This is the last installment, I promise. After all, there is so much more to talk about, and writing about the plays that took place almost two weeks ago is a little behind the times. School started, football has started (in fact, Geoff's first game was Saturday) so life rages on beyond the R&J run. I'll try and complete this all today and get to entries about real life, for those of you who care.
Eighth Show: Palmer Cove Baseball Field, Salem MA. Photos are here:
After the senior center, the kids seemed tired and worn out from the production run. That show hadn't gone as great as the previous shows, and I was afraid they'd lost momentum. Alex and Chris gave them the big lecture and encouraged them to stick with it. They were more than halfway through the run and they needed to continue giving it their all.
This location was back in the same neighborhood as the Mary Jane Lee Playground, but a very different setting, it was on the baseball field and the idea was that we would start an hour later than the other afternoon shows so we could turn the baseball field lights on.
Ross was Juliet and Emma was Romeo. Madeline was the nurse and Jamie was Paris. The kids really used the props this time, and used the baseball field elements. Henry and Josh ran the bases at the beginning before the big Montague/Capulets fight. And Emma and Ross used the dugouts and the backstop of the field as probably the coolest balcony scene ever. The Capulet's party scene was completely off the hook, with Ross wearing a bra and Jamie as Paris gently pushing the strap down off his shoulder as Tybalt stalked around bitching about Romeo being at the party. Emma paced the field and dugout area before the balcony scene almost like a lion in the zoo, in heat, on the prowl... angry. And Frazier's Mercrutio was dirty and sexy and very gay. The whole "fiddlestick" exchange with Marisa's Tybalt nailed the hatred between the two of them, and their fight was extra rough and violent.
As night fell, were sitting around plot of cement off the field in a circle. The sun started to set, and the ballfield lights were turned on. The sky was simply amazing... and as Juliet's father beat her down (her being Ross, don't forget) and Mercrutio died, it was just simply a gorgeous setting, with colors swirling and sadness filing the air. Very electric and amazing.
For the crypt scene at the end, Alex and Chris had them use the bleachers, but I don't think it worked too well. We really should have returned to the baseball diamond and had everything end on top of the pitcher's mound. There were too many props around and to be honest, the actors were doing an amazing job of just ACTING, without the props. At the last location, at the Senior Center, the props were ignored because I think the kids weren't sure what to do with them that would be okay to do in front of the old people. Here, it was more like the Text took over, and props were unnecessary.
There was a guy there who was a Big Brother to two little boys in the neighborhood. The older boy had seen part of the play on Saturday, and while we were hunkered down around the cement square he signaled to two friends to come over. These were two boys who were at the Saturday show.
They didn't stick around but chatted for a while. I heard them say "Romeo and Juliet is the best play ever. This is the BEST PLAY EVER." Chris K and I looked at each other at that one instant and it was like "YES!" that's exactly what we want to hear.
The littlest boy of the Big Brother was really into the story and the play. At the end, he made a point to go meet the cast.
He was really cute... and perhaps we planted a little seed here in this little guy, and someday he'll be a Rebel. All told,
Ninth Show: Moseley Woods Playground and Park, Newburyport MA. Photos are here:
We took the tour up away from the City of Salem and surrounds and came up to the Merrimack Valley.
I had wanted the show to take place in downtown Newburyport, behind the Firehouse Theatre and Not Your Average Joe's... but we stumbled upon Moseley when our church had outdoor service there earlier in the summer and Doug suggested that it would be perfect.
And he was right.
Kind of far outside downtown Newburyport, Moseley Woods is on the Merrimack River and is a large, pine-shaded playground, with tons of options for staging... including a gorgeous jungle gym, woods and trails, and a small pavilion overlooking the river. The park is much nicer than I ever remember it being. We'd done a geocache there a while back, and it was kind of a beat-up, worn down kind of a joint. I guess in the past couple of years, a friends of group took it over, and invested a lot of time and effort into cleaning it up and making it family friendly instead of just a place to have a barbecue on a run-down hibachi.
Unlike our last playground appearance, this park was totally different. The playground revelers were children much smaller than the kids at Mary Jane Lee, and parents were everywhere... giving us concerned looks as we set up.
The Rebels were doing their warm-ups, very loudly and boisterously, and I went and worked the skeptical and confused crowd. "Hi, I'm Chris, I'm with this here theatre group. We're doing Romeo and Juliet at 1pm. We hope you'll stick around and watch. The kids can feel free to play on the playground and not worry about just sitting still and being good. It's their playground, we're kind of invading it but to bring them a play. They're the residents of Verona... I hope they like it."
Most parents looked at me with surprise. Something like this had never happened in their playground, and they were amused. One woman told me she was leaving but thanked me for the invite and wished us luck. At the end of the play I looked over and she and her kids and a friend were hunkered down, watching Juliet open an umbrella over her head to take her draught of death and fall asleep. The skeptical parent who was looking to beat retreat discovered her kids were interested, and they stayed through the whole thing.
That's the kind of thing we were going for... you betcha.
The jungle gym was awesome. The company used the height all the way up to the top, and the balcony scene was lovely and priceless, with the slide being used and Ross climbing all about. Ross was Romeo, Emma was Juliet. Jess was the nurse and Jamie was Lord Capulet. Maeve was the friar, and Emma2 was Mercrutio.
Again, the little kids had no fear of breaking through that invisible wall and becoming part of the play, part of the witness to what befalls Verona. Tons of little girls climbed to the top of the playset during the balcony scene, perhaps one day they will also play Juliet... who knows. Some of the kids were restless and noisy during the play.
They wanted to play ON their playground equipment, they didn't care about the play going on and watching. It made it a little distracting and I was relieved when we gave them back their playset and moved to another location for the second act.
Little girls with ice cream sat next to Ross as he hid in refuge in Friar Laurence's cell.
When Juliet is dead asleep, and the nurse came to wake her up on her wedding day, one little boy was popping up through the hole in the fake log, watching every minute.
His facial expressions were amazing, and I can only imagine what he was thinking while Jess cried "Help! Help!" Was he scared? Concerned? Why isn't anyone helping the girl on the floor? He was my favorite kid of the day because while the play was taking place, he went and got a book and started reading it out loud to the audience. He "got" it. This is an audience, to be entertained, and he's going to help out with that. Where's the German-English Dictionary. That's a great place to start.
All told, the audience was huge, my press release actually brought people out that weren't parents (excellent). Even our pastor from our church came out. I thought he'd just make an appearance for the first half and then leave... he's a busy guy. But he stayed for the whole thing, and I liked watching him soak in the story with concerned, confused, and sometimes incredibly sad facial expressions. He got it too. It was funny because the whole first half is rather bawdy... and our Emma2 did a very naughty Mercrutio, rubbing on everything like an alley cat, with Mia's "oh you guys!" Benvolio chuckling in the background. I apologized to him at the end of the first half, "Rob, I'm so sorry you had to see that!" And he and Doug laughed... "It's acting!" says Pastor Rob.
Great uses of the props at this show... Maeve as the friar picked up a huge eraser that had "Big Mistake" printed on it when Romeo was telling her how he was totally in love with the daughter of mine enemy. Looking stunned and shocked at the audience, holding that giant eraser up, she got huge laughs. Tybalt (Marisa) killed Emma2's Mercrutio with the dinging of a small desk bell. She covered her ears and screeched, and then suffered and died holding her ears as if they were filled with sharp, pointy things. Emma's Juliet in butterfly wings at the Capulet's party proved to be my favorite photo shot of the day... She and Ross were totally badass in one of the shots, and I loved it. She drinks the daught of death by opening Geoffrey's old baby umbrella, which Doug brought with him out of his trunk that day, and finally dies by using the Magic 8 ball.
Ross and Emma were amazing... watching them on the play set was just plain thrilling. It was a tremendous performance. I hope the audience thought so too.
Tenth (and final) show: Winnekenni Castle. Photos are here.
When Keri asked me to arrange the show locations, this was the first place I thought of. Where better to put on a Shakespeare show than a castle. Right?
I called the woman in charge and asked if she had any availability that week... she said she had one day. It was the day we wanted. The entire month was booked, except that one day.
Providence. Destiny. Whatever. Hallelujah... I was overjoyed.
I told her that I was planning on hosting the cast party after the show here at my house and she said "Hey, why not have it here?"
Are you KIDDING me? For Realsies?! You're offering your castle up not just for the show but for a pack of crazed wild nutcases to have a rowdy party in?!? Well, if you insist!
By far, this was the best possible situation. A 5pm show, and a party raging until 10:30pm. The show in and of itself was amazing, with the best use of props yet. Tybalt (played by Josh) beat the crap out of Frazier's Mercrutio with a fly swatter that I bought at the dollar store. It was an amazing beat down. Like nothing seen yet in the prior shows. The audience couldn't believe it... And Frazier, just like he was supposed to, played the wound to his ass "a scratch, a scratch" by rubbing his butt cheeks.
Henry was Juliet, and by far this was his greatest show. So many of his facial expressions, and running out onto the deck pulling his shirt over his head after the wedding night has taken place got a ton of laughs, but he didn't break a smile or let the laughs derail him. His look of earnestness as Romeo is getting ready to leave sticks in my mind to this moment. No bad second half for him. Grace was great as Romeo, and their use of the upper balcony inside the hall for the balcony scene worked out amazingly. Henry didn't stand in one place, but moved all about... and that caused Grace to have to move all about the audience on the main level. Very well done. Madeline was the nurse, and was a bit more low-key than previous runs. That's okay. It was crowded in the hall so her incredible physical humor was reigned in a bit by the very large group.
I didn't get to see the end of the play because one of Jess' friend's moms showed up to pick up her girl, and I had to pay the pizza guy... I heard Lord Montague's cries over his son's death under the tree out in the field and knew the show was over.
I'm peeling off 20s and the show is over. I missed the end. Out of all ten shows, I missed the end. Oh well. Kind of a let down, but there was a party to be had.
And what a party it was.
Need I say more?
I woke up the next morning and realized I had to go to work. Not that work is bad. I like work. But. All of a sudden, I missed my kids. I missed Henry the most. Always there to lift a box of move a 200 pound cooler filled with ice. I missed how he is so tall but curls himself up in such a little ball when sitting and thinking. I missed his smiles, and giving him a ride home, listening to him and Jess and Geoff do Spongebob dialog. I never thought I'd miss Spongebob dialog.
I miss Frazier's insane Mercrutio, and Luke's unbelievably over the top Evangelvist. I missed Emma's Mercrutio too, when she would Groan, oan, oan about love. I miss that insane energy that Ross and Emma had, no matter which one of them played Juliet and which Romeo. They were just magic.
Oh dear. I miss them all.
So all told, this was probably the most creative and exciting thing I've had a part in for years. I don't feel very creative at work. I think I wrote in a recent entry that I don't know what's wrong with me, so I'm losing my mind and running around throwing whipped cream plates at teenagers for fun. The zany is missing, the energy is missing, my life is just mundane. Day in, day out... the same the same the same.
So this was a blessing. An amazing blessing for me. And after three entries of me foaming at the mouth about each and every show, I think you get it. And yeah. You get it.
Next year, mark your calendars. None of you Boston Area readers graced the shows with a visit and I shake my fist at you... Next July we're doing "Twelfth Night," and August is "Hamlet." And yes. We're touring. Both months.
"Twelfth Night" will most likely be staged on one of the Boston Harbor Islands. George's Island most likely. I've started working on that now. It will be AMAZING baby. Amazing.
Don't you miss it.
Okay... so if you've read all of these entries, thank you. I promise your normal Way Out Inn content will resume shortly. We have tales to tell of Geoff's first football game, and Jess is getting her widsom teeth out, and she's auditioning for the Fall Production at her school...
which happens to be "A Midsummer Night's Dream." So this won't be a Shakespeare Free Zone anytime soon. Sorry.