A Thank You to the Merlin Players

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Laura created an animoto Thank You for the cast and behind-the-scenes crew who did such a wonderful job of producing our play, The Santa Diaries. We couldn’t have asked for more.

Faribault 2014 026 -  cast with arms raised

We were made to feel part of the theater community. It was a very special weekend.

Hell Week in Faribault

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Michael Lambert (cast as Will Hawes) sent us this message…

Dear Mala and Laura,

It’s Hell Week this week, tech rehearsals culminating in our opening night production on Friday of your The Santa Diaries. Last night was the first tech rehearsal and it went very well, so hopes are high.

Hell week cast

(Thomas D. (Timmy), Cynthia Paley (Jessica), Jerry Fox (Sandy), Michael Lambert who-is-sitting-down/not-that-short (Will), Matt Drenth (Josh), Sydney Place-Sallstrom (Brandeee))

We even have the “real” Santa Claus coming this Friday for the premier! And an opening night reception that may even feature some bites of sweet potato hot dishes. Mmmm!

sweet potato casserole

These are The Merlin Players’ set builders, Matt and Roger, working on the rear projection screens for The Santa Diaries. Everything is good to go for this weekend’s opening.

set build at Faribault

Of course the flu needed to make an unfortunate appearance, sadly with both my leading ladies. Cynthia (Jessica) came down with it over our Thanksgiving break, and Sydney (Brandeee) is bravely battling it right now. Our poor Amazon princess! But as miserable as she feels, she still looks great. Ah, the power of youth … In the meantime, I’m downing vitamins and zinc and washing my hands every chance I get. And no kissing either of them until clean bills of health!

hell week santa and brandeee

I can’t put into words how much it means to me to come back to my small hometown to be in this touching play about a guy coming back to his small hometown to find the true meaning of Christmas. I truly love everyone involved with this show, even the little turkey who teases me each night (I know he secretly admires me … or at least that’s the story I’m going with). Some are people who I went to school with, others are kids of people who I went to school with, some are parents of people who I went to school with. A real “small town” feel to this show.

It’s snowing outside right now (“It’s really coming down out there!”), but the forecast looks clear for the weekend. Hopefully no snow storms for your upcoming trip to Minnesota.

We got quite a bit of press coverage in the local papers and I’ve attached some of the pictures and link.

Safe travels and we’ll see you soon.
-Michael

Note from Mala: I can’t tell you how much Michael’s reflection about coming back to his small town means to me. We all yearn for that community of people who know us and love us anyway. It doesn’t have to be a small town; it could be an urban neighborhood, or a church. That longing is at the heart of The Santa Diaries and Laura and I wrote this play because our Christmas wish is for everybody to find their own heart’s small town.

The Santa Diaries Goes to Minnesota

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Breaking News: The Merlin Players of Faribault, Minnesota is going to produce The Santa Diaries as its 2014 Christmas production. We can’t tell you how excited we are that another community theater will be putting its own stamp on our play.

theatre exterior

The theater in Faribault was originally an opulent opera house that was destroyed by a fire in the 1920’s. Somehow this seemed fitting as our play has a theater fire. Several incarnations later the theater became the home of the Paradise Center for the Arts. It can seat over 375 in the historic Bahl Family Auditorium. If you want to read more about the fascinating history of this theater, click here.

bahl-auditorium-300x195

The Merlin Players are a semi-professional, non-union theater company that is located at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Recently chosen as the best theater troupe in southern Minnesota by Scene Magazine, the Merlin Players, in partnership with area high schools, also provide learning opportunities for student audiences, actors and technical staff through their student intern program. Under the guidance of founding Artistic Director Julianna Skluzacek, this regional theater has attracted audiences and talent from Owatonna, Faribault, Northfield, Waseca, the Twin Cities, Albert Lea and Rochester for the past 19 seasons.

We can’t wait to see the Merlin Players’ interpretation of The Santa Diaries.

Is a road trip to Minnesota in our Christmas stockings?

Thanks to Cast and Crew

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We Thank the Cast and Crew cast-and-crew-for-web-2

The cast and crew made the Liberty Showcase Theatre’s production of The Santa Diaries so very special and Laura and I are grateful for all their hard work. I was ill and unable to get to the last performance, but Laura attended with her husband. Despite some weather issues the Saturday evening performance and the Sunday matinee were packed. Laura said people laughed and cried. When that happens we know we’ve done our job as writers. Immediately after the last performance, volunteers began breaking down the set. In community theatre everybody gets to do a little bit of everything. My belief is that this is part of why participating in community theatre can be such a bonding experience. As some previous blogs have indicated, participation often spans generations.

Hiccups

In this production there were a number of hiccups. One was replacing the person who was to play Josh two weeks before the show opened. Although this is a male role, the person who knew most of the lines already was the female music director who heroically stepped in to fill Josh’s size twelves. Josh became JoJo and there was some hurried rewriting of the final scene in which Will calls Brandeee in the middle of the night and Josh answers. Did we want JoJo to be in Brandeee’s bedroom in the middle of the night? This was a family show, after all. Even having Josh in her bedroom was a bit of a stretch, but lines were finessed and everything worked out just fine. The snow/sleet/rain hiccup on the show’s last weekend was more problematic. The Liberty Theatre website home page was amended with the announcement: 12/14/2013 – It may be snowing outside, but the show must go on!! The Santa diaries will still be performed tonight at Glyndon United Methodist Church! Come out and get in the holiday spirit!!

People got the message and the cast performed to a full house. Last year at the Avalon Theatre the last show was on December 23. That was a burden on the cast and crew as it was so close to Christmas. The Liberty Showcase Theatre’s production ended on December 15 which gave people a little time to breathe before the last reindeer dash to the 25th.

Liberty Showcase Thanks Us

At the last show Lori Chapman, the Assistant Director, gave Laura two wrapped packages. She brought them to me a few days later and we opened them together. They were framed photos of the cast and crew of the this production. We were thrilled. On the first Sunday performance Laura and I were given one of the posters signed by everyone. Mine will go on my Santa Diaries wall! We have felt very thanked and appreciated by Liberty Showcase Theatre. The are such a professional group. We’d love to work with them again.

Post Production

We need to know how the play could be tweaked to make it better. What could be done to make it easier to stage? Liberty had a cast of about 25 as opposed to the Avalon’s cast of 65+. Most of those additional people were children which is its own special challenge, but when writing for community theatre it’s good if the cast number has some flexibility. You want to be able to showcase especially talented people and need to plan for that. Laura and I will have a post production meeting with the Director, the Assistant Director and the Producer after the holidays so that we can make useful changes to the script and notes that would help with the direction and staging of future productions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if The Santa Diaries was produced somewhere every year!

Our thanks and excellent Holiday Wishes to all the cast and crew and to the audiences who enjoyed the show. Find your inner Santa and celebrate with family and friends.

Break a Leg!

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Break a leg! Why in the world would theater people say this to one another before a show starts? I went to Wikipedia for an explanation of the derivation of this expression, but although there are many ideas, there is no conclusive evidence as to why it’s “break a leg” instead of “may you be attacked by hippos” or some other ill wish. But I will not be one to mess with traditions. Theater people are a superstitious lot.

The Santa Diaries opens tonight at Glyndon United Methodist Church. Last night was the final dress rehearsal in full makeup and costume. Assistant Director, Lori Chapman, sent me this photo of Lizzie as Marley and I just had to share it.

Marley-Lizzie-for-web

The costume is wonderful as is the make-up.

So, from Laura and me goes a shout out to all the actors and behind the scenes crew…

Break a Leg!

Show Opens Tomorrow Night

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This just in from Assistant Director, Lori Chapman:

“So I have a few minutes to let you know some of the challenges we have faced this week. And there have been many. LOL.

Starting with the kid who emailed me on Monday five minutes before she was due at rehearsal and said she was out of town and might be back by Wednesday but if not, she’d see us Saturday. Did she not remember we open on Friday?

We lost our spotlight operator for opening night and are in the process of trying to find someone now. All the other shows are covered except tomorrow night. (Update…a spotlight operator has been found.)

Our Sandy really fell off the ladder on Tuesday night. He’s fine. LOL. But the crash noise was the best it’s ever been.

Trying to turn the lights on the Christmas tree in the Hawes house on and off at the right moments is proving to be a huge challenge. Nothing like turning the tree on and lighting people frantically trying to get in the right places or having the lights left on to illuminate set changes that are supposed to be hidden.

The set changes for the finished set and burned set are harder than we thought and require tall people. Hopefully we will get much faster with those. And moving set pieces on when the entire cast is exiting the stage is like running through an obstacle course.

And I didn’t even mention the teen whose dad came and picked her up halfway through our rehearsal on Monday night and didn’t tell her mom who is also in the show that he was taking her. Panic ensued when we thought we had a missing 15 year old.

Brandeee is right. Never work with kids or dogs. LOL.

Tonight we run with costumes and makeup. Hopefully things will go smoothly. Although they do say bad dress, great opening night so maybe I should be hoping for lots of problems.”

Thanks, Lori. It’s going to be a great show. Laura and I are so appreciative of all the hard work of everone on and off stage. We can’t wait to see it.

Performances dates are as follows: Friday, December 6th and 13th at 8PM; Saturday, December 7th at 2PM and 8PM; Saturday, December 14th at 8PM and Sunday, December 15th at 2PM. The venue is Glyndon United Methodist Church, 4713 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071. For tickets visit the Liberty Showcase Theatre website at http://www.libertyshowcasetheatre.org/.

An Impressive Rehearsal

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Yesterday Laura and I drove to Glyndon, MD to attend a rehearsal of The Santa Diaries – an hour and a half drive from Easton. We arrived a little before the time rehearsal was to start (one o’clock) but the parking lot already had cars in it. Inside we saw why. Dan Lohrfink and his son, Philip, were busy screwing casters to platforms that will carry sets. I recognized them from the photos I’d used on the blog about the Lohrfink family. On the stage, ladies were on ladders painting. I recognized some of them as well. The participants in this show don’t just show up and say their lines. They are helping with everything. Somebody even brought in pizzas and soft drinks. Sustenance is really important when you’re putting on a play.

actors building sets

painting-sets-1

We were impressed at how organized the Liberty Showcase Theatre people are. Promptly at one o’clock the music directory, Liz Kanner, gathered people around the piano and began a vocal warm-up.

vocal-warm-up

Then they went all the way through Act 1. Seriously…all the way through. There were a few hiccups, but opening night is two weeks away. Plenty of time for tweaking. At the end of Act 1, the director, Barb Gasper, sat everyone down and gave notes – praise where due and suggestions, blocking issues and reminders to everybody about not clomping up and down the stairs to get on stage.

director's-notes

There was a ten minute break and the cast went all the way through Act 11, followed by more notes from the director. Because there still was a little time left before the scheduled end time at 4pm, the director asked for a run through of one particular scene. While that was going on children were being fitted into elf costumes by the costumer. We couldn’t get over how well behaved and professional these kids were. They knew their lines, where they were supposed to be on stage and we didn’t see any drama. You’d have to be a real Grinch to resist these cuties.

wardrobe-mistress-and-elf  elves-for-web

It’s just two weeks to the opening and according to Lori Chapman, Assistant Director, everything is on schedule. They’ll hang the lights on Black Friday and the final week will be all tech. She told us there would be two complete dress rehearsals. Laura will be there opening night, Friday, December 6th at 8PM. I’ll go the next day. We are over the moon that The Santa Diaries lives on.

Other show times are as follows: Friday, December 13th at 8PM; Saturday, December 7th at 2PM and 8PM; Saturday, December 14th at 8PM and Sunday, December 15th at 2PM.

The venue is Glyndon United Methodist Church, 4713 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071.

For tickets visit the Liberty Showcase Theatre website
at http://www.libertyshowcasetheatre.org/.