Archive for August, 2010

Production photos of INTO THE WOODS

Here are some production photos of INTO THE WOODS during performance taken by the amazing Ginny Rodgers.

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The Metroplex really is a fantastic place to be involved in the theatre community. There are so many wonderful theatrical organizations presenting all kinds of excellent productions. We feel honored to be a part of this thriving community and make our way to see the productions presented by other local theatre’s as often as our limited free time will allow. We truly believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and that pulling for each other within the community is an exceptional way to improve both artistic quality and patronage. What could be better?

One phenomenal way we’ve found to work with the whole is by our individual subscriptions to The Column by John Garcia. This organization is dedicated to the advancement of the arts in the Metroplex and has become an indipensable tool for us as theatre producers, directors, designers and actors. In addition to providing commentary on Broadway productions, movies, television shows, various awards shows including the Tony’s, Oscar’s and Emmy’s, etc. the email newsletter is also our go to source for up-to-the-minute information about local productions, casting and auditions. Truly, anyone wanting to stay in-the-know in the Metroplex arts community has no choice but to subscribe to The Column by John Garcia email newsletter.

Further, (and we’re not just saying this because we were the honored recipients of 10 Column Awards at this year’s Gala), The Column Awards Gala has become an unrivalled event in the Metroplex. For 11 years, The Column Awards have recognized excellence in the theatre community with awards given in both Equity and non-Equity categories. Votes for these Awards come from among The Column subscribership, meaning that these Awards are literelly given by artistic peers. Additionally, proceeds generated by the Gala (above paying for the costs of the event) are donated to Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS – an exceptionally worthy cause.

Lastly, The Column provides critical reviews of local productions for it’s readership. We at Plaza have been given praise as well as criticism in the past in these reviews but above all, we feel honored to be held to a high standard by The Column’s critics. We also love reading about other Metroplex productions in these reviews.

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Directing a trip Into the Woods

On Friday it was my honor to watch the opening of our current production INTO THE WOODS. As the director of this show it was fulling to see such a wonderful and talented cast and crew perform the show before a very receptive audience.

When many people walk into our little theatre they question our ability to mount certain shows on our stage. Musicals, by nature, typically take the audience to many different locations within a couple of hours and it is true that our stage is small and our back stage is even smaller limiting our ability for large set pieces to come in and out. It takes a lot of pre-production planning and creative thinking to figure out how we are going to represent those places with our limited size.

Into the WoodsINTO THE WOODS as a musical production poses many challenges for the stage. It opens in three different homes but then spends the rest of the production at different locations throughout a forest. It also must have a maiden in a tower, a singing tree, a palace, and Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother’s house with the Wolf inside. Also the audience must be transported to these different places within scene changes taking the span of a few seconds.

Once it was decided that we were doing this show and that I was going to be directing it I started sketching out ideas on how we can accomplish these locations within our space. I also spoke to many different people about my ideas to see if they thought it was feasible. Jaceson is a great collaborator for me and was able to build on the ideas I had and make them practical. I had some crazy ideas for building a tree archway that could hold a couple of actors. He never told me no, but instead he just let me keep talking about it until I realized it wouldn’t work.

The next piece was adding a music director. Rebecca Lowrey was able to step in at the last minute as our music director. I had to change music director’s a few days before auditions and Rebecca was referred to me by my good friends Stefanie Glenn and John Garcia who had just worked with her on another production. Asking her to music direct based only on a recommendation is risky but ended up being a fantastic fit.

Little Red and Wolf

Tabitha Barrus and JaceSon Barrus as Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.

One of the hardest pieces of a production is adding the cast and crew. We had over 45 people audition for just 16 parts. Sometimes we struggle getting a talented cast together but at this audition we struggled with not being able to cast all of the talented people that auditioned. Casting is always the most difficult part of the process since so much depends upon it.

As an actor myself I had some strong ideas on the characterizations in the show but it is always important to allow room for actors to find their own way. An actor being able to find their own emotional context within a show will always bring the strongest result. As a director it is my job to have the overall picture of the show and help actors keep their character’s emotions and relationships with other characters within the confines of the overall message of the script.

Finally we add the lights, set, and sound. It is important that these three elements add to the show and not distract from it. INTO THE WOODS depends heavily on lighting to help convey the emotion and with most of the show spent in a forest so it was important to have lighting that gives a “closed in” feeling of the woods but yet still lights the actors. Light is a powerful medium of the stage with being able to show happiness and hope as well as sadness and despair.

The set also must add to this new world we are creating on stage. For INTO THE WOODS we added a large tree and used our lighting grid as part of a tree canopy. All four walls are painted with scenes to fit the show allowing the audience to be enveloped into the production. The end result allows the audience to feel like they are walking into a different world when they enter the theatre.

Sound also must add to this magical world. I rarely use sound effects from sound effect libraries but instead either record my own sound effects or use sound clips posted by other sound engineers across the world on the Internet. Every sound element from the realistic like bird chirps, baby crying, thunder claps, and crow caws to the unrealistic like Giant walking, wolf snoring, magic bean tossing, and spell casting need to fit withing the overall soundscape of the show.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this production and I hope that you have an opportunity to come see this amazing show.

Aaron Siler
Plaza Theatre Company Director of Operations
Director of Into the Woods

Into the Woods plays every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm and a Saturday matinee at 3:00pm until Sept. 4, 2010

Into the Woods review from the Cleburne Times-Review

Once upon a time, there was quite a crew in the woods …

By Mark A. Nobles/Special to the Times-Review

“Into The Woods” takes the Brothers Grim fairy tales past the point of “happily ever after” with a whimsical and sometimes dark take on the old adage, “be careful what you wish for.” With music and lyrics by the great contemporary composer Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” takes Cinderella, Jack and his beanstalk, the Baker and his wife, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel and mashes them together in a brilliant witches’ brew of a morality tale.

As usual the Plaza has assembled an extremely talented cast. Daron Cockerell is light and sweet as Cinderella. JaceSon Barrus has a wonderful turn as her prince with a slightly wandering eye. Jill Baker plays Rapunzel with a touch of mad Ophelia from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She manages to be both funny and haunting at various turns. Kyle Adams manages to steal more than a few laughs during his brief time on stage as Rapunzel’s Prince. Ben Phillips and Milette Siler play the Baker and the Baker’s Wife and strike the perfect note of an old married couple fighting life’s troubles with love and togetherness. Seth Cunningham plays Jack as a well meaning but slightly dense youth. Cunningham is an endearing talent who is sometimes overlooked because he tends to make everything look easy and natural.

The spotlight performances shine brightest on Tamara Steinburg as the Witch and Tabitha Barrus as Little Red Ridinghood. Steinburg is a force to be reckoned with as the mad, hook-nosed witch. She slouches and scurries about making mayhem for the rest of the village with delightful glee. Barrus infuses Little Red with a teenage snootiness that is hilarious as long as … she’s not your teenager (that might be infuriating).

Steinburg’s performance is powerful, making it difficult to look elsewhere when she is on stage, while Barrus darts and pops her lines with perfect timing and nuance. Both deserve kudos for managing to stand out in such a strong and talented cast.

“Into The Woods” is a fast-paced, intricate story with much of the dialogue and story line conveyed through the lyrics of the songs. The opening night performance was continuously marred with a bad sound mix between the live vocals and recorded music. A visually appealing number between Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf was completely lost with a bad sound mix and a costume that rubbed the live microphone. Hopefully these sound issues will be fixed so that audiences for the remainder of the show’s run can better enjoy the dialogue and follow the plot.

“Into the Woods” features a talented cast, stunning vocal performances and a punchy, poignant plot. This is a once-upon-a-time story that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

Performances of “Into the Woods” run through Sept. 4. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, with two performances Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For information, call 817-202-0600 or visit http://www.plaza-theatre.com.

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