Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A final note of thanks.

I've been putting off writing my last post on this blog because it means that the experience is actually over.  Today marks one full month since our final performance in Weston.  I'm (mostly) back in the swing of New York - 9-to-5-ing, dodging smelly subway cars, sighing loudly behind people texting while they walk - and (mostly) over my cheese withdrawal.  I've seen a number of my wonderful colleagues over the past few weeks (congrats to Lauren on her amazing concert that brought most of us back together!)

But before closing up shop on the blog, I have to thank a whole bunch of people for making this entire amazing experience possible.  Everyone - cast, creative team, staff, musicians, technicians - made their mark on our work in amazing ways.  So in no particular order (other than alphabetical, obviously), my heartfelt thanks go to:

Kate Absher, Krystina Alabado, Twan Baker, Renata Brewington, Heather Brown, Jacki Brown, Joe Calarco, Jen Caprio, Lindsey Carlson, Ed Chapman, Andrew Cooper, Evan DelGaudio, Alek Deva, Katrina Dideriksen, Stuart Duke, Malcolm Ewen, Emeline Finckel, Tim Fort, Rachel Fraley, Travis Gilmore, Jessica Gouker, Sean Hagerty, Debora Harry-Spencer, Jeff Human, Sarah Ishu, Jess Johnston, Caitlin Kinnunen, Tim Mackabee, Lauren Marcus, Sydney Maresca, Kaylin Martin, Elizabeth McLinn, Jacqueline Mullen, Meghan O'Brien, Aidan O'Reilly, Jakob Plummer, Jed Resnick, Ro Rowan, Anthony Rubbo, Peryn Schmitt, Elizabeth Schurra, Margo Seibert, Joel Shier, Molly Shoemaker, Rich Silverstein, Erik Skovgaard, Dana Steingold, Steve Stettler, Bridget Sullivan, Kelsey Tippins, Carolyn Voss, Bekah Wachenfeld, Andrew Wellons, Lorenzo Wolff, and Jeremy Yaddaw.

We don't know where this show will take us next, but we do know that every person above took it to places we never could have imagined and gave it a full and beautiful life for six weeks.

I always try to imagine what my career will be like.  I like to daydream about the places that art can take me and all of the things that I might be able to accomplish.  In my secret imaginary timeline, though, I don't think I planned on my first professional production being quite so monumental and emotional.  It was easy to imagine the fun we'd have and the kudos and the work we'd do - and, yes, those were great.  But the warmth and openness and heart that I brought back with me from Weston (and will carry with me and with the show) left the kind of imprint that you can't expect.  And beyond being proud or humble or sad or happy, I am grateful.

Thanks for following this leg of Pregnancy Pact's journey.  The birth is over in Vermont, but I can't wait until we get to knock up the rest of the world!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Closing night.

It was amazing to be back in Weston, even just for 19 hours.  And it was beyond amazing to get to see this production of the show one last time.

Just as we suspected, it had all settled beautifully.  No one was running on adrenaline anymore - not the cast, not the band, not the crew behind the bathroom mechanism - so the energy relaxed where it needed to and things were happening organically on stage.  Everyone was in really great voice and some songs sounded better than ever.  All in all, it was a great way to leave Weston!

And beyond what was happening onstage, the audience had settled in beautifully, as well.  The audience was responsive, vocal, and fully engaged.  It's amazing that in one short week we were able to build an audience for our show.  All along, the Weston community was engaged and open but after a few performances it also became a known quantity.  By the final performances, much of the audience came in ready for the show and were able to lead the rest of the audience through the sometimes rough emotional terrain.  The laughs were harder and easier.  The gasps were more audible.  The tension was more palpable.  Friday night's performance even included our first full standing ovation!

Our final talkback was with Branden Huldeen, the New Works Director at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.  Steve and the whole cast joined us onstage for one last discussion about the future of musical theatre and were Pregnancy Pact might fit into that.

There were so many hugs and so many thanks that night.  It was a perfect way to bring a pretty perfect experience to a close.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Welcome back to Weston.

Upon returning to Weston this afternoon, I found this on the front porch of the actor's house.  Lauren was playing some of her original songs, backed by Sean, Ro, Jeremy, Lorenzo, and Krystina, Caitlin & Margo on vocals.

I've only been back for two hours and I'm already going to miss it all over again.

Until then, we've got one last performance to go!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The student matinee.

Friday morning, Pregnancy Pact had its long-awaited and much-discussed student matinee performance.  I am so disappointed to have missed the chance to be in the theater full of real, live teenagers, but I did get some really great reports from everyone who was there.  Roughly 120 students saw the show and participated in a wonderful talkback afterwards with the cast, Laura May Ackley, and two teen mothers who work with Laura's Lund Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.  They were a great and vocal audience during the show and they had what sounds like a meaningful post-show discussion.

One of the participating schools was the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, VT.  The show was performed with two sign interpreters, Christopher and Aimee Robinson (pictured below with the cast.)  If there was any performance I was heartbroken to miss, it was this one.  They came to the show on opening night and I got to hear a little bit about their interpreting process - it sounds fascinating.  Between the two of them, they covered all eight roles with different postures for each character.  They provide a full performance of their own at the side of the stage to compliment what's happening in the scene.  I can only hope that Chris and Aimee join us in the future so I can see them in action!

After the show, Lauren ran into a group of students at the Country Store and had a chance to talk with them off-the-record, without the pressure of the talkback.  She sent Julia and me a list of highlights from that discussion, including:
"You were a bitch, but then you weren't...you guys took a turn!" 
"We didn't want to come, but then we did and we actually had fun." 
"These gummy bears are really good." 

While we never intended the show to be used as a teaching tool - and we certainly didn't write it with an easy lesson at the end - we are so honored that Weston saw the opportunity to show students something that isn't easy and isn't pretty.  I've never wanted to speak for teenagers with my writing, but it means so much to hear from them that they connect with the material and see what's onstage as an honest depiction of life (albeit with characters making extreme decisions.)

All hats must go off to Weston for being brave and daring enough to present the show - wholly unedited - to these schools.  And all hats must be put back on and go off again to the schools, administrators, and teachers who gave our show a chance to reach this audience.  We are beyond humbled.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pregnancy Pact: The Rite of....

Joe's hard-hitting expose on the things actors do to keep themselves occupied during tech.

The show must go on...

Julia and I may have had to return to the city (and our day jobs), but the show is still going strong in Weston. We're loving the reports we're getting of the performances both officially and on Facebook.  My favorite quote so far was overheard by our drummer, Jeremy Yaddaw - a woman left the theater saying "I surprised myself by really liking it!"

The amazing talkbacks have continued, with Steve and the cast jumping up on stage to continue the discussions with the audiences.  Over the past three performances the guests have included Steve Trombley, (President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England), Jon Bliss (minister of Weston's Old Parish Church and a former educator and mental health worker), Stephen Stearns (Artistic Director of the New England Youth Theatre), and Psychotherapist & Family Counselor Jim Carew.

Tomorrow morning is our student matinee, complete with a sign interpretation, and our penultimate performance.  I can't wait to get back for the closing night on Saturday!

Steve, members of the cast, and Old Parish Church Minister Jon Bliss
Steve, members of the cast, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England President & CEO Steve Trombley
Steve, members of the cast, Stephen Stearns & Jim Carew
Thanks to our extraordinary cellist/photographer/all-around-wonder Ro Rowan for capturing these talks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A star is reborn!

Our very own Twan Baker is headlining a photo exclusive on Playbill this week!  Take a peek behind the scenes at Pregnancy Pact to see just what Twan and the rest of the cast were up to while performances began.

Twan giving notes to Julia & me...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

One weekend down.

Performances are well under way!  As you can see from the production photos, the show is looking phenomenal - and you'll have to trust me that it's sounding and feeling just as wonderful as it looks.  I truly could not have asked for a better result to my four weeks up here (or better people to share it with.)  And it's only getting better and better with each performance.

So far we've had about 700 people see the show.  The experience of sitting in an audience as a writer and being relatively anonymous is pretty amazing.  You truly can feel the pulse of the room as the show goes on.  Each audience is different - Thursday night's preview had a pretty guarded feeling, while Friday's opening was very vocal, and this afternoon's matinee was incredibly attentive and invested.  At intermission you hear so many things - some unsolicited praise, some private scrutiny, some big questions - that you never get to hear when the audience is made up of mostly friends and family.  It's hard to notice empty seats at intermission (although not wholly unexpected given the challenging subject matter and language.)  But it's even harder not to glow when you feel the audience getting it - when you hear the knowing laughter at the beginning of "This Is It" and the gasps at the end of "Let Me" and the shock at Maddie and Brynn's confrontation.  That thrill matches the intensity of all of the other wonderful milestones we've had during this process in Weston.

And that thrill wouldn't be possible without the eager, brave, and thoughtful audiences here in Weston. I'm so thrilled that the Playhouse staff decided to put a talkback after every performance.  We've been lucky enough to participate in all of them so far, and each has included a wonderful guest.  Ralph Remington, the Director of Theater and Musical Theater with the National Endowment for the Arts (which awarded Weston with a $60K grant for this production), was the opening night guest and discussed where Pregnancy Pact fits into the world of contemporary theater.  After the Saturday matinee Julia and my professors from the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Program, Sarah Schlesinger and Mel Marvin, were on hand to talk about the development process and what kind of life a new musical can have in store (and how wonderful it is that Weston is devoting itself to new work.)  Saturday night's guest was playwright Dana Yeaton, who is on the faculty at Middlebury.  This afternoon we were lucky enough to have five of Weston Playhouse's student ambassadors - area high school students who develop a relationship with the Playhouse over the course of the season - and a local high school guidance counselor on hand to discuss the show's real-life implications.

The talkbacks themselves have been rich with the personal stories and honest reactions of audience members - from an obstetrics nurse turned midwife to social workers and mental health experts and teachers and, of course, parents.  Everyone agrees that the subject of the show is not the most comfortable to watch or think about (and we certainly knew that as we wrote it - it's one of the things that attracted us to it.)  But we've had healthy groups of 30-40 people staying for the talkbacks who really want to discuss the issues the show raises.  Apart from compliments and questions about the writing process, the talkbacks have been incredibly personal.  The parents in the audience have wondered what they can do to be better parents.  The community members in the audience have wondered how they can continue to discuss what's raised in the show.  People have shared their own hardships and experiences and teen parents and parents of teen parents.  And while people might wish that we could tie the story up a little more tidily in the end, so many have recognized that this is a story that both sings and doesn't end easily or definitively.  They've recognized that this isn't a show that's just about teen pregnancy - this is about the adolescent feelings of loneliness and the need for love, family and identity.  Yes, our story follows girls who take those feelings and translate them into extreme actions, but having an audience that allows themselves to see past the salaciousness and into the emotions of these characters has let us feel like we're doing something right.

And just when we hit the heights - it's time to leave.  I've got to head back to my day job this week, though I'm counting the hours until I can come back for the closing performance on Saturday, September 8 at 7:30pm.  And I've asked the cast to send me reports for the blog all week - especially after Friday morning's student matinee performance.

You've got 5 more chances to see the show.  It's really good, but I know I'm biased.  Come see for yourself!

A few production photos...

On the phone
In the bathroom. 
"All of Us"
At the movies
"Something To Prove (That We're In Love)"
"This Is It"
"Hummingbird Heart"

"Let Me In"
End of Act I
"Nobody Knows"
"Leave Me Behind"
"Let Me"
"I Got This Instead"
Everybody in the pact!

Knockin' Up the Radio

Julia and I had two radio interviews in the days leading up to opening night.

First, we spoke with Susan Keese of Vermont Public Radio (you can listen here.)  In addition to some interview clips with Julia and me, you can hear a little bit of the script along with excerpts of Margo singing "Hummingbird Heart" and Caitlin singing "Love Me Better."

We also had a live interview on Friday with Edgar B. Herwick III on Boston's public radio, WGBH.  Live radio was new for us...  and you can listen to that interview here!

Friday, August 31, 2012

So now, it's like, this is it.

It's opening night!  After a quick transition-through of the show this afternoon (with things we learned during our preview), we are ready for our first official performance.

I am officially excited (and still officially exhausted.)  From here on out I get to sit back and enjoy...

Well, that and participate in the talkbacks that are held after every show...  Tonight's special guest is Ralph Remington, the Director of Theater for the National Endowment for the Arts.  We're looking forward to discussing the show with him and with the audience after the performance.

To everyone involved:

Break water!

A sneak peak...

Playbill.com published a few of our production photos this afternoon.  Take a look at the show here.  (More photos will follow soon!)