Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This is the end of broadcast day...

You may have noticed (or not cared at all) I haven't done a blog for a while. I did one a few weeks ago and then the universe, for lack of a better phrase, decided to wreak havoc in my life. My car broke down which rendered me a burden to those with vehicular transportation around me, my work life became ridiculously stressful and I experienced one of the most painful things that has ever happened to me...my wonderful, lovely 94 year old grandmother passed away.

I have only experienced death in small doses; distant family members or relatives of friends. Heart aches, but never heart breaks. This is my first of 4 grandparents to pass away. Pretty lucky for a lady of 25. It was sudden and it was strong, this shock. For all of the pain I feel in my heart and for my family, I am grateful for my grandmother's lengthy, healthy, and full life. But, it completely turned me on my head.

The night I had to perform after learning of my grandmother's death, was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. On top of all of the crying and freaking out I did in the show, I had to not let myself get so completely out of control that I became genuinely hysterical. The tears were STRONG and so was the snot (good lordy, the snot). I had these short streams of tears that would emerge through-out the performance when I was "re-living" the event with Johnny in my catatonic state, but from that night on, it was all about grandma. I felt the waves of grief hit me and there was nothing I could do. Thankfully, it was pure Babs.

Me, in my head: I'm about to get reeeaally sad.
My grandmother, although rarely able to come to my shows, always supported me. She would keep the articles from the local papers, praised my "talents" to her friends, and always wanted to know what I was up to. Even though she knew it was hard for me, she always encouraged me to keep going. The first weekend my mom visited my grandma and grandpa's apartment after grandma passed, mom brought back the articles about NOTLD she had collected to give to me. It warmed my heart knowing that she was thinking of the show.

There were many things that made me feel connected with grandmother in this show. Being a super-Catholic Sicilian, my grandmother was very fond of crucifixes. A detail I discussed with Scott was Barbra wearing a cross. Referring to Barbra praying in the cemetery in the movie, I would hold it at times when frantic. The night I found out about her passing, I rushed home after the show forgetting my necklace was on. I felt it as I was crying. There was also a crucifix hanging on the back wall on the set that she used to have in her house. Inside of it, were the materials for last rites. I thought, "Wow. Of all of the crosses...what are the odds?" I'm not a religious person...but something about those two things brought me comfort.

I truly love this show. I have grown and experienced so much during this process. Being able to perform and help create such a brilliantly terrifying and beautiful piece of art during my favorite time of year with such a talented group of people, was a privilege and an honor. Though I will miss it, it wrapped up this season beautifully. It's been a rough October this year, but having this show to come to every night made things seem brighter. This is the first show I've been genuinely proud of in a long time. Once again, I have been given the opportunity to do something new and special because of Scott and New Line. This show will be with me for a long time.

Everyone has been so incredible: the audiences who gasped and shrieked out loud and made it all worth it, the genius of our writers who provided us this show, Scott for his vision and seeing its potential at New Line, Sue and the AH-mazing band with their beautiful artistry and emotion, our set designer Rob for his gorgeous work and his team, our fearless and dedicated stage manager Gabe, our crazy awesome sound designer Kerrie, the lovely Robin being the coolest mom ever by making her daughter into a zombie every night, Pheobe- our spunky zombie, my mom for letting me borrow her car (and being generally amazing), my friends and family for their continuous support and love, and my wonderful partner Ryan for being there with me with every step and every fall. AND seeing it FIVE times.

The amazing bouquet w/ black roses, skulls & a bloody hand made by Tammy! :)

Oh, my fellow cast...I GUESS they were brilliant and an honor to work with. I will really miss those unsettling, beautiful, haunting harmonies that we all sang together. Joe, Mary Beth, Zak, Dowdy, and Sarah: you all are something else. Thanks for putting up with all of the candy and Johnny talk.

Lovely and spooky. How I like it.
 I will miss you Barbra, you crazy wench, with your pink dress and your crazy babble.

To end on a light note, here is what my hair looked like every morning after all of the teasing and hairspray:

Babs finally looks like how she feels.
Hope your Halloween was creeptastic and your holiday season is full of love. Onward to the rest of the New Line season.

P.s. Just realized Scott and I both used the same titles for our last show post. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

So Perfect.

Friends and fellow freaks!

Show blogging got away from me with the chaos of the past 2 weeks. Whew! WHAT AN OPENING! Tech was crazy town. People really just don't fathom all the elements that must come together seamlessly for the full effect to be achieved. It's truly a beautiful puzzle.

Poor Kerrie! With her millions of cues and trying to keep the mic balance- I just simply don't know how she does it. With all of our madness, loud voices, and screaming, she really has her work cut out for her. She is a sound genius! And always with a smile on her face :)

I thought to myself the night of Preview...why do I do this? Why do I willingly put myself into the position where my mind starts to race, my heart beat takes off like a race horse and my stomach churns. I once heard that Barbara Streisand has such awful stage fright, that one night she forgot her lyrics and didn't perform for 15 years! What if I EPICALLY fail?

At least Jack Nicholson isn't try to murder me, right?
I get this awful pit in the middle of my torso that just radiates this feeling-lava all through my stomach and back. It's crazy to go through with such a thing! I think, and think, and think myself into this terrible hole of self doubt and fear and then I shake myself out of it. This is my passion- I love this shiz! If it didn't scare me just a little, I'm probably doing it wrong. Once I'm on stage I'm usually fine. Once I feel the energy and focus of the audience, it all clicks. Sure, there are times when my brain starts to jump ahead in the script, but then I snap back to the moment. You have to be able to trust your band, cast, and crew. If something goes wrong, then you deal with it as an ensemble. Sure, there were a few blips and trip-ups, but we got through them - together- and the show went on.

 And after the dust settled and the adrenaline subsided the consensus is: we have a scary show! Woohoo! Really, we couldn't have asked for a better reaction. I had a secret fear in my little black heart, that with our modern audiences who love constant stimulation and action, that the subtlety of the quieter scenes and the building of suspense wouldn't translate well. I mean, we live in an entertainment society full of Michael Bay films and musicals with 45 ensemble members with crazy dance numbers when a person exits the damn stage. But the reactions were priceless. People felt EXACTLY how you are supposed to feel after a horror flick: stressed and pretty sad, haha.

Sure, that may sound awful to you, but it just shows the effective nature of this story telling. You don't need crazy shit to get people's attention. Sometimes, it's keeping the monster behind closed doors and simply hearing the screams...

I know I keep gushing about it, but man, do I adore this set. I love that it feels so much like a home. Being able to arrive early and just settle in is very special. You get a chance to warm up and re-connect with your surroundings before you start the show. I think that's important for a performer. Though the high tension of this show demands a palpable sense of unease from the characters- especially in relation to this strange house they are trapped in- to feel truly able to let go and express that, it's better to feel totally comfortable and free in the space. And Rob has given that gift to us!

I'm extremely proud of this show. I was so honored to not only be a part of it, but to help contribute artistically in the costume department made me that much more connected to the final piece. Giving clothing and color to these characters was a challenge and a privilege. The ever evolving sculpture that is a live show is a beautiful process to witness. From the development of the set, the rehearsal process with our fearless and challenging director, introduction of the band, the morphing and finding new aspects of the characters on behalf of the actors, the ebb and flow of the whole production and it's crew coming together...it's just really damn cool.

Come and see us over at New Line. We'll scare the pants off ya.

Viva la Spooky Season!

P.s. Have YOU gotten your Halloween costume, yet? Get moving, slacker!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"I ran away. He never caught up."

I've given a WHOLE LOTTA thought to what I would do in an apocalypse. And my friends, knowing how much I love the "zombie genre" are always asking me, "what is your plan?" Usually people say something to the extent of "go to Walmart and hunker down" or "I have a whole supply of necessities and guns in my basement" or "screw it, it's my time to zombie shine." My answer is essentially, I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. I always think about the main thing: I have too many people I care about. I know that sounds silly, but it's true. I would be trying to keep track of too many people and probably die in the process, haha. Not to mention the fact that I have no sportsman-like skills and the aim of a blind baby, but I digress.

How has this not happened already, then?

The thought of major loss in these horror stories is always what gets to me. The sudden and horrifying death of people in your life. That's why the situation between Barbra and Johnny is so potent to me. We make jokes about how useless and weak Barbra is in this show at rehearsal, but think about it: she has lost her brother. He was murdered in front of her by a crazed stranger. That is messed up. I told our stage manager (our WONDERFUL stage manager), Gabe, that singing her songs are always really cathartic to me when I've had a bad day. But, really they are cathartic no matter what kind of day I've had. There's a lot of crap thrown at you in this day and age, and you don't really realize how much it builds up in your psyche until you just let it all out. I get to let it out in the form of Barbra. I mean, I feel we are all like her, sometimes. We are faced with tragedy, heart break and fear all the time and sometimes it's just too much to take and you are left lost, alone, and frozen.

This is what you all look like at the Apple store.
On a lighter and more nervous note, TECH is upon us! GAH! WHY DOES IT NEVER FEEL LIKE YOU'VE HAD ENOUGH TIME! *shakes in boots*Our incredible and and most efficient set/lighting designer, Rob, has miraculously already had the set completely done and lit! Amazing! (One of ) my favorite parts of the process is seeing the lights and band. OMG. SO MUCH EXCITE. The uncertainty of the dialogue and lyrics amongst the actors is starting to wane and the vibe is really starting to hit everyone. There are some great scenes with tension that mount to these fights that just epitomize what people do in this situation: panic. They panic with the feeling of a loss of control and personalities and opinions not only clash, but can become dangerous. It's great! :D

We also had our first 2 run throughs with the cutest and most vicious little zombie you ever did see, Pheobe (Karen, Harry and Helen's "injured" daughter). She showed us her ghoulish acting chops and guys...you should be excited. I shall say no more!


Happy spooky hump day!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"This can't be happening..." Well, it is. Deal with it.

There is a set for us to play on and it is incredible. Rob, our set designer, has designed something truly perfect for our show. The thought of it completed with lights, makes me do somersaults inside! The scenes where the house is being attacked and - EXCLUDING DETAILS HERE UNTIL YOU SEE IT- made it so much more real to us. Sarah and I genuinely screamed a few times and almost jumped out of our skins, haha. (BTW, to check out Rob's process: http://u-studios.blogspot.com/).

The incredible rendering...

Oh, and not only do we have a set, but I got to finally see all the actors (save for Pheobe) in their outfits. Everyone walked out one by one and the somersaults got bigger. They were exactly like the pictures in my weird brain. Every said that they feel comfortable and "right" in their outfits. All that I could ask for!! :)

I keep finding more and more depth to Barbra. Every night when we run the show now, I find something new about her and how she would react even in her "catatonia". She is so incredibly scared out of her mind that she stops responding to the world around her. But, there are these moments that even though I find them hard to ignore, I don't think she could either. Everyone around her is in a severely heightened emotional state and though she retreats inside herself to get away from it all, there are times when she must come back to the surface and observe it. I mean, these complete strangers take it upon themselves to take care of her. They don't know her name, where she's from, and she won't even speak to them. But, they still care for her. I think that shows something about the human spirit - even when in a tragedy, we still try to help one another.

Mary Beth (Judy) sings one of my favorite songs in the show. It's about the woman whose house they are in and how she and Tom used to drive by it on the way to the lake and see her outside. She would wave. This song absolutely breaks my heart. It's the recognition of all the little things that we take for granted until they are really gone. Sure, the show may be about the dead coming back to life and killing people- YES- but as I've mentioned before, it's about their attempt at survival. They come face to face with themselves while they are trapped in this house with a bunch of strangers and it's not pretty or okay. It's tragic and sad.

And as much as I don't want him to know it...Zak (Ben)'s songs give me goosebumps. His first solo, just like in the movie, describes what he went through up until when he got to the house. He sings about the screaming he hears when he watches a man's truck catch fire- it's chilling. I want to describe how amazing his last song in the show is...BUT! I shall not. You'll just have to see it for yourself...

NOW THAT I'VE THOROUGHLY DEPRESSED YOU ALL...I'm going to call it a night. We still have some significant fixes to be made and a ways to go as a cast to tighten the tension of the whole production, but I believe we are in great shape. I may suffer from cardiac arrest as a result of excitement once the band is introduced...but that is yet to come. Can't wait to share this with you all!!

Spooky times and spooky dreams.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What a beautiful song!...Now you're dead.

We are officially fully blocked! And Babs does a lot of...SITTING! And...wait for it...STARING! But, freals. We blocked about 15 pages of the script last week and I said 6 words, haha. It's good thing I join into songs from my petrified stupor or else I'd really be extra useless.

I wonder if I left the stove on...

It's actually getting to be an increasing challenge for me not to stop and watch people during scenes. It's something I have to get a solid grasp on. You may think, "wow. Sitting there is so hard. Quite yer bitchin. Womp-womp." But, in all actuality - it is! For someone who can be distracted with "ooh, shiny" it's hard not to just watch. Everyone sounds so fantastic when they're singing, I find myself just staring at them absent-mindedly. However, as Scott has told me, Barbra is stuck in this traumatic event. She is replaying it in her head over and over and is in a perpetual state of terror. It takes an immense amount more of self-control than you may think.

This day really sucks, Johnny!

Now that we are fully blocked, we have a real full sense of the show. And it's so damn SAD. I have said out loud during rehearsals after one of the characters gets done singing a beautiful ballad of regret and yearning, "CHRIST, this show is sad!" Because it's not like you don't know what is coming! These people are epically screwed and they are just trying to hold onto any last scrap of hope to survive just a little...bit...longer. I suppose that is one of the appeals of the horror genre - every day people getting thrown into a supernaturally tragic situation and how they handle it.

Helen should have let Karen have that new doll...

Costumes are almost totally together! After scouring the thrift stores of St. Louis, Sarah and I are almost PR picture ready! We have a few things here and there to gather, a few pairs of shoes a jacket or two, but the characters are there! I get all squeal-y when I finally get to see the actors in their things. It's a validation of your instinct and research coming together to complete that image you created for them and it's AWESOME. Being bombarded with current fashion and how things are "supposed" to look, I love taking my brain out of that mind set and fixing it to a totally different era. It makes you look at things completely different and kind of becomes a treasure hunt.

I'm really proud of what Sarah and I have done. Scott is very happy with them and we agreed that they have a very natural look (which was my goal!) When I see them on the amazing set that we get to be on !!NEXT WEEK!!, I may lose my mind even more than Barbara.

Yay for spooky theatre!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"We'll be alright...": things to never sing in an apocolypse.

Hello, again, fellow morbid friends! We had our first full read/sing through this week and it was stellar. Aside from the distraction of trying to follow script and score separately (there's a lot of spoken sequences in the middle of songs), it gave us a great idea of the structure of the performance.

One of the reasons I always like Scott's "Miller-ography" is his tendency towards minimalism. Being a "more is more" kind of person in my everyday life, I always picture most musical numbers with lots of choreography and movement. However, when it comes to this show, that is simply not necessary. It's about setting the mood and letting the music and lyrics take you through the action of the story.

I love the concept that Scott created from the very beginning of the show. The blocking for the opening numbers "Perfect/Night" consist mostly of our characters wandering around the space. Scott's explanation for this action translates as we are ghosts forever stuck in the events of our final moments. We are familiar with this place and know something happened, but can't quite figure out or remember why...I LOVE THAT. OMG. It was such a traumatic experience, that our spirits can't move on.

Hot damn.

I also got to see how little Barbra actually speaks, haha. I just kind of stare into space a lot and scream occasionally. For me...not talking is hard (ha!) I'm a very facially expressive person and I believe that may be one of the reasons Scott chose me for this part (that and maybe he thinks I'm insane?). It's going to be hard to get into that stoic/lost presence in the space we rehearse (the children's play area in the basement of a church) and the fact that I have to be so attached to the ever-ridiculous Zak (our Ben...if you knew him you'd understand, he makes it hard NOT to laugh during rehearsal). I sometimes watch actors in show and go "WHY ARE THEY SO BORING? They have so much to work with!" Well, I have that opportunity in a very difference way: subtlety.

In other news, Sarah and I did some costume shopping yesterday, and in short: JACKPOT. I knew that the most difficult characters to dress were going to be Helen and Barbra. I thought they would be the LAST pieces we would find! But, in a lucky visit to a local vintage store, TFA (The Future Antiques), we found their main pieces that we think really emody the characters. When I put on my dress, I came out of the dressing room and Sarah and I reacted with perfect glee. When Sarah came out of the room with hers on, she simply stated "Yup. This is it. I feel like Helen." How more perfect does it get than that?

We have a great balance as a team. We both have an eye for style but know how to keep each other within the lines and integrity of the design. Usually along the lines of:
"GAH! I love this dress!"
"Me, too! She would never wear that...we would."
"Yeah...you're right."

Here's a sneak-peek:




Happy Spooky Saturday!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Johnny, Candy, Johnny, Candy, Candy...JOHNNY.

So, there's this song...and it's the hardest damn song I've *ever* had to learn, in this show: "Johnny and Me". I thought "Bukowsical's" crazy listing of a bajillion words was hard but this...It's basically her monologue(almost word for word!) to Ben from the movie, in song form. From the absence of rhyme to the crazy range, I want to personally thank Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith for making me completely doubt myself as a performer, haha ;) . (This blog thing won't let me link the video, so use the URL under the picture if you're curious...)


ANYWAY, a challenge is a good thing. And stretching my range is a good thing. I just hope I don't break all the glass in the theater and subsequently, people's souls and ears, whilst I do it.

In other news, I get an awesome little ditty called "Music Box" (using the actual song from the music box in the movie stretched into a full song). Since she's absolutely bonkers from the trauma of being attacked by a man trying to eat her, losing her brother, being chased by cannibals, and stumbling into a house with a dead person upstairs- she really focuses on a few key phrases...Johnny...and candy. This is a particularly creepy tune where she's trying to make sense of what the hell is happening. A song in the key of WTF, if you will.

We have rehearsed all of the group numbers, and though the jarring changes in tempo and counting can be a struggle, you notice that it really pulls the audience in all the directions that the characters are going through. They've all been thrown into this situation and are scared, frantic, and desperate and the music conveys that. In short...it's pretty rad.

Sarah (Helen) and I have been working on our final concept for the costumes and are about ready to search and destroy! Scott wants us to keep the whole look very natural. As much as we'd love to put everyone in psychedelic colors and patterns- these are just a bunch of squares trying to stay alive. 

By the way, have you all started working on your costumes for Halloween? Because, I'm going to be honest...if I don't see people in costumes through-out this run; Barbra might just change the script and start biting people herself.

Sweet, spooky dreams!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Days of the Living Dead

WHADDUP, BITCHEEES! I'm back to blogging (mainly about the show...to make our lovely director happy ;) ). The last few posts I made on here were depressing as hell and I was in a completely different place/mind set/city/etc. SO, I decided to leave those in the past and move on.

Onwards and upwards!

The past few months have been quite a blur and such a blast/challenge/trial. For starters...I turned the monumental and crisis-inducing age of 25. I was a stitcher at the chaotic and rewarding season at Opera Theatre St. Louis, rehearsed and performed "Bukowsical" with New Line Theatre (my first show since Cry-Baby- over a year!), one of my best friends got married, I filmed a web series, my sister moved across the country, and my darling significant other, Ryan, started a brand new company here in the Lou and debuted it's first production. WHEW! That's just the major stuff...
But, I digress. In regards to the amazing experience of "Bukowsical" the musical -based, hilariously and ironically, on the life of Charles Bukowski and which we lovingly nicknamed "the freight train from hell"-well, let me say this...if I learned anything from that show, it's that I should always completely trust my director and fellow actors. When I first opened that script, I had NO idea what to expect. It baffled and kind of scared me. I didn't blog about it because honestly, I had no idea what to say! So rarely does one get the chance to do something almost no one (save for the original and only production) has done. The vision Scott had for us was totally different than the the first production so that left so much open for interpretation and play! It was crass, hilarious, fast, poignant, harsh, ridiculous and awesome. A truly unique show I will never forget.

Now, to the present. My Halloween season has officially begun! Wee! And we have just begun another almost totally new show: Night of the Living Dead The Musical. And guess who I get to be? The one who is nuts and comatose in a corner most of the show... to sum it up...

Yeah, she talks about this guy...a LOT. And candy.

When I've mentioned the idea behind this production, most people have just looked at me oddly. Specifically for the fact that it's meant to be serious; a thriller. With all the new and random ass shows out there now, people don't think there's room for a serious zombie musical? POPPPYCOSH! And as for the movie, though there may be hilarity in the camp and ancient effects, it was NEVER meant to be funny. It's a serious social commentary of the time and was frightening then and even now.

Thanks, dude, for RUINING MY DAY.
As opposed to Evil Dead the musical- which, coincidentally, will be running the same time as ours (DOUBLE DEAD SHOWS! WOOHOO!) and focuses on the funny ridiculousness of the genre- this a focus on the psychological damage and emotional turmoil the survivors go through during this event, the decisions they've made and how they got there, their relationships, and what happens when there are no more options. It's pretty freaking cool. Not to mention, everyone sounds amazing and the set will stun you with it's awesomeness.

"What? I just wanted dad for noms, mom."

The music really caught me off guard. It's like nothing I've heard before, Mary Beth - our Judy (ha)- came up with the perfect term: creepy-pop. It's gothic at times, disjointed and dissonant, and then pretty and calm. It's CREEPY AWESOME. However, I will admit, some of Barbra's material is extremely challenging. I am a mezzo soprano stretching myself into a LEGIT soprano which some very difficult lyrics and counting. OOf, mama.

This will be a definite challenge, but I'm ready to get spooky on ya'll.

Love and spooky dreams, darlings.

P.s. stay tuned for costume design blogness!