“Joseph” – Out of the Desert (Part 2)

Camel caravan in a desert

So, there we were: show week.  For 15 weeks it had been sitting on the far horizon just beyond our reach and nicely out of view.  Now that reprieve was over and it was right there in front of us shining with its jazz hands glittering in the spotlight.  Or something like that.  Whether you like the metaphor or not it was right there coming at us like a steam roller.  Ok, enough.

The thing was that those of us on the creative team had seen its shadow looming and heard the roar of the feedback some weeks before.  We had tried so hard to remind everyone that it was coming and would not be stopped.  The notebook had been out in full glory and it had started to look like dividends would be paid.  And then again there just didn’t seem to be that spirit of urgency that us creatives were feeling.  Other people might refer to it instead as clinical stress.  I call it creative fever.  Desperate were we to get the whole production over the line yet happy was everyone else to plod on to the finishing line like Brummy Wildebeest from the days of Just So.  Oh how hard it was to stay calm and enjoy “the process” from T (thereabouts) to Z (err, Zuper?)  Thank goodness for prayer and jelly beans.

Jelly beans (by L Taylor)

 

So there we were.  Dress rehearsal day.  The set was already built and standing in its theatrical glory.  The pyramids were set onto the blue sky background and cunningly covered up by the black back-cloth (with its tasteful yet accidental tie-dye effect).  The doorway disguised as a Bible was in place and ready to be opened to reveal Joseph in his opening dream sequence.  The giant Pharaoh’s head was painted and waiting in the wings with Joseph’s glorious chariot of gold.  So much promise and potential waiting to be brought to life.  Dress rehearsal day was the day of delivery for two other important pieces of set: the steps and the chaise lounge.

You will remember my excitement and trepidation in forming the Joseph Children’s Choir for the show.  The whole plan had hinged on them being able to sit on raised steps which would sit at stage height and rise above the stage so they could always be seen by the audience (and could also see the on-stage action too).  This had started to look like an impossibility.  We were trying to think of other ways to create height differentials but none of them filled me with excitement or anything other than dread.  Then I remembered a very nice man mentioning that he might be able to ask for a loan of some stage steps from the school where he works (Thank you, Alex!).  The possible problems were too many to consider.  What size would the steps be?  Would they be high enough?  Small enough?  Bright green (always a possibility although admittedly unlikely)?  Yet, on that fair dress rehearsal day (actually I think it was raining but go with it for a moment), he came up trumps and with a little help from the man with the van (thank you, Gary!) the much-longed for steps arrived. 

In the words of someone in the cast of “Cinderella”: “it fits”!  Ok, the grammar is bad and poor but it was amazing to see them in situ.  The steps were exactly as I had visualised and within 2 inches of the space we had on the stage for them.  They were not a funny colour but black, just like the rest of our stage, and they were the perfect height.  Not too high so that anyone on them would suffer from vertigo but not so small that the Choir would never been seen by anyone beyond the front row.  They fitted the space perfectly and allowed us to have them on a slight angle exactly as I had originally planned (and drawn in my notebook).  I have never before thought of steps as an object of beauty but, on that day, I did.  I really did.  I practically hugged them.  The steps, that is. 

Not just did the steps arrive in their glory (and they have been photographed enough that they will never be forgotten) but another critical piece of stage kit also arrived that day.  For weeks we had been asking around for anyone with a chaise lounge to come forward.  Yes, it was a long shot.  A very long shot, but you never know and if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  Nothing had come up.  We were debating how to make a garden chair and a footstool look like a chaise and be sturdy enough to be stood on safely by one Mrs Potiphar during a rather vigorous dance routine as she seduces Joseph.  However, little known to us, a very nice man (thank you, Philip!) was ringing around all the local charity shops and anywhere he could think of to see if anyone had a chaise lounge we could borrow for the week.  He clearly had a wonderfully persuasive manner and, after many calls, won over a local charity who just happened to have a blue chaise in one of their furniture sales shops.  So there it was, a beautiful, traditional, blue chaise lounge.  Ours for the week for the price of a donation and some notifications.  Every night it made a starring appearance in the Potiphar number and, like the steps, has paraded its face in front of our cameras enough that it too will stay in the Barnstormers’ archives long after its return to the shops.

And so it was that the final set was ready.  All that remained was the big workshop day, dress rehearsal, technical set up and rehearsal, extra costume run and then, the big day.  Curtain up.

To be continued….

[Photo of “Camel caravan in a desert” by m_bartosch: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=681 ]

“Joseph” – Choral Reflections

Camel caravan in a desert

The calm remains.  It is an odd feeling.  I have now begun to think that something must have gone horribly wrong after all, but then I look back at my notes and the schedule for this week and realise that it is all ticking along quite nicely, thank you very much.  What I needed to have sketched out for this week is already down there on paper (yes, it is even from Act 2) and we are so well on target that I even managed to get some old posts up onto the website.

The most recent fun has been caused by cyberspace flying on Facebook, email and text to work out whether we had enough interest in our little Children’s Choir to make it viable.  Thanks to huge support from some of the Choir-hopefuls, and their willing parents, we just managed to find a small group of very excited and enthusiastic girls (I dare not call them “children”) that will do very nicely as our happy little choir for the show.  It would have been a personal disaster had we not managed to find such a suitable brood. 

You see my vision for the show begged for cheeky, smiling faces to look up at Joseph and the Narrators with wide-eyed innocence sporting the biggest smiles you have ever seen.  Without the Choir half the show would need re-staging to cover the gaps where the Choir would have been.  My detailed planning would have fallen apart and heralded a new season of chaos.  For now at least, all’s well that ends well.  

Friday marks our very first rehearsal with the Choir bringing with it both excitement and trepidation (in case no-one actually turns up – it is half-term after all).  The word sheets are all prepared and only need to be photocopied tonight which should be a straight-forward task so as long as the Producer is not let loose on the task again (if it were it a pantomime I would “boo” him with great conviction…sorry, Mr Producer).  Once this is all done we just have to arrive on time (hoping and praying that the traffic is light and no medical emergencies arrive for our in-house doctor) and then we are off and running.

In the meantime, I’ve been playing around with the spice and herb pots again.  This time it was because I needed to use the contents.  You would not believe how difficult it was to get the contents of Matt and Mandy out of the jars and into my curry.  Don’t try this at home, kids.

 

[Photo of “Camel caravan in a desert” by m_bartosch: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=681 ]

“Joseph” – Oh, Fickle World!

Camel caravan in desert

The world of a director is a fickle one.  Several weeks pass in a frenzy of chaotic CD listening and prancing around on the kitchen floor (much to the dismay of one pet dog who is determined to take us both off for an evening walk) and then, suddenly, peace reigns again.  Has something gone wrong?  Has the enthusiasm for this crazy project finally waned for good?  No, it is simply preparation paying off.

Act 1 is all on paper (yes, believe it or not, it is true) and most of it has now been sung, staged and danced.  Although we’ll need to work through it a few more times until we reach performance standard it is already starting to be great fun to watch and the cast’s enthusiasm rolls off the front of the stage (well, over the tops of the children’s plastic chairs we are using to mark out the stage area). 

The wonderful ladies of the wardrobe have spent two delightful evenings listening to my excessively enthusiastic monologue on costumes and have now set off to seek out the goods.  The goods so far are looking extremely impressive – can’t wait until we start seeing them come to life on the cast. 

And then, on one bitterly cold night before the snows set in, I met with the delightful creative team behind the set and prop design over a cuppa or two.  After a few strange looks we started to come up with some plans.  Not helped, I have to add, by the keen footballer supporters running in and out of the room at a moment’s notice or by the incessant beeping of our mobile phones.  Ah, but creativity cannot be reigned in by even the most intense distractions and on we marched into the deep world of scenery development. 

It was not long until I realised that I do not have measuring skills.  I had not brought a tape measure and had not worked out the size of the stage versus the size of the scenery I was suggesting.  Nor had I thought through all the practicalities.  I genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with considering the possibility of a full-scale revolve in the centre of the stage or a hydraulic lift sequence built into our humble wooden stage.  I mean, who would?  With that grander vision put to one side we started out on the more interesting things like how to develop an over-sized giant Bible or how to give life to skeleton sheep.  And did I mention what colour pyramids we are going for?  It seems dusky pink is not appropriate. 

Of course, this is a kind of calm before: “The Storm: Part 2″.  Act 2 might be in my head but it is not on paper and definitely needs to be.  If we have enough interest in our little Children’s Choir I’m going to need to get moving with the rest of the staging for them.  The programme is calling for my attention and there will be plenty more discussions on costumes, staging, lighting, singing, dancing, etc still to come.  But, I will enjoy every minute while it lasts.  Where is that book I’ve been saving?

[Photo of Camel Caravan in Desert by Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280 ]

 

“Joseph” – A Feasting Story

Camel caravan in desert

Week 4 of rehearsals.  The passage of time is frightening, isn’t it?  I wonder if that’s how Joseph felt as the weeks, months and years rolled by while he wasted away in prison?  Unlike Joseph we’ve all chosen to be part of this machine known as “Joseph”.  I, for one, have not been wasting away but have instead used rehearsals and prep time as an excuse for tucking into the leftover Christmas chocolates, Friday fry-ups and everything else that is less than good for one’s health.  So far my cunning plan seems to be working and the scales have not bitten back with a nasty reading of weight gain.  All is well.

Joking aside it is vital to keep up energy levels especially when the preparation for rehearsals takes up the other three weekday evenings and at least part of one day at the weekend.  I don’t think I have ever felt quite so schizophrenic as when I am trying to be every character on stage at once.  It is, as you can imagine, quite a draining experience.  Thank goodness that we have some outstanding chefs on the Production Team guaranteeing me a wonderfully tasty and nutritious home-cooked meal every few weeks.  There might also be a glass of wine involved.

Our last Production team meeting revolved around the wonderful creation below, known as an Annlentsagne:

Annlentsagne (by L Taylor)

 

It is quite simply divine.  A luxurious take on the humble lasagne made with lentils, spices and all sorts of other culinary secrets that could not be divulged even by the chef herself.  Served with a classic green salad, garlic bread and a singular glass of wine it was unbeatable as the cries of “mmm” at the table would attest.  I won’t mention here that someone not too far away got the giggles over the number of times she uttered the “mmm” word or how hard it was to hold it back.  I’m sure you have no idea who I mean.

Not only did we have this wonderful creation but it was followed by a heavenly dessert whose contents I am bound by oath not to reveal.  I can tell you that the centre was packed with home-grown blackberry jam and topped with lashings of…no, not ginger beer (honestly)…of cream.  Beauty itself.

Ann Sponge (by L Taylor)

With so much  energy-producing food around it is hardly any wonder that we have almost finished our initial journey through Act 1.  Of course there is still a long way to go.  Lyrics need to be remembered, harmonies might need just the tiniest bit of recapping and the staging/dancing will need regular refreshing to ensure none of the little details are forgotten.  But I think we can happily celebrate how far we have come in only eight rehearsals and be justly proud of the hard work and dedication going in to putting on an amazing production.

Here’s to all you have achieved so far and all we are going to achieve over the coming weeks.  In the words of good old Cliff: “CON-GRAT-U-LATIONS!”  Must be time for a late-morning donut.

Empty Plate (L Taylor)
 
 

[Camel Caravan in Desert photo by Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280 ]

“Joseph” – Goat curry anyone?

Camel caravan in desert (By Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280)

My first visit  to the costume cupboard of 2012 is complete.  What a sneeze-inducing experience it was.  Thankfully the lovely ladies in charge of all things “Wardrobe” had already pulled out the big box stuffed full of old robes and headgear used in the last production some ten years ago so there was no immediate reason for me to climb into the attic space.  However the dust on the box thought it would be highly amusing to attempt to find a new home in my nostrils.  Clearly my nostrils did not agree. 

There were some odd treasures to be found in that box.  I’m sure that someone had once torn down some curtains in a bid to make outfits in a style befitting the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music.  Lovely brown striped numbers in heavyweight curtain material followed by pastel, sparkly headgear in nylon.  Nothing but the very best quality to be found in our costume cupboard.

Given the show is still three months away, we are only just starting to think about all the different costumes needed for each musical number.  Of course this is a tricky time when we have to balance the budget against my bizarre theatrical vision (or idea, as it is more commonly known).  Needing to separate the Brothers from their wives is quite frankly tricky when everyone is likely to be wearing a skirt of some kind.  Perhaps we’ll just have the Wives showing some leg and the Brothers…not.  Plus we also have to find ways of linking each Brother and Wife.  This is in part to ensure they remember who they actually married as there is already some confusion on this point.  The added benefit is it forces them to dance in the same direction as each other.  One nice brightly coloured ribbon tied around the waists of each couple should do the trick.  It will of course make getting on and off the stage somewhat difficult, especially when the Wives have to leave before the Brothers, but I’m sure we can find a way out of that particular issue.  Perhaps by replacing the ribbon with coloured elastic. 

It was exciting to find the original technicolour coat and to see our new Joseph decked out in all its splendour.  Amazingly it is the right length in arm and leg and only needs a few new panels of colour added to create the glorious parachute effect when the Brothers hold it up for all to see.  The coat has already gone off for its initial repairs. 

The undergarments remain a point of slight contention.  Joseph has to be stripped of his coat and later, thanks to the skillful manoeuvring of Potiphar’s Wife, down to very little at all.  The traditional approach is for Joseph to wear a plain white loincloth but I consider that too simple for our glossy production.  Two options are now under consideration.  A white loincloth with some tastefully placed pieces of white feather-boa as edging or a wonderful pair of gold mini-shorts (not hot pants, I could never be so cruel) complete with white lace edging.  Thoughts welcome on which you would prefer Joseph to be seen in.

Having found the original coat, and tackled Joseph’s underwear (so to speak), we attempted to find the second coat used for the scene when it is ripped into pieces by his jealous Brothers.  Sadly no coat could be found.  Instead, at the bottom of the clothing box, we uncovered two goat legs.

Now, is it me or would you not expect to find the rest of said goat somewhere nearby?  For example, the other two legs, a body, a tail and a head?  We searched box after box and finally came to the conclusion that someone had decided to try out a new recipe for goat curry.  It is meant to be quite a delicacy.  Although I am sure that it works better with actual goat meat and not chunks of cotton-wool covered wood.  Still, it takes all sorts.

We also failed to find the camel.  You would think that a camel would be tricky to miss but apparently they are masters of disguise.  I might send out a search party on our next rehearsal night.  They might even find the remains of the goat.

Originally posted on: http://hugmore.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/joseph-goat-curry-anyone/

“Joseph” – The case of the angelic jelly bean

Camel caravan in desert (By Digitalart: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280)

Unbelievably we have already passed the golden landmark that is the first week in rehearsal.  Time is ticking by until the first performance now…tick tock, tick tock.  But I get ahead of myself.

It was good.  So says the biggest understatement of all time.  The beautiful melodies that our wonderful cast produced in just two rehearsals was glorious.  To call them an angelic chorus would be an insult.  It was magical hearing the melodies come alive with such depth.  I began to wonder whether we should do anything more but stand and sing these wonderful tunes.  Reality of course kicked in with requests for costume meetings (as expected)and the need to work out who was needed where but for a few moments I revelled in just hearing the music at work.  It made some of the early pain worthwhile.

For example, the casting was no mean feat, I can tell you.  I will not share with you or any other how many hours were spent by our little creative team in considering the pros and cons of every possible permutation of casting before we finally reached a solution we could all live with.  I will only tell you how little sleep was obtained in those remaining hours before the announcement.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a little.  Only a little, mind.

Anyway, with the casting finally decided it was time for me to get on with planning how to neatly move nearly forty people on and off the stage built for only half that number.  My head was awash with ideas and little pictures of how X would move to Point A whilst Y was moving to Point B etc and generally my darling little brain coped admirably with conjuring up the required imagery to ensure that this strategy would actually work.  However there came a point when I was literally going round in circles (my kitchen floor will never be the same again) and my brain swirled with hopeless possibilities each as maddening as the last. 

Suddenly a friendly voice suggested the use of my many jars of herbs and spices.  I scoffed loudly and proclaimed that jelly beans would in fact be a far greater solution to the problem.  I counted out eleven different coloured beans to represent the Brothers and another one (sadly not technicoloured) to represent Joseph.  Then swiftly bit off his head.

I don’t recommend the use of jelly beans for characters.  I proceeded to eat more jelly beans than would have represented the entire cast, pit singers, band, crew and half the audience.  True the picture had been colourful (with the emphasis on both the “have” and the “bean”) but my swirling circle issues had not been resolved and my New Year’s plan to lose those cheese-consumption extra pounds had also gone the same way.

And so it was that the Brothers became jars of spices and herbs.  No-one ended up as the Mixed Herbs (with the sadly broken lid) but all manner of spice will be represented on our stage.  Perhaps I will one day reveal which Brother was represented by which jar.  Hmm, perhaps not.

Amazing really how quickly the issue was then resolved and my little diagrams completed with names and arrows galore.  The problem of course is that my real life Brothers are not going to take kindly to being manhandled into position (or knocked over on a regular basis) like my little jars.  Maybe it will actually be easier with real people who can think on their feet and understand rather than having to be pushed and shoved.  I’m quite excited now by the prospect of seeing these little visions come to life.   It is going to take lots of patience, determination and energy to get us there but we will do it.  If the quality of the singing is anything to go by it will be a breeze.  Perhaps I ought to take a few jelly beans with me.  Just in case.

Taken from: http://hugmore.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/joseph-the-case-of-the-angelic-jelly-bean/