Category Archives: Forms of Theatre

sorry we're closed sign

How We Can Help the Theater Industry 

As of March of this year, most theaters across the country closed their doors. The social distancing guidelines put forth by most state governments required that gatherings of more than just a few people would be banned. This was a devastating, but necessary blow for the theater industry in every state. 

In order to bounce back once the threat of transmission has been lowered, our favorite community theaters, summer theaters, and major metropolitan theaters will need our help. You may be wondering how you can help from the safety of your home? There are a few ways that you can get involved that can help financially and emotionally support this once thriving entertainment industry. 

open guitar case

Donate to a Fund 

One of the easiest ways that theater lovers can help support the industry from the comfort of their homes is by donating to programs specifically designed to support the industry. According to Broadway.com, the Actors Fund may be a good choice. The Actors Fund may sound like it’s just for actors, but it’s actually for anyone who works in entertainment. Its resources include mental health counseling, emergency financial assistance, and primary medical care. The tax-deductible donation will go towards helping people in the industry get back on their feet and be able to get healthcare that they may need at this time. 

Look for similar entertainment groups that help support actors and people in the industry in your region. You may be able to volunteer your time as well as make monetary contributions, depending upon the needs that your state and region has. 

Forgo Refunds 

Another way theatergoers can help is by not asking for a refund for future shows. If you had plans for this summer to see a show or two, ask for a rain check or credit so you can use the money for a show in the future instead of requesting your money back. This way you are not taking needed financial support away and you will still be able to see a show once all of this is over. 

capitol building

Contact Your State Reps 

If you have little resources and can not donate at this time, there is still some action that will only take a few minutes of your time. Call your state representative and request that those in the entertainment industry (such as those that do freelance and contract work) be eligible for medical and other relief benefits that they normally would not qualify for. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents backstage workers, has created a page that lets you send a letter to your reps telling them to provide financial relief to entertainment professionals.

 

theater

Hidden Lessons of Popular Musicals 

Hamilton, Mama Mia, Kinky Boots, and Wicked are just a few of the popular Broadway musicals that have graced the stage along the “Great White Way” in the last few years. These musicals are more than just a combination of fantastic dancing, singing, and plot lines. They have hidden lessons that make theatergoers think about long after they have left the hall. Here are a few of the hidden, yet important, lessons that musicals are teaching audiences. 

stage

Wicked

The life of the wicked witch of the west as told in the musical Wicked, is filled with life lessons about friendships. The strongest message is that friendships are truly everything in life. The well-developed characters explain that some friendships run so deep that they imprint upon you and can change your life for the better. The musical also shows through actions that even though friends may critique one another, the best of friends will always be your biggest fans and most staunch supporters in life. 

Another important life lesson that we could all use a reminder about is the idea that looks are not everything. Take for example the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba. Glinda isn’t keen on Elphaba at the start of the story because she was very obviously green, and Glinda’s sparkly, pink and girly sense of style really wasn’t Elphie’s cup of tea either. They eventually discover that it’s what’s inside that counts. 

These lovely life lessons are paired with incredible music, amazing scenery, and costumes that help promote it to the level of being one of the most popular musicals of the west end. 

Hamilton

Hamilton 

If you are lucky enough to score tickets to the famed Hamilton, then you will be delighted with life lessons from the moment the curtain goes up until it goes down at the end of the night. Hamilton tells the story of forgotten American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his ascent out of poverty and to power against the backdrop of the American War of Independence.

There are so many little life lessons as well as grand sweeping ones in this musical that it’s hard to know where to start. Overall, the inspirational message to audiences is that now is the time to take your shot no matter what the risks. You have but one life so take your chance and make it happen for yourself. 

Believe it or not, fans of this particular musical have written fan sites on what they learned from this production, the characters, and the public’s reaction to it. Here’s just a quick overview of what some fans say are the biggest takeaways to Hamilton. 

  • Excuses are a waste of time in life.
  • You are responsible for your own education.
  • Believe in yourself, before you expect other people to believe in you.
  • Pride can literally kill you. Be humble to be truly brilliant.
  • Sacrifice leads to greatness

Dear Evan Hanson 

Evan Hansen is the story of a young man who suffers from severe social anxiety. On the first day of senior year, he writes himself a letter as per his therapist’s recommendation. This awkward teenager craves communication and connection with others. 

He, unfortunately, assists with promoting a huge lie that hurts many people. Evan must come to the very tough realization that he needs to accept himself for who he is before others will do the same. He sings the message powerfully: “All I ever do is run so how do I step in, step into the sun?” While the lesson is one our younger selves could have benefited from, even adults can learn something about loving themselves from this hit musical. 

What hidden messages does your favorite musical promote? Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

New York City Broadway

Best Love Stories on Stage

There’s really no better place to find a romantic story, love triangle, or a story of unrequited love than on Broadway. Some of our favorite backdrops here at Charles H. Stewart are those that involve love stories. Check out our list of the best love stories that made it to the big stage. 

Phantom of the Opera 

Okay, okay, this love story is more of a love obsession between the masked man and soprano opera singer, Christine. However, this show has a thirty year history of making the audiences fall in love all over again. Legendary songs like “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You,” can capture the audience each-and-every-time. We rank this musical as one of our favorite love stories that grace the “Great White Way.” 

Phantom of the Opera

Waitress 

This complicated love story stars Jenna, a genius pie-making waitress who is in an abusive marriage, pregnant, and stuck in a small town. While the story does focus on her growing romance with the town’s new doctor, it is also a story of Jenna’s growth as a person. With music from the fabulous Sara Bareilles including, “You Matter to Me,” “Love Song,” and  “Brave,” this show is a true hit. 

Mama Mia! 

For those Abba lovers, this musical, set on a Greek Isle is all about finding which of the three former lovers is the true father to Donna Sheridan’s daughter.  The sequel, Here We Go Again is equally as silly as the original Mama Mia but ridiculously fun to be a part of even as an audience member. 

Scene from Mama Mia

Legally Blonde 

Follow the zany story of Elle Woods who has been dumped by her college beau, when she really thought a marriage proposal was definitely forthcoming. Elle’s simple plan, that plays out on stage, is to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she is not too cheerful, enthusiastic, or…blonde, for lack of a better way to put it. She enrolls at Harvard Law School and proves to herself that she is more than just her looks. Her budding romance with Emmett, the teacher’s aid, is simply adorable. 

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Last but not least, we have Moulin Rouge, a musical that is made up almost completely of pop hits from the past two decades. Moulin Rouge is a jukebox romantic comedy based on the hit 2001 Baz Luhrman film of the same name. The story follows the epic, doomed love affair of Christian, a penniless writer, and Satine, a performer at the Parisian nightclub, Moulin Rouge. Christian falls hard for Satine the second he sees her, and a few songs later, he’s won her over. Unfortunately, a wealthy patron of the nightclub also has an interest in her. His money is the only thing keeping the club open. 

What is your favorite Broadway love story? We love so many but would love to hear about yours! Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

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. 

 

Can Theater Effect Change? 

Every revolutionary idea began somewhere. A small flicker, a spark really, that can set the world ablaze. Musicals and theater productions can be that spark, that initial light that can start a revolution. That revolution can change the world. 

Theater has been motivated by the change that writers and directors need and want to see in the world: whether it is racial inequality, poverty, diversity, homelessness, marriage equality, women’s rights, human rights, or a whole host of other social issues. Part of telling a story on the stage is entertaining the audience, another part is enlightening the audience or teaching the audience about what is happening around them. Whether they choose to see it or not is their choice. But for some, the story starts a change in them that sparks action. 

Theater can change the world one performance at a time. For as long as theater has existed, since the time of the Greeks and Romans, the stage has been used to express opinions and gather public opinion. Theatergoers can gain empathy for the characters that are on stage and understand how “the other half” lives. For example, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Sound of Music probably gave the audience a point of view that they had never considered before, that of a family being hunted by the Nazis or wooed by the Nazis to join the Third Reich military machine. 

Theater productions can pose questions about the role of our government such as in Hamilton. Racial divides, immigration, and the underbelly of politics are just a couple of the topics that can open the eyes of theatergoers. Add in the music, fully developed characters, and a script that can touch the soul, and a theater production can most certainly spark a revolution in mind and spirit in the people who attend and later talk about the production. 

What products have you seen that have touched you or changed your thought process? I can remember seeing Annie as a young child and realizing that not all children have an easy life and that there will always be people richer than me and poorer than me. Tell us about your experience in theater and how it changed you. 

 

Benefits of Being in a School Play 

Being part of a performance in high school can be amazing and provide memories for a lifetime. It can also build on a skill set that will be needed later in life. Being in the theater industry here at Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart, we may be completely biased, but here are some pretty compelling benefits of being involved in theater during your formative years. 

As a theater kid myself, I know the biggest takeaway from my years acting and, later, directing high school plays and musicals is the lifelong friendships that I made. There is nothing like the long, sometimes stressful hours blocking out a scene and reworking the lighting a million times to bond a group together. Some of my closest friendships have come from my days creating costumes at all hours of the night or painting sets days before the opening show. 

Aside from the friendships, I can tell you that I also learned (and then honed) skills that I used in college, finding a job, and now in my career. Here are just a few of them. 

 

Public Speaking

As a young child, I never wanted to speak in front of a group. I especially had trouble conveying my opinion in class in front of peers. After years in theater and practicing endless hours of productions, monologues, and lines galore, I learned the art of speaking in public. I learned how to deliver a line and use body language to emphasize my point. In short, I mastered the art of selling myself and whatever idea lay before me. 

 

Organization and Time Management

Growing up I was not exactly self-aware or cognizant of the passage of time. That meant that school projects, homework, and assignments were often late or never passed in. After becoming involved in theater, I suddenly was able to practice charting out a schedule such as a rehearsal schedule. The entire production crew was painfully aware of how many days and practices until the big opening night. We learned to do homework before practice and plan for long-term assignments. 

 

Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence

Not many middle school and high school students can claim that they are confident and have high self-esteem. After years in the theater, I was definitely more confident in who I was as a person and I had a really good grip on what my strengths and weaknesses were. I also had acquired the ability to advocate for myself and speak up when needed. 

As you can see, being part of a theater group may have ended when I graduated high school but it certainly left me with some amazing skills and even more amazing memories. 

Are you Planning Your HS Fall Production?

The school year may be over and the classrooms all empty, but your mind is reeling about a potential fall production at your school. You sing show tunes in the shower and choreography is never far from your mind. You show all the signs of being a drama coach or theater teacher!

Now that the stage lights are off and the props have been cleared, drama teachers are already in full swing even though most of us are spending our days at the beach. A die-hard drama fan will be plotting and planning what might work for a fall production at your school. Here are some of the questions they will be sorting through.

What Show?

The biggest question on the minds of theater teachers is what production can we do? Choosing a script is not an easy thing to do. One needs to take into account how many students there will be in the program, especially now that the seniors have flown the coop. It is also a time to evaluate what skills and talents the potential future cast may have.

Picking a musical that’s right for your program can depend on many factors, including the size of your cast, the interest of your students and, of course, availability of performance rights. In addition, you will want to consider what the school’s current budget is and the size of the venue for the production you are considering. Also, keep in mind your access to sets, props, and costumes. Weighing each of these things can help you in determining which show will be the right fit this fall.

What is Your Population of Actors?

As we mentioned previously, how many actors are in your program can help determine whether you can have a performance with a large cast, medium-sized cast, or small cast. You should also consider who are your actors not just how many. Do you have more girls than boys? Do you have a handful of serious talent or just one or two brilliant actors in your group? If you are considering a musical, what is the range of voices that you will be dealing with?

 

What is Your Budget?

Before you choose your play, consider your budget. A straight play vs. a musical is more budget friendly. Consider what costumes, scenery, and backdrops you will need. Do you need to buy the royalties to the play or will you choose one in the public domain?

 

What About the Space?

What does your theater look like? Can you handle a larger production or will you need to relocate to a community theater? Will you have access to practice times or will that impact your budget as well?

These are all great questions to consider as you dream of your next production. If you are searching for inspiration, check out Theater World’s list of High School Musicals. When it comes time to consider backdrops, check out our wide assortment of options here at Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart.

 

Social Issues and Broadway

Since the dawn of theatrical performances in ancient Greece, social issues have been a major theme. Theater lovers would be quick to note that musicals have never been removed from the world in which it exists. Why would we expect it to be in a time when social issues such as racism, human rights, and homophobia are still being debated. Let’s take a quick look at how Broadway has used the stage as a mirror to reflect the changing times and the issues that need attention in our society.

Hamilton: An American Musical

Since its first performance in February 2015, Hamilton: An American Musical has been inspiring conversations about the broad range of people who get to call this American founding narrative our own. This political musical attempts to reframe the way we envision partisan politics in America. In a time when American citizens are being put in travel bans and equal rights are being stripped away – sometimes slowly other times in large open ways – Hamilton is part of the dialogue of what it means to be American.

 

Rent

Rent opened in 1996 and, while it was never as popular as Hamilton, it still tackled issues such as the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S. Rent was the hottest, most groundbreaking musical in town in the 1990s. With a slew of Tony Awards and the elusive Pulitzer Prize, it was a cultural phenomenon of its time. Not only were we singing the songs but also discussing love, loss, and equality. Rent took the audience along for a ride through the struggles of those living under the threat of impending death and shows that love, respect, and friendship are the only things that matter.

In an article published by the Huffington Post, author Katherine Brooks points out that there are so many musicals that broach social issues in a way that gets theatergoers thinking and talking. She states that, “There are countless other, even more obviously politically charged plays and musicals worth discussing: “Assassins” (the hedonism of political culture in America), “An Enemy of the People” (whistleblowers), “The Crucible” (witch hunts), and, more recently, “Eclipsed” (civil war in Liberia) and “Allegiance” (Japanese prison camps). And those are just some of my favorites, cherry-picked from a long, long, long list of historically relevant titles.”

 

Maintaining an Organized Prop Space

In our last blog, we discussed creating a safe rehearsal space for all members of your theater group. This week we are discussing something related – organizing and maintaining your prop area. Not only can a well-ordered prop space add to safety, but it can keep your production on track.

Prop Masters or Mistresses have a hugely important job. Think about all of the props, both large and small that need to be used throughout the production. These items need to appear on stage seamlessly in between acts while actors scurry around to either change costumes or switch stage entrances. Here are some ideas on how to maintain an organized prop space for your spring or summer play.

Create a Master Prop List

One of the best ways for keeping track of what is needed (and when) is to create a prop list. Draft a list that names each item and for which act or scene it is needed on stage. This will not only give you a good sense of how long the item should be out on the stage but from what side (stage right or left) it will need to enter or exit.

 

Arrange the Props

This is, by far, the most challenging part of maintaining the items that are needed on stage, especially given that there is little light backstage to guide the crew. Whether you use a locker system, a prop table, or another method, arrange the props in a way that makes sense and still allows for movement to and from the stage. Take into account the size of each item, where they will be entering, and how long they will be out on the stage.

Small Props

Small props such as rings, coins, or anything smaller than a hand should be kept separate from the other props. These items are notoriously known for going missing right before they are needed on stage. Don’t be caught scurrying around searching for the items at the last second. Instead, keep them in a resealable, zipper bag pinned up right near the stage entrance.

Do you have any tricks that you use to keep your props organized? We’d love to hear from prop masters and mistresses. Tell us in the comments below what you do to keep things organized.

 

The Importance of Community Theater

As Americans, we love to be entertained. We visit sporting events, the movies, and concerts seemingly endlessly. Many Americans are hooked on theater, especially the bright lights and awe of Broadway theaters in New York City. We are here to tell you that, you don’t need to travel that far to find amazing theater productions. You can find them right in your own neighborhood, at a community theater. Community theaters are strong and vibrant!

There are so many reasons why community theater is important to our society both for the local economy and businesses as well as a place to nurture new talent. Here are just a few of the ways that community theater remains an important part of American culture.

Nurturing New Artists

Broadway stars had to start somewhere first! Just like with any job, most actors need to work their way up to the larger productions in major cities. Many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small-town playhouses. Some have started in summer theaters or local acting workshops. By sponsoring shows and attending performances locally, you are not only supporting an important arts outlet but also providing encouragement to the cast and crew.

 

Provide a Creative Outlet

Young children have many strings pulling them in different directions. Some of those strings are unhealthy while others, like community theater, are a healthy way to act out! Community theatre provides a safe place for even the shyest or quirkiest of students. Everyone can find a place in a show whether you know how to act or build a set.

 

Business Advertising

Most community theaters have small budgets and require the help of communities, in particular, the businesses in those communities. For sponsors, community theater is a win-win situation. Not only can a business help an arts program but it can also get their name out there in the form of programs and other marketing materials to hundreds of people who visit the theater.

 

Lifelong Friendships

Not every actor who takes part in a production hopes to make it to Broadway. Many just enjoy the exhilaration of putting on a show or the lifelong friendships that are made due to long, hard hours working on something they are passionate about. You really can’t put a price on the importance of friendships in community theater.

Our backdrops have graced the stages on Broadway and the local church down the street. We understand the importance of community theater. Consider becoming a sponsor this summer or, at the very least, check out a show in your area to support the arts.