Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Staged Reading Series: Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead on February 3








Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's 2008-2009 Staged Reading Series continues with Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead by Bert V. Royal.

Laurie Russell directs the cast, which includes Steve Gooch, Beth Grimes, Calle Hack, Alan Hertz, Jessica Hoffmann, Cameron Johnston and Matt Russell.

It will be performed at the historic Monon Depot Theatre in downtown Lafayette on Tuesday, February 3, at 7 p.m. There will be a question-and-answer session immediately following the reading.

Audience members are encouraged to pay what they can for admission. To learn more about Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead or the 2nd annual Staged Reading Series, call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit the Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette Web site.

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD CONTAINS MATURE LANGUAGE AND SITUATIONS.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Man Who Came to Dinner in the Journal & Courier

Tim Brouk of the Journal & Courier, Tippecanoe County's local daily newspaper, previewed The Man Who Came to Dinner in yesterday's -- Thursday's -- edition. The article examines the show's premise, lists some actors who are part of the large cast, and includes quotes from director Scott Haan and actors Ted Hingst and Arliss Jeffries.

You can read the complete preview online at the Journal & Courier's Web site.

Announcing the cast of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Director Laurie Russell has announced the cast of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, the third staged reading in the 2008-2009 staged reading series at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. The script is by Bert V. Royal.

The cast includes:

  • Steve Gooch
  • Beth Grimes
  • Calle Hack
  • Alan Hertz
  • Jessica Hoffmann
  • Cameron Johnston
  • Matt Russell
The staged reading of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 3, at the historic Monon Depot Theatre in downtown Lafayette. Audience members will be asked to pay what they can for admission. For more information about the performance or the staged reading series, please call 765-423-PLAY (7529).

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD CONTAINS MATURE LANGUAGE AND SITUATIONS.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Civic Volunteer Album: Meet Karen Tislow.


The "In the Wings" series of blog posts highlights the directors and actors of each Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette production. And while it makes sense to promote them on the blog -- actors are the face of a production, and directors are the brains -- there are whole groups of volunteers who go unrecognized, not only on this blog but also perhaps by the playgoing public.

The "Civic Volunteer Album" will highlght various Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette volunteers who more often than not volunteer behind the scenes of productions as stage managers, designers, backstage crew and much more. They are the backbone of each production, supporting what everyone else can see and hear on stage.

Karen Tislow has volunteered at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette as properties mistress, backstage manager, backstage dresser and usher for several productions, but her love of theatre started an early age.

"I have loved theatre since I saw my first stage production when I was in seventh grade," Karen said. "My music teacher took my class to see a production of Brigadoon, and I was hooked."

Karen's first experience with Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette was the production of My Fair Lady held at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in the 2004-2005 season. Linda Horton, the production's choreographer and one of Karen's friends, asked if Karen wanted to be involved.

"I assisted Debbie Hobaugh with the gazillion props for that show," Karen remembered. "She was so amazingly organized, I was impressed. Debbie took me under her wing and taught me how to be a properties mistress."

Since that production, Karen has been part of the crews of Lend Me a Tenor, The Case of the Hopeless Diamond, Steel Magnolias, Crowns, The Odd Couple, Greater Tuna, Proof and The Man Who Came to Dinner.

She fondly remembers being one of the backstage dressers for the 2006-2007 season's production of Greater Tuna.

"Anita Weston, Rachel Bundy and I dressed and undressed the two actors multiple times during the show in a matter of seconds," Karen said. "The pace was hectic to say the least, but there was such a feeling of triumph when we got the actors into their costumes and back onto the stage for their cues.

"Anita, Rachel and I wrote a spoof of the play, videotaped it and held its world premiere at the final cast party."

Karen said she feels a thrill when she hears and sees an audience's reactions to the actors.

"When an audience reacts and 'gets it,' it makes all the work that the cast and crew have done to present the production worthwhile," she explained.

Karen concluded by sharing what prospective volunteers may experience when they work on a production at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette.

"If anyone has the slightest interest in theatre, they will love being a part of the Civic family," she said. "It is such a satisfying feeling to work together with a group of people -- some whom I know, some who are new -- and to all have the same goal of putting on a quality production. From the first read-through of the script through the highs and lows of rehearsals, the laughter and the frustrations, the pulling together to create the magic moments on stage make the time commitment and the hard work all worthwhile.

"I have no talent for being an actor on stage, but I am able to use my organizational skills behind the scenes. And, without a crew of technicians and artists, the actors on stage wouldn’t be able to practice their craft. The behind the scenes crew is just as vital to a performance as the actors and director."

Monday, January 26, 2009

The 2008 No-Show Ball was a huge success

The 2008 No-Show Ball, Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's annual end-of-year capital fundraising (non) event, was a rousing success. Civic Theatre members and donors provided funds to upgrade technical equipment in the Civic office. Managing Director Steven Koehler shared that there are now three new computers in the office, all with upgraded software, because of such a generous response.

Another result of the No-Show Ball is that the theatre now has a new digital camera that will be used not only in taking photographs for Show Buzz, Civic Theatre's newsletter, but also to take photos of people auditioning for Civic productions.

"For years we took Polaroid pictures of everyone who auditioned," Steven explains in the current issue of Show Buzz. "The photos are kept on file but we get new people who audition, causing us to spend well over $100 every year on Polaroid film. Within a few years, we will make back the money spent on the camera. On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette, thank you."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How increased competition and the economy may affect theatre: the IBJ examines an NEA study

In a January 17 article, Kathleen McLaughlin of the Indianapolis Business Journal analyzed a December 2008 study released by the National Endowment for the Arts. Authors of the study reported that the number of not-for-profit theatres with budgets of $75,000 or more doubled between 1990 and 2005. McLaughlin wrote that the study was concluded before the events that led to the current recession, however. She cited a separate NEA study in which officials noted that the number of adults who reported attending a play or musical during the previous 12 months declined between 2002 and 2008.

In her article, McLaughlin asked theatre professionals -- including a producer, theatre professors from the University of Indianapolis and Butler University, the NEA's director of theater and musical theater, and two founders of a new Indianapolis theatre company -- how the multiple factors of increased competition, decreased audiences and an economic downturn may affect the future of theatre.

You can read the complete article at the Indianapolis Business Journal's Web site.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Memory of Stephen Luther III


A little more than a week ago Stephen Luther III passed away. I did not know Stephen, or about his connection to Civic Theatre. Thankfully Jo Gelfand, long time Civic volunteer, contacted me with the information. The following post tells us all a little about Stephen and his all important contribution to Civic Theatre.



A little piece of the mosaic that makes up Civic Theatre has been lost with the recent death of Stephen G. Luther III.


Today's audiences and performers take for granted the marvelous facility that is the Monon Depot Theatre. However, back in 1978, Civic didn't really have a home. We put shows on at West Lafayette High School, Morris Bryant's, Howard Johnson's, Ramada Inn, a tent at Market Square, a West Lafayette City Hall courtroom, Loeb Playhouse, the Lahr House Hotel, Sunnyside Junior High School, and our own cement block Workshop on Cason Street. We "made do" with whatever facilities we could, whenever and wherever we could. Then, Jim Stegenga came up with a revolutionary idea - transform a run-down, leaky-roofed railroad station located in the heart of downtown Lafayette into a working "home" for Civic. That's where Steve Luther came in. Steve was a professional fund-raising consultant who fell in love with the idea of recycling a decaying, historical property into a viable, functional theatre. He came up with the concept of "Culture... Preservation... Downtown" that became the rallying cry that brought private citizens, local businesses and local government together in order to complete a $300,000 fund drive.


This was unheard of back in the late 70s!


I was privileged to be able to work with Steve on the Civic Monon Depot fund drive. He had an uncanny ability to bring together people from all walks of life to support a project. He got letters of support from then-mayor Jim Riehle, the Executive Director of the Convention and Visitors Center, Paul Henck, and the President of the Downtown Business Center, Matthew Neuwelt, among others. He waded through the red tape to get Civic registered officially as a non-profit organization. He could look at a mass mailing and tell you, almost to the penny, how much money it would bring in. We worked many late hours, starting the project in an office in the Long Center (back when it was still the Mars Theatre), then in the Lahr House (where I could watch trains pass by through my office window), and then in the Wells Building (which is now on Civic's Tour of Terror - not my office, specifically, but the building).

Steve and I worked on other projects together over time - the Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama, Indiana Republican State Committee - but the Civic Monon Depot Theatre project was always close to Steve's heart. It was Civic's first major fund drive, and one of its most successful. I was a member of the cast for the Golden Gala Opening of the Monon Depot Theatre on September 15, 1981. I can remember Steve being there, reveling in an evening of well-deserved celebration. I lost touch with Steve after he moved to Indianapolis, and was saddened when I saw his obituary in the paper. He was a great boss, a wonderful mentor, and an important, if somewhat unrecognized part of Civic's history.


He was more than a piece of the mosaic - he was a cornerstone. Rest in peace, Steve. Job well done!


If you have any memories of Stephen, please leave them in the comments section. I will be sure that his family has access to these posts. I would also encourage you to visit the Flanner and Buchanan site here to leave a personal note for Mr. Luther's family.

Announcing auditions: Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Auditions have been announced for Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead by Bert V. Royal, the third script in Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's 2008-2009 staged reading season. They will take place Tuesday, January 27, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Civic Theatre office at 313 N. 5th Street in downtown Lafayette.

Director Laurie Russell is looking to cast 4 men and 4 women. Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script.

When CB's dog dies from rabies, CB begins to question the existence of an afterlife. His best friend is too burnt out to provide any coherent speculation, his sister has gone Goth, his ex-girlfriend recently has been institutionalized and his other friends are too inebriated to give him any sort of solace. But a chance meeting with an artistic kid, the target of his group's bullying, offers CB a peace of mind and sets in motion a friendship that will push teen angst to the very limits. Drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion and sexual identity collide and careen toward an ending that is both haunting and hopeful. Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead contains strong adult language and content.

The reading will take place February 3 at 7 p.m. in the historic Monon Depot Theatre. There will be a brief discussion immediately following. It is a Pay What You Can event.

In the Wings: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Photos of the set.

The following photos show the set for The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production in Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's 2008-2009 Mainstage Season. These photos of the not-then-completed set were taken in early January.





Thursday, January 22, 2009

WLFI spot

WLFI TV-18 is our media sponsor for the 2008/2009 season. Part of our agreement is that they produce the 30 second commercials that run during the run of the show.

The is the commercial for the upcoming production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, directed by Scott Haan. Please enjoy.

Also, please purchase tickets, the show runs January 30 - February 15. Tickets are available at the box office 313 North 5th Street, by phone 765-423-7529 and online http://lafayettecivic.tix.com


In the Wings: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Meet Arliss Jeffries.


Arliss Jeffries plays Sheridan Whiteside, the title character in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production of the 2008-2009 Mainstage season at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. The script was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

"Sheridan Whiteside is beloved by his radio audience because he has a mellifluous voice and tells great stories. In reality, he is a gigantic, spoiled brat," Arliss said. "He is everything that is the opposite of what the public thinks of him. He is petulant, petty and an incredible snob. He is a child. He believes that only he is important in the household he is visiting, and the others are 'little people' there to serve him."

One of the reasons Arliss auditioned for the production is that Linda, his wife, was interested in being in a show with him. Linda plays Mrs. McCutcheon in the show.

The Man Who Came to Dinner opens January 30 and runs each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through February 15. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday afternoon shows begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth.

For more information about the show or to order tickets, please call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Web site.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the Wings: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Meet Pamela Adams.


Pamela Adams plays Maggie Cutler in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production of the 2008-2009 Mainstage season at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. The script was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

Maggie is the secretary of Sheridan Whiteside, a national celebrity who is visiting Mesalia, Ohio, during the Christmas season.

"Sheridan cannot do anything without Maggie," Pamela said. "Maggie falls in love with Bert Jefferson, who runs the Mesalia newspaper. She decides that she has served her time with Sheridan and it's time to move on to greener pastures. The plot centers on Maggie's desire to leave, but Sheridan not wanting her to go."

Pamela has worked with director Scott Haan in previous productions.

"Scott is a creative director and a very funny guy," she explained. "He brings a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie to the shows he directs. There are serious moments during the rehearsal process, but we also have a lot of fun."

Pamela concluded by explaining the appeal of this classic comedy to contemporary audiences.

"It's fun to look at classic plays because it's nice get a glimpse of yesteryear and take a break from today's hustle and bustle," she said. "Also, there are timeless themes in the play; one person wants something, another person wants the opposite, which raises the question 'What do we do to get what we want in life?'"

The Man Who Came to Dinner opens January 30 and runs each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through February 15. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday afternoon shows begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth.

For more information about the show or to order tickets, please call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Web site.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In the Wings: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Meet Eric Adams.


Eric Adams plays Bert Jefferson in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production of the 2008-2009 Mainstage season at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. The script was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

Bert runs the newspaper in Mesalia, Ohio, the town Sheridan Whiteside visits during the Christmas season.

"Having Sheridan Whiteside in town is a big story, and Bert is looking for a scoop for the newspaper," Eric explained. "He shows up at the house Sheridan is visiting, and is confronted by Maggie, Sheridan's secretary. Maggie tries to keep Bert from interviewing Sheridan. Somehow, through all of that, Bert and Maggie form a relationship. Maggie decides that being Sheridan's secretary is no longer her interest, being in love is. She decides to stay with Bert."

The Man Who Came to Dinner opens January 30 and runs each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through February 15. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday afternoon shows begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth.

For more information about the show or to order tickets, please call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Web site.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In the Wings: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Meet Crystal Coulson.


Crystal Coulson plays Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production of the 2008-2009 Mainstage season at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. The script was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

"Lorraine is in England, trying to win the heart and the mansions of Lord Bottomley," Crystal explained. "Sheridan Whiteside calls her to Ohio to read a play written by Bert Jefferson. Bert is involved with Maggie, Sheridan's assistant, but Lorraine tries to break them up because Maggie once made her a laughingstock. There's a bit of revenge involved in Lorraine's story."

Crystal was interested in auditioning for The Man Who Came to Dinner after reading the script.

"I couldn't stop laughing when I read Lorraine's lines. She's very dramatic and over the top, and she reminded me of myself," she said.

The Man Who Came to Dinner opens January 30 and runs each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through February 15. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday afternoon shows begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth.

For more information about the show or to order tickets, please call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Web site.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the Wings: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Meet Scott Haan, the director.


Scott Haan directs The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production of the 2008-2009 Mainstage season at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. The script was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

"The story is about Sheridan Whiteside, a famous critic and radio personality who visits a middle-class family in Ohio," Scott explained. "He breaks his leg and is forced to stay in their home. He then proceeds to make their lives absolutely hellish with constant demands, phone calls and visitors. He takes over the entire house."

The play, which premiered in 1939, appealed to Scott, who called it "one of the greatest comedies ever written. It's one of the few scripts that stands up so many years after it was written. It's still funny today. Also, Sheridan Whiteside is one of the best characters in the history of theatre."


Scott concluded by explaining what it's like to direct the large, diverse cast of The Man Who Came to Dinner.

"It's a joy to direct this cast," he said. "The most difficult part of directing is casting. If you find the right people for the roles, the director's job is done basically. I've been extremely lucky to get all the right people for the right roles."

The Man Who Came to Dinner opens January 30 and runs each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through February 15. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday afternoon shows begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth.


For more information about the show or to order tickets, please call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Web site.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The final collaborators: the audience

I pity directors who cast me in theatrical productions. They drill actors not only to know and understand their lines, but also the script's subtext and their characters' motivations. Directors impress upon actors the importance of characterization, rhythm, body language, blocking, vocal tone and more. And they insist, insist, insist that actors stay focused on the action and other characters on stage during a performance.

Yeah. Good luck with that last part.

If you want to see actors excited about theatre, get them talking about not motivation or vocal tone, but audience reaction. There's a reason people who are involved with community theatre laugh at the scene in Christopher Guest's movie Waiting for Guffman when the actors go ga-ga over the presence of an audience member -- it's because they've experienced it firsthand in their own dressing rooms and green rooms. As much as actors pay attention to what they're doing onstage, they're also paying attention to what lines got the biggest laughs.

Actors cannot help but notice the audience, which is natural. Theatre is the most collaborative of art forms, with numerous people being involved in its creation: the writer, director, designers, actors, crew and more. If a production were a cross-section of a planet, you'd see layer upon layer of points of view and perspectives so varied and numerous that the "core" of the planet -- the script -- ends up looking completely different than the planet itself -- the final production. Those perspectives are topped off by the audience reaction, which influences the performers, no matter how much they try not to be influenced: a cough from Row D may distract; the eerie silence of people paying attention during a soliloquy may strengthen an actor's self-confience; a peal of laughter from the house right area may affect the tempo; and a not-fully-shielded cell phone conversation from Section A may annoy and enrage. And all of it is discussed in dressing rooms far from an audience's eyes and ears.

Does this happen with other art forms? Nope. Ishmael and Captain Ahab won't be fazed if a copy of Moby-Dick is set aside for a couple of minutes so someone can pay the pizza delivery guy. The scene in Van Gogh's Starry Night doesn't change if someone brings a crying baby into the gallery. As for the ballet and the symphony, an audience is expected to clap only at the very end of a dance or musical piece. The prima ballerina or concertmaster usually must wait until they're finished performing before the audience provides its input.

Do I enjoy looking at paintings? Yes. Do I enjoy reading novels? Yes. Do I enjoy attending performances by the ballet and symphony orchestra? Yes and yes. But knowing that the actors are giving me something to react to, and they will be affected by my reaction while they're performing gives theatre an extra "spark" of entertainment for me. It's life responding to life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Photos from rehearsals of The Man Who Came to Dinner

Thanks to Kris Kazmierczak for providing the following photos from rehearsals of The Man Who Came to Dinner, the third production of Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Mainstage season. The photos were taken in mid-December.

The show opens Friday, January 30, and runs three consecutive weekends through Sunday, February 15. To learn about the show or to order tickets, call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit the Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette Web site.

Profiles of several actors and director Scott Haan will be posted to the blog next week.






Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photos from the New Volunteer Orientation

Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's New Volunteer Orientation took place Saturday, January 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at the historic Monon Depot Theatre in downtown Lafayette.

Despite less-than-optimal weather conditions, almost 20 people attended the event and learned from established Civic volunteers about 11 facets of theatre, all of which are done by volunteers at Civic. The posts that follow show the Civic volunteers who shared information.

Thanks to everyone to attended, whether you are new to Civic or if you have volunteered for a while and shared your experiences.







Photos from the New Volunteer Orientation: set construction, props and costumes

Ted Hingst, Karen Tislow and Bob Sauers spoke with attendees in the scene shop about constructing sets, finding props and finding and sewing costumes.



Photos from the New Volunteer Orientation: producer, actor, director

Sonya Basaran, Steve Scherer and Larry Sommers spoke with attendees on the stage about producing, acting and directing.



Photos from the New Volunteer Orientation: box office, house management, ushers, main office and committees

Sue Lakin and Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette Managing Director Steven Koehler spoke about managing the box office, house managing, ushering, working in Civic's main office and working on Civic committees.


Photos from the New Volunteer Orientation: stage manager, sound designer and lighting designer

Bailey Rosa, Cody Mullen and Bethany Grimes spoke with attendees in the booth about stage managing, designing sound and designing lights.



Friday, January 9, 2009

That's entertainment

A few years ago Civic Youth Theatre staged a production of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, wonderfully directed by Civic Youth Theatre Director Melanie R. Buchanan. The show deserved the large audiences that filled the theatre each night of its run.

When I attended the show, my seat was beside a man and a woman who had brought two boys – around age 10 – to the show.

"We hope it will be educational for them," the man told me before the show began.

Looking at the two boys sitting just one row in front of me, I could tell they were not looking forward to an educational experience on a weekend evening: they were slumped in the chairs, and started playing with a plastic robot.

But then the actors came on stage, and the boys' body language changed. They sat a little higher in their seats and their heads were directed at the stage. When there was swordplay on stage, they stood and leaned forward. And when characters died, it was like a drill had dropped onto them and riveted them in place (figuratively).

An evening of education clearly wasn't what the boys were looking for, but an evening of entertainment thrilled them.

People who claim to attend plays because they're interested in the educational aspects - grand thoughts and philosophies - have it all wrong. Plays and musicals can offer insight and provoke philosophical debate, but the primary goal of all the arts is to entertain.

By entertain, I don't mean their sole purpose is to have audience members rolling with laughter in the aisles. What I mean, rather, is that a play or a musical must keep the audience rapt, must engross them. Sometimes an actor knows the audience is into a show because of raucous laughter, but sometimes silence hints at the same thing.

When an audience is engrossed in a show, that's when deeper themes and thoughts may shine through and actually stick with audience members. No playwright consciously chooses to write about only his or her philosophy on life. A playwright writes about people, actions and series of events that lead to an inevitable conclusion, all the while (hopefully) entertaining the audience to the point where they will choose not to play with plastic robots. A director does not consciously choose to direct the play's theme, but its actions. An actor cannot act what a character thinks, but what the character wants and strives for. Theatre is about people and their desires first, grand ideas and large philosophies second.

This isn't to say that plays and musicals don't offer themes that can lead to thought and discussion. One of my favorite plays is Angels in America, a 2-part, 6-hour epic that dramatizes relationships in Reagan-era and AIDS-era America. It offers very strong thoughts about love, responsibility and forgiveness; it makes damning accusations about people who betray loved ones and themselves. It is, indeed, a work of art.

More to the point, Angels in America is entertaining. There is a theatricality to the production that astonishes audiences, including an angel crashing through a roof; the whirlwind use of multiple settings including Manhattan, Antarctica, the Kremlin, Salt Lake City and Heaven; concurrent scenes that turn the stage into a split-screen television; and completely surreal and hilarious dreams and hallucinations.

Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette has staged several productions since I started volunteering that included what some may call "deep" themes, including Fiddler on the Roof, Amadeus, The Diary of Anne Frank, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Crucible and this season's productions of Proof and The Giver. Yes, audiences were affected by these shows and their themes, but they would have been bored to tears and tuned out if it weren't for entertaining, engrossing direction and performances by Larry Sommers, Dan Beaver, Abby McClure, James Grammer, Madeleine Bien, Julia Colby and Aaron Brehm among many, many others.

So the next time you go to the theatre, relax, take your coat off, sit back and enjoy yourself. An evening of entertainment awaits.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Civic Youth Theatre poster contest for The Importance of Being Earnest

Civic Youth Theatre invites area high school art students to compete in a contest to design the poster that will advertise its production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Art students at schools in the 14 counties served by the Tippecanoe Art Federation are eligible for the contest. The counties include Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Jasper, Montgomery, Newton, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and White.

Each school can submit 1 entry for the contest. The entry must be sent to cytcontest@hotmail.com. It is due March 2, 2009, and must be sent by a teacher.

Entries must meet the following guidelines:

  • Submitted in PDF format, at least 400 dots per inch.
  • 11" x 17" in size.
  • Includes the Civic Youth Theatre logo, in full color.
  • Includes the following phrases: "Civic Youth Theatre presents The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde," "Directed by Steve Martin," "April 3-5, Monon Depot Theatre in downtown Lafayette" and "765-423-PLAY (7529) / www.lafayettecivic.org".
  • Includes at least one inch of white space at the bottom for theatre sponsors' logos.
  • Full color is preferred, but the entry can be black-and-white.
  • The e-mail message that the entry is attached to must include the student's name, year in school, address, phone number and teacher's name. Please do not include this information on the PDF.
  • Entries become property of Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette.

The entries will be judged on the ability to visually represent the script's themes of frivolity and romantic love, the ability to capture a person's attention, adherence to guidelines and creativity. A panel of judges will select the winner; the panel's decision is final.

The winning entry will be placed on the theater's marquee, the production's program, flyers and other print advertising, and Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's electronic media. The winning student will receive 4 complimentary tickets to the opening night performance on Friday, April 3. All official entries will be displayed on a rotating basis in the Monon Depot Theatre's lobby during the production's 3-day, 4-show run. All displays will be accompanied by a card, listing the student's name, school, year and teacher's name.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Arts and education: Do they influence each other?

In a January 5 article on http://www.forbes.com titled "America's Most Educated Small Towns," Jacqueline Detwiler lists West Lafayette as the sixth-most educated small town in the United States. Of the town's 27,664 residents, 46.9% have an advanced degree, 30.3% have a Bachelor's degree and 3.3% have an Associate degree. She writes that "top science minds" are drawn to West Lafayette because of Purdue University, and she cites the engineering program specifically. She also says employers at the Purdue Research Park -- including Butler International, Nanovis and Nissan Chemical -- help to keep these "top minds" in the city.

You can read the full article and the criteria used to create the list, as well as see a slideshow of the Top 20 cities here. The slideshow can be found at the "In Depth" link halfway down the article.

Detwiler notes that highly educated people are involved with the arts and culture, which influences opportunities in their hometown. She said that downtown Bethesda, Maryland, has almost 200 restaurants, despite the city having a total population of only 56,842. Brookline, Massachusetts, has more than 20 bookstores including travel specialists and out-of-print shops.

Detwiler also shares information about the arts in Palo Alto, California, home of Stanford University.

"Palo Alto, Calif., is serous about providing arts and entertainment opportunities for its highly educated residents," she writes. "The city's Arts, Parks and Recreation department organizes several community theaters, an annual film festival and an art center that hosts exhibitions and classes for children."

Does the idea that highly educated people are involved in the arts hold true in West Lafayette, Lafayette and Tippecanoe County? There are several arts and culture organizations in the area, including Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette. Can part of the reason be because of the educational makeup of the area?

Or, perhaps, the opportunity for artistic outlets affect an area's educational makeup, especially when it comes to younger people. I've known several students who have been part of Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's Civic Youth Theatre program, and, for the most part, they're self-confident, sell-assured young people who respond well in front of large groups; they have good time management skills; and they seem to be involved in a lot of activities in which they take a leadership role. I would assume this holds true for students who participate in the Lafayette Ballet Company and other arts organizations in Tippecanoe County.

So here's the question: How much does one influence the other? Are the arts influenced by highly educated people in Tippecanoe County, and do the arts influence the education of residents, especially young people?

Monday, January 5, 2009

One Size Fits All Improv offers free tickets to show at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette

Members of One Size Fits All Improv are offering free tickets to their comedy show on Saturday (Jan. 10) to people who attend Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette's New Volunteer Orientation the same day.

The orientation and the show will take place at the historic Monon Depot Theatre on the corner of 5th Street and North Street in downtown Lafayette. The orientation runs from 10 a.m. to noon, while the show begins at 8 p.m. Each person attending the orientation will receive one free ticket.

"Officials and volunteers at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette have supported One Size Fits All for more than a decade," said Steve Martin, co-director of the comedy group. "The theatre has served as a location for classes, rehearsals and performances since the first summer workshop classes taught by Barry Schreier in the 1990s. It is appropriate for One Size Fits All Improv to support Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette in promoting the New Volunteer Orientation."

The orientation will bring together almost a dozen established Civic volunteers to discuss their involvement with the theatre as actors, directors, producers and designers, and to answer questions from prospective volunteers. The orientation is free and open to the public.

"During the orientation, people will learn about volunteer opportunities at Civic Theatre," said Steven Koehler, managing director of the theatre. "Using their free ticket to attend the Improv show that evening, people can experience the excitement of a live performance in the same venue they were introduced to that morning.

"The mission of Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette is to enhance the artistic and cultural environment of Greater Lafayette through theatrical productions and educational opportunities. The free New Volunteer Orientation and free Improv show ticket giveaway will help us continue to meet that mission."

Although walk-ins are welcome, people who wish to attend the orientation are encouraged to e-mail Koehler at steve@lafayettecivic.org or phone 765-423-PLAY (7529) to reserve a spot.

Civic Theatre of Greater of Lafayette is a member of the Tippecanoe Arts Federation, which serves arts organizations in 14 Indiana counties: Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Jasper, Montgomery, Newton, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and White.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Newspaper praises Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette leader

Steve Koehler, Managing Director of Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette, is commended along with three other Tippecanoe County arts organization leaders in an article written by Tim Brouk in today's Journal & Courier.

Tim writes, "Meanwhile, over at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette, executive director Steven Koehler was able to use his clout quickly for some bold programming.

"During the summer, the Civic Under the Stars season consisted of one show for the first time. But it was a big one -- High School Musical.

"Proof was a big-name show for the main stage, and even Civic Youth Theatre experimented with science fiction in The Giver."

The article, "Arts leaders planning lively 2009," also profiles Tetia Lee of the Tippecanoe Arts Federation, Nick Palmer of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra and Kendall Smith II of the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette.

You can read the complete article here.

Thank you to the leaders of all arts and culture organizations in Tippecanoe County and surrounding counties. Without you, our lives would be considerably more drab. Special thanks to Steve Koehler for his skills as a leader, communicator and innovator at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The 12 most memorable moments of Civic Theatre, Part 2.

How about the 12 most memorable moments of 2008 at Civic Theatre, beyond just the fabulous shows?

1. Paying off the Mortgage, almost three years early. This saved Civic Theatre several thousand dollars.

2. Receiving grants from the Community Foundation and the McAllister Foundation that led to #4.

3. The wonderful and rich collaborations that led to Crowns, specifically with Renee Thomas and the Purdue Black Cultural Center.

4. New Roof on the Monon.

5. Beating the previous attendance record (set by Annie) during High School Musical, by 140 people.

6. The successful launch of two world premiere scripts in our Stage Reading Series.

7. The publication of A Very Bad Day for Brandon Butterworth, this is more of a highlight for Scott Haan, the wonderful playwright, but we are mentioned in the published script.

8. The success of the 1st ever 4-week theatre intensive camp, and the great work done by the 27 young people who put on The Pirates of Penzance Jr at the end of the camp. We had to turn people away at the second performance.

9. The cast of The Crucible surviving horrible weather and the Martian Death Flu, to put on this wonderful Miller classic.

10. The launch of a computerized ticketing system, allowing on-line sales. Since then more than 30% of all single tickets are sold on-line.

11. New Board Members, Helen Slagel, Steve Martin and Julia Colby, bringing great energy to the Board. Outgoing Board Members, Bob Mindrum, Nate Barrett and Jeff Weir, all three did so much for Civic Theatre.

12 The launch of the Civic Theatre Blog. We average about 30 hits a day, and people come from all corners of the Earth.

There was so much more to celebrate, I look forward to yet another wonderful year here at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette.

Steve

Happy New Year from Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette

Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette wishes you and your loved ones a Happy New Year.