After about 20 hours at play rehearsals, over two and half hours of interview footage and probably nearly 15 hours of editing, my video is finally done. Now, if you are intimidated by the half hour-long video that lies above these lines, never fear. I also broke down my video into a nine-part playlist which you can view here.
So, a few days ago in a journalism class, a guest speaker mentioned a behind-the-scenes article he did for another article. He had some sort of term for it... something with "nerd" in the title. I liked the idea, and decided to go with it. If you couldn't guess, I am a big fan of the behind the scenes stuff.
I first heard about the play back in April, when the production was cast. I had known Chris, who plays Charlie, since last year, and knew he was auditioning for the show. When I asked him what the show was about, all I got out of him was "It was an off-Broadway play that starred Matthew Broderick." Fast forward about two months, when I was hired to work for Student Media Interactive. All summer, I brainstormed ideas to work on for the upcoming school year. I came up with the idea to do a behind-the-scenes of Diederich's student film festival, which takes place in the spring. I really liked the idea, so I started to get antsy. Then, I remembered "The Foreigner" coming up in the fall.
All set up in my littler corner of Helfaer for the last night of rehearsal for "The Foreigner." I even brought dinner tonight. Can I just say the stage looks absolutely gorgeous? I'm so in awe of what the crew is capable of in just about a month. I'm pretty sure I have only been at Foreigner rehearsals for two weeks, although it feels like I have been here for the whole process, and the stage has changed so much since I first got here. The wood floor looks nicer than the floor in my house. They've made the windows look like it is raining outside. Such a talented crew.
Tonight is a five-hour dress rehearsal. It is now six minutes into the first hour, and I have not seen any sign of the cast. It seems like the very beginning part is more so for the crew. The stage manager and other members of the crew have been going over sound and light checks. The crew keeps talking to some mysterious guy who is hidden from my view about catwalks and throwing in certain numbers. Needless to say, I don't understand any of it. I just hope my tuna isn't stinking up the house too much.
Tonight I do not plan on doing too much filming. I just need to film any key pieces of dialogue that I think I have missed, and try to get a few more closeup shots of the actors. The most important part of my night is probably my interview with Director Todd Denning after rehearsal. My story is about the cast, so I wanted to get Todd's input on the cast, as well. As I may have mentioned before, Todd stepped in about a month ago as director of the show. So, Todd did not cast the actors and actresses in their roles. I think that's a really interesting aspect of this show, so I definitely wanted to learn about that. So, since I will not be filming the majority of rehearsal, I will actually be doing homework during part of the night. Oh, right...I have homework and classes....this isn't all I do. I forget that, sometimes.
A poster for the show hangs outside of the theatre.
Since I have been with hanging out at play rehearsals for two days in a row, I've decided to do one post on both nights. I am also giving myself more work to do at rehearsals and have decided to blog while I am at rehearsals. We're doing live blogging y'all... get excited.
Last night, the cast did not do a run, but worked on individual scenes. Instead of working on filming scenes, I tried to capture individual moments from the actors and actresses. Due to copyright laws, I cannot include too much spoken dialogue in my video. So, along with interviews with the cast, I can include small bytes of scenes and actions shots with no dialogue. So, for my scenes without dialogue, I am trying look for particularly funny or emotional reactions from actors and actresses to pair with voice overs from their interviews. For my small bytes of scenes, I have been filming key lines in the show that introduce the plot. I have seen the show enough and read through the script enough times to know when key scenes, or potentially funny improvised reactions will be happening. This has been a huge advantage - so happy the crew was kind enough to give me a script!
6:39 - The Run Begins
Tonight is a run of the show, which means the cast is putting on the show in its entirety. There are a lot of faces here tonight that I do not know. From what I overheard, students involved with costumes are here now. Members of the deck crew are here as well. I am not quite sure what that means...I think they actually do work underneath the stage? I'm staring at an opening underneath the stage right now, I can't tell if there is actually room for a fully grown human to fit under there. Maybe they slide around like snakes underneath the stage. Who knows. But Todd told the deck crew that this is probably the only time they'll see the show from "sea level." So clearly these folks are up to something during the performance. I think there is another journalist here tonight, as well. Oh, man...competition.
The is the second time I've seen a run of the show. The last week, I saw the cast do a run along with working on particular scenes that needed work. These scenes were in the beginning of the show. This is the part of the show I am watching right now. A lot of the notes Todd gave the cast in these scenes were based on very technical things, like changing the position of a hug, put a different emphasis on this word, etc... It's great to see that Todd's notes have now become second nature for the cast in only six days. The set is also coming together more and more each time I come to rehearsal. Tonight, the stage itself is almost completely finished, lighting has been added and various decorations have been hung up on the walls.
7:58 - Act I Ends
The cast is given a ten-minute break before they start up Act II. During these breaks, they get an opportunity to hang out for a few minutes or run lines before their next scenes. Or sing and dance on stage...as one of the cast members is doing right now. I really wish I didn't have to conserve my camera battery. The only difference I have noticed from the last time I saw Act I in its entirety is that a few more moments here and there have been subtly added to scenes. My favorite scene of the play, which I have referred to many times, has gotten funnier in my opinion. The cast added a few more exchanges between Charlie and Ellard at the breakfast table to add more humor.
Act II is starting up again. The stage manager tells the actors to get to the appropriate place and then cues the scene by announcing "Lights up!" During Act II, I have to cool it with filming. I want to conserve at least an hour of my battery for my interviews tonight and tomorrow morning. I also need to use the remaining hour and 45 minutes of rehearsal to go over my questions and mark my script for scenes to be used in my video.
9:32 - The Show is Over
I am pretty sure that I'm up to three full views of the show now. The show is great and I cannot wait to see what this cast will be capable of in a week. The cast is on break right now, but will return back in a few minutes to get last minute notes from Todd. They are almost done for the night, but I am not. I have my third cast interview directly after rehearsals, followed by three interviews tomorrow. I believe I will have one more rehearsal left with the cast until I start putting my video together!
Tonight I had the chance to see a run through of "The Foreigner." The first hour of the night was more practicing moments to moments, so Director Todd Denning could give his last minute notes to the cast before they began the run through. A run through is exactly what it sounds like. The cast performed the play the whole way through, without any stop and go.
This also means that I was not the only guest at rehearsal tonight. From what I understand, tonight was the first run through. The cast's dialect coach was present to make sure accents were up to par. The costume designer sat in, as well. Other members of the cast, known as "The Townspeople," were present for their scenes tonight. Someone else was filming the practice and although she told me what her job was, at this moment I cannot remember what it was. That might be because I was intimidated by her far-superior camera equipment.
This was my first of, what I anticipate to be, many viewings of "The Foreigner." And I'm already a big fan of this show. What has hooked me to this show is the amount of physical and subtle humor that is ingrained within it. My favorite scene in the show is when the character of Ellard begins to teach Charlie, who has the lodge convinced he cannot speak English, a couple of words in English. First of all, the relationship between those characters is my favorite in the show. I find it absolutely heartwarming that Ellard, often referred to as dim-witted by everyone else in the lodge, and Charlie, who is painfully shy, develop a friendship with one another. The first time Ellard teaches Charlie how to speak English they are eating breakfast together, so Ellard uses breakfast items as references. During the middle of their lesson, two other characters enter and they become the focus of the scene. I kept watching the other two, as Ellard silently teaches Charlie what to do when he has a hot piece of food in his mouth. I'm sure this was ad-libbed, but it may have been my favorite moment of the play, so I hope to see it again! (hint hint, guys).
This rehearsal ended my week of observations. For the past two nights, I've been retaining fly-on-the-wall status. I haven't had too much interaction with the cast yet. Mainly, I have been hanging out in the back row of the theatre learning the story of the play and watching interactions between the cast and crew (let's be real: I've been eavesdropping like no other). From what it looks like, the remaining rehearsals will run fairly similarly to tonight's rehearsal. Which means, I am not quite sure how much off-stage interacting between the cast will happen next week.
To quote Abed Nadir from NBC's "Community," "Some flies are too awesome to stay on the wall." This will be my mantra for the remainder of my time with the cast. Honestly, I don't know if this quote is relevant. I just really like Abed. But I do aim to use this week to get to know the cast better. I began by creepily tracking down the cast members I haven't met on Facebook and Twitter. More importantly, this week will most likely mark the beginning of my interview sessions with the cast. My biggest concern with this part of the process is finding a place to conduct the interviews. That's a surprisingly hard task to accomplish.
Speaking of hard tasks, I decided to spend the remainder of my night editing in the basement of Johnston Hall. Because technology likes to taunt me sometimes, I can never successfully transfer my video clips from my computer to a computer in Johnston on my own. The kind people of Johnston's technology center, The Wakerly, often help me out (Have I mentioned they're my new best friends?). I bought an energy drink for the first time in my life and rented a scary movie to keep me awake, as I knew this would be a long process. I can now report that I am immune to the effects of energy drinks, "Paranormal Activity 3" isn't really that scary and I have now discovered a (rather long) way to transfer my clips.
Progress, you guys. Expect to hear a lot from me next week as I will be with the cast of "The Foreigner" multiple times and spending time with the Fugees and the Naturals, as well.
Dedicated journalist right here, folks
After my long back-and-forward emailing sessions the stage manager of "The Foreigner," tonight was finally my first night observing a rehearsal. The stage manager mentioned that there was a chance that the theatre could be locked. Just my luck, the door was locked. I copied what I saw a cast member do when I was a few yards away from the building and asked a Marquette employee to let me in the building. The gentleman was kind enough to let me into the building. But of course, I was lost when I entered the building. So, another kind gentleman led me to the main stage, which is where rehearsals are held.
He led me to a door. And do you want to know what was behind that door? Stairs. Steep, twisty and untrustworthy stairs which undoubtedly would lead to my death . I just pictured myself tumbling down those stairs and landing face-first on the stage. What a way to make an entrance for my first day of work. But, I held on to both railings, walked down slowly and survived.
I was informed through my email correspondences a few weeks ago that the original director of "The Foreigner" had to step down. Todd Denning of First Stage took over. I had met the previous director about a year ago, but never met Denning. Turns out, he is everything I would expect a director to be. The man was full of energy. I am not sure if I saw him stationary for more than a few minutes at a time. He would pace throughout the auditorium, animately mouth the actors' lines along with them and sometimes jump on stage unexpectedly.
By listening to Denning, I learned a plethora of new theatre terns and ideas tonight. First of all, I think I can now confidently say that downstage is the part of the stage closest to the audience and upstage is the furthest section from the audience (but, uh, don't quote me on that). Denning was also nice enough to sit down and talk with me during a break. He told me that tonight's rehearsal was referred to as "moment-to-moment," which means he would stop the actors and actresses every few lines to give them notes. There is a designer run through tomorrow, which means not as much stop and go, and and opportunity for the cast and crew to get a general idea of the run time for the show. I also learned what I imagine is an original Todd Denning term: "the double Scooby ear." Denning used this term to describe a surprised reaction he wanted from a cast member. I must find a way to use this in day-to-day conversation.
From sitting in on rehearsal, I also learned some typical director's notes. Denning talked a lot about energy and connections with the cast. The correct type of energy to have with a scene, when to play off each others' energies, connecting with each other, etc... He also talked with certain cast members about finishing moments in scenes and enhancing those moments. I am still learning theatre lingo, so I hope I'm using all of these terms in the correct context.
These notes mainly came with the first scene the cast worked on tonight. I happened to know the two cast members outside of the play. It was really cool to see the guys transform into their characters. One of them played a character completely opposite of his personality, while I noticed similarities between the other actor's personality and his character. It will be fun as I get to know the cast more to see how personalities and characters either mesh or contradict themselves.
I was given the chance to see more beyond their scenes together, though. I have been researching this play over the past few weeks, so it was great to see it actually come to life. It was especially fun to see a great scene between the characters of Charlie and Ellard that I saw on YouTube earlier. Oh, and did I mention every character in this play has either a British or Southern accent? I really hope I develop one if I sit in on enough rehearsals. Or that I learn to fake one well enough.
I didn't have too much interaction with the cast tonight. I wanted to use this night to observe a rehearsal and the cast and crew's interactions with each other. At first, I didn't see too many interactions between the cast, and that is something I want to capture on film. But then I realized the cast could hang out off stage. I learned from the stage manager that the cast has many rooms for them to hang out in between scenes. Needless to say, I will be doing some exploring in this theatre in upcoming rehearsals. However, I did get to see the cast interact with each other during one of the breaks. They are two and a half weeks into rehearsing, so they are pretty well acquainted with each other at this point. Tonight, I saw a group of cast members who unintentionally matched each other take a picture together and plenty of "Mean Girls" quotes from other cast members. I pretended to be looking at my notes, but I was really eavesdropping on conversations. Whoops.
Tomorrow night, I will begin the filming process for my story. I think I will mainly focus on filming scenes tomorrow, but I may try to work in filming cast interactions. I anticipate starting interviews with the cast mid to end of next week. Speaking of next week, I will be back with the cast of "The Foreigner" multiple times next week on top of filming Fugee workshops and a Naturals practice. Wish me luck in retaining my sanity. Until tomorrow, friends.
** This is the same blog I managed on blogspot, just at a different location
In case you're wondering, working on three stories simultaneously is a good way to lose your mind. But, when the opportunity presents itself to work on three awesome stories, I guess its okay to overlook these little details, right? So, I will use this blog post to introduce the next three stories for Student Media Interactive that I will be producing over the next month.
The Studio 013 Refugees
Anyone who knows me knows that I really, really dislike the Studio 013 Refugees. I find them to be difficult to work with, not funny and pretty much a nasty group of people. Divas, really.
Anyone who knows me also knows that the above statement is a joke.
The Fugees know I think they're the bees' knees. I first worked with the improv group when I profiled last year's co-president, Andrew Pauly for a class project last year. They were so much fun to work with and so welcoming that I had to find an excuse to come back. I mean, at the end of practices I photographed, some of the Fugees thanked me for stopping by. They basically thanked me for doing my homework.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to follow the process of becoming a new member of the Fugees (AKA a Newgee). I have been filming and blogging about their once-a-week workshops, which began last week. At these workshops, the Fugees work with potential Newgees on improv style by playing a variety of improv games. After a month of workshops, the Fugees will hold auditions.
The main focus of this project will be a video. I will mix footage from workshops and interviews with the Fugees to document the journey. I am still debating with myself how to capture the end of this process for my video, but more on that later. I will be including a newspaper article to accompany this video, as the Marquette Tribune will most likely be running my story.
I've never had to work so hard to get my foot in the door for a story. I've always loved with behind-the-scenes documentaries, so I' m taking a stab at my own. I've decided to make a behind-the-scenes documentary of Marquette's production of Larry Shue's, "The Foreigner."
I first began inquiring about this story 2-3 weeks ago. After tracking down my contact, we began trading emails back and forward. The first issue we ran into was copyright regulations. I was informed that, due to copyright rules, I would only be able to include small bytes of scenes and shots that include no dialogue. I took a look at a few behind-the-scenes documentaries, and realized that's how films had to do it, as well. I could work with copyright rules.
Once we worked that out, we came across another speed bump – my vision for the story. I thought behind-the-scenes was vision enough. I was asked to write a proposal for my video, so I wrote up what I thought was acceptable – a very basic outline of my plan.
However, this was not was was expected of me. The woman I had been emailing responded to me with a challenge: dig deeper. Boy, did she know how to light a fire under me. After working about four hours on a new proposal, I came up with something I think to be pretty great. Long story short, I have decided to spin this story as a human interest piece on the cast of "The Foreigner." I am making this a story about the journey of a group of random people into becoming a well-functioning cast. I start this project in a few days and couldn't be more excited.
And now we come to my most recent endeavor. The Naturals are Marquette's all-male acapella group. I have loved acapella/been jealous of people with that talent for years. As the trailer for the movie "Pitch Perfect," states: "We sing songs without any instruments. It's all from our mouths!" Honestly. How cool is that? So I decided to a piece documenting the arrangement of an acapella number. I start this project a few days after I start with the cast of the Foreigner. I won't lie, though. I may not be able to keep my composure around boys who can sing acapella and wear bow ties to their shows. Oh. My. Gosh.
So there you have it. That's my month. It will be a little crazy, but I am so excited for the final product of all these stories. The lack of sleep and sanity will be worth it. But, just a warning. If you run into me within the next few weeks, I may look incredibly frazzled and no longer obtain the ability to speak words coherently. Do me a favor and go with it? Some fun journalism will come out of it.