Friday, May 28, 2010

A Theatrical History

“The only life worth living is one that you are really passionate about.” That pretty much sums up my feelings about why I do theatre. I have been involved with theatre for one way or another since elementary school, starting out with my fifth-grade production of Once Upon a Lily Pad. Clearly I was not meant to be an athlete – that was my brother. I, on the other hand, am the “artistic” child, and my passion is theatre.

During my middle-school years I was actively involved each summer with the Troy Players Youth Theatre through the City of Troy Parks & Recreation. After a few cheesy productions, my aunt introduced me to Deborah’s Stage Door Center for the Performing Arts, where my cousin took dance lessons. So in the summer of 2003, I auditioned for Bye Bye Birdie, my first large-scale production. What an eye-opener that production was. I fell in love with the entire process, from rehearsals to tech week and of course, being onstage in front of a large audience.

I then followed the director of Birdie, Stacy White Cleaveland, back to Deborah’s for her acting classes during the school year. This is where I became even more in love with the art of theatre. Through improvisation, scene study, character development, and the final workshop production, I learned many of the skills and techniques that form a good actor. I then went on to enroll in her musical theatre class as well, and continued each school year then on.

I returned each summer with Stacy to participate in her Summer Theatre Conservatory musical production, performing as Barnacles in Honk!, Prince Dauntless in Once Upon a Mattress, The Cat in Seussical the Musical, The Lion in The Wiz and Mr. Bucket in Willy Wonka.

Along the way at Deborah’s I started taking voice lessons with Tara Sievers, who introduced me to her community theatre company, Project DayDream, based out of Birmingham. So in the summer of 2007 I auditioned for The Sound of Music and played Rolf that June. After The Sound of Music, I performed again with Project DayDream as Warbucks in Annie Jr., Combferre in Les Misérables, as well as Jafar in Aladdin Jr.

I also had the opportunity to experience the production side of things when I served as the stage manager for Madeline’s Christmas, another Project DayDream production. I was able to combine my love of theatre with my skills in organization. This is where I think I found my true calling, theatre production. Though I have always had fun performing onstage, being behind the scenes working with the creative team felt like something I could see myself pursuing as a career. So when auditions came around for Project DayDream’s next production of Beauty and the Beast, I knew exactly what part I wanted: on the production team.

For Beauty and the Beast, I served as Assistant Producer, my favorite theatrical role thus far. As the assistant producer, I was responsible for working with the producer and director to provide support and assistance in a number of areas: coordinating and managing committee volunteers, holding meetings, managing the tech crew, maintaining costumes and props, recruiting volunteers and working to raise funds and sponsorships from businesses throughout the community.

I also had the ability to express my creativity by designing all marketing materials, flyers, forms as well as the playbill for the show. Publication/media design has always been a hobby of mine, and to be able to combine this with my passions for theatre and organization made this past summer truly unforgettable.

So when it came time to prepare myself for the next step in my life—college—I began wondering where my future would take me and what opportunities I would be able to take advantage of. I’m lucky enough to have upperclassmen friends who were able to tell me all that MSU has to offer. Even just one week into the first semester, I was already being presented with numerous production opportunities, from assistant stage-managing Palmer Park to stage managing Freshman Showcase. I am thrilled that I was able to get such a head start on my theatrical career here at MSU, and I’m ready to make the most of the next three years.

As a theatre major I often wonder where my degree will take me. When I’m asked what my dream job would be, I would have to say a Disney Imagineer, specifically working for Disney Creative Entertainment, producing shows for Walt Disney World. With that in mind, I am excited about the freedom a BA in theatre can offer me, and the range of classes and electives I am able to take.

Summer Fun

Summer is in full swing here in East Lansing! Immediately following the end of classes, I started a one-week gig as a stage manager for the 14th annual Young Playwrights Festival at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts. I stage managed three of six plays, written by high school students and chosen by a committee to be produced in a collaborative effort between the Department of Theatre and the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts and Creativity at Wharton Center.

Following a week of long days of rehearsals at the Auditorium and the Pasant Theatre, the Young Playwrights Festival had two successful performances. Then I dove right into my summer class and my summer job, stage managing the Summer Circle Theatre's 50th anniversary season. This summer, "Blithe Spirit," "The Drunken City," and "Alice in Wonderland" will all be presented on the banks of the Red Cedar River in the annual free outdoor theatre production.

Rehearsals for all three shows are going quite well. It's fun jumping from show to show on a daily basis, because each show is unique and I get to work with three different directors. The cast of eight actors performing in these shows is so much fun and makes the long days go by so much faster. The first of the three productions, "Blithe Spirit," opens in less than two weeks, and then it's a weekend of "Drunken City" and a closing weekend of "Alice."

With the end of Summer Circle will come the end of class for the summer, and THEN I will finally get to go home, spend some time with my family and get ready for my Disney College Program! In less than three months I will be on my way to Florida to start my semester at Walt Disney World! I definitely can't wait!

Until then, there's rehearsal, class and summer fun. I'm definitely enjoying this summer and all the fun it has presented me so far.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Disney Characters Come to Life!

It's every little kid's dream to meet the one-and-only Mickey Mouse, or perhaps their favorite Disney character... and boy do they have the opportunity at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. With character greetings, character breakfasts/dinners, and other meet-and-greet experiences around the parks, there's plenty of Mickey and friends to go around.

"But why doesn't Mickey talk, mom?" --"Because he's shy, dear."
No, Mickey Mouse and the rest of his head-costumed friends cannot verbally interact with guests. Sure, you can chit-chat with the Princes and Princesses, but not Mickey.

Until now.

A few years ago, Walt Disney World debuted "Dream Along With Mickey," a live stage show in front of Cinderella Castle. What made this show extra-magical was that the characters' eyes blinked, and their mouthes moved in sync with their dialogue! Sure, you might snag a few photos of Mickey with his eyes closed, (as I did on my last trip to WDW) but the effect is simply amazing and adds another element of magic to the experience.

After watching the show for a while, you can catch onto the trick. The performers control the movement of the eyes and mouth by moving their fingers. While watching, you'll notice that the characters' hands are always in motion, especially their fingers.

Here are a few photos from my recent trip to WDW:

And just the other day, Disneyland previewed a new talking Mickey Mouse, who interacts with guests one-on-one! His eyes blink, his mouth moves, he even calls you by name!

This new technology is obviously still being tested, and it will most likely be quite some time until it is fully implemented into the parks.

But for now, there are a few videos on YouTube for all to enjoy the magic of talking with Mickey Mouse!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

List #7: Disney TV Specials

I love watching documentaries, especially when they are about topics as they relate to Disney, specifically Disney World or other Disney theme parks. So I most definitely take time to watch TV specials about Disney, and luckily the Travel Channel regularly airs Disney-related specials.

Here are all of the Disney-related TV specials I have recorded onto DVD:

1. Ultimate Walt Disney World
Travel Channel, 2004
This special examined Walt Disney World's thrill rides, including Tower of Terror, Dinosaur, Test Track, and Space Mountain. Also included was Mission: Space. This one-hour special featured interviews with Imagineers and guests, talking about what makes these attractions so thrilling and so popular.

2. Disney Cruise Line
Travel Channel, 2003
This TV special tells the story of the creation of the Disney Cruise Line ships. Cameras go into "off-limits" areas and show viewers behind-the-scenes looks at the ship's galley, engine control room and other backstage areas. Also discussed is the story of Castaway Cay, and how Disney turned this deserted island into a private Disney oasis in the middle of the Caribbean.

3. Disney's Animal Kingdom
Travel Channel, 2002
This one-hour special gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park, from its early days in the drawing rooms to the finished product. Imagineers discuss the huge tasks and complications involved in this ambitious park, and discuss the technology involved in shows and rides such as Dinosaur and the Tree of Life.

4. Walt Disney World Resort: Behind the Scenes
Travel Channel, 2002
This special gives viewers an exclusive look behind the scenes of many of Walt Disney World's most popular attractions, including The Haunted Mansion, Test Track and the Tower of Terror. It also explores the design and construction problems, discussed by Disney Imagineers.

5. Disney's Dream Weddings
Travel Channel, 2009
This program features celebrity party planner David Tutera giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings unit. From food to décor, there are so many ways to add a little magic to these weddings.

6. Undiscovered Walt Disney World
Travel Channel, 2003
This program explores the many off-the-beaten-path experiences guests can have at Walt Disney World. Beyond the parks and resorts, there is so much to explore. Downtown Disney is filled with entertainment. You can even book a private safari! It's all explained in Undiscovered Walt Disney World.

7. Unwrapped: Walt Disney World Resort
Food Network, 2003
The popular show Unwrapped goes to Disney World! Host Marc Summers gives viewers a look at how those famous Mickey Mouse ice creams are made, and how elaborate wedding cakes are made for Disney Fairy Tale Weddings. This special is a great overview of all the tasty treats offered at Walt Disney World.

8. Samantha Brown's Disney Favorites
Travel Channel, 2008
Popular travel hostess Samantha Brown takes viewers to Disneyland and Walt Disney World to visit her favorite parks, ride her favorite attractions, and eat at her favorite restaurants. She picks her top 15 "favorites" and offers helpful advice on making the best of any Disney trip.

9. Disney Holiday Magic with Samantha Brown
Travel Channel, 2007
Travel Channel star Samantha Brown takes viewers to Walt Disney World to explore the many holiday festivities. Viewers are treated to interviews with Cast Members about what makes these holiday celebrations so magical. Included are The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Epcot's Candlelight Processional, and the elaborate decorations at many of Disney's resort hotels.

10. Modern Marvels: Walt Disney World
History Channel, 2006
The popular Modern Marvels show takes an in-depth look at the backstage areas of Walt Disney World. Viewers are given behind-the-scenes looks at the incredible technology and engineering of the entire Walt Disney World Resort. From the tunnels beneath the Magic Kingdom to the advanced Audio-Animatronics figures, plenty of "insider scoops" are offered in this TV special.

11. Disney on a Dime
Travel Channel, 2009
This TV special follows families on vacation at Walt Disney World, and offers money-saving tips for vacationers on a budget. From budget hotels to booking dinner reservations, a number of tips and tricks are offered to make the most of your money at a Disney park.

12. Project Xtreme: Disney Cruise Ship Overhaul
DIY Network, 2009
Contractor host Matt Blashaw helps Disney Cruise Line give one of its ships a massive overhaul, and takes viewers along for the ride on this enormous project. He shows the amount of work and energy that goes in to the restoration and maintenance of the Disney Magic during its seventeen-day dry dock.

13. Yard Crashers: Disney Epcot
DIY Network, 2009
In this one-hour special, landscape contractor Ahmed Hassan takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes look at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. He surprises a lucky family with a trip to Disney World in exchange for their help in "crashing" a garden in the Flower & Garden Festival. He shows how much work is involved in transforming Epcot into a colorful collection of gardens, flowers and character topiaries.

14. What You Get for the Money: Walt Disney World
Fine Living Network, 2009
This TV special shows viewers how to get the most out of their money on a Walt Disney World vacation. The program examines various vacations and experiences available at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom... all based on a budget of $1,600.

15. Behind the Magic: Disney Holidays
HGTV, 2009
This program explores how the holidays are a year-round business at Walt Disney World. Even at Thanksgiving, crews have been working for 8 months getting ready for the Christmas season. Viewers are given a behind-the-scenes look at the enormous amount of time and hard work that goes into the decorations and celebrations around Walt Disney World for the holidays.

16. House Crashers: Disney Holiday Special
DIY Network, 2009
Hosts Josh and Trey, along with a lucky family, transform an empty space in the Magic Kingdom into a Lilo & Stitch-themed "holiday oasis" for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Viewers get a behind-the-scenes look at decorating the Magic Kingdom for the holidays, and learn the secret to making it snow on Main Street, even in Florida weather.

17. Food Network Challenge: Disney Celebration Cakes
Food Network, 2009
On this episode of Food Network Challenge, four cake artists are given the task of designing a cake for a Disneyland guest and their celebration. The winning designer wins the $10,000 prize and a gold medal.