Monday, October 20, 2014

You're A Good Man Charlie Brown... Really!

I directed my second show at Pentacle Theater this year... well... I guess it's my 5th show, but second show with me at the top of the list.  ;)  I directed You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  This was my second time directing this show (I directed many years ago during my college years).  I had a 7 member cast.  We rehearsed Monday through Thursday evenings throughout July and August.  This was tough because I needed to do tech nights at CET on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It worked out because dancing could be done on these evening and they could rehearse at the South Salem High school where I was minding the tech needs.  Still.  It was a little stressful to work on all the many projects at once this time around.
 As a kid, I used to think that Charles Schulz wrote the “Peanuts” comic strip for me. The characters were just like the kids I knew. Everything that they said and all the emotions they experienced were things we went through each day. It was funny, most definitely, but what I would come to realize is that Schulz was also able to capture life in all of its variety in just those few panels, and to make it universally appealing. That was the beauty of it all, and his valentine to the world. 

 My choice of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown for the 2014  Pentacle season was driven by a desire to bring the audience back to a familiar place and at the same time, and to challenge a small cast with an intimate classic show.  As the theater approached the 60th anniversary a light hearted comedy about finding lasting happiness seems a perfect fit.  I believed that You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown would be a perfect fit for the 2014 Pentacle Season. I believed You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown would draw in audiences and thus revenue.  Sadly, tickets sales did not reflect what I thought would be the reception of the show. 

 “Happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.” — Clark Glesner, playwright.

There is so much to appreciate about the Peanuts gang. But for me, I love the simplicity that is theirs and the deep value of friendships and — in a sense — family.

It’s hard not to like Peanuts, and even harder not to like You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Almost anyone can identify with Charlie Brown — the feeling of awkwardness, of never quite being in sync with the people around us and the fear that no matter how hard we try, things might never, ever, work out the way we want them to.

 But Charlie Brown also reminds us there’s a lot of happiness to be found in life, no matter how badly things may seem to go, and that true happiness can be found in relatively simple things. Nothing captures this better than the show’s finale: “Happiness is finding a pencil . . . learning to whistle . . . two kinds of ice cream . . . being alone every now and then. Happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.” It’s a nice message for today, when everything seems a little uncertain and scary and complicated.

When Charles Schultz died in February 2000, he left behind a hero who, despite his failings, never quits.

Because of its origin as a comic strip, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is regarded by some as a “kid’s show”. Most productions are aimed at or performed by younger actors and high school drama departments. But I believe there is much more to it — just as there is much more to the Peanuts comic strip. I see the value and universal appeal in the material and appreciate the opportunity to present our vision to you.
 I have the privilege of working with an incredible cast. Not only are they incredible in talent, but also in work ethic and enthusiasm for putting on a great show. They are supported by a talented and dedicated crew: our choreographer, lighting and set designers, costumer, musicians and apprentice director.

Wow!  Fantastic show! People missed out!  I laughed at every performance.  The show definitely tickled my funny bone.  I definitely had tons with this production. 


Here are a few things I have learn or been reminded of throughout the rehearsal process and the performances of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  Truly, this has been a fantastic experience for me.  I know that I have come through this experience a better person and I owe that to my cast and crew.

 1. It's okay to be afraid...just don't let your fears control you.

Charlie Brown often sat in alone and confessed his fears, but no matter how scared he was, he always did the things he wanted to do.  Throughout this process I’ve seen many of you drive through your fears and triumph.

 2. Persistence wins out.

Keep trying!  Charlie Brown often lost, failed at much, yet, he never gave up. Even though he knew the tree was going to eat his kite...Even though he knew his team would lose the ball game, he kept on trying.  I have loved watch you all trudge on.  The result? A show that is engaging and uplifting. This is exactly what we should keep in mind when faced with a stubborn dilemma — it never hurts to keep trying because eventually, persistence will pay off.  Case in point?  The blankets.  They will forever make me smile and are one of my favorite moments in the show.  Glad I held out for that idea!


 3. It's what you think of yourself that matters most.

Believe in yourself.  Linus carried a security blanket for years and his friends laughed at him. They also laughed at him because he believed in the "Great Pumpkin." Pigpen was a walking cloud of dust and dirt and was often regarded unkindly. Both characters, however, were always proud of themselves and believed they were as good as anybody else -- and they were right.  I have been inspired by you all as you have performed with confidence for houses far smaller than you deserve.

 4. Sometimes you need to talk.

One thing the "Peanuts" gang understood was the importance of talking things out. Whether leaning up against Schroeder's piano or atop the brick wall, they always had someplace to discuss what was of concern to them.  Somehow, sharing this human experience with others helps us all see that it’s ok to be “me.”

 5. Sometimes you need to listen.

Even crabby Lucy knew the importance of listening. She started the famous "Psychiatry Booth" where any and all could come and be heard.  One of my favorite moments in the show is when Lucy “listens” and makes a profound personal discovery.  This lesson is one of my greatest self improvements as well.
6. Do what you love to do.

Through all their adventures, Schroeder remained constant in his appreciation of Beethoven and his love of playing the piano. He loved to play piano and that's what he did, regardless of the circumstances. Charlie Brown flew his kite, played baseball and football, not just to win (he knew he wouldn't), but because he loved to do those things.  I do theater because it makes me happy.  I see in you that performing makes you happy.  Ah, the simple things. J 
7. It's important to have friends that care.

The "Peanuts" gang was made up of individual characters, each with their own foibles and talents, but through it all they were always there for each other.  I believe that friendship and a feeling of family is what brought this show together in the end.  Thank you for that.

8. Big dreams lead to big things!

Snoopy was the biggest dreamer of them all, but his wild imagination often led to even wilder, more fantastic adventures in real life. Snoopy knew that you must have a big dream if you are going to lead a big life.  Thank you for bringing my wild dreams to life (blankets, tap dancing, etc.). 
  
 9. Laugh every day!

While the kids themselves may not have seen the humor in the things they did, Schulz made sure that we did. Life is only as serious or as humorous as YOU make it...Lighten up. Go play softball. Fly a kite. Dance with your dog. Smile...it makes people wonder what you're up to.  Thank you for bringing a smile to my face every day for the past few weeks.

10. Let your imagination run wild.

 

Open your mind. Clouds from Snoopy: The Musical opens with “You know, if you use your imagination, you can see all sorts of things in the clouds” and as it progresses, everyone proceeds to tell each other what they see: “Caesar at the Rubicon!” “The landing of the pilgrims!” “The pyramid of Kufu.” “The fall of Rome!”  I saw the Red Baron… and a few choice symbols in the clouds. J To unlock our creativity, we must look at things from a fresh, new perspective.  Thank you for helping my run wild and for creating characters that were sympathetic and believable.


11. Don't sell yourself short.

 

Be all that you can be. 


12. Don't force yourself to let go if you can't.

 

Do it when you're ready.  My Blanket and Me illustrates the now iconic pairing of Linus and his blanket (in fact, the term “security blanket” was coined because of Linus and his fondness for his blanket). The Gang egg Linus about being a baby because he won’t let go of his blanket. Linus attempts independence from it then realizes that he can’t, but admits that he may outgrow it someday. And indeed he does, as we have seen in the later strips.

It’s foolish, I know it
I’ll try to outgrow it
But meanwhile
It’s my blanket…and me.


Letting go takes strength, determination and lots of time.  Each one of you had to “let go” and “play”… it took courage to let the inner child out… what cute little kid came to play!



13. Happiness can be found in the little things.

 

Know where to look. Happiness is a beautiful song.  We find our greatest happiness in any small thing, however mundane or ordinary, that makes you smile. Things like “Pizza with sausage”, “learning to whistle”, “knowing a secret” and ultimately, as the Peanuts cast realizes,

Happiness is anything or anyone at all that’s loved by you.


I love this show.  I love my cast and crew. My heart is heavy that we did not have the opportunity to touch more hearts and imaginations yet my heart is full that I can add all of them to my “family.”

 

Thanks for the ride guys.












































And finally... my amazing friend and Apprentice Director is famous for her gnomes.  She made these gnomes for the cast.  I have yet to get a gnome though.... hmmm... Dani?