Welcome to 2020! The year to start a new decade or finish an old one, depending on your perspective. Either way, 2020 will be a year to reflect on what you accomplished, what still needs to be done, and then get out there and do it. I started this blog in August-September to maintain some semblance of relevancy among my theatre peers. It feels like I’m accomplishing this, based on face to face feedback I’ve received, but it’s hard to really know for sure with my subscriber list being so small. I know there are plenty of improvements and things to learn in the world of blogging and stuff for me this year. Since community theatre productions are not as common as movies or shows, I started adding movie and streaming info to the blog. I get more shares with community theatre reviews; however, I get more comments on the movie and streaming reviews. A mixed audience…I’ll take it!
What I love about community theatre: It’s an opportunity to bring people together, not just for one night, but for weeks or months! It can take as little as three to four weeks for a Reader’s Theatre production since the material is performed with scripts in hand and generally a limited set or chairs with music stands. My productions of Think Twice and Approaching Simone took at least eight weeks. Time stewing about the material, breaking down the characters, a couple of table reads, and then 6-8 rehearsals before the three performances. Of course, I had been dreaming of directing these two shows for decades… Full main stage shows can take a three to six months from auditions to close depending whether the show is a non-musical or musical production. I know I have a dream list of shows I’ve been carrying around for a looong time. I fantasize about scenes or dance sequences on a regular basis. Since pre-production can take years to develop, people are bonded together for a period of time collectively bringing a live performance to the stage. People learn a lot about one another. They may argue or click, but in the end, they’ve become part of a theatre family no one can undo. Have you ever been around a group of people and one of them says something and the rest of the group collectively reacts while you’re standing there wondering what just happened? Probably an inside joke or line from a production they were all in together. Some shows leave scars. Literal ones from falling or banging into a set piece. Hidden scars from love lost, a voice silenced, or feeling left “waving through the window”. This community is sacred to me. I’ve been involved in theater since I was a young girl; however, it wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I discovered my love and need for directing. Eventually, life brought me to Corvallis, many, many years later and I took a chance one January night. I auditioned for Les Miserables at The Majestic Theatre. I got in, even though I wasn’t expecting to. There were a lot of talented people! That show changed my life and brought me out of a very dark time mentally. I made life long friends and renewed my commitment to community theatre. I started writing again. I started directing again. I made cameo appearances. And now, I’m building a community theatre in Philomath. I not only want to create a space for the shows I want to do and see and experience—I want to create a space for people like me to write, produce, direct, and perform in the shows they want to do and see and experience. I want to have those conversations. I want to expand and grow my knowledge and my community. I want to create a safe space for those in dark times who need it and for anyone else who wants to be a part of something together. I want to protect it from bullies which push the very people out who need it the most. I want community theatres to thrive. Not just with more money but with more dedicated space and time to produce material which provokes conversation and brings people together on a deeper level of understanding and acceptance. I know theatre is entertaining and it should be. But it also allows an opportunity, through art, to express the areas of life which need a light shown upon them to be recognized, validated, and understood. So we, as a people, can appreciate all the things which make us a community. Conversations can be hard, at first. Mostly because people may feel hesitant about sharing or unsure how their view will be accepted. Once we get those beginning growing pains out of the way, sharing and listening and growing will come much easier. When we challenge, we grow. When we ask questions, we grow. When we open the door for people to share their view, we grow. When we protect the sacred space of theatre, we grow.
My call to action for my theatre friends is to promote and attend the community theatre in your area and beyond! Support the arts with donations, if you can. Buy tickets, volunteer your time, encourage those who’ve dedicated their energy bringing a production to life. Be part of the conversation. Tell people what you liked, how it made you feel, or what you hoped for going in. Feedback is vital for growth. Knowing what worked and what didn’t helps those gain perspective and get better with the next show. I hope to see you in the seats or onstage in 2020! I know I’ll be there 🙂
What I love about movies and streaming: Movies transport me to a time or place I haven’t been. Some movies bring back memories I had long pushed to the farthest reaches of my mind hoping never to remember. Movies give me hope, make me angry, make my eyes fill with heart emojis, and break my soul. With a touch of music or change in lighting, movies can scare us or make us fall in love. The style, the pace, the language, the use of color or black & white, the relationship of the characters. Filmmakers have the ability to bring moments into our life which cannot happen otherwise. Of course, movies are there to entertain and they should. Going to the movies at a chain theater is a treat for many people as the cost to see a movie in the theater has grown. And if you want a snack, you’ll need to take out a small personal loan. Independent movie houses, like Darkside Cinema, offer a more intimate viewing experience which not only immerses you into the film but going there makes you feel good about supporting a local business owner. Plus, the food is pretty good! Even The Whiteside, in it’s enormity, is intimate with its nostalgic decor, balcony seating, and ceiling fixture. You can’t get that at home on the couch. Movie houses allow the movie goer to experience the movie as intended by the filmmaker. With the special effects, screen size, dolby sound, and the darkness. Unless you hopped on the home theater train years ago and created a home theater in your living room or basement, you don’t really experience a movie like this at home. I remember when Netflix came out. I was super excited to make my dvd list and keep it updated. Netflix had all the documentaries I wanted to see and those I didn’t even know existed. I remember getting those little red sleeves in the mail and being so excited to see what I was going to be watching that night. *For those who don’t remember, you made your list of movies then Netflix would send you one or two in the red sleeve. Once you were finished watching, you returned the dvd in the sleeve and Netflix would send the next one on your list. Even though I made my list, I never kept track of what was coming next so each time was a surprise. Then Redbox came on the scene. Super cheap little video vending machines all over town. If you missed it at the cinema, you could rent it for $2. Cool and convenient. Even though, like Netflix, the convenience and accessibility of it meant many video stores with employees shut down. Ah, technology. Pretty soon, we’ll all be out of work. Vending machines and the internet will do everything for us. Then Netflix decided, hey we can make our own content! Which they did and so do Amazon, Hulu, and a bunch of others. Do box office numbers really matter anymore? Do they reflect the merit of the film? In an age of streaming and Redbox, do people really need to go to the movies? My answer is yes. Yes, they do. They need to get out of the house, sit in a movie theater seat, eat movie theater popcorn- or whatever their choice of snack is-, sit in the dark, and be transported. For those theaters showing classic sci-fi throwbacks, silents, film noirs—yes, people need to see those. Can you watch them at home? Probably. If you can find a copy. Are they better in a dark room with other people who share your enthusiasm for a particular genre? Yes. Yes, they are. For those showing movies of the past, yeah, we can watch The Wizard of Oz or Gone With the Wind on television, or VHS-DVD-Blue-Ray, but think of the impact seeing them on the big screen when they first came out! I wasn’t alive then so I’ve only seen smaller versions–adapted to fit the screen. Even Jurassic Park, The Matrix, or Toy Story. Seeing those in the cinema changed my perspective on filmmaking. I knew I was watching a film which would revolutionize the way people made and experienced movies. I was so blown away by The Matrix, I saw it three times in one day. Now with streaming, the possibilities reach so much farther than your personal movie collection or even what’s at the Redbox vending machine. There are so many choices, I find I spend waaay too much time scrolling instead of searching for a specific film. I do have lists but often to adhere to them. Maybe this year, I’ll stick to my list and add things as they come up. Then watch whatever is next. Decisions are hard…I don’t consider myself a film buff anymore. I used to. I worked in the industry as a writer, actor, voice-over actor, and producer. I saw everything in the theater. I studied what worked and what didn’t. Formulas, dialogue, sequences, camera angles, shots within shots. I was a walking encyclopedia of who’s who in cinema. As with any language, if you don’t cultivate it, it fades away. Now, I see as much as I can. I write about it as much as I can. This year, I want to talk about it more. I want more dialogue about what people are watching, not just me putting energy out and receiving a smidge in return. My friend, Maureen Frank, is undoubtedly my greatest supporter. She watches almost everything I recommend and she tells me about it! She shares what she liked or what she didn’t like. That’s what I want more of.
My call to action for my movie going friends is to consider how and where you spend your movie dollars. Supporting Darkside Cinema and The Whiteside make a HUGE difference because you are supporting the small guys who don’t have corporate dollars to show movies regardless of ticket sales. Ticket sales and attendance keep the doors opened and lights turned on (or off, lol) as well as support employees who give great service and care about you! If you bring a container to Darkside Cinema, they fill it with popcorn for a discounted price plus you save the environment from another piece of trash 🙂 Sometimes life is crazy and we need an escape to alternate reality. Sometimes life is bland and usual and we need to see a different perspective to know and understand what life is like for someone completely different than us. By different I mean, demographically, ethnically, socially, and other ‘ly. People say deep down, but really it isn’t so deep…people are the same people in varying circumstances of life with varying social constructs which enable or restrict. Regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, orientation, gender, or all the characteristics society labels us with or label ourselves, all people want the same things, the same opportunities, the same blessings.
May 2020 bring you all the blessings, challenges, and opportunities to live your best authentic lives and may you pass these blessings to others you meet! XOXOXO Jeannette