The Journey of a Great Production – Hour Farther by David H. Greer

I had first met David when I produced Jacques Lamar’s play Gray Matters back in 2010, but I had forgotten that until he reminded me upon meeting him in January of 2013 to ask if Emerson Theater Collaborative would do a reading of his play Hour Farther.  And so the story goes on August 16th, 2013 was the first official reading of the play called Hour Farther by David H. Greer.

The cast of characters: Victor, Young Victor, The Twin, Walter, Janet, Uncle Chester, James, Rev Love Joy, Granddaddy, Grandmother, The Admin Lady, The WallStreet Banker, and The Seattle Trucker. All of these characters are unique in their own way. Each providing something necessary to tell the story of Victor. A Young boy in search of his biological father.

We use a great cast of local actors for the initial reading in 2013. This allowed the playwright David H. Greer to flush out the particulars for a re-write. And re-write he did. All of these very important people would come to life for the October 2014 production. But first we needed to do another reading with a whole new cast.

Hence we come to January 18th, 2014 at the First United Methodist Church taking up residence in the Green room where the perfect stage awaited us.

The cast was as follows:

1. E Roger Mitchell (The Hunger Games) was the lead of this reading of Hour Farther. (Walter, Poopie, Black Boy, The WallStreet Banker, and The Seattle Trucker)

2. Elijah Manning (Victor and The Twin) A superb Norwalk CT actor, whose rendition you will come to know.

3.  Jamal Neal Davis (Young Victor) an amazing young man with great acting skills. Menelik Nesmith became young victor for the production in October 2014, what an amazing young actor from New London, CT.

4. Derrick Williams (Grandaddy, Rev Love Joy and Uncle Chester) a very talented actor, musician, singer and all around great guy.

5. Nichelle Rollins (Janet, Admin Lady and Grandmother) A delightful comedic actor from New London, CT

The Emerson Theater Collaborative did two readings in January 2014. To standing room only crowds. I had never seen anything like it. All the pieces fell into place and the feedback was just what we needed to do some re-writes. May came and the scripts went out for review by the actors and producer.  But wait we planned on a October production hoping that E-Roger was to be with us, but that wasn’t to be for he went on to bigger and great things like the Selma film with Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey. Yes, That’s right!

So what we had to do is an emergency hire, and we relied on no one other than chapman Roberts to find us the right person for the moment. Kirk Taylor came on board to create the characters of (Walter, James, The WallStreet Banker and The Seattle Trucker) – Playing opposite the best Victor the Emerson Theater Collaborative could find. Elijah Manning gave a new meaning to the words character development. Hour Farther’s director Camilla Ross saidElijah’s rendition of victor was both riveting and impressive all in one. If I had to hire one actor to play many roles it would be Elijah Manning. Hands down!  He performed some of the best work I have seen in a long time.  Derrick Williams came to the table with skills that are unmatched. He was by far the best actor for Rev LoveJoy. He just shined in that role. He made to play so much more than Joy. The play’s themes and content were heavy. We needed something to lighten up the mood for a bit so we choose to add Emily Handy to the cast as the Saxophone player giving her rendition of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World at the top of the show. It made the initial production pleasant and I really enjoyed the moment of the opening of the play so much more.  Menelik Nesmith – was an amazing Young victor for the productions in Mystic, CT and New London CT. And a reading in NYC. I was just awed by his skill and talent. I am so honored to be able to work with such talent. And they were local too! Jabreel Mawry from Broadway’s Motown played Young victor for the second New York City Reading on November 3rd, 2014. What a talent! So thankful for his rendition of young Victor. Kirk’s Poopie was well executed and fun to watch. Nichelle Rollins’ Admin Lady was delightful to watch and Anika came to life simply and with fun in tow.

Hour Father 5The collaboration of this production – was essential. The Sound Cues had to be just the right mix. Time… keeping time and staying with the time theme was important. The Set was created by me – Camilla Ross keeping with that theme of family and time. (See images of set and play) I wanted something that would resonate with everyone. So the image of the sycamore became the backdrop of the play. With the three phases of the day – Morning, Noon and Nigh time painted behind that Sycamore. Keeping with the less is more theme a local painter was hired to paint the backdrop in the vision of the set designer – Camilla Ross. And what a set it was. All things stationary except for the pulpit and grave stone. Three areas representing life at various stages.  (The House, The Road, The Kitchen, The church, The Office) flash backs depicting history at its worst, and resting in a place that all could perhaps come to some understanding of the period of slavery. As Victor tells the story from his point of view, It all becomes real, and raw for the eyes, and truth comes to the table in real time. Bringing you into experience the pain of Victor, and then coming to terms with his truth. The ticking of the clock symbolized so many things in this production. Yes, did I mention there was a lot of symbolism in this play?

There is no I in the word team – that has always been something that I believed in. However of course we will always have one or two who think that doesn’t apply to them. And that we did… and I suspect that the universe gave me a teaching moment. Keeping it about the playwright and his story and how we told that to the public was my primary focus. Allowing my actors to be actors and giving them a say on how the story was told was important. Guiding the actors, and giving them the opportunity  to make choices – not telling them what do. “I didnt want puppets on my stage.” I wanted actors who knew how to create real and raw characters, and who understood how to transition into each character they played effectively.

Did someone say transitions?  There were some complex transitions in this piece but sometimes I feel professional actors could learn from the non-professional actors a thing or two about character development and transition.  During my research over the years as an actor I have discovered this tactic could apply to so many shows that I have seen done and watching others rehearsal practices.  Transitions can be hard at times – but listening to a director can help you make it through. They may not tell you everything do but they will guide you and its up to you the actors to make the right choice.

The Emerson Theater Collaborative has a process that works best when producing. We take a risk, but we believe in the actors ability to create, and thus the risk we take becomes affective. WE believe in the process of acting!

As a director – This was probably one of the most challenging pieces to date that I have put a large investment into. The story spoke to me. It allowed me to heal and come to terms with some of the things in my personal life that had been pulling at me for years. It freed me so to speak. (My Directors/Producers note speaks to this) 

The Lighting beautifully done by Roy Bourque help bring the moments to life – The Red lighting helping to symbolize the burning of the house, The Blue lighting to help with the changing of the Twin.  The lighting was affective.  Stephanie LaPointe brought her time and talent as the Stage Manager to bring it all full circle.  Bringing in the gifted and talented has its rewards – Victoria Gordon showed some backstage skills….now lets see what she shows the world when she matures into who she is really going to be.

I tried to keep the focus on the work at hand and the success of Hour Farther was in the writing and the actors that brought it to life and were able to move people to a call to action. They left the theater moved, because they were not expecting the level of emotion from the piece. I am very proud of this piece of work. I put my heart into it and David trusted me as a director/producer to give the piece what it needed.  The comment cards were essential in this process. Getting the playwright  the feedback he needed for re-writes was so important. We took the play to NYC twice October 6th and November 3rd, 2014 to get  more perspectives. The best thing we could have done. What an experience!  Thank you Chapman Roberts for that gracious hosting at the Ellington Room. And getting us a new edition to our cast of Hour Farther. Jabreel Mawry! (Of Motown!!!)

The October 3 – 5, 2014 (Mystic CT) and the October 25 – 26 (New London CT) run of Hour Farther was a success because of the collaborative efforts of so many people.

The First United Methodist church in Mystic giving us the space to create truth and social change. The Black Stars of the Great White Way, (A Chapman Roberts Concept) The Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art, Kristina Jordan, David H. Greer, The ETC Board of Directors, Cast and Crew all came together to create something magical. The countless volunteers, Leola Wilkerson, Film Director Hans Hartman, Understudy Todd Sherrod, Ok3 Photography (Jack Ross) for the great photos. Thank you to Miracle Temple for allowing us to use the space for the New London Performance’s. Debbie Pento our Social media FB diva! Jody Kay Riordan – My Go to lady of year! I can’t thank my patrons, sponsors and donors enough.  – The Puffin Foundation, The Hartford Foundation of Public Giving, State of CT – DECD, Bowdenwein BF, thank you and all our donors that help us get to where we needed to be. The Mystic, New London, and NYC Support was just amazing!

Opening Night 6

Playwright David H. Greer and Director Camilla Ross

Dennis Sirrine Gallery (Velvet Mill Studios) for hosting our Meet and Greet for the public! Adiba, Jabreel’s mom was just awesome allowing him to partake in this journey with us. We couldn’t have done this with out you. Thank you again for allowing Menelik to be a part of this journey with us. Menelik – thank you for coming on board of ETC and making this experience for a pure joy. Ciara Rollins having you in the same space during rehearsal was so awesome. Thank you for always speaking your truth. And speaking for those who at times can’t speak. Kayla Barfield and Shane Renfro did an amazing job on the new image for the production. As a director I gave them all the things I wanted to see on the flyer and they brought it to life. I said to kayla… ” I want a clock under his feet and leaves coming from his head” They gave me that and more! I am thankful for them! Thank you MFF for all of it. You have anchored me. To my son Joseph who continues to believe in me for being just who I am his mom. You are the light of my world and your heart is beautiful. Thank you for being an amazing son!  My sustaining force of creation comes in the desire to please my creator – God/dess in all that I do I honor you. Thank you!

As this journey continues: We embark on visits to Cincinnati, Kentucky, Hartford and where ever the wind takes us. Hour Farther is going places and I can only see it ending up in one place. So move over Broadway and make room for an amazing piece of theater. Hour Farther by David H. Greer Broadway bound!

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Mr. Gordon and Young Victor

Hour Father 2

Janet (Mom) and Young Victor

Hour Farther Meet and Greet Flyer copy-1

King of Beasts: Aesop’s Fables

Welcome to the Summer of 2013 – King of Beasts: Aesop’s Fables, written and directed by Bob Gautreau.

This summer we have some amazing children working with us. A lot of new ones and a few seasoned one’s. The processed is a well organized machine this summer -
We have a great director, Producer, Stage Manager, Set Designers, Lighting Designer, Amazing Volunteers, Costumes are complete just putting the finishing touches on
a musical that is both funny and has a message. Just my kind of show!

We have taken on children in this program and have allowed them to focus on what their needs are. It’s not easy in a world where no one listens to them.  They are included in the process entirely from beginning to end.  They are the program!

Our job as summer staff is to focus on the needs of each and every child, adult and volunteer. We are a family of people who actually really enjoy what we do.

I am deeply grateful for the amazing weeks we have been given thus far. The process has been a labor of love and understanding.

For the first time I have felt like
I could leave a project to itself and watch it take on a new direction of it’s own. I am gently guiding those who are in charge of the summer program so that they learn to lead
with a sense of love, compassion and understanding for each and every child in the program.

I have been facebook-ing these final days for the children.  See posting in my thoughts of the week post

We are always looking for new people to add to the family of fun!

Each year we choose and original play to produce with our kids during the summer Youth Theater.

Thank you for all things well!

Camilla

Illustration by Kayla Barfield

Illustration by Kayla Barfield

You are Worthy a missed post

There is so much that I want to say about my life leading up to this weekend’s Suicide prevention awareness forum called I Am Worthy.  How many people in our world today actually feel like they are worthy? I really don’t want to answer that question because I know it would be to many to count.

These past few months have been some busy months for me.  However they are months that I wouldn’t change. Spending time with friends and family have been great, but the time I have spent with myself has been priceless.  

Recreating my childhood memories, the good ones and the bad has allowed me to come full circle in knowing who I really am.  Accepting the ability in my disability and accepting the Aspergers in me.  Accepting me for me. 

 The struggles of my childhood are far behind me today but I remember them just the same. I don’t want to forget them. I want to learn as much as I can from them and teach as much as I can about them. Why? ( Someone may ask) I say why not? I never want another child on the spectrum to feel the way I felt.  I want each child to feel they are worth all the gold the world has to offer.

The times I spent fishing with my dad are the times I felt secure in being me. I didn’t need to pretend because he knew and love me. Just for me.  For in the silence and the calmness of fishing there were moments when I felt I could have moved a mountain. Even when others couldn’t see it.

The dreadful school days are no more. I love school now! Because I get to teach with creativity, compassion and excitement about life in a whole new way. It’s called MY WAY!

I am so glad to be different. If I only knew then what I know now. So many of us say… Well I am glad that I know it now because the rest of my life is going to be grand.  How I see the world today, tomorrow and forever more will be t he way I want to see it. Not the way someone else WANTS me to see it. I don’t have to conform to their way of thinking, and nor do I want to. I am free to be me.  I Am Worthy to be ME!

Please join me for the I Am Worthy Suicide Prevention Project with the production of , by Josh Rivedal at Union Baptist Church 119 High Street. Mystic CT 06355 April 5th -7th, 2013. You’ll be glad you did. 

Come and celebrate the Emerson Theater Collaborative’s 5th Birthday on Sunday April 7th at 4pm. It’s worthy it!

Peace,

Camilla AKA Harriet Tubman

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Now is the time! Suicide Prevention is needed!

As a mother, educator, activist, and community member I am very ANGRY of what happened in Sandybrook Elementary School in Newton CT.  That beautiful town that I once lived in has has lost its innocent and is shattered. There have been many nights that I have been unable to sleep for being uncomfortable about the lack of urgency for this epidemic. The words I have spoken about suicide prevention and mental health have come full circle and it’s frightening.

My journey has not been one of ease, but one of compassion for another human being. As I have travel through life, watching loved ones; friends and others leave this world too soon due to metal illness and other issues that could have been prevented if only someone would listen.  Our congressional leaders are also responsible for helping to change what needs to be changed. Stand up with us and take a stand for mental illness, and ask our leaders to provide the funding necessary.

As a producer of theater for social change I have been working with a partner to bring to light more awareness about suicide prevention.  I have been living, breathing and fighting this battle for so long that it has become engrained in me. There are so many Americans who are battling with mental health issues that it’s staggering. 

We continue to PATCH the wound instead of find the solution to the problem. WE are all accountable and responsible for this plight.  Countless lives of babies, and adults were lost because we fail to provide the necessary services for our families and its children.

We have failed as parents, neighbors and communities because we are not tending to our duties as good citizens. Our duty is to love and help one another. It’s time to STOP and go back to our values of respecting one another and help those who are in need.

Our Project I AM WORTHY addresses the issues of Suicide in away that educates and brings people together. Please support our project  I am worthy and help us support our communities.

I am thankful to our President who is ever-present in times of great need.

May we find a moment to pray, hug our children and one another.

Peace,

Camilla

 

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