Friday, September 26, 2008

My Friend, James Ricks.

I have to tell you about my friend James. He is perhaps the hardest-working, motivated and knowledgeable person I have ever had the pleasure to work with. And I am very proud to call him my dear friend.

A few years back, when we were doing the run of SCAPINO!, James pitched the idea of directing a multimedia production of RICHARD III, and asked if I would be up for it. I jumped at the possibility, and hoped that one day it would become a reality.

James then wrote up a proposal, solicited my input, and shopped it to Theatres all over town --and beyond. He literally burned down the phone lines to producers and Artistic Directors daily, traveling back to Richmond from DC on his lone day off per week to hold meetings, craft budgets, and plan strategies for making this thing happen. He slept on countless couches, endured bleary-eyed late-night jaunts back & forth, lost sleep, called or texted me in the middle of the night with an amazing new takes on scenes, or TV Spots, or monologue choices; He e-mailed dozens of script edits and probably drank 100 gallons of Starbucks coffee. Everytime I would see him, he would be wrinkled, unshaven, slightly crazed, but always possessed of an easy smile and the same incredible sense of fun and possibility.

Through tenacity, perseverance, timing, and luck, he finally found the right theatre (Henley Street) found a video producer (G2 Productions) and assembled a first-rate cast of some of Richmond's finest acting talent. Next thing I knew, we were shooting the multimedia spots that James came up with. less than three weeks later, we were in rehearsal. As I write this, we open in just under three hours.

I am amazed, and know not what to say.

James Ricks is the backbone of this enterprise; He is the beating heart at the center of this project, the 'Straw-that-stirs-the-drink' as it were, and the guy who keeps us honest onstage. His self-motivation and determination stun me, and his love for Shakespeare and good storytelling are infectious. We have all been given the gift of James' time, talent, humor, and brilliance.

One thing about James that strikes me is his immense heart. This fellow has a personal humility and a warm friendliness that puts all of us at ease. He also inspires us to do our best, motivates us to take risks an make bold choices. I have no doubt that James is going places, as both an actor (a brilliant, first-rate one, at that) and as a director. I could totally see James as the AD of his own theatre someday. The community that lands him in that position will be a very lucky one.

So tonight, all of our efforts go towards making James' vision of RICHARD III a reality. I am so thrilled and blessed to have found such a true, dear friend in Mr. Ricks. I can only hope it is the latest in many future collaborations with him.

Thanks, James, and enjoy your drunken stupor tonight, my brother-- You've earned it.

And, Go Canucks!!...That is, until my Bruins beat their asses red.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kicking into High Gear!!

When I was kid, I used to watch The SuperFriends on television. religiously. I never missed an episode. I wanted to be a part of the team back when I was eight years old sitting in front of the TV in feeted pajamas and eating way-too-sugary cereal. Little did I know then, the SuperFriends actually exist in real life, and now I'm one of them.

Welcome to SEAL Team Physical Training.

Oh, man. I'm feeling really good lately. Really Good. I'm in the best shape of my life. I have been doing the regular SEAL Team workouts just about every day since June, and it has made a huge difference in my energy level and outlook on, well, everything. I've also noticed that in just under four months, I have gotten stronger and faster. I can't wait to see what the next four months will bring.

On August 23rd, I ran the Patrick Henry Half-Marathon in 1:31:11. I felt like I was flying throughout the race, and I got progressively stronger as the miles went by. It also helped that the temperature was in the low 70s with a light breeze. I was initially shooting for 1:37 as a goal time, figuring that 1:45 would be an approximate finish time for me.

Little did I know that the SEAL Team training-- where we basically run one type of race or another every single day-- prepared my body and mind to almost go on 'auto-pilot.' Ninety-one minutes and eleven seconds later, I had blown my own expectations out of the water. If I can do that once, maybe I can do it several times!! As Instructor Maguire says "It's amazing what the body can do when it wants to."

I want it to want to run the Boston Marathon. And a 50-miler. And a 100-miler. And the 3,750 Mile Great Wall of China?? Who knows??

Oh, and The best thing about race day?? No push ups!!... By the way, I was EXTREMELY motivated that day; It was almost otherworldly. Supernatural. I don't know...

The SEAL Team workouts have been fantastic, and getting to know the folks at SEAL Team has been an absolute joy. My 'extended family' just got bigger by about 300 People. A few of them are loyal theatre-goers, and others, such as STPT Founder and CEO John Maguire and his Wife, Tracey (as well as their five beautiful children) have become new Richmond Theatre fans after seeing GUYS & DOLLS-- TWICE!!

The door swings the other way, too!! I've gotten some Richmond Theatre folks eagerly involved in SEAL Team-- GUYS & DOLLS 'Havana Siren' Mary Page Nance and her father, Charles, recently graduated from SEAL Team class 249--HOOYA!!

A brief word about Mary Page-- of who I am very proud: I talked at length to several people in our cast about enrolling in an STPT 'Basic Fitness Class,' and while many hemmed and hawed, MP dove right in with enthusiasm and fearlessness. Next thing I knew, she was the 'President' of her class of 20 or so people. She had to go back to school at the end of August, (She studies modern dance at SUNY Purchase) but the people at SEAL Team still ask about her. She made one heck of an impression in a really short span of time!

And now, thanks to Mary Page's endorsement, the tide is turning... Last week, Dancers Elliot Lau and Kat Legault from G&D came to a 'Bring a Friend' day (As they say at STPT: "Bring a friend Thursday, lose a friend Friday")and, as I understand, both are enrolling in the new class which starts on October 6th.

I've also gotten in-demand actor Landon Nagel out to a workout-- and I've talked to to others, such as my 'little sister,' Audra Honaker, and fellow RICHARD III cast-mates Frank Creasy, Stephen Ryan and Ken Moretti about coming out to get dirty with us.

I hope they will, because honestly-- SEAL Team is the best gift I have ever given myself. On my first BAFD workout, I did 37 sit-ups in two minutes. In just under four months, that number has risen to 107-- and climbing. We recently had a member celebrate his 76th birthday by doing 76 push ups and running through a giant banner that read 'HAPPY 76th BIRTHDAY, STUKEY!!' What a gratifying and joyful moment, shared by almost 200 wet and dirty people at Dogwood Dell at 6:45 am. It is moments like that which motivate me to do the best I can...I want to be in as good-- if not better-- shape when I'm 76 years old!! I look forward to the challenge of making every workout better than the last each day, and taking those fitness gains with me out into the world of road racing. I hope to get close to 3:30 in the Richmond Marathon on November 15th, and keep shaving seconds off to get that Boston Qualifying time of 3:15 in view...

As far as rehearsal goes, RICHARD III is shaping up to be something really special and unique. James Ricks' ambitious and innovative staging and encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespearean verse-- along with his insane sense of humor-- make it a joy to come to work every day. The cast is also filled with talented, brilliant actors who are also great people. Melissa Johnson-Price is someone whose work I have admired from the audience on many occasions, and working opposite her is a real pleasure... She brings every moment to vibrant, active life, and in her hands, Queen Elizabeth is no pushover. Adam Mincks' 'Buckingham' has just the right amount of slippery ambition, and Margaret Joyner, Jeanie Rule and Rebecca Muhleman are fantastic as Queen Margaret, The Duchess of York, and Lady Anne, respectively. We also have a top-notch Stage Management and tech staff, and as we approach tech week, the challenge of integrating the multimedia component will be one we all look forward to. We open in one week; I can hardly believe it is coming up so fast. I'm going to enjoy and savor every moment of this opportunity...

Other than SEAL Team and RIII, I've basically been watching Episodes of Doctor Who on YouTube (The best show on television), tinkering with my two fantasy football teams, riding my Scooter everywhere, playing BPFL Football on Sundays, and keeping a way-too-close eye on the Sox and Pats... Man, this is the life!!

While I have a little bit of down-time now--the exact opposite of the harried, intense schedule I had in March and April-- My work schedule is falling nicely into place for the next few months... I expect to be VERY busy, very soon. I will open THIS WONDERFUL LIFE at Barksdale on November 28th, then direct I HAVE A DREAM for Theatre IV in January, before starting rehearsals for Bo Wilson's new musical MONA'S ARRANGEMENTS later that month. I will also be directing THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SIMPLE MACHINES for Theatre IV in March, and there is a good chance I'll be at the helm for TAKE ME OUT at Richmond Triangle Players in May-- that is a story I am very eager to tell!!

I also want to take a second just to pass along a few links-- First, I have been listening quite religiously-- to Dave Mangano's Richmond-based Scootercast Podcast. Dave is an avid 'Scooterist' and Vespa owner, who travels quite a bit, and his podcasts are informative, unique and fun. He has a really pleasant voice and on-air demeanor, and he is very interested in 'Scooter-People' throughout the community and the larger world beyond the '804.' You owe it to yourself to give him a listen!! Just click on this link!!

And I would be terribly remiss if I neglected to mention the Henley Street Theatre Website, which features tons of information and links to press stories about our upcoming production of RICHARD III. I wrote a feature for URGE Magazine about RIII, and that link-- as well as showtimes and ticket prices--are available by going here. Special Thanks to Jessica Fulbright and Jacquie O'Connor for their tireless work getting the show some serious publicity. FYI, I will be on WTVR Channel 6 next Thursday, September 25th at 9am to talk about RIII. I hope you'll tune in.

That's about it for the updates-- Everyone have a great week!!


Scott Wichmann

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Goodbye, Richmond Braves. I'll miss you.

"Game Called. Across the field of play
the dusk has come, the hour is late.
The fight is done and lost or won,
the player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
the stands are bare, the park is still.
But through the night there shines the light,
home beyond the silent hill.

Game Called. Where in the golden light
the bugle rolled the reveille.
The shadows creep where night falls deep,
and taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
the final cheer and jeer have passed.
But in the night, beyond the fight,
the player finds his rest at last.

Game Called. Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
is chalked against the players name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game."

-Grantland Rice, 1948