Unplug and Just Let Go

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Kakadu National Park, Australia

Sometimes it’s hard to find your voice in the crazy busy world we live in. To discover who you are and what you have to say. What’s important to you. Spending time with loved ones, having the time and mental space to pursue creative endeavors, learning and having adventures. That’s what is important to me.

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Yellow River Cruises, Australia

I love the European tradition of taking a month off to relax, spend time with family, and just enjoy life. I wish we would do that more – appreciate time, stop wasting it, and place value on savoring the everyday and the extraordinary. Instead everything must be instant, everything has to be documented or shared, we can’t just enjoy something for what it is.

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More and more lately I’ve been trying to define my personal goals and my goals for this blog. That’s an ongoing project by the way, nothing really new. I want to enjoy this summer; spending time with family and friends, celebrating birthdays and weddings, doing some traveling, learning some new things, and more. And I don’t want to wonder if I am documenting the moments for my personal recollection or for my blog. I want to savor the moment, relish the once-in-a-lifetime and the daily, and just let go.

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Jabiru

So for the next month, I am doing just that. Letting go of the devices and the distractions and taking a hiatus. And when I return, hopefully we will get to learn some new things and enjoy some new adventures together. In the meantime, peruse past posts, keep an eye out for Flora Fridays (which will still be posted during July!), and unplug yourself. :)

 

 

*I took these pictures a few years ago on a fantastic trip to northern Australia. I’m sure I will share about it in a separate post some day. I decided to add them here because that trip was truly about unplugging and letting go.

Behind the Scenes With Shakespeare in the Park

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Shakespeare Dallas Production of Cymbeline – 2010
T. A. Taylor as Cymbeline and Joanna Schellenberg as Imogen
Image via Source

We are huge fans of our local Shakespeare in the Park. I don’t remember how we found out about it originally, but once we went, we were completely hooked! Despite hot Texas summer days, evenings at the amphitheater are comfortable. We love the relaxed ambiance, the ability to take your own picnic, and let’s not forget, the amazing productions.

Recently, I had the privilege of talking with Devin Overman, the Development and Marketing Associate for Shakespeare in the Park. Despite being in the midst of opening the summer season, he was gracious enough to answer my questions and give a little behind-the-scenes info on Shakespeare in the Park. (Shakespeare Dallas has not paid or perked me. I am a huge fan and want to spread the word about them!)

Jenna: What’s your role with Shakespeare Dallas? Is a full-time, year-round position or do Shakespeare Dallas staff really only work around the performance season?

Devin: I am the Development and Marketing Associate, one of the 4 full-time Shakespeare Dallas employees (that includes Executive and Artistic Director, Raphael Parry!). The only staff we hire strictly for SitP are actors, tech, and crew.

As a nonprofit worker, I wear many hats, most of them quite different, but my primary job is writing proposals and applications for funding from foundations, funding organizations, and government funds. I also work with our PR & Marketing agency to get our marketing completed, as well as keep social media updated!

Jenna: How much reliance is placed on sponsors versus ticket sales and memberships? For example, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra often makes a statement to the effect that the ticket sales only pay for 40% of the cost of the performance or something of that nature.

Devin: Our numbers are very similar! About 40% of our income comes from what we call Earned Income, meaning any income that we received as a direct result of a service provided – ticket sales, donations, memberships, contracted services (renting our equipment, etc.), and the like. The rest must be filled by funds from foundations, government grants, corporate sponsorships, upper level donor pledges, and board members.

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Shakespeare Dallas Production of MacBeth - 2012
Steven Young as King Duncan, foreground left, and Chris Hury as Macbeth
Image via Source

Jenna: What is the schedule for Shakespeare in the Park like as far as auditions and practice? Do you start months ahead of the summer season? How many hours of practice and preparation go into each show?

Devin: In reality, though we only have shows for a total of 10 weeks per year, planning for the next season of Shakespeare in the Park often begins before the current season has ended! Sometime in September or October, our artistic staff will begin to meet to choose the title of the next year’s summer and fall seasons – details in a later question. Before the end of the year, we like to have offers out (and ideally accepted!) for major production roles, such as Guest Director (if we have one), Costume Designer, and Scenic Designer, among others.

Auditions happen in January, with callbacks usually in February, and we get offers out in March for the summer shows, then May or June for  the fall show. Rehearsals begin in late April or early May, and those can be a full-time job in themselves! Both casts rehearse at two different locations for 4-6 hours a night, 5-6 days a week!

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Samuell Grand Amphitheater – Image via Source

Jenna: What an intense performance schedule, especially with Texas heat! How do the performers and staff prepare and manage? What do the performers do to warm up and get ready for show time?

Devin: Shakespeare in the Park is definitely something actors need to train for, much like an athlete! When we cast an actor who hasn’t performed with us before (such as Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Much Ado’s Beatrice), we like to give them tips and information on how to get ready for the summer season – drink a lot of water and start doing it now! Learn how to eat food that is filling but not heavy, and avoid dairy as it doesn’t tend to sit well in the heat. Where possible, pick up walking or jogging a few weeks before to increase your stamina in the heat.

We try to include pockets for ice packs in our heavier costumes, but it’s not always an option. The joy of the raised stage and outdoor venue, however, is that it’s usually possible to use lighter fabrics in the costuming than one would in clothing, even for the richer period pieces.

Fight and dance calls are usually held before the shows when necessary.

Jenna: How do you select which plays will be featured each season? How far ahead does the planning start?

Devin: The plays are chosen based on a number of considerations. We want to make sure the titles haven’t been produced too recently. You likely won’t see A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, or MacB anytime soon, as those were used in the last few years. There are actual note cards in Raphael’s office with the titles of Shakespearean plays and the years they were done. Interesting fact – we had toyed with the idea of doing The Tempest this year, which would have been a little awkward since that’s what Trinity Shakes is doing this year. 

It’s also important to make sure that the plays chosen will work well together. Two tragedies will make for a very depressing summer, but one emotional tragedy can be lightened significantly when put with a unique comedy (see 2013’s Pericles/Midsummer pairing). This year, we took a few risks and decided to place two comedies together for the summer, one of which was not written by Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing and Tartuffe by Molière. They are similar in style to fit being at a Shakespeare festival, yet different enough to not seem repetitive.

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Shakespeare Dallas Production of Tartuffe - 2014
Image via Source

Jenna: How are the costumes and scenery selected? How long does it take to build the sets?

Devin: The costumes and scenery are designed by professionals in the field after design meetings with the directors for the plays. Sometimes the directors have a very clear vision, and other times, it’s a little more loose. I believe the thematic description of Tartuffe this year was “Something bright, hip, and edgy!” which our costume designer translated into the gorgeous K-Pop infused, pre-Revolutionary France inspired costumes you see on stage this summer.

The sets vary, but usually about 6-8 weeks.

Jenna: What is your favorite performance from previous seasons? I thought some of the slow motion battle scenes in Cymbelline were amazing and really enjoyed Cyrano de Bergerac and Taming of the Shrew. Every show amazes and delights us; it’s hard to pick a favorite!

Devin: I am still head over heels for last year’s Pericles. The song Pericles (Seth Magill) and the Gaias sang that was reprised in the end by Marina (Andrea Flowers) still gets stuck in my head to this day. And I’ll admit I am growing quite a fondness for Tartuffe as well!

Jenna: What is the best part about working with Shakespeare in the Park?

Devin: It’s really great to work with the whole organization. Every day is different, and you can really step back and see things that you directly created. “If it weren’t for me, this structure wouldn’t exist” or “that school group wouldn’t have been able to see the show” or “all these actors wouldn’t get paid!” That last one is a little indirect – we will always find a way to pay our people first!

Thanks again to Devin, and Shakespeare in the Park, for all their hard work in the summer and year-round! If you want to see a show, check out their website (here) for details on tickets and other info on the season. If you’re interested in more behind-the-scenes info, check out this 5 minute video of the backstage area with Artistic Director, Raphael Parry. And for up-to-date information as well as some Q&As with some of the actors, check out the Shakespeare Dallas Facebook page.

June Flash Back

It’s always great to evaluate what you’ve learned and where you want to go next.  Each month, we’ll look back and recap what was posted.  Looking forward to where we will go next!

Feel like trying something new?  Check out some of the recipes featured this month:

Want to throw a party, get out on the town, experience something new?

Want to travel to a city or through time? Check out these posts: 

Black & White Tie – Photo Wall

For this recent black and white party, Heather and I wanted to incorporate photos of the happy couple into the decorations. Since we were going for a mix of clean and vintage, we decided on a large photo display inspired by vintage scrapbooks and yearbook pages. I love the movie 13 Going On 30 and had always been delighted by the boards the main character, Jenna Rink, made for her big pitch (you can see what I’m talking about in this post).

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This display is pretty inexpensive and very simple to put together.

Supplies

  1. 6-8 feet of wrapping paper in the color you desire
  2. Copies of your favorite pictures in 5×7 or 8×10 or both
  3. Metallic gold paper or poster board
  4. Foam core board (1-2 depending on how many pictures you want to use)
  5. Gold metallic confetti in 2 sizes
  6. Scissors, tape, Pencil, Glue Stick, Push Pins
  7. Photo Corner Template

Instructions

  1. Make copies of any photos you want to feature – I made most of them 5×7 with one 8×10.  Mount the photos on foam core board and add the faux photo corners to the top of the picture, allowing the photo corners to over hang the edges slightly to look more authentic and three dimensional.
  2. Unroll the wrapping paper on a table, counter, or the floor and play with the layout of your photos. Take a photo or make a sketch of the layout so you can mimic it on the wall.
  3. Hang your wrapping paper where you want the display to be. Measure up about 3 1/2 – 4 feet, this will be the bottom border of the display. Determine the highest point of your photo area – keep it within eye level. Feel free to cover more space with photos, this is what worked for our party with the desserts and drinks table in front.
  4. Attach all your photos to the wrapping paper. I’m sure you could use double-sided tape but I found that large Zots (sticky dots sold at craft stores) worked well. Attach any other elements – “50″ or other year, the name(s) of the guest(s) of honor, etc. Using a glue stick, start adding your confetti all over. Step back occasionally to see if you need to tweak the arrangement.
  5. You can also add written elements with paint pens.

Black & White Party Templates

 

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For another fun way to display photos at a party, check out this post!