Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don's Treehouse in France

So what does Don do when he doesn't have to build a theatre? Well he heads over to France to visit his grandkids and build them the best treehouse ever!
This April, Producing Artistic Director, Don Toner, took a well-deserved vacation during the run of Roaring to visit his grandkids in France. My mother and brother went along too. While there, Mike and Dad worked their tails off building an incredible treehouse for the kiddos.

Here's the family posing on the staircase of the treehouse. That's right, it was built 14 feet up around a Sequoia.
It took them some time to select the right tree, then they had to clear a lot of bamboo and prep the tree.
Then they built the deck. This was slow going as they were using a lot of reclaimed lumber from the property and were working 14 feet in the air. Once the base was stable they built a pulley system to haul up supplies.
Didi the terrier was an excellent supervisor.

The finished tree house has a roof, siding, and shutters that open and close.
Here's the view of the tree from the lawn for a little perspective!

And here's the finished treehouse! Some of the lumber will be stained and the bamboo railing will be replaced with rope. 
I missed my family a ton during April, but it was definitely worth it. When dad got home he needed another vacation from all the hard work!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Roaring Rehearsal: A Special Treat!

Last Saturday, our playwright Cyndi Williams' nephew Christopher came and surprised everyone with a special treat.  Christopher is a long-time lover and supporter of Austin Playhouse and has been eager to volunteer for us in some way.  When he found out that the theatre has a Keurig machine, he very graciously offered to come serve us all coffee before rehearsal.  
Rehearsals are in full swing and director, writer, cast and crew have been working very hard so this was a very special and much appreciated delight!  Thank you Christopher!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Developing a Play: Roaring by Cyndi Williams

What do I really want to write about? I asked myself, about three years ago.  
Make a list, I decided, of things I can't stop thinking about.

A few things on the list seemed to fit together:
* A romance with older people
* Seeing the ghost of a living person
* Living in a society under the ground
* The way we make assumptions about people at different stages of life, especially the way young people sometimes tend to infantilize and patronize older people
* Coming of age in different decades
Doing research on the idea of ghosts of living people, I came across a possible scientific explanation: the double-slit light experiment.  Only half-way understanding the science, it lit a fire under me.  SCIENCE and the SPIRITUAL!  And I was off!

About 30 pages in, my brilliant idea began to feel awkward.  So I did what I have done many times: put the pages into the hands of trusted dramaturg and friend, Lara Toner.
As a young actress, Lara appeared in several of my plays, including CowpeopleA Name for a Ghost to Mutter, and Fish.  Then Lara decided to add awesome director to her resume.  She directed an excellent production of my play Dug Up for Austin Playhouse's Larry L. King stage a few years ago.  She would tell me if these awkward pages held any promise.
Female firefighters at Pearl Harbor
Her response was that I should finish the play so Austin Playhouse could produce it.

When the first draft of Act One was completed, we gathered actors for a reading of it, and everyone got excited.
I completed the first draft of the script.  We had a reading, and everyone was disappointed.
Armed with many notes, I killed my darlings, cutting three characters out of the script.  Continued to research the double-slit light experiment till I 4/5th's understood it.  Developed an odd theory about the color blue.  Revised, rewrote, and wondered if I was smart enough to write a play about science and spirit. 
We had another reading, and everyone was relieved.

More rewrites.  Another reading.  This time... there weren't so many notes.  Everyone was excited again.

Now the rewrites are less a re-imagining a story, and more fine-tuning what we have.  I'm looking at each character's journey through the story, one by one. 
This is the process that we've used to develop Roaring.
I think of this play as a Valentine to all the people who have brought us to where we are, and as a toast to hope for our future.  -Cyndi
Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Prize Winner