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But Pirates DON'T Act....Or Do They?

Jingle Arrgh the Way photoBy Krista Layfield, Lilly Theater Manager
 
Sometimes when the Lilly Theater actors have performances and then meet visitors after, they get lots of questions about the people they are portraying onstage. It's wonderful to see the little ones believe that the actors really are that character they have just seen singing and dancing on the stage. Because of this believability, one of our cast members, Clay Mabbitt, has had some interesting family learning moments with his bright 5-year-old daughter named Libby. He just so happens to be portraying Santa in Jingle ARRGH the Way. I should point out that our Santa in the show is just an actor, just like the pirates aren’t real pirates but are actors who are just pretending. However, you can visit the real Santa up in Jolly Days!
 
I asked Clay about how Libby was handling the fact that her Dad was playing Santa in the pirate show. Clay told me, “We're almost halfway through the run, and she's been to the show three times. I've even overheard her singing songs from the show while playing by herself...I made sure to talk with her about the fact I was playing the role of Santa and what that means. I needn't have bothered, though. She understands perfectly.” Libby knows that her dad sometimes pretends to be other people because Clay has played many different characters, in several different plays. So she already fully understands that it’s always just her dad putting on an act. Other characters Clay has played have included roles in Romeo and Juliet, Extremities in Spotlight Players (for which he was nominated as Best Actor in a Drama for an Encore Award), Bug in Spotlight Players and 465 for Red Boat in this year’s Indy Fringe Theatre Festival.
 
One specific example where Clay was helping Libby understand that he was “playing” a part included a role in which he got “injured.” This is where I think Clay was very clever in helping Libby understand what he does as an actor, by having her reenact the scene with him! This didn't ruin the actual show for her, either when she came to see him perform. “Far from it,” he continues, “When my scene came in the big performance, she was completely dialed in, but she wasn't scared in anyway. In fact I like to imagine her only thought while watching was, ‘I can do that.” I hope that our younger audience members may also one day also decide that they can perform too!
 
This week, through January 5, 2014, is your last chance to see Jingle ARRGH the Way in Lilly Theater! 
 

Setting the Stage for "Jingle ARRGH the Way"

LIlly Set BeforeBy Krista Layfield, Lilly Theater Manager
 
I often wonder how things are made. Fortunately in Lilly Theater I sometimes get to help with building and putting together the sets for our productions. The "set" is the physical space where the show takes place on the stage. For example, Rapunzel’s set was the castle and tower and our Jingle ARRGH the Way set is primarily a pirate ship. Jingle ARRGH the Way opens on Friday, November 29, the same day as Santa's Big Arrival!
 
You might be surprised to learn that the techniques we use in building our sets are very similar to what a carpenter might use when building your house! We have frames and supports and walls and windows and doors. The biggest difference is that our sets are made to only last for the duration of the rehearsals and performances, and your house is built to last forever. We often build our sets so that we can even re-use a lot of the lumber and hardware again on another show. That helps us keep our costs down for building the productions—and it's good for the environment!
 
Lilly Theater pirate shipThere are a lot of moving parts on our pirate ship, so we have to take that into account when we build our set too. That also means that there are a lot of intricate pieces that make up the ship. See the set in action in this video of the cast rehearsing with the rigging!
 
Do you think you could guess how many pieces it took to build our set for the Jingle ARRGH the Way show? To compare, here's how many pieces of wood we used for each of our past sets...
 
  • 300 pieces of wood to build the set for The Tortoise and the Hare
  • 450 pieces of wood for the set of Rapunzel
  • 1200 pieces of wood to build the set for The Magic Snowman
     

And for Jingle ARRGH the Way, we've used about 546 pieces of wood on our ship! 

Did you know you can NAME the pirate ship in our latest Facebook contest!?
The winner receives a family four-pack of tickets to the museum to see Jingle ARRGH the Way, where you'll see your winning pirate ship name painted on the ship, and you could get a chance to pose for a photo on the ship with the cast! Enter here: http://bit.ly/1aID7Tb

How To Talk Like a Pirate

BenPirateBen Schuetz has been an Actor/Interpreter at The Children’s Museum for over 3 years. Ben portrayed Max in the 2012 Lilly Theater summer production of How I Became a Pirate. In the Treasures of the Earth gallery, Ben can be found throughout the week portraying Captain Kidd and helping visitors interpret clues they’ve found around the shipwreck. This holiday season, Ben will be reviving his role as Max the pirate in Lilly Theater in the world premiere of Jingle Aargh the Way!
 
I've had multiple opportunities to portray a pirate around the museum, including participating in Talk Like a Pirate Day! During this event I instruct visitors on the pirate vernacular as well as general piratical protocol. Having played a pirate several times now, I've discovered a few helpful tricks that help me get into character. What better time to share them with you than Talk Like a Pirate Day?

 

First, it's important to sound like a pirate. I actually performed a number called “Talk Like a Pirate” In How I Became a Pirate. Let’s face it—if you’re not on top of your pirate jargon, you’re not fooling anybody. Some basics to remember...say "Aye" to express agreement, "Ye" instead of "You," and "Arrr" for everything in between! I always make sure to grunt a lot, too.

Gross teeth are a must. Mehron is a brand that makes very convincing tooth paint, in all the colors of the oral hygienic neglect rainbow. This stuff is also great for events, as it looks real, even close up. Plus, it has a pleasant minty flavor—unlike actual tooth decay.
 
While most pirates probably didn’t bathe regularly, this is one aspect of pirate life I’ve chosen not to embrace. This is done in consideration of my fellow actors. Daniel Day Lewis would most likely scoff at this notion, but not all of us have the luxury to go completely "method" in our acting. 
 
I'm a big fan of mustache wax.  Again, I'm uncertain of the historical authenticity here, but, gosh—it makes me feel like a pirate!
 
Finally, listening to the band Flogging Molly, with its raucous, sea shanty storytelling, really helps me get into that pirate state of mind—however, I wouldn't recommend this band for young ones. But don't worry! This Saturday we'll have Hogeye Navvy here for some family-friendly high sea tunes!
 
While International Talk Like a Pirate Day is Thursday, September 19, here at the museum we'll be celebrating this Saturday from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. So come on out and give me your best "Arrrr!" 

A Costume for Rapunzel's Dragon

Rapunzel DragonIn this post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield describes the planning and preparation behind a very important costume in this summer's production, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale"—Rapnuzel's loyal dragon, Socrates! 
 
One of the most challenging aspects for our production team of Rapunzel! Rapunzel!  A Very Hairy Fairy Tale was devising a costume for Socrates the Dragon.  
 
We discussed several options:
  • A mascot style costume
  • A larger than life sized puppet
  • A more traditional costume with theatrical make-up (like we used in Tortoise and the Hare)
  • Or a combination of these options.

We had initially settled on a larger than life sized puppet, very similar to the one that was used in the original production and other versions across the country. It seems like large puppets are very popular now in theaters and in movies like The Lion King, War Horse, and The Muppet Movie. However, the challenge in creating and using a large puppet can be as large as the puppet itself! How many people would operate it?  How would they be dressed—in black or in stylized costume?  Who would give the character its voice—would he also operate the puppet, or just narrate? How should it be constructed?

Our puppet designer/builder in residence, Patrick Weigand, made some lovely sketches that did a good job of showing how he would construct the puppet as well as the costume's overall look. Our costume designer, Kathleen Egan, also made some great suggestions as to what Socrates would wear so that the actors and the dragon would be similar in style and fit into the overall feel of Rapunzel’s world.

We also took into account the casting of the actor playing the dragon. What were Ben Asaykwee’s strengths in playing the role and how would operating the puppet affect his performance? We eventually decided that we would like to come up with more of a mascot-like costume instead of a puppet since Ben is a very good mover and has a great voice. We then approached costume designer Brian Horton, who is known for producing high quality mascot costumes, to fulfill our dragon dreams. Make sure to visit the Lilly Theater before Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale closes August 4!

Now YOU can play a part in creating the museum's Lilly Theater productions! Donate to our latest Power2Give project and help provide props and costumes for our next production, the world premiere production of "Jingle Arrgh the Way"!    

For Rapunzel, It's All About the Hair

Rapunzel WigRapunzel is coming to the museum! In this post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield describes the unique problem they solved to make sure Rapunzel's extraordinary hair was in top shape for the performance.

For our summer production of Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale we were presented with a very fun challenge regarding Rapunzel’s hair. In the story, her hair is very long—so long, in fact, that her wicked stepmother and the prince both climb it to visit her in a tower. In the theater we wouldn’t be able to cast an actress and have other people climb up her hair. I'm sure that would hurt a lot! So the production team discussed several options for creating a special wig for Rapunzel's hair—one suitable for climbing!

We discussed the length, color, style, material, and of course how the actors would actually use it to “climb” into the tower. Some of the ideas included a rope ladder with hair braided onto it or a real ladder with hair braided onto the sides. We even consider an aircraft cable with hair attached to it that would be rigged to the I-beam structures in the ceiling and climbed on.

For safety and practical reasons, however, we settled on having two separate wigs: One that the Rapunzel actress, Jenny Reber, could wear, and a second long braided wig that the actors playing the wicked step mother, Kelsee Hankins, and the prince, Ben Schuetz, use to “climb” into the tower.   The wearable Rapunzel wig is about 6 feet long and will not be fully seen by the audience. The climbable wig is about 12–15 feet long, and will use a bit of theater magic in the staging and set design to disguise the actors physically climbing the hair.  Rapunzel will throw the hair out the balcony window upstage of the tower and then the actors will climb an escape ladder onto it, while pretending to hold onto the “hair.”

Although there are several wonderful theatrical wig companies out there with lots of long wigs available, we decided that our Rapunzel’s wig should be handmade specifically for our show. Our fabulous costume designer and our wig designer will be working together to hand-dye and braid a total of four wigs together to get the look and the length that we need. This process will ensure that the wig looks as real as possible with our actress’ own hair and facial coloring. I don’t want to give too much away, but we're also planning on styling a total of eight other wigs for the rest of the characters in the show. For this production of Rapunzel–it's definitely all about the hair!        

Now YOU can play a part in creating the museum's Lilly Theater productions! Donate to our latest Power2Give project and help provide costumes—including Rapunzel's wig!—for the summer production of "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale!"          

Rapunzel Hair Detail 

Inspiring a Speedy Set Design

 

Tortoise and HareIn this post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield shares about the inspiration behind the set design and install for our latest performance, The Tortoise and the Hare.
 
The plot of Tortoise and Hare centers on a race. We thought about how racing must be a pastime for forest creatures, kind of like how you might play baseball in the backyard with your friends. Our stage already had the oval shape needed for a race track, but how could we make it into a place for animals?
 
The original discussions about the set design occurred with Jay Ganz, the technical consultant for Lilly Theater. The set designer, Abigail Copeland, continued this idea by looking at photographs of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other racetracks. She also looked into architecture that used natural materials, traditional wooden pagodas, and landscape art.
 
Inspiration also came from an unexpected source—a furniture store. This is where the giant leaves used on the set were found. There were a few basic elements that our set shares with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including the Pagoda, banked corners, and the tall protective fencing around the oval shape of the track. The fence posts were made to look like trees, the fence material is a leaf-like curtain (called camo-netting, which is used for camouflage). A table is a tree stump and the chairs toadstool mushrooms.
 
The final effect is that the animals live and play in a natural, forest-like racetrack. It took about two full weeks to build, install and paint the set. Here is a picture of the completed product with the added touch of the stage lighting.
 
Have you seen The Tortoise and the Hare? Where do you like to race with your friends?
 
The Tortoise and the Hare by Candice Cain; presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Lilly Theater and the Magic of Costume & Creative Makeup Design

 

makeupThe museum's next production, The Tortoise and the Hare, will be in Lilly Theater from March 16 to April 21, 2013!  In this blog post, Lilly Theater Manager Krista Layfield shares how costume and creative makeup can transform actors into animals.
 
For the Tortoise and the Hare production, one of the concepts of the show was that the characters raced each other as a sporting event or pastime, like some people play baseball. We wanted their clothes to be like the jumpsuits that you see race car drivers wear.  Brian Horton, the costume designer, initially drew renderings of racing jumpsuits—but he had trouble making the human shape appear more animal like.  So we decided that they should dress in exercise clothes like people wear to the gym. This would more easily facilitate adding realistic fur, feathers, ears, and tails to the costumes.
 
Along with this concept we wanted the actors to have creative makeup to look more like animals. We didn’t want to create masks for the actors, because the masks would hide the expressions the actors would have when performing and sometimes younger audience members can find them scary. I had recently seen a production of Puss n’ Boots in St. Louis that used makeup and hair styling to create the face of the cat. I thought that this production would be a good opportunity for us to try a technique that had not been done in the Lilly before.
 
I discovered that one of the TCM staff members in Dinosphere, Mary Malooley, had experience with creative hair and makeup design. Mary presented a lot of research from other shows using makeup techniques that made actors look like animals. She also created renderings of how the makeup would look on the actors' faces. Mary did a very good job of explaining how to add the makeup in steps starting with fur or hair-colored foundation. The next step was then adding eye shadow or crème makeup which would highlight, narrow, or broaden cheeks and noses depending on the particular animal’s shape. She then used eyeliner pencils to create whiskers and eyebrows. Once the basic colors and lines were done, she then blended the colors and lines to make them look more realistic. 
 
Now that you've learned how these actors are transformed, watch This Week's WOW to see the makeup magic in action!
 
 

Theater Make-up | This Week's WOW ep. 61

Lilly Theater, a live children's theater located inside The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, produces 3 new shows every year. We're excited to announce the next show will be The Tortoise and the Hare, opening March 16! As you can imagine, it's hard to transform a human into an animal without using masks and still make that character realistic. It takes creativity and a lot of skill. In This Week's WOW, we introduce you to the talented make-up artist who is making it happen. You'll learn where she finds inspiration and some of her techniques (like what colors to apply first). Plus, find out what happens when Josh challenges her to a competition!

Looking for more This Week's WOW? Catch up on the blog or follow along on YouTube

The Life and Challenges of a Museum Actor

Matt Anderson, Children's Museum of Indianapolis actor, gives you a first hand account of how our extraordinary actors bring the museum experience to life for you and your family. This is the first in a series of posts from Matt. You might remember Matt from his exceptional Jelly Belly Art blog post last year!


Captain ExtraordinaryIn my bright blue outfit and neon green cape, guests instantly recognize me as a superhero.Of course, because Captain Extraordinary is unique to our museum, they don’t necessarily know which superhero I am. I often get: “Green Lantern!” or “Superman!” (or one time, inexplicably: “Wonder Woman!”). Either way, the kids are excited. We talk about dinosaurs and Transformers and how people can use porcupine quills to make art… but now it’s 10:30 am, and I must bid my friends farewell. I head to the dressing room and replace the outfit with an understated gray suit, a vest, and a tie. I whiten my temples and paint spirit gum on my lip to affix a mustache. Finally, I make my way to The Power of Children exhibition where, as Anne Frank’s father, I give a performance about the holocaust.

This is just my average day as an actor at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

For me, the fact that this is just an “average day” is precisely why I love the job so much. It’s a ridiculous understatement, but performing as Captain Extraordinary is rather different from performing as Otto Frank. And performing as Otto Frank is rather different from – well, whatever I’ll be performing next. Yet that’s exactly what makes the job so great: the incredible and almost staggering variety of programs we do here.

As much as I do love it, I had no idea growing up that this is what I’d be doing for a living. While I’d been interested in acting for much of my life—from making videos with friends in middle school to obtaining a theatre major in college—I never thought I’d be able to do anything with it for a career. Following graduation, I found work at the fantastical City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri and later at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve always enjoyed working with children and families so these jobs, though not traditionally in the theatre, felt well suited to me. It wasn’t until moving to Indianapolis in 2008 and seeing a listing for ACTOR on their children’s museum’s website that I realized that what I’d assumed were two entirely separate career tracks could actually merge.

Otto FrankMy case is not an isolated one. There are nine full-time actors here at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and most have similar stories — a theatrical interest nurtured in high school, pursued into undergraduate studies, but with post-graduate jobs suddenly veering far from that path: brokerage assistant, coffee-shop barista, ballroom dance choreographer. Why weren’t we all actively pursuing careers in theatre, when it was clearly something we all loved?

Unfortunately, work in that discipline can have something of a stigma around it—being an actor means being either absurdly rich or famous in Hollywood, or a starving artist on the streets. It’s easy to see those extremes and not realize that there is a theatrical middle ground, such as in museums, especially if that type of specialized field is not yet in the public consciousness. Perhaps in the years to come, museum theatre will become a more mainstream profession. As it stands, my coming across this job may very well have been a fluke… and as such, I feel extremely lucky to have found it, and extremely lucky to once again be doing what I love.

To be continued...