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Curtain Call Productions, LLC

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Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped!

 

2000 - Preliminary meeting

It is wet and dreary but most of the production team manages to meet. This get-together is primarily to get everyone on the same page: coordinate schedules, ask questions, voice concerns, and better understand the production the director wants to create. For me this is my first insight into the beginnings of the creative process that results in a fully staged musical. Well, it's not really the beginning since Scott, the director, has been developing his ideas for some time before today. But this is my first day on the ride and it's early enough that there is still lots of brainstorming and experimentation to come.
What excites me the most is hearing Scott discuss the incorporation of puppets, video, photos, and supertitles around the all singing/all dancing actors. This is what I most look forward to following; the development and layering of all this multimedia. One of the most mysterious aspects of theatre as art is how to make the thematic dramatic. Maybe now is my chance to solve that one.
Josh Singer

October 9-10 Auditions

From this side of the table, the production side, auditions are - at the same time - the most tedious and most exciting part of putting a show together. The choosing of the actors greatly effects the development of the entire production. Ultimately the talents and personalities of the performers will be inextricably joined with the piece. After the final cast is assembled on October 13 the show will be molded to what they have to offer.
The final auditions consisted of around 35 actors, both Equity and Non-Equity, from the Baltimore/Washington, DC area.  It was a privilege, as the diarist for the production, for me to be able to watch many of them take a shot at being considered for one of six reporters or 3 Koken.  As an actor myself I wasn't allowed to sit in on those auditioning for the role I was up for. I saw first hand how damaging the wrong song can be, how painful it is to watch someone who is not enjoying themselves, and how exciting it is when someone pulls out all the stops to show you everything they have to offer. And what I've heard is true, directors don't have to search for the right person, they stand out on their own.
Now comes the hardest part, and I don't envy Scott the job, 'THE CAST' has to be chosen. As the list of possibilities grew I could see numerous choices and combinations. Each of these would result in different though equally exciting and effective versions of LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPED! All Scott has to do is decide which version is the one he wants the most.
In the end my proverbial hat is off to all the performers who gave of their talents, hearts, and souls; people who put themselves on the line for a chance to be considered for the opportunity to do what they passionately love. To them I say, "If you don't get the job this time, keep working! Your day will come!"
Josh Singer

Oct. 30 - The First Gathering

Tonight was the first official gathering of the company.  Scott was intent on keeping this event social and informal, so everyone who could attend was graciously invited to his home for 'cocktail meeting/party.'  It was a perfect opportunity for everyone to meet and mingle as well as get briefed on the work to come. Everyone involved with the show was there with the exception of a handful of production staff and collaborators who had scheduling conflicts. Scott was sorry that more of the production team couldn't make it because they might have left feeling the way CO-puppet designer Julie Borsetti did. Normally the designers and the actors work in separate camps until just before the show opens. But Julie told the actors that now she felt like a member of the whole team; she had a chance to socially interact with the cast and can now connect personalities and faces with their names. Now she can do her job with the confidence of a fuller knowledge of the people she is working for and with. Aside from the socializing and eating, everyone was given time to sit as a group and share some background with each other. Then there was talk about the process we are about to start. Design sketches and models were shown by Scott, Allison Campbell (the CO-scenic designer) and Julie.  Scott explained his philosophy and practice of direction as well as collaboration, and the cast was given tapes of the music and scripts. By the end of the evening, after good food and conversation, everyone left with a strong sense of camaraderie and excitement for the show we are about to create.
Josh Singer

Nov. 4-5 The Puppets

With this weekend behind me, I am exhausted. Scott and Julie have been working for some time on the puppets for the show, but this weekend was my first chance to help (as the entire company was encouraged to do).We were working particularly hard to complete as many puppets and objects as possible so they could be shown to well-known object theatre and puppet designer Theodora Skipitares who will be visiting Towson University this week.  Scott had developed many of his object ideas for LBK while working with Theodora last spring. I've never built puppets before so I was fun to see these 'characters' come to life. It was also fascinated watching Scott and Julie collaborate on the puppet mechanics and aesthetics. One of the most complicated, troublesome and exciting puppets is a base relief roadhouse singer named Chantoosie. On Saturday (though mini mockups had been made) there was more debate over Chantoosie's mechanics. But by the end of Sunday she was well on her way and looking very distinctive as a true collaborative creation sculpted and constructed equally by both designers.
That is what amused me the most, how the character of each puppet emerged
as the time went by. Before my eyes pieces of wire and foam and cloth turned into Al Capone, and Albert S. and Albert D. (the handwriting experts from the Lindbergh case who, as "humanettes," have a duet in the show). I became very fond of the headless, rotund little man with tiny faux winged tipped shoes who I spent much of my Sunday afternoon working on. Even Scott sensed my disappointment at not being the one who will use that puppet in the show.
We worked late into the night, but it was worth it to earn the title of 'Lip Tailor' (from my sewing on Chantoozie's bright red lips) and see how, even before the actor's first rehearsal the show is building a palatable momentum.
Josh Singer

 

December 2, 2000

    We're halfway through the workshop process and things appear to be going smoothly. Most of this first week has been spent learning the music -- which is not as easy as it fist appears to be. This is the first musical I've been in that did not have a preexisting cast recording which I was obsessively familiar with before rehearsals. That's why I'm grateful Tom (our music director) coordinated private music sessions prior to this workshop. If not for that I know I would feel completely overwhelmed by the complexity and size of this score. At the same time it's very refreshing and exciting to be learning a new score, as well as liberating to be free of a publicly circulated recording of codified (and sometimes quintessential) performances.

    At the end of the week we got our first taste of dialect work. As if we don't have enough to do, what with the multiple roles each of us has to play, we have to learn the dialects that some of the actual characters in the Lindbergh Kidnapping had: British, Scottish, German, Bronx, New Jersey, Irish, etc. Steve Satta has been doing a fabulous job coaching us on these but I am grateful that I only have to focus on the New Jersey dialect. Poor Greg probably has the most work of all of us in this area. He has to be an Irish Priest, and New York Cop, a Bronx Teacher, a British butler, and who know what else. But we're all envious of Dennis who seems to be the dialect master. If he didn't know the dialect coming in the door, he has it mastered before the rest of us.

    We're just beginning to grasp how complicated the show is going to be to put together, and we're not even dealing with staging yet. The most amusing thing was when Scott put things into perspective. He said that in comparison to a Union production our 3 and a half hour / 5 times a week schedule would only amount to about a day and a half of rehearsals. But in light of that it is very comforting that Scott and the company are united in the belief that we will all rise to the task.
Josh Singer




December 8, 2000 - The Staged Reading

The workshop is over and we have survived!
    I recorded the final reading so Scott can listen to it and determine what in the script need to be worked on. He's pressing me for his copy but I've been living with this show so intensely the last few weeks that I need a little time before I can stand to listen to it.     Over all the reading went well. Our audience of production staff and specially invited guests appeared quite entertained. I'm eager to see how
some of their observations effect the drafting of the script. There was only one down side to the whole evening. Due to a sudden death in the family Kriste (one of our Koken) wasn't able to be with us. She was gone the entire second week of work and, in show dependent so much on ensemble work, she was greatly missed. However we were fortunate that Jayne, our "stage-manager-who-sings" (as Scott billed her), was able to fill in. So Jayne gets special merit for being able to juggle reading the many, many,
many stage directions with Kriste's songs and dialogue.
    A special merit award also goes to our assistant music director, Nick. It came to Nick to augment the score with additional vocal arrangements (not just single verses, sometimes whole songs), a job he accepted with enthusiasm. Some nights he would leave rehearsal with an idea and come back that same night with an exciting, well written arrangement. This is even
more impressive when you realize that Nick is an undergraduate acting major with a talent for playing the piano and a love of musical theatre.
    The reading wasn't wholly traditional as Scott incorporated the puppets he intends to use for the full production so as to get audience reaction to their place in the show. Not only did they work, but I think they were very
entertaining and theatrical. And that's a relief considering the all the work we (especially Julie, the third special merit award winner) put into building them.
    Now we have the holidays off and Iook forward to seeing version 6.0 of the script . . . after I get some sleep, that is.

Josh Singer



J
an 12 - The First Week

    I can't believe we're back in rehearsal again. It feels like starting over from scratch. The script is very different: sharper, reorganized, smoother. Dialogue has been reassigned, characters and relationships are clearer, and the ensemble element has been even further integrated.

    We spent most of this week relearning the music, which is almost as different as the script. Some songs and pieces of songs have been
reassigned to different characters, one solo was turned to an ensemble number, and Nick worked hard on writing more vocal arrangements (more harmony to learn, ugh)! If I thought it was hard to learn a score I had never heard before, it's even harder learning a familiar score that has been revised. But I have to remember Kriste who has rejoined the company. She has to learn the new stuff while scrambling to learn the music the rest of us already know and take for granted. Lucky for her (and us) she is a quick study and a fine musician.
    It's fun to look at the new draft of the script and see changes in the areas that I felt needed to be changed. Scott says the script will stay pretty much as it is and any future changes will be minimal. Now, as opposed to the reading, I have a whole script to memorize and a ton of
staging yet to be learned. I think I need a nap.

Josh Singer




Jan. 19 - The Second Week

    Tension, drama, and turmoil. More on that later.
    We started movement work this week. Scott keep asserting the physical demands of this show so we have spent the few days with Nancy, the choreographer. She's been giving us thorough warm-ups and Viewpoints
exercises (exercises that emphasize organic ensemble performance work). I've been introduced to Viewpoints but I've never practiced them with seasoned actors. I was surprised and gratified by how quickly we all tapped into the ensemble energy.
    Part of the fun of Viewpoints is incorporating the set into the exercises. And we are very lucky to have a set that is multifunctional, striking to look at, and just begs to be played on. We're also lucky to already have the structure built so we can immediately begin working with it.

    Nancy has also choreographed a few numbers already. Her style is very different from Broadway choreographers who impose the steps on their dancers. Nancy prefers a mix of giving us steps and organically developing movements that stem from a performer's experience and interpretation. It's an exciting way to work.
    The rest of the week was spent blocking the first few scenes. Scott's interpretation of the piece is a very actor driven event, making the performers responsible for creating atmosphere and communicating setting.

The script also has a very cinematic aesthetic that demands quick transitions and sharp changes of focus. The opening prologue is particularly fast and furious.
    But here's the drama: we don't know where the show will open! For nearly a year it was understood that the show would be mounted at Baltimore's Theatre Project. Now we hear that there is a scheduling conflict that is bigger than a miscommunication with the Managing Director of the theatre. Scott is furiously trying to resolve the confusion as quickly as possible so we can start the advertising campaign. Scott declares 'the show will go on' but the tragedy would be to play the show somewhere other than Theatre
Project. The staging and our fabulous have been tailored to the specific qualities inherent to that space. Put anywhere where else the show will not be appreciated in the way Scott intends. But all we can do for now is wait and see.

Josh Singer



Jan 26 - The Third Week

    Hallelujah! We're in Theatre Project. It took longer to determine than anyone wanted, but we got what we wanted. I'm relieved to know that we will be doing the show where it was meant to be performed.
    The other good news is that everything is on schedule. The show is all blocked out, though it was tough due to the cinematic qualities of the script. Scott even admits that this is the hardest show he's ever staged. But I think the challenge is good for him. The only thing that worries me is the costumes. Each actors plays multiple characters and each character has signature costume pieces that iconify him or her. The Koken, among other things, are there to help move these costume pieces to where we need them and occasionally help us dress. But we haven't mapped out these movements yet and that is going to be an intricate dance in of itself.    This dilemma reminds me how indebted we 'reporters' are to the Koken. The six of us who play the reporters which carry the bulk of the story telling are keenly aware how the show would fall flat if we didn't have the Koken there to help us dress, move scenery, manipulate puppets, and sing. The six of us alone couldn't possibly do everything that needs to be done. And Scott has done a very skilled job of integrating the Koken into the staging so that it doesn't look like a show of six actors and their three stage hands.
    Now that the show is staged, I remember Scott's warnings that this show would be very physically demanding. I never doubted him, but the full force of his words are only now becoming clear. The show moves at a very fast pace, we have to be a constant state of anticipation, each character requires a distinct physical embodiment, and no one leaves the stage for the entire performance (except for intermission, of course). I don't know how the smoker's in the cast (and I'm not naming names but they know who they are) will survive.
Josh Singer


Feb. 2 - The Fourth Week

    This week was spent choreographing the movements of the Koken and our costume pieces, attacking the issues I was worried had been overlooked last week. We also spent a lot of time fine-tuning the transitions. The week culminated in our first of-book run of both acts. As I have said repeatedly this show is very complex and all of us actors were very scared to find out how much we couldn't remember. And on top of it all we had a small audience. No pressure! Granted they were mostly production crew, but an audience is an audience to a performer.

    Well, the whole run felt like a disaster. We all forgot lines or important blocking and the first act felt like it lasted a year. I even succumbed and carried my script for the entire second act. Scott was clearly frustrated because among the other problems, the transitions we had spent so much time on did not go as smoothly as he had hoped. (At one point he ran onstage to dress me in a coat that had failed to get to me.) But I was amazed at the perseverance that prevailed to the end. No one on stage gave up (or if they did it didn't show). I felt the need to throw in the towel numerous times but I couldn't when I saw how dedicated everyone else was to making as much of the run work as possible. That kind of collective force always amazes me.

    I have to admit that over all, I think tonight was harder for our three Koken than anyone else. They have had to assimilate the most changes in this process, they need to be in a constant state of anticipation, and they must do most of their work unobtrusively. (They sing and dance too!) Ultimately they have to know the entire show better than anyone else on stage. I have to honor them because I know that my head would explode if I had to do their job. And without them the show would fall flat. Whatever problems we encountered during the run, their dedication is clear.
    After the run was over, Scott was very encouraging. He admitted that the source of his frustration was from a tradition of his shows being a bit more together by this point in the process, but by the second act a sense of perspective had overcome him and all he could do was laugh at some of our mistakes. He reminded us that the show is very difficult, one of the hardest he has ever confronted, and when that was considered we really weren't in bad shape at all.  He also added that many of the scenes have
some very strong moments and the show is very informative, entertaining, and unique.

    Now we get a much needed two days to rest, recuperate, and rally. Next week we tackle the beast again, and I'm confident we will tame, if not conquer, it.
Josh Singer

Feb. 11 - The Fourth Week: Entering the home stretch

    Well, we've had our first casualty: Albert S. and Albert D. are dead. But their history has been a long and checkered one. Humanette puppets like Al Capone Scott designed them to be dressed in matching suits; one of which fit perfectly, the other being much too huge. I pulled a few all-nighters tailoring the second suit and making it match the first. Unbeknownst to me, through all of this Scott had reservations about the "Albert S. and Albert D." song. Early this week he made the final decision to cut the song and the puppets.
    Scott was hesitant to tell me and Julie about the cut because of the time we all three spent building and dressing the puppets, but we both took it very well. As each puppet was built I was very aware of the possibility that any one of them might be cut if it was considered necessary. How often do we hear about elaborate sets/costumes/songs/scenes being created for a Broadway show, and then cut because the moment was wrong or didn't work? That's theatre.
    The only other major change is that Scott moved intermission so that it happens a few scenes earlier. Other than that the week has gone smoothly. We have been consistently running the show, and with each rehearsal the piece gets more and more refined. On Thursday we actually got to wear our costumes for the first time. Kelli was probably the most excited because her costume perfectly suits her character, looks great on her, and is a lot of fun to wear. Everybody looked great, Scott's design work is great and there are little details to everyone's costumes that really make them special.
    I can't believe we're about to start tech week. The set and lights are being loaded into Theatre Project as I write, all this week we'll be rehearsing there, and we open this coming Friday. We have less than a week to polish and refine this show into the well-oiled machine it needs to be. The idea is both terrifying and exhilarating. I think I'd better go study my lines.
Josh Singer

 

Feb 16 - Before the Big Night

   
We survived tech week and tonight is opening night. Everyone is excited and anxious about having our first real audience. But I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on this past week before it gets washed in the memories of tonight.
    The strongest image for me is Monday night when I walked onto the stage and saw for the first time the entire cast on the set, in costume, under the stage lights. I got a rush of adrenaline at the sight. It's that moment when the reality hits you: "My God! We're doing a show!" Everyone looked fabulous and Scott commented how professional the show looked.
    The rest of the week was typical for a tech week. But what amazed me most was how smoothly we incorporated the technical elements into the show. With all the film and slide projections Scott wanted for the show I was sure our first run with them would take forever. Much to my surprise the total amount of stops and starts were remarkably low. This is doubly impressive since we never had a cue-to-cue with the actors. So this weeks "Hat's-Off Award" goes to Scott and the technical crew for all their hours of preparation and late nights.
    As I sit here in anticipation of our inevitable opening, I cling to Scott's faith in us. He has expressed his pride in the production -- it's cast, it's crew, it's design -- and believes it will make a strong, positive impression on the Baltimore theatergoers. I share his pride and feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with such a dedicated, talented group of people.
    And now -- "Once more, dear friends, into the breach!!"
Josh Singer