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Greetings, merry makers! I’m Antoinette Williams, front of house manager for Seattle Rep. Part of my job is helping plan the theater’s opening night parties, so I’m here to give helpful hints on how to make your holiday party a success. Here are a few easy steps you can take to show your guests a good time—while giving you time to enjoy your party with them!
Pick a theme:
Of course the overall theme for a holiday party will be the holiday itself, but it’s always fun to pick a more specific theme for your gathering. This will allow you to be more whimsical with your food and décor. Working for a theater gives me the advantage of a built-in theme since the parties I throw are usually related to a show. Most recently I hosted an opening night party for Sylvia, a show about empty nesters who get a dog. This party was lots of fun to plan because I was challenged with the unique task of tying a dog theme in with the holidays.
I served Peppermint Bark (pun intended) cupcakes from Cupcake Royale and dog-bone shaped shortbread in a crystal dog bowl from Celestial Bakers to keep people in the spirit of the show. Both of those companies can provide great sweet treats! For your party consider using a recognizable holiday phrase as your theme like “Silver Bells” or “Winter Wonderland.” You can use silver bells or snowflakes in your décor to play up your theme. You can even encourage guests to get into the spirit by asking them to dress in theme. The more ambitious party planner could even create a contest surrounding their theme offering guests kitschy (and inexpensive) prizes.
An easy aspect of your party to have fun with is a signature drink. It can be a cocktail or a non-alcoholic drink (or a version of each), but a special beverage is always a crowd pleaser. When deciding on a signature drink note who will be attending your party, how well the drink will hold up over the length of the party, and what the overall cost for ingredients will be. A little goes a long way, so don’t feel as if you need twelve ingredients to make it delicious. Our signature cocktail for Sylvia, “Hair of the Dog,” has only four ingredients and it tastes fantastic! If you have a favorite holiday drink, go ahead and use it. There’s nothing wrong with taking an existing recipe and calling it something new. Just remember to make an extra batch or two for refills. Need inspiration? here’s a great list of holiday drinks from the Food Network.
Prep now, party later:
Whenever I am giving a party I’m always concerned with making sure every aspect of the party runs smoothly. Is the music at the right volume? Are we running low on crackers? Does the bathroom have enough toilet paper? As a host, worrying about these things is inevitable, but a little pre-planning will keep your stress level down and the party spirit up!
- Prepare multiple platters of food before the party starts. By making identical platters of one dish you can easily swap out near empty plates for full ones so that you don’t spend the entire night in the kitchen.
- Decide at what level you want your music before guests arrive and then stick with it. If the music fades into the background, so be it. Loud party talking is a sign you’ve got a fabulous shindig going on.
- Keep emergency TP available to guests. Find a way to set out extra paper that looks nice and organized but is easily in reach should a guest find themselves in need. Even theater restrooms run out of TP sometimes so we always keep extra close by.
Keep it simple:
Everyone wants to give the perfect party but don’t overextend yourself doing it. Make sure your food, decorative scheme, and guest list is manageable. Take on too much and you’ll end up with anarchy on your hands (not to mention a huge post-party mess). Remember, you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Get volunteers to help:
Whether it is your spouse, friend or co-worker, it’s always better to have extra hands to help you out. You never know when you might need a willing and able body to make a store run or warm the emergency mini quiches you just knew you would need. Make sure your helpers know exactly what they are getting into and never ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. With the right help, you and your volunteers will be able to enjoy your party. I am so fortunate to have an amazing staff here at Seattle Rep helping me with every event I host.
That’s it! You’re on your way to giving a holiday party your friends and family will be talking about all year long. Good luck, and don’t forget my invitation!
Actress Barbara Dirickson recalls Sylvia as one of the best times she’s ever had working on a show. She played the title role in Seattle Rep’s 1996 production opposite R. Hamilton Wright, who directed our current production of Sylvia.
She was a company member with the Rep in the ’80s and ’90′s, and as The Seattle Times points out, was often referred to as “Seattle’s favorite leading lady” and “one of the best actresses on the West Coast.”
Of her many theatrical experiences, Sylvia is both a role and production that stands out. But it’s not just the character or the play she remembers so well, it’s the audience.
Dirickson told us, “I would have to say one of my most memorable experiences was doing Sylvia. Another great director, David Saint, made that rehearsal a joy. Actors, designers, director, we all had the BEST time working on that show. But the reason I will always remember that show SO fondly is because of the audience. They were a vital part of that play. And they more than did their work! Remember, an actual picture of the dog was never seen until the last few minutes of that play…but the audience had an absolutely crystal clear picture of what that dog looked like in their own minds…We found that out when some people who had seen the show were writing the theatre to say that we had put the wrong dog up on the screen at the end of the play…it should have been a …a poodle…a lab…a collie… I ADORED the audience throughout the run of that show. They came to play ..and play they did. It was a ball. I will never forget it.”
Sylvia plays at Seattle Repertory Theatre—with another fantastic actress, Linda K. Morris, in the title role—through Sunday, December 11. Want to bring your pooch with you to the show? Then don’t miss our special Dogs Night Out, Pt.2 closing performance of Sylvia on Sunday, December 11 at 7:30 p.m. For more information call our Box Office at (206) 443-2222.
In Seattle Rep’s current production of A.R. Gurney’s heart-warming comedy Sylvia, we witness once again a dramatic convention Gurney has used throughout his body of work—having a single actor play multiple roles. Only this time, he complicates it with cross-gender casting. While the principal characters—Sylvia, Greg, and Kate—are played by different gender-appropriate actors, the fourth member of this cast plays three roles—a man, a woman, and an androgynous psychiatrist.
Seattle-based actor Darragh Kennan tackles the challenge of playing Tom, Phyllis, and Leslie in this season’s production of Sylvia.
Kennan and I sat down in his dressing room to chat about the reality of a male actor playing a man, woman, and man/woman in the same play.
Q: Can you tell us about these three distinctly different characters you play in Sylvia?
Darragh Kennan: Tom is a guy who we meet at the dog park, and he’s a dog aficionado. The way I play him anyways, you know, he’s a lonely guy. And he needs a friend. So that’s pretty straight forward other than the fact that he’s got some issues. Phyllis is this woman that was friends with the character of Kate in Vassar. They were friends in college. She’s Republican; an Upper East Side, Manhattan socialite. She’s got a drinking problem. Leslie is this sort of troubled psychiatrist who is exploring the boundaries of gender identification with his patients.
They’re all people that are struggling, just like Greg is.
Do you find one character more fun or challenging to play than another?
It goes back and forth. You know I’ve played multiple roles before so, you know, sometimes you really enjoy playing one character and then the other one you’re still trying to figure out, and then it flips around. At the moment, I like playing them all. They’re sort of all coming together right now. Leslie was the hardest one. And he’s still kind of – he, she, it – it’s not clear whether he’s a man or a woman, he/she/it, Leslie that is, was the hard one to kind of find. I’m still working through. The characters are like these archetype characters. They’re not real human beings, and yet the challenge as an actor is to make them human beings,but also serve the play, which is presenting these really strange people.
Can you talk more about the actors’ process – your process – of playing three different roles in the same play?
Well, it’s just like playing different roles in different plays; it’s just that this happens to be the same play. You try and make them different people. One of them is a woman, and one of them is just a guy. So that in and of itself has to be different. I don’t see how it couldn’t be different. I don’t think any actor would make those the same. And you know, I mean, they go to extremes to make me look like a woman. Like I have this suit on, with these hips, and I shaved my legs. I put all this makeup on, fake eyelashes, stiletto heels, and cover up any stubble I have on my face [to] really try to make me look like a woman. So it instantly transforms you.
Even before that, you know, any beginning actor goes through some schooling where you take a look at what’s going on, who [the characters] are based on the play and your imagination. Their circumstances are totally different. I mean, they’re not in the same place. I’ve always liked doing that—distinguishing different characters. That’s the least of the battle. That’s the easy part. The hard part is making them believable as real human beings within a farce, within a sketch comedy, not making them caricatures.
It’s funny the other day, I was getting ready to leave the house—I have two kids, one’s six and one’s four—and the six-year-old, my daughter, asks, “Daddy, do you feel embarrassed?You know to play a woman and dress-up?” And I’m like “No, why would you say that?” and she says, “Do you feel like, you know, maybe you’ll make a fool out of yourself?” I said, “You can’t think about that stuff, you just got to do your work.” But I thought that it was a really interesting question. It speaks to a lot of people’s fears. Putting on a dress and walking out on stage of the Bagley Wright Theatre, and being a woman, when you’re obviously not, it’s funny, but . . . that’s why you, with any character you play as an actor, you have to really believe who you are and what you’re doing and think about tactile stuff—the fact that you are in high heels, using a high voice. It’ll be fun, and I’m really interested to see what people think of it.
Music: a necessary ingredient in life and an integral part of telling good stories.
Hans Christian Anderson once said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” It’s true. Music can evoke a mood, a memory, underscore a point, and transcend conscious thought.
And besides…who doesn’t love a good soundtrack? In both theatre and film, music has the potential to make or break a story. Seattle Rep’s current production of A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia relies heavily on music to help convey its story. Sylvia’s Sound Designer Dominic CodyKramers took great care in selecting music and sound that would help create the world that Director R. Hamilton Wright envisioned. CodyKramers’ choices range from famous jazz standards to newer alternative rock.
His work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Last week, a patron contacted us after seeing Sylvia and asked for a list of the song tracks. We thought we’d share with everyone. Hope you can take a moment and enjoy the tunes!
Thanks again to everyone who came to Sylvia‘s Dogs Night Out this past Sunday! We had a blast, and we hope you—and your four-legged friends—did too.
More than 100 dogs attended the theatre on Sunday with their owners for a barking good time. Some dogs were even dressed up for their night on the town in bow ties, sweaters, pearls, and the occasional mohawk. Here are some of our favorite photos from the event:
To see more photos from Dogs Night Out, check out our Facebook album.
While the dogs have had their day, humans are still invited to see Sylvia, which plays in the Bagley Wright Theatre now through December 11. Click here for more information. Hope to see you at the theatre soon!
As Circle Mirror Transformation moves into its last week of performances in the Leo K. Theatre, another show has pawed its way into the Seattle Rep Costume Shop and onto the Bagley Wright stage—fleas and all.
With costume designs by Melanie Burgess, Sylvia is a story of husband and wife…and a stray dog, written by A.R. Gurney. I’ll let you in on a little secret though—the only dogs in the theater will be on November 13 for a very special Dogs Night Out performance of Sylvia—Sylvia, the stray, is played by the incomparable Linda K. Morris. I know! I was as surprised as you are right now. But fret not, Ms. Morris is highly trained and house broken. (If you don’t believe me, check out Morris in our “How to act like a dog” video!)
When reading this play for the first time at the beginning of my internship in September, I was just as charmed by the script as Burgess, a self-professed dog lover. After reading the script, two specific characters particularly fascinated me: Sylvia and Phyllis. Both of these roles require full transformations and lots of creativity from the designer, which Burgess was well prepared for after several decades of work at the Seattle Children’s Theatre.
Phyllis, played by Seattle actor Darragh Kennan, is an Upper East Side female socialite that Gurney wrote to be played by a male actor. This isn’t unprecedented, even Shakespeare wasn’t the first to use this comedic trick. Burgess looked to create a realistically feminine silhouette on the more slightly built Kennan. With the help of Naomi Weber, draper/tailor at Seattle Rep, and her fabulously talented first hand Laura Me, a one-piece garment complete with hips and a full bust—C cup to be exact—was constructed. The costume may be too realistic though, considering Kennan’s question during the fitting, “Ladies, are my hips too big?” Self-conscious already.
While there are undergarments to help the masculine figure of Darragh transform into a woman, I’ve never heard of doggy undergarments. But after drooling over the renderings that seemed to pop from the page, my fears were quelled. Sylvia has four different looks during the production: stray, groomed, relaxed, and a little black dress number. They all have hints of “dogginess,” but are meant for a feminine physique.
To tackle this issue, Burgess drew upon her past successes with animal characters and left the “mascot costumes” out of the mix. She wanted to suggest the look of a dog, and used the “boho-grunge” style of clothing—with its relaxed fit and messiness—as a resource more than research of man’s best friend. You know, sometimes I confuse the Olsen twins with stray dogs when I’m reading People magazine, so that makes sense…
But Sylvia does make it off the streets during the course of the show, trotting her way to the groomers and into some other ingenious costumes…but for those you’ll have to make your way down to the Bagley Wright Theatre and see for yourself. Hope to see you all at the Rep soon!
Corey Davis is Seattle Rep’s Costume Shop Intern.
Hello fellow canine friends. Our big night out is almost here! My human, the Box Office Manager here at the Rep, has asked me to remind you of a few things before the Dogs Night Out performance of Sylvia on Nov 13.
Bring your favorite leash because you’ll need to be on it at all times while inside the theatre.
Make sure you are with your human at all times. This means no running to chase after the cute little Chihuahua across the lobby.
The balcony will be reserved strictly for humans without canine friends.
Backstage is where humans will be too busy running the show to notice four-legged friends running around.
Try to resist the urge to jump up and play with the humans having fun on stage.
Remind your human that you should be up-to-date on all your vaccinations.
Make sure your human has signed the Pet Waiver and mailed it to the Box Office.
Understandably, all this fun might cause a little excitement piddle, but do your best to use the designated potty patch to do all your business.
Rather than try to sit in those theatre seats, I suggest you lay down at the foot of the seat. Some of you larger pups may feel more comfortable in an aisle seat, please have your human contact the Box Office if you think you’ll need more space.
You will have the opportunity to make new, theatre-loving four-legged friends. So be nice! Those of you acting like tough guys will be asked to leave by the humans running the event.
The show starts at 7:30, but you will want to come early—starting at 6:30—to check out the sponsor booths in the lobby.
Bark It Out:
If you want to tell your pals that you’re heading to the Rep, tweet it with the hashtag #DogsNightOut. Or have your human do it—I don’t know about you, but I’m all paws when it comes to typing.