Monday, August 11, 2008

Cast Party

It’s Her Story Now!

“Well, it wasn’t quite cotillion, but tonight our big debut was just a glorious beginning to all we get to do!” — Harry

Somehow we made it! We managed to squeeze in extra rehearsals, pass out all of our extra tickets, transport the t-shirts from uptown within one hour and under $35, seat our audience and start the show on time.

I sat at the side so I could watch the audience watch the show, and I loved what I saw on their faces. On some, rapture, the whole way through. On some, skepticism that turned into big laughs. Some moments caused eyelids to slide south; some moments brought everyone to the edges of their seats.

It worked. The wheels stayed on. Even with the lost lines, late entrances, missed keys and mumbled words to be expected with such a short rehearsal of such a rich little piece (they hardly mattered in the moment —unfortunately they stand out on the video!), it held together. It rocked. It soared. It twinkled. Dina as Donna and Roger as the Heckler stole the show in spots, but Sherry as Harry took control and sang the place up like only he/she could.

The audience was great. Friends coming out of the woodwork, strangers appearing off the street. There were fewer people in seats than there were on stage, but we did two performances, and 32 people seemed to think it was great. We raffled off two new pairs of Bandolino Shoes! (Thank you, Kim!)

Afterwards, a reckoning. It could be improved. Some good advice about marketing from Kevin (I’ll save you $120,000 on an education from Tisch: know the audience you are trying to reach). Some wonderful brainstorming with Michael. (“Hey, let’s let Ashley IM her friends;” “Why is Sylvia such a bitch?”) A day or two of staring at the wall. Staring at the bank account. And then the new ideas start trickling in...

What's next? Maybe a music video of the shoe song with Sherry Vine. Maybe an appearance at the national shoe conventions...Kim is out there shoe-moozing! And for me...rewrites!

Lucky Stars

On Sunday, Maura Tierney (E.R.) gave me a big smile as she passed me on the way to her own rehearsal in the next studio over (Three Changes by Nicky Silver). She’s cute! She’s tiny! I said, “Hi, we’re your neighbors today.” Her director (I assume) growled, “Don’t expect a fruit basket.” (Donald later said he heard him yelling at the cast) I laughed and said, “They didn’t even give us a key!”

On Monday, all the actors were thrilled to see Anthony Rapp (Rent) sitting upstairs from where we were gathered after the show. On his way down the stairs we hailed him, and then I noticed his companion was Tom Cavanaugh (Ed)! I longed to go say hi and ask for a photo but I’m shy about such things.

Still, they’re all our lucky stars.

Crossing the Border

I read something once about how, when we try to realize a new idea we create a cosmic clash of energy and matter as our ethereal thoughts take on a material dimension. The material world, being made of clunky atoms and taxicabs and melted cheese and fingernails and such, resists new ideas (it’s busy, thank you) fiercely when they try to break in. This is called “trouble at the border.”

I’ve pushed enough new ideas into this world to know this. So I expected trouble. I had a continent to cross (with a child in tow) in the middle of the night, a new city to navigate, a limited bank account and a pile of information to juggle, and NO EXPERIENCE doing anything like this, much less being in charge of it!

When my favorite actress and biggest helper (Kim) found out her doctors had scheduled her for surgery a few days before our rehearsal, I took that in stride and thanked myself for casting understudies. I called Cesar, our assistant to the whoever could use him, to see if he could pick up the 30 t-shirts I’d ordered and had shipped to her, he said he could work something out. When my printer failed to print out the scores, scripts, and feedback cards they had promised me (each of the three times I had called), I figured okay, we can do that in New York.

When the kid said he was feeling a little queasy, though, getting off a sleepless night on an airplane, I didn’t consider that a major roadblock… until he started throwing up (both ends, actually) when we needed to be sleeping, causing me to wonder if we’d make it to the rehearsal at all. Then I got two more phone calls from two more favorite actors: one who had a death in the family, and one whose mother had suffered a massive stroke. Good lord! More calls to understudies.

At the last possible minute, good news: my son rallied and we made our way to the subway station. We got out at Times Square, lugging our suitcases and bags at top speeds, and got a call from Michael: the box office could not locate our keys. At that point I assessed all that had happened and told the universe: KNOCK IT OFF! I expected trouble, but this was ridiculous. I stormed in with a smile (thrilled to identify all of my cast members lolling about on the floor) and didn’t take no for an answer. My contact was on vacation across the country and they couldn’t reach her. But I booked the place fair and square, and finally we found our way in the back door of the studio. (The keys had been mis-sent to the warehouse.)

There was only one last roadblock: the actors didn’t know the music!

Musical Directors (as in Musical Chairs)

I woke up last Monday determined to find a rehearsal space. (We never found the FREE rehearsal space we were hoping to find, but not for lack of trying, especially on the part of KIM.) I called to see if we could rehearse in our (not expensive but still more than we had) performance space, the North Studio of Playwright’s Horizons. While checking my email for a response, I found a message from Eric Neiman, our director, backing out of the project.

Michael, at this time, was on a flight from Florida to Vermont. I asked Eric to recommend another director, and he sent a few names. A few hours later, I was close to tears, trying to track down these new people, when I got a call from one Marc Murai. He would do it. He was delighted. I liked him. I was thrilled. Michael beeped in. He had just secured Eric Morales, a director whom he knows and holds in the highest regard. One… none… now TWO! I burst out in tears from relief. Let it be!

The Amazing Kim Chapman

It was hard selecting the cast from a remote coast and without real auditions, but I did it. I picked the people who seemed to have the strongest singing resumes, since the music will make it or break it. And I sent a really nice letter to those who I couldn’t cast.

One woman wrote back the sweetest, most enthusiastic letter, and informed me that she was obsessed with shoes and had once owned 500 pairs. A few days later it became clear we couldn’t get clearance from Equity actors (too many limitations on our production), and so I had another chance to cast Sylvia. I went straight to my new shoe buddy, Kim Chapman.

This lady is insane. In a good way. Within a few days her brain had come up with 50 ways we could approach the shoe industry and its noble members for support with and exposure to “If the Shoe Fits,” our song about choosing the right shoe for each occasion. (“When you accessorize the hemisphere below your thighs…)

To quote Ashley: “It’s good to have a friend!”

Casting the Audience

Eric Neiman, our new director (yay!), asked some good questions about who would be seeing this performance. I gulped. I just wanted to see it myself. He said, if we’re going to go all this way, and put in all this effort, we should really try to get some good buzz on it. And get some good, critical feedback. He suggested walking down to half-price tickets and giving away some passes. And inviting producers who might be interested in taking the show to the next step.

“You mean, after all that work,” I said, “I have to cast the audience, too?”

What a learning experience!

Here's a photo of our second audience -- I wanted to remember them!

Cast Complete!

Narrator.....Jen Ponton (replacing George Adamo)
Ashley.....Juliana Marx
Donna.....Dina Plotch
Debra.....Cassandra Bodzak (replacing Sarah Packard)
Sylvia.....Susan Neuffer (replacing Kim Chapman)
Harry.....Keith Levy (a.k.a. Sherry Vine)
Jeff.....Blake McCorvey
Coach.....Robert Kalman
Heckler.....Roger Wingfield

Chorus (Understudies)
Kerri Ford (Ashley), Jen Ponton (Ashley), Giancarla Boyle (Donna), Joanna Schubert (Debra), Alex Beck (Jeff), Roger Wingfield (Coach) JenMarie Pierce, Kris Doubles

“Midnight Mouse”

Piano.....Michael O’Dell, Jess Stewart
Bass.....Brian Holtz
Drums.....Rossen Nedelchev

Other Talents

Sound Effects.....Kris Doubles
Page-turning Specialist.....JenMarie Pierce
Production Assistant.....Cesar Salazar
Raffle/Fundraising.....Kristen Caven, Kim Chapman
Cashier.....Donald Caven
Music Preparation.....Blank Canvas Music

Alex Beck is an actor/director who will be playing Sylvia Plath’s daughter in the upcoming NY Fringe Fest production of Ariel View.
Cassandra Bodzak, even though she seems like a nice girl, played Coochie Snorcher in The Vagina Monologues and lots of indie films.
Giancarla Boyle recently got off tour with Seussical!, and is our resident Lucky Yoga Goddess.
Donald Caven loves cars and would rather play with Legos than attend musical theater.
Kristen Caven can’t even begin to express her surprise and pleasure at seeing her opus performed for the first time. (Her other works still languish at She would like to thank Michael for his vision and hard work, her parents, Dave for his elaborate trusswork of support, and Jenny for getting her to New York.
Kim Chapman’s first stage role was as a Japanese Sleeping Beauty. She’s worked as a shoe model, and once actually owned over 500 pairs of shoes.
Kris Doubles fell under a spell a few years back that transported him from his worn-out Broadway seat to the stage, where he went Into the Woods and to Urinetown.
Kerri Ford is famous for her talent, spirit, and sparkle, which you can soak up more of by visiting her website,
Robert Kalman learned about coaching in DiMaggio and laid down the law as Thomas Jefferson in 1776.
Juliana Marx is a singer/songwriter/poetist.who has acted in lots of things but lately has been bouncing off kids at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. Watch for her auto-semi-biography, coming out in ten years.
Blake McCorvey left the comforts of the Six Flags Fiesta Texas stage to pursue his talents in New York, like fencing, sewing, doing the splits, and “blizzard” sounds.
Kevin Morales is a famous director in San Francisco’s East Bay, who’s also written 8 staged plays. Starting this fall, he will be producing his musical hit, Let’s Go to the Movies Off-Broadway.
Susan Neuffer played a nasty red-tape bureaucrat on Law and Order, but she also sang in an all-girl rock band way back when.
Michael O’Dell arranged and conducted nearly 100 shows before trying on and breaking in SHOES. Later this month he’ll be working on Becoming Britney at the the NYCFringe Festival. Michael thanks Kristen for her patience, Eric for saying no, Kevin for saying yes, Toi Lynn Wyle and Carroll Schuller for their insights, and his family for their love and support in encouraging him to find his bliss.
JenMarie Pierce is a karaoke superstar and has played a snake, a transvestite, and a maenad. Ask JenMarie about Tupperware™!
Dina Plotch, well known in the musical fairy tale community, has always dreamed of playing the ugly stepsister. Recent credits include; a toad, a dwarf, and a dalmation. Thanks to Mom, Dad, Bro and Boyfriend for always wishing upon a star".
Jen Ponton is a working actor, and that in and of itself is a fairy tale come true!!! Hire her for your musical or high-paying film at:
Cesar Salazar A New Jersey resident with a worse attitude than a New Yorker, Cesar hopes to astonish the world and dazzle directors with his acting skills.
Joanna Schubert is barely legal, but she’s already played a prostitute, a robot, and Rizzo in Grease, as well as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Roger Wingfield played Jesus Christ and can burp on command.
Keith Levy was raised by a very nice Amish family before running away to Las Vegas to become a showgirl. Now, “Sherry Vine” is a NYC downtown darling and a world-renowned drag superstar. SEE HER SHOW!