Places, Please: Scenic Design – Creating the Annex

As the Scenic Designer for The Diary of Anne Frank, Jack Lindsay decided how to tranform the ACT stage into the Secret Annex. From the placement of the walls and the doors, to the look of all the furniture and even the floor, Jack has a lot of decisions to make. He talks with the director and the other designers to make these decisions – and he always builds a scenic model to help along the way.
ACT: Why is building a scenic model such an important step?
Jack Lindsay, Scenic Designer: It’s a visual tool of where we’re headed. It’s utilized by the director to know how to stage scenes, by the actors to know where they’re moving, by the lighting designer to see how and where to light, and for the build crew to understand what they’re building. For me as the designer, it’s very helpful to formulate in three dimensions what I’m trying to achieve onstage.
ACT: Do you start your scenic design by building the model?
Jack: No, I start with a sketched plan, because there’s a lot of jockeying around in the beginning. Once I sketch the plans, I start blocking out the areas I’d like to develop. And then I build the model. Once the plan is approved by the director, I create elevations (which are specific designs that focus on the details of what needs to be built).
ACT: Were the specific challenges you faced with this scenic design?
Jack: With The Diary of Anne Frank, the challenge is that the ACT stage is very large, and the actual Secret Annex is very small. We wanted to create the kind of congestion in a space that happens when 8 people are confined to a small area for 25 months. That adds a lot of conflict, as does the fear of being discovered. We needed to portray the almost claustrophobic nature of the actual space – but we still had to think about lighting and sightlines, so the set can’t be too closed in. Usually I can give directors a lot of leeway with a design so that they can have a lot of choices in staging. …

Places Please: Prop Design – Creating the Diary

Ezra Campbell is the Prop Designer for The Diary of Anne Frank. Props are the items held or used by actors during a production. One of the most important props in the show is Anne’s diary, and we asked Ezra how he created this piece.
ACT: How did you begin your research on the look of the diary?
Ezra Campbell, Props Designer: Unsurprisingly, the diary was the first prop I really focused on in the early stages of the design. In this show, the diary is really a character unto itself. So, I knew that replicating such a historic artifact would be no simple task. I began my research by creating a collection of reference images of the inside and outside of the diary as well as individuals posing near the diary while it was on display. I then used these collective images to combine all the details to bring the diary to life onstage. The famous red and white checkered diary was not actually a diary, it was an autograph book that Anne picked out as her 13th birthday present prior to entering the secret annex. This diary was one of several diaries, notebooks, and even loose-leaf paper that Anne used to write in during her time in the secret annex. Those texts, all saved by Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were later combined by Otto Frank into the manuscript (although the entirety of 1943 is missing) that became The Diary of a Young Girl.
ACT: How did you create the cover?
Ezra: Magic. Well, the next best thing – collaboration. The costume designer, Carina Lopez and I collaborated to create the diary. I found a company that would custom print a replica of the fabric on the cover of the diary. The base is a sketchbook that we then glued the fabric to and attached the buckle. Carina created the closure out of the remainder of the fabric. Using the images from the inside of the diary, we created several replica pages for Faith [the actress playing Anne] to use. These pages, including text from Anne’s original diary entries, are exactly matched and include copies of the photographs that Anne …

Cast List for The Diary of Anne Frank

We are excited to announce the cast for The Diary of Anne Frank. Thank you, thank you to all who auditioned – and an extra thank you to the young adults and teens who auditioned. Wow – you all blew us away!
Otto Frank …  Thomas Trauger
Mrs. Frank … Samantha Gonzalez-Block*
Anne Frank … Faith Creech*
Margot Frank … Grace Derenne*
Mr. Van Daan … Marc Cameron
Mrs. Van Daan … Kathy O’Connor
Peter Van Daan … Brendan Nickerson
Mr. Kraler … Paul Clark*
Miep … Rachel Adams
Mr. Dussel … Jeremy Russom*
* Denotes an ACT Mainstage debut

Cast List for 9 to 5: The Musical

Thank you SO, SO much to everyone who auditioned for 9 to 5: The Musical. What a turnout! We’re excited that our cast includes 14 people who are making their ACT Mainstage debuts!
Violet Newstead … Marisa Noelle
Doralee Rhodes … Myra McCoury*
Judy Bernly … Alexa Edelman
Franklin Hart Jr. … Luke Haynes
Roz Keith … Emily W. McCurry
Joe … Adam Lentini
Dwayne Rhodes … Leif Brodersen*
Josh Newstead … Graham Podraza* / Jack Anderson*
Missy Hart … Tiffanie Boone*
Maria Delgado …  Jessica Hensley*
Dick Bernly … Marc Cameron*
Kathy … Calintha McClintic
Margaret … Trissa King
Bob Enright … Frank Salvo
Tinsworthy … Bob Kelso
Doctor … Carol Duermit
Candy Striper … Christy Fell*
New Employee … Heather Bronson*
Office Pool Chorus
Leslie Lang, Alex Likens, Stephanie Marzuola*, Katy Elders*, Laura Beck*, Matthew Harper, Joanna Pardo, Chris Martin, Greg Austin
Specialty Dancers … Matthew Cord Scott, Jacob Walas
*Denotes ACT Mainstage Debut

Cast List for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Wow! What a turnout we had for auditions! We are pleased to announce the cast list for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever:
Ashley Fleming … Grace, Mother
Thomas Trauger … Father
Reese Carlton … Alice
Ruby Lane … Beth
Ella Miles … Beverly
Jack Womack … Charlie
Allison  McKay … Juanita
Joseph Miller-Bailey … David
Elanor Morris … Maxine
Roman Hunt … Elmer
Ava Leigh Manderson … Gladys
Aaron Neighbors … Ralph
Aspen Ring … Imogene
Evan Oldenburg … Leroy
Oliver Morris … Claude
Tatum Shearer … Ollie
Heather Miles … Mrs. Armstrong
Denise Lockett … Mrs. Clark
Heather Rudzenski … Mrs. Clausing
Sarah Leggat … Mrs. McCarthy
Kelly McDill … Mrs. Slocum
Zack Eden … Firefighter
Eric Roland … Firefighter
Philip Miles … Reverend
Tommy Fenton … Hobie/Shepherd
Sofia Costanzo … Angel
Eleanor Gorczynski … Baby Angel/Shirley 1
Paige Gorczynski … Baby Angel/Shirley 2
Liza Heck … Angel
Amelia Krebs … Angel
Nora Leggat … Doris/Angel
Mary Grace Mullinix … Angel
Emma Horine … Baby Angel
Thank you to everyone who auditioned! We truly wish we could have offered a part to each one of you. Auditioning is an act of courage, and you are one of the brave!

“The only weapon I’ve got is comedy” – Mel Brooks

As a theatre, we’ve been thinking a lot about the timing of opening The Producers, a musical that includes Nazi imagery and references to Hitler, the week after the horrific events in Charlottesville.
So we decided to go to the source. What did Mel Brooks himself – a Jewish writer and comedian who served as a combat engineer in the US Army during WWII – have to say about his skewering of Hitler and the Nazis in The Producers?
“After all the people that he was responsible for killing and after utterly destroying half the world, I just thought the only weapon I’ve really got is comedy. And if I can make this guy ludicrous, if I can make you laugh at him, then it’s a victory of sorts. You can’t get on a soapbox with these orators, because they’re very good at convincing the masses that they’re right. But if you can make them look ridiculous, you can win over the people.” (interview with Salon)
“You have to bring him down with ridicule … It’s been one of my lifelong jobs – to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler.” (interview with 60 Minutes/CBS)
When The Producers premiered on screens in 1968, it was 23 years after the end of World War II. Our production opens the weekend after Charlottesville. We might not all be ready yet for the ridicule – and that’s okay.
As a community and as a theatre, we have other weapons against hate and intolerance. We will continue to be a place where acceptance, respect, and love and are taught and practiced and lived.  Where people from all different walks of life volunteer their time and lean on each other to create art together.  Where stories are told that help us make sense of our world – or make a fool of a man and a regime who desired the complete opposite.
The Producers is much more about the mayhem of musical theatre than anything else. So with laughter and joy and the amazing energy of hundreds of Asheville community members who started as strangers but ended as friends, we’re opening the curtain.

Next Season in 35below

Since 2002, 35below has been a space for exciting theatre. Our 2017-18 season is no different. Tickets for all shows will go on sale on August 1, 2017.
October 6-22, 2017
St. Nicholas by Conor McPherson
Produced by: Waylon Wood
November 3-19, 2017
Red by John Logan
Produced by: John Hall
December 13-17, 2017
The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
Produced by: Bradshaw Call
January 11-21, 2018
A Turnpike Sunset by Tom Godleski
Produced by Tom Godleski
February 2-18, 2018
Skylight by David Hare
Produced by: Andrew Gall/Trinity Smith-Keel/Scott Keel
March 2-18, 2018
Putting it Together by Stephen Sondheim
Produced by: Mark Jones
April 6-22, 2018
Mass Appeal by Bill C. Davis
Produced by: Attic Salt Theatre Company
May 4-20, 2018
Mercy Seat by Neil Labute
Produced by: Ellipsis Theater Company
August 3-19, 2018
Bloomsday by Steven Dietz
Produced by: Jason Williams

Cast List for The Producers

Asheville Community Theatre is proud to announce  the cast for Mel Brooks’ Award Winning Musical The Producers!
Max Bialystock ……………………….. Zacary Landolt
Leo Bloom …………………………. Matthew Harper*
Ulla Svaden-Svanson …………………….. Alex Likens
Franz Liebkind ……………………………… Jeff Stone*
Carmen Ghia …………………………. Shane Clemmer
Roger De Bris ……………………………….. Corey Link
Hold Me – Touch Me ………………….. Missy Stone*
Lick Me – Bite Me ……………………. Allison Stinson
Kiss Me – Feel Me ………………….. Linda Pannullo*
Nazi Storm Trooper Soloist ………. Nathan Meyer*
Leslie Lang, Calintha McClintic, Elizabeth Babelay, Tina Pisano-Foor, Marisa Capalbo, Joanna Pardo*, Cassandra Marcelo*, Julia Haynes*, LaNita Cloninger, Chelsea St. John-Wade*, Frank Salvo, Michael Crosa, Bob Kelso, Andy Thompson, Jan Dixon, Jacob Walas, James Vaughn*, Matthew Cord Scott*
*Denotes the first time this actor has appeared at Asheville Community Theatre
Our thanks to the 45 talented actors who shared their wonderful energy and time with Asheville Community  Theatre during the audition process!
Jerry Crouch ………………………… Director
Lynda Ferrell Shuler … Musical Director
Shari Azar ………………….. Choreographer
Jacob Walas ……………..… Dance Captain
Tina Pisano-Foor ….. Tap Choreographer
Anne Garren ………………. Stage Manager

Places Please: Mermaids & Theatre Magic

The end of act two, scene eight of Peter and the Starcatcher could be the most spectacular moment in the show–a massive crack of thunder, flashes of lightning, cast members scattering in all directions off stage and a giant mermaid tail swimming rapidly (yet effortlessly) into the vom (i.e. an exit/entrance passageway). Pure theatre magic. The entire instance lasted under thirty seconds, but the concept, design and blocking took weeks to perfect.
Long before Missy Sullivan (Teacher) sat atop a ladder and looked down at Peter (played by Alex Daly) lying like a snow angel in the middle of her parachute mermaid tail, director Chanda Calentine, set designer Jill Summers and costume designer Carina Lopez huddled to brainstorm. The concept was fuzzy at first: multi-use fabric of some sort that could portray water or mermaid tails. Yet, when Chanda asked that Teacher’s mermaid tail drape down from Missy and cover part of the stage and Carina suggested it flow over the stage entirely, a brilliant idea was born.
So, the work began to find enough material to do just that. While fabric was plentiful at ACT, acquiring the right kind proved to be difficult. There needed to be enough to make 12 mermaid’s tails, a giant 30 foot by 20 foot mermaid tail for Teacher, and 4 smaller rectangular pieces to be used as water. The fabric also needed to be able to be lit effectively and had to be durable since the actors would be dancing with it, sitting on it, pulling it, shaking it, running with it, etc. With this information in mind, Chanda reached out to Robin Oswald and her husband John, who is President/CEO of Mills Manufacturing, and the decision was made—parachute material. Robin and John generously donated a huge amount for the show, and ACT could not have been more grateful.
“The fabric was perfect, because it worked on so many levels,” said Chanda. “We focused on the sound it made as well as the fluidity. When the words are meant to quicken the pace, we used the material to assist with that. If we wanted to slow the scene down, we used it in a softer way.”
The …

Places, Please: The Stage Manager Life

Keep Calm and Carry On. The phrase is plastered on t-shirts, pillows and coffee mugs, but it’s tattooed onto the heart of every stage manager—keep calm and keep things going. I’ve heard it said that a stage manager, in addition to being a manager, is a friend, a parent, a therapist, a paramedic, a mediator, a police officer, a secretary and, in general, a knower of a little bit of everything. I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description.
There’s never a typical day, which is part of what makes it so exciting. A rehearsal day could look something like this:

Set up piano/speakers, sweep, tape out the stage, set up chairs, set up tables for stage management team and director, set up rehearsal props & rehearsal costumes

Meet with director to discuss the plan for the evening and to check in. Meet actors as they arrive and let them what they need to do first

Call any late actors

Write down the actors blocking, be on book if the actors call for line, track all props, and set up props for whatever scene the director would like to work on

Actors leave. Check back in with the director—ask any questions you have and get the schedule for the next rehearsal

Clean up everything that was set up for rehearsal and lock up the building

Type up the daily schedule and send to the actors, type up the rehearsal report and send to the production team, type up line notes and send to the actors, update run sheets, checklists, and props tracking sheets, send any additional E-mails that may need to be sent out (i.e. Dear Actor, you left your script at the theatre—don’t spend forever looking for it. I have it.)

Eat dinner (likely after midnight)

Sleep (This one is optional, but it’s nice to include)

Auditions, pre-rehearsal week, tech week, and shows are whole other beasts with a slew of different responsibilities. Keep calm, keep on.
A few times, someone has asked me about making a career out of stage management or theatre. My response is usually something like this: If there is anything else you can do that will make you happy, do that.
It’s hard. I’ve never questioned if this …