Peel me an Onion – The Brave New World of Directing

27 Jul

Tomorrow begins the last weekend of Onion Man Production’s July Lakeside plays, the second of three 10-minute play festivals produced in their new space in Chamblee. I’m especially connected to this set though, because it was my first foray into directing.

SodaPop1

Don’t have the production photos yet – so enjoy this shot I snuck during dress rehearsal.

You really can’t ask for a better way to get your feet wet on anything new in theatre than a short play. The elements of the set were already in place as prescribed by the parameters of play submission, so I really go to focus on coaching the acting. I was also lucky to get a very well written piece by Arika Larson – a family drama with the unlikely name of “SodaPop.”

I couldn’t be more proud of the actors in my show, Jerry Jobe and Crystal Robertson. With things like new work showcases, so much depends on who you get for auditions. I ended up with two folks who are crazy-talented, super easy to work with, and can take direction like nobody’s business. Which is good because half the time I didn’t know what I was trying to say (and the other half of the time I was probably saying it annoyingly).

I’m very happy with the way it turned out, and it’s been an audience favorite every night (which is saying a lot for a heavy drama dealing with dead pets and missing children). If you’re in the Atlanta area, do yourself a favor and come see the show. These guys deserve a good audience and you deserve a good time. Thursday – Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 3:00, tickets at onionmanproductions.com. Tell them I sent you for the industry discount!

And now for something entirely different – in the August set of Lakeside Plays, I’ll be directing a show about a man and a talking fish. So that should be fun.

See you at the lake!

 

This is How We do It

7 Jul

For anyone who’s ever wondered what it’s like choreographing with a little kid, I submit:

Not sure who is having a harder time here.

Stay Classy: Three Performance Courses to Take in Atlanta

1 Jun

The serious professional in any industry knows the importance of continuing education, and artists are no exception. But after an entire college education in theatre performance, in everything from storytelling to Shakespeare to sketch (not to mention dance from kindergarten), you can get a little over going to class. For a considerable amount of time, I rested on my educational laurels, relegating my training to the school of hard knocks that performing in real time affords (which let me tell you – are neither small nor few).

But earlier this year it struck me that after *cough* years out of college, it might be time to brush off the books. I had just finished a writing project and a large production, and had only a small choreography project going for the winter. So when my friend M asked if I wanted to join her in an acting class, the time seemed ripe. After that I was having so much fun I didn’t want to stop.

So for any of you who may have a gap in your schedule and are looking for something to sharpen the tools in your box, check out my review of the following classes around town.

The Alliance Theatre Education Program

The Skinny: Befitting the regional mecca of theatre that it is, the Alliance offers the most comprehensive set of classes, serving all levels and all ages.  They’re also probably the most traditional. For adults, classes are offered in three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I took the intermediate class, which at four weeks is the shortest and least expensive course. Each level covers slightly different material; intermediate level is a scene study.

Who to expect: People from related industries with limited acting training. Business people who want to break out their shell. People who Googled “become an actor” last week.

What to expect: There are several instructors employed in this program, all qualified and experienced. The instruction is more or less from the classic Stanislavsky-Chekovian school. There is a small formal lecture component so bring a notebook and pencil (or a camera to snap the whiteboard). You will do some actor-y warmups – nothing too off-the-wall, but it involves yoga so don’t wear a skirt. The course will be spent applying the lecture concepts to a short two-person scene from a classic stage work (ours was Glass Menagerie, and yep, you have to memorize it). Be prepared to find a new scene partner after your original one ghosts the class (adaptability! it’s a skill).

My favorite part: Although I’d already covered most of the ground with my degree, there was one neat technique we learned in the very last class that involved using physical hot spots in the body to reflect various emotional centers (head, heart, and groin). It’s a handy shortcut for when you get the nebulous “can you try it another way?” in an audition. As dancers M and I could really get down with the kinetic aspect.

Tip: Take the free intro workshop first – not only will it give you a sense of whether this is what you’re looking for, but you’ll also get a discount code to use when signing up for a full course. Details and info.

Meisner Foundation at Pinch n’ Ouch

The Skinny: Pinch n’ Ouch, named after a core concept of the Meisner technique, is a tiny professional theatre that presents edgy contemporary works. The Artistic Director, Grant McGowen has fingers in multiple pies including video production and headshot photography – and of course, teaching. Meisner was a school of acting I’d heard of but never studied, so when Grant suggested I audit during our headshot sesh in January I was all about it.  PNO offers other classes in film acting and scene study but the Foundations class is a required prerequisite unless you’re already a working Meisner actor.

Who to expect: Film actors who want to get into stage, stage actors who want to get into film, people who have met Grant personally through other avenues (the dude’s guerilla marketing strategy is on point).

What to expect: Bring a pencil and paper here too, but only to capture tidbits from Grant’s non-linear notes given after chunks of activity. You’ll spend the first several classes of the 12-week program working on variations of one single exercise – the basis (foundation? ha) for more advanced work. The commitment is pretty extensive – the class itself is three hours long, and you’ll be asked to get together with classmates outside of class time for 2-3 hours of practice. Many actors don’t care for the Meisner technique, and PNO isn’t the only shop in town offering it, so you’ll hear mixed reviews. Personally I found it helpful and interesting, and also very challenging. If nothing else, it’s another tool to have in your kit.

What I love: The Meisner technique is excellent for the overly analytical actor (hello, Stanislavsky training) because it’s all about getting out of your own head and focusing on pure reaction to a partner. (By the same token, if you’re more of the instinctual actor you might benefit more from Chekhov). You don’t even use written material. I also love that the PNO circle is very cozy, but not in an exclusive way. You’ll be welcomed in to this little community with open arms.

Tip: Even though the time commitment is huge, don’t let it scare you off. Grant knows many of his students are working professionals and allows you to make up missed classes in other sessions. Details and info.

Listen Up! Audio Narration

The Skinny: If you’re looking for something a little bit different (and a lot less emphasizing on physical type or ability), you could do a lot worse than this series on audiobook narration. Audiobooks are a huge market right now, and we have a little share of that pie right here in Atlanta.

What to Expect: The class is half lecture half experiential, and the small class size affords ample time to practice and ask questions. Bring a mobile device to read your practice sides. You will go on-mic and read a short piece, but try to get past the actual sound of your voice – it’s totally not the point. The focus is all about giving life to the story – acting through the voice. You’ll be learning what makes people late for work sitting in their car listening to a book.

What I Love: I’ve been wanting to get into audiobook narration since I first visited a studio during a Maymester in NYC my senior year. I’m good at cold reading (my primary audition skill), I have an acting and storytelling background, and I love books. As I found out during class, there’s more to it than that, but in a way…there’s also not. You don’t even need to be an actor or have an NPR-worthy voice to be a good narrator. My mom, who has never performed a day in her life, even came with me to the last class and knocked it out of the park! (Guess where my reading and storytelling skrills came from?).

Tip: This set of courses can be taken a la carte but there’s a small discount for purchasing all four as a package. If you don’t take all four, there is still a discount code available for signing up for the next in the series. Also good to note: these classes are NOT offered on a consistent and regular basis – it’s up to the discretion and schedule of the instructors – so if you see the class come up, jump on it quick!  Details and info. 

In addition to these, I also picked back up on voice lessons where my vocal therapist left off. I’m fortunate to be working with the fabulous and lovable Lyn Taylor. Lyn has done considerable work with youth and schools, which means her teaching style is right up my alley – broken down into small chunks and explained in five different ways with vivid imagery and a heaping helping of encouragement. But make no mistake, this lady really knows her stuff, and is super organized too boot (think lesson plans and recorded warmups). Vocal coaching is a very personal thing, depending on your needs and your level, but in general I recommend finding someone who can a) play the piano well, and b) has a good ear. Because those two things are nearly impossible to do for yourself when you’re training your voice. Everything else really just depends. I’m well on my way to getting my voice whipped back into shape, hopefully in time for some fall auditions! Lyn doesn’t have a website, but if you want to know more email me at cushioncut at gmail dot com.

Taking class is a great way to experiment; to get out of your comfort zone without the high stakes a tight timelines of an actual performance. It gives you rooms to stretch your legs, both figuratively, and in the case of dance classes, literally. Things are picking back up for the summer (choreography rehearsals for my next project, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at OnStage Atlanta, started this week!) so alas, I may not get another golden opportunity to indulge for a while. But if you have the time (and the funds,  WAH for all time) do yourself a favor and get in a course or two, or at least a workshop. You won’t regret it!

Keep it classy, friends.

Extra Extra (busy)

9 May

I make no apologies.

Open up my Russel Stovers box of assorted dramatical experiences happening lately and this summer — and that doesn’t even include my personal life (ba-dum-chink). You already know this is my favorite time of year…wearing dresses without tights, standing outside talking to people in the warm twilight until the sun goes down, smell of fresh cut grass, trading Malbec for Riesling…season of endless possibilities.

First of all, my new job’s going great! Thanks for asking. Hard to believe I’m already at the 90 day mark.

The first exciting tidbit is that my second play was chosen to be produced at the Onion Man Harvest Festival. This is the first season that OMP has their own space, so there’s a lot of plays this year. Three sessions to be precise. I went to the first table read and we had a great discussion. I think the director and actors are going to do it stellar justice. So what is it about, you say? My first play was a sort of allegorical comedy. I went for something completely different this year and wrote a 10-minute psychological-supernatural chiller. You’ll have to come check it out in July to find out more!

And while you’re there, you’ll see my first EVAH directorial debut! That’s right, this year I’m cutting my teeth on a short dramatic piece with the unlikely title of SodaPop. It’s a great starter project because not only is it only ten minutes with a cast of two, but also many elements of directing that seem intimidating — like technical design — are already decided because it’s part of a showcase. Despite the brevity, there’s some rul meaty material to dive into acting-wise, and I’m working with a couple actors I know and admire so I’m pretty psyched. I’ll also be performing in one piece in the final August session. So I basically have fingers in all the pies this year.

A slightly bigger (but not as broad) undertaking is that I’m choreographing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at OnStage Atlanta. I wanted to be a part of that show from the second I knew they were doing it, and honestly I’m much more excited about choreographing than I would have been if I were in it. I saw the original Broadway production in my final semester in college, back when I thought I would someday move to NYC (well – never say never.) I loved it big time, and like a certain smells are wont to do, it picks me up and throws me down Hulk Smash-style in good memories. Plus OnStage is super close to my house, which is more than I can say for anyplace else I go. I’m beyond excited about this so please mark your calendars – we open July 7!

This year I’ve been taking a master class with Ryan Heffington at Dance 101. He’s an LA-based choreographer that works mostly with musicians. I’ve never had another teacher quite like him. The classes weren’t as technically difficult as I was expecting, but he emphasized full expression through movement all the way from a shout to a whisper. It’s easy to forget why you dance, but he made it easy to remember. The last class we did an amazing exercise where we partered up and danced just for that other person, making eye contact and everything. I was partnered with a guy who was one of the best dancers in the class, but he was a bit thrown off with me watching him. When it was my turn I actually did better than I had during a couple of other runs. Part of me has always been a sucker for an audience I guess. Everybody watches each other at every class of course, but it’s a totally different experience with that audience of one. It was a lot like an acting class!

Speaking of classes…next week on Cushion Cut I’m going to talk training: comparing two utterly different acting classes I took earlier this year, my Promethian vocal lessons, and a workshop on something I’ve been dying to get into since circa OBC Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Audiobook Narration.

Single-phrased reviews for just a few of the super cool shows I’ve seen around town lately: The Light in the Piazza at Theatrical Outfit (beautiful music, need to rethink the set sightlines), Dreamgirls at The Lyric (the performances will steamroll you, even if you care nothing about the plot), and Sugar at CenterStage North (high energy confection, but the music is only so-so and the piano drowned out the un-mic’ed singers).

(P.S. Did you guys watch the second season of Turn?? AMAZEBALLS).

 

 

 

Greetings, Earthlings

21 Jan

Welcome to 2016! Clearly I’ve been floating far away from this corner of the galaxy for a while–getting buffeted by strong winds on all sides.

First, I accepted a new day job. The interview process, which stretched across the entire holiday season, was the most arduous and exacting of my life so far–to say nothing of the avalanche of work that subsequently descended upon me at my current position. But at the end of the day, I’m going to be writing for a living! So that’s a huge coup for my personal and professional life. Even if the trauma of resigning (what can I say, I hate disappointing people) basically caused me to gain two pounds in half a day due to stress cortisol.

Then the downside of the rollercoaster: not two days after all this came to a head, an intruder broke into my home while T and I were asleep. P had left for work and the thief must have thought the house was empty. As soon as he saw us he walked out the front door without disturbing us–but not before he grabbed my large work handbag with my entire life in it. So this past week has been a flurry of phone calls (on a landline because I have no cell phone, GAH) to banks, credit card companies, identity theft professionals, the DMV, insurance agencies, the police, and basically everyone I’ve ever been in contact with.

On top of that, we’re looking at the prospect of moving–and by extension elementary school selection (charter school choice for most districts starts around now). And of course, just because a bunch of my money got stolen, and it’s my birthday in two weeks, my car decided it needs $2000 worth of repairs in order to pass emissions.

It’s enough to drive a girl to drink–but dammit, I don’t have any ID.*

*Kind souls, when they hear my story, keep asking what they can do to help. Answer: please bring me a bottle of Ketel One and/or Buffalo Trace. 

Anyway. All this to say that I haven’t found time to post lately. I’m sure you’re utterly bereft. So I’ve compiled a few things to keep you busy until I get my feet under me and start writing again.

The Genius Notations of Hamilton

From the June 2015 Vogue

If you’re a theatre person, you’ve already heard of the musical Hamilton, the hip hopera biographic of that dude on the ten dollar bill that got killed in a duel. And if you’re not a theatre person, you’ve probably heard of it too. But have you read the annotated lyrics on Genius? Genius.com, the site where users and artists can footnote the lyrics of pop music, has done an utterly epic job of breaking down the musical line by line. Even before this particular cultural phenomenon hit the scene last year, Alexander Hamilton the person was enjoying a slight resurgence in admiration after years of being eclipsed by the other founding fathers who were his ideological rivals (and incidentally, didn’t die in duels). In the musical, all those old white dudes are played by young black and brown people. Even the women get a decent word in, which is saying a lot for both then and now. So now, A. Ham is basically a cult hero and everyone and their mother is interested in American history, which is nothing but awesome. (But I’d like to take a moment to remind you all that – ahem- I was into this time period before it was cool).

Anyhoo. Go check it out pronto. It will keep you busy for a while.

Just Mercy. Just Read It

My current place of employment is having a one time campus-wide book club (how cute is that?). I don’t get to participate, due to leaving the job and all. But I read the book anyway, and was really moved. In the broadest strokes, it’s about the inequities of the legal system in America. The heart of the story centers on one representative example of a man who spent years on death row and was almost executed for a crime that mounds of evidence made clear he did not commit. There are a lot of people who won’t even give the book a chance based on those two sentences alone. Don’t be one of those people. Read it now–instant paradigm shift.

Bkr

Before it was stolen, I got to use part of a gift card my dad gave me for Christmas to buy a schmancy new beverage vessel. Everyone is into S’well but I went with a Bkr. The bottle is cool enough, but go check out their website. You’ll kill an hour or two reading the wacko names and descriptions on all of the dozens of color choices, and laugh at the pretentious styling and captions of their promo shots. A sample: I only use Bkr on two occasions: when I am in love and when I am not. (Who are these copywriters and how do I get some of what they’re on?).

Stars who may or may not be in love.

Rearrange Furniture

Virtually, that is. The Icovia MakeRoom Planner allows you to choose a room design (or enter your own custom dimensions), enter all sorts of furniture pieces, and then move them around willy nilly. Endless entertainment and no scratches on the hardwood.

Check out my headshots

I guess this isn’t really something to do, but lookee! I got new headshots!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but if I did, they would be something along the lines of investing more in my acting career. I’m choreographing right now, taking an acting class, getting ready to start voice lessons, and have a big audition on Saturday (as if I didn’t have enough on my plate). Also I plan to do Unifieds this year. New headshots were definitely in order.

It goes against my instincts as a feminist and a trained actor to complain about this, but I felt seriously old after these were taken. My previous headshots were only taken about four years ago–not a very long time–but I look very different. Not since infancy has my body undergone such rapid..er..revisions.

New Headshots

JANIE_YOUNG Headshot 2016

I’m sort of getting used to them now…but not to the point where I’m going to show you guys the un-retouched versions.

I had all this in the works before this new job fell from the sky and hit my Chicken Little head. Previously I would have put it on hold due to my ineptness at juggling too many large undertakings at one time, but I’m grabbing the bull by the balls, to put it elegantly. What with these wrankly-ass headshots, plus David Bowie and Alan Rickman gone in the space of a week, life is starting to feel short (it’s getting dark…*cough*).

Or maybe I’ve just been listening to too much Hamilton.

Take Me to Your Holiday Potluck

10 Dec

No, not me me.

Me.

20151208_132507

mmmmmm

We’re headed into prime party weekend, and I’m sure you’ve been politely requested/subtly pressured/outright guilted into bringing a dish.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with bringing pre-prepped food to a potluck. I know some folks who’ve made it their thing to bring Taco Bell to every party they go to. But every so often you feel like making an effort, or at least looking like you did, right?

Enter Corn and Black Bean Confetti. This yummy and healthy-ish dip comes to your courtesy of my good buddy E, who has been making this for years and who I only just now got the recipe from. DOH! It’s easy enough even those of us who Don’t Cook because here’s the thing: YOU DON’T COOK IT.

It will even suit at the party attended by twelve people with annoying special diets. It’s vegetarian, gluten-free, and leave out the cheese and it’s vegan.

Ingredients:

1 Bunch green onions

2 cans of shoepeg corn (the little white kernals)

2 cans of black beans

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 8-oz tub feta cheese

Step 1

Chop the onions.

Seriously, don’t you hate how recipes are always like, “all you do is mix stuff together!” and then come to find out you have to crush, dice, or melt half the ingredients before you can even start? Well no more. Chop the dang onions, count on it.

These are green onions, for those of you who have only encountered them on your fully loaded potato.

These are whole green onions, for those of you who have only encountered them on your fully loaded potato.

It doesn’t take too long though. I don’t lurv onions so I didn’t use the whole bunch. I also didn’t chop that finely–if you do a better chopping job your onions will go further.

I ended up doing slightly more than what you see here, but not much.

I ended up doing slightly more than what you see here, but not much.

Step 2

Open your cans. Drain at least some of the liquid off, but you don’t need to rinse or anything. You’ll drain again in a minute.

IMG_7483

I got Le Sueur ‘cuz I’m fancy like that.

OK I can’t even keep a straight face while writing that. It was on sale.

Even though it seemed like the corn cans were so much smaller than the black bean cans, when emptied they appeared about even.

IMG_7484

Step 3

Add everything else, except the feta.

I went a tiny bit shallow on the sugar scoop because I didn’t want it too sweet.

IMG_7490

I had to use a 1/4 measure three times for the oil and vinegar, that’s how woefully underequipped my kitchen is. I’m telling you, recipes made in the Young household can be made by literally, anyone.

IMG_7493

A word

A word about the vinegar. I used “the mother” of all ACVs (GA) and it the taste turned out a tiny bit strong for my liking. Still really good, but I might go a little lighter on this next time, or maybe just use good old Heinz.

 

IMG_7498

Don’t forget them OWNIONS

Step 4

Combine. It will be pretty wet.

IMG_7499

Step 5

Go watch Netflix and drink a beer. Seriously, you want to let this sit and absorb the flavors. I left mine about an hour but you can do it any amount of time–overnight if you like.

Step 6

Drain through a colander. I don’t have a picture for this step because I refuse to allow the internets to see my sink.

Step 7

Put it in a pretty serving dish. Bring your feta with you and add it when you arrive wherever you’re going.

IMG_7503

Don’t be a girl*, use full fat.

*Girls who eat lowfat cheese can still do anything you can do.

Serve with scoopable tortilla chips–because you’re going to want something spoonlike to eat this, trust.

EES SO YUMMY!

20151208_132502

 

20151208_132600

Party hardy everyone!

Review: A Little Princess at Theatrical Outfit

4 Dec

It must first be noted that I attended this production in previews, which is essentially like judging a book by an unproofed advance copy. That’s an important caveat to express, as there were major issues with the sound throughout the show–something to do with the balance of tracks and microphones. At one point in the second act the audience’s ears were nearly blown out for a good 10 seconds of transition music. Other times, particularly when the singers dropped into a low register, it was completely inaudible. Only a trained techie could say for sure. One thing that is certain though, is that virtually no one could be heard and understood.

This review attempts to look beneath these technical issues, which one hopes will be ironed out by opening tonight, to the meat below.

The problem is, there’s just not a whole lot of meat on this bone. A Little Princess is a much-beloved and much-adapted tale, despite its premise being somewhat obsolete (girl abandoned at finishing school, goes from riches to rags and back again with help of mysterious benefactor). Though the details of the plot wear many faces, the story’s essential charm is irresistible.

Theatrical Outfit’s production certainly strives to capture and capitalize on that magic, and in some places succeeds. It’s rare that anyone remembers the lighting design but you will in this instance. It’s like a shower of cinnamon sugar, and completely controls the mood, especially in conjunction with a sprawling backdrop painting of an amorphous London/African sky.  The set design and decoration manages to achieve that perfect blend of functional and atmospheric, and the transitions, facilitated by the cast, were smooth as silk.

Two partial winners were the two Cs: choreography and costumes. Designer Elizabeth Rasmusson’s renderings were on display in the upstairs lobby for comparison to the final product. The rags were the highlight here. Most of the “fancier” dresses, including those worn by the school mistresses, were almost overwhelming in the space, historically accurate though they may be. And the little girls’ uniforms and pinafores–although likely also quite accurate in a historical sense–were vastly unfortunate in the stage sense, hanging like bags on all of them and nearly swallowing the tiniest ones alive like possessed pillowcases. The African costumes; I can’t vouch for historical accuracy, but their brilliance in contrast to the drabber Western garb functioned as a much needed delineation between London and Africa.

Ricardo Aponte’s choreography, while perhaps slightly ambitious for the space, was really interesting and beautiful, particularly the larger African pieces like the opening number and “Timbuktu.” The ensemble had some really strong dancers and I was quite stirred by the duet in Act II, even though it felt somewhat gratuitous. Also gratuitous were the random ballet sequences in “Almost Christmas” and elsewhere. It’s hard to make dancing out of place in a musical, but somehow it was. Perhaps it was due to the stark drop in technical artistry between the ensemble and the principles. Of course, many of them were children and can hardly be expected to have attained a level of mastery. But some of it was just plain awkward.

Also awkward were several, several moments of staging, with odd choices ranging from walking away during moments of high emotion when you desperately wanted to see the characters connect, and tons of back-to-audience blocking better suited to a theatre in the round, which Theatrical Outfit truly isn’t.

It’s hard to comment on the singing due the sound problems–I suspect, judging from the program bios, that these folks can carry a tune–but I was blown away by absolutely no one, including the lead. Which is a pity since it wouldn’t be too far off to call the entire production a star vehicle for Emerson Steele. Laughton Royce Berry brought it home in a major way with “Captain Crewe,” but I couldn’t tell you what the song was about if my life depended on it. Christy Baggett can act the hell out of a vocal piece, but almost sounded like she was singing out of her range. Bryant Smith as Captain Crewe was a real disappointment on both acting and signing fronts, considering his lofty credentials (including Jean Valjean at Aurora). I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt due to the sound, and also the lack of juice in that particular role.

By far the best all-around performance was Brenna McConnell as Becky. Not only did she pretty much nail the difficult working class accent, but she was literally the only person on stage that managed to make the audience LOL. She positively exuded energy and magnetism, even in the opening scene where she was charged with simply sitting on a bed and silently watching a good 7-minute number. She drew my eye almost as much as the action. Especially impressive considering the girl is in sixth grade, when most of us are as interesting as a bag of cement. Plus, she thanked her three best friends by name in her bio. #stayclassy

None of the other girls held a candle to McConnell’s flame. Olivia Windley as the awkward Ermengard sounded as if she’d just had her braces tightened and was completely unintelligible, which one hopes wasn’t a directorial choice. Kelly Lamor Wilson had a compelling stage presence but her Lavinia was pure bully with no layers. Molly Coyne as the good cop school teacher likewise lacked nuance in striving for loveable stupidity, although her voice was lovely. Jeanette Illidge was mesmerizing, with an absolutely regal bearing and (I’m pretty sure, at least) a powerhouse voice, but unfortunately her character Aljana wasn’t fully realized–definitely a fault of the book, not of the actress.

Steele as the title character was certainly watchable, and made strong choices, even though I didn’t agree with all of them–most particularly her coldness to Lottie when she was made a servant. It completely undermines the idea of Sarah as a princess under even the most dire and dark circumstances, which is the crux of the story’s power. Sarah spent very little stage time as a pauper in fact, which, especially if you’re familiar the Hodgson-Burnett novel, is akin to taking a dangerous number of bricks out the Jenga tower. Again, this adaptation by Crawley and Lippa is likely to blame. But Steele’s hunched over, somewhat plaintive physicality was a real detriment to anyone affecting to be a princess, even a make-believe one. Fifteen is a perfectly suitable age to play 13 on stage, even though she is rather tall–but the impression she gave was that of trying to play even younger by somehow shrinking herself. Steele was compelling in the school scenes, but the bond between Sarah and her father, which is crucial to the emotional heart of the story–was shaky at best. They acted like actors in their scenes together, which is really the most accurate and devastating thing that can be said. Certainly a more riveting performance than could be coaxed out of most 15-year olds, but not quite the bar level I was expecting for someone with multiple Broadway credits and a solo show.

Overall, I would recommend this production to young audiences and the people who love them, and perhaps devotees of the story who are interested in any and all takes on it. Do wait a few performances to give them time to iron out the technical difficulties, see if you can score discount tickets, and enjoy this holiday confection. The rest of us–wait till it comes to video.

A Little Princess runs December 3 – 27, 2015 at the Balzar Theatre. Tickets at Theatrical Outfit

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 975 other followers