April 27, 2011

Theatre Season Finale Offers Timeless Musical

By Rachel Judy

Conrad Birdie (Andy Geffken) and Kim McAfee
(Whitney Rappana) try to escape the paprazzi
In its final production of the 2010-11 season, Regent University Theatre tackles one of the most beloved Broadway musicals—Bye Bye Birdie. The show runs April 29 - May 1 and May 6-8.

Bye Bye Birdie tells the story of fictional singer and teen icon Conrad Birdie who travels to a small Ohio town to make his last television performance and kiss his biggest fan before he is drafted. The original Broadway production won four Tony Awards, ran for more than 600 performances and resulted in a movie adaptation starring Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke.

While the musical is set in the 1960s, director Scott Hayes believes Bye Bye Birdie has a timeless element audiences of all ages can relate to.

"As I began analyzing the script, I realized the musical had been written so the audience would recognize a spoof on current events—rock 'n' roll as a new genre and that genre's effects: the cult of celebrity and a growing chasm between the teenage fans and their parents," Hayes explained. "The male rock celebrity is an enduring American tradition. Right now my pre-teen daughters are outgrowing Justin Bieber and, before that, the Jonas Brothers. A generation prior screamed for the Backstreet Boys, and the list goes back in time ... Bye Bye Birdie is at once nostalgic and current, spoofing the past and the present."

Bye Bye Birdie features music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams.

Purchase tickets at the Box Office.

April 25, 2011

Bye Bye Birdie Opens This Week!

When 1960s heartthrob Conrad Birdie is drafted into the Army, a lucky fan will give him "One Last Kiss" on The Ed Sullivan Show in this Tony Award-winning musical and audience favorite.

Here are some reflections from Scott Hayes, director of Bye Bye Birdie!

It seems as if every person in the theatre has some experience with Bye Bye Birdie.  Birdie’s own beginnings were incredibly humble. Composer Charles Strouse and producer Edward Padula worked on the musical Saratoga, where Padula told Strouse he had an idea for a teenage musical.  Strouse teamed up with lyricist Lee Adams with whom he had written weekly revues for an Adirondack summer camp called Green Mansions. In fact, “Put on a Happy Face” came from one of those revues. An actor in a tragedy mask would come out and complain about the world, and another actor with a comic mask would sing the first few stanzas of what would become one of the most recognizable songs in music theatre.  Together Strouse, Adams, book writer Michael Stewart and yet-unknown director Gower Champion toiled along without a fully realized concept until 1958, when Elvis Presley was drafted into the Army.  When it was announced Presley was to give a “last kiss” to a specially chosen Women’s Army Corpswoman (WAC), the musical creators had a concept for their show. 

The musical’s title character was originally named Conway Twitty.  Strouse claimed the production team had no idea that there was an actual Conway Twitty until Twitty threatened a lawsuit, and the name was changed to Conrad Birdie.

The musical had fairly successful out-of-town tryouts, yet arrived in New York with only $245 in advance box office sales. One of the reasons for the poor advance sales was the lack of recognizable stars. Chita Rivera had excelled in West Side Story butwas no box office draw, and her leading men, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde, were almost completely unknown.  The production was a surprise hit, winning four Tony Awards, running for more than 600 performances and spawning the movie version with Ann-Margret and Janet Leigh.  Strouse, Adams and Champion (not to mention Rivera, Van Dyke and Lynde) became music theatre royalty, creating other musicals such as Golden Boy, Applause, Nick and Nora, Rags, Hello, Dolly!, I Do! I Do!, and for Strouse —Annie .

 When I was asked to direct Birdie in the spring of 2010, I was personally and nostalgically thrilled.  I had been introduced to acting during a high school production of Birdie in 1983.  However, as I began analyzing the script I realized the musical had been written so the audience would recognize a spoof on current events—rock and roll as a new genre, and that genre’s effects: the cult of celebrity and a growing chasm between the teenage fans and their parents. Our contemporary audience would not be looking at the musical as it was intended. 

Last July I was leading a panel for a Christians in Theatre Arts conference during which I asked the creators of the musical spoof Altarboyz if they thought the demise of boy bands would hurt the show’s appeal.  They made the point that the male rock celebrity is an enduring American tradition.  Right now, my pre-teen daughters are outgrowing Justin Bieber and, before that, the Jonas Brothers.  A generation prior screamed for the Backstreet Boys, and the list goes back in time—Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and, yes, Elvis.  Bye Bye Birdie is at once nostalgic and current, spoofing the past and the present. 

Bye Bye Birdie runs April 29-May 1 & May 6-8 in the Main Theater

Contact the Box office for tickets today!
757.352.4245 or www.regent.edu/theatre
Adults: $15 — Discount*: $12 — Employees**: $10 — Regent Students: $7

*Includes military, senior, student, alumni and child (age 5-18).
**Includes Regent and CBN employees.

April 1, 2011

Virginia Beach BASH 2011!

Photos by Craig Lawrence

Virginia Beach BASH '11

 The clash of steel, the crack of whips, the grunts of dozens of eager students being punched in the stomach...all sounds you may have heard if you were on Regent's campus from March 25th - 27th.  The weekend was a great success thanks to Fight Masters Ryan, Jones, and Chin as well as special guest, director Richard Clabaugh, Certified Teachers Noyes, Male, Kirkland, Kaleba, Lloyd, and Collin Bressie and his merry band of Interns. Over 70 students participated in this year's BASH and they had a lot to say about the experience!

Ashley Manning attacks a fellow student

Ashley Manning, a first-year MFA in Acting student attended the BASH for the first time this year.  Having had very limited combat experience in the past, she had a lot to learn! Ashley took a variety of classes, including Apache Knife Fighting (with our own Dr. Michael Kirkland), Battle Royale with Martin Noyes from Savannah College of Art and Design, and Swashbuckling with Furniture, taught by SAFD Certified Teacher Casey Kaleba.
Reflecting on her experience, Ashley notes, "I would totally recommend attending the BASH to my peers. Physical confidence is something a lot of actors need but are missing. On top of that, having some combat experience could be the deciding factor between whether you or someone else gets cast in that next role. We have great resources here at Regent. MFAs are required to take this twice but I would feel remiss if I didn't take advantage of it all three years. Some scholarships are even available if money is tight."

Hannah Hughes crosses swords
Hannah Hughes is a 3rd-year MFA who attended her second BASH this year.  Hannah also served as a Journeyman for the BASH. As a graduating MFA, Hannah's taken three semesters of combat classes, including Unarmed, Rapier & Dagger, Broadsword, and Quarterstaff. A couple of Hannah's favorite classes were Cell Block Tango and Laban and Stage Combat - both taught by Jenny Male, from Howard Community College.  She says Cell Block Tango was great "...because it creatively integrated unarmed combat into dance. It also gave us the opportunity to choreograph some things on our own...The Laban Class was really interesting and fun because it took combat beyond technique and into acting. It was fun to explore how different Laban properties affect the dynamics of a fight...and opened my eyes to another realm of kinesthetic discovery in combat....I’d love to see more classes like Cell Block Tango and Laban. Learning correct technique is important, but it isn’t everything. Balancing technique classes with other forms of movement would be a great direction to take the BASH. I have a feeling that would appeal to an even broader range of people as well."
Cell Block Tango
Micaela De Lauro (2nd Year MFA) AJ Lease (1st Year MFA) and Tabitha Ray Strong (3rd Year MFA)

Jared O'Dell - it only looks painful!

Jared O'Dell, a junior Theatre Arts major, attended the BASH for the third time this year.  All of his combat experience comes from previous years at the BASH. Jared believes many more people should attend the BASH because "...it is a great opportunity to learn as well as meet people from all over. Forming relationships is what theatre is about and this was a great chance to practice that. I would love for more undergrads to come out and get some training. These opportunities don't come often and are rarely in the same city let alone the same campus as you live. The training and people are fantastic."

Both Jared and Ashley enjoyed the Scrappy Unarmed fighting class with Fight Master k. Jenny Jones.  Jared says, "...Jones just revolutionized how I think about stage combat with that class and she is a fantastic instructor." And Ashley added "...I learned how geometry plays into the way fights should be choreographed. Her style is slick and completely believable. I've never before seen a stage slap that works from any angle - the illusions she was able to create were remarkable."
Fight Master k. Jenny Jones and Intern Amie Root

2nd-year MFA Zach Bortot attended the BASH for his second time this year.  He has also been trained in Unarmed, Quarterstaff, Broadsword and Rapier and Dagger through Regent's MFA Acting program. This year, Zach participated in Skill Proficiency Tests (SPTs) in three weapons, having earned a recommended pass in the Unarmed test last year.   He passed in Quarterstaff and Broadsword, as well as earning another recommended pass in Rapier and Dagger.  Due to the number of weapon styles he's passed, his status is now “actor-combatant.” Zach took a variety of classes this year including Shaolin staff, Roman sword, broadsword, rapier, small sword, and knife.  Zach says "...I would definitely recommend the BASH to any of my peers – stage combat isn’t just about choreographing fights. It is about telling stories, and as such, the BASH provides ample opportunities for actors to condition their instruments to be put to the best use for professional storytelling. Your body, mind, and spirit will be put to test as you learn choreography, analyze story structure and choices, and work to employ all of this knowledge to action."
An exciting addition to this year's BASH was the integration of CTV students in the Roman Sword for the Camera classes.  A fight was choreographed by Fight Master Richard Ryan, whose credits as Fight Coordinator include Sherlock Holmes I and II, Gullivers Travels, The Golden Compass, Dark Knight, and Troy.  Students then performed the fight while it was filmed by CTV students under the direction of Richard Clabaugh, cinematographer for The Prophecy and director of Python and Eyeborgs.  The short films were then edited by CTV and presented for the BASH attendees on the final day.  One of these fights, featuring Zach Bortot and fellow MFA Britain Willcock, is shown below. 
Fight Master Richard Ryan
The students who attended this class raved about what an amazing experience it was.  Hannah Hughes enjoyed the class "...because we not only got to work personally with Richard Ryan and Richard Clabaugh, but also because we got the experience of fighting on camera. It was really fun to go back and watch our fights after they had been edited together with sound effects and music....I learned the process of filming a fight on camera, and the importance of selling each moment. I also realized that, as opposed to fighting on stage, you don’t have to get the entire fight correct from start to finish. As long as you have at least one good take of each move, that’s all you need."

Zach add, "I loved it because it really gave us an idea of how the process of developing combat sequences for film and television differs from that of the stage. Fight Master Ryan is a pleasure to work for. He is clear, concise, kind, honest, and very detailed in his instruction. It was humbling to work with someone who is such an expert in the field, and it also forced us to work at the ultimate height of our potential in an effort to meet his expectations...I’ve seen how there is now a greater partnership with the cinema and television department at Regent...I think this is a great learning experience for both groups of students, actors and directors alike. It leads to greater mutual understanding, and overall awareness of expectations in the professional world. I think this growing partnership will only open up more opportunities as it progresses, and could become a very unique feature not offered anywhere else."
Certified Teacher and Regent Professor Dr. Michael Kirkland,
Fight Master Richard Ryan
Cinematographer and Director Richard Clabaugh

Virginia Beach BASH '11 was an exciting and unique experience.  Don't miss out on the action! Make plans now to attend Virginia Beach BASH '12!

This video features a Roman sword fight choreographed by Richard Ryan, performed by Regent University MFA Actors Britain Wilcock and Zach Bortot. The video was shot and edited by Regent Undergrad Cinema and Television student Tim Kay under the guidance of director Richard Clabaugh.