Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Call-Back: CAMEO's Thoroughly Modern Millie - Pt. 2

Welcome to Call-Back as we go behind the scenes of another great Northeast Ohio Theatre production! This time the show is Thoroughly Modern Millie at CAMEO (Cooperative Alliance of Medina Entertainment Organizations). This smash hit musical is CAMEO's big Summer show taking place July 25, 26, 31, August 1, 2 at 7:30pm and July 27, August 3 at 2:00pm. All shows are at the state-of-the-art Medina Performing Arts Center in Medina Ohio...You've got to see it to believe it...and you will with Call-Back! In this episode we meet Millie herself and look in on rehearsals. Thanks for watching!

Call-Back: Dog Sees God - Pt. 1

Thanks for checking out the latest episode of Call-Back! This episode kicks off another new theatre series..this time the show is "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" at Fourth Wall Productions in Cleveland. This is a challenging play that deals with important issues like sexual identity, friendship and life and death. The show runs from July 17 through 27th and tickets are available by emailing tickets@fourthwallproductions.com or by calling (330)283-2442. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To Video or Not to Video...That is the Question!

Listen carefully..that crackling sound you hear coming from the North Coast of your map of the United States is the sound of another fervent Cleveland theatre discussion. Hey...at least we care! This time the topic is videotaping in the theatre for promotional purposes. The spark was lit when Cleveland Plain Dealer Theatre Critic Tony Brown was nice enough send out a call this week to area theatre folk to send him links to videos promoting upcoming shows to include in his blog, one with a much larger audience than any of ours individually.

One area theatre marketer responded:

This actually brings up an interesting question. Most show licenses state that you're not allowed to record your productions, and yet many grant committees request them, and promotional guides recommend them. Our theatre recently made it 'official policy' not to record performances because the possibility of having a show shut down was too risky. I'm curious as to how other local performance groups have reconciled their desire or need for videos with the licensing restrictions placed on the shows by their owners.

Of course, you know I had to chime in...I mean, the whole idea of Call-Back is based on the video medium - albeit, not for the purposes of flying in the face of copyright and licensing laws or anything, but obviously I'm a big believer in the use of all sorts of multi-media for theatre production marketing. So I crawled up on my soap box and preached:

In terms of promoting a show, I don't think the issue is so much one of using extended footage of an actual performance during it's run (which can be a sticky legal issue). Linda is right, very few people beyond the cast and their immediate acquaintances might care to watch that anyway. The more interesting story of any particular show is what happens back stage and behind the scenes. What went into the making of this show. This is what I've based the Call-Back cable and on-line theatre documentary series on - reality TV based on community theatre productions! I've been fortunate to be invited to document productions at a number of different theatres for Call-Back. I've found that interviews with different theatre artists, cast members, snippets of numbers or scenes from rehearsals, etc. can really be interesting to larger audiences. I've tried to make viewers feel like a part of these shows themselves by putting together series of episodes they can follow throughout the rehearsal process. This can be really effective in generating buzz and interest in shows if the episodes are edited in interesting ways and as professionally as possible. And there are no legal restrictions on talking to (non-equity) cast and crew, etc.

Of course, there were other comments (some even got a little snarky to make the read ever so much more interesting!) that can be read by clicking on this blog title link.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Are Digital Orchestras a Sign of the Times?

Found a fantastic discussion about the possible effects of using digital orchestras in theatre productions. Check it out at the link above.

Here was my comment:

Great discussion! I am a community theatre director/performer here in the Cleveland area and musicals are my focus so this really hits home - especially as an upcoming directing project looms on the horizon the score of which will require a lot in terms of the orchestra. And as is common in community theatre, the physical space is limited to say the least.

At the community theatre level, I think we're talking about two different things: teaching young musicians while encouraging performance opportunities for them to learn versus creating the greatest possible theatre experience for ticket-buying audiences.

I agree that we should always encourage learning experiences for young musicians - kids need these experiences. No one would argue that these performance experiences are essential to their development even though they may not have advanced skills right now. But most of the pits in the community theatre shows I have directed, been in or even just seen are not made up of middle or high schoolers. A few are, but not many. So I can't say we would be taking away kids performing opportunities with digital augmentation.

On the other hand, many of the performers actually on stage are high schoolers - many of which are still only developing their skills as well. I wonder if, when we develop technology (and you know we will) that can replace live actors with 3D hologram performers that can sing and dance flawlessly, we will replace the high schoolers who fill so many of our community theatre roles, but who may still be squeaking through a Sondheim score while their voices are still changing?

But while part of any community theatre's mission is to improve the community through the arts - which means fostering and educating young talent - a larger part of that mission is the obligation to their ticket buying subscribers and audiences in general. A main stage theatre production is not intended to be a "class". While there are plenty of supportive parents and grandparents in any given community theatre audience who will forgive squeaky notes or awkward dance steps, the walk-up patron expecting to see a decent production doesn't want to pay for a music class recital. There are other venues for those learning performance opportunities. Indeed, if we are lucky enough to get someone to walk-up and buy a ticket who maybe hasn'tbeen there before, we need to out our absolute best foot forward and impress them so that they come back again and bring friends! We only get one chance to make that impression and we cannot afford to reinforce the negative stereotypes that community theatre means sub-par theatre.

Could this technology also help improve the perfomances on stage? A singer or dancer likes the confidence of knowing the pitch and tempo or accompaniment will be consistent and sound great.

As a singer myself, I am also a member of a musical community outside of the theatre as a part of a working special event band. While event coordinators certzinly have the option to hire digital DJ's, many live bands are still very busy. Most of the musicians I know in this world won't even work in the theatre because they won't work for the money most community theatres can afford. So I don't think at this level digital augmentation in community theatres would be taking away most money making opportunities for working musicians.

I'm still hesitant about taking the leap completely, but I come from the "if you can't beat'em, join 'em" school of thought...technology is here, it's coming and we need to learn about it and embrace some of it. Anything we can do to improve the theatre going experience should be talked about and I appreciate this forum.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Call-Back #102

Welcome to Call-Back! Thanks for watching! Call-Back is the Cleveland Community Theatre Connection seen locally on Cleveland area cable station Cox channel 45, Mondays at 10:30p. Also check out the Call-Back podcast at www.geoffshort.libsyn.com and the blog at www.geoff-callback.blogspot.com.

In this episode Call-Back goes behind the scenes of auditions for The Olmsted Performing Arts production of Singing in the Rain as well as Geoff's latest directing project "Some Enchanted Evening" (www.someenchantedevening.8k.com). We also preview The Cassidy Theatre's madcap production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged" and much more!