behind the scenes

5 Questions with Giada Valenti

Giada Valenti will be at LTAC on Saturday, February 15 with her show An Evening with Giada Valenti: From Venice with Love. Get to know Giada a little better with these five questions before you go to the show! Tickets are available for the show here.

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  1. You’ll be here the day after Valentine’s Day, what can couples expect from the night?

My show is a very romantic show with beautiful love songs. I love to share with my audience beautiful stories about the songs I sing and about my life. I always see couples getting closer to each other, hands touching and sometimes people sharing a little a kiss while I start to sing their favorite love song.

It’s magical to see how to sing and talk about love makes love appear. All the time I receive messages from my audience about the experience they had at my concert. Some of them came to the concert as friends and fell in love and are now married. Some of my fans also have used my concert to pop the question when I start to sing certain songs. I feel privileged to know that my concert makes people happy and fall in love with love again.

  1. Do you have a favorite song to sing each night? Why do you love it?

I sing songs that I love and that I have a personal connection with. And it happens to be that we are all human and share, most of the time, the same emotions. So, the songs I love are also loved by most people. If I had to pick one, that for sure is “La Vie En Rose.” I learned it when I was a little girl in Venice and it’s the song that made me dream to become a singer. I have learned French, one of the 5 languages I speak because I wanted to understand the meaning of the song. I’m singing “When he embraces me and he speaks to me softly words of love, my life is beautiful. I’m his and he is mine. That’s the reason why heart beats.” I think this song is simple and powerful just like love itself. And this song has become one of the favorite songs of my audience. I cannot leave any stage without singing it. I just did Carnegie Hall – a special concert dedicated to Italian and Hispanic music. I closed the show with “La Vie En Rose” and my audience gave me a standing ovation, happy I was singing this song, even in French. It’s surely a special song for me and my audience. It’s a magical song.

  1. What was it like filming a special for PBS? How did that opportunity come about and what did it mean to you?

It was a dream coming true. I produced it myself with my manager and husband JJ. We worked very hard for several years. As an independent artist, I needed to find the money to produce it. We went to several lectures in NYC to learn how independent producers were able to find funding for Broadway and off-Broadway shows. We educated ourselves in every aspect. Music is magical and all my life as an artist, but it’s most of all a business. We put all our hearts and soul and we were able to make it happen. Then I was lucky and blessed that the show was embraced by so many PBS stations around the US. I love the United States. So many people love the arts and love dreamers like me. Their help and their monetary support made it all possible for me. It was an amazing experience; we are ready to do it again. Nothing worth having comes easy and so was filming the PBS special. But it was for sure worth the hard work.

  1. You’re also a blogger! How did you get started blogging and what do you enjoy the most about it?

I love to share all the beautiful things I experience and see. I like to blog about my travels, about my passion for food. And I love to share tips for traveling to Italy. I was born and raised in Venice, Italy, and I love to share tips, legends and more about Venice. Where to eat and what to do. I want people to enjoy Italy like an Italian. I too often see tourists getting lost in maps and getting tired following tourist guides around Venice or all of Italy as a matter of fact. They miss the beauty all around them. I love my country – one of the reasons that I also organize once a year a trip to Italy with fans and friends. They get to experience Italy like an Italian. With an Italian. The trip includes wine tastings, cooking classes, exclusive visits to special places they can get to see only with me and of course also two concerts in some special venues. I love to share all of this with them. Those trips are unforgettable. Next year I will be organizing the trip with Perillo Tours. I love to work with them so my guests can be helped to stay longer in Italy if they want and be helped with any change they want to do after the 10 days trip with me. And, of course, I love to blog also about this.

  1. It seems like you’re an artist who has always known exactly what you want – how did you persevere through the challenges that come with being an artist, as well as challenges that life has thrown your way?

I always knew that I wanted to be a singer. And that’s because one of the things I always pursued in my life was “happiness.” Nothing like music and singing makes me happy. Being an artist is not an easy thing. You are putting yourself out there to be judged. Being an artist is a lot of hard work. Not so fancy on the day to day basis. But no matter how hard it is, the passion and the love for music makes us artists overcome any kind of difficulty. My idol, Edith Piaf, used to say “Singing is a way of escaping. It’s another world. I’m no longer on earth.” This feeling is the force for any artist to go on no matter what the world puts on us. Love for music and singing is one of the most powerful and empowering things for me.

 

Once the Audience Enters the Theater

By Heather Beasley, dramaturg

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Stephen Weitz as Cyrano, photo by Michael Ensminger

After the work-packed exhaustion of tech week comes the thrill of opening night, and Cyrano‘s first time before a live audience. The many hours of rehearsal, choral practices, fight calls, set-building, light-hanging, drop-painting, music recording…they all boil down to the chance to tell this glorious, swashbuckling tale to the people who come through the Lone Tree Arts Center doors.

But long before anyone bought a ticket for our show, a few unsung heroes of nonprofit theatre already thought about how to get you to join our audience. The marketing team came up with graphics that caught your eye, and story capsules that captured the essence of a play in just a few sentences. They made sure the word about Cyrano spread high and low–from print ads, to postcards in your mailbox, to your Facebook feed, to preview stories in your local newspaper.  At the most basic level, it only takes two things to create theatre, really–an actor and an audience–and we couldn’t draw an audience without the help of our marketing team.

Once they’ve attracted your attention, the box office staff has the front-line customer service job of making you glad you’ve decided to buy a ticket to see our show. The concessions staff and ushers may help you toward your seat, with a tasty beverage in hand, as you find your spot and wait for the show to begin.

Meanwhile, backstage, the stage manager is counting down:  “Half-hour!”  “Ten minutes to curtain.”  “Places, please.”  Set pieces are placed, volume levels verified, comestible props prepared, and stage weapons checked for safety. Some last-minute emergency always creates a bit of heightened drama: a shoe heel breaks, a button pops, a prop light breaks…there’s always one more problem to solve. But ready or not, the time does inevitably come, and the overture begins.

Once that magical opening night performance gets rolling, our focus turns back to you, the audience.  We wonder: Will you laugh? Will you cry?  Will you be touched by this sweet, brashly romantic, heroic comedy?  The production team members lucky enough to sit in the house on opening night often watch the audience members–friends, family members, theatre critics, strangers. Our satisfaction comes from watching you experience our work and get caught up in the story. For a few hours, you can leave your real-world cares behind and enjoy a story that’s larger than life.

A Stage Manager’s Perspective of Cyrano

By Jonathan Allsup, Stage Manager

Most of the rehearsal time on a play is not spent onstage. Nearly 120 hours of rehearsal on Cyrano were spent in the rehearsal hall, a room approximately the same size as the stage, with a table on one side for the director and stage management, and tables on the other end to hold props. The edge of the stage, curtains in the wings, and the design of the set are taped out on the floor to indicate to the actors and others where the set pieces will be. There are some rehearsal version of props and only a few costume pieces.

Last Wednesday, Cyrano rehearsals moved to the Lone Tree Mainstage. This began what is often referred to as “tech week.” Throughout the week, each day, new elements were added, starting with the set, props, lighting and sound cues, and finally, just a few days before we open, costumes, wigs, hair, and makeup. All of these elements continue to be polished and refined throughout the week. In addition, Cyrano has longer daily rehearsals during tech, sometimes working what are called “10 of 12’s”: rehearsals that last from 10AM – 10PM with a 2-hour break.

“Tech” is the culmination of weeks of work by those in the rehearsal hall, departmental shops (scenic, props, electric, sound, costumes), and administration. As a stage manager, I love being a part of the team that coordinates all of the elements, keeping shops informed on what is happening in rehearsal and how it could affect their designs, and making sure that those in the hall are prepared for what we know about the design elements. That way, no one is surprised or unprepared during tech week, and we’re all ready for the public by opening night!

The days of tech week are full of problem-solving. It’s a fun kind of problem-solving. We make good art, tell a good story, and find ways to integrate the design elements with each other so they act as supportive, collaborative elements in storytelling. Stage Managers coordinate all of that. In fact, we call all the cues that execute the design elements together for every performance. That’s what stage managers do.

That’s what I do. And I love what I do!


Cyrano opens this week! Get tickets here or call (720)509-1000.

The Understudy’s Journey

By Kevin Lowry, understudy for all male roles except Cyrano

A typically unnoticed, behind-the-scenes role of the theatrical process is the understudy. For this production of Cyrano, I have the privilege of being the understudy for the roles of Christian, Le Bret, De Guiche, Ragueneau, De Valvert, Ligniere and Desiree. (Basically, all of the male roles except for the lead.) A mammoth task by any measure, to not only memorize all the lines, the blocking, a song, and swordplay, but also to be able to bring each character to life in its own unique way.

I began this assignment by reading the play over and over, to try and get a handle on each character track and how they fit into the overall story of Cyrano.  Then I started working on the lines: a job I can equate to drinking from a fire hose.  Pacing myself and focusing on one character at a time was the only way I could manage it. I spent hours recording the lines and cues to be able to hear them aloud and help me get them into my head. I consider myself a very kinesthetic person, so walking through the blocking with the lines really helps solidify them for me and helps me get the character into my body.

Learning the sword-fighting choreography has been a challenge. Working fight choreography by oneself is difficult.  The dance of a sword fight is different with each partner, and since I’m playing multiple fighting roles, I can’t practice swinging a sword against myself! The lack of a combat partner to practice with makes it a unique test of my skills.

I have had the opportunity to “walk” a few characters through the course of the rehearsal process, and that has helped immensely with learning those scenes.

All in all, I am excited to be climbing this mountain of an acting challenge, and I will be ready to jump in should the opportunity present itself. That being said, I ask the cast to stay healthy, take your B12 and vitamin C, and get plenty of rest.

Comedy for the Modern Theatergoer

By Michael Bouchard, cast member of Cyrano 

Comedy from centuries past tends not to fare well today. This is due to the fact that it isn’t funny anymore. For instance, Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night: FABIAN: Sowter will cry upon’t for all this, though it be as rank as a fox.

I’ll let you pause to catch your breath from the laughter.

I know what you’re thinking: “That line makes no sense.” Even if you knew that the context was about Sowter’s opinion of bad poetry, you’d still be hard-pressed to imagine how it could be funny. If you don’t know all the context, syntax, and vernacular language of the day, it looks like drivel.

But if you knew that “out upon it” can mean a positive/surprised “No Way!” and can be contracted to “upon’t”, and that “rank as a fox” means “smells like crap”, you can begin to imagine what Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner would do if they got their hands on it. The line might read:

FABIAN: Sowter would yell “Incredible!” Even though it’s crap.

Now we know what’s being said! It also fits our current vernacular without losing the playwright’s intention for the line, or the style. Most importantly, it’s funny again.

All this is what Hollinger and Posner have achieved with the humor in this adaptation of the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. Their script is funnier than Rostand’s original would be to our ears, yet it loses none of the point, and less of the poetry than you might think, without feeling pretentious. If you are a lover of poetry and wordplay, this modern adaptation will give you much to feast on.

And when it comes to the comedy, this production of Cyrano has an ace up its sleeve: The entire cast.

When you ask an ensemble to play multiple roles, you’re going to want flexible actors who can jump from fully realized character to fully realized character, rapidly. Almost as a rule, people who are elastic with their physicality, the pace of their speech, and the tone of their voice are good at comedy. Comedy often relies on understanding rhythms of speech (we call this “timing”) or outrageous physical gags (Jim Carrey comes to mind). When it comes to comedy, this cast knows its stuff.

Every single cast member gets their moment to tickle your funny bone, and not a one fails to deliver. It may be hammy, or it may be subtle. Be it Sammie Joe Kinnett giving you characters you’ll be laughing at for days, or Brian Shea breaking his handsome resolve to deliver a scene of unexpected hilarity, you will find jokes of all kinds to make you laugh, no matter your tastes in comedy. We do it all, even puns (the very lowest form of comedy).

 

Despite all the humor, this is no fluff piece of cream pies and banana peels. Comedy is best when it’s connected to real situations and powerful desires. When the stakes are highest, you have the possibility of great humor and great drama. In Cyrano, every member of the ensemble plays their desires to their fullest. This grounds the humor, and in fact, makes it all funnier, because the situation matters so much to every character onstage.

Stephen Weitz as Cyrano is pretty good too. He might have a career in this if he keeps at it. We’re all rooting for him.

We’re all also rooting for you to come and have a brilliant night at the theater, enjoying the humor in this classic tale well worth sharing with your friends.