The Power of Student Theater Productions

Were you ever a part of a student production during middle or high school? If you were, just the mention of it probably brings back some fantastic memories of plays and musicals that your school presented. Friendships are formed, lines are memorized, and the group bonds over the excitement and anxiety of opening night!

Musical theater is a powerful art form that can transform the lives of those who take part in it, but its power is often overlooked. Many students who take part are often not aware of its impact until years later. Even students who don’t aspire to perform on Broadway can learn new skills and hone skills they already have. Compassion, problem-solving, and self-confidence are just a few of the powerful characteristics that students can improve upon during their time in theater classes or productions.

Think about the concept of playing a part in a school play. A student must not only learn the role but learn the motivation and inner thinking behind the character. This means that students learn empathy and compassion for the person they are portraying, even if that character is the antagonist.

In addition, students need to work with the entire theater group to “block out” movements on the stage, know when and where props are to be placed, and how actors should move on and off the stage. This all takes cooperation and problem-solving. These two skills will serve students well into their careers and family life later.

Improving self-confidence is another spin-off of working on the stage. Students learn to trust themselves and how to conduct themselves on stage. This definitely spills over into school life and eventually career life.

One area that we have not touched upon, and which is vital to learn, is how to accept criticism or feedback in a positive manner. In today’s social media world where it is far too easy to block people who disagree with you, learning how to take feedback from a producer or director is a critical life lesson.

The power of theater can be felt by students in so many facets of their lives. How has theater improved your life? Did it help you hone a skill or get over a fear? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Theater as a Political Artform

Since the dawn of the earliest Greek performances, the stage has forever been a place where political issues have been examined. Aristophanes was known to be one of the earliest Greek comical satirists, bringing up issues of morality, Athenian politics, social life, and law into his plays. Today, our theaters are a reflection of the myriad of issues in our society such as respecting people of different colors, creeds, and orientations. Let’s take a closer look at theater and how it can, for better or worse, raise red flags about the nature of politics in our lives.

Since our current administration took office, there have been political statements, both outright and subtle, about the legislation that has been embraced regarding immigrants, Muslims, women’s rights, and the list goes on and on. Theatergoers have long since expected and, in some cases, demanded that performances take note and address these issues.

Whether you agree with political happenings or not, theater has always been, and probably always will be, a voice for those who are disenfranchised. Theater performances have a way of holding up a mirror to society and showing the majority the inner thoughts of the minority. Broadway is famous for calling out issues and societies mistakes in play or musical form.

Take, for example, the cast of Hamilton, a wildly popular Broadway musical lauded for telling the Founding Fathers’ story with a deliberately multi-cultural cast and compassion for immigrants, calling out Vice President Mike Pence. The Vice President, who openly opposes LGBTQ+ rights, took his seat at a Hamilton production to a chorus of boos.

According to Vox online, “the booing would’ve been noteworthy on its own — but it was only the beginning. The real coup de grâce came when the Hamilton cast remained onstage well past their curtain call to address Pence directly.”

As Pence was walking out of the theater, Hamilton cast member Brandon Victor Dixon — who’s currently playing Aaron Burr — called out to him, asking him to stay and listen what they had to say. He then pulled out a piece of paper and delivered the following remarks, as the cast linked arms in solidarity behind him:

Vice-president elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do. We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds, and orientations.

The moment was top billing on the news for days to come. Some Americans were shocked at the actions of the actors while others were quick to point out that political satire and accountability have been a hallmark of theater productions since the first plays in the marketplaces in ancient Greece.

While this event took place in 2017, the question has still remained about the role of theater in political expression. What are your thoughts about theater as a place for political art? Leave your comments below and let us know how you feel.

 

The Curtain is Rising on Summer Theater

Are you ready for summer? For some people, it is a time to get ready for vacation or a trip to the beach. For theater lovers, it means the chance to see or be a part of a summer production in some of the amazing Off-Broadway theaters that come to life every summer.

If you’re looking for quality summer stock theatre, a road trip to New England should be on your summer bucket list. Some of the best summer playhouses and theaters call the six New England states home. According to New England Today Travel, the region is home to some of the oldest and most-respected summer playhouses in the country, and these theaters put on a wide range of shows – from comedies to operettas.

Let’s start our summer theater tour in the lovely state of Maine in the town of Ogunquit. The Ogunquit Playhouse is one of the oldest summer theaters in the nation and is nestled in a beach town along the rocky Maine coast. The beautifully unique playhouse, combined with the excellent productions put on within it, make for an unforgettable theater experience. Check out what they have going on this summer on their website.  

Moving from the northern coastline of New England to the sandy beaches of Cape Cod and you will find another summer theater that will take your breath away – The Cape Playhouse. Since 1927, the Cape Playhouse has been home to some of Broadway’s most famous actors who are practicing their craft. Imagine catching a show after the beach only to see actors who have been gracing the stages in Manhattan!

Swing on over to Rhode Island to find a quaint seaside summer theater aptly named Theater By the Sea. This smaller theater is just minutes from the coast and puts on many musicals and summer children performances.

Head north to Vermont and New Hampshire to find some of the summer theater festivals that will have you never wanting to leave. Located in a rustic theater, the Dorset Theatre Festival boasts some engaging summer theater from June to September. New Hampshire’s Barnstormers is one of the oldest summer theaters in the country. This will be their 89th Season of bringing live professional theater to the Lakes Region and the White Mountains.

If you are looking for some outdoor theater, head to Connecticut where the Sharon Playhouse presents acclaimed plays and musicals on its stages throughout the summer months. After each performance, late-night cabarets are offered outside on the theater’s open-air patio.

 

No matter where you’re headed, theater in New England is alive! Check out some of the shows when you get a chance and who knows, you may see some familiar and famous faces out there!

 

Looking Toward the Tony Awards

Every year, the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League host the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre. You may know the awards by its more common name, The Tony Awards. We know the awards aren’t until June 9th, but we just heard about the three amazing theater veterans who will be honored that night with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

These are non-competitive honorary awards that recognize an individual for the body of his or her work. This year, the three Lifetime Achievement Awards will be going to musician Harold Wheeler, actress Rosemary Harris, and playwright Terrence McNally. Nominees for the competitive awards were announced at the beginning of May but, in this blog, let’s focus on these three and their remarkable lifetime commitment to theater.

Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, stated that these Lifetime Achievement recipients, “are pioneers in each of their crafts and their contributions to American Theatre and culture has been immeasurable.”

Actress Rosemary Harris was a past Tony Award winner with 26 Broadway credits including Tony-nominated performances in The Royal Family (2009), Waiting in the Wings (1999), Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (1996), Hay Fever (1985), Pack of Lies (1984), Heartbreak House (1983) and Old Times (1972). She won the Tony for Best Actress for The Lion in Winter (1965) and is currently starring as Mrs. Higgins in Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of My Fair Lady. At 91, Ms. Harris is still doing what she loves. She is beloved by all who get the opportunity to witness her on stage.

 

Playwright is a four-time Tony winner, for the plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, and for the books of the musicals “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Ragtime.” It’s hard to believe that at the ripe age of 80, McNally’s writing has been the basis of 24 Broadway productions! In honoring McNally, the Tony committee noted that the playwright has had at least one new work on Broadway in each of the last six decades. A revival of his Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune begins its Broadway run on May 4.

 

 

Composer Harold Wheelers career as an orchestrator, composer, conductor, record producer, and arranger spans more than five decades, from being the youngest conductor on Broadway with Burt Bacharach’s Promises, Promises, to 17 seasons as musical director for the ABC’s Dancing with the Starsˆ. His Broadway credits include Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, A Chorus Line, The Wiz, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, and Dreamgirls, with six Tony Award nominations for The Life, Little Me, Swing, The Full Monty, Hairspray, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Are you looking forward to Tony Award night on June 9th on CBS? We can’t wait to see our favorite thespians all dolled up and ready to celebrate.

Tips For Spring & Summer Auditions

Spring and summer pose awesome opportunities for actors. When spring musicals come around, and new shows are being cast in the summer, there are some awesome tips and tricks actors can use to practice and rehearse to help them during auditions.

Warm Up Properly

raw honey

The seasonal change brings about so many different temperatures in the air. You’ll want to make sure you warm up your body and your voice properly. Going from rainy days to hot days, and in and out of cold, air-conditioned environments, you’ll notice this takes a toll on your vocal cords, throat muscles, and your diaphragm. Pay attention to how your body feels during each season to make sure you’re warming up properly and safely.

Steam for Your Throat & Vocal Chords

One really helpful warm-up tip is to use steam or a vaporizer before auditions and productions. Steam clears your nasal passages and relaxes your body. It allows you to breathe deeply and purely. You will notice clarity in your pronunciation and dictation when you’re rehearsing, warming up, or preparing for auditions.

Honey 

Honey helps to coat your throat with a smooth sweetness. It’s used often by actors and vocalists. With the pollen in the air and all airborne allergies, honey can help you build your immune system while keeping your throat safe and strong. Put honey in some hot tea, iced tea, or try some honey sticks.

Water & Hydration

fresh clementine

Drinking water, eating well, and staying hydrated are important. Throughout the spring and summer, you will notice your body is drained from the weather and the sunshine. Eat foods with lots of vitamins and calcium. You will already be getting vitamins from the sun, so be sure your water and food intake matches the same level.

Exercise & Stretch

Stretching your body and exercising helps maintain a healthy immune system during the spring and summer. When you stretch your muscles, full body, and especially your upper body and diaphragm, preparing for auditions will come naturally for you.

exercising and stretching outsid

 

During auditions, you want to show your best skills and features, and be the best actor you can be. Despite the allergies and the up and down changing temps of the weather, you can still prepare and take care of yourself. Stay up to date with our blogs to read about all things theater.

Benefits of Renting & Customizing Backdrops

As people gather for many reasons, the visual elements of the room or the function are everything. The environment of your event is a tell-tale sign that will dictate how your guests will receive the production or presentation.

A backdrop for a play, musical, recital, or special event is important to the success of the event. It’s the design that everyone’s eyes are fixated upon. Much thought goes into planning sets, backdrops, and backgrounds because if the design doesn’t hold the attention of the crowd, then your event or show can be compromised.

The Visual Experience

Background colors, set design, and backdrop detail all play a huge role in the visual experience received by your crowd. When you know what you want for your creative detail and visuals, you can rent a backdrop that works perfectly for you. Go with something busy, intricate, and detailed, or color based, digitally designed, or simple.

Renting A Backdrop

Renting backdrops can be simple, easy, and save time and money. When you rent a backdrop, you simply hang the canvas and you’re done. Our backdrops are delivered right to your door, and are easy to set up. No struggling, no painting, no carpentry work needed. Just your keen eye for style and matching when choosing from our inventory.

Sometimes you know what you want, but you can’t find it anywhere. For the really important or particular events/shows, consider customizing a backdrop of your own. Knowing what you want for your artwork/design is the most difficult decision.

Customizing A Backdrop

Classic Eternity Backdrop

When you have your plans mapped out, head over to our backdrop customization page for details. You’ll find details, pricing, and shipping and handling. This is truly the best way to get exactly what you want with your backdrop to help you curate your perfect stage or set.

Efficiently Categorized

We categorize our backdrops by seasons, by shows, by themes, and so much more. When you click on a backdrop in our inventory, you’ll see tags on each backdrop that show recommended productions and themes to pair each backdrop with. We’re here to make your set planning and design as simple as possible.

African-Plain-Backdrop

When you’re looking to rent a backdrop, purchase, or customize your own, Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has thousands of backdrops in inventory for you to choose from. Reach out to Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757. Your perfect backdrop is awaiting you, ready for delivery.

 

Creative Expression Through Theater

No matter what role you play in the theater, you have some opportunity for creative expression. Whether you’re a theatergoer, a member of the crew, or an actor as part of the cast, every person contributing to the production and viewing the production is important to the theater community for many reasons. When people come together by creatively expressing themselves and enjoying themselves, the support rings true throughout the entire auditorium.

The Cast 

entire cast on stage

Each member of the cast is given a role that’s perfectly fit for them. When an actor proves themselves fit to play a character, they make that character their own. They have the full creative direction to take on the role in their own way. This is what makes each actor’s version of a character so interesting. Actors improve by challenging themselves to play different types of characters, learn new skills, new character traits, gestures, body language, and master different personalities.

The Chorus/Supporting Roles

Even minor roles and supporting characters have the ability to contribute their creativity. When a chorus maps out their music, they have many decisions as to how to present their music.

The chorus decides how to best position themselves on stage, how to deliver, enunciate, and articulate their lines. The role of the chorus supports the main roles by singing and speaking. Choral pieces act as interludes to new scenes, and bridge subsequent elements of the show together to highlight the importance for the audience. The way they present themselves and interject songs with scenes greatly contributes to the production.

The Crew

The crew of a production has the ability to express themselves through the set design. Building a set takes time, planning, and proper materials. The crew expresses themselves with visuals, building and curating a set that matches the theme of the production. As the show runs through, the crew makes everything possible from moving props and changing scenes. The positioning of every element of the set on stage is crucial to the production’s success and believability.

Each member of the production works together as a team. Throughout this process, creative expression is at an all-time high. Everyone makes decisions and devotes time to something greater than themselves individually. When things come together and everyone works together, the feelings of gratitude and joy after a successful opening night are truly unmatched.

When you’re looking to rent a backdrop, or purchase or customize your own, Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has thousands of backdrops in inventory for you to choose from. Reach out to Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757. Your perfect backdrop is awaiting you, ready for delivery.

Improvisation: On Stage & Rehearsal Routines

Improvising is a tool used by people every day throughout many professions. Sales reps, teachers, and so many others benefit from the elements of improvisation.

Actors on stage

Improvisation in the theater is something every actor works to improve and hone their skills. When you’re practicing, rehearsing, warming up, and exercising your mind, you’re always using improvisation.

Improv Increases Skills

Practicing improvisation increases the skills of an actor. Improv skills come in handy in many situations, when something goes awry, and mistakes happen when the curtain is up. Though we don’t plan for these things to happen, this is an element of live theater, and we can’t control when mistakes occur. We can, however, practice to know how to handle these situations and make them seem natural.

Expand Imagination & Creativity

When you’re practicing your improv skills, you create characters based on your imagination and creativity. This helps you study character elements, roles, and personalities so you can better portray certain character traits. When practicing improvisation in a group setting, actors will often interact with others in group scenes. This helps build character relationships and allows actors to study how they best interact with others on stage.

actor rehearsing

Creating a scene or a setting through improv is purely up to the actor. Improv is all about going with the flow. It increases your awareness, response time, and cognitive abilities.

Positivity & Open-Ended Comments

A general rule of thumb with improv is to include positive comments, open-ended thoughts, and questions with room for a response. Positive words like ‘yes’ as opposed to ‘no’ can allow you to build scenes further, and allow other actors to build from what you’ve created. Don’t position yourself or your partner with nowhere to go when improvising.

acting out improv scenes

There are different rules for each theater community in regard to improvising. Most drama clubs or theater communities have a plan in place for when things go off script during a live performance. Almost all thespians practice their improvisation skills daily, and using them when you need them can make or break the believability of your production.

Planning With Improv

Before each production, discuss with your director and cast which improvisation tips and tricks will work during the show. See what’s appropriate beforehand, and decide how your cast will handle mistakes. Work on your improv a little each day to increase your skills all around.

When you’re looking to rent a backdrop, or purchase or customize your own, Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has thousands of backdrops in inventory for you to choose from. Reach out to Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757. Your perfect backdrop is awaiting you, ready for delivery.

Deciding on a Backdrop: Tips for Decision Making

When you’re considering renting a backdrop, you may be overwhelmed with the choices. The colors, the designs, and the intricate detail of each backdrop is beautiful in each of their own ways. As you’re scrolling our inventory, you may be stuck between a few different backdrops, and not know which to choose for your production or event. Don’t worry, we put together a guide of tips for decision making when it comes to backdrops. There are a few things you’ll want to consider when planning and staging your production and set design. Read this blog for everything to know when it comes to deciding on the perfect backdrop.

Matching Your Production’s Theme With The Backdrop

Finding a backdrop that matches your theme is the most important part of deciding. When you know the theme of your show, be sure the backdrops you have your eye on are all appropriate in color, style, and design. For example, if you’re producing a show like 42nd Street, you’ll want to consider backdrops with cityscapes, Broadway streets, bright flashy colors, skylines, black and white, city lights, and streets.

How To Ensure Backdrops Will Fit Your Space

Each backdrop by Charles H. Stewart listed in our inventory includes the size of the backdrop on the webpage. All of our backdrops come with grommets and tie lines spaced approximately 12-14 inches apart. Be sure the backdrops you’re considering will fit your space and your stage. Take measurements and have an idea of where you’re going to hang the backdrop.

Considering the Lighting and Elements of Your Stage

When choosing your backdrop, consider the level of lighting available during your event or production. Will there be professional lighting operated? Remember that lighting requirements are different for all color combinations, and your lighting technician can have a dramatic impact on your presentation. With hand-painted backdrops, striking and unique textures, you’ll want to position them best for everyone to see clearly. The positioning of your audience and elements of your stage will help you decide what backdrop is right for your event or production.

 

A backdrop can be the final element that brings your theatrical production, dance recital or event to life. They set your stage and provide a visual impact that makes your presentation truly unforgettable. With a beautiful appearance and a cost-effect approach to set design, Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has just what you need.

Theater in the Lives of Young Adults

There is no question that the arts are a huge building block for learning at early ages for students and young adults. Throughout the holidays and celebrations every year, theatrical productions have been the best way thus far for schools to incorporate information and fun lessons into something interactive. Beyond educationally, being a part of a theater community teaches kids to branch out, make one-of-a-kind connections, and be themselves in a world of individuality. 

When a student is in theater in elementary school, middle school, and high school, they have a choice when it comes to college. Do you pursue a career in your passion: music, and theater? Or do you choose something different due to former opinions of ‘practicality’?

college students working together around computer

Boston University student, Chris Kuiken, explains this in a Boston Globe Theater article written by Kaya Williams. He says, “I was at sort of a crossroads, where I was like: What do I want to do with my life?” he says. “I was going back and forth every day between these two worlds, and trying to figure it out.”

Kuiken graduated from BU in 2017 with experience in theater, both starring in plays and admin work. The article explains, “He chose the “practical” major partly for, well, its practicality and a minor in arts administration.”

“I was at sort of a crossroads, where I was like: What do I want to do with my life?”

Why do you think it’s common for theater to be perceived as an impractical profession? In reality, theater can be more rewarding than most jobs. Creative expression is healthy, and it’s important for everyone to have an outlet. When you love what you do, and you know it’s your passion, sometimes the best thing for us is to follow that. When your outlet can become your profession, we think that’s the ultimate success.

high school theater auditorium seats

The article continues to explain that, “Despite the lucrative jobs that could come with careers in S.T.E.M. fields and business, some students — like Kuiken — are shifting their gaze from Wall Street to Broadway, from laboratory fluorescents to footlights.”

What do you think about this? Do you support the shift of young adults from big business jobs to the arts? How common are theater majors in your school or university? Let us know. 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 in our inventory. We are here to serve all your backdrop and scenic design needs.