Saturday, March 28, 2015

Joined in Might

Tonight is closing night. It has been nearly 3 months of hard hard work and it's soon to be over. This show was my return to theatre after a long hiatus, and I am SO happy I decided to get back out there. This cast is one of those casts that feel like family.

The first two months of rehearsals were tough and everyone seemed to leave as soon as we were finished, and I did not start truly developing relationships until hell week, so essentially in 4 weeks, I have bonded deeply with these people. I absolutely love when casts jive in such a way, the last show that resembled this cast was Wild Party. I feel it's because we were all so intimate with each other onstage and the show was hard so we had to be there for one another.

I am so proud of this show, my co- workers just kept giggling over lunch the other day reminiscing about all the quirks of the opera; and I could not help but smile. My one fellow art teacher said, " the guests were trashy, you guys in the studio audience were just as trashy, and then here we were as the actual audience watching it. We are all the same." She absolutely loved the show and I feel the people like her were the ones that needed to see it. 

Not everyone has been entertained by this show, or moved, or changed; but at least they came to see a show that is bold, fearless, and quite sweet ( even though I'm pretty sure every review had the word "blasphemous" in it). I will genuinely miss the "slut junky," "crack whore," "strip slut," "hillbilly," "loser," and the "chick with a dick." I will say that my everyday vocabulary has been changed due to my time with this opera, I am definitely sneaking the word "cunt" in much more than I used to.

Back to this extraordinary group of people, you all are amazing and I adore when shows bring us together in such a positive way, I mean I am so lucky to be in the girls dressing room every night. My fellow studio audience member Rey posted the sweetest thing on Facebook the other day of how protective we are of one another, and it was such a perfect observation. We, indeed, are taking care of ourselves and each other. 

Thank you, Jerry Springer.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Since the Dawn of Time

Lately, I have been realizing that the only way for people to see my artistic ideas is to actually produce them! The idea for this artwork came to me while rehearsing and I wasn't going to do anything with it, but my boyfriend encouraged me so I went for it. This artwork will be in the lobby right before entering the theatre. Below is my artist statement.

Michelle Sauer
Since the Dawn of Time, 2015
India Ink on papyrus
12 ½ x 17 ¼

Lately, I have become increasingly intrigued with the concept of time and recurring themes.  Patterns of power, destruction, class, and love have been around for centuries, always repeating themselves. The more I am exposed to current realities, the more of a connection I see between our current problems to those of the past.

This artwork was inspired by my involvement in Jerry Springer the Opera by Richard Thomas with New Line Theatre. A phrase, a line, or a lyric can mean so much to one person, for reasons unbeknownst to the everyman. We all connect with something and I wanted to bring our cast together by assembling moments of the opera that stick out to them as individuals. I asked my fellow actors to write down their favorite lyric from the show and I replicated their handwriting with India ink onto papyrus paper. The variety of line is unique to each individual involved in the show and lends itself perfectly to visual interest.

These lyrics represent not only something personal to the actors involved, but they unite the way we treat each other to the ways we have always treated each other. Difference in language and tone of course applies, but the theme is forever present. As we look to the future, I must ask: Can all people unite through love?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Those Assholes Are My Audience

Last night was our first Sitzprobe. I am so impressed with musicians and their ability to play so well so quickly. Having a band makes a world of difference in this show. Many of the notes we were struggling with are much easier to hear with more instruments contributing to the sound, and a lot of the music is more fun; Clancy has some really cool beats on the drum that truly enhance the excitement of the first act. I can’t wait to start running this show with the band, lights, and costumes! I never feel like I can truly become a part of the world until all of these art forms collide.

What I love about the theatre is it’s a melting pot for every art form. To put on a show, you need actors capturing a character, musicians playing proper tone and sound, singers finding feeling though lyrics, costume designers choosing fit and color to best represent the character and the story, lighting designers seizing a mood, and set designers bringing the world to life through sculpture, building, and painting. Being primarily a visual artist, I appreciate all of these coming together. It’s like an art orgasm, especially when all of these things come together well.

This show has been a roller-coaster of emotions; the cast is working so hard to understand the music, the choreography, and especially the world we are portraying. Jerry Springer is often laughed off as a big joke, and honestly I never took any of it seriously. I found it incredibly embarrassing for those people that choose to reveal their stories, however true they may be.  So the big question here is: How can I legitimize these people in order to give root to the story we are telling?

Yes, I am merely in the studio audience, I am never in the spotlight with a beautiful solo, but what would the Jerry Springer Show be without his audience?  We coined the “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry,” that everyone is accustomed to when thinking of the show. We are the constant in every episode, we are the energy, we are a panel of judges, criticizing and appraising the guests. It gets me thinking about who they are as individuals. Why did these people come to the show? Who did they come with? What are they hoping to see? Is it an attempt to relate to someone onstage? Is it an endeavor to feel good about their personal struggles?  Or are they there merely for entertainment?

Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things, I’m not sure. But I will say that this show has really made me think about types of people I would normally dismiss as scum (That may be harsh), and wondering about their lifestyles, their opportunities (or lack thereof), their character and merit…..I’ll leave it at that.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Now I Want To Find My Dreams Again

We are about to start rehearsals in the theatre and the reality that we need to perform this in front of an actual audience is sinking in. I must say, this is the first show where I feel I still need the script in my hands. Usually I am pretty good about remembering lines and blocking, but there are so many one liners from the studio audience that it's difficult to keep them straight, not to mention I completely forget how long to hold a lot of the notes.

I am thinking about my character and who she is. I am basing her off of a co-worker back in my younger days. This girl was beautiful, strong, and an excellent leader. She was a bit exotic with an unique likability, and trust me, you would not want to get on her bad side. Her personal choices did not reflect the amazing person she truly was. She was with a man who did not respect her, they lived in questionable cleanliness, she surrounded herself with  individuals who used drugs to make their way through their chosen existence and who did not care to educate or better themselves in any capacity. It was frustrating to hear her talk about the world she had made and even the world that brought her to her current place in life. She suffered from panic attacks that could be triggered at any moment and she shared secrets with me that would shock a lot of people. However, she had great support from us co-workers and we were not afraid to tell her that she was better. I like to think that we created a support for each other during this time and we all turned out to be better people because of it.

Scott told us that we need to connect with one of the stories that is presented on stage with the Jerry Springer guests. Based upon this character I am developing, and the reality I am drawing from, I really think Shawntel and Chucky's story resonates. Chucky is a man that does not respect his woman, he demeans her, leaves her alone at night, and yet she is expected to be there waiting to care for his needs. Shawntel sings about looking out for other people for her whole life and never really focusing on herself. This is oddly close to the story of this girl I am talking about.

Now that years have passed, this girl has since moved back home and started a healthy marriage with a beautiful family. I feel she has found "her dreams again." Luckily she is a success story of what a good heart can bring to deserving people.

I am choosing to play this character who is starting to question her place in life with the people she has chosen to surround herself with. This character is tough, feminine, a bit immature, and who is somewhat ignorant to her own self worth. She thinks she is happy but Shawntel's song is going to make her truly contemplate her situation. What I am struggling with is that I am this character for Act One and then I am a nurse for the entire rest of the show. I know it's just new clothing but when we sing to Jerry at the end, I wish I could be transformed back into this girl who needs the guidance. I want her to be the one who learns the lesson at the end; that's what will bring meaning for me.

Alas, make it work.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Just Wanna Dance

Last week we were taught the choreography for our little show by the ever so talented Robin Berger at her Leaping Lizards Studio. I love her ideas, she always is right on point with the feel of the show, and it always has a quirkiness about it, that I think reflect her personality. I really look forward to dance rehearsals because I am guaranteed a good time.

I do not consider myself a dancer by any means, I've gone to auditions with real Their hair is always curled to perfection, their bodies are insane, and they pick up hard steps like it's nothing. I secretly want to be all of them. This is why New Line fits me, Robin keeps the steps manageable but it always is visually compelling. I consider myself a person that can pick up moves quickly within the realms of my capabilities. I have been taking dance on and off since I was 14, but since going back to school and getting the new job, I pretty much stopped doing everything. After Sunday's dance rehearsal, I realize I need to get back into class.

Around 1998 Cats-The Musical came out onto video. I watched that thing so many times that I learned pretty much all the choreography. I was stunned that dancers could move their bodies in such ways, I never knew a person could do a high kick and hit their face! So I made that a goal of mine and I got there. There was a moment when my kicks were outstanding, but I can't really say that anymore now that I'm 30. I used to dance to that video not only to get exercise but to train myself. I was sure that starting dance at 14 years old was ridiculous; girls start dance when they're 3 and that's the only way a person can be great. WRONG! I learned how to move because of Cats, which sounds crazy.

Robin asked if I would be dance captain and I accepted. There are only 2 songs we dance in for this show, so it's not that bad. It's no Wild Party! (which I absolutely loved). I have been practicing in my basement so I know the steps and I am just having so much fun with it! I know anyone that comes to see this show will be leaving in good spirits from our final musical dance number. The musicality of the piece is infectious and I'm pretty sure people will be singing it as they leave the theatre.

In the show, the character Shawntel sings: "I'm tired of laughing, I'm tired of crying, I'm tired of failing and I'm tired of all this tryin'. I wanna do some living, 'cuz I've done enough dying. I just wanna dance. I just wanna fucking dance."

I love these lyrics. They really make you feel for her character and the choices she's making. But I think these lyrics reflect what all art (visual, dance, theatre, design) does to artists and willing viewers. It can take you somewhere else that allows escape, allows perspective, and allows you to be someone free.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What the fuck? What the fuck?

My last show was in 2011. I took a break from theatre to get my Masters and a big girl job. I am now an elementary art teacher, pretty much doing what I love every day. Therefore, I haven't sang or read music since my last show, and I just recently got back onstage with Theatre Lab's 24/7 Festival (which was terrifying). I haven't even thought about much theatre during my time off. This summer I realized I was ready to get back in the saddle, and I chose Jerry Springer the Opera to be my first show back. What the fuck was I thinking?

The amount of music is ridiculous, the sopranos hardly ever sing on the staff, and the studio audience in is  e.v.e.r.y. scene.

First of all, I feel so much more competent with my singing in the operatic style. New Line theatre does a lot of rock musicals, and I am a fan of the material, however I just am not that kind of singer. I have always felt more comfortable with the classical material and even the older musicals. So I heard the term, "opera" and I was intrigued. I looked up clips on youtube and found myself giggling at the absurdity of the show. I watched until Tremont appeared and knew I had to be a part of it. Luckily, I was cast!

Secondly, New Line has always been a risk taker in the shows it picks to bring to St. Louis. No other company would ever do this show. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced in the theatre as a viewer. How lucky am I to be a part of something so different, so in your face, not to mention hilarious? We all remember the height of The Jerry Springer Show. Some of us loved mocking it, some of us loved hating it, some of us simply loved it, and some merely pushed it off as ridiculous. Yet everyone knew about it. It was huge. So let's make some art that's trying to make sense of it.

Lastly, the material is good. Yes it is offensive; full of every single foul word one can think of, and yes it ludicrous and laughable, but so was the Jerry Springer Show. I personally can't get through Montel's Diaper number without giggling because I am a child and find the word "poop" hilarious.  But when I listened to the full recording, I was emotional by the end of it. Jerry goes deeper than I thought his character would, the audience and guests reveal their reliance on him as a guiding light. It left me truly contemplating the show, our society, and how people choose to live their lives. And that's what I look for in art.

That's what the fuck I was thinking.