Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ode To The Theatre

I found this poem for a school assignment, and thought I would share it.
It is not mine, it is by David E. Young.
I found it at

I think it's wonderful, and very true.

Ode To The Theatre

Oh, to be in the theatre
That famous dusty smell,
The echo of the empty stage
Which dreams and wonders tell

The tinny sound of ivory keys
Sitting in the corner
The spacious house with history
Ten thousand past performers

A set goes up in one week’s time
With actors tripping ‘round
It goes back down in even less
Then starts another round

Directors say, “That’s fine, we’ll call.”
Producers bite the budget.
Technicians walk in with a burger
While choreographers dodge it

The lighting crews show up on time
(A minute ‘til the curtain)
The stage crew quickly don all black
The financiers, uncertain

The house crew wants to see the show
So they usher quickly
Refreshment servers look and see
A sea of faces vaguely
The posters change around the town
As actors brag, “I’m in that!”
Then sweat about a hundred pounds
As lights hit costume hats

They live on scones and soda-pops
And ready-made sandwiches
The dancers are forever stretching
And calling teachers, “witches”

The singers have an air about them
That demands attention.
And when you hear a group laugh loud
You’ve found the comic’s station.

The empty dressing room is heavy
With a musty smell
Of make-up and of time gone by,
A thousand “weeks of hell”

The volunteers and union folk
Like to hang from rafters
Tying lights to tiny trestles
With the view of raptors

A rat is seen in the corner,
It’s been there just as long
As anyone can remember
Some write it in a song

The green room couch is old and worn
The ‘fridge is working half-time
The ticket crews all know the actors

To let them in on time

The building echoes in it’s mass
As a show beings
But then comes what will make all worth it
In the very end

People come from all around
Standing long in line
They get a program, read the ads
From financiers this time

The empty chairs are filled within
An hour of unlocked doors
The talk is of the weather and
Of shows they’s seen before.

The fully lit house is bustling
With sounds of joy and laughter
And actors feel that nervous pang
Praying for the here-after

The house lights flash, and comes a voice
Saying, “Do not flash cameras”
The empty pit then comes alive
Warming the orchestra

A silence falls across the house,
The actors’ heartbeats skip
The curtain rises majestically
The tech crew grit their lips

The show goes on, with hitch or no
A separate yet collaborative work
The dance of sound and lights and crews
As sets change in the dark

The ever worried, coffee filled
Stage manager gives cues
And then the curtain falls again
All listen for the news

A clap, a roar, a standing row,
A silence dead as night?
A shriek for “encore!”, or tomato?
Will the show take flight?

Afterwards, while actors mingle
Among remaining crowds
And all the techs reset the cues
And directors furl their brows

The house them empties once again
With echoes, all that’s left
Until another show begins
In the silences deft

At this time, as before
A solitary figure
Says, “Thank you,” to the empty stage
And silent furniture.

It’s impossible to explain
The pull of this, the theatre
But my soul is part of it’s
Never-ending grandeur

It speaks to me, and calls my name
And I will always know
That this is truly home for me
Forever, on with the show!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Absurd Acts: Part VIII (the end)

Well, the last show of my junior year has wrapped up. Wow.

The two shows we had were amazing, and I'm so glad I was a part of them. There was a lot less stress with this show and I loved working with Vince and the student directors. Absurdism is one of my favorite genres now that I've worked on so many plays.

After the show yesterday we all striked the set and then went to VI. After that we headed to a cast party at Alex's. Bonding!

It's weird to know it's the end of my time working with all the seniors this year. It'll be weird without them, and without Fischer or Vince, but with new challenges come new opportunities and I'll be excited to see what we can do next year. It won't be without support from everyone leaving.

Thanks for a wonderful journey.


P.S. If you want to know what the heck the shows are about/what absurdism is:

The Theatre of the Absurd is a style of theatre that was created to contrast the style of Realism.  Realists wanted to create a performance that was exactly like life- characters talked like real people, sets and costumes were created to reflect things we would actually see in the world.  The Absurdists wanted to use theatre to buck that trend.  They thought theatre, in and of itself, was a comment on or reflection of ideas and themes, more than just a venue to tell a story.  Absurd plays often dismissed the construct of story and would present a performance that had very little plot but rather an interaction between characters that would lead the audience towards a dramatic question; that question being based in the philosophy of existentialism.  Who are we as people?  Why do we act the way we do?  What is our purpose in life?  How do we deal with ourselves and others as we search for the answers to these questions.

The 'Acts' you see tonight are a collection from the Theatre of the Absurd.  Waiting for Godot is perhaps the most famous; Samuel Beckett, the playwright, being a pioneer of the style, writing more than 30 plays along those lines.  His characters are quintessential representations of Absurdism; Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo)- a pair, opposites, caught in a nameless place, searching for meaning, using time and circular dialogue to piece together their existence.  This scene from the play captures the essence of the Theatre of the Absurd in one of the style's signature pieces.

Bikini Islands is an original play written by Westside's Luc Murphree in the style of Absurdism.  You'll see the trademark pair, opposites, searching in a nameless place, using circular, logic-based dialogue, and elements of extreme physicality.  The twist being the introduction of a new character at the end to present an interesting question/comment about soldiers and the military, its practices and the consequences thereof.

Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano is perhaps the most 'absurd' of the bunch as it presents almost no plot or story but rather uses seemingly non-sensical dialogue to create a situation which reveals motives, intentions, and interactions between characters.  Ionesco was another prominent playwright in the original attempts of Absurdism.  He was praised and criticized simultaneously for his work; for the risks he took with the conventions of theatre.  Up to this point, theatre had not been used in such a way as Ionesco used it, presenting strong commentary on society and its inhabitants through a presentation of absurd acts.

Curio and Valentine Are Pissed is an original piece that plays on the conventions of the Theatre of the Absurd but contains the most logical plot and 'realistic' characters of our performance.  The title is a parody of a famous Absurd play by Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which uses the plot and characters of Shakespeare's Hamlet to tell the story of the once lesser-known, but now infamous Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Curio and Valentine are minor characters from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, used in this play to create a brand new story.  If you are familiar with Twelfth Night you may pick up bits of dialogue, character situations, and snippets of song, but this piece differs greatly from the original plot of Shakespeare's play to create a new story using his characters.  Originally conceived backstage during a production of Nebraska Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, I playing Curio and the actor playing Orsino created a vast back-story to the servant Curio.  Curio's first line, the seemingly innocent question, "Will you go hunt my lord, the Hart?' became the basis of the original play and Curio became a major character in this new version, no longer relegated to furniture-moving and set-dressing.  Curio and Valentine Are Pissed was produced once before, for a late night theatre company in downtown Omaha- I had the privilege of playing Curio, my best friend Valentine, and my future wife, Olivia.  The play holds great meaning for me- I have been scared to write anything since for fear of whatever comes next not living up to my first attempt at playwrighting.  However, working on the piece as a director with this cast and seeing it in a new context; our Night of Absurd Acts, has created an artistic itch that will need looking into very soon.  I have ideas now for a prequel and a sequel because if Star Wars has taught us anything, it's that good things should come in trilogies.  And then be left alone.  

I hope you enjoy this evening as much as we all have enjoyed putting it together. 
-Vincent Carlson-Brown

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Absurd Acts: Part VII

This is what happens when you leave 2 delirious stage managers after rehearsal by themselves plus costumes not being hung up (and the wonderful photography skills of our light board operator):

Three dress rehearsals down. Two shows to go.

Wish us luck.


Monday, May 7, 2012


Just in case anyone forgot.


Absurd Acts: Part VI

TECH WEEK. Ah, the joy. For those who don't remember, tech week is when we add all the technical aspects to the show. Lights, sound, costumes, makeup, props, sets, etc.

Today after school we ate a quick dinner and started setting up. The lights had already been placed in the Little Theater, but we had to create a backstage with black curtains and lay down a black canvas to block out the tile floor. All the actors had to finalize costume pieces (which took some searching in our theatre storage) and all the final props and sets had to be in place. This took a lot longer than I expected. We also had to re-spike everything on the black canvas.

When we finally started our run the set pieces were a mess backstage. Normally for the Monday dress I'm still in the audience, but not today - I got to sit backstage. The plays themselves were good (not great, but good - they could be better) but the transitions were awful. Last Saturday we practiced transitioning from one show to the next, but tonight we sort of bombed it. It wasn't all the actors fault - I can take some of the blame. Tomorrow right after dinner we're running through all transitions, so everything should go smoothly.

The thing with dress rehearsals is that even though you know the play, adding the lights and sound is always a challenge, and we can't get our show to the level it was on Saturday until Wednesday dress (usually). Then, add all the people on Thursday and you've got a real production.

Notes were long but beneficial, and then the actors left. Audrey, Jenna (who's running sound) and I cleaned up all the costumes (some actors decided to not put their costumes back. seriously, do they know the meaning of a hanger?) and put the projector stuff back for the large groups that are tomorrow. I wearily made my way home at 9:15. Add on the sleep deprivation I have incurred since prom on Saturday night/Sunday morning, this should be a really fun week. Gotta love my job!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Absurd Acts: Part V

Oh my, it's been a while. This is only my fifth post about Absurd Acts, and it's the week before tech week! As in, a week from tomorrow is our opening night. Wow, seeing that in writing is scary.

Not too much to report from my end - we finished blocking Curio in the last week or so, now we're polishing. Lines are getting better, but they could still use some work.

We did an interesting activity I think I should share: Vince asked the cast to sit in the circle in the middle of the stage and run lines of the whole play super fast. The full length with all the blocking is approximately an hour, and our speed through took approximately 30 minutes (there were no pauses).

Vince couldn't attend a rehearsal last week, so I got to run it. We did our speed through twice - so in all we've done it three times. I think the repetition is beneficial for the actors.

Right now all I'm doing in rehearsal while we clean things is line notes. Correcting if an actor misses a line, or says the wrong thing. Pretty low key. With only six actors, I'm not doing much. Which is a nice relief, and a good break. It's hard to think that after this play we only have a couple more weeks of school. But that makes me think of finals, and I want to avoid thinking about finals.

At this point I haven't worked with the student directors very much, so I am excited to see what they're going to bring to the table when we have an all casts rehearsal on Saturday. Should be exciting! Then starts the week all the stage managers love: TECH WEEK. Woohoo!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Theater Banquet 2012

When I get more time on my hands, I promise I'll write more. Actually, I don't promise anything. I'll never have more time on my hands.

Anyway, we had our Theater Banquet yesterday - a night dedicated to the theatre! I went early to set up the senior posters and put the gifts behind a curtain, etc. When it started we all got dinner and then three actors (Alex, Dana and Austin) performed a funny re-cap of all the plays we have done this year, complete with a cameo from myself (I acted! On a stage! It was horrifying!) and a preview for Night of Absurd Acts.

Then there was a presentation made by Fischer showing pictures from the shows and then a tribute to all the seniors leaving. There was also presentation made by me, showing pictures of Vince and Fish in their time at WHS. We played a trivia game with questions about thespians (Audrey and I had a question - there was a picture of us in rehearsal and the question was what were we thinking. It was all of the above. I'll try and get Fish to show me the question again so I can share it). Then Fish talked about the individual seniors and finally we got to show her our gifts (I got her two glass masks).

Then came the picture taking, and crying. I didn't cry, but I only cry when I'm embarrassed. I was sad. Here's some of my favorite pictures:


Son-father and Mom-daughter



Fish and her managers.

Fish, me and Vincent

I'll miss you!

Dana, me, Alex, Austin
I cannot adequately express how much I love my theater family, and how sad I am about so many good friends of mine leaving. But I know I'll always have this experience.

Thank you, everyone, for making such an impression on my life.