Posted tagged ‘“John Adams”’

Countdown — T-1

November 11, 2011

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

November 9, 2011

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!

Countdown – T-3

November 9, 2011

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

Countdown – T-4

November 8, 2011

It’s finally here — show week! And we’re ready! Todd Lewis sent us the last music cues over the weekend and we’ve integrated them into the show. The music is great and we thank Todd for his contribution.
Move in to the Dog Story Theater takes place tomorrow, a matter of moving all the rehearsal furniture out of our rehearsal space (our dining room) and setting up the set for the real show. Next, we have to focus lights and arrange for the special lighting required.
The great news for patrons is that the Dog Story is getting new seating!! Chairs came in last week and a chair party will take place Wednesday to get them out of the boxes and in their places. Ours will be the first show to feature the new seating! That’s very exciting.
I’ll keep you up to date every day now as we countdown to the launch of this brand new, exciting show! Mary Beth and I hope that you are as thrilled as we are to be bringing this new venture to you. We know that you will fall in love, as we have, with John and Abigail Adams.
Shows are Nov. 11 -13; Friday and Saturday at 8p, Saturday and Sunday at 3p. Order tickets online and save!
Come watch us play!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Adams!!!

October 30, 2011

With less than two weeks to go before the opening of “My Dearest Friend” by Mary G. Kron, we’re putting the finishing touches on the performance. Apart from rehearsing, we’ve spent part of the week touching up the PowerPoint and tweaking sound effects (see, it’s a multi-media show!). But here at GEM Theatrics, we think a lot of Mr. and Mrs. Adams, so we’re taking a little time off to celebrate John Adams’ 276th birthday! You might want to do the same at your house, so here’s a little life background on the birthday boy.
John Adams was born on October 30, 1735 (October 19 if you go by the Julian calendar used at the time — the calendar change is way too complicated to go into here), the eldest of three sons of John Adams, Sr. and Susanna Boylston Adams, in Braintree, now Quincy, Mass. His father was a “good New England farmer” and deacon in the Congregational church.  At age 16, he began his studies at Harvard College with the intention of becoming a minister also. After graduation, he taught school in nearby Worcester, Mass. as he pondered his choice of a career. He finally decided that the ministry wasn’t for him and began to study law with the prominent Worcester lawyer, John Putnam. At about this time, he met Abigail Smith, the daughter of the Congregational minister in Weymouth. Just five days before his 29th birthday, he and Abigail were married and their 54 year odyssey of love and life began. They would eventually have six children, only three of which would survive infancy, and only one of which, John Quincy Adams, would live beyond age 50.
By the end of the 1760s, the drive in America for independence was in high gear. Great Britain had begun to increase taxes on the colonists to pay for the French and Indian War. John was a prominent antagonist to those taxes, writing articles in newspapers and giving speeches. His argument was that the taxes were invalid in Massachusetts because Massachusetts had no representation in Parliament.
In 1770, a street confrontation between civilians and British soldiers resulted in five civilian deaths and was instantly branded by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams (John’s cousin) and other revolutionaries as the “Boston Massacre.” The soldiers were arrested, but could not find defense counsel, even among the loyalist Tory attorneys. John, believing that “counsel is the last thing a free man should be deprived of in a free country”, took their case. He argued eloquently to the jury that the soldiers had merely been defending themselves against a mob out to do them harm. Six of the eight soldiers were acquitted outright; the other two were convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter and punished by a branding on the thumb. Adams later called his defense “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my Country.”
In 1774, Massachusetts chose John as one of its delegates to the newly-formed Continental Congress. Although personally distrusted and disliked by other members, he became the leader of the faction determined to effect a separation from Great Britain. In 1776, he was appointed to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. He proudly signed that document, despite being well aware “of the toil and blood and treasure that it [would] cost this country to maintain this Declaration and to support and defend these states.”
During the Revolutionary War, John was sent to France to attempt to form an alliance. The trip was a personal failure, his New England habit for bluntness clashing with the French penchant for tact and indirectness. So, on his own authority, he left France and traveled to Amsterdam to attempt to obtain a loan. That he was able to persuade the parsimonious Dutch to lend his struggling nation badly needed funds is a testament to his persuasiveness and tenacity. At the close of the war, John participated in the negotiation of the treaty of peace and was appointed our first Ambassador to Great Britain. Despite the former hostilities, the mission was a success, all the more so for John because, after years of being apart, Abigail was able to join John in England.
John and Abigail returned from England after the passage of the Constitution and John served two terms as Vice President under George Washington. He found the office an “empty, annoying, taxing title, without authority and with little influence. In 1796, however, he was elected the second President of the United States.
As he always had, John performed his duty as President to the best of his abilities. It was a time of great upheaval. Revolution was stirring in France, causing a rift in his Cabinet between those seeking a war with France (such as Alexander Hamilton) and those urging U.S. support for the revolutionaries (such as VP Thomas Jefferson). Adams tended to side with the wary, which destroyed for years his close friendship with Jefferson, who would succeed him to the Presidency. Despite his jaundiced view of the French revolution, he was determined to avoid a war with France, feeling certain that the new young nation could not afford another global conflict.
His vanity and arrogance did not serve him well in the Presidency (this is a birthday celebration, so the less said about the Alien and Sedition Acts the better). He was soundly defeated by Jefferson in 1800 and he and Abigail left the newly constructed Executive Mansion the night before Jefferson’s inauguration and retired home to Braintree.
Eventually, the separation between Adams and Jefferson was closed and their letters in later life make for fascinating reading. The rest of John’s retirement, however, was not without challenges at the home front. In 1800, his second son, Charles, died an alcoholic, and in 1813, his only surviving daughter, Abigail (called ‘Nabby’) died of breast cancer. Then, on October 28, 1818, just three days after their 54th wedding anniversary and just two days before John’s 83rd birthday, Abigail Adams, John’s confidant and counselor, died of typhoid fever.
John lived on in failing health for eight more years, finally dying on July 4, 1826. It was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and his son, John Quincy Adams, was President of the United States. His reported last words were “Jefferson still survives.” John was wrong; Jefferson had died earlier that same day at this home, Monticello.
As Mary Beth and I prepare to bring a bit of the lives and love of this most modern of historical couples to life November 11 -13 at Dog Story Theater, we raise a glass and say, Happy Birthday, Mr. Adams!

But, Mr. Adams. . . Vol. III

October 18, 2011

October was always a busy month for the Adams family, and for us at GEM Theatrics, this October brings the flurry of activity common to a new production. Work on “My Dearest Friend” proceeds apace, with music being written, sound effects researched, PowerPoint slides created, lines being learned and characters being built. We’re really looking forward to bringing the lives and love of John and Abigail Adams to life on the Dog Story Theater stage!
John Adams was born on October 30, 1735 in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. In October, 1762, he began a lifelong correspondence with Abigail Smith and on October 25, 1764, they would marry and commence their 43 year odyssey of life together.
In October and November, 1770, lawyer John Adams successfully defended the soldiers involved in the “Boston Massacre”, standing up for the proposition that all those accused were entitled to a fair trial. In 1775, with John at Congress in Philadelphia, Abigail contended with an epidemic of dysentery in Boston that eventually claimed the life of her mother, Elizabeth Quincy Smith, on October 1.
In October, 1782, John participated in the negotiation of the Preliminary Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, which was signed at Paris on November 30. In October, 1800, John and Abigail, as President and First Lady, traveled to the new City of Washington, D.C. to take up residence in the still unfinished president’s house (later to be called the White House).
Finally, on October 28, 1818, Abigail died of Typhoid Fever at the Adams’ beloved “Peacefield” in Quincy. John longed to join her, and finally did so, on July 4, 1826, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His eldest son, John Quincy Adams, was President of the United States.

%d bloggers like this: