2000 - Preliminary
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.
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!"
Oct. 30 - The
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.
Nov. 4-5 The
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
That is what amused me the most, how the character of each puppet
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
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.
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.
December 8, 2000 - The
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.
- 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
Feb 16 - Before the Big
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
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