INDEX OF JOURNAL ENTRIES
Welcome to the first entry of the National Players Journal. We hope that this
will be a great way to keep all of our friends updated as to what is happing on
tour. Our 60th anniversary is approaching. It’s about time we got something
like this started!
Tour 57 (can you believe it!) started on August 8th, 2005. For the first time in
who knows how long, National Players began on the second Monday of
August instead of the first. The Players are currently in the middle of 7 weeks
of rehearsal for Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and Dracula by
Balderston and Deane (the same script we took out on Tour 39). As always
we have a really great bunch of new Players from all over the U.S.
(click here for their bios)
We have 12 actors on this tour; one less than we’d like for Shrew and 4 more
than we need for Dracula. For Shrew we’ve solved the loss of character by
requiring one of the actors to play 5 roles (Kinsey is going to be busy). For
Dracula, Kate and Petruchio will sit out (they have enough to keep them busy),
we double-casted the attendant role, and Christopher Reed (who is Gremio in
Shrew), is serving as assistant director for both shows.
This year’s director for Shrew, Clay Hopper, has steered our production
towards a new vision of Taming of the Shrew that takes us to the “Neat-O,”
“Gee-Wiz,” 50s, where our shrew, Kate, refuses to fit in to the “Donna Reed,”
mold that is expected. When our “James Dean”-esque Petruchio shows up,
Kate’s rebelliousness is equally matched by Petruchio’s street-smart
cleverness. For those of you who fear that Taming of the Shrew is a play that
dwells in misogyny and casts women in a terrible, submissive role, FEAR NOT.
Our Shrew culminates in a meeting of equals. Both Kate and Petruchio need
some “taming,” and they find it in each other.
Dracula should prove to be a fun and chilling romp through Bram Stoker’s
classic tale. One of the greatest joys of touring a show like this is the fun the
actors will have bringing it to life. Dracula requires a heightened level of acting
that must be melodramatic, yet sincere. Crucifixes, communion wafers, wolf’s
bane, holy water, hammers, and, of course, wooden stakes…. What FUN!
Those of you who know or were apart of tour more than 9 years ago, know
that it was normal for the Players to travel with two sets. Since Tour 49,
though we’ve tried to choose plays that can share the same unit set. By doing
this we were able to increase the quality of our sets, while at the same time
easing the burden on the actors (although the Players from 49, 55, and 56
might disagree with you – Those sets were heavy!). However, this year the
demands of Dracula and Shrew made us return to a two set show (Yes, I know
that 55 had two sets, but the set for Our Town doesn’t count in my book).
Dracula’s set will be a great big box set that suggests an English country house,
circa 1930, while Shrew will be set in a unspecific geographic paradise that
evokes a clean 50s U.S. styling. Today was the first day we attempted to
disassemble this year’s set... It was a learning experience.
Previews for this year’s tour are coming up soon; September 14th and 15th for
Dracula and September 21st and 22nd for Shrew. All the previews are
Pay-What-You-Can. NEW THIS YEAR, with the completion of the new
Olney Theatre Center Mainstage, Players can now rehearse and preview on the
Historic Mainstage. We’re very excited about this change. It will help the
players prepare for larger houses and will increase the visibility of National
Players on the Olney Campus. For those of you who do not know, for the past
4 tours, we did all rehearsals and previews in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Lab here at
Olney Theatre Center. For the 7 years before that, we were at University of
Maryland. For all the years before that, we were at Catholic University.
So… We’re a little over halfway through rehearsal. The Players will hit the road
on September 23rd. We probably won’t add much to the journal until we get
past previews. As many of you know, all the good stuff doesn’t happen until the
Players hit the road.
Well… These journal entries are not coming as regularly as possible, but I think
we might be able to get them out monthly at the least. So, as October is rolling
to a close, let me bring you up to date on what is going on with the players. Since
hitting the road on September 23rd, they’ve performed in 6 states (MD, OH, NY,
MA, MI, and MO). They’ll be at Delta State University (home of the fighting okra!)
on October 31st performing Dracula.
We here at the home office haven’t heard from them too often, so we must
assume things are going well. They’ve been getting a lot of great praise form
their sponsors. One enthusiastic teacher emailed us with this
“WHAT A FIELD TRIP! I am so impressed with your cast! My kids had a
blast and learned a lot, and I can't wait for the next time I can take a class
to see the National Players! WOW! May I please get an address where
the kids can send 'Thank You' cards and letters? Thanks! Congratulations
on a wonderful program; I am so glad I took my kids!”
And another wrote…
“Our children loved the play and the interaction with the actors. I believe
this was the best pre-play activity I’ve seen. The actors really made a good
effort to keep the audience focused---and it was a large group. Thanks for
a great experience for our eighth graders.”
And I’ve gotten similar praise from our general public performance sponsors.
I’ll try to get some good stories from the players for next month, but please keep
checking in to see what’s happening.
Once again, I’m a little embarrassed by the infrequency of these journal entries, but I will strive to do better in the future.
Tour wrapped up the first half last week, and, as usual, it’s been and exciting, fun, and extremely difficult experience for the company. I’m still getting a lot of positive feedback from our sponsors, which is excellent. I am sorry to report that we had one of our company members resign early due to illness. He’s going to be alright, but touring wasn’t helping his condition. We’re auditioning new candidates for the position, and I hope to have a new person on board for the second half of tour.
As it happens, the winter break couldn’t have happened at a better time, because on the first day of the break our tour car (the cavalier) has irreparably broken down. We’ll be looking for a new car at the beginning of the year. This tour will be the first to get their hands on it (lucky dogs). On my tour (49) we wrecked both the car and the van, so we had two new vehicles. Not advisable, but it was great to get the new wheels.
The players will be coming back from their break on January 9th for brush-up rehearsals, then the will go directly into our Olney Theatre residency. If you haven’t had a chance to see the shows this year, I highly recommend them. We’ll be doing general public performances on the Historic Mainstage on Thursday 1/12 (Shrew 7:30), Friday 1/13 (Shrew 7:30), Saturday 1/14 (Shrew 2:00, Dracula 7:30), and Sunday 1/15 (Dracula 2:00). Call the box office if you would like to come (301.924.3400).
(more to come)
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