Tips for Traveling in Italy

Packed with ancient history, rich culture, and ineffable urban and rural landscapes, Italy is one of Europe’s prized jewels. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that so many tourists flock to its most popular locations — Rome, Florence, and Venice — during the summertime.

If you’re planning a trip to this Mediterranean oasis, or just plan to put it at the top of your list of places to visit, be sure to make the most of your holiday abroad by following some of these tips:

Take your time

Although Italy was the birthplace of Western civilization, the overall atmosphere of the country is far more relaxed than that of the United States’. And while it may be tempting to pack your days with as much sightseeing and photo-snapping as possible, it would greatly benefit you to take your enthusiasm down the notch and simply focus on immersing yourself in the Italian culture.

While you may not be able to see as many famous landmarks and tourist traps in one day, you’ll definitely see more of the country’s incomparable character — something money just can’t buy.

Experience authentic Italian cooking

Forget chain and tourist-populated restaurants and opt to eat at small, locally-owned restaurants instead. Although you may need to brush up on your Italian (or have a translator app at the ready), you will not only get to enjoy authentic Italian cooking, but you will also lessen your chances of being overcharged by greedy servers as well.

Visit national parks

Although many people choose to spend their time in sprawling urban areas, there is indescribable beauty to be found in Italy’s countryside and along its shores. Soak in these sights by taking a day or even two to hike along the gorgeous hills and harbors of Cinque Terre, or  visiting Vesuvius National Park to get a bird’s eye view at the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were destroyed by Mount Vesuvius’ infamous 79 AD eruption.

Visit the southern “heel”

If you’re looking to experience more of Italian’s rustic and charming countryside, consider taking a drive around the boot-shaped country’s “heel.” Not only will you likely be able to avoid tourists entirely, but you’ll also get a glimpse of where much of Italy’s produce comes from.

Don’t forget Sicily

While Sicily is most known for its abundance of mafia families and deep-dish pizza, there is much more to this island than meets the eye. Stunning art, historical landmarks, prehistoric ruins, and jaw dropping beaches can be found on the island, along with accommodating locals and unbeatable cuisine. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in Sicily, it will be time well-spent.

To read more of Ryan Hemphill’s travel advice, visit RyanHemphill.net.

Best NYC Hotels

One of the best things about visiting New York City is staying in one of the luxurious hotels that the city has to offer. However, with so many hotels, it can be difficult for first-time visitors to know which hotels to avoid and which ones to spend the night in. The below list highlights some of the city’s best hotels. Before you make your next trip to New York City, take a look below.

The Greenwich Hotel

Fans of actor Robert De Niro’s work should consider staying in the Greenwich Hotel, which he owns. The hotel is located in the trendy Tribeca neighborhood home to numerous celebrities, sports stars, and other notable people. There are 88 rooms in the hotel where guests can stay, and the hotel boasts that each room is unique in some way. Locanda Verde, which serves Italian food, is located in the hotel. The hotel also features a pool, spa, and gym.

Located on top of the building is the exquisite TriBeCa Penthouse. The penthouse features three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a beautiful terrace, and a number of exclusive accommodations like daily breakfast and groceries upon arrival. Keep in mind, though, that all of this luxury will cost you $15,000 per night.

The Lowell Hotel New York

The Lowell Hotel New York, or simply the Lowell, has been around since 1927. The hotel is located on the Upper East Side, a neighborhood that has been featured in countless films, books, and television shows. Located inside the hotel’s doors, visitors will find 74 different rooms. Guests can dine in Majorelle or have a cocktail in the Jacques Bar. The Pembroke Room focuses on breakfast, brunch, and afternoon tea. Take a look at the Lowell website to see some of their current deals.

Crosby Street Hotel

The Crosby Street Hotel is located in SoHo. Its 86 rooms and suites have been described as whimsical yet classy by visitors. The Crosby Bar is open from 7:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the morning. Take a look at the menu here. In addition to its spacious rooms, the hotel also features a gym, a movie theater, concierge service, and a garden on the roof. There are a number of special packages that the hotel offers. One of the packages includes a champagne breakfast, two bottles of wine upon arrival, and a late check out in the afternoon.

*This post originally appeared on www.ryanhemphill.nyc.

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the United States, but it has a lot to offer visitors. The state’s nickname is “The Ocean State” due to its proximity to the ocean and various inlets. Without a doubt, one of the best aspects of visiting Rhode Island is taking in the ocean scenery. The town of Watch Hill is one of the best summer destinations in Rhode Island. New Yorkers can reach the town in three hours, and it’s even possible to see Montauk from the town when the weather is nice. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do when you visit Watch Hill.

Where to Stay

Ocean House is the most famous hotel in the area due in part to the fact that it’s the “first and only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star hotel in the state” (About). However, even if it didn’t have five stars the view alone would make the hotel one of the best in the region. The hotel features 13 acres that guests can explore in privacy. While staying at the hotel, guests can play shuffleboard, croquet, or lounge on the beach.Ryan Hemphill - RI

In the beginning of 2017, the hotel’s rooms went under renovation. The renovation included an upgrade to technology, new linens, and new wood for each of the rooms. Every day guests can participate in different resort activities like yoga or cooking classes for free. To see a complete list of the resort’s amenities, visit this link.

What to Do

If you Watch Hill during the summer season then the most popular activity is lounging on the beach. The Watch Hill Lighthouse and Museum is a fun place to visit to learn more about the area’s lighthouses. You can also find many cafes and shops that are worth exploring. The surrounding area of Watch Hill is also worth exploring. You can find vineyards, farmers’ markets, and hiking trails all within close driving distance of the hotel.

If you have children or you’re just fascinated by life under the sea, you should visit the Mystic Aquarium located across the Rhode Island border about thirty minutes away from the hotel. The town of Mystic is also home to Mystic Seaport as well as the Olde Mistick Village. (I have previously written about Mystic Seaport here.) The Olde Mistick Village features lots of unique shops and places where you can enjoy a meal.

*This post originally appeared on www.ryanhemphill.net.

Best Restaurants on the East Coast

The East Coast of the United States is home to some of the country’s oldest cities and most historically important sites. It is also home to some of the best restaurants. This post traces a journey from Maine down to Florida and looks at where you can stop along the way to eat a delicious meal.

Maine

Maine is known for its lobsters, so when you visit you can’t leave before dining on a lobster roll. Bite Into Maine has three food trucks that serve refreshing takes on lobster rolls. The original truck is located in Fort Williams Park, so you can eat your lobster park while walking through the woods or sitting on the beach and enjoying the view.

New Hampshire

When you pass through New Hampshire make sure you stop at Republic Cafe. The restaurant emphasizes farm to table fare and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the restaurant’s website you can view each of the farmers that the Republic works with to source its food.

Massachusetts

Boston is Massachusetts’ best-known city, and it is home to numerous excellent restaurants. If you want a fine dining experience you can’t go wrong with Ostra or Mistral. Ostra focuses on seafood while Mistral serves French cuisine. If you’re looking for a delicious sandwich, Sam LaGrassa’s is your best option. The sandwich shop has been open since 1968 and continually gets rave reviews from visitors. Prepare yourself for long lines, though!

Rhode Island

Rhode Island may be the country’s smallest state, but it fits a lot of fantastic restaurants within its state borders. Hemenway’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar is a must-visit for seafood fanatics. The restaurant has been operating for more than thirty years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut features some unforgettable restaurants. At Union League Cafe you can eat fine French cuisine in a setting that will make you think you’re really in Paris. If you want your mouth to water, take a look at some pictures of the menu’s dishes.

New York

New York is home to some of the best restaurants on the planet. I’ve previously written about many of them, and I encourage you to take a look at some of those articles to learn more about what NYC has to offer.

New Jersey

New Jersey frequently gets made fun of in American media, yet its restaurants are no laughing matter. When it comes to diners, no other state matches New Jersey—it has more diners than any other place on the planet. Tops Diner, located in Newark, is one of the state’s best diners. It was recently voted as the top diner in the country, so make sure you don’t miss it when you pass through the state.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city, and it’s home to some of the state’s best restaurants. The city is also famous for its cheesesteaks. Gino’s and Pat’s are the two most famous cheesesteak spots in the city, and they’re located right across from one another.

One of the city’s most famous Italian restaurants is Ristorante Pesto, located in South Philly. If you’re looking for upscale fine dining, consider visiting Vetri. Finally, vegetarians (and even non-vegetarians) will want to eat at Vedge, one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Last year even the New York Times raved about Vedge.

Delaware

When you pass through Delaware, stop at Harry’s Seafood Grill for a great dining experience. Whether you eat dinner or lunch or just stop in for drinks, you’ll enjoy the food and the view of the river. The restaurant’s raw bar is a big draw, so you shouldn’t skip out on ordering something from that section of the menu.

Maryland

Maryland is another state that’s famous for its seafood—it’s crabs in particular. If you visit during summer then feasting on crabs is a must. However, there is much more to Maryland cuisine than just crabs. Plan on visiting one of the following restaurants when you pass through the state: Papermoon Diner, Chick & Ruth’s Delly, and Chaps Pit Beef.

Virginia

Virginia is for lovers of food. If you’re in Richmond, eat at Lemaire. Chef Patrick Willis is a Virginia native who focuses on cooking New American fare. The menu also features a good selection of bourbons.

North Carolina

Fans of barbecue must make a stop at the Pit Authentic Barbecue (aka The Pit) in Raleigh, North Carolina.

South Carolina

If you didn’t get enough meat at The Pit, then continue to South Carolina and eat at Halls Chophouse. This steakhouse has two locations, delicious food, and live entertainment every night.

Georgia

One of the most famous restaurants in Georgia is the The Olde Pink House located in Savannah. The building was built in the eighteenth century and is actually a mansion. It’s definitely a unique setting. Diners rave about the food. The restaurant currently has over 2600 reviews on Yelp. Book your reservation months in advance if you want to eat here when you visit Georgia.

Florida

Miami Beach is one of Florida’s most lively cities and home to some of the state’s best food. In particular, the city is famous for its Cuban cuisine. If you’re looking for an upscale dining experience, though, make a reservation at Ola at the Sanctuary. The restaurant serves some of the best Nuevo Latino food you will ever eat.

New Zealand

In recent years New Zealand has become an increasingly popular travel destination. One reason for its increase in popularity may be due to the Lord of the Rings films which were shot in the country. The films showed the world the natural beauty of New Zealand, and many travelers took note. Even if you’re not a fan of Lord of the Rings, you will still find a lot to love about Australia’s neighbor.

Queenstown

Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations. The town is located on the South Island, and it has a reputation for adventure tourism. You’ll find lots of opportunities for skydiving, snowboarding, and white water rafting. Hiking is another popular activity—especially in Queenstown Hill. Visitors can walk the Queenstown Hill Time Walk which takes about three hours and offers some wonderful views of Queenstown.

Experience Māori Culture

The indigenous people of New Zealand are called the Māori. They have lived in New Zealand for hundreds of years. Māori culture is very important to New Zealand. The phrase “kia ora” is a popular greeting in New Zealand, and it comes from the Māori language. If you want to learn more about Māori while you are in New Zealand, then you should tour a marae which is land that belongs to a Māori tribe. When you visit, you might be able to hear singing, or you’ll be able to tour the beautiful meeting houses.

Milford Sound

It doesn’t get more beautiful than Milford Sound. The area features astonishing fjords which are best viewed from the deck of a tour boat. Some adventurous tourists prefer to explore Milford Sound via a kayak. The Milford Track is perfect for hikers.

The Shire

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, then you must visit the location that was used to represent the Shire. Many of the hobbit houses that were used during filming remain intact, and you can even enter some of them. While you won’t find any hobbits when you visit, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve entered Middle-earth.

Hike a Glacier

Not many people can say that they have hiked a glacier, but if you visit New Zealand, you’ll get the chance to do just that. There are two glaciers called Fox and Franz Josef that can be accessed via a helicopter. Once you land on top of the glacier, an experienced guide will take you on a tour of the area.

 

After the Storm: Looking Back on Artless Charlie – Part 4: Conclusions

Given all that went on with this show’s technical and logistical elements, I’ve learned a few things about how to handle similar situations in the future.  Though a lot of these issues are unique to a University production, they can be applied to the professional world.  First off, though proper delegation of duties is a good idea, make sure you know who you’ve got working for you and that they are capable of completing the job.  Also, stay on top of these people if they are not regularly present at rehearsals and make sure that they haven’t over committed themselves in the interim.  Secondly, don’t worry about the prospect of over rehearsing unless it becomes a problem with the cast.  If you feel relatively confident about where you are in terms of the rehearsal process, you can bet that you’re about to be screwed by something; be it man, God or beast.

Lastly, the success of any show is dependent upon the individuals working on it. They are more important than the text itself, the director’s concept or anything else. Regardless of how good a production may be, if the group, or the chemistry between them, is not right, you can be sure that the process will be much more difficult. Thankfully, that was one thing that was right about Artless Charlie. I firmly believe that if Adam and I hadn’t had such a comfortable working relationship, or if the cast had not gotten along as well as they did, we would not have been as successful with this endeavor.  I am particularly proud of this in the sense that not everyone was completely at home from the start; it was something we had to work for.  Though most everyone knew each other pretty well before we got started, Evelyn was essentially an outsider and her discomfort and nervousness was immediately evident.  I was really happy with how easily she became part of this group and how quickly the cast accepted her and made her feel at home, despite her lack of experience on the stage.  

Once the right group has been assembled, be sure to regularly show your appreciation to those who do help you out, because there’s a good chance that they will need to cover someone else’s ass for you.  If you neglect your cast and/or crew and fail to respect their time, the results could be disastrous.  I say this because I know how much that saved this production.  By showing everyone how much they were truly appreciated and continually offering positive reinforcement to the group, they were all much more willing to go the extra mile for this production and make it the best it could be.  I sincerely appreciate everything that all of those involved did for this show, and I know that if it had not been for them, this production could have very well imploded.  By involving Erin, Emily and the cast with so many major decisions and aspects of the production, Adam and I were able to eliminate a lot of the theatrical hierarchy that can bring down a lot of young peoples’ productions.  I am truly thankful that we were able to achieve this dynamic and maintain it through such rough times.  It looks like communist philosophies work better in the theater than in the state house.  The success of this show ultimately lies with the whole group.  

As a director, I’ve learned that it is imperative to keep an open mind about any and all ideas regarding the show.  Be it intentional or not, things will change during the course of rehearsals, and you need to be ready to deal with them.  Those changes may not fit your original vision or concept for the production, but a lot of times they are better than what you had in mind anyway.  No one person’s ideas or opinions are more important than anyone else’s in the group, and that includes the director and even the playwright.  In order to have a successful production, all valid ideas, options and opinions must be properly explored.  In doing so, I’ve learned a great deal about myself as a director by finding new ways to approach various moments and/or staging approaches that ultimately forced away my directorial crutches and allowed me to grow. In the past, I’ve tended to always play the darker, more sardonic side of the issue, using that as the easy way out of a complicated moment in a play.  But through this show, I’ve found new ways to explore a text in a more human and vulnerable manner.  I’ve also discovered that you must let the play evolve naturally through the rehearsal process.  That is not to say that you cannot go into a show with a specific vision or concept for the production, but you must not let that vision get in the way of the play itself.  If the show really wants to go a certain way, it will tell you; be it through the actors’ impulses, the text itself or the revelation of previously unseen moments or opportunities.  In this case, you must be true to the show, and yourself, by being able to adapt to these changes in a fluid manner.

This experience has taught me a great deal about myself as a director, an actor, a collaborator, a supporter, a dependant, a stubborn fool and a friend.  I had no idea going into this project that I would learn as much about myself as I would about the theater. As a matter of fact, the success that Adam and I have found with Artless Charlie has driven us to seriously consider starting up our own theater company after graduation.  Inspired by this production, as well as Mac Wellman’s recent comments to us that some very young people are creating the best theater in small companies around the city, Adam and I are looking into the prospect of trying it for ourselves.  As this is an idea that neither one of us had ever considered before taking on Artless Charlie, I think it is safe to say that this project has had an immense impact on both of us as artists.  I am a firm believer that if we put enough of ourselves into it, and do so honestly, the results will pay off accordingly.  If this seems optimistic, it is not.  I have merely been inspired by the immense support of those around me: friends, colleagues, family, and most of all, my teachers.  Garnering support and praise from those that have taught, guided, and inspired me along the way means the most of all; as it is their opinions that I regard most highly. I will cling to their words of wisdom as I venture out into the world, and use those words as tools of success.  Here’s to the future of the Artless Theater Company.

After the Storm: Looking Back on Artless Charlie – Part 3: Technical and Logistical Nightmares

I’m not sure where to begin with this subject other than to say just about everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong with this part of the production…just about.  Also, I have to thank God for gracing me with such a diligent and compulsive stage manager; for without her, I probably would’ve started shooting people at random.

One of the most difficult issues surrounding this show was the scheduling. When Adam and I spoke to the Department Chair over the January break, we asked him when a good time would be to schedule our performance so we would have the least chance of being double-billed with another show. Having been double-billed with E. Wilson and B. Peterson’s Senior Practicum on my last directing endeavor, Sincerity Forever, I wanted to avoid that as much as possible for Artless Charlie.  However, I knew that with the number of projects going up in the Spring semester, this would be a difficult task.  It is nearly impossible to avoid scheduling conflicts in the Spring.  In any case, we decided with Dr. Kolb that the week directly before Spring break would be the best time.  As the semester progressed, we found out that Renee S’s Practicum, The House of Yes, would be going up in the Spiegel about a week and a half before our scheduled performance dates. We knew that other shows would be going into that space around the same time, and we figured a week and a half would be ample time to prepare our show for performance.  As we moved into early March, word got around that Sarah N. was having trouble booking the Cultural Center Theater for her production of Burlesque is Back.  Rumors began circulating around the department, as they often due, that she would need to use the Spiegel Theater as a performance space.  The only problem with this was that her scheduled performance dates were only a few days before ours.  This was a major concern for all of us, because we were afraid that we would lose a lot of our scheduled rehearsal times in the performance space.  Erin, my faithful stage manager, spoke with Sarah on a number of occasions to try and work something out, but to no avail.  So, in early March, a meeting was scheduled between the three “camps” to discuss how our respective schedules would be determined. Present at the meeting were my advisor Royston, the playright, Adam, my stage manager Erin and myself for Artless Charlie, Renee S., Kate D., Prof. Rych C. for The House of Yes, as well as the Department Chair, Sarah N., and Marci S., who was filling in as a temporary stage manager, for Burlesque is Back.  Discussed at the meeting were any possibilities of moving Sarah’s show to an alternate space, like Lowe 010 for example, but she was not interested in pursuing any of those options as she required a set of curtains to perform her show.  So we came to the conclusion that there was no other choice but to put all three shows in the Spiegel within a week and a half of each other.

Next came the most difficult part, divvying out the space.  Essentially, the group went through each day of the week for March and the beginning of April, and decided who could and/or should get the space on any given night.  My concern with this was that by the time that most of my cast would become available off of the Shakespeare Festival, I would no longer have access to the space because of the two other shows.  Additionally, because creating this new play was such a massive undertaking for all those involved, I was concerned about having to drastically shorten the number of rehearsals I had originally anticipated having in the space.  After about two hours of begging and bartering, Artless Charlie actually ended up with quite a large number of rehearsals in the Spiegel, but we would have to share hang and focus/tech dates with Sarah N.  Though the outcome of the meeting was not ideal, I was sure that it would at least be sufficient to prepare our show.

After this meeting, I became increasingly concerned that we would not have sufficient time to explore the text to the level I had anticipated.  So, in order to compensate, I had Erin schedule every other available time in the Calkins Dance studio for us to rehearse.  In hindsight, I am somewhat split on whether or not this was a necessary addition.  On one hand, I know that I scheduled a huge number of rehearsals for this production, especially considering that it was a student show, but I wanted to explore this text as much as we possibly could and hopefully raise it to a comparable level to our Department productions.  Because of my desire to do this, I was afraid that I may have taken advantage of my cast’s time and asked them to commit more than they had anticipated.  Though none of them ever vocalized this, Erin did bring to my attention the fact that we were having more rehearsals for this production than any non-department production in the past that she was aware of.  I understood this, and with the exception of canceling about four or five of those rehearsals, I stood by my decision.  On the other hand, had it not been for all of those rehearsals, I don’t think we would have been prepared for the disaster that was to be our tech/dress week.

My game plan in so far as the technical/production elements of this show were concerned was to delegate as many duties as possible to other students.  That is to say, though I wanted to keep this production as technically simple as possible, I thought that by having a stage manager, props master, costume designer, technical director, assistant technical director, and light board operator, that would leave Adam and myself a lot more time to explore play itself.  I made this decision based on the fact that with my last production, Sincerity Forever, I was stuck having to build and design the set, hang and design the lights, design the costumes and gather/coordinate the props while Sarah Y., my stage manager for that production, was stuck building all of the costumes.  Given the stressful nature of that situation, I wanted to try and avoid a repeat of that for this production at all costs.  Though this theory seemed to work out great at first, I soon learned that when you entrust others to carry the proverbial “ball” for you, a lot of times they drop it.  This unfortunately was the case with Sarah U. my props master and Rich F., my light board operator, both of whom dropped out mere days before opening night, and did so without warning.

Sarah U, who voluntarily approached me about helping out with the production claiming she had “nothing else to do this semester”, dropped out of the show and left us with almost no props the day before our proposed tech.  She claimed that she didn’t have time to finish the commitment because she had taken on too many additional jobs in the time between we enlisted her services as props master and the time that we would be opening.  Among these new duties for her, was building the elaborate costumes for Sarah N’s Burlesque show.  Though I was thoroughly disappointed and concerned by the fact that she had left us in quite an uncomfortable position, my stage manager, Erin, promptly took on the task of handling the props for our show.  This was a true lifesaver for the production and a testament to how dedicated she was to this production.

Rich F., on the other hand, originally asked if he could be an ASM for the show, and I was happy that he would volunteer to work with us.  However, seeing as we didn’t really need an ASM, we asked him to run the light board instead.  He accepted, and understood that we would be contacting him to come in during our tech week and start learning the light cues.  However, when Erin did contact him to let him know when to come in, he said that he could no longer help out because he was involved with Mike P’s Drama 192 project; a show that he committed to after he signed on for Artless Charlie. Again, one of my truly dedicated production members, Emily H., stepped up and took on Rich’s duties as the light board operator.

By the time that all of these positions had been re-filled, it was now the Friday before opening night and we were to be in the Spiegel to do a joint hang and focus with Sarah N. Though there had been a mishap with the work order to have the Plant department bring our four, 4×8 platforms into the space the day before, Andrew DenDio, my technical director, took on the task himself and brought them over for us. During the hang and focus, I had Tyler M. and Fred G. help out with wiring the dimmers and hanging the instruments.  Though they did a wonderful job helping out, we really ended up just hanging the lights for Sarah N’s production because it was going up first, and we would have to wait until after she closed on Monday night, to finish our lights.  That weekend, Nick M., my ATD, worked on building the music box because, as I mentioned earlier, Sarah U. had not been able to finish her prop duties. Though Nick worked very hard on this and did the best he could, we ended up just using something from prop storage.

Near the end of our hang and focus, another major problem came to light regarding Sarah N’s Burlesque show.  Adam overheard her tell some of her cast members that they would be meeting tomorrow (Saturday) at 4:30 in the Spiegel to do a run through.  This aroused some suspicion because it had been scheduled for quite some time that we would have our cue to cue on Saturday from 3:30 to 6:00, and she would be rehearsing from 6:00 on.  This schedule was also confirmed in the Department‘s Spiegel sign-out logbook.  Sarah claimed that her drummer was only available from five to seven PM on Saturday, and she needed to rehearse with him before she opened.  I understood this, but was concerned that it was never brought to the attention of my stage manager.  I guess she assumed that she would just show up at 4:30 on Saturday and ask us to leave. In any case, I told her to contact my stage manager either that night or the following morning to see if we could arrange the change. When I heard from my stage manager about this the following day, I was quite disappointed to find out that not only was she non-apologetic about not notifying us of the need to change the schedule, but she was borderline threatening in her demands to have the space.  She even went so far as to say she would go in early and have public safety lock the doors so that we could not enter at our assigned time. Such unprofessional behavior truly put a damper on how I wanted to handle this production, but I’m glad that my stage manager had enough composure not to reply in kind. In an attempt to be somewhat diplomatic about this, Erin and I agreed that we would give her the space at 5:00 on Saturday provided that she take down her set of flats and curtains after her Sunday performance so that we might be able to have a cue to cue on Sunday evening.  Sarah agreed and we gave up our cue-to-cue time on Saturday and set some sound levels instead.

This raises yet another troubling issue regarding the sets. We went to great lengths to ensure that our set could be completely portable and stored out of the way for Sarah when she needed to rehearse and/or perform.  I was disappointed that she could not do the same for us, or even consider the prospect of doing so without us having to bargain for it.  Needless to say, it was becoming apparent that we were sacrificing a great deal for her and her production and getting absolutely nothing in return.

As Sunday rolled around, my entire cast and crew showed up after Sarah’s matinee performance to help strike her set so that we might be able to focus some lights and have our cue to cue.  We soon realized that this would be impossible because she had gelled all of the lights with pink gels and moved a number of instruments from the joint plot upon which we had previously agreed.  Discouraged, but not yet beaten, we decided to run through the show without light cues, and planned to do our cue to cue on Monday, following Sarah’s final performance.  By changing the cue to cue yet again, our number of scheduled run-throughs/ dress rehearsals had now dwindled from three to two.  That number would again become smaller before the week was through.

At this point, things just got ridiculous.  Somehow or another I had upset the Gods enough to cause a freak blizzard in the second week of April. Of course, this caused the University to be closed down, preventing Sarah from doing her final performance on Monday.  Because not everyone on her review panel had seen the show yet, the performance was moved to Tuesday night, and so was our cue to cue.  Now, I was getting a little nervous.  We would now have to do our cue to cue/light focus on Tuesday night and have only one night to run the show with full lights and sound.  That would be our one and only dress rehearsal.  After striking Sarah’s set on Tuesday night, we thankfully got all of our light cues worked out by about midnight and were ready to have our first and final dress the following day.  We also had a small preview audience of three people who could not make either of the scheduled performances.  In spite of all these troubles and mishaps, miraculously the show went off without a hitch on Thursday night. Though our lighting set-up had to be somewhat primitive because of the tech week troubles, I think the single instrument lighting for a number of the spaces was nice.  It gave a simple, calming quality to those scenes.  This is a good example of how rolling with the punches, so to speak, can work out for the better sometimes.  It is also the perfect segue-way into the final chapter of this saga…

After the Storm: Looking Back on Artless Charlie – Part 2: The Cast

From the outset, I knew that how we cast this show would largely determine its outcome.  This was true not only because I wanted, obviously, the best performers I could find, but also because I knew that this project would require an especially dedicated cast to put in the work required to make the show a success.  Having reached the end of this process, I have no doubt that the right decisions were made in terms of casting.  Each and every member of this cast put in an incredible amount of work for this show, especially considering that it was a student production.  With a rigorous rehearsal schedule and the highly demanding task of working with a student director and student playwright to create new characters in a new play, each member of the group gave this show their full attention, and did so without complaint.  It is also important to note that a number of my cast members were coming directly off of working on the Shakespeare festival and had almost no time to rest before moving into Artless Charlie rehearsals.

In terms of working with each cast member, I feel that it is important to talk a little bit about the work that was done with Evelyn Burnett.  During auditions, I immediately saw something in Evelyn’s presence that I thought would be perfect for the character of Madeleine.  There was a certain heaviness in the way that Evelyn spoke and carried herself that I thought could really work for the character.  However, I was also aware of how young of an actor that she was.  I could immediately tell that she lacked a lot of the basic acting skills that most of the others who auditioned had learned in their Acting Fundamentals courses.  Though a number of other possibilities were explored in terms of casting for the character of Madeleine, including finding an older actress from outside of the University, I still felt that if we could spend some extra time with Evelyn, she had it in her to give a dynamite performance and truly bring Madeleine to life.

I approached my work with her in a much different fashion than I did with the other actors.  For starters, I took advantage of the first week and a half of rehearsals in which Kirsten, Chris and Andrew would be involved with the Shakespeare festival, and focused on creating a relationship between Charlie and Madeleine.  We spent some time doing basic scene explorations and exercises to try and eliminate her most distracting habits, like lack of direct focus/eye contact and physical/emotional grounding.  Though these early rehearsals brought great improvements for Evelyn, I could tell that there was still a lot of work to be done and not a lot of time to do it.  In order to compensate for this, I enlisted the talents of Emily H. to help with Evelyn.  Emily, whom I have worked with on three prior productions, is not only an outstanding instinctual performer but also a thinking and highly sensitive technical actor.  I knew that if I could bring Emily in to work with Evelyn on the side, I would still have enough time to give proper attention to the rest of the show. That is to say, given the scope of this project, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to devote any more whole rehearsals to working with Evelyn, and if I wanted to get the strong performance out of her that I knew she was capable of, I would need to call in some reinforcements.

Having Emily present during rehearsals helped on a number of levels.

For one, she could focus all of her attention on Evelyn during her scenes, something that I did not have the luxury of doing any longer.  Secondly, because Evelyn was not as familiar with the rest of the cast and crew as the rest of us were, and because she seemed a bit nervous and uncomfortable to begin with, I thought that having Emily spend some time talking with her after rehearsal and going through some technical tips with her would be a more inviting prospect than having me jump around and flail my limbs like I normally do.  That is to say, without having Emily there to explain some of the technical acting terms and techniques to Evelyn beforehand, a lot of my directing notes would be useless to her.  As rehearsals progressed and Evelyn became more familiar with the craft, Emily’s side work with Evelyn diminished.  However, Emily was always there with suggestions for both Evelyn and myself as the process went on.  Initially, I was concerned that having Emily there just to work with Evelyn might make Evelyn a bit uncomfortable.  So I spoke with Evelyn and asked her what she thought about Emily coming in to help out.  Surprisingly, Evelyn was quite excited about the idea, and eager to learn as much as she could to make her performance a success.   

One interesting thing about Evelyn’s progress was her fluctuating consistency. From one rehearsal to another, I noticed that the caliber of her work would be up and down from night to night.  I thought that perhaps the notes that I was giving her each night were confusing her.  Namely, I noticed that with each new note I gave her, she would somehow, consciously or not, dismiss or discard all of the previous work we had done.  I began to think that I was over directing her and thought about perhaps retracing some of my steps to get back to the points when we first started making breakthroughs. But, because her performances were both up and down, I couldn’t rightly justify doing that; I didn’t want to halt the progress that she was making.  So I kept moving forward with her in hopes that she would level out as we got closer to opening night.

Well, thankfully it worked out. I must say that I was in awe of the great job Evelyn did during our final performances.  On or about our first and only dress rehearsal, everything just seemed to come together for Evelyn.  Suddenly, I could see every moment that we’d worked on and every firm, dedicated objective shine right through in her performance.  I’m not really sure how it happened, perhaps it was the few days we were forced to take off during tech weekend, but I was really impressed with her work, especially considering how far she’d come since early March.  Looking back, I am extremely proud of Evelyn and the work that we did together.  She taught me how to work with an actor in a way I hadn’t before.  I had to start from scratch and really let go of a lot of my directorial habits and familiar phrases in order to connect with her.  I hope she learned as much from me as I learned from her.  Again, I must say that I would not have been able to succeed so well with Evelyn if it were not for Emily Hartford’s aid and patient attendance.

After the Storm: Looking Back on Artless Charlie – Part 1: The Playwright and Me

Obviously, my relationship with Adam was essential to the success of this production.  Had we not maintained such an easy and open relationship, I’m sure this project would not have worked out as well as it did.  We were lucky in that we had a very strong bond before entering into this project, and the stresses of putting up the show thankfully did not adversely affect our friendship.  The fact that we not only worked together so well in and out of rehearsals, but also trusted each other as artists, played a big part in the success of this show.

The specific nature of our working relationship within the rehearsal process is something that evolved naturally.  We never had to sit down and lay out guidelines as to how we would work with one another during rehearsal or how we would handle/discuss rewrites; that simply developed as we immersed ourselves in the play.  As it stands, most of the rewrite/textual adjustment process went as such: While working a particular scene, Adam would take notes on any particular lines or moments that he felt required a textual change.  I, in turn, would do the same and alert him to said moments either during or directly after the scene had finished.  We would then briefly discuss the nature of the proposed changes to see if it required a complete rewrite, rewording or cut.  After giving my directing notes to the cast on a particular scene, Adam would give his text notes to the actors, and as the aforementioned moments were brought up, the two of us would discuss what action, if any, needed to be taken in order to rectify the situation.  Often we would involve the input of the actors in these decisions.  If there was a line that we couldn’t quite figure out what to do with, we would ask the actors to try and reword the line in a manner more familiar to themselves or their respective character.  In a number of cases, this approach was all that was needed to fix the problem.

If there were any times that Adam and I completely disagreed on a cut, our best method of resolution was to have the scene played both ways before making a decision.  If this did not solve it, the decision would revert to the playwright for final say in the matter.  Though we both wore each other’s proverbial “hats” at given times throughout the process, it was always understood that Adam would have the final say in terms of the script, and I would have the final say in terms of all directorial matters.  I really enjoyed the fact that we were comfortable enough to let our jobs overlap in that sense.  But I was not always sure, in terms of the project itself, if we were allowed to do that.  Early in the process, as I noticed how free and openly we were working, I asked Royston if this was acceptable in terms of the Honors Thesis guidelines.  I wanted to make sure that I was allowed to step outside of my role as director and give more playwright-oriented notation. He assured me that this was not a problem and actually encouraged such actions.  He said that as long as I didn’t sit down at a computer and start typing, and Adam didn’t get on stage and start directing the actors, then we were doing it right.  We continued this open relationship throughout the process and never found a disagreement that we could not resolve.  Though we did differ on many textual points throughout the show, we were always open to hearing/trying out each others’ suggestions.

From Page To Stage: The birth of Artless Charlie – Part 27

4/11/03

I was much more relaxed going into our second performance.  Having been so pleased with last night’s show, I felt that tonight would be a breeze as long as everyone just did what they had done the night before.  This, however, would not be the case.  As soon as the show started I knew something was wrong.  The first scene seemed to be taking forever and I could see that the actors, especially Dan, were not in tune with their performances.  The first act was painfully slow because people were not tying the moments together and playing through the action like they had the night before. I wasn’t sure exactly why this was happening, but I knew there was nothing I could do at this point anyway.

As the show went on, I sat writhing in my chair, thoroughly convinced that at any moment everyone in the house was going to walk out in disgust.  The second act went a little better, that is to say that it moved at a more determined pace than the first act. However, Dan milked his monologue in the breakdown scene for all it was worth.  I thought we were suddenly doing a melodrama.  He added a number of dramatic pauses in that speech that easily lasted upwards of 15 seconds a piece.  They were obviously excessive, and more than that, they were pauses that he had never used before. I was a little disappointed that he pulled those out on the last night without talking to me about such a big change, but seeing as this was our last performance, I didn’t worry about it too much.

As the show ended and the cast emerged for their curtain call, I was sure that they would be greeted with some minimal polite applause and nothing else.  As I braced myself for whatever the audience might angrily hurl in my direction, I paused in disbelief at what followed: The house rose to their feet and gave the show a standing ovation.  I couldn’t have been more shocked at the response.  I was so sure that the performance had been a disaster and I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I suppose that I magnified some of the shows flaws that night as I sat helpless in my chair.  I greeted some of the audience members after the show, I was so relieved to find that they did, in fact, enjoy it as much as the ovation suggested.  I was unable to locate the unknown woman that started the standing ovation, but I’m glad that it was someone I didn’t know instead of Adam’s mother or my girlfriend.  That made me feel like it was justified.

In the end, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the overall response that people had to the show. I was really proud of the work that all of us had done over the past few months. It was a long and arduous process, but worth absolutely every minute of it.