Wedeline Casimir is the Emerging Arts Leader Fellow at American Stage for the 2019-2020 season. As a part of her development, she is observing our current mainstage production, SKELETON CREW, and sharing the experience of getting it from the rehearsal hall to the stage through this blog series.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the opening night of Dominique Morisseau’s SKELETON CREW at American Stage. The speeches have been made, the guests have arrived, the standing ovation has been given. What a great feeling of fulfillment and euphoria. I’d like to share some special moments leading up to this day.
Before opening night on Friday, there are two previews that happen on Wednesday and Thursday. These previews are a part of the rehearsal process and a chance for the cast to perform the show in front of a live audience before the actual opening. This was interesting to witness. Rehearsals for these particular nights are opportunities to test out what works better for the space and what translates over to the audience who become like an additional character in the performance. It’s likely that things will change between the first preview and the opening night after the discovery of the audience’s engagement along with new insights from the cast and director.
I attended the preview Wednesday night and as a part of my fellowship, I was honored to be tasked with curating an archival photo list for the show. Archival photos are pictures taken of actors as if they are in the run of a live show. These photos are then stored for the theatre to reference at a later date. You can view these shots when available and other cool photos from our productions on our Flickr! During the preview performance, I paid close attention and took notes for easy to capture and dynamic moments. This assignment was special to me because, in addition to being forced to pay attention to moments that were full of emotion while in live-action, I was also prompted to focus on the still moments that portrayed themes. For example, I would zero in on moments that might capture unity when all the cast members were on stage, or frustration when a conversation between two people escalated to a disagreement that was written all over the actor’s expressions. This experience helped me to hear the story the actors were telling when they weren’t speaking. I can’t wait to see the actual photos and hear the stories they tell.
Then, it was finally time for the actual story to be told: opening night! At American Stage, opening night is a celebration of its own. A celebration of art, humanity and community. One of my favorite parts of opening night is the preshow toast. This is a time when many of the staff, sponsors, cast and crew come together in the theater for a few words from CEO/Producing Artistic Director, Stephanie Gularte. Stephanie shared a few thoughts about playwright Dominique Morisseau, her work and what theater means to American Stage and the Tampa Bay community. Director L. Peter Callender spoke after Stephanie and shared some thoughts of his own regarding his love for the cast, the play and working with American Stage. Though I did not speak, I did have some thoughts of my own.
If I had given a toast, I would’ve shared how this opening night was special for me because I was involved with this show from its conception until now in its glorious birth. During this toast, in particular, I was reflective and appreciative of the experience SKELETON CREW has given me in growing as a leader, artist and advocate for the bold and powerful stories that are shared at American Stage. I appreciate American Stage as a whole because it is clear there is no part of this organization and the theatrical arts that are more important than any other. Even as the Emerging Arts Leader Fellow, I feel just as valued as the lead for a mainstage show or the box office manager. I am delighted to be a part of the team!
Here’s to a wonderful run of SKELETON CREW and the lives it will touch. I am even more excited to take part in the chatbacks that follow after performances on January 30, February 2, 9 & 16. Chatbacks follow directly after these performances and are an opportunity to hear from the actors about the play, the characters and the process. I hope to see you there.
For another enriching experience, tune into our latest Spotlight: The American Stage Podcast which covers Behind the Scenes for SKELETON CREW. You can also attend one of our prologues with acting and production apprentice, Kianna Jackson, 30 minutes before each performance. These are great opportunities where you can dive deeper into the characters, artistry and themes of the script and production of SKELETON CREW!
Stay tuned for the next blog in the series, where Wedeline will recap her experience with this production.
To learn more about ASFWD: The Next Generation, visit americanstage.org/FWD