Tuesday, July 19, 2016

CountryPlace Players - "Break a Leg!"

I absolutely love working on our players club plays! I've enjoyed being on stage in the past, playing Nurse Janet in South Pacific among other roles. But I've enjoyed the challenge of doing sound effects for these past 7 or 8 years even more. The joy is in doing the research, hunting for and finding the perfect sound effect(s), then downloading them or capturing them with computer apps, editing and splicing as needed, and putting it all together.

Our club's latest endeavor, "Tuna Gets CountryPlace-ified," is an original play written by two of our very creative club members. It plays on the original ideas of Jaston Williams and Joe Sears for their Greater Tuna series of plays, but creates all new characters and story lines. For those not familiar with the Tuna plays, written by Williams and Sears, they feature only two actors (the writers) who play multiple roles, both male and female. I knew that our residents would either love it or hate it.

I met with Jeanne and Walker, the creators of the play, back in late April. They gave me a copy of the script and walked me through it, highlighting where they envisioned various sound effects. Now the task of bringing the play to life with sound effects was in my hands! I researched on the internet, browsed the library of sound effects I've already accumulated from previous productions, and listened to numerous recordings, Youtube videos, and other sound effects on-line.

View from sound/light booth - early rehearsal

At this meeting they also asked me if I would create the poster for the production, which I gladly agreed to. They wanted something more professional in appearance than what some of our residents have been producing for other events, home-made efforts using their home printers to print out clip art on 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper and then gluing it all onto poster board. Heck! Skills using Adobe Illustrator and a thumb drive will get a gorgeous full-color 20"x 30" poster output at Sams Club for $20!!

The play poster - displayed in function hall lobby

When they asked me if I would also create the playbill (play program), I jumped at it. They gave me carte blanche...so I ran with it! Previous playbills for our productions were very plain and pedestrian, looking more like a church handbill than a playbill.  As I listened to the initial "read throughs" and first rehearsals, my idea for something truly different and creative started to take shape.

Jeanne and Walker play their respective male roles:

early rehearsal of Act 2

Rehearsals went well and were fun, filling my mornings every day for the next six weeks. The play really started to take shape. The last week we had a quasi-dress rehearsal to get a feel for time needed for costume changes between the three acts. This really made a huge difference in the actors' performances. They really seemed to grow into their roles when in full costume. The full dress rehearsal was then held on Thursday, followed by a cast party with pizza and BYOB!

Dress rehearsal - view from sound/light booth

The sound effects were going to be excellent, if I do say so myself! Hillbilly cell phone ring tones, peeing over the side of the boat sound effects, gun shots, bird calls...in all a total of over 20 different sound effects/music clips. And as we neared performance weekend, I made a couple of suggestions to add a couple more sound effects where I felt they would punch up the performances. The actors/writers and the director all agreed. At one point in Act 3, each of the two characters at different times turn on the TV to find only election news on all channels. Why not add sound bytes of real election news coverage?? I have a nifty on-line app that can capture sound from Youtube videos and turn it into an MP3 file. So with very little searching I found three different Youtube videos of current election news coverage and created three different six-second sound bytes. It worked out great!

Jeanne and Walker in their respective female roles during dress rehearsal:

I love working in the light/sound booth with veteran fellow resident Len. He and his wife were responsible for getting the Players Club started 30 years ago, bringing their Broadway play production experience to the community. He set up the stage lights, sound system way back when, and was instrumental in getting the sound booth built when our activity center needed major renovations after Hurricane Ike in 2008. I donated a laptop to the club that year, which has made a major difference in the quality of productions, allowing the club to do ever more complex productions that require more sophisticated sound and effects.

My partner in crime in the sound booth - Len:

Whenever Len and I work a show together, we make plans for our own private party in the booth. We bring snacks, treats and beverages to munch and drink during the performances. For this performance we decided on pork rinds, Big Red, and vodka to spike it. In keeping with the play itself, of course!! Big Red spiked with moonshine play a part in the play, as do pork rinds, so we thought that would be fun to have in the sound booth.

Two of the dancers who performed before each intermission:

Make up, hair/wigs, and costumes gals. Without their expertise, this play wouldn't be the same:

No detail overlooked! Walker gets fake fingernails for his female role in Acts 1 and 3:

Our stage manager:

Walker (left) and Jeanne (right) doing some last minute rehearsing:

Even the husband and wife who worked the ticket counter for Sunday's performance got into the spirit of the play by showing up in costume. Bravo for them!!

It was a great play and one that, every time I watched, I saw and heard something new, that I didn't notice before. Too bad most audience members only saw it once!

Here's what I came up with for the playbill. It's in newspaper format...something totally different:

The playbill was a huge hit! It was formatted like a small town newspaper, with silly, fictional news stories that featured some of the actors and crew. The back page was laid out like a traditional playbill.

The entire cast and crew all went to Big Horn BBQ Sunday afternoon, after the last performance. It was great fun working with this crew!

Next play on our schedule will be a murder mystery entitled Murder in the Heir, and will be staged in early November.

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