Is it Something in the DNA?

Posted November 27, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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I’ve always been interested in genealogy. It started in Sixth grade, when I was required to do a report about my family for English class. I interviewed all my relatives (all within shouting distance, anyway), and came away with very little. My parents and grandparents, it seemed, had little interest in their family trees and it was hard to find out anything really constructive or juicy. Plus, my extended family mostly came from far away from my home in Mt. Pleasant, MI. I wrote to some family members in Flint and Detroit, but didn’t get anything but vague answers. It was frustrating.
About a year and a half ago, spurred by genealogy shows on PBS and NBC, I got a membership to Ancestry.com and tackled the subject anew. Ancestry.com is a great tool where you not only get access to a LOT of records databases, but also have access to other members who let you peek at their public trees for people you both might be related to. Those things give you access to a real wealth of information to help people trace their roots back. The site has a bit of a learning curve and you have to use discretion in borrowing from information provided from other public members. I’ve had to learn, for example, to weed out those trees which show children being born to 60 year-old mothers (possible now, but I suspect out of the realm of possibility then!).
What does all this have to do with GEM Theatrics? Wait for it! Wait for it!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve also been fascinated by American History, especially from the Revolution to the Civil War. And also, for as long as I can remember, John Adams has been my favorite Founding Father. He wasn’t tall or athletic — he was sort of like me. He was intelligent and cerebral — he was sort of like me. He was “obnoxious and disliked” — he was sort of like me (depending who you ask). So, while Washington was a great hero (again depending who you ask), Franklin was a great negotiator, wit, and diplomat, Paul Revere and Sam Adams were great zealots and Tom Paine was a great spinner of propaganda, I always gravitated to John Adams. Also, I suppose I envied him; he found the love of his life fairly early and never, till death, let her go. It took me a lot longer to make that discovery (thanks, MB, for finally bringing that joy to me!). I read everything I could about John Adams, and I fell in love with the play “1776”. A few years ago, I got the opportunity to actually be in this show at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. I didn’t play John Adams, but it was close enough.
I can feel you fidgeting in your seats, so I’ll get to it: Through the magic of Ancestry.com, I can now say, without any real certainly whatever (but I don’t care), that I may be related to John Adams. Documents point to the distinct possibility that my 11th Great Grandfather was Robert Adams, whose brother, Henry Adams, founded the Adams dynasty in America that would turn out two Presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. And that possibility has made me wonder: Did I gravitate to John Adams early in my life because he seemed like me, and that was it, or was there something deeper going on? Could John Adams have been my very distant cousin and could that DNA have left some sort of subliminal imprint on my being? I don’t know either enough science or philosophy to figure all of that out. For now, I just revel in the discovery and bask in the possibility of reflected glory. For a day, at least, it makes me smile!
“My Dearest Friend” is now ready to tour! Show video is coming to the website very soon! So, if you know a venue where folks would like to have history and romance come alive, or if you know a social studies or history teacher who needs to fill an hour in history class — send them here to the website. We can make it happen! Let us play for you!

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Show video is coming!

Posted November 21, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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Many thanks to Nancy Smith, who recorded the show last Saturday night! We have the DVD and will be editing snippets and posting them on Youtube and here on the website. Expect it right after the Thanksgiving holiday.
We at GEM Theatrics have much to be thankful for: We are blessed with good health and wonderful friends, we’re doing great theatre and have received some interest in bringing our shows to venues in the New Year! We could be busier — if you have a venue that could use quality entertainment, call or email us! You’ll be very glad you did!
We each wish all of you a fabulous Turkey Day!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!

Posted November 14, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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Mary Beth and I want to say a sincere THANK YOU to all who attended this weekend’s performances of “My Dearest Friend.” The audiences were great and the reception we received told us that people were ready for some wonderful drama, history and romance!
Our work at Dog Story is done, but the big work of spreading the word just begins. We’ve sent printed material to lots of schools, libraries, museums and other venues, but we need word of mouth to get the message to as many places as possible that there’s a great piece of entertainment available at an affordable price that is a work of quality.
We’ll help you by having a short video of part of the actual show posted on our website. But, if you liked the show and thought others would too, then YOU have to spread the word! We don’t have the name recognition of GR Civic, or Actors’, or Bway GR — we depend on YOU to tell those you know that this is a quality performance.
I’ll keep you posted regarding developments as they happen.
Thanks again to all who came and showed your support. We love you all!

Countdown — Liftoff!!

Posted November 11, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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Tonight’s the night!! “My Dearest Friend” launches tonight at 8p at Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson, Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been months in the making — from having the idea of bringing the lives and love of John and Abigail Adams to life on stage, to hiring accomplished playwright Mary G. Kron to craft a produceable play, to getting Scott Baisden on board to help with still and moving pictures, to hiring Todd M. Lewis to compose original music, and to putting in long hours learning lines, making set, props and costumes, blocking the show, building the characters, feeling the emotions, researching the lives of the characters and the history. . . . The list goes on and on.
But tonight none of those things will matter. Not to you, the audience. Tonight will be for you, and if we’ve done our jobs right, you won’t see the component parts, but just the whole — two hours of transportation into the parlor of John and Abigail Adams. You’ll be the Adams’ guests as they recount the “joys and sorrows, prosperity and adversity” of their lives together. If you leave the theater educated, enlightened, moved and entertained, we’ll know our work was worth it.
Dog Story tells us that tickets are going fast. I urge you reserve today! And if you come to see the show, stay long enough to say “Hi”; we’ll be glad to see you!
http://www.dogstorytheater.com
http://www.gemtheatrics.com

Countdown — T-1

Posted November 11, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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Whether you get only a couple of rehearsal days in the actual theatre or nearly a week, it all comes down to this — final dress rehearsal! When your schedule is compressed, as ours is because we only get the Dog Story Theater for as many days as we can pay for (and as many days as the theater is empty, which isn’t many), the final day is long. We did two run throughs today; one to iron out the final technical problems and one to finally put our costumes on and see how they worked. As usual, I found the process of putting the costume on transformative. I don’t mean that I couldn’t play John Adams without the costume, I could. And, I’ve taught acting long enough to know that acting isn’t the set, the lights, the costumes and the sound cues, it’s what goes on in the actor’s head. Indeed, one of the best pieces of acting I’ve ever seen is a grainy old kinescope copy of the famous Gielgud/Burton “Hamlet” where the actors wore “rehearsal clothes” (really just ’60s street clothes). But what I mean about the transformative nature of putting on the costume for “My Dearest Friend” is that period clothes make you feel like you are part of the period. Posture becomes more important because it’s the only way those clothes look good on a person. I’m aware of leg position because my calves are exposed, only covered by stockings. And I think I move more elegantly because I feel more elegant!
So today, the show took a big step forward, a step that leads, inexorably, to opening night. We’ve done our part; we’ve put together a quality entertainment that we’re very proud of. Now, it’s your turn, because a show without an audience is like a tree that falls deep in the forest — it makes no sound.
If you’ve read these blogs with interest, then come and see our show — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Tell others who maybe haven’t heard about us and urge them to attend as well. Get them to tell their friends and before you know it, we’ll have a hit, just like the story of Independence we tell.
Come watch us play!!

Countdown — T-2

Posted November 9, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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I want to step back from the fun and excitement of bringing “My Dearest Friend” to the Dog Story stage on Friday and talk about something serious.
Today is a down day for us here at GEM Theatrics because I have a “real” job that must be attended to. Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching at Davenport University and The Thomas M. Cooley Law School and, the economy being what it is, any job is a great job. But anyone who knows me knows that appearing in and producing plays is what really gets my juices flowing. It’s just that other things get in the way, and so there will be no rehearsal today. That doesn’t mean we’re not working to bring the best entertainment we can to our stage. Line rehearsals continue, characters still perk inside our heads and research goes on. AND, while I’m at school today, Mary Beth and Joel go to Dog Story to help unpack the new seating that will debut along with “My Dearest Friend” (and if you’ve been to Dog Story, you know this is a major, major improvement!).
What lead to all of this is a photo I saw on Facebook about the importance of supporting local businesses, including local artists, designers and crafters. When we buy locally, more of our money stays in and circulates through our community. Local employers are the biggest source of jobs in our economy. AND you say to those entrepreneurs “We appreciate what you do for us.” GEM Theatrics is an example. Our latest production was written by a local, talented author, Mary G. Kron. It stars two local theatre professionals, is performed in a locally owned theater and is supported by local technicians and a local composer, Todd M. Lewis. I am not knocking Broadway GR or Miller Auditorium or the Van Singel, who bring in touring shows — they’re great, but if you’ve seen a show at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Actors’ Theatre, Circle Theatre or at the Dog Story, you know that our local talent can stand toe to toe with New York and Chicago professionals in terms of talent and entertainment value — all at an affordable price.
So yup, I want you to come and see “My Dearest Friend” this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Dog Story Theater, but even if you don’t (shame on you!), before you go to the big box store and buy something made in China, why not check to see if there’s not a similar item made in the USA and sold locally through a local merchant. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised and then gratified that you did!
We at GEM Theatrics appreciate it! Oh yeah, if you come to the show, stay a few minutes after and say hi — we’d love to see you!
http://www.dogstorytheater.com
http://www.gemtheatrics.com

Countdown – T-3

Posted November 9, 2011 by gemtheatrics
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Moving into the performance space is an exciting, but also difficult proposition. It’s exciting because it means the show is one step closer to being a reality, one step closer to that moment we’ve spent weeks striving toward. It’s difficult because you know that the show will take a step backward while it is moving forward.
We’ve rehearsed for weeks, learning lines, getting inside the skins of our characters and creating sets, costumes and props that will help us tell our story of this most modern of historic couples. As the work goes on, we feel better and better about how it’s all coming together. Now, we move into a different environment — the room is different, the walls are different, we see chairs set up for audience members, our voices sound different coming off the walls. The desk that was four steps from the table is now six steps away because the space is a bit bigger than our dining room (our cheap/free rehearsal space), but the lights only cover so much area without lighting the patrons and so the dance segment is only four steps to the side instead of six.
And today our focus was split, literally. When you own your own company and you rent performance space, you have to adjust your own lighting using the instruments available. That means I was up and down a tall step ladder a lot of times today setting, testing and re-setting the lights. Sound equipment also had to be tested and sound levels set. Our show has projections and they had to be tested and acclimated to the brand of projector the venue has. All of these things are going on three days before we open and they aren’t really what the acting is all about.
This may sound like I’m griping, but I’m not. Mary Beth and I have been through this before, working for other people, so we know that the run through today was not about the performances, but all about getting our bodies, minds and voices used to a different arena. It’s uncomfortable but necessary work and, all in all, went surprisingly smoothly.
Over the course of the next couple of days, I’ll be telling you a bit more about how the theatrical sausage is made.
This show is ready for an audience. Come be part of it!
“My Dearest Friend”
November 11 – 13
Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson, Grand Rapids, Michigan
http://www.dogstorytheater.com
http://www.gemtheatrics.com


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