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Thoughts from the Producing Artistic Director: NOTLD

I wear a lot of hats around here, to be sure. Chief, cook and bottle washer. Director, designer, actor, sweeper. But that level of hat-switching is not exclusive to me. That describes a lot of us.

It may have been initially born out of necessity (limited resources and personnel), but I also thinks it speaks to who a lot of us are as artists.

Unselfish. Determined. Well-rounded.

It’s no coincidence that a lot of us here at Jobsite spent some time in the theater department at USF some time in the ’90s, and now the younger generation that’s coming to us who’ve spent some time there in the naughty aughties. One of the reasons I chose to go to USF as an undergrad was the broad liberal arts education they offer. I didn’t want to be another one of those BFA actors who didn’t do anything other than perform. I wanted to read, and get my hands dirty.

When I met Chris Holcom in 1998 (?), I told him he reminded me a lot of myself. I still think he disagrees, but the similarities are there. Fanboy boyscout drama geeks who grew up in relatively conservative and relatively rural locales who had bizarre predilections for the macabre and went through a rather committed goth phase.

But that’s not where the similarities end. We’re both reach-for-the-sky type guys. We both like to push ourselves and this company to our limits. We both are tinkerers and enjoy theater technology as much as we enjoy theater performance.

And we both really, really love Halloween.

Chris originally brought the idea to do Night of the Living Dead to us a few years ago. We didn’t do it because of a combination of our concerns the show was just too big, complex and expensive to pull off and Chris’ own misgivings about how the film was adapted in the script.

After pulling off Inishmore and Pericles in the same season though, we felt a little different about what we might be capable of. Chris had been zenning on ideas in the interim and had a plan.

He originally asked me not only to do his sound design for the show, but to be a bit more involved than usual in the capacity of producer – to help keep budgets straight and on track and generally just worry about those producery (read: financial) things so that his attention could be better focused on making art. I’d be the Mosier to his Smith. Not at all an unfair request with such a monstrous show.

He assembled a crack team (more on them in another post), and then a curveball was thrown – we had to replace Yellowman, and director Karla Hartley offered me the part of Peter in And Baby Makes Seven, which would eat up a lot of that time I planned on being around NOTLD. When the show finally closed and my attention returned to Chris and Co. – he was in pretty good shape. I’ve spent the past two weeks with him and his group helping where ever I can to get this thing to open.

I felt bad in a way for not being there more earlier so I tried to make up for it – building props, cleaning (and cleaning), building, painting, watching every run I could. In a way I’m jealous I wasn’t there the whole time (I do loves me a Halloween show), but I kind of do feel like I have been after the past two weeks. It’s a great group. A HUGE group. Shawn Paonessa remarked last time he was backstage it looked like the Federal Witness Protection Relocation Program. There’s a total of 17 up there at one point. Wowsers. Almost 30 people in all put in a lot of hours to make this thing come alive, and they all deserve their own blog post. I am going to try to work on that.

But, back to our fearless director (he deserves the praise, honestly) …

Chris gets some crazy ideas. Sometimes I really think he’s out of his mind when he pitches ideas to me. Hey, at least he certainly has vision and infinite creativity, right? And a few years ago several of us thought this idea was insane.

Last night, in front of a rabid sold-out preview audience, the reward for the work and the risk was fierce. I honestly do not recall the last time we had such an explosive, charged preview for any show. It was a great night to be in the theater, a mind-blowingly validating experience for everyone who’s contributed, and hopefully a sign of things to come for the remainder of our run.

Some favorite things from last night:

  • Just about every effect/gag that Danny McCarthy made for the show got crazy applause and other loud audible reactions.
  • There was applause every time the lights went down, and also at many other places where the audience was just emphatically in agreement with a character.
  • Knowing laughs and comments when an audience member spotted one of the ‘Easter eggs’ from the original film or any of the sequels.
  • People jumping in their seats or grabbing the arm of the person next to them, shrieking or not.
  • The mixture of gut-busting laughter, nervous laughter and sounds of actual fear coming from the audience simultaneously in places.
  • Shouts of “Oh, no!” “She’s/he’s/it’s behind you!” Normally I really get mad at people talking during a show, but it was minor enough and genuine enough that I never got mad about it. I don’t want to say it was all appropriate, but it certainly didn’t take away from the show.
  • The combined reactions of hard-core fans of the film and people who’d obviously never seen it before.

We’re sold out for this weekend (10/22-25), but tickets are available for all remaining performances 10/29-11/15. PLEASE join us and check it out. If last night was an accurate indication, you’re going to really dig it.

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One thought on “Thoughts from the Producing Artistic Director: NOTLD

  1. Thanks, Deej, for your kind words and thank you for all your help over the past two weeks. Huzzah to my cast and crew. Without their time and talents, none of this would be possible. And I’ll finally admit that we are a lot alike….

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