- Cast members must attend the read through at 3:15 on Wednesday Sept. 16 in the CPAC with a mandatory parent meeting to be held immediately after at 6:00 pm.
- Tech Crew members and their parents must plan on attending the Parent meeting only at 6:00 pm. Please speak with Mr. Gunzelman if you cannot attend.
PLEASE NOTE: Big Fish Tech Crew – PLEASE EMAIL MR. BALL at Ballej@flhsemail.org to officially accept your position. For now….hang tight. I will be in touch as to when we will meet about the show. Your FISHES are on the table outside of my classroom, if you’d like to take them home! (I really enjoyed them!) – Mr. Ball
Check back soon for the CAST / TECH CREW LIST for “YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.”
We’ll also be posting the TECH CREW LIST for “BIG FISH” as well.
Both should be posted by midnight on Friday Sept. 11.
Upon reading this I fear that the Kanye secret service will be deployed, and my body will never be found and you’ll never hear from me again…so read quickly.
I have to address the Grammy Awards and the absolute disgrace of a man known as Kanye West. I say man, rather than artist, because I want to be very careful in how I distinguish him. An artist is someone who creates original work which is to be enjoyed by others, hopefully inspiring them to create something original themselves, ultimately making this world a better place. While this isn’t the standard Webster’s dictionary definition…I’ll stick to it. A man is someone who respects others, defends others, loves others and leads by example. Kanye West is no man.
Beck won Album of the Year, and I must admit these things before I continue so that there isn’t any confusion. I didn’t watch the Grammy’s, I don’t own a Beck album, I don’t own a Kayne West album, I don’t own a Beyonce album. I’ve listened to songs from all albums (I teach high school, for the love of God. Even if I didn’t want to hear, they get rubbed off on me by proxy, like some weird audio mono) and I want to make the bold statement that all three artists in my opinion are talented, creative, worthy-of-an-award artists. I would also like to recognize that Beyonce (who has won 20 career Grammy’s, more than any other woman) and Kanye West has won 21 career Grammy’s (at the young age of 36). With that said, I must subject you to Kanye’s comments to Vanity Fair after he stormed the stage (ala: his embarrassing, most-likely-drunk, moment when Taylor Swift won the Grammy in 2009) as a “joke” to protest Beck’s winning Album of the Year. He turned around and sat back down before saying anything this time…but the message was sent. Here are his comments:
KANYE WEST: “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t going to play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyoncé. At this point, we tired of it. What happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. We, as musicians, have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album, and they feel like it takes them to another place. Then they do this promotional event, and they’ll run the music over somebody’s speech, the artist, because they want commercial advertising. No. We not playing with them anymore. And by the way, I got my wife, my daughter, and I got my clothing line, so I’m not going to do nothing that would put my daughter at risk, but I am here to fight for creativity. That’s the reason why I didn’t say anything tonight. But you all knew what it meant when ‘Ye walked on that stage.”
Here’s what I’d like to address: the messiah complex. From a simple drama teacher’s perspective, who is desperately attempting to nurture and foster a working relationship with young artists everyday, these comments and attitudes, create a sort of status symbol that, by virtue of Kayne’s mere influence in the music industry alone, woos young impressionable minds into thinking that these actions and comments are okay. Justified even. Mr. West refers to respecting artistry. What about Beck’s art? Mr. West refers to the Grammys not respecting the craft. What about respecting the awards ceremony that has blessed Mr. West with 21 previous awards? He says Beyonce was smacked in the face after delivering a monumental feat of of music. Isn’t that merely one man’s opinion? Apparently the governing, voting board thought otherwise. Isn’t that okay? (After all this is just another man or woman’s opinion. Why does your opinion carry more gravity than another’s, Mr. West?)
The problem is not the awards ceremony, not the Best Album of the Year award, not Beck, not Beyonce….the problem is the mainstream media and the music industry. This sort of behavior is unacceptable and to use a word that Kanye loves to use: “DISRESPECTFUL.” This is nothing more than a powerful producer’s little-boy tantrum…and he knows he can get away with it. (After all, he’s done it before without repercussion. Hell, his and Taylor Swift’s career THRIVED after the outburst in 2009. Even more testament to the fact that the world lives and breaths based on what is fed to them.)
People who get SO powerful, so big, so untouchable (people like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Kanye West…etc.) they forget what it is to be a human being, someone who must RELATE with others…someone “in the trenches” dealing with life on an everyday basis. How are we supposed to co-exsist, if mega-stars like this refuse to live by simple, thoughtful morality-based rules that we hold each other to every day. If anyone else rushed that stage during Taylor Swift or Beck’s acceptance speech….ANYONE at all….security would have pounced on them. But, Kanye, he’s above the rules and law.
On a much watered-down level (although one might argue, equally as important, at least to them), this mentality is what plants the notion in students’ minds that when they aren’t cast in the role they believe they deserve, then it’s perfectly reasonable to BLAST the director or student who did get the role. (At least behind their backs, right?) It’s the same mentality that tells society, that a rule of order, especially a subjective / creative one, is not a strong-hold and subject to public scrutiny if any one individual so chooses. (Look at all the frivolous lawsuits out there! “I think they’re wrong, because I don’t think that’s the way it should be!!”) It’s nothing more than glorified, attention-seeking temper-tantrums and it’s ruining this generations perception of what it means to be a true artist.
No one has the right to an award. No one has the right to assume that their agenda is more important than another. And certainly, no one should use someone’s celebrated achievement or recognition to float their own agenda or demand attention. That’s nothing short of being a sore loser. (With an emphasis on “loser.”)
I asked a few of my students what they thought of the matter. They responded “I thought it was hilarious. I don’t know Beck…but it’s just Kayne. It’s something he would do.” *Sigh*
For the record, I have nothing against Kanye West or Beyonce…and I’m not a Beck fanatic. I merely think that young artists today have very few role models…someone to demonstrate that it’s the ART that’s important, not the exposure or attention or legacy or power or money or awards or clothing line AROUND the art.
No doubt Kayne will be all over the news today because of his actions. He’s the mainstream media’s babydoll. I betch we’ll hear about Kim Kardasian’s thoughts on the matter as well. And we’ve all seen the Vine of Jay Z’s reaction…because that’s important too. I’m sure that word will spread about Beck’s Album of the Year win, as well…but I doubt there will be any coverage that won’t feature news about West “pulling another Kanye.” I suppose that’s what makes me sick to my stomach the most.
I’d better go. I must get back to my world and a job I take great pride in, and one that gets harder and harder with every year as this world shape-shifts into a land of right-fighters and Google-schooled know-it-alls. It’s a world of high school theatre where impressionable visionaries are born and discover hidden treasures within themselves. It’s an Indiana Jones 4-year window and it’s my duty to ensure they use their powers for good, not evil. It’s a privilege of directing, nurturing and mentoring…or as I call it, shaping little Kanye’s into selfless artists.
THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who auditioned. We truly had an outpouring of talent and everyone should be very proud of what they offered. Below is the CAST LIST / TECH CREW LIST. Please EMAIL me at ErikBall123@Gmail.com to CONFIRM that you ACCEPT your role / position.
My favorite line in INTO THE WOODS has always been the Witch’s “I was just trying to be a good mother.” It’s widely received (on the stage anyway) as a laugh line to transition a moment. But in Rob Marshall’s version of this story, it’s a poignant, remarkable bookmark that made me almost tear up sitting in the Red Rock Regal Cinema. You see, everyone LOVES Sondheim. (And if you’re a theatre person and don’t…we’ll stone you to death.) But, the thing is…WHY do people love Sondheim? As a patron, is it his release from formulaic musical convention? As an artist, is it the challenge of skillfully crafted material? As a young actor, is it the blood, bad buys and nuances that are so much fun to love of hate? I think the answer is YES on all accounts. But, I would ask you to look past all of this for one moment…and look at the relationship between WORDS and MUSIC.
I’ve argued with anyone who has ears that Stephen Sondheim is a poet. The words he uses in his songs are cleverly and perfectly set to the moment. High schools across the country have presented INTO THE WOODS…heck, there is even a Tumblr site dedicated to low-budget Milky Whites, that I find most amusing. (https://www.tumblr.com/search/lowbudgetmilkywhites) From a producer’s perspective, INTO THE WOODS has a wonderfully twisted ensemble with parts for skilled vocalists, up-and-growing “green” performers, and optional ensemble parts. It has little dance (which is always a concern for drama groups) and costuming, set and prop elements can be as simple and complex as you’d like. The only tricky element is the source material, which in turn bookmarks this musical as a perfect example for those theatre groups hoping to engage students in lessons about simply telling a good story. (And for those who have a hand for creating transportive theatre, the show is a wealth of opportunity.)
I’ve seen about a dozen live INTO THE WOODS productions. (Including one I directed in a high school gymnasium.) I’ve seen wild variations. One included a minimalist production told in an aristocratic living room during a thunder storm, as each high-society snob acted out the parts in turn “making up the story” as they went along. Interesting. I’ve seen video projections, puppetry, one told inside a closed book store and even one production where the Witch transformed from beautiful to ugly (instead of the other way around) and they played it off that the Witch preferred it that way. Hm. I’m sure there was an intended creative choice there and an accompanying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” message they were trying to send (much in the same light as Violet’s invisible scar, in Violet – The Musical, maybe??) Lots of fun to be had with characters we all know already…which is why I think directors feel magically compelled to “reinvent the wheel” (as snobby critics say) in their artistic vision of this particular musical. (Which is why it is so often regarded as a “good musical to produce.”)
The Original Broadway cast was superb…I show the filmed production to my classes…and it served as a springboard for Bernadette Peters to be cast in platinum as the production’s “forever Witch.” (Much in the same way that we’ll compare everyone who plays Elphaba to Idina.) The Broadway Revival, which started out in L.A. and featured a GIGANTIC giant foot that stomped on patrons waiting outside when it transferred to New York was wonderfully bland. I blame Vanessa Williams as unconnectable Witch, but that’s just me. (Loved her in Ugly Betty!) The British version wasn’t really well-received and included the new song “Our Little World.” (I can take it or leave it. I usually disregard it. The show is long anyway. Do we really need to lament more on the Witch and Rapunzel’s relationship and combing her hair?) The Central Park, free admission production offered about 4 years ago was untraditional and offered a creepy Witch, a jungle-gym of a set and a Little Red in a bicycle helmet! I can hardly wait to see the Roundabout Theatre variation that is slated to head to Broadway very soon. (I’m ga ga over the piano concept in their minimalist design. Wackadoodle!)
INTO THE WOODS is everywhere, which was why I went into the theatre today curious. I was pleasantly surprised at Marshall’s “CHICAGO” and I liked…not loved…liked, Burton’s “SWEENEY TODD.” What was going to become of another one of my favorites, and arguably a more often produced musical (moreso than CHICAGO and SWEENEY TOOD) at a high school level. I’m always worried how the non-theatre-going demographic is exposed to theatre in general. Live theatre is the most essential storytelling device we have in the world today. Music is the only thing we as a culture universally share as a binding agent. (We all love music.) Put the two together…and we have the opportunity to move mountains. As a director, I have the privilege (and burden) of shaping a production in the manner in which I hope to offer it up to an audience (full of the most critical theatre-loving critics and first-time theatre goers). When you take a musical that already means so much to you, personally…and redevelop it as a movie…the opportunity to loose integrity is great. (I would argue that the elimination of the chorus of pie-eating patrons in the Sweeney movie made the London masses, a collective character and important voice in the story, made the movie more about a monster of man…instead of the fact that we all might have a little bit of a monster inside of us. “Isn’t that Sweeney there beside you?” How do we know to think about that, if we don’t have a collective voice telling us? But, I digress.)
The Rob Marshall INTO THE WOODS is quite possibly the best theatre to film adaption I’ve ever seen. It’s a wonderful story, presented thoughtfully without any loss of integrity. Those who love the musical will love the movie. Those who have never seen the musical will not miss out on any “inside jokes” or thematic elements potentially lost int he translation. There aren’t any. It tricks you. It’s not a movie-musical….it’s a musical-movie. On three different occasions I burst into a round of applause after a musical number, forgetting that this was a movie, not a musical. It nips and tucks in all the right places, and while I’ve been hearing a drone of “I wish the song NO MORE was included” among my theatre friends, I would argue it was not needed. The handling of the Mysterious Man was well-done, and the elimination of the physical Narrator (replaced wisely by the voice of the Baker, foreshadowing the tear-jerking final moment…which was BEAUTIFUL) made the song a bit redundant. They covered what they needed to cover…and good news!…you can still sing that song in the musical! Other missing musical elements are minimal, but as you’ll note, they were all connected to theatrical devices within the story that were eliminated in the movie. Nip tuck, nip tuck. (It’s a movie…without an intermission.)
What struck me as the most profound choices in the film were the choices. Allow me to highlight a few. *SPOILER ALERT*
- The fact that there wasn’t a single title or credit at the beginning of the movie…brilliant. Immediately it plunked us down into this world. Before we could blink an eye…we were 20 minutes into the film and all of the exposition was laid out for us and we were actively engaged.
- The contemplative “On the Steps of the Palace” was whimsical and perfectly staged as a moment in time. How often have we scrambled our brains to make a decision in a heartbeat…millions of times throughout a day? How wonderfully theatrical of our director to present this song in such a way, and deconstruct the moment that we all know as a simple act of leaving a shoe behind. Fun stuff.
- The Princes’ song “Agony” (a borderline stereotype portrayal of the rugged and babyfaced Princes we all know from their respective stories) found two very likable characters temper-tantruming through splashy waters as they gaze upon their kingdom. It was thoughtful, well-filmed and hilarious. You INSTANTLY championed these two devise characters.
- There is a danger in putting Johnny Depp as the Wolf. Who doesn’t love Johnny Depp? Those not familiar with the show may be heart-broken to only see him for ten minutes of screen time and catching stills from the set prior to watching the movie made me nervous. In performance, traditionally the Wolf is either portrayed as a personification of the age-old lesson of “don’t talk to strangers” or as a evil man of some kind, because all men are dogs…or, rather, wolves. The publicity photos saw Depp as a sort of Zoot Suit wearing gigalo. (Aside from the addition of some fun fur…Depp kinda looks like he was taken right off the street in his usual wears and onto the movie set!) I was pleased to see that HOW Depp portrayed the Wolf. It was very wolf-like…darting between trees to catch a glimpse, his trademark sneer when offering a sprig of flowers to the girl….it was VERY fun. I didn’t care how he was dressed…all I cared about was the fact that Depp was “the wolf” and how it was related was acceptable to me. Sometimes I wonder if I analyze stuff too much. HA!
- The kids were GREAT. Daniel Huddlestone as Jack and Lilla Crawford as Little Red were perfect fits. (I would have loved a bit more snarkiness from Red…but, I’m being picky.) Emily Blunt is a superstar as the Baker’s Wife. James Cordon is adorable and sympathetic as the Baker. Everybody loves Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick IN Pitch Perfect. They were quick to critique her in this film…but I would argue that she gave Cinderella the exact amount of torment. I was initially worried that she’d be too contemporary, but she was wonderful in the role. Tracy Ullman, Chris Pine….shoot, the entire cast was simply well-suited for their roles. Is there an award for CASTING a movie?
- Now let’s talk about Meryl Streep. Preface: I’m a huge Bernadette Peters fan. I’ve always thought Streep was a great actress, but I never understood the tidal wave of hype about her. (In the same breathe…what’s up with the torrent love affair with with Barbara Streisand? I like her…but I don’t get the obsession. Another blog post for another day.) With that said…I cannot imagine another actress who could have played the role better. She sang beautifully and extracted from us the perfect about of sentiment and emotion. We loved her…we hated her…we feared her…and (most importantly) we found ourselves feeling sorry for her. In the song “Children Will Listen” (which is a song that could stand-alone as the show’s landmark) we were transported from the world of many characters’ strife to the inner struggle of a would-be mother and her desperate struggle to connect with her child and shield her from the dangers of the world. It’s beautiful. I LOVED “Last Midnight” for the same reason. I love how I can COUNT ON my students getting pissed off when the Witch disappears at the end of the Broadway version. “Did she die?” they ask. Maybe…maybe not. She’s definitely gone. They HATE unresolved. (Remind me to never read them the folk tale “The Lady and the Tiger.”) The Witch is at the center of this story…and Streep connects in every right way. (And I love the blue hair.)
I’m thrilled that another generation of could-be theatre goers will be exposed to this movie variation. It tells a great story and more importantly it relates (through WORDS and MUSIC) that truly no one is alone in their pursuit to communicate, be needed, protect and survive tragedy together. It’s a bedtime story and when the Baker is telling the tale to his son in the final moments…and the camera peels away…you desperately want to remain, a part of the audience. But no…our director takes us out of that world…and then for the first time presents the title: “INTO THE WOODS” reminding us it’s just a story. Wow. Brilliance.
INTO THE WOODS is the story of all of our lives, (whether we’re Bakers, Princes, Witches or Giants) and can effectively remind us that at the end of the day, we’re all going into a world that presents dangers, and only together can we survive and more importantly thrive.
I sit, poised and ready to purchase the Blue Ray upon its release. I have the projector in my classroom warmed up.