Soroptimists Intl luncheon

We we re invited to a luncheon at Harrahs which is right across the state line in Nevada. The cast dressed in costumes and when we arrived, their names were displayed on the tables. It was fun to watch the characters regaling the luncheon attendees with their stories.
I gave the keynote talk and I shared the story of how I turned Patty Turrell’s vision into a script. Some of the actors shared about journey. It was a fabulous time.

The cast at the luncheon

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South Lake tahoe high school performances

We got up in the morning and had homemade scones bagels and lox thanks. To our host Ellen Goldberg from AAUW and Soroptomists. The lake is absolutely beautiful. We went to the high school and performed twice in a state of the art twice to 400 students, they clapped and loved us. We were in tears.
In the evening there was a potluck dinner for us and wonderful sharing of the casts and from our hosts complete with a special cake, we’re not sure who is more grateful the women from the organizations or us.

The incredible cake they made for us!

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California Women Suffrage Day 2

The day was impossible to plan. It rained, we didn’t want to get our costumes wet, we visited the Capitol, talked to people in the Governor’s office, met lots of people, did a great performance and drove to Tahoe.

Near the end of the play.

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California Women Suffrage 1st day

Wow. We meet the organizers of the Centennial including Kim Salter, Dianne Midoshi, and Gloria Taylor. Everyone is excited about the two day event, and we are finding the excitement contagious. At 10, we have rehearsal and then we go to the Crest theatre and load-in and set up.It’s a huge stage with a big screen behind us. I will be up in the control room way at the top of the 900 seat theatre.

At the Centennial in Sacramento

There are two movies before us. We watch “Seneca Falls” which is a turning point for all of us, so much of our themes is in that movie. We can only partially watch Martha Whitlock’s movie about  California Women Getting the Vote but the cast has to warm up. It’s fun to watch because we are in it!

Harriet Benish as Lilly Ledbetter teaching the high school student Melanie (Deana Kenney)

Harriet arrives — she had to fly in that day. And then we do the show, it goes great. The audience applauds for each character which is fun.  At dinner later we talk to people who want to license the show, and we meet the author of a book about women getting the vote. What a day!

The cast at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento

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We are off on our tour

It didn’t seem possible that eveything would fit into vans. We had it all piled up on the driveway. Suitcases, costumes, snacks, equipment. Marty and I started in with the biggest suitcases, and then the equipment, even the 6 foot screen. Then all the costumes and everything else. We got it all in and by 10:30, we were off

At about 1:30, we stop for lunch at a Denny’s. Our waitress Veronica is a single mom, getting a masters degree in child psychology. We tell her about the play and she loves the idea.

At 6:00, we cross into Sacramento count.y We are all pretty tired. I am rereading Gail Collins book When Everything Changed. Here we are in 2011 still trying to have it all. I feel like I’m in a time warp.

We arrive at the Marriott and walk in the door and there are Anne and Ginni who flew. They had checked us in. Our three rooms were gorgeous. Dinner at the Garage and then to bed for our first big day tomorrow.

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We are ready to go

It has been an exhausting week getting ready for the tour. I am sure traveling companies go through this in stride, but they have a producer, director, crew, logistics people, costumer, web designer. Shirley and I are doing all these jobs with long to-do lists. I am writing this on a smartphone which may be how I do the whole trip blog.

The biggest news this week was that we learned we couldn’t use the song We Shall Overcome. We had to scramble to come up with another plan just after we solved the previous problem of not being able to use Revolution. Well, the actors took it in stride, learned the replacement, and everyone agrees it is a better approach.

This time tomorrow we’ll be in Sacramento. Maybe by then I will have had a lesson on adding photos.

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Performance for family and friends

We only had a limited amount of time where we could have the stage. So we all dressed and put make up in at my house and then went to the performance space. While I set up the screen and projector and sound system, I could hear crazy sounds coming from the kitchen — the cast warming up under the direction of our music director Harriet Bennish. Soon after 3, the cast came out and did a great performance.

Pauli and Betty and Bella

Pauli Merry playing Pauli Murray, Marty Green playing Betty Friedan, Anne Perrah playing Bella Abzug

There were a few blips, but all were just learning experiences for us. I was running the slides and music, and at one point I put on the wrong track. The actors tried to figure out what to do and kept on keeping on — but I just stood up and apologized for playing the wrong track, changed the track, and sat down. The actors breathed a big sigh of relief and started singing the right song with big smiles on their faces.

The audience loved the show. At the end, someone stood up and said they wanted to see it again. I think we could have done a rewind right on the spot and not a person would have left. We collected feedback which was over the top positive (see the testimonials page).


Our teenager Deana singing the finale while the cast looks on

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First dress rehearsal

On Saturday, we had our first dress rehearsal. It was the first time we tried putting on the show with costumes. We set up in a room that it in itself was only 17 feet by 39 feet. I marked off the stage area with blue painter’s tape which of course the actors ignored and I wanted to tell them they were falling off the stage, but I didn’t. Before our audience arrived, we ran through it quickly with blocking and costume changes. We have a slide show that runs along with the actors, which acts as our scenery and context for what they are saying. I had redone all the slides since the last show, and I was able to test them out. Good thing I did, because there were mistakes. It was also the first time our new actors were seeing the slides and I watched them watching them at times. We discovered some costume changing problems, which we managed to solve (so we thought).

Practicing the scene from the 1970s

Billie Jean King (Ginni Gordon) talking about the 70s, Alice Paul (Andrea Riggs) was still alive, Lilly Ledbetter (Harriet Bennish) looking on

Then our audience arrived — all two of them — my mom and one of our understudies. Now, my mom has seen the show at least 6 times. She still loved it. As did our understudy. Even when Hillary Clinton didn’t quite make it totally dressed onto the stage, even when one of the other characters arrived late. Still, everything worked, and we were all in tears. And this was just from the dress rehearsal.

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practice practice

As one of nine in our acting troupe, I am relearning my lines, fixing up my costumes and working daily not to be overwhelmed by the preparation it takes to take a show on the road.  I’m also in charge of all the finances, Quick Books, deposits to the bank, thank you notes and other admin stuff.  Plus I’m in charge of all the costumes.  I just finished this morning a 22 page Excel workbook of each of the characters of the play.  Each character has a costume description sheet detailing the costume, who owns it and who has custody of it now.  My hope is by next week, I’ll have asked each of the cast members for the details of their costumes, what they need in addition to what they got. 

I’ve got a headache just keeping track of all this.  I am realizing that what Thea and I are doing is creating and living a template for creating troupes of actors that will hopefully be located all over the country.  I’m moving to Massachusetts at the end of october and from then I will start creating a troupe out east to do what we are doing out west.  So every form we make up, every contact, every contract will be duplicated again for our east coast troupes.  it’s very exciting.

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Going for national recognition

We went live on tonight On Thursday, we shot the video interview with Mary Wollstonecraft (Shirley Riga), myself, and the maker of Denim Candi Jon Verwiel.

We Did It For You - new banner

We sat outside in the backyard of our friends Sue and Richard and Jonathan Moch did the videography. We were all set up to shoot, the color right, the framing right — and Jonanthan said action, and the cement blaster next door started with a pile driver to break up the porch. We went and asked how long they were going to be working, and they said a half an hour. So we rehearsed what we would say and then finally, they stopped and we were able to proceed. As soon as the camera turned onto me, my mind went blank and words somehow stumbled out of my mouth.

Shirley in Mary Wollstonecraft costume with fleur-de-lys Denim Candi

When it came to Jon’s turn, he kept looking at the camera no matter how many times we told him to look at me. And then I’ve been editing the video since Thursday, and I finally finished it today and uploaded it. I think it came out well, and it amazes me we all sound coherent. But we believe in this project and product and want to see it succeed. Our goal is keeping us focused. I hope you think it’s worth it too.

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