Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Conversation and In the Studio

An alternate title for this post might be: Why They’re Pros. The “Sound of Music” machine continues to chug through the summer and I continue to find additional reasons to be impressed with the production’s company. And, before I get in too deep, let me say that, while I may heap praise on these folks because I’m most familiar with what they go through, I’m also well aware that nearly every production has its share of amazing stories and challenging circumstances that it has to overcome.

There was a Coffee and Conversations event at the Barksdale last week, featuring Stacey Cabaj, Kara Harmon and young Cooper Timberline. It was an amiable little gathering skillfully emceed by Bruce Miller. Possibly the most amazing thing I learned during the hour-long session was some details about the journey of the lovely and talented Ms. Cabaj. You may know that she was in the running for the reality series, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” that was focused on casting the female lead of the Canadian production of “Sound of Music.” What you probably did not know is that one of the reasons she did not make it into the final round of the London version of the show was because of concern on the part one of the producer over her recovery from a surgery where her jaw was broken in several places. After the surgery, she did not have feeling in much of the lower half of her face and she had to retrain herself how to sing again. The producer in question noticed what he thought was a small speech impediment because of this and that was enough for him to want her out of the competition.

Just this week, a subsection of the “Sound of Music” cast appeared on Virginia This Morning where they performed “Favorite Things.” Video of the spot is available online now and it sure seems like the song goes off without a hitch. I happened to be in the studio and can attest that the spot could have just as easily been a mess if not for the flexibility and professionalism of all involved. The song “Favorite Things” lasts about 2 minutes; shortly before the live broadcast, it was communicated that the spot was supposed to be 2 ½ minutes. Barksdale publicist Judi Crenshaw and director Chase Kniffen quickly improvised a way to include a piece of the scene preceding the song into the spot. Lines and blocking had to be altered slightly and the cast – the majority of them less than 10 years old – was instructed on these changes about 10 minutes before the show began. They had one brief run-through and then it was show time. Still, even with these last-minute alterations (not to mention getting their audio from a boombox versus an orchestra), everyone worked the scene as if they always did it that way.

To me, both of these anecdotes demonstrate an impressive level of professionalism. Ms. Cabaj worked through potentially crippling setbacks and has gone on to succeed in a role that puts incredible demands on her physically and emotionally up to 8 times a week. Both she and the cast of kids are flexible and adroit enough to navigate past obstacles without even a hiccup. I wish more theater-goers knew that putting on a show is a lot more than getting the lines right, figuring out some blocking and freezing it all in amber. The work than goes on before, during, and after the show requires more dedication, drive and ongoing creativity than most ticket-buyers will ever know.


Anonymous said...

Wow. This blog is giving some mighty heavy plugs to the Barksdale folks. Of the 8 posts on this page, 4 of them either reference or feature Barksdale/Theatre IV. One must also consider that, of the 8 posts, 2 of them consist of 5 lines or less. So, of 6 actual blog posts, the majority relate in some way to the company producing the play your son is in.
I'm not saying you are biased, Dave, but there might be cause to speculate. There's a lot more going on that's newsworthy besides what SOM is up to.
RENT? An ENTIRE RUN of shows at Battersea by Sycamore Rouge that is FREE to the public? Foster Solomon AND David Bridgewater returning to Richmond Shakespeare this summer?
Of course, it's your blog, and you can write about whatever you feel. But some people come here to get the news, information and discussion that's lacking on other boards/websites.
Let Bruce and Phil do the publicity for Barksdale. It's one thing to be proud of your child, and quite another to be an unpaid marketer for a theatre company. We'd like to know what else is going on, please.

eraserhead said...

Not only is Stacey Cabaj a great actress and singer, but she is also willing to pitch in with the stagehands and get dirty--even when she's not in the production. She's an amazing lady and an amazing talent.

Dave T said...

My blog but your forum, more or less. I write about what I read, what I see or what people tell me. I'm hanging around SOM a lot these days so that's what I hear about most. Tell me about other stuff and I'll be glad to post it.

And yes, Stacey impresses me more with every interaction I have with her. A great addition to the Richmond well as part of yet another Richmond theater couple (with her beau, James Ricks, of Henley Street). And speaking of Richmond theater couples, it's also great to have both Susan Sanford and Foster Solomon back in town.

Frank Creasy said...

I would suggest that those who are looking for a balanced reporting of Richmond theatre news go to a source designed exactly for that purpose: Richmond Marquee produced by Lisa Kotula.

Dave's blog is just that: DAVE'S BLOG. That's why he changed the name of the blog some time ago, so it did not give the impression of representing all of Richmond theatre.

Anyone who might otherwise feel there is an imbalance in blog-based Richmond theatre reporting can easily and freely create a blog for just that purpose, and then enjoy the potshots of those sitting on the sidelines feeling somehow slighted. It's a great big Internet out there for all to use!

To you forever from me to you said...

Dave's Blog, do your thing Dave. As a student of theatre, and the history of various productions, i think the cast and crew and the Barksdale are privileged to have such great documentation of what is obviously a superb production. Go ahead Dave!

But since it was mentioned, big news in local theater is Theater in Battery Park, producing As You Like It, which is also a free production and will feature music, pre-show amusement, and a killer cast under the direction of Richmond Theatre favorite James Alexander Bond.

This is the first of it's kind in the area of Battery Park on the Northside of Richmond. We don't get much coverage because we're not some kind of "official" crew, but the buzz on the streets of Richmond is coverage enough, as we work to provide a whole new audience access to the Arts!

August 6th,7th,13th,14th,15th

Shameless plug, maybe! but like you said Dave. It's our forum, and I for one am grateful for all the writing you do.

Anonymous said...

James Bond is a Richmond favorite? Where has he worked? What was the quality of those productions?

I've got questions. I'm sure you have answers.

Jeffrey Cole said...

As long as we're shamelessly plugging, I'd like to echo Anon #1 (in a minor part, not tone or substance).
Sycamore Rouge is presenting A Midsummer Night's Dream at Battersea Plantation ( for ZERO dollars. That's right, a 100% free show. There will be concessions available (it's outdoors in the summer, after all), but as far as tickets go, all you have to do is show up. That, my friends, cannot be beat. has all the details, but I wanted to get the word out further. Summer of free theatre, ftw!

And, PS Dave. I'm blogging again. For real this time.

Anonymous said...

Dear eraserhead...why do you link "stagehands" and "dirty" together? sounds like you're being disrespectful to wonderful technicians everywhere.....

To you forever from me to you said...

Anonymous should change their name to skeptical or have the self esteem to attach a name to their words.

James Bond has worked at Richmond Shakespeare and pleased crowds more often . . . well this is a family friendly site.

And he's down for the cause. It's easy to run smack on what folks don't do, but what is it you do?

Are you shaping the world, growing the community around you ?

Anonymous said...

Also, a notice about SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS which will be running for FREE at Dogwood Dell starting next week. June 24-27.

Eraserhead said...

Sorry, "Anonymous 11:55," for linking "dirty" and "stagehands."

Maybe you could start commenting on the wonderful technicians that make these productions work. They deserve more credit than they receive.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Anonymous 2:59, you're pretty skeptical! If you don't know James Bond's work, you haven't seen much theater here in the past couple of years. Several excellent productions at Richmond Shakespeare under his direction.

Jacquie O. said...

I know I am late to this posting (I was on vacation last week and just now catching up on your blog). I think Stacey is an amazing singer and actor - but more importantly a person with a loving heart. It touched me to read about her jaw surgery and sad ramifications on the Maria contest. I had the same jaw surgery over a decade ago and it too changed the structure of my mouth in way that affected my speech. To this day it is something that I have to be aware of on stage. It is a frustrating disability. I feel for her and am glad that she has moved past the narrow minded thoughts of one producer and has gone on to play her dream role. I look forward to seeing her on stage a lot more!

I also need to add that I am one of the lucky actors that have been under the direction of Mr. James Bond – Henry IV- Part I, Part II and last summer’s Henry V. I hope more theatre’s take advantage of his talent and hire him!