Posts Tagged Alexander Kulcsar

Director’s blog #4: “It’s a Theater Miracle!”

That’s one of my niece’s sayings. For many years in her childhood and early teens she spent a week to ten days with me in the summer, helping to get my summer show up. She learned to sew hems and buttons, to paint textures, to sponge paint on, to take rehearsal notes, to be “on book” for the actors, and to hold my hand when the amount of work remaining seemed impossible to fit into the tiny amount of time remaining. On opening night she’d smile and say, “It’s a theater miracle!”

The community theater “model” depends heavily on the work of volunteers, and thus depends heavily on the existence of a supply of volunteers. In the late ‘forties, ‘fifties, and ‘sixties, when community theater was in its heyday in the U.S., whole families participated in productions, with daddy on the building crew, the kids helping to manage the stage or run the lights, mommy in the cast…or daddy in the cast, mommy working on costumes, the kids doing gofer work…or any other of a large number of variations. Of course the company would also include retired professionals, college grads with extracurricular theater experience, and people new in town wanting to get involved in the life of the community.

Nowadays we’re looking at a different picture. If the kids have time left over from the organized activities designed to get them into a good college, they want a paying job. Mommy and daddy might also need to use their “extra” time to make some extra money, or their employers may expect more than 40 hours’ work a week from them. College grads and youngish adults who enjoy acting may be doing paid work as film extras or trying to break into professional theater. On top of that, there are more community theaters, at least in this part of Connecticut, than there used to be, so the people with time and energy to volunteer are hot commodities, with companies competing for their help.

That’s why so many community theaters find themselves scrambling for personnel, especially backstage personnel, when production time rolls around. Good designers and crews are hard to find.

I was lucky with The Seafarer to have a truly great set designer, Al Kulcsar. He’s done a lot of sets for shows of mine, and they are always genuine places of habitation for the characters in the play, inviting art works for the audience, and good working environments for the actors. He himself also acts (he’s in The Seafarer!) and directs, so he knows what the needs of a cast and a show are. I also was fortunate to have an offer from Jeff Klein to design lights. Jeff is both experienced and in demand, but what I prize most are his artistic eye and collaborative grace. He was inspired by one of the moments in the play to design a special lighting effect that deepens the emotion and effectiveness of the scene in a way that we could not have otherwise accomplished. And I had a wonderful costumer, in the person of Al’s sister, Mary Kulcsar. We’ve done more shows together than I can count, and it’s always a good experience. Rob Pawlikowski, also in the cast, collected and created necessary sound effects, something he is good at and enjoys. My young neighbor Gregory was also helping me at rehearsals, following the script for the actors and helping to deal with props.

Late in the process Joan Lasprogato stepped in to serve as producer for the show. I often work in tandem with my producer, because I like some of the tasks myself, but it’s great to have somebody good to oversee the whole endeavor, support the cast and me, supplement my efforts in the Props department, and sometimes just be there with a cheerful resourcefulness.

But ten days out, there we were. No Stage Manager. No one to execute Sound and Light cues. No one to run props during the show. Needless to say, those people are really important!

Cindy Hartog, who’s on the WCT Board, contacted me to say she could run props for some of the performances and her husband Marc could run lights and sound for those same performances. She also gave me the name of someone who might be able to do lights and sound for the rehearsals and other performances, Kristian Correa. Paul Lenhart came in and loaded the Sound cues and merged them with the Light cues Jeff had written so that everything could be run from one board, by one operator. Ray Stephens came in for some extra help with the board. Cindy also sent me Rachel Rothman Cohen to fill in on Props at the dress/technical rehearsals. And I woke up in the middle of the night just a few days before opening and exclaimed, “Ward Whipple!” Ward has acted in a few shows with me, and I’ve known him for many years. He had asked, when auditions were being held for The Seafarer, if there was anything I needed help with. Aha. I flew down to the computer and sent him an e-mail. He had never done backstage work before, but he said he’d give it a try. As it turns out, he seems to be a natural Props master, and he was able to fill almost all the gaps in the schedule. And then…we got Bethany Schalow. She was another “find” of Cindy’s. She has a solid theater education, good experience managing stage, and a calm and efficient demeanor. Best of all, she was available for most of our performances, plus our tech rehearsals.

So scant days before opening, I had nobody backstage, and now I have a competent and cooperative crew doing as wonderful a job backstage as my actors are doing onstage. The program had to be printed before many of these people materialized, so I wanted to be sure to celebrate them here.

Believe me, it’s a Theater Miracle.

P.S. Opening weekend went smoothly, with three fine performances presented to enthusiastic audiences and me thrilled in the shadows. Seven performances remain. I really think this is a production not to be missed.

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The Seafarer: Director’s Blog #1, Auditions

The next production at WCT, Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, opens Thanksgiving weekend and runs three weekends—appropriately, since the play is set on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
.   One of the most suspenseful and important phases of the production is now behind us: auditions.
.   I’ve auditioned for roles myself, and I find them harrowing. Surely that’s partly because I audition rarely, take roles rarely, and therefore feel somewhat awkward on a stage. I look around and see actors more experienced, more at ease, and more likely to get cast than I, and lose my nerve. I also have some vision alignment problems that mean I have to keep my nose directly in a script to see it, and I know the director would occasionally like to see my face…. Well, because of my own “issues” as an auditioner, as a director I do try to put auditioners at ease, and give them the same chance at a role I would like to be given if I were in their place. And then sometimes I wonder if the auditioners are more relaxed than I am.
.   There’s so much riding on the audition. WHO plays a role has so much influence on HOW it can be played. This is true both for the individual role and for the overall ensemble and the world they can create. I always tell auditioners that I cast to ensemble: that is, how good an actor is individually and “qua actor,” so to speak, is only part of what I’m trying to find out in an audition. How good he or she is for the role, how compatible his or her potential is with my own vision for the play, and how well he or she will complement the rest of the cast and the development of the scenes—these are crucial considerations. Actors tend to feel that if they don’t get a role it’s because the director thought somebody else was a better actor. While that may be so, much more significant is whether somebody else seems better for the role and a better fit with the other actors being chosen for the cast.
.    I directed the Connecticut première of McPherson’s The Weir, and I think he really speaks to me. I have since directed staged readings of several other of his plays, including The Seafarer. I saw the production of this play directed by McPherson himself in New York, but I also see this play very clearly in my own mind, and the members of the staged-reading cast confirmed my love for it and my ideas about its direction.
.   So when I went into auditions for the production of this play, I was hoping to see some of the actors who had been in the reading. For this play I didn’t pre-cast anyone, but I did make sure that people I was interested in would be auditioning, and I also had some possible choices “pencilled in.” David Brubaker, my brilliant and beloved director back in college, said often that a director who had no casting possibilities in mind had no business choosing a play to begin with, and I agree with him. I was interested in all the actors who auditioned, and their potential for this play, and I did my best to give everyone a fair hearing; but for several of the roles, new auditioners did have candidates to “beat.”
.    Most of the actors who auditioned came prepared for the evening, having read all or part of the play, having seen a production of it possibly, having read the audition notice carefully. One of the auditioners had decided only at the last minute to come, though, and since he had not prepared the required Irish accent he chose not to try it. That was a shame, because accents are necessary for this play, and I couldn’t make a casting decision based on the possibility that he could do a good one. Note to anyone auditioning for anyone: come ready to do what the audition announcement has suggested is necessary.
.   In the end, I wound up casting three of the five actors who had been in the staged reading of the play with me. To say the other two were also actors I’d worked with before would be somewhat misleading, because most of the auditioners were actors I’d worked with before. Actually three of the actors cast had been in my production of The Weir back in 2001, as well. For a play this intimate, this demanding, and this substantial, I was unlikely to cast someone whose work I didn’t know. I did that once many years ago and nearly destroyed the show: in fact, I had to dismiss the actor from the cast just two days before we opened because he was nowhere near ready to do the part in front of an audience and, in the lead role as he was, would have brought the entire play crashing down. (Another actor went on with a script and was infinitely better. I wish I had had the courage to make the change sooner, for the sake of the other actors who had gamely been trying to develop their scenes with no help from the lead.)
.   The offer of a role is the beginning of an adventure that has to be buoyed by mutual courage, mutual work, and mutual trust. I’m confident that I have a cast where that will be the case.
.   We’ve had the read-through that begins the rehearsal process, and I enjoyed the camaraderie among the actors, the wonderful interplay of their voices, and McPherson’s natural, funny, painful, beautiful dialogue. I can’t wait to start rehearsals in earnest.

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“Angel Street” – a.k.a. “Gaslight” – opens Friday, November 26 at 8:00 PM

"Angel Street" at Westport Community Theatre, November 26 – December 12

The Manninghams – Jack (Peter Wood) and Bella (Ann Kinner)

“Angel Street” opens tonight, Friday, November 26 at 8:00 PM. “Angel Street” (also known as “Gaslight”) by Patrick Hamilton is one of the all-time great thrillers, a night of theatrical magic that captivates the audience from start to finish and keeps you guessing right up to the end. If you’ve never seen the play that the famous 1940s movie “Gaslight” was based on, this is the production to see! You may know “who” does it… but what keeps you guessing in this story of unfolding psychological terror are the whys and hows.

A diabolical killer… lost rubies… a charming, insistently persistent detective… mysterious footsteps and light shifts… locked drawers and rooms… secrets… intrigue… all part of an edge-of-your-seat mystery that keeps the audience in suspense until the end. To give away the plot is a crime in itself… Bellla Manningham may be losing her mind… and her husband may be a killer enacting a plot to slowly drive her insane – or is he?

Directed by Alexander Kulcsar, “Angel Street” features sensational performances by Fred Tisch, Ann Kinner, Peter Wood, Ruth Anne Baumgartner and Sarah Smegal, – charming, beguiling, vulnerable, saucy, funny, stoic, villainous, duplicitous… – with cameo appearances by Bob Lasprogato and Al Toth. Jack and Bella Manningham’s world on Angel Street stays with you long after the final glow of the gas light…

Opens Friday, November 26 – December 12, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm, and Thursday, December 2 at 8:00 pm. Westport  Community Theatre at Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport. Tickets are $14 – $20; for reservations and information go to (203) 226-1983 or go to westportcommunitytheatre.com for directions.

Check back for profiles, behind-the-scenes information and more!

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“Trumbo – Red, White & Blacklisted”

Westport Community Theatre’ ETC  presents a staged reading of  Trumbo – Red, White & Blacklisted on Friday, October 22 at 8:00 PM; FREE to members and subscribers, $5 all others at the door.

Peter Wood and Alexander Kulcsar in "Trumbo"

Mark your calendars and join us for a timely, very special evening of theatre on Friday, October 22 at 8:00 PM.

Award-winning local actor Alexander Kulcsar portrays screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, in “Trumbo – Red, White & Blacklisted,” bringing the dark days of the 1940s and 1950s Hollywood blacklisting to life in the first staged-reading production of the 2010 / 2011 ETC season at Westport Community Theatre. Free to members and subscribers, $5 all others at the door (no reservations necessary). This staged reading will also be presented at Bare Bones Theatre, Pequot Library in Southport, on Thursday, October 21 at 7:30 PM.

This is a special guest presentation of Square One Theatre Company’s staged reading in association with the Stratford Library, directed by Square One Theatre’s artistic director, Tom Holehan. Peter Wood, who will be starring in WCT’s next production of “Angel Street,” plays Christopher Trumbo, the narrator of the piece.

When famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo defiantly stood up against the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, refusing to answer questions about his political affiliations, he was thrown in prison and blacklisted as one of the “Hollywood Ten.” Written by Trumbo’s son, Christopher, the play is derived from a collection of Dalton Trumbo’s brilliant and razor-sharp letters to friends, former friends, and family throughout his lifetime. Trumbo reveals how the author of such legendary films as “Spartacus,” “Roman Holiday,” “Exodus,” “Papillon” and “Johnny Got his Gun” (as well as “The Brave One,” which forced him to write under the pseudonym Robert Rich) took on Congress, Hollywood, and the “Red Scare”— and won.

Trumbo enjoyed a very successful Off-Broadway run with many well-known actors in the title role – Nathan Lane, F. Murray Abraham, Brian Dennehy, Gore Vidal, Richard Dreyfuss, Roger Rees, Robert Loggia, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Richards and Chris Cooper. It was produced by the Westport Country Playhouse in 2004 starring Paul Newman in one of his final roles.

Alexander Kulcsar as Dalton Trumbo

Alexander Kulcsar is well known to Westport audiences for his mainstage performances of Orson Welles in “Orson’s Shadow,” physicist Niels Bohr in “Copenhagen,” and The Man in “The Turn of the Screw.” He has performed in or directed ETC readings including “On an Average Day”; “The Reeducation of Horse Johnson”; “Rabbit Hole”; “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia”; “A Picasso” (playing the infamous Pablo Picasso); and others. He will be directing WCT’s next mainstage production, the classic thriller “Angel Street,” having previously directed critically acclaimed productions of “The Best Man,” “Sherlock’s Last Case,” and “The Turn of the Screw.” Alexander is the recipient of five Square One Theatre Subscribers Awards, including Outstanding Actor (“Moonlight & Magnolias,” “The Shop at Sly Corner,” “Camping with Henry and Tom,” and “The Business of Murder”) as well as Outstanding Featured Actor (“Later Life”). He will be appearing next May in Square One Theatre’s production of “Art.”

Peter Wood as the Narrator

Peter Wood is also well known to Westport audiences; ETC roles include David in one of the most talked-about of our readings, last season’s Orange Flower Water. He was also seen in “Apartment 3A” and in mainstage productions of “The Best Man” and “Death and the Maiden.” Peter has been nominated for a number of Square One Theatre Subscribers Awards, including “The Rainmaker” and “The Best Man.” He has produced and acted in several productions at Putney Gardens in Stratford, including the Prince in “Romeo and Juliet”; other lead roles with Putney include Orlando in “As You Like It,” Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Orsino in “Twelfth Night,” Don Pedro in “Much Ado About Nothing,” and Alonso in “The Tempest.” He played Elyot in Eastbound Theatre’s (Milford, CT) production of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” last fall, and Tom in Pound Ridge Theatre Company’s “Dinner with Friends” this past spring. This past summer, Peter drew on his musical talents in a production of “Guys and Dolls” with Musicals at Richter.

We look forward to seeing you for what promises to be an entertaining evening of theatre! Go to www.westportcommunitytheatre.com for directions to the theatre.

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Auditions for “Angel Street” September 27 & 28 at 7:00 PM

WESTPORT COMMUNITY THEATRE

Announces AUDITIONS for

ANGEL STREET

A Thriller by Patrick Hamilton

Directed by Alexander Kulcsar

Auditions will be held on:

Monday, September 27 & Tuesday, September 28th at 7:00 PM

Westport Community Theatre

Westport Town Hall – 110 Myrtle Avenue,

Westport, CT   06880

Written in the 1930s, “Angel Street” (originally titled “Gaslight”), is set in Victorian London with all the trappings of a 19th Century melodrama. Young wealthy Mrs. Manningham thinks she is losing her mind until a police detective appears and informs her that her new husband is actually a murderer who is trying to drive her insane so he can take over her estate. Note from the director: The director is looking for skillful actors that can play these melodramatic roles with complete truthfulness and conviction.   Please note that the play was made into a classic movie, “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman in 1944, which is also widely available.

Performances Dates are November 26 – December 12 at 8:oo PM

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Familiarity with the play is suggested.

Characters:

All characters require English Accents.

MR. MANNINGHAM:  Tall, handsome, charismatic gentleman in his forties.  Suave, intelligent, ruthless. Literally a lady-killer.

MRS. MANNINGHAM: Attractive gentlewoman in her 30s who has been emotionally and psychologically worn down by her husband’s domineering behavior. A sane woman driven to the breaking point, she vacillates at times from childlike timidity to homicidal madness.

DETECTIVE ROUGH: (late 40s to 50s) Supremely confidant, cheerful manner. A somewhat quirky gentleman police-detective who lets nothing get in his way.

ELIZABETH:  Servant woman (40s). Salt of the earth, reliable. Loyal to Mrs. Manningham, mistress of the house. Cockney accent.

NANCY: Servant girl of 19. Pretty, flirtatious, unprincipled. A temptress who has her eye on the master of the house. Cockney accent.

TWO UNIFORMED POLICEMEN: Two big guys who look good in Bobby outfits. Roles with no lines, they wrestle and restrain the physically imposing Mr. Manningham.
Scripts will be available at the theatre by request. For further information please call the Westport Community Theatre  at (203) 226-1983 or contact the director at  akulcsar@earthlink.net For directions please visit www.westportcommunitytheatre.com

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