Thursday, July 9, 2015

Theatre Etiquette for Everyone

Theatre is in my mind the most wonderful art. It combines all disciplines, all forms, and most importantly is live. The artists are all there with you. You are experiencing a work of art in real time and it is unlike the performance has ever been or ever will be again. You have the privilege of participating in a singular, once in a lifetime event and you can feel the energy. Even if you don't concur with my boastful opinion, you must agree that theater is unique, even among the performing arts. That is why there are certain rules that must be obeyed; so that you and your partners in happening can get the maximum enjoyment out of your individual and societal experience.  The rules were laid out, not because of pretension and animosity, but to ensure the most fair and democratic enjoyment.

1. This should go without saying, but it is apparently necessary as manners and common courtesies have gone by the wayside. 
You are not in your living room! This isn't a ball game! You can't get this kind of experience at home watching tv in your underwear, or even at the movies. This is live and no matter what you might think, everyone can hear you. Actors, Crews and most importantly, other audience members. You are breaking everyone's concentration and unless you are the most ignorant human who has ever existed, I know you can feel the stony glares emanating at you from all directions. Seriously, some shows require people to complete very difficult and dangerous tasks that require utmost concentration. You are literally endangering people's lives and quite literally your own.  So please enjoy the show, savor every moment, talk to your companions after the show. 
   SHUT UP!!!!
If this rule seems shocking and uncalled for, not talking will actually be a great exercise for that dull and underworked organ rotting between your eyes. Also try to remember and savor. It's something we don't get to do very much in this epitome of consumer American whoredom that we call cultural existence. 

2. This should also go without saying but this is also a sticky point,
  BE ON TIME!!!!! 
And by on time I mean at least 15 if not 30 minutes early!!!
The reason, a theater production involves a lot of people, more than you would imagine most likely: and all of those people agree to a strict schedule by being hired or purchasing a ticket to said event. If you are late for a train, it will leave the station without you. So will a plane, a car service, an elevator, most things in life adhere to a schedule. Theater is no different. You may be a paying customer but you agreed to be on time when you purchased the ticket.
   Subpoint: don't you dare yell at the front of house staff for ANY reason but especially if YOU are late. This is your fault. Even with the most valid excuse in the world (Hint*--dinner ran late, usual traffic, oversleeping, you forgot the tickets at home, etc. are NOT valid excuses) the other partons, ticket holders, customers, call them what you will all managed to make it here on time. None of us will be waiting for you. If they did hold the house for you, I have pity on your soul.
If it were up to me, you wouldn't get in, you wouldn't get to reschedule, and you wouldn't get a refund! Thankfully it's not up to me. Most theaters will find a time to slip you in if heaven forbid you are late, but that is at their and the directors discretion. Yes, the director decides these moments, so once again keep your frustration and self loathing to yourself. Don't you dare try and talk an usher into letting you in. They won't and it makes you look like an asshole.  No matter when you are slipped in, it will be disruptive which causes the same effects as breaking rule one. DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!

Along the same lines
This means, find out how long the show is BEFORE you attend, find out if and how many intermissions there are and when they fall. All of its information can be found on the magical interwebs via mother Google™. Most of you reading this are adults although kids should be taught too. If you know you personally can't control your bladder for 45-100 minutes, Skip that drink at the bar, don't enjoy a second with dinner, and for God's sake stay coherent. The reasons are all listed above. If you've forgotten them, read it again!

4. This one can Get sticky but as a general rule unless specifically told by someone,
This is more for legal reasons than anything. Everything you see inside a theater--usually including the theater itself--is intellectual property and therefore copyrighted material.  It is protected under all the statutes that a painting or a sculpture is.  The designers can technically and truly sue your ass if you publish photos of their material and have every right to under copyright law.  The control aspect is the most important to designers. Think about that for a second: if something you spent countless hours creating, perfecting, and overseeing. Would you really like it if someone who you had no input or contact with, published an unapproved image with unapproved angles and sometimes truly poor aesthetic sensibility? Remember that whole Instagram™ Fiasco with copyright a while ago? It was undecided who held the main rights the "artist" or the publisher? America spoke and said of their own free will that the artist holds the copyright.  There you go. Also, since most people cannot properly operate a smartphone camera and therefore cannot turn off the flash, that is also distracting. See Point 1 again for the issues of distraction.

You as an audience member know nothing about the actual logistics of an individual stage and set. I mean nothing! You are the epitome of clueless. Why would you even attempt something you know so little about? you could bump something or move something necessary for the show or worse, for someone's safety! You wouldn't go into the generator room of a power plant or onto the tracks of a train. Both are necessary for the essential functions and both can be destroyed by ignorant hands. In the theater, that's you! Stay out of everything except the auditorium! If you even begin to question whether you should be somewhere, don't do it!!!  This is ALSO distracting to everyone!!! See Point 1 for the umpteenth time for the issues of distraction.

All of the people who I was just talking about, FOH staff, technicians, designers and actors? They can all see you. You might not believe me but I promise it is true. We all know when you are leaving and it is very hurtful and disheartening to all involved. If you have stayed for the entire show, there is no excuse for this behavior. I don't care if you want to beat traffic, beat the bar line, or get to your favorite restaurant before the crowd--there is no excuse for your tasteless, offensive, and inexcusable behavior. You will be judged accordingly.

7. Finally and MOST importantly, 
you are responsible for your own good time and the good time had by everyone else. What makes theatre it's most powerful can also destroy it in an instant.  Your bad attitude has an effect on people and It's amazing how quickly feelings spread throughout a group. I am no sociologist but I have experienced first hand an audience turning on a show in both good and bad ways.  Come in with an open mind, don't listen to the critics, and let theater work its magic on you because it can.  A great performance of a great piece of theater can change your life much less your night. That power is what separates it from the other arts and it is something that once experienced will live forever in your mind and will be something you seek for the rest of your existence! Don't mess it up for yourself or others.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Most Invested Tonys

Greetings readers, from the far off and mystical lands of New York City!  As many of you know today is the highest of high holy days for theater people, the Tony Awards.  

I have celebrated this day since before I moved to the city, even before I had a single degree! This year is special however.  This year, though my wife and I aren't personally attending the ceremony, this is the first year that a show in the running is a show that I saw open Off-Broadway, that I witnessed being changed and prodded into its current wonderful form, that I got to know the cast and creative, and that my name was in the Original Public Theater Playbill (under Front-of-house but it still counts Dammit!).  

saw this show downtown at the Public more than 40 times and I never grew bored of it's content. I always learned something new about it and it continually affected me emotionally (and still does to this day {for days and days and days!}) That is an impressive feat! It's wonderful to know you are a part of something special, no matter how small that part may be.  
It's competition is really something this year too! We have another wholly original musical, "Something Rotten," the culmination and unfortunately the final piece from one of my all time favorite collaborations, "The Visit," and finally an adaption of one of my favorite Movie Musicals whose score and extensive ballet sequences hark back to the Golden Age of Broadway, "An American in Paris." It's a remarkable season!

The real point that I try to make every year is that it doesn't matter who wins really, this is our entire community getting together to celebrate accomplishments and YAY that there are so many things to celebrate! So many people are making a good living doing what they love!!! There are ao many incredibly talented people living their dreams! Theater is alive and well (and fresh and new and every bit as wonderful) and that's what I celebrate every year on this day! That is why it is such an important day to me. This is proof that it can still be done and still be done well!

So as for my stakes in it this year, win or lose, "Fun Home" has definately changed my life for the better and is endlessly inspiring in my own endeavors but even if it doesn't win and make history tonight, "Something Rotten," "The Visit," and "An American in Paris," all deserve love and praise for all the hard work that has gone into them and all the work that they provide for thespians all over the city, country and world! Today's hottest shows are tomorrow's staples in community theater!

Wish us "Public people" luck tonight and tune in! And May the Gods of the Theatre smile on us and contiune to inspire such wonderful things!

P.S. I'm only blogging about the "Best Musical" caregory because I could literally go on for days about the content, categories, nominees, and each of the shows on Broaday this season! Nobody has the bandwidth nor time for that...especially when it's already been done! Check out these wonderful sources via the interwebs for more info on anything regarding the Tonys and Broadway in general!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What I Do For Love

Today marks a momentous occasion for me: not only for me but for the institution I am fortunate enough to work for.  40 years ago today, a legendary show opened to a paying audience for the first time.  It not only completely revolutionized the way we think about Musical Theatre subject matter, but the process of how they are created. 

A Chorus Line

I have every song and moment memorized. At this very moment I can sing the show from top to bottom and even attempt the Michael Bennett choreography (the combinations were always a stretch, but hey!) The show touched me in a way that very few have. At this moment I sit in the same walls that created it and the songs pour through my head (and everyone else's apparently: every single employee who has walked by my table has been humming a verse of something from this show.) This is the life I'm living, this is my life both literally and metaphorically! I just wish I could find my gold tuxedo...just kidding! But seriously.

When I was a budding Musical Theatre nerd in the middle of small town Wyoming,

                                                                       (I'm not kidding...)
the realities of the characters were about as far from mine as humanly possible, except for the fact that we were all chasing our dream.  I think that's what drew me into this show instantly was the rawness of these peoples experiences.  I, in my typical fashion, began to research and read everything I could about this show from the 70's that was still somehow so fresh and new to everyone, but especially to someone who had only attended Golden Age musicals growing up.

The more I discovered, the more I loved everything about it. A Chorus Line was actually my first introduction to the Public Theater! Imagine, not only was this show the longest running American show in Broadway history, it also pioneered the way modern musicals are created with the workshop format of development.  It was also based on actual interviews with the actual cast and their actual lives are what we see on stage and hear in the cast album!  This revelation is the one that has stuck with me the most. Nearly all of my favorite shows are the ones that are based on real life and factual stories. 

That brings me to tonight.  As some of you know I have been very fortunate to work at the Public now for almost 2 years.  Tonight on this very special anniversary, I actually get to work in the theater where it premiered! Even better, I get to work on a show that is a direct answer to the Chorus Line legacy; a show that pushes boundaries, dares to be innovative musically and with form, and is based on actual people, Hamilton.  Being in this space has always been incredibly inspiring, but especially tonight!

What a legacy this institution has! Even in my short time here, I have seen some phenomenal theater, Good Person of Szechwan (starring the incomparable Taylor Mac),

Here Lies Love (Now touring internationally),  

Fun Home (Now on Broadway), and so many others!

Who knows, maybe someday my own works will premier in this hallowed hall known as the Newman Theater at the Public!

All images belong to the New York Shakespeare Festival Company.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

10 days left

I at this very moment have 10 days left in my first decade of adulthood. On the 19th I start another. I'm not sure how I should feel and mostly, it's nothing. There are moments however when I think back at the past 10 years and question it. What have I done? What have I accomplished?

I've read that you should never compare yourself to others. I've read it so many times that I've lost track of the authors who quote it and the books that claim its promise of happiness. Yet isn't it in our very nature to compare and contrast with our fellow humans? Some have lived lifetimes by the time they're 29, some are close to retirement, some haven't even made it this far. My body is torn between youth and age, vitality and verility, aches and pains. Coincidentally, I fell down the stairs in our apartment building a couple of days ago and can definately still feel it. More now than I would've ten years ago. I'm fine by the way, just a couple bruises and an angry elbow which has now ceased being angry.

Throughout my life, I have self imposed pressures. I wanted to be smart, skilled, talented, and most importantly indespensible. I am proud to say that I feel I have reasonably pursued the first three goals and continue to strive toward their beacons but what did I mean to be indispensable. Did I mean with my family? With my friends? With someone I would come to love? With a fan base? With my future peers and colleuges? With history? I am kind of baffeled at my younger self. What audacity. I mean everyone hopes to be indespensible and remembered but, wow. 

If I am honest with myself, I have accomplished more than I ever thought I would. I met and married the love of my life (something I never thought would happen.) I finished a Master's Degree (something that even at 19 seemed unattainable.) I've performed professionally, written professionally, and have moved all the way across the country to the most expensive city in the U.S.  I've met hundreds of people, made more friends than I ever thought possible. But is it enough?

I realize now that I spent most of my 28th year pursuing things I desperately wanted. A new apartment, new projects and on top of it all, I was rapidly pursing an escape from retail and approaching everyday that I was involved in a certain institution with a radicchio bitterness. My beautiful, wonderful wife in all her wisdom and love for me, reminded me that we didn't move here to pursue jobs in anything but our dream fields. I may not make the most money or be the most appreciated by most of my higher ups, but my direct supervisor is incredible and allows me to be very flexible with scheduling (incredibly necessary in the theater) and my other job is like a constant workshop that most would have to pay thousands for and I get paid to do it!

It's a very old message of appreciating what you have. It's something I was naturally good at in my youth, but as I see my youth fleeting, becomes harder. The pressures of adulthood, make optimism a difficult vein to mine and obstacles are constantly falling, fording and fixing our attention away. But even in the 3 months since my wife reminded me, I feel so releived. All of these positives are blessedly intwined in my life and were during my 28th year, I'm just appreciating them more this year. All of the positive things!

Wish me luck friends, I have 10 days left of my 28th year! May my 29th be the best yet, and with all of you in my life it shall be!

Much Love,
Cameron Michael Fehring

Friday, February 27, 2015

Our Chosen Field

It's a simple enough question: one that should be asked often when in pursuit of a goal, but the frequency of discussions never delve deeper than 440hz (Music nerd humor). I want to get to the very depths of, not only my own understanding, but yours and I know no group better qualified than you my friends. So I ask you, what is theater best at? What can theater do that no other art form can? That nothing else can? What makes it special in general and to you?