Andrew Jackson’s Second Blog, or Filling the Space Between Profanities

Jackson here.

American presidents have to stick by a lot of tough goddamn decisions, and I’m often asked by my wife how I could force so much “back-asswards, xenophobic policy pigfuckery” on the Indians, the National Bank, various states and territories, the Legislative and Judicial branches of government and the American people in general. Conquering large swaths of continent ain’t always easy, folks, especially when you’re attempting to usher in a shiny new era of populism in direct opposition to a fully feckless Congress, fiscally manic Washington aristocrats and an entire race of people whose most enduring legacy to this country is leather fringe and fucking rain sticks.

Pictured here; a fucking rain stick.

Keeping America safe is about keeping America informed. Information is what puts food in our mouths, bullets in our guns and freedom in our mouths and our guns. Despite the media’s misinterpretation of the facts about me, I trust the public eye will see me for what I am. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone has a little blood on their hands, everyone feels a little guilty watching the commercial with the Indian crying because someone threw food on his moccasins.

Maybe I’ve been hasty in my decisions for the sake of this country, maybe the Trail of Tears amounts to genocide and a gross misappropriation of executive power, but the important thing is fuck youAndrew Jackson doesn’t just do the will of the people, he is the will of the people. Listen. I’m a flawed guy, admittedly, and that’s why I’m doing this whole Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson thing. Now, more than ever, the American people should understand the current politics of their nation, the politics that can be traced through the long colon of American history, all the way back to my ass, which is where I pulled them out of in the first goddamn place.

Entertainment is the key to reaching the masses, and though my usual way to the heart of a person is by shooting it with bullets, the way to the heart of a civilized people is through art, through the theatre. Because I’m also a person, a really sensitive person. Plus, Rachel is getting tired of my war stories and bedtime roleplay requests.

"Let's cut each other with my knife. Just the tip."

Really hope she doesn’t read this blog.

Essentially, the goal here is just to entertain the masses. Stuff got hella complicated when I tried to actually change this country and it looks like things aren’t getting any easier. Hate-mongering politishits have only gotten politishittier and there’s no room in the modern world for me, a man of ideas so old they predate the Democratic party. Example; I had some minor issues with the way the banking industry made its profits at the expense of the American people, so I shut it down. Really, honestly, does the idea of revamping a corrupt American banking system resonate with anyone anymore?

Thought not.

It seems like politicians have either pumped my ideas full of bovine steroids or forgot about them entirely. Every precedent I set has either been swept under the rug or expanded to the point of absolute cock-boggling absurdity. Even I didn’t see the Patriot Act coming, and I invented the idea of an uberpowered executive branch.

I’m just spitballing here, but when was the last time a new party asserted itself in this country? Come on, people. Kowtowing to the Washington elite isn’t only unpatriotic, it’s goddamn boring. Can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m starting to miss the frontier. Hell, at least you could smoke inside in 1828.

Everybody out there in cyberspace, listen up. Even if politics aren’t your thing, even if you don’t like music, even if you’re not a human, come see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Sex, rock n’ roll, war, leather, weasels; this show is everything you never knew you always wanted. Everything and more.

That’s right motherlovers, Jackson’s back

Peoples of the Internet, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States. By the time I was fourteen I had outlived my entire family. My body holds more bullets than your gun. I survived assassination attempts, wars, duels and the death of the only woman I ever loved. My friends call me Ol’ Hickory and my enemies call me Sharp Knife, partly because saying my actual name three times consecutively summons my ghost and partly because I’m just, like, a goddamn badass.

Now, everyone knows I throw an awesome party. We’re talking tubs of alcoholic punch on the White House lawn awesome. Some of you out there may even be attending a party I started back in the 19th century; the Democratic party. Yeah, I started that. And I’m the reason the Democratic party’s symbol is a jackass. Now, I’ve been on a long hiatus from the party scene but I think it’s time to get my balls rolling again and I’m kicking it off with A WHOLE F***ING ROCK SHOW. YEAH. WITH GUITARS AND SHIT. You’re welcome.

I was gonna base the whole thing on how much the Nullification Crisis sucked balls, but then my wife, Rachel, was like, “Andrew, no one gives a shit about politics anymore. All they want is entertainment. And if you say balls in front of the public I am going to kick you in the neck in your sleep.” I’m working on rewrites but I’m either gonna call it Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson or Must Love Dogs. There’s gonna be a band, The Dukes are Dead, and a lot of blood and maybe a librarian and Rachel says she wants to be in it too so there’s that.

I gotta be honest with you, folks. I’m broke right now. The truth is, I came back here to kick ass and raise money and I’m all out of ass. Literally, I’ve kicked everyone’s ass ever. Everyone. Think about that, then stop thinking about it and give me some money. I’ll accept barter too; weasel furs, lumber, large plots of arable land that don’t belong to you, old vinyl, Three Musketeers bars (bite size only please), used jacuzzi water, Slap Chops, coffins, Pogs, DO NOT SEND ANY MORE F*CKING TUPPERWARE, FOR THE LOVE OF F*CK. You can donate money to supply the band with booze food here.

More posts to come soon. Just figured out how Youtube works. Does anyone else hate Vevo?

Love,

AJ and Rachel

Meet Jason Podplesky

What role are you playing in the show?
Anton [They keep forgetting about Abe]

How long have you been acting?
All my life. My mother is also an actress so I grew up in a theatre.

Have you been in a show at Know Theatre before?
No, this is my first.

Who was the first politician you voted for?
Bill Clinton

What was the first play you ever saw?
Jesus Christ Superstar

If train A leaves Boston travelling south at 110mph against a prevailing wind with gusts upwards of 75mph and train B leaves Birmingham travelling northeast at 150mph with a steady breeze at its back, which train is more FABU-LOUS!?
I always believe in taking the A train.

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?
You betcha!

What is your favorite color (other than Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Green, Purple, and Pink)?
Black.

After a long day at work I like to…
go to rehearsal

What is your alcoholic beverage of choice?
Yuengling Beer

Do you enjoy big, gay dancing?
I do indeed.

You’re stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life. There’s plenty of food and water and, heck, maybe even satellite TV – BUT, you can only wear one of the following outfits for the entirety of your stay: A child’s Halloween cowboy costume, a wet-suit, a Santa Claus outfit, or your Birthday suit.
I would need a few clarifications before answering. Does the cowboy costume come with a gun? Would I have to wear the beard with the Santa outfit? Is this a tropical climate, as I chafe in very humid weather.

What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Free.

Corn: On the cob or off?
On. Definitely. Unless its creamed. I love me some cream corn.

What was the name of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated?
Our American Cousin by Tom Taylor. (Thank you google.)

Have you ever stood in the middle of a field and looked up at the stars?
Yes. I was flat on my back at the time 😉

If you could say one thing to Abraham Lincoln, what would it be?
Beware of actors with guns.

How often do you sneeze?
Fairly regularly. Every day I suspect. I sneeze in 2’s.

2 + 2 = ?
5

Adding Machine Afterthoughts

Bing! The image of a light bulb over one’s head evokes a sense of realization. I, myself, have recently come to a realization. Scenic design and lighting consists of more deliberate intentions and implementations than are realized by the typical audience member. Up until now, I thought the set and lighting only involved notes in the script such as “move table here” and “dim lights” when, in fact, it consists of much, much more. To effectively communicate a message, every aspect of a production must harmonize to create one fluid piece. This unity, however, does not always come natural. Each element must be thought out and then carefully positioned within the play as a whole. Scenic design and lighting are no different.

Let’s take a gander at some of these intentions scenic designer, Andrew Hungerford, and director, Michael Burnham, took to Adding Machine: A Musical’s production. “Rather than simply creating scenery, we were in pursuit of a world in which we could play. That led to a setting that is, in itself, a machine,” says Hungerford, “Scene changes are carried out by actors actually doing the work of cranking winches, shifting skeletal window units, and flipping open trapdoors. The look and construction is inspired by technology that ranges from the mechanisms of the original Victorian Adding machines through the electrical glow of early vacuum tubes.  There’s also a bit of the Bauhaus aesthetic in the shifting window units which initially form a back wall. The plan was to create a mechanism that evokes history without being fully tied to a single period: it’s been around for a while, and will continue to be here for a very long time indeed.” From the mobility of the physical set to the actors’ set interaction with it, the scenic design in Adding Machine effectively delivered connotations of technology.

Scenic design and lighting go together like peas and carrots. For each to look good, you need the other. “From the beginning, this was a scenic design created with lighting in mind: there are gratings in the floor to provide dramatic footlight and uplight positions, skeletal window units that track across the stage, and practical bare light bulbs that fill and surround the playing space.  Those are elements that call out to be treated or exploited in some way,” says Hungerford. Lighting helps set the mood, place, and time in a scene and must be carefully planned and executed, especially for important moments in the play.

For example, the character Daisy has a fantasy sequence that feels something like a classic movie musical number (the song continually references the movies and their “flickering lights”).  “To help evoke that feel, a light on a roving boom operated by an actor as a rudimentary followspot while another ensemble member spun a specially prepared umbrella in front of the light to theatrically create a flicker like an old projector.”

In another moment, when Mrs. Zero attempts to connect with her husband on the night before he’s executed, a single light bulb on a stand is placed before her.  As she begins the number, she leans into the light bulb, singing into like a microphone, her lips glowing in the light of the bare filament. These pictures create memorable, theatrical, and lovely images which capitalize on the actor’s delivery. Deliberate intentions. A professional theatre company’s season is packed full of deliberate intentions; one that requires a creative team, committed actors, and effective implementation. Next time your watching a play (preferably one of our shows) I ask you to make special note of the hidden secrets and imagery housed in the set and lighting design. I certainly will.

Steampunk

I’ve been reading/listening to/thinking about Adding Machine for a few months now. I came into the project knowing a little something about the original 1923 play by Elmer Rice, but that didn’t prepare me for the power of the music of this piece. The first time I heard the score was pretty amazing. I put on the CD as I was going to do some menial drafting updates for another show, but when the music started I had to lean back in my chair and simply take the time to listen.

Adding Machine has the kind the kind of music that infiltrates your brain and takes neurons hostage. It demands your attention and won’t let go. I wake up in the middle of the night from dreams of shifting and rotating scenic pieces with the show’s finale, “Music of the Machine,” pulsing in my head. And I’m loving that. It’s not a common thing to work on a piece that is classic and new and compelling all at the same time. There are elements of exploration to it: you feel like you’re having some sort of grand adventure navigating the complexities of the piece.

It also helps to be working with people I really like. The cast and crew on this show are full of people I love, people I love working with, people I’ve always wanted to work with, and people I’m excited to have the chance to work with.

There is an energy around this project that is both hard to quantify and hard to pin to a specific source. Partly it comes from having all of these really great people in one room. Partly it comes from the strength of the material. And when it’s all put together the energy adds up to this: it feels like the theatre is firing on all cylinders right now, and that’s thrilling. We as a company have been building momentum through the course of the season and it’s only getting more satisfying to be a part of.

So, um, what does this have to do with design? Well, the people and the energy influence the process.

Early on, when director Michael Burnham and I sat down to talk about the show it started simply: two friends talking about the show. And then I pulled out some sketches I had done, not quite cocktail napkin sketches, but close. Sketches on the back of some paperwork from a previous show, rough thumbnails that I’d be embarrassed to show you (seriously). But over some years, Michael and I have developed some common vocabulary that’s really useful when talking about shows. And so from the pen scratches and simple shapes, he saw where I was headed, and then we worked together to craft that into a working environment.

Because this piece really needs a set that is a world to play in. It’s got a bunch of scenes in different locations, and two very distinct parts to the show. Rather than try to produce realistic settings, we’re going for something more, well, theatrical. A setting that is, in itself, a machine. This will make more sense when you see the show. Really.

In terms of period influence, as the costumes tell us, we’re sort of placing the show in the 1920’s. But for the scenic design, the period is a bit more of a mashup. We’ve got ideas of legacy Victorian and industrial revolution technology hanging around. It’s not a world that has sprung new and full formed from a vacuum.

I would not call the set “steampunk” inspired, because it’s not really. Still, I will write the word here because I think it’s useful to have rattling around in your head. It implies a conflation of technologies that allows for some really sweet story telling. And it’s just cool to say. Try it. “Steampunk.”

So this set design, it’s like the adding machines and Babbage’s difference engine, things that are the apex of that mechanical nineteenth century technology, have been working and functioning and gathering grime for say 25 years. And maybe they’ve been augmented with newfangled devices like lightbulbs and vacuum tubes. And so we have a machine. And the people on the stage are a part of it.

The design is simple, but ambitious. It’s that energy that I mentioned earlier that has fueled the ambition: we’re in a place where we all feel like we can totally pull this off.

I’m being mysterious on purpose. I’m trying not to give too much away, because, as I may have mentioned, I’m really excited about this show and I want there to be surprises. I hope that all of you reading this are excited about the show too. We, the cast and crew, director and designers are, I think, creating something pretty unique. We’re putting our all into doing this thing, and in a couple of weeks we’ll be ready for you to come be a part of it. I hope you’ll join in: it’s going to be quite an adventure.

Getting ready for the 1920s

As a costume designer, I love to do period shows.  And doing a show set in the 1920s is great.  There are just so many great things about this era.  The girls in their flapper dresses, rouged knees and cloche hats.  The boys with their sharp suits and spats.  This is a time when both men and women were experiencing freedom in what they wore and getting away from some of the formality of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

When working on a show, the first and most important step is doing the research.  This is how you get familiar with the time period you are working in and how you know that you are being true to the period in your design.  When designing costumes, it is so important to find the right clothes that will support the characters in the play and the world that the characters live in.  And doing research for this show was fun.  I hit the books, pulling great images and learning about the period.  I also used the internet to find more images and information.  And, there were a couple movies that helped out to.  Then, I sorted thru everything and decided what looks would best support the characters in Adding Machine.   And working with the director and other designers, developed a design for the show.  Now, to find everything that is needed, that is going to be fun.