Post-First 100 Days’ Drama

Seems like it has been a long time since I last wrote anything of substance. This piece likely won’t have a lot of substance, but rather ramblings of words meant to be written and never were.
This will be a slight shift to all-things-dramatic as I write my opinions on current events. Please, do not rebut in a rude manner. As written here, these are my opinions, they do not have to be anyone else’s. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. My years on this earth and observances of events merit permission to write as does our constitution. My views are my own. It is not my intention to start quarrels or debates. Read it, like it or not, then move on. — MLM

Politics
Can Be Dramatic

When I was growing up in the 50-60’s I remember presidents such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and in later years, Jimmy Carter. They were not all great. You will notice Richard Nixon is on this list and he was a stinker. My parents were Republicans and voted for Nixon. Even at the time, I didn’t like Nixon. He appeared in a bad light on camera and I was never interested in listening to him on TV. “He [Nixon] promised to “bring us together again,” and many Americans, weary after years of antiwar and civil rights protests, were happy to hear of peace returning to their streets”. Nixon  That has a familiar ring now in 2017 with Mr. Trump in the White House.

Even though as a young person, politics didn’t hold my interest, I was attracted to people who showed integrity and respect for the office. JKF had charisma and brighten up the television screen every time he spoke. As any 8 year old could possibly be drawn to a political figure, I was drawn to JFK as a human being. He spoke with honesty and convinced me he could be a modern president with progressive ideas for the good of America. (Much like Barack Obama spoke.) Kennedy was a democrat and of the Catholic faith, two unfavorable attributes of a presidential candidate in my parent’s opinion. They were always quick to say, however, that those candidates were not bad people. “We vote Republican,” they would explain, and “well, he [JFK] is Catholic and a Catholic has never held office before,” as if that was something undesirable. I didn’t understand, but I trusted my parents. They wanted change in light of the situation in Vietnam at the time and for their sons, one of which went to war a few years out of high school graduation in 1960. (As a female, it was not a concern that I could be drafted in those days.) Of course, they also wanted a president who would uphold the virtues of Christ.

My parents were good people, Christians, working class, hard workers who were committed to providing for my brothers and me. My dad often held down extra jobs to supplement the income. My mom stayed at home until I was a sophomore in high school when she went to work in a department store. Soon after she began her job, I learned my mother could do much more than simply sew my dresses, wash clothes, cook and keep a comfortable house for us to live in. She quickly became the department head for the shoes and men’s clothing at the store. Mom was an efficient, competent worker as evidenced when foreign sailors off the ships docked on the Neches River would come to shop. Often, with broken or no English, the men asked for help shopping for clothes or shoes. My mom communicated as best she could and would size them up simply by looking at them. Then, she would fit them in a pair of Levis or boots sending them back to their ship happily carrying their purchases. It makes me laugh to imagine her gesturing and pointing, speaking in English slowly to help them understand. My mom also had to keep records for the departments she was over, taking inventory, balancing expenses, ordering and stocking merchandise. Mom’s job at the store also bought many dresses, towels and sheets for my years in college.

Then, Daddy, a refinery worker, often worked his days off at other people’s houses painting their house exteriors, fixing doors, laying cement or repairing a roof. When Daddy finished his military service following WWII, he rejoined his young family of two who had moved ahead of him to Port Arthur, Texas. Later they moved to Orange, TX, where my other brother and I were born, to find work. He worked on construction sights for much of that time before getting a job with Pure Oil Refinery in Nederland, TX where he would stay on and retire. (Pure Oil changed to Union 76.) Making a final move to Port Neches, TX, Daddy would continue to work construction or house painting, scheduling the jobs around his shifts at the refinery. He even found time to work around our house, fixing plumbing, painting, or even reconfiguring rooms of our house. Once he torn out a fireplace, removed the front porch and extended our whole living room. 

When I reached high school, about the same time Mother went to work in the department store, Daddy trained as an income tax preparer and worked for H & R Block for many tax seasons. My mom and I would smile and tell him how distinguished he looked going to work in his suit and tie, carrying his briefcase. Now as an adult, I realize that Daddy was proud of his accomplishments. He felt he’d come into a better position working in an office, while earning money for us. Daddy was an intelligent man. I often wonder where his career might have taken him had he attended college. That just wasn’t the era in which he grew up to afford college. His family worked hard on an Oklahoma farm. My dad learned what it meant to be responsible for a family as he and his 5 siblings helped with farm chores. As a WWII veteran with a family, he didn’t consider college an option for him and found work that provided the comforts of living for all of us. That is probably why he thought it was important to be able to send his children to college. Both of my parents always thought about family first before themselves. Although, it may sound as if my parents were always working, they always found time to spend with us kids. I never felt deprived or like they weren’t there for me, because they always were.

In my experience, many church-going Christians were of a conservative political viewpoint in the 60’s and like my parents, voted Republican for the most part. The Republicans appeared to boast Christian morals which appealed to the religious groups looking to stay out of war. Although, noble on the outside, on closer scrutiny of some conservatives’ viewpoints, it might reveal a closed-mindedness toward differences in ethnicities or other cultures. It is not my belief that my father was like that when it came to issues of race. My brothers nor I were ever allowed to speak badly of a person just because of their race. In fact I recall a specific time while I was attending college that Daddy told me it was okay to be friends with any person of color. He was worried though about my marrying a person of color because of the problems it could cause for me. He did not say it would be wrong. My parents were fair minded people who would help anyone no matter their race. They were not religiously closed minded and my dad especially could change his mind on a matter if given justifiable cause to do so. In my opinion, it was the Christian, conservative values what spoke to them when it came to politics and choosing presidents. They supported the platforms they felt were best for their family and our faith in God.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president for 8 years of my life from 1953 to 1961. When the presidential election in 1960 came into current news, I recall my surprise that we could have different presidents. Since I was all of 8 years old at the time, having not studied government in school, I just assumed the current president was there until he died. My memories of seeing President Eisenhower (first elected Republican president since 1928) on TV or hearing him speak, while not always understanding his message, I knew he was our president. As a highly experienced military person, he made me feel that we were safe. Or so I thought.

Now, here we are 100 days out from the inauguration of a new president (also running as a Republican) who makes me shutter with uncertainty. Even though, I was not really enamored by any of the presidential candidates running for office in 2016, Trump was the least likely candidate to get my vote. A man of no military or political experience, with the exception of his attending a private military school, announced to run for president of the United States. The absurdity of “The Apprentice“, Donald Trump, as president came across to my ears as a joke. “This won’t ever happen. He can’t possibly survive the election process. Why is he running for president? Is he simply wanting to have more power? He doesn’t have the experience it takes to run our country,” were my thoughts at the time (and still are). Then, as Election Day, November 8, 2016 came and went, my hopes and dreams for the United States were shattered. My reaction as I awoke to the news that Trump had won the presidency, was of deep disappointment. I cried. Cried! At the outcome of an election! I was not a political person, but I became a cable news junky during that election process, drinking in everything anti-Trump that came across written and televised news sources.

 Although, the news media may be exploiting his term with way too much coverage, it is addictive to witness a live drama play out before our very eyes. This scary reality show is unbelievably fascinating especially given the amount of inexperience and unpreparedness in which Trump came into the White House. It’s opening night and Trump doesn’t know his character’s motivation or the lines of the script. He is all improv and that is alarming. Alas, with great disappointment and sadness, I listen or read online as he berates anyone who rejects an idea he has or doesn’t kowtow to his reign of bullying. This president is on Twitter social media like a teenager in angst over his life, for heaven’s sake! Unbelievable! It would seem that we are stuck with this “man-child”, as he has been called, for now until at least 2020. (That is if he isn’t impeached first or quits.) It would also appear that little by little some of his appointees to administrative offices are proving to be dishonest and not anymore fit for their job as Trump is for President.

It is my sincere belief that Trump has no idea what it means to truly work as my parents did for their families. He has no idea of the struggles and sacrifices people like my Mama and Daddy make for their families. Sure, Trump can read about people in poverty and he sees news reports (sometimes unproven or biased sources) and reacts, that is he Tweets. He still doesn’t seem to truly understand the working class when he promotes policies that will benefit the rich even though he makes it sound as if they are in the forefront of his policy making. Trump makes rude, disrespectful comments about other people with whom he disagrees. There is no empathy in his words for others. That is not the model of a president we want our children to admire or other countries to look to for help. He doesn’t appear to consider the other side of any story that doesn’t match his own skewed views on planned parenthood, gun control, or health care. Money is not an object to him. He sees constructing an insanely huge wall as the answer to murders committed in our country by foreign enemies. My older brother has passed away. He was a hunter who owned guns and used them with the respect a weapon deserves. My brother was military serving in the U. S. Army back when the country was involved in Vietnam. He was a man with little patience for people with stupid ideas. Even though he would have been on the side of the 2nd Amendment upholding the right to “bear arms”, he would also be for gun control and advocate any law as for gun safety. My older brother would have called Trump an “idiot”. It’s not my intention to advocate “name-calling”, something our president does on a regular basis, but in the case of Trump, “idiot” pretty much calls it like it is.
Man! I miss my big brother.

Perhaps our lesson to be taken from a Trump presidency is that God wants us to become more patient with the “idiots” of this world. Heaven knows I have been attempting to do just that, but some people make it hard. Christians everywhere appear to be divided about this president. Even as my parents, voting Republicans, were blue-collar workers practicing Christian morals, values and attributes, I would find it hard to imagine they would have voted for the man who has become the 45th president of the United States.

My prayer for all of us at this time is that we will come together as a nation to see the truth for ourselves in regard to the politics of the current administration. Trump was woefully unprepared for this job. He would have quickly fired an employee who projected so little comprehension about one of his businesses had he hired a person like himself. It is my hope that Congress along with people of integrity in the position to make changes, will remain vigilant in keeping watch on Trump, forcing him to be accountable to the nation of people whom he serves. May God bless America and keep us ever mindful that God alone is truly in charge.


Written by Mary Lou Ritchey Martin

May 1, 2017

Back at the BLT

It has been several months since I composed a piece  and posted to this blog I refer to as my “theater blog”. Even though I post to another blog (etxgirl@blogspot.com) I began this theater blog as a sort of Martin Theater Journal written by the wife of a theater instructor. If you scroll back through the archives of this blog, you’ll see some of the fun times our family has experienced through live theater.

Since my husband, Kim, became the drama instructor at Lee College in our hometown of Baytown, TX, another avenue of theater has revealed more to learn about the art form of drama. Kim teaches theater classes, directs not only college aged people, but also includes some who are past college age in his shows. He has directed productions at the college such as Treasure Island complete with a beautifully crafted “ship” at full sail. He directed a musical, The Addam’s Family Musical, which involved the dark, but comedic macabre style of theater. In-between the large productions, Kim brought to Lee College audiences a show about the real life struggle of a woman in a man’s world. Rocket Girl was about Mary Sherman Morgan life as a genius who invented jet fuel for the United States space program during the 1950’s. The college science community seemed to enjoy Lee College’s production and were present to support the arts. Kim also directed the college students in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, which tells the story of Henry Thoreau, a writer and philosopher of his time. Audiences learned about two real people they might not have already known, through a live stage performance.

The Lee College theater department has collaborated with Baytown’s community theater, The Baytown Little Theater, on several of the BLT’s summer musicals. One of those collaborations, Fiddler on the Roof, I wrote about in an earlier post, was a special production for our family when ten Martins, four generations, appeared on the Lee College Performing Arts Center’s (PAC) stage together. It has been mine and Kim’s joy to perform and work with our family over the years. It has been especially fun raising our sons in theater and performing with them on stage. Kim and I have been BLT members participating in all aspects of our community theater for over 40 years. We have served on the board of directors, performed, directed, worked on crews, sold tickets, served refreshments and cleaned up restrooms over the years. The walls of our home display framed posters from past BLT productions that we look on with fondness reading the signatures of those who played with us in and behind the scenes.

Ryan with his cast & crew.

Ryan with his cast & crew.

Ryan, our youngest son, currently works with his dad at Lee College as the PAC production specialist. He recently volunteered his knowledge and experience in theater to direct the Tony Award winning play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, at the Baytown Little Theater. In their freshly completed new building, many BLT members supported Ryan and did all they could to prepare for the production’s opening night this past weekend. Ryan cast his dad in the lead role of Vanya, making this the second time he has directed his dad. Kim worked very hard to learn the many lines of his character to play the part. Watching my son direct his dad, my husband, in this production has been a delightful added experience to our family journey of theater life.

Each theater experience continues to broaden my understanding and knowledge of what it takes to produce a story on stage. There is nothing quite like a live performance to tell a story whether it be comedy, drama or fantasy, with music or without. The techniques and skills used to bring characters’ tales to life are a learned craft honed with practice. Some individuals appear to have natural talent and will excel in the art of performance or the technical aspects of theater. With every show they work on the theater bug grows within them and they will forever have a love for staged productions. The beauty of community theater is all of its participants are lending a helping hand while evolving into a splendid show for its audiences. As a theater organization we are a community working for a common goal. That goal is to evoke a conscious awareness of life’s lessons, struggles and humor, which are daily shared by all, through the dramatic art of staged productions.

imageVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike has added depth to our community theater’s history. The message that the Chekhov named characters teach audiences is that family and those close to you are important when facing certain trials and truths about our lives. It has been another theatrical challenge that by the time VSMS closes this Sunday, and set strike once again renders a blank stage making way for the next show, we will have all grown and learned another valuable lesson.

Thank you, Baytown Little Theater for opening your doors, the minds of your audiences and a community awareness to the dramatic art of theater.

The Addams Family

 

The Addams Family, 2016, Lee College

 
My husband, Kim, instructs and directs theater at Lee College, Baytown. This past weekend he opened and closed a comedy musical, The Addams Family. The show was a success as it was well received by audiences laughing and enjoying the production. It was a lot of hard work and late nights. The students and outside guest cast members, along with the crew, worked as a team to make those many hours of work pay off. I couldn’t be prouder of my husband and everyone involved with the production. 

From lights, to costumes, to backstage crews and on stage actors, it was a group effort. Our son, Ryan, and his wife, Amy, played the lead characters, Gomez and Morticia. It just makes me so happy to hear them singing, watch them dancing and doing what they love together. Kim had students in this production who really shown brightly as they acted and sang. They displayed dramatic growth and maturity throughout the process of this production. 

It brings me great pleasure to see Kim’s theater arts program growing. He was fortunate to team up with the college’s music instrumental and vocal directors who provided vocal coaching and a talented orchestra to accompany the show. The choreographer, a friend of the local community theater, did an excellent job of choreographing the dance numbers into show stopping productions on their own. Another theater friend that goes back to Kim’s early teaching days, designed a beautiful set. Add in a mix of talented cast members who painted and decorated it, the set became the featured backdrop for the Addams Family story.

Kudos to everyone who helped make The Addams Family a success!

What the Martins Do on Summer Vacation

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This summer I worked on the summer musical, Oliver! with the Baytown Little Theater (BLT). Again. Normally, my husband and I, as well as one or more of our sons and/or daughters in law, perform together on stage in the summer musicals. Last summer we even had Kim’s parents and two of our grandchildren on stage with us in Fiddler on the Roof. We had 4 generations of Martins on the same stage. Instead of performing, Kim, who became the technical theater instructor at Lee Community College a year ago, directed the summer musical this year. Our youngest son, Ryan, played the villainous, Bill Sykes, and I played the role of assistant director to my husband. Someone asked if I’d ever been AD before and yes, I have, but not for a production this large. It was exhilarating, fun, hard and exhausting work, but I’d do it again…for Kim.

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Ryan Martin (Bill Sykes) & Jim Wadzinski (Fagin)

A couple of years ago when plans for the 2014 season were first discussed, we thought the BLT would do Man of LaMancha. In fact, Kim had told the Play Reading Committee, for which I am the chairperson; he would be putting in to direct LaMancha. This was before the college employed him. Then, Kim was hired to work with Lee College and suddenly things began to change. The summer he began work with the college was the same summer 10 of the Martins were on stage in the 2013 BLT musical, Fiddler on the Roof. Kim spent the better portion of those summer days planning for his new school year in college and rehearsing the musical in the evenings. He began taking inventory of the different elements of the college theater arts program and thinking in terms of not only what would be good for the community theater, but also for the college theater program. The BLT needed a blockbuster musical the whole family could enjoy in the Lee College Performing Arts Center (PAC). In Kim’s opinion, the play should appeal to all ages and involve kids. Kids! Now don’t get me wrong, I like kids, I have always liked kids, but I’m not as young and energetic as I once was. Then, Kim landed on the idea of directing the musical Annie. Promotion for the musical went out a year in advance and little girls’ mothers began to plan for their little actress to star on our stage. The thought of corralling a bunch of little girls backstage was not my idea of a happy summer. I began to think that Crystal Beach might be the ideal retreat for me to wait out the summer musical storm.

Then, as fate would have it, little girls would not be the stars of the our summer musical. Only months before plans would begin for the play, the Broadway touring company of Annie notified us that the theater’s rights to produce the musical had been retracted. Kim was back to square one trying to come up with a big family pleasing, kid involved summer musical. The idea of producing Oliver! formulated, requests for production was sent to the publisher, accepted and now we had a new play, a different plan. We’d still use some of those same little girls as little orphan boys and the young boy who played the part of Oliver was outstanding.

Auditions for Oliver! were held back in early June. Prior to auditions, I had no intentions to work on the play. Crystal Beach was calling my name even louder. Then, I realized that Kim would work himself to death doing it all and I’d better be involved if I had any hopes of seeing my husband this summer.

After the scripts and music scores came in, I got busy organizing them for distribution. Kim worked up the audition pieces for potential actors to read and sing. We got our choreographer to come up with some audition steps to teach those who would audition. Kim also found an online site, called Virtual Callboard, to organize the cast and crew communications through email and text messaging. The online system came with a bit of a learning curve for Kim and I, but we found the site to be an excellent tool throughout the rehearsal process.

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Me & my shirt design

Before the auditions, I decided we needed our company t-shirt design ready by auditions. I found artwork, designed the shirt, and lastly, placed an initial order of 60 shirts to begin selling as soon as possible. I was pleased that people at the auditions bought t-shirts and the shirt sales continued throughout the show. We managed to sell around 55 of that initial order in addition to about 20 more shirts for our orchestra members. Best thing I’ve ever done at the start of a show!

After all the singing, dancing and reading scenes took place; the show was cast with 50 actors. However, it wasn’t long after the cast list was posted, that we started getting messages that a few had not accepted their role. It is unfortunate that people do that, but they do. So, we offered those roles to willing individuals who where happy for an opportunity to shine on stage. We ended up casting 45 adults and children in the cast. The stage manager, assistant stage manager, technical director, lights, sound, properties and costumes, make up and hair people were ready to start their jobs with the show. Figuring in the stagehands that were brought on to move set pieces and lower drops we had about 65 people total working on and behind stage. Add another 15 musicians plus the orchestra conductor and the number of people involved jumps up to around 80. (It takes a boatload of people to put on a big musical. My list doesn’t even take into account the box office workers and ushers.) We felt excited about our show, Oliver!

Kim with Joe

Kim with Joe

Later, maybe 2 weeks into rehearsals, we would find out that our technical director had bailed on us as well as the person lined up  to lead the make-up crew and an additional light board technician who had only come to one meeting. As luck would have it, we have some pretty awesome, talented people in our lives that were ready and willing to step up to the challenge. Again, the show was none the worse for the replacements, in fact it was better. With those positions covered we were up and running with full rehearsals 4 nights a week plus a Sunday afternoon choreography rehearsal. Four weeks into rehearsals the set and props arrived from The Utah Music and Opera Theater along with their company foreman to oversee the assembly of the massive set. On a single day several men and women volunteered their own time to unload the truck and start work on set construction. Just two weeks away from Opening Night, the cast was finally able to practice on the real set and not tape lines on the stage floor. Our very capable properties leader and her helpers also organized the props making sure every item referenced in the play or needed by an actor was ready. The next major show element to arrive were costumes. We anxiously awaited the arrival of 19 large boxes from UPS to the college on Friday, one week before we opened. Several of us were there to receive and unpack the costumes hanging them by each actor’s name on costume racks. The next day 3 of us met with actors all day to help them try on costumes and make any needed adjustments to allow our period show to look spectacular. Our costumes mistress was the best! That day as we actors drifted in and out trying on costumes, work continued on the main stage assembling the huge set. The college PAC was buzzing with activity to get everything ready for production of Oliver!

On Thursday evening, July 31, our invitational dress rehearsal performed the same as it would for paying customers the next evening. Among the invited guest was the United Way organization giving us an audience of about 200 and the largest turnout for an invitational dress I’d ever seen. What an excellent last rehearsal for our cast and crew! Then, came August 1, Opening Night, complete with champagne for patrons old and new to see the Baytown Little Theater/Lee College’s production of Oliver! The adrenaline was pumping and everyone was anxious. Finally, I took my seat in the audience and Kim stepped out on stage to welcome our patrons to the show. As he concluded his speech, he advised the audience members to sit expectantly on the edge of their seats. Finally, the orchestra began the Act 1 overture and the curtain rose on our 13 little “orphans” ascending the stairs and singing in their angel voices, Food, Glorious Food.

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Our little “Angels”

The second night of performances, a local bank paid for the cast, crew and their guests to enjoy Pirate’s Bay, a water park in town, after the evening show. You haven’t enjoyed a water park until your group has the entire place to themselves from midnight to 2:00 a.m. We brought pizza for everyone and others brought drinks and other snacks. What a blast! We even had our oldest son and his two kids with us too. Our grandkids loved the water park so late at night. The next weekend Kim and I planned the closing cast party. Believe me when I tell you it is not easy to find an affordable venue who will let you party at their establishment after 11:00 until 1:00 in the morning. The local chapter of Optimist graciously allowed us to use their building at a significantly low price and was so generous as to loan us the key ahead of time to set up. I made arrangements with Jason’s Deli to provide a huge amount of food. (It was like feeding an army!) Kim and I planned and gave out personal candy “awards” trying to recognize everyone who had worked so hard on the show.  It was well after 1:00 a.m. before we got to bed that evening, but the party was a success in my book and worth the trouble. Lastly, the final Sunday matinee of Oliver! came and all of our long summer work was coming to an end.

After months of planning, six weeks of rehearsals, one invitational dress, six performances, a water park night and a late night closing party, we have finally closed the show. On the Saturday after closing, a wonderful crew showed up to help reload the magnificent set and props into the 18-wheeler along with the tech guy from Utah. (We love Joe!) Will we work on the summer musical next summer? The answer from me is “no”, but I have been known to change my mind.

The End…for now.

So Much Drama!

ImageTheater is alive and well in Baytown even though I have neglected my blog. The Martin family had a special summer theater experience when ten Martins participated in the Baytown Little Theater’s 2013 production of Fiddler on the Roof. Those ten represented 4 generations of Martins. Kim’s dad, Kelly, played the Rabbi and his mom, JoAn, was a member of the female chorus.  Kim played the Constable and I was part of the female chorus. Our youngest son, Ryan, played Fyedka and his wife, Amy, played a leading role as Golde.  Our oldest son, Jason, played the role of Morcha, the innkeeper, and Jason’s wife, Kari, was part of the female chorus. Their two kids (our grandchildren), Aidan and Regan, were children in the play. We all had a long summer working on the play, but a good time singing and dancing together on stage.  I know Big Daddy/Kim was happy we all were able to put the 4 generations of the Martin family on the BLT stage in the same pIMG_1506lay.

At the close of Fiddler, Jason and his family moved to Belton, TX where he started a new job with the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor. Packing and making preparations for that move amid rehearsals, performances, and jobs made for a challenging summer for them. They had already pretty much moved their belongings in stages during the summer so that the day after the play closed, they were able to drive away. We have missed them living closer, but since that move, Kari has still traveled the 3 hours back to Houston for three days out of every week to work. Recently, Kari has been hired to work for Baylor University in Waco, a much closer commute for her.  We are so very proud of them and what they do for and with their family.

In addition to performing in the musical, the start of our summer was spent following the progress of the BLT’s award winning play, God of Carnage. Ryan and Amy were featured in a 4-person ensemble performing in the American Association of Community Theatre’s International play contest. After advancing through each level of competition, God of Carnage advanced all the way to Nationals held in Carmel, Indiana last June. Just after being cast in Fiddler, Kim and I followed the troupe in a U-Haul with the set all the way to Indiana to watch them perform. The cast was outstanding winning many awards and placing 2nd in the competition as runner up national winners. Of course, we think they were robbed, deserving of 1st place; we couldn’t be prouder of the actors and crew for their perseverance and talent.

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The Texas Nonprofit Theaters (TNT) support new playwrights and sponsor a POPS festival on alternate years to showcase new scripts and playwrights. There are up to 100 scripts submitted in the competition for reading by a committee of judges. As the top scripts are narrowed down, five playwrights win the privilege of having their play staged and produced by a TNT member community theater. The Baytown Little Theater has participated twice to produce a new theatrical work. Kim directed and I assisted him working on the new play, Dream Date. Ryan played a leading role and performed alongside three other cast members one weekend in October. It was a fun special time to work with Ryan, Kim and our other theater friends on this project.

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In addition to working on so many plays, Kim resigned his job teaching in Deer Park ISD and took a new position with the Lee Community College faculty here in Baytown. He is the new technical theater director and began his duties last June, 2013 with all the other drama he had going on. He is learning a new skill in the world of academia and even though it has meant long hard hours of work and learning, I believe he is doing it very well. This fall semester, in addition to teaching classes, Kim has directed a student performance of the improv piece, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Our son, Ryan, participated in that project as well as several other BLT actors, along with Kim’s college students. He has driven the college van a few times to expose students to live theater in Houston. I was able to go along with him and the students to the Alley Theater’s production of You Can’t Take it With You, to the Wortham Theater to see the opera, Aida, in which the Lee College choral director was performing.  Kim is now in the middle of rehearsals for his Christmas production, Mrs. Bob Cratchet’s Wild Christmas Binge, which will be performed the second weekend in December. Then, he will hopefully rest for a few weeks in between semesters playing audience member at the BLT New Year’s Eve production, Always, Patsy Cline. Kim will never slow down much, but I’m glad he is busy doing what he loves. Theater!

Okay, this has been a Dramawife catch-up of what the Martins are up to in theater. I hope you were informed and will consider visiting us soon either at the Baytown Little Theater or the Lee College Performing Arts Center.

BLT God of Carnage on the Move

It’s been almost 3 weeks since the AACT Region VI festival in LaFayette, Louisiana.  Our very talented cast from BLT swept the awards program.  They won! Yes! They won Regional and will be traveling to Carmel, Indiana in June to compete with God of Carnage in the AACT National Festival.  How exciting is that! Pretty darn, that’s how much.

Region VI judges lavished the BLT troupe with awards for best production, best ensemble, best costume and best set design.  The judges presented Taylor Dobbs’ the Best Director award and to our own Amy Miller-Martin they presented the Best Actress award.  I’m so very proud of all of  their hard work.

Theater is a fun hobby, job and social outlet. To be awarded and recognized for one’s unpaid work is certainly gratifying. The Baytown Little Theater for the most part is a volunteer organization with one paid office manager. I think I can speak for most of the organization when I say we are proud of what we do in our little theater. Our talent rivals any of the other community theaters in our area and apparently in our Region which included Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, and New Mexico. So, yeah…I’m going to brag on these kids.

Taylor, Jamie, Ryan, Amy, Chelsea, Kenny, Stephanie, & Ryan #2., I’m proud of you for hanging in there, rehearsing, making props (including vomit), listening to critique, rehearsing some more and learning to clean up stage dirt. You are #1 in my book no matter what the outcome of Nationals.  So, give it your best and know we love you all for trying with such enthusiasm!

Theater is Alive and Well

Cast & Crew, God of Carnage

The American Association of Community Theatres is an organization that provides networking, resources and support to suit the needs of all those involved in community theatre. Every other year AACT sponsors a play festival to showcase the best of the best community theaters across the USA.  The Baytown Little Theater (BLT) has participated many times through its membership with Texas Nonprofit Theatres (TNT). Over the past several years the BLT has taken shows to this festival advancing out of district to state level competition. The award-winning plays performed by the Baytown actors over the years has been the hilarious three-man show,  America Abridged, the musical, Godspell, featuring some of our best young men and women singing, dancing and acting across a stage. The cast and crew of Del Shores’ Sordid Lives, brought a new edginess to the BLT stage, which ushered in the thought-provoking piece, Rabbit Hole, causing all of us to contemplate a parent’s worst fear. The year the theater’s entry had to drop out, a talented cast stepped up to perform The Pattern is Broken with the professionalism of pros. All of those brilliantly executed plays honorably advanced out of Quad IV to the State level of competition in the AACT Festival.

This 2013 festival year the BLTs entry to the AACT Fest 2013 is God of Carnage. A piece on human behaviors when confronted with either putting on a facade of polite civility or revealing their true, base selves. Ryan Martin, Amy Miller-Martin, Kenny Haney, and Chelsea Denard portray the two couples struggling to come to terms with what boils down to justice for each of their sons. Directed by Taylor Dobbs and assisted by Jamie Garza, Stephanie Whitley, Stephen Bent, and Ryan Marshall, the cast and crew has broken a BLT festival year record by advancing out of the State level to the Region VI level of competition that was held in LaFayette, LA.  Last night my husband and I were among the audience members looking on as the four talented actors performed their brilliantly executed contest piece. On Sunday the festival will end with an awards ceremony at which time we are hoping their play will advance to the Nationals level in Carmel, Indiana in June.

After Sunday we will know whether or not God of Carnage will advance. Winning would send this writer into ecstatic realms of joy  (after all I am the proud mother and mother-in-law of two of the actors), but even if they do not advance, they are winners. We are so very proud of their progress so far. Good Show!

Note: An update to follow Sunday award announcements. (4/21/13)