Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Check Out "STAGES" Part 8!


Enjoy Pt. 8 - A behind the scenes look at the Junior Class Songwriter's Showcase of new music called "First Takes" both at Baldwin-Wallace and as the class takes the show on the road to Night Town in Cleveland Heights.

This documentary series follows the stories of the students and teachers of the acclaimed Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre Program led by Victoria Bussert. Produced by theater artist and documentaria
n Geoffrey Short, STAGES gives viewers unprecedented access to this exclusive program that draws the very best talent from around the country to this small private college in Berea, Ohio (just southwest of Cleveland). Graduates of this program often go on to careers on Broadway. Learn more about Baldwin-Wallace College at www.bw.edu. See other theater video documentary series from Geoff Short at www.youtube.com/CallBackCleveland.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

CHECK OUT "STAGES: Stories from the BW Music Theater Program" - PART 7!!


Enjoy Pt. 7 - The big day for nervous high school seniors auditioning to get into the exclusive BW Music Theater program plus a look at the audition day master class with Broadway Casting Director Bob Cline including performances from a few BW seniors.

This documentary series follows the stories of the students and teachers of the acclaimed Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre Program led by Victoria Bussert. Produced by theater artist and documentaria
n Geoffrey Short, STAGES gives viewers unprecedented access to this exclusive program that draws the very best talent from around the country to this small private college in Berea, Ohio (just southwest of Cleveland). Graduates of this program often go on to careers on Broadway. Learn more about Baldwin-Wallace College at www.bw.edu. See other theater video documentary series from Geoff Short at www.youtube.com/CallBackCleveland.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BOOK AND WIN AN IPOD NANO!

Book and win an iPod Nano!

Need holiday entertainment? Planning to book your 2010 wedding or event entertainment soon? Don’t wait! Request a contract, sign and return with your deposit by Dec. 31st and you’ll be entered to win a brand new iPod Nano!

The iPod Nano 8 GB holds 2,000 songs and takes 8 hours of video! Find out more about the iPod from Apple.

Pass the word! Anyone who books with a signed contract between today and Dec. 31st is entered to win! Visit JerryBruno.com for entertainment options from bands and DJs, jazz and ceremony musicians, to specialty acts like tribute bands, magicians and dancers.

ipod-nano

A View from the Stage: Night of the Living Speech


The beast was among them...dressed as one of them..and it was hungry.

The newlyweds were flushed with excitement. They had painstakingly planned every detail of the reception....the perfect flowers...the perfect band...gourmet dinner...special dances...the......toasts...

It wouldn't be long now. It had been too long since the thing had fed. The unsuspecting victims were just now enjoying the salad course. Soon the thing would eat too. Only one thing would satisfy its insatiable appetite...time. And lots of it. It was just waiting for its cue...

..."and now ladies and gentlemen...a special toast from the Best Man..."

SUPPER TIME!!

The timeline was dead.

Fiction? Unfortunately in too many cases, no. I always remember a "toast" being something along the lines of "over the teeth and through the gums, look out tummy, here it comes!"..but too often a well-wishing Best Man or Maid of Honor sees this custom as their 15 minutes of fame - literally...15 minutes.

One question I always like to ask clients is "what is your goal for this reception"? Most people say that they want their guests to have a great time, to stay and dance and make the event one people have great memories of. In short, they want to throw a great party.

So why do so many people seem to forget what makes a great party?

True, a wedding reception is not an ordinary party...but there are some ingredients for successful parties that are universal, no matter what the occasion. One of those ingredients is the ability for the hosts to take the focus off themselves and put it onto their guests. This may seem contradictory to the very reason this event is happening in the first place- to celebrate the new union of the two most important people in the room. But the happy couple is THE reason everyone is there in the first place and the big white, fluffy dress is a big clue as to who the center of attention is. Making 200 guests - who have already dedicated an entire day to celebrating the rookie-weds - continue to sit through long speeches and toasts to further drive the point home can be the very definition of overkill.

And it can kill your timeline.

The bride and groom are most likely not going to be aware of what time it is - or rather, how much time they're losing - at any given point of the reception. Nor should they. But the band the bar and the bus boys definitely know what time it is. That's our job as planners and bandleaders and DJ's - to keep things moving and on schedule. And ready or not at the end of the night, the party is going to come to a close. Hopefully by this point it's your guest's feet that are tired from dancing and not their rear ends from sitting all night. You've probably paid good money for the band or DJ. You should get the most out of your investment and let them do what they do best..fill the dance floor. I've seen more than a few brides with that surprised look as though the dancing just started, and it seems we're "already" thanking the audience and going into our last dance.

Besides, wedding toasts are kind of like inside jokes - filled with memories that approximately 2% (according to statistics I just made up for this blog post) of the entire crowd were involved in and thus, care about. Making guests endure long winded speeches about things they weren't involved in is kind of like inviting friends over to sit through a slide show of your last trip to the Grand Canyon.

Don't forget the show business aspect of throwing a party. Appeal to the larger audience. More elements that everyone can enjoy - like dancing, eating and drinking - can help ensure a fun reception.

None of this is to suggest toasts should be done away with. But if brides and grooms make it clear to their respective Best Men and Maids of Honor from the very beginning of the planning process that their timeline is limited, things can move more swiftly to the true business of partying. A brief toast can still be funny, congratulatory and heartfelt.

And the time-eating beast will have to eat elsewhere.

Geoff Short

Geoff is the Sales and Promotions Manager at Jerry Bruno Productions and is the bandleader of JBP’s band The Avenue. Contact him at geoff@jerrybruno.com.

THE AVENUE – from Jerry Bruno Productions

Seated: (l. to r.) Tiffany Marchak (Vocals), Geoffrey Short (Vocals), Leigh Peterson (Vocals
Back Row: (l.to r.) Ray Porello (Drums), L.R. Smith (Keyboards), Ian Indorf (Trumpet), Joe Blues (Guitar), Bob Kessler (Bass), Chris Vollstadt (Saxophone), B.J. Bishop (Trombone).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Wife the Hero

My wife is a hero. Her name is Lisa Dwyer-Short. We call her Dubba. She works with children with multiple handicaps in the school district where we live. Like most teachers, Dubba doesn't make a fraction of what her most important work is worth, but I have seen her create miracles for kids who never would have dreamed of some of the opportunities she has created for them. She constantly is thinking of ways to expose her developmentally disabled, autistic and physically handicapped students to new experiences. My heart bursts with pride when I think of the school talent shows that ended with acts she put together featuring her students dancing on feet and in wheel chairs and the look of pure joy on their faces as their able-bodied classmates stood and roared in support. No one claps for these children, but Dubba creates opportunities for them to feel love and support where they never could have imagined it before. Even things that seem so simple to most people are unimaginable to these children and Dubba makes them real. Creating a birthday party for a disabled teenager who only wants the things every teen girl wants. A party with gifts and cards and cake, but most importantly one attended by so many "regular" students who just came to give the birthday girl a hug. All of which probably would never have happened without Dubba. She fought for permission to take the girl to see "New Moon"- something the girl never could have imagined and something she never will forget. But more importantly, it's the every day, hard, thankless work of loving, teaching and advocating for these kids that Dubba and so many people like her do that is really miraculous.

I am used to applause. OK...I am kind of addicted to it. But it's work like Dubba's that is some of the most important work I can think of because it's work that gives back to the world, that contributes and makes the world a better place -makes someone ELSE'S life better...and she hardly ever gets applause at all. Yet she deserves a standing ovation. I just wanted her and so many like her to know I notice, I appreciate it, I am in awe of it and I proudly stand and applaud.

We creative types are always looking for inspiration. For me I only have to look at the work Dubba does every day. A true hero.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Remembering some of my "Cheap Dates"!

I kind of Forgot about this fun video series I co-hosted a couple years ago for WKYC TV 3 here in Cleveland. Cheap Date was a weekly segment that aired every Friday on WKYC TV-3 in Cleveland. Hosted by Geoffrey Short and Dave Tarbert , the segment aired in Channel 3's "Good Company" program and focused on out of the way places and out of the box events in and around Cleveland that make perfect alternatives to the same old dinner and a movie!



These are three of my faves from the two-season stretch:

"Cheap Date on the Rocks": Geoff and Dave get precariously perched on a peak at the Cleveland Rock Gym!

"Cheap Date at the Chocolate Factory" : Geoff tries to conquer his chocolate addiction while visitng Olympia Choclate Company!

"Cheap Date at the Crawford Auto Museum": You won't believe the trouble Geoff and Dave get into when they visit the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum in Cleveland!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

One of the most breathtaking performances of one of my fave holiday songs I've ever seen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Meet the Jerry Bruno Productions Team!


It's great to be a part of the Jerry Bruno Productions Staff! Meet the crew here and give us a shout if you're looking for spectacular music entertainment for your next event.

Friday, November 27, 2009

PART 5 OF MY DOCUMENTARY SERIES "STAGES- STORIES FROM THE BW MUSIC THEATER PROGRAM"


Enjoy Part 5 - In this episode we go to Music Theater Workshop class with the program's newest students as freshman tell their life stories through special exercises. Also we peek into the rehearsal process of "The Wild Party".


This documentary series follows the stories of the students and teachers of the acclaimed Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre Program led by Victoria Bussert. Produced by theater artist and documentarian Geoffrey Short, STAGES gives viewers unprecedented access to this exclusive program that draws the very best talent from around the country to this small private college in Berea, Ohio (just southwest of Cleveland). Graduates of this program often go on to careers on Broadway. Learn more about Baldwin-Wallace College at www.bw.edu. See other theater video documentary series from Geoff Short at www.youtube.com/CallBackCleveland.

Friday, November 20, 2009

STAGES: Stories from the BW Music Theater Program - Pt. 4


STAGES: Stories from the BW Music Theater Program - Pt. 4: "The Wild Party" auditions are over and casting deliberations begin. Be there among the students to share their reactions from the customary midnight posting of the casting results. Plus a special presidential reception for the MT students with BW President Richard Durst and his view of why the music theater program at Baldwin-Wallace is so special.

This documentary series follows the stories of the students and teachers of the acclaimed Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre Program led by Victoria Bussert. Produced by theater artist and documentarian Geoffrey Short, STAGES gives viewers unprecedented access to this exclusive program that draws the very best talent from around the country to this small private college in Berea, Ohio (just southwest of Cleveland). Graduates of this program often go on to careers on Broadway. Learn more about Baldwin-Wallace College at www.bw.edu. See other theater video documentary series from Geoff Short at www.youtube.com/CallBackCleveland.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A View from the Stage: CHECK PLEASE!


Such is the nature of our world in the music business that much of the payment for our services rendered happens in a face to face exchange at the end of any given gig. Of course, in most cases the "gig" in question has probably been one in which some pretty heavy drinking by the clients has been involved. This can make for some pretty interesting if not downright challenging situations during that final transaction. And so I write this open letter to our beloved customers:

Dear (insert special event name) Client,

We musicians realize that much like Dickens' ghost of Marley we carry the chains forged from decades of bad reputations for not showing up or showing up late and then raping and pillaging your entire shindig. We also realize that this negative stereotype makes your parting with your balance check BEFORE the gig about as likely as head table place settings for the rhythm section. But could YOU realize that at midnight after an entire day of revelry and all the Jack and Coke that goes with it, you're probably not in any frame of mind to deal with important financial transactions like making sure the band actually gets paid for services rendered?

Let me explain. In many cases where musical entertainment is contracted, a NON-REFUNDABLE deposit (don't even get me started on this oft-ignored policy) is required ahead of time to reserve the act for your event. Most of the time this deposit is 50% of the total due, with the other half due the night of the event. Fine. This first half of the transaction usually occurs on a weekday when everyone is sober. Don't get me wrong. All of us in the industry are grateful you've contracted our services. But here's hoping that more fathers of the bride and other special event benefactors realize that after a gig, we're sweaty, tired and just want to get paid, pack up our gear and head to bed. The challenge for many beleaguered band leaders and DJ's is actually collecting that balance check in a timely fashion once the lights come up at the end of the night. It's hard enough finding you among the remaining guests, probably interrupting whatever slurry conversation you might be in and holding our hand out like Oliver Twist asking for "more". Here are a few classic examples that can make it even harder (you know who you are!):

The Scribbler - Once you actually locate him after 20 minutes, this is the completely snockered dad who can barely hold his checkbook and a pen at the same time. Often the bandleader will politely stand before The Scribbler for an extended period of time while he goes through an inordinate amount of checks, screwing each one up worse than the other. The upside down check....the check where he accidentally writes the same profanity he is speaking...the check he fell asleep in the middle of writing. In the end you usually get a crumpled, damp piece of paper made out to: "Je78XXX7s Prkdd#@# F**CK!"

The Socialite - This is the mother of the bride or similar player who gets that classic look of "What? We owe you money?" look in her eyes upon your approach. She then proceeds to tell you to "follow her", and like a compensation-starved puppy you are on her tail throughout the entire reception. Of course, making a bee line to the source of the money would be too much to ask, so naturally she stops at every group of relatives for another extended conversation-the bandleader at her side like a personal valet. By the third or fourth stop to chat, she has completely forgotten who you are and where she was going in the first place and finally asks you to go get her another drink.

The Concierge - This is the would-be payer who left his checkbook up in the hotel room. This is easily a half-hour wait and you know once he finally gets up there, he forgot to get the keycard to the room from his wife.

The Hot Potato - This tactic is usually committed by a group of relatives who must be a joy to dine out with once the check comes because their paying-avoidance skills are honed to perfection. These are the folks who deflect you like running backs and refer you to another player like the best man who they think was in charge of disbursing checks...of course Best Man looks at you like you have three heads and you get passed off to Cousin Vinnie....Vinnie to Aunt Fannie..Fannie to...well, you get the picture. By the time this merry-go-round stops it's 3 am and you're looking at the busboy wondering if the tips in his pocket would be enough to cover the balance.

So...how to avoid this frustration? Take care of all the business transactions before the reception starts. Organize and write your vendor checks ahead of time and pass them out. Get it out of the way. We totally understand that paying before the party starts makes you nervous. But rest assured, we didn't spend the last three hours to set up a full ten-piece band and complete sound system only to dine and dash. We're there, we're staying and you will get the great entertainment you imagined. The artists at companies with reputations like Jerry Bruno Productions are consummate professionals who only want the best for you and for you to continue referring us to your friends and families. We've grown up from our wanna-be rock star days of raping and pillaging your gentile events. So pay up...early. You'll have a happy and content band and you can party 'til you puke! You'll be safe and we won't have to incur the wrath of a drunken Aunt Fannie. Check please.

Sincerely,

Geoff Short (aka Oliver Twist)

Geoff is the Sales and Promotions Manager at Jerry Bruno Productions and is the bandleader of JBP's band The Avenue. Contact him at geoff@jerrybruno.com.

THE AVENUE - from Jerry Bruno Productions

Seated: (l. to r.) Tiffany Marchak (Vocals), Geoffrey Short (Vocals), Leigh Peterson (Vocals
Back Row: (l.to r.) Ray Porello (Drums), L.R. Smith (Keyboards), Ian Indorf (Trumpet), Joe Blues (Guitar), Bob Kessler (Bass), Chris Vollstadt (Saxophone), B.J. Bishop (Trombone).

PART 3!! "STAGES" - Check it Out!

STAGES: Stories from the BW Music Theater Program!

In this episode, auditions and call-backs wrap up for the Baldwin-Wallace College production of Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

She Ate My Tapes!!!


This is the face that ate 3 of my "Wild Party" production video tapes forcing me to re-record yet again! She literally ate my homework! Bad dog Violet!!

A History of Rubbing Elbows

Found these gems hidden under a pile on my desk from my days working in radio and television.


Me and Jerry Springer from my years
working at FOX 8 in Cleveland. Jerry
put many dinners on my table. Oooh
TRASHY!!


Me and Marie Osmond at my first radio gig ever at
WGAR Cleveland's Country Music Station...still love
country music!



Me and Randy Travis. Sweet guy...enormous forehead.
Love his song "Forever and Ever, Amen". What is with
my gargantuan glasses? Thank God for lasik!


Me and Drew Carey right after the Browns left town for
Baltimore- I was Promotions Director for Sportsradio WKNR
and we were doing a bunch of Browns Hater Promotions!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

PART 2 OF "STAGES"!


Here is part 2 of "STAGES: Stories from the BW Music Theater Program"

In this episode, go behind the scenes of auditions for BW's Fall musical Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party". In the BW Music Theater program, where every opportunity is a teaching opportunity, an audition can be so much more than just a tryout.

Welcome to my new video documentary series "STAGES: Stories from the BW Music Theater Program"!


I'm always so grateful when anyone takes the time to watch my "Call-Back" videos documenting the process of producing live theater. I'm even more grateful when someone notices and hires me to do more of it! That was the case earlier this year when Vicky Bussert, the head of the Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theater program asked me to produce a brand new series for them that we call "STAGES:Stories from the BW Music Theater Program ".

The "STAGES" series follows the stories of the students and teachers of the acclaimed Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre Program led by Victoria Bussert. Produced by theater artist and documentarian Geoffrey Short, STAGES gives viewers unprecedented access to this exclusive program that draws the very best talent from around the country to this small private college in Berea, Ohio (just southwest of Cleveland). Graduates of this program often go on to careers on Broadway. Learn more about Baldwin-Wallace College at www.bw.edu. See other theater video documentary series from Geoff Short at www.youtube.com/CallBackCleveland.

A new episode will be posted to YouTube every Friday. I will post them here as well.

Here's episode 1. In this first episode, the MT students from freshman to seniors meet for the first time as a complete group. They learn some about some of the philosophies of the program from its teachers and they learn some interesting things about each other as well.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A View from the Stage: The First Dance


Being in a special event band gives us musicians a very special perspective on things that can make the difference between a successful event and one that is primarily remembered for Uncle Shemp dropping his pants and passing out in the middle of the dance floor. It's a good thing all prospective brides, grooms and wedding reception guests on the dance floor, at the bar or in the buffet line can't see what we see from atop our wedding band risers week in and week out....there might be a lot less comedy in the wedding world.

Don't get me wrong, 99% of the weddings we perform at are gorgeous, classy affairs that are painstakingly planned. From the band perspective, all of us at JBP work very closely with clients, planners, venues and other vendors to make sure we guide the reception smoothly through its timeline. But the recurrence of a certain amusing--if not downright awkward--nuptial phenomenon never ceases to amaze...usually starting with the first dance.

The first rule of planning a wedding reception is that there are no rules; whatever the newlyweds like is what should happen. But it's always been my understanding that the first dance should be one of the most romantic moments of the big day. A few minutes that not only christen the dance floor, but that also give a new husband and wife the chance to hold each other and reflect with one another on having just started this new part of their lives together - all while listening to one of their favorite songs. It's almost a private moment really. The most moving and romantic first dances I've seen are usually handled this way. And then there are the others...

You know the ones: the dance school flunkies, who despite weeks of bargain wedding dance class lessons still look like they're in a boxing match as opposed to a first dance. And why is it always the grooms with the absolute worst rhythm in the world who seem to be forced into this choreographic conundrum? It never fails that instead of a lump in my throat I have to fight the giggles at the look of absolute terror on his face and the look of sympathetic frustration on hers as she is relentlessly counting to four through pursed lips. Rather than a beautiful moment of wedded bliss, these fumblings resemble the awkward prep school dance classes we were forced into as kids.

On behalf of dance schools everywhere, dance classes are great things and fun to do together as a couple. But a first dance is not a variety show. You don't have to entertain your guests - yet. Newlyweds, do yourself a favor. Just hold each other and thank your lucky stars you've just married this prince or princess of your dreams. You should remember this moment as one of joy and love in each others' arms - not one in which you'd rather be anywhere else than having to remember which is your left foot and which is your right. The genuine look of being in love on both your faces will entertain the crowd way more than any spin or dip. And your future kids will never look through your wedding album asking why daddy was sweating and looked like he had to go potty.

-Geoff Short

Geoff is the Sales and Promotions Manager at Jerry Bruno Productions and is the bandleader of JBP's band The Avenue. Contact him at geoff@jerrybruno.com.

THE AVENUE - from Jerry Bruno Productions

Seated: (l. to r.) Tiffany Marchak (Vocals), Geoffrey Short (Vocals), Leigh Peterson (Vocals
Back Row: (l.to r.) Ray Porello (Drums), L.R. Smith (Keyboards), Ian Indorf (Trumpet), Joe Blues (Guitar), Bob Kessler (Bass), Chris Vollstadt (Saxophone), B.J. Bishop (Trombone).



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is There a Corporate Bias Against Theater Artists?


I once was an Advertising Manager for a local community newspaper group. I'll never forget one particular off-hand comment I got from a boss during one of my mostly positive reviews. I was sharing the fact that I had some frustrations over struggling with a particular client and one of his responses was "you may want to be less involved with that theater thing you do"! My head was spinning. Those words rang in my head - still do..."that theater thing". Like it was an activity as foreign as Maori tattoo rituals or as mysterious as pagan fertility ceremonies. No less shocking and equally as offensive was the fact that this man actually equated my involvement in the arts - on my own time - as a detriment as opposed to an asset. I never gave him the chance to explain what he meant because I pounced like a nervous cat and immediately explained how my involvement in COMMUNITY theater could actually help someone working at a COMMUNITY newspaper! I continued to explain that I would think a media outlet would appreciate having creative, organized people who were involved and connected to their communities and the arts. At the same time I was verbally explaining the value of the arts in our communities I was thinking "I can't believe I'm having to explain the value of the arts in our communities to this guy". But this illustrated a bigger question that I wish I could say I only asked myself this one time. Do some employers (outside of the arts world , of course) have biases AGAINST theater artists? And if so, what can the theater artist seeking a job in the corporate world do? I think there are negative stereotypes associated with "theater people" and truth be told, we, said people, probably could do more to help the situation.

I have always had a corporate job and still do as a Director of Sales and Marketing for a medical supply company. Somehow, other (more mainstream?) extracurricular activities never raise an eyebrow. Golf, for instance, is not only accepted, but expected in the corporate sector. And I know many people who spend just as much of their free time (and not so little work time) on a golf course as I might in a theater. Other community or civic groups like Kiwanis or Lions clubs are positive beacons on a resume (as they should be). Why then, is community theater - which offers so many positive things to a community - such a mysterious eccentricity that I, personally have felt I needed to keep under my hat on more than one occasion? In another interview situation, for instance, the interviewer told me (thankfully before I divulged my dark obsession with the evil art of theater) that the last person who held the job didn't work out for different reasons, not the least of which was that he was involved with theater and the boss felt that took up too much of his time. I've always felt that the only other people who get to have an opinion about what "too much"of my OWN time is are my wife and kids - but I digress.

First let's look at ourselves as theater artists and what we might be doing to contribute to this phenomenon. Then let's look at a couple things we can do to help improve our situation.

Let's face it,we theater people ARE eccentric. It's this beautiful, skewed perception of the world around us that so often is our strength in creating great art - a wonderful gift that sometimes doesn't fit in so well within the walls of a cubicle or a three-piece suit. The rules of the "real" world often don't seem to apply within the walls of a theatre. Indeed we often have to throw off inhibitions of everyday life to achieve bigger-than-life things on stage. But sometimes we don't know when to flip the switch and get back into that inhibition suit for our 9 to 5 job. Everyone is in costume and performing to some extent in public and co-workers and bosses are no different. We theater artists have to realize when it's time to put on our "work" costume and play the part of trustworthy employee. Yes, this means things as simple as appearance, but it also means professional attitude, promptness, reliability, and focus (not on the rehearsal agenda for tonight, but on the job at hand). A cast party or a late rehearsal may be a normal part of theater life, but as soon as the alarm clock is ignored the next morning, those negative stereotypes may be confirmed. For my theater colleagues who would say that theater people are some of the most dependable and professional workers anywhere I would say you're preaching to the choir. I can think of many stage managers, directors, choreographers, costumers and office staff who I would trust with an important project any day. But we also have to be honest and take a look in the mirror to really see what some employers think they see when we share our talent with them. While I'm on my high horse I freely admit there have been times when I have caught myself concentrating on lines or blocking instead of the work on my desk, but no more so than any other employee who might be thinking about organizing his church retreat or the PTA fundraiser. Do you have the ability to know when you're drifting and bring back the focus to your job? If not, you're part of the problem, not the solution because one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. Having the advantage of age I can remember some really hedonistic theater experiences in the 70's and 80's, and maybe potential employers remember tales of them too. Stereotypes linger. But things really are much different now and while the theater experience is still beautifully crazy, it also is much more down to earth and professional. People involved in community theatre come from all walks of life -including corporate managers - with families and obligations and they, too have get up in the morning.

So how can we improve the situation? I've always thought the best way to defeat stereotypes is to not be a stereotype. Obviously, the simple answer is to show up on time, look professional and get your job done. And for God's sake don't use company time or resources for ANY extracurricular activity. Of course, there are things that are out of our control and just as you can't force someone to like anchovies, there are just some people who don't appreciate or "get" the arts and probably never will. Hopefully you wouldn't end up working with those people anyway. But it's more than that. Again, anyone who knows the amount of work it takes to mount a theater production knows that theater artists are anything but slackers. On my resume I try to highlight the skills I use to not only direct a show, but market it as well. The same skills that are desirable in the corporate world. Organization, communication, the ability to effective manage a creative team, delegate responsibilities stick to timelines and budgets are all highly sought after skills and ones we use regularly to produce theater shows. The key is to effectively translate those skills from the stage back to the (resume) page. I don't know if I've achieved that or not, but I'm continually trying to with things like my online, interactive resume at www.visualcv.com/geoffshort. Your theater experiences don't have to be just frivolous, fun activities. They certainly can be. But they can also be professional experiences to develop and demonstrate marketable skills and you need to think of ways to translate them on your resume to employers. Not just to potential employers, but also to your current bosses. Just as theater artists are not all alike, neither are employers. Some are very open-minded, arts loving supporters. Hopefully you have one of those! I think it's OK to share an opening with them - give them a pair of tickets or share with them an example of a set design sketch or a DVD of a curtain speech or an award or positive attendance figures. Ideally these positive, professional accomplishments will be positive additions to a resume and reinforce the fact that they have hired, or should hire a well-rounded, creative, professional who will be a true asset to their team. I'm not an H.R. expert, but I'm optimistic enough to hope that no one wants to hire a one-dimensional automaton in this day and age, even with a couple negative experiences under my belt. We should never have to hide who we really are and I don't think most employers want us to. We are artists and nothing and no one can ever change that. But with a little thought we can market ourselves in positive ways to be attractive to the corporate world as well as the artistic one.

Now get back to work!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Geoff Exits Stage Left!

This is my first animation using DoInk.com! I call this masterpiece: Geoff Exits Stage Left!
Eat your heart out Pixar!


Geoff Exits Stage Left by Geoff, made at DoInk.com

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Song Reveals Itself

It's that exact moment when suddenly you know that you can actually perform that song you love, that until now you've only listened to. We singers know that hearing a song, even loving a song is far different than having to actually perform it live. There's a thrill, an actual high - a sort of endorphin rush I guess - that must be similar to what golfers must feel sinking a putt for an eagle or something like that, that happens when you realize you really do have the lyrics memorized. You really are comfortable with the intricacies of the melodies and harmonies and you sound great singing them. It's always so cool to finally know every line of the song and be able to sing along with it in the car - over and over. Then being able to perform your take on the song yourself in a live situation. This is the moment I refer to as the song revealing itself to me. It is that "Aha!" moment that is a thrilling moment every time. When I transition from humming along to the tune - truly digging it but not really concentrating on forming the lyrics with my lips or breathing properly through a performance of it, just sort of passively experiencing it - to understanding how to actually perform it. I'm kind of going through that right now with two tunes - Jason Mraz's elegantly simple but romantic "Lucky" his duet with Colbie Caillet and "When You're Home" from the original Broadway Cast recording of "In the Heights". I'll be performing both soon. As a musical theater artist and a singer in a dance cover band, I am constantly learning new tunes. And it is that moment that keeps me coming back time after time for another fix. Composers of original work feel that same thrill when their own creation suddenly comes out of the shadows, blinking into the sunlight, only to make its new home in ears, hearts and souls. Not all songs reveal their secrets and it's frustrating when that happens. Kind of like that song doesn't want to be my friend, just a polite acquaintance who is peripherally aware of me and doesn't mind me listening, but would never confide it's deepest thoughts to me or allow me to sing it. But fortunately, I make friends pretty easily and am often lucky to have that moment when the song reveals itself to me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why Video Should be Center Stage in Theatre Marketing


One of the biggest selling points TV Ad Sales reps use (I certainly did during all the years I sold TV) is the ability for a visual medium like TV to convey the sight, sound, motion and E-motion of a particular product, service or event. For me personally, there is not a more thrilling visual medium than live theatre. Next to actually being in the theatre when the magic is happening, the best way to describe and re-create the thrill of live theatre is with video. I always wonder, then, why so many community theatres still rely solely on still production photos, press releases or static program ads to try to generate revenue and interest in their productions. True, video photography and editing is a skill that takes time (and in some cases considerable money) to become proficient at and a poorly produced video can backfire and reinforce the "amateur" stereotype of community theatre. But modern technology and pricing is steadily breaking down barriers to producing intriguing videos for your theatre and other businesses. "Duct Tape Marketing" Author John Jantsch recently wrote about this in his blog entry Making Video an Everyday Marketing Activity.

Video marketing should be an important part of every theatre's marketing mix. Here are just a couple of the reasons why:

Sales - When I go on a sales call for a theatre, I have to realize that the person I'm presenting to may not be a fan of live theatre at all. My first job is to convince them that the resource I'm providing - my audience, and their eyes and ears - can help improve THEIR business, not mine. But I also need to convey the excitement of live performance. This is where video comes in. I will often bring either a projector or just my laptop and show them edited video montages of recent productions or behind the scenes documentaries of the shows we're doing. It's also a good idea to provide some sort of brief performance as well. I have often performed a song from a musical or had our outreach performing group do a brief presentation. That is, after all, what we do. The key is EXCITEMENT! Let's turn them on!

Also, producing short commercials for a client and showing them on screens in the lobby or in the theatre before each performance can be a valuable element in a sponsorship package. Many advertisers may already have TV or cable spots produced in which case , it becomes as easy as editing their spot in a pre-show reel of other video messages. And there's no reason why sponsors should have all the fun. I have produced many video messages for our theatre itself to promote our seasons - previews of upcoming shows, welcoming messages from staff, etc. But again, quality is the key here, no one wants to be represented by schlock.

By the way, including samples of these video marketing efforts in grant applications can go a long way in describing the type of work your theatre does and your efforts in raising revenue to support it.

Audience Building - I started "Call-Back" because I was looking for a way to creatively raise awareness of a show that I was Directing that is not very widely known - the musical "Violet". Frankly I was inspired by reality TV. A documentary series about Boxing of all things. I could care less about Boxing, but the documentary was interesting. The actual Boxing match the series was building up to wasn't as interesting as the stories behind the scenes. In the voyeuristic society in which we now live, the same can be said of any business or endeavor- including theatre (though I hope not). I thought if reality TV shows could be produced about crab fishing, families with litters of kids and boxing, why not theatre? I mean, if ever there was drama behind the scenes of drama - theatre would be the place! And people did notice "VioletBlog" as it was originally called. And now 5 years later or so "Call-Back"is still going strong and often goes a long way to help generate buzz about shows and contribute to ticket sales.

Directing, Lighting,Costuming and Choreography - One of the things I notice as I edit hours of video for a particular show I may be working on is that it's like I'm still in rehearsal in front of my computer screen. Editing video sort of forces me to continue to examine the staging and the movement of the action on stage. I catch things I might not in the heat of the moment of a live rehearsal and I often bring in my computer to share those things with the cast at the next rehearsal to make adjustments. I have found this very helpful and costumers, lighting designers and choreographers can benefit from this as well. Even if you don't ever plan on editing video for any other presentation, I would recommend video taping rehearsals as much as possible.

Cast Bonding - An interesting phenomenon happens when I first engage my casts to stand in front of a camera and talk. At first they are very self conscious and even shy (yes...shy stage performers!). But when they see how that footage can be creatively edited into a fun segment that really is a slice of their lives in rehearsal, they suddenly start to own the process and soon are anxious to create new segments. The cast of "Violet" started to wear funny costumes and create hilarious little segments in character- all of which makes great video. But more importantly, the cast becomes closer in doing this. They see each other on local cable TV and on line and start to feel good about the buzz their show is generating and that people are taking notice. Their friends and families have seen these entertaining and interesting previews and are asking them how to get tickets and they really start to take pride and ownership of the production. These videos give them something cool to refer people to when asked about the latest show they're working on. Check out the latest segment of "Call-Back" - Call-Back: Oklahoma Pt.4: The Top Ten- featuring my cast from "Oklahoma" doing their Top 10 List of Reasons to be in Oklahoma - I think reason #1 says it all!

So get the cameras rolling and hopefully the money and audiences will be too!

Monday, June 29, 2009

New "Oklahoma!" Vids on Call-Back!

The Latest two Episodes of "Call-Back" featuring Oklahoma! Cast perspectives on the show and interviews with Choreographer Alex Tepe and Music Director Kira Seaton. Be sure and check out the cast's "Top Ten List" in Pt.4!!





Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My "Oklahoma!" Director's Note

This is my Director's note for the production program for "Oklahoma!" I'm directing at Huntington Playhouse this Summer:

“There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…”

How we take these lyrics - the first ever submitted to Richard Rodgers by his new Lyricist partner Oscar Hammerstein II - for granted! But the pure artistry in these and so many other lyrics and melodies from Rodgers and Hammerstein cannot be denied. The images those 8 words immediately conjure are indelible and undeniable. And therein lies the joy and the challenge of Directing this great American classic.

I am so glad to have had this opportunity to Direct "Oklahoma!" It really is one of those shows that just feels right, like an ice cold beer on a hot Summer day. It really is true that the more things change the more they stay the same and here we are again - just as we were when Oklahoma opened on Broadway in 1943 - in challenging, troubling times. And just as it did then, this first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein comforts audiences and reminds us of the sheer joy and pride of being home, making a home and coming home to America.

But as is the case for every theater producing a classic play or musical, the challenge is to breathe some new life into the piece while remaining true to what people love about it. Every comfortable, old home needs a fresh coat of paint once in a while. Or, in the case of Oklahoma!, in my opinion, it needs its usually bright, shiny coat of paint weathered and aged a bit. Green Grow the Lilacs, the Lynn Riggs 1931 play on which Oklahoma! Is based takes place in 1900 – less than a decade before Oklahoma even became a state – in what was known as “The Indian Territory”. This was land set aside for Native American tribes forcefully relocated there by the government on The Trail of Tears, but soon the government opened the territory up to white settlement as well. And it is those new settlers that are the heroes of ”Oklahoma!”. These people would have been unglamorous, hearty people of the Earth, trying to settle in a somewhat hostile environment. I have never subscribed to the usual portrayal of these characters as fresh-faced cowboys and cowgirls in clean prairie dresses and matching, multi-colored kerchiefs. I have also never understood why there was never any mention of Native Americans in any of the Oklahoma text or the play on which it was based. Certainly Indian tribes had a strong presence in the area (as did African-Americans) and would have had some influence over the culture of the land and its new white inhabitants. They certainly have with this production and so wisps of Native American memories sometimes float throughout this production along side the lovable – if not so freshly scrubbed – characters and gorgeous music we have all loved for so long. I hope you like it.

My thanks as always to Tom and everyone at Huntington. And to the incredible cast and crew – especially my partners Kira Seaton, Alex Tepe, David Glowe and Keith Stevens, thank you from the bottom of my heart. What a clambake! I love you all. But most importantly I send my love and gratitude to my wife Lisa and my Daughters Mikey and Bailey. I Love you as big as the sky!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Technology and Art Can Make Directors Jacks of All Trades

The marriage of technology, social media and theater is truly awesome and makes the possibilities for creating amazing theater endless. This stuff really turns me on! For a bigger-than-life example of this visit Cleveland this July for the third annual Ingenuity Fest. In the meantime,here are a few of my ramblings about some of the ways I use technology and social media in directing. I think doing things like this and so much more can really increase your value as a Director to hiring theaters and immeasurably help your production staffs.

I recently wrote about improving our chances for media coverage for our shows by doing all the press legwork ourselves so budget-strapped and understaffed print and electronic media outlets don't have to. WE have to take the photos, find and write the stories and deliver them in a nice, neat package to local news outlets. WE become the reporters, photographers and editors. Since I'm currently smack-dab in the middle of directing a community theater production of Oklahoma and pulling the requisite hairs from my head in the process, it occurs to me that the tao of "do-it-yourself" also holds true to an extent for our roles as directors in guiding a show from read-thru to opening.

The modern director really needs to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of as many as possible. Producing theaters are just as (if not more) cash-strapped as the media outlets are. Theaters are always looking to get the most bang for their buck and need to contract people for gigs who truly can do it all - or at least have enough knowledge in as many areas of theater production to make facilitating processes as painless, organized and cost-efficient as possible for the other theater artists handling specific production duties. This becomes even more important as the marriage of technology, new media and art becomes increasingly pronounced. It's not enough to only be concerned with the script and action on stage and leave all the other elements to other artists and technicians. I'm not talking about taking away work from other very qualified designers and technicians. Indeed any production would be doomed without experts specifically proficient in lighting, sound, set design, costuming, P.R. and promotion and more. Just because a guy may be familiar with concepts of flight doesn't mean I want him i the cockpit during a dogfight! But how much more valuable is a leader of a production who has enough working knowledge and hands-on experience with these production elements that they can not only effectively communicate ideas to techs, designers and builders but also roll up their sleeves and do much of the preliminary legwork themselves? This effectively creates the same chances of success as delivering complete press packages to the news media discussed earlier. Directors need to be proficient in multi-media design, video and audio production, media relations, editing software and more. With that in mind, I've been compiling the following list of ways I've tried to incorporate these elements into directing with suggestions for other directors as well:

Set Design - Every director has a mental image of what they want the sets to look like for their productions. But it's amazing how many can't effectively communicate their ideas to tech directors or worse, throw a script at a designer and say "Whatever you think", then invariably complain when the set is built. Delivering thorough concepts and illustrations of those concepts to designers can make their lives so much easier. When the designer has a clear idea of what you're thinking they can then easily add their own ideas to the design rather than starting from scratch and shooting in the dark. First, it's important to know the space. Measurements, wing space, fly space, etc. Then the brainstorming can begin within the realm of reality. There is some user-friendly , cheap (or free) software that makes it easier than ever. I will often use Photoshop to create visual layers of design elements that I can share with designers. Exporting those images also makes it easy to email them back and forth to further facilitate discussion. I also use Google's Sketch-Up - a free 3-D animation application that helps translate ideas into concrete 3-d computer models. Here's an example of my latest Sketch-Up design for Oklahoma:



Sound Design - When I started in theater in the dark ages, there were no body mics or digital anything. Now sound design is an art and more important than ever. Since I've been in bands or in a recording studio since I was a kid I've spent a lifetime plugging in amps, coiling cords and pushing buttons on a mixing board. Software apps like Garage Band or Audacity (which is free) make it easy to record and mix sound cues and effects. Sites like SoundBoard.com offer free libraries of different effects as well. If you do a lot of this recording yourself far in advance of tech week, you not only have a better chance of getting the exact effects you want right away, but you also free up the Sound Designer for bigger projects like mixing mics, orchestra monitors and general house P.A. In the last production of City of Angels I directed earlier this year, I recorded all the sound (and video) cues before we even started rehearsals. Then I just handed the tech a cue sheet and a CD and we were off and running. I talk about that briefly in the intro to this "Call-Back" episode:




Video Design - Video elements in theater productions are more prevalent than ever. Sometimes, they are superfluous and can distract from the action. Other times they can really help facilitate sense of time and place or create a desired mood for a scene. If you're using video, you should try to become as proficient in shooting and editing video as possible. Apps like iMovie are really user-friendly and can turn simple footage shot with a consumer grade camcorder into some pretty cool video cues. Of course you can subscribe to video sites like iStockphoto or Fotosearch to pay for professionally produced still photos and video clips that you can purchase and then edit into cues as you see fit. Of course, tasteful, elegant and simple slideshows are always a snap with user-friendly programs like iPhoto, Keynote or Powerpoint. Lest anyone think I'm a shill for Apple, many PC based apps can do the same stuff. Just so happens, I'm a Mac guy. Again, if you do the legwork and shoot and edit this stuff into organized cues way ahead of time for a board op., life will be much easier.

Here's an example of kind of an abstract video cue I produced using the actor playing "Father" in a production of "Violet" I directed a couple years ago. We shot this in Winter a few months before rehearsals even began. The original recording heard on this video was used for editing purposes only as the music was performed live with the video. I use Final Cut now, but used iMovie back then. This was a case of having the challenge of telling the back story of this musical before the action on stage even began. The challenge was how to depict the horrible accident that happens to Violet without actually doing it on stage. I felt it was important for the audience to see what happened to this girl to set the tone for the rest of the story:



Costuming - I'm definitely not an expert here, but I do try to provide a detailed spreadsheet of each character and what they're wearing in each scene to the person who is the costumer. It's also important to provide them with enough time to provide some simple costume pieces for publicity photos if necessary early in the process.

Lighting - This is a highly specialized art and specialty (not that the others aren't) and definitely should be left to the experts, but any director should know the basics of focus, mood, color (gels), gobos, follow spots, shin busters, etc. Most of my hands-on lighting experience comes from lighting bands, not theater productions, but it does allow me enough knowledge to provide a detailed cue to cue spreadsheet to the lighting designer and effectively communicate what I'm trying to accomplish in each scene.

Publicity & Promotion - That's what "Call-Back" is all about! A video documentary series I started a few years ago that has caught on in this market that is meant to document the process of putting shows on from beginning to end. A lot of theater groups are getting into the video game and that's great. There are so many great ideas to promote shows (see this post). I've already addressed getting shows covered in the press in a previous blog post. The point is the Director who brings these portfolios and ideas to the table is invaluable to a hiring theater board. I always take publicity photos and edit them early in the rehearsal process. Rebecca Coleman has some great tips for publicity photos in her blog. And there's a pretty hilarious blog about what not to do with photos at "...In a Production Of". Here are some of the latest photos I took and edited for Oklahoma. But there are lots of other ways to create buzz. I always tell my casts that if they're waiting for the producing theater to promote and advertise their shows then they're in trouble. Ad budgets are virtually non-existent and volunteers are stretched thin with the bigger pictures of a whole season, not just one show. With social media exploding, it's easier than ever to self-promote online. I always encourage my casts to take pictures and post them on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Tweet (positive) updates from rehearsals, create Facebook event pages and invitations. Here's the latest event page I put together for Oklahoma. At one point recently, the Cassidy Theatre had three different shows being buzzed about at the same time on Facebook. It's free and it helps create a "must-see" type of environment. One other thing I always do is create simple websites for each of my shows. Again programs like iWeb make putting together sites easy.


Here's a screen shot from my latest site and you
can check it out at: www.oklahoma.com and
check out the others with the links in my
sidebar:

There is so much cool technology and so many
brilliant artists out there that it really does make
my head swim! I frequently find that spending so much time editing video and photos and writing and posting about my shows actually makes me a better director because I end up studying the show from every angle. I catch things I wouldn't in rehearsal and am inspired by other things I find in a picture or by creating a website. Very cool. So roll up your sleeves and dive in, explore - but most importantly, don't wait for other people to do the work. I could write forever, but alas rehearsal beckons soon which means it's time to put some of this stuff to work!


Friday, June 12, 2009

Hot Violet!

This is why my bulldog would never survive in the wild! Of course, neither would I!!!

video

Which is it?

Can we please decide on how to spell Theater? Is is Theatre? Theater? Annoying already! I have a theat-ER friend laughing at me because whenever I use a Twitter hashtag for a theat...-screw it..."performing arts"-related tweet, I'm hashing twice...#theatre and #theater. She prefers theat-ER saying she thinks theat-RE is pretentious to which I replied "kinda like spelling "Jeff" "G-E-O-F-F"!! Any preference?

New "Oklahoma!" Vids!

The first new episodes taking a look behind the scenes of the 2009 Huntington Playhouse production that I'm directing this Summer! Visit www.oklahoma.8k.com for more info!



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A TRUE LEADER!

FROM THE MARKETING MASTER SETH GODIN TODAY:

The perfect marketing analogy! Love this video! Are you a follower or a leader?



From Seth's Blog today:

"My favorite part happens just before the first minute mark. That's when guy #3 joins the group. Before him, it was just a crazy dancing guy and then maybe one other crazy guy. But it's guy #3 who made it a movement.

Initiators are rare indeed, but it's scary to be the leader. Guy #3 is rare too, but it's a lot less scary and just as important. Guy #49 is irrelevant. No bravery points for being part of the mob.

We need more guy #3s."


Thanks Seth!


Friday, June 5, 2009

"Thank You...NEXT!"


Even though I've spent the last couple of years focusing on directing, there is nothing like the thrill of actually being on stage. But to do that of course you have to actually get your fat ass off the couch, or director's chair and audition. I think it's really important for director's to audition a lot anyway. I know for me it's great perspective to be on the other side of the audition table and I know it helps me a better director when people audition for me. Can't be a leader if you haven't been in the trenches yourself, right? And there's nothing that can put a director who may have developed an overinflated sense of importance (c'est moi?) in his place more than hearing the words "Thank you...NEXT!". What do you mean the entire universe isn't tuned in to my electrifying theater visions and just waiting for me to walk through the door? "Thank you....NEXT!"

I recently had the pleasure of auditioning for the annual open call of professional theaters here in Cleveland. Walking into a room with representatives from 12 or 15 pro theater groups was humbling, felt great and was energizing. We'll see what the future holds for productions next season! I also have had a series of on-camera auditions through my agency The Talent Group and excuse me, but there's nothing more horrifying than that up close image of yourself on camera...like I need to add 10 pounds? Talk about humbling! Fortunately my last audition ended up in a booking as a character in an industrial video, so that's cool...but the point of this is the audition process is so important to what we do that any practitioner of the art should examine it from every angel, practice it, love it, hate it, do it. For me it helps me become a better auditioner and director. Holla!

Brides Will do ANYTHING for the Perfect Dress! Even See a Show!


Kudos to Chagrin Valley Little Theatre here in the Cleveland area for their awesome promotions for the upcoming production of "A Perfect Wedding". Not only are they auctioning off some beautiful wedding dresses donated from a dress shop that's going out of business throughout the run of the show, but they are also offering the set for actual weddings!! New brides-to-be will search anywhere for good deals on beautiful wedding dresses and the silent auction is likely to bring them in...even if they don't buy tickets to this show it could bring in people who may never have walked through the doors otherwise which is planting seeds for the future. Too much fun! From their recent press release:

WEDDING DRESS SILENT AUCTION
Chagrin Valley Little Theatre will be offering two very special promotions in conjunction with this production; a silent auction of designer bridal gowns will be held throughout the run of Perfect Wedding, with gowns on display in the lobby of the theatre and at the theatre's website.

GET MARRIED ON OUR STAGE
In addition, CVLT is offering a 'perfect wedding' on the Perfect Wedding set to any interested couple (opening and closing nights excepted). The theatre will provide the stage and will play any music provided on the theatre's sound system. A wine and cheese reception in the theatre's River Room, as well as free tickets for the bride and groom and a group discount to their family and friends are also included. Interested couples should send a 100-word or less statement on why they'd like to celebrate their special day in this unique way to nancy@cvlt.org by June 5. A three-person committee of CVLT Board members will choose the winner.