Everything Is Already Something: A Meeting of Producers Who Really Want to Capitalize on the Popularity of ‘Hamilton’

Allison Page, feeding you some low-hanging fruit- just like these producers!

MAN 1: Okay, how about something with one of those other politics guys?

MAN 2: Yeah, yeah, yeah I like that.

MAN 3: The guy with the tub! The tub guy!

WOMAN: Taft? What’s the twist? We need a twist.

MAN 3: We cast someone really buff, but not overly muscular, so he’s also kind of svelte. Or a model.

MAN 1: GET ASHTON KUTCHER ON THE PHONE.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.52.07 AM

********************************************

MAN 3: A splashy musical spectacular in the traditional sense — chorus girls and everything — about HARRIET TUBMAN! Except the woman who plays her, and stay with me here, is a white male! Think of the PRESS!

MAN 1: Mmm, sounds too expensive. Can we do it without the chorus girls?

********************************************

MAN 2: Okay but what if —guys, this is gonna be great— what if we do a thing about William Henry Harrison?

MAN 3: Who?

WOMAN: The one who died 23 days into his presidency.

MAN 2: YES! The built-in drama! But instead of getting an old guy to do it-

MAN 1: Ewwwwww

MAN 2: Exactly! So instead we get a teen pop star. Is Justin Bieber still relevant?

WOMAN: Oooo, or how old is Rachel’s baby from Friends?

********************************************

WOMAN: So scratch the musical idea, because I’m thinking a historical epic like Les Mis without the singing, but there’s no set so it’ll be really cheap. The set is all in the audience’s imaginations. It’s an arty thing.

MAN 2: Who’s it about?

WOMAN: JOE BIDEN! A rags to riches story!

MAN 1: Does he actually have a rags to riches story?

WOMAN: Don’t know. Doesn’t matter! That is the power of art, my friends.

********************************************

MAN 1: GEORGE WASHINGTON!

MAN 2: But George Washington is already in ‘Hamilton’.

MAN 3: Oh shit – A SEQUEL.

WOMAN: ‘Hamilton 2: George’s Side’

MAN 1: ‘Hamilton II: A Second Serving of Ham’

MAN 2: ‘George VS Alex: There Can Be Only One’

MAN 3: ‘Sunday in the Park with George’

**********************************************

WOMAN: You know what else is really popular on Broadway? ‘Phantom of the Opera’

MAN 1: Oh yeah, can we put them together?

MAN 2: Alexander Hamilton falls into a vat of ooze and when he emerges he’s all scarred up.

WOMAN: I think that’s Two Faces’ origin story.

MAN 3: Okay, when Hamilton was shot he didn’t actually die, he faked his own death! And now he walks the earth, immortal, with a mask on part of his face. And sometimes he sings opera, or maybe just R&B, I don’t think people listen to opera. And there are probably some hot chicks. Does Alessandra Ambrosia act? Doesn’t matter, we can teach her.

*********************************************

MAN 2: Wait, we’re totally missing something. PEOPLE LOVE COMEDY. Take one of the lesser characters from ‘Hamilton’ like, ah…I don’t know, Hercules Mulligan, and show his story, but he’s played by America’s sweetheart: Adam Sandler. We’ll make so much money and then they’ll make a movie out of it and we’ll make so much more money and it doesn’t even have to be good. I mean that’s the nice thing about this idea is it definitely, absolutely, in no way has to be good at all even a little bit. And Hercules Mulligan is a really silly name like Happy Gilmore so it completely makes sense.

WOMAN: Just googled it. Someone’s already doing it.

MAN 2: UGHHHHH ALL THE GOOD ONES ARE TAKEN.

*********************************************

WOMAN: Kerry Washington.

MAN 1: What about her?

WOMAN: Kerry Washington plays Washington in ‘Washington’.

MAN 2: More Washington?! We’ve already covered this.

WOMAN: Washington on Washington.

MAN 3: I like it.

**********************************************

MAN 1: The story of Obama as told by Jay-Z and Beyonce.

MAN 2: That’s actually a really good idea.

WOMAN: Does that mean we can bring back Carmen: A Hip Hopera. Can’t we just stage that? God, I love that movie. What ever happened to Mekhi Phifer?

MAN 3: You’re right, let’s just do that instead. Can we convince the writer it somehow slipped into the public domain?

WOMAN: Probably. Writers are idiots.

EVERYONE: hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha I KNOW, RIGHT?

**********************************************

MAN 1: What if we make one of the characters from Glengarry Glen Ross a congressman and add a little soft shoe in the middle?

MAN 3: I like everything about that except the congressman and the soft shoe.

MAN 2: Great, another round of GGR it is!

WOMAN: What if there’s a woman in it?

MEN: NO.

WOMAN: I was just kidding. Hahahaha…ha…ha.

**********************************************

MAN 1: OH! Why don’t we just produce another run of ‘1776’?

EVERYONE: Oooooh yeah. Okay. Forgot about that. Let’s do it. Haha we’re so silly.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/artistic director of sketch comedy company Killing My Lobster in San Francisco.

Cowan Palace: How To Make Actors Definitely (Maybe) Want To Work With You Again

Let’s be honest, actors can be real flakes sometimes. But Ashley Cowan has some thoughts on how you can encourage them to like you and commit to working with you again. Or at least avoid some of the mistakes Allison Page presented in her last blog.

When I read Allison’s last blog, I let out a whole lot of “mmmmhmmmms” and “that’s right, girl”s. Because apparently, I’m a sassy grandma. Werther’s Original, anyone? Anyway, I found myself feeling pretty worked up by her points because each and every one of them struck so close to home. Guys, we are better than this! Allison knows it, I know it, and you know it.

Last week Allison served up some advice. This week Ashley serves up... salad? Oh, and I guess appreciation.

Last week Allison served up some advice. This week Ashley serves up… salad? Oh, and I guess appreciation.

So to try and balance my frustration and not immediately leap off the Golden Gate Bridge in an act of dramatic expression over some of those poor theatrical habits, I thought, why not make a list of theater practices gone right? Because there’s a reason so many of us are willing to wade through the muck. Sometimes there are some truly great producers/directors/general theater makers who deserve more recognition.

1.) I ENJOY IT WHEN YOU FEED ME: Well, we all know I love food. But I’m obviously not the only one. It goes a long way when someone thinks to bring a little snack to a rehearsal or before a performance. Considering most of us aren’t doing shows for the money, these food items are often enough to say, “hey actor, I appreciate you”. And at the end of the day, feeling appreciated can be everything. Next time you’re organizing a reading or rehearsal, remember that a little bite can go a long way. And for me, it’s often made a world of difference.

Here's a treat I once made my cast. No need to nerd out like I did but I like to think those weird little owls helped make our rehearsal a little more memorable!

Here’s a treat I once made my cast. No need to nerd out like I did but I like to think those weird little owls helped make our rehearsal a little more memorable!

2.) REJECT ME LIKE YOU MEAN IT: I get that we can’t all get a personalized rejection each and every time we audition for something when we don’t make the cut. Thankfully we have froyo for that kind of pain. And perhaps it’s unprofessional of me to encourage it but whatever, this is a fairly intimate community. We’ve got a lot going on here and we all have a lot of feelings. Sometimes, after spending hours preparing, traveling, and giving it all you’ve got at an audition, the rejection can be a real bitch. It’s softened my blow, ever so slightly, by the folks who reached out to genuinely acknowledge me as an individual and thank me for my time rather than simply sending out a mass generic email. I’ve appreciated this rather rare occurrence in the past but more than anything, being kind goes a long way and everyone who walks into your audition room will thank you for it.

3.) RESPECT THE SCHEDULE: It’s just the worst when you’re called to a rehearsal for hours on end and not used. Granted, I’ve worked on knitting several scarves in the process but overall, if you don’t need me, I’d rather be binge watching some reality show at home. But when you get a team who can organize a schedule thoroughly and honestly, with respect to everyone’s time, well, that’s just so great! Your actors are more likely to give you focused work that leaves them feeling excited and productive because they won’t feel like their precious trashy TV time is being wasted.

4.) THROW A CAST PARTY: Nothing promotes company spirit like getting your cast and crew together to enjoy spirits… and each other. For me, the biggest successes in this area were the folks who threw an event at the beginning of the rehearsal process and a celebration to conclude it. People like feeling like they’re a part of something. Ariel sang a whole song about it. So a big cheers to those of you for making events like this happen and giving us a moment to party together!

5.) HELP US FEEL PRETTY: Anyone who says they don’t have a moment of insecurity before a show opens is either a liar or an idiot. Most of us have small budgets and tiny crews to help put on large productions. The producers/directors who have remained calm in front of their actors and reassured them that things are fine have certainly earned my approval. We don’t want to hear you bitch, we want to feel confident our show is in good hands. Voice your appreciation for your actors. Give them constructive feedback and acknowledge their successes. If you can do all that along with keeping steady, confident control of every situation, you’ll continue to make our “I want to work with them” list.

6.) DELEGATE LIKE IT’S YOUR JOB (SPOILER ALERT: IT’S YOUR JOB, HOMIE): We all know great shows can be ruined by poor leadership and management. Have a huge tech heavy show? Well, then yes, you probably need a stage manager. Have a dance scene? Well, then get someone in here who knows how to move besides your actress who’s dabbled in Zumba at the local YMCA. The shows I’ve been a part of who succeeded assigned jobs for the entire process of the production and clearly defined those positions to interested applicants before moving forward. Wow, that’s a good idea. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ensure that person is capable and up for the responsibility. It’s amazing what having a strong team can do to helping your show surpass its potential.

7.) MAKE IT ABOUT MORE THAN BUSINESS: One of my favorite parts of being involved in a show is getting the privilege to bond with a new, unique group. The directors who have encouraged their casts to check in with one another before getting to work and reward each other with positive feedback at the end of the rehearsal are truly giving their team a great support system. You’re strengthening trust and building friendships beyond the text of the play. People feel invested in not only the work they are creating but each other. It’s awesome and I thank you for making this positive effort a presence in your rehearsal.

 I'd much rather be rehearsing with you than watching this dummy! Most of the time...

I’d much rather be rehearsing with you than watching this dummy! Most of the time…

Just with anything else, your experiences are what you make of them. And if you can promote a good one, you’re doing something right. Thank you to the producers/directors/general theater makers who welcomed me, made me feel appreciated and valued, and established a space for creativity to thrive. I know it wasn’t easy but I’d trade countless evenings with the TV to work with you again.

Everything is Already Something Week 31: How to Make Actors Never Want to Work With You Again

Allison Page has some sage advice for producers, directors, and pretty much everyone else out there making theater. Of course, I may have to write one now called, “Actors: Why You Should Never Be Cast Again.”

ATTENTION: This is a public service announcement. If you do any of the following things, it may inspire actors not to work with your theatre company again in the future. Seriously. Actors may be meat puppets, but the USDA has standards, and so do we.

1) NOT CONTACTING THE ACTORS WHO WEREN’T CAST: Oh, come on. It’s 2014. Take the 5 minutes and email the actors who gave time to your project before the project even started, and tell the miserable bastards that you’re not using them. This coming from someone who usually forgets about whatever the project was until she hears about it again. Recently, that was not the case. There were very few people at the callback and I had the distinct impression that I was seriously being considered for more than one role. Naturally, I waited around to find out about it. *Crickets* *Crickets* and then they announced the cast online without ever telling the actors who weren’t cast about it. NO. DO NOT DO THIS. This isn’t your high school drama department. You aren’t pinning a list up on the wall so Susie Shithead can see if she got the coveted role of Chorus 2. Remember that actors are trying to plan their schedules just like you are – they want to know if they should take something else that comes along or be in your awesome show.

2) NOT CLEANING THE COSTUMES: Ew, stop it. It’s not the job of the actors to clean their costumes. It just isn’t. Especially if you have a costumer. If the costumer says “Um, I don’t clean costumes.” Then you need to take care of that by either A) Being sure that the costumer knows that IS part of their job, if it is or B) Making other arrangements or C) Being up front with the actors and saying that they will have to take care of their own costumes from the beginning. I don’t love this for several reasons (the actors might not know how to properly care for their particular costume and/or the fabrics it’s made of, they might be idiots and forget a costume item at home, etc.) but if no one else is going to be cleaning them, everyone should know that in the beginning, not after weeks of having a filthy costume and asking “WHYYYYY?” to everyone and getting no answer because you don’t feel like addressing it.

3) LETTING THE TECH SIDE GET AWAY WITH MURDER: You can appear to be a great producer, but if your stage manager or lighting or sound tech or costume person is a total douchebag – it’s going to reflect poorly on you. And what’s going to be waaaaayyyyy worse is if you don’t do a damn thing about it. If you hear about someone either being bad at their job or treating other people – the people who are trying to make your damn show come together – like shit, you need to intervene. Lighting tech who passes out in the booth in the middle of the show so the lights don’t come up? HI, SAY SOMETHING.

You're cute and everything, but could you take a sec to get out of bed and bring the lights up? I've been giving my monologue in total darkness and I tripped on the fake guillotine center stage. Thx.

You’re cute and everything, but could you take a sec to get out of bed and bring the lights up? I’ve been giving my monologue in total darkness and I tripped on the fake guillotine center stage. Thx.

Costumer groping the actors? STOP IT. More than anything – just pay attention. And if someone comes to you with a real problem (not a “my M&Ms are all supposed to be blue” problem) – listen and act if necessary. Don’t avoid the problem, it won’t go away. And don’t punish the people who’ve raised the issue in the first place. That’s completely ridiculous. If you show that you don’t care enough to do anything about the issues with your staff, that’s not going to look good to anybody. And actors talk.

4) DISAPPEARING: No cast is an island. Say your show is up and running – good for you! Now say it’s even been extended – WOW, THAT’S SO GOOD! Now say that because it’s been extended, it’s been running for weeks and weeks and weeks and no representative of your company has checked in with the cast, stage manager, or anybody. If we’re out there breaking our butts X amount of times per week, and not making much money to do it, it would be nice if someone checked to see if we’re still alive. Or if we had to tape our costumes back together backstage. Or if there’s something in the show that stopped working.

Okay, so this cast in on an island, but even they weren't alone because the smoke monster was hanging out, too.

Okay, so this cast in on an island, but even they weren’t alone because the smoke monster was hanging out, too.

These things happen all the time and a company’s total absence from their show after opening allows standards to fall rapidly in all kinds of areas. Maybe on Broadway this isn’t such an issue, but when you’re gettin’ $150 for several weeks of performances…well, you know. Stuff can happen. Just check in, that’s all. We’re doing this show at your company, maybe remind us of that by existing occasionally after the second week’s run. Doesn’t have to be every night (and probably shouldn’t) but some feeling that we’re not floating out to sea, abandoned, would be nice. Being able to call you like you’re a hotline isn’t as good as you just showing up once in a while.

5) FIGHTING IN FRONT OF THE CAST: Um, we’re right here. We can hear you. And see you. Because we’re in the room. Take it outside, or wait until after rehearsal. This also applies to aggressively second-guessing the director’s direction. It’s really uncomfortable if the producer/artistic director/whatever comes in, watches a scene, and turns to the director – in full view of everyone – and says “Why are you making them do that? That is stupid. This is all wrong.” over and over again while the director looks like a sad puppy and the producer proceeds to re-block and change every scene while the director watches, helplessly. If you’re choosing a director, hopefully it’s someone you trust. Hopefully it’s someone you actually want to direct your show. If changes need to be made because you don’t think something is working, talk to the director about it before shoe-horning the show they’ve been working on by sauntering in and pointing your finger for three hours only to disappear for two weeks, come back and do the same thing. Embarrassing the actors’ leader in front of them isn’t exactly going to solidify their confidence in him/her/zir is it? Working together to fix issues – YES. Parading your authority around – NO.

Actually, this looks intriguing. Go ahead and fight like this. I'll watch.

Actually, this looks intriguing. Go ahead and fight like this. I’ll watch.

6) SAYING WEIRD STUFF ABOUT ACTORS’ BODIES: “You’re too flat-chested! This bigger-chested person is totally going to upstage you because you can’t fill out your costume the same way! HAHAHA!” – (an actual thing I’ve heard said) NOOOO WE DON’T SAY THIS. Just say you want a different costume. Say that one’s not working. That’s cool, costumes don’t work all the time. Don’t make it weird. You don’t know how many times that person has heard something like that before. Just say things you would say to a fellow human being. Shouldn’t be too hard. The actor didn’t do anything wrong by putting the costume on. Just tell the costumer to get a different one and explain what you want out of it.

7) REEEAAAALLY LONG AUDITIONS: Dude. Just split it up into two days. There are 147 of us in the lobby. That’s too many. We’ve been here for 3 hours and haven’t read anything. You’re only stressing yourself out by constantly feeling rushed and staring out at a sea of bored/expectant faces. Split it up and ensure that you’ll have the time to consider everyone you’re seeing, and that the actors can concentrate on trying to show you what they’ve got, instead of worrying that someone stole their purse in the lobby or feeling like they have no reason to be there. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, yo.

Listen, I know a lot of these sound like “Oh, God, OBVIOUSLY.” – actually, I hope they all sound that way. They shouldn’t be surprising. But, as always, I wouldn’t have to bring it up if it hadn’t happened. A LOT. These are all very real things. I love working in independent theatre. I really do. But because we’re small/mighty instead of big/mighty we have to work a little harder, with a smaller staff to make things happen. This shouldn’t mean that you cut corners on being a human. Again – PAY ATTENTION. I mean, feel free to not take any of these things seriously. What do I care? But just know that actors talk to each other all the time. We know if your company is a shitshow of disorganization and misplaced priorities and though you may think actors are a dime a dozen, there might be one dime you want who doesn’t want to work with you when you want them.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/person in San Francisco. You can follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage.