Well opening weekend I would have to say was a huge success!  Three out of four of our shows were completely sold out!  And Sunday was half filled.  Can’t argue with attendance.  The audiences seem to love it!  (No reviews yet, so who knows)  But I am very proud of this piece.  As it was with As You Like It, I am getting some wonderful compliments – the best being “I can understand every word they say.”  Which for Shakespeare is no small feat.  Another wonderful compliment from one who is a little more versed in Shakespeare, “It’s as if I had never heard the words before, and I was hearing them all again for the first time.”  People seem to really appreciate the fact that we brought out the humor (admittedly, some of it is quite vulgar), and gave it a face that allowed people to really relate to it.  I’ve heard no negative comments as to my concept as of yet, but again, no reviewers…
I am actually finding that much of the problem with the piece is actually the audience itself.  Because we are selling out, we have been starting a little late (much to the chagrin of the cast!  They can be an impatient bunch – they are ready to work!) so the show doesn’t get out until almost 11.  Having seen the show three times with an audience, I notice I start to lose them at about the 2:15 mark.  Unfortunately there’s almost a half hour of play left at that point.  It seems to me that the biggest change I would make were I to direct the show again would be to cut more!  I had already cut a quarter of the show.  I think that’s sad.  Today’s audiences are simply not tuned into long, verse-driven pieces.  They want to be in and out in an hour.  I’m reminded of Ellen Degeneres’ Here and Now. (and Iparaphrase) “I remember they used to have commercials that lasted six minutes telling us how delicious cigarettes and alcohol were.  Now we have to be happy in 30 seconds, concentrated happy.”  That’s how I have begun to feel about audiences in theater.  If there isn’t a fight or an obvious sex joke I’ve noticed that they sometimes don’t even get the more subtle ones I also think that some of them are a bit afraid – “Am I allowed to laugh here?  I mean, its Shakespeare!”  But I have very much tried to take the sanctimonious fear out of it.  My problem with a lot of companies is that they do it TOO much!  It becomes so conversational that we lose the heightened nature of the text.  If that’s the case, then why are you bothering with Shakespeare?  It’s absolutely a delicate balance.  But no matter what, I cannot deny that much of the audience drifts in and out.  This is not to say they don’t enjoy it, but we definitely do not have their undivided attention for the entire length of the show.  I’m not sure that this has anything to do with the quality of the show, only the attention span of our collective society.  Is it possible to solve this problem yet still give integrity to the text?  I have no answer.  
But nonetheless Romeo & Juliet is up and running, and I thus turn my attentions to Into the Woods and Serse. 
 
Well its another opening night.  We had a fantastic run-thru last night.  Romeo hit his head hard right before intermission, which somehow made everyone act even better!  So I told the cast to hit him before they all went on.  The tech went very smoothly and we’ll be getting there to clean up a few last quick things, both technical and acting.  But all in all I’m very proud of the piece on all accounts.  So readers, its up to you now.  Come and see it!
 
It has been quite the weekend.  Rehearsals have gone wonderfully.  I even gave them yesterday off because the show is in such good shape.  I worked some scenes very hard (which meant a lot of people were sitting around for a while, but hey, I’m a perfectionist.)  I’m very pleased with it.  I think it really says what I want it to say.  It’s funny, scary, sexy, dirty, suspenseful, sad and beautiful.  I felt that without the added elements that we weren’t going to make any more progress with just run-thrus.  We’re finally on track with the weapons, so that’s going to be a huge focus for the next two days.  We spent a lot of time putting the finishing touches on the set and doing the lights/sound.  It’s a shame that the lighting package isn’t quite sophisticated enough to really do this beautiful set justice, but I’m thankful for what I have.  I’m excited to get a full run with everything in tonight.  I think we are going to be totally ready by Thursday.

 

So its time to pony up!  https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/7897055;jsessionid=8E57915FE23659949D93ADFD834D5AB3  Get your tickets!  Code word sweetprince for $10 tickets.  I want to see you all there.
 
I had my first phone conference with the personal marketer yesterday.  It was actually a wonderful experience.  A lot of things that I already knew, but needed to hear from a new source, and in a slightly different way.  Whats more is she was ok with me asking “why?”, and had good reasons.  She gave me a lot of homework, both personal and professional.  Look for some changes on the website for one.  I knew that that would be the first thing she attacked.  (And I use that term lovingly).  Some things I have put up just as placers, some things I was actually, waiting for her to recommend someone, and some things I need to just suck it up and do – like get a professional headshot and not rely on what few photos I have.  I’ve got a few ideas for favors I can call in…  One thing I found particularly funny is that this is the stuff I do all day at my 9-5.  I have just never had the foresight? discipline? to do it for myself.  

She also coached me about targeting my search a little more, rather than just sending out a general note for everything - which may take a little more work, but might also yield much better results.  I need to be very specific with what I want, both regionally and in New York.  I think that’s something I’ve needed to hear as much as anything else.  She’s a very spiritual person, very into The Secret, and energy work, which I think is very important for an artist.  Nothing will take your career further than positive energy… I should heed my own advice.

Speaking of which, R&J is going so well.  The fights look fantastic, though they are still a little rough around the edges.  We are doing a work-through of Act II (Act I is already in amazing shape) and full runs start tomorrow!  I’m so excited to put it all together.
 
I thought I'd post my press release and postcard.  Enjoy!  We're getting close!
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Romeo & Juliet
"Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene…”

In director Greg Cicchino’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” Verona is not so fair. Rather, it’s part of an Earth that’s running out of time—resources are running low and desperation is climbing. But rather than band together to make a bid for survival, those two families—the Montagues and the Capulets—are fighting over what little remains; subsumed with an ancient quarrel, the origins of which are long forgotten. Against this background of chaos and anger, Romeo of the Montagues and Juliet of the Capulets have their fated meeting at the feast of the Capulets. Now the lovers must find a way to overcome their families’ determination to keep them apart and fight for their love to survive. 

The cast of The Queens Players production of Romeo and Juliet includes Jeni Ahlfeld, Alice Bahlke, Katie Braden, Kathryn Neville Browne, Charlie Gorrilla, Kyle Haggerty, Jesse Kane-Hartnett, Shelleen Kostabi, Anthony Martinez, Ari Lew, Justin Randolph, Jessica Russell, David Rydahl, Daniel Smith, Fred Stuart, and Danika Wood. 

The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City, 11101

 January 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, and February 3, 4, 5, 6 at 8 pm

Matinees at 3:30 pm on January 28 and February 6.

Tickets $15

For Box Office or Press/Industry Inquiries, please contact (718) 392-0722
 
What an amazing weekend!  We got an unbelievable amount of stuff done.  We began with some of the fight choreography for the later scenes.  This was a little rocky, but we did make progress.  This is just another situation where we are throwing another factor in that can trip actors up, especially if actors aren’t comfortable with it already.  Admittedly, I got a little frustrated, but I think at the end of the day it is going to look great, I just need to be patient.  

We then did a complete work-thru of Act I.  I have to say it is in really nice shape.  The fact that its an hour or so long first act and we got through working it for only the first time after blocking in only 4 hours, knowing me, is pretty darn good.  As the actors get more comfortable, I think it is only going to get better and better.  And we have well over a week left.  

Titus Andronicus  closed that evening.  As soon as it was done, we got to work on the build.  We were there LATE!  We got home around 5.  But we got the majority of the structure done.  It struck me as funny that it didn’t look like there was actually that much change with what we did.  We put in three sets of doors (and built a balcony.)  But it was a lot of work!  The next morning our scenic artist came in and began work.  It is already starting to really shape up.  She painted a beautiful cloud pattern and blocked out the buildings.  She got a fantastic job so she can’t really work much during the week, but I’m sure that after next weekend the set is going to look wonderful.

Meanwhile, I was super ambitious and blocked just about the entire second act yesterday.  It put us over a full day ahead of schedule.  We still have one scene to do (the final scene), but that’s got some heavy fighting, and needs the whole space.  We were rehearsing in the small space so it would have been difficult.  But we have that planned on the schedule all day for tomorrow.  But it is such a nice feeling to be ahead!  How often does that happen?  I’ve rescheduled it today to be another run thru of Act I, so once the fights are choreographed and the last scene is blocked, we can focus all our energy on that.  But everything seems to really be coming together.  And the countdown has begun.  We open in 10 days!
 
The show is getting better and better.  I can’t wait to piece it all together.  We have an Act I run-thru Saturday… and build!  From here on in is where it starts to get REALLY hectic.  My scenic artist has gotten a huge job as the charge artist for the national tour of Porgy & Bess, so the set design will have to be simplified a bit, but I have faith that it will still be absolutely beautiful, but we are going to really have to burn the midnight oil so she can have all day Sunday to get started.  We’re still missing a couple key props (and hopefully postcards will be in tonight…) but I’m confident we’ll be ready in time.

I am so pleased that we are finding some amazing nuances in the performances.  I think there are going to be some directions that we are taking that may never have been done before.  Ok, so maybe that’s a little pretentious.  I will amend it a bit and say they are very far from some of your more standard moments of R&J.  And eons away from Leo and Claire.  I don’t want to give it all away, but two little spoilers – Juliet does something very real, yet very unexpected in the middle of her freakout, and for Romeo, this play does not end as a tragedy.  Hopefully that whets the whistle a bit.  We open two weeks from yesterday!
 
Rehearsals continue to go very well.  I am normally not a big fan of stage combat.  I know we have to pay attention to that silly “safety first” credo, so that no one gets hurt, but then it just looks so fake.  It looks especially fake when as an audience member you aren’t more than five feet away from the action, and its in a three-quarter space so there is no where to hide the fact that you are in reality shoving your blade into their armpit.  That said - these fights actually look pretty good.  I stand by my decision of casting Tybalt as a woman.  I wouldn’t want to get in a knife fight with her.  What makes the first fight of R&J particularly hard is the fact that there are actually several fights happening all at once, and different parts of the dialogue have to be well timed with certain parts of the fight.  We can’t let Lord Montague start fighting, we can’t let Tybalt ACTUALLY kill Benvoilio.  So timing is key.  But I think its going to be a great way to start off the show.  Not even five minutes in and people are fighting all around you.

We have also gotten quite a bit of blocking done for the other scenes as well.  Everything in Act I (ending with the scene in which Mercutio dies) will be done by Saturday, and I’m hoping to get a solid work-through in (perhaps even a run?)  And build begins on Sunday!  But some of the scenes are already shaping up to be quite beautiful.  The balcony scene alone even now I think will be worth the cost of admission.  
 
Happy New Year to everyone!  The year has started off on a great note for me.  We have started blocking Romeo & Juliet, which has been going very well.  Again, it is amazing how if you know exactly what they are saying that the blocking really takes care of itself.  Tonight is the first big fight scene!  I can’t wait to see what my choreographer does with it, and it will be wonderful to get everyone in the same room again.

I have also seen the final set rendering.  It is absolutely beautiful.  I think it says everything I need it to, and really helps to tie everything in together.  I am so happy to see things move forward in such a positive way.  I’m really looking forward to continuing the work.