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
Last night was round two with the Fugees. This time, I took my own advice and practiced using my equipment. Last week, I was a little shaky with my camera and its equipment. So I squeezed in some time yesterday to work with my equipment. Let me know if you would like to see the video tour of my house. It includes a great shot of one of my roommates eating lunch. I also conquered my own personal Everest: closing that tripod. Apparently, it isn't that hard. And, fun fact, the tripod can actually come up to eye level. Who would've thought.
But of course, I still set up my equipment almost immediately when I walked into the workshop, as to not press my luck. Lo and behold, I set it up successfully on my first attempt. I had an easier time with the filming process, too. Except for the door.
Oh, that door.
Workshops are held in the auditorium of Humphrey Hall. That room is not the most aesthetically pleasing place. Since I have worked with the group before, I was prepared for the weird lighting and bright orange ladder that permanently resides on the stage. Last night, the emergency exit door to the side of the stage decided to let off a shrill beep every minute or so. Apparently, the alarm was running low on battery, hence the beeping. That will be fun to work with in editing.
The workshop ran similarly to the one last week. The Fugees worked with attendees on character-based improv games. One of these games was "Party Quirks," which is one of my favorites from the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" If you haven't caught on yet, I have a slight obsession with that show. I watched more of "Whose Line" this summer than I watched the Olympics.
The number of attendees dwindled from last week. I could be wrong, but I believe I only recognized two from the first week of workshops. I assumed the way workshops worked was that a core group of people from the first week of workshops would remain until the last week. So, I am curious to see numbers for the next two weeks and if each group of attendees changes drastically from week to week. I do imagine that it is easier for the Fugees to work with smaller groups, as to remember individual performances better.
After workshops last week, I played around with the idea of tweeting from the workshops. I've enjoyed doing this for previous journalism classes and I thought it could be another fun way to advertise this project. I completely forgot about this idea until I heard someone make a cat reference. For the past three semesters, I have been in the class of a certain journalism professor. Last semester, I decided to take on the role of resident cat lover in the class. This included posting cat pictures in the Facebook group and tweeting about cats. Needless to say, my professor did not approve. However, I still enjoy doing it.
After I got a few cat tweets out of the way (and tagged a certain professor in one of them), I sent out some legitimate tweets. I am not sure if I will keep up with the tweeting next week, that is probably a decision I will make in the moment. I do think I want to take a few pictures at next week's workshops. I will have to think about to what extent I can include non-Fugees, but pictures would be a fun aspect to add to future blog posts.
Once again, this week's workshop ended with a game of Mafia. I was called out by the Fugees for bragging about my Mafia skills and a certain Fugee challenged me to play with everyone at the end of the workshop. Needless to say, I was the last person standing besides a mafia member. That means that technically the Mafia won, but in my eyes, I am the true winner. I may have stolen someone else's strategy for how to stay in the game for so long, but that is neither here nor there.
My only concern that I took away from last night was that I am not quite sure if I have a distinct direction nailed down for this story. Granted, I know what I want the outcome of this story to be and I know that my video will include footage of workshops and interviews with current Fugees. I just don't know if I have figured out how to make it flow yet. Last time I worked with the Fugees, I discovered my direction the more I spent the editing, so I expect things to work the same way for this story.
Until next time, friends.
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.
I decided to start this semester off the same way I ended last semester – with an in-depth project on the Studio 013 Refugees.
For my Digital Journalism II class last semester, I decided to profile the president of the group for my final project. I absolutely loved my time with the group. It was great observing the dynamics of the group and, as a long-time improv fan; I was just thrilled to be behind the scenes of an improv group. In my interview with the president, he mentioned something that stuck out to me: improv workshops.
That idea stuck with me this past summer, and I decided to roll with it once I was hired to work with Marquette University’s Student Media Interactive. I approached one of the presidents about doing another story on the “Fugees” this semester. This time around, I am focusing on the auditioning process for the group. It begins with four weeks of improv workshops, followed by auditions and then selecting the new members (affectionately referred to as the “Newgees”).
Tonight was the first workshop. Earlier, I realized my coincidental choice in fashion for the day. I decided to wear a plaid scarf. It was new, so I decided to break it in. That seems like a fairly normal fall outfit, right? Well, the Fugees’ unofficial team color is plaid. Most of them dress in plaid for every show. So, as if I wasn’t around the group enough, I now subconsciously dress like them. But as I strolled into the workshop, no one noted my fashion choice, or they were just too nice to say anything.
My concern at the beginning of the night was repeating the first night I had with the Fugees for my previous project. I focused on photography with that story, and quickly learned that my personal camera was not a good choice to use in that room. My camera could not pick up any movement and, best of all, died on me in the middle of the practice I was sitting in on. I ended up running out the room in a panic with the Fugees believing they offended me with the scene they were performing.
This time around, I am using a video camera, which was the reason for my concern. I do not have much experience with a video camera so, being my cynical self, I was convinced something would go wrong. I had a bit of a rough time figuring out how to secure the camera on the tripod, but overall the experience wasn’t too bad. It a struggle trying to catch people moving out of the frame, but that skill will come with more practice.
The workshop ran somewhat similarly to a typical Fugee practice. For those of you who have not spent hours observing improv practices, the way they work is the group just runs through various improv games that are performed at shows. The only difference is at practices, the members offer each other critiques and advice in between games. As I learned from my time with the group last year, practicing improv is all about practicing form and style. So the group doesn’t practice lines, they just go over various games to keep themselves quick for their shows. One of the games the Fugees and potential Newgees played tonight was “World’s Worst.” Here’s a look at the cast of the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” playing that game.
About an hour and a half into the improv games, I learned that I did have a slight malfunction with my equipment. I did not realize that my tripod came up about 6 inches higher. So there I was sitting, kneeling and leaning on walls to get my shot, when I could have just raised the tripod a bit. Whoops.
However, the odds are that I won’t even be using much footage from tonight in my story. Tonight was more to get a feel for the way the workshops work. I realized I need to include the current members of the group more to create a more engaging piece. I was relieved to see that none of the people auditioning felt uncomfortable with me filming. It made my job a lot easier. I was flooded with ideas when I left the workshop, so I think covering this story will become easier as the weeks go on.
The group ended the night by inviting those auditioning to play a round of mafia. I was invited to join in, but decided to hang back to review my mental notes from the night. However, I am known to dominate that game and was once described as, “shady as f***” while playing. Anyone who has played Mafia knows is a compliment. Needless to say, I will have to partake next time.
Overall, I would describe tonight’s experience as semi-successful. I wish I had gotten better quality footage from the workshops. I had a busy day, but looking back, I could’ve squeezed in some time to practice with the camera. However, I did take away a lot of ideas from the experience and I will definitely know what to expect next week.
Last year, I became fascinated with the term underbelly. I profiled the president of Marquette's improv troupe last year, and he described my process as getting a look at the dark underbelly of the group. I just loved that.
First of all, underbelly just a fun word to say. Try it. C'mon. More importantly, I have come to love the idea of it. The aspect of something you don't normally get to see. A vulnerable side. A side typically hidden from the rest of the world.
So this is where the basis of my blog comes from. I aim to go into entertainment journalism, so those are the types of stories that will be covered on my blog. I will reveal my whole process through pictures, videos and blog posts. You will get to meet the people I meet and see the process and final product through my eyes.
I hope you stick around and find something you like!