Director Kevin Wiczer’s Vision of It’s A Wonderful Life

November 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY wonderfullifelogo-medium

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. It’s a film that I grew up watching. When Metropolis was holding director interviews for the show, I had to jump at the chance.

My approach to this show had to be true to a radio play, with five actors standing at microphones creating voices for over fifty characters, but it also had to be fun to watch as an audience. A number of ideas came to mind to accomplish this. The first thing, was I wanted something visual that was going to change during scenes. Projections were discussed as the perfect way of accomplishing this. I won’t spoil what the projections are of, since that’s one of the magical elements of the show that I’d like to keep as a surprise.

Since the actors are aware of the audience, and know that they’re watching and participating, we wanted to keep the feeling of a large theater rather than giving it a feel of a small radio studio as well using a false proscenium that will be built. However, one of my favorite elements of doing a radio play is all of the fun Foley work behind the actors. Foley is the art of recreating sounds for radio and film, and is still used today. There are literally two tables full of different interesting Foley props for our Foley artist to “play with”. Each prop recreates a sound such as crickets, doors opening and closing, telephone rings, the tick-tock of a clock, running through snow, and wind for example. The idea is that you should be able to close your eyes and envision everything happen as you hear it.

The other important thing that the cast and I have worked hard on is pacing. It’s so important that there aren’t any long pauses in a radio play. The key was to keep it moving and constant, so we’ve worked very hard to make that happen. Along with the radio play there are also two commercials with singing and dancing which has been a lot of fun as well.

I hope that people will enjoy this show as much as we’ve had collaborating on it. We didn’t set out to recreate the movie; we set out to retell this classic in our own way. The amount of talent on that stage is impeccable, and I’m looking forward to audiences seeing it in action.

We hope to see you at the show!
Kevin Wiczer
Director

 

From Student – to Counselor – to “Young Frankenstein” Actor

September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

Young Frankenstein cast member, Ryan Jozaitis shares his journey from Metropolis School of the Performing Arts student, to camp counselrjor, to main stage actor.

I remember the first time I stepped foot into Metropolis. It was to see a production of High
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in 2007. My camp counselor at the time, friend, and fellow Cubs fan, Mike Miserendino was in it and was playing “Ryan”. After seeing the show, I was so inspired and I had to get more involved. I heard that there was a workshop and a “meet the cast” event that I could attend. I of course signed up! The day of the workshop was the first time I got to be on the Metropolis stage. It was such an amazing feeling to be on the stage with the cast trying to dance, sing, and keep up with them.

In 2009, I heard there were auditions being held for the Metropolis High School Performance Experience production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which was my favorite musical at that time. I had to audition. After the audition, I got a phone call from Robin Hughes and found out I had been cast as “Benjamin”, the youngest brother. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be the last time I got a phone call from Robin. This was my first time performing on the Metropolis stage with my new friends and very supportive directors, Robin Hughes and assistant director Jeff Mazzuca. After Joseph…, I was hooked and had to come back every summer for the High School Performance Experience camp.

In the summer of 2011 I interviewed to become a camp counselor with Kate Schwarz, the camp director at the time, allowing me the opportunity to inspire 1 st -3 rd graders who were wanting to perform just like me. I began my early morning shifts with a bunch of loud and crazy young actors and actresses. Throughout the four years of working with my co-workers and these amazingly talented students, my love for the craft grew because I was constantly inspired by their ability to go out on stage and perform flawlessly. Well, maybe not flawlessly, but in their eyes it was the most exciting and fun moment of their lives, which they will never forget. Because of this and many other reasons, I was encouraged to eventually audition professionally.

Last summer, I was blessed to take the stage once again, this time professionally, in a production of Moon Over Buffalo with the new yet very accomplished Eclectic Full Contact Theatre Company. Throughout the duration of the show, I was able to experience a professional atmosphere and make long-lasting friends whom I will never forget. Whenever I leave Metropolis after a project, I always wonder when I will be back next. I am so happy to be back here to perform in Young Frankenstein with this immensely talented cast and crew.

Ring of Fire’s Sari Greenberg

August 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

I belieSari Greenberg Headshot 1 (1)ve theatre, in particular musical theatre, should fill you with joy.Sitting in a beautiful theatre space for a few hours, letting yourself enjoy, escape and maybe even hum along while people entertain you and make you feel a little happier when you leave than when you arrived, sounds pretty joyful to me. On a scale of going to the dentist and winning the lottery, theatre is right up there, but fills me with so much more hope, and happiness than money ever could.

My experience with “Ring of Fire,” from the initial audition, through the rehearsal process, and performing the show, has been an absolute joy. I have been a longtime country music enthusiast and was very excited for the opportunity to unite my two loves and perform in a “country musical.” One of the most important and encouraged direction the cast and I received from director Joe Keefe, associate director Robin Hughes and musical directors Nathan Brown and Dave Welker, was  to stay true to the authentic vibe, sound and world of this brilliant country music. Unlike the typical “bright Broadway” sound, the world we were creating with “Ring of Fire” was gritty, complex, dark, painful but also full of joy. We worked very hard to stay true to the world of Johnny Cash and June Carter and I am so proud to be a part of such an entertaining, and joyful theatrical experience.
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There is an incredible amount of joy I feel onstage when I see the smiling faces of audience members truly having a good time. One of the greatest pleasures you can have as a performer, is to connect with an audience member. The audience can give
you so much, feed your creative energy and support you to be bold and take risks. We have had such fantastic houses and a wonderfully wide range of people come see “Ring of Fire.” Theatre is for everyone and I could not be happier or more proud to be performing here at The Metropolis, a place where everyone feels comfortable to be who they are and enjoy themselves.

I am so grateful and thank my lucky stars everyday, when I walk into this theatre. I get to perform in a show that I absolutely love, with people who I admire, respect and think the world of, in a gorgeous space that feels like home. I am so grateful for all of the joy this show has given me and strive to share that joy with everyone who walks into our theatre.

Andrew Pond’s History of Comedy

July 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

pond-andrew-hsComedy is hard. That’s a truism that’s been stated by actors since Shakespeare tugged on his first pair of tights. The Greeks probably said it first, but nobody understood it. After all, it was all Greek to them. See? I told you comedy is hard.

Everyone says it, but very few people actually believe it. Everybody thinks they can tell a joke, or be a clown, or just flat out be funny. And usually, they fail. But people still believe that funny is easy. Why? Because when people who are good at it do it, it LOOKS easy. It seems as if everything just flows from them with no effort. But that’s not the case. Comedy takes effort. A LOT of effort. I should know. I’ve been working at it for over 30 years, ever since I discovered that if I made kids laugh, they were less likely to hit me. But seriously, folks, I have been a student of comedy since a very young age, and what I love most about comedy is its structure and fragility.

Why, Andrew, what do you mean? I’m assuming you’re asking that, otherwise I have no impetus to write the rest of this blog. Comedy obviously has structure, regardless of what some bad late night sketch shows may try to make you believe. There’s a rhythm, a melody, a tempo to comedy, just like there is to music. It’s all in the timing, as the saying goes. You watch a great comedian, a Robin Williams, for example, and his act seems to be a concert. You can groove to the comedy as if you were listening to really great jazz. Knowledge of that structure is paramount to understanding, and succeeding at, comedy. Without it, you’re a kid with no breath support spitting into a trumpet. The cat may think it’s found a new girlfriend, but nobody else is going to want to hear it.

But that structure is fragile. Ever hear someone tell a joke badly? Not a bad joke, but a good joke in a way that makes you not laugh? It’s so easy to go from killer joke to dying onstage. That sense of timing, the intuitive understanding of how to deliver comedy, it is like the barest of breaths. Breathe at the wrong moment, and you go from being Jonathan Winters to being Pauly Shore.

So obviously, since comedy is so hard, so fragile, so easy to screw up, I decided to write a show about it. Because hey, taking one’s own advice is so silly. Mostly because I wanted to get these ideas across to people, I wanted to remind them of the acts that came before us, the ones that underpinned what we laugh at today, and I wanted to hear a bunch of people sitting in a theatre laugh at me. Firstly, because I like having my ego stroked. But also because laughter, and comedy, has an amazing ability to soften hard truths and make things easier to take. And while “The History of Comedy” might not change the world, it will make your sides hurt. And if you’re not careful, you might just learn something.

Ring of Fire Actor Profile – Jenna Payne

July 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

I graduated from Carthage College with a B.A. in Music Theatre and Theatre in May of 2014. Since then, I have been working professionally with JPAC Theatre (Big Fish), BrightSide Theatre (Rumors), Williams Street Rep at the Raue Center for the Arts (Beehive the ’60’s Musical), and Northbrook Theatre for Young Audiences (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). Joe Keefe (Metropolis’ Executive Director) actually attended my show at the Raue Center (Beehive) and that’s how the conversation of me playing June began. He thought I would be great for Ring of Fire and encouraged me to audition for the show. Since then, I have really immersed myself in learning as much as possible about June and Johnny Cash.
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In Metropolis’ production of Ring of Fire, I am portraying the early days of Johnny and June’s relationship. So, I am introduced when she is starting out as a comedic character actress. The major feature film, Walk The Line, really centers in on their relationship, and our show focuses on the music they made together, rather than exposing those emotional trials they went through.  My favorite part about this role is definitely the music. I am lucky enough to be singing “Ring of Fire” with Tommy Malouf and it definitely means so much to know that June actually wrote that song!  My goal is to honor June Carter Cash and the music she made with Johnny, so it certainly helps to know that she specifically crafted that song to portray their magnetic relationship. The song “Ring of Fire” is definitely a staple in country music, but it also is such a staple piece in Johnny and June’s relationship.
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I am proud of Metropolis’ unique production of Ring of Fire; It has really become such a collaborative, ensemble show. I love how Joe and Robin have re-imagined these signature Johnny Cash songs, but are intent on keeping that authentic Cash sound. It’s all about the music and the moments the music creates.

Actor Andrew Pond Takes on Dozens of Characters in The 39 Steps

February 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

Often, when thinking about what makes a great actor, the word “versatility” gets bandied about. The ability to convincingly play several different types of characters is highly lauded in the theatre. It’s an attribute that most actors strive to develop, and as a theatre teacher, it’s an attribute that I try to instill in my students. Fortunately, it also appears to be an attribute, as far as Metropolis is concerned, that I possess, since they have cast me now in several shows where I am required to play multiple roles within the same show.

It’s a unique situation that brings with it some interesting, and unexpected challenges. “But Andrew,” you may ask, “what are those challenges? I mean, if you play different characters, you just come out in different costumes, right?” The simple answer is yes. But The 39 Steps is anything but simple. Firstly, as I tell my students, every person has a different physicality–the way they walk, stand, hold themselves, gesture, etc. Each character you play onstage needs a different physicality. This is not only for the truth of the person you’re portraying, but also because it helps the audience instantly recognize the fact you are someone different. And that is necessary because unlike some other shows, where people playing multiple roles have plenty of offstage time to change not only their costumes, but in some cases, style their hair differently or add makeup effects, the actors playing multiple roles in The 39 Steps are often required to change characters within the span of seconds. Sometimes we change characters onstage in full view of the audience, switching back and forth at breakneck speed. This makes being able to develop and remember different physical traits for each character essential so the audience doesn’t get confused.

Speaking of breakneck speed, the actors playing the two Clowns (who play all but four roles in the show) are also responsible for the lion’s share of the set changes. Because this show is based on a movie, there are A LOT of scene changes. So, not only do we, as actors, have to change our physicality and costumes in the blink of an eye, we must also, at the same time, manipulate large wheeled platforms and even larger wheeled set pieces rolling on and offstage, very often trying to change clothes or grab a prop at the same time, while also avoiding the other large wheeled set pieces sitting backstage. It is chaos. But, thanks to the incredible help of the two-person set crew backstage (yes, you read that right–two people) the chaos is controlled and is reduced to merely mayhem.

Because there are only four actors in the show, all of us spend a lot of our time running (sometimes literally–at one point in the show I am sprinting full speed from an exit on one side of the stage to reach an entrance on the other side within about four lines) from one side of the stage to the other. The 39 Steps is an incredibly physical show. I liken it to a two hour sprint. It is both physically and technically demanding. Your mind, as an actor, has to constantly be working along two parallel lines–what you are doing onstage as an actor, creating believable characters for the audience, and where the next platform full of furniture has to be set before you run offstage, grab a coat and a wig, sprint to the other side of the stage and come on as a completely DIFFERENT believable character for the audience. It’s taxing, it’s exhausting, and when you’re in your 40’s, like I am, you wake up a lot of mornings with your body wondering why you hate it so much. But when it all comes together, when the costume change fits perfectly in the space right after you set the door flat and you somehow manage to worm your way through the rest of the set pieces backstage to make your entrance on the exact line necessary to get a huge laugh from the audience, it is also exhilarating. And the beautiful thing is, this production, even before an audience has seen it, has reached that exhilaration point. It is fast-paced, well-timed, and hilarious. It’s a joy to work on, and the challenge of creating more characters than should be allowed in such a short span of time is a challenge I relish. Come see it. You never know–you might just catch my full out sprint if you watch closely enough.

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Director David Belew on The 39 Steps

February 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Our journey towards opening night for “The 39 Steps” is coming close to the end. Last night, we worked on stage with all the set pieces for the first time, and Sunday we put all the lights, sound and costumes in place. Next week we have three dress rehearsals and 4 previews, and we are officially open. I can’t wait for audiences to see what we’ve been working on for the past two months.

“The 39 Steps” challenges us to put a movie on stage, with all its multiple locations, chase scenes, and quick fades in place. How do we handle that theatrically? Well, you start by putting most of the set pieces on wheels, and then constantly work to figure out how to move things in the most efficient manner possible. We’re also working to use lights to isolate areas of the stage so we can have one scene going on while another is being set. Our two backstage personnel are constantly moving and shifting set pieces so we have the right pieces ready to roll at the right times.

It took 28 actors to film the movie version, but we’re doing it onstage with only 4. Edward Fraim only has to play one role as he is our leading man, Richard Hannay. Ellen Cribbs plays all three of the beautiful, mysterious women he meets on his journey. Andrew Pond and Joseph Daniels play everyone else – a constant parade of costume changes, accents, and silly walks. In one scene alone, they each play three characters simultaneously.

So what are The 39 Steps? Will our hero keep top secret information from leaving the country? Who can do the biggest, baddest Scottish accent? Will all of those set and costume changes happen correctly every night? You’ll just have to join us a Metropolis to get the answers to these all important questions.

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