All posts by sperling

Biggest Theater Flops 

Broadway has a long list of star-studded shows that have lasted years. Some of the longest running Broadway shows include the likes of Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Chicago the Musical, The Lion King, and Les Misérables. Unfortunately, at the other end of the success spectrum are the theater shows that were ultimate flops. What makes a show a flop and what are some of the flops we love to still talk about? 

Sometimes even shows that seem destined for accolades end up closing early or becoming infamous for being a Broadway disaster. Why one show soars and others flops depends on quite a few elements. However, as Theater Nerds so aptly puts it, “No matter how awesome the cast or how beautiful the score, there’s nothing for some shows to do but join a legendary list of Broadway’s worst-selling shows.”

Then there are the shows that are completely panned by critics but beloved by audiences. For example, the show You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown about the much loved “Peanuts” gang actually premiered in 1971. While high school and middle school drama productions still adore this musical to this day, it only saw the stage for 32 performances. It goes to show that the venue and target audience can play sharply into the success of any production. 

Bonnie and Clyde is yet another Broadway show that was only on Broadway for three months, lasting a measly 36 performances. This number and shortened run would categorize it as a Broadway flop, but there is still a cult following for this show. Most critics did report that while the show was short-lived, the score was amazing and the main performers has vocal aptitude that should have raised this show to success. 

So, these two examples of “flops” beg the question, what causes a show that may have a following to flop? For many shows that have a limited run there could be a multitude of reasons for the show’s demise. For some the acting, script, financial backing, or score was subpar, while for others the subject matter was not met with open arms by the American public. For a show to be successful, there needs to be emotion, passion, or content that strikes a nerve with the audience. 

Take the ultimate Broadway hit Hamilton. Not only does the acting, score, and theme resonate with the audience, but it comes at a time when Americans are looking to their past to find a path into the political decisions of the future. The kismet, therefore was amazing timing for this extremely successful Broadway show. 

For more “flops” whether they deserve the title or not, check out this article on the list of musicals and how long they lit the marquee on Broadway. 

 

Creating the Right Mood on the Stage

Part of pulling off a great show is creating the right mood on the stage. Theatergoers expect a story that includes emotion. Giving them that requires the right backdrop, lighting, and acting. Let’s take a closer look at how to create the mood you want on stage using these three components for your next play or musical. 

Backdrops 

When an audience first sees the stage, they expect to be transported into the world being portrayed in the scene on stage. Whether you are trying to paint the image of a Dickens village in England, or a winterscape in New England, a backdrop can make all the difference. Our Backdrops By Charles H. Stewart come in a variety of options from the old Broadway favorites to the abstract. We have hundreds of backdrops to choose from that can help your production set the appropriate mood for the audience. Check out our wide assortment of backdrops organized by category or by show. If you don’t see one that creates the setting and mood you are going for, we can custom make a backdrop to meet your specifications. 

Lighting 

Obviously, in conjunction with the backdrops, the lighting plays a key role in creating the right mood on stage. The angle, color, and brilliance of the lighting can determine the mood the performers are trying to portray. For example, lighter colors to convey day and darker tones for dusk.

Most stage lighting professionals and designers focus on five main positions to create the desired mood. The main lighting areas include: front, back, side, down, and high side lighting. Each choice casts a different view of what is happening on stage. In some instances the lighting can look dark and foreboding, while other times the lighting can create a light, happy tone. 

Acting 

Acting is clearly a central component to the performance and a key influencing element to how gratifying and atmospheric the drama is. Directors claim that the tone the actors on stage create is in conjunction with the lighting, sound, and backdrops. It all comes together to set a mood in one unified way so that audience members are pulled into the story and the mood is prevalent throughout the theater. 

Check out our backdrops online and on our Facebook page for your next production. No matter the mood, we can help you set the tone for your performance. 

 

Benefits of Supporting Community Theater 

In our last blog we discussed the grand opening of the Concord Youth Theater in Concord, Massachusetts. This theater was once the home of the iconic Captain America, Chris Evans. This small community theater was where Evans got his start and began his future career in the Marvel Avengers superhero films. It reminds us of why community theater is so important and why we should follow “The Captain’s” lead and support our local community theaters. 

Supporting a community theater can take many forms. Maybe you volunteer your time with young thespians, or maybe you take your artistic talent and create works of art in the form of props, lighting, music, or scenery for an upcoming musical or play. If time is short but you still want to show your support, monetary donations are always welcome to a theater in your town or region. Here is why: 

Nurturing New Artists and Actors

The ThoughtCo, the world’s largest education resource, reports that many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small town playhouses. Just by attending and applauding, audiences give up-and-coming stars the positive feedback they need to continue their artistic pursuits.

Just like Captain America felt safe to try out his love of acting in a community theater so could the “next big name” in Hollywood or on Broadway, being on stage can help build the confidence and self esteem of some future actor who may want to go on in the field of the entertainment industry. 

Learning Valuable Skills 

Community theater is not just about learning to act, it can help build communication skills, leadership qualities, and open hearts and minds to understanding people who are different from us. Young and old alike can learn a new skill such as lighting, musicianship, or directing and learning from an older mentor who has been around the stage crew, lighting technology and instruments their whole lives. 

Local Marketing 

Getting involved in your local theater does not always need to be altruistic in nature. Maybe your small business needs to get its name out there. Supporting a theater company is a great way to advertise your services or products. Just think about it. What are people doing while waiting for a show to begin? They are flipping through the program reading the actors bios and seeing the local companies who are supporting the show. Your business name and logo could be seen by hundreds of people in just one weekend! So next time you go to a movie, see a play, or watch a musical, ask yourself where these actors got their “break.” Chances are it was a community theater. Support your local community theater today. Check out our Facebook page where we often post about local shows and theater options.

Captain America: Back to His Roots In Concord, MA 

It’s no secret that we love theater and acting here at Backdrops By Charles Stewart. But we love this local story more than anything! Chris Evans, the iconic Captain America of the Marvel Avengers superhero team, has returned to Massachusetts to help dedicate the new home of a youth theater company where, as a youngster, he practiced and honed his acting skills.

Evans, a Sudbury, Massachusetts native, returned to his roots a few weeks ago to the Concord Youth Theater (CYT), where he acted as a nine year old thespian. The CYT was once his home and he still considers it the place where he grew up and began mastering the talent that he practices in the widely acclaimed Avengers movies. 

The Concord Youth Theater is an Evan’s family second home. Chris’s mother, Lisa Evans, is the Artistic Director at CYT, his sister Carly is the Director of the current show Godspell, and his other sister Shannon is the Costume Designer. The family came together to celebrate the opening of the new permanent home of the Concord Youth Theater. Evans says that he will play the role of “advisor” in this family adventure. 

For several years the theater has moved from one location to another and has now found the funds and location that will allow them to have over 200 audience members for their shows.  

Evans took a few moments to dedicate the theater after he cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening in October. He stated that the theater was his home and where he made his start at what would be his future career. He felt that CYT was a safe place for him to take risks in a space where he could make mistakes. He is proud of his sisters and mom for all the work they put into this small community theater just outside of Boston. 

 

The Importance of Introducing Children to Live Theater 

Most people who love theater think of it merely as their favorite form of entertainment. I mean, what’s not to love about escaping reality and getting pulled into the lives of the characters on the stage? But did you know that, while you are enjoying the show, you are also learning, connecting, and finding ways to relate to others? Theater, especially live theater geared towards children, can have more of an impact that just a fun afternoon out watching people recite lines, act, and playout characters. Read on to find out why theater is important for our younger learners. 

Immersion of Culture 

Through live theatre, audiences, both young and old, are immersed in stories about characters from every background imaginable. Characters who are a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender can teach children about what it is like in cultures around the globe, not just the small world where they live in. Imagine the positive impact that can have on a child who now has his/her eyes opened to what it is like to be someone from outside their cultural background. 

Creativity and Imagination 

As part of the audience asked to imagine Jack’s “beanstalk” growing out of the stage floor, or that a Big Bad Wolf can actually talk, takes some stretching of the imagination. This creativity requires that the audience thinks outside the box. This can translate into the nurturing of creativity and imagination that can be a valuable asset later in life. “Theatre is the single most valuable place where kids can explore the endless possibilities of their imaginations and what they can do,” according to Danica Taylor, a writer for the Rep Theater online

School Performance and Community Service 

Research from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall shows that students who are exposed to the arts are more likely to be involved in community service, and are less likely to drop out of school. Studies by neuroscientists have shown that both the left and right hemispheres of the brain need to be fully stimulated in order for the brain to utilize its true potential. This means that it is just as important to immerse children in creative activities that exercise the right brain, as it is to immerse them in scientific and analytic activities for the left-brain. (Source: Taylor, Rep Theater) 

Communication 

As students become involved in theater, not merely as a passive theater-goer, they learn the skill of communication both verbally and with body language. Imagine how fun it is to learn how to speak clearly so even the person at the back of the theater can understand your message. This skill is needed in almost every career industry imaginable. 

Why does your child learn while he/she is involved in theater? For some, it may be as simple as how to be a good audience member who pays attention and is courteous. Leave us a note on our Facebook page or on our website

Don’t Miss These Late Fall Broadway Shows

Broadway is a beautiful place all year long. But something magical begins to take place during the late fall weeks that peek into the upcoming winter. The New York City streets begin to show signs of the holidays and the hustle and bustle seem more, shall we say, jolly. That’s why it is such a special time of year to head to the Big Apple and take in a show or two. 

There are so many great shows to choose from, and choosing one or more can be difficult. Here are a few that Playbill has noted as up-and-coming shows not to miss. So gather up your fall attire, make reservations at your favorite NYC dining spot, and get ready for a few months of theater. 

The Crucible 

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is playing at the Connelly Theatre with the first preview on November 8, 2019, and opening on November 21, 2019. Under the direction of Eric Tucker, The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is the dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem Witch Trials that took place in Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1692–93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists. The cast includes Shirine Babb, Rajesh Bose, Truett Felt, Caroline Grogan, Paul Lazar, Susannah Millonzi, Arash Mokhtar, Ryan Quinn, Randolph Curtis Rand, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, John Terry, and Eric Tucker. 

Evita 

Evita, by author Tim Rice and music by the acclaimed Andrew Lloyd Webber, begins its first review on November 13, 2019, with opening night on November 14, 2019. The musical examines the rapid and controversial ascent of Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina, until her untimely death at age 33. On the one-hundredth anniversary of Eva Perón’s birth, this presentation deepens your understanding of one of Argentina’s most adored and reviled figures. The director is Sammi Cannold and the cast includes Solea Pfeiffer, Maia Reficco, Enrique Acevedo, and Philip Hernandez. 

We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You opens November 14, 2019, at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. The musical tells the tale of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown. The musical is based upon the songs of British rock band Queen with a book by Ben Elton.

Do you have a show you are dying to see? Comment on our Facebook page or in the comments below. Check out our Backdrops that will help make any show come to life. 

 

The Impact of Lighting Design 

Think of the last time you walked into a theater. Do you remember the initial feeling you had when the curtain rose? Were you tense, happy, scared, excited, or relaxed? Believe it or not, the lighting probably set the tone for the remainder of the theater experience you had. In fact, psychological studies have shown us that color and lighting has a huge impact on our mood and overall well-being and that lighting experts have been using this knowledge for years to enhance our theater experience. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of lighting design. 

At any given moment our senses are collecting hundreds of pieces of information about our environment. The colors, smells, sights, temperature, feel, and so many more components go into how we interact with or feel about the world around us. The same goes for our experiences in the theater. 

Imagine you walk into a theater where there are dark shadows that cover the stage, shabby furnishings scattered around, and actors that are dressed in ragged clothing. Your initial impression may be one of concern, fear, or curiosity. Imagine the same theater, this time with bright lighting, colorful backgrounds, and actors who are singing happily. Your sensory input has dramatically changed, right? That is how the theater can use colors and light to change how theatergoers experience the show. 

Direction of Light 

One aspect that lighting design experts have to consider when setting a mood on a stage is the direction of the light. For example, if the lighting team is trying to create a scene with tension they may want direct light from above to shine on the main action on the stage while darkening the rest of the area. Another example would be creating low or dim lighting to add a sense of mystery, privacy, or intimacy. Lighting the walls, ceiling, and props can give a sense of spaciousness as well as direct your attention to the portion of the stage where the action is the greatest. 

The Type of Lighting 

Theatergoers know that the lighting team can create all sorts of emotions depending upon the type of light they use. For example, a spotlight can draw your attention right to the main action during a monologue to important action that is occurring on stage. Colored filters can be used with this lamp to change the overall mood as well. 

A floodlight gives a wide area where action can occur on the stage. A strobe is a flashing light, that is used for special effects. It’s often used to give the effect of old movies. It produces a jerky effect on the movements of actors when used on its own.

Lights can be useful for defining different locations on the stage, creating mood and atmosphere, highlighting key moments of action, and directing the audience’s focus. Lighting can denote the time of year or day and can also be used in an abstract or symbolic way, such as using a red light to symbolize danger or passion. How does your theater use lighting? Give us some tips in the comments. 

 

Overcoming The Stress of Tech Week 

The phrase “Tech Week” can cause even the most solid thespian to shudder in fear. The long hours, the fear of failure, and the stress can be enough to send you over the edge. What can you do to make this inevitable week less stressful? Read on to hear from others who have been there before and their suggestions to overcome the stress of the dreaded tech week! 

Determine Your Point People

There is nothing worse when things go south on stage during tech week than having too many people add their thoughts and suggestions. Be sure to have one or two people who are level headed, patient, and knowledgeable to handle the hundreds of questions that can come up during the week. Save your sanity and let your actors know who the appropriate person is to handle each type of question. 

TheaterFolk online suggests, for example, who is the most likely person to know where a missing pair of pants might be? Who should be contacted if one of the stage lights burns out? Whom should students check with if they need help reviewing their entrances and exits? (If you answered the costume head, the lighting designer/operator, and the stage manager, then you would be right!) These are your point people and they are worth their weight in gold.

Plan Breaks 

Tech week can be one really long week. It is tempting to try to power through it and get as much done each day as possible but you will see burnout happens. We suggest planned breaks at intervals that are decided upon before you start this crazy week. Encourage your group to get up, stretch, go outside, have a quick bite to eat, and clear their heads. Being inside all week working on lighting, tech, and props can make you feel detached from the rest of the world. Taking even a few minutes of self-care during this busy week can put you in a better place than the one where you are tired, hungry, and losing patience. 

Schedule it Out 

Tech week for professionals means lots of hours doing what you love and getting paid for it. For students, tech week means balancing school work and theater prep. Be sure to schedule out time to get your studying done as well as complete that homework. You may also want to plan your meals and sleep time as well. It may seem ridiculous to plan it out but tech week brings new meaning to marathon lighting sessions and rehearsals. The more you can block out time for other important things in your life, the better. 

Are you crazy during your tech week? How do you handle the stress and balance your life during this time? Give us some suggestions in the comments section and let us know your tips of the trade. 

 

Movies that Began on Broadway 

In this age of Marvel movie crossovers and watching characters from one superhero film show up in another one, we have become accustomed to the idea of crossovers. But did you know that Broadway theater shows have been making the leap from the stage to movies for years before it was “in?” 

As a child growing up in the ‘80s, I had lots of musicals that would come spinning out of my mouth as I played with friends or concentrated on my homework. After seeing Annie on stage, I was a “hard knock kid” for months and months. I knew the lines and characters arguably better than the actual actors. 

Fast forward a few decades and I brought my sons to Annie at the local movie theater. My kids loved it as much as I did but boy was it a culture shock to see how they adapted it to our modern, tech-savvy lives of today. The songs and the premise were the same, but the cultural and social aspects were completely different… not bad, just different. 

Lots of Broadway shows have been adapted for movies in our society today. Two of my favorites are Grease and Mamma Mia! Again, the songs were the same but each was shifted just enough that you could tell that Hollywood had put their stamp on it. 

Depending upon your generation you may remember different Broadway shows before they became screen hits. For example, my mom’s generation remembers West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and Les Misérables before they were adapted. Who knows, younger generations may someday remember Hamilton on stage if it ever gets sent to Hollywood. 

What is your favorite Broadway show that was remade in Hollywood? Tell us in the comments and tell us whether you liked the remake or not. 

 

Theater Traditions 

Baseball players use the same lucky bat, football players don’t change their game day socks, and for years I have not stepped on sidewalk cracks for fear of breaking my mother’s back. Superstitions run deep in some people, but none more than theater people who have a long list of unique theater traditions. 

Theater folk are a fiercely superstitious breed and they follow certain traditions to ward off bad luck and make each production go smoothly. Some traditions are rooted in historic theater lore, while others actually seem to make pretty good sense. Check out some of our favorite theater traditions. 

 

Break A Leg 

One of my favorite theater traditions that has made its way into mainstream American life is the phrase “Break a leg.” This means good luck even though it sounds horrible. In Shakespeare’s time, ‘break’ meant ‘bend’, so to ask someone to ‘Bend the Leg’ meant to take lots of bows at the end of a performance. Then there are the die-hard thespians who believe that there are theater ghosts or fairies who like to cause mischief by or wreak havoc on your production. So saying the opposite is better luck than wishing someone good luck. Go figure! 

 

Flowers Before a Performance

You should never give a reward before the event has occurred, therefore giving flowers before a performance is another no-no in the lore of theater traditions. To give a bouquet of flowers to the actors, director, or producer before the end of the show would, again, tempt the fates. 

 

Terrible Dress Rehearsal Means a Great Performance

For this superstitious belief, I really think it is a way of chasing away the night before performance anxiety and nerves. Many actors really believe that all the things that go wrong (and there are usually a lot of things that go awry) during the last dress rehearsal are a good omen of the opening night. Most likely, this lore came from tired cast members who are nervous about the upcoming show and need that adrenaline boost of the opening night to shoo the worries away! 

 

The Ghost Light 

For decades crew members have been leaving on one light – the ghost light – to ward off bad spirits after each performance. Many believe this superstition came from too many people tripping over props and other items left behind the curtain. Others believe it is the ghost of the first actor, Thespis, who is haunting the stage at night. 

Does your theater group have any unique traditions? Share them with us and let us know where the traditions came from. We love to hear all the great superstitions.