Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our Circus is Leaving Town (and a bit of Johnny Depp)



This is Jack 'R' Better, Heart-A-Rama's home for the past thirty- seven years. Since I have been involved, first an a performer, and now as a director, the venue has changed hands three time. First, it was The Boilermaker's Club, then, The Arrow Inn, and finally, Jacks.

Learning that Jack's had been sold, and consequently finding a new space for our show has been sad, exciting, frustrating, challenging...you name it. Many people are concerned about the move to Two Rivers and are confused about how that decision was made. I'll fill you in on what I know.
This was not an easy process. We had been so comfortable at Jacks that things just fell into place when we walked in the door - at least that's the way it seemed. Moving forced us to look at everything we did. The tiniest details were scrutinized to be sure that each spot we looked at would be able to accommodate what we needed to put on this show.

We looked at several sites before deciding on the Community House in Two Rivers. We had to consider the height of the ceilings so we could hang lights. The building had to have the proper electrical service to handle all the light and sound equipment we bring in. Was there kitchen space? Parking? Cast and crew prep space? Was the rent acceptable? Would the facility be comfortable for the audience? The list goes on and on.
We found some nice, wide open spaces that had basically what we needed, except for staging. That meant we would have to buy, rent, or build a stage, equip it with light, sound, backstage space and wing space. It seemed like a huge, expensive task for a temporary event,but not impossible.
I'm not exactly sure how we came upon the Community House, but when committee chairs met there to tour the space, we found it had most of what we needed already in place. Add to that, a very accommodating staff...it was the answer we were looking for.

Yes, some things will change. That's inevitable. Perhaps the show will be sprinkled with a bit more TR humor than normal this year. Does this show belong to Two Rivers? No. Being in a community, and performing in a municipal building has some nice perks, but Heart-A-Rama is a Lakeshore event. It's impact reaches far beyond Manitowoc, Two Rivers and the surrounding communities. The location is not nearly as significant as the cause.

Now, to ease some of the concerns I've been hearing....yes, we will be serving wine and beer. Hard liquor will not be allowed in the building. Yes, there will be brats, burgers, and fish (on Fridays) before the show. Yes, people will still be able to line up early to get in. Really, nothing much will change for the audience. The cast and crews will experience some changes, but we will adapt.

So, if you have friends and neighbors who are unhappy because we chose to move, ask them to read this; maybe they will get a better idea of all the things we had to consider. We need to work together, cast, crews, audience, community...to make this the Best Heart-A-Rama ever!


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This is Kevin. He has been with the show for a number of years, beginning as a tent pole. Really! His very first role in Heart-A-Rama was standing on stage with another guy, dressed in safari gear, holding up one corner of a tent. That is all he did. A lesser person would not have come back after that, but he did. Kevin is one of the most ambitions and talented people we have working with us currently. I love seeing him on stage. He has a sort of Bob Newhart vibe - he just stands there, twitches a little, and everyone laughs. Very deadpan delivery but very funny!

He also designs, builds and paints much of the scenery. He paints the advertiser hearts that hang around the perimeter of the performance hall. Kevin also works on the program - I think he did most of the program layout work this year. This year he also jumped in to design the shirts. Kevin has a little Tom Drill in him. You never know where he is going to turn up, but he's always there to hold a door open, carry clumsy set pieces around, pitch in on prop design, or dig into his costumes stash to provide extra character pieces. But best of all, when Kevin buys Heart dogs at intermission for a reduced cast and crew price, he sometimes shares one with me!

This picture is one of many I call "The Buddhist and the Beer." For some reason, for many years, I though that Kevin was a Buddhist. He was just so calm and focused all the time. Then I saw him clutching a beer for dear life one night, and I thought I was seeing things. Surely my Buddhist friend would not be partaking of the demon, alcohol! So, I asked him about it. After he picked himself up off the floor, still clutching his side lest it burst from the pressure of uncontrolled laughter (at me) he said he's is not, nor has he ever been, a Buddhist. I got the point. Since that time, each year he kindly poses for the yearly beer photo. Thanks, Kevin. (If you're a HAR person reading this, you will never know when you may be the subject for my next tale!)


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What am I reading? Well, it's not what I mentioned a couple blogs back. I got sidetracked by Love in the Time of Cholera (more on that on Monday), and Crooked Tree



Last week I stumbled across a news article saying that Johnny Depp recently bought the movie rights to a book called Crooked Tree. I think he picks unusual, and generally intelligent projects, and thought I'd check out the book. So far, I'm liking it. There's a bear attack, a dead lawyer, a judge who is more concerned with fishing than courtroom protocol, lots of Indian lore and legend, and hints of supernatural activity have begun to creep in between the lines. That's a lot in 42 pages. I'll keep you posted.