Tri-State Theater

Let's discuss upcoming shows, secrets behind the scenes, things you never knew about the theater and why live theater is so darn entertaining.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After the Hurricane

   My pal Beth Hendricks filed a story today in the Herald-Dispatch about people from the Tri-State who are working in New York City, including Macy Idzakovich, an actress who appeared in numerous local shows. The story is about her experience during Hurricane Sandy.

   Here's an excerpt:
Macy Idzakovich

   From Macy Idzakovich's 16th floor Manhattan apartment, she has a lovely view of New York City's Upper West Side filled with luxury residential towers and Riverside Park stretching alongside the Hudson River. 
   On Tuesday afternoon, that view was marred by a completely submerged park and a construction crane dangling 90 stories in the air after it had collapsed under high winds and rains from Hurricane Sandy. 
   "It has been rather scary actually. Where I am, the lights went off and the sound of the wind was really scary," said the Portsmouth, Ohio, native who moved to New York City five years ago to study musical theater. 
   "You could see what looked like fireworks downtown where the transformers were blowing. Everything was really quiet and very dark." 
   Idzakovich, 23, said many New York City residents are receiving text alerts every 30 minutes or so advising them to stay inside and away from windows, not that there was anywhere to go with the building shutting off its elevator at 7 p.m. Monday, she added.  
   "It's hard just sitting around and waiting," said Idzakovich, who added she stocked up on supplies before the storm rolled in. School and work are closed until further notice. "We have been watching the crane from our window. Apparently it snapped and the arm that normally extends up is dangling down and you can see it swinging back and forth. They've evacuated all the areas around there, afraid that it's going to fall."

Monday, October 29, 2012

The ARTS Resident Acting Company

   ARTS (which is based out of the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington) has come up with an exciting new idea for community theatre - here's the announcement they made last night:

For its 2013 season, ARTS will be attempting something different; something ground-breaking. On November 16-17th (Friday & Saturday), 2012, ARTS will be holding auditions for a resident acting company for its 2013 season.
What does that mean?
ARTS will be presenting six shows in its 2013 season. Each show will have its own audition date approximately 10 weeks prior to the show dates. However, before any of that, ARTS will have auditions to be in the resident acting company. At these auditions, you will need to prepare a monologue (classical or contemporary / dramatic or comedic - it need NOT be memorized), 16 bars of a song to sing (just something so we can hear how you sing), and have an interview with the resident directors for the season. The directors for the current season are: Gene Anthony (2 shows), Bil Neal (1 show), Stephen Vance (1 show) and Mike Murdock (2 shows).
Each audition will take approximately 15 minutes. Those interested in auditioning should call (304) 733-ARTS to get a timeslot reserved on either available audition day, whichever works best for you.
What happens next?
After the audition and interview days are over, the directors will meet to discuss all applicants, and offers will be made to those we would like to see in the resident company. As with any audition, not everyone will be invited to the company that shows up. The directors will choose company members based on how they can best serve ARTS for that season. The directors will have to make difficult, reasoned choices. If you don’t get in the company, we encourage you to still audition for each of the season’s shows as they come up or inquire about working tech, etc., at ARTS. We also encourage you to audition for the company again next year, when perhaps, you might be a better fit for the shows, directors, etc.
“Offers”? What the heck is that?
Resident actors will be guaranteed three roles out of the six possible shows, and be obliged to work tech for one show they are not cast in. They are more than welcome to audition for the other shows as well, or do tech for them, but the offers will only be for four shows, in general.
So I’ll be guaranteed to be acting in at least half of the ARTS season if I’m a company member?
What do you mean “work tech for one show”?
Along with your acting assignments, you will be asked to work tech for one other show in the season. The exact job will vary depending on your skill set, etc. Perhaps you will be asked to help build a show or strike a show. You might be asked to run a light or sound board. We might need someone to hang posters or sell advertising. We could ask you to be on the running / backstage / front of house crew for a production. There will be plenty for people to do for each and every show.
What else do I get if I’m a company member?
Not only do you get to work on over half of the productions at ARTS for their season, you also get first choice of any classes that ARTS will offer throughout the year. Wednesday nights are education nights at ARTS, and we’ll be adding even more opportunities in 2013. Some of the classes in consideration are:
• Scene Study
• Classics
• Stage Combat
• Musical Theatre Dance
• Basic Tech Theatre
• Intro to Acting
• Singing Audition Workshop
• Audition Techniques Workshop
• A Study of Shakespeare’s Women
• A Study of Women in Contemporary American Theatre
• Voice / Projection / Diction for the stage
• Stage Movement
(Please note that these classes are all in consideration, and that some might not be available during the 2013 season, and others could be added at any time)
First choice of classes? Why does that matter?
Due to the success of Gene Anthony’s “Acting 101” class and the overwhelming amount of applicants, we feel there is a desire with the public to further its theatre education. We all want to get better and learn more, and we are offering chances to do just that. The main difference is that while the “Acting 101” class will remain free to the public, the rest of the classes available at ARTS will come with a cost of $150 per person for the 8- to 10-week course, unless you are a member of the resident acting company. As a member of the company, you are entitled to take any or all of the classes you like at ARTS, FREE of charge.
Classes are cool, but what ELSE?
All members of the ARTS resident acting company will receive free admittance to any ARTS productions for his or her year in residence.
Company members will have a featured profile on the ARTS website, Facebook page and in the lobby of ARTS for his or her year in residence.
As an added bonus, members of the ARTS resident acting company will also receive free show shirts for all of the productions they are involved in, as well as an ARTS Resident Acting Company shirt.
If I don’t get in the company, can I still audition for individual shows? Will there be any roles left?
Absolutely and absolutely. The goal of the company is to have people dedicated to ARTS for a year’s time, while offering them something in return for their time and talents. For those that feel they can’t (or don’t want to), each show will have general auditions approximately 10 weeks before the show dates. All roles not filled by resident acting company members will be available to the public at large, and any roles taken by company members will be advertised ahead of time at each show’s auditions.
So what if I don’t like the offer I’m given?
The ARTS staff will only make one offer. If you don’t like what is offered - no harm, no foul. We thank you for your time, wish you well and hope to see you at the general auditions for each show as they arrive.
The company auditions are for all six shows in the ARTS season. The offers will be made after consideration of your conflicts, your audition and your interview. The directors will create your offer based on how you can best serve the ARTS season. As previously stated, you will be offered 3 roles and 1 tech position out of the 6 available shows. If you turn down the offer, you would be turning down not only that, but also the rest of the benefits of being a company member.
If I'm a company member, can I still audition for other shows at other theatres?
Of course you can - as long as they don't conflict with your responsibilities at ARTS.
What happens if something happens and I can’t fulfill my company commitment?
The short answer is: not much, really. No one is being paid. We’re working on the honor system. We’re looking for people with skills we can use that we hope to completely count on for four projects in our season. In return, we’ll work to improve those skills, and give you a few other cool things as well throughout the year, hopefully making your dedicated time at ARTS worthwhile for everyone involved, especially you. We know that life can sometimes be unpredictable. If, for some reason, you only fulfill three of your commitments, for instance, we’re not going to ostracize you or curse your name to the heavens. We just hope it doesn’t happen because we are going to do everything we can to make each company member a success, which, latently, will make ARTS better.
How do the time slots work for the company auditions?
Auditions on Friday, November 16, 2012, will begin at 6:00 p.m. – Slots will be every 15 minutes (with an occasional 15 minute break for the directors).
Auditions on Saturday, November 17, 2012, will begin at 10:00 a.m. – Slots will be every 15 minutes (with an occasional 15 minute break for the directors and the possibility of a lunch break for the directors)
Please call (304) 733-2787 and leave a message with your name, phone number and a time slot or block of time that would work best for you and someone will call you back to firm up the schedule.
Why is ARTS doing this?
We believe that to be a true resource for the Tri-State, that we must aspire to something greater. By having a full season of shows: three musicals, three non-musicals – 4 mainstage shows and 2 ballroom shows, as well as having a resident acting company, ARTS continues to grow, forming a community of talented, dedicated, hard-working artisans, striving for the best possible theatre we can create. Together.
This is the first big step. We realize it can sound daunting, but we hope, more than anything, that is sounds exciting. We hope that you want to join us on the ground floor. This is the first of many seasons at ARTS. We hope to see you at the company auditions on November 16 and 17.
The six-show, 2013 ARTS Season will be announced on November 1, 2012. Big things are happening at ARTS. Won't you join us?
Thank you and sincerely,
The Staff of ARTS
900 8th Street
Huntington, WV 25701
(304) 733-ARTS

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wrapping Up "The Little Mermaid, Jr."

This afternoon First Stage Theatre Company wrapped up the final show for Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr. before a crowd of just under 400 people! 

I was luck enough to be the director on the show, and let me say, it's been a wonderful experience from start to finish, and kudos to our incredibly talented and hard-working cast, the directing team, the parents and volunteers who came together as a team and made it happen! 

(Thanks to my pal Stephen Vance for the photo from "Kiss the Girl!")

Thanks to everyone who came to see the show - awesome, enthusiastic crowds, and that thunderous standing ovation at the end of the last performance made a great capper to an amazing experience! 

I can't wait to see what these talented young actors tackle next!

Last Chance to Catch "The Little Mermaid, Jr."

Here it is, folks - your last chance to catch the magic under the sea as First Stage Theatre Company (and a talented cast) presents the last show of Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr.

The show starts at 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Theatre (900 8th Street in Huntington) - tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for kids and seniors.

It's been getting rave reviews and great crowds - don't miss it!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three "Little Mermaid, Jr." Shows

   Today the cast of Disney's Little Mermaid, Jr. wrapped up its third and final school performance in front of packed houses of students from Mason and Cabell County schools - and tomorrow, everyone else can catch the adventure "Under the Sea."

   My pal Dave Lavender wrote an excellent article about the show in today's Herald-Dispatch, which you can read right here - or right here:
   Huntington is under water again -- and this time it's a good thing. 
   First Stage Theatre Company has scored one of the area's first performances of the hit Disney classic, Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr. 
   Based on the hit 1989 Disney classic movie, which won Grammys and Oscars for the music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, "Little Mermaid, Jr.," will be presented live on stage as First Stage Theatre Company offers "Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr." at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26-27, as well as at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 27-28, at the Renaissance Theatre, located at 900 8th St., in Huntington.  
   The show features 50 young performers from the Tri-State ranging in age from high school seniors to elementary students who will also be performing three sold-out school shows as well. 
   The show's cast is guided by director Chuck Minsker, music director Mark Smith, choreographer Melissa McGuffin, producer Leslie Porter, assistant director Robyn Welch, set construction director Jack Welch, and costume designer Trish Woods. 
   Minsker said they picked the show to kick off the 23rd season because it's just packed with great songs such as "Part of Your World," "She's In Love," "Kiss a Girl," and of course, the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning song, "Under the Sea." 
   "The main reason we picked it is because it is so beloved by kids of all ages," Minsker said. "It has not been available for stage until very recently, so it was like it was meant to be. The show became available and we hopped right on it. It's just a fun show with great music and filled with really clever and fantastic ideas." 
   Adapted from Disney's 2008 Broadway production, Disney's "The Little Mermaid, Jr." tells the love story of young Ariel, a mermaid who falls in love with a human, Prince Eric, and risks everything to win his love. But she'll have to contend with her father, King Triton, and the evil sea witch, Ursula. 
Taken from an 1836 Danish book by Hans Christian Andersen, the story has continued to churn up in children's literature, in operas, movies and TV shows, including a 1960s show featuring Shirley Temple as Ariel. 
   Unlike most First Stage productions, "Little Mermaid," is only one weekend because the kids have three sold-out school performances in addition to the four public performances. 
   "The school shows are great because we get a lot of kids who wouldn't maybe get to see a live performance otherwise," Minsker said. "I think a lot of people don't appreciate how great a live show is until they see these young people up there singing and dancing and doing these amazing shows." 
Minsker said First Stage, the non-profit which has put on more than 50 theater shows since it was founded in 1990, has been able to give area youth an amazing experience as they get to work with such professionals as Mark Smith, who currently is the keyboardist for Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. 
Minsker said that several performers should be commended as they have balanced doing Huntington High School's "Alice in Wonderland" a couple weeks back while also taking lead roles in "Mermaid." 
"Serena Johnson was the lead in 'Alice' and is our Ariel and she's done all kinds of shows and is a wonderful talent and great person," Minsker said. "Chloe Donohoe had a main part in 'Legally Blonde' this summer and then was the caterpillar in 'Alice' and she is our Ursula. She's an amazing talent that has grown up on stage locally." 
   Minsker said seeing that growth of kids blossoming into wonderful performers has been the perpetual gift at First Stage, which recently hosted its first alumni concert to celebrate the legacy of First Stage and its continued crops of performers, some who are performing professionally at stages around the country.
   "I think that is the secret here is that there are a lot of opportunities for theatrical stuff between us and Huntington Outdoor Theatre and all the school programs," Minsker said. "There's a lot of our alumni who've gone to college and they say what shows have you done and they have a list of 20 or so shows and these colleges can't believe it. It's not unusual for our kids to be asked to play leads when they are freshman and sophomores because experience really pays off."
   "Little Mermaid, Jr." kicks off the 23rd season for Huntington's long-running children's theatre. Shows coming up this season include the holiday musical "Scrooge" and "The Bully Plays" in spring 2013. 
   For more information, visit www.firststagetheatre.org or call 304-416-KIDS.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"The Little Mermaid, Jr." - First Show

   The first performance of Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr. took place this morning as 1000 students crowded into the Renaissance Theatre for one of three school shows!

   They cheered as Ariel sang about wanting to be "Part of Your World," cringed as Ursula hatched her evil plot, and laughed as the seagulls sang about "Human Stuff."

   There are two more sold-out school shows tomorrow, and then the public shows will run this weekend only at the theatre at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

   You can get a sneak peek at the show in a photo gallery from a recent dress rehearsal - it's on the Herald-Dispatch website right here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This Week: "Little Mermaid, Jr."

   Let me tell you, it takes a lot to put on a stage show.  

   Eight weeks of rehearsals (learning songs, dances and dialogue), set building, costume making, fund-raising and much more - in other words, lots of hard work by the cast, crew, parents and volunteers.

   And this week it all pays off as Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr. takes the stage at the Renaissance Theatre at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Shows will be staged Friday at 7:30 p.m., a Saturday matinee show at 2 p.m., a Saturday evening show at 7:30 p.m., and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for kids and senior citizens.

   It's the kickoff to First Stage Theatre's 23rd season, and it's based on the beloved Disney animated film.

   The show features a cast of 50 young performers, ranging from high school seniors to elementary school students, and they're a talented bunch!

   They bring to life the characters from the movie, including Ariel, the mermaid who falls in love with Prince Eric, Ursula, the sea witch, Sebastian, a musical crab, and a host of characters, including seagulls, chefs, sailors, tentacles and assorted sea creatures.

   I admit to being prejudiced - I directed the show, along with a talented bunch of directors, including music director Mark Smith, choreographer Melissa McGuffin, assistant director Robyn Welch and producer Leslie Porter.

   We think it's a special show and hope you'll pay us a visit "Under the Sea."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Last Call for "Macbeth"

I saw Macbeth tonight, and while pressing matters keep me from writing a full-fledged review (the show I'm directing loads into the theatre tomorrow), let me just say: what an amazing experience! 

A terrific blend of great actors, stunning stagecraft, shocking moments (it was all I could do not to yell out, "Not Riley!"), some very funny moments, and genuine horror. 

It gets my highest recommendation! I posted an excellent review by Ryan Hardiman right here and I agree with his comments - so, the short version of my review is, "What he said."

Kudos to the cast and directing team for their amazing work!

Sunday at 2 p.m. is your last chance to catch this production. When will we see its like again? 

Don't miss it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Final "Macbeth" Interview

   Time is running out on your last chance to catch this performance of a true theatre classic, as told with a modern twist. 

   For our final interview with the stars of Macbeth, let's hear from actor Len Trent, who has some comments to lay on us (that terrible joke will have Shakespeare fans laughing in a moment):

Q: You're part of a classic Shakespeare play, but in case our reader isn't familiar with it, tell us the basic story.

Len: This is the story of a man and his choices. Fate shows him what life can be and he chooses to achieve it by any means necessary. 

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Len: Macduff.  The Thane of Fife. A nobleman with a deep love for country and family.  Since they both have been taken away, he will not stop until he has ended this tyrannical reign. 

Q: What's the most challenging thing about this show? 

Len: Finding the balance between the language and the acting.  We have tried to let the language shine while keeping it natural. 

Q: Will the audience be scared or shocked by this production?

Len: Hopefully a little of both.  Scared to miss anything else at ARTS and shocked at how much they love theater. 

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Len: I love Shakespeare and have not done it in a long time.  It was also a chance to find a theatrical home. 

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?  

Len:  I believe this is a story anyone will enjoy. It also fits this spooky time of year. 

Q: Tell us the dates, times and place for the show.

Len:   Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Theater at 900 8th Street in Huntington. 

An Interview With Lady Macbeth

    You have two chances left to catch Macbeth in Huntington - and I have only two e-interviews left to share!

   So let's hear from Kate Morris, who plays the iconic Lady Macbeth:

Q: You're part of a classic Shakespeare play, but in case our reader isn't familiar with it, tell us the basic story.

Kate: A man with a dream to be King is told by a prophecy that his dream may come true.  Rather than trust in fate that what is supposed to happen will happen, he and his wife meddle with their own destiny.  And we all know how well that usually goes.  

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Kate: I play Lady Macbeth, the title character’s wife.  She is one of Shakespeare’s most famous women.  Even my sister, who knows little about the theatre, knew Lady M’s most famous line, “Out, damn spot”.  It has been a challenge and a joy to attempt to bring her to life.  From doing research, I realized that many of the world’s greatest actresses have tackled this character.  And while I would never compare myself to the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Sarah Siddons, Vivien Leigh and Ellen Terry, I am giddy that I get to say the same words, and feel some of the same feelings that they have.  It is an honor.  

Q: What's the most challenging thing about this show?

Kate: The biggest challenge for me in this play was bringing Lady Macbeth to life in a way that modern women could relate to. She is often seen as one dimensional, evil, bitchy (can I say bitchy?), or simply manipulative. I wanted to see her as a real woman who shares a dream with her husband and goes after it. Unfortunately, her flaw is that she doesn’t see or refuses to acknowledge the consequences of her actions until after she has acted.  My favorite thing about her is that Shakespeare gives little hints in the text that she does have a conscience even though she continues to suppress it in front of her husband and her guests.  Those few lines are gifts from the playwright that allow the actress to create a well rounded person.

   While I was rehearsing this role I heard an interview with actor Stephen Tobolowsky.  When asked about playing a villain he said, “This man is a hero with his agenda, with his point of view. I did not intend to play [him] as one chromosome short of a human being, like a lot of people will play various villains.” I tried to remember that when I approached Lady Macbeth. I don’t believe that she sees herself as an evil villain (even if that’s how the other characters see her) and I hope that makes her seem more like a real woman who makes some really bad choices.

Q: Will the audience be scared or shocked by this production? 

Kate: I hope so.

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show? 

Kate: Who wouldn’t want to be part of this show?  It’s got it all: great words, great characters, sword fighting, blood, witches, ghosts.  I could go on.  It’s a great play being produced by great people.  I couldn’t be more proud of this show.  But one of my favorite parts about being in the show is getting to act opposite of my husband, Greg Morris who plays Mr. Macbeth.  We have been on stage together before, but never as husband and wife.  I think our connection and comfort with each other makes our version of the Macbeths even more unique.  It has been a joy working with him.

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

Kate: It’s Halloween. There’s blood and guts, and that’s super fun.  But also, if we do our jobs right, the audience will see a timeless, human story of a man who makes a bad decision and sets forth on a downward spiral into self-destruction.  Who can’t relate to that?  

Q: Tell us the dates, times and place for the show.

Kate: The show continues to run October 20 at 8 p.m. and October 21 at 2 p.m.  at Arts Resources for the Tristate in Huntington (Renaissance Theatre at 900 8th Street).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Two "Macbeth" Interviews!

   Macbeth kicks off its final weekend tonight, and I have several e-interviews yet to share, so here's one with two notables from the show. The title role is played by Greg Morris, and the director is Mike Murdock - so let's hear from both of them about the play (which, I should mention, is getting rave reviews):

Q: You're part of a classic Shakespeare play, but in case our reader isn't familiar with it, tell us the basic story.

Greg: I’ll leave that to Murdock.

Mike: MACBETH is a play about a war hero who allows his own greed, ambition, imagination and wife lead him to the end of his sanity. After hearing a prophecy from three witches, MACBETH believes he can be king, and begins doing everything he can to make that happen, including murder. A lot of murder.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Greg: Macbeth, one of Western Literature’s most engrossing characters, is a man big with imagination, ambition, and fearlessness, but a little short on brains and wisdom. He’s prescient, but without the grace of understanding his own clairvoyance. In a way, he’s a kind of self-inflicted Cassandra. He sees the future, but won’t believe his own predictions. A man of deep faith - of a kind - he refuses to accept his fate, choosing instead to sacrifice everything he holds dear in a fruitless, quixotic quest to determine his own destiny. No man is bigger than the cosmos, not even one of his own making.

Mike: I'm the director. Everything you see on stage at the show is my fault - the good and the bad. Hopefully there's more good.

Q: What's the most challenging thing about this show?

Mike: I worked with a lot of new people in this production and many of them had never done Shakespeare before. Working on the language with people that have no experience is always daunting, but also part of the fun. There's nothing better than when you see the actor "get it" for the first time. All of a sudden, they understand what they are saying and the play comes into focus. Shakespeare created a lot of words, many of which we use today, so getting to sense of the words and the truth of the text is both the greatest challenge and the most rewarding element of directing Shakespeare.

Greg: Two things: the language, which is always a challenge with Shakespeare, and the ARTS auditorium, which was designed more for music and dance than for dramatic theater. Finding the right vocal energy in that space is a Herculean task. These two things taken together force an actor to work double hard if he or she is determined to communicate the story. One has to first understand the words, then learn to say them at the right speed and volume and diction, with the right inflection and inference, always remembering that the audience hasn’t spent the last three months pouring over the words like the actors have been. Oh, and act on top of everything else. There’s a reason why, in the years gone by, so many actors have performed Shakespeare in a “presentational” style: sometimes – at it is for the space we happen to be in - that’s the only right and righteous way. An actor doing Death of A Salesman or The Owl and the Pussycat in a small, intimate theater can afford to speak in a “natural,” conversational style. That’s much harder to do with Shakespeare in a large space. We Americans are so accustomed to film and TV that we tend to speak almost in a sotto voice as a matter of course. Breaking that habit is tough enough for an experience actor, and not any easier for one with less experience.

Q: Will the audience be scared or shocked by this production?

Greg: I hope not. That would be terrible; coming to see a bloody, horrible tragedy and then being scared or shocked would be a real bummer.

Mike: I don't know if anyone will be scared or shocked, but I think we amp up the energy in our ACT 2, and it's certainly nerve-wracking as we transition scenes one right into another. We do a lot of things in this show that aren't your typical "community theatre" fare. We have some pretty dynamite special effects, sound and lighting which is sure to cause a buzz. The fight scenes are brutal and realistic and there's also quite a bit of blood in the show. But hey, it wouldn't be the Halloween season without blood, would it?

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Greg: I love Shakespeare, especially his tragedies. His poetry is second to none. Doing a play like this, no matter what the role, is great practice for the actor. Once he or she has conquered Shakespeare, everything else seems a little bit easier.

Mike: I love MACBETH. It's been my favorite Shakespearean tragedy since I first read it in high school. It was the first of Shakespeare's plays that I read where, as I mentioned earlier, I "got it." I understood the story and I was hanging on every word. I think that we've made this play accessible to both young and old and the actors and crew are doing a fantastic job. We've gotten some great reviews after the first weekend. I hope even more people come this weekend to experience the show with us.

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

Greg: Macbeth is one of the Bard’s most accessible, straight-forward, and powerful plays. The man was at the height of his powers when he wrote this masterpiece. Only Lear and Hamlet come close to Macbeth in the fullness of the experience, and yet, in some ways, Macbeth is Shakespeare’s most satisfying effort: more like steak and potatoes than a fancy dinner, Macbeth is meat served the way it should be – seared black top and bottom and bloody in-between! Our production is imperfect, to be sure, but I think you might find enough there to satisfy the hunger. Bon appetite!

Mike: It's classic literature meets 21st century spectacle meets down-and-dirty story of ambition and revenge. There's something for everyone - sword fights, dirty jokes, blood, witchcraft - all that, plus a great story being told in an easily understandable fashion. You REALLY don't want to miss this show. It's what everyone is going to be talking about in the months to come - to be fair, they already are! Don't be left out of the conversation. Come see MACBETH!

Q: Tell us the dates, times and place for the show.

Mike: Friday, October 19 at 8 p.m., Saturday, October 20 at 8 p.m., Sunday, October 21at 2 p.m. ARTS - Renaissance Theatre - Old Huntington High School - 900 8th Street - Huntington. 304- 733-ARTS. Tickets are only 10 bucks.

On Stage This Weekend

   This list of shows taking the stage this weekend is courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, who compiled it earlier today:

- Macbeth 
Presented by 
Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS)
Fri-Sat Oct. 19-20 at 8pm
Sun Oct. 21 at 2pm
The Renaissance Center (Old Huntington High)
900 8th Street, Huntington, WV
$10 all tickets
Dinner and Show available by reservation $25 (Fri & Sat Shows Only)
304-733-ARTS for dinner reservations

- The Phantom of the Opera
Presented by Ashland Community & Technical College
Fri – Sat., Oct. 19 - 20 / 25 - 27 at 8pm
Matinees: Sun Oct. 21 and 28 at 2:30pm
J. B. Sowards Theatre
1400 College Drive, Ashland, KY
$8 Adults / $5 Students, Seniors and groups of 10 or more

- Animal Farm
Presented by Charleston Stage Company
Fri-Sat Oct. 19 - 20 / 25-27 at 7:30pm
Capitol Center Theater
123 Summers Street, Charleston. WV
$15 Adults / $10 Students and Seniors

- Evil Dead: The Musical
Presented by Morehead State University Dept of Theatre/Dance
Fri-Sat Oct 19 - 20 at 7:30pm
Sun Oct 21 at 2pm
LCL Theatre in Breckinridge Hall
Morehead State University, Morehead, KY
$10 Adults, $5 Students and Seniors

- aMused Dance Concert
Presented by MU Theatre Alliance
Fri-Sat Oct. 19-20 at 7pm
Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre
Marshall University, Huntington, WV

Another Fistful of Bullets!
Presented by Murder and Merriment
Sat Oct. 27 
Heritage Station, Huntington, WV

- The Tale of Sleepy Hollow: The Musical
Presented by Jax Theatre
Fri-Sat Oct 19-20 at 7pm
Sun Oct. 21 at 3pm
TG-Entertainment LIVE
8805 Ohio River Rd., Wheelersburg, OH

- Greater Tuna

Presented by Alban Theatre in St. Albans
Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A "Macbeth" Interview with Brian Cook

   Joining us for today's interview with the cast of Macbeth is Brian Cook, a fine actor who plays the part of Thane. Here's what he had to say:

Q: You're part of a classic Shakespeare play (I won't name it, in case you hold to the traditional superstition), but in case our reader isn't familiar with it, tell us the basic story.

Brian:  Hesitantly, a brave warrior allows his wife to pull him headfirst into the dark abyss of power and corruption. Returning to the surface, we see that their feelings for their misdeeds have exchanged.

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Brian:  I play the character of Ross, a fellow thane.  Ross' role in the play is mainly as the bearer of news - good, bad and ugly.  

Q: What's the most challenging thing about this show?

Brian: The most challenging aspect of the production, for me, is the language.  Not only is the text often hard to make sense of, but it's also difficult to appear natural and/or conversational using old English. Luckily, director Mike Murdock spent plenty of time with the cast discussing the reasoning behind each scene and the intent behind the dialogue. 

Q: Will the audience be scared or shocked by this production?

Brian: I feel that there are definitely  some shocks and surprises in the show.  Some of them come from the writing, but some come from the twisted minds of the production team.  I dare not speak further on this matter.

Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Brian: I auditioned for the show because I wanted to work with Murdock - he promised there would be "fun" and "play."  To be honest, I was intimidated to do a Shakespearian production, but Mike made me feel like I was going to be in good hands.

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?  

Brian: I recommend this show for its overall storytelling  I feel the cast and crew have done well to make this 400-year-old tale more accessible and entertaining for today's audiences without dumbing down any of the language. In addition, there are fight scenes and quite a bit of blood.  

Q: Tell us the dates, times and place for the show.

Brian:You can see Macbeth at ARTS (the Renaissance Center, or old Huntington High) on Oct. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. or Oct. 21 at 2 p.m.  If you'd enjoy dinner before the Friday or Saturday performances give a call to 304-733-ARTS for reservations. Tickets are $10, or $25 for dinner and the show. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A "Macbeth" Interview with Damon Noel

Next up in our parade of interviews is Damon Noel, a fine actor who plays the part of Fleance (among other parts) in the ARTS production of Macbeth, which wraps up this weekend at the Renaissance Theatre. Here's what he had to say:

Q: You're part of a classic Shakespeare play (I won't name it, in case you hold to the traditional superstition),
but in case our reader isn't familiar with it, tell us the basic story.
Damon: Macbeth is the story of a man who succumbs to the temptation of power and is led down a path of murder, betrayal, and madness. Plus it's got some awesome sword fighting and gore, so yay!
Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Damon: I play Fleance, Banquo's son. I mostly just follow my father around. But I also play a few minor roles that are very enjoyable as well.
Q: What's the most challenging thing about this show?
Damon: Mopping up the blood.
Q: Will the audience be scared or shocked by this production?

Damon: I truly hope so.
Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Damon: I had never done Shakespeare, and what better play than Macbeth to start!
Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?
Damon: This is a thriller of a show and would be enjoyed by audiences of any kind, even if they aren't Shakespearean scholars.
Q: Tell us the dates, times and place for the show.

Damon: October 12,13 at 8 p.m.
October 14 at 2 p.m.
October 19, 20 at 8 p.m.
October 21 at 2 p.m.
Renaissance Theatre at 900 8th Street in Huntington.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A "Macbeth" Interview with Bil Neal

   For our third e-interview, let's hear from my pal Bil Neal, a fine actor and director as well as being the current president of ARTS (to name just a few of his many talents).

   Here's what he had to say about his involvement in Macbeth, the Shakespeare play that will wrap up next weekend at the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington:

Q: Tell us about the character you play.

Bil: The character I play in Macbeth is called Seyton (pronounced "Satan"), and he's a pretty bad guy.  He's part of Macbeth's household, and works as a hired killer, with an occaisional torture thrown in.  The most challenging thing about playing him is his passion for blood - I don't have one, personally.  The most challenging thing about this show in general is the technical elements, I think. 
Q: What's the most challenging thing about this show?

Bil: The cast has been given these rich, classic characters that they've all embraced, but the addition of weapons, special effect lighting, projections and sounds, and the blood itself has added greatly to the difficulty in "living" this production.  In fact, I've been impressed with the variety of weaponry on the stage, and the fight choreography, and the different types of lighting effects used. Theatres around here don't really give folks the opportunity to play with these sets of toys, and most of these are utilized to shock the audience.  That's what makes Macbeth a great choice for this time of year.  That's what has made Macbeth fun for me.
Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?

Bil: So far in 2012 I've been onstage for Love Letters, and directed both 1776 as well as Crimes of the Heart.  I worked on the Tech Crew of Stepping Out.  If you're doing good theatre, I want to be a part of it somehow.  I wanted to be a part of Macbeth for that reason--this isn't my taste, or genre - in fact, there's discussion that I might've been cast "against type,"  but it's good theatre.  I've worked with Mike Murdock before, but never as a Director.  I wanted a project that would let me work - as an actor, costumer, blood-maker, techie, whatever--outside my comfort zone.  That's where I want to grow and develop.
Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

I'd recommend Macbeth because of the cast and crew.  They all take their jobs seriously.  I love that.  I'd recommend Macbeth because of the technical aspects.  Pretty cool stuff.  I'd recommend Macbeth because it's a piece of classic literature that isn't done much in Community Theatre.  It's scary, evil in tone, and loud at times.  The language may be cumbersome for a few, but the passion and the motives you see played out on this stage is stunning.  It's real.  In the end, that's probably what scares me most of all.
That, and the blood.

"Macbeth" : A Review

   My pal Ryan Hardiman provides this excellent review of the ARTS production of Macbeth, which takes the stage this weekend and next: 

When you use words like "Epic" and "You're welcome, world" to promote your show, it had better live up to the hype. You have to know Director Mike Murdock to realize that while he he throws out these words in fun, he's also dead serious in his ambition to lift Macbeth to meet those lofty claims. Good news. He succeeds.

When you enter the auditorium at the ARTS Rennaissance Center, the first thing you notice is the huge bloody hand, which has become an icon of this production, projected above a stage strewn with camoflage and boxes of military gear. A steel industrial drum sits center. Work lights sit atop stands and others are clamped to the lip of the stage, facing the audience. Modern music pulses. A first impression might be that the Scottish play has been set in the Vietnam War. 

A tuxedoed Mr. Murdock greets the audience and sets the stage for the production, explaining that his vision was to present Macbeth as timeless, in any war, in any place. It indeed looks like the players raided an army-navy surplus store, picking out military costumes and weapons from whatever era they fancied. Whether born out of concept or poverty, my advice to the audience is to just let go of any purist notions or a desire for visual consistency, and just let yourself be carried away by the story. If you must embrace logic, you could chose to envision the players as a ragtag militia group or a group of excellent reinactors with a limited budget. It doesn't really matter, because once things get rolling, it's likely you'll forget all about the costumes.

As the play kicks off to the Trent Reznor cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", a full battle explodes in front of you, and if you happen to be sitting in the "splatter zone," as I was, you may begin to wonder if you'll make it out alive. They now have my full attention.

Lighting effects lend to the mood, and monochromatic projections in the background suggest locations. Again, these seem not to pinpoint a particular era or country, consistent with Mr. Murdock's stated vision. From the front row, at least, almost everyone can be heard loud and clear. This is important, because in order to get the full effect of Shakespeare's tragedy, you don't want to miss any of the dialogue. You'll be surprised to remember how many famous quotes come from this play, and the actors deliver the lines in a natural style that makes this great story very accessible.

They promised blood, and blood they deliver in spades, although not with every kill. Some wounds clearly leave no trace of blood, but when they decide to use blood effects, watch out. 

Fight Coordinator Mike Naglee had his work cut out for him in this show and his work shines here, as well as in his comic role as the Porter.

Mr. Murdock has assembled so many strong actors that it would be impossible to properly highlight all who deserve mention in a review. There really are no weak links in this sturdy chain.

I have to say that in a show brimming with talent, Greg and Kate Morris are forces to be reckoned with as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively. They command the stage and imbue their roles with both rage and subtlety. You can see the wheels turning at all times. Theirs are the quality of performances that you would pay through the nose to experience elsewhere, and you have the chance to see this show in your own backyard for ten bucks. 

Don't miss this. It is epic.

Macbeth continues Sun. Oct 14 at 2 p.m. and next weekend, Fri-Sat, Oct. 19-20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m.
All tickets general admission $10
Dinner and Show available by reservation $25 (Fri & Sat Shows Only)
Call 304-733-ARTS for dinner reservations.