SMASH is renewed for a second season, Fact or Fiction? That's a fact, Jack. Actors all over New York are thankful for another season of potential TV work and I'm delighted to host our favorite blogosphere TV gameshow. Based on the shaky ratings this season, we'd better play while we can because as we all know, SMASH is much more fun when you play Fact or Fiction.
Everyone, get your buzzers out. This season we have big prizes behind door number one so I hope you spent your week studying up on theater facts and fictions. Please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.
I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact, a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary. Right? Right. Good. Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______. We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world. Based on the success of A Chorus Line and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway. Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog. Right? Right. If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place, tough guy, and maybe you should go here instead.
Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number two and is probably the closing notice for Liaisons.
My name is Sharon Wheatley, I've done some Broadway shows, and I will be your host. Be sure to read the comments after the blog because that's where I will be debated and corrected by all my insider-y Broadway friends and it is half the fun. Reminder that we keep things clean and informative here on My Own Space.
Cell phones off. Game buzzers on.
Here we go. Lights up…cue theme music….
I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”. You play along. Get your buzzers ready.
(Hello all, it's me, I'm back and thank you to Jacob Brent for beautifully talking the reigns last week. I'll be honest, this week went a heavily into "fiction" territory (and what is with all the auto-tuning lately?) but I will attempt to give a fair and balanced report of fact and fiction. Who misses Theresa Rebeck's writing? Me. I do. This lady right here. But I digress, let's do this.)
1) Line readings are a normal part of rehearsal. Fact or fiction?
Fact. (Hey! We got a fact!) And before all you actors get mad at me, we all know that directors (more often than we would like) give a line reading. Sometimes it is a small suggestion, and sometimes (as we saw happen with Tom) the director gets up with the dreaded ,"Here. Let me be you." and then acts out exactly what they want to see the actor do.
Maybe you are wondering what the big deal is with line readings? I mean, what is the big deal in just telling the actor how to say it? That's the director's job, right? Not exactly. The idea is that the director is supposed to help the actor "find" their performance because in an ideal situation it should come from the actors own instincts and emotional life, not just be a regurgitation of something someone wanted. The best of the best directors know how to inspire and cajole a performance out of an actor without having to resort to telling them exactly how to say a line.
This leads us directly to another director related question.
2) It is common for a composer to take over as director. Fact or fiction.
You don't need me to tell you this, do you? Fiction. Really fiction. And in fact, if any of you can name a case where a composer took over as director for a Broadway show, I will personally come to your house and clean your toilets because that--I'm sorry--might have to be just about the most ridiculous plot point we've yet encountered in SMASH. But hey, the season is not over yet, and actually this blog post isn't over yet, so who knows?? Maybe we'll be able to top it (the tension builds....)
I would have loved to see Christian Borle's face when he got his script. He HAD to have said, "So.....wait. Tom's the director now? "
But let's move on.
I know. I've been so politically correct for so long and now in one blog post I am showing my true colors, but I don't know. Something about last night's episode pushed me over the edge. It's why I had to delay posting today (and I apologize to those of you who were waiting.) I'll try to be Switzerland and stick to the facts and the fictions. I'll try (but SMASH, you are making it hard!).
3) The book writer/lyricist of the show would be the responsible party to get the director choreographer to sign a contract stating that it was okay to use his choreography after he split ways with the show. Fact or fiction?
Fiction. Again, where is the General Manager and where are the agents? Hey--have we talked about General Managers yet? Do you know what their job is? Let's discuss this for a second because God knows you aren't learning about them on SMASH. In an absolute nutshell, a General Manager executes all of the business aspects of the show, including (but not limited to) the hiring of EVERYONE including union negotiations, contract negotiations, payroll, box office and more. They run the show. For a more complete description, go here.
If this situation in SMASH were real, here is how it would go down.
1) First of all, it probably would be a non-issue because (according to a reliable friend) Derek would have already signed a contract sharing his work to the Producer. My friend said: "The work (meaning the choreography) belongs to the Choreographer but the Producer has the irrevocable right to use the choreography for any production of the play that the Choreographer will receive payment for - I'm not sure they really needed him to sign a rider as that would have been covered under his original agreement but they would have to pay him his fee and royalties to keep the choreography in the show."
2) If that contract rider needed to be signed, that would have been a conversation between the General Manager and Derek's agent. It just would not go down like that at all, but clearly this is a TV show, so there you go. They wanted a dramatic intervention at a restaurant between Jack Davenport and Debra Messing.
By the way, Jacob wants to comment on how hard SMASH is working to make sure Sean Hayes (Jack) and Debra Messing (Grace) are never on screen together. At this point I say, Hey! Bring in Megan Mullaley and Will and let's just watch Will and Grace. That was a good show, NBC. Let's do that one again.
Oops. I slipped again.
Back to the facts. Okay!
4) They give notes to actors while sitting on the steps in the lobby. Fact or fiction?
Fact! Yay! I liked this and it is very authentic. I can't tell you how many note sessions I've had while sitting on the stairs in a Broadway lobby. Very normal because sometimes they are working on something technical in the theater or the ushers are getting ready for the show, or whatever. Bonus points to whoever can name those lobby stairs (although someone did write in and comment that the theater is the Broadway but the stage door is the Music Box!).
5) Jeremy Jordan's character is an idiot. Fact or fiction?
WHY ARE THEY MAKING HIM SO UNLIKEABLE????
6) Actors read Broadway message boards. Fact or fiction?
Is the Pope Catholic? Does a fish have gills?
7) The Hit List set is actually the set of Ghost. Fact or fiction?
Fiction, but good guess.
8) Two actors might get together moments before opening night and make a decision to completely change the tone of a show and consult with no one and just go on and perform it completely differently than it has been rehearsed. Fact or fiction.
Oh, fact. You know, Cats was originally rehearsed to be Dogs but a couple of actors got together and decided to change things up before opening night, so they all went out and acted like cats instead.
By the way (and I know this is a TV show) but I just have to comment on the fact that, oh you know, the entire number was choreographed as a farce, the costumes looked like a farce, the whole idea that it was being "changed" in the moment was completely unbelievable, although the IDEA of it was funny. The idea that a famous actor would go out there and try to save his own ass on opening night by performing the show the way he wanted to--that is possible and I'm sure HAS happened, but it came off as something between what they rehearsed and what they wanted the big change to be. I wanted to be watching whatever Ivy was laughing at in the wings, but the truth was...it was just bad.
But, the big breasted woman was a terrific character actress named Kathy Fitzgerald who is hilarious and deserved much better treatment than having her breasts slapped and spat on. If you want to know the honest to God truth, for me that moment was the SMASH breaking point. She's so talented and deserved some great material. Instead, she was just wasted.
Another friend of mine was also in this episode, Seth Rudetsky, playing himself and doing the interview with Karen and Tom. If you have SirrusXM radio, you have to listen to his Broadway show because he is (as he would say) ah-mah-zing.
Speaking of Karen and Tom, let's get to the final question of the night.
9) If you have your first lead on Broadway, and the show is being built around you, and before that you were a nobody and worked at a coffee shop, you just might quit the show to the composer-turned-director while standing on the street corner because he's better friends with another actress. Fact or fiction?
Every actress in New York has done that. In fact, I confess it...I was supposed to play Elphaba in the original cast of Wicked, but I gave it up when I saw Joe Mantello laugh at Idina Menzel's joke. You know....it's normal to give up a career changing part like that. And then I decided to do an off-broadway show in a basement. It worked out fine, you just have to keep the faith. You should always turn down that Broadway lead.
As you may know, SMASH is moving to Saturday nights. I think we all know that is not a good sign for any show. This blog will now appear on Mondays.