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Behind Theater Doors: Chinglish First Rehearsal Recap

by Amanda Spinella, Artistic Assistant

This past Tuesday was an exciting day for The Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Not only was it Election Day, but it was the first rehearsal for the cast and company of our upcoming production of Chinglish.

 This was my first experience at a Lyric welcome since my recent move from the Front of House to behind the scenes where I now work as the Artistic Assistant, and it was a pleasure to be involved in the beginnings of a production. I’ve been working at The Lyric for just over three years and…it’s no secret that I love it here: the dedication to the job and the art, the feeling of family, and of course, my co-workers’ witty humor. But it was newly energizing to watch my veteran superiors speak so enthusiastically about their positions. From ticketing to outreach, it was so clear how many moving parts go into making this production something really fantastic. For me, after working with scripts and contracts, it was great to meet the cast face to face and watch the work begin.

With the whole team assembled, we began with the Meet and Greet where staff members introduce themselves, their positions, and give a basic rundown of how the company operates, focusing on the fun things like when The Lyric treats us to dinner. This Meet and Greet was particularly special because there are a lot of new faces joining The Lyric family for Chinglish and meeting for the first time. Some of the new actors joining us for this production include Alexander Platt, Tiffany Chen, Michael Tow, Celeste Oliva, Chen Tang, Liz Eng, and the Language coach, Gail Wang. From the way we were talking, joke-cracking, and sharing, you would never have known that moments prior we were strangers; the excitement and positivity for this production were palpable. It was wonderful to see seasoned company members and hungry newcomers alike diving headlong into creating a comfortable atmosphere and even more, a detailed and thoughtful production.

The sense of coming together was only made stronger by the fact that it was Election Day. We relayed stories left and right about how long we waited to vote, what kind of characters we met in line, and not once did it matter who we voted for and why. I was reminded immediately how important it is to share these experiences, how exciting it is to come together for change, and how, despite our differences, we can be involved in something bigger than ourselves. From voting in a presidential election to mastering the Mandarin in a new script, we had plenty to bond over. Larry Coen, the director of Chinglish, ended with some uplifting thoughts about the work we were beginning. He informed us that it was believed on the Tibetan calendar that all the positive energy put into the world that day became multiplied by 10 million. Whatever you believe, it’s hard to argue that that’s not a fitting fortune for a day full of unity and new beginnings.  

Chinglish, by David Henry Hwang, opens Friday, November 30th, and with this beautiful cast, excellent story, and hard-working team, you won’t want to miss it!

The Chosen Talkback # 2

by Paul Lazo, Marketing Assistant

The Chosen continues to astonish audiences, bringing them into the climate of the Brooklynneighborhoods and Jewish communities that resided there during the time of World War 2. After the November 4 matinee showing of The Chosen,  Director Daniel Gidron and the cast, Charles Linshaw, Zachary Eisenstat, Joel Colodner, Will McGarrahan, and Luke Murtha, all joined our Associate Artistic Director Nora Long for another talk back with the audience.

The talk began with a question that really had actors thinking about how far their characters have come now that they are mid way through the shows run. “The more you do a run the more you can try new things and the more you can surprise your scene partner” said Luke Murtha, who plays the role of Danny Saunders in the show. Joel Colodner (Reb Saunders) has actually come to understand the text far more over the past few performances, “I’ve discovered things in the past week that I wasn’t able to understand during rehearsal… I began to understand why [Reb] was speaking through Reuven,” he said.

One audience member in particular was interested in the audience’s doorway into the show, Charles Linshaw’s character Reuven Malter, who functions as a narrator. Charles said, “If I mess up the timing I really really mess up the show… I’m sort of in between the world of the audience and the world of the stage.” Audiences were very interested in his character, who is directly addresses the audience – sometimes defining Jewish terms that some audience’s members may not have been accustomed to.  “I had an intellectual idea of why I was talking beforehand but having a physical idea is different than knowing in my brain why I am doing it.” Charles coherently brought us into his process for such a difficult character that juggles a number of hats throughout the entire piece.

The entire piece was well received, many audience members getting lost in the universe of The Chosen citing that the show is one everyone can relate to, one you surely do not want to miss.

The Chosen continues its run at Lyric Stage until November 17th.

The Chosen Talkback #1

Katherine Raymond, Marketing Assistant

This past weekend The Chosen went up with much success getting positive review after positive review from its audiences. The Chosen, adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok, portrays a story of two Orthodox Jewish students in the 1940’s who, through their friendship, further explore the relationship with their religion as well as explore the complex relationship with their fathers. Following the Sunday, October 21 matinee performance, Director Daniel Gidron and the cast, Charles Linshaw, Zachary Eisenstat, Joel Colodner, Will McGarrahan, and Luke Murtha, all joined our Associate Artistic Director Nora Long for a talk back on the production process and their experiences with the performances thus far.

The talkback began with a question about the challenges they faced in production and finding their characters.  “[We were] trying to get the richness and life of the novel portrayed through just five characters on a stage,” said Gidron.  With the adaptation relying on heavy content from the novel, working with an adaptation that story and condensing it into two short hours on stage proved difficult, but ultimately rewarding.  The actors themselves found that fitting so much personality into their characters was also difficult, but as Luke Murtha, who plays Danny Saunders, said, “So is any role, every role is different and has its own challenges. He paused and added, “Learning Yiddish was hard though.”

During the rehearsal period, a Yiddish coach came to teach the actors the proper usage of certain words and to give a lesson on Jewish Orthodoxy.  There are many nuanced differences between sects of Orthodox Jews, so the cast had to be careful to differentiate to give a full accurate performance.  Many of the actors approached their characters as any other character they would portray: “someone you have to understand and emulate.”

Audience members were perplexed by how honest and beautiful the acting was from the  cast, some of whom were faced with the challenge of learning Yiddish understanding a culture completely different from theirs. For some of the actors, the novel served as a source for further research on their characters. The entire cast affirmed that Gidron did an amazing job of pulling his actors back, or pushing them forward, getting from them the honest performance he knew they could deliver.  It certainly worked: several members of the audience expressed having been moved to tears.

Another talkback will be available following the Sunday, November 4th performance of The Chosen.

Behind Theater Doors: The Chosen Load In

By W. Vickroy, Marketing Assistant
As the Lyric Stage Company of Boston finished up their run of The Mikado this weekend, work immediately began on the set for Lyric’s new production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. While of course the finished set will remain a surprise for show goers until opening night on October 19, we thought in the meantime we’d offer a little peek at what our hardworking design and technical masters have been up to behind the theatre doors. I managed to sneak in this afternoon to snap a few quick shots and ask a couple questions about what all is happening here.

photo of tech table

The tech table (left) sits among the seats during tech week, acting as a home base for the production team and allowing for the stage manager and designers to directly control lighting and sound from within the house.

The diagram below outlines the appearance of the center stage, as well as some detail on the walls of the set for The Chosen. Schematics like these allow for designers to visualize their plans and concepts for set design.  

diagram of set, page one
diagram of set, page two

More photos from the theater below:

photo of cables underneath theatre seats
photo of paint buckets backstage

The Food Opening

A. Nora Long
Associate Artistic Director

A new season is upon us, and last night we celebrated the opening of The Mikado at DaVinci Ristorante , just round the corner from the theatre. In order to avoid confusion with the first performance (on Fridays), the Press opening (on Sundays), the Wednesday night performance is affectionately known as the “food opening” because of these little post-show gatherings at our restaurant sponsor.
Check out a couple of photos from the Food Opening taken by our own Brian Dudley (on his iPhone):

Photo of Joelle Kross, Kathryn McKellar and Risi Basu with Spiro Veloudos
Cast members Joelle Kross, Kathryn McKellar and Rishi Basu pose with the show’s director, Spiro Veloudos.
photo of Harry McEnerny V and Davron S. Monroe
Avenue Q pals Harry McEnerny V and Davron S. Monroe share a laugh.
photo of Stephanie Grenade and Erica Spyres with their spouses, John and Andrew
Cast members Stephanie Grenade and Erica Spyres pose with their spouses, John and Andrew.
Photo of the Lyric Stage Staff
The Intrepid Lyric Staff: Brian Dudley, Matt Whiton, Dahlia Al-Habieli and me!

Avenue Q – The Understudy Life

by Alycia Sacco, u/s Girl Bear, Mrs. T, Others

When I first saw Avenue Q on Broadway some years ago, I was always hoping to have the opportunity to one day be in the show. When I was offered the job of understudy at the Lyric, I knew that it was a dream come true. My experience learning not only about the show, but puppetry was an amazing experience. 

The skill set of an actor is never complete. We are constantly learning and developing our craft. Avenue Q was unlike any rehearsal process I have ever been a part of. A schedule of a two and a half rehearsal process is usually what I am accustomed to being a part of in Boston. During this time the show is learned, blocked, and teched. Avenue Q was the same – except rehearsals started a tad early for those who would be using puppets. I have so much respect for those who make puppetiring their livelihood. The amount of skill and focus that it takes to make it look easy is extremely challenging. The puppets get quite heavy, and it takes some practice to learn how to make them come alive. The task of perfecting a live performance is always tricky, but with the added skill to learn, tricky became ten times harder.

The cast of Q was incredible. Each performer was extremely dedicated to the project, and very specific when creating their characters. As a result they each helped my job a little easier. I was most worried about not having the same amount of foundational work as the cast did. Meaning, not as many performances under my belt to perfect my puppet skills, but when the time came for me to perform I was more than ready.

My performance was unreal. I have never done so much preparation on my own, Leaning several vocal parts, plus the blocking for a number of different characters, was certainly a stretch for me. I was extremely nervous about mixing up blocking and notes, or my hand cramping, or missing a line, but it all worked out fine. I am so grateful to have had the chance to be a member of the cast of Avenue Q at the Lyric. I truly believe in the work that the theatre provides to the City of Boston, and I am so thankful for every opportunity that is given to me there.

Lyric First Stage – Alumni Reflection

Sarah Stearns, Lyric First Stage Alumnus

One of my first memories of Lyric First Stage is Spiro Veloudos chasing me around the theatre with a stick.

It was the opening scene of Hamlet. I was the harried watchman and he was the ghost of the Old King. He was trying to teach us the most basic lesson of acting by provoking honest reactions on stage, in this case, fear. Since I was a thirteen year old aspiring Tony Award winner being chased by the artistic director of the Lyric Stage Company with a stick, I believe he was successful.

Many of the lessons I learned through the Lyric First Stage program similarly went over my head at the time. But studying theatre in college six years later, I often stumble across knowledge I now take for granted that I actually learned doing Lyric First Stage. That summer, guest artists threw around strange names like Uta Hagen and Meisner, and I was convinced that [program director] Peter Carey hated me. Now the acting theorist Uta Hagen’s name is so familiar to me that my cat is nicknamed Cuta Hagen after her, and Peter Carey – like all great directors – only knew better than I did just what I was capable of.

Beyond theatre, I did more growing up that summer than I’ve ever done in such a short time. Not only did I meet my first boyfriend in the program, I also learned just why the works of Shakespeare have endured four centuries. I discovered the importance of seeing theatre if you want to be in theatre through the Lyric, and, most importantly, for the first time, I gave more than I thought I was capable of to a project and was truly proud of the results.

My experience at Lyric First Stage cultivated not only my love for the theatre but the standards I still strive for in every facet of life. I remember one guest artist who came in to teach a workshop told us all that the only way to pursue a career in theatre is whole-heartedly, with absolutely everything you have. At Lyric First Stage, fifteen minutes early was on time, three new choices were required at every rehearsal, and everyone, every student and staff member, committed every ounce of energy to each moment of the process, and loved every second of it. I’ve found the standards that we, as very young artists, were held to are often hard even for much more experienced actors to reach, and yet every member of our ensemble eagerly put everything into our work there. Lyric First Stage prepared me for the hardest parts of pursuing theatre simply by giving me a resoundingly positive foundation to draw on.

When I encounter a challenge that feels insurmountable, in life or in theatre, I still think back to my summer at Lyric First Stage, where I first learned to hold myself accountable for more than I think I can accomplish.

Avenue Q – Set Design

Kathryn Kawecki, scenic designer Avenue Q

sketch of Avenue Q set

For this design, I was really trying to create an urban nook that felt real but that could still have some quirky character & make a nod towards learning life lessons through skits & songs. Glancing across the surface, it’s a fairly straight forward street scene, but the details have a little more of the show’s personality: the graffiti on the side of a dirty box truck colorfully counts the 123s, in the background a brick wall has a city skyline painted on it (also in graffiti) as a reminder of the bigger city this neighborhood belongs to in the distance, and (my favorite) the bodega sign is “ABCs Anytime Variety Mart”, where under layers of grime, everything is happily waiting to burst into song.

ABCs Anytime Variety Mart sign


Last Chance

A. Nora Long, producing associate

Tonight is our final post-show forum and then only a few more performances till we close The Temperamentals on Saturday. Rehearsals for Avenue Q are underway, and we will dive into that a little more next week here. 

The run of this show has been full of a range of experiences: standing ovations, walk-outs, tears, laughter, anger, confusion, thank you notes and hate mail (well, maybe not hate mail, but angry-mail). We have had quiet discussions in the lobby, and bold poses in our photo booth. The range and intensity of these responses is, in a word, striking.

I think The Temperamentals is a beautiful and moving play, about a rag-tag group of gents who made an impact on American History that deserves to be recognized. But, I also think, if everyone felt the same way about this play (and every other) we wouldn’t really need to make anything ever again. We would just keep doing the same production for infinity, because we all thought it was brilliant, and how can you improve genius? And, that, friends, would get a mite old.

Our audience is not a monolith, nor would I want them to be. I think by evoking an emotional response from so many different people, no matter the joy or venom, means we are on to something. Theatre, like all art – but especially theatre – works best when it matters to us. When it gets us riled up, it means the transitory 2 hours traffic lives on in us.

Join us tonight for the show at 730PM or for the Forum at 9:30PM or the reception afterwards at Club Cafe. 

Missed The Temperamentals? You can check out our production blog here!

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A. Nora Long, producing associate

Tonight is our final post-show forum and then only a few more performances till we close The Temperamentals on Saturday. Rehearsals for Avenue Q are underway, and we will dive into that a little more next week here. 

The run of this show has been full of a range of experiences: standing ovations, walk-outs, tears, laughter, anger, confusion, thank you notes and hate mail (well, maybe not hate mail, but angry-mail). We have had quiet discussions in the lobby, and bold poses in our photo booth. The range and intensity of these responses is, in a word, striking.

I think The Temperamentals is a beautiful and moving play, about a rag-tag group of gents who made an impact on American History that deserves to be recognized. But, I also think, if everyone felt the same way about this play (and every other) we wouldn’t really need to make anything ever again. We would just keep doing the same production for infinity, because we all thought it was brilliant, and how can you improve genius? And, that, friends, would get a mite old.

Our audience is not a monolith, nor would I want them to be. I think by evoking an emotional response from so many different people, no matter the joy or venom, means we are on to something. Theatre, like all art – but especially theatre – works best when it matters to us. When it gets us riled up, it means the transitory 2 hours traffic lives on in us.

Join us tonight for the show at 730PM or for the Forum at 9:30PM or the reception afterwards at Club Cafe. 

Missed The Temperamentals? You can check out our production blog here!

Last Chance

A. Nora Long, producing associate

Tonight is our final post-show forum and then only a few more performances till we close on Saturday. Rehearsals for Avenue Q are underway, and we will dive into that a little more next week at our freshly-launched, all-new Lyric Stage Boston Blog

The run of this show has been full of a range of experiences: standing ovations, walk-outs, tears, laughter, anger, confusion, thank you notes and hate mail (well, maybe not hate mail, but angry-mail). We have had quiet discussions in the lobby, and bold poses in our photo booth. The range and intensity of these responses is, in a word, striking.

I think The Temperamentals is a beautiful and moving play, about a rag-tag group of gents who made an impact on American History that deserves to be recognized. But, I also think, if everyone felt the same way about this play (and every other) we wouldn’t really need to make anything ever again. We would just keep doing the same production for infinity, because we all thought it was brilliant, and how can you improve genius? And, that, friends, would get a mite old.

Our audience is not a monolith, nor would I want them to be. I think by evoking an emotional response from so many different people, no matter the joy or venom, means we are on to something. Theatre, like all art – but especially theatre – works best when it matters to us. When it gets us riled up, it means the transitory 2 hours traffic lives on in us.

Join us tonight for the show at 730PM or for the Forum at 9:30PM or the reception afterwards at Club Cafe. And, join us next week at our new destination for more year-round blogging!

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