Sunday, September 28, 2014

This is the Moment/Week!

We are in the throes of tech/hell week currently; cue-2-cue rehearsal yesterday and sitzprobe today.  More often than not I loathe these rehearsals.  They tend to be tedious, and I always get antsy since there is so much stopping and starting.  However, I must say that I always enjoy New Line tech weekends.  Let's break this down real quick:
  • Cue-2-Cue: 
    • Started at 1ish in the afternoon; finished around 6:30.  
    • That 5.5 hours included 
      • excessive gunfights, 
      • one 10 minute break for stretching/use of facilities
      • over 200 light cues.
      • random Charlestoning    
  • Sitzprobe: 
    • Actors required to arrive no later than 12:30, with intent to start at 1.  I wasn't looking at my clock, but I do believe we started on time.   
    • Finished in probably 2.5-3 hours, which is a beautiful thing
    • 16 body microphones, with occasional feedback
    • 7 musicians that sounded amazing (especially the reeds and guitars)
    • The most eclectic choreography and staging you are apt to see anywhere
New Line tech weekends seldom seem like work.  Instead, I find myself seeing the show through a brand new set of eyes (especially with how the lights illuminate this set, it's almost surreal).  Plus, THE NEW LINE BAND KICKS ASS!  Bonnie & Clyde is my fourth show with New Line, and the band always varies from show to show depending on what is required by the score.  Nevertheless, all 7 pieces were on point today.  Let's break down the band too!
  • Jeffrey Carter, Music Director and First Keyboard
  • Sue Goldford, Second Keyboard
  • D. Mike Bauer, Guitars (fun fact: the man loves Little Shop of Horrors)
  • Andrew Gurney, Bass
  • Nikki Glenn, Violin (fun fact: has performed on stage with New Line as well)
  • Robert Vinson, Reeds (fun fact: has played three of my four shows: Evita, Cry-Baby, and B&C)
  • Clarence Newell, Percussion
We preview on Thursday, and Opening Night Party on Friday. For more information, visit

StrawPun Out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dying Ain't So Bad

Bonnie and Clyde are the Tinker Bell and Peter Pan of Crime

Sounds crazy, no?  But here, in our little village of West Dallas.....
Sorry, wrong show (though Stages St. Louis is doing Fiddler on the Roof right now)

We attempted our first full run-thru the other night, and though there is still room for improvement, no one died that wasn't supposed to.  Therefore, it was a success.  Plus, I didn't hurt myself, which I always consider a plus.

Anyway, back to my initial statement: I was sitting in the audience during the beginning of Act 1, and for the first time I just watched Larissa and Matt do their meeting scenes.  They have been doing wonderfully, but it was a different show than what I had been listening to for the past month.  Without scripts in their hands, they had to rely on each other more.  There were some great moments between them, and a remarkable childishness seemed to evolve.  You could see in his eyes just how much she mattered to him, and it was apparent just how much she wanted his approval during her poem.  It was similar to watching two kids meeting on a playground and innocently flirting.

Now, I'm not saying that Bonnie and Clyde were innocent by any means, but they were incredibly young; Clyde was twenty-four and Bonnie was twenty-three when they were gunned down.  They had no problem laughing in the face of adult society.  They even had their own group of "lost boys", fellow criminals aiding the fearless couple in crime sprees.

I realize this entire idea may be far-fetched, and I could potentially be grasping for connections, but after reading about Bonnie and Clyde, you get under the impression that these two were ready to die at any time.  Hell, Bonnie has a song called "Dying Ain't So Bad" in the show where she remarks that the only problem she would have with dying is if Clyde died before her; she would rather go first so that she wouldn't have to live without him.

In Peter Pan, when facing imminent death at the hands of Captain Jas. Hook, Peter spits in his face "To die would be an awfully big adventure."  Pan is not afraid to die.  To him, death is just the next great thing that he can conquer.  He has no true sense of right or wrong, and was prone to killing off the Lost Boys whenever he felt that they had grown too old.

In other news, we open in two weeks.  The show is looking good, but I'm so glad that we have several more run-thru rehearsals.  I am facing my eternal problem: not being big enough.  I always think I'm making a strong difference between the characters I play, but I never make the differences big enough.  I am prone to feeling awkward about going over the top (BAD ACTOR!).  Oh well, it just means I have to lose myself in the show a bit more.

Two weeks to go!  Make sure to check out Bonnie & Clyde at New Line Theatre!

StrawPun Out

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Research Interrupted

Time to put on my Blogging Hat again
Me in my blogging hat

I have encountered an issue: I am doing a disservice to the show with all of my research.  As I mentioned previously, I am playing Deputy Bud Russel in Bonnie and Clyde.  However, the more time I spend reading about him and trying to find out what his interactions with Clyde were like, the more I question his part in the show.  Deputy Bud is no longer Bud Russel; instead, he's a stand-in for any and all officers the Barrow Gang dealt with.  I'm not one cop; I'm every cop.  It's kind of a blow to the ego knowing you're a real person but not being able to use any of that person's story to develop the character. 

In other news, I reserved several books and movies from the library just to get an understanding of why Bonnie and Clyde were so revered.  The first book has proven to be quite the challenge: "My Life with Bonnie & Clyde" by Blanche Caldwell Barrow.  For those that are unaware of who this woman is, Blanche is Clyde's sister-in-law.  Married to his elder brother Marvin "Buck" Barrow, Blanche stood by her husband's side and joined the Barrow Gang for a short time.  While she outlived the rest of the gang, the book primarily concerns her time with them.  Potentially a perfect insight to their world, right?  I would tend to agree, if I could make it past the 10th page.  I've been trying to read the book for a week, and I still haven't made it through the Editor's Preface.  However, at the end of the book, the editor has put together a remarkable amount of data concerning the Barrow Gang, including an appendix of every victim that died at their hands.  According to the information presented in the appendix, neither Blanche nor Bonnie killed anyone, which strikes me as odd.  My goal is to at least finish the first chapter by Wednesday.  Wish me luck.

Sadly, the first movie I watched did not seem to be a good source for information.  A&E's mini-series "Bonnie & Clyde" premiered some time in the past year, and many thought it would be a success.  While I will admit I enjoyed it, and there were some nice parallels between the movie and the musical, it made me angry with its depiction of the titular duo.  Emile Hirsch was wonderful as Clyde, and there was a lot of focus on his relationship with brother Buck and parents Henry and Cumie Barrow.  It deeply humanized him, which I thought was nice.  There was still plenty of hero worship about Capone and all, but more of the focus was just trying to escape the life he was leading.  Holliday Grainger was a fantastic Bonnie, as well.  To me, she took the title in hand and ran with it; what I mean by this is she relished in being the center of attention, finally becoming the "It Girl" that she had always dreamed of.  Plus, her and Hirsch had remarkable chemistry, and it was a joy to watch them together.

Other good things: William Hurt as Texas Ranger Frank Hamer.  He was absolutely relentless in his pursuit of the two, and it was a nice change from Hamer in the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway film. Also, Sarah Hyland was an oddly nice Blanche.  It was apparent she was there for Buck, not necessarily for the glamour and glory.

Now, the things that were bad/strange:
  1. Clyde has ESP, which saves them on several occasions from Hamer's forces
  2. Bonnie is depicted as the driving force of all the crimes, almost as if she were playing Clyde for the sap.
  3. Bonnie kills several people, with no showing of remorse.  It almost sickened me at times. 
  4. The Big One: Clyde sets up the ambush that slaughters Bonnie and himself.  
The last one was where I just got angry.  I could put up with the ESP and Bonnie being in control.  But, to me, there is no way that Clyde would set up his own demise.  They honestly could've died at any time, and in the musical, Bonnie acknowledges the looming threat of death when she sings "Dying Ain't So Bad."  She isn't too fearful of death, as long as she and Clyde are still together.  It's a beautiful sentiment, and I truly believe that is why their spree lasted as long as it did: they weren't afraid die knowing that they truly lived.  The movie stomps on this, and kicks it in the garbage.

In conclusion....I still may buy this movie, even though it made me angry.  My next movie should be better: a pair of History Channel documentaries examining the criminals AND the law men who chased them down.  This may end up helping me with Deputy Bud, and what not.

StrawPun Out

PS: I found the original demo recording of Bonnie and Clyde, before it even played La Jolla.  Since it's a Frank Wildhorn musical, most of Bonnie's stuff is sung by Linda Eder.  Thankfully, Brandi Burkhardt sang "Short-Order World", an interesting up-tempo cut from the show.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Catching Everyone Up/Research

Time to give this blogging thing another shot, since I only seem to do it when I'm in a New Line show (otherwise my life isn't so eventful)

Rehearsals started last week for my newest theatrical endeavor, Bonnie & Clyde the Musical at New Line.  Much like my past three New Line shows, I will be portraying multiple characters in the ensemble*, and, much like Bukowsical, I'll be portraying real characters again.  Personally, I find this quite challenging, and I relish in it.  It just means I get to spend time in the library doing research, trying to find out as much as I can about the gentlemen I am depicting.  I really haven't had a big chance to do research with New Line, but that, of course, is my own fault.  I was too nervous I'd mess something up during Evita, Cry-Baby never really seemed right for proper research (The Whiffles were living in this musical comedy world, so I had issues gauging just how grounded I could be without sacrificing that John Waters vibe), and I spent most of Bukowsical reading all of Bukowski's poetry novels and Burrough's works just so I could make sense of whatever we were putting on that stage.

However, this show is going to be another Women of Lockerbie for me.  For my (few) readers that may not understand the reference, I had the privilege (it really was) to appear in The Women of Lockerbie this past February.  The play concerns the survivors and parents of those that passed during the Pan Am 103 bombing from 1988.  I spent the entire month of January enmeshed in accident reports, interview footage, documentaries, and articles about the bombing itself and about dealing with loss and grief of a loved one.  It was difficult for me to break out of the funk that the show put me in every night; it was such a heavy subject matter, and I essentially was on stage the entire show.

I'm prepared to enter that realm again with Bonnie & Clyde, and I've already immersed myself in research.  I spend the majority of the show as Deputy Bud Russell.  While Bud Russell was a real lawman during the 30's and had several run-ins with Clyde, I am 99.9% sure that the writers only used his name for the show.  There are no real similarities between "Uncle" Bud Russell and Deputy Bud Russell besides name.  "Uncle" Bud Russell (the person) was the chief transit officer for the Texas State Prison System, meaning he spent his entire career delivering 115,000 men and women to serve their sentences in his "One-Way Wagon."
Uncle Bud with his "One-Way Wagon"
 The "One-Way Wagon" is what I find most interesting about this man.  Bud made it himself, welding the sides up with grating and adding an extremely thick door to the back with two solid locks.  Riding in the back of this had to be a nightmare during the bright summer days in Texas: almost no protection from the elements, and all the prisoners were changed to one another at the neck.  It had to be a nightmare back then.

Best part? When Clyde Barrow was arrested in 1930, he wrote several letters to Bonnie Parker admitting his apprehension of ever meeting Bud Russell.  That is how feared the man was.  Bud also proved to outlive both Bonnie and Clyde; Bud didn't pass away until February 2, 1955.
Uncle Bud's Obituary
I'm still in the process of watching some History Channel documentaries and reading several books about Bonnie and Clyde, including Blanch Barrow's memoir of her years with the Barrow Gang.  More information in the future, and have a good night.


*I never really thought about it, but every show I've done has had me playing several different parts
  1. Evita: Audience Member, Eva's Brother, Resident of Buenos Aires, Military Official, Secret Police Officer
  2. Cry-Baby: Bradley (Whiffle), Terrence (Drape), Hugh (Prisoner)
  3. Bukowsical: William S. Burroughs, A Lawyer, Swifty Lazar, Norman Mailer, Sean Penn
  4. Bonnie & Clyde: Deputy Bud Russell, Archie (A Customer)