Monday, May 14, 2012

Jack Sullivan, 1939-2012

This is a post long in the making, I feel rather ashamed for not posting this sooner.  I'm hoping you'll understand why.

I remember that rehearsal quite vividly, not just for obvious reasons.  The Hot Box Girls were out at a local lingerie shop choosing our 'Take Back Your Mink' costumes and running into scheduled rehearsal time.  We were concerned we were late, but more concerned about the costume at the immediate moment.  I was in a foul mood and tried not to show it; having an arranged time to meet, I had skipped dinner to make sure I was on time, only to have the rest of the girls an hour late.  I tried not to let tension seep out of me, I enjoy spending time with my castmates, especially these girls.  This is my escape from the week, my second family.  Three nights a week for a few hours at a time, you get to know people quite quickly in an atmosphere of trust.

The more time we took, the more anxious I was getting.  I had noticed a couple of the other girls were sitting in a different frequency of tension, so I pushed my own down for the sake of not adding fuel to a fire I didn't build.  I bit my tongue as we headed for rehearsal, looking forward in losing myself in tonight's work.

Which would be futile, to say the least.

We were greeted by our producer in the rehearsal hall's green room to inform us that one of our cast members, Jack Sullivan, had passed away that afternoon, in his sleep, from a heart attack.  Our Arvide Abernathy, our sweet grandfather, the man with the smile for everyone, one of the warmest and most welcoming souls I'd ever had the pleasure to meet, had left us.

It put so much more into perspective.

I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I try not to, but it seeps out of me before I can contain it.  I tend to associate myself with a similar breed, and theatre folk tend to tune into that same frequency at times.  I had only met Jack during Guys & Dolls and had heard nothing but wonderful things about him and his performance ethic, his friendliness, his open sense of trust.  With all the tension pushed down from before, and the sudden impact of mortality, it was just all too much to take.  I had no idea of whatever strain was put upon him, he never seemed to show.  His energy seemed to be boundless, especially for a man in his wiser years.  I understood this to be his third or fourth show in a row; Annie, Ann of Green Gables, Joseph, Wizard of Oz ... it's difficult to pull a man away from doing what he loves, and he certainly seemed to love what he was doing with us.  We loved him.  We adored him, he was the perfect 'grandfather Arvide', and embodied that protective patriarch rather perfectly.  He was that for all of us.  I didn't know how I was going to go through with this.

Our producer had said we would still be going through with rehearsal, and obviously understandable to emotional states, it would be a subdued evening.  The announcement was made to the cast and crew in attendance at the start of rehearsal, so everyone was in a state of grieving in their own way.  Jack would have come tonight for rehearsal, so we would still have one.

I had completely lost my appetite at that point, not rather caring about my own needs but more of the collective comfort.  Although a good cry in the bathroom alone got most of it out, I'm not too sure if I could have held up the rest of the night if it wasn't for a particular cast member who reached his arms out to me as soon as he saw me when I quietly snuck into wardrobe.  I didn't hesitate, I knew I'd be safe there.  He had been a bit of an emotional crutch for me that night; I'm not too sure if he understands how much I appreciated him, how much I still do.  If anything that Jack's sense of precious time taught me, is to let those people know how much they're loved and appreciated.

We all banded together that night, and the energy shifted.  We all felt vulnerable; raw and tender in grief that held its mist over our heads.  We tried not to let it cloud our eyes that night.  We knew going through with rehearsal was the best thing we could do for Jack's legacy.  We knew it was best, most of all, that being together - this family that Jack helped build - was the best thing we could do for each other.

The show has since drawn its final curtain, with our director stepping into Jack's role.  It was the right decision, we agreed in some unspoken way, to keep the role 'in the family'.  Our music director had also said at one point she didn't have it in her heart to teach the song to someone else after Jack.  Jack's wife, Carolyn, and a substantial number of his family were in attendance at our final show.  We had received such overwhelming support from the Sullivan family in regards to this show, we were and continue to be so grateful.  I only wish there was such a way I could personally express the loss I feel in not getting to know Jack better. 

Out of this, I keep precious the things around me.  I take the time to remember the genuine people around me, the new lights in life that keep me warm and safe, to take the time to acknowledge their kindness and let them know how much their loved.  Jack did the same for all of us in his own way.  We, the cast and crew of Guys & Dolls, try to continue that spirit, even after the show has drawn its curtain and the last note is sung.  We remember the precious time we have and to not take it for granted, but to also not waste it and fill it with as much life as possible.

I had the opportunity to design and create the show programme, which included a page dedicated to Jack's memory.  I had included a quote from Alexander Pope's "Essays on Man": "Act well your part; there all the honour lies."  It was something that struck me as reflective of Jack's character, that he put so much dedication to his work, and his legacy will always remain with us his dedication and love for the magic we created on stage and the respect he showed for all those who met him.

I was lucky to have an audio recording of Jack in rehearsal singing "More I Cannot Wish You" from a late January rehearsal.  I've created a tribute video featuring this recording, with the help of Jack's cast mates from previous shows.  Hopefully a fitting tribute to Jack, something we can continue to remember.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Synergy Theatre Arts: ANNIE Class Photo!

Here's they are - my little orphans!  Here's the Wednesday class for their 'cast photo' taken today.  I'm so proud of these guys, I had to show them off.  :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dress Rehearsal Photos from BMT's "Guys & Dolls"!

The dress rehearsal photos are up!  Photographer extraordinaire Paul Roy was kind enough to donate some time to us - and add work to his most excellent portfolio - by snapping our dress rehearsal performance.  Oh my goodness, if I weren't in this show, I would want to see it based on this work!  Our opening night is tonight, so feast your eyes on the excitement that you're bound to witness with BMT's Guys and Dolls at the Rose Theatre in Brampton!

What great photos - and what an exciting show!  After you check out Paul's website here, go over to the Rose Theatre website to get your tickets - remember, opening night is TONIGHT!

Costumes: BMT's "Guys & Dolls"

I love dress rehearsals.  It's a blink away from opening night, and it's a chance to see where all this work for the past few months has taken us to.  It also give us ensemble a chance to run through the marathon of costume changes we'll be going through.  Here are a few snaps of my costumes for the production!

Please meet Sherry "Two Fingers" Temple, Runyonland's Bag Lady!  Joe and I had created this character from scratch (she's not in the original script) and managed to make her a supporting player of sorts.  We had determined that she would have had a good life in her early years, but had made the wrong decisions that lead her to her drinking-and-street-wandering ways.  Her costume would be layers of out-of-date mismatched fashions that don't fit her quite right, complete with oversized purse that carries her favourite item - a mickey of vodka!  (Really, it's water!)  The hat and scarf are meant to hide the 'Hot Box' hair for my other character, and it really made the costume.  I had found it in the wardrobe room, it had this terrible mustard yellow and brown pattern to it.  I held it in place with a kerchief knotted under my chin and a few bobby pins.  Flattering, no?  I wear this costume most of the show and I do a lot of physical acting, so there may be a few tweaks to the mobility of the costume, so to speak.  I'll probably add some sort of pin to the front of the sweater to keep it closed and from dropping down my arms.  The dress is big for me, but it hangs just right to give me a shrunken posture.  I'll most likely belt the dress to hike up the hem so that I don't trip when I have to run across the stage to warn the crapshooters about the cops. :)  It's a lot to put on at once, so thankfully I could get away with wearing other costumes underneath if need be.

And here's my other character, Margie Jones, dancer at the Hot Box Club with Miss Adelaide!  I had named her after my grandmother, Marguerite, when I found a picture of her in the fourties looking rather stylish.  This stylish costume is from Georgetown's Globe Theatre wardrobe department, the polka dot shirt is my own, and the pearl necklace makes another appearance in another dance number, 'Take Back Your Mink'.  The hair is curled down the back with rolled bangs pinned to the side.  I may add a brooch to the jacket - I have the perfect one my grandmother gave me!  I also have a small cream-coloured clutch purse that I use as a personal prop - I pay for a magazine at the newsstand at some point.  I wear this costume all of three times just to walk straight across the stage and exit again.  Thankfully, this one is a quick one to change in and out of.

Here's comes Margie, ready to dance!  This costume is for the first Hot Box Club number, 'Bushel and a Peck.'  The script calls for 'Miss Adelaide and her Farmerettes', but we had come up with this costume concept thanks to the dance parents who had graciously let us borrow these beautiful shorts with black and green crinoline fanning across the ... fanny, I guess!  We wore black bodysuits underneath and fishnet stockings, and included the yellow feather boa detail (thanks to Roxanne for sewing them on!) on the crinoline and the front of the bodysuit.  We were constantly molting whenever we rehearsed the number, but still plenty of tailfeathers left to shake!  Our other costume for 'Take Back Your Mink' is a quick change, so I didn't get a chance to snap a picture.  Mind you, that one is a little risque ... you'll see what I mean later.

Bienvenidos a Cuba!  This costume is for the Havana scene, when Sky whisks Sarah away on an exotic dinner date and become enamoured with the colourful sights and sounds of this Latin paradise.  Joe had wanted bright, bold colours in this particular scene, where the ensemble are the Havana locals welcoming these two particular tourists in their own special way.  The skirt was provided by wardrobe - my fellow castmate Joanna is wearing the same skirt - and the green top and pink scarf are my own.  They're a great match for the skirt!  I had the pink scarf in my hand, tossing it around in the air during the number, but I had decided to tie it in my hair instead for a different look.  The skirt was long enough to hold up slightly, like in the picture above and flail it about while I was dancing, which made for good visuals.  Joe had also said not to be shy about the jewelry, just make big, shiny and colourful!  I had gone for a slight touch of silver; a multi-layered thin chain necklace, a stack of silver bangles and a pair of large silver earrings I still need to repair.  The scene concludes with a bar fight between Sky, Sarah, a young temptress and her dancer partner as they compete for each other's affections.  Thank goodness it's a roomy skirt with lots of room to run in - I just need to make sure I hold it up from my heels!  Even though she's only out for one scene, I named her Mariposa because Joanne was wearing almost the exact same costume as me and was always blocked on the opposite side of the stage during the scene.

There is one more costume that is a little risque and also a quick change of sorts from the number 'Take Back Your Mink', I didn't have much time to snap a picture of it.  I've been told there was a photographer in the house during our dress rehearsal taking pictures, so I hope to see those soon and post a few for you!

There you have it!  Costume changes have been interesting; some were much quicker than anticipated, I was late for two of them.  Figuring out what side of the stage your costume needs to be on to make a quick change for your next entrance as an entirely different character needs a little 'test run' first, the whole purpose of dress rehearsals.  When finally performing with all the elements in play - the set, the costumes, the props, the band, everything - the focus is a little more intense because it's finally become a real production.  The costumes especially were a big help to me.  I had primarily used an 'Outside-In' Method when it came to developing these characters - different strides in the walk, facial expression, posture and just about anything else physical that came across my brain.  The costumes really helped solidify the physical traits of my characters, of course the costumes were also considered based on the physical traits I had developed through rehearsals.  (I'll be breaking down the characters in a different post based on this method.)  Once they were on, the fit, the look and the feel helped put the character in place.  I shuffled with short, quick steps as the Bag Lady because of the many layers and long, oversized dress I was wearing.  (It also didn't help the fact that she was 'drunk' most of the time!)  Margie lifted her heels and knees a bit higher and held her shoulders back when she walked, more of a dancer's strut in a way since she's a Hot Box Girl.  Mariposa has a wide stride, almost a cross between a dancer's leap and a sprint when she's excited, although her colourful attire says she requires consistent attention.  Each costume had its way of cementing the character, reminding the actor's awareness of movements and traits that were built during the rehearsal process.

So my question to you would be - what's your favourite costume you've worn on Halloween, cosplay, theatre production, just about any reason you've had to wear a costume?  Did you find yourself creating a character with that costume - walking and talking slightly differently, creating mannerisms you wouldn't normally do?  That, my friends, is the 'Outside-In' Method!  Share in the comments below!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

BMT's 'Guys & Dolls' on Rogers Daytime!

We're on television!

Cecily Restivo-Petroff (Miss Adelaide) and Noel Fernandes (Benny Southstreet) were interviewed on Rogers Daytime about our show!  You can check it out by clicking here and you'll find them about five minutes into the show itself.  You might even catch a photo of the Hot Box Girls in rehearsal!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stuff from Pinterest: Hot Box Looks for "Guys & Dolls!"

Here are the choice looks I had found on Pinterest that I'll be printing out for my 'Hot Box Look Book' - even complete with tutorials on the perfect cats eye and vintage curls from Lauren Conrad!

I think I might try that hairstyle after the show ... if I don't cut my hair. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stage Makeup: The Pin-Up Look for BMT's "Guys & Dolls"

BMT's "Guys and Dolls" - Cosmetics for the Pin-Up Look!
Time to experiment with my look for Guys and Dolls!

Since the musical doesn't necessarily have a definitive time stamp on the setting, it's been pretty flexible with the period look and fashions, so as long as everyone has a unified look.  With our production loosely set in the 1940s era, Mandy Meisner, our makeup and hair consultant for the production, has done some fantastic research for us in regards to getting the right look for the period - glamour, sophistication and some slick fashion!  Lucky for me, I get to dress up as a 'pin up' for my role as a Hot Box Girl!

Makeup for women in the 1940s was subtle, but glamourous.  The skin had a matte cream finish for a 'flawless' complexion, with plump lashes and lips and just a touch of rouge on the cheekbones.  Nails were manicured and painted red, hair was curled into 'victory rolls', the popular style of the time.  Seems like a lot of maintenance for women then.  I don't do half of that now!

Mandy was so kind enough to give us photo references of popular styles; the one above is the photo I'll be using for myself.  I had even found a great website that has a step-by-step process on the victory roll hairstyle.  Let's see how easy this is!

It's important to experiment with the makeup look before you get into the dressing room.  Find pictures from the internet or video tutorials like the one above to help pull off the look successfully.  A great source is Pinterest - it's also an addiction, so be careful.  I've found some pretty cool stuff that has helped me immensely, all organized onto one tidy pinboard for easy access.  It's also important to remember that stage makeup is applied with a much heavier hand than your day-to-day makeup.  Since your features will be drowned out by bright stage lights, it's important to draw them out as much as you can with contouring and shading certain angles and features.  So, although blush was an 'afterthought' when it came to everyday makeup wear in the '40s, it still needs to be applied in a fashion that still gives definition to your face to make it not look like a round, flat plate with a mouth.

If you're not certain of your routine beforehand, you may end up taking much more time than necessary when you get to the theatre.  My major issues were the cats eye makeup and false eyelashes.  Anything around my eyes I get fidgety about and sometimes my hands aren't the most steady.  I've been practicing when I can with the eyeliner and getting used to the lashes and glue, but if you've got someone backstage that you're comfortable with to put them on for you, I'd advise for that.  Much steadier hands than your own, most likely.  I'm told there will be ladies backstage to help with hair and makeup, thank goodness.  I'm still trying to figure out what to do with my hair.

In the meantime, I'm going to go play with my makeup!
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