I Love a Parade

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The dancing Santa on the poster Laura Ambler designed is part of the branding of The Santa Diaries. Last night we carried the poster in the Easton, Maryland, Christmas parade along with cast members from the show. Marie U’ren had outfitted people in Victorian costumes, and although those will appear only briefly on stage they are colorful and evoke the season. From left to right in the photo are Cathy Cassell, Laura Ambler, Mala Burt and Erik Higgins.

Easton paradeThe big weatherproof poster has been hanging in front of the Avalon Theatre. On Saturday afternoon when Laura  went to pick it up and it was still hanging outside. Nobody was around to help her get it down so she found a stool behind the ticket desk in the lobby and used it to climb up and unhook the poster. All the while she’s thinking “this is not a good idea” especially when she discovered the top of the stool swiveled. But need prevailed over common sense and she retrieved the poster, attached it to a dowel rod, and added red bows. It was parade ready.

At the staging area I made my way back in the line up of floats, old cars, and kids wrapped up like Christmas boxes until I found a group of people in Victorian costumes. Laura was there with the poster. As it grew closer to the start time we wondered where Marie U’ren was. Erik Higgins got a call from a mother of one of the kids saying her daughter couldn’t find the group, then a little later a call to say she had found them – except Selena wasn’t with us. So we knew there must be another group of Victorian costumed parade walkers somewhere in the line up. Someone took off toward the front of the line, then came running back. The rest of the our people were three back from the start of the parade. We found the other group, and got ourselves organized just as the whistle blew. We were off.

The Easton parade is held at night and the floats and fire trucks were decked with lights. The streets were lined with  waving kids, smiling adults and well behaved dogs. The kids and adults in our group handed out postcards about the play and candy to the children. As we passed the Avalon Theatre we saw Jessica Rogers, Cece Davis, Liza Ledford and other Avalon staff. Play Director Tim Weigand was walking with us.

It was chilly, but not bitterly cold. Just a perfect night to watch the glitter and lights that signal the beginning of the Christmas season. At the end of the parade Santa wound his way through town in a cherry picker. What fun! When it was all over Laura and I met our husbands at Bartlett Pear Inn for dinner. It was a wonderful night. Next Saturday we march in the Christmas in St. Michaels parade which starts at ten in the morning. It’s all part of letting people know about The Santa Diaries play and branding our dancing Santa.


Use Your Imagination: November 18, 2012


Use your imagination. Can you see it? The costumes, the scenery, the acting, the live animals? It’s The Santa Diaries!

Yesterday afternoon the Avalon Theatre sprouted walls from electrical cords and a metal ruler laid on the stage and doorways materialized from pieces of masking tape. In the back of the auditorium Marie U’ren was fitting cast members into costumes, and a dog waited patiently for his walk-on during the second act. Al Bond and Jessica Rogers were on a laptop working on sets and scenery which they told us would be like nothing that has been done at the Avalon before, and cautioned everyone not to say anything. We can’t because we have no idea what they’re doing, but Jessica promised spectacular.

On stage Director Tim Weigand was doing the first run through of the whole play. Assistant Director Cecile Davis and Producer Liza Ledford were tracking lines and reading the parts of people who couldn’t make rehearsal. All in all it was chaotic, but you can begin to see what it’s going to be like. Actors had a hard time remembering that the metal ruler represented a wall so it got stepped on alot as people transported themselves through the invisible walls. We heard actor’s calling out, “Where’s the door?”

Cece Davis posted a photo gallery from rehearsal on The Santa Diaries Play FB page. When she took off her Assistant Director hat and put on her photographer hat, she took some beautiful black and white pictures

Most of the people are off book by now, but not quite 100%, so there were some improvised lines. That’s a problem when the line you are supposed to say is important to the dialog that follows. Cues get missed.  Picking up the pace is an ongoing issue. It will be helpful when people know where the walls of the set are, but despite all the moving parts we could feel a coalescence of the effort of so many people. We are using our imagination and the costumes, the scenery, the acting and the live animals will all be where they are supposed to be when the play opens on December 16th.

Do What the John Wants

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Originally published in www.doesthisfontmakemelookfat.com on Sept 20, 2012

Notes sessions are where the people you are writing a script for tell you what they want fixed. A script writer friend told us once, “You do what the John wants.” It cracked us up because it was so spot on, and has become part of our vocabulary.

Yesterday Laura and I met at the Avalon at 3pm with Jessica Bellis Rogers, Tim Weigand, Cece Davis and Liza Ledford for another notes session. Jessica, Tim and Cece told us they had spent about five hours over the weekend (with helpful input from Liza) going over the latest version of the script. They had some excellent suggestions — tweaks mostly that can be made with slight changes to already existing lines of dialogue. It was suggested we move one scene. Easy with cut and paste.

Then Tim mentioned, sotto voce, that they wanted the changes made by Monday morning because they are going to start auditions Monday evening. Excuse me, what did you just say? Laura and I are both jammed up today (Thursday) with other commitments, but that leaves Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Piece of cake. The Avalon folks were a little apologetic, but we know this is how the process works. At some point it starts to get intense.

Cece is going to help with the social media piece and we are really grateful. Jessica commented that at the Avalon they struggle with how much time to devote to social media. It can suck you right up, so having someone on board who doesn’t have to learn it from scratch will be huge.

After two intense hours the meeting started to break up, but we didn’t leave the theater until ten of six. Jessica wanted some photos of Laura and me for PR purposes. (Note to self: always assume when you go to a meeting that photos might be taken and wear mascara!) As we left the Avalon we looked at each other and laughed. “Do what the John wants,” we said simultaneously.

I’ve just downloaded the pictures (which were taken on my camera) and we are to come up with some author quotes about the process thus far and send it all to the person who is going to write the first press release. The Avalon folks offered us that opportunity, but we passed.

Monday is rushing at us.

Rewrites Can Be Fun – Really!

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Originally Posted on www.doesthisfontmakemelookfat.com on August 10, 2012

Last week we had another “notes” meeting at the Avalon Theatre. This time with Tim Weigand, who will direct our play, and Jessica Rogers, the General Manager. This was the first time Jessica had read the play and she had some fantastic suggestions including adding a couple of characters which meant a huge rewrite. She was almost apologetic, because she knew how much work would be involved, but her suggestion was terrific and something we wouldn’t have thought of. She also said we needed to add another 20 to 30 pages of script. (Remember there is lots of white space in plays and scripts so this didn’t make us pass out.)

We were thrilled with what happened when we put the two new characters in the play. It was like they were supposed to be there and the pages just piled up. In another week we’ll have that draft finished. It will go back to Tim, Jessica and Cece one more time for notes, but we know changes will be ongoing. Once the show is being blocked and we can hear actors on stage we’ll find out if there are pieces of dialog that just don’t work or parts that need to be clarified or expanded.

The next step will be a table read so we’ll get a sense of how long the play will be. Tim told us they’re already thinking about actors to fill the various roles, some of which are fairly demanding. Others characters have just a few lines and some are walk-ons. In community theater, when you’re doing a show as a fund raiser, you want as many people as possible on the stage. They all have parents, siblings and friends who will buy tickets and come to see them.

Oh, by the way, we still have the actor in a dog costume, but the pirate eye patch which seemed so hilarious one morning has now been eliminated. Arrrgh.