Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Set Build

With the show less than a month away, the cast and crew of “Don’t You Forget About Me” got together on Saturday get started on making the set. Dom and Sam, our Tech Director and Assistant Director, drove us to a secluded garage on campus to begin organizing the platforms for our set. Since four 80s films will be part of this play—The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Mystic Pizza, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—our stage will accommodate all four plays by using various platforms of different heights. These platforms will give us better a better performance space on stage while giving each play a defined set to work with.

After moving the heavy platforms (and struggling), we headed back to the theater to clean the stage and organize the props closet. Once we got there, we decided to split into two different groups and make these tasks a competition. Even though the props closet crew had to mop up a puddle due to the leaky ceiling, they managed to come in first. Then the stage managers ended the day by sweeping and mopping the stage. Two more set builds to go!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring into the 80's

This spring Berkshire Theater is doing Don’t You Forget About Me, a play taking popular 80's movies  and bringing them to the stage.  We’re using scenes from The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Mystic Pizza, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, all different stories but connect to each other in similar themes about relationships and parents and being a teenager. So far we’ve been working in a rotation system, with different groups switching off in different work spaces from the theatre to the film lab and the green room.  At “show and tell” we come together and share what we have been working on with the cast. 
You might be wondering how do we bring different scenes from films and put it on a stage as a play?  One of the ways we’re doing this is by using platforms.  Each film has its own section off the stage and the middle space is left open for all groups to use. We’ve also been playing around with overlap in different spaces, for instance, in a Ferris Bueller scene the characters eat out at the Mystic Pizza place. Doing scenes from films also challenges us to deliver to the audience in a way that the characters feel real.  A lot of time has been dedicated to character work in order to get the feel for who the characters are. With all the different experimenting and rehearsals, these first few weeks have flown by!
What the cast and crew are saying…
“We’re having a lot of fun putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”
–Katie Soper
“It’s a really cool concept; one play with four different story lines.”  
-Lucia Liencres
“I was skeptical at first for how we could make scenes from films into a play, but to my surprise it’s been working out better than I imagined and in an awesome way.”
-Andrea Cass

Friday, February 14, 2014

Into the Woods has Opened !

Hello Blog Readers!

I know the pondering- type posts are more of Pratima’s thing but I was inspired after Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal I became inspired, so I decided to give it a shot.
One of my favorite parts of being in this show playing Cinderella’s Stepmother is that I have some time off in the second act that I can spend listening to the show from the wings. From the time that I exit all the way up to the Finale I can be found in a corner offstage left enjoying the last half of the act.  
I love Into the Woods. It’s been one of my favorite musicals since I little and have watched countless productions of the show and I never get tired of it. I find new things to love about it every time I see it.
I might be a little biased, but I think our particular production of the show is special.  The concept we’re using for the show it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. It not only reinvents the Into the Woods in a unique new way but also completely stays true the heart of the show. 
For your viewing pleasure I thought of two pieces of advice during dress rehearsal that I would give to anyone coming to see the show for the first time.
1)     Pay attention to all the details- 
This production has called on the expertise of many, many talented people in order for the show to look and sound as good as it does and none of it happened by magic. So much hard work goes on before, during, and after the show because everyone cares about the smallest details. I want to encourage you to notice the lights, the band, the set, the sound effects, the makeup and hair, the props, notice everything. Take a bit of time to notice the work that went into show.

2)     Play the game-
This entire show takes place in a child’s imagination. Access your imagination when you come see the show and remember what it was like to read a fairytale for the very first time and see what happens when you come to show. Play along with us.

Well that’s all for now. Thanks for reading my assorted musings.

Until next time!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tech Week

This weekend we had tech: the aspect of every show that everyone  loves to hate. I personally love tech. My favorite part of any show is the lighting because of its importance and power. The magic in every  scene is established not only with the actors’ impeccable timing, but  also with the sound cues and ethereal lights, a.k.a. the technical stuff  to accompany the rehearsed emotional stuff. Tech is a great time to  showcase how much of a team we are, since it is our only chance to be able to sit in the audience and watch scenes that we are not in. During  tech rehearsal, we practice our backstage etiquette, which is  comprised of engaged silence, and an all-business tone. We turned the  blue clip lights on backstage and in the green room, signaling “go  time”. During tech, we also start using props for the first time. This is  both aggravating and exciting, because all of the props are incredible  (props to the props crew!) but trying to fit a cow on roller skates  through a closet door has been challenging to say the least. But, tech  allows us to see how much detail and hard work goes into the show  from everyone involved. Tom, who is helping us out with sound, made  sure everyone is equipped with microphones and waist straps to attach the packs. Carrie and Jake are running lights and sounds cues in the  booth, and Anna is our backstage manager. Ms. Connell took copious  notes during tech that she later shared with all of us, while Mr. Howard  was able to take technical notes, and direct the actors onstage. Dom  helped out with difficult scene changes, and Sam and Liz Wheeler were beginning the process of trying on costumes and make up in the green  room. Dr. Wu and Dr. Davis were hard at work in the pit, as we get  ready for the full band to accompany us during tech/dress rehearsal.  Tech rehearsal has put the play into perspective, for we can see  everything coming together. To illustrate my point, Milky White the cow has become my favorite character because of the sound cues – they’re  hilarious. Come see Into the Woods this Thursday, Friday and Saturday  at 7:30!

Pratima's Ponderings

I take a deep breath and look around. Our usual bright fluorescent lighting for rehearsal warm ups has become the warm and welcoming glow of the warm-up lights. I close my eyes and try to imagine that every pink- and blue-colored beam coming from above is energizing me. I envision how these same lights have energized me for the past three years when I have an epiphany as sudden and frightening as a car accident: this is my last musical at Berkshire. I open my eyes and see my cast mates through blurry, tear-obstructed eyes. I feel my heart tighten and expand, as I become hyper aware of where I am and what I am doing. I listen to my pulse as I focus on my breathing. As I observe my cast mates again, I see them doing the same, and I am reminded of why I will miss Berkshire Theater so much.

There’s something about the work ethic and the type of person that our theater program attracts that allows everyone to be completely genuine and comfortable. We push ourselves to our limits while encouraging others to explore their own personal bounds. We attempt to discover our strengths that champion our shortcomings. But, along the way, we have to be able to access these flaws and acknowledge them probably in a much more graphic way than we have ever had to before.

And it feels amazing.

Every day in the theater, I’m able to reflect on myself and process everything that needs to be scrutinized, react to it and from there heal it. This procedure seems mundane and expected in any team setting, but that’s not always the case. My elaborate process of digesting my experiences in the theater could not be possible without my confidence in my cast mates. My theater experiences have been so successful and fruitful every time because everyone is looking out for each other. We all see each other at our most vulnerable every day, and we still love each other.

I’ve been told that I’m a sensitive person. I choose to ignore those who want to use it as a provocation. High school has taught me that nothing is worth doing if I can’t do it unconditionally. I used to think that high school would have taught me the opposite: If it’s not perfect, don’t do it. Truth be told I used to think that. I used to not only think that but I believed it and lived it. I lived towards the goal of perfection for so long that I forgot to live. I shoved my emotions aside and trusted only the technicalities. I didn’t go on the journey; I zeroed in on the destination.

Through theater, I learned the importance of accepting everything I feel and think. I learned to welcome others help constructively and lovingly by saying “thank you”. I learned how to lead by treating a six-line-role as if it were a sixty-line-role. I learned about the beauty of subtlety and the art of getting there. I learned the real difference between 40% and 95% (Hint: it’s not just 55%). I learned how to balance, and I learned how to challenge. I learned some amazing things about myself that I’ll cherish forever. But most importantly, I learned how to savor moments in my life.

As we get closer to performance preparation like warm-ups become increasingly crucial to Into the Woods’ triumph. Mr. Howard has reminded the cast of how fleeting the next week will seem, and has urged us to become more mindful of everything that we do here. Each show has a unique heartbeat, but in order to hear and feel the pulse of Into the Woods, everyone has to savor each moment (in the woods, haha).

When the long rehearsals get tough and all I want to do is sit in my room and watch Netflix, I remind myself of the incomparable thrill of the performance. I think of those moments standing in a circle onstage with my cast mates, looking out at them in the pools of pink and blue light, wondering how I could be lucky enough to get to bare my soul to these people on a daily basis.

You can mock me for how cheesy all of this may sound. But the joy that Berkshire Theater has given me these past three years is unfathomable. As I have learned it’s better to sound hackneyed and revel in the experience instead of being a casual bystander. Bystanders just look in; They’re sensory-deprived, (to steal a metaphor from Johanna Gleason.)

I just wish that there were a way I could communicate through words how incredible my experiences have been on this show. Sadly, I fear I am ill equipped for the intensity and craftsmanship of vocabulary that this description would require, for remembering this show will be like remembering the sweetest and purest melody ever written you just have to hear it to know.

So, I will choose to bask in the moments and drink up every bit of flavor and magic that they have to offer. It’s almost over and it’s only just begun.

Until next time, this is Pratima, and these have been my Ponderings.  

Weekly Walkthrough: It's time to Load in!

Let's take a look Backstage!

This is Costumes!

This is the Green Room!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Broadway Legend

Greetings Berkshire theatre connoisseurs, my name is Henry Thomas and I am a sophomore here at Berkshire School. While it seems unfathomable, I will attempt to recreate the literary grandeur of my blog compatriot Pratima Singh. Take it easy on me please, she is still has two years on me. This week we were graced with the presence of the Into the Woods legend Joanna Gleason. Mrs. Gleason is known for playing the role of Baker’s Wife in the original Broadway run of this show in which she won a Tony award for Best Actress in a Musical. Her vast knowledge of all things theatre related was thrilling to our entire cast. What struck me personally was her descriptions of life outside of the theatre. She taught us how to prepare for auditions and how to deal with rejections. She also spoke about what it took to maintain balance between work and personal life. She said in life one must plan and have no expectations but onstage one can never plan but should have endless expectations! She said she can always tell when an actor “plans” on stage and that's when the audience  disengages and stops being interested. We ran some of the scenes we've been working on with Mrs. Gleason. She showed us techniques for boosting volume and authority on stage. One exercise involved one of one characters singing a song with several other people around that character providing support and energizing the actor performing. Exercises such as these, really empowered us to sing out and put more feeling into our songs. With opening night coming up in 12 days things like these are welcomed into our regimen. Our meeting was extremely informative and on behalf of Berkshire Theatre, I would like to thank Joanna Gleason for visiting us. Make sure to come out to see our show Into the Woods!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pratima's Ponderings

As irritatingly artsy as it may sound, I like to think that people exist equipped with their own personal ball of yarn in their chest. As everyone gets older, their yarn gets more and more tangled as they discover the complexities of their emotions. When you get upset, anxious or sad, your chest tightens because your yarn is so tangled, your body can barely handle it. Strangely enough, the same thing happens when you’re excited or happy.

It’s about that time of the theater season when my yarn remains tangled until bows of closing night. But for this show, I think it’s more out of excitement than of nervousness or fear. I’m thrilled to be able to share our little Into the Woods world with everyone.

On Friday evening, we got to give the community a quick glimpse into our world. We performed the Act One opening for trustees and faculty members in lieu of the usual chorus or improv performances. Every cast member was completely dedicated and in tune with the performance: everyone exhibited full commitment to his or her character; we were calm and collected backstage; and, most importantly, everyone had fun.

During warm-ups, we do an exercise where we hold our arms and attempt to physically put a feeling of palpable joy in our bodies. Which sounds completely ludicrous, yes, but it works. It works because when you go to find that joy, you’re allowing yourself to preview the feeling you get after a performance, and savor it for a moment to remind yourself of what you’re working towards. Because I believe that everything we do is in pursuit of joy. We want to be able to feel the yarn in our chests stretch so tight that it feels like it will burst out of your body. And sometimes it does, and you can’t help but smile for days afterward. All those hours of rehearsal in and out of the theater all lead up to that euphoric moment when you reap the joy because you refused to give up. The joy of success, the remnants of hard work. That’s what we’re working towards, people! Let’s come through for everyone, let’s come through for ourselves. Let’s come through for joy.

Until next time, this is Pratima, and these have been my ponderings.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pratima's Ponderings

I love podcasts. One of my favorite podcasts is “Radio Lab”, which releases weekly hour-long episodes featuring stories that revolve around a central theme or topic. This week’s episode focused on a theory the hosts composed of the “black box”. This refers to a situation where the beginning and end are apparent but what happens in between is unclear. For example, the thought process of a patient who undergoes surgery and has been anesthetized is discussed. The patient remembers “going under”, lying on the table ready to be cut open and repaired and waking up in a hospital room, connected to a myriad of beeping machines with no knowledge of what had inevitably occurred during surgery. Strangely enough, this made me think of the process we experience when preparing for a play here.

On the outside, you’re completely blind to exactly how much work goes into a play here. You’re unable to comprehend the complexity of the rehearsal procedure until you’ve experienced it firsthand. Even the most detailed accounts of the work that a play requires is still not an accurate summation. The middle is ambiguous, furnishing Berkshire Theater with our very own “black box” – a unique kind of Black Box Theater.

This week, we had out Act II line run, which was both amazing and anxiety inducing. As of this Thursday, we open in three weeks. It’s incredible to think that everything we have been doing up to this point, memorizing lines and working on the set, is leading up to a palpable goal: the performance. As the pre-tech week nerves start to kick in, however, it seems that our cast only becomes more tight-knit and supportive. Everyone is helping each other run lines and songs instead of just working on their own parts. Our run-through on Friday helped everyone realize the extent of Into the Woods’ potential, which wouldn’t be plausible without the love that everyone has for the process. I have enormous faith this cast (myself included) that we will all come through and put on an A-plus performance. After all, the mystery of the “black box” loses its intrigue if the end product is not ceaselessly fascinating enough to make you wonder how it all exactly happened. Let’s keep them on their toes, friends.

Until next time, this is Pratima, and these have been my ponderings.   

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pratima's Ponderings First Saturday Set Build

This past Saturday, we had the first set build of the season. The concept for the set is to take place inside a child's bedroom in this case the child is Little Red Riding Hood. On Saturday we started by building the basic structures for her bedroom walls, including the window. It's been amazing to see how Dom has taken Mr. Howard's initial vision and together they've formed a different twist on Into The Woods. Although there's still a lot left to build the set idea seems much more palpable with a few of these pieces finished. At this point, the play feels like a quilt being made. Every cast and crew member is working hard on their individual patches: running lines, practicing music, doing tech jobs and rehearsing blocking outside of scheduled rehearsal time. The set feels like the stitchery that puts all the patches together to make this beautiful quilt. It's been a cold winter so I cannot wait to see what our quilt looks like!

Until next time this is Pratima and these have been my Ponderings. . . 

Sent from my iPhone