Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ordinary Days at the Towle Theater


The photo above is one I took early in the photo shoot Wednesday, before I even saw the musical rehearsal. It said a lot to me at that moment, really, or I would not have photographed it. That big picture frame with no big picture. It goes along with the wallpaper on this blog, and this story as well.

As I continue to run about NW Indiana, I keep passing by the Towle Theater in Hammond. I heard about this theater at Paul Henry's Art Gallery. In fact, they are right next to each other, sharing the same rear parking lot. So, from all this passing by, I needed to do something about it so I contacted the Towle Theater. Thank you Jeff for letting me in!

The current production is the musical Ordinary Days. To respect the musical, I am going to use the names of the characters in this blog. This will help you connect to the musical when you go see it. Do realize it is the cast that made it delightful. So with that, let me first introduce you to the main characters and cast with some brief photos . . .

Deb played by Nicole Dizon 

Warren played by Andy Polomchak 

Claire played by Linda J. Wilczynski 

Jason played by Kevin Bellamy 

The story of the musical is great. I am neither a columnist nor a critic. So I will not even attempt to go there. What I am is a multi degree engineer that as of late, wished he followed his art instead of engineering. I see things, I make things go, and now I want to change from engineering to art and have you see what I see through my writing and photography. I want to show you Warren's and my ordinary that is all around us, the daily obstacles that Deb and I share, the ups and downs with relationships that Claire, Jason, and I endure, and to show you things we seem to pass by every day. Ordinary days in NW Indiana.

I can relate with Deb going to school, trying to complete work for class while setbacks of life seem to be all around to challenge you.  Demands from professors, and life, are always out there.

I can also relate to Claire and Jason.  I remember arguing with my girlfriend, then later that same person as my wife.  In fact I remember our first big argument when we were dating.  I left sad, knowing that I wanted to win her heart, and for reasons she knew and not me at the time, she was fearful to give her heart.  As I drove home I could not help but feel this is the girl I want to marry, to live the rest of my life with.  So I stopped at a store that was still open, walked around, bought a popcorn popper (okay laugh), went back to her apartment, and well, won her heart, at least for 15 years.

These last couple of months I have felt I could drop all that I went to school for in a heart beat, and just do photography.  Free photography, free to share to help others be happy.  This simple ordinary thought is what connected me to Warren.  Though I have my big picture like Deb imagined, right now it is not having a big picture like Warren that means more.

In Let Things Go of Act I, Claire just drew me in with her emotion, and this was just one of several scenes.  There are things in your life you just cannot let go of.  Over time I have forced myself to release what I had because of life change.  Now, I wish I had some of it back.  Thank God you kept it Claire!

I really liked the stage, the use of the picture frames, the pausing of actors to allow you to direct your  attention of what is in front, and yet as an ordinary day goes, you are still looking at what happens around. The actors and directing were so very good. I felt pulled to the characters, directed where to look, smiled when I was suppose to, felt sad when I was suppose to, and of course applauded when I was suppose to, without even knowing I was suppose to.

Though individual characters, they later cross paths, becoming intertwined in the play of life.  Is that it in a nut shell?  No, not really.  Each of us are unique because of our experiences, so go experience this musical!

Both additional characters were important to the musical. They helped connect the audience to the visual of city life, and the story the characters were telling.

The "Woman" was played by Abby Ogrentz. My son and I both recognized Abby from one of Paul Henry's Thursday night JAMs.

Women - Played by Abby Ogrentz

Man - Played by Martin Downs

The stage, the props, were totally appropriate for me.  Please take some time to look at the scenery on the back wall in the photo set below.  It was perfect.  All of the stage allowed me to keep focus on the characters, yet help paint the story with the actors of where they were, what they were doing, how they felt.  I really enjoyed the tour from Claire and Jason, changing platforms and describing their list, the "top 10 things to do in New York before you leave it".  It was so seamless and imaginable.

The production staff included the director, vocal/music director, lighting design, set design, and light board operator.  Though credits are normally in that order, I am going to reverse it for good reason.

Light Board Operator - Mike McCue
Set Design - Kevin Bellamy
Lighting Design - Shawn A. Smith

Vocal / Music Director - Valerie Webdell

The vocals were difficult, and performed great.  I noticed a pleasant difference between the rehearsal and opening night.  The audience helped to energize the experience for everyone on stage.  The music was perfectly synced with the actors, not leading, and helped set the tone for each story.

Director - Jeff Casey

I am not an actor. I have never watched how a production is put together.  However I see systems, I see processes, I see inputs and outputs to those processes, and I saw Jeff direct better than I had imagined it would have to be done.  And I have a big imagination.

A special thanks to Jeff and the Towle Theatre staff, who allowed me to photograph the rehearsal then come back opening night to photograph the before and after.  Jeff's directing and the support from the staff is what orchestrated this artistic presentation, that I felt was just for me.  I saw everything the musical was intending me to see, and I thought it was great.  And Jeff, in case you did not think I was paying attention, I saw the changeup of Deb sitting near Warren and squeezing his arm, to standing behind squeezing his shoulders with a bit more emphasis.  This elemental improvement is what defines a director in my book.

Here are some more photos for you to look at.  Enjoy!  (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Thank you to all of the artists out there, and to myself, for making an ordinary day enjoyable!

I left this until the end.  Here are some photos from opening night . . .

Towle Theater
5205 Hohman Avenue
Hammond, IN  46320

(219) 937-8780

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