Tuesday, August 25, 2015

'Mary Poppins': Behind the Curtain Photo Essay

A Behind-the-scenes Look At 'Mary Poppins' in Rehearsal

'Mary Poppins' opens at Slidell Little Theatre on August 28, 2015 and runs through September 13. Volunteers have been spending untold hours since the summer rehearsing and preparing for this moment. The photo collages below are just a small sampling of the many, many people involved in bringing the magic to life at Slidell Little Theatre.

Photo credit Justin Redman, Stephanie Sullivan and Don Redman.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Can Mary Poppins Teach Nannies Today?

Adele Bruce Smith channels Mary Poppins
- photo by Justin Redman

Former Nanny Says Poppins' Still the Master

by Don Redman

Adele Bruce Smith knew from the start what she wanted to do before she attended college – she wanted to be a professional nanny.

“I remember when all my friends were worried about what classes to take in college and I was wondering why they didn’t know what to take,” says Adele, her English accent softened by years in the U.S. “I went to college and told them to just sign me up for whatever classes I need to be a professional nanny. It was that simple.”

Yes, she went to college – the University of Cambridge – to be a nanny. There is a difference between a babysitter and an au pair and a nanny, she explains. “A nanny goes to school to specifically learn how to emotionally, mentally and physically raise children. So I went to school and took psychology and sociology, child development and nutrition and more.”

The educational background set her on the path of a fulfilling career as a nanny. “I was a professional English Nanny for over 25 years and I worked for the rich and famous, raising their children,” says Adele, who today is married to Slidell Chief of Police Randy Smith.

Her first job as a professional nanny began with a referral from a friend of the family who encouraged Adele to apply for a position with a couple expecting the arrival of their first child.

“I had 25 pounds in my bank account,” Adele says. “I remember it like it was yesterday – going to the bank taking it all out and heading to Cambridge to invest in a suit.” She eyed an outfit reminiscent of something Lady Diana would wear and plunked down everything she owned to purchase it. First impressions are everything.

“The suit worked,” she says. “I was hired immediately that day in November even though Tim (the baby) was not due until January. I was given a chauffeur to take me to London to purchase everything needed for (him).”

Adele Smith: "Being a Nanny was a passion and a love"
Baby Tim was born into a well-heeled family with connections to the Royal family and well-staffed with a nanny, chef, chauffeur, gardeners and maids. But, says Smith, financial success matters not to a child. “Children all need and deserve everything that will not cost a penny – your time and effort.”

“I spent every waking moment nurturing loving and teaching this little man,” Adele recalls. “I walked him for hours in his pushchair (stroller), singing to him, talking to him, pointing out trees and flowers and bunnies and horses. Every second mattered. Tim is nearly 30 and to this day still calls me Nan.”

She sees some similarities between herself and Mary Poppins when dealing with the children. “I was always happy and I sang and played music all the time. Every second of the day I was fully aware of what I said to my charges (babies).”

“Raising Tim and his sister Polly, and the other children wasn’t a job,” she says.  “It was a passion and a love I can’t explain. It was a privilege and an honor. It was exciting and exhausting and eye opening.”

Participating in a lighthearted, Poppins-themed photo shoot in advance of Slidell Little Theatre's Season opener, Adele says she's eager to see her beloved nanny onstage this month and for the opportunity to sing along with all of her favorite songs.

Slidell Little Theatre's regional premiere of "Mary Poppins" opens August 28 and runs through September 13, 2015. Reservations can be made online at www.SlidellLittleTheatre.org.

Eager to share lessons she has learned during her 25-year career as a professional nanny – nuggets of wisdom that no doubt could be uttered by Mary Poppins – Adele offers these insightful tips for the new family:

·         Children come into this world like a blank canvas, make sure you make yours beautiful.
·         Children learn more by what they live than by your words (lead by example).
·         Be consistent with you rules and routines, Children actually feel safer and secure if you follow through.
·         It is your job as a parent to prepare your child for the next stage in life.
·         Eat together as a family at least three times a week – no TV or phones. Being a parent is not a popularity contest.
·         Read every night with them (trust me they will remember it).
·         Do not buy them everything they want or what their friends immediately. Teach them the value of money and patience.
·         Do NOT burden them with adult issues (you don’t want them to have to recover from their child hood).
·         Let them have down time. Don’t sign them up for lot of after school activities – they are learning all the time. Allow their bodies and minds to rest.

When Don Redman isn't  volunteering with Slidell Little Theatre, he writes for a travel magazine and is currently writing a comedy as well as a novel. Find out more about him here.

Justin Redman is SLT's chairman of Publicity. When he's not volunteering for Slidell Little Theatre, he's running Redman Media Productions.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sauber: Balancing Hollywood and Broadway Versions of 'Mary Poppins'

 by Don Redman

Scott Sauber with Zachary Osborn and Lisa Meredith
(photo by Don Redman)

SLT Director talks about his vision

Scott Sauber has directed scores of productions on both sides of the lake, including the smash hits Seussical, and The Full Monty, for which received Slidell Little Theatre Ginny Awards for Best Director and Best Show for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Seasons respectively.
He opens SLT’s 2015-2016 Season behind the helm of the regional premiere of Mary Poppins. Scott took a break from the grueling rehearsal schedule to tell us about his vision for the show and what audiences can expect.

Tell us about your vision and inspirations for Mary Poppins.

SAUBER: Such a classic tale, I want the audience to be transported to Victorian times and whisked away to a magical setting.  The original movie holds so much color and texture, but the full realized Broadway show is a darker story.  When I first heard the soundtrack years ago, I had very vivid images in my head of what the show should look like.  Then I saw the original Broadway cast and felt the pictures in my head were more fun!  Let's bring them to life.
Scott Sauber directs Zachary Osborn  (as Michael Banks)
and Emma St. Cyr (as Jane Banks). Photo by Don Redman

What are the challenges to staging this production?

SAUBER: Mary has to fly, Bert has to tap, the chimney sweeps dance their "brushes" off and we need two great children.

What the audience can expect to see?

SAUBER: A fun-filled, Disney adventure with heart and soul.  This story is about a father and his children.  It just takes the nanny to show you that.

Poster Artist

As if his plate wasn’t already full as director, scenic designer and co-costume designer for “Mary Poppins,” Scott Sauber is also the poster artist for the production.

Inspired by the Victorian setting and the chimney sweeps – his favorite characters from the 1964 Disney movie – Sauber’s poster features the dark silhouette of a dancing chimney sweep against a dark, rich blue background.

Poster by Scott Sauber

“I love the texture of the original Broadway logo and the color scheme,” Sauber said. “I used what I remembered and went with Victorian inspired trim and silver as my accent color.  The chimneysweeps are my favorite, so it was important to incorporate one of those.  The font is very reminiscent of the Victorian poster style.”

About Scott Sauber

Sauber has more than 20 years of theatrical experience and education and teaches Theatre in the Talented Arts Program at Slidell High School. He is a graduate of the University of New Orleans’ Theatre Department. He is a multiple-award-winning actor, light designer, director and educator.

Don Redman was named the 2006 St. Tammany Parish Literary Artist of the Year for his comedy Who's Afraid of Virginia's Wolf Note? slated for production soon in SLT's new Black Box theatre. He is a regular contributor to SLT's blog and is the creator and editor of SLT's audience guide, Prologue. Find out more about Redman here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Making It Snow On Stage

REDNECK SNOW - Scenic designer Christine Barnhill-Tramel
and Sam Sutter designed a snow machine for the cabin window
in  "A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas."
(Photo by Paul Wood Photography)

Every December, community theaters across the country are likely staging some sort of holiday or winter show, from A Christmas Story, to Christmas Carol, to The Nutcracker Suite, all requiring some degree of snowfall.

As scenic designer for A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas, Christine Barnhill Tramel was tasked to stage a snow scene to emulate constant snowfall visualized from a cabin window. Recruiting assistance from Sam Sutter, Christine was able to bring her concept to the stage.

Using simple supplies including a squirrel cage fan, PVC pipes and connectors, Plexiglas sheets, wire mesh and scrap lumber, Christine and Sam created an effective simulation of constant snowfall described in the script.

SNOW WINDOW: A diagram of the "snow machine"
(Illustration by Don Redman)

The video of the window snow machine in operation:

Eric Hart, Properties Master at Triad Stage in North Carolina, maintains a blog – Prop Agenda – where he discusses making and finding props for the theatre. He granted us permission to reprint his post on how to make it snow:

“For snowballs, previous props people have used white bar soap shaved into bits with a cheese grater. The resulting bits can be packed into a snowball which explodes on impact. Others suggest instant mashed potato flakes. In either case, water can be mixed in or spritzed on to make the snowballs stick better. If the actors are throwing the snowballs at people, obviously you want the snowball to break apart on impact as easily as possible. A lot of variables come into play: how hard the actor throws it, what it is hitting against, the temperature and humidity in your theatre, how far in advance you need to make the snowballs, etc. As a result of all these variables, there is no “exact recipe”, and research and development is essential.
“Another option is the interior of disposable diapers (new ones, not used ones). They contain a powder called sodium polyacrylate, a polymer which absorbs 800–1000 times its own weight, effectively turning a liquid into a solid gel. It is also sold in magic shops and novelty stores as “slush powder”.
“If a show calls for falling snow, it is often the props departments’ duty to procure the snow, while scenery is in charge of making it fall from the air. I know, it’s bizarre. The preferred method for at least the past hundred and thirty years is using clipped paper. Unfortunately, regular paper will not pass today’s fire retardant standards. If the thought of fire-proofing every snowflake for every performance is too overwhelming, theatrical suppliers, like Rose Brand, sell flame-proofed paper snowflakes. Expect to pay a lot though, and be aware that everyone needs snow during the winter and they are often sold out by this time of the year.
“A more modern alternative is plastic flakes. Rose Brand sells these as well, but you can make your own if you wish. You can find paper shredders (for offices) which not only cut in strips, but also crosscut those pieces to make confetti. You can run white grocery bags or garbage bags through one to make your own plastic snowflakes. Bear in mind that you need a lot of snowflakes to make even a short-duration snowfall over a small stage. You’ll need more for multiple performances. You may be tempted to sweep as much as you can from one performance to use in the next one. Be aware that when you are picking up the old snow, you are also picking up all the dirt and dust from the stage. You don’t want to rain crud down onto your performers during a show; the dust can get in their eyes, and larger particles may even injure them when dropped from the top of the stage.”

Eric Hart's blog can be found online here.

Additional photos of the window snow machine:

Christine Barnhill-Tramel demonstrates
how the snow machine works.

Illustration by Christine Barnhill-Tramel
Rear view of window base.
Funnel feeding snowflakes into wind chamber

(Introduction by Don Redman. Photos and video by Don Redman.)