Archive for June, 2010


Patrons and friends often ask us at the theatre about actors, directors and others who have worked at the theatre in the past, but whose work they haven’t seen lately. Often we do keep up with many of our past folks that have moved on to other places and other projects. Whenever possible we try to even get out of town to see some of their new projects. As a special feature on this blog, I would like to monthly feature one such person whom we have been asked about and let you know what they are up to these days in a new column I call “Five Questions with [Insert the Name of Your Favorite Past SCT Performer Here].”

This month I am thrilled to start this column off with a dear friend and colleague, Kyle Dean Massey. Besides currently appearing on Broadway, you can also catch Kyle singing, dancing and backing up the legendary Liza Minnelli in the recent film Sex and the City 2. Here are my five questions with Kyle Dean.

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Kyle Dean Massey

RPD: Kyle, many of our audience members may remember you from your performances on the Vandivort stage at the Emcee in CABARET or as a member of the cast of the Sondheim revue PUTTING IT TOGETHER. Other’s may remember your wonderful turn as Tom Wingfield in Springfield Little Theatre’s production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE. What exciting theatrical projects have you been up to lately?

KDM: For the last year I’ve been performing on Broadway as Gabe in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical NEXT TO NORMAL.

RPD: Your current performance in NEXT TO NORMAL is so much different that that of Aaron Tveit who originated the role. What can you tell us about that process of taking over a role in an existing production? How much room were you given in a short rehearsal span to find the role for yourself and not just imitate what Tveit was doing?

KDM: Well, being a replacement is difficult in that you usually have about 2 weeks to learn your role. And oftentimes you’re replacing someone who has been involved with the show for years.  So it’s great in those situations to have a preexisting “model” from which to work.  With that being said, it also gives you the freedom to say, “Hey, that’s been done and explored…what if I tried this?”  All roles have a set of boundaries that you have to work within.  And it’s really about finding ways that you connect with each scene and each character that makes it your own.

RPD: Can you explain to my readers the extra challenges that you face on the road as a part of a national tour that may vary from being a part of an off-Broadway or Broadway production in New York?

KDM: Besides the obvious hardships of being separated from loved ones, being on the road can be difficult because it can sometimes act like a trap.  In this business you’re always looking for what’s next. Even starring on Broadway I still have at least 4 auditions a week.  And when you’re on the road it is very difficult to get back and forth to New York for auditions.  And it’s nearly impossible to get a new job if you don’t audition.  When I was on the road I would make whirlwind trips to New York City and back in a single day.  It’s exhausting; but it’s something you have to do if you don’t want to be doing the same show for years and years.  For me that’s the essence of creativity, being a performer and being an artist: always trying your hand at new things.

What most people end up doing is just leave a show on the road to pursue new employment.  But that can also be a struggle because performers on the road, especially ensemble performers, make a significantly larger amount of money on the road than on Broadway.  So leaving that can be a hard and sometimes scary thing to do.  And that’s the challenge.  In New York, your gig on Broadway becomes your “day job”. And at the end of the day you get to go home to your loved ones.

RPD: Would you mind telling us what an average week in the life of a Broadway actor these days entails?

KDM: Ha!  Okay.  Straight from this week’s calendar.  When is that day off?

Kyle Dean Massey in NEXT TO NORMAL on Broadway at the Booth Theatre

MONDAY
Noon: Wake UP!
1:30pm: Gym.
4:00: On-camera interview for BROADWAY PREVIEWS (the previews of Broadway shows that play in hotel room and planes in New York City).
7:30: Call time at theatre for evening show.
10:30: Receive backstage guests.
10:45: Onstage talkback to theatre students.
11:15: Home for dinner.
Midnight: Rehearse sides for audition tomorrow.
2:00am: Bedtime

TUESDAY
8:00am: Wake UP!
10:00:  Call time for press photo shoot.  Makeup/wardrobe/breakfast.
11:00: On set for shoot.
Noon: Break for lunch.
1:00pm: Audition for new Brad Pitt film MONEY BALL.
2:00: Gym.
3:00: Rehearsal for Joe’s Pub Concert happening on Wednesday.
5:30: End of rehearsal.
6:00: Company meeting at theatre.
6:30:  Call time at theatre for evening show.
9:30: End of show.
10:00: Finish signing autographs.
10:30: Home for dinner.
11pm-2am:  Rehearse new music for concert, read script and learn sides for audition tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY
[Editor’s Note: Wednesday is NEXT TO NORMAL’s single weekly day off of performances. However, this is the schedule for Kyle’s “day off.”]
9:00am: Wake UP!
9:30: At home rehearsing for Joe Pub’s concert/audition.
1:00pm: Audition for HBO pilot.
3:00: Back home for more rehearsal.
5:30:  Rehearsal with band at venue for concert.
6:30: Press photos for Playbill and BroadwayWorld covering concert.
6:45:  Meet & Greet with VIP ticket holders.
7:00: BROADWAY IMPACT SUMMER CONCERT SERIES featuring the Broadway cast of NEXT TO NORMAL. [Editor’s Note: Check out this clip from the concert.]
9:00: End of concert.
9:15:  Meet friends for dinner…YAY!
10:45:  Home to rehearse/research for audition tomorrow.
3:00am: Bed.

THURSDAY
8:30am: Wake UP!
9:30: Review audition material.
10:30: Leave for GOSSIP GIRL audition.
Noon:  Lunch!
3:00pm:  Attend special reading presentation of Broadway-bound musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
6:00:  End of reading.
6:15: Nap in dressing room at theatre.
7:15: Coffee & showtime!
10:30: End of show, get notes from director.
11:00: Finished signing autographs/head home.
11:30: Eat.
Midnight: Glance at material for Monday’s audition
3:00am: Bed.

FRIDAY
11:30am: Wake UP!
All day:  Drop off laundry, finally cook something, spend time with lonely dog and catch up on a week’s worth of e-mail & fan mail.
6:30:  Head to work.
10:30: End of show.
11:00:  End of autograph line, head home.
11:30: Eat. Watch Top Chef from three weeks ago.
2:00am: Bed.

SATURDAY
10:30am: Wake UP!
12:30pm: Head to work for first show.
4:30: End of first show, sign autographs, gym, eat.
7:00: Back at work for second show.
10:30: End of second show.
11:00: Finish signing autographs, head home.
11:30: Eat…. and look over those audition sides…again.
2:30am: Bed.

Kyle Dean Massey in the Springfield Contemporary Theatre production of PUTTING IT TOGETHER.

SUNDAY
10:30am: Wake UP!
11:15:  Leave for BROADWAY CLASSROOM WORKSHOP.
Noon:  Meet with theatre students who will be seeing NEXT TO NORMAL at the matinee.
2:30pm:  Call time for first show.
5:30:  End of first show…. no autographs today… too tired.  Grab food.  Work on material for audition tomorrow.
6:30:  At theatre for second show.
10:00:  End of second show.
10:30:  Finish signing autographs.
11:00:  Meet friends!
2am: Head home & bed.

RPD: Was there anything about your Springfield theatre experience that prepared you for the life in the professional theatre that you have achieved thus far?

KDM: Oh yes!  I was always doing something in Springfield!  And that’s what was so wonderful: having the opportunity to do so much!  If I wasn’t doing something with the university there was the Springfield Regional Opera, The Landers & The Vandivort to keep me busy!

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Thanks so much Kyle Dean for taking the time to share with my readers. Whew! Didn’t that schedule just wear you out to read it?

For more information on things Kyle has been up to between leaving Springfield and his current role in NEXT TO NORMAL. Check out Kyle’s bio on Playbill.com or visit his website.

Opening a show is an all consuming endeavor. This is something I can never forget. However, this is taken to an even higher level when you are running a theatre company with a tiny, tiny staff. My intention was to be blogging twice per week and I’ve already missed two entries.

This weekend we are opening Ray Cooney’s door-slamming farce OUT OF ORDER. Likely, if you are reading this I’m going to assume that you are aware of what we have going on at the theatre. This won’t be a platform for directly trying to encourage you to buy tickets. Though I might likely offer you a different insight into our productions.

The decision to change the setting or location of a play is a decision that no director or artistic director should take likely. The decision to do so with our current production came after much deliberation. For me the key elements that should be considered are best outlined in Terry McCabe’s book Mis-Directing the Play: An Argument Against Contemporary Theatre. McCabe sets forth that a director’s job is to clarify plot, character and thought and otherwise to stay out of the way of the playwright’s creation. The major offense a director can make, according to McCabe, is to use directing as a platform for making personal statements at the expense of the text.

Whitney Ice, David Crossley and Maxine Whittaker in Springfield Contemporary Theatre's production of OUT OF ORDER.

Mr. Cooney wrote OUT OF ORDER in the early 90’s as a political farce set against the landscape of the end of Margaret Thatcher’s term in office. Richard Willey, a conservative member of Parliament who is described as Ms. Thatcher’s lapdog, is having an affair with Neil Kinnock’s secretary. At the time Kinnock was the Leader of the Opposition and was known for frequently attacking Thatcher’s stances. While the politics of the play are the backdrop against which the mechanisms of British sex farce are set, in order to truly understand what is at stake in this play and what might drive these characters to such extremes you have to have knowledge of the politics behind the key characters.

As we were discussing producing Cooney’s outrageously hilarious script which is one of the funniest plays I had read in some time, we had to consider whether our audiences would remember the specifics of twenty-year-old English politics…and in the case of some of our younger audiences if they would know these central figures at all. For that reason, we felt we would be serving the best interests of the production and the playwright’s intent with the play by bringing these references into modern day politics. While British farce is inherently British, David Rice, the director of OUT OF ORDER has done a magnificent job of translating this piece into the world of Washington politics. This play will now please our audiences to the level that it originally pleased the Brits two decades ago.

Welcome to this new departure for not only for Springfield Contemporary Theatre, but also myself. So why might you ask does someone working in New York take a year off from his life to return to Springfield, Missouri to help helm a small Midwestern theatre company? The answer to such a question is multi-faceted and honestly wouldn’t interest most people. So at some point, we’ll cross that bridge and address that question. For now let’s address what I’m doing now that I have returned to Missouri. This will likely cover several entries.

Let’s start with the basics…there are many who still have the question, “What is Springfield Contemporary Theatre? And what happened to our beloved/adored/despised/(insert your own adjective) Vandivort Center Theatre?” Well, here’s the important thing to know. Nothing has happened to the Vandivort Center Theatre. It’s still on Walnut Street in downtown Springfield where you remember it being for the past 15 years. (Can you believe it’s already been fifteen years?!?!?) Here’s the scoop though. A new non-profit producing umbrella called Springfield Contemporary Theatre has been formed as the producing organization behind the Vandivort Center Theatre.

Why, pray tell, would such a producing organization be necessary you might ask? To put it in the simplest way possible, the cost of producing theatre has gone up. This is a phenomena that theaters everywhere are facing. From the rent for our facilities to the licensing fees we have to pay to present the shows we put on to the cost of building materials used in the sets on stage. It’s all going up. Well, in a basic business model, what do you do when the costs of production go up? Well, you raise the prices you charge for your product or service. If our ticket prices truly reflected the increasing cost of doing business, our tickets would be selling for around $30-$32. In most cities to see a show at a theatre our size, this is the price you would likely pay for a ticket. However, we understand that our patrons are not used to paying this much to see live theatre and we want live theatre to remain an integral part of their lives.

So how do we make that happen? Well, there is only so much belt tightening that can be done. So now we’re on to the next stage. By creating a not-for-profit umbrella to produce the shows we put on stage, other doors open up to us to locate the necessary funding to keep presenting quality theatre for our amazingly low prices. Truly, we are able to cover 60-70% of our production and operating expenses through ticket sales and consumer revenue. It will still take other forms of funding to be able to cover the remaining balance and continue the caliber work we have done over the past 15 years.

So that’s what this season is all about for us. An internal restructuring as it were. From the outside, I know our patrons will continue to see the great theatre they’ve come to expect at the Vandivort. Honestly, this season we have the opportunity to blow our patrons away by raising the bar from the work we’ve done in the past. Though behind the scenes we will be working hard to build a framework that will help secure the organization in order that it can be around for many, many seasons to come.

So what can you expect in this blog…I think this is going to be a great chance to look behind the curtain. We’re going to explore what goes into making an organization such as this tick. I will likely talk about ideas that are in the works. How we get a production from early planning to the stage. We’ll take a look back at some of the theatre’s greatest moments and people. Hopefully through your feedback we will figure out exactly and specifically what has made us great in the past so that we make sure not to loose any of those wonderful qualities as we continue to be leaders in the local Springfield theatre community.

I think we have some interesting ground to cover this year… tune in. Let us know what you’re thinking. We are making something great here.