Archive for Blog

We’ve Got A Voice!

// March 3rd, 2011 // No Comments » // Blog, Uncategorized

Welcome, parents, alums, and other readers of the Carleton Voice! We’re pleased as punch to be in the Voice–that is, as pleased as punch could be if it had feelings.

In case you want to wander around the site and hear some samples of music, there are categories on each blog post under the title. You can check out “Music,” “Audio,” “Video,” and anything else that strikes your fancy. And if you’d like to get in touch with myself, Alex, or David, please feel free to send us an email!

Much love from a fellow Carl,

Laura

The Last Dance

// September 7th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, News

Well.

Five cities, 20 performances.

Not too shabby, everyone.

In the interest of accurately depicting the tour to the end, I’ll describe the last few days and then take a moment to reflect.

After the picnic and family time on Saturday, we had our best show to that date (I’ll let the experts debate how the last show figured in). Maybe the audience full of friends and family helped, but as a cast we were as “on” as we have ever been, and they had to kick our admiring audience outside after the show so that the next show could begin. We also managed to show some love to Jenny, our incredible stage manager and house mother, because Saturday was her last show. We called her down for applause, coffee cake, and a card as soon as the lights went down.

No rest for the wicked, though–Saturday night we moved Alex into his third-floor, no-elevator apartment. Childhood memorabilia and all.

Sunday gave us an opportunity for lots of downtime, but we all made it to the theatre on time for our final load-in. There was plenty of disbelief and even more hugging before the show, and that particular closing-night energy during the performance, where somehow everything looks fresh again, every line hits you in the chest, and each little change (especially the last-night re-additions of characters like Desmond, the cursing out of John Cusack, and the ripping of shadow puppets like the “End of the World” sign) is significant. Maybe it’s just me, but that was my favorite performance of the run, and the one that affected me the most. You would think that a one-hour show would get tiresome after 20 performances, but personally, I was enjoying all of the new moments the cast was finding even after so much time with the material.

Load-out took forever, between people trying to identify their belongings, fending off rabid fans, and the general exhaustion and relief of the cast. We still blew off steam, though–for example, Max and Alec played T-ball with the large street lamp puppet as the tee and also the ball. There was some joyous destruction of cardboard puppets that by all rights should have disintegrated long ago. Soon there were designer cupcakes and more of our distinctive group hugs, and maybe a little bit of crying. By this point we’re legitimately like a family, so what did you expect?

Some fun points I may or may not have mentioned: Joe Foti of Kraigslist expressed interest in producing us in Milwaukee in an actual coffee shop at some point, and Anna Weiler of the Dream Theatre also mentioned that they would love to have us back to re-perform here in Chicago. Last night, apparently, Samay Gheewala (I think it was him), the Merchandise Coordinator for the Fringe, stopped Alex to thank him for putting on a great show and mentioned that because of our show, along with a couple of others that also had good buzz and attendance, the Chicago Fringe made a little more money than breaking even and thus would be able to fund a second year. That’s right, ladies and gents, “Grind” was an integral part of establishing the Chicago Fringe as a viable institution!

This morning those of us still around had brunch at “The Grind” cafe on Lincoln because, well, how could we not? Highlights were the pesto-and-goat-cheese sandwiches, the lady who taught David some Chinese acupressure to get rid of his allergies, and the OB-GYN student next to us who mentioned early on to his companion that he’d seen a show named after the coffee shop the day before, and who realized as more of our members sat that he was sitting next to the entire cast. He introduced himself to us as he left and told us just how surreal the whole experience was for him. Those of us living in the neighborhood might even see him again. See, this show is a never-ending source of new friendships!

Loyal to the end, the boys assembled furniture in Cari’s and my apartment as everyone packed up, and finally those leaving for Northfield were on their way. Apparently as they packed up the Prius they saw Rod Blagojevich jog by and he waved to them. Scout’s Honor. Everyone is safe and home, more or less, now, and once we sleep for a couple of weeks, I’m sure we can start to process this entire crazy adventure.

For now, here’s what I know: I got to work with a cast and producing team who I immensely respect, a group who constantly pushed personal boundaries and embraced challenges (however grudgingly), who became as close as any group I have ever worked with and who I saw grow incredibly as actors, directors, stage managers, artists, and people. The summer has been a gift. Our experiences with each and every one of you, the supporters, family, friends, and audience members, has been a gift. I address this to everyone involved, however minutely: We couldn’t have done it without you.

Maybe, hopefully, we’ll all work on something like this together again. Definitely we will all meet again. And until then, I hope you go out and make something that never existed before, because that is beautiful, and that is what it’s all about.

Let me leave you with one last audience review:

Review: You are exactly my cup of tea by Lancer

This is one of two shows at the Chicago Fringe that I saw twice. You know, you are at a theme park for a few days, then suddenly, it is your last day, so you want to race back to your favorite rides before vacation ends. So it was with Grind. On opening day of Fringe, I spotted all these young actors on 18th Street as happy as could be on the sidewalk near the Dream Theatre, and in unison they were singing “Getting to Know You” from the King and I. I beamed, but had no idea this was the Minneapolis cast of Grind. Their musical is cheesy, giddy, silly, and aw shucks — exactly the kind of fluff you sometimes want to see. Some lyrics were lost to loud keyboards. Some lines were spoken lickety-split fast. Some of the staging was blocked too far back at the register counter, yet this was a sincere effort, with hints of Rent, Godspell, and Sleepless in Seattle percolating in the mix. On another trip to the Dream Theatre, I caught the bizarre Knee Jerk, which ended with no bows, but finished with the taped music of “Getting to Know You.” Returned to Grind on closing night of Fringe, and the beautiful curtain speech proclaimed “this is our last night of our 4-city tour. This is our 20th performance. Together, we all say, that this has been our best summer ever.” Good job, one and all.

rating: 4 stars

You summed it up perfectly, Lancer. To you and all our audience members in our five cities, thank you so much for coming, and we hope we see you again someday.

Signing off,

(for now),

Laura

It’s Just A Few More Hours

// September 4th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog

Three Chicago performances down, two to go!

Yesterday we had adventures in street performing at Millennium Park. We knew that in theory, major cities don’t like random people performing in their streets and parks without a license, but figured that because we wouldn’t be asking for money, it might be all right. After a lot of pictures at the Bean and after Max tried to bench-press Alec (limited success), we chose a shady corner and started to sing a cappella because we’d forgotten our guitars. Soon a Segway security officer pulled up, stopped, and sat with a smile on her face, seeming as though she was listening. Figuring we had a friend in the law, I gave her a postcard and our pitch. She smiled and nodded and then told Daisuke that we couldn’t perform here without permission, but that we could go to an office nearby to try to get permission. She gave back the postcard. I was disappointed.

We marched over to the park office and asked the man at the desk if it would be possible to get permission to perform. He was immediately…not quite indignant, not quite on the offensive, but very quick to point out to us that no, that was not how it worked, we could not perform in the park without being on a stage and for street performance we would need a license from City Hall. He seemed nonplussed that we were asking him. Even the appearance of Alec and David, both wearing tuxedo jackets with tails, wasn’t enough to loosen him up. So off we went.

We decided that we should just hand out postcards on the street corner, but first the boys found a Family Fun pavilion and wanted to go hula-hooping. The pavilion was being closed, but this time the tuxedo charm prevailed and they not only got to enter but also convinced the head of the Visitor’s Center at the Chicago Cultural Center that we should be allowed to put postcards in said Visitor’s Center. So I went over there to tell the ladies at the desk that “Darryl said I could put these here.” Score one for well-dressed men!

We held posters and offered postcards and shouted encouraging things to people on the corner of Michigan and Randolph–”Come support Fringe Theatre! First year of the festival! You obviously like coffee, sir, you’d love our musical!”–with a decent amount of success. Twice we intercepted a marching protest of the Fed that held signs saying things like “End the Fed” and “Why pay taxes when we can print our own money?” Not so sure we agree with their message, but we exchanged flyers and postcards.

We had another early show, at 5:30, and even though it was still warm onstage at least the weather outside was cooperating with us–it was a windy 67 degrees out. It was a great house and a number of our friends were in the audience. The show went very well, although a number of prop or technical aspects gave us some trouble. Apparently it didn’t ruin the show for anyone, because they were very enthusiastic.

The cast and some friends got Greek food in Greektown, and about half of us went to “The Playdaters” at the Edinburgh Stage (tickets here). Hilarious meta-theatrics about online dating. My favorite was “Troll,” the imaginary girlfriend of one of the characters created as an example of why inventing the perfect S.O. for yourself is a bad idea.

Today the families descended upon us, and to save them all from feeling as though they each had to take our crew of ten voracious eaters out to dinner, we threw a picnic in Winnemac Park. Now we’re full-to-bursting of cheese, Nutella, chips, and meat (not eaten in combination) and ready for our second-to-last (can it be?) show, tonight at 7PM! It’s Family Night, so come and meet the people who made us all who we are!

Before we go, here’s our first audience review from Chicago as a little treat:

Review: Very Cute and Touching by snackshack

The cast had a lot of energy in this musical, and I enjoyed many of the songs involving creative coffee lyrics. The characters were all intriguing in their own ways. My favorites were the End of the World song by the “Evangelizer” character and a reconciliation song between a brother and sister. However, I thought the plot wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly at the end. Go see it though – was fun.

rating: 4 stars (see reviews here)

Thanks for coming, “snackshack”! Next time if you bring us Chicago-style hot dogs we’ll make sure you get in for free.

-Laura

TimeOut Chicago Review

// September 2nd, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, Media

I knew we chose Chicago for a reason. Here’s what TimeOut Chicago has to say about the show:

Grind: The Musical
It’s hard not to greet the melodramatic plot of this musical from a group of Carleton College students with an eye roll. A neighborhood coffee house being shut down by demolition! So forget about the plot. Because the youthful enthusiasm and humor that comprises the rest of the production has charm to spare. Each member of the cast of eclectic coffee-shop “regulars” is constructed with zeitgesty eccentricities, from the girl who always shows up with her laptop and sings, “I’m not a creeper; I’m just writing a web comic starring you,” to the Minnesotan who does a spoken-word poem to Culver’s Frozen Custard.—Julia Kramer

Read more: http://www3.timeoutny.com/chicago/blog/out-and-about/2010/09/chicago-fringe-festival-2010-review-roundup-part-one/#ixzz0yQ1pf3k1

We couldn’t have put what we’re trying to do better ourselves. Thanks so much for coming, Julia!

Our second show went well, although we’re still adjusting to the addition of new puppets and to the new space. Shout-out to Daisuke’s family who smiled at us the whole time! Tonight we rehearse in Cari’s and my apartment, then hit the Chicago Jazz Festival. Look out for us around noon tomorrow in Millenium Park, and then hit up our show at 5:30PM!

-Laura

Yelp Me, Chicago

// September 2nd, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog

Well, we’ve officially done it: we’ve performed in four Midwestern cities with this crazy musical of ours.

We had a nice little audience for our opening, with a fair number of people coming in a couple of minutes late (best moment: Max singing, “You don’t know the weight of human crises,” charging downstage center, while a latecomer comes up the center aisle and cowers). During our pre-show we noticed an artist from another show who came in, handed out his show’s flyers to everyone in our audience, and promptly left. Dear man: We appreciate your enthusiasm, but next time wait til they’re leaving, ok?

No one fell into “Hell” as we loaded out. We’re 1 for 1 so far. Fingers crossed.

After the show, we headed over to Fringe Central, but unfortunately the party had moved from the garden to the bar across the way and our Under-21s couldn’t come in. The old’uns stopped inside for a drink and a schmooze, and talked to Shanna Shrum from “Skinny-Dipping,” Les from “Christmas in Bakersfield,” Joe from “Kraigslist,” and Pat Tierney. We shared postcarding strategies and lamented that the Midwest Circuit folks had to miss the preview performance. We also listened to a band that was really cool, pretty strange, and difficult to describe. There were ukeleles, three women singing harmony, and maybe an accordion? I have no idea how to categorize what they were doing, but it sounded great.

Today’s plan was street performance, but it’s raining, so we’re going to catch some ends of shows after ours tonight. We perform at 4PM! You didn’t want to work on a Thursday anyway.

And finally, we have an event on Yelp for all of those non-Facebookers (or at least those of you who aren’t my Facebook friends): Grind on Yelp

See you at the show!

-Laura

Final Opening Night

// September 1st, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog

Well, folks, here it is. Our last opening night. Some days it seems like this tour has been going on forever, and some days it’s inconceivable that it will end as soon as it will. We’ve got five performances left; now we just need to make the most of them. That’s right, Pilsen: we’re going to rock our faces off. I hope you’re not creeped out by faceless performers.

Our tech went wonderfully well last night. As we set up, an Old Style beer representative came into the theater with a 24-pack of cold Old Styles, five headbands, and a smile. He gave them all to us, and then told us about the best places to hang out in Pilsen. Best. Fringe sponsor. Ever. He said that Pilsen is Shangri-La, and that putting an El stop in would ruin it–”Get a bicycle!”

I’ve been to performances at the Dream Theatre before (the Agon trilogy), and was expecting our space to have a loft and overhang, but instead they took out some of the floor seats, put up some flats, and made a very intimate floor-stage reminiscent of our venue in Kansas City without the platform. We managed to move one flat back so that we could position the shadow screen to be as visible as possible, but it will definitely keep us on our toes to adjust back to a space less than half the width of the Indy Theater on the Square.

Another surprise–we’re doing this round of performances without microphones! The space is resonant enough that we don’t need them, so we have one fewer element to worry about. But we didn’t want to make it too easy on our performers, so we added some shadow puppetry to signify outside scenes.

We get to store the entire set in the basement, and had more fun than we’d expected handing set pieces down and popping back up, pretending we were rising up from “hell” (as Shakespeare’s actors called the trapdoor in the Globe). We just have to be sure to watch our step and not topple to our deaths when we’re loading in and out.

Today we’re postering the city, and at 10PM our final beginning performance (isn’t that a strange thought?) begins. If you’re in Chicago, come on by and tell your friends about the Chicago Fringe–we’d love to have some full houses!

-Laura

Finally: The City of Broad Shoulders!

// August 31st, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog

We’ve made it to the last stop on our tour: Chicago, the Second City.

We had a very productive last few days in Indianapolis. On Saturday, that secret project to which I alluded went through…sort of. We went to a local recording studio to try to cut a soundtrack, but with the amount of time we had (and the amount of experience the budding sound technician had) it took about seven hours to record two songs. We now have very professional-sounding takes of “Pick Me Up” and the “Finale,” and we’ll let you know as soon as we decide what we’re going to do with them. They sound great, though. Especially through noise-canceling headphones–it’s like entering the world of our musical.

We had lovely audiences on Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday’s show was perhaps the best we’ve had so far, which was a great way to finish the Indianapolis tour. IndyFringe had a closing night party with free West Coast tacos and beverages, and we got to have one last hangout with all of the people we’d met in Indy. Like has been the case in all of the other cities, we’ll be sad to leave behind the artists and theatre enthusiasts we’ve met, but I think I can safely say that apart from some of the restaurants on Mass Ave, we won’t be missing Indianapolis the way we do, say, Minneapolis.

Our caravan made it without incident to Chicago yesterday afternoon, and everyone has been excited to be in a city that feels alive even during the day (I’m looking at you, KC). What’s even nicer is that three members of the cast are moving into real apartments here, so we have legitimate home bases within the city limits and not everyone needs to impose on a host. Now we start the promotion work all over again!

Tech is this afternoon at 4, and the Dream Theatre has a bit of a loft overhanging the stage, so we’re going to have to be creative when we set up The Rush this time around. This group loves a challenge, though, so I’m sure it will all turn out fine. We’re pretty good at making things fit (twss).

So if you’re in the Chicago area, come swing by the Dream Theatre in Pilsen! Our first show will be tomorrow, Wednesday Sept 1, at 10PM. Come on, all the cool kids are showing up tired but happy for work on Thursday morning.

-Laura

I Love A Parade

// August 27th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog

Even when it’s a tiny one.

Today at 11:30 we gathered with some fellow Fringers (paperStrangers, Ben Egerman, Justin Brady, Kurt Fitzpatrick, Shanna Shrum, the folks from the “Screw You Revue,” and the clown from “Unbearable” as well as the folks at “Gilgamesh”) to march on down en masse to Monument Circle for a Fringe flash-mob/demonstration/spectacle.

Except, er, the Colts were having a rally. And had cordoned off half of the Circle. And had food tents, cheerleaders, a huge stage, really loud music, a hundred people, and cops.

But we in the theatre are nothing if not flexible! We danced to the music of the Colts. We handed out postcards to Colts fans. We got the cops to tell us it was illegal for us to be there and that we had to be on the other side of the barricades. We sang for passersby. And we ended up having promoted ourselves better than we’d thought we would. Plus it was a lot of fun. Don’t believe me? Trust Twitter:

(from @jfbrady on Twitter)

Our line-through this afternoon confirmed that we do indeed still remember this show, and we found the spare key to our billeter’s apartment (it was inside, not floating around where someone could get into her place) so four of us can sleep in a real house tonight! All in all, it’s been a pretty successful return to Indianapolis.

Our show is at 9PM tonight. Get there early–it’ll be crowded!

Oh, and there’s a surprise happening tomorrow. We’ll tell you about it after the 6PM show tomorrow night, but get excited.

-Laura

Chicago Recon

// August 26th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog

We visited Pilsen today to do some advance advertising for “Grind,” and also put up posters about an hour away in Ravenswood/Lincoln Square, where lots of theatre-types live. The Chicago Fringe fell a bit short of their advertising budget, and it’s the first year of the festival, so attendance is anyone’s guess. We’ll do all we can to get the word out about this big, glorious thing called the Fringe!

Tonight the cast reunites in Indianapolis, and tomorrow we join the rest of the Fringe at noon to create a scene at “The Circle” (no, I don’t have any idea what it is either) at noon. If you’re in Indy and you know what this is, come check us out! Next performance is at 9PM tomorrow, and I can tell it will be a good one.

In sum: Whether you’re in Indy or Chicago, tell your friends about the Fringe! Then, when they’re fluttering with excitement, tell them about “Grind: The Musical” and watch their heads explode from joy.

-Laura

Some More Reviews

// August 25th, 2010 // No Comments » // Blog, Media

This one is from Bravo Indianapolis (here):

Minnesota based Theatre Undeclared offers musical talents on Theatre on the Square’s main stage. Always in awe of those with talents I do not possess, I commend the creators of Grind: The Musical for their exploration of various musical genres throughout their show. Though the writing was a bit hokey and only a few of the singers really shone, creativity abounds as shadow puppets further the setting. This slice of life musical from the RENT generation pays homage to the rock musical concept, yet remains unaware of itself. Biting off a bit more than they could chew, writers Alex Higgen-Houser, Laura Stratford David Kornfeld attempt to tackle eviction notices, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the death of parents and the search for artistic fulfilment. They simply had too many loose ends to tie up in fifty-five minutes. Musical theatre fans will appreciate the hard work these novices put in to this production and even recognize their success, which equally balance their failures.

Worth Seeing at Theatre on the Square’s Main Stage:
Monday, August 23 at 6:00 pm
Friday, August 27 at 9:00 pm
Saturday, August 28 at 6:00 pm
Sunday, August 29 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for coming out, Katelyn!

And Dori Kay wrote this on the IndyFringe website (here):

The Grind Cast was spotted doing a street performance in Indy yesterday – performing their hearts out with overflowing talent, fun, and humor. It made me want to rush out and buy a ticket to every one of their performances in Indy before they sell out, and then follow them to Chicago for more. After seeing them in Minneapolis, I can honestly say this energetic, talented, brave, strong, collaborative group is not to be missed. Go see Grind to experience connection – you’ll be better off for it! Grind Cast – do keep your public informed of your future endeavors – you have a following <3

Right now we’re all taking a couple of days off, and Alex, Cari and I are scouting out Chicago, but never fear, Indianapolis–we’ll be back and ready to rock in time for our next show on Friday at 9PM!

-Laura

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