Rehearsing in the Kitchen

Posted in Midsummer, Theatre of the Mommies on July 25th, 2011 by kellinewby

“Mommy?  Can you watch me?”

“Not right now.  I’m rehearsing.”

A few seconds pass.  Lex goes back into discussing Helena.  She’s half a sentence in.

“Are you still rehearsing?”

Theatre for us has always been a delicate balance of real life and art, but now, in the absence of a space, we have retreated to our living rooms and backyards to rehearse.  It is comfortable in these spaces, so doing table work around a dining room set has a certain level of ease we never got from a makeshift surface at 57 Main.  Hypothetically, we can store the kiddos in the next room with all their toys and be in rehearsal while watching them but–

“Mooooommy.  Are you done?”

Lex takes a deep breath, pulls at her hair, and looks at her darling four year old.  “Go play.  Please.”

The backyard is a wonderland of things most four year olds would love–we can see the tops of colorful inflated toys through the window, but this one is not interested.  He turns his giant eyes on us, hoping one of us will jump up and volunteer to play with him.

“In a minute,” we all say in our own way.

The theatre had always been a retreat from the domestic.  It was a place where we were not afraid to shout or go big.  In someone’s kitchen, it seems odd to be yelling lines or throwing oneself on the floor in front of the baby who watches from his high chair, chewing away on a melted Baby Mum-Mum.

“To the Nth degree!  Louder!”  Lex and Wendy call through the threshold.  They’re watching us from the dining room as we flop around in the kitchen.

So we take it up another notch, start using the walls, throw ourselves against a refrigerator and slide down, trying not to worry about knocking magnets off it.  The fact that we’re in Lex’s kitchen gradually melts away as much as it can.   Wendy grumbles about needing that rehearsal space sooner rather than later.  Between the heat and, today, the rain, venturing out into the backyard has proved tricky so far.

“Mom-meeeeeeeeeeeee.”

“We’re done. Okay?”

He seems pleased.  As I pack up my things and head out to the door, the four year old approaches me.

“Why were you being so mean to Mollie?”

He has been overhearing us rehearse the Lovers’ fight scene and I have been calling Mollie a “canker blossom” and a “thief of love” and then loudly threatening to claw her eyes out.

“Well, in the play, Mollie stole my boyfriend.”  Trying to explain that it was really fairies and a love flower and mistaken identity seems too complicated somehow.  “Anyhow, we’re all friends by the end of the play.  There’s just a misunderstanding in the scene we were reading.”

He asks a few more questions and really listens to my answers.  The kid understands what rehearsals are, what plays are, and that sometimes grownups are acting crazy because a play tells them to.  We all say we don’t want our children to be actors, that we want them to run far, far away from the theatre, but there they are on the edges absorbing.  And now we are in their houses, rehearsing around their toys, in their spaces.  Well, there are worse things that getting an early start on your Shakespeare.

He accepts my explanation and asks me if I’ll play Lego Star Wars with him.

Maybe he won’t be an actor; maybe he’ll be a Jedi instead.

Work Day

Posted in On the Verge, Running the theatre, Theatre of the Mommies on October 4th, 2010 by kellinewby

Juliana, our set designer, looked a little sleepy.  She was sitting on the couch in the lobby, coffee in hand.  Her husband lounged nearby, as did Todd, our tech director.  It was ten o’clock on a Sunday morning and time to start building the set, which included taking down the Baltimore Waltz set.  The day was going to be full of hard, dirty jobs.

“No baby?” Juliana said, obviously disappointed.  ”I wanted to squeeze him.”

A normal mother might have been shocked–shocked!–that someone would ask why she’d left the baby at home for a theatre workday, but it had only been a week since Lex and I had scrubbed the theatre clean for Gypsy Lane, she with her angelic 2 month old slumbering in his car seat and me with my beefy 7 month old strapped to my back.  I hate to clean the basement and she hates to clean the refrigerator, so she vacuumed around a bucket seat and I scrubbed spilled soda and wondered who had put all those half-eaten bags of pepperoni in the fridge and left them there while my papoose babbled away and occasionally reached for something I really didn’t want him to have.

We spent the day working.  I had to go back and forth between home and the theatre for my baby.  At one point I came back and the walls were being painted black by two sets of parent/child teams, one which boasted a four year old.  He was painting and making R2D2 noises (which are much higher pitched than you’d imagine).  In the lobby, Don Jordan (the director of On the Verge) and Juliana were having an intense meeting figuring out the last details of the set.  It’s going to be a highly interactive set, so a lot of the blocking depends upon the set, and vise versa.

At the end of the day, we were filthy and we hadn’t quite gotten everything done, but the actors were fitted for costumes, the old set was down, the measurements had been taken to plug the backstage “pit of dispair,” and an office had been set up in the window of the theatre so that Ed can do daily office hours in full view of the public.  We’ll finally look open.

Speaking of “open,” On the Verge opens in just under two weeks.  Better get back to those props.

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.

Theatre of the Mommies–Board Meeting

Posted in Running the theatre, Theatre of the Mommies on July 7th, 2010 by kellinewby

Things are also moving forward with our strategic planning.  Last night we met at the stage and even turned on the AC–something we don’t usually do unless we have an audience.  We had to get a meeting in before Lex has her baby to start implementing our plans.  Downstairs, 3 children were going through the costumes, putting together a play that we kept putting off.  On stage, Lex shifted around constantly and kept her Tums nearby while I paced around trying to keep my baby happy even though we were meeting dangerously close to bedtime, but we both stayed in the conversation.  I nursed, put the baby in a sling, took him out of a the sling, put him on his tummy, rocked him and still discussed past grant writing attempts.  Eventually the baby did fall asleep and I put him down on a pad on the stage to slumber through discussions about the blog and the Wilco Weekend plans.

Every ten minutes, the kids from the basement would emerge with more costumes on–breast plates, gowns, crowns, cloaks, flowing hippie shirts–and annouce that the play was nearly complete and they needed the stage.  We kept saying “soon” or “ten more minutes.”  It held them at bay.  The 9 year old caught on to what we meant and did her best to keep the 6 year old and the 4 year old in the basement, but eventually the 6 year old said, “It’s been more than ten minutes.”  She insisted that they needed to build a set before their production.  We suggested that they choose all their props.  That got them back into the basement.  Lex’s 4 year old followed the other two around carrying his sword and wearing a crooked  muscleman breast plate, going up and down the stairs after them.  I’ve jokingly referred to the kids as the young company, but it’s becoming less and less of a joke.

The kids let me  sneak out before the show began.  It was a fighting play, they said, and not suitable for babies.

Mommy Redroom is on and we are back in the theatre with our new additions.  Somehow it’s all different and all the same, just like at home.

Collaborating the night away

Posted in Running the theatre, Theatre of the Mommies, Uncategorized on July 3rd, 2010 by kellinewby

There are a lot of arts organizations in North Adams.  A lot.  Three theatre companies.  2 mills full of artists.  Dancers.  Writers.  Performance artists.  Photographers. Sculptors. Painters.  How does one survive?

Being a theatre artist, I smugly believe the answer lies in my own particular poison: collaboration.  One of my favorite musicians, Amanda Palmer, said that she ended up doing music rather than theatre because to do theatre she has to organize 20 people and with music she just needs a piano and an audience.

I’m not saying anything new here, but I am seeing things from a new perspective.  You see, I have this baby now.  And Lex will have a baby in the next couple of weeks.  Having me away from home at bedtime simply doesn’t work for my son. However, bedtime is prime theatre time.  How do I run a Redroom and rehearsals for a Redroom when I need to be home at 7:30?  It’s an exercise in problem solving, no doubt.

But it’s not just people with babies, people with jobs and lives need to find a way to fit in volunteer theatre.  The show we’ve planned for September is going to be broken up between two directors to fit in a couple of summer vacations.  It all works out for the best–each director will work with his/her strength.  And, as I am one of the directors, we also have to figure out the best way to make sure my baby is happy.  We have been a highly collaborative theatre company for the past several years, but the upcoming months are going to put it to the test.

One person will cast the show, another begin the rehearsal period and a third will bring it all together for the end.  We are on the verge, as it were….

Theatre of the Mommies

Posted in Running the theatre, Theatre of the Mommies, Uncategorized on June 24th, 2010 by kellinewby

This afternoon Lex and I tried to write a grant. In the other room, her three year old played loudly with his dragon castle play set. Lex tried to find some comfortable position, a near impossibility at 8 months pregnant. My sweet little 3 month old slumbered angelically in his car seat. Just as we opened our laptops, he opened his eyes. And he started to cry.

Here we go…

We got through the history of the theatre in 500 characters or less and the mission statement, but my baby was not interested in grant writing (or eating, or having his diaper changed…). We did what we could and called it a day.

A year or so ago, Lex and I met with an MCLA arts management class. Because we were both there, no one was available to watch her little guy, so he was part of the presentation. The instructor laughed and told her students that they were getting a real look at life in the arts as we took turns chasing him around and talking about how to run a theatre.

And it’s true. Our children are a huge part of our lives, and so is the theatre, so finding how they overlap is an interesting, challenging juggling act. For the past coule years, there’s been only one theatre kid, so we could all take turns covering for babysitting during rehearsals and meetings, but now there are two and there’s another on the way. All boys. Now there is a baby I nurse during breaks in an audition, that I walk around and rock during a board meeting, who gets passed around and loved at a company meeting. He fits into the life the theatre the way he fits into mine.

It seems only fitting, then, that as my first big project back, I work on a motherhood Redroom. Stayed tuned for details.