It’s a 10 out of 12!

22 Jan

The title of this post has nothing to do with a rating system.

Arriving to the theatre building today, I  noticed the bustle of activity down the hall in the theatre, and remembered, “Oh yes, today is a 10 out of 12.”  In layman’s terms, the actors and crew are called for a 12 hour technical rehearsal, out of which they will work 10 hours: 12 hours, minus two one-hour breaks.  A 10 out o 12.   “How interesting,”  I further pondered, “the jargon of this business- the business of putting on a play.”

So in the spirit of  “tech” (the technical rehearsals where the technical elements of the play are incorporated on the stage: lights, sound, costumes, props) here is a little jargon FYI that you might hear backstage if you were “in tech.”

1. Props: short for “properties.” These are the items handled by the actors in the play. Sometimes they are significant to the plot, other times they are set dressing or used only briefly. They are designed, bought, found or made by the Props Artisans. One of the most famous “iconic” props in theatre history would have to be Hamlet’s prop skull that he holds and contemplates during the grave digger scene. (Hamlet, Act V, sc i)


2. Cue-to-Cue: A “cue” is a technical element in the play. For example, the lights coming up is a “cue.”  A thunderclap might be a “sound cue.” Here is a definition of a “cue-to-cue” that describes it much better than I could:  “A cue-to-cue is a run-through of the show from one technical cue (such as a lighting change, sound effect, or scene change) to another. Cue-to-cue allows the tech crew to rehearse the technical aspects of the show. Actors will come to the stage for their scene, and  will lbe asked to start a few lines before a particular technical cue, the cue will run, and then the scene will be stopped and will jump to just before the next technical cue.”  (from

3. Dry tech: This is kind of similar to a cue-to-cue. The difference is that the actors are not called to rehearsal. Because there are a limited number of hours in which the actors can actually be used (according to union contracts and such), there will sometimes be “dry tech” rehearsals where the stage manager and technicians will work through many of the technical elements, but without the actors. Then, when the actors do arrive, they can spend time rehearsing the play in the tech without having to stop and start and wait extra long periods of time while the technical elements get worked out.

4. The “call”: This is, most simply put, the  schedule. It’s the times when people are told where to be. At the end of the night, the stage manager sends out the next day’s schedule. The general “call” might be 10am-5pm. Within that stretch of time, an actor might be “called” to a costume fitting at 1:30pm. Or there might be a “fight call” in which time is specifically set aside to rehearse a fight scene. On the night of a performance, actors are “called to dress” (meaning to dress for the top of the show) at “half hour call” (the half hour before the curtain time/start of the show.) As that half hour ticks away, the stage manager will periodically announce the time remaining before “places” (the time when everyone goes to their starting positions for the top of the show.)  “Ladies and Gentleman, this is your 15 minute call.” or “Ladies and Gentlemen this is 5 minutes.”   The “call to places” is given at 2 minutes before the “curtain goes up”  at which point, the stage manager typically announces, “Ladies and Gentleman this is your call to places. Places, please for the top of Act One…”

5. Comps: this term is short for “complimentary tickets.” If you are lucky to know someone who knows someone, they might be able to get you a “comp” for opening night…

6. Break a leg: While there are lots of opinions about the origin of this phrase, it simply means “Good luck” (except it is bad luck to say ‘good luck’ so we say ‘break a leg.)’  My personal favorite story of the origin of this expression has nothing to do with the actor breaking his or her legs. How violent! No, this theory is purely technical: In traditional curtains, the legs of the curtain were constructed from long wooden rods. In the case of many encores, curtains would be lifted and dropped numerous times causing them to “break.”  Not very glamorous, I know. There are many more romantic notions of “breaking legs.” Here’s a good link to a few:

Well, that’s  just a few of the many, many terms particular to the world of theatre. Well done!

Now you can go and “Take 5.”

Tuesday’s With…

18 Jan

Each Tuesday, we’ll feature a face of the REP and some fun facts about what makes the people at the REP so much fun to work with!

Today’s face: Meaghan Sullivan

Meaghan Sullivan in rehearsals for All the King's Men

Meaghan Sullivan in rehearsals for All the King's Men

Where did you grow up? Lake Zurich, Illinois

Job at the REP: MFA Acting student

How long have you been working at the REP: 2 1/2 years

First paying theatre job was what? Acting intern at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

What’s on your iPod today? Imogen Heap, Brandi Carlisle, and Glee Volume 4

Favorite fictional characters? Atticus Finch.

What films have your seen recently, or are your favorites? Black Swan, True Grit, and The King’s Speech. All were pretty great.

Who are your favorite composers/songwriters? Rufus Wainwright, Imogen Heap, Brandi Carlisle, The Indigo Girls, The Beatles

What historical figure do you most identify with? Abe Lincoln. It’s not that I identify with him, it’s just that I’m in love with him.

Which talent would you most like to have? To be able to play the piano and the guitar really well. (I currently can’t play them at all).

Who are your favorite authors? William Shakespeare

What trait do you most admire in others? A sense of ease and self possesion

A favorite place you like to visit? Home.

What is your favorite food? Sweets. particularly of the pastry variety.

What word or expression do you most overuse? aMAYzing.

What is idea of perfect happiness? Vacation. But in order to feel that, it means you have to be working or doing something else. So I love a day off after a hard week or a summer after a long year.

Which living person do you most admire? My parents.

What is your most treasured possession? Any material thing can be replaced.

What book would we always find on your bookshelf? The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

What is your favorite flower? Wildflowers.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working at the REP? Enjoy the perfect happiness of a day off.

What is your motto? The Golden Rule. Treat other people how you want to be treated.


15 Jan

A Behind the Scenes look at a rehearsal for the REP’s upcoming production of the Tennessee Williams classic THE GLASS MENAGERIE, directed by John Langs.  With Michael Gotch as Tom, Kathleen Pirkl Tague as Amanda, Carine Montbertrand as Laura, and Eric Mathew as the Gentleman Caller.  Runs 1/27 – 2/27, 2011.

Mr. Smith Studies Washington

13 Jan

There’s a lot of talk these days about “What would our forefathers say?” It’s a topic that’s being addressed on stage here at the REP as the new play, O Beautiful, which deals with many contemporary cultural and political issues, continues to be crafted by playwright Theresa Rebeck.

It makes one wonder. What would those guys say?George Washington

As have many, George Washington kept a journal. Lots of journals, really. And one of them is notably called “George Washington’s Rules of Civility.” It’s part of the “Compleat George Washington Series, Vol 1,” and is printed in the United States of American  by Goose Creek Productions in Leesburg, Virginia.  Here’s what the editor, John T. Phillips, II has to say in this book’s introduction:

“In 1745, a thirteen year-old school boy in Virginia jotted down a lengthy set of social rules in his workbook.  Like many other young men in the American colonies, young George Washington was learning how to conduct himself in the fashion of a respectable British gentleman. The rules of civility were not a colonial invention. Like today’s rules of etiquette, the colonial rules of civility reflect hundreds of years of social and cultural changes in western civilization…The Rules of Civility, in the form that George Washington learned them in 1745, follow maxims set out in a 1595 French manuscript titled “Good Manners in Conversation among Men.”

There’s a lot more said about the history of civility and good manners in the intro, but let’s get back to today’s questions: “What would our forefathers say?” Or at least, “what were they taught?” And what can we learn in these times from them. Here are just a few:

“Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present. “

“Sleep not when others speak. Sit not when others stand. Speak not when you should hold your peace. Walk not when others stop.”

“Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.”

“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. For ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”

“Speak not injurious words, neither in jest nor earnest. Scoff at no one, although they give occasion.”

“Think before you speak. Pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly. “

“Be not curious to know the affairs of others; neither approach near to those that speak in private.”

“In disputes, be not so desirous to overcome objections as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion.”

“Undertake not what you cannot perform. Be careful to keep your promises.”

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

Nice writers; mean plays…

11 Jan

Artistic Director Sanford Robbins and playwright Theresa Rebeck chat after the first reading of O BEAUTIFUL.

Artistic Director Sanford Robbins and playwright Theresa Rebeck chat after the first reading of O BEAUTIFUL.

“Nice writers; mean plays” is the motto of Theresa Rebeck’s annual summer retreat in Vermont for playwrights and it is an apt description of the lady and her work.  We are about to have the third three-day workshop of the script of O BEAUTIFUL and I have just received the latest update to the script.

It has gotten leaner, funnier, and tougher and I am very eager for January 18-20 when we will hear it read aloud by our talented REP actors each night followed by more rewrites and revisions by Theresa each day.   After each of our previous readings the characters have gotten richer and each scene has become both more poignant and more amusing.

I am very excited about our audience, for whom we have never presented anything so topical and edgy, seeing an entirely new side of the REP with this production.  The roles in O BEAUTIFUL have been written specifically for these actors and, interestingly, while in many respects they fit like a glove, they also require new depths, colors, and aspects of our REP and PTTP actors that will challenge them and, I anticipate, expand their prowess.

This is exactly what I had hoped would happen when we commissioned this play so while I have no idea how it will all turn out on stage, I am delighted with the work we have ahead.  Theresa’s rhythms are distinctive and her characers, much like Shakespeare’s, think as — rather than before — they speak.  Consequently, O BEAUTIFUL moves at a very crisp pace, shifting rapidly from one location to another.

This presents a challenge to me and our brilliant scenic designer, Tak Kata.   My usual collaborators, Tak, Martha Hally (costumes) and Fitz Patton (sound) who collaborated with me on the REP’s recent A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’s DREAM are joined on this production by the incredibly talented and multi-Tony award winner Christopher Akerlind and we will need Chris to help us with the swift and often radical alterations of location and mood that Theresa’s script demands.  I meet with the design team in NYC on January 15 and 16 so that we have something to show Theresa on January 18 when she arrives in Newark.  Our first preview performance on April 20 seems all too close!

Artistic Director Sanford Robbins, playwright Theresa Rebeck, and stage manager Rick Cunningham discuss the script of O BEAUTIFUL.

Artistic Director Sanford Robbins, playwright Theresa Rebeck, and stage manager Rick Cunningham discuss the script of O BEAUTIFUL.

Tuesdays with…

11 Jan

A new feature to the REP blog!

Each Tuesday, we’ll feature a face of the REP and some fun facts about what makes the people at the REP so much fun to work with!

Sheila Schmidt at work on the set of the REP's 2010 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Sheila Schmidt at work on the set of the REP's 2010 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Today’s face: Sheila Schmidt

Where did you grow up? The northwest side of Chicago, Illinois.

Job at the REP: Resident Stage Manager for the Resident Ensemble Players

How long have you been working at the REP:  On and off for the past 7 years: I first came to work at the PTTP in 2004 when I came to pursue my MFA; a year after graduating I was offered the job at the REP.

First paying theatre job was what? Stage Carpenter for the Bread Loaf Acting Ensemble, a summer stock producing company that is associated with the Bread Loaf School of English in Middlebury, Vermont.

What’s on your iPod today? The Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me podcast, The Swell Season live album, David Gray, Adam Ant, Etta James, Mark Ronson and several songs written by Fitz Patton for a PTTP production of Taming of the Shrew.

Favorite fictional characters? Viola in Twelfth Night. Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Henry James as portrayed in Colm Toibin’s The Master.

What films have you seen recently, or are your favorites? Black Swan, Inception, and all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies.

Who are your favorite composers/songwriters? David Gray, Carole King, Larry Myer, Shane MacGowan.

What historical figure do you most identify with? William Wallace

Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to be able to play piano.

Who are your favorite authors? Shakespeare, Stieg Larsson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and my new favorite, Robert Penn Warren.

What trait do you most admire in others? grace

A favorite place you like to visit? Ireland, my parents were born there, and if I ever had a 2nd home it would be there.

What is your favorite food? I love Thai food

What is your most marked characteristic? I’ve been told I am patient, but I don’t experience that. I’d say I am optimistically persistent…and perhaps a little bit annoying.

Your favorite fictional super hero/heroine? Gambit in the X-men cartoons (’92-’97), or Mattie Ross in True Grit.

What word or expression do you most overuse? “A poke in the eye”  – as in: if you ask me that again, you just might earn yourself a poke in the eye.

What is your favorite bird? canary

What is idea of perfect happiness? Lazy mornings with my husband that are accompanied by a home cooked breakfast.

Which living person do you most admire? My dad.

What is your most treasured possession? Right now, my boots are my most treasured possession because it is snowing outside. In the universe at large my health and my husband are tied for first place on the list of most treasured things.

What book would we always find on your bookshelf? The Oxford English Dictionary (although my iPhone app is rapidly taking the place of the hard copy.)

What is your favorite flower? Gardenia.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working at the REP? I like to chase my nieces and nephews around and spoil them rotten (and then send them home to their parents). I also enjoy crafts of all kinds – I am currently working on a Christmas stocking for my smallest nephew.

What is your motto? Go big or go home. (Either way I win).

Good Eggs…

7 Jan

contributed by Sara Valentine, REP Marketing Assistant.

I’ve been thinking a lot about chickens lately.  And eggs. Maybe because the University of Delaware mascot is the fighting Blue Hen, and they are playing tonight in the NCAA football championship. Or that I spent a few days visiting my sister this holiday. She and my niece keep a few hens in a fancy coop that my brother-in-law built, and I got to feed them and collect the eggs!  But it has mostly to do with a jingle I had in my head the other morning.  It goes like this:

The Delaware Blue Hen. She lays medium sized light brown eggs.

The Delaware Blue Hen. She lays medium sized light brown eggs.

“Brown Eggs are local eggs/And local eggs are fresh!”

It was a jingle from my childhood. I even remember the giant brown egg that seemed to take up the entire tv screen. Of course, televisions were smaller then, as was I.  And if you’re not from New England, you probably have  never heard this  jingle or seen this commercial. It was produced by the New England Brown Egg Council of Augusta, Maine. Most of New England’s Brown Eggs come from Maine.  I wish I had a copy of the jingle for you- but for those of you with time on your hands, you could probably find it on the mega-information-machine we call the internet.

I know what you’re thinking.

“That’s great, Sara.  But what does this have to do with theatre? Or the Resident Ensemble Players?”

Not too much directly, but there is a connection that has kept me singing the jingle all week.

The New England Brown Egg Council knew what a lot of us know. We like things that are local, homegrown, from our community. We see cars with the bumper sticker “Think globally, act locally.” We love a tomato that has the little sticker “locally grown by local farmers.” We shop at businesses that are “locally owned and operated.”  And we’re fans of our local sports teams.

It instills a great sense of pride, to know what our local community has to offer.

That’s where the REP came into it. I was singing the jingle on my way into work Monday morning, trying to come up with new lyrics. Something like, “the REP is your local theatre, and your local theatre is awesome…”  or “REP theatre is your  local theatre, and local theatre rocks…”

Yeah. I need some work as a lyricist, I know.  But I’m working something out here, and trying to keep it simple.  Maybe something like “Support your local theatre. It’s fresh!” Or maybe just leave out the “fresh” part.

“Support your local theatre!”

I could put that on a bumper sticker, and see what happens.  But I think I’m going to keep cracking on my jingle first.  And, yes, that pun was fully intended.

2010-2011 Season: Part II

3 Jan

The UD campus awakens from its Winter break, and so does the REP company!

The UD campus awakens from its Winter break, and so does the REP company!

2010 came to a close, along with two smashing successes on stage: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

For two short weeks, the theatre doors were closed as the University took its winter break, and the REP company took a much needed rest in preparation for the new year.

Now, 2011 is upon us, and the stage lights are again being focused on the ambitious second half of our 2010-2011 Season.

The first rehearsal for Adrian Hall’s All the King’s Men began at noon.  First rehearsals are really something special- especially coming back from a holiday break.  A first rehearsal is not unlike that holiday gathering back home.  No one is a stranger. There is a tremendous feeling of collaboration and camaraderie.  “Happy New Year” greetings bounce about the room as everyone enters to take seats. Hat and coats and scarves are removed.  Hand shakes turn into bear hugs.  “How was your holiday?” “Where were you for Christmas?”  “When did you get back?”

The rehearsal room is not the only place of activity today. Winter session at UD began, and the campus sidewalks are once again bustling with students and faculty.

There is a chill in the air, and an invigorating spirit that the New Year seems to pour forth. Welcome 2011!

What, a play toward!

29 Nov

Andrew Goldwasser as Flute in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.

Andrew Goldwasser as Flute in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.

[Andrew Goldwasser plays Flute and Thisbee in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.]

This is about that time… as we soldier on towards opening another show, towards letting go of the work and just going out there and playing, towards showing what we’ve got to a house full of real-live people… that it starts to feel real…

No feeling is quite the same as being backstage in a dark theatre… designers talking in the house… actors marking through blocking and mumbling lines to themselves on stage.  A play is being made!

Tech for Midsummer has been a long, slow process.  The technical elements of this show are larger, more intricate, and grander in scale than almost anything of which I’ve been a part.  And for all the amazement and wonder that I know it will create in the audience… it makes for a lot of downtime for actors during tech.

Before tonight I had been getting antsy: “When is it my turn?!” “Are we ever going to get to that scene?” “Are we going to finish this thing?  Ever?  Ever?!

But tonight… sometime after the Eagles lost and before I went home to sulk about it… something clicked: a familiar click.  A click that reminded me how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing and simultaneously made clear to me the immense amount of talent gathered in the Center for the Arts to make this show happen and that the sheer will of a group of people this gifted simply will do something wonderful.  As I sat in the balcony and watched them work on lights… something happened that I find has happened a lot since I got to Delaware…

I was impressed by everyone.

In a single moment I saw how beautiful Martha Haley’s costumes looked under Thomas Hase’s lights and on Tak Kata’s set… and listening to Jasmine Bracey speak and the fairies sing their fairy song… I thought… “Gee, I wish I got to just walk in here… having seen none of the work… having no idea what is happening backstage… and see this show.”

People are gonna have a blast!  When we finally get finished:)

– Andrew

The First Fairy’s Flair

28 Nov

Titania’s right-hand creature, also known as The First Fairy (a.k.a. Joann Browning), has an incredible costume and head piece.  I don’t want to ruin the magic, but it is fascinating to see up close and then on stage.  The headpiece has these mohawk-like blue spears shooting out of its skull.  AND they light up.  AND they look like they could do some pretty wicked marshmallow roasting in a pinch.

The first fairy gets the headpiece fitted.

The First Fairy gets the headpiece fitted.

Liz Way and Barb Hughes discuss some changes in the costume.

Liz Way and Barb Hughes discuss some changes in the costume.

And then the on-stage magic!

And then the on-stage magic!