Monday, June 30, 2008

Should We Do the Show Tonight?

The Next Stage brings up the subject of how many in an audience equals a performance ...

I'm often my own box office staff and producer when we put up a show. So, ultimately, we tell our actors that we hold the right to ultimately decide. Now, our actors will often not want to perform if there are less than five people in the audience. If one of those people are a reviewer or noted theatre member of the community, however, they will. But, they just don't want to do the show if it's a regular ol' audience member. We even had one of our casts almost mutiny because I made them perform for three people one evening. One of the people was a person I had acted with several years ago and I hadn't seen him since - he just happened to walk by the theatre and saw me at the box office. The other two were a mother/daughter team from Iowa that were interested in the show because the daughter had studied it in high school and they had planned on seeing it during their very brief stay in Chicago. They couldn't see it any other time because they were headed back to Iowa the next day. I made the executive decision that, yes, we were going to do the show. And the cast was infuriated. Which infuriated me. It wasn't a good night.

We have canceled shows based on low attendance, but I always regret doing that. Another example ... one of our good friends and fellow bloggers came to see A View from the Bridge. He was the only member of the audience on the night he came and we asked if he could come another night. He was very accomodating and said, "Sure, no problem." Unfortunately, he planned on coming our closing night ... which we had to cancel because one of our actors had the whooping cough and we couldn't put the show on (there were thoughts of me jumping in there, script in hand, but we decided against it because, at that time, I was on bedrest due to early problems in the pregnancy and I knew I would push myself over the limits in multiple ways.) So, our friend didn't get to see the show at all and I still feel guilty about that.

There's a "Show Must Go On" quality missing from a few of the actors we've worked with. Now, if an ensemble member has, say, the whooping cough and is hospitalized then, yes, that person should not be acting and we just have to cut the losses. I know that actors get tired - (we get tired, too), but ... I dunno. We've also had actors who are team players and want to perform no matter what. And know that it's our decision if we do the show or not. I like working with those actors.

So, I proclaim, from now on ... The GreyZelda Theatre Group will always perform the show unless there are no people in the audience. Actors, if you're reading, if you're not comfortable with that policy ... please don't audition or accept a role. We're there to perform, the space has been rented, the rights have been paid. Costumes have been put on, warmups done, lights checked, props checked, toilet paper in the bathroom. We're doing the show. And the show's going to be just as energized as a show played to a full house. Because we're all professionals. And that's how it's done.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GreyZelda's Coartistic Directors and Founders

Thank you, Johnny Knight, for such a great picture!!! This picture was snapped of Chris and me before the Jeff Awards Ceremony began and it's my new favorite picture of us. I'm with David Moore (yeah, you look great in that picture, D.A.M!!!!) in agreeing that I often don't get the best pictures taken (my eyes are kooky or closed; I'm making a goofy face, etc). Chris, in my unbiased opinion, always takes a good pic and looks like a dashing gentleman. We were there to support the incomparable Nicolle Van Dyke who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a play for A View from the Bridge and had a very nice evening eating strawberries and seeing what the Jeffs are all about.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Outside of Theatre ...

... what's your idea of a good time? What have you done for pleasure, education, etc that have happened to inspire you to create theatre because of the experience?

For example ... Chris and I love going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Copper Harbor, especially. Lake Superior crashing on volcanic rock. Bald eagles patrolling the rocky shores on their migratory paths. Silent bike rides under oranges, reds and yellows. Full glimpses of the Milky Way and flirting from the Northern Lights. Visits to Fort Wilkins and tales of girls who come from the south to visit their sisters and disappear after picking thimbleberries.

We decided to start working on The Thimbleberry Gallows after such a visit in the Fall of 2004.

What gets your juices churning? What's your secret sauce?

Cross posted at Terroristic Optimism and GreyZelda's Myspace Blog.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre

(H/T to Backstage at

From Geoff Short's blog:

"A 1945 Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers Surfaces"

Equity member Kathleen Freeman died of lung cancer in August, 2001 while she was appearing on Broadway in her Tony-nominated role of Jeanette in The Full Monty. Equity Councillor Jane A. Johnston, a longtime friend, was executrix for Ms. Freeman’s estate. Among Ms. Freeman’s papers she discovered a yellowed document containing A Code of Ethics for Theatre Workers. Ms. Freeman was a daughter of a small time vaudevillian team and it was her childhood experience of touring with her parents from which this Code of Ethics sprung, Ms. Johnston writes. She also notes: “What is particularly interesting about this list of dos and don’ts for the theatre is that it was written in 1945 when Kathleen was establishing one of the first small theatres in Los Angeles and she was 24 years old. I wish I had been told some of ‘the rules’ when I was a young actress instead of having to pick them up as I went along.”
The theatre was the Circle Players, and among its backers was Charlie Chaplin. That group subsequently evolved into the Players’ Ring. Although there is no record that either company used an Equity contract (they certainly pre-dated the 99-Seat Code in Los Angeles), nevertheless, Ms. Johnston confirms that all the participants were professionals.

Foreword to the Code

“A part of the great tradition of the theatre is the code of ethics which belong to every worker in the theatre. This code is not a superstition, nor a dogma, nor a ritual which is enforced by tribunals; it is an attitude toward your vocation, your fellow workers, your audiences and yourself. It is a kind of self-discipline which does not rob you of your invaluable individualism.

“Those of you who have been in show business know the full connotation of these precepts. Those of you who are new to show business will soon learn. The Circle Players, since its founding in 1945, has always striven to stand for the finest in theatre, and it will continue to do so. Therefore, it is with the sincere purpose of continued dedication to the great traditions of the theatre that these items are here presented.”

The “rules” follow:

1. I shall never miss a performance.

2. I shall play every performance with energy, enthusiasm and to the best of my ability regardless of size of audience, personal illness, bad weather, accident, or even death in my family.

3. I shall forego all social activities which interfere with rehearsals or any other scheduled work at the theatre, and I shall always be on time.

4. I shall never make a curtain late by my failure to be ready on time.

5. I shall never miss an entrance.

6. I shall never leave the theatre building or the stage area until I have completed my performance, unless I am specifically excused by the stage manager; curtain calls are a part of the show.

7. I shall not let the comments of friends, relatives or critics change any phase of my work without proper consultation; I shall not change lines, business, lights, properties, settings or costumes or any phase of the production without consultation with and permission of my director or producer or their agents, and I shall inform all people concerned.

8. I shall forego the gratification of my ego for the demands of the play.

9. I shall remember my business is to create illusion; therefore, I shall not break the illusion by appearing in costume and makeup off-stage or outside the theatre.

10. I shall accept my director’s and producer’s advice and counsel in the spirit in which it is given, for they can see the production as a whole and my work from the front.

11. I shall never “put on an act” while viewing other artists’ work as a member of an audience, nor shall I make caustic criticism from jealousy or for the sake of being smart.

12. I shall respect the play and the playwright and, remembering that “a work of art is not a work of art until it is finished,” I shall not condemn a play while it is in rehearsal.

13. I shall not spread rumor or gossip which is malicious and tends to reflect discredit on my show, the theatre, or any personnel connected with them—either to people inside or outside the group.

14. Since I respect the theatre in which I work, I shall do my best to keep it looking clean, orderly and attractive regardless of whether I am specifically assigned to such work or not.

15. I shall handle stage properties and costumes with care for I know they are part of the tools of my trade and are a vital part of the physical production.

16. I shall follow rules of courtesy, deportment and common decency applicable in all walks of life (and especially in a business in close contact with the public) when I am in the theatre, and I shall observe the rules and regulations of any specific theatre where I work.

17. I shall never lose my enthusiasm for theatre because of disappointments.

In addition, the document continued:

“I understand that membership in the Circle Theatre entitles me to the privilege of working, when I am so assigned, in any of the phases of a production, including: props, lights, sound, construction, house management, box office, publicity and stage managing—as well as acting. I realize it is possible I may not be cast in a part for many months, but I will not allow this to dampen my enthusiasm or desire to work, since I realize without my willingness to do all other phases of theatre work, there would be no theatre for me to act in.”

All members of the Circle Theatre were required to sign this document. And they must have—because the theatre, and the group into which it evolved, was successful for many years."