I Wish I Could Go Back To College (Blogisode One)

If you are new to Sharon Wheatley’s blog, welcome!  If you are a regular reader, hello, hello!   It’s been forever, don’t you think?  So much to talk about, so little time.  Let’s get right to it.  Quit distracting me.

I have no paid advertisers here on My Own Space, but this blogisode is brought to you by Seth Rudetsky’s radio show on Sirius XM.  It’s national

If you don't know who this is, please go here because there WILL be a quiz. Clue: this is NOT Ann Curry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_Paige

and it’s amazing (or as Seth would say, “ah-mah-zing”) and if you have Sirius, you should tune to the Broadway channel right away and listen to Seth as often as possible because he is (as I like to call him), the Mayor of Broadway and a total riot.

Yesterday I taped an interview with Seth that airs on Sunday.  If you don’t have Sirius, I will talk you through how to sign up for a free trial in our next blogisode so you can listen.  I sing.  I talk. He’s funny.  I screw up the game Celebrity on the air (the answer is Ann CURRY–as in an Indian Spice) and the other guest is….wait for it….Elaine Paige.

She sang Memory and With One Look and then she and I stood around and talked about how it is so hard to make money in publishing.  And I was like, What are you talking about, Elaine Paige, I make a lot of money writing my blog.  And then I immediately left Seth’s studio and checked into the poor house.

Speaking of doing things for free, I was just the co-producer of what became a giant benefit for the flooded Weston Playhouse, which had me working so hard that I couldn’t see

David Bonanno, Lucy T. Slut and me. She crashed the benefit.

straight.  It was all worth it-we raised over $30,000 and put on a great, terrific, wonderful show–and it is the reason I was on Seth’s radio show.  I was pitching for the Playhouse and he was touting me as the next Erma Bombeck.  It was great.  In fact–I forgot to mention this–I didn’t just produce, I also performed because that big diva Lucy T. Slut from Avenue Q showed up and insisted on singing.  It was a great night.

And speaking of Lucy….and Avenue Q….this brings me to the whole reason we are here…the debut of our latest Blog Series, “I Wish I Could Go Back To College.” Does everyone have their back packs packed, their dorm assignments and their twin extra long sheet sets?  You’d better get ready because we are going back to college.

Let’s start with a musical theater lesson.  In the musical Avenue Q there is a song called, “I

Jeff and Bobby holding their baby, Tony.

Wish I could Go Back To College.”  Pause story.  A special shout out to the Tony winning composing team Bobby Lopez and Jeff Marx for permission to use the title of their song as the title of my blog series.  I wrote them both to ask, and had a response from each of them within moments.  Because they are awesome.  As is their Tony winning show. Go see it. Unpause story.

So as it turns out, I was in the cast of Avenue Q for several years in a couple of different companies including Broadway, and I had the great fortune to get to sing this song hundreds of times.  In fact, early on in the rehearsal process for the Las Vegas company, Jason Moore, our director, had three of the actors sing the song without puppets, to get to the “heart” of the song.  Cut to all three of them bawling their eyes out and sobbing about how college was the greatest time of their lives and being an adult sucked.  Everyone in the room was visibly moved.  I, on the other hand, was dumb founded.  LOVED COLLEGE?  What, were they NUTS?  I

My feelings exactly

remember thinking that if you paid me one million dollars in nickels I would not go back to school.  No. Way.  It was miserable.  My college life was an exercise in outing every gay guy within a ten mile radius of the CCM musical theater department.  No one was happier than me to get away from a dorm.

And then I got cast in Avenue Q.  Where I would need every  excellent acting skill imaginable to sing that song because I would NEVER want to go back to college.  Ever. And….scene.

Cut to a couple of years later.  I’m in New York.  I’m married to s straight guy!  I have children, which means I’ve had sex with that guy at least twice!  I am happy! College is something I think about for my children, as in How will we pay for that college if you keep working for free, Sharon?

And then–I don’t know what hit me–it happened so fast.  Let me try to explain.

I blame the weather.

About 10 days ago, the  temperature in sweaty New York dropped about fifteen degrees, bringing in a nice, cool evening, but it felt like more than just a change of weather.  It felt like a change of seasons.  Literally, I walked into Barnes and Noble with my back pack

We went from swimming pools to pumpkins in a two hour time span. It was terrible.

sticking to my back, sunglasses perched on my head, iced tea in hand, and walked out two hours later to throngs of Upper West Siders in down vests, gleefully clutching pumpkin spice lattes while shopping for scarves.  That quickly, flip flops had been replaced with boots.

I have self diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affect Disorder…is that what it’s called? I don’t feel like Googling…but you know what I mean, it’s that thing where you dread everything because the sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon?  According to my Google/WebMD medical degree, I have whatever that’s called. (I graduated with Google honors.)

I have done various things over the years to combat my self diagnosed “I hate fall, winter and spring” disorder which range from re-painting my entire living room a sunny yellow at the first sign of a cold snap to even more extreme measures.  Last year, decided that I–as an unemployed actress, mother of two, and wife of a busy guy–needed a “just for me” project as a way to offset the gloom and doom of winter.  Preferably something more interesting than yoga class–which is (in my opinion) this generation’s answer to luncheons and bridge groups.  Okay, calm down, I know it’s much healthier than eating full fat chicken salad sandwiches with sweet tea and saying “no trump” while inhaling your Pall Mall, but the point I’m trying to make is that I wanted something extremely engaging.

In a perfect world, Broadway would call and I would find myself smack dab in the middle of (INSERT NAME OF TONY WINNING MUSICAL HERE).  Reality is, it’s a recession and most people don’t list “theater tickets” at the top of their budget, so jobs were hard to come by (coupled with an almost completely male dominated season). I contemplated extreme pick-me-up measures like buying a motorcycle or training to scale Mount Everest; but ultimately I chose something much more terrifying because I was crazy.

I enrolled as a full time college student.

Here’s a video of the original Broadway cast singing “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” to further your musical education.  If you can explain what happens to Stephanie in the beginning of the song, you will get bonus points on the quiz.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMJ9D3lSrDg

To read Blogisode Two of this series, go here: https://sharonwheatley.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/i-wish-i-could-go-back-to-college-blogisode-two/

If you enjoy this blog and want more, please go to the top of the page and SUBSCRIBE by e-mail or “like” my Facebook page to keep the blogisodes coming!  You can also go to the bottom and “share” this blog on Facebook, twitter or by e-mail.  Thank you!


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Posted in First Blogisode of this Story, I Wish I could Go Back To College | 2 Comments

A New Vlog!

Hello Blog friends!

 

It’s been so very long since we’ve last seen each other, in fact, I kind of forget how to even make a post. Isn’t that a sad, state of affairs? Oh technology…always evolving and I was about 23 updates behind (truth), including that somehow I’ve lost the ability to embed a video in my post. Translation, you’ll have to follow a link to youtube and then watch it there. Sorry!

Anyhoo, I’m back in New York City for a hot second and ran into my old friend and Vlog busy Jacob Brent, so we decided to do a quick check-in blog. I hope this finds you all well. I am doing great, and the kids are wonderful. Can you believe from our first days together when they were 13 and 3, they are now 16 and 6? (truth).

Enjoy our vlog, we had fun making it. Click on the link to connect.

xo

Sharon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptUG0VOwBKI

Posted in Vlog (Video Blog) | 4 Comments

Kristin Chenoweth Down Under, an interview with director Richard Jay-Alexander (and a surprise guest appearance!)

Hello blog friends!

I am writing from Maine where I am finally starting to catch up on work (while I am on vacation).  Last year I wrote a blog post about working with the terrific singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth, and I am happy to say that my association with her continues.  This time I was working with Kristin and her team (including extraordinary music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell) on her Australian concert tour.  I was writing and working with her on a sketch with the Avenue Q puppets.

Those cute little puppets love to say really horrible things to shock her, and going to Australia led to a slew of inappropriate Australian themed jokes.  So much fun.  Even better is handing material to someone as funny as Kristin Chenoweth and watching her mine it for additional laughs.  It’s a “pinch me is this real?” moment as a writer.  I’m proud to report that she received rave reviews across Australia and if you want to see the show in America, you have one more chance when she plays the Hollywood Bowl later this summer.  Fingers crossed that she will find her way to New York again with this fantastic show.

Providing me with this terrific opportunity was friend and mentor Richard Jay-Alexander.  Richard Jay gave me my very first job in 1992 as a “swing” in the National Tour of Les Miserables and after years of directing that show around the world, his career exploded in the concert venue.  Read more to find out about Richard Jay’s long career, about Kristin touring Australia, and about his life as guru to the divas.

As a surprise to Richard, I e-mailed Kristin before her opening night in Sydney and asked her what it was like to work with Richard Jay and how the puppet sketch was coming along.  One quick thing, I have to tell you that one of the most charming things about Kristin is her hilarious use of her Blackberry.  She types quickly and doesn’t always edit, so you get funny notes that you sometimes have to read twice.  My personal favorite was last year when the space bar was broken on her Blackberry and I got emails that read like this.

hisharonithinkthesketchisgoingoverwell!!sorrybutmyspacebarisbroken,canyoubelieve??

This is her adorable (and unedited) response about Richard Jay and touring in Australia:

Hi Sharon!  I just lol at the puppets sketch everytime we do it.Tonight is the “first night” of the actual show. Im nervous bec I wanna knock it out of the ballpark for australia.
Rja and i have been together a year now. How hes given me confidence to let certain material “go”. And pushed me to even greater heights. I will never be able to thank him enough!
And u xcan quote me! 

Hilarious, right?

Richard Jay took the time to answer the following questions even as he was preparing to open Barbra Streisand’s European tour.  You think you are fancy?  Richard Jay is fancy.  Two divas on two continents and the show he directed for the hottie Italian pop-opera boy group Il Volo debuting on PBS, and he still answers e-mail.  Fancy.

Hi Richard Jay! We know Kristin had a great tour across America last year.  Why is Kristin touring in Australia?  Does she have a large fan base there? Interestingly, Kristin has a world audience due to her success in television, in films and on Broadway. We are touring because the demand has been great and for the first time in a while Kristin actually has some pockets of time available and we were able to plug in appearances, as it’s something we love doing.

Has Kristin been to Australia before?  Is she excited to go? Kristin is very excited. It’s her FIRST time in Australia and needless to say she can’t wait to hold a koala bear. I know she is particularly excited about playing the Sydney Opera house—because it’s so legendary, but she was also really flattered to be asked to headline this years Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The other cities are Melbourne and Brisbane.

Did you change the show for Australia? The show isn’t essentially changed from what we toured in North America except that we have Australia-centric references. The great thing about being an American star and coming to other parts of the world is bringing what she does to the people who fell in love with her for that very thing.

Many people know Kristin had a serious head injury last year.  How is she doing? Kristin’s injury last year was a shocker for all of us and it’s a long, slow heal.

We know you’ve worked with many “divas” (in the best sense) such as Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters and many more.  How do you like working with Kristin?  Did you know her before? If you’re asking me what I love about Kristin, I would have to say everything. We sort of knew each other, only through our profession, up until we began working together a year ago… but I have loved every single minute of it. And for me, she’s like playdough because she can do anything and everything.

What is something people would be surprised to know about Kristin Chenoweth? What would surprise people about Kristin is actually her talent. She seems so down to earth and normal and fun and then when she kicks into gear and displays the versatility of all her gifts… it’s absolutely mind-boggling.

Kristin sings for almost 3 hours in the show, which is incredible.  How does she prepare for show days?  Does she have any special needs?  Kristin takes her work very seriously, which is a pleasure for me. She is incredibly diligent about preparation, she does her homework and she treasures the gifts of that voice that she’s been given with proper vocalization and everything else that goes along with well-being and able to endure the length of a show like this and the versatility of the material.

You travel with her on tour.  What are you doing an hour before the show?  What are you doing during the show? When I travel with Kristin on tour, half-hour becomes bible and I don’t even go into her dressing room unless she asks for me. During the show I watch along with the audience, in awe, and then after I usually thank her for hiring me and we sort of revisit the evening’s performance with laughter and tears (good tears). Then she might have a sip of something… and off to bed.

You seem to specialize in directing the great divas.  How would you describe your job and why are you so good at it?  I seem to have found myself in a niche of working with great concert artists, but if you look at the type of people I work with (Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, Kristin Chenoweth to name a few from a long list)  they are actually all from the theatre, or have done theatre. I love working with people who have tools and gifts and interpretative qualities… which usually means actors who sing. I’m pretty lucky but every time I get a job I always call Bernadette Peters to thank her, because she actually launched my concert career when she asked me to do her Carnegie Hall debut back in 1996.

How did you segue from theater to big concerts? Segueing from theatre to concerts (or for that matter to cabaret or television studio or recording studio or a soundstage) aren’t really that different. You just focus on the task at hand.

You are directing Les Miz this summer at The Muny.  How does it feel to come back to this piece after all this time? Les Miz will always be one of the highlights of my career and my theatrical life. When the history books are written, it will simply be—the greatest musical of all time. Doing it at the MUNY this summer will be my last time with this piece but I love every single one of those characters on that stage from the Victor Hugo novel brought to life so vividly, musically by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

You know I’m a big Bette Midler fan, and you directed her (sensational) KISS MY BRASS tour.  What is she like to work with? Doing Bette Midler’s Kiss My Brass tour was another highlight, as I was a huge fan of Bette’s and used to get stoned to The Divine Miss M all the time. When you work with somebody like her you realize why certain people are stars and others aren’t. Her talents are so unique and she has so many different styles of singing in her and unparalleled pathos. Again, here’s an actress who sings. If you listen to early albums and hear pieces like “Surabaya Johnny” or “Hello In There” they still work every single time… and still devastate.

Describe your relationship with Barbra Streisand.  My relationship with Barbra Streisand is now in its 14th year and I don’t think I can talk sensibly about her because it’s too many things to comprehend. But I will say this… every day I go to work with her I am thrilled and come out re-inspired by her level of work ethic and the creativity that happens in the room. Rehearsal is always a safe place, she’s so talented at so many different things that one can only aspire to. And I always say that I like her so much, I forget she sings… and then when she opens that mouth and raises her voice… I die.

Many people would love to live your life.  What is on your to-do list today?  If you think people really want to live my life they should try my list on for today. Video bank meeting, re-editing a show piece, having a meeting about another job before work at the hotel, signing a contract that needs to be sent back to America, answering emails, trying to find time to eat, making sure I’m not late for my pick-up to the rehearsal venue, rehearsing a choir and vocalist before tonight’s rehearsal, arranging theatre tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, reading the papers, get my ticket requests in, shower, shave and look nice, check in with every department on the floor to make sure everybody has everything they need, oh yeah… and post on Facebook.

Many thanks to Richard Jay-Alexander for the opportunity, and to his assistant Amy Shaughnessy for facilitating the interview.

But before we go, here is one more e-mail from Ms. Chenoweth as a wrap up for the Aussie experience.  Again, I didn’t edit it because her emails crack me up.

Sharon
Your wit and genius was SO appreciated here! The crowds went nuts for avenue q. I was so proud.
Ive had an incredible time here. Sad to leave.
The audiences were am-az-ing. I feel so honored to have played the Opera House. A bucket -lister.
Thanks for helping make the show suCcessful!!!!!
Much love from “down-under”.
Kc

To learn more about Richard Jay-Alexander, please read his bio here:  http://broadwayworld.com/people/bio/Richard-Jay-Alexander/

To learn more about Kristin Chenoweth at the Hollywood Bowl, please visit here:  http://www.hollywoodbowl.com/tickets/kristin-chenoweth/2013-08-23

Posted in Let Me Tell You What I Like About It | 1 Comment

SMASH Fact or Fiction Episodes 13 and 14 ("The Producers" and "The Phenomenon")"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%%   SMASH’s second season is winding down and we all wonder if it might be the last.  No matter, actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work, hopeful for a third and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  We’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  We have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.  Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number seven and is probably a wrapped copy of The Great Gatsby.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.  We will cover two episodes in this blog post, but they were pretty skimpy, so no need for snacks today.

1) Press is part of the actors contract.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.  I thought this might be a good time to talk a little bit about how much press is expected of actors during the run of a show and whether or not they are paid to do it.

The answer, you do a lot of press and you are only paid for it if the press you are doing pays.  What does that mean?  For example they mention that Ivy is booked for The Tonight Show.  Since The Tonight Show is filmed on the west coast and Broadway is in New York, it is fairly rare for a Broadway actor to appear on that show.  Jimmy Fallon?  David Letterman?  Yes.  But now I am just nit picking.  THE POINT IS, you get paid to be a guest on that show, so the actor would be paid whatever the union rate is.  Same is true for all major TV shows and things like The Macy’s Day Parade and The Tony Awards.  But basic press like personal appearances and interviews (non-filmed) are un-paid.  There is an interesting rule that I didn’t know about that mandates you must be paid if you appear in costume.  It reads as follows from the Actors Equity web site:

(1) In Costume. When Actors participate in live publicity appearances in costume, the Actors shall be paid not less than one-eighth of the weekly minimum salary;

(2) No Costume. When Actors participate in live publicity appearances without costumes, no payments shall be required. T-shirts, caps and show jackets shall not be considered a costume for purposes of this provision. However, any clothing purchased by the Producer to be worn by Actor(s) in promotional events, other than T-shirts, caps or show jackets, shall be considered a costume for purposes of this provision. Producer may reasonably request that an Actor appear in Actor’s own clothing, excluding “black tie,” without incurring a payment under this provision; 

Interesting, huh?  No wonder we always do press in show t-shirts!

My friend Jimmy who is on Actors’ Equity Council would kill me if I didn’t mention the media payment, so let me make sure I explain how Equity figured out how to charge for all the new social media stuff.  It is a long rule, rule #39, and can be found HERE.  Basically (and I mean basically) actors get 2% of the minimum salary and that covers a boat load of media.  You get the pay weekly and you get it whether you ever appear on camera or not.

“This payment is in addition to contractual salary and shall be paid for Actor’s entire employment period whether or not the Actor appears in any captured material. The payment is subject to pension and dues.”

2)  Regarding Jimmy arriving at the theater at 10 minutes before curtain it was said, “You’re late.  If we were on Broadway you’d be fined.”  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  (This is a correction that came in from a former stage manager of mine.)

There is a monetary fining system for being late to a Broadway show, but more often it you will be “written up” and it will be placed in your file.  A paper trail of write ups can lead to your termination.  In addition there is a protocol for allowing an actor to appear onstage if late, but I can’t find official paperwork on it.  Here’s what I think it is, please weigh in if you know the exact rules.

I *think* that after half hour it is the stage manager’s call as to whether or not the late actor will do the show or be sent home.  After being 15 minutes late the understudy is put on automatically.  Even as I type that I can think of exceptions where stars were put on right up to curtain.

Here is the rule book guidelines from Actors’ Equity, brought to you by the excellent stage manager, Tom Taylor.  I’d written you could not be fined, but I was (in fact) wrong!  

According to the Production Contract – Rule 50 (G)

(G) Lateness. If Actor is late for “half-hour” more than twice within any six month period, Actor will be fined the following amounts for each lateness 
commencing with Actor’s third lateness: 
(a) $75 for Actors earning $2,500 per week or less; 
(b) $150 for Actors earning more than $2,500. 
All fines will be remitted by the Producer to the Actors’ Equity Foundation and will 
be deducted from Actor’s salary on a pre-tax basis. An official and accurate clock 
will be designated. Written notice of lateness will be given to both Actor and Equity. This rule shall apply uniformly. If it is determined in grievance or arbitration 
that the rule has not been applied uniformly, Producer must remit all fines assessed 
within the six months prior to the fine that is challenged. 
It is understood that this will not affect Producer’s right to send Actor home and 
reduce salary accordingly. However, if Producer does send Actor home, Producer 
cannot also fine Actor. The foregoing does not waive or alter the Producer’s right to 
terminate Actor for just cause in the event of chronic lateness, including any 
lateness for half-hour or rehearsal. 
(H) Where practicable, Producer shall endeavor to provide advance notice to 
Actors of their required attendance at a rehearsal to be conducted during a 
performance.

3)  They dim the lights on Broadway after the death of a Broadway veteran.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.

Robert Simonson just wrote a terrific piece about this on Playbill.com, so I will link to the article.

http://www.playbill.com/features/article/142873-ASK-PLAYBILLCOM-The-Dimming-of-Broadways-Lights-

So that’s it.  I didn’t have a lot to write about in these two episodes, but I wanted to talk about a few things, so here you go.  I still haven’t heard SMASH got its notice, but I am assuming it has?  Anyone know for sure?

I can give my cancellation notice for sure.  Even if there is a SMASH next year, there will be no SMASH Fact or Fiction.  Even so, I’ll finish out this season,  and maybe we’ll talk a little about what caused the show’s demise (in my opinion).

See you next week!

Posted in Smash | 18 Comments

SMASH Fact or Fiction Episodes 11 and 12 ("The Dress Rehearsal" and "Opening Night")

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%%   SMASH’s second season is winding down and we all wonder if it might be the last.  No matter, actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work, hopeful for a third and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  We’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  We have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.  Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number two and is probably aisle seats to the first preview of Bombshell.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.  We will cover two episodes in this blog post, so I hope you stretched.

From Episode 11, The Dress Rehearsal.

1)  An “invited dress rehearsal” is a rehearsal before the first preview performance, and it is by invitation only.  It is supposed to be supportive but is incredibly stressful.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.

Personally, I think invited dress rehearsals are a version of hell.  Others might disagree, and certainly the idea of them is to be helpful and supportive.  I haven’t watched the episode in a while, but I think some character makes a comment about what a terrible idea it is to make the first public performance in front of all of your peers.  Why?  The invited dress is full of savvy theater insiders who know when it is right and when it is wrong, and are (let’s all be honest) quick to judge.  They talk about the mistakes made during the invited dress in this episode, and that is something that happens frequently since often it is the first time all the design elements come together in “real time” (no stopping).  There is almost always a speech in the beginning, the most recent invited dress I attended was for Annie and the director took a moment to thank the producers, the crew, the cast, his creative team, etc.  In addition, in this day and age, there is an appeal to not tweet or place anything on social media since it is still a “rehearsal” and not a performance.  Finally they do explain that there will be mistakes and the show might stop if needed with technical elements re-run for accuracy.

To be in the audience, it is a blast.  To be onstage is both incredibly exhilarating (I finally get to hear where the audience is going to laugh!!) and totally stressful (oh my god.  They didn’t laugh.  What am I doing wrong??  Do they hate it?? We’re going to close.)

I’ll tell you one thing that every invited dress rehearsal has in common, and it was not shown on SMASH.  They are LOUD.  The minute the lights go down, the audience starts to scream and clap.  Imagine the final show of American Idol (does anyone still watch that?).  You know how the fans go nuts?  That’s what most dress rehearsals are like.  So when the lights dimmed and Ivy came out to no applause or cheering, I knew I had to tell you.  In reality, the place would have gone nuts.  Us theater folk are supportive in a loud way.

2)  A composer composes on a piano with a pencil.  Fact or fiction?

Depends on the composer, but in this case, I am going to say Fiction.

If a composer needs a song f-a-s-t, I’m going to guess that he or she is going to enter it into a computer and play on a keyboard IF the composer is a contemporary composer and the show is primarily a rock show.  I am open to be totally wrong on this, it just jumped out at me when I saw young Jeremy Jordan at a piano with staff paper and a pencil.  Does any contemporary composer still use a pencil and piano?  It just seemed so……Cole Porter.

Let’s talk about nudity in a show.  

3)  First things first.  Under our costumes actresses are butt naked.  Fact or Fiction?

Fiction.

There are entire stores devoted to undergarments for the Broadway community.  It is its own cottage industry.  The idea that Ivy’s costume could malfunction and underneath she would be completely naked was hilarious to me (and many of my friends).  If that dress slid off like that you would be privy to garments including but not limited to: 1) A microphone held on by a special body stocking attached to her inner thigh, or on the small of her back, although frequently mic pacs are now hidden in wig caps, so okay, maybe no mic.  2) Spanx or a full of girdle 50’s style (come on, she IS playing Marilyn Monroe), or at the VERY LEAST some kind of body stocking because she appears next “naked” in bed with JFK.  No way would she be completely naked under that costume.  No way.

4) If the producer and director wanted to keep the nude scene, they would appeal to the actress herself.  Fact or Fiction?

Tough call on this, but I am going to say that they might have the initial conversation with the actress, but then everything would get thrown back to the agent and the General Manager for a re-negotiation.  IF Ivy decided to do the nude scene, she would go back and try to get more money, or at the very least, additional compensation for “upkeep” which might include waxing and a gym membership to stay toned.  You think I’m kidding?  I have 5 actresses on speed dial who would confirm the laundry list of things they would ask for if they were suddenly going to appear naked 8 times a week onstage, especially if that decision happened after the initial negotiation.  It would also have to go to the Actors’ Union because a “nudity clause” would have to be added to the contract.

Have you wondered how it would impact the understudies?  That was the first thing I thought about.  Would the understudies have to do the nudity?  Maybe not, but if, as in SMASH’s case, if they suddenly saw an uptick of ticket sales based on the nudity, you can bet the understudies are going to feel a ton of pressure to do it.

Here is the official AEA language provided by my Deep Throat Company Manager friend:  The understudy question is interesting because the AEA contract states that “Actor shall not appear nude or perform acts of a sexual nature in the course of a stage presentation unless the Actor has been advised and gives written consent by the time of the Actor’s signing the contract.” So you would have to negotiate with all the understudies too.

One has to ask. Again. Where are the agents?  (And as a side note, I have to say I cracked up when Sam’s agent called to tell him he wasn’t performing the first preview as a swing…..that call would come from the stage manager…..so I was like, wait, SMASH, after 2 seasons you are finally having an agent call an actor and it’s about the wrong thing?  It isn’t Ivy’s agent calling about the renegotiation for the nudity?  Wouldn’t have that been a better and more interesting scene to see Ivy and her agent making a list of demands for her to do the nudity?  Hilarious.  But I digress….)  Oh wait, and just to cover this, since we are on the subject of swings because I’ve heard from several of my swing friends about this….SMASH depicts being a swing as the lowest form of actor in a show, like they are bottom feeders, like a person would rather be unemployed that be a swing, and I think I speak for every actor who has swung a show when I say tacky, tacky, tacky. SMASH.  Shame on you.  By the way, for the up and coming actors reading this, being a swing is a great job.  You get paid more money than anyone else in the chorus and you don’t get burned out from playing the same chorus role over and over.  Great job.  Okay? Okay.

5) A number would be restaged at the last minute to include crawling through aisle seats.  Fact or fiction.

My Deep Throat Company manager friend had a thought on why that was fiction:  “They could never have the time to light the 2nd act number and there isn’t a Producer in the world who is going to give up that many seats a night for a number. Maybe one or two but not 8 or 10 aisle seats! Jujamcyn has a policy of selling aisle seats at higher prices than regular orch seats and all of those seats would be premium locations. We’re talking a reduced gross of $2-4k per show.”

Let’s move on to “Opening Night”  I only have a couple of observations.

1) Reviews are written before opening night.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact!  Yes.  They come the week before, not on opening night.  I think we covered that in a prior post, but it bears repeating because I think it is interesting.

2) Other shows would be invited to the opening night performance?  Fact or Fiction?  

Fiction, and here is why.  In my experience, the only way another cast–we’re talking the entire cast– would be invited to an opening night is if the show is produced by the same producing company.  In that event, the entire cast might get invited, but usually they will only attend the party because they, themselves, have a performance at the same time.  Why would a producer invite another show?  Easy.  Double dip on press.  You send your currently running show cast down the red carpet with your newly opened cast and you get press for both shows.  Right?  Example:  When I was doing Avenue Q we were invited to the In The Heights opening night party because they were both produced by The Producing Office.  We brought the puppets for photo ops.

Deep Throat Company Manager said this:  “Usually no one but investors, guests of company members, staff, agents and celebs get invited. If they are playing a huge house They might invite the cast of a show the same producers are involved in. Highly unlikely that Hit List would be invited except that Derek is the choreographer of record on the show and he might have pitched it to Eileen.”

I still say doubtful because all that Eileen has done for the last two episodes is complain that Hit List is getting better press than her so THE VERY LAST THING she would want is Hit List any where NEAR her show.

Final question. (Whew this has been a long one.  I hope you all had snacks to get you through).

4) So much talk about the New York Times.  Is it really true that a show will close without a great New York Times review?

Yes, a NYT review is important, and can seriously impact things like word of mouth and Tony nominations.  Is it CRITICAL?  No. Many shows currently running on Broadway (including the current juggernauts The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia) got a lukewarm review from the NYT, yet ran because of, who knows why, but I’d guess good timing and great advertising.

On the flip side, if I tried to list the number of shows that got a rave in the NYT, but went on to close, my WordPress page would crash.  Many, many great shows close.  Many mediocre shows run. Why?  Eileen has it right, it’s all the way the game is played by the producer.

Before I let you all go, a couple of quick housekeeping things from me, Sharon Wheatley, author of this blog.

First of all, I’d like to invite you all to my first-ever solo show (which isn’t a solo show because I have excellent, excellent back up singers).  It is one night only Wednesday, May 15th at 9:30pm at 54 Below.  Please join me.  If you like this blog, you’ll like this show.  Buy tickets now, it is selling out.

Go HERE:  http://54below.com/wordpress/?artist=sharon-wheatley

Second of all, I apologize for the delays.  My husband and children and I are moving to California and our life has been a zoo.  Speaking of zoos, if you are in the Houston area, my show Avenue Zoo opens in mid June and runs through the summer at The Houston Zoo.  I am running a half marathon this weekend (woo hoo!) and then going straight to Houston for casting, so do not expect my next blog until Thursday of next week.  I hope you understand, friends.

Until next time,

Sharon

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Smash | 12 Comments

SMASH Fact or Fiction? Episodes 9 and 10 A Short Hiatus.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ve watched episodes 9 and 10 and after much thought I’ve decided to pass on writing about them.  I have them somewhat  written and they are terrible, partially because the episodes themselves were not particularly based on the business side of things, partially because what business stuff was in there was material we’ve already covered, but mostly because as a writer I am uninspired to even get riled up enough to write.

I kind of just feel like,** “Meh.”

**Meh is an interjection, often used as an expression of indifference or boredom. It can also be used as a verb (rendering something uninteresting, boring or useless to the beholder) and an adjective (meaning mediocre, boring, or apathetic).[1] ~Wikipedia

Meh.

I could write about how completely impossible it would be to add a production number with singing while swinging on silks over an audience.  Especially given how many hours notice?  3?  I mean…how would you possible get the silks strung up in time, let alone rehearse it?

But you guys already know that.

Same for teaching Liza a song with that many words in only a few hours.

Not gonna happen.

But it was sensational to see Bernadette and Liza on TV, wasn’t it?  I just love it.  See them live if you get the chance,  they do not disappoint.

It was more Michael Riedel, more sucking up to the New York Times (both Facts), and then more of Tom-the-composer-turned-terrible-and-incompetent-director doing unbelievable things.  More Jeremy Jordan being a jerk.

Same, same, same.

This is not goodbye, it’s just a hiatus until we have something interesting and new to talk about.

I thank you all for swinging by.

Posted in Smash | 7 Comments

SMASH Fact or Fiction Season 2, Episode 8 "The Bells and Whistles"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%% I APOLOGIZE FOR THE DELAY IN BLOGS FOR EPISODE 9 AND 10!  I AM COMBINING THEM AND WILL WRITE A LONG POST AS SOON AS I HAVE WATCHED THE SATURDAY EPISODE.  LOOK FOR IT TO PUBLISH MONDAY NIGHT!!  (P.S. Sorry to give you a “my dog ate my homework” excuse, but we decided to move to Southern California this week and I have been backed up by making moving plans.  I promise to be back on track and better!”  SMASH’s second season is winding down and we all wonder if it might be the last.  No matter, actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work, hopeful for a third and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  We’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  We have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.  Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number two and is probably swingable lamps in a bar.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.

Let’s start with an easy one.

1)  Debra Messing announced her job for next season, a sit-com on CBS.  Fact or fiction.

Fact.

2)  Thereby we should all assume that Debra Messing will not be a part of SMASH if it is miraculously renewed.  Fact or fiction?

Well I say Fact, but according to Debra messing that is fiction.  Here’s what she said:

“…despite her new commitment to a CBS comedy pilot, the actress says Smash is still her first priority. “CBS was wonderful enough to allow me to do this in second position, so they know that if Smash comes back, that’s where I will be.”

But enough gossip, let’s go on with the show.

Shall we start with the obvious one?  No, no, let’s warm up first.

3)  Parties with musical theater performers sometimes turn into mini-performances.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  So I have to tell you that while I was watching the episode I actually had the thought that I am so tired of musical theater performers being portrayed as self-involved exhibitionists always looking for a chance to perform.  I stood high on my soap box and thought about how many times I’ve been to a party with other actors and no one sings or dances and we all act like adults and have meaningful conversations.  Then, 5 minutes later, my Mom came upstairs (I am visiting my parents this week) and said, “Did you see the part of the show where they are at the party and that boy sang that great song?  It made me smile because it reminded me of the time we were in your friend Kristen’s apartment and you guys were singing and I could see New York City out the window.  It was so festive and fun and seemed just like that party.”

Nailed.  By my own traitor mother.

Signed,

Self-involved exhibitionist musical theater performer.

My mother aside, I would like to take a moment and say the two things I liked about the show and they were both performance related.  One was Leslie Odom Jr. nailing it in the party scene.  Man, when SMASH gets it right, it is so right.  I thought that song and his performance were sensational.  I also liked the choreography in Jeremy Jordan song, (although as someone pointed out to me today, if he was on the east coast and she was on the west coast, they needed to swap places.)

Can we pause the game for a moment and all just rejoice that Megan Hilty has returned as the rightful owner of the role of Marilyn Monroe?  I could never get behind Karen as Marilyn.  Hilty has been, in my eyes, the slam dunk choice from the first episode.

Unpause.

Now to the one we’ve all been waiting for.

4) An actor can leave a show, just up and quit, for another show.  Fact or fiction.

I would like for every agent, casting director, producer and actor who has ever tried to get out of a contract to say it with me:  Fiction.

Look.  You can’t just quit.  There are real live binding contracts in theater.  I mean, maybe–just maybe–if you have a really nice producer you can get out of a show for another one, but it is a few and far between situation.  There are ways you can negotiate clauses into your contract and I will try to hit some highlights, but I can’t get them all.  I’ll start with how you might be able to do it, and then I will tell you why the givens in SMASH makes it so unlikely.  And then I will break it down further and tell you what is even more ridiculous.

Ready?

There are clauses in some of the Actors’ Equity contracts that allow for an actor to move from one job to another for a more lucrative contract (better known as More Remunerative Employment or MRE)  but that clause does not apply in this case because Sam is moving from a principal role on a tour to a (most likely) featured ensemble role on Broadway (a contract grade down).  Also, MRE is most usually applied to short term jobs like–you get a guest star spot on a TV show and want to take 2 days off to do the shoot.  Also, as I scanned the contracts, I do not think this applies to the highest Equity contracts (Production contracts) which the First National Tour of Book of Mormon would fall under.  Additionally (and this is the obvious one) no one, no way, could get out of a principal role on a tour to do a job on Broadway that fast.  Even if you have specifically negotiated something like, “If I am offered a job in the Broadway production of Bombshell, I can give 2 weeks notice and leave.” I’m not saying it couldn’t ever, ever happen, but there would be tears and hand wringing, and begging involved and it wouldn’t be treated in the “I’ll just quit!” way it was treated on SMASH.  I have never been in this exact position (but I have friends who have) so if anyone has more specifics or corrections to this, write in and I will post it (or read the comments).

In that same vain, getting my vote for worst plot point of this episode is the who idea of making Tom such an idiot that he would gleefully offer his ex-lover a highly paid job in a show without the okay (or knowledge, in Eileen’s case) of the rest of the creative team and, uh, the PRODUCER.  Is Tom planning to pay Sam out of his pocket?  The whole idea that they’ve taken the savvy character of Tom and suddenly made him the theater  village idiot was distressing and inconsistent with his previous behavior.  And really, what did we gain by the whole plot point?  Nada.  Except that it was bad, bad, bad.

5)  Once cast in a show in a featured role it is possible to audition for a bigger role.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  Just ask any actress who has played Nessa Rose in Wicked and auditioned for Glinda or Elphaba.  It happens.

Does it happen while dancing on a bar?

Oh sure.  Yes.  I was cast in The Phantom of the Opera while singing Glitter and Be Gay for Hal Prince at a Karaoke Bar on Bleeker Street.  Completely normal.  Happens all the time.

Did you all catch Daphne Rubin-Vega (the original Mimi in Rent) as the nasty publicist?

And even better, are you guys ready for the return of Bernadette Peters as Ivy’s mother?  And on that note, I have to write a direct plea to the writers of SMASH.

Dear Writers of SMASH,

Please trash every other story line and focus only on Ivy and her mother for the duration of the series.  Give us stunning performances by Hilty and Peters.  Let us cheer and scream with musical theater geek joy.  Go out with a shred of dignity being the show we all wanted you to be.

Sincerely,

Ever-hopeful Sharon Wheatley, supporter of SMASH (until last week when I finally fell off the wagon in a blaze of fury).

 

 

 

 

Posted in Smash | 5 Comments

SMASH Fact or Fiction Season 2, Episode 7 "Musical Chairs"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%% SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction?  That’s a fact, Jack.  Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  Based on the shaky ratings this season, we’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number two and is probably the closing notice for Liaisons.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.

(Hello all, it’s me, I’m back and thank you to Jacob Brent for beautifully talking the reigns last week.  I’ll be honest, this week went a heavily into “fiction” territory (and what is with all the auto-tuning lately?) but I will attempt to give a fair and balanced report of fact and fiction.  Who misses Theresa Rebeck’s writing?  Me.  I do.  This lady right here.  But I digress, let’s do this.)

1)  Line readings are a normal part of rehearsal.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  (Hey!  We got a fact!) And before all you actors get mad at me, we all know that directors (more often than we would like) give a line reading.  Sometimes it is a small suggestion, and sometimes (as we saw happen with Tom) the director gets up with the dreaded ,”Here.  Let me be you.”  and then acts out exactly what they want to see the actor do.

Maybe you are wondering what the big deal is with line readings?  I mean, what is the big deal in just telling the actor how to say it?  That’s the director’s job, right?  Not exactly.  The idea is that the director is supposed to help the actor “find” their performance because in an ideal situation it should come from the actors own instincts and emotional life, not just be a regurgitation of something someone wanted.  The best of the best directors know how to inspire and cajole a performance out of an actor without having to resort to telling them exactly how to say a line.

This leads us directly to another director related question.

2)  It is common for a composer to take over as director.  Fact or fiction.

You don’t need me to tell you this, do you?  Fiction.  Really fiction.  And in fact, if any of you can name a case where a composer took over as director for a Broadway show, I will personally come to your house and clean your toilets because that–I’m sorry–might have to be just about the most ridiculous plot point we’ve yet encountered in SMASH.  But hey, the season is not over yet, and actually this blog post isn’t over yet, so who knows?? Maybe we’ll be able to top it (the tension builds….)

I would have loved to see Christian Borle’s face when he got his script.  He HAD to have said, “So…..wait.  Tom’s the director now? ”

But let’s move on.

I know.  I’ve been so politically correct for so long and now in one blog post I am showing my true colors, but I don’t know.  Something about last night’s episode pushed me over the edge.  It’s why I had to delay posting today (and I apologize to those of you who were waiting.)  I’ll try to be Switzerland and stick to the facts and the fictions.  I’ll try (but SMASH, you are making it hard!).

3)  The book writer/lyricist of the show would be the responsible party to get the director choreographer to sign a contract stating that it was okay to use his choreography after he split ways with the show.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  Again, where is the General Manager and where are the agents?  Hey–have we talked about General Managers yet?  Do you know what their job is?  Let’s discuss this for a second because God knows you aren’t learning about them on SMASH.  In an absolute nutshell, a General Manager executes all of the business aspects of the show, including (but not limited to) the hiring of EVERYONE including union negotiations, contract negotiations, payroll, box office and more.  They run the show.  For a more complete description, go here.

If this situation in SMASH were real, here is how it would go down.

1)  First of all, it probably would be a non-issue because (according to a reliable friend)  Derek would have already signed a contract sharing his work to the Producer.  My friend said: “The work (meaning the choreography) belongs to the Choreographer but the Producer has the irrevocable right to use the choreography for any production of the play that the Choreographer will receive payment for – I’m not sure they really needed him to sign a rider as that would have been covered under his original agreement but they would have to pay him his fee and royalties to keep the choreography in the show.”

2)  If that contract rider needed to be signed, that would have been a conversation between the General Manager and Derek’s agent.  It just would not go down like that at all, but clearly this is a TV show, so there you go.  They wanted a dramatic intervention at a restaurant between Jack Davenport and Debra Messing.

By the way, Jacob wants to comment on how hard SMASH is working to make sure Sean Hayes (Jack) and Debra Messing (Grace) are never on screen together.  At this point I say, Hey!  Bring in Megan Mullaley and Will and let’s just watch Will and Grace.  That was a good show, NBC.  Let’s do that one again.

Oops.  I slipped again.

Back to the facts.  Okay!

4)  They give notes to actors while sitting on the steps in the lobby.  Fact or fiction?

Fact!  Yay!  I liked this and it is very authentic.  I can’t tell you how many note sessions I’ve had while sitting on the stairs in a Broadway lobby.  Very normal because sometimes they are working on something technical in the theater or the ushers are getting ready for the show, or whatever.  Bonus points to whoever can name those lobby stairs (although someone did write in and comment that the theater is the Broadway but the stage door is the Music Box!).

5)  Jeremy Jordan’s character is an idiot.  Fact or fiction?

WHY ARE THEY MAKING HIM SO UNLIKEABLE????

6)  Actors read Broadway message boards.  Fact or fiction?  

Is the Pope Catholic?  Does a fish have gills?

Fact.

7)  The Hit List set is actually the set of Ghost.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction, but good guess.

8)  Two actors might get together moments before opening night and make a decision to completely change the tone of a show and consult with no one and just go on and perform it completely differently than it has been rehearsed.  Fact or fiction.

Oh, fact.  You know, Cats was originally rehearsed to be Dogs but a couple of actors got together and decided to change things up before opening night, so they all went out and acted like cats instead.

By the way (and I know this is a TV show) but I just have to comment on the fact that, oh you know, the entire number was choreographed as a farce, the costumes looked like a farce, the whole idea that it was being “changed” in the moment was completely unbelievable, although the IDEA of it was funny.  The idea that a famous actor would go out there and try to save his own ass on opening night by performing the show the way he wanted to–that is possible and I’m sure HAS happened, but it came off as something between what they rehearsed and what they wanted the big change to be.  I wanted to be watching whatever Ivy was laughing at in the wings, but the truth was…it was just bad.

But, the big breasted woman was a terrific character actress named Kathy Fitzgerald who is hilarious and deserved much better treatment than having her breasts slapped and spat on.  If you want to know the honest to God truth, for me that moment was the SMASH breaking point.  She’s so talented and deserved some great material.  Instead, she was just wasted.

Another friend of mine was also in this episode, Seth Rudetsky, playing himself and doing the interview with Karen and Tom.  If you have SirrusXM radio, you have to listen to his Broadway show because he is (as he would say) ah-mah-zing.

Speaking of Karen and Tom, let’s get to the final question of the night.

9)  If you have your first lead on Broadway, and the show is being built around you, and before that you were a nobody and worked at a coffee shop, you just might quit the show to the composer-turned-director while standing on the street corner because he’s better friends with another actress.  Fact or fiction?

Every actress in New York has done that.  In fact, I confess it…I was supposed to play Elphaba in the original cast of Wicked, but I gave it up when I saw Joe Mantello laugh at Idina Menzel’s joke.  You know….it’s normal to give up a career changing part like that.  And then I decided to do an off-broadway show in a basement.  It worked out fine, you just have to keep the faith.  You should always turn down that Broadway lead.

As you may know, SMASH is moving to Saturday nights.  I think we all know that is not a good sign for any show.  This blog will now appear on Mondays.

For the next post in this series, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SMASH Fact or Fiction Season 2, Episode 6 "The Fringe"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%% SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction?  That’s a fact, Jack.  Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  Based on the shaky ratings this season, we’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number five and is probably a Spotco show poster.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.  If you want to trash talk there are exactly 5,872,017 Broadway message boards where you can do that.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.

WAIT!  Pause the game buzzers!

Hello Smashers my name is Jacob Brent and I will be your host for the this episode of Smash: Fact or Fiction. When Sharon asked me to guest blog I couldn’t say yes fast enough. After all I already watch the show and often end up energetically speaking to my television saying “Thats not true.” or “No one would ever do that!” or “No one signs the inside of a Playbill!” This is usually followed by an immediate text to Sharon saying, you have to blog about that. So tonight I make my debut as a guest blogger and suddenly, I’m getting nervous. I totally understand what Joan Rivers must have felt like when she would host for Johnny Carson or Doctor Phil when Oprah would let him take the reins for an episode. I mean we haven’t even had an understudy run, or a costume fitting, Do I pick up that prop on stage right or stage left? Oh goodness, the overture is starting! No time to be nervous now……Here we go!  Activate your buzzers!

1)  Would a show like Hit List be performed in a basement with only 10 hours of rehearsal before the first performance?  Fact or Fiction?

FACT – Oh please, you can’t throw a nickel in New York without hitting a theater festival. It’s also very possible that your show would be performing in some out of the way theater space and with very limited time to set up. In fact, it’s probably going to be on some street that neither you or anybody else has ever heard of but your going to play it off like everyone has. When someone asks, where’s your show? You’re going to answer, “at The Box.” Where’s That? on Chrystie street….where’s that?

Here is what one festival says about rehearsal and tech time.

You will be responsible for loading in your own scenic and costume elements on the day of your first show. On that day, you’ll have access to the space from 8 or 9 a.m. until your curtain at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. During those hours, you’ll need to load in your set and costumes, tech your show, perform a complete dress run with all technical elements, break for dinner… and then, open!

In addition to the time limitations of having only one day in the space to tech your show, be aware that you’ll be performing in repertory with other shows and will have to strike your show to a storage position within 30 minutes following each performance. Before each show after your first, you’ll have 60 minutes to set up your set and sound check (this hour INCLUDES 10-15 minutes to open the house and seat audience members).

This episode included the lovely and exceptionally talented VEANNE COX! She plays Megan Hilty’s mother in the musical that she’s rehearsing with my doppelgänger Sean Hayes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped on the street and asked if I was him. I hate to just say no because usually they’re usually tourists who are so pumped that they might have found a hidden celebrity. I mean they are just devastated so I tend to say no, I’m not him but he’s my brother. To which there eyes light up with excitement and although its not a full on celebrity meeting its the closest they might have on their once in a life time trip to New York. It often ends up with them saying, “I knew it! I knew you looked like him.” I generally just say thank you and I will tell him you said hello. But back to Veanne. Two summers ago I got to work with her at the O’Neill Theater Festival and she is one of the funniest people I know without ever trying to be funny. She’s also that actress who’s in every movie but you might not ever know it. Here’s a brief bio –

Her Broadway debut was in the Marvin Hamlisch musical Smile (1986). She appeared in the Roundabout Theatre revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company (1995), as “Amy”, for which she received a Tony Award nomination, and both The Public Theater (2003) and the Broadway productions of Caroline, or  Change (2004) as Rose. Cox appeared in the made-for-television movie Cinderella (1997) as one of the stepsisters, and later acted in Erin Brockovich as Theresa Dallavale. She has appeared in episodes of many television series, such as Boston Legal, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Seinfeld, and Judging Amy.

She’s drier than toast and has the ability to make lines that aren’t funny, FUNNY! Love her and so glad she’s on the show!

2) Could a producer keep an actor from doing another show? Fact or Fiction?

FACT! It’s called a contract and you have signed it. Although I don’t have absolute proof of this, I feel like any creative staff would not allow you to work on another show especially while the current show you are working on is in the development stage and even more so if you are the lead. There is a SHE LOVES ME poster in Jerry’s office to which he referred to receiving nine Tony nominations. FACT and it actually won one of those! The poster is from the 1993 revival production that was in fact nominated for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Leading Actress, Best Featured Actor, Best Featured Actress, Best Direction, Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. Boyd Gaines won for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

3) Tom (Christian Borle) mentioned having a meeting with SpotCO. FACT – OK this is one of those pictures within a picture within a picture type of things. SpotCo is indeed a real company that represents SMASH. Here’s a little about SpotCo.

SpotCo’s life started in 1996, when its now-iconic designs for Rent and Chicago set a stylish new standard in Broadway advertising. Since then, SpotCo has steadily grown and diversified its client base. Today they represent a global portfolio of clients in a wide range of entertainment sectors: Broadway, live entertainment and tourism, cultural institutions, film studios and broadcast/cable TV networks.

Now I’m not sure how much fact there is in a writer of a show having a meeting with SpotCo. I think that’s the producer’s job.

4) Sean Hayes character tells Megan Hilty that her number is cut because she was funnier than he was. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say thats a big fat FACT!!! A friend of mine was just telling me a story about a star who was coming in to replace in a Broadway show and hopefully bump up the ticket sales to keep it open longer. They were having the put in rehearsal for this star and my friend did her bit like she had been doing which was always funny and got huge laughs. The Star stopped rehearsal and said. “Is she really going to do all that?” Before the performance that night the stage manager came to my friend and cut the bit. You can’t be funnier than the star. I can’t tell you who this was but if you see me on the street and stop me thinking I’m Sean Hayes’s brother I’ll tell who it was.

To read the next blog is this series, go here

 

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SMASH Fact or Fiction Season 2, Episode 5 "The Read-through"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%% SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction?  That’s a fact, Jack.  Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  Based on the shaky ratings this season, we’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.   Everyone, get your buzzers out.  This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number five and is probably Sean Hayes’s meds.

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.  If you want to trash talk there are exactly 5,872,017 Broadway message boards where you can do that.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.

1)  A read-through is just reading though the script.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact.  It’s really that simple.  And yes, it really can be done on any scale from an “official” run-through with the entire cast and a music director and a full cast, or as simple as a small group of people reading through a script in someone’s living room.  The whole purpose of a read through is to hear the script in its entirety and see how it works.  There is no pay for a read-through unless it is done as part of the rehearsal process (often a show will start rehearsals with a read-through on the first day) and can be done (as we saw in SMASH) with non-actors reading the roles for privacy.

2)  The Belasco Theater is rumored to be haunted.  Fact or fiction?

Fact!!  I love The Belasco and was thrilled they chose it…..despite the fact that The Belasco is a super crummy choice for a big, splashy musical.  Why, you ask?  It’s tiny, I reply.  With only 1016 seats I call foul to Jerry’s talk of re-couping his investment.  If he REALLY wants to re-coup, find a bigger theater.  But I digress.  Let’s get back to the ghost.

There are a lot of really fascinating things about The Belasco and I didn’t know a lot about it until a fun girls’ night with my pals (and Belasco occupants with James Joyce’s The Dead) Emily Skinner and Donna Lynne Champlin.  I listened entranced while they told stories about the theater.  Get a load of this: It is allegedly haunted by the ghost of David Belasco, whom The Belasco was built for, and as a part of the build he provided himself with a 10 room duplex  apartment IN the theater.  Which, to the best of my knowledge, still exists, as does his ghost, despite the fact that the cast of Oh Calcutta tried to banish it.  Turns out the ghost is a prude and just wasn’t into all that nudity, and he returned after that production left.

Cool, right?

3)  People rehearse in costume.  Fact or fiction?

I’m going to give this a fact-ish.  The truth is very often a room will be full of “suggestions” of costumes.  Yes, in a period show the women would wear skirts and **maybe** a corset (depending on the budget and the availability) but no rehearsal clothes are as pristine as the ones we saw on SMASH tonight.  The skirts would be mismatched and ill fitting and the corsets would be tied with shoe laces.  In CATS we had “rehearsal tails” and they were braided ropes that tied around our waist with ribbons.  They gave the suggestion, but didn’t look pretty.  Very normal is wearing your “show shoes” as soon as they are ready to break them in and to get used to that whole “walk in someone else’s shoes for a while” thing.

Two celebrity sightings, and both are attached to people already in the show:  Sean Hayes from Debra Messing’s Will and Grace played the dumbest actor ever (which way is stage right?) and Nicki Blonsky from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s Hairspray as Jerry’s exuberant and loose lipped assistant. 

4)  Were FolliesGrey Gardens, and Ragtime flops?  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  If your definition of a flop is not recouping the original investment, then yes.  All three were flops.  Of course, producing a Broadway musical is an enormous risk with whatever show you are creating.  About 7 out of 10 Broadway musicals never make back their original investment (a percentage, by the way, that is relatively unchanged since the 1930’s).  And many shows that we look back on as being huge blockbusters were enormous risks at the time.  Cameron Mackintosh had to sell part of his business to raise money for a show that didn’t have a plot, didn’t have a book, didn’t have a movie star in the leading role and was essentially a dance concert performed by actors dressed up as cats.  Cats the musical became the longest running Broadway show in history at the time.  Why even some of the original investors in Oklahoma! asked for their original investment back when the out of town tryout in New Haven for the show was not well received.  It’s too bad for them; they missed out on a 2500% return on their investment.  Jerry’s view that a show that is artistic won’t make money and that a show that is a spectacle will isn’t a fiction, per se; it’s just paranoid.

Welcome Jacob!

5)  We started the episode with a splashy dance sequence.  Choreography for the stage is the same as choreography for a TV show.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  Here’s the fact: choreography for TV/Film is totally different for choreography for stage. One is not better than the other but the fact is with film the camera is the eye and chooses who to look at.   On stage the audience member gets to choose. On film you can focus on a snap of the fingers or roll of the shoulder or and eyebrow going up. On stage it is much more difficult to translate that detail in movement.

Check out Bob Fosse’s “Big Spender” number from Sweet Charity for an example. In terms of actual choreography, the director and director of photography and choreographer have “storyboarded” the number. Meaning knowing exactly what will be shot. There is possibly less choreography needed. For instance, if its a close up shot of the star’s face there is no need to choreograph those counts for the body because they won’t be seen.  In terms of rehearsal for the SMASH numbers – time is money so I bet they don’t have a lot of rehearsal unless its a huge number.  This makes it crucial  to hire good people who can see the choreography once and then do it perfectly.

For the next post in this series, go here

 

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SMASH Fact or Fiction Season 2, Episode 4 "The Song"

%%wppa%% %%photo=20%% %%size=0.5%% %%align=left%% SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction?  That’s a fact, Jack.  Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I’m delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow.  Based on the shaky ratings this season, we’d better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.  Did you miss last week?  Go here to do your catch up reading.  I’ve added a new mid-week spin off blog called SMASH Ask and Answer where I answer reader questions, so go read that and then write in.  Everyone, get your buzzers out.  This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your hiatus studying up on theater facts and fictions.

Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.

I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number five and is probably the flying script of The Singing Bird .

My name is Sharon Wheatley, I’ve done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that’s where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun.  Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.  If you want to trash talk there are exactly 5,872,017 Broadway message boards where you can do that.

Cell phones off.  Game buzzers on.

Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.

Omg. I’m so excited.  Did anyone else hear it?  They actually mentioned agents this episode.  I think they are reading this blog (okay, so we all know this episode was already in the can** but a girl can dream about the ginormous impact of this blog).

**”In the can” in this reference is not referring to heading to the bathroom, but instead means the episode was already shot and ready for air by the time last week’s blog was posted.

1)  The episode was titled “The Song” because of that glorious song the show started with, “I Got Love”.  Fact or Fiction?

Fiction and this was a stupid question on my part, but I really just wanted an excuse to talk about this song.  I started to write about it and then decided to send you all to the master of song and singing, my friend Seth Rudetsky.  Do you know Seth?  You should.  Homework.  If you have Sirus/XM Satellite Radio, he is on the host of Seth’s Big Fat Broadway on the On Broadway channel.  Check it out.  For now, go here to learn more details about Melba Moore and her Tony award winning performance of “I’ve Got Love” in Seth’s famous and hilarious deconstruction video.  Worth it.  But then come right back here because we’ve got a lot more Fact and Fiction coming your way.

2)  A “Momager” really exists.  Fact or Fiction?

Fact, and I’ll tell you who had one, none other than MISS SAIGON’S Lea Salonga.  What’s a Momager?  It’s a manager who is a Mom and while I’ve never heard the phrase before I like it and I’m using it like it is a real thing.  It’s like the time I heard “hungerstudy” used to describe an ambitious understudy.  Genius.  I immediately made it part of my vernacular.

In this episode of SMASH we meet JHud’s onscreen mother/manager, and may I just point out that it is the legendary Sheryl Lee Ralph who created the role of Deena in DREAMGIRLS.  For those of you who need the dots connected, in the film, Deena is played by Beyonce and JHud plays Effie.  So nice to have to dream girls onstage together.  Fun, SMASH!

Back to the Momager idea, I can report that there was a lot of accuracy in this depiction and seemed to be ripped right from the Salonga play books.  I knew Lea’s mom was her manager (she was famous for sheltering Lea) and I had some judgements about that, but I’m happy to report that when I did LES MISERABLES with Lea (and her Mom by proxy) they were both wonderfully nice.  Don’t get me wrong, Lea’s Mom had her on close to lock down because she wanted to protect her pristine image, but they were both very friendly.  Lea is now married and has a baby so I’m guessing things have loosened up between her and her Mom.

3) Bravo films musical theater star’s concerts.  Fact or Fiction?

Totally fiction, but NBC owns BRAVO so it is a chance to toss in a plug for their sister station.  The closest they’d ever get is The Real Housewives Of Broadway.

While we’re talking about this, who WOULD air a concert like this?  PBS, baby.  After you finish DOWNTON ABBEY, check out the LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER series.  Last week they had a Kander and Ebb review with Chita and Joel Grey and next up is an evening with Kristin Chenoweth.

4) A couple of guys can write a song, it gets put into a concert and the result is the beginning of a career writing for the musical theater.  Fact or fiction?

To answer this question I turn to the other side of the couch and hand the computer to the quietly handsome music director and college professor, my husband, Rob Meffe.  Tell us Rob, is it fact or fiction?  Take it away.

 FACT
Just because something is unlikely, doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.  Or have even happened before.  There are many roads to success as a composer/lyricist team and one of them is by writing a hit song that is performed by a nationally known artist.  George Gershwin was not known as a composer until Al Jolson and his horrible blackface made “Swanee” a hit.  Perhaps Kander & Ebb would not have been green-lighted for Cabaret if it weren’t for the success of a young Barbra Streisand’s recording of “My Coloring Book.”  Things have changed a lot since then, and the biggest change is that songs written for the theater are no longer what you hear when you turn on the radio.  Consequently, the path for musical theater writers has changed as well.  Fortunately in the past few decades there has been a resurgence in support of the creation of new musicals.  Non-profit theater companies like Playwrights Horizons and Lincoln Center have fostered the careers of many new composers of this generation including Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens (Once on this Island), William Finn (Falsettos, A New Brain, Elegies), Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins, A Light In The Piazza), Jeanine Tesori (Violet), and even helped the well-established composer Stephen Sondheim develop two of his masterpieces, Into The Woods and Sunday in the Park With George.  Musical theater writing programs came into existence, such as the Lehman Engel BMI Workshop and the Graduate Musical Theater Writing program at NYU.  But there is no substitute for getting your songs out there to the public.  And places like Joe’s Pub in New York City (mentioned in this episode) is a way to get your music noticed.
At Pace University we are fortunate enough to have several musical theater composers as a part of our faculty, and they represent some of the ways that young writers are getting themselves noticed.  Our Music Theory professor, Ryan Scott Oliver developed an entire showcase of his material entitled RATED RSO, and produced several performances at Joe’s Pub using our freshmen students as the performers.  One of our vocal coaches, Shaina Taub won a residency to the Yaddo Colony which provides twenty artists a year a haven to create new material.  And even our esteemed artist-in-residence, Adam Guettel, just completed a series of performances at 54 Below that showcased many of his previously written material, but also a good chunk of new material to try out on audiences.
Sidebar: A couple of guys can write a song, it gets put into a nationally broadcast telecast of a concert and they were not aware of it until they saw it.
FICTION
I’m afraid in the interest of not slowing down the storyline and for the purpose to give Jeremy Jordan a chance to actually smile, the writers did some condensing.  The leap from a casually written bunch of pencilled notes on a slip of paper (like Derek was holding in the cafe) to a fully arranged (with backup vocals), orchestrated, rehearsed, staged, lit, and costumed closing number leaves out some of the most important people in our business that make everything happen behind the scenes.   I really don’t mind that SMASH does some fudging on this bit, except that it gives the impression that a performance like that could happen without this huge team of amazingly creative people.  Well, it can’t.
The other bit of fiction here is that intellectual property rights are the bread and butter of creative artists.  There are many laws that protect the performance of compositions, and Kyle and Jimmy would have at least had to agree to the terms of which that music was telecast.
Thank you, Professor (and Maestro) Meffe for the input and that brings a close to our latest installment of Fact or Fiction.  Thank you for reading!
I’ll do a ASK and ANSWER or a DEAR SHARON (and Rob) post as soon as I get a couple more questions, so ask away. I had a lot of repeat questions this week and want to wait for a few new ones.  Any questions about SMASH or theater?  post them in the comments or send an email to sharonswheatley@gmail.com.
To read the next post in this series, go here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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