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!

Hot Summer Broadway Musicals

The dog days of summer are over.  But it is still summer.  Some like it hot.  Some don’t.  Here’s a list of a few shows that deal with the heat of summer.

110 in the Shade

110 in the Shade is a musical with a book by N. Richard Nash, lyrics by Tom Jones, and music by Harvey Schmidt.  Tony Award nominations went to Schmidt and Jones as Best Composer and Lyricist.  It also had nominations for best actress, actor and director.  An original cast recording was released by RCA Victor.

Based on Nash’s 1954 play The Rainmaker, it focuses on Lizzie Curry, a spinster living on a ranch in the American southwest, and her relationships with local sheriff File, a cautious divorcé who fears being hurt again, and charismatic con man Bill Starbuck, posing as a rainmaker who promises the locals he can bring relief to the drought-stricken area. Nash’s book is faithful to his original play, although all the interior scenes were moved outdoors to allow for the addition of townspeople for ensemble numbers and dances. Many of Jones’ lyrics come directly from Nash’s play.

The musical opens with “Another Hot Day,” setting the scene for the scorching summer weather that is at the center of the show’s plot.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here is a musical with a book by Arthur Kober and Joshua Logan and music and lyrics by Harold Rome. The musical was adapted from Kober’s 1937 play, Having Wonderful Time and revolves around a summer camp for adults.  For many years, this 1952 musical was best-known as the “swimming pool musical” because the production featured an actual swimming pool on stage.  The characters could take dip when they weren’t singing the wonderful Rome score.  The story centers around the guests looking for fun in the sun at Camp Karefree in the Catskills as they enjoy a respite from the everyday life.  The show opened at the Imperial Theater and ran for 598 performances and was a lighthearted escape into the world of summer vacations.

Carousel

Carousel is a musical by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) that was adapted from Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, transplanting the Budapest setting of Molnár’s play to a New England fishing village. The show includes the hit musical numbers “If I Loved You”, “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Carousel was innovative for its time, being one of the first musicals to contain a tragic plot with themes of suicide and domestic violence.

The original production opened on Broadway on April 19, 1945, and ran for 890 performances. The musical has enjoyed award-winning revivals (particularly the 1994 revival at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre) and has been adapted as a Cinemascope 55 film in 1956 and as a made-for-television special on videotape in 1967. It is particularly well-regarded among musicals by the theatre community, and Richard Rodgers, in his autobiography Musical Stages, said it was his favorite musical. Time magazine named it the best musical of the 20th century.

After a mill girl, Julie Jordan, marries a handsome, but uncivilized carousel barker, Billy Bigelow, things turn sour for the couple. Billy cannot find a job and he and Julie are forced to live with their cousin, Nettie. Further, Billy has taken to using violence against her. Nevertheless, Julie continues to love her husband. In the end, after Billy discovers that Julie is pregnant, disaster strikes. In a desperate ploy for money, Billy’s friend, Jigger Craigin, convinces Billy to help him assault and rob David Bascombe, the mill owner. After this plan fails, Billy kills himself instead of spending the rest of his life in prison. Nevertheless, fifteen years later, Billy is allowed one more visit to Earth. He attempts to show his love for his daughter, Louise, and Julie – but he is unable. Even still, Julie can sense his love and Billy witnesses Louise graduating from high school.

Greenwillow

This is a musical readers may not be familiar with.  Greenwillow is a musical based on a novel by B.J. Chute with a book by Lesser Samuels and Frank Loesser and music and lyrics by Loesser. The musical is set in the magical town of Greenwillow.  In Greenwillow, the eldest in each generation of Briggs men must obey the “call to wander” while the women they leave behind care for the home and rear their children in the hope that someday their husbands will return.  Gideon Briggs loves his girlfriend, Dorrie, and would like nothing better than to settle down with her, but he spends his days trying to fight his need to travel, instead focusing his energies on his girlfriend.   He finds in the town’s newest inhabitant, the Reverend Birdsong, an ally who will try to help him make his dream come true.  Greenwillow didn’t last for very long (97 performances at the Alvin Theater), but one song did enjoy popularity: “Summertime Love,” a tribute to the excitement and passion of a summer romance.

BONUS

Summer:  The Donna Summer Musical

You read that right.  Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is a musical with book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and Des McAnuff and music and lyrics Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte, Paul Jabara, and others, based on the life of Donna Summer.  The musical made its premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse from November 7, 2017 through December 24, 2017 and opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre to previews on March 28, 2018 before opening on April 23, 2018.

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.

What Should I Bring to Rehearsal?

What do you bring to rehearsal?  Well, be prepared.  You don’t want to forget something you know you need or even something that might be nice to have…

So, before you head out, make sure your bag is packed with all of the essentials that you will definitely need.  If you bring the “definites”, then you should be ready.

  1. Script

Obvious, right?  Guess what?  Sometimes you forget the most obvious things.  It happens to everyone.  Not a bad idea to check for the script before you leave the house.

  1. Notebook

Don’t forget a pencil and/or highlighter too.  It’s a good idea to write down notes from the director, any schedule changes, steps for choreography, and even your own lines (they say you remember what you write more than what you read).  Blocking will inevitably change.  Your lines might change.  A highlighter will help with this too.

  1. Flashlight

You’re sitting there.  Waiting.  Wishing you could rehearse your lines or check out your notes because you remembered your script and a notebook.  But it’s so dark and you forgot your bleeping flashlight!

  1. Sweater

Theaters and rehearsal studios are known to be chilly.  Just sayin’.

  1. Recorder

Now I mentioned earlier that people usually remember more what they write than what they read.  Hearing is the same thing.  During some down time, record your cue lines so that you can respond to the correct characters.  Recording your own lines as you would perform them can also help with dialect, accents, intonation, etc

  1. Water bottle

Duh!  Very important to hydrate especially if you’re involved in very intense dance routines, fight scenes, etc.  Plus, water fountains are gross, and no one wants to share with you!

  1. Snack

Who knows how long you’ll be?  Rehearsal could go through lunch or dinner.  Bring something with protein and healthy fats to help keep you energized.  Because like water, no one wants to share with you.  You don’t want anything sugary either where you’ll crash in the middle of rehearsal.  Nuts, food bars, and fruit salads are good choice for snacks.

  1. Towel

No one wants to perform or rehearse through a puddle of sweat on stage.  No one wants to give you a sweaty hug or high five.  Your cast mates will appreciate that you brought a towel.

  1. Shoes

The shoes make the man…or woman…or character.  Don’t start rehearsing in say high heel shoes or work boots even if your character calls for them.  Start out in flats or tennis shoes or any other stage shoe so that you get comfortable with the routines and staging.  Once you get into the rehearsals and the costume department provides you with your character shoes or recommends what you should wear for your character should you start rehearsing in them.  Once you have this info, then you can bring them to rehearsal and start “becoming” you character.

  1. Rehearsal Outfit “Blacks”

There’s no need to stand out at rehearsal.  Save it for your character and performance.  Bring rehearsal blacks or darker colors that are easy to move in.  Jeans and dresses are not recommended unless the director has specifically instructed you to do so.