Five days before the show I thought it would a fun idea to shoot some short 30 second video promos of the show. Keith liked the idea and reached out to Jon Bristol, who plays Bob the Sheep. Jon is the creative driving force behind Elmwood Productions, the puppet production company that created the pandas, Bob the Sheep and the court jester. Elmwood Productions had previously screened their web series “Animal Behavior” at the Desultory Theatre as a fundraiser to support the local food banks and animal shelters and then later screened their feature film “Josh and Todd: The Story of a Man and His Puppet” there as well. When Keith was casting the show, he reached out to Elmwood and Jon and Nick Foreman (lead puppeteer of Elmwood Productions) jumped on board. So that Monday night before our opening, Jon and I arrived at the Morrison Building and we shot 4 promos. At our final rehearsal on Wednesday Cole Sutton (who plays George Topax, the insufferable leader of Crestwood in the play), Kurt Boucher (who plays Edward Farpis, the greatest actor of Crestwood) and Kelly Rybczyk (who plays Vivian Mooster, one of the three main characters in the play) generously offered their time to shoot promos too. All of the promos can be found on the video page..
Thursday was a day of rest and then Friday was the night of the first show. I had created some cartoons from my comic strip in the Register Citizen called The Crayon Diary .
As this was a new experience for me I clarified what time I needed to be at the theater (7pm), I did my work (day job) during the day, I ate well, said my lines over and over again and at 6:59pm stepped through the doors of the Morrison Building where Keith Paul’s The Desultory Theatre Club is housed. The group was cheerful and poised, exchanging banter and pleasant greetings. Some cast members invited family members to the show and we talked about that between reviewing the scripts in our hands. I read my lines again, and again and again, and when I could, I said them while standing on the stage at my marker.
At 7:30 the doors were open and the audience began to enter. Kurt’s family and Kelly’s family came in and soon the seats seemed to be filled before 8pm rang in. It seemed we would play for a full house. My friends Sheila Ivain (whose photos I am generously using for these posts), Robert C Fullerton, Jay Roberts, Carrie Vibert and Tim Murphy were all in attendance for the show and later I met Latayna Rene a fellow Connecticut blogger.
When you’re a part of a theatrical performance, you realize how big a deal CASTING really is. I suppose like any recipe, the ingredients directly relate to the final product and this production of Revenge of the Space Pandas is no exception. First of all visually the PUPPETS take center stage here. Jon Bristol plays Bob the Sheep with a rough demeanor like the sheep came from the south side of Chicago. Lana Peck (who does a show Glum Puppet) plays the Panda called Donald Buffy Watschalk (panda 2) and doubles as the lead characters “Mom”. She explodes on the stage and kids in the audience can feel it in their bones when Mom calls the procrastinating kids down for supper for the seventh time! Nick Foreman plays Panda “Boots” who has pivotal scenes of exposition and plot movement.
David Willey portrays the young lead “Binky Rudich” a boy scientist and he solidly anchors the production with Kelly Rybczyk who plays the young Vivian Mooster in pig tails. Appreciating that all of their acting has to happen on their face WITHOUT puppets, they do an amazing job at conveying the story line and emotional content.
A play/story/movie is usually only as good as the villain(s) and this show is lucky to have Cole Sutton as George Topax and Thomas Dietner as his henchman. Hearing their voices perform their roles, I can not imagine anyone playing these parts better than them. They are supported by the executioner, portrayed by Abel Mercado, whose physical presence provides a strong deterrent to any shenanigans let alone the threat he provides when dropping a pumpkin on someone’s head is involved.
And Kurt Boucher portrays, initially, an old derelict that time forgot. I won’t put any spoilers here, but Kurt brings his A-game as his true identity is revealed.
In addition to this cast are two others….Keith Paul adds his talent not just as the director but as the Court Jester. And I, your humble narrator, perform as Bill Kaberdie, the news person from Crestview News Control. And for more on that….you can come see the show tonight 6/14/2014 at 8pm…. then you can read Part 3 that I’ll write tomorrow !
—-End Part 2—-