Monday, August 16, 2010

Some more Producers pictures

Here are some more pictures from "The Producers". These were taken by my daughter, see more at The Production Team, Roger DeBris (Alan Agualar), choreographer (Tim Grummich), Carmen Ghia (Ryan Cooper) Costumer (Jim Merlo), set designer (Barry Luedloff.)
Franz Liebkind and his Birds (Robert Doyle) These birds scared my friend who is afraid of birds when I showed her the cage backstage, they were very real, and could actually salute to the furor on cue!
Max (Kent Coffel) and one of his favorite backers, HOLD ME TOUCH ME (Rosemary Wall)
Beautiful Girls wearing nothing but Pearls with Leo (Dominic Windsor)
Roger DeBris (Alan Agualar) wearing his Chrysler Building dress

What's the buzz? Tell me what's happenin'!

More comments about "The Producers", presented by the Hawthorne Players, July 30-Aug. 8,2010.

The big production that I spent the majority of my summer hours working on is over. I still have some costumes to clean and put away, but the majority of it is stored in our costume warehouse.

The latest buzz was the third of a series of wonderful reviews by local theatre critics. We have a local arts radio station that reviews all manner of theatre events, from the highly polished shows that come to the Fox Theatre, to local community theatre events. They reviewed our show in several different versions through their radio and internet programming.

The first review was sent to us through FaceBook, so I can't exactly find where or when it was posted. The various aspects of our production were highlighted, including costumes, regarded by this reviewer as OFTEN GLITZY. If only he knew how many yards of sequins I used to create that glitz! I should count that up some day!

One aspect that was really brought out was the set design. This was truly a professional level design, with the movement off and on the stage planned to the last nano-second! There were lots of flying set pieces and movement in and out of large wagons. One wagon was a huge file case, and it had doors through which came 6 dancing girls! That one was always interesting as it had to go in quickly, disappear for a dance number and then reappear! Genius!

When I first saw the sets that our designer Ken had created, I panicked--would those costumes I made show as professional of a level as the sets? After all, my first 8 shows that I costumed were for elementary school kids, and at times I felt like these costumes hadn't progressed much beyond that level. I was in a great deal of self-doubt until the entire thing was put together on stage during tech week. The costumes did show up OK, and I got plenty of compliments on them, but the sets were still the outstanding feature of this show. However, the sheer number of costumes was something that impressed many people, there were hundreds of them, all with multiple pieces to bring them together for complete ensembles. That was the biggest challenge for me!

The second review came in during the week off between shows, and it was glowing. You can see this by going to and checking current reviews, Hawthorne Players "The Producers". More compliments for the entire show. One recurring theme from local professional critics as well as "man on the street" kibitzers has been "Could a community theatre group actually do justice to this show?" It requires a great deal of technical support, which translates into dollars put into it. The reviewer said, "Yes, Yes, Yes!" as an answer to that question. This was a gamble for our theatre group, because they knew they would have to put big money into producing this show, and if there wasn't sufficient ticket sales, it could be a disaster. We had modest ticket sales the first weekend, and it got better and better as the shows progressed, to close to a sell out on the last Sunday show. (In a theatre that holds almost 600). But, I don't know if we broke even, even with that number of tickets sold.

The third excellent review came on Aug. 10, when "Two On The Aisle" was aired. This is a local internet based video show, done twice a month, in which 8-10 of the best local shows are critiqued and videos of portions of the shows are shown. These reviewers were extremely complementary, mentioning the costumes more than once.

The actors, Kent Coffel, who played Max, Dominic Windsor who played Leo, were always characterized as appropriately playing their parts to give the characters some real depth. This is a show in which stereotypes are played to the hilt, and our leads really did that with a great deal of personal interpretation, which made it just hilarious. Ryan Cooper is always outstanding, and his Carmen Ghia interpretation made every one howl with laughter, even down to the flick of his little finger! You had to see it to get the full impact of that comment, words just wouldn't do it justice! Alan Aguilar, who played Roger DeBris, was over the top, especially when he first appeared in his "Chrysler Building" dress. I was given credit for creating this, but I only created the canvas, my assistant costumer, Emily Stroble, created the details, and it is truly a work of art! Great job, Emily!

Set design, costume design, lighting design were always mentioned. Our poor sound designer got left out of the critiques. I guess you take sound for granted, unless you can't hear. That wasn't the case for this show, except when some cantankerous wireless mics decided to wield their quirky heads and not work properly.

Another consistent aspect of the positive reviews was for the orchestra. It was just great! The local junior high band teacher led this group, and there were many music educators and well-known local artists in that orchestra. It was just a pleasure to listen to them, lots of interaction between the orchestra leader and singers! He kept it moving along quickly, and provided hilarious musical interludes between scenes. Very good work!

If we can withstand the financial aspects of this, we do have the satisfaction of knowing that we produced an excellent, entertaining show, destined in the opinion of many of being award winning. I guess that made it all worth while, giving up that big piece of time and money to produce it. After all, as Max repeats over and over again in the show, "We Can DO IT!" That was a mantra I had to play over and over in my head to get to the finish line, and we did prove to all, WE DID IT!

Monday, August 2, 2010

German Icons on display

What better way to display those crazy German icons than to attach them to a beautiful girl? Here are how the headdresses looked on our showgirls.

Cutie J displays the German sausage, or "wurst" if you are truly speaking in German terms. I gave her the job of creating the sausage links, she had a ball doing that during one rehearsal. Making the head sausage was not quite so much fun!
Cutie S got to wear the pretzel icon. Our talented set designer made the pretzels for me using spray insulation foam to form the shape, then he carved them into good pretzel shapes and faux painted them. Yum, Yum!
Cutie R is the Valkarie. Perfect type casting, because she is heading off to college in a few weeks, majoring in music. She has a gorgeous voice, fitting for a Wagnerian character! We added the swastika Thursday, she needed some more "stuff" hanging off her cute body!

Cutie G gets the "piece de resistance", the beerstein! What could describe Germany more clearly than a big stein of beer,frothing over with foam? This one was fun to make, and was the first design that worked out well in the implementation. Whew! It proved to be top heavy, which made taking a bow at the end of the show somehwat of a challenge to keep it balanced on her head. Especially since she has a quick change right before the curtain call, and we had about 1 minute to secure it to her head.

These showgirls got big applause every time they walked on stage, and they were fun to create. I had wonderful "raw materials" to dress up, and they certainly were good sports about donning the entire costume.

Our set desiger also designed and built the hip tables for the pretzel and beer steins. He also carved and painted the beer steins. What a master of stage decorations and costuming he is! A master with styrofoam and his trusty carving knife! Thanks, K!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Germanic Icons

Beer and pretzels, brats and Wagner--all are icons that might pop into your head when you think of Germany. I know if I went there, I'd definitely want some beer, although I hear they serve it warm. And sausages and various types of "wursts" would also be lingering on my taste buds.

Mel Brooks, ever the non-subtle writer, takes this to the hilt in his show "The Producers"

Here are some of the images of Germany, shown as headgear worn by show girls as they enter to the singing of "Springtime for Hitler" during the show within the show.

German Opera certainly is focused on Wagner, with his Valkarie woman singing her ridiculously high note! Here is our Valkarie headgear, certainly the easiest one to create, as I found the basic hat at Party City in the clearance bin. Thanks to my friend NC who decorated it to bring it to showgirl status.
This one was the most fun to create! Used a 1 gallon pitcher for the basic shape, covered with silver and gold poster board. Found the hair at The concept came from a picture of another version of this show, with the curly hair pouring out of the stein to give the illusion of foam, falling down on the girl's head. This got a lot of attention as she walks out, actually applause on opening night! Quite a bit to balance on a head!
Pretzels, we love to eat them! How about balancing them on your head? Made from spray insulating foam sprayed out on paper, then cut and shaped and painted to look like a pretzel. This cute wig is actually very small (costume wigs are not notably consistent in their sizing, they can run very small) so we had to buy another blonde wig which she puts on first, and then this wig is fitted over it. Our girls who are wearing these have a lot of their own hear that needs to be covered, so this is the way we solved that problem

This is the one that made me cry! I had a wonderful huge sausage all ready to go on the hair piece, and it worked when I first built it. Then in taking it apart to glue the elements together, it would not balance when I refit it. This was Tuesday afternoon, and when it fell to the floor from being off balance for the 4th time, I broke down in tears. Just left it on the floor in disgust! Then on my way home, trying to figure out what on earth I could put on this girl that looked like a sausage, I got a brainstorm, MAKE A LEANER WIENER! So from a 3 foot sausage, I scaled it down to an 18" sausage. Still got the point across but much more manageable in size!

The basic form for keepinng these icons on the heads was this:

I made a helmet of buckram shaped over a styrofoam wig head. Then I used one or two desktop spindles (like you put your notes or reciepts on) through the helmet. I glued or sewed the spindle bases to the helmet. Then I fitted the wig over the helmet mit spindles. Then I attached the icon to the spindles. I had to secure the beer stein by using some fish line as guy wires from front to back, side to side, threaded through holes in the stein and then down and through the helmet. Curly hair was also fastened with fish line. A little dab of Gorilla Glue helped the whole thing really stick together. The beer stein is the most secure as a unit, but is very top heavy, so we do a lot of pinning to keep it secure in one spot on her head.

Next post, showing the finished product on the girls.

Addendum to "Last Hurrah"

That handsome creation of a coat for the Storm Trooper Tenor? Looked great, fit well. BUT, the coat was never used, and here's why. In the light of regular indoor lighting, the coat appears to be black, but it is really very dark navy blue.

THAT WILL NEVER DO FOR A WELL DRESSED STORM TROOPER! So, the coat is back on the bone pile of rejected costume pieces!