Kids Onstage: What does it take?

“We will treat them like adult cast members, but take care of them like children.”

According to Casting Director Leslie Martinson, that’s the TheatreWorks motto for having kids onstage in a show—we set the same standards for rehearsal behavior as we do for our adult actors, while making sure we’re not asking too much of them or wearing them out. But then, the child actors we’ve worked with have all been very bright and talented children, what Leslie calls “old souls.”

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Kyra Miller and Jonah Broscow in “Rags” (Photo Kevin Berne)

The kids we work with rise to the occasion. Children’s theatre or youth theatre is often at least partly about socializing, about being with other kids. That’s not the case with a TW show. “We talk with the kids about how they may, you know, miss birthday parties for rehearsal,” says Leslie. “But if this is a kid who likes to be in a room full of grownups, who is curious about how professional theatre is made…that’s the appeal.”

There is only one child’s role in Rags: David Hershkowitz, who has come to America with his mother to try to find his father, and gets swept up in a life of hawking wares on the street and defending socialism. David is a weighty role in an already intricate musical, and actors Jonah Broscow and Nic Roy Garcia handle it with finesse, splitting the performances along a pre-determined schedule. “It’s imprudent to ask a child to go onstage eight shows a week,” says Leslie. “If they’re tired or not feeling well, you need to have coverage for that role.” In this case, we have Jonah and Nic as well as an understudy, Jake Miller, just to make sure we’re never left David-less.

All three boys were present through the entire rehearsal process, along with their studio teacher, which is a requirement by law, no matter what time of the year. The kids were tutored during rehearsal downtime, in a conference room in our administrative offices. A studio teacher is allowed to supervise up to ten kids total, of varying grade levels—in this case it was probably a relief that all three boys are about the same age.

What other special support staff is required with kids in the room? There’s also a child wrangler to help, well, wrangle the kids, for instance, during meal breaks. As far as other support, Leslie says, “It really takes the whole family to pull this off. Someone has to drive the kids to rehearsal and then to each performance. We have a ticket for that person for each performance, so they can watch the show if they want. The audition process with kids is basically the same as adults, except there is a lot more talking to the parents to make sure they understand what it will take.” We also remind the adult actors to please watch their language and stories in rehearsal and in the backstage areas…but we’ve never had a problem. The casts are gracious and welcoming, and the kids have a great and educational experience.

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Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in “The Kid” (1921)

California has a state law called The Coogan Law, named after actor Jackie Coogan, who worked with Charlie Chaplin in several of his films in the 1920s. As a child star, he earned an estimated $3-4 million, but discovered at age 21 that his entire fortune had been squandered by his mother and his stepfather. The 1939 Coogan Law, or the California Child Actor’s Bill, requires that 15% of each child’s paycheck be put into a special account, where it can’t be touched by anyone until the child turns 21. (It’s one of the rare instances that a law written in the 30s is still applicable and helpful today!)

Is there anything else noteworthy about working with child actors? Leslie says, “Kids memorize things more quickly. It’s not unusual for a kid in a musical to have learned not just his or her part, but the whole score, and everyone’s parts.” If only that came so naturally for everyone!

To learn more about Rags, click here.

Moms in Theatre: How Kyra Miller Is Making It Work

Kyra Miller

Kyra Miller

Actor Kyra Miller plays Rebecca Hershkowitz, mother of David, in Rags. In real life, Kyra is mother to two young girls: three-year-old Sami, who is still [as of March 31] back in New York, and nine-month-old Natalya, who has spent the last several weeks with her mother in rehearsal for the show. Associate Marketing Director Syche Phillips talked with Kyra about the intricacies of being a working mom in theatre.

Syche: So how’s it going so far?

Kyra: It’s good! Good. I’ve never done this before.

Syche: So this is the first time you’ve done a show post-Natalya?

Kyra: Post either girl, actually. So let’s see. Sami is almost three and the last professional gig I had at a theatre was in 2011. So yeah, it’s been a while. I’ve collaborated with the Woodshed Collective in NYC since then, and I was invited on board as a writer/creator for that, and I did a tiny bit of acting with them. And I wrote three one-person shows and performed them. So it’s not like I’ve been inactive, it just hasn’t been professional gigs.

Syche: How has it been keeping up with writing? It’s never easy under the best of circumstances.

Kyra: Sometimes it makes me more efficient. I do a lot of writing on my phone on the train. I’ll get an idea and start making notes. The whole concept of having a 3-hour chunk in the afternoon to write, or to memorize lines—that’s just gone out the window. So you get very good at accepting that and creating a long thread of writing in tiny little moments, and that has been my MO. That was my MO for Rags too. Pretty much as soon as I got this job I just started listening to the score, on breaks, or with Natalya. I had to learn it all in tiny pieces.

Syche: When did you find out you were cast?

Kyra: I found out, let’s see…in December. First of all, I was gobsmacked to have gotten the job off of a taped audition. That’s never happened to me in my entire career.

Syche: It wasn’t an in-person audition?

Kyra: They came to New York to do auditions, and I had gotten laryngitis from my toddler. I’ve never lost my voice before and it was the first audition that I felt like, This is a slam dunk for me, I’m really right for this part. There just aren’t that many that I’m so right for. I was so excited to do it. Even though I thought, Oh God, California, how am I going to swing that? But my agent said, “Let’s not worry about the logistics, you’re so right for this, you should just go to it.” And I didn’t think I would book it. I thought, Okay, I’m going to go in front of Alan Filderman [the NY casting director] and make a good impression, and it’ll be a great way to come back after being away for six years… And then I had to miss the audition because my voice wasn’t there. (Laughs) It took two weeks for my high notes to come back. I’ve never made a tape for a musical theatre audition before, just film and TV. So I made this tape, and I thought, they’ve cast this role a long time ago. And I sent the tape off assuming it would go into someone’s file.

Syche: And when you were offered the role?

Kyra: My husband and I had to sit down and have a serious conversation, because I’d been so sure I wouldn’t book it, but we were so excited. So we had to work through how it would even go with the children—like, could I take Sami out of school for seven weeks? No. Could I take her away from Jesse for seven weeks? No. Could I be without the baby for a while? No. So there were certain questions we had to answer, even before we started looking at the finances of it. In the meantime I was getting certified to teach the Alexander Technique, and I did that right before I had Natalya. I got my certification, applied for a job in November, but the same day that I got offered the Alexander job, [TW Casting Director] Leslie [Martinson] sent this beautiful email to my agent about how helpful TW would be in terms of dealing with a baby around. It changed everything. And because the role is so good and the show is so timely and it feels good and in a way politically active to do this—we figured it out and I turned down the teaching job and came here instead.

Syche: You keep bringing up the role of Rebecca—do you have any experience with the show in the past?

Kyra: I’ve always known I was right for Rags…in the same way that every Jewish girl grows up knowing she’ll be in Fiddler on the Roof someday. When I was younger, everyone told me I should learn Rags to play Bella. Then I aged out of the part and stopped paying attention to it. Until a teacher told me, “You should listen to this role because Teresa Stratas sang it.” In my voice lessons, she’s someone I’m told to listen to a lot. I have this opera background and I’m also a musical theatre singer, so roles that sit on that dividing line are the roles I pay attention to. They’re often roles that were played by Julia Migenes, an opera singer who did a lot of musicals. She sang Rebecca on the Rags recording (after Teresa Stratas originated it), and she sang Aldonza in an early production of  The Man of La Mancha,, which is the last role I played. There aren’t that many productions of Rags, so when it gets done somewhere, you jump at the opportunity. And it’s a beautiful score.

Also…I’m not a refugee, but my grandfather and great-grandfathers on both sides fled Eastern Europe in the same time period, for the same reasons, so this show feels close to me. One small thing that resonates for me is her name change. The reason my name is Kyra Miller is because twelve years ago a role came up that I was right for,  and I was having trouble getting an audition, because the role was for an Italian woman. I was told that casting couldn’t believe that I could play an Italian with my real name, Himmelbaum, on my resume. And I was horrified and angry, like, this is in 2005, aren’t we over this yet? This particular role had been originated by an actress with a very Irish last name. So after a lot of hemming and hawing I decided to just use my mom’s maiden name, Miller—against my better judgment, and I don’t know that I’d make the same decision today.

My mom’s family name was actually Gostkowski, but they took Miller at Ellis Island—the family story is that some guy pulled my great-grandfather aside and said, “You’ll have an easier time doing business if you have a different last name.” So he picked Miller.

So I sort of saw it as carrying on a horrible family tradition.

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Natalya taking it all in

Syche: Can you describe how it is working with Mariah [the childcare provider] and Natalya being on site?

Kyra: First of all, I’m incredibly grateful to TheatreWorks, for everybody marshaling resources and willingness to have a baby—and a mom—around. People have donated childcare equipment, and we have use of two separate childcare rooms [in the admin offices] while in rehearsal. I’ve talked to [Stage Manager] Randall a couple times when I’ve been late coming back from break because I was nursing, and he’s been so willing to exercise a little forbearance in that regard. Stage managers have such a tough job, so to put another wrinkle into the mix could be a problem, but it hasn’t been. [Director Robert] Kelley stopped me the other day—I had had a 12-hour day because we had a photo shoot before rehearsal started, and he stopped me the next day and said, “You seem tired. You have to tell me when you’re tired.” He’s been so kind, and so willing to have Natalya around.

How it works is I pick up Mariah, and we come to the rehearsal space. I’ve already fed and napped the baby one round in the morning, because we usually start rehearsing early afternoon. Mariah takes her for a walk or gives her lunch, and then on my first break I will see her. When we go back in to the rehearsal room, Mariah and Natalya will go for another walk, or play in the classroom, or have a meal, and then as soon as we’re on our long meal break, I get her, nurse her, and I have to eat. Usually Mariah will try to feed her and change her while I’m rehearsing so I don’t have to do all those things in one little break. It’s only one hour but it’s about an hour and a half worth of tasks and bonding time.

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Natalya and Kyra on dinner break

Usually we get our third break around 7:50, and I go get her, nurse her in the quiet office for about 10-15 minutes, and put her down in the pack ‘n’ play. That’s the break I’m usually a little bit late coming back from. Then right as we’re finishing up rehearsal around 9:30, Mariah will transfer her from the pack ‘n’ play into her car seat, which clicks into the stroller. And Natalya has learned to stay asleep through this whole maneuver. We get the car seat into the stroller, put her into the car, we drop Mariah off, and then I get home, get the car seat upstairs into the apartment, and transfer her to her crib…and she stays asleep through the entire thing right now.

Syche: That is amazing.

Kyra: Yeah, it’s incredible. I have a very amenable baby. She’s super social, she loves people, she’s about to crawl, she’s been working on that every day.

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Tummy time

Syche: You knew she was an amenable baby, right? I mean, if you had a difficult baby would you have even tried to do this?

Kyra: Probably not. I think if I’d had a really colicky baby from the get-go, or trouble nursing, or if it had been my first kid, I might have just been too overwhelmed to even consider this. I really was not auditioning when Sami was first born. I know moms who have, and who did, and when this offer came through, the first thing I did was contact every actress I knew who has a baby, and I asked, “What’s the longest you’ve been apart from your toddler? And have you been apart from your infant?” I got a bunch of different responses, all of them implying that it depends on the kid. But from the minute she was born, Natalya was an easy baby. I recovered from the delivery really easily, my milk came in, she started sleeping well, she didn’t have any stomach issues…it was all just easier than the first time. So I thought, Okay, I can do this. And knock on wood, so far it’s been okay.

Syche: When is your husband bringing Sami?

Kyra: This is something we talked about a lot, because from tech rehearsals [10 out of 12 hours a day] through preview week, I’m just not going to be around a lot. But he said he didn’t want us to be apart for more than 3 ½ weeks. So they’re going to arrive just as we’re finishing tech, and through preview week, I’ll still be busy but she’ll see me sometimes. They fly in on Sunday, and then I have Monday off. At that point, the babysitting will move to our apartment. The baby will only be at the theatre for a few hours a day. That’s the plan. We’ll see how it works in reality. And his job has been so great about letting him write from far away—he writes for The New York Times, so he’s going to be writing remotely for the month of April.

Syche: That is awesome that he can do that. How has Sami been doing, back in New York?

Kyra: She’s been amazing. We’ve had a lot of family support. Jesse has these two aunts who live in England, who we don’t get to see very much, but they decided to come out right before I left, to see me and the baby, and then help Jesse through these couple weeks. So they’ve been there since I left. And Sami is also in school for half the day, and she loves her school. They’ve been really supportive too, helping her get her head around it. It’s a Montessori program, so her teacher was like, “We’ll make a social story for her.” A social story is precisely for something like this: like a parent is going on a business trip, or some other major potentially disruptive event, and you write a story to help the kid get through it. So our story was, We’re all going to California! But Mama and Natalya are going first, and while we’re gone, you’ll hang out with Dada, and Cheryl will still pick you up after school, and you’ll still play with Essie after school every day. And there are pictures of all of this that got laminated and bound together. We started this a couple weeks before I left. And her school totally facilitated that. They helped make the book and they talk about it with her. It’s been really comforting for me too. I wouldn’t say it’s easy. She says things like “I miss Mama and Natalya. I’m going to go put on my shoes and socks and bring them back.”

Syche: Awwww!

Kyra: So it’s definitely hard. I’m probably more weepy than she is.

Syche: Don’t worry, it’s almost over.

Kyra: Right! But I’ve thinking about this. What if this role had come along three years later? It would have been impossible. There would have been zero reason for me to split up the family, and I wouldn’t see either child. And I couldn’t pull them out of school for a month because they’d miss something important, like reading. This is actually the easiest time to do something like this

Syche: Unless it was like, six years ago.

Kyra: Well, that too.

Syche: Will you keep looking for parts in New York? Is this a springboard back onto the stage, but staying closer to home?

Kyra: That was the idea. (Laughs) I really just wanted to work. I miss it. This is my joy. But going forward, it would have to be some pretty special circumstances to get me to leave town again. Leaving is really hard on a family. I’d never say never, but I don’t know exactly what it means going forward. But for now, I get to work again, and that’s great. I’d rather do a great role every few years than do what I believed I was supposed to do at the beginning of my career, which is keep working no matter what.

Syche: Quality over quantity.

Kyra: Exactly. Also, I really feel strongly that TheatreWorks is a model for how theatres need to react to actors being mothers to young children. Fathers too, but mothers more, because we deal with infancy and breastfeeding, and there are certain physical realities that can’t be gotten around. And just a little bit of flexibility on the part of theatre management has enabled this huge change to happen in my life…whereas if you’re adhering very strictly to every equity code and rule and corporate reality, there is no room for that.

The things that I care about as a parent are so different than what I cared about a few years ago. That diversity is important on every level: the people who write the plays, who produce the plays, who design and act in the plays…those people should also be able to have children and still be engaged, just as much as people without children. But I want to emphasize that TheatreWorks has been amazing. It didn’t occur to me to ask for leniency. I was about to turn down the job when I was told, “We have these resources for you.” And it’s partly on actresses to say, “Here’s what I need to be able to do this. And if you believe in me in this part, then maybe you can help me in these ways.”

It’s really important that moms get to participate in the theatre. The budget and people’s minds just need to widen a little bit to make room for us. Or else this whole group of women doesn’t get to participate. And then we lose out on certain kinds of stories that get told, or a quality of storytelling. The arts are about inclusion and exposure to all kinds of stories. If moms aren’t in the room, who knows what we could be missing out on?

 

For more discussion about mothers in theatre, check out:

Motherhood in the Theatre Part One: Hold My Baby, Homeless Man—I’ve Got An Audition

Where Are the Disappeared Women of the Theatre? (HowlRound)

Children in the Space: A Collaborative Photo Essay on Working Parents in the Theatre

Butterflies in “Calligraphy”

Monarch butterflies rush in around NORIKO, and EAMON exits.
Calligraphy stage directions

Butterflies are an integral part of the stage directions for Calligraphy. The central character, Noriko, sees them whenever she’s about to delve into her subconscious, particularly when she’s visiting memories of her late husband, Eamon.

Noriko is a woman facing the onset of Alzheimer’s. Director Leslie Martinson and the team of designers therefore had to decide how to portray her version of reality alongside the version experienced by the rest of the characters. The butterflies were the key. Incorporated in the physical world of the play by Scenic Designer Erik Flatmo and Media Designer David Lee Cuthbert, the butterflies become a touchstone for the audience, a way to help ground the viewer in Noriko’s world, so we travel with her, to whatever part of her life she’s currently living.

“The butterflies signify a change in the mental state of the lead character,” says Martinson. “And we were delighted to find them an inspiration for both set design elements and media transitions in the production design.”

Additionally, butterflies are evocative of transience, of the passing from one phase of life into the next. As the mothers in Calligraphy grow older, they find themselves moving from being the carers to being cared for, as their daughters assume the roles of caregivers. Butterflies are also a world-wide symbol of support for those whose lives have been affected by Alzheimer’s, whether as a patient or a family member.

For the playwright, Velina Hasu Houston, butterflies serve myriad purposes in this play:

My mother often talked about butterflies representing the spirits of the dead traveling to another world and to eternal life. For Noriko, there lives in her mind an eternal life that is free of the boundaries imposed on the physical world as we know it. My mother also told me that butterflies represent the discovery of one’s soulmate and the ability to find that person in the traffic of humanity. Noriko seeks to be reunited with her soulmate in the eternal life in her subconscious.

In my Cuban world, I also have been privy to the mythologies of many Latin cultures including the fact that, in Mexican culture, butterflies hold meaning similar to those in Japanese culture, tying their presence to ancestral spirits. I think the ethereal beauty of their flight speaks to something deep within many cultures, indeed within us all.

In respect of this vast mythology of butterflies, our AudienceWorks project will mirror the physical look of the scenic and media design. When you come see Calligraphy, visit the lower lobby and leave your own butterfly with your answer to the question “What brought your parents together?”

Kodomo wo cho yo hana yo to itsukushimu
To love a child as if it were a butterfly or a flower
–Japanese proverb

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Butterfly elevations for the scenic design, by Erik Flatmo

Announcing TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2017/18 Season

Last night, at our annual Season Release party, almost 500 people gathered to hear Artistic Director Robert Kelley announce the 2017/18 Season. We are delighted to share it with you now!

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The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga

Book, Music, & Lyrics by Min Kahng
Based on Manga Yonin Shosei by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama
Translated as The Four Immigrants by Frederik L. Schodt
Directed by Leslie Martinson

WORLD PREMIERE
From a tumultuous earthquake to an exhilarating world’s fair, this broadly comic new musical chronicles the adventures of four endearing Japanese immigrants in a world of possibility and prejudice: turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco. Driven by an infectious vaudeville and ragtime score, the quartet pursues their American Dream despite limited options in the land of opportunity. Don’t miss this runaway hit of our 2016 New Works Festival.

Jul 12–Aug 6, 2017
Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto

 

Constellations

By Nick Payne
Directed by Robert Kelley

London Evening Standard Award Best Play 2012
REGIONAL PREMIERE
A time-bending romantic drama spun out of string theory, this unconventional Broadway and West End sensation explores the infinite possibilities of “boy meets girl” with intelligence, heart, and humor. A charming beekeeper and a Cambridge cosmologist are nerds in love, for better and for worse, their relationship an ever-changing mystery of “what ifs.” Who knew that honey and higher physics could be so touching—or so sexy?Contains mature language.

“Truly stellar. Five stars!”
London Evening Standard

Aug 23–Sept 17, 2017
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

 

The Prince of Egypt

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by Philip LaZebnik
Directed by Scott Schwartz

WORLD PREMIERE in collaboration with Fredericia Teater, Denmark
Join TheatreWorks as this inspiring world premiere musical begins its international journey towards a 2018 debut in Denmark. A soaring celebration of the human spirit, The Prince of Egypt features a dazzling, multi-ethnic cast in one of the greatest stories ever told: the saga of Moses and Ramses, his Pharaoh brother, and the indomitable people who changed them both forever. Inspired by the beloved DreamWorks Animation film and featuring a score that includes the Academy Award-winning “When You Believe” by the composer and lyricist of Wicked, this breathtaking journey of faith and family is the must-see event of the season.

Oct 6–Nov 5, 2017
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

 

Around the World in 80 Days

Adapted by Mark Brown
From the novel by Jules Verne
Directed by Robert Kelley

Stampeding elephants! Raging typhoons! Runaway trains! Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful valet in the original “Great Race,” circling the globe in an 1870s alive with danger, romance, and comic surprises at every turn. In the hilariously theatrical style of The 39 Steps, five actors portray dozens of characters in a thrilling race against time and treachery. Grab your family, and your passport, for an ingenious, imaginative expedition around the world!

“Action and hilarity to spare!”
The Boston Globe

Nov 29–Dec 23, 2017
Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto

 

Our Great Tchaikovsky

Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Written and Performed by Hershey Felder
Directed by Trevor Hay

REGIONAL PREMIERE
Brilliant composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky springs to life through the hands and insight of piano virtuoso Hershey Felder, whose time-bending tale of culture and repression explores the mystery surrounding some of the greatest music ever written. From the unforgettable ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, to the outrageous 1812 Overture and the brilliant symphonic works, this powerful musical tribute travels to Czarist times to ponder the inevitable enigma of genius. From the creator and performer of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin and Beethoven.

“Stunning! Potent! Brings beautiful life to Tchaikovsky.”
San Diego Union-Tribune

Jan 10–Feb 4, 2018
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

 

Skeleton Crew

By Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

A Coproduction with Marin Theatre Company
CALIFORNIA PREMIERE
A makeshift family of autoworkers navigates the recession in this funny, tough, and tender American drama. Will their Detroit plant survive? Ambitious dreams and corporate deception interweave, pushing friendships to the limit. When the line between blue collar and white begins to blur, how far over the lines is each of them willing to step?
Contains mature language.

“Warm-blooded, astute. A deeply American play!”
The New York Times

Mar 7–Apr 1, 2018
Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto

 

The Bridges of Madison County

Book by Marsha Norman
Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Based on the novel by Robert James Waller
Directed by Robert Kelley

2014 Tony Award Best Score
REGIONAL PREMIERE
This sweeping musical romance about the roads we travel and the bridges we dare to cross recalls the unexpected affair of a devoted Italian-born housewife and a roving National Geographic photographer—four sensual, heart-stirring days that would never be forgotten. Set amidst the cornfields of Iowa in 1965, it is an intimate remembrance of love both lost and found, brilliantly adapted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Tony Award-winning composer from one of America’s favorite novels.

“A breathtaking sweep of feelings.”
The New York Times

Apr 4–29, 2018
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

 

FINKS

By Joe Gilford
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

Drama Desk Award Best Play Nominee
CALIFORNIA PREMIERE
With the 1950s Red Scare in full swing, the House Un-American Activities Committee attacks “subversion” in the arts. When a romance blossoms between a rising comic and a firebrand actress, they face being blacklisted along with their friends and fellow artists. Will they lose their careers or betray each other and be branded forever as “finks”? Based on the true story of comedian/actor Jack Gilford, this stunning comic drama is written by his son.
Contains mature language.

“A testament to an indomitable spirit.”
The Huffington Post

Jun 6–Jul 1, 2018
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

 

Subscriptions are available now at theatreworks.org.
Single tickets will be going on sale starting in spring 2017.

An Onstage/Offstage Love Story

The romantic tension in Crimes of the Heart between Babe Magrath and her lawyer, Barnette Lloyd, is playful and longing, a sweet flirtation wrapped in a tricky legal situation that may end up being disastrous for one or both of them. What you might not realize is that actors Lizzie O’Hara and Josh Marx have a long history of acting onstage together—as well as a very personal offstage relationship.

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Lizzie and Josh’s wedding day / Photo by Mark Kitaoka & Tracy Martin

Lizzie and Josh met at San Jose State University, where he was majoring in Animation and she in Film. They were cast together in a one-act play called Am I Blue?—which happens to be one of Crimes playwright Beth Henley’s earliest works. Lizzie played an awkward girl trying to seduce a varsity jock.

Lizzie says, “We became fast friends.” Despite not being Theatre majors, they both haunted the theatre department and did every show possible. Their final show together at SJSU was Urinetown, with Lizzie playing Little Sally and Josh playing Officer Lockstock. They both won the Hal Todd Award for Excellence in Acting in Graduating Seniors (Best Actress and Best Actor). Although they were still “just friends,” they thought it would be funny to sing “Follow Your Heart” at the awards ceremony and awkwardly kiss at the end of it. “This,” Josh says, “was our very first kiss.”

That summer, they both took trips to Europe, and met up in Paris. They went on a pub crawl with a group of friends, but got separated from the group and had to navigate their way through a foreign city. “Lizzie, in a prophetic moment, took a quick snapshot of us holding hands as I guided us through the busy streets.” A few months after that, they finally began dating.

In 2009, Lizzie began working at TheatreWorks, first as a Box Office Representative, then as the Database Assistant, and finally becoming the Donor Stewardship Coordinator/Board Liaison/Management Assistant. Josh taught drama at Hoover Elementary in Palo Alto while applying to MFA Acting programs. He was accepted to Rutgers in New Jersey, and they spent a year in a long distance relationship.

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Lizzie performing with Sky-Pony

After a year, Lizzie moved to New York City, but Josh was still traveling around the country much of the time for acting jobs, and they weren’t able to spend as much time together as they liked. “Josh was only in NYC for a grand total of six months in the three and a half years I lived there, so it wasn’t as fun as it could have been,” Lizzie says, although she kept busy with her band, Sky-Pony, as well as performing and working a day job with Theatre for a New Audience.

“During a nine-month contract at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, I resolved to make things official and bought an engagement ring at the local jewelry store,” Josh says. “I proposed to her at the Mint Karaoke Lounge in San Francisco by singing ‘The Next Ten Minutes’ from the musical The Last Five Years while hordes of her friends poured into the bar to surprise her.” “It was AWESOME,” Lizzie says. “We had been dating for five years at that point. It was still a surprise.”12644761_10156464612085551_8641846892381201982_n

The two decided to move back to the Bay Area to be close to family, and to try to mitigate the amount of traveling that Josh would have to do for work. They got married, bought a home in San Francisco, honeymooned in Thailand, and adopted a cat named Mr. Fox.

They’ve had a lot of luck getting cast in shows together: first, One Man, Two Guvnors at TheatreSquared in Arkansas. “In the show, we played opposite one another and took special advantage of the final kiss at the end—grossing out the audience with our flagrant affection.” They played uncle and niece in The Importance of Being Earnest, and appeared in A Christmas Carol (both shows at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina), before getting cast together in Crimes of the Heart at TheatreWorks.

Crimes Director Giovanna Sardelli says it was a no-brainer to cast the two of them as Babe and Barnette. “They’re both such sweet, funny people, and great to work with. They have to fall in love onstage and they do that, over and over, eight times a week.”

When asked about their favorite moments in Crimes of the Heart, Josh says, “My favorite moment of Barnette’s is when he realizes that Babe actually remembers him from their moment at the Christmas Bazaar two years ago.” Lizzie is partial to the line “I hope you win it. I hope you win your vendetta. I think it’s an important thing that a person should win a lifelong vendetta.” She adds, “I think that line solidifies our feelings for each other.” When asked whether Babe and Barnette end up together after the end of the play, Lizzie smiles and says she definitely has an opinion about that, but “Babe has to work through a lot of tough life stuff before they even go on a first date.”

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Lizzie O’Hara and Joshua Marx in Crimes of the Heart. Photo Kevin Berne.

Crimes of the Heart plays through Feb 5 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, click here.

A Kitchen Onstage

Thank you to our Properties Master, Christopher Fitzer, for this guest blog post about the challenges of creating a working kitchen onstage!

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Many plays are set in or require a kitchen onstage, and in other plays “off-stage” kitchens provide real and prop dining and eating experiences onstage. And in each one of these plays, how we achieve the kitchen, and all that it requires, is different each and every time. From artificial and theatrical to fully functional and practical, TheatreWorks has presented a multitude of variations of kitchens over the past many seasons. Here are the processes we go about to create the kitchens onstage:

SINKS

Prop – The simplest sinks onstage do not actually produce water. In those cases the sinks are put into the cabinetry, not attached to any water source, and act purely as an aesthetic reference, necessary to dictate that we are in a kitchen. This included the sink in the Muldoon kitchen in 2016’s Outside Mullingar.

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Tank – The most common way we utilize sinks onstage at TheatreWorks is with sinks attached to a small tank hidden on or behind the stage. Sometimes they are pressurized tanks to ensure water comes from the faucet, and other times we have tanks elevated that use gravity to bring the water to the faucet. Both of these ways are much simpler than plumbing the sink, but have a limited water amount, and therefore are used in shows where the sink is only used a couple of times. This included the sink in the Reilly kitchen in 2016’s Outside Mullingar and in 2014’s Marry Me A Little.

Plumbed – The most difficult to achieve onstage, but the most realistic, is to plumb a sink onstage into the existing plumbing of the building. This way is only used when a copious and consistent amount of water is needed during the performance (and typically more likely in industrial or commercial kitchen sets). For instance, 2016’s tokyo fish story required an industrial sink to wash rice multiple times throughout the production.

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APPLIANCES

Prop – A majority of the times, appliances onstage are real period-appropriate appliances that are not connected to a power source. Refrigerators are used to hold prop foods, but do not actually “refrigerate,” and stoves and ovens hold pots and pans, but never cook anything onstage. The vintage 1930s refrigerator in 2016’s Outside Mullingar and the contemporary stainless steel fridge in 2012’s Time Stands Still were just props.

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Working Prop – In some shows, appliances are required to perform certain functions, but they do not need to be fully practical. Perhaps a kettle needs to boil on a stovetop. In that case, we might achieve that the needed outcome through different methods. If we do not need the kettle to actually be hot, we may add a speaker inside of the stove to create the whistling sound and add a flicker tip light to create the flame effect. But if we need the water to actually boil and a fully functional stove is not needed, we may replace one of the burners inside the stove with a simple hot plate, making that burner functional and leaving the rest of the stovetop as a prop. In 2016’s tokyo fish story the burners were prop and connected to fake gas lines, but the pot we put on top of them had a practical smoke effect inside of it, so that at the proper time the actor could “smoke” his fish.

Real – Every once in a while, a play requires an appliance to completely perform its intended function. This typically happens with smaller countertop appliances, like toasters, mixers, blenders, etc. These items can simply be plugged in, and either work as intended or work with slight alterations. In 2013’s Warrior Class, a popcorn maker with a practical fan inside created popcorn onstage.

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FOOD & DRINK

Real – The easiest answer for food (but not the most cost-effective) is to provide the real thing when it must be eaten onstage. Real coffee was drunk in 2015’s Country House, real oatmeal is eaten in 2017’s Crimes of the Heart, and real sausages were had in 2015’s Fallen Angels.

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Prop – In instances where food in shown onstage but never eaten, we almost always create or provide an artificial version of the food, so that it can last the run of the performances without having to be replaced. This included the shellac-coated bagels in 2015’s Proof, the plastisol-created raw fish in 2016’s tokyo fish story, the multiple cases of silicone donuts in 2010’s Superior Donuts, the molded foam meat pies in 2014’s Sweeney Todd, the carved foam steak tornadoes in 2015’s Fallen Angels, and the foam-and-acrylic birthday cake in 2017’s Crimes of the Heart.

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Edible Facsimiles – In certain instances like cost or cast member food allergies, the props department may need to create edible alternatives for the food needed onstage. In 2015’s Fallen Angels, cloudy gelatin was carved into amorphous blobs to act as a cost-effective and food safe alternative to real oysters. Anytime there is liquor onstage, especially brown alcohol, colored water or decaffeinated iced tea is used. In 2013’s Somewhere, pork chops were too expensive and difficult to cook at the theatre, so peanut butter cookies were baked ahead of time in the shape of pork chops and used onstage. To prevent the melting mess of ice cream onstage, 2012’s Time Stands Still used mashed potatoes scooped like ice cream.

The scenic and props departments use a lot of tricks to make kitchens look complete and food look realistic onstage. Hopefully as the audience you never suspect…but now you’ll know how some of that theatre magic is made!

“Daddy Long Legs” and the Mannequin Challenge

Riddle: What do a dozen TW staff members, the cast and crew of Daddy Long Legs, and 200 students have in common?

Answer: They all participated in TW’s mannequin challenge last Thursday!

When we asked Deirdre Holland, the Daddy Long Legs Stage Manager, whether the cast and crew would be willing to be a part of this craze which has been sweeping the nation, she said yes. We threw out a few dates, and she suggested that we do it after the first student matinee, when we could have a house full of willing and enthusiastic audience members.

Katie Bartholomew, Associate Director of Education, checked with the schools who were coming, and confirmed with three of them that they would stay. That meant a total of 200 kids would be a part of our mannequin challenge!

The cast and crew for Daddy Long Legs is smaller than our typical December musical: just two actors, three musicians, and six crew members. But Marketing & Communications Manager (and genius) Heather Orth came up with a storyboard that would allow us to make the most of every single body we had – some of them twice! – in the single-shot video.

So last Thursday, staff members traveled from the office to the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, and took their places around the green room. Heather ran through the entire storyboard one time, while on the stage the actors held their post-show talkback with the students. Once the talkback ended, the actors and crew quickly got into their places. Heather filmed the entire thing in under two minutes…and the rest is history!

If you’re intrigued, you can find out more about Daddy Long Legs here.

If you’re interested, you can find out more about student matinees here.

If you’re inspired, please consider donating. It just takes $10 to sponsor one student matinee ticket, which could be a student’s very first time seeing a live performance.

The long road home for DADDY LONG LEGS

Since its world premiere in 2009, Paul Gordon’s Daddy Long Legs has reached audiences around the world. After charming theatregoers on three continents, the musical is returning home to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, just in time for the holidays! Let’s take a look back at the many faces of Jerusha and Jervis from around the world:

In October of 2009, Daddy Long Legs premiered at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, CA, for the first stage of its three city rolling world premiere with Megan McGinnis as Jerusha Abbott and Robert Adelman Hancock as Jervis Pendleton. The musical then opened in Mountain View, CA (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley) in January of 2010 and March of 2010 in Cincinnati, OH (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park). From September 2010 to March 2012, McGinnis and Hancock would play the lead roles in Chicago (Northlight Theatre), La Mirada, CA (La Mirada Theatre), Cleveland (Cleveland Playhouse), Phoenix (Arizona Theatre Company), Lowell, MA (Merrimack Repertory Theatre), and Milwaukee (Skylight Music Theatre).

In October of 2011, Daddy Long Legs premiered at the Gem Theatre in Detroit, starring Christy Altomare as Jerusha and Kevin Earley as Jervis.

The first international production of the musical premiered in Tokyo at Theatre Creation in September of 2012, with Sakamoto Maaya and Inoue Yoshio in the lead roles, and would go on to tour Japan, reaching audiences in Niigata, Oita, Osaka, and Fukuoka.

McGinnis and Hancock returned to their roles for the West End premiere of Daddy Long Legs at the St James Theatre in London during October of 2012.

2012 also saw actors Ephie Aardema and Kevin Earley teaming up twice as Jerusha and Jervis, for productions in Santa Maria, CA (PCPA TheatreFest) and St Louis (Repertory Theatre of St Louis).

The following year saw the Canadian premiere of Daddy Long Legs opening in Winnipeg at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, again starring McGinnis and Hancock.

The Florida Studio Theatre production in Sarasota in 2014 saw a new Jerusha (actress Penny McNamee) opposite Kevin Earley, marking his third turn as Jervis.

Daddy Long Legs opened off-Broadway in September of 2015 at the Davenport Theatre in New York City. Initially scheduled for a limited run, the musical went on to play 309 performances, closing in June of 2016. On December 10, 2015, the musical made history by becoming the first Broadway or off-Broadway show to be broadcast live online. The livestream was seen by over 150,000 viewers in 135 countries, reaching audiences as far as away as Tanzania, Jordan, and Fiji. Megan McGinnis returned to the role of Jerusha for the Davenport production, opposite Paul Alexander Nolan, Will Reynolds, and finally, her real-life husband Adam Halpin as Jervis.

In July of 2016, the musical opened in Seoul, South Korea at the Daemyung Culture Factory with a rotating cast. Check out the footage from the Seoul production, featuring “The Secret of Happiness” sung in Korean!

Upcoming productions include New Brunswick, New Jersey (George Street Playhouse) and Pittsburgh ( Pittsburgh Public Theatre).

Finally, after visiting three continents and over 20 cities, Daddy Long Legs returns home to TheatreWorks for the holidays with a brand new Jerusha and Jervis: Hilary Maiberger and Derek Carley.

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Reserve your seats today!

Akemi Okamura on the 2016 CAATA Conference at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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Jeffrey Lo & Akemi Okamura

FutureWorks Fellow Akemi Okamura and Company Manager Jeffrey Lo recently represented TheatreWorks Silicon Valley at the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists’ (or CAATA) 5th National Asian American Conference and Festival, hosted by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Here are a few of Akemi’s takeways from the week in Ashland:

In my year and a half as FutureWorks Fellow at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, I’ve been able to see and do a lot of interesting and cool things. From sitting in on rehearsals and being the reader at auditions, to assisting with housing prep for out of town actors and logging new scripts, I have learned a lot. So when the opportunity to attend the CAATA conference presented itself, I naturally said yes. After all, what could be a better learning opportunity than getting to meet with and learn from Asian American theatre makers from across the country and the world? Looking back, it seems somehow super human how CAATA was able to fit so many things into just one week’s worth of conference, and yet they did. To break up the jam packed conference into smaller chunks, I have decided to share with you the top five things that I loved most about this year’s conference. Think of this as your conference highlight reel!cubsrhxueaaxtdy

1) Panels and Breakout Sessions
What conference would be complete without its panels and breakout sessions? For me, there were so many great options to choose from that I had difficulty narrowing it down to attending just one per session. Topics ranged from Asian American Directors, to a moving session called “Producing Theatre in a Mixed World” (which was particularly close to my heart as a multiracial theatre artist), along with various discussions on yellowface, and building the next Asian American leaders. There were so many more panels that were available, and if you’re interested in checking them out, visit the CAATA website here: http://caata.net/schedule/ Continue reading