Category Archives: PERSUASION

Things we’re thankful for at GTTP…

In honor of Thanksgiving, this year, Molly and I decided to compile a little list of the 10 things we at GTTP are most thankful for. So, here goes:

Jason Bolen (set designer) and Becky Sagen (lighting designer) during tech for DREAMERS OF THE DAY.

10) Source Material – we can’t say enough about the amazing books, short stories, songs, images, interviews, poetry, nursery rhymes, myths and other source material that is out there to make theater from. The goal of GTTP is to create innovative and exciting new work, and we couldn’t do what we do without the ideas that come out of the great source material that is already out there.

9) Audience – that’s right, folks. I’m talking about you wonderful people who come to see our work, who look at the flyer or the facebook post, or the newsletter and say, “Oh, it’s a Going to Tahiti Production? I’m there!” If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? Well, we at GTTP believe, that if we do a show and NO ONE is there to see it, it’s not the show we mean it to be. So, whether it’s 1 or 100 of you, you as our audience make GTTP what we are. THANK YOU!

8) Donors – in all fairness this really goes hand in hand with number 9 above because most often there is a fair crossover between these two categories, but, we did want to specifically remark on how thankful we are to all of you who not just come out to see the show but who also donate to the productions, the company, and the dream that is GTTP. THANK YOU!

7) Crew – I mean, this is how I found Molly…really does more need to be said? Whether it is designers who create the look and feel of a show, stage managers who make the show run, or interns and running crew who do those jobs that fall through the cracks during a show and yet still must get done, GTTP could not function without the wonderful men and women who crew our shows.

Actress and ensemble member Kiwi Callahan at rehearsal for DREAMERS OF THE DAY.

6) Actors – Molly and I are both directors, but honestly, without actors, we may aswell be directing traffic. We, of course, couldn’t do it without those incredible actors who choose to grace our stages, and for a brief moment, our lives. Thanks, folks!

5) Ensemble Members – Part of why we do theater is to be a part of a community – a family – of artists who understand what we do and why we do it. For Molly and me, GTTP ensemble members are the core group of that family. We are so thankful to have them in our lives.

4) Performance Space – Whether it is a proper theatre, the great outdoors, or someone’s living room, every show needs a stage. And, with space at a premium and so many theaters closing, it is so amazing to have a space for each show to call home. Along those lines, we’d like to have a specific “Thank you shout out to Shetler Studios and The Secret Theatre”. These two spaces have been invaluable to genetic code of GTTP and we couldn’t function without them.

Cast and running crew from JANE AUSTEN’S PERSUASION.

3) Transitory Nature of Theater – As frustrating as it may sometimes be to look back at a performance and realize that there is no record of the event beyond some production stills (and the props and costumes that take up closet space in my – and my parents’s (sorry, mom and dad- I will seriously pick up those camel/stools from Dreamers of the Day any day now) homes), there is something truly wonderful about the fact that any given performance is just a moment in time and then, it’s gone. If you miss it you miss it, but if you were there, and you saw it, that moment has the potential to stay with you for the rest of your life.

2) The Excitement of “What’s Next” – As much as we love each project we work on, there’s always something new on the horizon (see number 3 above). For Molly and me, as the show gets handed off to the actors and the stage manager and they take it through the home stretch of performance, we, as directors, though sad to let go, are simultaneously excited about what next project we’ll be sinking our teeth into . . . And can’t wait to jump in.

But most of all, we are thankful that:

1) With all the entertainment options out there, with the movies and television and youtube and the interwebs and smartphones and everything, that, in the end, people still crave and love live theater. We’d be nowhere without that.

Thank you thank you thank you!

Thanksgiving pie…’nuff said!

. . . and now we’re off to have leftover pie! Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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!!!!

Perseverance (The Importance Of)

Disclaimer: I couldn’t come up with a good picture that really went along with this post. Sorry, just a whole lotta words and heads up, a couple of them are naughty…

Except for the occasional theater review, you may have noticed GTTP has been a little bit absent from the Blogosphere. (I’m sure you’ve all been breathlessly waiting for an explanation of where Jessica and GTTP has been). Well, lucky you, I feel like it is time to explain my absence. My other blog post today is all shiny happy with very exciting updates and, if you’d like to read that go ahead and skip this post entirely and see the shiny happy post here (ah the joys of simultaneous posting). But for those of you brave enough to embrace the darkness (heh. How ominous does that sound?), here’s the deal.

As you know from previous posting, last year was a bit of a crazy year (in a good way). GTTP (and in this instance the GTTP I’m referring to is yours truly) was up to its ears in productions. Starting with my directing gig at The Secret Theater, I went directly from directing The Day Job by Julia Blauvelt, into co-producing Cat Lady Without A Cat by Carrie Keskinen and then into directing and producing Jane Austen’s Persuasion by Laura Bultman, and right into directing and producing In The Ebb by Camilla Ammirati at the NY International Fringe Festival. Let me just say, that for as crazy as the schedule was, there is nothing quite as awesome as going from gig to gig to gig. It gives meaning to your life (or, in this case, my life) and it’s wonderful to know that you’re devoting all of your time and energy to the one thing that you know – completely know down in your boney bone bones – you were put on this earth to do. So that? Was awesome! …end of post.

Heh. Ok, not end of post. There was a downside. And here it is, gentle readers. Just because I know that I was put on this earth to direct (and produce) it doesn’t mean the universe recognizes it. And there was this tricky little thing with going from gig to gig to gig…and it’s that same tricky little thing that plagues all of us “starving” artists. That’s right, folks. Say it with me. Money. In that, there is none. No that’s not true. I have the most AMAZING supporters, which is to say all of you. I am WELL aware and INCREDIBLY appreciative of the way all of you have pitched in with money, time, encouragement and general support over the years. There’s nothing quite so wonderful as saying, “huh, how am I going to come up with x amount of money for this show?” and then checking Rockethub and seeing that x amount money has showed up from donors. It is a wonderful and amazing thing. But, unfortunately, for what I’m trying to do, it’s not enough. Don’t get me wrong, I know your hard earned cash is exactly that and you need to give what you’re comfortable giving and I’m not trying to imply that your generosity isn’t appreciated. No, on the contrary, it is EVERYTHING and it is a perfect launching off point. But, what I’ve been realizing, the longer I do this, is that we need more and we need bigger. Money and audiences, that is. In order to get to the place that I might one day make a living at this, we need to make that jump from small company surviving on individual donations into a company that makes its money through grants, or corporate sponsorship, or investors or all of the above…we need to jump.

This need was particularly noticeable last fall when I was hoping we were making that jump. I finished The Fringe Festival, completely ready for one of two things to happen, either – some variation of the pipe dream – someone of influence, someone with money, would have seen In the Ebb and decided he or she wanted to be GTTP’s patron or I’d get a directing agent who would launch me into a world of gigs for which I would get recognition and get paid a real salary and that salary would, in turn, enable me to subsidize my GTTP work or we’d get so noticed and so well reviewed that we would be instantly skyrocketed to fame and success (or at least to a budget level that would allow for a decent salary for all involved) and I’d get help in making GTTP really happen – OR – (more likely) I would go back to my 4 day jobs for 4 months, make some money, expand the ensemble, and come back in the spring for our next show, which would be a contributing factor to that jump happening, like now.

But here’s what happened…nada. No, that’s not exactly true, I did expand the company and we are now an ensemble of 28 artists and technicians and you can read about that in the other blog post (you know, the shiny happy one). But, except for that, nothing happened. No pipe dream, and no day job (there just wasn’t much work for me last fall). So I spent a few months trying to figure out what I should have done differently and what I could do differently in the future to make sure that that jump I was talking about earlier, would — no, will — happen.

Because, here’s the thing, I’m tired. I mean it. It’s exhausting to keep pushing, to keep going. It’s tiring to keep telling yourself, “no no, it WILL happen.” Leading up to Fringe, (as I have with every single production) I REALLY tried not to get my hopes up. I really tried not to let myself even imagine the pipe dream stuff. I REALLY REALLY did (and in my family when you say “really really” you can not lie). I kept telling myself, “Jessica, pipe dreams don’t happen in real life. This ain’t an episode of Smash. If you want something to happen you need to put in the work. You need to keep pushing. You need to persevere and, in the end you need to MAKE it happen. Because no one is going to give it to you. No one is going to do it for you.” I can’t tell you how many times over the past five years I’ve told myself some variation of exactly that. Seriously, it’s like a daily affirmation. Because you need to keep that pipe dream shit in check. So I stomped down on any of the, “but maybe what will happen is Steven Spielberg will be in NY and decide he wants to take in a Fringe show and he’ll see In the Ebb, and he’ll think, “wow, this show is something! This director is SOMETHING! Let me see what else she’s got!”" I stomped down HARD. At least I thought I did.

What actually happened though – Deep down, way way down deep, there was this Little Dreamer who just kept holding on to that pipe dream. Eyes screwed shut, shaking her head, knuckles white with holding on so hard, she just kept whispering, “I know all of that stuff Ms. Strong Realistic Conscious Mind. But you’re wrong, because I’ve been doing this for awhile and sooner or later, pipe dream has to happen. Sooner or later something’s going to give and the end result will be pipe dream. I know it.” It turns out that Little Dreamer is kind of an asshole, because what happened in September, and then October, and then November, when I realized that no manifestation of pipe dream was actually going to happen, I shut down and crawled into a state of hibernation. I didn’t realize it at the time, when I kept telling my friends and family, “yeah, I’m a little bit blue, but really I’m fine” that I was lying. It turns out that I wasn’t just a little bit blue, I was a little bit broken.

And it turns out I needed the last five months (WOW, I can not beLIEVE I wasted five whole months) to let that stuff work itself out. So that’s where I’ve been…that’s where GTTP has been…working stuff out. Sometimes, working stuff out looked like watching crap TV shows on my computer while playing video games on the TV. And sometimes working stuff out looked like playing on Facebook. And sometimes working stuff out looked like reading the final book of a fantasy series 20 years in the making, but whatever form of escape it looked like, it really really was working stuff out, because just within the last few weeks? I feel better. I feel eager. I feel recharged. I have to do lists and tasks and half started projects (which I rotate through daily) all over my desktop. I’m not really sure what I did to fix it, or heal or whatever, but the one thing I did do, as I sat there thinking, “Geez, Jess, you have GOT to get working again. You have to update your blog. or Work on your next project. or Get a new fundraising drive going. or SOMETHING!” The one thing I did do was listen once again to that Little Dreamer who said, “wait. Not yet. Lick your wounds. Heal. Listen to the dream again. Find the strength to keep going.” Because, she may be an asshole, and she may be melodramatic, but also? She knows of what she speaks.

Keep going on this journey. It will be worth it. Keep going on this path. There are rewards to come. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. So I will. You wanna come too?

 

Ten things I learned doing The NY International Fringe Festival…

Ok, so I have owed my trusty readers (hi, Mom!) a post for about a month now. I do apologize for being so absent from the blogosphere but it turns out Fringe took a lot more out of me then expected and when the past few Mondays rolled around I just didn’t have it in me to compose something witty and exciting for a post and so I didn’t … I actually did start 4 different posts and if I could figure out a way to back date them I would totally post them but since I can’t I’ll just say they started like this:

POST 1 (that didn’t get posted) – so, we’re about to open In the Ebb at HERE Mainstage and I can’t wait for you all to see it.

POST 2 (that didn’t get posted) – so, we just opened In the Ebb at HERE Mainstage and I think you guys will love it!

POST 3 (that didn’t get posted) – so, the reviewer from nytheatre.com didn’t get it. Though he thought In the Ebb was beautifully written, Camilla “has a poetic soul” and I have “a true talent for staging”, he thought the show was boring and he didn’t find the themes universal or connectable (yes, I made up that word but that’s the gist of the review – fear of loss apparently isn’t a universal theme – oops, I guess that makes the worrier in me a bit of a freak). ANYway, I would have said in the post (had I gotten around to posting it) that I would be worried that the review would have kept folks away, but I can now say in hindsight that we had decent audiences (not Jane Austen’s Persuasion sized audiences but decent all the same) and everyone I talked to seemed to love it so, to quote Mrs. DiSalvo in Act II – “I guess we did ok.”

POST 4 (that didn’t get posted) – so, the reviewer from California Litereary Review TOTALLY got it. Now THAT’s what I call a review. I found this one much more reflective of the work we did on stage. Though there were a couple of typos in the review (Saul Steinberg instead of Stewart and Ian DeNio instead of Ien) I felt that this reviewer actually got what we were saying. He caught the beauty in the words and the performances, and he ALSO understood Camilla’s humor finding much of the play “extremely funny even as it peers into the abyss.” I do wish that the people who “got me” were the only ones who also got to review me, but again to quote Mrs. DiSalvo, “you don’t get to pick.”

which brings me to this post:

POST 5 (that WILL get posted) – So now Fringe is over. It has been such a whirlwind. Going from Persuasion directly into In the Ebb is not necessarily the way I’d recommend doing the Festival for the first time, but on the flip side, it was nice to just go from show to show instead of hanging around waiting for my next project to begin. It means I completely bypassed my “post show depression” after Persuasion. Of course that could also mean that I’m due for a double whammy on the depression front now that In the Ebb is over, but hopefully I’ll slide into something else really exciting – like adapting Within Arm’s Reach for the stage. Anywho, here’s what I learned in Fringe:

1) Before you have a cast, reading the play out loud at a very slow speed is NOT going to give you an accurate representation of how long the play will run in performance.

- Fringe requires you to give a running time in your application, and though you still have time to change that after you get accepted to the festival, the date when you do have to give them a hard – set-in-stone – run time will most likely be at least a month before you’ve cast the show, let alone done a first run through and have an accurate sense of the run time. I had originally thought the run time of the two one acts (one fewer act than the first time I did this show) would be 75 minutes INCLUDING a 10 minute intermission. I discovered 2 days before my tech that we were running about 95 minutes WITHOUT an intermission. That was a weekend of frantic cuts trying not to cut scenes but still lose 20 minutes from the show. One day, I vow that I will do this show in its entirety.

2) A certified Flameproofer is your best friend!

- Fringe requires that all set pieces be certified flameproof. Although my set was stuff that was most likely already flameproofed (Ikea chairs and rehearsal cubes) I needed proof and that means tags from purchase (which ain’t an option since I purchased the chairs years ago for use in the first production of In the Ebb). One option was to cart the stuff out to New Jersey and have the Fringe-recommended vendor test the stuff and if it wasn’t fireproof then I could leave it there for 3 DAYS – yup DAYS – and then head back out there and pick it up. Then I found someone who was Manhattan-based and let me tell you – finding someone who can come to you and flameproof your set and give you a certificate proving that it’s flameproofed is a whole helluva lot better than having to cart your entire set out to Jersey.

3) Get yourself some good, talented, reliable friends.

- Throughout the years I have connected with some people who I can’t imagine stumbling through life without. Sarah and Ian, for example, not only said I could borrow one of their DINING ROOM chairs for a WHOLE MONTH, they didn’t bat an eye when I said I would have to chemically treat the chair so that it was officially flame proofed. When I asked if I could rent his rehearsal cubes for 3 weeks, Richard was all “why don’t you just borrow them” and, Jen, once again, offered up the Chevy Blazer to be used and abused for whatever I needed, which it turned out was a lot of set, prop and costume transportation.

4) Work with talented people you trust and love – again and again and again.

- My crazy talented sound designer, Ien DeNio, crazy talented lighting designer, Sam Gordon, crazy talented projections designer, Zeljka Blaksic, and crazy talented company manager, Carrie Keskinen, all re-upped with GTTP and I literally could NOT have done this show without them. Their talent, skill, and professionalism made this show work! And their ability to roll with the punches (see Number 6) meant that we were able to function within the stressful time-compressed world of Fringe.

5) Make sure you cast riDONKulously capable and talented actors who work well together!

- I’ve known for awhile that I’m pretty good at casting. I can usually see in an audition what an actor will be capable of and I usually have a sense of whether a group of actors will work together well. It’s a wonderful thing, a real honor, to get the opportunity to bring together 7 strangers and watch them, through rehearsals, turn into a family. This most recent family included: Crawford M. Collins, Leah Gabriel, Mary Goggin, Michael Komala, Stewart Steinberg, Montgomery Sutton, and Lisa Crosby Wipperling.

6) Hook up with a group that is calm under pressure and be ready to figure out technical aspects on the fly…

- So, for those of you who don’t know, the way Fringe works (in fact the way most theater festivals work) is that you are really assigned only one chance to be in the venue before your show opens and that chance is your tech rehearsal. In the case of Fringe, your tech rehearsal is only 2 times the length of your running time (see point #1 in this list and the importance of determining that run time well in advance of rehearsals) and you must must must run through the entire show without stop so that the Fringe folks can time you (with a stopwatch) and know for certain that you’ll fit in your allotted time. Since tech for a normal show is usually at least 3 days and often as long as a week (it’s called Tech WEEK for a reason, folks) having only 2 and a half hours in the venue to tech your show can make for a tricky situation. Add to that the complication that, because of Fringe scheduling, our tech day was actually a full week before our first performance, there was a high amount of stress on that particular 2.5 hours. What’s more, because we were the first group to tech in the space, we spent what should have been our hour and 15 minutes that was set aside for a cue to cue (where we actually go through the entire play just looking at and listening to each lighting, sound and projection cue) figuring out why the projector wasn’t working and how lights in the theater (whose layout we were supposed to be given in advance but weren’t) were going to run our lighting design. SO, having the cast and crew that I had – a group of people who just went with the flow and didn’t pull any diva crap (though it was well within their rights to do so) and just buckled down and did the job – what’s that Friday Night Lights phrase – “git ‘er done” – well this group GOT ‘ER DONE!

7) Get assigned the prettiest venue at the festival and luck out on the awesomest, chillest, terrific-est venue director on the planet.

- So, as a Fringe show, you get no say in the venue you’re assigned. Basically, the festival organizers have to figure out how to get 187 shows into 19 different venues for at least 5 performances each in a 16 day span. Each venue has to be technically capable of sustaining each show (does a show have projections, does it need fly space to drop set pieces in and out, does it need a proscenium arch, etc.) They also have to account for scheduling issues (for example, is the production company coming from Japan and not arriving in the states until 4 days after the festival has started). It’s a lot to juggle, so basically what you get is what you get and you make due. Well, somehow, I lucked into the most beautiful venue. HERE Arts Mainstage is a theater that if I were just renting, I honestly couldn’t afford for years to come. It’s a 99 seat house with a stage so big that an actor actually has to cross it (like take several steps) when moving from stage left to stage right, instead of just turning around. And the lighting grid allows for different areas of the stage to be lit while other areas are in darkness – giving actual areas of playing space instead of having the whole stage lit by default because the stage is so big that once you turn on a light you see everything. And then, as if the performance venue weren’t enough of a gift from the Fringe Gods, we were lucky enough to get assigned a venue director (a liason (supplied by Fringe) between the production company (in this case, GTTP) and the theater) who was amazing, supportive and super chill. I can not say enough good things about Christian De Gre, Artistic Director of Mind the Art Entertainment, who, while being such a terrific venue director was also overseeing his own production at the festival. The only bad thing about working with Christian, was that the nature of Fringe meant I didn’t get any time to just sit and chat with the guy – a problem I hope to remedy soon.

8) 15 minutes is a both a lot longer and a lot shorter than you think it is.

- So, because there are 187 shows in 19 venues in 16 days, on any given day, you are never the only show performing in your venue. What that means is that there is often as little as 30 minutes in between shows. Because 15 minutes before any given show has to be spent getting audience in and sitting down and 15 minutes after any show has to be spent getting audience out, as a production company you only have 15 minutes to bring everything you need into the space before and clear everything out after. We were lucky in that our set pieces (my trusty ikea chairs and our 3 rehearsal cubes) were being shared with other shows in the venue so we were able to leave them in the space, but all of our props, costumes and, you know, 7 actors, had to get in and set up in the 15 minutes before and taken down, stored and out in the 15 minutes after. I did purposefully keep the set as minimal as possible, but that first time, in tech, when we literally had a stopwatch on us, the chaos of setting everything up and taking everything down was nervewracking…then again, it turns out that even that first time when no-one knew what they were doing (“someone grab that chair and stow it”, “who grabbed the ice tea”, “where did the nun’s veil go? Do you have it?”) we were done and out the door in 6 minutes, so we got really good at running that load-in and load-out like clockwork. Again, it helped that I had the cast and crew that I did (see points 4 and 5 above).

9) Simplify more than you think is possible and then simplify some more.

- So, as I mentioned above, we only had the 15 minutes to get in and out and our tech rehearsal was…not as thorough as I would have liked, and…the script was longer than I realized. In the end we cut a lot – from lines in the script, to number of props, to complexity of set design, to lighting, sound and projection cues. And just when I thought, “I can’t possibly cut more, I can’t possibly make it more minimal,” I went through a whole other round of cuts and, to be honest, it was still an amazing, wonderful, vivid show. I always go back to that first time I saw Patrick Stewart do A Christmas Carol on Broadway – one guy, a chair, a table, a stool and a podium – he created a world that we as the audience got to live in for a couple of hours. It really is true that if the writing is there and the performances are there, you really don’t need anything else. This world ofIn the Ebb, was vivid and alive even without matching chairs and that one additional sound cue or lighting change. The audience still got it (well, except for that one reviewer but you can’t win ‘em all, right?) and it was still a captivating – Tahiti – Production.

10) When you’re at your most certain that everything will fall to s**t, it somehow all works out.

- My favorite, favorite, favorite quote about theater comes from the movie Shakespeare in Love. The exchange goes like this:

Henslowe: Allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Fennyman: So what do we do?

Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Fennyman: How?

Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

If I have learned one thing in my years in professionial theater it is the truth of that exchange. It’s not that you don’t do the work and it’s not that you don’t plan and prepare and rehearse, but in the end you have to trust in the magic of theater because how imminent disaster turns into live performance is truly a mystery but, no kidding? 99 times out of 100 it really does…and on that hundredth time? Well that’s what you plan and prepare and rehearse for – Anyone can have an off day.

Oh, and along those lines I also want to quote one more movie for point number 10.5. This one from Galazy Quest – “Never give up. Never surrender.” In other words, in this case, I mean:

10.5) Perserverence is everything.

- There are so many times in this business when it would be so easy to just say, “that’s it, I’m outta here.” It’s a tough business, which so far, has not paid any bills for me (and thank you to the people in my life who support me in all different ways (emotionally, spiritually, physically and monetarily) and allow me to continue doing it – I literally couldn’t do it without you), and so often it would just be easier to throw up your hands and walk, but I swear, it’s worth it. You struggle, and you strive and sometimes you fail but sometimes you succeed and every once in awhile, someone comes up to you and says, “are you involved in this production? Well, I just want to tell you, that was WONDERFUL! I was so moved.” Or you’re sitting in the audience watching a show you created and an audience member who you don’t know, who is not connected to you in any way shape or form, who walked in off the street, and spent his hard-earned money to see your show, he starts to applaud and gets to his feet to give you a standing ovation! And in that moment you want to cry because all is right with the world, because your life makes sense and what you’ve been put on this earth for is absolutely 100% crystal clear…of course sometimes they don’t clap at all, sometimes they come up to you and say, “I didn’t get it” – you want to cry then too but for a whole different reason. But no kidding, if you stick with it, you’ll get used to walking away from the latter and you’ll be able to fully appreciate the former. I say this a lot but – no kidding – never give up. never surrender…it’s worth it in the end.

 

IN THE EBB at FringeNYC

In 2008 Going to Tahiti Productions launched wtih a production of In the Ebb, a play of three one acts based on short stories, written and adapted for the stage, by my little sister, Camilla. The production ran for 3 weeks and put GTTP on the map. Four years, four theaters and six productions later, we decided to re-visit a shorter version (2 one-acts instead of 3) of In the Ebb and we applied for the 2012 NY International Fringe Festival. As readers of this blog already know, that application was successful and we were accepted into this prestigious festival…

Of course, what I didn’t realize when we applied for FringeNYC (and I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this because it’s not like I’ve never had a busy schedule before) was that I would go directly from directing and producing Jane Austen’s Persuasion right into casting, directing and producing In the Ebb. So, my dear readers, the last few weeks have been…uh…hectic, yes, hectic would be the right word. Also, as if that wasn’t hectic enough, sandwiched in between the close of Persuasion and the start of rehearsals for In the Ebb was my family’s yearly, week-long trip to Cape Cod.

And though this was a mostly relaxing time which enabled me to catch my breath, and though it was wonderful and amazing to be staying in a house on a bluff overlooking Nantucket Sound, with the ocean breezes a blowing, and though I got the chance to bond with my niece and nephews, sisters, brothers-in-law, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends, though I enjoyed the clam chowder from The Chatham Squire, Aunt Irene’s homemade pizza and meatballs, and my once-a-year indulgence of all the Oreo’s I can eat…I worked both more and less than I should have and had several days of not doing my blog posts or marketing stuff and also several days of working on rehearsal schedules and prep for In the Ebb not even looking up from my computer, despite the utter adorableness of this face: 

 

 

However, I’m back from the Cape and knee deep in the show. We’ve actually just completed our first week of rehearsals and have blocked all of Act II – the one-act, St. James in the Field of Stars. Tomorrow we delve into Act I – the one-act, The Ebb (yes, I know, we’re doing things a little backwards this time around, it’s kinda fun). I am blessed with a wonderful cast and an amazing crew and I’m absolutely thrilled with what we’ve got so far. And, as always, I’m LOVING the process.

You know, despite having never planned to be a producer, I’ve come to really love the producing parts of my theater work but it still doesn’t hold a candle to my feelings for directing. The directing, that’s where I live. There is something truly amazing about waking up in the morning and heading out to a job that is rewarding, fun, interesting, challenging, entertaining, amazing and, well, just doesn’t feel at all like work. Now, if I can only find a way to make it pay my bills too I’d be a truly happy…that being said, the first step to that whole paying the bills thing, is making sure people turn up to see the show. And, the first step to making sure people turn up to see the show, is making sure they (that’s y’all by the way) know all the details like when the show is, where the show is and how to buy tickets. So, please see below for details and join us in August for In the Ebb

Performance dates:

Tuesday, August 14th @ 2pm

Wednesday, August 15th @ 9pm

Friday, August 17th @ 7pm

Saturday, August 25th @ 4:30pm

Sunday, August 26th @ 12pm

Performance location:

HERE Mainstage

145 Sixth Avenue, NY, NY

Enter on Dominick Street
(6th Avenue and Varick)

Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door and are on sale now at www.fringenyc.org, on our very own Shows & Events Page, and by clicking the specific performance dates above!

 

All good things must come to an end…for now…

Clockwise from left, Shanae Brown, Costa Nicholas, Brad Thomason, Patrick Daniel Smith, Laura Bultman, Dina Ann Comolli, Ashley Wickett, Jenny Strassburg, Katharine McLeod, Jessica Ammirati, and Mark Montague

So, sadly, the bamboo fans have been folded up, the Empire waist dresses have been hung, the cravats untied…Jane Austen’s Persuasion is over for now. We had an amazing 14 performance, two week run, at The Secret Theatre!

We had an important first on this production – our first Sold Out Show – and on a holiday no less! I’ve already talked here about the amazing cast and crew that was a part of Persuasion and, amazing they were and continue to be. But now I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you – everone who came out to see the show – some of you twice! And all of you who support what we do. I’ve had a few people tell me how much they like our work at GTTP and I wanted to say that we couldn’t keep doing what we do here without the support of all of you out there. Thank you for coming out to our events, thank you for your donations, thank you for your kind words and THANK YOU for being a part of the GTTP family!

To be honest, I’m not sure where Jane Austen’s Persuasion will go from here. I’m hoping this isn’t the last you’ll see of this group, this show, this particular production…but whether we re-mount the show in a couple of months or years, or we let it go into that ether into which closed shows drift, you’ll definitely be seeing GTTP again sooner rather than later…in fact, if you’re around in August, come check us out at the NY International Fringe Festival. Keep an eye out for details on In the Ebb which will be posted soon.

If you haven’t had a chance, while there’s still time, please go to the NY Innovative Theatre Awards website and cast your vote for our show. Thank you again for being persuaded to hang with us here at GTTP for the last two weeks. We hope to see you in August!

One Week Down…

…and one to go. We’ve had an INCREDIBLE week at The Secret Theatre. The show has been going really well and the production is really coming into its own. My baby’s all grow’d up.

Ok, so here’s the part of the blog post where I get personal. Are you ready? Here it is: So, I don’t have any children of my own. Although I have a pretty decent maternal instinct, and I love my niece and nephews more than anything, I probably won’t be entering into motherhood (which is probably a good thing because, you know, no college tuition bills for me). The thing is, I think I get my fill of parenting with my work. Being a director (and a producer) is like parenting a child who is growing at an accelerated rate. Each and every thing I’ve directed has been, at least for the time I’m working on it, one of my babies. A baby that is born, grows up and moves on all in a matter of weeks – months at the most. And for those weeks or months I’m working on a show, that show is more precious to me than anything else in the world.

Every show starts the same way, you look at all the possibilities. Each show, like a newborn baby, is a blank slate just waiting to be imprinted on or impressed upon. Anything can happen. He can learn to love the color blue or she can learn to hate broccoli. She can become an astronaut or he can drop out of school to follow his favorite jam band around the world. For me it’s the same way, he can tell us about a woman in Cairo in the 1920′s (DREAMERS OF THE DAY) or she can show us a cantilevered house in upstate New York (SKIN FLESH BONE). She can bring us to a real estate open house (FULL DISCLOSURE) or he can take us to Regency England (PERSUASION). But whatever path the show takes it’s bound to be full of expected outcomes and completely unexpected surprises. Each show gives me something different, just as each child brings something different to his or her mother’s table. You watch that baby full of promise take its first steps out into the world and with each step it grows stronger until one day it’s strong enough to walk away from you. For a real parent it’s the goodbye you say when you drop your baby off at school and know nothing will ever be the same again. For me, it’s somewhere around the midpoint of a run. There comes a moment when you just know it’s not yours anymore. That moment when I’ve watched my baby walk away from me – strong and proud but not mine. Now my baby belongs to the cast and to the stage manager, to the running crew and to the audience. I just have to trust, as I watch it find its way without me, that the hands I give it to are good and solid and that while I held my show in my hands, I laid a strong enough foundation in its upbringing for him or her to find a way home.

…and I’m left with the realization that I have only one bittersweet choice ahead of me. It’s getting close to time to say goodbye to this baby and start again with a new one – it’s time for a new show to go on…so I’ll move on to In the Ebb with auditions this week. And I’ll start raising my newest baby, but, in the meantime, I won’t forget this one and I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the week goes on…I mean, who are we kidding, the baby may be growing up but it’s not going to college in Minnesota or anything. It is still right down the street from me, at least for another week. ;)

There are still 7 more shows of Jane Austen’s Persuasion to be seen. Join us at the Secret Theatre this week…before this baby walks away for good.

And, before you celebrate our independence from the British, celebrate the British themselves. Join us for special 1/2 price 4th of July matinee tickets – All seats $9! Go to the ticket purchase page and enter the code “4JUL” to take advantage of the reduced price tickets.

JANE AUSTEN’S PERSUASION has Opened and the Silent Auction has returned!!!!

Jenny Strassburg as Anne Elliot in JANE AUSTEN'S PERSUASION

 

Jane Austen’s Persuasion has opened!!!


Katharine McLeod as Elizabeth, Dina Ann Comolli as Lady Russell, Jenny Strassburg as Anne and Mark Montague as Sir Walter

…and, I know I’m biased and all but, Guys? Seriously? It’s a beautiful show! I couldn’t be happier with the script, the cast, the tech, the performances and the general spirit of the show. We’ve done three performances so far and the audiences are really enjoying it. Tonight begins our first crazy weekend – four shows in three days and we hope we get to see you all and that you get to see us!

I did want to give you a heads up that we have limited seating for this show – only 36 seats per performance so if you’re thinking of seeing the show this weekend, I HIGHLY recommend you get your tickets online beforehand. If there are seats available, tickets will be available at the box office, but with so few seats, there’s no guarantee.

Watching these first few performances I have been struck by the thought that I have been truly blessed with one of the best casts and crews in professional theater. Throughout the rehearsal process they didn’t bat an eye through crazy blocking choices, dance lessons, tiny backstage space, auxilliary dressing rooms…and any number of little issues that came up during the last 5 weeks…blessed I tell you, absolutely blessed!

Ashley Wickett as Mary Musgrove, Mark Montague as Charles Musgrove and Jenny Strassburg as Anne

I also wanted to mention the return of the silent auction! We still have some items which we are auctioning off (silently) during the run of the show both, in the lobby of the theater and online. If you’d like to take a gander at (or even bid on) an item, take a look at our silent auction page above, or take in the show and bid during intermission. I’ll continue to post updates online and the silent auction will close on the evening of the day of our last show (July 8th). So come on by the theater and take in Jane Austen’s Persuasion!

We’re looking forward to seeing you at The Secret Theatre! To buy tickets for Jane Austen’s Persuasion go here.

Patrick Daniel Smith as Captain Wentworth and Katharine McLeod as Louisa Musgrove

 

Another Opening, Another Show…

 

So, we open tomorrow – actually, by the time I post this it will actually be today that we open. But, before we do, I wanted to share some “day before opening” thoughts I had earlier today…

I’m sitting in an empty theater-no actors today since its equity day off-and I’m waiting for a few different crew members to arrive to take care of some last minute things before opening night. A couple of costumes that were being altered are getting dropped off, some finishes to the set are being, well, finished, the programs are being proofed…but in this moment of quiet before the storm, this pause for breath before the opening adrenaline kicks in, one thought keeps going through my head. And that is this – an empty theater is my temple, my church, my holy shrine. It is the place I’m most at home, most comfortable, most peaceful, and most me.

I remember when I was in college, my favorite place on campus was the theater. It was a massive 1500 seat auditorium but when no one was in it and there was just a bare stage with a ghost light, I could sit for hours and soak up the smell of backstage – that mixture of saw dust,  residual hairspray and, yes, sweat–the remnants of thousands of shows, thousands of possibilities and oh how I loved it! I’m not a religious person but there I could pray.

And? It turns out it doesn’t have to be an enormous auditorium for me to feel it. In this little empty black box tonight, with our 36 seats, we’re about to create something (actually we’ve been creating it for 5 weeks) and now we get to show it to you. It’s a rush, it’s a thrill, but more importantly, for me at least, it’s the reason I’m here. Nothing in the world makes quite as much sense to me as this does and I’m pretty sure that’s how most of my cast and crew feel too.

You see, I was thinking the other day that working on a show, if you’re doing it right, is like being on the island of misfit toys. We, none of us, fit in perfectly anywhere as well as we fit in with each other. And we particularly fit in when we create something for you. So we gather in darkened theaters, turn on the lights, and try to make a little magic happen, try to take you, our audience, to Tahiti…or Regency England as the case may be tomorrow. So come on out to The Secret Theatre tomorrow night and for the next two weeks and take the trip with us. This particular misfit thinks you’ll be glad you did.

Jane Austen’s Persuasion opens tomorrow (or actually probably tonight by the time you see this post – either way June 26th) and runs until July 8th. Tickets and details available on the Show and Events Page above or you can buy them here.

Also, if you want a little glimpse of (or more appropriately a listen to) Jane Austen’s Persuasion, check out my interview with the cast and adaptor of the play on the latest episode of Tahiti Dispatches (GTTP’s Podcast Series).

Loaded In…

Before I get into this week’s post, I wanted to just thanks everyone for showing up at our girst gala last weekend. It was a fantastic event filled with food, wine, live music, good company and great dancing…or, at least, enthusiastic dancing. :) And thank you to all of our sponsors. The event was a success because of your generosity!

So, now, on to tech week.

Day started with a realization of how to make a stale bagel taste almost fresh. Here’s how to do it*: Take your stale bagel and microwave it for 15 seconds. Flip it and microwave it again for 15 seconds. Take the bagel out of the microwave, cut it and toast it to desired done-ness. Put whatever topping on it you like and though it has a little bit of that rubbery texture, I challenge you to notice a huge difference between it and a fresh one…that being said, you have to start with a good, high quality bagel. Don’t grab one from dunkin donuts and expect this to work.

*this only works if you like toasted bagels.

Alas, but I digress. No actors today so we just focused on load-in, which went really well:

Costumes came first and have been set up on their rack, ready to be tried on and adjusted at the costume parade tomorrow.

Laura and I cleaned out the backstage and set up the audience into it’s performance configuration (we’re doing something a little different with the seats and we needed to test it out today.) Test went well, looking forward to bringing in the actors.

Sam arrived to start the lighting hang and focus. I’m always amazed watching lighting designers scramble up and down ladders as if there’s nothing remotely uncomfortable about being 15 feet in the air.

Then came Zeljka. We tested the projector and went over notes to make sure we’re all on the same page. It’s getting exciting, people.

Jane came around 5 to pick up costumes that need repairs and alterations and we went through costume stuff together. Tomorrow, she’ll have a new batch of alterations to contend with but we should be in pretty decent shape.

After Jane, in came Ien. She buckled down with Qlab to start getting the cues loaded in. We were doing really well until the speakers turned themselves off, so that’s a problem for tomorrow, definitely.

And finally, Becky arrived, most of the set pieces in hand.  We tested out some paint for the set and got the pieces in place.

All in all, a VERY productive day.

Looking forward to the costume parade and the movement work with Dana tomorrow…not to mention the advances each department will make in their individual techs. And with that…to bed I’m away.

Will try to post another update tomorrow. It’s wild to have so much time for tech…wild and wonderful…but I guess tech is just one of those things – no matter how much time you have, you always want one day more…

Jane herself, responds to our Gala invitation…

Dearest Lady Ammirati,

We are delighted to attend! We are just back from London. I was hardly there a minute before I could feel my morals declining. But I had to see about a dedicaton to HRH the Prince Regent.

At any rate, I have been in a great debate about my wardrobe for your ball. The white linen or the off-white? A cap or flowers? I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit. What do you think on the subject?

All at once, I keep telling myself, “You must really get some flounces. Are not some of your large stock of white morning gowns just in a happy state for a flounce?” Will any one attending be wearing flounces?

I was intrigued to learn from Mrs. Tickars’s young lady, to my high amusement, that the stays now are not made to force the bosom up at all; that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion. I was really glad to hear that they are not to be so much off the shoulders as they were. A little bit of shoulder can be too much when one passes a certain age. As Fanny Burney says, “In the first pride of youth and beauty, our attention is all upon how we are looked at. But when those begin to be somewhat on the wane – when that barbarous time comes into play, which revenges upon poor miserable woman all the airs she has been playing upon silly man – our ambition, then, is how we are listened to.

I continue quite well; in proof whereof I have bathed again this morning. It was absolutely necessary that I should have the little fever and indisposition which I had: it has been all the fashion this week in Brooklyn! I do mean to go to as many balls as possible but yours shall be very special indeed as I know of no other ball celebrating a novel made into a play. How very fashionable this shall be, quite “de rigeur”!

So, Lady, after assuring you of my good health, I remain your most obedient and humble servant,

Miss Jane Austen

 

…And what will you be doing Saturday night?

Ha Ha! It was a trick question…

I know that you will be at GTTP’s gala – An Evening with Jane Austen, but just in case it slipped your mind that it was this weekend, or you forgot to buy your ticket, or you accidentally left it off your calendar because you’re afraid – yup that’s right I said it – you’re afraid to man up, tuck your pants into your socks, and come to a regency ball, I wanted to tell you that it’s OK. You do not have to wear a costume. I repeat, you do not have to wear a costume. GTTP is all about the possibilities of theater and of life and it is very possible to not wear a costume and still come to the gala, enjoy some food and wine, dance a little dance, bid at the auction and generally have a good time. It’s good people, good food, good drink, good fun. We hope to see you there. Tickets are still available for purchase online here. But, never fear, you can also buy tickets at the door.

We’ll see you on Saturday! Doors open at 7pm!

 

What to wear…what to wear…

Have I mentioned that you can get gala tickets here?

Ok, so I know the problem – You’ve been invited to a Regency Ball and, not being British, (or born in 1790), you just don’t have a thing to wear! AHa! I’m here to swoop in to the rescue…so here we go. Ladies first, because that’s easier.

For the Ladies:

Ok, if you are a woman and you are looking to dress for a Regency ball, you need a dress (actually a skirt and top would work too but I’ll go with the dress first and add The Separates Addendum later.) What you need is either an empire waist (high waisted) dress or a dress with no discernible waistline. A maxi dress of any kind (the longer the better) and a ribbon or a scarf or something that you can cinch the dress with. Here is a picture of me in a maxi dress.

Once you have the dress on, take the ribbon and tie it around your waist just under the bust (like this)

Voila! An empire waist dress. And, let me just say, though the empire waist dresses of the time were floor length, don’t worry if yours turns into a cocktail dress length or even a miniskirt. We’re going for the feel of the time not total historical accuracy. Add a shawl (don’t worry if the colors are wilder than you would have seen at the time), put you’re hair up in ribbons or flowers or jewelry:  

pull out your best extravagant jewelry and you’re good to go!

 

 

As promised: The Separates Addendum – If you would like to attain the same look with separates, pick a skirt and a top that match. Pull the skirt all the way up to right under your bra. Tuck the shirt into the skirt and tie a wide ribbon around the top of the skirt to hide the join.

Ok, now for the boys:

The boys are a little trickier (seriously you should talk to my costumer about the difficulties) so we’ll have to fudge a bit more but just have a fun with it and you’ll get what I’m going for. Start with the pants. Any pants but jeans will do (and heck, if you want to do it with jeans, who am I to argue with you). You’ll have to imagine these photos are of a gentleman. My gentleman (my husband John for those of you who don’t know him) was late for work and so escaped being the guinea pig for this particular post so, it’s all me. ANYWAY, take the pants and a pair of high sweat socks. Tuck the pants into the sweat socks and pull the socks up as high as they’ll go up to just under the knee. Like so:

 

 

For shoes, if you have brown or black dress shoes, they’ll work perfectly, yes, I knowit looks weird to be wearing dress shoes with your sweatsocks but it’s either that or you borrow your wife’s stockings. If you’ve got a pair of boots, you can always wear those instead. Again, since I’m a girl, I can’t put on the men’s dress shoes and make that work, so here’s the outfit with boots.

 

Get a white button down shirt and tuck it into the pants. Take a tie and tie it like a cravat instead of a tie then basically do all the wrap around stuff but instead of passing the end of the tie through the knot, let it lay on top and pin it.

You’ve got yourself a cravat:

If you have a vest throw it on (I have no vests in the house) and now for the jacket. Take a regular jacket (if you have double-breasted that is best) button up the jacket and take the front two flaps of the jacket and pin them underneath the jacket (or just tuck them into your pants. It’s not perfect but it gives you a sense of tails.)

 

And, voila! If you have a top hat (And really, who doesn’t have a top hat in their closet) pop that on your head and you’re good to go. You can also feel free to draw on a dastardly mustache (or if you’re actually a man, you know, grow out your own – you’ve got a week. :)

The most important thing is to have fun! See you at the gala…and, if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can do so right now, right here.

Updates on Jane’s June…

Ok, so this blog post is a week late. I know I know – you’ve all been breathlessly anticipating an update on all things Tahiti. I can only excuse my absence from the interwebs last week by saying that in the midst of rehearsals for a show based on a book written by the queen of romance I took a week off from fictional romance to participate in real romance. Basically, last week, we added a new member to the Tahiti family – my younger sister Camilla, (whom many of you Tahiti followers know as the playwright of both In the Ebb and Skin Flesh Bone), got married last week and while I was reminiscing about (read: recovering from) an amazing party, I wasn’t in my Persuasion head space. However, a week of rehearsals and gala prep have brought me back to reality and I’m here to give you all some exciting updates!

First off – The Gala

photo by David Green

We have received an RSVP from our very own Jane Austen (actress, writer, teacher, director and producer, Karen Eterovich). Karen, whose production company Love Arm’d Productions focuses on promoting the work of Jane Austen, has written a solo show called Cheer from Chawton: A Jane Austen Family Theatrical.

Karen (seen in the photo here arriving at a different Jane Austen evening) has graciously agreed to step into Jane’s Empire Waist dress for the evening and entertain our gala attendees as Jane Austen. Personally, I’m very excited to see how Jane herself reacts to our modern age and, more interestingly, how we smartphone-toting, twitter-tweeting, facebook-posting moderns are able to blend into Jane’s world.

If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s performances outside of our Evening with Her, hop on over to her website, here.

Everyone at GTTP, hopes you will join us and Jane for food, drinks, and dancing at our June 16th gala – it may possibly be the event of the season! Although the early bird discount has expired, tickets are still on sale online here and at the door (124 Washington Avenue in Ft. Greene Brooklyn. More details (including directions) on the event itself can be found here. AND, for those of you who really really want to come to the gala but are hesitant because you don’t have a Regency Period outfit in your wardrobe, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post where I show everyone how to dress like a Jane Austen character using clothes you already have in your closet.

Which brings me to:

The show has been cast and rehearsals have begun. The play will feature (in alphabetical order):

Dina Ann Comolli*, Katharine McLeod*, Mark Montague*, Costa Nicholas, Patrick Daniel Smith,

Jenny Strassburg*, Brad Thomason*, Ashley Wickett*

*denotes members of Actors’ Equity Association appearing in an AEA Approved Showcase.

This past week we’ve done a rough block of the whole show and tomorrow we head into a week of character work. I’m excited, with a Jane Austen story so dependent on both relationships and the unspoken, to really delve into what makes these characters tick and see how those little (and I’m sure in some cases big) discoveries affect how we play the scenes when we return to the text next week.

The other big news on the Jane Austen’s Persuasion front is that tickets for the June 26th-July 8th run, are now on sale. As with all of our shows, tickets can be purchased online at our home page, our shows and events page, or by clicking here, by phone at 866-811-4111 and at The Secret Theatre Box Office at 44-02 23rd Street, Long Island City, NY 11101. This production will mark GTTP’s fourth production at The Secret Theatre and our first in the space known as The Little Secret. Can’t wait for y’all to see it.

And, just because I think it’s so awesome and our designer Christine Diaz did SUCH an amazing job on our images, I’d like to leave you with our Jane Austen-ized version of the tahiti logo. Enjoy!

 

getting unFRAMED…

So, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, thanks to TRU, I have been interning for Broadway Producer, Jane Dubin. Jane is one of the producers on current hit play, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER. And let me just say, if you haven’t seen this 9-Tony-Award-Nominated play, you should get out there and see it – it’s MAGICAL!!! Anyway, in addition to being a producer on PatSC, Jane is also the Executive Producer of the powerful one-man-show, unFRAMED – A Man In Progress, about poet, painter and playwright Iyaba Ibo Mandingo.

unFRAMED is Jane’s show that I have been helping out on and it is has been amazing to be a part of the experience. “So, what’s the show about?” you ask. I’ll let the website tell you:

“Meet Iyaba Ibo Mandingo, formerly Kenny Athel George DeCruise – painter, poet, husband, father, son, and undocumented immigrant from Antigua.  At the age of eleven, Iyaba is plucked from the tropical comfort of his boyhood and taken to life in America where he must navigate his way to manhood without the guidance of a father.  Using canvas, paint, poetry, prose and song, Iyaba tells us a story of his transformation from “Mommy Me No Wanna Go Merrica”- a prophetic piece that hints at the many trials he will face in a new land – to his powerful political poetry that would lead to his arrest and attempted deportation in post 9/11 America.  Throughout the play Iyaba shares his rage, his determination, and his hope while he paints his self portrait and successfully struggles to redefine his humanity, rediscover his smile, and truly accept himself for the first time.”

In the last few years, I’ve become a real fan of solo performances. As I’m sure you’re aware, what I love most about theater are the possibilities the medium allows for. With words and movement and not much else, a theater artist can create whatever he or she wants on stage. And, in some ways I feel that solo perfomances are theater in its purest form. You can’t get much more pure than one person on a stage, just telling a story. During the course of unFRAMED, Iyaba doesn’t just tell a powerful story that draws you in, he paints a picture for you…I mean he literally paints a picture – a self portrait – right before your eyes. Watching the play is like getting a glimpse into the creative process at the same time you get to just sit back and listen to a riveting story. It’s an incredible experience and one I highly recommend partaking in. And, thanks to unFRAMED‘s place in the soloNOVA Festival running 6/4-6/16 you have 5 chances to see it. unFRAMED will have performances on June 4th, 9th, 10th, 13th and 16th – though I know no one reading this blog will be able to make the last performance as you will all be at GTTP’s Gala Event – An Evening with Jane Austen. Luckily there are still 4 other opportunities to see unFRAMED. For tickets go to www.unframedtheplay.com.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with an update on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. We have a cast, who I’d like you all to meet, and we will be starting rehearsals today! Actually in about 2.5 hours. Gala tickets are still available at the early bird rate.

Get your tix now!

 

 

 

 

An Exciting Announcement…

Ok, so I’m going to take a short break from Persuasion news to make an exciting announcement but first I wanted to remind everyone that the early bird discount for tickets to our gala will be in effect for TWO more days. Get your tickets here.

So, on to the exciting announcement: This has been in the works for awhile now but I can FINALLY announce our next mainstage show. So, first we have Jane Austen’s Persuasion which will run in late June (hey, did I mention there’s a gala too? Tickets are available here) and then we’ve got In The Ebb, our Fringe show (read about that here).

Then, our next mainstage production will be (I feel like there should be a drumroll here so imagine that’s happening) an original adaptation of the novel Within Arm’s Reach by Ann Napolitano.

From Ms. Napolitano’s website: “Within Arm’s Reach charts the emotional life of three generations of an Irish Catholic family. Shaken reluctantly into self-examination by the unexpected pregnancy of its youngest member, the McLaughlin family is forced to confront ghosts of both past and present, and to re-appraise its values in a world of rapid change.

Narrated through six subjective first person accounts – the pregnant Gracie, her sister Lila, their parents, their matriarchal grandmother, and a family outsider with a curious connection – the novel dissects the markedly variant responses that such supposedly similar people can have to the same events.

An honest tale of interconnected lives, Within Arm’s Reach shows us that the ‘ties that bind’ are a source of both solace and of pain – at once a curse, a lifeline, an irritant and a cure – they are ultimately unavoidable and indelible.”

It’s a gorgeous novel, beautifully written, and I highly recommend picking it up and taking a look for yourself before we get the adaptation up on its feet. (In fact, I recommend you do that now so that it won’t be quite so fresh in your mind when you see the show and you notice all those little things I needed to change while adapting it for the stage). I am THRILLED to start working on the adaptation and delve into the lives of these amazing, intriguing, flawed, relatable, lovely, fascinating characters. Also worth a read is Ann’s second novel A Good Hard Look. The adaptation of that novel would have been much more difficult though, as I don’t have the budget to put live peacocks on stage…see, now you’re totally intriqued, right? That was my intention. Get thee to Ann’s website to get clarification and to pick up some great reading material.

And, hand in hand with our Within Arm’s Reach announcement (and I do want to apologize in advance if during the next 6 months of promotion that apostrophe ends up after the ‘s’ – I’ve caught myself putting it in the wrong place several times during grant applications and I live in terror of sending something out with it in the wrong place. That, and adding an ‘e’ to Ann’s name. Another thing I live in horror of doing because right now, I’m working on a show (Jane Austen’s Persuasion (gala tickets here)) where the main character’s name is Anne with an ‘e’ so with all the stuff floating in my head I’m concerned I’ll mix up the Anne/Anns or put that apostrophe at the end of Arms – Arms’. I’m probably guaranteed to do it but writing this here will hopefully keep it from happening. And, although I’m gonna try my best not to allow it to happen, just in case, I do want to apologize in advance to Ann if it does.)

ANYWHO…hand in hand with our Within Arm’s Reach announcement I would also like to announce that Going to Tahiti Productions has been awarded its first grant! Thank you Puffin Foundation for your support of Within Arm’s Reach. PuffinFoundation is a wonderful organization that, well, they say it best themselves…from www.puffinfoundation.org: “The Puffin Foundation Ltd. has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy. Why the Puffin? The Puffin, once endangered in the northeastern United States, was returned to its native habitats through the efforts of a concerned citizenry. Our name is a metaphor for how we perceive our mission in the arts: to join with other concerned groups and individuals to ensure that the arts not merely survive, but flourish at all levels of our society.” Within Arm’s Reach will now definitely happen because funding has been made possible by the Puffin Foundation. Thank you thank you thank you, Puffin! And can I just say, after growing up with PBS and hearing that phrase “funding has been made possible” during so many broadcasts I don’t think I can fully describe the thrill it gives me to be able to say that for one of my projects “funding has been made possible” by someone who doesn’t even know me but who read my proposal and thought, “yeah, that sounds cool. Let’s give her some money.” Seriously?!?! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, Puffin!!!

Phew! Ok, so, yeah, that’s the news. I promised you exciting so there you have it. I’ll be back next week with the cast announcements for Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Oh, and did I mention our gala? An Evening with Jane Austen? On June 16th at 7pm at MIMA Brooklyn? No? Well you can get tickets here and for two more days the early bird ticket price is still available. Buy Tickets Now!

 

We’re on the Fringe, baby!

Ok, so all you eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I missed last week’s post. I do apologize. A wonderful trip to a friend’s wedding in Los Angeles meant some of my regular duties fell by the wayside. That being said, there were some interesting and exciting developments during the last two weeks – if that’s what happens when I go away, maybe I should go on hiatus more often…

They say good things come to those who wait…what they don’t mention is that in addition to having the patience to wait for the good thing (whatever it may be) you also have to bust your a**. So for the last few months I’ve been putting in some serious leg work to take GTTP to the next level and it looks like that leg work is starting to pay off. Here’s what’s been happening in Tahiti…

First off, this didn’t happen in the last two weeks but I’m still so stoked about it that I figured I’d mention it again – I got to interview Melanie Jones! Check out our podcast interview with creator and performer, Melanie Jones.

Secondly, our JUNE 16th Gala Event, An Evening with Jane Austen, is starting to come together. We’ve got a commitment for appetizers from the amazing Brooklyn Restaurant . If you are a New Yorker and are unfamiliar with this Williamsburg restaurant, you are in for a treat. Every time I have eaten there the food has been exquisite. The place has a great atmosphere, terrific food, and fantastic drinks. Definitely check them out if you’re looking for a place to eat in Williamsburg, or, even better, check them out when you’re at the gala. Did I mention, you can get tickets to the Gala here.

And, we’ll be serving beer from . I know, not exactly Jane Austen fare, but they had beer back then, right? So what if it wasn’t Brooklyn Brewery beer. Their loss is our gain. Brooklyn is representing! And for those non-beer drinkers, never fear, there will also be wine.

Thirdly, today was the first day of auditions for Jane Austen’s Persuasion! The cast is starting to take shape and if all goes according to plan (keep your fingers crossed that all goes according to plan) we should have a cast announcement in next week’s blog post!

Fourthly, (is that a word), we got some awesome news from  This exciting and prestigious international theater festival has selected a version of GTTP’s very first show, In The Ebb, by Camilla Ammirati, to be a part of this year’s festival. Performances will be this summer in a theater in Manhattan – that’s right all you Manhattanites who have been saying, “I would totally go see a GTTP show but I don’t do Queens” – this AUGUST you’ll get your chance!!! More details will be posted on the website as they happen…and for more info on the NYC Fringe Festival itself, check out their page here.

AND, last but not least, I have a VERY exciting announcement regarding our fall/winter show…but you’ll have to wait to hear it for another week or so. Sorry, hate to cliffhang y’all but until the ink is dry on some paperwork, the (official) exciting announcement will have to wait. But seriously, guys, it’s awesome! You’ll definitely want to check back for deets soon!

…oh, and did I mention, tickets for the gala are on sale here. Also, for another week you can get them for the Early Bird reduced rate of $60 – use code GEB.

GalaTicketsGalaTicketsGalaTickets Buy gala tickets now! GalaTicketsGalaTicketsGalaTickets

 

A Site Visit, A Reading and A Meeting…

Exciting few days in Tahiti…

Saturday began with a site visit to MIMA (the site for our GALA Event – An Evening with Jane Austen – Oh, did I mention, tickets now on sale here!!!! – It’s a BEAUTIFUL space, y’all. I can’t wait for you to see it. Me and my Fundraising Coordinator, the incomparable Shanai Jensen, went to the space to plan some specifics about the event. You know, like “food will go here, silent auction there, drinks here, dance lesson there.”  Step by step it’s all starting to come together. We also discovered (thanks to the construction on the G train) that there is an INCREDIBLY simple way to get from Greenpoint/Williamsburg to MIMA and it is the B62 Bus. It stops literally half a block from the space so for those of you who are looking to take public transpo and don’t want to walk from the G (or if the MTA decides to do more construction on the G line on June 16th) the B62 is the way to go!

Following the site visit, Shanai and I headed to the Secret Theatre, where a group of actors, Tahitians, and friends volunteered to read the working script for Laura Bultman, our genius adapter, to hear out loud. It was a fun and helpful excercise for a certain director (that would be me) as well.

It’s amazing how a script can be so clear on the page and so different once the lines are read out loud. Thanks to this reading, Laura will be able to make final revisions to the script before we head into auditions and onward to rehearsals.

After the weekend’s activities, today I sat down with the stage manager and a few of the designers in our first official Jane Austen’s Persuasion Production Meeting. We got to take a look at the performance space and get a jump on initial ideas. It’s funny, even though the script is still going through revisions, there’s still much to be done. Somewhere in the last two weeks a switch was thrown from “lots of time to get everything done” to “not enough time to get anything done.” It’s amazing how fast that happens.

Speaking of lots to do…I should go, you know, do it…

Thanks for checking in!

The good…and the bad…

The good news is that the one-act I directed as part of The Secret Theatre’s One Act Factor, has been chosen as a semi-finalist! After 2 sold out performances, The Day Job by Julia Blauvelt, will get at least one more performance this Friday, March 30th at 8pm. And, if we pass to the Finals it will get two more performances! Tickets and details available here. The whole festival has been incredibly successful. The shows have played to sold out houses and it’s the first time that something I directed has sold so well…and that’s what I wanted to talk a bit about in today’s blog. You see, NY independent theater is hard. It’s hard work, yes, but it’s also hard to get audiences. I know, I know, I know, this is not new information; I mean, it’s hard to get audiences for EVERYTHING, so it’s not a shock that it’s hard to get audiences for low budget indy theater in the theater capital of the world. After all, Joe Blow Tourist from middle America ain’t coming to my experimental, multimedia, adaptation of an obscure Mary Doria Russell novel, even if it is a fantastic show and even if it is practically in Times Square…but still, it can be hard to keep the motivation going and, when you’re involved in a production that does very well (as I am with The One Act Factor) it’s a reminder of how things sometimes don’t go so well in other areas of your life.

Most of the time I try very hard to be nothing but positive on this blog. I mean GTTP is an exciting company and we do exciting work and I want you all to see that, hear that, and feel that from this blog. I don’t mind sharing the reality of the difficulties of producing theater here but I don’t want to skew to the negative. I want to be honest – I mean, isn’t that what a blog is for/about but nobody wants to hear me whine about how producing theater is haaaaarrrrrdddddd. So, read the rest of this blog at your own risk. If you’d rather just see the happy sunny side of life, skip this blog post entirely and catch up with us next week when I discuss the best theater organization in the city that you’ve never heard of. But, if you want to hear the truth, keep on reading…and stick around for the end cause there’s a nice little addendum to this story.

So, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, being an artist in NYC is hard and sometimes there are days when you can’t help but think why why why am I doing this? During the run of Full Disclosure I had one (actually a few) of those days when we had VERY small audiences (like two people) and there were even a couple performances we had to cancel because no one showed up at all. What if you threw a party and no one showed up? Well, I can tell you, because it’s happened to me and it sucks. And, because I’m hoping other theater companies out there read this blog, I want them to realize when the going gets tough that they’re not alone out there. In the end I felt like it was only fair for me to post the good with the bad. So here goes. (Also, since I’m not certain that anyone other than my mom reads this blog anyway, it can’t hurt, right?)

The life of an artist. (An artist with an amazing, super supportive, incredibly awesome husband, family and general support system, but an artist nonetheless…)

Everyone is encouraging. Everyone is supportive. I can’t express how grateful I am for that encouragement and support but what if everyone is also delusional? What if I am? It never seemed like such a crazy dream, it still doesn’t…I just want to make a living as a director. And yes I know making a living with art is crazy. It’s impossible… It won’t get you rich… I know, I know, I know… but here’s the thing… the thing I keep coming back to… the reason I can’t just stop. I can’t just let it go… Are you ready for the thing? Here it is: people do it. Yup, that’s right. There are people all over the world (and when it comes to theater particularly this city – all over this city) who do it. They make a living with their art. It may not be a good living but it’s how they pay their bills… And hell, some of them are even rich. Not Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey rich, but, you know, they make a decent living. They’re rich enough not to worry every month about paying their bills, about going out to a nice dinner (I am so sick of tuna fish but that’s another story) about picking up a nice bottle of wine (although say what you will, that 3 buck chuck ain’t bad at all). You know, they just do it. That’s what I’d like to get to. I’d like to have a little breathing room so that each month I don’t have to go into an ulcer-inducing, migraine causing, teeth grinding panic that the bills are due…

So, in order to become a director, I became a producer. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And I started this production company… And you know what? We’re good. I mean we do good – really good – work. And, every show I think “this one’s going to be different. This time I’ll get the word out in advance. I’ll make sure the show is listed everywhere, that everyone knows about it. I’ll hang signs and run campaigns and we’ll have HUGE audiences (or at least decent houses).” And you know what happens? I do the listings. I hang the signs. I talk to the people and… we’re lucky if we get 10 people!

Now, I know we don’t have brand recognition. I know we often do new works and none of those new works are produced by Alicia Keys or starring Sarah Jessica Parker, but still, we do great stuff with amazing actors. How are we flying under the radar? Why is word not spreading? In the past I’ve had marketing help but clearly it’s time to bring in a pro… or is it? Is it worth the expense? Will they really bring in an audience or funds or whatever? What’s next?

I’m hoping Persuasion, being Jane Austen, will at least bring in some folks, but honestly, if we can’t bring in some money, we can’t do Persuasion. This is why we did Full Disclosure. Do a smaller less expensive show, sell out a few houses and BOOM! Enough money in the bank to have a base for Persuasion but you know what’s happened? We did 12 performances of a planned 14 performance run and… no sold out houses. In fact our largest house was eighteen people and we had to cancel two performances (one of them on a SATURDAY night!) because there was no audience! I mean, I’ve faced small audiences before but since the start of GTTP I have NEVER had to cancel an entire performance, let alone two. We’re going backwards!! So now what?

You have to persevere. You can’t give up. You just need to have a thick skin. But, if I’m really going to persevere (and who are we kidding? I am because a director is who I am) and if I’m not going to give up (spoiler alert: I’m not (see the whole “it’s who I am” thing above)) then I don’t think the thick skin is going to cut it. I think, not a thick skin – a short memory.

Yes, you have to remember enough to learn from your mistakes but once you’ve done that? Forget, forget, forget. Forget the disappointment of the last time. Forget that acid stomach, might-vomit feeling of looking at the two presales at five minutes to curtain and thinking “maybe there’s a tourist bus full of people just pulling up out front.” Forget the headache inducing feeling of looking at your audience of 2, count ‘em TWO wonderful people, knowing they’ll still get an amazing performance but that it would be better if that 2 were 20 or 50 or 100. You need to forget, forget, forget and believe – really BELIEVE that next time it will be different… And then SOMEHOW you need to make that happen.

Because, if Going to Tahiti Productions is about the possibility (and it is), about all of the possible things that could happen when that curtain goes up or those lights go on… well then, it’s definitely POSSIBLE that one of the possibilities is playing to packed houses. Maybe with a longer run. Maybe with a show with a bigger budget. Maybe with a press rep. Maybe, maybe, baby… but whatever the answer I guess the only way I’m going to find it is to keep trying…right?

So, I guess I have no choice, right? So, I pick myself up off the mat, forget, forget, forget the disappointments of last show, last year, last night…know, know, KNOW that the product is good, whether the audience is 2 or 20 or 50 or 100. Know that the show is HIGH quality and get ready to do it again tomorrow. I mean who are we kidding? In the world of dreams is there ever, was there really ever, an option to do anything OTHER than keep pursuing? I think not. See you at the theater, folks. I know it’s where I’ll be… And honestly, I really hope you come and join me for the ride!

So I wrote the above blog post during the run of Full Disclosure, and though the show was terrific and Kiwi Callahan knocked it out of the park for every freaking performance, we didn’t have a fantastic attendance rate and we lost money on the show. BUT! Something happened with Cat Lady Without a Cat. Are you ready? We made…wait for it…EIGHTY EIGHT DOLLARS! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen of the interwebs, we didn’t lose a dime on our last production, we are in the black! So, you know…progress…Here’s hoping this is the beginning of an upward trend for GTTP! I have a feeling, 2012 is going to be a very good year.

 

Cat Lady closes…what’s next…

Thank you everyone who turned out for Carrie Keskinen’s Cat Lady Without A Cat. The three performances were terrific and Carrie got some fantastic feedback from audiences for development purposes. We don’t know what’s next for Cat Lady, though it has been submitted to the FringeNYC Festival, so hopefully NY audiences will get a chance to see it again this summer.

Now that Cat Lady has closed, we will now turn our attention to a few things we’ve got in the pipeline at GTTP. First up is the one act I’m directing as part of The Secret Theatre’s One Act Festival: THE ONE ACT FACTOR

Although this is not a GTTP show, The Secret Theatre is a terrific space and they’ve been great to us. If you’re looking for a fun evening of one-acts (or 3 fun evenings of one-acts) join us at The Secret. The play I’m directing is called THE DAY JOB by Julia Blauvelt and it will be performed as part of Series B, on Friday 3/16 and Saturday 3/24.

The Secret Theatre is pleased to announce THE ONE ACT FACTOR, a brand new competition style one-act play festival held from March 15th-31st. Each week actors, playwrights and directors band together and compete to win cash prizes in Best Play, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress in a showdown similar to the popular talent shows we’ve all seen on TV. As the weeks go by, teams advance to the final rounds through audience votes. Awards are also determined by celebrity judges who will give encouragement and advice to all the contestants. This new form of one-act festival is sure to be fun for all involved: actors, directors, playwrights and audience members alike. For more details and to purchase tickets go to: www.secrettheatre.com.

Now that Cat Lady has closed and the grant applications have been submitted (for now), I can finally turn my attention to both Persuasion and the Jane Austen Gala, both of which will be happening in June. I’m about to start pre-production for the play (script should be ready on Wednesday!) and I’m in the process of securing donations from local vendors to make the gala an incredible, fun evening. So, if you know anyone with goods or services that they would like to donate for a tax deduction, please send them my way. The event will have food and wine and a silent auction and hopefully some dancing! As details are settled they’ll be posted.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in June, if not before!