Congratulations Merlin Players

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Merlin Players director, Julianna Skluzacek, emailed us to say that The Santa Diaries has been cast and rehearsals begin October 13. Congratulations! We hope to have lots of updates and photos of the cast to share.

The Merlin Players website mentions that Michael Lambert has been cast as lead male, Will Hawes. So I went looking and googled “Michael Lambert Merlin Players.” That led me to a stuntman who I didn’t think was the right one, but I found a Michael Lambert on LinkedIn from the right area of country. And there was a photo.

Michael Lambert

My apologies if this isn’t the right Michael Lambert, but I’m hoping it is. He’s got that Will Hawes look.

A Sign from the Universe?

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I belong to the Woman’s Club of St. Michaels. Last weekend I helped with one of their annual fundraisers, Consignment Capers. The club gets half of the sale price of an item and the owner gets half and a cleaned out attic or basement.

Friday was the day people brought in their items to be consigned. I was a runner which meant once an item was logged in I put it in a place that made sense. Linens with linens. Crystal with other glassware. It’s not hard except that as more things come in the door you have to keep making room.

One of the items handed to me was this. A lap throw made by Faribo. Still in the original box.

Faribo-throw

And it was made in (drum-roll, please) Faribault, Minnesota where our play, The Santa Diaries, is going to be produced next Christmas. I texted Laura and we decided it was a sign from the universe. Of course I had to buy the lap throw. It will be a cozy addition to my couches when we watch multiple Christmas movies next December.

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?

Post Production Over Crabcakes

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Post Production Meeting

Laura had been in Carefree, Arizona for an Art and Wine Festival, so two Sundays ago I picked her up at the Baltimore Airport and we met Lori Chapman at the Double T Diner in Catonsville, a Baltimore suburb, for our post production meeting.

Double T Diner

Lori was the Assistant Director of The Santa Diaries production of the Liberty Showcase Theatre. Laura said she had been up since four that morning and we had a busy schedule. Post production meeting and then theatre at Everyman in Baltimore at 7 p.m.

The Director, Barb Gaspar, was to meet us, but she and her husband were driving back from Niagara Falls and she phoned that her husband was sick as a dog with some sort of intestinal flu so she couldn’t join us. I was just as glad. I did not want to be exposed to anything gastro…even second-hand.

Lori said the only thing she ever ate at the Double T Diner was the crab cakes so that’s what she ordered. I had a paninni and Laura had Eggs Benedict. For a diner with a menu that weighed over a pound and easily had 1000 items, the food was pretty good.

crab cakes

Foodie Laura

Laura had a birthday when she was in Arizona and she and her husband had a spectacular dinner at Binkleys. She said it was the best meal and service she has ever experienced. Coming from Laura that is a supreme compliment and she is already planning a Binkleys pilgrimage next January. Multiple amuse-bouche offerings added to the experience. That is a tiny bar-b-que sandwich. Talk about amusing your mouth…

binkleys amuse bouche

Script Changes

Between bites of crab cake, Lori’s only suggestion in terms of changes to the play was to see if we could combo some of the scenes so there wouldn’t be so many scene changes. The Avalon handled that with the rear projection equipment, but it was more challenging for Liberty  with a shallow stage, so we knew that was going to be something we wanted to look at.

At the end of our meal Laura and I looked at each other and decided to skip the play at Everyman and head home. She had to be at work the next morning and we were both tired. Next year we’re going to get matinee tickets. The Sunday night performances make for a very long trip home over the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore.

Another Santa Diaries Production?

Laura has designed a half page color ad to go into the American Association of Community Theatre‘s newsletter in March. We’ll make those changes to the script before the ad hits. Our hope is to have another theater produce The Santa Diaries for the holiday season 2014.

In the meantime we continue work on the movie script.

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/.

Elves, Ballerinas and Firewomen

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In community theater you must accommodate your play to the available talent pool. In the Avalon production last year, we had two male and one female firemen who were part of the play’s community theater.

Liberty Showcase has a woman fireman, too. Her name is Sara Hampt and she is playing Woody (now Wendy) in the Liberty Theater’s production of The Santa Diaries. Sara is in her 7th year of teaching music in Baltimore County. An active member of Glyndon United Methodist Church, she leads worship for their early morning worship service and sings in the choir. This is her first return to musical theater since her performance in The Boyfriend her senior year of high school (that play originated on Broadway with Julie Andrews playing the role of Polly). Sara says she’s excited about this opportunity and hopes to take part in future Liberty Showcase Theater productions.

Sara Hampt

One of my favorite parts of our play was seeing the kids blossom as they become more confident in their roles. During rehearsals last year I was in awe of the adults in charge of the kids. It was like herding cats, but the minders kept the kids on task and made being in the play enjoyable. Some of the older kids had been doing Avalon plays since they were little guys. This happens in every community theater. Sometimes those kids are like Lori Chapman who came back as one of the Liberty Showcase Theatre’s directors and whose children are in the show.

Because it is community theater, roles sometimes have to be switched up to allow more kids to participate. In the December 7th, 2pm production, the role of Timmy becomes the role of Tammy and will be played by Makenna Brinton. This summer she acted and danced as Princess Phailin in GAP’s, The King and I.   Makenna has studied with Baltimore Actors’ Theatre Academy,  Pumpkin Theatre and Karen Sachs Dance Academy.  Her passion is singing, dancing and dreaming of Broadway.  When she’s not playing Tammy, Makenna will be on stage as a ballerina/Elf.

Makenna

Makenna’s younger sister, Tessa Brinton, who just turned five, will also be a ballerina/Elf in this production. She is currently in preschool and is thrilled to join her big sister on stage for the first time. Her mom, Melita, says her young daughter loves being front and center. Tessa loves riding her bike, singing, dancing and is always full of energy. These girls are  going to shine on stage.

Tessa pumpkins 2013

The changes needed for each production are what keeps the play fresh. Who can resist little ballerinas, adorable elves and firewomen?

David Foster, We Already Miss You

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The Easton, Maryland theatre community lost one of its own on Friday, June 14, 2013 when David Foster, age 86, died. David was our Sandy Hawes in The Santa Diaries. His nuanced performance and rich voice made the role memorable. The opening montage with David’s voice over still makes me tear up.

David Foster

Not that he didn’t almost give us a heart attack every night of the show. In the first scene he was up on Martha’s roof stringing Christmas lights in a snow storm. I suppose if this had been a Broadway production there would have been a lift for David, but this was community theater so at each performance he climbed a 20 foot ladder behind the rear projection screen and waved the lights around. Laura and I sat in the back of the theater clenching our fists until he was safely on the ground. Then we could breathe again.

David never complained that he couldn’t do it. As far as I knew, he never asked the director to find another way. That would have been the sensible thing to do, but David knew the illusion of being on the roof was important. Al Bond held the ladder steady at the bottom, but when the run was over we were all glad that David had not fallen and really broken his leg as he did in the play.

David Foster loved helping other actors and that will be his true legacy in the theater community he embraced in retirement. It will be hard to remember he’s gone; we were blessed to have him with us.