2010 Annie

It’s Show Week!! Full Speed Ahead!

 Thanksgiving weekend is over. Hopefully we all ate, shopped and rested to our heart’s content. Now, it’s time to get the party started. It’s show week and Annie opens in five days! I hope this video gives you a laugh and gets you ready to roll.

Monday night is a full curtain-to-curtain run through. Every cast member should review lines and songs before rehearsal to make sure you’ve got the cob webs cleaned out after a five day reprise.

Walk of Fame Members Still Walking

A few years ago Union Street Players instituted a Walk of Fame to honor key members who have contributed to the success of USP and have gone above and beyond the call of duty. The Board of Directors chose the term “Walk of Fame” specifically because inductees have not retired, they are still a huge part of our group and USP appreciates their on-going artistic journey.

Annie provides a great example. Five of the six Walk of Fame members play roles both on stage and off:

 Walk of Fame Members (L to R) Pat Moriarity, Peggy Moriarity, Shelley Buhrow, Bev Graves, Arvin Van Zante

Shelley Buhrow: Hooverville & NYC Chorus, Props
Bev Graves: Hooverville & NYC Chorus
Pat Moriarity: Producer and Factotum (do-it-all)
Peggy Moriarity: Perkins, Costumes and Make-up
Arvin Van Zante: FDR, Lighting Design

And, while the sixth Walk of Fame member, Dottie McGee, does not have an official role in the production, she is always working behind the scenes at the Costume Shop and plays an integral part in supporting the costuming of the show.

Who’s Who?

While Annie is a fictional story, the writers filled the script with historical references of very real people. In doing some investigation about the characters mentioned, I learned a few things.

Bernard (Barney) Baruch was known as the “Lone Wolf of Wall Street” who made his fortune in the stock market.  He was a financier, speculator and statesman. Baruch was an advisor to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Baruch was also known as “the park bench statesman” who would regularly walk in Central Park, sit on a park bench and discuss government issues with those who stopped by. Since Warbucks lived across the street from the park, it would have been a natural place for them to meet and discuss issues. Baruch would have been the ideal link to introduce Warbucks to FDR.

Warbucks tells Grace to “call Al Smith and find out what Democrats eat.” Al Smith was Governor of New York state and had run for President as a Democrat in 1928.

Justice Brandeis, who arrives to sign the adoption papers in the end of the show is Justice Louis Brandeis who was the first Jew appointed to the Supreme Court. Brandeis was not from New York, but his wife was and they spent a lot of time at her parents residence (which is why they would be there for the holidays).

Warbucks also sings “What other town has the Empire State and a mayor five foot two.” He is singing about New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who is regarded by many as the greatest mayor of all time. And, five foot two may have stretched the truth a few inches to help with the lyrics. He’s is known to have only been five feet tall.

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2010 Annie

Strong Finish into the Holiday

The cast and crew finished strong last night before getting a much needed, and much deserved, Thanksgiving holiday. Last night was a “polishing” rehearsal for Act II. After running the Act, most of the production numbers were worked again, and again, and again, and again. We were happy to have Rachel Peter (one of our Annies) back with us after a quick battle with the flu.

Last night was interesting because it was the first time we ran costume changes in real time. In one scene I have about 90 seconds to get off stage, change into a tuxedo and be ready to walk back on stage. I barely made it last night and that was with missing a few minor accessories. Of course, I had it good compared to Annie Wignall (who plays Grace Farrell). She has two quick changes. At one point I caught sight of a saw a small army of women trying to help her make the change. Poor Grace was looking rather winded and rattled when she walked back on stage. Once the team gets the process down, it should go a little smoother (I hope). Even Annie has a quick change at the end. Poor Rachel came running out with her red curly Annie wig at the end of the show last week and the thing was hanging half off of the back of her head. A couple of actors tried unsuccessfully to tug it into place, which only made things worse. Oy! These are the things you hope you fix before opening night!

Despite the stress of changing costumes, the cast did a great job working hard, the orchestra sounded great, and the show is on schedule. We’ve had a couple of long nights. Thanks to everyone for their patience and positive attitude.

Costumes Get a Little Help Thanks to Facebook

When I was a theatre student at Judson College (now Judson University), we had a masterful and sweet costumer named Mary Beth. We were a small school with a small program, so the costume “shop” was literally a janitor’s closet under the staircase of the Fine Arts Building. That’s where you’d find Mary Beth with her ironing board and sewing needle 24/7.

Mary Beth still lives in the Chicago area, and when she read on my Facebook status that we were doing Annie, she wrote and offered to send us her costumes from a production of Annie she did in her area. We were only too glad to take her up on the offer, and three big boxes arrived via UPS a few days later.

It’s a personal thing, but it warms my heart to be on stage with Mary Beth’s costumes after all these years. A big thank you to her from all of the moms and other ladies who volunteered to help costume the kids in the show!!

Mea Culpa

I was informed last night that I have an old version of the cast list and some of the lists I’ve posted this past week were incomplete or incorrect. My sincere apologies to any cast member I left out, misspelled or mistook in any other fashion. I’ve been promised an updated list so I can make the necessary retractions and corrections.

Thanksgiving Wishes

On this Thanksgiving eve, I wish our Annie cast/crew and our extended USP family a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Eat well. Rest well. Love well.

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2010 Annie

An Orphan’s Hard Knock Life

The Orphans of USP's Production of Annie

The story of Annie centers on a life that seems almost mythical in today’s world, but for children in cities like New York during the Great Depression the life of an orphan was very common, and very bleak. Today we think of an orphan as a child with no living parent, but during that time there were few orphans who didn’t have at least one parent living. For unemployed adults with little hope, dropping their children off at an orphanage was a way to ensure the well being of the child while the parents attempted to better their lives. During the Great Depression, the number of children in orphanages swelled. Parents left their children with an orphanage and travelled to other areas of the country to try and find work, fully intending to return and claim their children once they had a means of support.

Annie’s story was very common. Children spent years in the orphanage waiting for their parents to come back and claim them. It’s hard to imagine the heartache of a little girl like Annie watching as time after time other orphans were picked up by their parents, but hers never came.

Even before the Great Depression, the orphanages of New York became so overcrowded that private aid groups sought to find ways of dispersing the orphans to families willing to take them. Orphans like Annie were sometimes placed on an Orphan Train. Children were  put on a train with a one way ticket headed west. Many rural areas of the country had families who could use extra hands on the farm, and communities were willing to take in orphans. So as the train stopped along the route, the orphans were adopted out to locals willing to take them in. I’ve heard tell of elderly residents in our area who were children of the Orphan Trains. Orphan Train children ended up in all 48 contiguous states. The trains stopped running in 1929, but as Annie was dropped off at the orphanage in 1922, she certainly could have ended up on one.

The orphans of our production of Annie do a wonderful job on stage sharing with us their “hard-knock” life with the villianous Miss Hannigan (Jana De Zwarte).  The orphans are:

Molly………………………… Taryn Johnson
Pepper……………………….Eleanor Witt
July……………………………Mariah Kooyman
Duffy…………………………Elyse Parisee
Tessie…………………………Danielle Nardini
Kate……………………………Kara Schaudt

Orphan Chorus……………Evie Armstrong
…………………………………Mackenzie Becker
…………………………………Molly Bolt
…………………………………Caroline Bradley
…………………………………Pearl Doty
…………………………………Abby Gross
…………………………………Ariana Guerena
…………………………………Isabelle Hall
…………………………………Annie Matherly
…………………………………Jalayna Morgan
…………………………………Sarah Peterson
…………………………………Greta Putnam
…………………………………Hannah Smart
…………………………………Jessa Van Gorp
…………………………………Halle Van Vark
…………………………………Olivia Vander Leest
…………………………………Madeline Webb
…………………………………Sierra White

Bullets

  • Illness continue to ravage cast and crew. One of our Annies (Rachel Peter) was out last night with the flu. All cast members are encouraged to wash their hands constantly, eat well, and get plenty of rest!
  • If you didn’t get our earlier post, the Pella Community Services office is closed until next Monday, so no tickets can be purchased in person until then. Tickets can still be purchased in the meantime by phone using a credit card and calling Tom or Wendy at 641-620-9107.
  • Tonight is Run Through of Act II and will be the last rehearsal until next week. Everyone gets a five day Thanksgiving holiday!!
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2010 Annie

The English Butler

Phil Hoole plays Drake the Butler in USP’s production of “Annie”

A few weeks ago the family was sitting in the living room watching the show Lie to Me. About half-way through the show, my youngest turned and said, “that’s a really horrible British accent that guy is using.”

I had to smile. “Um, that actor is Tim Roth,” I explained. “He is British.”

My daughter and many other audience members at Union Street Players’ upcoming production of Annie  may be wondering about the British accent on Warbuck’s butler, Drake. Let me assure you that the accent you’ll hear is 100 percent genuine.

Phil Hoole, who plays Warbucks’ faithful butler, hails from England. He came to the states for a job and met his wife here. They now live in Grinnell. When Phil brought his son (Tyler Rezapour, who was cast as one of the servants) to audition for the show, he decided to try out for the part of Drake. He told me he hadn’t been on stage since his school days. We’re glad to pull him out of retirement! Warbucks would certainly have an English butler, and we’re ecstatic to have a genuine Brit in the role.

Joining Phil and Tyloer on Warbucks’ faithful staff:

Mrs. Greer (housekeeper)…… Suzi Jones
Mrs. Pugh (cook)…………………Rhonda White
Cecille (french maid)……………Deb Linn
Annette (french maid)…………Gloria Ashworth
Servants………………………………Joshua Bailey
……………………………………………Cassie Buma
……………………………………………Scott Burns
……………………………………………Camille Henry
……………………………………………Ciera Kooyman
……………………………………………Emily Maseh

Rehearsal Tonight

A long Thanksgiving weekend approaches, but there’s plenty of work to be done before we get to feast with the family. A full run through of Act I is slated for tonight with some extra work on production numbers.

Ticket Update

A quick tally at the ticket board reveals the following (approximate) numbers of tickets left on the floor of the Joan Kuyper Farver auditorium for each performance. Only tickets on the floor are reserved seats. All balcony seats are general admission.

Fri Dec 3: 38
Sat Dec 4: 80
Sun Dec 5: (floor sold out; only balcony seats left)

Thu Dec 9: 100+
Fri Dec 10: 80
Sat Dec 11: 80

Order tickets by phone using a credit card by calling Tom or Wendy at 641-620-9107. You can buy tickets in person at the Pella Community Services office on the lower level of the Pella Community Center (M-F 7:30-11:30 a.m. or 12:30-4:30 p.m.).

Any remaining seats will be sold at the door.

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2010 Annie

You’re NOT Seeing Double; We have TWO Annies

Rachel (left) and Hannah (right) share the lead role of Annie

Annie’s Director, Cyndi Atkins, made the decision early on to cast two girls in the lead of Union Street Players’ (USP) production of Annie. Through the history of USP there have been several roles that have used two different actors, but the practice is generally employed in smaller roles and bit parts when one actor can’t make all of the performances. To have two actors share the lead is something of a novelty.

The reasons Cyndi gave for wanting two Annie’s were simple and practical. The role of Annie is a heavy load for a young actor and the songs are demanding on a young voice. By having two Annies to share the role, the demand on either of them would be less. It also ensured that, God forbid, one of them goes down with sickness or injury you’ve got the most important role in the show covered. When one of them is playing Annie, the other is still on stage, but playing one of the orphans.

The role of Annie went to two exceptionally capable young ladies in Hannah Emmert and Rachel Peter. Both of them have booming voices, contagious smiles, and charisma to spare. No matter which one of the young actors is on stage, you can rest assured the show is in capable young hands.

Personally, I’ve found the experience of working with two different actors in the same role to be an interesting experience. During the rehearsal process, most scenes were done twice when blocked (Blocking is the stage term for the process of figuring out where the actors are supposed to move on stage). We’d block the scene with one of the Annies, then switch and let the other one run through it. As opening night draws nearer, Director Atkins has alternated Annies. This past week, Rachel played Annie for the Act I run through on Monday, then Hannah took the role for our Act II run through on Tuesday.

People have asked me if it’s different on stage when one or the other is playing the role. Actually, the biggest surprise for me has been how amazingly similar it is. There may be subtle differences, but both of these talented young ladies have worked hard in the role, harder than many adults I’ve worked with in similar lead roles. Both Rachel and Hannah have conducted themselves professionally, have maintained enthusiastic attitudes (which on more than one occasion has quietly reminded me to cheer up), and have approached the leading role with humility and class.

A personal observation: The untold story of these two fine young ladies are their exceptional parents. Rachel and Hannah’s mothers have made quite a backstage team themselves, and have made the production team’s load much lighter. Hannah’s dad is also in the show (one of many parent/child teams in the cast).

A quiet Sunday in Prairie City: By the way, Rachel’s dad is a pastor in Prairie City. Since my wife, Wendy, and I take the phone orders for tickets, I can tell you on good authority that things are going to be mighty quiet on the streets of that town on December 5th. About half of Prairie City’s residents will be in Pella watching Rachel!

Tech Rehearsal Update

Tech Rehearsal started at 8:30 a.m. yesterday and finished at almost 1:00 p.m. Thanks to our tremendous crew for all of their hard work and kudos to cast members who had to do a lot of standing around. A special shout out to Stage Managers, James and Jamie Punke, who are managing a huge cast and several major scene changes back stage. Backstage is in capable hands, James has been USP’s most prolific Stage Manager. He’s managed at least six shows dating back to Love, Sex, and the I.R.S. in 2002.

Bullets

  • Keep cast and crew in your thoughts and prayers. There’s a tremendous amount of crud going around and we’ve had several actors and crew members out with illness. Even our Director, Cyndi, was struggling yesterday.
  • Everyone gets a much needed day of rest today. Sleep well, eat well, and get plenty of rest. We’ve only got 12 days to opening night.
  • Warbucks’ address, 987 5th Avenue in New York, overlooks Central Park in Manhattan and is right across from the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I guess if he doesn’t like the Mona Lisa, he just sends it across the street and takes the tax deduction.

Tom Vander Well plays Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in USP’s production of Annie. He is the current President of USP, though his views are not necessarily those of USP, it’s Board of Directors, or members.

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