1 year ago today we had just begun rehearsals for six workshop performances of my first musical Group. Fast forward a year and the words “Group: A Musical – The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble” is projected on the big screen at the historic Orpheum Theater at the 2011 Ovation Awards. It’s been a pretty great year.
As previously posted, https://adamemperorsouthard.com/2011/09/20/isaac-wades-portrayal-of-dr-allen-recognized-by-la-stage-alliance/, Isaac Wade (who I wrote the role of Dr. Allen for) was nominated for “featured actor in a musical.”
Isaac and I met up with our LATE friends at a downtown diner before the big show. I’ve got to tell you, those folks clean up REAL nice. (I’ll make sure to post one of the red carpet photos once they go up). Atfter commenting on how all of the “Gospel According to First Squad” cast had begun growing out their hair since the show wrapped, we hoofed it to the Orpheum.
After our red carpet shots (in which we forced the photographer to take one of as many of us as we could wrangle) we mingled in the gorgeous lobby hugging everyone we knew.
The theatre was stunning and the energy was palpable. We cheered like we were at a high school football game every time there was mention of any of our friends. Our faces hurt from smiling and our voices were raspy from hooting.
While we went home physically empty handed, I would say the whole experience was satisfyingly fulfilling. Just being invited to the party was such an incredible honor.
Hell, I’m still honored that such an esteemed theatre company gave me a shot in the first place, that anyone wanted to see my work and that it was well received. I feel inspired, invigorated and ready to continue edits and rewrites of my next shows.
I link to all of the deserving winners: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/11/ovation-awards-la-stage-alliance-.html
Adam Emperor Southard – creator of the musical Group.
Last night it was announced that Isaac Wade has been honored with a “Featured Actor In A Musical” Ovation award nomination for his portrayal of Dr. Allen in Group. It’s hard to put into words just what a big deal that is and just how proud I am… but I’ll try.
You know how actors love receiving SAG award nominations not only because we are all narcissistic award hoarders who constantly crave attention and recognition, but also because the SAG awards are voted on by fellow actors. Well, the Ovation Awards are voted on by the Los Angeles theatre community. It consists of the movers and shakers of LA theatre: theatregoers, producers, directors, actors, designers, playwrights…
Ovation voters are required to see and vote on tons of shows throughout the year. Now, anyone who has experience putting up a show in LA knows that it can be extremely difficult to get enough Ovation voters to see your show and even more difficult for the ones that see it to rate it high enough for recognition. Just about all of the Ovation voters who honored us by seeing Group saw an early preview version of it… but I’ll get to that later.
The back-story on Isaac & “Dr. Allen”
Isaac and I had been performing together in radio plays for a few months but had never done a musical. I had just begun thinking about and reworking an idea my brother (Scott D. Southard) and I had years prior about group therapy when I hard Isaac sing. The role of Dr. Allen, which I had thought I was writing for myself, immediately became a role I wanted him to play. From then on, Isaac was the Dr. Allen in my head. It isn’t based on him at all, but it is tailor made for his remarkable ability and numerous gifts.
Isaac got my play and music into the hands of Tom Burmester and Danika Sudik of the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble. They honored me with the chance to perform the show as a script reading with music in front of their company members and anyone else I wanted to invite. Isaac played Dr. Allen, many of my closest actor friends and family performed the other roles and Josh Allan Dykstra and I played all the instruments.
One of the first things Tom asked me afterwards was exactly WHO I wanted the show to be about. It was, and continues to be, an ensemble piece but Tom wanted me to focus on one driving story. This inspired me to first add monologues by Dr. Allen that would weave the play together and then add Dr. Allen’s back story which is the heart of the show.
The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble honored Josh and I by giving us six workshop performances. We brought in the great Richard Tatum to direct it and began casting. Now, we did not precast any of the roles, so I was a little nervous that Richard might want someone else to play the role I created for Isaac. Thank God he saw in him what I did and the call back was for all of the other roles.
During the rehearsal process, Tom & Danika offered us the opportunity to turn the workshop performances into previews and to officially open in January. Despite the fact that I was still making extensive rewrites on a weekly basis and the show was still evolving, we decided to invite every Ovation voter and reviewer we knew to one of our early previews.
It should be noted that I’m proud of our previews and the positive responses we received. It needs to be said, however, that I did 18 pages of rewrites between the previews and our opening and ALL of our critical acclaim and surprising recognition was based on that early version. Now that I know we were on the Ovation map, so to speak, I feel like an idiot for sharing the preview version.
Of course the LA Stage Alliance didn’t recognize us for book or music, the shows that were nominated were amazing and our show was supposed to just be a workshop! I’m not saying that we would have received more recognition had we only invited critics and Ovation voters to see the actual run of the show, I’m just trying to point out how pleasantly surprised and floored I am by the recognition. Then again, something that didn’t change from those early performances was Isaac’s brilliant portrayal of Dr. Allen.
He was freaking amazing during our staged reading, killed it during the previews, nailed it during the run and took it to a whole other level when we did encore performances in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. (I did another ten pages of rewrites for those performances).
As the show continues to grow and change, one thing remains: I will always hear and see Isaac Wade playing the lead. I could not be more pleased that he has been recognized for his remarkable performance.
Here is the complete list of Ovation nominees including the five other nominations for the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s Gospel According to First Squad (including nominations for the producers of Group, Tom & Danika): http://www.lastagealliance.com/ovation_nominees.htm
Last night Group (http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452) opened at the Stella Alder and it was a riot! The audience was laughing early and often and our actors fed off it beautifully. I can’t wait to do it again tonight and Saturday.
Notes on the space: First off, it should be noted that the Stella Adler is a bit of a maze. We are in the Irene Gilbert space. I will make sure to put up more signs tonight and Saturday 🙂
One of the many things I love about Fringe is the madness of it all. Performing in a space that the actors are not familiar with is such a crazy challenge, and yet, I find it so exhilarating. The only time our actors have seen this space was in one tech rehearsal two weeks ago. That being said, they were up to the task. We have found, however, that the beautiful space is a bit of a sound suck (not a technical term) so if you are hard of hearing, I recommend sitting front and center.
The audience last night was made of AMAZING! They bought in right away, laughed at all the right spots, and (quasi-spoiler alert) were reaching for kleenex by the end. As the playwright of Group I really can’t express how moved I am by a new audience that is touched by our story. I don’t create work for myself. I create theatre to foster a shared experience. I want my audiences to leave having something to talk about, something to remember, something to chat about over pie afterwards… The immediate standing ovation (not started by my wife surprisingly enough) was a delightful and unexpected treat. I could not have asked for a kinder, more attentive audience.
Have I mentioned how much I love the Hollywood Fringe Festival?! I am so proud of being a part of this unbelievable experience.
We have two more performances left. Tonight June 24 and tomorrow June 25. If you are a fellow fringer or you saw the first run of Group, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you a discount code.
Here is the official page to buy tickets to Group. I really do hope you get a chance to see it. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/452
I loved the tight and clever writing and the fantastic character work all of the actors clearly put in. The acting and directing were stellar and the audience ate up every moment of it.
On a personal note, I wish I had sat nearer the stage as the Fringe Annex has plenty of visibility issues and I couldn’t see any of the lovely business involving a bass guitar and its strings. That being said, I really enjoyed this funny, smart and moving new work.
There is only two performances left, so you better get your tickets soon. The show I saw was sold out and I’m sure the next two will be as well.
Remaining Shows June 24 6:30pm and June 25 9:30pm / Fringe Annex
Group officially opens tomorrow (Thursday 23rd) and runs for three days straight at the Stella Adler at 8pm each night.
Holy Shit, this show is great. As long as Coeurage Theatre Company continues to market this as “pay what you want” this will continue to be the best deal in town. It’s downright gorgeous.
The Trouble With Words is a song cycle based around the concept of words – not finding the right words, saying the wrong words, last words, first words…
If you go to see musicals for a story, this may not be the show for you, BUT if you go to hear amazingly beautiful new songs performed professionally by a solid six-piece band and sung by gifted performers YOU NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW.
I’m excited to hear that Trouble will have an extended run at Actors Circle beyond Fringe so that I can take my wife and everyone I’ve ever met. I’m serious. The music is that good.
You know I liked a show when I’m recommending you see it when two of the performances are at the same time as my show J
The Trouble With Words has 3 performances left: Thursday 23rd – 6pm (Fringe Central), Friday 24th – 9pm (Actors Circle), Saturday 25th – 9pm (Actors Circle)
Tonight is the final dress rehearsal for Group at LATE’s homebase – the Powerhouse Theatre. We are allowing the gifted cast of The Naked Army come see our dress rehearsal since they have performances during our three day run. THEN tomorrow Brooke, Caroline and I are participating in the Fringe Cabaret in the main tent. We will be on stage from 9:30pm – 9:40pm. THEN we open on Thursday at the Stella Adler!
Adorable. This show is freakin adorable. I wish my son were a little older so that I could have taken him along for the ride.
The performances are heartfelt and just the right amount of over-the-top. The songs are fun and performed with vigor. The story telling is clever and funny. Most importantly, the kids in the audience had a great time (and so did the adults, lets face it).
If you want to just smile like a kid again, or better yet, you have a kid, go see this show.
There are only two more performances of this show left, Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th, both at 1pm at the Actors Circle. http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/346
Tonight I’m seeing The Trouble With Words (with three friends no less) and then it’s back in Group mode for me with our official Dress Rehearsal tomorrow. I’m getting more and more excited for you all to see my show. Fringe rocks. Enough said.
Bright Eyes Production’s Last Five Years does Jason Robert Browns moving masterpiece justice. The vocal performances of Ashley Cuellar and Rory Alexander are spot on and the live band is solid. These are important points as this show lives and dies on the quality of the performers. I turned to my wife during the second song and said, “We lucked out!” Ashley and Rory are wonderful.
It is a full-length one-act play consisting of almost nothing but music. It tells the five-year tale of two young lovers. We watch Jamie as he moves forward chronologically from when he first met his Shiksa Goddess till five years later. Meanwhile, Cathy’s timeline is the exact opposite moving from someone in pain to someone experiencing new found love.
If I have any qualms with this highly successful production it is with the often distracting and unnecessary projections and the unflattering wardrobe choices. These minor issues do little to deter me from recommending this powerful, moving, hilarious and brilliant production of one of the greatest modern musicals. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Seeing a show like Last Five Years simply makes me want to gather up my actors and start singing songs from Group. Tomorrow I have a rehearsal with two of my actors who are going to sing with me on the Fringe Cabaret stage this coming Saturday and the following Tuesday. I’m still considering how many shows I’ll be able to see before my next schedule fringe show, which is a double header of Super Sidekick and Trouble with Words both on Sunday June 19th.