Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Time Theatre Goers

This past week, I met two young boys who’d never been to the theater before. The revelation saddened me slightly; I was raised on live performance and have been a regular patron of many theaters in Colorado. For these boys to have never gone to the theatre at all, at at the age of ten or twelve, was heartbreaking to me.

I needn’t have been so disheartened that they’d never seen a show, however. Both were so anxious to be in a theater that they acted at least half their age, asking if they might peek inside the theater doors to see what it looked like, bouncing up and down in their seats before the show started because they couldn’t contain their excitement. I watched these two young men who’d never experienced live performance, realizing that it didn’t matter what the show was, that they had to sit still and stay quiet during the performance, or be on their best behavior. It was the mere idea that they were going to watch something come to life right before their eyes that so excited them. 

I now realize that this sort of excitement is why I have decided to build my life in the theater. Creating something from nothing in the very room in which the audience sits is the most challenging and thrilling experience I can find. 

The two boys I met are not alone in their lack of theatrical experience; I’ve come across people in their thirties and forties who’ve yet to see a live show. It always makes me feel fortunate to have grown up with theatre and even more excited for these individuals as they have no idea the magic that is about to take place right before their eyes. And regardless of their lack of patronage to the theatre previously, these first time theatre goers usually leave with smiles on their faces. Some even make it a point to come up to me and say, “That was a great show!”

As someone who creates theatre, there is no higher praise.

Lauren Stearns

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Closing Shows

Curtain Call for UNC's Steampunk Sweeney Todd
Photo by David Grapes

I feel lost. There’s a constant feeling that I am missing something. Like I need to be somewhere I was unaware of and I am sitting at home in my sweatpants while people are wondering where I am. This hasn’t happened, nor will it happen, but I sometimes look at my phone in a panic, thinking, “Oh, no! It’s 7:00, I need to… No, I don’t. I don’t need to be anywhere.”

Sweeney Todd closed last week and I don’t know what to do with myself without the Demon Barber -- but this is typical when a show closes. I spend so long in rehearsals, and even outside of them, working on the show and researching and constantly thinking about it. Then, after it closes, my schedule is suddenly open and I start looking for ways which to fill it once more. Eventually another show will come along (or a job in my case since I’m graduating) to fill up my now-empty schedule, but until then there is a sense of loss. 

I know other theatre people might feel differently about closing shows, but it is always bittersweet for me regardless of how I am involved. New friendships are made, a family is created amongst us, and we learn to trust each other very quickly simply because there isn’t time to not do so. Sure, without a show I am able to get more sleep, finish homework on time, pick up shifts at work so I can make money, and hang out with friends. But the consistency of the show is gone: I don’t get to see our talented actors bring characters to life, I can’t watch the designers create the world of the play nor the stage management and crew make everything run smoothly from scene to scene. There is always a period of mourning with me and shows. I just need to let it run its course before I look into working on something else.

Sweeney was a great show to be a part of and I miss it and everyone who was associated with it. But I need to move on, take what I learned from working on Sweeney and apply it to another show in the future so it will also be successful. That’s what theatre is about: creating something with a group of people and then moving on to create something different with other people and taking what you learned along the way so you can be successful.

Lauren Stearns

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SOAPbox SLAM Send-Off show featuring The Good News Poetry Tour

              For all those in the performing and visual arts community here at UNC, tonight is a very big night!  If you haven't been to the previous slams earlier this semester, as the saying goes it is better late than never to GIVE LOVE and ACCEPT LOVE and go see the SOAPbox SLAM Send-Off show featuring The Good News Poetry Tour starting at 8:30pm at the Atlas Theatre on the corner of 7th Avenue and 16th Street TONIGHT! AND IT IS FREE! Right in the budget for us poor college kids. After rigorous competitions and a lot of hard work, four very talented poets will be showing off their best Slam skills before being the first representative Slam Poetry Team from UNC and Colorado to be sent off to the College and University Poetry Slam Invitational, also known as CUPSI. The wonderfully talented team of poets have been chosen and lead by Kevin Kantor, include Bianca Phipps, Spencer Althoff and Sienna Burnett. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Slam Poetry is a performance based form of poetry where poets approach a microphone, the stage and many thirsty ears to drink up all those tasty words as the poets pour their hearts out for three rounds. Five judges are randomly selected before the mayhem begins, and after each poem is read, assign an arbitrary score of a number between one and ten, ten being the highest. The highest and lowest score are dropped, and added up. After three rounds are finished, the poet with the highest score wins. However there are some rules. The poem must be the original work of the poet, it cannot exceed three minutes in length, and there is no nudity, instruments or props allowed. This tradition was started in the 1980's in Chicago and has been going strong ever since. Accompanying our amazing local poets tonight will be the Good News Poetry Tour, featuring such nationally acclaimed poets Dylan Garity, Sam Cook and Hieu Nguyen. You can check out their website at: www.thegoodnewspoetrytour.com. It will no doubt be a heart warming and mind blowing show full of talent and most importantly, LOVE. Come check it out UNC! Bravely sendoff some amazing artists from our PVA community and SOAPbox Productions as they SLAM YOUR EARS OFF.  

Here is the Facebook Link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/221487631379300/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Article by: Alex Erin Johnson

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Demon Barber: Fact or Fiction?

 Sweeney Todd, UNC’s spring musical, is quickly approaching. But who is Sweeney Todd other than a Demon Barber? Where did he come from? There are many stories that he connects to, shrouding his origins in mystery. Some believe Sweeney was a real person while others say he has merely lived, and will only ever exist, in stories. 

Sweeney has many historical counterparts, all of whom could be Sweeney Todd himself or, at least, his origin story. One cannibal, called Sawney Bean, can be traced back to 16th Century Scotland; he would kill travelers on the road and then take them back to his family where they would be consumed. Another occurrence happened in 1784 when an English barber slit the throat of a patron who had been sleeping with the barber’s wife. 

The most widely accepted theory, however, is that Sweeney was based off of a French barber whose customers disappeared mysteriously in the late 1700s. In this French rendition, the barber worked with an accomplice, and most likely killed all of his customers. Both the accomplice and the barber were executed for their crimes and the barber shop torn down by the French government so that people would not recall the horrors that had been enacted. Unfortunately, this did not work as the legend of Sweeney Todd has continued to this day, mostly in fiction.

Sweeney’s fictional presence began appearing in English children’s stories as a warning: don’t go wandering around London after dark or else Sweeney might take you back to his barber shop and bake you into a pie. In fact, Sweeney Todd is highly popular in England, having become their version of the bogey man. Sweeney’s first official fictional story was published in the 1846 tabloid The People’s Periodical, his story titled “A String of Pearls.” This version of the Sweeney Todd legend made a quick transition to the stage, the first play appearing in 1847. Since then, there have been at least six theatrical shows centering on the Demon Barber, an actor making Sweeney very real for audiences, if only for a few hours. It was Stephen Sondheim, the famous musical theatre composer and lyricist, who wrote Sweeney Todd into a musical and this is how most of us know the Demon Barber today.

But was Sweeney Todd real? Has his presence become so famous that he jumped from history to fiction? Or has he only ever existed in stories, his crimes so popular he’s always been prevalent? Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd and decide for yourself!

The show is running from April 5th through the 8th at 7:30pm as well as the 9th at 2:00pm. You can call 970-351-2200 or go to http://www.unco.edu/tickets/ to get tickets. Hurry, shows are selling fast and you don’t want to miss out on spending time with the most notorious mass murderer English crime literature has ever seen!

If Sweeney was real, he existed in the 1700s and this timeline shows his story.

Lauren Stearns

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Last First Rehearsal

Walking into my first Sweeney Todd rehearsal of the semester, it dawned on me that it was the very last time I would be walking into my first rehearsal while at UNC. I would sit down and wait for the cast to show up while making small talk with stage management for the last first time; I always arrive early to settle in so when David Grapes, the director, gets there, I can start helping as soon as he asks. I mean, I’ll have theatre opportunities after college, sure, but my time with UNC’s shows is coming to an end.

There was no sadness as I searched around Frasier for the rehearsal room -- I swear that building is Hogwarts and the staircases move of their own free will -- but perhaps some nostalgia. I considered all the rehearsals I have been able to be a part of and, as if some specter of the past had descended upon the school’s theatre building, 1950s jazz music seemed to waft down a nearby stairway, which signified As You Like It was rehearsing their final number in Frasier 205. And I was abruptly convinced that if I walked by Gray gym on my way home, the cast of Richard III would still be practicing their fight choreography. Each show I’ve been a part of has taught me something new and shown me how to succeed in the theatrical world, not just by helping me understand lighting, audio, props, set, costumes and any other facet of building a show, but by working hard and having a positive attitude.

Fear suddenly swept through me when I thought of all the other large mazes of buildings I would need to navigate when I was out job hunting in the grown-up world: I had never heard of Frasier 90 before this and was wondering if Margaret, our stage manager, had invented the room. Then, as I rounded a foreign corner, I realized I had only applied for one job ever and that was because my mother found it for me and I began questioning what I was doing with my future and my life choices.

But I found the rehearsal room in the end, not a figment of anyone’s imagination, and greeted stage management and settled in, waiting for David’s arrival. As I dropped my script onto the table, I realized that UNC has been great and I will miss the people I’ve worked with. But they have trained me well. With all that training, and all my professors’ advice and encouragement, I know I’ll succeed and become something great. The UNC theatre department has a prestigious history and I am proud to have been a part of it.

But I can safely say that I am not prepared to figure out building ground plans.

Lauren Stearns

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!

We hope your 2014 will be a great year! We are excited to get our spring shows underway; rehearsals for Beyond Therapy, Sweeney Todd, and Jackie and Me will start within the next few weeks :)

To get the new year started with great music and theatre, here is a concert of Stephen Sondheim's work from 1992 at Carnegie Hall. The first 8 minutes shows a Sweeney Todd suite (featuring "The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd," "Johanna," and "Pretty Women"), and the entire concert is full of great talent including numbers performed by Liza Minelli, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Glenn Close and many more. It is a beautiful concert featuring the overwhelming talent of Stephen Sondheim.

Have a happy New Year :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Molotov": A Student Written and Produced Musical

The UNC theatre department has many ways in which students can experience theatre before graduation. While main stage shows offer roles to some students and design opportunities for others, the one acts give students the opportunity to direct their own shows, and an independent study offers additional chances to explore theatre, something which Luke Alpers took full advantage of. He was able to put together a workshop production of his new original musical, “Molotov.” I had the fortune of interviewing Luke about his writing process and obtained exclusive details about the experience of watching his work come to life.

“Molotov” is a new musical based on the music of the punk rock band Rise Against. The story  is centered on Trent, a veteran, and siblings Michael and Lydia as they discover their common disappointment with the state of the world that leaves them feeling cheated and deceived. Luke says that “Molotov” explores the “Long Forgotten Sons” in our world, and asserts that “how we survive is what makes us who we are.”

According to Luke, the idea for this musical came to him sometime in 2011 while listening to “Architects” by Rise Against; “Listening to the song one day, I began picturing it onstage, where a group of people constructed a symbol ... coordinating the movements with the sounds of the song.  As I continued to soak in this image, I started trying to come up with the context of the song.” Getting popular punk rock songs to fit into a stage musical is not an easy task, as Luke found out, listening to Rise Against songs and trying to put them in order for a show only to add more songs or take away others. But eventually he had the plot of his show.

Creating characters was, in Luke’s opinion, much more difficult than writing the story; “Making the characters realistic and crafting real people to fit all the scenes and songs became a challenge.” But settling on three main characters seemed to fit the show and he went about creating their dynamic before having auditions and casting his show for a preview performance. Watching his show come to life through rehearsals helped his writing process somewhat, but he says it was the “participation and collaboration [of the cast] that helped me develop it.”

The response to his work has been overwhelmingly positive, people saying they enjoy the idea. He says he’s gotten “a few constructive comments and criticisms but every responder so far has enjoyed it and encouraged me to continue working on it.” And while he lets the show percolate, he will continue writing, a show called “Control X” currently in the works which focuses on a young man who wakes up with amnesia and tries to figure out where he is and why. 

Below is the song “Architects” by Rise Against, the inspiration for “Molotov.”

Lauren Stearns

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's finals week and students are finishing up the 2013 fall semester. You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (original Broadway run in 1971, revival in 1999) shows the different types of students and their homework processes. Are you a Charlie Brown, a Lucy, a Linus, or a Schroeder?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In honor of auditions and callbacks this week, here is Jason Robert Brown's take on how they go from a performer's point of view in his musical The Last Five Years. Break legs to all performers who are auditioning and getting called back for the shows and good luck to the directors who are going to be deciding their casts!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Warning: Audition Season Approaching

As next week rolls around, there’s no need to be alarmed if you see students muttering under their breath and pacing back and forth as they wring their hands together. Pay no attention to those who are whisper-singing, hands gesticulating up and down to match the notes they are attempting to mentally hit. It’s audition week. It’s a pass for any and all odd behavior, even by theatre standards. 

The auditions for Spring 2014 semester’s shows (Beyond Therapy, Sweeney Todd, and Jackie and Me) will undoubtedly give some students minor personality disorders and nervous ticks. All normal small talk about the weather and local sports teams will be replaced with other more pressing issues: “Are you auditioning?” and, “For which show?” There’s the, “What piece are you doing?” the expected follow-up, “How did it go?” then the end-all be-all, “What role do you really want?”

All of these questions are asked, not just out of curiosity or genuine concern, but to feel out the competition. The actors and musical theatre majors know who their direct rival is and will sing, dance, and act their way around each other as they compete for parts. It’s when theatre studies or design tech majors (those who are exempt from auditioning but, instead, have to run them) ask the questions that the performers fall into therapy mode. “I feel I did well, but (insert name of rival) is always up for the same parts as me and I just really really want this one, ya know? I feel I understand (insert desired character’s name) in a different way and I think I could bring something new to (insert show title). So, I think it was okay but I really just hope I impressed (insert director’s name).”

And then there’s the theatre education majors who are more or less left out of this otherwise stressful period. But they have the S.T.E.P. program to get through; that seemingly impossible but still achievable academic process to become a teacher. So it all evens out in the end.

The week after auditions, the call board transforms into an animal watering hole: students freezing, wide-eyed as they listen for approaching faculty who might bear in-hand the piece of paper that can make or break their semester: the cast list. 

Until the casts are decided, however, I’ll sit back and enjoy callbacks and auditions. At what other time would you get to be serenaded by legions of gifted singers or given private performance of monologues by scores of talented actors?

Lauren Stearns