Putting it all together

This week we had the first three days of full company rehearsals, during which the entire work was blocked. DVDs I had made of the video portion of the work allowed the performers to see what the set and props looked like -- well in advance of having it all projected onto the screen in performance.  In the bottom photo behind Christina Giannelli you'll see how we were able to do this quite simply -- with just a small, portable DVD player. -- Felice Lesser

L-R Back Row:  Christina Giannini (Costume Designer), Jose Edwin Gonzalez (Robby), Ezlimar Dortolina (Lu), Christina Giannelli (Lighting Designer), Victor Oniel Gonzalez (Tom), Debra Zalkind (Natasha), Mark Peters (Boris), Djassi DaCosta Johnson (Zelda), Charles Hinshaw (Arnie).  L-R Front Row: Erin Ginn (Maya), Rebecca Whittington (Margot), Steven Martin (Kevin), Robin Gilbert.

Debra Zalkind (Natasha) and Mark Peters (Boris)

Erin Ginn (Maya) and Charles Hinshaw (Arnie)

Christina Giannelli (Lighting Designer)



One of the biggest challenges of this production has always been how to incorporate its full-length script.  When we presented the first scene in 2005 on the “Dance Conversations@The Flea” Series, I began that scene with recorded dialogue to help the dancers get through the most difficult dance section without having to speak and dance at the same time.  Once the dancing was over, the performers picked up the dialogue, live.  In the Q&A that followed, the evening’s moderator, Sean Curran, said that he might have liked the ensuing dialogue to remain recorded.  I thought about this for a long time.  While I personally prefer the idea of live dialogue (as I ultimately see this as a Broadway show down the road), there were many good reasons to record the entire work.  First and foremost was the fact that all the dialogue had to sync with the projected video that was seen on the screen.  And with the amount of rehearsal time we had available, and the fact that we wouldn’t have access to projection equipment for rehearsals, prerecorded sound seemed like the best option.  Now, again, how could we do it with the limited financial resources a very small dance company has available?  In 1995, when we performed my first play, “Running Backwards on the Treadmill,” we used a desktop computer to pre-record some voice overs, but at the time I couldn’t do it myself.  But these days, with the Voice Over tool in Final Cut Studio, it’s quite easy.  While, of course, you can’t get the highest quality sound of the best professional recording studios (especially having to wait for the NY street noise, sirens, and motorcycles to subside), it is possible to simply plug in headphones, sit at your desk, and go!  Above, Robin Gilbert (“Brooke”), and Steven Martin ("Kevin") record their dialogue. -- Felice Lesser


Choreography in FUNDING THE ARTS

Above you'll see Ezlimar Dortolina and Jose Edwin Gonzalez, our Guest Artists, who will play the leading roles of "Lu" and "Robby." FUNDING THE ARTS is a challenging piece to choreograph as the movement is so dependent on both the script and the video.  As the score has been compiled in short sections, the dances are very brief, and often serve the purpose of furthering the plot. The choreography itself a mix of original dances, staged movement, and "quotes" from the classics. For instance, in the first scene, two dancers are backstage, about to perform SWAN LAKE's "Black Swan" Pas de Deux.  They walk onto the stage, arguing in movement, when suddenly they see a dead body under the upstage curtain.  They try to remove the body, but the ballerina doesn't want to get her tutu covered in blood. The curtain goes up, and the ballet begins.  A few phrases of Petipa's choreography are danced, when something else unexpected happens, taking the performance off in a entirely different direction. The fun of choreographing this piece is the variety of characters and movement styles, the plot twists, and the opportunity to put an entirely new spin on traditional ballet music -- while following the storyline.  For instance "Arnie's ballet" (set to the waltz in the Third Act of "Coppélia") is supposed to be an entry in a choreography competition -- a terrible first attempt at choreography by a novice choreographer, using every cliché in the book. But the arrival of an unexpected character who makes his way onto the stage and into Arnie's ballet, changes it into something else entirely.  (By the way, tickets go on sale April 9th, so be sure to visit Theatermania.com to reserve yours!) --Felice Lesser


Adding Actors, Both Live and Filmed, to Backgrounds in FUNDING THE ARTS

Example A (everything combined)

Example B (the background)

Example C (the actor)

You've all seen the technique of green (or blue) screen used, probably without realizing it -- such as in weather broadcasts -- with all the changing maps and the satellite photos on TV.  The way this is done is actually by having the weatherperson stand in front of a solid-colored blue or green screen. (Example C)  The maps and other backgrounds are on a separate video in the control room. (Example B)  The weatherperson sees the video on a TV monitor in the studio, so s/he will know exactly where to point.  ("It's going to rain in Boston, but here in Washington we'll have a sunny day.")  Then the actor plus the video are combined -- giving you any background you might desire. (Example A) 

To be able to realize this project, I've had to find a way to use only a desktop computer to create a myriad of sets against which the performers can act.  Various software programs can now provide you with a basic way to do this.  We used a photography studio belonging to a friend, hung a green curtain, and filmed Lawrence Leritz, as Edgar, against it. (Example C)  On the computer I then drew a lobby background with MOTION (Example B), and added the video of Lawrence to it with Final Cut Studio. (Example A)

Other live characters will also be in the scene, interacting with Edgar and using the lobby as their backdrop.

If you scroll down to the blog entry showing Gus Solomons jr standing next to himself (playing another role) you'll see another use of green screen. -- Felice Lesser





Our live cast is now in rehearsal.  Here are (l-r): Victor Oniel Gonzalez (Tom), Djassi DaCosta Johnson (Zelda), and Rebecca Whittington (Margot).  

Victor Oniel Gonzalez and Rebecca Whittington