Behind the Scenes – Creating Nora Swan

Behind the Scenes – Creating Nora Swan

In England, nearing the end of World War II, Richard Swan and his wife Nora were in a terrible car accident that claimed his life and left her blind.  It is now 1951, Nora lives in New York City, and an old friend of Richard’s comes into her life with the shocking news that Richard was an OSS Operative and he was in fact, murdered to keep what he knew a secret … and now, those killers were after Nora!  But Why?!?

Hi, Tracy here — I’m back again :).  This time I bring you “Nora Swan: Murder Most Personal”.

But before I can tell you about the making of this little gem, it’s important to bring you up to speed on something else … you see, Judie has always had this … affliction, if you will.  The kind that prevents anyone from wanting to watch movies and tv programs with her, especially murder mysteries.  She inevitably ALWAYS figures out the plot and the who-dun-it within the first 10 – 20 minutes of the program and before she thinks it through, blurts it out, ruining it for the rest of us!  Do not fret friends, we’ve been working on her for some time and I think it is safe to say that she is now a recovering plot-spoiler!

One day, Gary said to her, “why don’t you write a murder mystery and see who gets your plot before you’re ready.”  He was kidding at the time, but the idea stuck with them both and one day, Judie woke from a heavily dream-filled sleep, “I wrote a murder mystery last night,” she says to him over a cup of tea (coffee for him, creamy through an I.V. lol).  There was a time this would have had him giving her the oddest looks, with much confusion and a stammered, “just last night?”  But not now.  The general plot points were shared and the two of them got right to work on filling in all the details and bringing the characters to life.

One day during this creation process, I walked in the office and wound out standing quietly in the back, watching and trying to contain my laughter.  I find them quite amusing.  She was so focused, “no no no, the blood will spatter that way and it’s all wrong,” to which Gary replies, “but if you shoot from this direction then [so and so] is in the way (yes I just censored myself to save the story for you … will wonders never cease lol).  They went on and on about weapons, blood spatter, angles and the like, “bad time?” I asked, to which she replied, “I can’t talk right now, I’m murdering someone.”  I just started to chuckle, thinking “oh I hope homeland security isn’t eavesdropping, they just wouldn’t understand.”

Turns out, they weren’t just plotting murder … in their story that is … they were doing a full scene diagram with little shapes that denoted different types of furniture, little people and moving and placing them about to make sure they got the staging right … that it all made sense.  I hope they saved those little pieces, could be fun years down the road to stumble across them.

In any event, there’s another little snippet for you from behind the scenes with the Judie and Gary hour.  Perhaps next time I’ll delve into a meeting that has Gary on the trampoline, or laying on the floor under the desk all while Judie is … well … flailing :).

Hope you’re having a wonderful day and look forward to working with ya!

All my best,
Tracy Renee

Behind the Scenes – Fractured Follies

Behind the Scenes – Fractured Follies

By special request from The Rosarito Theatre Guild, we created a Vaudeville style “Follies”, added our own wacky sense of humor,and created wonderful new scenes and scenarios featuring music from musicals written by Sapperstein and Murway and voila!… The “Fractured Follies” was born!

Hi, it’s me again, Tracy Renee, VP/CMO of J&G.

Did you know that back in the 1980’s, Judie and Gary were a musical duo, writing their own music and performing at more venue’s in the tri-state area than you could shake a stick at?  Today, some of those songs work their way into their musicals such as Morning Song in Bloomin, but so much more is brand spankin’ new.  By the way, if you clicked to listen to Morning Song, that’s Judie singing.

Music has been at the heart of their collaborations for … well, a long time, but don’t tell Judie I gave away anything about her age 😉 she swears she’s only 23 hehe.

Anyway, we’ve been working with The Rosarito Theatre Guild out of Rosarito California for several years now, a relationship that began when they discovered that our Press Play system enabled them to put on a musical for the first time ever.

After their huge success with Dancer the Footloose Reindeer, Sylvia called and said “you do know you are writing me a new musical for next Christmas, right?”  and Santa’s Other Reindeer was born.  Far be it for Judie to miss an opportunity to fill a need :).

While Santa was still being written though, Sylvia contacted Judie and started talking about how easy our works were to perform, and how amazing it was that she’s able to pack her theatre full when she performs our works.  She wanted to know what else we had that wasn’t for the Christmas season, something simple to perform with a small cast size but that could include many more people if they chose.

As is wont to happen with a mind like Judie’s, the new show started instantly unfolding in her head, but we’d had a meeting just the day before about “no new musicals till we finish what we’re working on now!”  The next thing I hear is the shout through the studio, “Oh No, I’ve Brainstormed and I can’t make it Stop!”  Gary and I looked at one another, shook our heads with a chuckle and all we could seem to say was, “here we go again.”  And though not yet named, that was the moment that Follies was born.

Keep in mind, it’s summer 2014.  We’re still working on Santa — finishing the music, the Press Play CD, the performance versions of the music, the demo versions of the music and doing script clean-up and here we are with something new that needed to be done and ready to send to Sylvia for the 2015 summer season.  We discussed how to make another musical in time (Judie just can’t help herself lol) … and still finish off Santa’s Other Reindeer for the up coming Holiday season.

And it hit them, “lets make it a follies” they said at about the same moment.  It always fascinates me to see how their minds work so well together.  “A funny skit-based show that could easily be broken down into demo performances so that theatrical groups could perform snippets ‘around town’ to garner more interest, and instead of writing new music that we just don’t have time to do right now, we’ll work music from our existing musicals into it.”  It was brilliant, so much so I had to add, “you know, when a theatre wants to also do one of our other musicals, it ties their season together nicely and they can use Follies as a marketing tool for whats to come, or a recap tool for what just happened.”  We’re always looking ways to help theatre’s fill seats!

Well, I’ve rambled quite a bit on this story, so sorry, thank you for your patience and for reading it through.  I hope you enjoy these behind the scenes moments from here at J&G and that Follies brings you joy and keeps your toes a tappin’!

All my best,
Tracy Renee

Behind the Scenes – Unspeakable!

Behind the Scenes – Unspeakable!

This is the story of a family with a history steeped in the fire of war and the heartache of loss as they discover the importance of learning who they are by coming to know and understand who and where they came from…No matter how UNSPEAKABLE it may be!

UNSPEAKABLE! has a hint of the supernatural and a powerful message artfully crafted to bring tears to your audiences’ eyes while not letting them leave the theater depressed.

Over the years, many of you have said to me, “let me know when you have a powerful, serious drama.”  Well, this is that day my friends.

I’ve read it myself, and listened to the live read-through’s.  After the first read-through, I called it a 7-tissue piece (that’s how many tissues I needed for just the tail-end of it).

And then Judie calls me one afternoon, sobbing her heart out.  I thought something was seriously wrong and was ready to speed over to rush someone to the hospital.

Thankfully that was not the case.  Apparently, she’d just finished some reworks and edits of this piece to polish it and implement feedback from directors who had critiqued it for us … and she just couldn’t contain the emotion of it.

The thing that fascinates me the most with this work though, is not only do you get the intrigue and suspense of mystery; a sense of anger as you watch the jerk of the story trying to tear the family home apart out of greed; the pain of loss due to the unspeakable death of a child; the anxiety of regret and the spookiness of the hint of the supernatural (all the rage these days) — but in the end, somehow, Judie and Gary manage to leave you with a watery smile.

The audience is left with a feeling of hope and a sense that while something truly UNSPEAKABLE has happened, their is hope for the future.  Out of all darkness some good must come.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  I just wish I could send you the tissues through email as well 😉

All my best,
Tracy Renee

Childrens Theatre by Adults

It is really wonderful to see how “Children’s Theatre” has taken off.  I don’t mean children “performing” theatre.  I’m talking about professional adults creating professional performances and taking them TO the children.  New theatre product is being created and performed in schools and theatres for the benefit of exposing children to the wonders of live theatre very early in their lives.

Advancements in costuming and puppetry has made for an instant lure to the inventive and imaginative minds of children everywhere.  There are more Children’s Theatre Groups popping up all over.  Some are associated with a particular theatre and others are independents…ready to travel and perform in a variety of different locations.

In this world of television cartoon characters shooting and blowing everything, including themselves, up … as well as the frightening and sinister super villains that are ready to spew fire and pound the bad guys into the ground with their super human powers, it is good to see a venue evolving that gives our children at least a fighting chance of experiencing wholesome, pleasant adventures through the magical ride that is live theatre.

That is precisely why we created BLOOMIN™.  We wanted to put something out there for theatres to perform, that lets children laugh with fascination, while adults can laugh at the double entendre and not be bored as they might with a live expo of say … Thomas the Tank Engine or Barney.  We really wanted to promote a positive message for children to grow up with and adults to enjoy.  BLOOMIN is deliberately exposing children to the joys of live theatre and music as well as concepts such as gardening being fascinating, fun and productive (very green).

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back in time where the old carefree and easy musicals of the early days of theatre might become the new fangled kid on the block in today’s theatrical industry, such as we’ve tried to do with BLOOMIN.  There’s truly something for everyone. Each piece of music is a different genre so that NO ONE will be disappointed.

So what is your theatrical group doing in the sub-set of Children’s Theatre?  What do you look for when you look around for something new to show your young audiences?

Where have catchy musicals gone

Has anyone noticed that musicals just don’t seem to stick in the head like they used to?  Yes, some rise to great fame and popularity like Cats or Wicked, but what do you remember about them 10, 20 or 50 years later?  Once their run is over, do you think 50 years later theatres all over the world will still be paying to perform them as they do Gypsy or Oaklahoma?

Think about it … “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair” became a commercial ditty, but got its start in the amazingly popular stage musical and movie, South Pacific.  Then There’s always “Singin In the Rain,” while that was a movie, it was still a musical and who can forget that tune?  Come to think of it, where did the musical and dancing movies go?

So, how many songs from “Cats” do you remember well enough to hum a few bars?  What about Wicked? They’re amazingly popular Broadway musicals, but the music from them don’t seem to have longevity with any age bracket.  Why is that do you suppose?

Well, I’ve read a number of blogs on the topic … the general consensus is that today’s musicals are actually being classified as “modern operas.”  The songs are actually the speaking lines set to music whereas the good old show tunes and memorable plays like “Funny Girl” or “Gypsy” even “Oklahoma” have the story happening in the lines and the songs are there to enhance the story line, but not be the actor’s lines.  Because of this, they’re memorable, they’re catchy … and today, in the new millennium, 50 years or so after they were originally produced, these plays are still the popular favorites for small and large theatrical groups around the world.

What’s going on in the entertainment industry these days with the types of productions being produced?  So many things are spin-offs, remakes, rewrites, spoofs … where’s the original works?  The truly new stuff as once came about in the early days of Broadway?  Research has brought me to realize that the smaller theatres wont do it unless the production is proven to bring in a crowd and make money and Broadway wont take much note unless it’s been performed in smaller venue’s.  Kind of a catch 22.

Has the stage seemed to have lost it’s draw to the world as the silver screen spin’s off the new “classics” like “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra,” and “Transformers,” or yet another Friday the 13th remake.  It’s all death, dismemberment, violence, big guns, high tech, blow it up bigger than the other guy and scare you out of your pants.  It’s no wonder the kids are doing this to each other.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Transformers :), and I’m sure when the kids drag me to GI Joe I’ll probably enjoy it at least once, but I just wish there was more going on with entertainment than this.

I wish there were more opportunities to take the kids to the theatre, off Broadway, off-off Broadway, doesn’t have to be on Broadway.  But if I take them, I don’t want to see another rendition of Cinderella, or a stage version of a Disney cartoon and they don’t want to see a long boring drama … wouldn’t it be nice to walk out laughing with a tune stuck in your head that you enjoy humming throughout the house?

Theatrical Roots in Bucks County, PA

So, what do you know about Bucks County, Pennsylvania??  Depending on where you’re from, possibly not much, but those in the theatrical community might tell you that Bucks County has very deep roots in the theatrical arts.

Home of The Bucks County Playhouse, Town and Country Players, The Bristol Riverside Theatre, Langhorne Players, and Rogers & Hammerstein, Bucks County is uniquely positioned about half-way between New York and Philadelphia creating an ideal environment to try out new works.

Did you know that Grace Kelly got started here in Bucks County?  Or that 45 years ago Robert Redford walked out on stage in Bucks County in “Nobody Loves Me” and even recently visited to take a walk down memory lane?  Even Lillian Gish appeared in Bucks County.

Why on earth am I talking about Bucks County in this blog?  Well, it’s where we’re from yes, but also, I myself didn’t know some of the famous people that got started right here in my very own back yard.  I found that interesting enough to want to share it.  What about you?  What do you know about the area, or even other areas?  Who’s frequenting your home town?  What’s going on out there … share with us what you know about this and other hotbeds of creative talent.

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