Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Season of Stories

To be honest, it's a pretty depressing day here at Two River Theater. After several weeks of performances, our production of Camelot ended its run last night. And, as we usually are when the set is being demolished, the stage is no longer filled with music, and the dressing rooms are again bare, we're all a little glum.

Of course, this is the nature of theater; part of the magic of these separate elements coming together to make a show is knowing that it's live, now, and only for a short time (unless your show is The Phantom of the Opera, of course.) And what you have are the memories of the piece, yours to keep forever, never to be experienced in quite the same way.

And of course, you have the story.

David Lee, the brilliant director and adapter of our Camelot, chose to change the framework of the show a bit; a troupe of players comes together to tell the legendary story of King Arthur, who tried to create a world in which Knights fought for good and equality reigned. At the end of the play, when Arthur meets Tom, a boy who has come to fight for Camelot based only on the stories he's heard, Arthur realizes that even if Camelot itself fell apart, the fact that it will live on in legend means that he has won. David chose to add a coda that pointed out the story's lineage, making Tom grow into Sir Thomas Malory, the author of 'Le Morte D'Arthur'. From there, the players track the story from him to the storytellers who told versions of the story throughout the ages, until it came to Lerner and Loewe, who wrote the show you had seen performed. By adding this coda, David was pointing out that you, as an audience member, were now part of a line of storytellers who stretched out over centuries, telling a story that illuminates crucial elements, both good and bad, of the human experience. Or, as the lyrics say:

Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment 
That was known as Camelot.  

The age of Camelot is gone, even our Camelot is gone now, but the story will not be forgotten.

But it's not only ancient legends that get passed down through the generations. As often as I heard people exclaiming their love for the stories in Camelot, I've heard people celebrating their love of the stories at the heart of our next production: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, an adaptation (with charming puppets, by the Mermaid theater of Nova Scotia) of the beloved Eric Carle books. Written in only 1969, Caterpillar has only had one or two generations to enchant, as opposed to the thousands stretching back who have been hearing the tales of the round table. And yet, this story has already become firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of children who have grown up hearing of the hungry Caterpillar's adventures, and in those of the parents who have shared them. Although the stories of chivalry and honor, of knightly quests and fair maidens, are very different from those of insects questing for their own version of the holy grail (or, wait, perhaps they're not so different after all...), there is something about these stories that sticks, that becomes part of a heritage of storytelling, passed on and shared.

Playwright Tanya Saracho and director Jerry Ruiz read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' (in two languages!) to the children of the Monmouth Day Care Center, as part of our Nosotros program.

As we approach the holiday season, doubtless you will be a part of your own storytelling traditions. Perhaps it's the annual screening of It's A Wonderful Life that your family watches every Christmas day, or the yearly reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to the kids who are too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve. Perhaps it's the telling of the miraculous eight days of oil of the first Hanukkah, or the discussion of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Or maybe it's none of these at all. Maybe for your family it's the retelling of that time your grandfather first spied your grandmother across a high school dance hall, then told his friend she was the girl he was going to marry. Or the time your aunt put salt instead of sugar in the apple pie and everyone was too polite to say anything. Maybe it's happy memories of the good year gone by, or painful ones about hard times that will hopefully pass. Maybe it's a story you don't share with anyone, but keep tucked away in your own heart, just for you.

We here at the theater wish you all a very happy holiday season. But most of all, we wish you stories. Hopefully, some of them have come from us, and we promise that we have many more to share with you in the months and years to come. But as you gather with your loved ones over meals and around fires in the weeks to come, we hope that you tell stories, whether they are about ancient kings or peckish bugs or anything that thrills and delights, or even just makes you feel, a little more, what it is to be human.

Happy holidays.

The next generation of storyteller (in this case, Carter Aaron Mandel, grandson of Two River subscriber Linda Stamato), hard at work. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Planning a Season

Hello from Summer!

Well that happened quickly, didn't it? It feels like yesterday that I was scraping ice off my car windshield for the umpteenth time and wondering to myself if summer was ever going to arrive. But here we are, in the blissful heat, and now it's winter that seems very far away.

When you work in a theater, your seasons become very dominated by, well, your season. For those who might not know, that's what we call the group of plays and musicals we choose for our year, and most theater seasons run from September to June or thereabouts, (every theater is a little different, though, and there are theaters whose seasons run exclusively in the summer). Since I came to Two River Theater last August, I had no hand in planning the 2013-14 season, which had been chosen the previous spring (although I don't think I would have chosen anything differently - I loved all of the plays we did last season). But as my job is largely about choosing plays to develop, I've been a part of choosing the 2014-15 season, which will start up in September. And I am so very excited about it.

Choosing a season for your theater is complicated. In its simplest terms, when you're choosing a season you want to have a selection of plays (for us, 6-8) that provide a variety of styles and themes, so that you don't have, say, eight farces in a row one year and nothing but existentialist tragedies the next, or a solid season of plays about teenage boys or fin de siecle. Just as when you're choosing a menu for a great meal, you want a mix of flavors that provide variety and yet live together in the same delicious world. And because most everyone who works in theater does so because they deeply love theater, everyone involved in the process is bringing their own tastes and favorites to the table.

But of course, plays aren't nearly as simple as salads or a nice dessert. Plays are meals unto themselves, entire experiences, sometimes spanning lifetimes or centuries, in a few hours. And they bring with them their own historical context, plus a host of other logistical issues, like cast size, the complexity of their production requirements, and whether it's something that's widely performed (which might be a problem, if there's been several different productions in your area already recently). You have to plan plays that fit within your theater space and budget size (as much as we would love to do Ben-Hur Live: The Stadium Spectacular*), and remember the tastes of your audiences (while still providing work that might expand their tastes and bring them something new). And as a theater, you probably have commissioned works and works-in-development that are ready for a spot in the season. Plus relationships with theater artists you love and respect, who often have their own wish list projects.

So there's a lot to consider, and putting it all together is a fun, fascinating, sometimes slightly heartbreaking (it sucks when you have two projects you really love, but are too similar to put in the same year) process, which takes weeks and often involves a lot of shifting. But we have our season now, and it is a doozy. To carry on my already-tortured metaphor about a season being a meal, our 2014/15 season would get three Michelin stars. Here's just a little sampling of each show (go HERE for a fuller description of each, plus info on their stellar creative teams):

1. School for Wives
       Molière. You've probably at least heard his name, but have you actually seen one of his plays? Molière is one of the all-time funniest writers, and his plays, all in verse (verse translated from French verse!) are as delightful today as they were in 1600s Paris. This play is no exception, and makes some startling observations about romance, men, and women that feel true today.

2. Camelot
       Oh my god, this score. Pretty much the only thing that could possibly improve on the stories of King Arthur is having the characters sing exquisite songs by Lerner and Loewe, and in Camelot, they do. I'm not usually involved in casting at the theater, but I've informed my boss that I will be present at the auditions for Lancelot, purely because I can't think of a better way to spend a day than having handsome talented men sing "If Ever I Would Leave You" at me. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get thee to YouTube, and ready yourself for some heart-melting high notes in the fall.

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
        This one's technically for kids, but by all accounts this production, featuring puppets as the characters from the beloved children's book, is utterly delightful. 31 still counts as a kid in some cultures, right?

4. Absurd Person Singular
        If you love dark humor, British humor, or things that are very, very funny in general, this play is for you. Alan Ayckbourn is a master of comedy, a few centuries and across the channel from our season's other comedy master, Molière. The producer of the original 1972 production hired a statistician to count the number of laughs in each act, and they calculated that there were 504 individual laughs in the entire show, including 125 Belly Laughs. I haven't checked the math, but that feels entirely accurate to me.

5. Guadalupe in the Guest Room
        John Dias (our Artistic Director) and I went to a reading of this play at the Lark in NYC, and we both fell in love with it. Written by the young playwright Tony Meneses, it's exquisitely beautiful, with a blend of emotional honesty, melancholy, and hope that we have come to recognize as a hallmark of Tony's work. We adore Tony's work and this play, and we couldn't be prouder to be giving it its world premiere.

6. Your Blues Ain't Sweet Like Mine
        I was a big fan of Ruben Santiago-Hudson as an actor before I came to Two River, and I was so excited to learn that he has worked with the theater many times as a director. This play is another world premiere, and a play we commissioned Ruben to write. And like everything Ruben does it is fiercely intelligent, deeply felt, and inspires questions that linger with you long after you leave the theater.

7. Be More Chill
       To put it simply, Be More Chill totally rocks. A new musical by composer Joe Iconis and playwright Joe Tracz, based on a YA novel by Ned Vizzini, it's already become one of my most favorite musicals - and that's saying a lot, since I LOVE musicals. But this show is the real deal, and captures life as a teenager in our increasingly technological world with wit, empathy, and songs that you will be playing on repeat for months (and I speak from experience).

*We don't actually want to do Ben-Hur Live: The Stadium Spectacular, much as we love chariot races.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ode for a Staff Meeting

One of my favorite things that happens here at the theater is our all-staff meetings. Around once a month, the entire staff will gather in our library, eat some food, drink some wine or coffee, and catch up. Since we're not a tiny place, this means that you get to check in with departments you don't often get to see - the administrative departments can hang out with the incredible people of the production team, who are usually out in the shop building the shows, etc. It allows the whole theater staff to connect, and even better, connect over wine and cheese. And since the theater happens to be staffed by an exceptional group of smart, fun, interesting people, hanging out with them hardly seems like work.

Each of these meetings is hosted by a separate department, who provides the food and leads the discussion. Sometimes this takes the form of a talk by an outside person about something the department feels would be useful (the operations department recently had a representative from an insurance company talk to us all), or the department themselves will give some insight into the projects they've been working on and what they do.

The most recent meeting fell to my department and I was tasked with the talk, as it were. Since we bear the heady title of Artistic, I felt some pressure to do something that was, well, artistic (or at least artistic-ish). But what? An interpretive dance representing my feelings about developing new work? A song about lobby displays? A terrible short play about all the good long plays we produce? None of these seemed right (correction: all of these seemed TERRIBLE). So I decided to try the muse for... a poem. Not a good poem, mind you, but a poem. So, without further ado, I present to you:

An Ode from Artistic 

Colleagues and coworkers gathered today, 
You might be thinking, “wait, is this a play?!” 
To which I say, nope, let me give reassurance
Acting we’re not, nor providing insurance. 
But for a staff meeting, you could do worse
Than to provide your precis, but do it in verse. 
So go get a sampling of nibbles and booze 
Find a nice seat, have nice schmooze, 
And I’ll tell you all what we do in Artistic
While somewhere the ghost of Shakespeare goes ballistic.

If you need someone whose domain is logistic
Don’t look to us - for our realm is artistic. 
Spreadsheets and numbers? Sure, we’ve got a few. 
But dealing in drama? That’s what we do. 
We pick out new plays with a promising mien 
Then give them some readings so they can be seen
Or if, in programming, ‘classic’s the word
We’ll set out some context so meanings aren’t blurred
We make sure our audiences are aware
Of the background and hist’ry of plays that we share 
We fully believe in promoting discussion 
Whether on Chile or use of percussion
If writers need space to commune with their muse
We’ll help them to write with some Navesink views. 
We take care of artists, and tend to their work
Though they’re sometimes peculiar, we love every quirk.
We’re proud to contribute, to play our own part: 
We help the people who help make the art.  
So come visit us in our orange domain 
And if you were wond’ring, we’ll gladly explain:
Here in Artistic, we love what we do
But equally, colleagues, we love all of you. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pinkolandia, Art, and Understanding

I first had the feeling in the middle of Sleep No More. There I was, inside the immersive theater piece that had taken New York by storm, wandering around a floor of a building made to look like an indoor hedge maze*, itchy in the mask that designated me as a member of the audience, and totally alone. I didn't see anyone else in view except for a taxidermied goat, and I started to feel a rising sense of disgruntled panic. I was SURE I was missing something, that the rest of the audience was probably somewhere else seeing something cooler, that there was something I wasn't understanding. And I hated the feeling. 

It's a very human desire to want to know and understand - so much so it's even in the name of our species (the 'sapiens' in Homo Sapiens means 'wise'). We like to know what's what, what the weather will be like next week, to plan ahead and be experts in our fields. We don't like to be lost, to feel like we don't have the necessary pieces of the puzzle. We don't like to be the one staring at the hedges and the goat, alone. 

And yet, knowledge comes from curiosity. To make a groundbreaking scientific discovery, thousands of seemingly dumb experiments must be run. And to open ourselves up to the full spectrum of feelings that we look to art to inspire, we must occasionally go outside of our comfort zone. In the epic battle between intellect and emotion, between head and gut, art often strikes squarely in between. And often, “getting” a piece of art is not about "understanding" it fully.  

Take Shakespeare, for example. We do a lot of Shakespeare here at the theater, and so we often run across people who will say "oh, I don't understand Shakespeare." But when asked about the story of the play they just saw, they often find that they got Shakespeare just fine. They might not have understood all of the words and references in Romeo and Juliet's first scene together, but they got what was happening loud and clear. And that's really all that's necessary; Shakespeare was a smart enough writer that all his many references and details could fill a page with footnotes (and indeed they often do), but what makes his work last until today is not the cleverness of his allusions but the quality of his storytelling. And if you don't understand all of the historical references or arcane vocabulary, you'll probably still have enough to be able to go with the story, if you travel along with it. Moreover, if you allow yourself to be carried along with the verse and the poetry of Shakespeare’s work, you’ll find that it can act much as music does, and bring you to an emotional level that text alone cannot reach.

The play we're currently producing at the theater, Pinkolandiais a play about a family in Wisconsin in the early 1980s, after they have fled their homeland, Chile, following Pinochet's brutal military coup. Because it portrays a Chilean family, the play has some dialogue in Spanish, especially in a scene where Beny (the older of the two children) is trying to talk to her parents in the kitchen. Because I don't speak Spanish, the first time I heard it I felt like I was back in that hedge maze, while the bilingual audience members were doubtless getting some key information I was missing. I felt that familiar tide of disgruntled panic, until I realized that even though I didn't understand what the characters of the parents were saying to each other, I was being given enough in the English dialogue to understand the gist of what was being said. And, moreover, listening to the Spanish words fly lightning-quick between these two characters, I felt both like a child who is straining to understand the adult world around her, and like a refugee dropped into a culture I didn't know. I felt, in short, like the characters in the play. Even though I didn't fully understand the scene because of the Spanish, not understanding the scene helped me to better get the play. 

As for me, the goat, and the topiary? Well, after a minute I realized that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing in the piece – wandering through, and finding my own path. Nobody was having an identical experience to anyone else in the piece, we were all inevitably missing something, and that was partly the point. Moreover, I realized that though I didn’t love the feeling of being lost and missing out, the piece was making me feel something deeply. And in that moment, I got it. Opening ourselves up art means allowing ourselves to experience a full spectrum of feelings. And sometimes, it is the intention of a piece to make us a little lost, to make us a little uncomfortable, in order to make us better understand.

*If you’re not familiar with it, Sleep No More is a dance/theater piece, a version of Macbeth that makes the audience catch snippets of the story while they choose their own path while wandering around a building that's been converted into a spooky hotel set, both indoors and out)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Little History, a Lot of Romance, and a Special Valentine's Day Offer!

When you think of America's history of Shakespearean performance, chances are you don't think of Monmouth County, NJ. The great actors and actresses who tread the boards reciting the Bard seem faraway both in place and time, right? But what if I told you that the tree that the great Shakespearean Genevieve Hamper is leaning against in this image, from a 1921 cover of Theatre Magazine, is in Atlantic Highlands?

As it turns out, many great Shakespeareans (as well as Vaudevillians and film stars) lived and worked on the Jersey Shore. And we are lucky enough to have had Karen L. Schnitzspahn, historian and author of 'Stars of the New Jersey Shore: A Theatrical History', share some of her personal collection of historical memorabilia with us, which is currently on display in a special exhibit in the lobby of Two River Theater. There, you'll see pictures of great actors like Edwin Booth, brother of the infamous assassin John Wilkes Booth and famed tragedian in his own right, who summered with many other artists in Long Branch. Or Maurice Barrymore, of the famous Barrymore clan, who rented a house in Little Silver with his glamorous wife, Georgie Drew. 

Memorabilia of Mary Anderson, 'The Fairy Princess'

Schnitzspahn has a wonderful collection, and it's a fascinating glimpse into a past that connects the history of our area with the history of American theater - you might just see some landmarks you recognize in the pictures from the past!

The exhibit will be in place through February 16th, this coming Sunday, when the run of 'As You Like It' ends. Come to see the show, which is just beautiful, and between the exhibit and the play you'll have an evening (or afternoon) full of a little history, a little celebration, and a whole lot of romance. 

In fact, since this coming Friday happens to be a certain holiday dedicated to a certain emotion that Shakespeare often delights in, you might want to consider a special offer we have, sure to please both Saint Valentine and your significant other. In a delightful Valentine's Day package, you'll get not only tickets to one of the most romantic plays of all time, but also a reception in the Victoria J. Mastrobuono library beforehand, including a special toast and dessert by the fire. And if you were worried that all the flowers would be sold already, we'll even provide you with a rose to give to your date - just click here for more details. 

And from all of us here at Two River Theater, Happy Valentine's Day! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Love and Romance, Shakespeare-style

We at the theater love love. And we love Shakespeare. And luckily, right now we are surrounded by both, as our next show is a gorgeous production of Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It. Love is so present in the play, it ends in (spoiler alert!) no fewer than four weddings - so many that the God of Marriage himself makes a special appearance.

Love for Shakespeare we've got amply covered. But Love in Shakespeare we thought we could use an outside expert for. And luckily, I happened to know of just the perfect one. And the thought of her coming to talk at the theater? What can I say, I love it.

Mary Bly is a professor of English Literature at Fordham University who specializes in early modern theater (with interests in things like boys' theater, queer theory, and puns), and her knowledge of Shakespeare is vast. But there's another reason that she's the perfect expert to call in if you want to learn about love: under her pen name, Eloisa James, she is the New York Times-bestselling author of over twenty romance novels.

Mary Bly/Eloisa James

I met Mary Bly when I was a reporter for the New York Times, covering a cocktail party thrown in conjunction with a romance novelist convention (yes, they exist!). I was supposed to talk to Dr. Bly for a quick interview, but she was so smart and fascinating that eventually I had to tear myself away to go talk to other people. She described the elements that she wove into her books (at that point, she had just written one that involved elements from T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' and the TV show 'House').  She talked about the challenges of writing stories whose endings always end happily. I left that conversation a total fan, and I knew that I would immediately have to read her books.

And if you haven't read any Eloisa James books, you have a great love affair in store. They are witty and smart, full of adventure and fun and romance and occasional heartbreak (but only for a little bit), populated by complex characters you miss when you finish reading. They are, in short, as delightful to read as Mary Bly is to listen to, and that is high praise.

But you don't need to take my word for it. On Sunday, February 9th (not long before Valentine's Day - see what we did there?), Mary Bly is going to come give a talk about love and Shakespeare after a performance of our 3:00 PM production of As You Like It (click this link to purchase tickets to the show - make sure to select the 3:00 PM performance on January 9th to attend the talk with Dr. Bly!) Whether you're a lover of Shakespeare, a lover of romance novels, or just a lover of love, I think you'll have a wonderful time.

Your new obsession. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Musical Holiday

“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…”

Admit it: as you read that, you were singing along.

It’s now officially winter, snowy and wonderful (well, sometimes), and that means that it’s time for the most musical of seasons. All those reindeer with red noses that need to be sung about, all those Christmas carols, all those bells jingling all the way: December is a time for song.

We at Two River Theater certainly agree. We love December not only for the snow and the sparkly decorations and the plentiful cookies that start showing up in our office kitchen (and eaten - everyone knows you need an extra layer of insulation against cold winters!), but because it’s time for our holiday musical. And this year, we have one that is utterly delightful.

The Wind in the Willows is a classic, beloved by generations now. The stories of Rat and his friend Mole, and the animals of their community by a river, are as heart-warming as a mug of cocoa on a cold day. The writing team of Mindi Dickstein (book), Sarah Schlesinger (lyrics), and Mike Reid (music) have brought those stories to life, telling the story of lonely Mole’s search for a home for Christmas and the friends along the way, and added songs that are beautiful and fun – although, warning, they will get stuck in your head for days, (and you MIGHT get weird looks on the subway when you realize that you were accidentally singing Mrs. Otter’s song about being born to fish out loud instead of in your head. Not that that’s happened to me or anything.)

We’ve got all the things that makes a show delightful – a great cast, some of the coolest costumes around, and a set that is rather magical (look closely at the decorations around the proscenium – some of them are made out of such humble materials as raffle tickets and potato chip bags!). We love watching the show, but what we love watching even more is the kids watching the show; seeing their faces light up as their favorite character appears, or hearing them laugh at a joke, or watching as they realize it’s magically snowing on the audience - well, it’s a Christmas gift to us, every time. 

But don't take our word for it - come see the show. And just as a little teaser (or shall we say stocking stuffer?), here's a preview video:

And from all of us here at Two River Theater to all of you, may your cars be full of vroom, your brambleberries be sweet, your poems be beautiful, and your homes be warm and full of friends.* Happy Holidays. 

*this will all make more sense after you've seen the show. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's Happening, People. BOOK CLUB.

All of my life, I have been someone who loves to disappear into a story. Plays, musicals, books, TV shows, movies - I can spend hours enveloped in the world of a good story being told to me (sometimes to my detriment; I got one of the worst sunburns of my life when I was reading the final Harry Potter book - I got so carried away I didn't realize I was frying). But what I love almost as much as getting swept away in a piece of art is coming back and connecting with the other people who have taken the same journey. The joy of loving a story is doubled by sharing it with other people who love it, and learning more about it from their own perspectives. What's a better catalyst for a good conversation than a good piece of art?

Thus, one of the things I have always wanted to be a part of (and oddly never have been in) is a book club. The idea of good art combined with good company and good discussion is just a triple win, if you ask me. When I came to the theater, I realized that there was something else that I had overlooked before - what if there was a book club that didn't only discuss books, but discussed them in combination with the theater happening at Two River? Discussing books and plays that have connections to each other might illuminate facets of each previously unseen.

For example, during On Borrowed Time I was struck by how interesting the portrayal of death was in the play. Mr. Brink was not sinister or scary like the traditional scythe-wielding image, but rather (as embodied by the wonderful Tom Nelis) warm and wise and a little bit melancholy. It reminded me of the truly marvelous book The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, about a German girl during the Holocaust, which has a similar portrayal of Death. How interesting that both of these works of art, written at very different times about very different eras and places, would share this unusual portrayal. What does it mean about their respective times? About the fears and feelings of their creators, and expected audiences? Does it change things if On Borrowed Time was intended for adults, knowing they are facing the oncoming specter of World War II, while The Book Thief is classified as a young adult book? Is there something about our current culture that would trigger the desire for Death to be seen as a benevolent figure instead of a terrifying one, despite the fact that our political climate is very different from pre-WWII America?

This is a discussion I want to have. And specifically, it's a discussion I want to have with Two River Theater audiences, who have proven themselves at talkbalks to be smart, receptive people with fascinating insights to share.

So, we're starting a book club. On Sunday, November 10th, at 5:00 PM, we'll kick it off in the Victoria J. Mastrobuono library, with some wine and cheese (because let's be honest, every discussion is better with wine and cheese). And we'll be discussing Martin Moran's heartbreaking and hilarious memoir 'The Tricky Part: A Boy's Story of Sexual Trespass, A Man's Journey Towards Forgiveness'. Talking about this book seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, since Martin is performing his two one-man plays, adapted from his memoir, in the theater during the same time. He'll come join us for part of the discussion, and to sign copies of the book, which is available on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble and at our box office.

So if you love discussing theater and you love discussing books, and you especially like doing things while eating cheese and drinking wine, please come! It's free, and hopefully it will just be the beginning of some fascinating conversations to come.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Put an Apple on Our Tree!!

We're coming up to the home stretch of On Borrowed Time, and, to put it bluntly, we're bummed. This is a special show, with a great cast, and we'll miss them all immensely.

Ugh, now I'm making myself sad thinking about it. So instead, I'll talk about something else I'll miss - our beautiful lobby tree.

You may have noticed that we have a bit of a tree theme going with this show, for obvious reasons (not obvious to you? You still have five chances to see the show and find out what I mean!). If you visit our lobby, you'll see this beautiful tree:

This tree is a little bit different from the others. This tree is designed to celebrate the theater's 20th anniversary season; for a $20 donation to the theater, you can get a red apple, and onto it you can write whatever you'd like to celebrate - a loved one, a special occasion, your favorite production at the theater, the Breaking Bad finale, whatever you'd like. Then hang it on the tree for all the world to see!

This is the final weekend you'll be able to see this tree. I'm not making any promises as to where it'll go after the show closes, but here's a hint: my living room.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Blog: Snickers Speaks!

Do we have a treat for you guys this beautiful Friday morning. For our very first guest blog, one of the stars of On Borrowed Time has graciously agreed to share some thoughts with us. She is a veteran of the stage and I think we can all agree that she has the most beautiful coat of the entire cast of 'On Borrowed Time'. I'm talking, of course, of the "grande dame of theatrical animals," (according to her bio) canine star Snickers, who plays the role of 'Betty' in 'On Borrowed Time'. Thanks to her and to her handler, Brian Michael Hoffman, for sharing her thoughts.

Betty (played by Snickers)
Woof Grr Arf "Betty:"
(arf arf woof dog boy Brian)

Grrr-arf, grr-bow-wow!

Snausage awoo Two River ON BORROWED HOWL woof-woof Bill's Pups awooo arf Emcee!

Arf-arf bark grumble toy...bow-wow grrrrrr-arf ball.

Woof woof arf bark bark awoo whimper belly sniff sniff tree awoooo woof arf arf bark grrrrrrrrrrrrr Brink.

Bark grrrrr bow-wow pismire awoooooooo arf arf "Betty" hoooooowl "awwwwww."

AWOOOOOO! Bark bark opening!!! Arf arf tiny human oak tree, bow wow wooooof treats!

Dog boy Brian bark bark bark arf woof bow wow pawtograph howl awooo pupparazzi! Awoooo.....dog boy whimper walking dead woof?

Bill Berloni grrrr woof arf bow-wow rescue arf Toto, too. WOOF WOOF Broadway Barks Bernadette! 

Woof arf bark bark second chance bow wow howl limelight! Arf!?

Sniff sniff woof bark grrrrr arf Two River long walk sniff sniff!

Howl woof arf bark bow-wow interweb dot facebark com twitt-grrr.

Bark arf arf woof, Red Bank!!!!

From the Desk of "Betty:"
(as translated by Snickers' handler, Brian Michael Hoffman)

Another opening, another show!

What a treat (and I don't mean the Snausage-y kind!) to be a part of Two River Theater Company's ON BORROWED TIME, and, as the grand dame of William Berloni Theatrical Animals, to be directed by another legend of the stage, Mr. Joel Grey.

I always love the rehearsal process: meeting my new pack...I mean fellow actors and truly playing with the text like a new squeak toy until I really feel comfortable with my blocking and listening to my fellow actors who throw lines back and forth like my favorite red ball.

Then we get to the technical rehearsals where I meet all sorts of new friends who have built the amazing new world that I get to run around in. They all dress in black, but are very friendly and always seem to want to take time out of their day to rub my belly! Fine by me! They're all very protective of me around the huge tree we have onstage: I think they think I want to "water" it like I do other trees here in Red Bank (helping you keep your city green, I say!), but I know better...it doesn't smell alive...and I don't think that's just because of Mr. Brink!

Although my stage time is limited, I know I play a very important role in the play and I love listening to the beginning of the second half of the show (after my Intermission walk, of course!) when Aunt Demetria tells everyone that "Betty" has died. Everyone "awws!"

My favorite part, though, has to be opening night and this one was no different! My scene went very well! Oakes, the small human child I work with is very serious onstage but when we get offstage, he always looks for my tickle spot and scratches me behind my ear! I like him so much, I even share my treats with him sometimes!

After my scene on opening night, my work was done and Brian did the "heavy lifting" at the opening night party: he carried me around making sure all the "big dogs" had a chance to meet me! He told everyone about me being a rescue, my history with Bill Berloni and my adventures on the yellow brick road and, sadly, did an excellent job of keeping me away from all the opening night goodies. (And he did all of that after getting shot onstage! It happens every night but he always comes back to my private dressing room. I still haven't figured that out...maybe he's a zombie?)

Anyway, everyone was so excited to meet me and get my "paw-tograph" at the reception. I was happy to greet the pupparazzi and all of my fans, including my friend Bernadette Peters! She's so beautiful and kind...and a wonderful friend to all rescue animals, like me! She and my owner and trainer Bill both know that rescues are the best: we've sometimes come from some pretty bad situations and, when we get our forever home, we are getting our second chance!!! Mine just happens to be behind the footlights! Who'd a thunk it?

Now that we've gotten thru opening, I'm settling into our normal show schedule. It's a pleasure to be here at Two River and I love the show....but I'm also enjoying the extra time during the day to sniff all of your great smells while exploring this great town! 

For more information on me and all of Bill Berloni's other theatrical animals, please visit www.theatricalanimals.com You can also "like" us on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Berloni-Theatrical-Animals-Inc/160644103997612 ) and follow us on Twitter ( @BillBerloni )

Thanks for having me, Red Bank!!!!