Cat On A Hot Tin Roof…

This is the last installment of my month long Sunday series on my involvement in theatre, but probably won’t be my last post about theatre.  The play in question this time is Tennessee Williams critically acclaimed play, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.  I have to admit, I hate this play.  With that in mind, and the fact that I was burnt out on theatre thanks to endless tech directing jobs and set building, I declined to be involve with the play, despite one of my best friends directing it.  I did, however, serve as his assistant director and assistant editor on the trailer.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.  What can I say about this play.  Not much, since I don’t particularly like it (which is a sin, according to most thespians) and I wasn’t really involved in it in any real way.  But my coworker and very good friend was the director, and he has a television background, so he wanted a trailer.  So I helped him shoot it and edit it.

It really is a fantastic trailer, and I wish I could work with the director on more projects, but we both have busy lives that preclude us from much theatre right now.  We borrowed the home of one of Huntsville’s blue bloods, and everything you see here was shot either in that house, on the grounds of that house, or down the street at the UAH’s president’s mansions gardens.  A very fortunate location for shooting this trailer.


Sordid Lives…

This is my weekly posting about my time in theatre.  This week we talk about Sordid Lives, by Del Shores.  The play is about a family in a small town dealing with the various secrets that have been hidden in the closet for too long.  It is a great play, a great movie and a wonderful television series.  Shores has released his latest movie, Southern Baptist Sissies, and I hope he will release it as a play as well.  

I was technical director on another play, Sordid Lives, and it went smashingly well, despite the total disaster my set design turned into.  We made do, and put on a great show.  But the highlight of that show was making the trailer.  Everything else was about half as fun as the night we shot the trailer and publicity photographs.

For one thing, the first gay bar in Huntsville had been closed for renovation.  It was Thursday night, and the bar reopened on Saturday.  But the owner, who was a big fan of Sordid Lives, and the manager both let us use the bar as the location of our shoots.  The big mistake, or should I say brilliant idea, was that since the bar was fully stocked, we got to drink while shooting.  Sordid Lives is not a kid friendly play.  It involves all sorts of adult situations, and being a gay positive play, we had a generous support from the local gay community.  The video and photography shoot quickly became a party.  There was a scene where one of the actors had to pour a shot of whiskey, and of course real whiskey was used.  But the actor had never poured a drink like a bartender would, so it took a few takes to get right… and well one should never let whiskey go to waste, should one?

So here is the trailer, in all of it’s concupiscent glory.  I hope you enjoy watching it a tenth of as much as we enjoyed making it.


Same Time Next Year…

Way back when I served as Vice-President of Theatre Huntsville, the only position I’d ever accept on the board of directors for that organization again, I had the chance to work on a great play.  It was “Same Time Next Year” and I got the chance to do some really great things as the Technical Director.  For one, the set build was fun and exciting, as I had a very condensed timeframe, uncooperative weather, and since it wasn’t performed in our usual venue, some serious drawbacks.  The biggest hurdle was building a 24 foot wall, with windows and a door in the center, and the door had to slam.  But I could, in no way, attach the wall to the floor.  A little ingenuity and about a quarter ton of steel weights and sandbags worked wonders, and the wall was rock solid for the run of the show.

I also got to do some creative stuff for the show.  Since this play was a “special addition” to the regular season, the main stage show was already rehearsing in our scene shop and rehearsal space.  So I had to build our set around the build of another set, and I had to come up with some fairly technical solutions to real problems.  One of those problems was that the actor had to play piano, but he didn’t know how to play.  So I built a false grand piano, put speakers in it, and on his iPod Touch, he had control of the sound files of the songs he had to play.  It worked beautifully, with the sound coming out of the piano, every night people went up to Carlos, the actor, and commented that they didn’t know he played piano so well.  Okay, Carlos gets some of the credit, he did act it out quite well.

Another problem was the Director didn’t really like the way the play opened.  For those familiar with the movie, the play doesn’t start at the restaurant, it starts the very first time the couple walked into their hotel suite.  The director really liked the setup at the restaurant, but we couldn’t add words to the play, and having a scene change was out of the question.  So what we did instead was open the play with a silent film, that I got to shoot and direct, that set up the play the same as the movie.  The play opened in darkness, and we projected the opening movie onto a screen lowered from the ceiling.  Additionally, we used the screen during the scene changes, since each act was separated by five years.  Our producer was a talented piano player, so he recorded a 3 minutes of music from that 5 year period, and I created a video of images from the same time.  It worked beautifully.

Another thing I started with this play and continued for the next several plays was introducing movie style trailers for the shows.  We heavily used the trailers as television commercials and on social media, and we tracked ticket sales, and releasing a trailer seriously drove ticket sales.  After a year, I burnt out on being the only person available to shoot and edit the trailers, so they aren’t done anymore.  And that’s a shame.  I think they really helped drive sales.

I was reviewing all these trailers last night, and was surprised to learn that the trailer for Same Time Next Year was significantly more popular than the others.  So I thought it might be fun to start a weekly series on the trailers I shot that year, with a little background on my involvement on each of the shows.  I’m not sure what happened to the scene change videos or the opening video, but if I can track those down, I’ll add them at a future date.  But here now is the very first Theatre Huntsville trailer ever shot, and the first play based trailer we could find anywhere in the southeast.  (Many theaters around us started doing them after that first year.)

A new feature here at Running Wolf Blog

Starting tomorrow and running every Sunday through August 3, Running Wolf Blog will be featuring stories about your host’s involvement in community theatre.  Each post has video included, so we hope you’ll enjoy this new addition to the blog.

The plays covered by the blog, in the order they are scheduled to appear, are as follows:

  1. Same Time Next Year
  2. Deathtrap
  3. Sordid Lives
  4. Little Women
  5. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Posts will appear each Sunday morning, just a little something different for your viewing pleasure every weekend until August.  Enjoy!