Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prep, Prep, Prep

Whew! It has been a whirlwind week this past week, as we have been in "tech" for Alice in Wonderland. For those of you who do not know, tech is when all the elements that have been functioning individually come together to meld and form this amazing mosaic of lights, costumes, sounds, and magic!

There is a lot of planning that goes into the final product of the show and we have been figuring out where all the proper pieces go together. From makeup to costume elements to where we stand on stage so that the lighting design can be in full effect. It all takes time and focus from all parties involved.

Sally and her team have been running around feverishly finishing up the final touches on all of the costumes, and boy do they look great! The audience is in for a real treat when they come and see the show (have you got your tickets yet? you can do so here). Albert and Lori Carter have come in and swept the makeup room as they have done the design of all the "animals" and others in the show.

They have spent the first part of this week putting the makeup into effect and showing the actors how to apply and put on the designs themselves. They have been excellent teachers and I think we all feel confident that we can duplicate what they have showed us (of course minus the expert flair they add, but we will do our best).


I wish, I wish I could show you some of the make design on the actors, it is truly awesome. However that means that I would be giving you a sneak peek and you know I can't do that! You have to come and enjoy the wonder first hand, because no pictures and no descriptions can really do it justice. Opening night is tomorrow night, so there are still plenty of opportunities for you to take in a performance (info on tickets here). Since I can't give anything away, I will leave you with a picture of the queen's earring....she is one lady you don't want to mess with, and believe me you won't want to miss her appearance in the Royal Court.

So come on....have a little adventure (or a big one).....and let yourself fall into the rabbit hole.....see you in WONDERLAND......


Till next time~

Cheers,
MAH
Company Manager

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ENDSTATION PROFILES: Maria Hayden


COMPANY MANAGER or DESTRUCTIVE FORCE?

MARIA HAYDEN: ENDSTATION MAINSTAY

"One who witnesses the birth of a company will, inevitably, desire its ultimate and final demise."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Early in the year of 2007, Maria Hayden joined Endstation founders, Geoffrey Kershner and Krista Franco, in the company's meager beginnings as stage manager to its first production, The Tell Tale Heart and The Mind of Poe. The Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival was only in its first trimester, and not yet born. As stage manager to the company's first production, Maria was a vital element of the team, Maria took up task after task and before long, she was indispensable. Maria committed herself to the company and did everything necessary to help it grow. Maria was one of the first cogs in the great wheel that is ENDSTATION. All was.. rolling... along rather smoothly. A theatrical home was being built in the depths of Virginian Appalachia.

No one saw the mastermind and saboteur that lurked within.
Maria matriculated quickly through the ranks. She always wanted more. By the start of the 1st Annual Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival, Maria was stage managing both The Bluest Water: A Hurricane Camille Story AND Romeo and Juliet, in repertory no less. She seemed to consume every new task and return to the dinner table for seconds. She was a machine. Endstation needed a machine and so Endstation asked no questions. Even when Maria became intimate with the financial underpinnings of the company, Endstation asked no questions.

They gave her control.
By the start of the 2nd Annual Festival, Maria Hayden, a silent cancerous, rebel force, stage-managed the remounting of The Bluest Water. She found a minion and stool pidgeon intern named Melissa Porcaro and installed her as conduit stage-manager of My Brother's Knife: A Madison Heights Odyssey. This maneuver was necessary strategy, her grip was tightening and she was simultaneously cast as Snug the Joiner in our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. No longer saddled as sole stage manager, her horizons expanded. She understood the inner-workings of the company, captained its productions, basked in the limelight of the stage, wrangled actors, cooked the books...

The next step was obvious.
SHE WOULD BECOME COMPANY MANAGER and CONTROL IT ALL. For those of you unacquainted with the role of Company Manager within a theatrical enterprise, this person is not only one of the central pillars of the ensemble, she can bring it all tumbling to the ground in a tell-tale heartbeat. ENDSTATION is playing with fire, ladies and gentleman, and it doesn't have an up-to-date accident insurance policy. I, Michael Stablein, Jr., am reaching out to our loyal blog audience. THIS IS NOT A CONSPIRACY. I can't stop her alone, she's too powerful, she signs my checks. I need your help. Ask not what ENDSTATION can do for you, but what you can do for ENDSTATION. After the jump, you'll know what to do.


m.

--
Michael Stablein, Jr.
Head of Playwrights' Initiative

Something Special


Endstation Theatre Company Presents:


Join the cast from Endstation's ALice in Wonderland for a proper English Tea at the Elston Inn at Sweet Briar College. Guests will enjoy tea, sandwiches, scones, lemonade, and of course - sugar tarts (that is, if someone doesn't steal them first!). Don't know how to drink tea? That's ok - Alice and friends will show you how!

Wednesday, July 7 @ 4:00pm
Sunday, July 11 @ 4:00pm
Tickets - $20

To purchase tickets, visit lynchburgtickets.com or call (434) 381-6537.
Space is limited.

All proceeds from this event will benefit
Endstation's Educational Outreach program.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's For Kids, Dummy!

As we near the opening of our first ever effort in theatre for young audiences here at Endstation- Alice in Wonderland- followed closely behind by our playwright's intensive, followed closely behind by our second effort in theatre for young audiences at the New York Fringe Festival with my play Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island, I'd like to share with you a piece I wrote earlier this year for Script Frenzy to encourage all of you to try and write a piece for young audiences.

It’s For Kids, Dummy

Having a hard time making your womanizing, meth dealing, wife-beating protagonist redeemable so your audience can share in his triumphant return as a featherweight champ? Does your post second world war drama about that quadriplegic hopelessly in love with that Jewish gal he was separated from at the fire bombing of Dresden have you feeling a little glum? Can’t quite wrap your head around that brilliantly eloquent but devilishly complex British villain who likes to wear her victim’s underwear and skin? Well, why not try something a little more fun and…


WRITE A CHILDREN’S PLAY, DUDE!

Don’t give me that crap about how you’re an artist and you need to write the next Schindler’s List or Shawshank Redemption. Do yourself a favor, tap into that inner tree fort building kid you once were before you started hanging out with that pretentious art crowd, and write a children’s play. I guarantee you will find it awesomely fun, completely liberating, and if you want to get all self-worthy about it, kids need you to show them how to be awesome people before MTV ruins their brains.


Are you with me? Let’s do this!

I’ve written a few plays for kids, and I’ve learned a few things that I think can help make your experience a fruitful one. Here are my suggestions for writing a piece that will be both fun for you and the kids you’re writing for while keeping your play for young audiences a readily producible one.

As I see it there are two types of theatre for young audiences: Theatre meant for kids performed by adults or theatre for kids performed by kids. It’s important to keep this distinction in mind when you’re thinking ahead about the business of getting your play produced.

If it’s all kids performing the parts, then the piece can be easily cast in a middle school or after school program. If the piece has a mix of adults and kids, you get caught in children’s theater purgatory where your play is much harder to produce because you have to worry about the adult actor’s work schedules and younger actor’s school schedules. If your piece is to be strictly performed by adults, then it would be in your best interest to keep the cast size smaller so economically it makes more sense for a theater to easily produce.

But as far as this article is concerned, we’re talking about plays performed BY kids FOR kids.

You’ll find this restriction less limiting than you might expect. It doesn’t mean you can’t write adult characters, it just means they have to be played by kids.

Keep the cast size large. When you start brainstorming a piece you want to write, try and think big. If the cast size is large it draws a different type of attention. Folks working with middle school theater programs or after school summer camps often look for pieces with larger sized casts to cater to as many students as possible. Even more so, because these pieces are so attractive to middle school programs, they’re attractive to play publishing companies as well, and are a convenient way to get your foot in the door with a publisher. I usually aim for a cast size that is 15+.


Keep the play short. Kids have short attention spans. Heck, we all do. It behooves you to write a piece with a running time of an hour or less. In the theater an hour means roughly 55-60 pages. I’d shoot for less, but make it a complete piece. Somewhere in the 40 to 60 minute range is a good spot to aim for.


Keep the lines short. When you start putting fingers to keys, try and keep in mind that memorizing Hamlet type monologues isn’t a forte of most 6th-8th graders. I think you’ll find that when you have a very large cast, writing short bursts of dialogue comes pretty easy as you look for ways to squeeze more characters into a piece.


Keep it cheap. I think this is a rule that spans the gamut of writing for the theater. If you’re a burgeoning playwright chances are a hot shot Broadway producer isn’t going to be interested in your script, and the folks at a T. Jefferson Middle School aren’t going to be impressed with the helicopter you have landing on stage at the beginning of the second act. You want to give a director every reason to want to produce your piece. A great way to keep them interested is to make sure that your piece won’t take an oil tycoon’s pocket book to produce. Keep in mind that your piece might get produced in a cafeteria, a classroom, and if you’re lucky a theater. So be resourceful. It is the theater after all. If your protagonist stands at the middle of a blank stage tells the audience they’re atop a mountain, then the audience tends to believe her.


Write androgynous characters. Don’t get me wrong, a few parents might be a bit put off to find their kid has been cast as Ziggy Stardust. What I really mean is try and keep your play open to options. A middle school program at one place may have 15 boys and 2 girls sign up for a class and somewhere else it may be quite the opposite. So try and write at least a few characters in your large cast that can be either a girl or a boy. For instance in a play of mine I wrote the brotherly duo “Buck and Chuck.” When a particular production needed to cater to a few more girls than boys the characters were easily changed to the sisters “Carla and Marla,” because the lines I wrote initially for Buck and Chuck didn’t convey a sense of gender. I tend to find that middle school classes and summer programs generally have more girls enlisted than boys, but don’t take my word for it.


Kids aren’t stupid. I think this kind of goes without saying, but don’t treat the actors or the audience like they’re dumb drooling babies. Kids are funny. By the time they’re in the 6th grade they have senses of humor and not much makes it over their heads. And after all, when kids perform, their families tend to show up. You want to make it fun and entertaining for all parties involved. The added bonus of all this? Parents are some of the best audiences a writer can ask for because they are utterly captivated by seeing their kids on stage.


Kids say the darndest things. One of the things I have found that is so liberating about writing children’s theatre is that kids say what’s on their minds. In more dramatic writing, a writer might get hung up on a character’s intent and the character’s subconscious wanderings, but when you write children’s theater your characters tend to say what’s on their minds, because well, kids say what’s on their minds. This often lends itself to focused characters with clear wants and clear actions.


This will be good for you. Writing protagonists that are kids is a good way to get out of that rut of essentially writing yourself as the protagonist of all your pieces. I know when I write a piece with adult characters, at least one if not all the characters tend to sound and think like I do, because well, I think a great deal of myself and why would I not make an interesting protagonist? The fact is, I don’t. And therein lies the rub. Sometimes folks tend to care too much about themselves embodied in their protagonist to make the right choices or give their protagonists the chinks in their armor that are necessary for an interesting three dimensional character. Writing a child protagonist can be easier because they aren’t like us. Don’t get me wrong, kids are complex, but they tend to have clear wants and needs, and the conflict in your children’s play is often more cut and dry than the convoluted plots you might dream up to impress your book club buddies. Personally I know writing children’s theatre has helped me focus my more dramatic writing, keeping me conscious of wants, needs, and real conflict.

It’s a big deal. Pat yourself on the back, dude. It’s a big deal to write for kids. You have an amazing opportunity to influence a lot of young minds in a positive way, and at the very least you have the opportunity to help them have a little fun. If it’s your first time, I think it would be a good exercise to concentrate on writing just that: a piece that is fun. You’ll find it’s an amazing time. And maybe after you get a few of these plays under your belt, you can really tackle the harder issued children’s plays. After all, kids have got it pretty tough sometimes.


Thanks so much,

+joshua mikel

Theatre Journal: The Bluest Water

We received a review for The Bluest Water in the Theatre Journal, a national publication. Read the article by clicking HERE.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bryce Page, Who Is HE

My name is Bryce Page. I’m the Resident Sound Designer for Endstation. I look like this:

I like making music and the rest of the year I work for Apple at West 14th Street in New York City. It looks like this:

My job is sometimes difficult to explain because if you’ve gone to a show with a really good sound design, most times you don’t notice it. So success is measured a lot by transparency and aloofness; what do I really do then, while I’m here?


I usually look at screens that look like this:


And I make music, background sounds, effects and record with it. It’s one of my favorite things, really. It lets me make stuff that sounds like this:

video

And that's what I do with Endstation.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Choosing a Season


I thought that today I would let our readers in on my thought process for picking a season. There are a lot of things I consider. I try to think about what work is going to serve our artists. This includes our designers, our actors, and our playwrights. I also think of our audience. I view our season offerings as an exchange in a relationship we share with the community here in Central Virginia. I try to think about where are audience is in our relationship. Where are they ready to go? What will bring them back to us? What will increase their size? What do they need right now as a community?

This year's production of HAMLET allowed us to both explore local history as well as produce another site specific outdoor Shakespeare

The last three years we have offered an outdoor Shakespeare. This has been a good compromise in our relationship with the community because Shakespeare is recognizable, has confirmed greatness, is associated with outdoor performance, and it still allows us as a company to explore and push ourselves. We love the Bard and the depth of the work. We can also seek out exciting performance locations for our shows. We will do this for at least another year. I want our audiences to learn to love our particular outdoor approach to theatrical work and Shakespeare is a good gateway drug. My hope is that we can offer other kinds of work outside once our audience is coming to see us and not just outdoor Shakespeare.

Almost as soon as I arrive on campus I start to look for a location for next year's outdoor show. This year I took advice from Krista (scenic designer) and Dan (lighting designer). We are always wandering around campus scouting locations. This year I went with the location first and then picked a show for that location (I have selected a show... this announcement will come by the opening of HAMLET). This year I went with Dan's spot. It is gorgeous. It is near parking and close to Babcock. It is adjacent to the old train station and caboose. There is a perfect grass area for audience and it has natural back drop (see below). Next year we will build a set and utilize this natural backdrop.

The back drop of next year's outdoor location

This year was our first year doing theatre for young audiences (get your tickets today for Alice and Wonderland!). This is an experimental year for us. I have a firm belief that there is an audience for TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) but we have to find them and we have to build a tradition in the area that we do a TYA show every year. This year is a first and just like our first season, the audience will be there but the tradition will have to come with time and with that tradition audiences will grow. We are currently preparing for a NYC Fringe production of company member Josh Mikel's children's play Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island. I really love the idea of producing original and new work for TYA and this may be something we continue. I am also re-considering where in the season we place the TYA show. It might be effective for us to do a show while schools are still in session to maximize our educational outreach associated with the show.

This year's production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Our final slot is up in the air right now. This show would be indoors and would run along side our outdoor Shakespeare. For sometime we have been organizing and planning a theatrical production that involved the Monacan Indian tribe. This project was slated for next year but because of various circumstances the project has been pushed back. I am always looking for a show in our season that plays on local history and culture. I would love ideas and thoughts from YOU! If you have any, email me with them at gkershner@endstationtheatre.org.

I will announce the 2011 season during the HAMLET run. Stay tuned...

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

Friday, June 25, 2010

Festival. Wine. Food. Virginia.

Central Viriginia is an experience.
Within a 50 mile radius of the campus, there are over 15 vineyards, 10 picturesque B&Bs, the Blue Ridge Parkway, countless historical sites, and a number of delicious and unique local restaurants.

So, when it was time once again for Lazy Days Winery's "Virginia Summer Solstice Wine Festival," I was super stoked - because it brings together many of the area's local gems all under one roof. Or barn, in this case. It was also the perfect place to promote our upcoming shows.


Vineyards from all over Central VA were represented, including Flying Fox, Afton Mountain, and Mountain Cove, but I found myself revisiting Rebec and Cardinal Point. Rebec's Viognier is sweet and crisp, and has the slightest hint of a sparkle, while Cardinal Point's A6 is rich and fruity.

One of my favorite Nelson County Farmer's Market vendors was also there selling his fabulous creations. The Rock Barn is a local catering company that uses fresh local ingredients. Ben Thompson, chef and owner, brought his best to Solstice. His curried potato empanadas with cumin creme and pesto were a splendid departure from the traditional festival food.

Solstice also boasted an impressive music lineup, including some blues, rock, and americana. The stand-out act was the husband/wife duo band, The Honey Dewdrops - sort of Alison Krauss meets Swell Season. Check out the music clips on their website - amazing harmonies.

The moral of my story is this: when you come to see an Endstation production, take some time to explore all that Central Virginia has to offer.

Ashley Zach, Communications Director

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black Lights, Chicken Wire, and Hedgehogs! Oh My!


Alice In Wonderland is heating up as we begin the finishing touches and start moving into technical rehearsals. Over the past couple of days the scene shop has been finalzing some last components of the set for Alice as the stage begins to get completely painted, taking on its final look.

At this point, the scene shop interns, Hillarie and I, have been sort of doubling on the props crew as well, preparing different items used by the actors in the show. Along with Tania and Catherine, Hillarie has been at work constructing a set of flamingo croquet mallets used by the Queen and others. Meanwhile I spent Wednesday afternoon putting together a whimsical book stand used by the Knave and Duchess.

One of the last big additions to the set as we near the opening of the show is a giant tree that stands on platforming that reaches out into the house. The 9 foot+ tall structure made out of plywood templates with wood framing will set the scene for Alice at the beginning and end of the show. Over the past two days we added the foundation peices for the branches and we have begun to use chicken wire to create the form of the branches. After the chicken wire form is complete we will use fabric dipped in paint and glue to give the tree its surface and texture.

Then on Wednesday evening the designers, technicians, and other production staff (as well as a few actors), gathered in the theatre to beginning technical rehearsals for the show. After finishing the first act last night, we move into the second act this evening. I have been lucky to have the experience of working on building the show as part of the scene shop, but also to see and help all of the elements come together in production as part of the running crew. As part of the running crew I have the responsibility of moving props back stage and making sure items and actors are ready for entrances as well. One of the additional perks that Brain (our ATD), and I will be working into the show soon is the use of a couple remote controlled cars as the hedgehogs with which Alice and the others play croquet. Some of the most stunning visual elements that we have just begun to see is the addition of lighting by Dan Gallagher, using (among other things) black lights to give the space a very unique tone.

Its been exciting seeing some of the different visual and sound elements come together as we near the opening of the show, and I look forward to more as we continue into technical rehearsals this weekend!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Endstation Spotlight: Katie Thomas (Alice herself)

The place: Columbia, South Carolina. The date: Sunday November 16, 1986. Audrey Denise Thomas was going about business as usual.... little did she know the spinach casserole she was eating for lunch would cause her labor to begin , and in just a few short hours a 6 pound beautiful baby girl would make her grand entrance into this world. John Charles Thomas and his wife were ecstatic and couldn't be prouder of the new little bundle of blessing in their lives.

Let me take a moment to introduce you to Cathryn Olivia Thomas, to us she is Katie ("with a K"), and soon to the incoming patrons she will be known simply as "Alice". Katie has come in, swept the stage, and is doing an amazing job portraying this fun and curious character.

We took a few moments before rehearsal and I asked Katie some questions to get an idea of the festival from her perspective:

What were your expectations coming into the festival?

"Honestly, I didn't have too many expectations, since Endstation and the festival were new to me. I was just hoping to come in and soak it all up. I was looking forward to a new experience and I was ready to enjoy every minute of it."

Ok, so how has the festival experience been thus far, and how has it met your expectations (or lack of expectations)?

"It has been great, this is my first semi-professional gig, and I am having a lovely time. Everyone here is so talented, which can be intimidating but also has caused me to push myself to a higher level. I love the fact that everyone here is so diverse, that has been a breath of fresh air. I have really enjoyed getting to learn from new people, and I feel like I am kid in an ice cream shop where I can pick all different flavors to enjoy on the same cone...or basically it is a Prothro buffet"


What has your favorite festival memory been thus far?

"oh that's a hard one, there are some many to choose from...hmm...Michael's (Michael Stablein Jr.) master class I took with him for two hours the other day was amazing....or maybe when Josh (Mad Hatter) pours water on my head during the show.....although I have to admit being "forced" to sing karaoke makes the top of the list at this point"

(we will forgive the fact that Katie is a Yankees fan...blah...GO RED SOX!!)

What has been the funnest thing about playing Alice?

"being able to have a childish imagination again, seeing things in a new way. Not many people get the chance after they grow up to go back and look through a child's lens and play"

You are a recent college graduate (Spring 2010), so what do you hope to do after the festival ends?

"Well.....first i have to find a job...but eventually I would like to work professionally in theatre or film, and really enjoy what I am doing "

Well.....Katie I would say you are really enjoying what you are doing currently, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we have thoroughly enjoyed working with you. It has been neat to watch you make all sorts of discoveries throughout the show. Your smile and cheerful spirit are a joy for everyone, and you bring a special light to Alice. Kudos to you, and I hope you continue enjoying the adventure!

To all of you readers, I know you won't want to miss out on seeing this lovely lady along with the rest of the cast perform in this magical show that is Alice in Wonderland. I hope you all can join us for one or more of the performances between July 1- 11 (get your tickets here), and take a trip down the rabbit hole!

Until next time!

Cheers
MAH
Company Manager

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Close-up of Hamlet

John Gunnoe (Claudius) rehearsing at the barn.

We are less than a month from the opening night of Hamlet! Rehearsals have gotten more and more exciting (and more and more hot…) as we continue to explore the play through the lens of the Civil War. Since our stumble through two weeks ago, we have been revisiting the individual scenes to do color them in.

Walter Kmiec (Hamlet) and Melora Kordos (Gertrude)

Shannon Schultz (Ophelia)

Walter and Catherine Tooke (Guildenstern, sans pregnant belly)

This is the part that I enjoy the most. We’ve blocked the show, and now we get to detail it. Exploring the language and the characters even more in depth has been an exciting, illuminating, and sweaty process for sure. It’s incredible to see how much Shakespeare’s words fit perfectly into our concept. All the allusions and metaphors of war and farming take on a much more direct and personal meaning for all these folks in Denmark, Virginia. Taking this play to the next level has been (and will continue to be) a remarkable journey, and one that you will want to see! (More than just once, of course.)

Aaron Farr (Rosencrantz)

Walter Kmiec (Hamlet)

Mark Foreman (Polonius)


Derek Arey

Actor