All posts by sperling

October Means: All Things Tim Burton

Tim Burton

For the month of October, we thought we’d highlight the most renowned horror directors and producers. Known most commonly for his dark and eccentric fantasy films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, and so many more, this writer and animator has dominated the arts with all things spooky.

You guessed it, ladies and gentlemen. We give you, Mr. Tim Burton! Let’s highlight two of his most beloved productions.

Edward Scissorhands
This was one of the spookiest yet most creative and popular works of Tim Burton in 1990. He co-wrote and directed this with Caroline Thompson, as he did with The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. It was about Edward, half human, half an unfinished product as a creation of an inventor.

Shot in Lakeland, Florida, the film tells much of Burton’s life and childhood in Burbank. Edward Scissorhands aired as a ballet in 2005, and toured the U.S, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

edward scissorhands

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Burton produced this in 1993 for Disney, and was originally meant to be a children’s story. The film was directed by Henry Selick and written by Burton along with Caroline Thompson.

This production was one of the most popular in the box offices with revenues of over $50 million. It was most popular for its animation, and remains recognized for its unique style.

Horror and fantasy shows make for great theatrical productions. Many people love to see the spookiness, especially right on stage. Burton has gone down in horror production history, and we can’t help but think of him during this season.

Have you seen any of these productions as plays? Which one was your favorite? Were you cast or did you watch from the audience? Versions of Tim Burton pieces are often chosen for theatrical productions and musicals. Comment and share, as we want to hear from you!

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 120 years! Come to us with your theatrical needs to enhance your production with well over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames and scrims to choose from. Call us at (978) 682-5757 today!

London’s 8th Annual Horror Theatre Festival

spooky scene

For the 8th year, London’s Horror Festival has finally been announced. Hosted at the Red Lion Theatre with over 30 productions, this Halloween season will have theatergoers and horror lovers chilling with fright, and extremely impressed.

London’s Horror Film will be offering dramas, comedies, musicals, and spoken word about all things spooky starting October 7th. Each year there is a theme for their annual playwright competition, and this year they are honoring Mary Shelley for the competition of “Women in Horror.” Her most renowned creation, Frankenstein, has its 200th year anniversary in 2018.

Catch tons of theater productions that truly push the limits of live production and performance. You are bound to find something you love, and something to make you really think when you attend a festival like this.

Scary ghost scene

Theater festivals are an awesome time for people to come together and bond over a common interest. When it’s a special reason for celebration, like a themed or holiday theater festival like this one, it can be even more interesting. Though this festival is in London, we can tune in and see what this annual horror fest will bring theater-goers and thespians.

If you’re REALLY into festivals, even horror fests, this might be something you want to follow on social media, inquire about, and maybe even travel to see.

Jackolanterns

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 120 years! Come to us with your theatrical needs to enhance your production with well over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames and scrims to choose from. Call us at (978) 682-5757 today!

Stagefright? We’ve Got You Covered.

actors in character on stage

We’ve all heard of picturing the audience in their underwear when a performer is nervous or suffering from stage fright. But this is usually for advice when giving presentations or announcements. The truth is… it is not common to think that actors get stage fright because they are always on stage, and they’re constantly acting in front of crowds. Let’s dive deeper into what it means to have stage fright, and how actors can prepare to reduce obstacles on stage.

An Actor with Stagefright?
The common association with actors is generally that they have extroverted personality types, are talkative, friendly, and personable when in communicating. In reality, every actor is different- and personality type does not dictate acting style. Sometimes, different scenarios, roles, audiences, and stage locations cause stage fright. If your significant other is in the crowd, you may be nervous or act/perform differently than you normally do. If your entire family is present, or if you know you’re being observed, it’s natural for these to cause stagefright. A particular stage design may be uncomfortable or foreign to you. There are a number of reasons to be nervous, but plenty of ways to feel assured as well.

Staying Calm Through Preparation
Anxiety has a lot to do with stage fright. You can go through a calm routine before performances to help reduce stage fright. Confronting anxieties before a performance is always recommended. Is everything in place in the dressing room? Is the crew prepared? These types of issues can be handled beforehand to prevent small worries. Don’t think about questions like “Is the front of the house full? Are we sold out?” These types of questions will only stress you out and add to the stagefright. Only think of preparations that make the show run, that need to be in place for you to play your role.

Perfecting Skills in Practice
Rehearsal is the time to ask your director questions about your techniques. If you’re unsure or feel insecure about something, ask enough questions in rehearsal so you know what your character looks like, and you know to make necessary adjustments to your performance. You can’t ask enough questions when learning a role. The more questions you ask about your lines and your appearance, the more confident you will be to perform your truest character possible.

spotlight on stage

Peer Support & Perspective
Asking your cast and crew for their assessment and opinions during rehearsal can allow you an outside perspective on your character. Try asking your peers if your character appeals to emotion, logic, and reason to see if you are credible and believable as your role. If anything sticks out as improper, inappropriate, or misplaced in your character’s performance, have them point out these flaws. The more precisely you receive feedback on your performance, the more confidence you will feel in your role and the less likely you will get nervous on stage.

Most actors’ insecurities on stage come from overthinking small details or a lack of preparation. If you cover your rudimentary bases through peer support, rehearsal, and preparation, then you will most likely perform to the best of your abilities.

Teas, Honeys, and Other Natural Remedies for Sore Throats

honey in pot

When you’re preparing for opening night, your body is stressed. Running around from errands to rehearsal, while also trying to solidify lines and memorization takes a toll on your body. If your show is coming up, but you feel yourself slightly coming down with a sore throat, there are ways to feel better fast so that you can perform your best. Read through this blog if you’re looking for ways to soothe a sore throat or cold in time for opening night.

Actors often find themselves coming down with something as the big night approaches. When we’re stressed, our immune systems are lowered and we’re susceptible to catching colds. But, as always, “the show must go on!”

tea and saucer on table

Double Water and Vitamin Intake
The first step to action when realizing you’re coming down with something is to double your water intake. To be able to power through, your body will need to be extremely hydrated. Extra vitamins like Vitamin D, C, and E as well as zinc and iron pills can help you feel rejuvenated and energized when your body is struggling. The best way to get natural vitamins is by eating fruits.

Local Honey
Warm, local honey is a go-to throat soother. Using local honey helps your body become accustomed to the allergens in the air, and helps your immune system find balance when you digest the honey. Honey helps to coat your throat for protection and ease.


Stretch
Your vocal chords are muscles and can be stretched and worked out. Be VERY cautious when stretching your muscles and voice when you’re sick or have a sore throat, and if you’re not comfortable, do not push it to perform. Any vocal coach will tell you that taking chances and pushing it is very dangerous for your voice, and you would not want to risk your ability to perform.

Herbal Teas
Chamomile and lavender teas have great healing effects and can help immensely with treating sore throats. Teas with sage, thyme, lemon balm, and even hops can be soothing on the throat and can help with protection. With a little lemon and honey melted in the tea, you will definitely feel better and find yourself recovering from your cold more quickly.

Gargle Salt Water
Lastly, gargle salt water before bedtime. This helps your throat overnight when you sleep, as warm, salty water helps reduce swelling, flushes bacteria, and helps with protection.

As the saying goes,”The show must go on.” We understand that it can be stressful preparing for a role, and catching a cold is inevitable. Take these steps toward getting over a sore throat or simple cold before you have to perform, but remember, don’t push yourself. And if you are truly sick beyond a head cold, seek medical attention from your primary care doctor.

Monologue Madness

actor on stage

A monologue is a long speech delivered by an actor during a theatrical production. Some actors love monologues, while others are impartial to them. Monologues come at a particular point in the production and they serve an important purpose. Let’s take a look at what goes into delivering a monologue, details, and other elements of monologue madness

Memorizing Long Passages
Monologues are long passages delivered at a single time. This is usually why some actors struggle with delivering monologues. If a role contains a monologue, that may be a deciding factor as to whether or not an actor will audition for that role during a casting call. Though people think actors are extremely good at memorization – because that’s the nature of what they do – it’s still a challenge during rehearsals, as it’s a process moving toward opening night. Actors must be 100% comfortable delivering the monologue before moving forward with the production.

monologue delivery

The Moment of a Monologue
The moments in which monologues are delivered say a lot about the essence of a monologue. Delivered at a pinnacle moment of the story line, monologues are usually intense dramatic moments of realization, passion, or emotion. This is one reason why actors may dislike monologues. As an actor with a role containing a monologue, you’re responsible for a big moment. You have all eyes on you, and sometimes you’re the only one on stage. A monologue is an important moment to the show, so it’s critical that you express yourself exactly how you should so the audience understands and makes the proper connections.

 

monologue drama

 

Monologues for Students
As a theater student, you may have had to deliver a monologue in place of a written test, or as a graded project. This is also overwhelming if it’s a deciding factor of your grade or your passing the class. Monologue memorization and deliverance is by no means easy, especially when you’re weighted with other stressors while trying to memorize and consciously deliver.

The strong, confident actors should take on roles with monologues. Usually main or directly supporting roles of relevance are characters of a production who deliver monologues. Practicing memorization, deliverance, as well as improving your forms of persuasion can help you excel when it comes to monologues.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 100 years. Planning your next production? Reach out to us today for questions and more information: https://charleshstewart.com/

Breaking the 4th Wall

 

red stage curtains

The theater world is full of intricate terms and techniques. These ultimately help actors to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. One term used commonly among thespians is “breaking the 4th wall.” Let’s take a look at what this means, and how these terms help to keep actors focused and in tune with their character.

First, let’s get a visual of the fourth wall in our heads: picture yourself on stage, with the back curtain behind you and the two wings on each side of you. Think of these as your ‘walls.’ The fourth wall would be the invisible wall that connects you to the audience.

acting on stage

We use the term ‘breaking’ the fourth wall when we’re talking about interacting with the audience. Actors almost never want to break the fourth wall unless it’s a clearly defined moment in the script. If you break the fourth wall, this would mean you slipped up, and accidentally came out of character. Don’t worry, there are techniques you can practice to avoid this!

kid actors

Actors avoid breaking the fourth wall by always keeping a center of attention. Some actors will fixate their attention either on the back wall of the theatre auditorium, or on another specific location. Focusing their attention, and acting like they are delivering their role directly to that specific spot helps tremendously.

lights can be distracting

Many things can be distracting as an actor: lights, camera flashes (even though photography is usually prohibited, there are always those few guests) motion, people standing, and loud noises. Not breaking the fourth wall can be a challenge when acting in front of a large crowd, but that’s why actors work so hard on passion, delivery, and attention.

standing ovation

Many of the audience members are really enveloped in the show, and want to be involved with the characters as much as possible throughout their viewing experience. Some guests will try to get the attention of the actors while on stage, wave their hands, or even call out characters’ names (as very unadvised in previous blog, A Guide to Theatre Etiquette). Actors try their best to stay on script, and keep things running as smoothly as possible despite these distractions.

If you’re an actor, there are many things you can do to help practice avoiding breaking the fourth wall. Avoid audience eye contact, and focus on your next move. When rehearsing, and during dress rehearsal even more so, pick your focus point in the auditorium and have it already decided before the show.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 100 years. Planning your next production? Reach out to us today for questions and more information: https://charleshstewart.com/

Musicals Making Their Way to the Big Screen

Les Mis Poster

Musicals are one of the oldest, most loved, and renowned forms of theatre in existence. Characterized by singsong dialogue and a show tune structure throughout the production, musicals have greatly made their mark on the social sphere of entertainment.

pitch perfect cast

The genre exploded in the 1930s when the Great Depression was weighing heavily upon the U.S. Most musicals highlighted the lives of the upper echelons of society, and weren’t as realistic as they could have been. Times have changed, and of course, musical theatre greatly reflected this. Now, by just looking at theatre, we can see how we’ve progressed through history. Musical theatre has been recognized as something we truly love for entertainment.

Into the Woods

Today, we see movies and television shows that have flourished from the rudiments of musical theatre. Musical to film adaptations are very common today. At first glance, we may not realize how much we really enjoy the musical elements in our entertainment.

Movies like Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods, Hairspray, La La Land, Les Miserables, and shows like Glee were all once musicals that were adapted to the big screen. They represent our love for the melodic tunes and show tune structure.

Glee cast

Musical to film adaptations are undoubtedly a great way to extend a timeless or older story into something relatable in present day. Adaptations are taking a classic storyline, revamping, extending characters, changing up the plot, and putting out a new piece of art. The director has much to work with. The principal characters and everything about the musical generally remain, but there is definitely room to be creative with the visuals and all other movie elements.

But why has musical theatre made its way to the big screen? What caused this change? The answer lies within the true elements of musical theatre that have stuck with us. Show tune structure, repetition and reprisal of songs, as well as the sung dialogue are all elements we still see in movies today.

Hairspray

Musicals create a cohesive feel and bring you in more than a movie does. They include tons of human elements, moments of recognition, missions, realizations, and problem solving. This paired with music and very little spoken dialogue is what we want to see. The catchy tunes get stuck in our head, and the stories take us on a ride. We invest, we get enveloped, and it works. Now in 2018, it’s safe to say that musical theatre is here to stay.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading-edge scenic design and backdrop and rental company for over 100 years. If you’re hosting a production soon, check out our catalog for all of our offerings. We can answer all of your questions about your design needs for your next production. Reach out to us at (978) 682-5757 today! We want to hear from you.

A Guide to Theatre Etiquette

 

Theater audience

Going to see a theatre production is a favorite of many. If you’re an avid theatre goer, or a thespian yourself, this blog will explore obvious commonalities for you. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand theatre etiquette easily, but this is understandable as the environment is particular and unique. When you go to one production, it’s hard to pick up the etiquette on your first time. If you love theatre, but don’t know how to assimilate with the crowd, check out the list we’ve compiled of the basics.

 

interacting with crowd

Dress well. You don’t have to go overboard, but you should definitely feel confident. Look nice and feel nice. If you’re wearing a hat, take it off as soon as you enter the house. Avoid distracting clothing, and heavy perfume or cologne. Theaters are designed beautifully and regally, so dress like you belong there.A

Sit quietly. No fidgeting, eating snacks, falling asleep, snoring, or leaning your head. If you’re bored or uninterested, you probably shouldn’t be there.

Don’t create distractions. Distractions include singing along, getting out of your seat other than at intermission, and letting a cell phone buzz or ring.

Respect the space of others. Sit respectfully and keep to yourself. Don’t take your shoes off or get comfortable like you’re in a movie theatre. Though you are enjoying yourself too, remember that you are in a professional space supporting a cause.

Be appreciative. This includes clapping only when appropriate, and giving a standing ovation at the end of the production. Only clap or interact with actors when they ‘break the fourth wall’ or, in other words, interact with you.

Actors on stage

Actors and theatre goers will think everything on this list is absolutely unnecessary. If you’re going to a production and want to brief a friend, send them to this blog! If you know someone who doesn’t understand theatre etiquette and needs to see this list in writing, share our blog so your followers can read through. Theatre etiquette isn’t strict without a reason – it creates an environment in which actors can thrive and perform their best. If you don’t agree with theatre etiquette, maybe Broadway is not the place for you, and that’s okay! But when attending a show, you must abide by theatre culture and respect your environment.  

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading-edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 100 years. We can help you find the perfect backdrops and accessories for any production. Reach out to us for questions at (978) 682-5757.

Choosing Your Next Production

Cast on Stage

If you have a theater group and you’re constantly putting on productions, read on for inspiration in choosing your next production. We’ve put together a guide to choosing your next production for your theater community. Here are a few things we think are important to think about when brainstorming your possibilities:

Anastasia

Deciding on the Type of Production
Do you want to do a musical? Do you want to do a situational comedy or a dramatic play? Do you want to perform a greek tragedy? A historical play or a romantic play? There are many subsets of plays and types of productions. When you narrow down your goal, you can then choose a script.

Thinking of your Actors
Deciding on a play depends on your strengths and weaknesses as a theater community. Sometimes the tell-tale signs of your next production can be evident through your actors’ strong suits. Make sure you have the right type of actors available to be matched with the right roles.

Spider-Man

Accessing a Script
Be sure you have access to ordering scripts for your community. Are there enough scripts available for the production of your choice? Be sure that you’re choosing from plays that are accessible, and that you have the rights to get ahold of the script.

Look to your Inventory
Looking at the props you already have and the props you need to buy can help you decide on your next production. If you have a smaller budget, and it’s always helpful for theater communities to spend as little as possible, you can look at what you already own. You may not need to buy much if you have a good selection and you use a little creativity.

Tarzan

Time and Duration
Think about how much time each production will take to rehearse and choreograph. You need to think about time from the beginning of your first rehearsal to your last dress rehearsal. Be sure that the plays you’re considering all fall within your time frame for preparation.  

Set Hands and Available Crew
Some productions take more help behind the scenes and backstage. Other productions require less stage help and more actors on stage. Every production is different, so being sure you have enough set hands and available help is something you’ll definitely want to think through before choosing a play.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can provide you with the best quality backdrops for your productions. Visit our website to check out our inventory, and reach out to our staff with any questions.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Ethos Pathos Logos Chart

Aristotle coined the terms ethos, logos, and pathos as modes of persuasion. These are used in theatre, in literature, and tons of other places. When actors are learning acting styles and methods, they learn about the three modes of persuasion to better their skills and create a more authentic production. Read on to learn more about the three modes of persuasion.

Ethos is the ethical appeal, and it means to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character. An actor would use ethos to prove to his audience that he’s credible and worth listening to. An actor appealing to ethos would use the same language as their character, and try to dress exactly like them.

Actor in Wig with Glasses and bandana

Logos is the appeal to logic, meaning to convince the audience by using logic or reason. An actor may cite facts or statistics. An actor may appeal to logos by presenting logical or well rounded points, may cite important information, or may refer to historical analogies for explanations and proof.

Pathos is the emotional appeal, meaning to convince an audience through appealing on emotional levels. Actors may evoke sympathy to try make the audience feel how the author intended for them to feel. They aim to get a certain emotion out of their actions when appealing to pathos. Pathos can be expressed by actors through language, emotional tones, or emotional events or implications.

These forms of persuasion immensely help actors get into character. Persuasion helps the audience to believe and understand the plot and action of the production. Strong productions rely on the effective use of these persuasion techniques. By studying each one, actors can learn how to better their styles and increase their overall credibility while on stage.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can help you with your backdrop needs. Visit our website to learn about our offerings, accessories, and handmade backdrops. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our staff with any questions.