lone tree arts center

Once the Audience Enters the Theater

By Heather Beasley, dramaturg

DSC_5739f2

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.

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.