Union Street Players finished their run of Joe Landry’s “Vintage Hitchcock: A Live Radio Play” on Sunday afternoon. The show recreated what it was like to be in the live studio audience for the live broadcast of Alfred Hitchcock’s radio dramas. It was a completely new concept for many audience members, while those who grew up in the Golden Age of Radio found themselves taking a trip down memory lane.
“I just closed my eyes and I was back in childhood with my family huddled around the radio,” on audience member said after the show.
As with most spring productions, attendance was low. Though, with the show falling on spring break week, the numbers were unusually slim.
Thu Mar 10: 35
Fri Mar 11: 79
Sat Mar 12: 55
Sun Mar 13: 44
Total attendance: 213
While the curtain has dropped for the last time on this Pella production, several members of the cast and crew are taking a piece of the show to the Iowa Community Theatre Festival in Newton. The annual festival of the Iowa Community Theatre Association features productions from community theatres around the state. Productions at the festival are judged, with one show going on to regional competition. USP plans to produce one of the three Hitchcock pieces, “Sabotage,” for the festival.
We approach the New Year holiday, and it’s natural to have a little time of introspection. Where have we been? Where do we find ourselves? Where are we going?
Union Street Players ended 2010 with one of the most successful, if not the most successful, production in our 23 years. Annie capped another successful season. KOLD Radio warmed audiences with laughter in the spring. Charlotte’s Web delighted audience members of all ages (with a cast of all ages) this past summer.
As I stood back stage a few weeks ago, I marveled at what community theatre represents. Well over one hundred people made up the cast, band, and production crew for Annie. People drove from miles round to be part of it. Other than a very small gift USP provides to our directors, no one is paid for their time or compensated for their talents when it comes to USP productions. Each year, hundreds of people come together to devote themselves to putting on a handful of performances. It’s not about money and it’s not about fame. At the heart of it, community theatre is really about community.
USP is looking forward to another great season in 2011 with three productions we know our audiences will love. We begin the year by taking our audiences back to the days of old-time radio. Vintage Hitchcock is a compilation of three radio plays by the master of suspense himself. This summer, the fable of The Princess and the Peacomes to life in a funny, musical classic made famous by Carol Burnett in Once Upon a Mattress. We end the year with a heartwarming, music-filled, family Christmas offering, A Tinkerman Christmas, written by our own Walk of Fame member, Beverly Graves.
Will you help keep community theatre alive and growing? USP is a non-profit organization and we depend on the financial support of local individuals and businesses. The support of our patrons allow us to continually improve the quality of our productions while keeping ticket prices reasonable. As we come to the end of the year and you consider your tax-deductible giving, I would ask that you consider making a donation to Union Street Players.
Checks should be made out to Union Street Players and can be mailed to 712 Union St., Pella, IA 50219. If you would like to make a donation using your credit card, please call 641-620-9107 and ask for Tom or Wendy.
The stage is (almost) bare. The final curtain has dropped. This is the last installment of “Daddy’s Dailies.”
For the cast and crew of Union Street Players’ production of Annie, the week of post-production blues has likely set in. It is not unusual to experience a let down the first week after production. There’s the physical let down after a couple of weeks of long evenings of rehearsal/performance, short nights of sleep, and the intense adrenaline rushes that come from being on stage. There’s the emotional let down after the climactic actors high of performing gives way to the pile of things (like Christmas shopping, work projects, school assignments, etc.) that got shoved to the back burner for the past few weeks. There is also a social let down that comes when about 100 people spend hours a day together for weeks on end and it comes to an abrupt stop. Not that we aren’t all overdue for a little rest, relaxation and regular routine. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if things feel a little out of whack for the next week or so. Post production blues are a normal part of the experience (as are “actor’s nightmares,” so watch out!).
Final attendance figures for Annie were:
Fri Dec 3: 277
Sat Dec 4: 285
Sun Dec 5: 327
Thu Dec 9: 300
Fri Dec 10: 319
Sat Dec 11: 300
While record keeping USP shows through our 23 year history has been erratic, there is no doubt that Annie ranks among the biggest, best attended, and highest grossing productions of all time. Congratulations to everyone for making it such a spectacular show!
Pat Moriarity moves from the Producer’s chair to the Director’s chair for Vintage Hitchcock. This is a great show for adults who may be intimidated by the thought of all those lines to memorize. Hitchcock is a live radio play produced like the live radio theater shows of the last century. Actors read the script and use their voices to create different characters and sound effects.
One of the things I love about theatre are the moments behind the scenes that most theater-goers never experience. As audience members enter the auditorium and settle into their seats, the 78 cast members and additional production team members of Annie pack into a room on the top floor of the Pella Community Center. It is known among stage veterans as “the half,” the 30 minutes before curtain. It can seem an eternal wait.
For Union Street Players, “the half” generally begins with a quick pep talk from director or producer. With musicals like Annie, the Music Director will often lead the cast in a quick warm-up song. Often a physical exercise to get the blood pumping is also included along with vocal exercises and tongue twisters to prepare mouths, teeth, lips and tongue to project lines clearly.
Once that is done, the cast waits for the cue for “places.” Actors talk, laugh, and share stories. There are hugs and high-fives. Pictures are taken. Some read books, newspapers and magazines. At the bottom of this post I’ve posted some more pictures I took during “The Half” before last night’s performance.
Speaking of waiting, the final two performances of Annie are sold out. A waiting list has been started for those who would be interested in purchasing a seat should tickets be returned or if there is a confirmed “no show.” Those on the waiting list are asked to show up 15 minutes before curtain (7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday) and, if seats are available, names will be called from the list in the order they were originally received.
Packed House for Thursday’s Show
A big pat on the back for cast and crew who kept the energy up and presented a great show on Thursday to a sold-out, packed house. Thursday performances are notorious for being “low energy” as people rush from busy jobs and lives to the show. After four days without performing, there’s always the increased threat of dropped lines, missed entrances or botched moments. That didn’t happen on Thursday as everyone performed up to the high standard set last weekend.
Closing Night for One
While tomorrow afternoon’s performance will be the closing performance for everyone, tonight’s performance will be Rachel Peter’s last performance in the lead role. Hannah Emmert will play Annie in the final performance on Saturday. Both girls have done an exceptional job in the role and have been exemplary in their selfless sharing of the starring duties. Well done, ladies.
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.
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.