I always feel a weird sense of sadness when a show ends. Whether or not the experience was a positive one, a production takes up a lot of your life and when it ends I always feel exhausted, melancholy & a little lost; the post-show blues.
Usually, I work extensively on a show for no more than 3 months – I generally pick the play and venue about a year before it’s mounted, but the majority of the work is condensed into a couple months. With Kill Sister, Kill! however, the project that I have been spending all my time on for the past 9 months has just wrapped and to say this is leaving me feeling melancholy would be a major understatement.
I have worked on original shows before, but none that were full-length musicals. Watching something go from a 40 minute script to a 90min production, seeing new songs be created from scratch, and watching an absolutely brilliant cast stay together through a lot of bullshit has been a really intense experience. The production tested everyone’s friendships, patience and often sanity, but in the end we can all proudly say that in under a year a new musical was created, mounted off-off-Broadway at a famous theatre, and that a cast & crew of 12 spent 10 days crammed together in 2 small hotel rooms and we all lived to tell about it. Pretty good if you ask me.
Usually I get to say my thank-yous in the directors notes, but as I was producing this show I didn’t have a chance to make a public mention of how proud I am of those involved, something that has always been important to me. So here it goes.
I’ll start with the people who made small but very important contributions. Anyone who has listened to any of us panic or complain about any part of the process these past few months. All of those who made donations to the show and everyone who offered insight and advice. Thank you to Elena Holy from the NYC Fringe who got back to me immediately when we had some trouble crossing the border, and to Rich & Tatyana at Theatre 80 who helped us by switching our tech date & accommodating us by giving us a bit of extra time to sort our stuff out. Thanks as well to Shyaporn Theerakulstit, a fellow NYC fringer, who not only offered advice & support throughout the past couple months, but who took over box office duties and even came by with birthday cupcakes for me on our opening night – a very sweet gesture, especially from someone I hardly know, it was exactly the kind of boost I needed after an incredibly stressful few days. Thanks as well to all those who came out to see our show, especially everyone who came from outside NYC and to Shon & John from His Majesty the Baby & Australian comic Xavier, all of whom I met at last year’s fringe & am very happy to still be in touch with.
Next up, the fabulous cast. This show was tricky to pull together. Whether it was the timing, the fact that it was being produced outside of the country or, as our director liked to put it, “the resistance”, there was something that took a process I’ve done easily so many times and dragged it out into the most stressful casting I’ve ever been a part of. That said, it all worked out for the best, because we ended up with an amazing group of people who rocked it onstage and were equally awesome in real life. I got to work again with the lovely Astrid Atherly who is always a joy. I met a fellow Judy lover who shares my taste in old movies and crooner music with Thomas Finn, and one of the funniest girls I’ve ever met (and coincidentally, also a fan of the classics), Heather Motut. Heather’s positive attitude & nearly endless patience is something I can’t praise enough. I think we all needed her there more than she likely knows. Aaron Williams is the complete opposite of the disgusting character he played – he’s sweet, honest, and someone I am very happy to now call my friend. Samantha Walkes proved herself not only an incredibly talented woman but a mature, level-headed and professional performer as well. You can count on Sam to stay focused and calm under stress just as much as you can count on her to be hilarious and the life of the party when you’re out for a few drinks – a pretty perfect mix. From a very quiet young man to an absolutely hysterical Mooky and surprisingly intimidating pimp, we have Robert Iannuzziello. I think I can best describe Robert as a chameleon; I don’t think we could have cast him as two characters any further from his real self, but by the time he got to the stage he played both perfectly. That poor boy was stuck in a garbage can and forced to lean over what I’m sure was a very uncomfortable metal edge, but I have not once heard him complain. The youngest of the group but you’d never know it, because he’s already figured out how to act like a real professional. Felicity “Fifi” Adams-Hannigan was someone I had met before through Astrid, but didn’t know very well. It quickly became apparent that her bubbly attitude was not a front, and that she somehow just has that level of energy ALL the time. She made for a delightfully funny “low-class hooker”.
Once we got to NYC I had the pleasure of meeting the band. Zac Selissen, Greg Germann, Enrique Mancia & Tim Basom – some of the most talented and fun musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Zac was a major help as he was the one who pulled the whole group together. Greg’s matter-of-fact, very blunt sense of humour was always appreciated, as was Enrique’s passion for his music and very honest sincerity in everything he talked about. Tim proved to not only be a great musician but a good teacher as well (I now have somewhat of an understanding of those pedal things for his guitar, though I seem to have forgotten the proper term…), and let’s not forget a pretty kickass TMNT player. The band sounded great, was positive & supportive throughout, and I’m very happy to have had a few chances to grab drinks with some guys that I’m sure will have hit the big time in a few years.
Normally, once the lyrics are finalized, the lyricist’s role in the show is done. Not for David Backshell. David came out to support the show in any way he could, from offering his dark, dry but very funny sense of humour to conversations, to running out mid-tech rehearsal to purchase a huge stack of batteries. He stood backstage to help move set pieces during the show and throughout the entire thing seemed genuinely happy to do so. He was always there to listen to any worries or complaints and I haven’t heard the guy say a single bad thing about anyone. That was a kind of positive attitude that was very necessary and very appreciated.
Co-writer Drac Child was there to fill in the gaps, picking up random tasks as they arose. Backstage during the shows he did everything from makeup to moving set pieces, fixing props & exchanging excited high-fives. I’ve known Drac for about 9 months now and I had never seen him as happy and enthused as I did during the opening night. Seeing the look on his face while he watched the project he had invested so much into finally take off was, as cheesy as it sounds, a really fulfilling and special moment. I know he was no less stressed or worried than any of the rest of us, but Drac managed to keep a cool head and a smile on his face during our time in NYC, which was appreciated by more than just me, I’m sure. As well, his lovely girlfriend Amy was there for part of the run and took some killer photos.
Associate Producer Tea Nguyen took on everything from rehearsal space booking to getting us into the breakfast room after hours – gotta love free juice! She was always there with a hug & a diet coke and helped to keep everything running smoothly.
Now for the two people who have not only contributed, in my opinion, the most to the show, but certainly to my life these past few months; our director, (and co-writer), Jamieson Child, and composer/music director, Michael Zahorak.
This mount got started because Jamie and I met about a year ago when he auditioned for Rope. We hit it off right away, and when I heard about Kill Sister, Kill (which had been produced in a shorter form at the Toronto Fringe in 2013) it sounded like just the thing to take back to the NYC Fringe. A lot has come up this year that could have, and maybe at times should have, stopped this show from happening. But maybe the best thing I can say about Jamie is that, while it may take him a while to make up his mind, when he does there isn’t anything in the world that will stop him from doing what he’s set out to do. It may not be the best thing for his health or sanity, but his commitment to putting this show over absolutely EVERYTHING else in his life the past couple months has been a major part of why it actually managed to get this far. Once he made the decision to do the show, he was of a one-track mind, and has been working on KSK around the clock for months. Anyone who knows me, or who has read any of my previous posts that mention J will know how much he means to me, and so I’ll keep what should go without saying short; I hope that now that the show has wrapped, he can go back to the mellow, goofy guy I know and love, and I hope that he is happy and proud of himself & the show he created. Most of all, I hope I have my buddy back by my side soon.
When we brought on composer Mike Zahorak it was because his talent & dedication were evident from the start. We’ve been very lucky that in addition to that, Mike is one of the sweetest people out there, and that he has (if not sometimes somewhat reluctantly) often been the glue holding this group together. Everyone goes to Mike with their problems because you can count on him to listen to you with patience, respect and to give you honesty and support when you need it. I’ve been lucky enough to see more of this than most as he has gone above and beyond MD duties to also sit up late listening to my worries or heartache, and to take care of me when I’ve been sick. He may sometimes try to put on a bit of a tough or aloof front, but Mikey is truly a sensitive and caring guy, and it’s meant a lot to me, especially these past few days, to have someone I can count on by my side.
This has been the most stressful production I have ever been a part of, for many reasons, none of which are important to go into because I know that ultimately, the hardest things in life are what are also the most rewarding. At the end of the day, whether any of this changes how any of us do a show in the future, or how we think of the show or each other, I am happy to say that the friendships I have gained or strengthened through the last few months really do make all the stress worth it. Thank you all for another story to tell, here’s to the next chapter.