Archive for the ‘FIRST PRODUCTION’ Category

Joe Boles (left) and Curtis Cline in DIRECTING HAMLETRehesarsals are going great. So here's the downside: How do you know when a rehearsal about a rehearsal is actually improving and not just a good rehearsal? How can you be sure struggling with the lines isn't actually struggling with the lines and when we get further into the mire we won't find ourselves asking, "what happened to the rehearsal aspect?: It looks like a performance; and what happened to struggling with the lines? It was looking so great. The potential was all there. . . so what happened?"?Everyone's getting along well right now. We have to change that. Time to move on to sets, lighting and sound. That'll bring a headache or two.

This was posted on our last performance but I found out about iut just this last week.  But in the fairness of it all; thought I’d share:

Night out takes me back to live theater – what a joy Posted on June 26, 2011 by stevewhitmore I did something this past Saturday night that I haven’t done in years. I went with my wife of lo’ these many years to the thee-a-tah along with my oldest son. That’s right. I went to the theater in Santa Paula, Calif., of all places. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Santa Paula is about a dozen miles east of Ventura. Most assuredly not the first place one thinks of when speaking of attending live theater. But there it is, hidden behind a park on a side street. It’s called the Santa Paula Theater Center, and I highly recommend it. The play we saw this past Saturday, “Directing Hamlet” was wonderful. Yes, it had its flaws, like the cell-phone gimmick that ended the play in an unsurprising and disappointing way. That is the fault of the writer, Michael Perlmutter, who probably should take a second look at this gimmick because it takes away from an otherwise stellar evening of storytelling. Mr. Perlmutter also directed this production and did so deftly. Usually, you don’t want your actors with their backs to the audience, but this time, it worked. It helped create the space where actors and directors work. And this play is about that space. Yes, much more as well, but it is most assuredly about the space in which human beings escape to create. The two character play features the capable Joe Boles, as the troubled director, Lee, trying to connect with his young actor played by an astonishingly fresh and exciting talent, Curtis Cline, who played Brian. Cline brings an authenticity to his character that is both unusually bright and disciplined that leads to a theatrical freedom. And this freedom allows the audience to jump on board. Good stuff. Boles and Cline also work well together, performing a high-wire act of ostensibly rehearsing Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which of course leads us into realms of self-discovery. Also, good stuff. Obviously, the play is about much more than the play, “Hamlet,” and that’s the only place I believe it stumbles. I’m not going to address the gimmick because it is central to the story. Just this thought: subtlety is the key to the cathartic moment. We, the audience, should not know before hand what is going to take place. When we do, and when the expected does take place, it loses its punch. We leave slightly adrift. Not because of the mystery but because of the lack of it. Enough of the criticism, which is so easy to offer. My late father, actor James Whitmore, use to say that critics were “eunuchs at an orgy.” He was right, I believe, and this play was well worth the $12-per-head – senior and student discounts – we had to pay. I have seen many productions in my day and this ranks as one of the best. No kidding and not an overstatement. There are moments where time literally stands still, and the moment on stage becomes our moment; the essence of good theater is when the audience is lost in the story, listening, feeling, seeing and understanding. That happens here – time and time again. By way of an example, I am a notorious clock watcher. I did not look at my watch but twice during this play. That is something. At least, for me. As earlier mentioned, I hadn’t been to a play in many years. Life just gets busy. Shame on me. “Directing Hamlet” has encouraged me to go again. I plan to do so. “Directing Hamlet” closes today, Sunday, June 26. More information about the The Santa Paula Theater Center is available at Check it out. You won’t regret it. About stevewhitmore Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor’s lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975. View all posts by stevewhitmore →

‘Directing Hamlet’ is rich with subtext

A probing look at life and the theater

By Rita Moran

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“Directing Hamlet,” Michael Perlmutter’s well-wrought and well-acted drama,  is in the Backstage space at the Santa Paula Theater Center, but is surely  destined for a main stage. Perlmutter, whose career includes acting, directing and playwriting, is on a roll locally. Another of his plays (“My Perfect Alibi”) was staged recently at  the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura.

But there’s nothing hidden about his talent, which shines in the sophistication of the subject matter and dialogue in “Directing Hamlet.” Dealing with a has-been director and a novice actor (played keenly by Joe Boles and Curtis Cline, respectively), Perlmutter turns a coaching session for Shakespeare’s tragedy into a probing look into life and theater, mixing and matching the old saying “Art imitates life,” or occasionally, “Life imitates art.”

Boles as Lee, the grumpy, sometimes preoccupied director, and Cline as Brian, the young man at the beginning of an acting career, enjoy a rough-and-tumble relationship from the very first word of Brian’s attempt to recite “Speak the speech, I pray you ,” one of Hamlet’s singular moments.

Perlmutter’s pair of actors is charged not only with speaking the speech but also with conveying the subtext of each man’s shaping moments and relationships offstage, the incremental revelation of which leads to an understanding of what the brief coaching sessions are really about.

Despite the serious undertone, Perlmutter provides wit along with wisdom. The opening scene, in which Lee overruns every attempt by Brian to finish a line, or even a phrase, is as amusing to the audience as it is frustrating to the young actor.

But the point is made, missed so often in performances both professional or amateur, that Shakespeare’s lines actually mean something and should be delivered less as declamatory speeches and more as conversational communication.

The lesson dawns on Brian to some satisfaction for Lee, despite the answer to his original question about why the young man wants to play Hamlet, surely one of the Bard’s most difficult roles: “Because it would look good on my résumé.” That’s not the soul-searching response Lee wants to hear, but it is honest, and probably rings true for many actors.

Despite the gap between the two men in age, philosophy and to some extent, life experiences, they find their way to understanding through the inch-by-inch personal exchanges pushed by Lee. A final revelation is abrupt, though not totally unexpected. Perlmutter might add just a few more lines to make that final point, though the shock effectively leaves audiences gasping.

Boles, who near the conclusion of the play gets to recite the great “To be or not to be” lines (and aces them), and Cline do well by Shakespeare’s text, and by Perlmutter’s. Audiences are bound to want to hear more of the latter in future plays by the skilled writer.

Email Rita Moran at

John Nichols/Contributed photo<br />
A grumpy director (Joe Boles, left) and a young actor (Curtis Cline) eventually find a bit of common ground in "Directing Hamlet." Michael Perlmutter's play takes a probing look at life and the theater.<br />

Two on the Aisle  (Ventura Breeze June 15th –

Backstage with Hamlet at Santa Paula

by Jim Spencer & Shirley Lorraine

The world premiere of “Directing Hamlet,” by award-winning Ventura County playwright Michael Perlmutter, opened last weekend as one of Santa Paula Theater Center’s intimate Backstage Productions.

The script lets the audience discover the circles within circles in the tenuous relationship between a newly cast young actor and a seasoned director while rehearsing for aproduction of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

It is also a play written by an actor/director for actors and directors. Anyone who has been on stage will see patches of familiarity in the director’s obsession with clarity, and the actor’s confusion in his attempts to please the director. For those who have not been “on the boards,” the tight dialogue and characterizations open windows into the hard work that goes into creating what an audience ultimately sees.

Joe Boles (the director) and Curtis Cline (Brian, the actor) are clearly up to their twofold task. Not only do they tackle the spot-on frustration of interpretive clashes in the modern day rehearsal setting, they are also up to the challenge of presenting Shakespeare. A heady combination they both handle extremely well.

The multi-layered script is well written, containing thoughtful insights among a web of intriguing interactions between the characters, all punctuated in just the right places with lines that elicit laughs to break the moments of tension.

The show is also directed by playwright Perlmutter. It turns out his directorial skills rival his talent as a playwright, which is not often the case. But in this production it allows Perlmutter to effectively give full effect to his vision as a playwright by helping his cast extract all the intended nuances of his demanding script.

As a world-premiere production, “Directing Hamlet” is a work in progress. In our opinion, the ending is one area where additional polishing may ultimately take place. The piece has two story lines. As a theatrical experience the first is 95% finished by the final blackout. The second story line, although touching, appears late in the play, is not fully developed, winds up quickly, and so is not fully satisfying. Nonetheless, the play, especially with these actors and director, is excellent.

The comfortable nature of the Backstage Production venue heightens the show’s impact. What’s a Backstage Production? Well, in addition to its regular season of Main Stage plays, the Santa Paula Theatre Center also produces new, small cast and experimental works to give authors, actors and audiences opportunities to stretch and grow. As some extra space is available (since the building was not originally designed as a theater), these shows are presented in an area that is literally part of the backstage of the main stage. Hence, the name – Backstage Productions.

“Directing Hamlet” continues Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (except Saturday, June 18 when there will be a concert on the main stage) and Sundays at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15. Contact the theater at 805-525-4645 or The theater is located at 125 So. Seventh Street, Santa Paula.

It had to happen, right?  Two great performances and then . . . our first Sunday matinée . . . well, it woulda been our first matinée but it came down to performing for an empty theatre or go home.  We went home.  Ok, not straight home.  There was a matter of watching the “brake” light come on across my car’s dashboard.  So, I pulled over and voila the car won’t start up again.  GREAT!! Here we are back at car problems, at least there’s not a show waiting to be done, right?  So, pull out my trustee AAA card.  The one we straightened out after the last car fiasco.  WHAT?? I’m not covered for WHAT?? This is unbelievable.  So, we leave the car, parked in front of a mom and pop shop bakery and promise to have it towed tomorrow after I straighten out with Membership Services on their Monday thru Friday hours because NO ONE CAN HELP ME NOW BECAUSE WE’RE LOOKING AT 5:30 ON A SUNDAY EVENING!!!  And other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you like the show?  Oh, there was no show?  Why not? Nobody showed up?  Then how’d your husband get that hole in the back of his head???!!!  This is the problem with the internet.  You think you’re writing about the rehearsal and performance process of a show to keep as a living memoir and LIFE just keeps getting in the way.  Kinda like what our show’s about, hunh?  Good segue: see the show–it’s worth it.


Posted: June 12, 2011 in FIRST PRODUCTION

Alright, I know I haven’t kept up on this like I thought I would at the start but the nightmares that follow rehearsals aren’t exactly fodder to bring audiences in.  The cast’s frustrations with me I can deal with and own up to.  My frustrations with them aren’t so pretty.  Because my frustrations with them were really my own frustrations with me.  A child wants a cookie and asks his Mom to give him a cookie.  She says, “OK, let’s bake some.”  The child agrees (by the way, in this scenario I’m playing the part of the child–not the mother).  First they have to find the recipe.  Then they have to read the recipe.  The child is already whining.  Now they have to go to the store and get the ingredients they need to make cookies.  While at the store the child runs around playing with things and wanting other things but the mother stays focused even when the child sees a new toy that he MUST HAVE!!!  They drive home from the store as the child bitches and moans about not getting the blue ray gun with flashing lights, a built-in laser and squirt gun that makes amazingly real life gun sounds.  Back in the kitchen Mom pulls out the mixing bowl, mixer, cookie sheets and other ingredients and commences to read, pour and stir while the oven heats up and the child starts to sing some ridiculous song the popped into head just moments ago.  Once the cookie dough is completed the child is given the thrill to finish off whatever mixture is left on the beater.  Mom starts baking.  The child steals more raw cookie dough while he THINKS Mom isn’t watching.  The child is sent out of the room to wait for the real deal.  The child pouts.  Ten minutes later cookies come out of the oven and the child is told he has to wait until they cool down because he’ll burn his tongue.  The child falls asleep.  Mom wakes the child with a glass of cold milk and warm cookies.  The best cookies ever made!!  The child is in heaven.  That kind of sums up our directing/rehearsal process.  I am thrilled to death with what Joe and Curtis have done with my whining, pouting, bitching and moaning, sleeping and general running around the store through this process.

Opening night was received well though the theatre itself got a little stuffy (we figured out how to cool it down so that shouldn’t happen again).

Second night, historically known for its drop in attendance AND performance level had almost as large a crowd and received a standing ovation.

I think we did good.

See the show.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  And if you don’t believe me they’ll be reviews out Wednesday and Thursday and I’m confident they’ll say the same.  (Either that or I want my fifty bucks back.)

Good week.  Good stuff.  Great actors.  We’ve covered a LOT of ground.  Now comes the fun start.   But like operating any plow we’re still going to have to tear up the soil a bit, even if we did just smooth it out, it was so we could tear it up lay down seeds and run over it again.  Water it, then weed it, then . . . Ok we’ve run that analogy into the ground.   Either I’ve corrected my own course well or Joe and Curtis have altered their expectations of me.  Probably a bit of both.  Suzie (Stage Managing) is a Godsend.  I write a miserable note on my highschool composition book I picked up from the 99 cent only store and refer to some obscure line and she can call out what page it’s on before i even finish my thought.  Maybe my thoughts are too long-winded.  Well, we forge ahead.

Looking forward to how this all comes out in the end.

Well, the read thru went very well thank you much.  Then, the next night, we started in on ACT I.  Slight problem: I got more involved.  Kinda like a three-year old with a puppy I tried to play it to death.   Or trying to swan dive into the kiddie pool.  The actors were superb and listened and did their best to play along as if I actually knew what I was doing.  In a sense I did.  In a sense I know these characters like an old lover and I was visiting a pair of prostitutes trying to turn them into the girls who got away.  There is a dance and no matter how much you may want to lead you just can’t dance a tango while the orchestra it tuning up.

That aside we got quite a bit of work done.  We laid out some skeletal blocking.  And I believe we did establish some baseline for the characters.

In my defense it was my hope that, rather than force feeding character upon the actors and by doing so limiting them to the straitjackets I was fitting them for, that my input would offer them a springboard from which they could safely jump off from.  We were at an airport, on that I think we can all agree.  And while we were all staring at the runway, where  I thought I was showing my pilots where their flight plans might take off from, they were hearing me tell them where to land.

I think the biggest problem is you need to take the plane out of the hanger before you fire up all the engines.

So, we’ll return to taxiing on Monday.

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason.  It is our job to figure out what that reason is.

Okay, this is why I hate bloggers and Facebook.  To read their trivial crap, about their trivial day in a world of “who the – – – – cares?”  So, humor me.  Tonight I was leaving ten, fifteen minutes early for our first readthru.  Little did I know it wouldn’t make a difference.  However, I didn’t leave early because as I was walking through the living room to leave ‘Naddie’, my son’s dog, decided to pee on the living room sofa.  So, needless to say I stripped the cover off the cushion and put my son to work to clean the cushion itself.  He decided to try to soak it out and the ring out the cushion and leave it out to let it dry.  So . . . I left on time.  I had an easy thirty minutes to make a twenty minute drive so I’m fine.  Until I hit the free way of wall to wall carpeting at a sporadic 0 to 3 miles an hour.  It seems a trash truck met with an RV and nobody was moving.  Meanwhile I don’t have anybody’s number in my phone because I was using a backup cell phone while I was waiting for a new charger I’d ordered online so I could keep using my regular phone who’s charger was “not available in any store near you”.  Now, it only goes to understand that my car wants to overheat.  It loves to overheat.  And to make a long story . . . yeah, well, it overheated.  Twice.  The second time it wouldn’t start up again. Meanwhile we  cancelled the rehearsal that was supposed to be our read thru since one of the actors (in a cast of two) was also lost in the traffic tie up and my car wasn’t moving anywhere.  Luckily people called me since I had no numbers by which to call them.  I did however have my Triple A card.  However due to a computer screw up the triple A account was now in my wife’s name and not mine.  My wife could not be reached.  Triple A had my balls in a vice about getting any help but thank God a policeman came by and gave me the jump my car needed to get back on the road again.  “To hell with you triple A”.  Although the personnel at Triple A were very nice and understanding, their policies were less so. But as I said we were able to avoid them.  I drove home as it started to rain.  The drying couch cushion outside is now a giant sponge.  And how was your day?

As I said I believe everything happens for a reason.  Unfortunately I also think that reason could be, “just that God thinks it’s funny.”  We will start again Wednesday.   Which is the day they pick up the trash on my street.