Monday, June 29, 2009

my brother's knife (or "how i learned to stop worrying and love the monacans")

first of all, the play's title is pretty bad ass. i've always thought so. it's been two years since mbk had it's first reading right here in virginia. well, i shouldn't say right here; it was in charlottesville, which is more like right over there, here in virginia.

whatever, it's been two years. title? still pretty bad ass. so that's first.

second: there's a scene in alien resurrection (** out of *****), the fourth sequel to alien(*****), where ripley, who is actually a clone of the original ripley from the first film, demands that she see the other clone ripleys that have come before her. she's taken to a room which houses multiple tanks containing all the previous clone ripleys that didn't quite make it. one of them is even still alive inside the tank! it's pretty creepy... ANYWAY, i'm reminded of that scene when i think of all the various incarnations of mbk over the past two years.

each new ripley clone was a vast improvement over the one previous to it. the same can be said of mbk. each new version is a little bit leaner, a little bit deeper, a little bit sigourney-weaverer. i've pretty much watched this entire process take place...well, save for an alleged reading at florida state university of which i was not part and of which we will not speak ::wink face emoticon::

in two years, the play has crawled out of the primordial first draft ooze and evolved into a snarling, predatory velociraptor of a script. watching the playwright/my former roommate josh mikel pour his subconscious out onto his pirated version of final draft and sculpting it into a living, breathing organism independent of himself has been nothing short of inspiring.

or, to put it childishly: he's pretty bad ass.

one thing i've definitely learned watching this whole thing go down: playwriting is HARD. jesu christo. i mean, there's all KINDS of things you have to do! have a theme, create compelling characters, give them cool things to say which please academics and jerks like me alike. every new revision, every dead end we hit in rehearsal which we have to bring up to josh, only serves to remind me what i learned back in theater school: it's all about the basics. you hear that a lot with regards to sports, but it's also true in theater. this still doesn't make shaquille o'neal a good actor, but whatevs...this whole summer has been somewhat of a refresher course in beat work, objectives, living in the moment, etc. square one, basically. and being surrounded by incredibly talented people doesn't really hurt either.
everyone's game is up (sports again!).

i don't want to give a whole lot away about my brother's knife, but if i were only to leave you with alien resurrection and a shaquille o'neal joke, i'd feel i cheated you. the full title is actually my brother's knife: a madison heights odyssey. my macbook dictionary says that an odyssey is a long and eventful or adventurous journey. well, with an hour-and-fifteen-minute running time, it's certainly not long. but we start at the top of the 5th street bridge and end in the dark recesses of a tortured childhood. how's THAT for adventurous?!

mbk is about coping with loss and the fatigue that comes with running from the past (or to it). kinda like the bluest water, which just recently closed. is there a running endstation theme here? (geoff, any time you need to talk, bro...anytime)

wayne howling wind is a noble monacan indian with a dark secret. when we meet him, he's tied himself up with his belt, ready to dive into the shallow depths of the james river. just before he takes the plunge, he's discovered by an amherst sheriff's deputy named deter, a loose cannon (always wanted to be called that) who quickly decides to be wayne's spiritual savior. he takes wayne back to see valerie, a local gypsy (not a gypsy, sorry...just "enlightened") who works as a psychic under the name madama helga. over the course of one evening, wayne and deter explore the underbelly of a whole range of issues, from cultural identity to the death of a parent to what it means to be a monacan indian (hence my joke in the blog title)

i won't say anymore about it, except that it's all pretty...bad ass.

walter kmiec

Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m sorry I didn’t write to you last week but it has been really getting crazy around here. I’ll be in front of an audience in less than two weeks!! SO I can’t talk for long but I wanted to tell you a little bit about my costars. Which is quite an undertaking since somehow or another Endstation was able to afford a cast of HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS!

19,000 Carpenter Ants: Hardworking and very strong for their size these guys go about repairing the exposed earth and grass we thrash about on our hillside “stage.” We also get a healthy bite on the bum should we miss a cue. (In the above photo our Peter Quince, Tommy, is getting a healthy gnaw on his left cheek for coming in too early into a scene.)

1000 Fireflies: Beautiful but often difficult to work with, these beetles were hired to flit to and fro during the “Lovers” scenes once they’ve entered "The Wood." Their gorgeous blinking was to mirror the explosions that happen in the play with the colliding of worlds. But because of a misunderstanding with Insect Equity, they are only in rehearsal and in the show from 7:30 to 8:15pm. Ryan, our director, was very upset with this but there was nothing we could do. So we hired gnats to pick up the slack. They’re there from 5:00pm to midnight. Everyday.

54,000 Gnats: Though they don’t give off their own light, their very shiny bodies do reflect it brilliantly. Though not very smart (a few dozen die in the sweat on my face and at least one dies up my nose every night) these guys are very effective at reminding the audience that they are not in a comfortable, air-conditioned auditorium with cushioned seats but outside on the ground exposed to the elements and to musky Nature herself.

7 Deer Interns: Originally hired to be the mounts the fairies ride on stage, Ryan decided to instead have them come on and interact with Hermia and Helena when they are “lost in the woods” in-between scenes. (One of the more ornery deer keeps bragging about how he almost got a casting internship at Steppenwolf.)
13 Squirrels: These nimble acrobats perform in the canopy the trees form above most of our “stage.” They randomly toss down fruit at the actors and audience during the performance and are part of Titania’s minions when she chides with Oberon.

Well that’s pretty much everybody I have time for this week. I hope to have a full cast picture when I write to you next week. If I can find a wide enough lens!

Your son,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Means so much...

I can't even express what a special experience The Bluest Water was. In some ways I feel like words would be trite. I will say that this will always remain one of my most cherished theatrical experiences. The community members I met, the actors I worked with, the creation of the script with Jason, the performances, and the meeting with audience members after the show was an unbelievably special experience. As an artist I was able to create a piece of work about and for the community that raised me. This was so incredible.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the cast member who took part in this experience. I love you all. Thank you for having the courage to take part in year one and thank you for having the commitment to take part in year two. I also want to thank Krista, Dan, Sally, Drew, JD, and Bryce for all your brilliant work. I am for ever indebted. Then there is Jason Chimonides. Love you brother.

This post is a series of video I took during the performance today and one video I took last year. We have a clip of the storm, the detective questioning scene, the rescue/Bobby ensemble sequence, and the final moments of the play.

Please join us for round two. More to come.

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Phase II

July is just around the corner and with it, it brings a new set of goals, schedules and projects to look forward to. We've been planning throughout the run of The Bluest Water for two other shows that open mid July and as strike nears (tomorrow) those plans will be set into motion. Come Monday if you need to find any of the BRSTF team, look in the shops, rehearsal spaces, or offices because they won't be spending a lot of time anywhere else.

One of our upcoming shows which you've probably heard about already is a whimsical journey with fairy guides that sparkle and "bop" and a series of events that bring more color, fun and playfulness into our world. The cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream will surely dazzle you with their lively antics. Along with them comes a colorful arrangement of props that will adorn their environment. Director, Ryan Clark whom I call, "My Ryan" to everyone else but him, has challenged me to design a habitat for the players that they dub their own. A place of found objects that in its own nondescript way, has a personality that can only be enlightened by the creatures that inhabit it. This place, a park perhaps, has the distinct features of an age that is getting dull... really, such a drag man. However, as we progress throughout or story, it becomes an enchanted place where who knows what could happen.

Crazy curly vine staff with flower

Funky, psychedelic notebook

Natalie Caruncho, our Puck, swings from a tree in this "found space"

Audiences are sure to enjoy this fun piece of outdoor theatre. So keep your fingers crossed that we have great weather! But, while the cast and crew for Midsummer enjoy their beautiful days outside in the fresh air, there is a whole lot going on inside the theatre as well. My Brother's Knife, is being built in anticipation of load-in just prior to tech week. The crucial action of this play happens both up on the ledge of the 5th St. bridge and in Madame Helga's abode which doubles as her spiritual healing den. The scenic design for this piece consists of a 2 level diorama with high set windows and cinder block walls. It feels a little damp although it is most certainly a livable space. 1983 brings us back to wood paneling, linoleum and powder blue bathroom tile. Check out some of my surfaces research:

The shop has been buzzing with new materials and things are starting to come together for My Brother's Knife. Props are being ordered, collected, borrowed and built and the main structure of the set is close to being complete.

Drew attaching expanded steel to the upper level of diorama unit for MBK

Brian & Hillarie working on various projects

Dan squaring up a flat for MBK

I have really been looking forward to this part of the summer. For a designer, like me at least, putting a project to bed as we say is a very cathartic experience. I can stop trying to redesign it in my head and move onto another new project. I will always have the memory of what a great experience it was but I get to add to it with whats to come. We are looking forward to the next few weeks... hope you are too.

krista, Resident Scenic Designer

Friday, June 26, 2009

The End ... Again

This weekend marks the second closing of The Bluest Water: A Hurricane Camille Story. A little less than a year ago, this very same cast bid farewell to this special series of characters it had originated for this amazing piece of historical fiction. But even by that time, word of the possibility of a revival in this summer's festival had begun to spread, so those of us who expected we might be available again this year (and as it turns out, we all were!) already had that to look forward to ... it wasn't 'goodbye' so much as 'until next time'.

I suppose I'm slightly repeating myself from the quote I provided for a recent earlier post, but it is very true for me that this year, despite the rapidity with which this production has come and gone, there is a much more real sense of finality. As a result, it is certainly even more bittersweet than last year. Oh, the show may eventually be back again (... the 45th anniversary of Camille? The 50th? A published script, Jason???) But that remains to be seen. However, for this particular collection of people involved, this is it. We have been very fortunate to 'catch lightning in a bottle' a second time, and just like lightning, it seems to be gone almost as quickly as it arrived, before we even really could recognize and take in what we had (a theme touched upon in both Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, I might add!).

The production was not truly rushed by any means, of course; even last summer's premiere followed a couple years of conceptualization and research. Remounting this production required everything from coordination of new schedules to the meticulous storage and re-assembly of the scenery, most of which was comprised of the same pieces as last year.

But for me, it feels as though it has come and gone in a blitz. The production has changed a bit between its first and second staged iterations, but the heart is the same. While we have not experienced the same number of packed-house, sold-out shows this year, the appreciation of our audiences has been expectedly strong nonetheless, and new stories from survivors and other locals have been brought to us yet again by those who seek us out after the end of the performance each night (certainly one of the most powerful aspects of this production for us, its cast and crew).

The Bluest Water's sunset is fast approaching. We make way for the other two productions in this summer's festival, A Midsummer Night's Dream and My Brother's Knife, who almost literally wait in the wings. Even though attention will soon be shifting, and even though what is considered "the main event" is still to come, those of us who have been a part of The Bluest Water not once but twice are very fortunate in what we've shared ... with each other, with our audiences, with our friends and family, with our community.

This summer's experience perhaps hasn't quite had the fanfare of the last, but I'm certainly glad I came back. Seeing and working with everyone again was truly incredible, and perhaps the 'bitterest' part of the 'bittersweetness' inherent in how fast this has gone by is that we have to part ways again already ... this time (as far as this particular production is concerned) most likely for good. But we can be proud of a job once again well done.

So to my fellow Nelson pioneers (Tanya, Ken, Sally, Casey, David, Thomas, Derek, Koda, Michael, Natalie, Paul, and Wanda) and our brave guides (Geoff, Jason, Krista, Maria, Bryce, Dan, Drew, Ash, and others!), I offer a hearty congrats on another successful run ... and as of the time of this post (even with two shows still remaining!), I miss you all already!!

We have something special in this show that, like the landscapes of Nelson County, will live on. This story, whether in the form of its script, the archive to be maintained by the Nelson County Historical Society, or merely the impressions/memories it has left in all of us, will continue to touch others long after we close for good on Sunday. With or without us, "the saga continues ... "

It's been quite a ride.

Cheers all,

Jared M Anderson
Endstation Blogger and The Bluest Water cast member

Actors Natalie Caruncho, Thomas Bell, Koda Kurl, and J. David Settle wait (quietly!)
backstage to enter for the show's final ensemble dialogue and parting moments.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Once Upon A TIme......

In a land far away called Tallahassee......there lived two friends. They would laugh together, play together, create together, drink and be merry together. They would talk about all sorts of things, and share ideas and dreams that they had. All the while going about their everyday duties of education and learning.

One day one of them said, "I have an idea" and so the other thought best to listen as she rather enjoyed hearing her best pal's thoughts.

He said, "Let us go to the land of Sweet Briar in the far away kingdom of Virginia, and we will entertain the masses. We will entertain with costumes, make-up, beautiful lights, unique sounds, and special speech. The friend thought for a moment and said, "This is a wonderful idea, and although I know the journey may be tough, I will come with you and join in this adventure."

So the two friends wanting to start right away created a special project in the land of Tallahassee that would bear the name of their future venture.

Their project was met with great success and the friends were excited and energized to move on to the land of Sweet Briar. The two friends came to C-Ville which was close to the land of Sweet Briar and began their adventure. They plotted and planned what they would do and how they would do it. "How will we buy provisions?" they asked each other. They decided to ask the kind people of the land, and set about the task of raising funds.

They decided that they needed a story........there was a sacred memory of a great storm that had struck the land of Amherst, Sweet Briar, and all the surrounding towns many moons ago. The two friends thought, "surely this will bring great joy to the people if we write a story about this storm and present it to the people as a gift". They set about the task and enlisted the help of another friend who was a man of great words. The two pals knew that a story of great importance such as this would take some time to develop.
In the meantime they knew that people wanted to be entertained, so they decided to create a project around the writings of a man from long ago named Poe. The friends were excited when they got to share their Poe project with not only the lands of Sweet Briar and Amherst, but Lynchburg, C-Ville, and a great big city called D.C.

As the friends continued to develop their "storm story" they thought, "why not give the people something more, another gift of entertainment?" So they settled on a story that already been written by another man from long ago named Willy Shakespeare. It was a story about love, death, and everything in-between. They thought they would present their Shakespeare piece alongside the unveiling of the masterpiece storm story. The shows were met with much praise from the people, and the two friends were happy to have had so many fellow dreamers alongside helping to present the experience of entertainment for the people.

The friends began to talk and decided that it would be good to present their storm story again in a year as it would be a special time of remembrance for the people in the land. The friends decided to again give the people more and picked another story by Willy Shakespeare. This time the story focused on crazy love, and a magical fairy world. Not wanting to stop there the friends decided a third presentation for the people was in order. This third piece would be a great mystery and the friends were excited to unveil it to the people.....

Here is to you:
And to you:

Without either of you this would not be possible:

The journey of the two friends marches on. They will forge ahead in their adventure of bringing the entertainment to the masses. Some will join the journey alongside them for the long haul, others only for a short time. However, without the vision and idea of two young grad students, none of this would be here now.

Thank you Geoff and Krista for pursuing the dream and adventure.......the "quest" continues.....


Maria Hayden
Company Manager.....and a friend