Flora the Red Menace, among other things
I have many things to say and I am not totally sure where I am going with this yet… So try to keep up? No, I suppose I should say: I will try to be as clear as possible.
I guess I will go back in time and start at last Tuesday (May 15th). It was 11AM and I had just turned in my two final papers of the semester and had all of my finals completed. I was sitting in my room packing when I remembered that I needed to make a phone call to Mark Krikstan. Who is Mark Krikstan you might ask. Well Mark is one of the founders and the Artistic Director of the 1st Stage Theater in Tysons Corner, Virginia. I had talked to him a few weeks earlier and he offered me a summer internship at the theater, however it was not until that Tuesday morning that I had any idea when I would be starting. Our conversation went something like this… Me: I am moving out of Mason today. Mark: Oh great, well can you start tomorrow? We are opening the show Flora the Red Menace this week and the stage manager could really use some extra help. Me: YES!… *Hang up* Talk about jumping into something.
Before I talk about the internship, let me talk about the 1st Stage. It is a great, small, theater that opened its first season about four years ago. Mark Krikstan was actually a theater teacher at a local high school who “retired.” By retired he actually meant giving himself more work to do. Mark along with the other founders wanted to create a professional theater in the Fairfax County area because at the time there were only two other companies. I fell in love with the space and the theater after seeing The Glass Menagerie about a year ago. Then I went and saw the endearing play Almost, Maine. I unfortunately did not get to see Side Man play that finished its run a couple of weeks ago, but it was critically acclaimed. It was also reviewed by well-known papers like The Wall Street Journal. Basically, I am saying the 1st Stage is very up and coming and is a wonderful theater to have the opportunity to work with.
Wednesday night came around and I made my way to the theater. I still had no idea what I would be doing. When I got there I was told to do odd jobs and I was eventually told to watch the rehearsal of Flora to get a feel for the show. I felt this sense of tension over the subject of the play and as I sat waiting for the rehearsal to begin something felt off. There were sounds of frustration from the director, stage manager, and choreographer. The head of lighting was cranky because he had not slept and still had to design the lighting cues (and I was thinking… The show opens in two days and you are not done yet?). Then I was looking at the set wondering if it still needed completion or it was supposed to look that way (thankfully it was the former). You can imagine that I was also thinking, oh goodness this show has too many problems, no wonder everyone is so stressed. Much to my relief, I decided it really was quite good and there were just a few kinks that needed to be worked out, but nothing major. If nothing else the acting, singing, and dancing (especially the tap dancing!) were amazing. I immediately knew there is a lot I can learn from these actors. As for the issues with the play, they don’t really impact me and well it is not necessary to go into them.
When the director, Susan Devine, called for a break half way through the rehearsal I introduced myself to her and the stage manager, Colleen Stock. I was told that there was no one who would be backstage during the show. My job would be to be present at each show to be back there to pick up the pieces if there are any catastrophes. Because I am almost always in a state of confusion, I agreed, I was just thrilled to be there, but really I had no idea what I was agreeing to. Susan had me stick around at the end of the play so I could be introduced to the cast. My thoughts at that moment: Oh no. I am literally being thrown into this show two days before it opens; the actors are going to think I am this annoying college girl. I will just be in the way. I have no tech experience so I do not even know what I am doing. I have no idea what it is like to work with real non-high school actors. I have not even worked with college actors yet. Great. Cool. Yay. When I met them they all seemed glad that I was there, but this was kind of public, no one was going to fulfill the actor stereotype yet.
Thursday night, I returned to the 1st Stage and talked to Colleen. She told me to go put glow tape everywhere and to reintroduce myself to the actors and ask them what they would need from me. I found out that my main job would be to help a couple of the actors with their quick-changes. And no one seemed to hate my presence! Whoot. They seemed really happy to have me there as a matter of fact. After some drama with props being misplaced I learned my second job: keeping track of the props. Score. But really. No sarcasm. I had another job that is slightly helpful! Realistically for most of the show I read or get angry at a Rubik’s cube. Nonetheless, I would say my first two nights as an intern were a success.
As questionable as it may have initially seemed, this production of Flora is really great. Admittedly, it is kind of an odd play. I have wondered what the playwright, David Thompson, was thinking when he wrote certain scenes. I guess it would also help if I explained the musical. Flora the Red Menace is focuses on Flora (Dani Stroller) and her “family” who are poor artists trying to make a living in New York City in the 1930s. Flora is introduced to Harry (Joshua Dick), who introduces her to the world of Communism. That is basically the play in a nutshell. It is not the most plot filled play ever written. However it is really funny and the choreography and blocking are very creative and clever. The music is another fantastic reason to see the show. The musical director, Paul Nasto, is basically a genius. He wrote a completely new score for the show that is absolutely incredible. Also, each actor really captures the essence of his or her character and brings this fantastic energy and vibrancy to the play. If you like over-the-top characters you should really come see Flora.
Opening weekend ended up being a success. There were only a couple of clothing disasters- thank goodness. One guy liked the musical so much on Friday night that he came back Saturday night with flowers for each actor and made a donation to the theater. Apparently, this was also the only musical he has ever liked.
I am just truly excited for the next few weeks and honored to have the opportunity to work in this production. Everyone has been so nice to me and I am really grateful for being able to work with such a kind and talented group of people.
If you would like to watch Flora the Red Menace here is the link to the 1st Stage website: http://1ststagespringhill.org/
There are five shows a weekend. Friday and Saturday night at 8PM. Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2PM. Sunday night at 7PM. It runs until June 17th.
If you want to say hello to an unknown blogger after the show, I will be backstage probably sitting on a sofa in the dark.
Also, if you are interested read this interview with Paul Nasto: http://dctheatrescene.com/2012/05/18/paul-nasto-new-sound-for-flora-the-red-menace/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DcTheatreScene+%28DC+Theatre+Scene%29