Monday, June 30, 2008

A Day In The Life of Mike Jones

Good Morning Bloggers!

I have a special update today with a blog from Mike Jones, our MFA stage manager for the production of Beaux Strategem. This restoration play (the genre after the civil war where the humor got increasingly raunchier, we'll talk more about that later) is about two gentlemen who decide to make their fortune by seducing country women and stealing their money. These two con artists get a surprise in the end from their lovely, and very clever, young ladies of choice. So here's a day in Mike Jones' life!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hey there blog buddies! My name is Mike Jones (Michael Aaron Jones on my union card), a 2nd year MFA student studying Stage Management. My current project is serving as Stage Manager for the MFA company production of The Beaux’ Stratagem. Here is a little peak into my day and the rehearsal process of our show.

8:30am – Start of the day

My alarm clock(s) go off. I actually have two to make sure I get up in time to start my day. I have a good 3 hours before I need to be in the rehearsal hall but I start thinking about the rehearsal day in the shower—if not in my dreams.

Stumbling into the kitchen I make sure to pack a lunch and a snack to eat during rehearsal. Over a bowl of cheerios I put together my To Do list for the day. Here are a few things on the list.

o Check E-mail / Respond. This one point on the To Do list often prompts additional tasks to be added to the list.

o Prepare for today’s production meeting by assembling all my unanswered questions and notes that came out of rehearsal.

o Check in with Katrina, the costume designer about today’s fitting schedule and questions from yesterday’s report.

o Check in with Dusty, the scenic designer about load in progress and questions from yesterday’s report.

o Homework! I confess I often fall behind on my Theatre History homework. This item has floated from “To Do list” to “To Do NOW” list over time.

After I make my list and check it twice, I spend a few minutes in quiet meditation to mentally prepare for the day. Then I pet my cat, Ophelia, before jetting out the door to the theatre.

10:30am – Production Meeting.

Once a week we have a production meeting in the large trailer behind the theatre. This is where all the designers, the director, production department heads, the production manager, and stage managers for the show meet to discuss the show, everyone’s progress and share concerns / answer questions. I make sure to have my questions written down and any e-mails/reports/drawings I need to reference printed and in my notebook.

11:00am – Set Up

In the hour before rehearsal Heather (the ASM) and I head into the rehearsal hall and get it ready for the day. This might involve re-arranging chairs and tables, setting out hand props and furniture, fetching costumes pieces from the shop for the actors to use, making coffee, filtering drinking water, etc. This is also a great time to talk to the director about the day, his concerns or worries, etc. On this day Heather sets everything up in no time while I follow up on some e-mail and start planning the next day’s schedule based on Ed’s (the director’s) plan for the week. When Ed comes in we talk about a few things on his mind in regards to the production. I take notes and get answers for him asap.

12:00pm – Rehearsal

Today our rehearsal is only from 12:00pm to 5:00pm because of the rep performance of Cymbeline tonight. All the actors are in Cymbeline and I’m the production assistant.

We start the day running through the fight choreography and the dance steps. Touching on these every day helps the keep them ingrained in the actors’ bodies. After that we pick up with scene work. I keep an updated prompt copy of the script with the blocking (where and when the actors move). Heather usually holds book in case the actors forget a line and ask for it then she can call it out to them. I create a rehearsal report while we work. This report will go out to all of the designers and production department heads as well as the faculty and artistic leadership of the theatre to keep them updated about how rehearsals are going and to ask questions that Ed has for the designers.


At 1:20pm I announce the break and hit start on my stop watch. Our break schedule is based on the Actors Equity Association’s rulebook. We must take a 5 minute break after 55 minutes of work OR if the director or SM want to keep working, then they MUST take a 10 minute break after no more than 80 minutes of work.

Breaks are a great time for me to check in with the director and ask about tomorrow’s schedule or get clarification on any notes he might have mentioned during the rehearsal hour. It’s also a good time to respond to e-mail, run to the costume/prop/scene shop if need be, etc. Hopefully, however, I get to sit on a sofa in the back hall and nosh on a sandwich with the cast. Today, that’s just what I’m doing when Tim, our production manager walks by and says “Hey- you got a minute?” Suddenly I’m in a meeting about next week’s schedule. Before I knew it my stopwatch is reading “10:00 ” and our break is up. I stepped back into the hallway and announce “We’re back!” as I walk to the rehearsal hall. SM’s rarely really get to take a 10.

5:00pm – The end of the rehearsal day comes with its own To Do list.

o Talk to the director. The time after rehearsal, once the cast has left is a great time to make sure the director is getting what he needs from you, the cast, and the team. It’s also a good time to discuss tomorrow’s schedule and today’s report with him.

o Prepare tomorrow’s rehearsal schedule. Check with Ed, the director about what he wants to work tomorrow. Check with costumes about fittings I need to schedule. Talk to David, our fight director, about what he wants to work tomorrow. Get a list of vocal sessions tomorrow from Sarah, our vocal coach. And confirm dance work schedule with the movement coach and choreographer, Denise. Now I put all of that together in one master plan of attack for tomorrow. Heather helps proof the schedule before I call it done.

o Publish the daily schedule. Once I finish with tomorrow’s schedule I send it off to the West Side Story stage management team if they haven’t already added their schedule to the document. The schedule is then e-mailed out to a number of people in the building. We print 29 copies 10 of which are posted on call boards in the building and 19 of which are put in people’s mail boxes in the building. We also record the schedule on a voice mail system that the cast can check from home if they forget what they read on the callboard.

o Complete & publish the rehearsal report. This is also e-mailed to a distribution list as well as printed with a few hard copies to be distributed.

Around 5:30pm or 6:00pm – Done with Beaux.. on to Cymbeline

I finish up my rehearsal day and head down to the green room to heat up a microwave dinner. I’ll eat that while I make coffee and filter water for our evening performance of Cymbeline. Setting up and running that show will complete my day.

That’s it! A peak into my rehearsal day for Beaux Stratagem. I hope you enjoyed it!


Friday, June 27, 2008

SWP Recap and Three World Premiers

Hip, Hip, Hurray for 2008’s SWP Festival of new plays! Five new plays received staged readings during this years’ SWP Festival at Alabama Shakes. What is SWP you ask? Well, let me tell you…

From the page to the stage, the Southern Writers' Project celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the southern storyteller. By fostering plays that delve into Southern issues and the African-American experience, SWP contributes nationally significant works to the American theatre canon. Presented by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, this new play program culminates each year with a lively three day weekend that promises an irresistible menu of stimulating theatre, delicious food, Southern hospitality and great opportunities to mix and mingle with friends and theatre professionals.

So that’s how it’s billed, but to experience the SWP Festival is something quite magical. A lot of people in the theatre community talk and talk about the importance of new work. But you rarely see a theatre with leaders who are really committed to making new work happen. And not just in a workshop setting, but the commitment to developing new work and new playwrights and giving them full blown, professional productions. And not to toot our own horn but we are premiering THREE World Premiers next season! Michael Vigilant’s Bear Country, Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s The Furniture of Home and Robert Ford’s The Fall of the House.

And speaking of the incredible Ms. Wilder, which you know as the award winning author of Gee’s Bend, just wait until you see her latest! I sat in on the reading for The Furniture of Home and was captivated by her characters. Even with the bare minimum of staging, a chair and easel, Greta Lambert as Dottie and stage daughter Lori Prince as Kendall transported me to post-Katrina Bayou La Batre, AL where we saw the devastating effects of mother nature and the subsequent carpetbagger like tactics of real estate developers. However, this is not a story about a storm, but of hope and family. Make sure not to miss this one!

The Southern Writers’ Project Festival really is a special time at ASF. With great new works, amazing food, a slam jam, and the opportunity to mix and mingle, SWP is a true gem of the south.

- Kristi W


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Repertory Season coming to a close at ASF

Only a few performances remain in the Wall Street Journal acclaimed ASF repertory season!

It’s not often that critics and journalists from major metropolitan papers can make room in the budget to travel all the way to Montgomery for a weekend of theatre at ASF. But about every three years or so it happens. For example, the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout made his first trip to Montgomery three years ago and gave rave reviews to our rep season of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Real Thing, The Taming of the Shrew and Coriolanus (coincidentally the last show guest-directed by Geoffrey Sherman before he took on the role of ASF’s Producing Artistic Director). A few weeks ago Terry came back to Montgomery and had, it seems, another great weekend at ASF.

Teachout reviews all Broadway openings for the Journal, and then sets out on a cross-country trek to cover regional theatres all over the U.S. His travel schedule is so tight that he only had time to catch two of our three repertory shows. He calls Charles Morey’s Monte Cristo “thrilling from swash to buckle” and highly compliments Ray Chambers, remembering his stellar performance in Coriolanus as well. About the modern dress version of Romeo and Juliet he remarks that it is “piping hot” and observes the relevance the non-traditional adaptation to young audiences. You can read his full review here (link:

There are only a few performances of the rep season remaining. The Count of Monte Cristo, Cymbeline and Romeo and Juliet close the weekend of June 28 & 29. You can get free tickets to Cymbeline or Romeo and Juliet when you buy tickets to selected performances of West Side Story. Call the box office at 1.800.841.4273 for complete details!

- Meg L


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scot Bruce visits ASF

Good morning bloggers!

Remember that Scot Bruce event we had a few weeks back? Well, we had Kristi cover it and she's sent back a great review of the show. After a bit of cut'n'paste magic, you'll be able to see it too!

Shake, Rattle, and Roll! Scot Bruce brings down the house!

If you missed Scot Bruce and his hips recently…I’m sorry. That’s right. I am sorry you missed it. A FANTASTIC time was had by all at Scot Bruce’s Elvis Tribute on the Octagon stage at ASF Thurs. June 5 – Sun. June 8.

In case you’re wondering, “Who is this hip cat Scot Bruce?” let me tell you. Scot Bruce is the ultimate Elvis impersonator. But I hate to call him an “impersonator.” When you see the show or even meet Scot, you realize that he really is the ultimate Elvis fan who just so happens to look, move, and sing exactly like him. In the world of “America’s Got Talent” and “The Next Best Thing,” I sometimes get offended by the cheesiness of some of these guys. For those of us who are true Elvis fans, the last thing we want to see is someone up there mocking the King.

The best thing about Scot is that he really digs Elvis’ music and has a reverence for him. He does not refer to himself as Elvis but as Scot. Even during his show, he is not the king but a guy who is lucky to have the opportunity to get up there and perform Elvis’ songs. He doesn’t do any of the cheesy “Thank you very much’s” or lip snarls, but is a performer on stage acting the heck out of a role. And ladies and gentleman, he is good. You sit (or dance) in your chair and just like the magic of theatre should, you are magically transported to another time. And for just for that moment, you get to see Elvis, hear Elvis, and “go cat go” with the King of Rock and Roll.

Scot has generously made himself available for many fundraisers like this in the past at ASF, and rumor has it, he will be back…soon… so stay tuned for more details!


Sounds like Kristi has the scoop on Scot Bruce. It shouldn't be long before he'll be visiting us again.

Soon we'll be starting up weekly interviews with my co-workers, so if there's anything about theatre that you've always wanted to know about, leave a question in the comments. We'll try to answer as many questions as possible this week!


Monday, June 23, 2008

Change Over to West Side Story

Good morning Bloggers!

Well, the cast for West Side Story arrived this weekend and they hit the ground running with rehearsals. I've been reading the reports and it looks like everyone is extremely excited about the new show. There's singing in the Grand Lobby and costume designs being brandied about, directors are arriving and everyone is busy, busy, busy! It's that strange middle time when we say goodbye to an amazing rep cast who have been with us since January and say hello to a new cast ready to bring the world of West Side Story to the stage. Goodbye....Hello!

I know, we're a revolving door here, but that's the nature of what we do. The email newsletter should be sent out soon, for those of you who have subscribed. If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter then you're missing on some great information. So subscribe already!

The Young Professionals event last Thursday was fun and that was before we even opened the wine. I could swear those tastes were full glasses by the end. We all decided that the pineapple white wine was the best and preceded to drain the bottle. Fresh Market really came through on the wine list for this party, and we all were very giggly by the time the doors to the show opened. If you have a favorite wine then post a comment and we'll either agree or tell you why Boone's Farm does not count as wine.

Remember, the only bad party is the one you decided not to attend! Or was the the only stupid question was the one you didn't ask? It doesn't matter, because you can do both by commenting here!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

West Side Story Teaser

Hello bloggers!

Here's the new teaser for our upcoming summer musical!



Monday, June 16, 2008

New News at ASF

Good Morning Bloggers!

I have news of all shapes and sizes this morning. It's Bulleted List Time!

  • Our repertory season is drawing to a close soon. You still have time to get tickets to the last few performances of The Count of Monte Cristo, Romeo and Juliet, and Cymbeline, but you have to act fast. Fall in love with the angsty Count, sex up your night with Romeo and Juliet, or enchant your date with Imogen, daughter of Cymbeline. Click the link to the right for ticket information.
  • Tickets for our production of West Side Story are on sale and going quickly. If you want the best seats, I would suggest heading for a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Not only is everyone refreshed, but there are still great seats open in the center and close to the stage. Click the link to the right for ticket information.
  • Our MFA (Master of Fine Arts) students are in rehearsal for their big show, Beaux Strategem, where the entire cast is made up of our amazing students. The show runs from July 11th- July 19th. Click the link to the right for ticket information.
  • Our new season has been announced and we're proud to bring Les Miserables as our summer musical in 2009. Ticket for this show are only available through our package deals right now, so sign up for a subscription to not only reserve your tickets but also to take advantage of our reduced ticket prices and benefits available only to subscribers. Click the link to the right for subscription information.
  • Don't forget (as I almost did) that our next Young Professional group meeting is this Thursday, June 19th, at 6:00. We're getting together for a wine tasting and Mediterranean inspired dinner, and then watching a performance of Cymbeline at 7:30. Tickets for the show are $26.00 and dinner is an extra $10.00. Click the...well, you get the idea.
Like I said, lots of news for a Monday morning.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

When, a few months ago, I first heard that Gone with the Wind had not only been adapted into a musical, but also was in rehearsals at a theatre in the West End in London, I was not only shocked but I also admit to laughing. Yes, that Gone with the Wind, the gorgeous Technicolor movie that my grandmother never failed in making me watch, the book that helped me learn the real meaning behind "Carpet bagger," that epic Southern story, was made into a musical.

Saying that, I might have paid to see it if it had been produced somewhere near me. I love the story of Scarlett and Rhett, Melanie and Ashley, and the fighting spirit that would lead them through the war that nearly tore our country apart.

But that doesn't really matter much anymore because poor Gone with the Wind is closing now and will be entering into the last few weeks of performances soon. Ray Shell, cast member who played Pork in the play gave his opinion on the cause of the failure here in the Guardian.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Rep Season Featured in Wall Street Journal

Good morning bloggers!

After grabbing the third of my three cups of morning coffee (I, Abby, am a caffeine addict) and firing up the computer, I opened my Outlook to find in my inbox a very urgent email from our advertising manager. She had run across an article with the Wall Street Journal (OMG!) and had sent links throughout the building. Pulling my cinnamon coffee close, I settled in to read the recent review of our repertory season at the online Wall Street Journal. Terry Teachout was thoroughly impressed by our production here at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the quality of everyone's work (though I doubt that they don't have at least one Best Buy in New York and who cares if it's a landmark to direct people here). I won't post a summary of his review because you really should follow the link if just to see all the very shiny pictures included in the review.

Here's a link to Terry's blog, About Last Night, and he has some great reviews of productions in New York and regional theatres around the country.

That's all for now, though I'm sure something will pop up later in the day. It's a Friday and everyone knows that the best news always manages to fall at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Something's Coming to ASF

Good morning...err...afternoon bloggers!

Everyone is buzzing in anticipation of the big summer musical headed our way on July 18th. Jets and Sharks are cruising through the halls and calling for rumbles to decide who's territory the kitchen falls in. Really now, guys, it isn't that big of a deal, especially with Office Krupke watching from the lobby and the girls in the costume department with "I'm so pretty" on loop.

Still not there, bloggers? Imagine on the festival stage the streets of New York, brightly colored costumes contrasting with the gray cement and glass skyscrapers of the urban jungle, and two gangs fighting for control over the same small piece of the city. The Jets are native born New Yorkers, proud that they've scraped up a bit of land to themselves and just as eager to protect it. The Sharks are from Puerto Rico, new to the city but looking for the elusive American Dream promised to everyone strong enough to take what they want from those too weak to protect it. Caught in the middle of this are our two lovers, two souls who with one look find the other half to make them complete. I know, it sounds like the same old story of boy meets girl but this story is filled with more than just a love story.

Need more help? The summer musical this year is West Side Story, and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival is so very excited to bring this musical to our stage, fully produced in house. That means everything is built here, all the rehearsals are held here, all of the actors live here during the run. We'll be updating on all of this and more as we get closer to the opening of the show, so keep checking back for more information on this piece of American Musical Theatre history.

I'll leave you now, bloggers, with a video of the original movie version of West Side Story singing the classic song "America" and I hope to see you at a production soon. Grab your tickets soon, because West Side Story won't be here for long.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Revenge Can Be So Sweet

Good morning bloggers!

I hope you've been watching your calendars, because it won't be long before our resident bad guy who you've got to love, the Count of Monte Cristo, plots his last revenge, hangs up his cloak, and sails away under the pseudonym Odysseus for a new day job. The Count, performed by our own Ray Chambers, in a thrilling journey through France and Italy after the emperor Napoleon's exile to the Isle of Elba, and covers the lifetime of Edmond Dantes as he is sent to the Chateau d'If, a prison rock similar to Alcatraz in San Fransisco, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There he encounters the Abbe Faria , who teachers him the value of logic and finally gives Edmund directions to a large treasure hidden for generations on the Isle of Monte Cristo. The truth is that no one alive leaves the Chateau d'If and, as Edmund learns over time, he is not the exception to this rule, no matter how deep he might bury himself in his plots.

The Count plays through June 29th, so hurry up and get your tickets now at or by calling 1-800-841-4273.

Also, you guys might want to know about Art A'Faire, our new art festival during June. We'll be starting this Saturday, June 7th, at 10:00. It's all free, and we'll have local artists and musicians out in the Shakespeare Gardens and tours of the building. So if you've in town and want to have somewhere to hang out on Saturdays then come on and enjoy the fun in the Garden. The actual event lasts from 10:00am to 2:00pm, but you're welcome to stay and chill out with everyone here at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

I'll see you there!