Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey…

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Native Gardens: From Tech to Previews…

Pablo: Tania, our yard is not beautiful.

Tania: Not yet. But it can be.

(Scene One, Native Gardens)

Tech! One of my favorite parts of this process.. Makeup, costumes, lights, sound… All of the elements come together to create our world of Native Gardens at The Cincinnati Playhouse. It takes many hours, lots of repetition, communication and fine tuning. 

What makes or breaks the time it takes to tech a theatrical production is the team behind the scenes. The director, the stage manager, the designers, the technicians, the dressers, the stagehands… So much communication needs to happen before we, the actors, even set foot on stage. We are blessed with a most joyous and talented crew. They have created a beautiful, safe, functioning  work space for us to play. 

We’ve focused a lot on entrances and exits, along with transitions between scenes. Making sure we have the exact amount, and specific type of music we need, sharpening the silent and physical gestures that seam together each scene to continue the storytelling. The lights are focused to help convey time and place and we choreograph all of our costume changes between scenes. All of this in preparation to add the last element of our world, the audience… 

Photos by Mikki Schaffer

 Virginia: Well, I can’t tell you how happy we are to finally have real homeowners living next  door…

(Native Gardens, Scene Two)

Our first introduction to a live audience is to have 4 preview performances before opening night. These shows allow us to gauge our progress, feel what jokes might land, and what experiences the audience tends to react to. Or not. The playwright is able to make adjustments and rewrites according to what we learn and the director can give us feedback on what we need to do to sharpen our delivery and execution of our respective roles.

For the first preview, on Saturday,  I was amped up on adrenaline for, pretty much, the entire show. We had cancelled our final invited dress, that would have given us an initial audience before previews, because of snowstorm named Jonas. So our first preview was quite a rush. A few lines were dropped, skipped and paraphrased but overall we completed the journey and gave that first audience a great show. 

Sunday afternoon we settled into our pace with a little more confidence. It was a quieter, smaller audience which helped us recognize the consistent moments and challenged us to keep momentum and action going forward. 

We have two more previews before we officially open this World-Premiere play by Karen Zacharias, on Thursday January 28th. We will continue to rehearse to ensure that we have sculpted all the moments we need to give this story the best possible telling. 

We then get to think about what to wear for our opening night party and breathe a sigh of relief that we are up and running after an amazing few weeks of table work, rehearsal, tech and previews. Then we are off to the races running shows through February 21st!

Personally, I am counting the minutes until I get to drive to the airport Thursday morning to pick up my love, Miles Gaston Villanueva, who is making the trip out here for Opening Night! 

The anticipation is palpable… 

The Secret of Being Colorful…


A flash of deep red appeared before my eyes… I was watching snowflakes dance and flurry when the cardinal landed with the grace of a ballet dancer on a thin leafless branch. It took my breath away, excited the little child inside of me and moved my heart with wonder. I watched as he sat comfortably on his branch for a few minutes, then he flitted away to a rooftoop, another tree and away into the sky…  

I rushed to the computer to look up the medicine of this beautiful creature and here are a few things I found:
*Native American lore says if a cardinal crosses your path or attracts your attention you may experience renewed romance.
* The number 12 also is associated with the cardinal. Native American lore holds that if you have encountered a cardinal, expect good luck to follow, possibly in 12 hours, 12 days, or at noon or midnight.
*Your primary purpose for being on this planet is to bring colour to it. You find your own way to do this, for example simply to wear colourful clothes, decorate your home in a colourful manner, to make people laugh and smile, or to show the world it is ok to be unique and different.
*You are entering a creative time and the cardinal comes to give your creative endeavors it’s blessings. 

The Cardinal

Not to conform to any other color

is the secret of being colorful.
He shocks us when he flies

like a red verb over the snow.
He sifts through the blue evenings

to his roost.
He is turning purple.

Soon he’ll be black.
In the bar’s dark I think of him.

There are no cardinals here.

Only a woman in a red dress.

“The Cardinal” from Running Lights by Henry Carlile. Copyright © 1981 by Henry Carlile. Reprinted with the permission of Dragon Gate, Inc.

Native Gardens: From Page to Stage…

” I’ll catch any rose in my vase-shaped heart, then process it through my vascular system, until there’s nothing left.”—Will Advise proc·ess:(ˈpräˌses,ˈprōˌses)noun 1.a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

For days we chewed on words, punctuation and phrases. Discovering events, action and objectives. Lines crossed out, added, edited. New pages with pencil marks and highlighted words. We’ve been walking upon the rehearsal room floor, with levels, doors, and borders designated by fluorescent spike tape. Scene by scene we lift the language off the page, aiming for fluency, buoyancy, pacing and connection. 

Our director, assistant director, stage manager and assistant stage manager create a safe, constructive and creative space for us to play. This process challenges memory, imagination, voice, breath and confidence. Our profession is to build worlds, create characters and tell stories. We begin in a rehearsal hall, first gathering around a table, then slowly getting on our feet, baby steps, stumbling and forging ahead towards the next big step: moving onto the stage… 

“We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”   —Tom Stoppard tran·si·tion:(tranˈziSH(ə)n,tranˈsiSH(ə)n)noun 1.the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

This weekend we have moved up into the Robert Marx theatre, in the next step of our production. We are walking on a beautifully designed set and facing out into a sea of 600+ seats where future audience members will complete our circle. Our voices have to reach further, our feet have to navigate real obstacles and we have to adjust our bodies for sightlines. Our creative leaders are further away and will soon be consumed with the technical aspects of our production (lights, sound, props, costume, transitions and pace) as we continue our journey in storytelling.  

Our hours are longer and the demands are stronger. Our stamina and resilience will be tested and our bonds will be strengthened. Our profession requires a million moving parts to come together in a complete experience. Together with our staff, crew, technicians, designers and cast we await the next steps: tech week and previews…

 “It all starts innocently enough.” —Pablo Del Valle, Native 

A poem for Mom…

A new year begins,

Memories and struggle behind,

Possibility and unknown ahead.

Constant is she.

A mentor of unmatched wisdom.

A partner of incredible adventure.

A provider of essential education.

An organizer of necessary action.

Artist. Writer. Friend. Wife. Sister. Teacher. Collaborator. Traveler. Mom.

She is a woman of many colors, strengths and visions.

Legacy laid a path before her and she walked.

Movements required courage and she stood up.

Communities needed development and she learned from the land.

Students were beginning a journey and she challenged them.

Her body, soul and mind have lived through wonder and light and dark.

She is earth.

She is fire.

She is elemental.


From your #1 fan…

I love you ❤️

Post Navigation