Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What Does Elvis Mean to You? (LTA Blog Contest)

"I am an attorney in Alexandria with a staff of 9.  For over 20 years I have kept my office closed on January 8 (Elvis' Birthday) and have treated it as a legal holiday.  People think we're nuts when they call and are told we'll be closed "for the Holiday", but that's their problem. I believe that some day Elvis' Birthday will be officially recognized as a federal holiday, as it should be.  It helps break up that long holiday gap (3 weeks) between New Year's and Martin Luther King Day." -Tom Gorman

"I just have to enter my daughter (Francesca) in this contest! Although she is only 12, out of a million topics she could have picked for her history fair project, she and her friend (Kirsten) picked "Elvis, The King!" They spent months researching, writing, planning, and learning about Elvis and how he changed the world. Their project was selected from their school to move on to the County! Even if we don't win tickets, I plan to take her and her friend to the play... I think they love seeing their research come to life!"  -Judy Ball




"Elvis was not the first bad boy in my life, but he taught me the most.  Growing up in a segregated small southern town divided socially and economically by railroad tracks, I knew bad boys could never be part of my world.  I was classical music, Presbyterian Sunday School, straight A’s.   In 1956 “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Love me Tender”  altered  my tidy 8th-grader’s view of the world.  It wasn’t the physical Elvis– button-downed shirts and a love of Beethoven still trumped the bad boy persona.  The lure was that emotion-filled voice with its endless promises.  I stood firm.  Fast forward fifty years - I am at Graceland for the final event of  an arts conference where I have spent four days watching showcases of hopeful entertainers and musicians.  The tour begins with,“When Elvis was 21 he bought Graceland for his parents - it was the biggest house in Memphis.”   Bought this southern mansion at 21?  They have my attention.  We enter Elvis’s world.  All-white living room, paisley-wrapped tented space - what?  My 1950's design fantasies were shared by Elvis?  Next are the media clips.  My heart stops.  He is young, beautiful, charismatic, with more talent in his little finger than all those showcasing conference artists.  Why hadn’t I allowed myself to recognize he was the real deal in 1956?   Wandering in a daze through the cemetery, the airplane,  garage full of motorcycles and bumper cars, I was suddenly struck again:   wasn’t it “Heartbreak Hotel” that permanently cracked my black and white 1950's world?  By this time I was standing before the row of decadent white jumpsuits in ever-increasing sizes (bad boy suits for sure).  A new convert,  I silently thanked Elvis for making the cracks that set me on the path to Memphis.  Without him, my world might never have expanded."
-Joan Singer

"I have always said I was born in the wrong decade.  From the time I could remember, I have always enjoyed music that was popular 40+ years ago, from the Monkees, the Beatles, and of course Elvis Presley!  I discovered my love for Elvis about 6 years ago when I saw a performance by a very well-know Elvis impersonator, Ryan Pelton.  Ryan was so freakishly like the real thing that I thought that I had been transported back in time!  After that, I started listening to Elvis’ music, watching his movies, and reading lots of books.  It wasn’t long after that, that I had become not only a fan, but COMPLETELY fascinated with the King.  My Elvis collection started with CDs, DVD, books and has grown to multiple cardboard stand-ups, bags, art, costumes, t-shirts, pretty much anything you can think of.  I traveled to Graceland with my dad soon after my fascination started and was blown away.  If you ever get a chance, Elvis fan or not, go to Graceland!  I believe it is something everyone should do at least once in their life.  I would give anything to have been able to see him perform live but all his recorded performances (and shows like LTA’s All the King’s Women) will have to do."  -Tina Barry (LTA's own Box Office Manager)


At Graceland!

With Elvis impersonator, Ryan Pelton!
Elvis means a lot to me. Elvis is proof that any child in America (or anywhere else) can grow up to be anything he wants. Imagine living in the projects of Memphis dreaming of being something someday, and then becoming "The King of Rock n' Roll”. Even though Elvis was as rich as any of us ever dreamed to be, he never stopped enjoying little things. He loved football, roller-skating, a night at the movies, just sitting at home talking to his friends. He never stopped caring about his fans. His fans always meant a lot to him. We loved him in return. That's why we're still here today. Elvis had bad habits, too. Drugs, a temper, he depended too much on the wrong people. But you never heard Elvis claim to be perfect! To him he was just another guy doing his thing. Trying not to hurt anybody. Trying to please people with his music. It's been said Elvis could walk on stage and read a phone book and the crowd would have still loved it. Yet Elvis still had stage fright every time he walked on stage because he was afraid he wouldn't please everyone. I can't listen to "It Hurts Me" without getting tears in my eyes. Every time I play the laughing Elvis track, I have to laugh right along with him. Elvis poured his soul into his music. He demanded perfection from himself while making a record. I agree with Priscilla when she said, "Elvis didn't get it. He never really understood everyone loved Him”. He was still out there trying to earn our love. It was important to him. In my life JFK was killed, the Vietnam war tore this country apart, drugs were everywhere, Hero’s were hard to find. Yet there was always Elvis to look up too. There was always Elvis to listen too. The mention of Elvis brought joy. Elvis gave me a reason to keep trying. Elvis means a lot to me. - J.A.


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It's not too late to submit!!
What does Elvis mean to you?
Do you have an interesting Elvis story to tell?  Has “The King” affected your life in some way?  Or are you just a die-hard Elvis fan?  How would you like to win tickets for The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of All the King’s Women?  Tell us “What Elvis means to you” and you just might!
In 300 words or less, send us your entry via email to tina@thelittletheatre.com.  Entries will be posted on LTA’s blog for Elvis and theatre fans to enjoy!  A winner will be selected at random and awarded a pair of tickets to LTA’s production of All the King’s Women LTA will not post inappropriate or lewd submissions and hold the right to review submissions before posting to the LTA blog.  Please include your name, phone number, email address and Twitter handle (if you have one) with your submission.  We encourage photos if you have them!






Interview with Erin Gallalee (The Woman from The Woman in Black)



What do you find appealing about this play?

I think this show is theatre “magic” at its best. I saw this play in London in 2005 and I thought it was one of the smartest plays I had ever seen. It was very minimalistic in set, costumes, actors, etc… and I wasn’t sure what to expect when it started. I didn’t know anything about it going in and went on the recommendation of the ticket seller. After a couple of minutes, I was intrigued by the story and the way it was performed. A few moments after that, I was completely sucked in. It’s a simple show and a simple ghost story but it delivers big moments. It’s a show that you can’t easily predict so it was fun to go along for the ride and be a little scared along the way. I would watch it over and over again. Even just thinking about it now, takes me back to that London theatre and the emotions I felt being in the audience. Not many shows I’ve seen have done that. When I saw this show on the LTA season calendar last year, I knew I had to try out.

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of The Woman?

After one of the most intriguing (and relaxing – there was yoga!) audition experiences I’ve had, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started rehearsals! I knew it would be a different experience playing this role, but I never comprehended how much. Since my character doesn’t have the traditional lines and interaction with the other actors to build on, one of the biggest things I’ve have to work on is my physicality and movement. There isn’t a single moment that I’m on stage that wasn’t well thought out and worked through, down to the slightest detail. I am by no means a dancer so it has really challenged me and made me aware of how even the slightest movements can change an entire scene and how a single gesture can be so powerful. Kristina is a wonderful director. She really encouraged all of us to play, try out ideas and she asked a lot of questions of us. Each rehearsal was full of making discoveries, interesting talks, laughter and chuckles of glee when we put together something we knew would really make a great moment. I have yet to grow tired of rehearsals with this show. The outcome of everyone’s work has surpassed my expectations and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this play?

I think what I would like is our audience to have a great time and let yourself get sucked in! So much of our society today is based in a realm of instant gratification. We are so used to having most everything here and now and right at our fingertips all while doing 20 things at the same time. There is so much out there to see and do, that we often forget just to sit back and be in the moment. This production is special in that if you let yourself go, be present, and tap into your good old imagination, you won’t regret it.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?

Usually, I look forward to each phase of the show cycle. When a show goes to tech, you’re putting on the finishing elements to prepare for an audience. Most of the time, I’m ready for the show to be seen, and end. For this show, I’m looking forward to tech week like a kid looks forward to Christmas. We still have so much to learn and do! I know we have an awesome technical crew who are going to be bringing in the best of their element and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together on the stage. And then I can’t wait for an audience to see and experience it! I hope you walk away with a similar experience that I had when I saw it in 2005 and you have a great time…and get a little scared.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?

I was put on a stage when I was about 7 years old when my mother became my school/church children’s choir director and my siblings and I became her first automatic volunteers. I was intrigued by this thing that allowed you to be someone else for a period of time, outside of just playing around at home. It was called acting. And it was fun! My first official play was in the 5th grade. I was Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol in a school production. I have been involved in theatre ever since and have been fortunate to have performed on many local stages in the area. I first got involved with LTA in 2005 after I moved to Alexandria from Montgomery County, MD. I didn’t know much about the VA community theatre scene and my mother is originally from Arlington and told me about LTA, which was practically in my backyard from where I lived at the time. I auditioned for their production of (strangely enough) A Christmas Carol and got cast as Belle. I did two more productions of A Christmas Carol in 2006/2007 and then The Secret Garden in 2008. I was also involved in LTA’s PET (Partnership for Educational Theatre) Project that worked to bring behind the scenes and educational theatre programs for students at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?

Just to go for it! I’ve met so many people who have said to me that it looks like so much fun and they would do it if they only could/had more time/was talented enough/brave enough. The beauty of this theatre community is, you can be a part of it!  I would encourage those who want to be on the stage to keep yourself open, take advantage of the opportunities that are out there and audition away! We are so fortunate in this area to have so many places to take classes and so many stages to play on. If the thought of getting on stage gives you nightmares, there are so many more opportunities where anyone can get involved, help is always needed and there are so many great people who will help and teach you anything you need or want to know! And who knows, you may bring personal experiences with you that a company is desperately in need of! If you can build, paint, sew, count, pass out a program or can push a button…just do it! Yes, it’s a sacrifice of time and it’s not always easy, but it’s such a rewarding experience. And some of the people I’ve met along the way have turned out to be some of the best friends a gal can have.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Interview with Elliott Bales (The Actor, no, really, that is the character) from The Woman in Black



Woman in Black, at its core, is about creating a tangible expression of our worst fears. Every one of us has something that terrifies us, whether spiders, drowning, small spaces, or heights. The play, like the ghost stories we tell around campfires and the creepy movies we watch, allows us to feel and face our terror without having to actually experience it. There are no blood spattering murders, no profanity-laced tirades, no zombies eating bodies, and no instruments of torture. Just the combination of light, sound, words, and movement weaving a true horror story that will make you much less…comfortable than you would like to be. Its most frightening elements are those that are most plausible, told in a way that brings each audience member, and even those of us on stage, far closer to the source of our personal terrors than we generally care to travel.
And then we all go out for a drink.

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of “The Actor”?

The Actor actually portrays 8 different characters. I have learned that there are a whole lot of us here inside me, and keeping us all lined up to enter on the right cue is a bit of a challenge. As the saying goes, I am a little schizophrenic, and so am I.

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this play?

I want them to be scared out of their wits. Then, when the house lights come up, laugh with their friends and neighbors about how many cool points they lost in the course of the show. And then, I would like them all to join Erik, Erin, Kristina, the Crew and me at Southside 815 for a little talk back after each performance. And perhaps a drink, to steady our nerves.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?

I started acting in my living room at about 3. I did not take to the stage in a play until my senior year in high school. I went on to get a degree in Drama at University, doing 68 plays in 7 years. I then took a 26 year hiatus to serve as an Army officer, husband and father, so there was not much time for theater. On my retirement from the Army, I wanted to come back and see if I could still stride the boards and remember my lines. The initial results have been encouraging. Then Erik Harrison pointed me towards this audition. What a fantastic facility, passionate group of volunteers and amazing talent is assembled here on Wolfe Street. I hope to have a relationship with LTA far into the future.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?

Start.

As Arthur Kipps character states, “…time and tears”. It does take a little ego to cross the threshold and say “I am good enough to be in your show”. It is a shot to that ego to be told “No, you are not”.  For this reason, ego’s should be hung up in the closet at home before departing for the theater and retrieved later. Each bit you get to do should receive your very best and dedicated effort, you’re A-game every night. Never mark it or phone it in.

Oh yes, and always bring a bag of Twizzlers to share. No one can resist that.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Intervew with Erik Harrison, Arthur Kipps in LTA's The Woman in Black

Erik Harrison, playing Arthur Kipps in The Woman in Black, shares some of his insight in his experience so far with this season's late night show!  Erik is a LTA veteran who has performed in several shows on our stage.  You may remember seeing him in Move Over Mrs. Markham, The Visit, and A Christmas Carol here at LTA.


What do you find appealing about your character and this play?
One, this show is just bloody good. It's a joy to rip into a script so high quality with a cast and crew that are so top notch. It's also just different - "The Woman In Black" is a ghost story, and aside from "Hamlet" and "A Christmas Carol" there aren't that many ghost stories for the stage.

But I think my favorite part of the show is how challenging it is. Arthur Kipps is so different from anything I have played before, and the show puts so much weight on the performances that I have to dig extra deep to keep up.
What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of Arthur Kipps?

I'm not a very good mime.

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this play?

Anything I have to say about the play the play hopefully says on its own. But I think it isn't spoiling anything to say that I hope the audience enjoys being scared by us, a little and in a safe way. It's fun to get goosebumps once in a while, and there should be plenty of good old fashioned spookiness and adrenaline in this show, but also the chance to face your own fears while sitting in a comfortable seat, surrounded by other people, with the chance of having a nice drink a talk after. That's an opportunity not to be looked at askance.
How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?

Here is a secret: eventually shows become just work. After months of rehearsal and tuning, the comedy ceases to be funny for you, the drama ceases to be moving. An audience reignites that but the last few weeks before opening you can become a little numb to the show.

But this one still scares the crap out of me. Every night.

Do you have any personal ghost stories that you would like to share?

The Carson House is an historic home in Marion, NC where I grew up, a plantation seat. It's still kept up, the caretaker living in the old overseer's home behind the house itself. Ordinarily, the thing is a quiet museum of antebellum artifacts, but on the 150th anniversary of McDowell County where it sits, the house was opened up for the celebration. The caretaker was a friend of the family's and I clearly recall his enthusiasm of making the house live again, function again. I remember him ringing a bell that hadn't been sounded since the attic had been closed over a century before, clanging it loudly from the third story balcony, calling the festival goers in for the night.
The Historic Carson House in North Carolina.
Image credit from http://www.historiccarsonhouse.com/

A few kids my age remained behind, children of the event organizers. I knew about half of them. We were given the responsibility and distraction of locking the house up after all the guests had gone, the adults attending to real work back at the caretaker's home. We had just locked the house up, I remember that for fact. Maybe ten of us, the oldest just barely teenagers, sat on benches on the front porch playing I don't recall what game. And then we heard a tapping. She was standing in the window, not tall, but striking. She could have easily been one of the costumed re-enactors set about the place for the celebration, except we knew all of them personally, they had all been actor friends of our parents. She we did not know. And she was looking at us sternly, tapping her fingernail against the glass.

And then she was gone.

We screamed. All of us, at once, screaming bloody murder, we ran back to the caretaker's house, and tried desperately to explain what we had seen. We raised a sufficient fuss that Scott, the caretaker, verified that the house was locked and empty. The conclusion was that it was well past everyone's bedtime.

Did we see a ghost? That would be a remarkable claim, especially since I don't believe in ghosts. But we saw something. And so did that house. That house had seen the birth and death of slaves, of slavery itself, of the Confederacy. The birth of America. Something was left behind, even if only memories, a long silent bell, and a spooky old house. That night, those things were enough.


Make sure to check out Erik and the rest of the cast in The Woman in Black opening on Friday, June 1.  Tickets and show information can be found at www.thelittletheatre.com



Thursday, May 17, 2012

LTA Blog Contest - What does Elvis mean to you?

In conjunction with our upcoming show at LTA, All the King's Women, LTA is proud to announce it's first ever LTA blog contest!
What does Elvis mean to you?
Do you have an interesting Elvis story to tell?  Has “The King” affected your life in some way?  Or are you just a die-hard Elvis fan?  How would you like to win tickets for The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of All the King’s Women?  Tell us “What Elvis means to you” and you just might!
In 300 words or less, send us your entry via email to tina@thelittletheatre.com.  Entries will be posted on LTA’s blog for Elvis and theatre fans to enjoy!  A winner will be selected at random and awarded a pair of tickets to LTA’s production of All the King’s Women LTA will not post inappropriate or lewd submissions and hold the right to review submissions before posting to the LTA blog.  Please include your name, phone number, email address and Twitter handle (if you have one) with your submission.  We also encourage photos if you have them!


The King is alive and well in Alexandria! The story of Elvis Presley told through the eyes of 17 enthralled, appalled, and obsessed women.  Luigi Jannuzzi’s award-winning comedy takes us from Tupelo, Mississippi where a 12-year-old Elvis wanted a BB gun instead of a guitar; to President Richard Nixon’s office and Andy Warhol’s studio; from Cadillac salesmen to Graceland guards. This touching, comedy for every generation captures the effects that fame, generosity and just being a nice guy can bring to others.
Tickets: www.thelittletheatre.com / 703-683-0496
June 9 – 30, 2012
(Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mental Health & Theatre: Artistic Temperaments

by Robin Parker (@rparker18us)

Congress designated May as Mental Health Month in 1949 to illustrate the importance of mental health issues to the overall health and well being of American citizens.   One of the goals is to decrease the stigma about mental health issues, and discuss strategies for making lasting lifestyle and behavior changes that promote overall health and wellness. (YourMindYourBody blog)

I hear a small chuckle ripple through the crowd as I mention mental health in the same blog as theatre and artists.  However, I posit that maybe the eccentric actor perception may be the very part of our creative personalities that keeps us sane, and gives us the outlet to express and purge our emotions, much like we would in a therapists office – we just do it with an audience!

I am currently completing graduate school, and I’ve written my masters’ thesis on conflict management and artistic temperaments.  What I’ve found in the study of the creative individual may speak to our mental flexibility and our abilities to access the full range of the human experience.  I believe this explains part of why the arts have been such an amazing outlet for me and for others of my personalities persuasion.

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Ph.D., known for his research in the field of creativity, comments on the extreme complexity of the creative personality.  He summarizes the creative personality as showing …tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated.  They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an ‘individual’ each of them is a ‘multitude’.  Like the color white that includes all the hues of the spectrum, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves (Csikszentmihaly 57). 

This complex personality enables the creative individual to relay a full range of characteristics that are present in all individuals, but some non-artists cannot access the full range because they have effectively cut off one or the other extremes as being undesirable.    The artistic personality knows and experiences the extremes “with equal intensity and without inner conflict” (Csikszentmihaly 57).
The childlike or wilder side of the personality allows for the creation of original and unique ideas, whereas without the adult like or mature side, the ideas "...will not be developed to the point of acceptance" (Csikszentmihaly 76).
An innovative thought, idea or creation is many times the work of an individual who can function at both ends of the spectrum.


Having an outlet to express and share our creative side has become a strategy for many of us in  “making lasting lifestyle and behavior changes that promote overall health and wellness.”  I would encourage anyone who has the need for a creative outlet to join us at The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA). It has become a place where my insanity translates to my sanity

I found The Little Theatre of Alexandria in 2009 at about the same time I applied to graduate school to pursue my masters in arts administration.  It is hard to believe that not only am I finishing my thesis and getting ready to graduate, but that I have just directed my first show for LTA and am currently rehearsing to make my LTA stage debut in All The Kings Women, opening June 9th.   I simply cannot thank LTA enough for what they have brought to my life; amazing people, amazing opportunities and one of the best possible case studies on how to run a successful and sustainable community theatre.  Throughout my three years of studying arts organizations, my pride at being a part of LTA has grown as I see so many things that are being done so well in this amazing organization.

Robin Parker directed the 2011 LTA production of A Christmas Carol, is starring in the upcoming production All the King's Women and is chair of the LTA marketing committee.