Writing the Redroom

Posted in The Redroom, Uncategorized on July 26th, 2010 by kellinewby

The beauty of and the pain of working with new material and having the playwright in the room is this–the piece is up on stage, we’re reading it and blocking it and suddenly the actors say “This isn’t working.”  And they mean “the script” because something can be done about it.

That’s what happened a week ago.  Two hours into a three hour rehearsal, as we  tried to block a skit about a baby shower gone wrong, we stopped halfway through.  There were a lot of funny jokes in it, and we loved the idea, but it was a long skit with a lot of sitting.  The blocking session turned into a talk about what worked and what didn’t, and then I had the less than appealing task of calling up one of the writers to let him know I was going to be completely rewriting his skits.  Take comfort, I said, I’m retooling the entire show.  While it seemed like a lot of time working on something I had thought was finished, I am forever grateful to be part of a company that keeps me on my toes, writing-wise.   It’s a little like a writing workshop, only the people around the table are a lot more invested in your work because it will eventually become their work as well.

This week, with a mostly new script, things went better.  Two hours into the three hour rehearsal things were in good shape and we did a run-through–something that not every Redroom gets a chance to have.  For Redroom, we generally have two rehearsals and a speed through before the show and that’s it.     Because we’re a little out of shape, we’re having two long rehearsals, a short rehearsal and a dress rehearsal before we open.  It leaves us little time, but it’s a highly concentrated creative burst that allows more people to be involved in the process because the comitment is so low.

I even broke out the video camera and made a trailer for Mommy Redroom.  As soon as YouTube officially posts it there, I will post it here.

Poster

Posted in The Redroom, Uncategorized on July 20th, 2010 by kellinewby

Draft one of the script=rewrite.  Draft 2=written.  T minus three rehearsals to show time.

On Sunday we ran our first Mommy Redroom rehearsal and Lex had her baby.  It was a good day.  Updates to follow.

Resurrecting the Redroom

Posted in The Redroom, Theatre of the Mommies on July 14th, 2010 by kellinewby

It's been abot a year since we wrote a Redroom.  In 2008, when we started the Redroom, we were together all the time.  That summer we were rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and running the Redroom every week--a new show every week, but it was okay because any downtime became a brainstorming session.  The theatre was tingling with creative energy--there was a big cast full of new company members with new ideas--and the director had done an excellent job of making us a cohesive unit.  Redroom scripts poured out of us.

But there's no way we could maintain that kind of momentum.  Also, at the end of last summer, Jack, my second in command, went off to grad school, I lost another one of my writers to real life as, and I was pregnant.  We decided to put Redroom aside for awhile.

As time passed, I got bigger and bigger, and the break was doing us all some good; the combination of these two things got us thinking and we started to plan the Redroom for Kelli's Baby.  The original idea was to have the cast put together dances, songs, skits and readings and then invite me to watch, but we all decided that it would be really funny to have me waddling around on stage.  We would tape the show and one day present it to my child a kind of demented gift.  They were also secretly planning to have my baby shower during the show.

But then we got 700 plays for SPF and had to move that production date from January to March. Then the only date that we could find that would work for the Redroom was either the Saturday before my scheduled C-section or the same night as the big MassMoCA dance party that the cast wanted to attend.   I was secretly pleased.  Writing, producing, and coordinating a show at 8 months pregnant was not going to be as easy as I had thought it would be when I was a lot less pregnant, and that would be on top of the rehearsals and the performances.  Needless to say, we called it off.

So the Mommy Redroom brainstorming session happened Monday night.  In some ways, it was like most other Redroom writers' rooms with wild ideas, overlapped conversations, readings of drafts, but in other ways, it was very different.  My baby was passed from lap to lap, continually adored and played with until he got fussy.  I ran the meeting while bouncing him.  I listened to skits while sweating under a blanket while he breastfed.   And we called it an early night so I could put him to bed, but in the end we had the makings of a script and a baby-friendly rehearsal schedule.

The only problem was I stayed up way too late that night making revisions, writing new skits and co-ordinating schedules, buzzing with creative energy.  Part of the buzz was getting back into something I've always loved to do after a nice long break.  Part of it was reclaiming some part of me that has been dormant, a part of me I had worried about losing after having a baby.  And part of the buzz was a moment of finding balance between motherhood and theatre.

Mommy Redroom is on!

Posted in The Redroom, Theatre of the Mommies, Uncategorized on July 14th, 2010 by kellinewby

The press release has gone out.  Mommy Redroom is really happening.  It’s been nearly a year since we’ve all brainstormed in earnest.  It feels good to stretch those muscles again.  It will be the first weekend in August, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  We’ll be workshopping scripts on Monday, but if you have a story, let me know.  It’s never too late at Redroom.

Trio Cafe Budapest

Posted in Summer 2009, The Redroom on June 11th, 2009 by kellinewby

trio-cafe-budapest

We are  looking forward to the band that will be playing on the 25th: Trio Cafe Budapest.   Just as the Redroom likes to blur the lines between genres, it is hard to put these guys into any category other than versatile musicians who play songs you’ll enjoy.  Their official statement goes something like this:

The Trio Café Budapest (Bill Wootters, piano; Ted Gilley, guitar; Jimmy Bergin, violin) has been playing together since 2002. Their varied repertoire includes traditional fiddle tunes, the blues, spirituals, popular and ethnic music. They have performed at weddings, contradances, parties, outdoor markets and festivals. Their first CD entitled Meridian, was released in 2008; selected tracks can be heard at http://www.myspace.com/triocafebudapest

Please check out thier MySpace page and listen to some of the tracks.  We’ll see you (and them) on the 25th!

PS: There seems to be something off about the link to MySpace, so it if tells you the friend has been deleted, search for Trio Cafe Budapest under “music” and you will find it.

“Welcome to Main Street Stage. Here’s a hammer. We own you now.”

Posted in history, Past Shows, The Redroom on June 3rd, 2009 by jturbin

I lurked backstage behind the curtain at the May 2008 Redroom intently listening in on the audience response to my short play, Job Interview with the Vampire Wannabee.  Written during a slow day at my then-dayjob as a substitute teacher it involved a vetting session for the new member of a high school goth clique.  The small yet vocal audience seemed to be lapping it up.  I had been involved with Main Street Stage only a matter of weeks and already I had begun acting, directing and writing for the company.

And it was all due to a matter of chance.

I was eating out with a friend (okay – it was a date) when a woman with way more energy than is advisable waltzed into the restaurant, dropped a quarter-sheet on the table, plugged the Redroom, and left.  Said friend looked at the card, observed “oh.  It’s right around the corner” and suggested we attend.  I had only been back in the country for a few weeks, let alone the city, and knew next to nothing about the art scene in North Adams (I had only a vague notion that a bunch of old mills had been converted into artist lofts and museums).  Little did I know that I was about to encounter an olde tyme cabaret/burlesque performance, a team of earnest and talented artists, and people who would become some of my closest friends.

The evening in question involved a local singer/songwriter (a “troubadour,” as my friend put it), a Dada performance piece, and a one-act about a woman harassed by her time-travelling, future groupies.  Afterward, over drinks at the bar, I struck up a conversation with a woman in striped tights.  Said conversation began with Paul Farmer and ended with me being handed the executive director’s email address.  Truth be told, I nearly threw it out; while I had done theatre as an undergrad, those days were behind me.  Or so I thought.  One month later, I attended my first executive committee meeting.  Shortly after that, Main Street Stage had claimed me.

It’s now little over a year since my first performance with the company.  Here I am dramaturging our summer production (Twelfth Night, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention) and helping manage our humble blog.  Main Street Stage has grown by leaps and bounds during my tenure, so I can only imagine how far it’s come since its founding.  If history is any judge, next year will be even bigger and better.

The Red(and Green)room, Decemeber 2008

Posted in Past Shows, The Redroom on May 21st, 2009 by kellinewby

We were fresh off the success of Romeo and Juliet.  We had a much bigger and more active company.  We had a much bigger and more active audience.  M.  had this great idea–let’s do Christmas Carol.  Let’s really do Christmas Carol.

After all, it is a play about an old guy who is part of a community that he doesn’t much care for and doesn’t know at all.  Then, one day he wakes up and realizes that being part of the community around you is what makes you alive and that you should celebrate it!  The metaphor was not lost on us.

The problem–no Scrooge.  (Incidentally, this is a recurring problem at the stage; we have no older men.  See also All My Sons)  We spent a frantic month or so trying to find a Scrooge, pestering, begging, pleading, but to no avail.  Half as a joke, I suggested Jeffrey Borak, the local critic.  He’s an actor (a good one, so I’ve heard) and he’s the right age, and he’d look good in a Victorian top-hat…

We all laughed.   Then I thought, wouldn’t that be interesting…I sat down with a copy of Dickens’ story and started work right away.   The idea eventually became “A Critic’s Carol.”  The story is of Benjamin Montgomery, the much feared local critic, who has come to play Scrooge at a small local theatre company that is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.  During the course of the first read through, Benjamin is visited by three performances (from Christmas Carols Past, Present, and Future) who remind him why he loved theatre in the first place.   As with most Redroom ventures, the company shaped the piece after the initial script had been written.

So, we had half a Christmas show.  The company then got together and wrote a series of skits for the first half of the show, creating a Holiday-themed, more traditional Red Room.  These acts included workplace Secret Santa and Yankee Swap gift exchanges gone terribly awry, a parody of “Carol of the Bells,” a bittersweet dance, readings by local writers about Christmas memories, a skit with a chain-encumbered Jacob Marley trying to sneak home after a night of drinking without waking his wife, and, a personal favorite, “Jonathan’s Jewish Corner”–the Redroom’s answer to all those well-intentioned people who try to play up Hanukkah so that they don’t feel bad about being over the top with Christmas.

The show ran four nights and was a success.  It was an experiment–a Redroom with a lot of rehearsal that ran the same show more than once–but it worked.  We’re hoping to do a musical review this summer in August building on what we learned this past December.

The Redroom–What is it? (Theory)

Posted in The Redroom on April 26th, 2009 by kellinewby

The theory: an artist’s playground where genre and discipline lines are blurred, experimentation is prized, failure is accepted (and quickly gotten over) and a community of working artist can form and thrive in a creatively charged atmosphere.  A salon/cabaret/party.

Bringing artists together:

One of my favorite Redrooms featured a local artist painting a mural as a backdrop to the entire performance.  Performers who were not part of the skit, reading (or whatever) on stage stood against a stretched canvas and the artist traced their form with a paint brush on a long stick.

The artist had found the stage through the Redroom earlier that summer ($10.00 for an hour of life drawing is cheap).  Before long we had him painting the set for Romeo and Juliet.  I told him that I wanted to really incorporate all the arts into the Redroom and a week later he came up with this mural idea.  I loved the mural because it was the kind of blending of the arts that can really only happen in a theatre.

I’m not going to get all Gesamtskunstwerk on you, don’t worry.  We still keep everything separate, Brecht-style.

Looking at the man behind the curtain:

Speaking of Brecht--why pretend we’re not in a theatre?  Why pretend the behind-the-curtainaudience isn’t two feet away?  Why pretend the only thing that seperates us is a piece of cloth?  Why not let people eat and drink and move around?  Why pretend we’re fabulously wealthy and don’t have anything else to do but produce this show?

Let’s all agree to live in the moment, shall we?

Collaboration:

The follow video is from French night and is called “La piece des sterotypes francais.”

The script came out of a conversation that several of us had in the lobby one day.  One of us wrote it down.  Then  we cast the skit and had the actors (all trained in comic improv) add to it their own takes.  It was a fun process that yielded a lot of ideas, some of the good, and we ran with it.

This is what we’ve discovered from doing the Redroom for about a year, but things are always evolving at the Redroom.  Ask me next month--I’ll probably have a new theory.

The Redroom–What is it? (audience version)

Posted in The Redroom on April 26th, 2009 by kellinewby

Model

The Main Street Stage lobby has fairly close quarters and there are already ten people milling around when you come in around 8:20.  There’s an old fashioned radio playing music, a girl lying on the sofa in the window, and people with sketch pads drawing her.  You pay your $10.00 to a woman in a boa and make your way to the counter for a glass of wine, some bread and brie, a piece of cake and some grapes.  The woman pouring the wine asks how you found out about the Redroom and invites you to draw–why not?

Over the next forty minutes more people filter in.  Some are talking, some are drawing.  It seems like the kind of place where you could talk to a stranger.  There is a constant scurrying in and out of the theatre (which is still blocked off by a black curtain) and sometimes you hear a sound check or a song over top of the conversations and lobby music.  Then, the people you’ve picked out as performers all exit the lobby.  The model gets up off the couch and invites everyone into the theatre.

The show begins.  It is fast paced–there’s a little skit at the beginning, then a musician, then someone reads a poem, then another skit, then the musician again, a free style rapper who makes up raps based on topics given to him by the audience, an accordion player, a dance, another reading, a man telling a dream, and back to the musician.

Some things work.  Some things don’t, but it moves fast.  You can hear the scurrying around backstage of the performers.  There is occasionally a pause, a lot of scurrying and someone appearing on stage, a little flustered and the show barrels forward.   Finally, all the performers walk on stage and invite you, the audience, to sing a long with them.

sing-a-long

They take a bow and run into the lobby, where people mingle and chat as they had before the show.

As you leave the cast tells you to come back again.  Next time, they tell you, it will be a completely different show…

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