Is It Really Over?

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I knew there would be a letdown when The Santa Diaries was over, but I hadn’t anticipated how abrupt it would be. Maybe I didn’t want to know. Going to rehearsals, doing script revisions, marching in parades, etc. had taken huge chunks of time. The rest of our lives revolved around the play. Then on Sunday, December 23rd at 4:30 pm it was over. Producer Liza Ledford had announced before that last performance that everything would be gone that evening. As Laura and I left, the cast was gathering one last time and the chairs on the main floor were being stacked.

We still have a couple of loose ends. The big banner we had made from the poster Laura designed is someplace at the Avalon and we want to get that back. I bought The Night Before Christmas book used in the show and promised that to Tyler Sabatino who played Timmy.

I’m going to continue to blog on this site for awhile. I got background information about most of the actors just days before the show and there wasn’t time or energy to do more posts mentioning all of them. Every person in the cast was integral to the show and I want as many as possible to be highlighted. The set was spectacular, more than we could have imagined, and I want to blog about the woman who created the original art as well as talk about the technology.

Except for Tim Weigand, we don’t know the names of the guys who moved props around on stage, but they were instrumental in moving the play along each performance. As were the mothers downstairs who wrangled the kids into costumes and got them lined up for timely entrances. To everybody who helped make the magic, Laura and I are so grateful.

People are emailing us, stopping us on the street and in the grocery store, and telling us how much they loved the show. They say they laughed and cried and a number have told me that something about our story has stayed with them and they keep thinking about it. We couldn’t have hoped for a more wonderful response.

My husband and I had Christmas dinner with Laura and her family last night. During desert we went around the table and said what the most memorable thing about 2012 had been. For me it was the show. I’ve done alot of things in my life, but this was a peak experience . This was better than being on Oprah!

Laura and I wish everyone great things for the coming year. I have a feeling that some of the newbie actors may have been bitten by the acting bug and will be seen again on local community theater stages. As for what’s next for Laura and me…we need to sit down and talk about what additions to the play we thought worked and those we didn’t. We’ll do some rewriting before we put it away. Writing this story as a movie script was part of the motivation for writing the play, so that’s on the horizon. It’s reassuring to know that even though the run of the play is over, The Santa Diaries really isn’t.

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.

 

Spotlight on Dale Rauch

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Dale Elaine Rauch, mother of Casey Rauch who is the male lead (Will Hawes) in The Santa Diaries, has an impressive list of acting credits. Among them are performances in The Wire, Failure to Launch, Wedding Crashers and Syriana. However, being an elementary and middle school teacher for 30 years put her on stage daily. We would be willing to bet that she made learning fun and all the boys had crushes on her.

In the play Dale plays Frisbee, one of the three carpenters/actors involved in putting on the town’s annual Christmas play. In the original script these three characters also made appearances in a dream as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Yesterday we rewrote that dream sequence at the request of Director Tim Weigand and Producer Liza Ledford. Now Dale additionally plays the ghost of Will’s deceased mother in this new scene. Tonight’s rehearsal will be interesting as the actors will just be receiving the script changes.

Changes in the script ripple forwards and backwards. Rewriting this one scene meant we had to tweak some earlier scenes and some dialogue that happens after. I’m getting ready to print out my new (latest) copy. Is there a point when changes have to stop, I wonder?

We asked Dale what she hopes people take home after seeing The Santa Diaries, and she replied, “a lighter heart.” We applaud that wish.

Use Your Imagination: November 18, 2012

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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.

Yes, Maryland, there is a Santa Claus…

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Originally posted on www.doesthisfontmakemelookfat.com on October 10, 2012

Yes, Maryland, there is a Santa Claus. His name is David Foster! Last night was the first (mostly) complete cast read through of The Santa Diaries at The Avalon Theatre. David Foster is playing Sandy Hawes, a small town Santa Claus, descended from a long line of Santas.

Tim called David’s understated and completely mesmerizing read, “Gorgeous!” And gorgeous it was! When you closed your eyes, it conjured visions of Wilfred Brimley and Garrison Keeler – a velvety voice that captured the spirit of a warm, compassionate, yet savvy Santa. You could almost see the twinkle in his eye and hear that he knows exactly who’s naughty and who is nice. It is a brilliant piece of casting by the Avalon!

The adult lead actors rehearsed in the Stoltz Listening Room (2nd floor), while the younger actors worker under the direction of Choreographer Cavin Moore in the main Avalon Theatre on the first floor. Avalon Director Tim Wiegland, Assistant Director Cece Davis and Producer Liza Ledford, were up and down the Avalon stairs all night! I don’t envy them.

Parts Are Cast

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Originally published on www.doesthisfontmakemelookfat.com on October 8, 2012

Sunday (10-7-12) afternoon at the Avalon Theatre everyone who tried out for a part showed up to hear what part they got. Lots of kids and lots of excitement. Liza Ledford and Cece Davis did the honors and handed out rehearsal schedules and pages of script. The entire script was given to the leads although it wasn’t the tweaked script Laura and I sent to them Saturday afternoon. I think script tweaks will be an ongoing process.

I’m excited by the people cast for the two major parts. Jenny Madino will play Jessica Darling and Casey Rauch will play Will Hawes. Both look like just like I imagined these characters would look. They will be the first to ever perform these parts!

Some of the kids knew each other, some didn’t yet but they will by the time the show goes live. Tim Weigand asked all the actors to come on stage…

…and then asked for a group hug.These actors are going to be in close quarters on stage and back stage so he got the process started.

On Tuesday night there will be a table read with the main characters. This just gets better and better.

Auditions Begin: We Are the Santa Diaries

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Posted originally on www.doesthisfontmakemelookfat.com on September 25, 2012

The Santa Diaries is about a small-town guy who has played Santa for years and really believes he has a calling. He wants his son to continue the tradition, but son Will left home to become a big Hollywood star. In the process, he lost touch with what’s real. The story arc is the son’s recognition of what’s he’s lost and what he wants for his future.

One of the lines in the play is “Welcome to community theater. We may not have a budget, but we more than make up for it with talent, creativity and enthusiasm.” Midway through last night’s first auditions for the Avalon’s Christmas play, I realized that Laura and I are the play. Would the Avalon do justice to our play, our baby? Could the local talent bring our vision to life? We have to rely on the local pool of talent, creativity and enthusiasm.

The first night’s auditions were a little chaotic. For starters, the auditorium keys got locked inside the auditorium. At 5:30 nobody had shown up to audition. Exhausted Tim Weigand, Cece Davis and Liza Ledford were coming off a long Film Festival weekend and gamely plunging into a new project. But the first kid on stage was so good, we immediately felt better; and then another talented performer and another. The local talent really is amazing.

The folks auditioning were asked ot do a simple dance step, read some lines and sing. Most importantly Tim needed to see if they would take direction so they were asked to do a scene several different ways.

Laura, who has written three original songs for the show, worked with Tim and Cece showing them how the duet of “At Christmas I Believe” will work.

Some local dogs will have walk on parts. Will we have a dog audition?