Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An L.A. Perspective

A photo from "Educating Rita"


I’m Brie. Long story made short about me:
I graduated from BSC in 2005 with my BA in Theatre. I did technical theatre, design, and stage management while I was there, but I took a few acting classes as well. When I graduated I started working for the Birmingham Children’s Theatre as their Tour Stage Manager, which I did for two years. In the summers I taught arts, crafts, and technical theatre at the theatre workshops that were for students of ages 5-18. I also was did stage management for Dane Peterson’s Theatre Series, and designed lights for A Streetcar Named Desire at the Virginia Samford Theatre. That’s the short version of my BSC career and life right after college without giving you my resume.

What am I doing now you ask? Cause that’s the important part right?
As of today I am living in Los Angeles (Burbank actually) where I work for Warner Bros. I never in my life thought I would move to the west coast, but love has a crazy way of making you do things you wouldn’t think you would ever do. I moved to L.A. so that I could help my fiancĂ© while he is in graduate school for film editing at the American Film Institute. Two weeks after I moved, I landed a temp job at Warner Bros. (Thanks to a great recommendation from Rebecca Harris who went to make-up school out here, and is a 2004 BSC grad.) The woman whose job I was filling in for decided not to come back and I applied and got the job; I still think no one else applied, but hey, I got it so what’s the difference? So my official job is the Contract Coordinator for Warner Bros. Pictures Industrial Labor Relations. I work in a small legal-type office where I do a lot of filing. My favorite part about my job, other than working on the studio lot, is that I get to research SAG background actor claims. When I get a claim for an upgrade to principal from background, I get to watch the dailies (the film footage) and see takes or parts of a film that hasn’t been released or will never be seen by any audience. I never thought I would ever work in an office, “Give me a theatre with no windows and some tools and I was at home!” But theatre doesn’t always pay the bills so I’m working a “real” job right now.

A few months after I moved to L.A., I was getting depressed and stir crazy and I realized it was because I missed theatre so much; theatre is my passion and I just love doing it. I stumbled upon a theatre that is just two blocks from where I live. When I say stumbled I mean stumbled. There are no signs on the outside of the building which is attached to a parking deck near the mall. My fiancĂ© and I were parking and I noticed a billboard with theatre-like information on it; sure enough upon walking up to the doors it was a theatre. I of course googled The Colony Theatre the minute I got home to find out about this hidden theatre in the heart of Burbank. I emailed, and emailed, and emailed the volunteer email address until finally someone responded. I asked if they needed any ushers for their next show, “The Immigrant: The Musical” and they said yes. I asked to usher of course because I wanted to make sure this would be a place I would be proud to work or volunteer for. The show turned out to be okay, but I’m pretty sure it was because the music for the show isn’t all that good, but the performers and the technical aspects of the show were wonderful and all of the staff members I met were very nice.

I met the artistic director of The Colony, Barbara Beckly, whose resume is very impressive, and she asked me to meet with her. She told me a lot about herself and the theatre company and seemed impressed with my background. After that, I got a phone call from the in-house stage manager to see if I would be interested in running the light board for the next show “Trying”. Boy was I; I was so happy these people were so kind and accepted me into their home/theatre.

“Trying”—What an amazing two person play!! It also received many, many Los Angeles stage awards. I actually ran the light board for the re-run of the show which they did a year after they first opened it. It starred Alan Mandell who is an amazing actor and stage legend; he toured France and Germany with the original productions of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Endgame, directed by Beckett himself! I also came to the realization that there are about six people in the world when I met the director for the show, Cameron Watson, who went to Montevallo and knows a handful or Birmingham artists. One of his biggest credits to date is a movie he wrote, directed, and produced called Our Very Own starring Allison Janney. Even more incredible than meeting Alan Mandell and Cameron was when I met Jared A. Sayeg. Jared was the lighting designer for “Trying” and after reading his bio I was blown away by all he’s done. He’s worked on and off Broadway, in Los Angeles, and in London. He designs lights for museums, ballets, operas, restaurants, and theatre. He is also the youngest member ever to join the United Scenic Artist Local 839. I was just blown away by the talent that this one small space held…and still am.

Another “it’s a small world” moment happened when I was asked to stage manager a staged reading of a new musical at The Colony that The Academy for New Musical Theatre created. When I was at the ANMT I saw a poster with Vulcan on it, and mentioned to one of the actors who also worked there that that’s in Birmingham. She said, “Yeah, we created Miss Vulcan 1939 for Red Mountain Theatre Company.” I could not have been more floored by what she said.

Right now I am working on “Educating Rita” at The Colony doing quick changes backstage for Rebecca Mozo who also co-starred in “Trying”. This is the first time in America that the updated version of the play is being done. Again, it lacks nothing in the way of talent.

I would like to say that although I am amazed everyday by some of the talented people that I meet out here, I also realize that there are more opportunities to network and meet other artists like myself in big cities where cultural differences thrive. I do look back at all that I did in Birmingham and I feel as though I had just started coming in to my own in that city, and here, I’m an unknown who has to work twice as hard to get people to notice the work that I do. But I guess that’s a big part of starting over in a new city. I was given all the right building blocks to take whatever the theatre and the people in the theatre can throw at me from the teachers and my peers at BSC and I’m so thankful of that. I wouldn’t be able to confidently knock on a theatre’s door and ask “What can I do?” if it wasn’t for the fact that I know I can do it.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and now that you’re updated on me…the posts will be a lot shorter I’m sure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I've just finished my first full week of shows and I thought I'd start to bring you up to speed on what led up to it.

Back in August of last year I started touring with the 1st National of "The Wedding Singer" Broadway musical. I was cast as featured ensemble and "Billy Idol". I spent the year with some eventually great friends, and while I had plenty to do in the show, I was itching for something bigger. Not necessarily the company size or status but my specific duties as a performer. I never got the opportunity to go on as a cover for any of the principles and was kind of just professionally waiting for tour to be over in June. Sometime in March, I decided to make sure all my resumes and online stuff were up to date while I had some down time. The need to contribute more made me get my ducks in a row, and I updated a vague resume on Backstage with new information, and audio/video clips. I did that across the board, with my website, and with my repertoire.

Sometime in mid April, we were in Pittsburgh with the show and I think on a Thursday night I was back in my hotel room with my roommate checking email and, thumbing past a few Facebook notices, I saw "Cirque Du Soleil" in a subject line. Immediately curious I opened it thinking I had received a notice for an open call or something since I hadn't ever submitted anything to them. The message was from their Senior Talent Scout in Montreal telling me that she thought I might be right for a new project in Japan and wanted to know a) if I was interested and b) if I wouldn't mind playing email tag with some recordings of the music for the new show to "verify" what she saw and heard on the internet of me. She told me that she needed someone soon and to try to expedite the process as much as possible. Over the next few days I recorded two audition clips from music she sent me from the new show. I was spending time in between Wedding Singer shows in the bathroom of my hotel room with a small mic and my laptop. I do record my own music already and was writing on the road so I was surprisingly prepared for this. It turns out she came across my information on Backstage while searching for tenors who had harness and flight experience. My current character was originally designed to fly and I had worked with Paul Rubin (head of the Wicked flight design crew) while I was working on "The Miracle" in Tennessee two years ago.

The next week we changed cities and started a two-week sitdown in Dallas. Waiting impatiently to hear back from Cirque, I finally got a call on Wednesday inviting me to audition in Montreal for the composer, director, and artistic director of the show. Luckily, a two-week sitdown meant that I had the next Monday off and not another show till Tuesday night. Cirque flew me to Montreal very early Monday (a long flight on 45 minutes of overexcited sleep). I arrived early evening, took a taxi to their training facility, and did my best for some VIPs. I could tell they really wanted me to be right for the job and that there was a time constraint. I didn't officially get an offer until I was back in Dallas, but the scout gave me a hint or two while I was up there :)

There were logistical things to work out amidst my overwhelming elation at the opportunity. I had to give The Wedding Singer proper notice and Cirque had given me just enough time to do so, and be home with my family for a few days. Three weeks later, I left some teary people while being teary myself on my last night on tour, saw friends in NY (few more tears there), and finally a last leg at home (and as you might imagine....).

Honesty I didn't completely freak out about living in a really foreign country where I hadn't ever even dreamed of until the flight overseas. It was too late then, and I'm glad. I had not been in control of the events that led to my situation so I decided to keep to that thread.

The big point was that all I could do was be prepared. Stuff just drops out of the sky sometimes and it's about how you meet it. Keep preparing yourselves. Keep working, gain that experience, learn as much as you can, find what you can give and give it.

I've left out some details for the sake of your eye strain but always feel free to ask questions.

Later folks,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Summer Theatre Gig

Here I am in the pink dress and Christina stands beside me doing the infamous "TEXAS" pose!

It has been a little bit over three months since I left BSC to move to Texas for the summer to begin my first professional theatre job. I am starting to pack, yet again, and make the fifteen-hour drive back to Birmingham to start my junior year. I feel like I have been in Texas forever, and at the same time, I feel like I just got here. It has truly been an amazing, eye-opening experience and I am glad to say that my first job was such a professional and intensive way to spend my summer.

The summer after my freshman year I decided to move back home and get a job as a waitress. Although moving home had its perks, I knew that it would be my last summer at home. Fast forward to spring of last year. There was a group of BSC students and professors heading to Chattanooga for the SETC convention. Christina, Brent, Michael, and I had all passed the pre-screening auditions in Montgomery to qualify to audition in front of about 70+ companies for summer jobs. Out of about 850 who auditioned, I received the number 14! We auditioned in groups of 25, so that meant that I would be in the very first audition group. Although that was a bit intimidating, I was happy to know that I would be auditioning before my nerves got the best of me. I got up there and I did my ninety second package. I felt pretty good about how the audition went, but because it was my first time at SETC, I wasn’t sure how I would compare to the other qualifiers auditioning. I had to wait for two more groups to audition until I could go in the callback room to see what callbacks I had received. Those forty-five minutes were some of the most arduous of my life. Eventually, I stepped into the room and saw that I had received twelve callbacks! I was pumped! My day started at 5:00 A.M. and I had auditions scheduled until 1:00 A.M. It was one of the most exhausting, yet most satisfying days of my life.

It was quite a whirlwind experience, and I wasn’t sure what company that I wanted to work for yet. One company really stuck out to me. I felt an immediate connection with the director and marketing personnel. They were really down to earth and seemed like people that I would want to work under. Another thing about this company was that it was the farthest company away (distance wise) than any of the others. The company was called “Texas: A Musical Drama” and it was an outdoor theatre located in Palo Duro Canyon, TX. I had never been to Texas before, but I am always up for trying new things: so I thought, “Why not?”

It took about a week for offers to come my way. I was getting really anxious until Dave, the director of Texas, called and offered me the understudy to the lead “Elsie” and also a spot as an ensemble/dancer. I asked Dave if I could have a day or so to think it over. I ended up getting another offer during that time period, but ultimately I decided to go with Texas.

In the end, Brent and Christina also decided to take jobs with Texas! We found it so coincidental that three out of four of us BSC folk ended up working at the same place! Christina was taking a job as a dancer and Brent got offered the role Chief Quannah Parker. Christina and I decided to take our own cars and follow each other all the way to Texas. We were going to be on slightly different schedules, and therefore figured that we needed our own cars. As we drove through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and then Texas, it got noticeably flatter and dryer. I knew that it was going to be a big atmosphere change, and I was right!

We started rehearsals in mid-May. We rehearsed for four weeks straight from 1:00 P.M. until 11:00 P.M. every day of the week, without a day off. Because I was a chorus member and also a dancer, I would go from vocal rehearsals to dance rehearsals. Often I would miss out on a new dance combination because I was in a music rehearsal and would have to learn it by myself later. I’m not sure that I have ever been so exhausted in my life. We began our season, with shows nightly Tuesday through Sunday with Monday being our “dark night”.

Palo Duro Canyon is the location of the theatre. It is a 1,800 seat theatre in the second biggest canyon in the United States. It really does take my breath away every time I drive to work. However, there are some downsides to working in an outdoor theatre; this mostly has to do with the weather. Sometimes we would perform in 115 degree temperatures. Not to mention, the girls are wearing tights, bloomers, petticoats, and long sleeve blouses and long skirts. It easily adds ten pounds in clothing. Another downside is the rain. And when it rains in Texas: it pours! Performing in the rain definitely adds another element to the performance that I had never experienced before. It’s especially strange since the show makes many references to Texas being so “dry.”

I’ve had the opportunity to play the lead role of Elsie six times this summer. The first time came as quite a surprise and came pretty early in the season. The lead ending up going on a trip and got stuck in Houston because of bad weather; I got a two hour notice that I would be going on as Elsie that night. Luckily, I had gotten to do her scenes once or twice during rehearsal. Although it rained during my first performance, I was quite proud of myself for performing the role on so little rehearsal time. Another day, later in the season, she was out of town again. During this time they were filming the promo and commercials for the upcoming promotional year. I was filmed as Elsie for the promo that they are going to use for the next couple of years!

Although the cast and crew definitely work hard during performance and rehearsal times, we also had our fun outside of the theatre. When I first came here, I thought that most of the cast would be from the Panhandle of Texas, and although some were from here, there were cast mates from all over the country including Massachusetts, Delaware, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, New York and of course Alabama! I feel like I have made connections with people from all over the country, which will be beneficial to me when I get out on my own. The theatre-world is a small, small world, and I think you finally realize that when you get to a place such as this. For example, when I was in high school, I toured a school called Christopher-Newport University, which is located in Virginia. I ended up touring a dorm room that was occupied by a dancer that I once again met here! It is such a small world!

The summer is coming to end, and I completely satisfied with my first professional summer stock experience. With dance classes and shows six days a week, I feel confident that I am in the best shape of my life. I had also never been an understudy before, and I learned the art of spontaneity, always being ready to go on at the last minute. I also grew up quite a bit; I had to pay for my own apartment, food, and gas all summer long. Even though sometimes I would complain about sweating in the 100 degree weather, all in all it was an experience for which I wouldn’t change a thing. I recommend Texas: The Musical or any summer theatre experience to any person who is considering a job in theatre. It was a life affirming experience that I had so often dreamed about as a young girl.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Einstein's Dreams at the Edinburgh Fringe

Happy Summer! A warm welcome to Kevin Faraci to our BSC Theatre Program blogging community. I know you will really enjoy Kevin as a regular blogger, as he writes about his experiences this season with Cirque Du Soleil in Tokyo.

Today an update on a new Edinburgh adventure. Mountain Brook High School is currently performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival under the auspices of the American High School Theatre Festival. As a faculty member at BSC, I was very privileged to collaborate with the company on a stage adaptation of Alan Lightman's wonderful novel, Einstein's Dreams (with the generous permission of the author). Here's how the production is described on the Fringe site:
"In this theatre/movement piece, Albert Einstein's dreams come alive on stage as he probes the theoretical realms of time, the adventure of creativity, and the glory of possibility."
You can read more about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on the American High School Web site at

The Mountain Brook company worked on the production over the entire spring term, and presented their show at Children's Dance Foundation in May. I know their outstanding production is having an enthusiastic reception in Scotland! I'm uploading a couple of photos of the production taken at home this summer. Einstein's Dreams opened on August 4th and plays through August 8th at the Church Hill Theatre.

Many will recall that just one year ago BSC debuted its contemporary adaptation of Miss Julie at the Fringe last summer. We're excited to announce that an article on what we learned about producing at the Fringe written by the Miss Julie Company will published in the fall issue of Southern Theatre Magazine.

Even though students do not come back to campus for the fall term until later this August, our faculty and staff are already gearing our first production, West Side Story. There'll be lots to tell about our WSS story adventures on future blogs.

Hope that you all are having a great summer. Please let us hear from you!
Alan Litsey, Professor of Theatre

Friday, August 1, 2008


Hello everybody,

My name is Kevin Faraci and I'm a BSC '02 Alum. Since I graduated 'Southern I've kept in contact with professors, staff, and students as friends and advisors. I've now been invited to open that contact up to the current community so that I can share some experiences I've had since leaving the Hilltop. Having never really blogged before I'm unsure where to start, but telling you all a little more about me might spurn questions and get a nice ball rolling.
I hold a BA in Musical Theatre and have been working as a performer since graduation. Jobs ranged from stage work and musicals to sketch comedy, cruise ships and "acoustic guitar bar guy" stuff. I've been based out of NYC for the past 5 years but at the moment I'm living in Tokyo singing for Cirque Du Soleil. Definitely the best opportunity of my life so far. I'm in the creation/rehearsal process for the new show "Zed" which opens in a brand-new Cirque theatre built on the Tokyo Disneyland property on October 1st. I'm working with some amazing people who make me want to be better and better everyday. The job feels truly world-class and is making me step up to a very big plate.
I'd like to share pictures and video with you, but for now everything is a little secretive from Cirque's standpoint as you might imagine. It doesn't stop me from sharing general knowledge and answering questions about what I've experienced in theatre thus far.
I'll prepare some stories and discoveries for a next post. I wish you all a strong start to a new year. Feel free to contact me through my website and we can start some blog dialogue.