The Best Job Ever

By Jason Allen-Forrest, Assistant to the Chair

When Melia Bensussen and Rob Orchard met to discuss commissioning local playwrights for a short play festival as part of the Paramount’s opening weekend festivities, I knew that something exciting was happening.  Even more exciting was the knowledge that I was going to help organize the initial events for the playwrights.

Getting to meet with these talented artists, was one of the highlights of my own theatrical journey.  Chatting with them at the initial event, working with them on research for their pieces, helping to connect them to the directors all conspired to make a busy and exciting summer.

An even greater thrill was the opportunity to be in one of the pieces!  I was lucky enough to be working on a piece that allowed me the opportunity to watch and learn from five extraordinary women.

My piece was Jack Neary’s Casting Amanda and I had the joy of watching director, Kristen van Ginhoven (Emerson Alum and Adjunct Faculty) and Stage Manager, Marissa Robinson (Emerson Undergrad) move us through rehearsals and guiding the creation of our little family.

It was a hoot working on this riotous piece and a master class getting to watch Faculty members Amelia Broome and Kathleen Donohue and Undergrad Lindsey Hamby-Real create their characters and play with each other to bring this delightful play to life.  I felt truly blessed being part of this talented group.

I had no idea that my blessings were soon to increase. As we drew closer to the opening weekend, I ended up being cast in two additional pieces. John AEkoje’s Auditioning for Mary (directed by Staff member SiouxSanna Ramirez-Cruz) and Larry Coen’s 9 Circles of the Inferno (directed by Faculty member Maureen Shea).  I was now popping up in 3 Pop-Ups.

It was a gloriously busy week of rehearsals, technical rehearsals and performances.  I had the pleasure of working with my amazing colleagues, the talented students (both on and back stage), the folks in ArtsEmerson and the joy of the community’s response to this wonderful event.

I am truly grateful that I have a job that I enjoy. I mean, where else would I get the opportunity to perform and be intimately involved with the production of a short play festival in a newly renovated theatrical institution?! I’m blessed everyday that I have a job that allows me the opportunity to learn and grow as an artist.  Working in the Performing Arts Department at Emerson is truly the best job ever!

Stardate 10/12/10

Howdy Partners!   Today I am going to tell you about the magical world of the Shriner Fez.   Thanks to Scott Pinkney, I have an actual Shriner hat to use as a model.  Want to see it?  Of course you do!!

Original Fez from the Pickney Family Archives.

So that’s the look I am going for.  This is what I am starting with:

Isn't it lovely?

Since I can’t embroider directly onto the Fez,  well I could but I might have to overcome a law of physics or two.  I am using our lovely machine to embroider on a matching felt, then I will stitch it onto the Fezzes.  (Is that the plural of Fez? Would they be Fezi?)

Here’s the template which I am using to line up the stitching:


And here’s the start of the process with the logo:

It's getting Shriner-y!!

Now I have been looking at fonts to find the perfect letters.  Luckily I have an embroidery program that can turn TrueType Fonts into embroiderable letters.    Did you want to see the finished product?   Well then you are just going to have to see Light up the Sky.

Here’s our lovely embroidery machine,  I call her Novi.  The shot was photobombed by Mr. Pricklepants.  He’s such a ham. Tune in next week to see what havoc Mr. Pricklepants causes when he attempts to tie dye his leiderhosen!

The Director’s POV: Bill Fennelly

By Bill Fennelly

What a week! I am just back home in NYC after an incredible week at Emerson. Casting and Meetings, Meetings, Meetings: Design meetings, Creative Concept meetings, Casting Meetings and Dramaturgy meetings! It was exhilarating!!!

First of all we have just announced an amazing cast. I was blown away by the level of talent and preparedness of the Emerson students and in particular the Music Theater majors. NINE deals with very sophisticated issues of identity, relationships and sexuality but it also has a real sense of humor. The students did incredible work in the auditions and I watched so many of them have astonishing discoveries and make big fearless choices (and I wish you all could have been in the room with Jon Goldberg, our fabulous Music Director and me as all 10 Women called back for Carla, Guido’s mistress, came in and one by one sang the delicious and naughty “Call From the Vatican” each one giving a brilliant sexy-comic performance that had me regularly blushing and laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face).

I also could not be happier or more proud of the design team. I am so impressed with their level of taste and sophistication. I am also thrilled at how well they communicate with each other and understand the importance and cross-pollination effect of collaboration. I will be back in Boston next week for two marathon days of “formatting.” Formatting is a process I learned while assisting Des McAnuff on the creation of JERSEY BOYS. It is a process of putting the creative team in the room together prior to rehearsals to collaboratively work through the production moment by moment. This becomes especially important with a show like NINE where the approach is highly conceptual and takes place “in the mid of the artist.”  I will share more design information once it is final….but I am very excited about where we are.

The dramaturgy discussion are off to an exciting start. I spent two days with Dramaturg Gina Le Donne discussing Freud, Jung and Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development. I shared with Gina my strong belief that dramaturgy needs to empower the acting company and creative team with “playable” information; theory, ideas and facts that can produce action and behavior. I have also shared with her my process of for text analysis and Liz Lerman’s process called TOWARDS A PROCESS FOR CRITICAL RESPONSE (if you don’t know what this is check it out it will change your life…I’m not kidding)

Finally, I want to thank Stage Manager Cait Powers and Assistant Director Michael Bello for their amazing support and organization this week!!!

Here we go……………………..!!!

State of the Season – Oct 8

By Tyler York

It’s time for my weekly snapshot of the state of the Emerson Stage season. As I reported last week in my State of the Season post, we have three shows in rehearsal and a fourth, NINE, had just been cast. We can now add a fifth production: THE GOLDEN AGE, which has also been cast. Hooray!

Speaking of casting, auditions for X DANCE 2011 take place tonight! Artistic Director Marlena Yannetti and the five fantastic student choreographers will watch the physical feats of auditioning students to cast their pieces. Talk about the need for collaboration.

Today’s production meeting for LIGHT UP THE SKY was notable as it was the final Friday meeting until post-performance. Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of meetings between now and Opening Night (Oct 21 in the Paramount Theatre), they will just happen at the end of rehearsals rather than Friday mornings. If there is one thing to do during the final two weeks leading up to performances, it would be to communicate as much and as often as possible. This is the time that all the pieces come together and it takes a lot of coordination on everyone’s part to make the process smooth and efficient.

For example, the question was raised about the possibility of shifting a door in the set six inches further onstage. Doesn’t seem like a major issue, right? It is when that move, as small as it is, could affect other pieces of the set: Is there still enough room for the piano? What about the placement of the parrot?, lighting: Will the lights be focused on the right spot? Shadows?, projections: Does it affect the placement of the screen?, and stage blocking: Can the actors still move where they need to go? Any new obstacles to overcome? Luckily, the LIGHT UP THE SKY production team is top notch and all of these concerns will be expertly addressed.


Tyler York is the Assistant to the General Manager of Emerson Stage and an alum of Emerson’s BFA Stage/Production Management program.

Be Our GuESt: Bill Fennelly

By Tyler York

The production team of NINE is led by guest director, Bill Fennelly, who has been called “one of the nation’s hottest young stage directors.”

When someone carries a label as impressive as that, I tend to want to know more about them. So I set off on a Google search and started chatting with Emerson students and staff to do just that with Bill. I found out that he has worked extensively as a director on productions in New York City, across the country on National Tours, and in regional theaters and opera houses.

His work in opera includes three seasons as the staff director at New York City Opera. As a former employee of Boston Lyric Opera and a new opera-devotee, I was particularly excited about his work there…

On Broadway, Bill was the Assistant Director to Des McAnuff on JERSEY BOYS (2006 Tony Award Winner!). Coincidentally, the tour of JERSEY BOYS will be stopping in Boston [again] from December 16 to January 30, just a few days after the performances of NINE, which performs December 9-12.

I also discovered an interesting tie Bill has to our production of LIGHT UP THE SKY. He received the Moss Hart Award from the New England Theatre Conference for his direction of BIRD BOY at Hartford Children’s Theatre. The award is, of course, named in honor of Moss Hart, the playwright of LIGHT UP THE SKY, the inaugural production of our 2010-2011 Season and the first Emerson Stage production in the newly reopened Paramount Theatre.

Clearly, Bill has much to offer Emerson’s students. His directing, paired with the musical direction of the most talented Jon Goldberg and choreography of the illustrious Stephen Terrell, is sure to result in an unbelievable performance. The Greene Theater won’t know what hit it!


Tyler York is the Assistant to the General Manager of Emerson Stage and an alum of Emerson’s BFA Stage/Production Management program.