How to Survive Summer Stock Theater: 10 Rules for Actors With Bug Spray and a Dream

I’ve done it. A lot. And I’ve been thinking of what I wish I’d known back when I was first costumed in fair isle wool sweaters, in mid-July, in a barn without appropriate climate control. For better or worse: some lessons I’ve learned.

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1.  Just because there’s a lake doesn’t mean there are no rules.

You still may have a significant other in some other geographical location. There may be beautiful natural surroundings, porch swings, and pie, but there is no wrinkle in time, so keep it in (or out of) your pants if that’s what your real-life relationship requires.

 

2.  Write down your first impressions of people.

It will be hilarious to you later on. Your standards will slip after weeks in the hinterlands; especially if you’re single and/or you disregard rule number one. When you find your heart broken in August, you will want to remind yourself who wore an Ed Hardy t-shirt to the read-through. It will help.

 

3.  Bring one dress-up outfit. 

There will be zero reasons to wear it. (YOU: But the opening night party! ME: Birkenstock up. You’re in the middle of the woods. Put the platforms down and walk away from Rent the Runway; they hold no power here.)

 

4.  Do not forget warm clothes.

If you’re near a body of water, mountains, or old people A/C, you will need more layers than you currently imagine. You will repeat outfits anyway, because the cast washing machine will be eternally in use, broken, or too far to get to easily. Put a clean color on top and rotate your way through.

 

5. Have a substance abuse game plan.

If a bomb dropped on the outdoor dramas of the mid-Atlantic, US marijuana consumption and probably production would dip by 60 to 70 percent. Interested? Start saving up for the vape. Not interested? Maybe don’t audition for outdoor drama. And give yourself some bottom lines.

 

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6.  Related: pick one form of alcohol you won’t mind having a physical aversion to for the rest of your life.

You may want to go crazy for one summer season; but once you vomit at a bonfire you’ll never be able to drink that form of alcohol again. (Not kidding. I haven’t had a drop of gin since September of ’02.)

 

7. Be prepared for bats.

Or ticks, water beetles, mosquitoes, sweltering heat, or disturbingly curious locals. Management is busy plunging the toilets and returning the last show’s wigs at the Walmart. They don’t have time to protect you. You have to protect yourself.

 

8. Speaking of plunging the toilets… learn to spot influence in the most surprising places.

Your artistic director is not the person having three-hour lunches at the yacht club with patrons. A development volunteer or board member *may* be doing that. Your artistic director is the person scraping pine tar and muffin crumbs off the front of the stage and attempting to install a new memory chip into a 2006 Dell desktop computer to give to “the education department.” Never be rude or dismissive to anyone doing what seems to be hard, disgusting, or menial tasks. They probably hired you.

 

9. Do good work.

It’s hard to get a job. When you do have a job, you should have one mission. To spread your actor wings and do the best work you possibly can. Imagine it’s your ticket to Broadway if you have to. (It’s probably not.) Convince yourself that a bad play is wonderful, or that your work will raise the consciousness of the people in the summer stock community who are able to see it. Work hard. You really do have the best job in the world.

 

10.  Go to the crick.

And then AFTER you’ve insured that you can do good work, go to the crick every time you are invited. Walk to the water, play the midnight croquet game, and explore the town. Watch the deer in the dusk, talk to people at the general store, run your lines with cast members at the boat launch, and get your nose up in nature every chance you get.

 

This, combined with the work, is how you will become the best version of you that you can be. Well-fed, well-exercised, and well-rounded.

 

You are so lucky. It’s your summer stock experience. Don’t forget to live it.

 

If you go climb the hill past the cemetery and take a right at the big white barn, you’ll get cell phone service. So follow me on Twitter! @jtparson

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Lady Band Loves Shonda Rhimes; and what that has to do with me

Shonda

 

(Shonda Rhimes)

Note: This is the origin story for Lady Band. To skip to our new Shonda Rhimes musical shout out, go to: Lady Band Shout-Out to Shonda Rhimes. Follow Lady Band on Twitter (@ladybandnyc) and Youtube (Ladybandnyc). And let us know who you want us to shout out to next! 

 

Shonda Rhimes is the creator of ScandalGrey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and now the upcoming How to Get Away With Murder. This fall, she will have a three-hour block of TV programming on ABC Thursday nights– which to my eyes, makes her not only one of the most powerful women in TV, but one of the most bad-ass women ever.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shonda_Rhimes

Fortunately, I have a way to express my non-stalker-y admiration for ladies I think the world ought to celebrate. Last year, dynamite singer/actress Liz Asti approached me and the sublime singer/actress/Marie’s Crisis pianist Franca Vercelloni. “Let’s work together for fun!” she said. “I want to sing with you!”

 

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So Franca (center), Liz (right) and I took a look at our combined schedules, threw up in our mouths a little bit, and realized if we wanted to work together, it would need to be squeezed in among our other obligations-slash-joyful-artistic-commitments.  And we knew it had to be something we cared about. And I mean really cared about. Like, “mission-critical, this aligns with the reason I am living,” cared.

Basically, we came up with the idea for Lady Band for the following reasons:

1) We love each other.

2) We love inspirational women.

3) We want all women– our friends and people we don’t know– to become more aware of what is possible in this world. To become more aware of each other. And to celebrate the shit out of that.

4) We’re really good at writing, arranging, and singing two-minute a cappella songlets.

 

And so Lady Band, the world’s foremost creator of three-voice a cappella video shout-outs to bad-ass women, was born. We’ve got more in the hopper, and you can see our videos to Holland Taylor and Cyndi Lauper on Youtube already.

But today, the day after the 2014 Emmy’s, I present to you our latest creation: Lady Band’s musical shout out to The Great Shonda Rhimes!

 

 

April 27, 2009 Happy Hour Salon line-up @ D-Lounge 7PM

We’ve got a great line-up for the second Salon at D-Lounge (101 E. 15th Street, just East of Union Square), this Monday at 7PM!

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Dave Jay performs from JohnPaulGeorgeRingo, his smash hit Beatles solo show– come prepared to interact. This is your chance, hammy hams. Liverpool it up.

Michele Carlo gives us a slice of the storytelling that landed her her book deal: “Red Sheep: The Search for my Inner Latina”.

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Maddy Mann, everyone’s favorite non-Catholic school girl who just likes the uniform, performs from her upcoming Terranova full-length solo show– rockin’ out with the tweens, yo.

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And Ash Gray brings his ’60s and ’70s-style vocal pop from Austin, Texas, to us… with the help of his Girls.

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Everybody loves D-Lounge, and I’m thrilled to be there– see you all on Monday.

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Happy Hour Salon Wrap-up, March 30th

Aaah, so nice to be up late at night, once again pounding out a vaguely amusing Happy Hour Salon wrap-up so that people who managed to stay away from the event of the social season could, once again, feel they were there, and people who were there could remember who they left with. March 30th was no exception to the seasons-long tradition of excellent talent and desirous glances, from on stage to off– people, mark your calendars for the next Salon on April 27th. And follow me, to a time not long ago…

NOT Actually taken at the Happy Hour Salon-- but I swear, we'll sneak some cameras in there next time!

(That picture was NOT taken at the Salon. But I swear, we’ll sneak some video and cameras in there next time.)

We mingled in the new space while curator JD Carter and I got our acts together, along with the excellent technical staff and bartenders– thank you, all. We got the show on the road with the Happy Hour Salon Theme Song. And then…

  • Ali Wong opened the performance slots — she, the stand-up comic with the “huge cult following” and the San Francisco sass. We were lucky to have her, as she herself informed us that she’s so busy she brushes her teeth while she poops.  I happened to notice certain people in the back snorting and pounding on the table during Ali’s how-to-pleasure-a-woman section– may no one at my Salon make bubble-blowing faces e’er again again. Check out www.aliwong.com.
  • Monologuist James Braly got called cruelly back from his pre-show meditative preparation ritual– as I’d given him the wrong running order– and magnetized the audience quickly and powerfully with tonight’s story of  his job at the office of a Goebbels-loving motivational speaker.  James’ words of wisdom and chronicles of embarrassment are unparalleled, and you must get in on it early as he develops his new full-length monologue, “The Monthly Nut.”  www.jamesbraly.com.
  • I did a new piece of guitar comedy material that could get me in trouble someday, about a certain person who leaves posters all over the city decreeing that he will, in fact, teach you to play guitar. You know who I’m talking about. And if you’re out of town? I strongly believe there’s a Dan Smith in every city. There’s. Always. A Dan.
  • Singer-songwriter Julie Foldesi sang her face off. And brought in a the ghost of good friend, Salon regular, and “South Pacific” castmate Becca Ayers right off the bat with a song they wrote together– “Don’t go Searching.” She followed up with “Full of Grace” and ended her set with “This Part of Town”, the title song on her funky bluegrass CD you can find at www.juliefoldesi.com.  (Note to future Salon slot-owners: Three-song sets only available to singer-songwriters whose Ds above Cs make us weak in the knees.)
  • Robin Gelfenbien presented an excerpt from her Fringe 2008 hit “My Salvation Has a First Name” acting the scene of her father’s reaction to her heavy interest in a job driving the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, and her interview at the local Howard Johnson’s Fred MacMurray Conference Room. Haven’t we all been there, really? Hilarious and touching, and filled with song and dance!– see www.robingelfenbien.com.
  • Finally, singer/songwriter composer Jeremy Schonfeld whipped out a sheet of note paper to give the Salon its special new works-y edge, and blew us all away with the rich beauty and pulsing mood of a song from his piece in development with Daisy Prince. Fresh Hebrew lyrics, ladies and gentleman, have never been so rockin’. Check out 37 Notebooks, Jeremy’s material recorded by Broadway greats, at www.jeremyschonfeld.com.

That’s it! We’ll see you on April 27th, at the next Happy Hour Salon @ D-Lounge! And please do save some Monday performance love for “Reddy or Not: A Musical Comedy Tribute to Helen Reddy” on April 20th at the Connelly Theatre. 

 

Best,

Joanna

The Happy Hour Salon’s new venue– next Salon 4-27-09

The Happy Hour Salon ran for over five years and now is back– we give away six ten-minutes slots to new works of different genres, and have taken over at D-Lounge the fourth Monday of every month at 7PM.  Broadway stars, stand-up comics, singer-songwriters and national journalists, among others, mix and mingle and work out developing pieces, and you with a beer and a grin…

D-Lounge is located at 101 East 15th Street, just off of Union Square.d-lounge1

Reddy or Not at the Connelly Theatre, Monday, April 20th at 9:30 PM

Reddy or Not at the Connelly Theatre, Monday, April 20th at 9:30 PM

Reddy or Not at the Connelly Theatre, April 20, 2009

April 20th– Lance Werth and Joanna Parson perform their hit “Reddy or Not: A Musical Comedy Tribute to Helen Reddy” at the Connelly Theatre, as a benefit for off-Broadway’s Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning Transport Group.  9:30PM, $19– tickets available at www.TransportGroup.org.

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