Readers’ Theatre: Anne of Green Gables

The main, yearly project for my Intro to Theatre Arts class is our Readers’ Theatre. It’s a performance where the actors keep the scripts in their hands, and they act it out as best as possible with as many props and set pieces as possible. For this project, I make it completely student driven. Inha directed the show this year. Caitlin produced. Each student was assigned to committees such as promotion, props, staging, etc… Caitlin had to learn how to pay royalties. Inha worked daily with the actors on the scenes and their acting skills.

This year we chose to produce “Anne of Green Gables.” I knew this would draw in the female audience of our school. Little girls, eager in anticipation, lined up to watch Anne Shirley walk the ridge pole or coyly brush away Gilbert Blythe. It’s a challenging script for one reason: not much happens in it. It’s really up to the actors to bring the story to life.

And they did it. Just got back from the show and it was a great success. The audience was engaged and receptive and the kids rose to the occasion, and then some. Great performances.

A Readers’ Theatre is a great class project I definitely recommend. Here’s a few photos from dress rehearsal yesterday.

Our Annual Readers’ Theatre

One of the major units of my Intro to Theatre Arts class is a readers’ theatre which the entire class has to produce. The script doesn’t need to be memorized, but the story needs to “pop” on stage as if it is memorized. A staged reading might be a synonym for what we do. We use the stage. We have motion, action, fight-scenes, you name it! It’s a real theatrical show with everything you would expect – except for the lines aren’t memorized.

We’re producing The Pink Panther this year. As you know, I do mostly original dramas at our school, but during the readers’ theatre, I like to do well known scripts to mix it up a little. Here’s what we did the past few years:

2013 “Pillow Talk”

2014 “Arsenic & Old Lace”

2015 “M*A*S*H”

2016 “The Pink Panther”

Another thing I insist on in our readers’ theatre is that the students are responsible for every aspect of the production. Student directed and student produced. I serve in advisory role as Executive Producer, collecting the big bucks but not doing any of the work.

Here’s our fearless cast:

pink panther 1
Clueless Clouseau
pink panther2
Doing a timed read-through.
The actors and readers.

“Tales of Wonder” in Photos – (Part II)

All photos by Jonathan Steffan.

“National Toy Day” – The news just in. —-mas has just been renamed National Toy Day.
“The Spies & Mrs. Claus” – The elves are trying to spy for Santa, but Mrs. Claus has other ideas.
“Tree Talk” – The ornaments come out to play as soon as the people go away.
Ysabel does her beautiful dance to “Silent Night”
“A Vigil for a Starry Night” – Does the light the shepherd saw 2000 years ago still shine for me?
“The Last Shepherd: A Musical”
“She hides in the shadows, completely unseen.”
“I’d rather be called a liar than to say I wasn’t there.”
Curtain call.

Bumping In: Bringing “A Tad of Trouble 2015” to Life!

Today is the day when all the fun and headaches begin. Really, it’s a privilege, actually. To be able to be in a position to write a drama or musical and bring it step by step to the stage is an awesome experience. And today is the day!

Bumping in a production is stressful to say the least. There’s a ton of work that needs to be done before the actors show up. Here’s our schedule for Monday May 18:

8 am: Load up set pieces and props on the lorry. Transport to penangpac with the set-up/tech crew

8:45 am Unload at the loading bay at Straits Quay and move into Stage 1 of penangpac.

9:30 am Set needs to be positioned on stage. Walls constructed, set pieces hung from the ceiling, and props organized back stage.

10:00 am Lighting focus begins. Lighting focus will take between 3-4 hours to have the right effect in the right places.

10:30 am microphone set-up and amp for guitar

2:00 pm Lighting cues.  Once the lights are focused correctly, we walk through the script page by page creating lighting cues. This will take at least 1-2 hours.

3:15 pm the actors show up and go right to make-up.

4:30 pm Early dinner arrives, catered in by a local restaurant

5:30 pm Technical rehearsal – the actors will see the lighting and cues on the actual stage for the first time. We’ll walk through all cues and scenes

6:30 pm pre-rehearsal meeting – we’ll talk through the entire production, hearing from the stage managers, director, choreographer, vocal director, and tech crew.

7:00 pm Dress rehearsal – we’ll do the show for the first time as if it’s the real thing.

9:00 pm Quick debrief and then go home and collapse, getting ready for opening night the next day.

This is how I run a typical bump-in/dress rehearsal day. The next time you go to the theatre, try to appreciate the time and effort it takes to put on a show.

And if you are in Penang, please come see ours. It’s going to be awesome!


On Set Design and Stuff

Being a writer, director, and producer of theatrical performances, but yet not coming from a background of formal training, has given me an uneasy relationship with set production design. I do it by default, since there’s really not anyone else at this point to think through and make the design decisions about our production. Luckily, the actual artwork isn’t done by me – if that would be the case, all of my productions would be nothing but black-box theatre.

Here’s a sneak peak at part of the production set design for our show next month.

2015-04-22 15.29.42This awesome backdrop painted on thin plywood were skillfully done by one our of talented art classes.  This is a town scene form 1903. It is difficult to tell from this picture how big these are. They are six feet tall and in the picture sitting on some drama cubes for our photoshoot we did yesterday.

Realism and perspective are important in set design, but how much realism is needed to get the point across? These pieces will be in the background, flanked on either side by some additional black walls to help create depth and perspective. The action will be taking place quite a ways in from of this backdrop, but we are hoping that this will create a pleasing look to back the actors. Of course, we’ll never know for sure until we bump-in to the theatre.

I remember my first dramatic production when I wanted so much realism that the set changes took 5 minutes between scenes. It was ridiculous, and I’ve learned a lot since then.

Sleek, adaptable designs are certainly the way to go. This particular backdrop above will be easily attached and removed from a large wooden structure with a staircase on each side and a walkway above. Actually, we will have angels literally walking above the roofs of those houses. But those houses can be easily removed making the structure usable as a hotel and saloon scene as well. (I’ll need to get some more photos of that once finished.)

Here’s how I now insist on set designs for my production:

1) All pieces must be adaptable to other scenes.

2) Pieces which aren’t adaptable need to be able to be removed within seconds.

3) Scene changes (in most all cases) can occur when other action is taking place somewhere else – either on the side of stage or elsewhere. This ensures proper flow and minimal transition.

4) If a scene can be just as good without a prop of design piece which is a hassle, then don’t use it. Keep everything as simple as possible.

5) But don’t skimp on the essentials!

Lots more coming up about the production of my new show!




Turn Off the TV and Check Out Some Live Theatre Instead

Here’s what someone said about the drama I wrote and produced last weekend:

“I had never seen a drama or a play before in my life because I thought they would be
boring and a waste of time. However, after watching the drama, I felt like watching
dramas are much more worthwhile than watching TV shows or movies.”

I couldn’t agree more.

When is the last time you went to the theatre to see a live show? If you haven’t been in a while, you owe it to yourself (and your kids if you have them) to experience a great live show. There’s nothing like it.

Granted, not all live shows are great, but I think we can easily say the same thing about TV and movies.

I’ve run into a lot of people who say things like, “I’m not a drama person”, “I don’t like to go to live shows”, “I’m not a theatre person”, but yet they watch movies which are simply screenPLAYS and they’ll watch TV which are telePLAYS. Why in the world wouldn’t they want to watch an actual PLAY?

And this gets me back to a topic I talked about a while ago – live theatre is meant to inspire, it is meant to be enjoyed, it is meant to make you think. If gripping stories, funny comedies, and thought-provoking scripts are being produced on stage, people will enjoy it and they’ll be drawn back to it.

As a playwright, that’s my goal. Create something fun, unique, memorable, and meaningful. If we can do that, our audiences will grow.

I’m so appreciative of the kind words I’ve heard about last weekend. Can’t wait till I can do it again.

So your homework, find a show in the next month, and go see it!

I’m going to see a show on December 4 and on December 10. Turn off the TV and turn on some real excitement.

Insight into Writing my New Show (2 of 3)

Here’s part two which highlights the writing behind a few of the dramatic sketches which go live for the first time ever next week at the opening of “For All Generations.”

sketch fact sheets last princess“The Last Princess” is one of those comedy sketches which suddenly turn dramatic. I like those. I purposefully started it light, with a spoiled princess who lives within a utopia, Xanadu, constructed by her repressive father, King Antoine. The princess gets upset when she thinks her pink fluffy boa is not as soft as it was the day before. She insists that her attendant throws it away, which she does. But the next day in Xanadu, when one of her subjects asks her where the boa is, the princess demands it back. Ultimately she decides to go down the chute to find her boa only to discover that there is a cruel and oppressed world out there that she never knew about. This play actually touches on a common theme in many of my writings – overbearing and authoritarian governments who shackle the people. The hilarious beginning is turned on its head when the princess has to decide what to do with her new found knowledge. There is sure to be a confrontation with her father. It’s a fun script that holds a lot of underlying meaning.

sketch fact sheet minute problem

This is one of those mostly meaningless fun scripts which are full of bad puns and lots of cheap laughs. In many ways, it almost strays into kids’ theatre with crazy gestures, yelling, running around, and lots of confusion. The premise is simple. A grandpa sets a trap for his granddaughter simply to drive her crazy. I thought of this when I was checking out at a superstore one day, staring at a clock shop. Bad pun after bad pun related to time kept flowing through my brain, so I decided to make a crazy little play about it. Our actors are hilarious in this one.

the will

“The Will” is just wild and crazy – like my actors. For the first time ever, I specifically crafted a role for each of my actors – they even play themselves in this skit, using their own names. The script is centered around the death of a billionaire patriarch who gathers everyone for the reading of the will. Here are the characters: the executor, crazy son Joseph who thinks he’s a butterfly, gold-digger 9th wife, vain movie star, corporate CEO, airhead blogger, bipolar sister, the butler, half-Indian senator and adopted son, a disgruntled employee, and the forgotten son who is always overlooked. This is the longest piece of the night because everyone has a substantial role. But I’ve got the running down down to 15 minutes which is do-able. It’s a fun script, and all the actors are great.

I’m lucky to have such a great group of young actors to work with.

Part three soon!


RLT Players: The Second Three Sketches

This is part two of three, briefly highlighting the dramatic sketches I wrote and which will be performed at PenangPAC on Nov 22 & 23.

From previous post:

Sketch 1 “Black & White”, Sketch 2 “The Loudest Child in Church”, Sketch 3 “No in Spite of Itself”

Here’s the middle three:

Sketch 4 “Skydiver”

The idea behind this sketch was to use skydiving as a metaphor for being afraid to jump into a relationship that one knows is right. Lexi and Jaime are excellently funny in this one. I really like it.


Sketch 5 “I Once Was Blind”

Jackie came to me with a rough sketch – a comedy – about two people who had gotten lost out in the woods – had fallen off the wrong path. I suggested that we turn this play on its head and I wrote a draft script making the two guys political prisoners who play games in their head to escape their reality. Wow! This one is intense and Jessie and Jackie are just awesome in going back and forth between play-acting and real-life. Heartfelt and poignant.

I once was blind

Sketch 6: “The Giant Squid that Ate Georgetown”

Sometimes I have no idea where my ideas come from. This was the first sketch I wrote for this show. I wanted to write a crazy comedy, and that it is. Really fun. Light-hearted, and all the actors are just fantastic.

Giant Squid

I Love Watching Students Do Drama

Had a great time tonight watching two one-act plays performed by all high school freshmen and sophomores girls with one junior boy thrown in the mix.

It was a lot of fun. It’s interesting to see the different levels of performance. The newbies who are nervous and wondering how to act on stage after their lines finish. The more experienced ones who steal the show and command attention. The slurred lines and frayed looks. The small production hiccups. It’s raw theater at its best in terms of being raw. There’s something honest about it. And when the moment peaks, the audience finally gets into the act and the rewards are easily visible on their faces.

Curtain calls are, of course, the best. The beaming faces, the sense of accomplishment, the relief, the euphoria, the hi-fives. I’m truly proud of all they accomplished, and I wasn’t even the director, for once. It did feel good just to sit back and enjoy with no other responsibilities.

Have you caught a high school drama recently? Check one out near you. Well worth it.