exactly that, it is the whole show but just going from technical cue to technical cue. It is an absolute necessity but usually a hard and tiring day for all. Friday will be run throughs, Saturday will be run throughs and dress rehearsal and then Sunday – we’re off to the races with our preview!

…and in the end, though everything will somehow get done, none of it will happen exactly the way I’ve planned or expected – it’s the nature of the beast – and I’ll have to shift plans on the fly…but, either way, Sunday night, we will have a show…speaking of which, have you bought tickets yet? Preview tickets are only $12! All other tickets $18. Be sure to pick up your tickets ASAP – only 15 performances.

So, yeah, that’s tech week. I’ll do another blog post as soon as I can to let you all know how it went but the best way to know for certain is to come see the show. See you at the theater!

 

Three weeks down and (Holy Good Lord) two to go…

That’s right folks – we are only two weeks from opening (two weeks and 4 hours to be exact). Actually, technically, our first performance is our preview on June 16th (special discounted tickets available here) so really we have less than two weeks until we open but the official opening night is June 18th.

I can’t believe that we’re already done with three weeks of rehearsal. This has been an incredibly exciting week. We did our first run though on Saturday which allowed designers to really see what we’re doing with the show. I’m so please I managed not to cause any heart attacks, particularly from Sam, the Lighting Designer, as he realized exactly how much of the very large playing area I’m using and therefore he will need to light. He took it like a champ, truly. :) And Amanda, Costume, and Andre, Projections also were able to see, respectively, how the costumes would need to move on the actors and dancers, and how and when the actors and dancers would be moving in front of the projection screen. But for me, the most exciting thing was to see the whole show, from start to finish, as I haven’t seen it (or at least haven’t heard it) since our very first read through a whole 3 weeks ago…And it’s extraordinary to see it come together, (if in fits and starts considering it was our first run through) and more importantly see how it will come together over the next two weeks as props, costumes, sets, and other tech elements begin to get added in.

For anyone not interested in my musings about the directing process – feel free to skip this and the next paragraphs. For everyone else, enjoy: Recently I was accepted to an SDC Symposium on Play Directing, which will be happening a week from Monday and as part of the symposium, I was asked to send in a bio and think about my directing style and that exercise gave me the opportunity to try to observe, “what exactly it is that I do when I direct.” It was a really interesting exercise for me. It turns out I do in fact have a method, it’s just so ingrained in how I do this whole theater thing that I never realized it was a method. I already talked about my process during the first week of rehearsals which is usually a lot of discussion and some improv centered around who the characters are and what their relationships are to the other folks in the play. And then we move into blocking and that’s really just me figuring out where exactly I want everyone to go on stage. Sometimes that’s instinctual and sometimes it’s not but it always eventually comes. The really nice thing about blocking is that usually, when it doesn’t look right, it also doesn’t feel right for the actors and before I say anything about it they sort of self adjust – or stop what they’re doing, look me in the eye and say “dude, this is crazysauce – not gonna work,” and we fix it together. So the blocking and character stuff is usually pretty straightforward. Kind of the utility work of the process. But scene work? Ah, scene work is where the magic happens. Scene work is the art…at least to me.

When it comes to scene work, turns out I have a method here too but this method is a little different (or maybe it’s not. Sidney Lumet has a famous line that I absolutely love and agree with: “directing is like sex. Everybody does it, but you’re not quite sure you’re doing it right, and you’re always curious about how other people are doing it.” It’s totally true, so maybe my method isn’t different at all but whether it is or not, this is how I do it.) Basically, I have the actors do the scene and I observe it. I ask them how they’re feeling with it. If it feels right to them. And then, if it doesn’t feel like it’s working for me, I change something. Usually working outward from the periphery characters in to the main character in the scene. Basically, I just keep changing things. Kind of like throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Shifts, adjustments, suggestions, notes, until the scene starts to take shape. Usually I see something. One of the many times through the scene I see that spark and know in my gut – “ooh, that! Do that!” and then I usually jump up and down a little and actually say – “ooh, that! Do that!” Somewhere during that process the final scene really takes shape. It’s amazing to watch it happen. And, although it always follows a particular format, it’s different every time because each actor and each role and each experience is always different from whatever came before. The other thing is that, with all this work, even when it’s Right-with-a-capital-R, things will change, things will continue to grow. Because, theater is organic. Theater is alive. Theater changes with each performance and each experience. It’s one of those things I love soooooo much about theater. And it’s a joy to be a part of.

But, I digress (I seem to do that alot but then again, I guess that’s kind of how blogs work, right?) ANYWHO…so THIS WEEK, we will continue with scene work and we’ll have a chance to do nitpicky fixes of moments that aren’t quite working but by the weekend we’ll be into full run-throughs and our chance to fix major moments will be over. It’s fast. Every show I marvel at how fast it goes. But I digress aGAIN. Monday, S**T gets real! – we load in to the Flamboyan at CSV and the sets and costumes and lights and sound and projections and everything technical starts to come together. Tech officially begins and though I’m hoping I’ll find a way to do the “4 weeks down…1 to go” blog post – I’m saying it now, don’t hold your breath waiting for it. It will most likely not come until the night before we open. :)

Also, there’s still two weeks left on our Rockethub campaign. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far and for everyone else out there be sure to check out the sight and join the Bella’s Dream family. Get cool rewards, watch the awesome teaser video (put together by yours truly – I know, I’m so modest), read updates on the project from me and Dana Boll – (multi-hyphenate extraordinaire) playwright, choreographer, actor and co-producer and support the show even before we open.

Speaking of opening night – TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW!!!!! Be sure to snap up your tickets as soon as you can. They’re selling like…well not quite like hotcakes…but what’s the next fastest seller? And, if the $18 ticket price is a bit too steep, keep in mind there are discounted $12 preview tickets available for June 16th at 5pm.

See you at the theater!

 

Two Weeks (and a BBQ) Down…

It is hard to believe that we’re already two weeks into rehearsals for Bella’s Dream. I feel like I blinked and went from “oh, the play is MONTHS away” to “OMG, the play opens in 3 weeks!” This week has been extraordinary! We spent the beginning of the week finishing our character work/discussions. I was reminded, once again, that there’s never enough time. When I was scheduling the “one-on-ones” with the actors – sometimes an hour, sometimes 45 minutes – I would think to myself, “oh, there’s no way we’re going to find an hour’s worth of stuff to delve into with this character(s). Man was I wrong. Every discussion was interesting and engaging and showed the depth of these charcters and each actor’s process of understanding them. Add to that that the majority of the actors are playing multiple characters and there was a LOT to discuss.

In addition to the one-on-ones we also had meetings/rehearsals with pairs or small groups of actors, which allowed us to discuss the relationships these characters have with each other and what they mean to each other. On a show like this, with many, short scenes, an enormous cast, and multiple actors playing multiple characters, I find the discussions incredibly helpful for finding a way in to the show.

After character discussions were done, we dove in to the blocking. Having the full ensemble at rehearsal and starting to figure out where everyone is going on the ENORMOUS stage? Well, it is alternately, exciting, moving, thrilling, frustrating, and, to be honest, exhausting. After all, it’s 14 bodies to move around an atypical space with some visual obstructions for some members of the audience. I’m still not sure how I’ll make it work, but this team is so amazing. Giving, and experimental, excited and really REALLY fun! Throughout the process it’s been so exhillerating to find those little moments when what I had in my head translates into a goose-bump inducing moment on stage…then again, sometimes it’s only through putting the actors on the stage that the I realize the moment I had carefully choreographed in my head looks like crap and I have to start from scratch. What I’m loving with this group though is that in those moments, when my initial thoughts turn out to be not-so-brilliant and I throw it out to the cast and say “this is what I’m trying to achieve” it’s just wonderful to see them jump in with suggestions – to all put our heads together to “solve it.” I was going to say, “It’s moments like that when I truly love my job,” but honestly, I can’t think of many times when I don’t truly love this job.

A word about warm ups – I’ve been doing something new on this show and actually leading a warm up circle at the start of most of the full ensemble rehearsals. Normally, I just let the actors warm up (or not, whatever they prefer) on their own time, but with a cast this large I’m finding it’s great to get everyone moving and shake out the cobwebs together. It also seems to be a nice bonding tool and it builds energy and it acts as this really nice sort of line of demarcation between the world we’re in every day and the world of Bella’s Dream…Oh, and also, it gives us, as the production team, the opportunity to thank our Rockethub donors for their contributions!

Speaking of Rockethub, have you checked out our preview on the Rockethub site? No? Oh my goodness, let me be sure to give you the link: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/24082-bella-s-dream We’re cruising along with our fundraising and are already 30% funded but we could still use your help. Please check out the video, read the production updates, support the show and/or tell your friends. I’ve said this repeatedly on my Facebook posts but it bears repeating here – as I do with most of my projects, I see this show as a very special, unique little family and I want our audience, our supporters to be a part of that family. So, please join the Bella’s Dream family. Donations at any level will help us make this show everything it can be!

Ok, plug over. But I digress, where was I? Right, warm-ups. Although I don’t usually lead warm ups, on this show, it’s been really fun to watch the actors explore movement and sound expression within the warm-ups and it’s led to some great discoveries that filter down into the rest of the rehearsal process…oh, and I can’t thank Stevenson Carlebach enough for introducing me to the theater game “Pass the Trash”. So, Stevenson, if you are reading this – THANK YOU!

Friday night we had our second full production meeting. Brian, our set designer, brought out the scale model of the set (no pictures folks, sorry. Come on, y’all know how spoiler-averse I am. I want it to be a surprise) and everyone jumped in to discussions about what will be where and power supply issues, and how do we light the stage, and where does the projector screen go, and what are we doing with the costumes, and on, and on, and then an amazing thing happened – Dan, our technical director, kept us all on task with simple statements like “Ok, that’s what set needs. Moving on to Lights.” It is an absolute thrill to see this team of talented, amazing designers and technicians doing their thing.

A sad note: our original costume designer had a family emergency and needed to drop out of the project. After frantic emails to all of my theater friends, I was able to find the amazing, Amanda Jenks, an extraordinary costume designer, who was available to step in to take Scott’s place. Scott has been wonderful helping get Amanda up to speed and continuing to help the production where he can (all I’m going to say is The Caspian Sea and y’all will see what that means when you see the show) and Amanda has been amazing about just jumping in and running with it. We were very sad to lose Scott but so thrilled to have Amanda, and her assistant Maria, stepping in.

Although we didn’t finish blocking the show (that’s for this week), we rounded out the week of rehearsals with a little Memorial Day BBQ. And though this was not strictly a Bella’s Dream affair, members of the cast and crew came to party it up, eat the delicous grilled foods, the vegan coconut macaroons (don’t let the “vegan” fool you – those things are awesome!) and kick back and just socialize without much talk of the show. If only we had the time, I would seriously round out every week of rehearsals with a massive BBQ in my backyard. It was such fun.

For the week coming up, we have lots planned – we finish blocking the show (actually, we’ll be doing that in about an hour so I should probably go get ready for rehearsal) and then we jump in to scene work. I usually try very hard not to give any sort of acting notes in blocking rehearsals. Since, for me, blocking rehearsals are really about, “this is where you enter the stage and this is where you exit,” it’s not important to delve into, “are you going to do the line like that?” kind of discussions. That’s for scene work, which I’m so excited to begin!

So, two weeks down and three to go…and I can’t wait to see what this week brings!

Tickets for Bella’s Dream are on sale now on our main page: www.goingtotahitiproductions.com

See you at the theater!

 

One Week Down…

So! The first week of Bella’s Dream rehearsals has officially concluded…and what a week it has been.

The week started off, last Sunday, (a beautiful Mother’s Day afternoon), with the Bella’s Dream cast and crew stuck inside for our first read-through.

As I believe I mentioned on Facebook last week (and I know I mentioned to mom when I called her that night to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day), it was an absolute thrill to listen to the actors read the script out loud. Dana and I have been working on this iteration of the project without actors for the past 3 months, so, to hear the words read out loud in voices other than those in our heads, was truly a thrill. As a director, I already started seeing the ways I want to stage the show.

The team is a fantastic group of people and it is a joy to see my newest family forming. Immediately after the read-through and discussion, the designers and Dana and I sat down and started the ball rolling on our design discussion. I love many many things about my job, but there is little I love more than that first official day of a new project, when everyone is excited, the juices are flowing, and the ideas begin to take shape. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I floated home on a cloud that night…

The rest of the week was spent delving into character-work with the actors. We spent several days in discussion and improvisation finding who these people are and how we want to play them. With a project like Bella’s Dream, it’s particularly exciting because, not only are most of the actors playing real people, almost every performer is also playing more than one character. During these first rehearsals, not only are the actors starting to find their characters, we, as an ensemble, as a team, are beginning to find each other as a family. That experience is always exciting but particularly in a case like this, where the project is so personal, (it is based on the true-life experiences of Dana’s grandparents during World War 2) finding the group that will be your family for the next two months is a unique and wonderful experience.

Sadly, in the beginning of the week, we discovered that one of the actors would need to drop out of the production. We said goodbye to Doug and welcomed Dean Linnard as Man #2.

We had an exciting rehearsal on Tuesday (our first “on-our-feet” rehearsal) that was filled with physical improv. The cast danced, and laughed and cried (OK, maybe it was only me crying because of the poignant scene we were working on where Bella and Raymond tell Bella’s parents that they are leaving Gombin) and made delicious headway into our understanding not only of who these people were in real life, but who they are in our production.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were three intense days of character-work as we delved into each character individually and made sure we were all on the same page before we start blocking the action of the play which we’ll jump in to on Wednesday night. While Molly and I were doing character-work with the actors, Dana was hard at work on dance rehearsals with the Movement Chorus. For both Dana and I rehearsals have been filled with new discoveries and a nearly constant appreciation of exciting insights that come about when performers enter the mix.

In addition to the actor and dancer work we did this past week, Dana and I also had individual design meetings. So far we’ve met with Scott (Costume),Sam (Lights) and Brian (Set) – (Projections and Sound are tomorrow) and we’ve started to zero in on our overriding design themes – neutral costumes, 4 light environments, movement within the set. Each meeting was enlightening and filled with those “ooh, ooh, ooh, what if we did this?!” moments that are the reason I do theater. And the discussions continue. To the right is the model that Dana and I were playing with at our set design meeting with Brian. I cannot fully explain the joy of having little (to scale) pieces to play around with and use to help clarify the picture I have in my head. I still remember last year at this time when Becky brought in my “Persuasion blocks” – little (to scale) cubes that represented the major set pieces for that show. It was after that meeting that I thought, “Oh, THAT’s what I’m doing with the set!” And I had a similar feeling after our set design meeting yesterday.

You know, any play has a lot of aspects that are balanced with each other and, kind of like a Jenga tower, you can’t just pull one out and deal with it – you need to look at the entire pile before making a move; but, particularly with a play like this – 9 actors, 5 dancers, music, sound, lights, projections, rolling set pieces – there are a LOT of moving parts and finding an anchor on which to secure your vision/design/ideas etc. is CRUCIAL. For me, that anchor started to form in the beginning of the week – hearing the actors say their lines, discussing the characters and what we want to do with them – and then it became clearer in the discussions about costume and lights as I began to really visualize what we’re going for here – but it crystallized in our set meeting.

As I begin to envision the set and what it will be able to do, I start to see how to move my playing pieces around the board. It is indescribably thrilling, and, in the end, it’s this feeling that I’m always chasing. It’s why I do this…And? I REALLY can not wait to see what this week brings…

Bella’s Dream opens June 18th for a two week run at The Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center. For tickets and further details go to our Shows and Events page above or just click here.

 

Introducing the BELLA’S DREAM Team…

I am thrilled to announce that the production team for Bella’s Dream has been assembled and starting Sunday we will be jumping in with our first read-through. But, before we start rehearsals I wanted to introduce you to the team – I call them my Dream Team

 Bella’s Dream – CAST

BELLA – Lisa Hokans
RAYMOND – Jon-Michael Miller*
WOMAN – Dana Boll
RONNY – Bob Angelini*
WOMAN #1 – Kristin Parker*
WOMAN #2 – Suzanne Du Charme*
MAN #1 – Jerry Goralnick*
MAN #2 – Doug Goldring*
MAN #3 – Alex Teicheira
MOVEMENT CHORUS – Kathryn Wilkening
MOVEMENT CHORUS - Catherine Correa
MOVEMENT CHORUS – Renee Dumouchel
MOVEMENT CHORUS – Nancy Smith
MOVEMENT CHORUS / Understudy for BELLA & WOMAN – Eva Amesse
*denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association appearing in an AEA Showcase (pending approval) Production.

Bella’s Dream – CREW

DIRECTOR / PRODUCER – Jessica Ammirati
PLAYWRIGHT / CHOREOGRAPHER / PRODUCER – Dana Boll
STAGE MANAGER – Molly Ballerstein
ASM / PRODUCTION ASSISTANT – Barb Cool
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR – Daniel Jagendorf
SET DESIGNER – Brian Kafel
LIGHTING DESIGNER – Sam Gordon
SOUND DESIGNER – Ien DeNio
PROJECTIONS / INTERACTIVE MEDIA DESIGNER – Andre Zachery
COSTUME DESIGNER – Scott Frost

We’re already hard at work bringing you this amazing show. Tickets are on sale now!

BELLA’S DREAM in production now…

It’s official! We have a performance space, we have a crew, after next week we’ll have actors – in other words - Bella’s Dream is happening.

So, I know that it’s been up on the website and I know that I’ve mentioned it to a bunch of you but now that the space has been finalized and the ticket website is up and running, I can officially announce that Bella’s Dream will open on June 18th (reduced price preview performance on June 16th) and run for two weeks at The Flamboyan Theater which is part of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational center on the Lower East Side (107 Suffolk St.). We are deep into preproduction now – auditions are next week (actors check out the listing on Actors Access or playbill.com for details on submission). Also, as I mentioned above, tickets are officially on sale! Go to our ticket calendar here, for tickets.

My intention is to be posting a lot more now that we’re in production and I have lots to post about…of course, now that we’re in production I’m not sure I’ll have time to post a lot so this is a nice little experiment, but, you know, I’m gonna give it the old college try.

Keep an ear out here and on Facebook and Twitter for more details and feel free to get your tickets now. :) Did I mention? Tickets are on sale now!

 

Learning to Release it with Love…

So, it’s time I talked about that green eyed monster…and no I’m not talking about this guy  from Monsters Inc…although, come to think of it, he was a green monster and he had an eye but the eye was aquamarine so technically he’s not a green eyed monster so much as he’s a green, aquamarine-eyed, monster…but I digress. No, the Green Eyed Monster I was talking about, of course, is jealousy. I have to say, although I can get pretty jealous in my personal life (I mean I am a Scorpio after all) most of my jealousy is confined to the professional world. And, I gotta tell you, it’s a bitch. I mean it. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue being jealous of people I don’t know personally who have ridiculous success who doesn’t deserve it (insert any Kardashian name here). Although honestly that’s less jealousy than disdain. And I don’t mind getting on my high horse about people who have ridiculous success AND talent – dude I get jealous and snippy and generally rant-y about Lena Dunham like you wouldn’t beLIEVE (then again, I have yet to see Girls (what? I can’t afford cable let alone HBO) and am basing my entire opinion about her on the movie Tiny Furniture (which I hated) and an interview she gave in EW magazine), but I respect that she’s talented and self confident and completely without body issues so I’m good with her there. I just absolutely get jealous that someone so young and talented is getting heaps of acclaim and money and opportunity and pretty much everything I’ve been struggling for for like 20 years and seems not only not phased by it but in fact as if she was entitled to it all along. Of course, maybe that’s my problem – I’ve seen it more like something I would love to have but not something I was “entitled to” per se. Maybe I should just wander around completely self entitled. I’m sure that would make me a sought after party guest.

ANYWAY, I digress again because I’m not even talking about the people I don’t know who are wildly successful. Who gives a crap about them. I’m talking about that jealousy that rears its ugly head instinctively even when it’s the successes of people I love. You see, I have people in my life – loved ones, friends, acquaintances, who I genuinely care about and yet, when I hear about one of their successes (especially in the entertainment world) my immediate instinctive thought is not, “OMG that is soooo great for her/him” nope it’s “ugh, why can’t stuff work out that well for me?” And not ONLY do I initially think that, I think it in the most whiny, irritating voice in my head that it is possible to create. Forget about the fact that my very next thought is always, “OMG that is soooo great for her/him”. Forget that my heart swells with pride as if I had something to do with her or his accomplishments. Forget that I have been known to turn actual cartwheels of excitement in honor of someone else’s accomplishment. I just can’t seem to get rid of that green eyed monster.

And so, as I witness this behavior, I’ve been wondering a lot lately whether it is the nature of the artist. We spend so much of our time seeking approval. And though we may play a good game – honestly in most aspects of my life I could give a crap what people think of me – when it comes down to my art, I want to be loved. I want to be applauded, I want to blow people away. I wonder, is the jealousy ingrained in us creative types? It is a pretty competitive business and I’m not a compteitive person. I just want to do my thing and make a living at it. So maybe, the fact that it is so competitve makes me subconciously see other people’s successes as taking something away from me. But, the thing is, I don’t believe that’s true. I honestly believe there’s room for all. We make our own fate. I believe it, I know it. So why, oh why, do I consistently react with jealousy even if it is just in my own head? Because I really hate it. I mean really really hate it. I want to just be that zen person who never has a bad thought about others but who just honestly generously reacts to the success of others. Maybe I just need to keep making more of my own success so that I can kick back and rest on my laurels and not even notice the laurels of others. Or maybe I should just start ignoring all of the people I love – no, I don’t like that option at all.

So, instead  I’m trying to change it. See, I’m too smart to think that I can change my immediate emotional reaction to something just by saying “don’t feel that, Jessica.” That’s like saying, “gentle reader, don’t think of an elephant.” What happened? That’s right, you totally thought of an elephant. No, I’m not going to change it like that. Instead, I’m trying to accept that those feelings are a part of me. As much as I don’t like it, it’s true. Pissy, jealous, petty, snippy, instinctive emotions are as much a part of me as they are a part of anyone else and to pretend they’re not there only makes them fester and grow. So, I won’t ignore them and I won’t pretend I don’t feel them. I will just acknowledge them as my crap and no one else’s. In the end they’re completely one sided they come from me and only me and actually have nothing at all to do with the friend or loved one who has accomplished so much. I’m sure at their core those emotions are driven by fear so, after looking at those feelings, acknowledging them as my own, I then have to release them with love. Because they’re a part of me, they’re mine, and if I don’t want them, only I can get rid of them. “Goodbye jealous feelings. You ain’t wanted here no more.” I don’t know that it will make a difference but I sure am gonna try…and if that doesn’t work, I just need to find a way to genuinely collaborate with each and every talented person I know.

:)

For those of you not aware, that “collaboration with with each and every talented person I know” is going strong as ensemble member Dana Boll and I co-produce Dana’s play with dance: Bella’s Dream which will run through June with Yours Truly directing. Details and tickets will be available soon.

 

 

Additions to the GTTP Family and What’s Next…

So, here’s the shiny happy post that goes hand in hand with the dark, Where-has-GTTP-been-for-the-last-5-months-post I posted here.

A couple of exciting announcements

First off – new ensemble members

When you get a chance, head on over to our About Us page, you’ll see some new folks. GTTP has expanded its ensemble. We’re now 28 strong, with actors, designers and technicians. It is very exciting to be working with such a wonderful team. And, since this talented team is always working (whether with GTTP or others), be sure to check out our Off The Island page which updates what our ensemble members are working on outside of GTTP.

Bella’s Dream a new play with dance by Dana Boll

Ensemble member, Dana Boll, has written and choreographed a beautiful new play with dance based on the true events of her grandparents escape from Poland in 1939. After a staged reading at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center, GTTP will proudly present the world premiere of this deeply personal and moving show. The play will run for three weeks at a theater on the lower east side of Manhattan. Details and tickets will be available soon on our home page. Also Dana, as co-producer, writer, choreographer and performer, will be blogging regularly about the production process, here; and I, as director and co-producer, will be blogging (less regularly but still regularly) about the production process here.

GTTP makes the transition to Film/TV

There has been some discussion in the backrooms of GTTP about expanding into the world of film and television. What I can say about the outcome of those discussions is that GTTP is planning on expanding into the world of film and television. Everything is moving, irons are in the fire and we will hopefully have an update in the next couple months that will be less cryptic. To be honest, I wouldn’t have said anything about it but I’m sooooooo excited that I couldn’t keep it entirely under my hat. Seriously, I could never be a spy. Don’t get me wrong, I can keep a secret but I can’t contain my excitement when I have a secret I’m going to keep. Hence the announcement.

Within Arm’s Reach

Some of you may wonder what all of the above means for our original adaptation of Ann Napolitano’s novel Within Arm’s Reach. Never fear. It is still happening. In fact, in my other blog posts, I talk about the various projects on my desktop that I’m currently working on and Within Arm’s Reach is one of the major ones. We will need to hold off until this fall or early winter but it is happening and we continue to be very excited about it. If you want to grab a copy of Within Arm’s Reach so you can see the challenge GTTP has given itself, or Ann’s other equally beautiful novel, A Good Hard Look, be sure to visit her webpage.

 

So, yeah, it looks like that’s our season. Bella’s Dream in June. A film/TV project hopefully in September-ish. and Within Arm’s Reach in December/January 2013-14. Along the way we’ll be updating the main page of the website as well as this here blog. We hope you’ll keep checking back!

We’re looking forward to an exciting year and we’re looking forward to you joining us on the island.