Audtions, etc

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30th, 2010 by kellinewby

Well, it was close, but we made it.  In last week’s post, I wrote that we had received 200 or so plays.  I misspoke.  It was more like 400 plays.  But we came together as a company, narrowed it down to 20 plays and voted all in time for auditions (which are going on even as I type!)  Auditions are also tomorrow.  Find us on Facebook for more information about that (check the list of links on this very page!)

In other good news, we have gotten the grant to support the second annual Short Play Festival (SPF).

The SPF presents some great opportunities and unique challenges.  Because it requires 4 directors, it gives a lot of people a chance to direct.  It also offers a lot of people roles because at least 4 regular company members have been taken out of the audition pool.   But because there are 4 directors, and 4 plays, it means 4 different rehearsal schedules, 4 people all trying to use our tiny space and 4 different sets that have to work together.

It’s funny to think after all the work we’ve put into the SPF reading plays since early November that the real work is only just beginning.  Stay tuned for updates.

Also, don’t forget to check out RBIT tonight at Barrington Stage II!

Reading Plays

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22nd, 2010 by kellinewby

I had been hoping that Eric, the Short Play Festival co-ordinator, would be able to write a blog post about the upcoming SPF, but we received over 200 plays this year and he’s in charge of making sure they all get read by at least two people.  His backpack, one of those giant LL Bean ones that high school kids get monogrammed, is stretched to its limits and weighs 30-ish pounds.   I didn’t have the heart to pester him about posting after watching him heft the all SPF bag onto his back and hobble out of the theatre after our last company meeting.

Last year, when Eric conceived of this adventure, we were thrilled.  It fit into our new mission statement about focusing on new, local work in addition to classics, it supported the in house writing community and atmosphere that the Redroom had been fostering for the past year, and it would give a lot of people opportunities to direct and to act.   It seemed like a big undertaking, but he made it happen.  The show was a big success; we sold out almost every night.  And it was fun.  But in the lead up to it, we all felt swamped by the nearly 70 plays we had to read.

Ha.  70.

There are a lot more of us reading this year, and the end is finally in sight.  I’m admittedly a bit behind, but I read at least 10 plays a week (more when I’m on a tear) and fill out a  form about each one.  Eric reads every single sheet and soon round two will be gin, where the plays that got thumbs up from both readers will move onto the next round.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.  And we need to have it done soon.  Auditions on the 30th!

Also, rumor has it that this year’s short play festival will be supported by a grant from the Local Mass Cultural Council!

RBIT in the Eagle

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22nd, 2010 by kellinewby

Here’s an article about RBIT as it appeared in the January 21st edition of the Berkshire Eagle (this link will probably not work in a week, so I’ve copied the article below).

Comedy on the spot

Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe extends its reach

By Laura S. Marshall, Special to the Eagle

Updated: 01/21/2010 01:44:59 PM EST

The Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe, from left: Lisa Weinstein, Michael Trainor, Frank LaFrazia, Seth Brown, Alexia Trainor and Barb Cardillo. Photo courtesy Alicia Trainor.

Thursday, Jan. 21

NORTH ADAMS — There are three basic rules of improv, according to Frank La Frazia of North Adams, director of the Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe. One: Make your partner look good. Two: Say “yes, and,” which means you take what your partner offers and go a step further. And three: “Say the first thing that comes to your head, or ‘dare to be ordinary.’ Don’t try to be clever.”

The comedy group — also known as RBIT — which will appear at 8 p.m. Jan. 30 at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, has been a part of local life since 2001. RBIT adds to the longstanding theater scene in the Berkshires by offering live, unscripted entertainment in the tradition of the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Like the TV show, each RBIT performance consists of improv games in which the actors are thrown into scenes based on input from the audience.

“Pretty much every single game we play is based off of audience suggestions,” said troupe member Seth Brown of North Adams. “We’ll ask the audience to shout out a location, a problem, an occupation, a phobia or some other important seed for the scene, and then that suggestion drives the whole game. Sometimes we even have a game or two where we invite audience members onstage. The audience participation is a huge part of our show.”

So is character development. Even in a 30-second skit, it’s all about people, situations and relationships, just as in a traditional play.

“We are character- and scene-driven, not one-liner- or ‘shtick’-driven,” La Frazia said. “If you watch characters you relate to or care about get put into impossible situations or turn their roles on their heads, it’s funny. We never put people down or make fun of people. We pull the audience in and get them to laugh at the scenario.”

The scenarios themselves vary wildly according to the given game. The actors may be required to speak only in rap, or they may have to start every sentence with the next letter of the alphabet; they may have to act as if they’re appearing in certain genres of film such as noir or science fiction or action-adventure. Some popular games have names like “musical nightmare” or “rap psychiatrist,” La Frazia said.

It’s not completely unlike scripted theater. In fact, La Frazia noted, improv has a lot of the same fundamentals as a standard theater performance: scene, character, motivation and so on. He said he finds improv more relaxing to perform.

“If something goes ‘wrong,’ you just fix it,” he said. “In scripted theater, if you mess up a line or blocking, or something does not go well, technically it is more stressful to fix.”

Most of the troupe said their work with improv was useful for their other theater work.

“Learning the skills of improv has helped me as an actress on so many levels,” said member Barby Cardillo of Cheshire. “Especially, oddly enough, with dramatic roles.”

Fellow member Alexia Trainor of North Adams agrees.

“Working on a script gives you a chance to delve into a character and the world of the character in a different way. You have time to analyze things and come up with back story, et cetera,” she said. “With improv, it is all on the spot. Having done it for years, I have a handful of characters that I’m able to pull out, but overall it is all spur of the moment.”

Most of the troupe’s members are involved in both worlds, improv and traditional theater, and it’s obvious these actors aren’t in it for the money — they’re in it for the comedy.

“RBIT is mostly paid in laughs,” Alexia’s husband, Mike Trainor, said, “which I tried to cash out at the bank, but they laughed at me. Then I asked them to deposit those ones, too, and they called security.”

RBIT is careful to point out that its brand of entertainment is not intended to compete with the other theater companies in the area.

“We complement what goes on here in Berkshires,” said La Frazia. “We don’t compete with the major theater companies; we offer something unique.”

In this case, “unique” means not only “different from the others” but “different every time.”

“What I love most about improv is that every show is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Brown. “If a theater show has a one-month run, you can go the first week, see a great show, tell your friend, and they’ll see that same show next week.

“When you see a great improv show where your suggestion about flamingos is turned into an epic story involving 300 plastic turtles, a smoking flamingo and the Pope, you’ve seen comedy that existed only at that singular point in time, thanks to your input. That same scene will never be performed again.”

The players …

Most of RBIT’s members are involved in both improvisational and traditional theater.

In addition to being the director of RBIT and the point person for the group’s communications and gig-booking, Frank La Frazia works for Barrington Stage Company, runs the Playwright Mentoring Project for youth and works in professional film and television production throughout the Northeast.

When Wendy Walraven of Williamstown isn’t RBIT-ing, she’s the coordinator for afterschool programs at Drury High School as a part of 21st-Century Community Learning Center.

“I am fortunate enough to be in a position to create programming for teenagers,” Walraven said. “This is a great opportunity for students and is only one of the many community connections we have in place.”

Barbie Cardillo is a student at MCLA who also works as an actress and a teaching artist with the education department at Shakespeare & Company, in local schools and with the Shakespeare in the Courts program, as well as the Playwright Mentoring Project and the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s winter education program.

“My favorite organization that I work with is CATA — Community Access to the Arts — where I teach workshops with developmentally disabled adults,” she said. “I am also a full time student at MCLA and will graduate this spring with a degree in psychology/social work.”

Alexia Trainor, a North Adams stay-at-home mother, volunteers at Main Street Stage and has been a visiting artist at BArT for drama and improv.

Her husband, Michael Trainor, is a member of RBIT and also a board member of Main Street Stage in North Adams; he does tech work for an Internet company during the day.

Seth Brown, a freelance writer, humor columnist and self-professed “rapper for hire,” performs regularly at poetry slams and stand-up comedy open mics around the county.

RBIT does also supplement their shows with availability for corporate events, birthday parties, after-prom parties, retirement home appearances, street fairs and the like.

Catching up

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11th, 2010 by kellinewby

It’s a new year at Main Street Stage and a lot of exciting things are coming up.  But first, let’s review the end of 2009…

  • Our collaboration with Haunted Williamstown went very well in October.
  • We had a successful run of “Marcus is Walking” this past November/December.

We also received of a couple of honors.

  • Gail Burns named All My Sons one of the best shows of the decade on her site.  It was supposed to have been published in the Transcript, but, well, no one knows what happened.
  • Jeffery Borak (Berkshire Eagle) named Linda White’s performance in All My Sons as one of the best performances of the year.

We have a lot of upcoming projects as well:

  • The Short Play Festival is in the later planning stages.  We are finishing up the selection process (we had three times the submissions we had last year) and auditions are planned for the end of this month.
  • Look for upcoming RBIT (Royal Berkshire Improve Troupe) shows at the Stage and at Barrington Stage II.
  • The Redroom may be resurfacing in the next month as well.
  • The Berkshire 24 Hour Theatre project is being planned for the 23rd and 24th of April.  Please get in touch with us if you are interested in participating.
  • The North Adams Playwright Mentoring Program show will be in Late March or early April.
  • We are also talking about a February vacation camp, some collaborations with MCLA students and a comedy in the spring.

And lastly, the end of last year brought in many new collaboration opportunities for us that are still in the early stages.  The Main Street Stage plans to collaborate with Topia Arts in Adams on several projects this year, including the 24 Theatre Project and the Symphony of 100 Carpenters, both scheduled in mid-late spring.

Stay tuned for specifics on all of these projects and more!