Monday, December 15, 2014

When the Music's Over

That's all folks! A Christmas Carol has ended its run at Quincy Community Theatre.

When a show comes to an end, I usually have a mixed set of emotions.

Wishful thinking: could we do one more performance?
Relief: maybe now I'll get more sleep...
Sadness: when will I see these people again?

As the saying goes, it takes a village to produce a musical of this size. If you're a member of the community who attended one of our performances, I encourage you to email us your thoughts on the show ( I also encourage you to ponder this: when will it be your turn to be a part of QCT?

Yes, that's right. We want you!

The great thing about theatre is it's something anyone can be a part of. And I don't just mean acting. A theatre succeeds through its volunteers. Donating your time is one of the best things you can do for this organization. 

But I get it. You're busy, it's the holidays, your kids have the flu, how could you possibly find the time to volunteer at a theatre?

Below are some dedicated people who through the greatness in their heart gave up work, school, family time, and/or sleep to be a part of something that's bigger than themselves. What makes these certain people special is that they're also pictured with a member of their family, also involved in the show.

Joshua Scott and Mark Schneider

Kylea Hankins and Kayden Garrett

Ziven, Cindy and Thatcher Crist

Colleen and Connor Schmuck

Benjamin and Janelle Dolbeare

Randy and Matthew Stocker

Maddi and Karol Ehmen, and Alayna Schlipman

Janet Bringer and Shanda Smith

A volunteer serves others by supporting a cause without expecting anything in return.
It's through people like these pictured above that Christmas cheer was spread through the area, and quite possibly, further! 

There is usually never a "perfect time" to volunteer. There's always going to be a reason that prevents you from doing it. But St. Francis once said "It is in giving that we receive." And believe me, as someone who has been volunteering with QCT for 13 years, no other feeling compares to the pride of knowing I contributed towards this theatre.

Facebook can wait.
Netflix can wait.
Napping on the couch can wait.
QCT cannot wait.
We need you now.

Volunteering opportunities through QCT.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In our own words: Christmas

Say what you might about Christmas, but it's a time when I personally feel my best.

Looking beyond the fact that many people feel that the holiday has become commercialized, I like to reflect on what Christmas all together means to me. My favorite memories of Christmas include going to church on Christmas Eve and waiting anxiously to sing "Silent Night" at the end of the service. The lights would be turned off, and the sanctuary would be lit only by candlelight. Even as a kid, I understood the peacefulness of that moment.

But enough from me. I reached to fellow actors, directors, crew members, and QCT staff to find out what Christmas means to them. I received some lovely responses.

JERILYN DUFRESNE:  "This isn't about Christmas, per se. My mom died the day after Thanksgiving in 1980 and my dad died on New Year’s Day 1986. Each January 1st we go to the cemetery and celebrate their lives. We’ll have a beer, talk about our love for them, and yes, even pour a little beer on their graves. Afterwards we go to our family home where we all grew up and play games and eat all day. New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday."

SHANDA SMITH: "When I think of Christmas I think of hope. The hope of a child, hope for future Christmases and even the hope we find in Christianity."

KATHY RODERICK: "I always struggle with answering these kind of questions. I love the family gatherings and the children coming home and the fun white elephant gift exchange we do every Christmas Eve . But truly the reason is the birth of Jesus Christ. He was given to us by our Lord as a gift. What a beautiful gift that is!!"

  • ELIZABETH MANNHARDT: "That we would all be as children again... in wonder, joy, and faith... just as God himself came as a child, the fulfillment of all wonder, joy, and faith."

  • COLLEEN SCHMUCK: "Joy and Song and Kindness!"

  • DON JOHNSON: "Whenever I get asked this question I always think of the powerful speech Linus gives in A Charlie Brown Christmas, I also think of everything and every negative word ever told to me, to this day. Sorry, but I can only be me and not what others think I should be. How boring the world would be if we all were the same."

  • CONNOR SCHMUCK: "A joyful very happy time. Time for laughing and praying and evergreens and love."

  • MARK SCHNEIDER: "Christmas is a time we can celebrate with family and friends the journey of the year past. The holidays have become, for me, a time to remember, a time to appreciate, a time to look forward. Putting up your favorite ornaments and thinking about the story behind each one. Watching my children smile and laugh and play. Thinking about what the next year holds for those that I hold most dear. Joy, wonderment, hope, love, thankfulness, kindness, sharing and understanding. I also like all the food."

  • JOE OSIER: "Well said, Mark."

  • VONDA ST CLAIR: "To borrow a quote, "I wish we could celebrate Christmas all year long." It seems to be a time of love, joy, peace within and forgiveness. I love all the Christmas trees and the lights. It's a time I give myself permission to be that child again. My childhood wasn't the best, but its OK to visit that child that still lives within me. I also celebrate the child that the Lord sent to us, oh how lucky we are. I rejoice that I have a loving caring family, my children and grandchildren bless my soul and every inch of my being. During the holidays I love being surrounded by all of those friends who I hold so dear. Still not withstanding all that, the bottom line is, Christ has given us the reason for the season."

  • KAROL EHMEN: "To me, the true meaning of Christmas is found on Christmas Eve at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church's 10:30 pm candlelight service as I am surrounded by three generations of my family (with my youngest daughter falling asleep on my lap) and listening to our adult choir sing "Silent Night" in German. God, Our Heavenly Father; Family; Tradition…Perfection."

  • KEVIN JOBE: "No matter what city I'm in, I enjoy driving through major shopping areas and enjoying the stillness. In a world that may otherwise deny the message of the Messiah, they all seem to take note and take pause..........except for those hellbound, godless heathens at the 18th & Broadway Walgreens. LOL Work and save. Life's not a game. Why stop for Christmas day?"

  • HEIDI SCHLIPMAN: "Karol Ehmen is too modest to mention that her rendition of "O Holy Night" at the Our Redeemer Christmas Eve service is enough to make even my 16 year old son (I am quoting him) "melt like butter." Christmas is peace, and is felt in abundance at that service."

TAMY CASSASDY: "I have so many wonderful Christmas memories that it's hard to pick, but I think of the Christmases when my boys were little...the anticipation and the wonderment in their eyes on Christmas morning. Such a magical time "

PAYTON MILLER: "Christmas means to me celebrating Jesus’ birthday and waking up that morning with a special feeling that you are loved."

DR. H. TODD EVANS: "What Christmas means to me - peace on Earth."

RANDY STOCKER: "Christmas means "Family" to me."

MATTHEW STOCKER: "Christmas is a time for thinking about others.  I like to volunteer my time at Christmas ringing the Bell for the Salvation Army."

DANIELLE HELD: "Christmas means the unintended warming of hearts all over the world. Celebrating something personal and yet so communal. It makes us more generous, more patient, more loving, without us even knowing it."

DAN CONBOY: "Christmas is: Being with family & friends, of course.  But more than anything it is the time to ask myself, “How am I doing? Do my words and actions match my heart?”

BRANDON THOMSEN: "Remembrance: Remembrance of faith and remembrance of family"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"It really gives you something to be thankful for." Thoughts from cast members

Oh boy, folks! Time has really flown by!

Since my last post, we've gone through tech rehearsals, added a crew, costumes, make-up, an orchestra, and all kinds of set pieces! Our tech rehearsals are a time when our crew and design team have to get a lot done in a short period of time. Our job as actors is to perform our best, and also stay quiet when we hear "HOLD!"
Brandon, our director, gives the cast some last minute notes before the show begins.
After coming off of Thanksgiving break, I felt a little sluggish at first during our Saturday rehearsal. But luckily, I have plenty of fellow cast members to get me going! I feel our tech weekend went very smoothly, which lead to an even better rehearsal Monday evening.

I thought for this particular blog, I would focus on some of my fellow actors, and give me a little of their background.

Meet Camden!
Camden chats with Wes Friday before the opening number.
Camden Scifres plays the role of Peter Cratchit. He described his experience with the show so far as "fantastic." While this is the first time on the QCT stage for Camden, this is not his first time around with A Christmas Carol. He previously played Tiny Tim in a production at Hannibal-LaGrange University. "Playing the role of Peter Cratchit, it really gives you the insight of what it's like to be in poverty in the 1800's or even present day. It really gives you something to be thankful for," said Camden. Whether it's acting on stage, or getting the chance to make new friends, Camden says he enjoys the social aspect of theatre the most.

Meet Jerilyn!

Jerilyn waits patiently while her hair is styled
Jerilyn Dufresne (or Jeri for short) says she "adores musicals." One of the reasons she enjoys musicals specifically is all the new people you meet and friends you make with a larger cast. This is a new experience for Jeri, as she gets to step out of the box, and play a different type of role - the charwoman. "Since, in real life, I'm kind of a nice person, it was so much fun getting into a villain role. I've ever really played a villain before, and so I absolutely adored not being a sweet grandma. I'm really grateful I got this part," Jeri said. This is Jeri's fourth QCT production. The first was in the 1960 in the show The Happy Time. Jeri was a youngster at the time, and saw her dad up on the stage, and thought she ought to try it too. Her next QCT show was in 1984 in the show God's Favorite. Jeri then most recently returned to the QCT stage this fall in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. She describes her experience so far with A Christmas Carol with one word: laughter.

Meet Maddi!

Maddi prepares for Act II.
Maddi Ehmen counts herself lucky that she's able to act along side some familiar people in this show. Not only is her mother in the show, but her cousin as well. "It's really cool because all of our family is coming, and it's really fun to share it with them," said Maddi. This is the third QCT production for Maddi, and she portrays Fan for this production. "I like the song I get to sing a lot, and the background of the character and why she's coming to her brother," said Maddi. Being a student and an actor is tough work, Maddi commented. She's currently a seventh grader at Saint James School. Maddi passed along her thoughts on what she believed the message of the show to be. "Don't be down about life, pick up and remember that people are there for you."

One of my favorite parts of any production is the costumes! Here are some sneak peeks at what you'll see during this show.

Tami Liller

Shanda Smith

Get your tickets today!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Take a walk with me, backstage!


I'm Meghan Townley, a cast member of A Christmas Carol. In this show, I'm playing a townsperson, as well as Emily. In this blog, I'm going to be giving you a sneak peek at what goes on from my point of view during rehearsals.

This is the second time that I will be performing in A Christmas Carol at QCT. The first was in 2003 when I was in the 7th grade. It was my second show at the theatre, and I portrayed Belinda Cratchit.


Awww! (World's best family)

The cast has been rehearsing for four weeks. Some nights we spent singing with Elizabeth, our vocal director. Other nights we're learning right from left with Cheryl, our choreographer. We also spend time not only learning the blocking, but diving into what the words of this story mean with Brandon, our director. It'd be easy to just "act the part" but instead, Brandon helps us to see that each word in the script, down to the word "noel" has extreme importance. All of that being said, we're all leaving rehearsal at night tired, but growing in our part.

As of Monday the 24th, we open to the public in 10 days. (Eeeek!)
I promised you all a sneak peek, so here's what I have for you all.

Mark Schneider (Christmas Present) busting a move

A pondering moment for Scrooge and the spirit while Dickens looks on
The Cratchit family enjoying a meal together
This is a good sign that we need to organize our massive amounts of props!

I supposed this is how Wes Friday gets into character...

Dr. H. Todd Evans doing what he does best

A group of people that you don't want to meet in a dark alley

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ten Fun Facts about A Christmas Carol

1. Marley was alive: to begin with.
As referenced in Michael Patrick Hearn's The Annotated Christmas Carol, Dickens attended the same St. Patrick's Day party as one Dr. Miles Marley. Knowing Dickens' interest in unusual names, Dr. Marley remarked upon his own unusual surname. Dickens' reply: "Your name will be a household word before the year is out."

2. It only took six weeks to write.  
Dickens started writing obsessively in October 1843 and finished his novella at the end of November--just in time for Christmas. If you look at our production calendar for the show, we've had almost the same amount of time to mount this production!
3. Dickens roamed the streets during that time.
Dickens sporadically laughed and wept during the writing process and would take extremely long evening walks through London "when all sober folks had gone to bed."  

4. It was the first and last of his writings that Dickens read publicly.

Dickens was one of the first famous writers to give public readings. His first reading was of A Christmas Carol. It took place in 1853 in Birmingham, England for a gathering of 2000 spectators. When his health began to deteriorate 17 years later, Dickens gave his last public reading of A Christmas Carol at St. James' Hall in Piccadilly. He died three months later.

5. Dickens loved to perform.
Charles Dickens created a prompt book of A Christmas Carol for public readings. He would scribble notes about how to deliver the lines and "perform" these readings just like an actor on the stage. The only known prompt copy of A Christmas Carol is owned by the Berg Collection of English and American literature at the New York Public Library. 

6. He had some strange performance rituals. 
Before his readings, Dickens would drink two tablespoons of rum with cream for breakfast. Later, he would have a pint of champagne, and just before the performance, he would drink a sherry with a raw egg beaten into it. During the reading he would sip beef tea and would have soup just before bed. 

7. Fan is Scrooge's sister--and Dickens'. 
Scrooge's sister's name is Fan. According to Hearn's The Annotated Christmas Carol, Fanny was the name of Scrooge's older (and favorite) sister. 
8. Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas?
Though it was more common to say "Happy Christmas," Dickens repeats the phrase "Merry Christmas" throughout A Christmas Carol. When Dickens' novella became wildly successful, the phrase "Merry Christmas" was popularized and became a standard Christmas greeting.

9. It quickly jumped from page to stage.
Only six weeks after its publication, A Christmas Carol was adapted by Edward Stirling for the London stage. It then transferred to New York's Park Theatre. 
10. It was an inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer of Treasure Island.
After reading the book in 1847, Stevenson wrote, "I want to go out and comfort someone; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell one about not giving money - I shall give money; not that I haven't done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now." We certainly hope that our production is just as inspiring! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

One day nearer to opening!

We began our journey on May 28 with our first cast meeting. Less than two months later, we're getting ready to open! It's been a fantastic journey and will only get better from here.

This past weekend was tech rehearsal, the longest and most challenging part of the process. We had a good show to begin with: a great cast full of talented and dedicated actors to bring the characters off the page. But to make a good show a great show, to bring the story to life, requires much more than just the people singing and dancing.

A great show needs great music, and the Les Misérables orchestra is nothing short of phenomenal. From the harp to the piccolo, from the French horn to the recorder, from the cello to that oboe solo, the orchestra drives the show with airy lullabies and fierce beats. 

Now that we have a great show, the final elements to produce the epic wonder of Les Misérables are the lighting and sound. Gunshots, smoke, blazing lights. The world of these characters comes to life in the atmosphere surrounding them. The burning days in Paris, the cool garden night, the shadowy winter woods are constructed all by intricately designed lighting.

The lights, sounds, and orchestrations of Les Misérables ensnare the senses and catapult the classic novel into an almost tangible experience of love, sacrifice, and atonement. But don't just take my word for it. Come see for yourself!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Cockade Pin

Perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of Les Misérables is the cockade rosette pin that the Friends of the ABC wear in the battle. They're very famous and sell like hotcakes on Etsy. But what exactly do they mean? The blue, white, and red are clearly the colors of the French flag, but the symbolism goes far deeper than stripes on a flying rectangle. 

The cockades date all the way back to the 17th Century as an identification for the various military forces in Europe. Each soldier was in charge of his own uniform and because there were no regulations on attire, many soldiers died in friendly fire. Cockades were pinned on the hats and jackets of the soldiers to identify themselves amongst each other.

By the time the first French Revolution came about, the cockade was symbolic of the people's movement. The blue and red were the regional colors of Paris; the white was the color of the king. Louis XVI pinned on of them on his lapel to show his support. Of course, the gesture was mostly for show, but those who wore the pins were thought to be followers of the cause. As the years rolled by, the cockade became an emblem of France itself. People throughout the country wore them in support of France, regardless of their affiliation. They began to appear in other forms, too, such as decoration on women's shoes.

By the time the June Rebellion came about, the tricolor pin became a symbol of the Republic. The wearers rejected the current regime and stood for "the world they longed to see." Though Enjolras and his friends took these pins to be a pledge of brotherhood, those who didn't adorn themselves with the badges lived in fear. With revolution comes bloodshed and death. The revolutionaries were viewed as dangerous radicals that threatened treason and terrorism. Think of it as our modern symbol for anarchy: with the promise of change comes the promise of chaos. Equality comes at a cost, which could destroy the lives of the students, their families, and anyone else caught in the crossfire. That's truly the heart of our barricade boys and their fight for justice and equality: freedom at the price of freedom.