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May 15, 2010

Brackley Obama
Jules Corriere - Franklin County, Georgia

We had a read through of our play last week, after table work. We all had a big laugh at a mis-speak of one of the lines in our scene “One Hundred Years of Nursing”. It’s a scene based on stories I gathered from the Ty Cobb Nursing Home, from two ladies who are 103 and 98 years old, both of them former nurses. The line in the script reads “Lord, Lord, I’ve gone from Jim Crow to Barack Obama.” Instead, the actor read “Lord, Lord, I’ve gone from Jim Crow to Brackley Obama”. We all had a good laugh because our lighting designer’s name is Brackley. So, we let him know how fondly people think of him here in North Georgia.

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May 03, 2010

Real People, real Stories
Jules Corriere - Franklin County, Georgia

I finished the last of tablework yesterday for "A Shot in the Arm". I think Saturday was the most tedious work I've done on a play, in a while. Maybe a couple of years. I really wanted to get down to the essence of the story and the characters. What is stressful for me during table work is not that my words are getting changed. Heck, that even happens after the show opens. Brackley often quips "Jules, none of these projects ever have to worry about paying you a royalty, because no one performs what you write". We laugh at this, because people do take liberties, once they have the roles. IT's a good thing, because often, what happens is an actor will have known a certain person that a character was based on, and do it up a little more. I love it when that happens.

Where the stress comes in, for me, is when i use stories from people who are still living. I did that a lot in this play. I also used a story from one of our own cast members, Zadie Gaines, who grew up in a funeral home. Her story is central to the play. It's not just stories we are working on during table work, it's people's lived experiences. I work on the transcripts from the stories I'm given, and then turn it into a dramatic piece. Sometimes I have to take a few liberties. I always want to be conscious of the fact that real people are attached to these pieces. Doing table work, when the real person is right there, is both an honor and a stressor. I often use actual quotes inside of the dialogue. In usual tablework, it's easier to say "Eh, that just doesn't sound right." or "That sounds convoluted", or whatever else may be said. Sometimes, I'm the one saying those things in table work, like "Wait, let me fix this language". But when the real people are there, in the room, at the table, it can be awkward to say "Wait, this just doesn't sound right" when they are the ones who said it.

I didn't have to be too stressed out. Zadie is incredibly gracious. She is an awesome source and a great storyteller. I guess I've become ultra-sensitive. I want her to like the portrayal of her, but more than that, I need her to know how much I honor and value her and all of the other story tellers, like Doc Sullivan, Barbara Brown, Dr. Harrison, Dr. Thompson (whose son is in the show), Dr. Ridgway. THey or their relatives are around.

So far, I think the community and the storytellers like what's been written. Dr. Sullivan sent over his personal Doctor's coat with his name on it, and wants the actor playing him to wear it. We've got Louise Wray's lab coat from her drug store for another actor, and the Ty Cobb museum is letting us use Ty's original Detroit Tiger's uniform. What I think we will do is put it on display, and make a replica for our actors to wear. All of this is to say that this year's play is really tangible. The characters are close to the community. Tonight, we all get together and read through the play to see how it sounds after table work. I've got a good feeling about it.

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April 27, 2010

Away We Go!
Jules Corriere - Franklin County, Georgia

Rehearsals have officially started for "Ahhh Shot in the Arm". We had about 80 people last night turn out to pick up scripts, schedules, and renew friendships. Our Land of Spirit family is growing, as we've got lots of new people in the cast this year, and we are also happy to have some old-timers back!

I'd forgotten to mention some neat things about the public reading last month. One of the characters in the production, Mama Beth, was the wife to the beloved Dr. Ridgway. Her great granddaughter and great niece came to the reading wearing Mama Beth's hats and jewelry. The characters in this year's play are so in-touch with the people. All I keep hearing is "Oh, I remember that" and "That doctor treated me with the same cure". "Ooh, he was my mama's doctor, too!" I'm really excited to hear people so into their roles. We started table work last night, and I'm also really happy with how well the play is reading out of the mouths of the actors. It's sounding VERY Franklin County. We especially had fun with our cussing scene last night.

We had some special guests in town from Jonesborough yesterday, as well as some folks from Sanford here via phone conference, and they were all picking the brains of Land of Spirit leaders Judy, Genny and Vivian, and how they've been able to do such a remarkable job here. An example of their success was a call this weekend, and Mt Olive Church bought 40 tickets to the performance. People were calling for tickets for this year's show before tickets had even been printed yet!

Janna Browning is now here, too, and working with CPI full time as a director. We're all really happy to have added her and all of her expertise to our growing team.

Judy has started putting together the story wall, featuring pictures and descriptions of our story tellers and story characters. She and I will take a trip to the Ty Cobb museum this week, as Ty Cobb is a character in this year's play. He's from right here in Royston, and if it weren't for baseball, there wouldn't be a hospital, Since Ty is the one who fronted the money for it.

Today is in a bit of a scramble, as my car battery is official kaput and we're trying to get it at least jumped to take it to the auto place for a new one, while still trying to have some planning meetings before tonight's table work. BUt we'll get it all together. For now, the phones are ringing with ticket sales, the cast is abuzz learning their new roles, and Heather is finishing up the final 2 songs. And away we go!

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February 02, 2010

After the Snow
Jules Corriere - Asheville

Sunday cleared up for us enough to pull together a work through. We were still missing some cast members who were snowed in, but we managed to work through and piece the play together, up to the final scene. Last night, we had an even better turn out, and we did a full run through. It was our last time to hit some serious scene work, because tonight, Iega begins choreography. RIchard and I need an extra five or so hours of rehearsal, and Brett needs a couple more hours of music, but we are where we are. The cast is very strong, and everyone is pitching in to help each other. Others are making arrangements to come an hour early each day this week, to make up that scene work, before Choreography rehearsals. It's rare to experience this generosity of time and spirit! Meanwhile, we're now hitting the days where we're in the space starting at about 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning until about 10:00 at night. I've got the added exctiement (I'm choosing to look at it as an adventure) that Richard will be at the creative communities conference from Thursday through Monday, so it will be the first time I've done a full tech all by myself, without Richard. I do have my team, so I am sure we'll have a great time and get everything done. Richard is slamming on getting a lot of the building done before he leaves, because while I'm OK at drilling holes and driving screws, I don't have the mechanical "fix" mind that Richard does, so he and Jason are solving all of those things in these first few days before Richard leaves. Well, I have cast members coming early, so i have to go rehearse. Choreography starts tonight, which is everyone's favorite.

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January 30, 2010

Snowed In
Jules Corriere - Asheville

Today was to be the first big “pull it together” rehearsal with the cast. We’re two weeks out from opening. This is when we work through both acts, and the cast finally gets a vision of the big picture of the show. But it started snowing around 3:00 yesterday afternoon and kept going. The threat of this possibility weighed on us all week, because we knew how important today was. We also knew how important the rehearsal for Friday night was—the last bit of scene work with our tough urban-renewal, civil rights scene. We kept hoping, maybe the wind will shift. Maybe it won’t be so bad as they’re saying.

Well, it started snowing at three yesterday. When it started coming down, it stuck immediately, and things got icky quickly. I threw some overnight stuff in the car, and some bags of sandwich stuff and other little things, because chances were, we wouldn’t be able to make it back up the mountain again after rehearsal in the evening. I’m glad we prepared. We got stranded down here in town. Janna and I talked Richard into staying at the hotel a couple of blocks away, rather than spending the night in the church.

Janna Browning is the Assistant Director to the show, and comes from Jonesborough, Tennessee, about an hour down the road from here. We’re working with Janna as another Community Performance Director. She’s doing great work with the cast, really cleaning up specific moments in the scenes and doing a lot of one-on-one actor work, strengthening their individual performances.

Last night, as the snow fell, we rehearsed some scenes, there were some brave souls who lived nearby who came out to the rehearsal. Steve made his way, and soon found himself stranded, so I added him on to the growing list of reservations for us to be staying at a hotel down the road.

Today, the rehearsal that should have started at 10:00 am was instead replaced by a snow-shoveling party, led by Richard and Cole, one of our actors. Brett and I showed up, followed by Janna, and then Steve, Ben, Naomi, Alice, Emily. We had enough of a team to turn today into a tech day, so it would not be a total wash-up. There is a LOT of work, because we have 13 HUGE windows that need to be covered. I’m talking 30 foot high, stained glass windows. So, we’re getting necessary work done. But still, tick tick tick, we really needed that rehearsal today. Iega gets here Tuesday so we stop most scene rehearsals then. Brett still needs another day of music rehearsal. I was going to give him two hours today, since it was going to be a 10-6, but I can’t afford to give Brett that much time tomorrow or Monday, because now those days need to be catch up days.

Hopefully, the snow and sleet will be done this afternoon. I think we’ll have a great rehearsal tomorrow, because everyone knows we HAVE to have a great rehearsal tomorrow. For now, we’re doing tech stuff and waiting on Jason, our set designer, to arrive. Yes, his flight made it into Charlotte this morning. We’re just waiting for him to drive from there, but I-40 is too hazardous to take right now, so he’s taking the other way. It’s a good thing the name of this play is Always Expect Miracles. We do. We will.

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January 08, 2010

The Open Circle
Jules Corriere - Asheville

We had our Orientation meeting and had way more people show up than we expected, which was wonderful! It was so cold, maybe 20 degrees outside, and this kind of attendance, in this weather, warmed us all.

Usually, we begin the process of community performance talking about the “circle”. How we always start each rehearsal with a circle, which signifies that we are one, together. This group is very diverse, maybe even more diverse than even our Scrap Mettle Soul cast in Chicago. We’ve got ages, cultures, ethnicities, religions, non-religions, etc, etc, etc. It’s made us aware of something, and our colleague, Lise Kloeppel articulated it best--- always be aware of who is NOT in the room. So now, instead of a closed circle, we will have a circle, with an opening, for the next person, or idea, to enter. It reminded me of something I’ve been doing all my life. It’s been a tradition in my family to have an empty chair at the table- it was a tradition in my mom’s family, too. We both grew up in military families. There was always space for a soldier or friend or anyone, who didn’t have a place to go or eat, on a Sunday, or a holiday, or any day, really. That chair was rarely empty.

I loved Lise’s suggestion of opening up, opening out, and reaching out to recognize that we don’t know everybody in our community, but we’re open to receiving the next person who walks in.

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December 31, 2009

A Late Script, A Morphine Ride and some Awesome Music
Jules Corriere - Asheville

After an unexpected stay in the hospital this month, I got back on track and finished up the rest of the Asheville play, "Always Expect Miracles". I laugh now, as I realize I always live into the theme of the play I am currently working on. I know RIchard must think it's a miracle I finally finished writing it. His time for conceptualizing was greatly shortened, but luckily, we've been talking all along, so it's coming together. Besides, he's Richard. He can do it. Rehearsals begin on Monday.

I'd had a good portion of the play written for the first reading in November. What I didn't have was the bigger, tougher scenes. I knew what they were, and where they went, but I hadn't developed them yet. It took a while for that to come, and that's when I ended up at Mary Immaculate Hospital. I think my muse was already in the hospital waiting on me, and that's why I couldn't write.


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Community Performance Inc. is an organization specializing in the creation of theatrical productions from stories of people and their places, using these productions to promote understanding and partnerships within the community. [CPI Web site]

Richard Geer: People Magazine says "Director Richard Geer heals troubled communities with the magic of theatre – and the gift of new hope." Richard Geer created Community Performance – theater of, by and for the community – to empower individuals and bring neighborhoods together. Working in partnership with communities and organizations, Geer has founded over a dozen theater groups, including Georgia's Official Folk Life play, "Swamp Gravy," which was part of the 1996 Cultural Olympiad in Atlanta, Georgia, and was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and Uptown Chicago's Scrap Mettle SOUL, a multigenerational, multicultural, mixed-economic performance project. Geer's work has been showcased across America, as well as England, Scotland, Brazil and Chile. Geer holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University.

Jules Corriere is a playwright and director with Community Performance, Inc. She has written 21 plays, including the Chicago production of Scrap Mettle SOUL's "The Whole World Gets Well," which won the Presidential Points of Light Award, and toured the UK; "Let My People Go! A Spiritual Journey," which performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and "Turn the Wash Pot Down" in Union, S.C., featured in People Magazine and named the state's Official Folk Life Play. Jules serves as co-artistic director of "Swamp Gravy," Georgia's Official Folk Life Play.


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