Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I am treading the boards in the Backstage production of “Prelude to a Kiss”

The Kissers
What am I up to at the moment? You might well ask. And you should because as you know even if I am not blogging I am up to something. That makes me sound like I have adventures or get up to no good, and you all know that is about as far from me as it is possible to be. I do like the notion though. In line with being a dare devil adventurer (yeah right) I decided to take a bravery pill and audition for a play. Yes, for the first time in 20 odd years I am going on stage.
I remember now why I stopped acting. I consider myself to be a confident strong capable person, however, once I get into acting mode I become an insecure gibbering “I am the most useless person on the planet” cliché of an actress. I am loving it. I love feeling upended and terrified. The level of self-involved gratuitous self-loathing and insecurity has an astonishing indulgent quality to it. Bring it on. I am wallowing.
So what has me all of a dither? “Prelude to a Kiss” does. We are in full swing rehearsals gearing up for the opening night of the “Backstage” production of the play on Thursday.  YEE HA!

Nuptials time
Bryan (Light of my life, beacon in my darkest hours bla, bla, etc, etc.) is playing my on-stage husband. How cool is that? Well not that cool as it happens. I have started to look at him sideways and in character. Come and see the show and you will see why it is not a good thing for my real life relationship.

The plot? I am not going to tell you too much. I want you to come and see the show to find out. Suffice to say that it is a Romcom with a difference. It brings a new meaning to the phrase “be careful what you wish for.” It is a bit of light frippery that softly, teasingly cloaks philosophical questions about the nature and endurance of true love.
Our director, the long suffering (more about that later)  talented Brent Jenkins very kindly agreed to answer a few questing that I put to him about the show……

What made you choose Prelude to a Kiss?

Prelude to a kiss is a movie that whenever I come across it ( surfing channels on the TV) I have to stop and watch, no matter where it is in the movie at that point. I think that is a good sign of how compelling the story is . Even though I know the story and have seen it dozens of times, I want to watch the characters struggle with the various  situation that they face at all points along the way.

That doesn’t mean all plays translate well to movies, but Prelude is one that I feel definitely does. Having seen the play (many years ago now) I could still see the messages and the journey each character goes through. More to the point, plays probably lend themselves a bit better to the suspension of belief. Those who see it need to buy in that two people switch bodies. What I mean by that is, the transformation from Rita to the Old Man and Old Man to Rita becomes more about how that affects them and the people around them than the “special effect” of the transformation itself.

Unlike other “body swap” movies, Prelude doesn’t focus so much on the “zany” situation that occurs as a result of the switch but more on Peter ( the one most affected by it). It becomes about what you really love in someone and how nothing and no one else will do.

The director - directing in the directors hat, naturally

What drew you to the play?

I like the fact that it’s a comedy in the right places but not so much to not be taken seriously. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but still makes you feel  / think about the  quality of finding the perfect partner then loosing that person only to find them again in a different physical body. Peter discovers why he loves Rita and her physical person isn’t as important as he initially thinks. It takes Peter a while to see the Old Man ‘s outward appearance change into the person he actually fell in love with. We watch the frustration of Peter’s struggle after they get back from their honeymoon but it’s actually during the phone call with Mrs Boyle that Peter is able to make his own transformation and see Rita past the old man’s body. I like the concept. I like the situations that are created because of the premise of the play and how Peter, Rita and the Old Man are forced to act.

I must add that, although Peter is the everyman that the audience watches and wonders how he will make it through all that’s happened to him, Rita with the Old Man also explain why they each wanted to trade places. Her fear of the future and longing to have it “all behind her and therefore about to relax” and the Old Man’s wanting to have a second chance to do things differently. Both discovered that what was a nice understandable idea, was not what they actually want after all.

The incredibly healthy snack we get in rehearsal...

Do you want the audience to walk away asking questions or do you want them to simply be entertained?

I always try for both. I think being entertained is a very effective way to get people to ask questions. It’s the entertainment aspect of the play that will take you through the issues and concepts that will stick with you long after, Put another way, entertainment is aimed to make you fell. Which is a great way to ask the questions later.

You have used an unusual way of moving from one scene to another. What was your thinking behind this?

The movement of the play is pretty much built into the script. I only added the concept that the actors would not only move the story along with their performance but physically movie the scenes from one to another as well. That all becomes part of their performance as well. It is unique and this will be the first time I will have tried something like it.

So exactly how many time do I walk to the bar?

You have quite a few real life couples involved in the show on stage and back stage. Was this a happy coincidence?

Not really. I thought that this play is about couples an relationships at various stages and I thought “ how cool would it be if couples presented it”. Obviously I know and trusted that all the people could do the roles I cast them in. first, the audience must believe you are who you say you are. This is the first time for me to do this in casting as well. For me however, perhaps more than most, community theatre needs to be a shared fun experience. We are in rehearsals far longer than we ever perform the show. The enjoyment of doing theatre , at least amateur community theatre, is the only pay we get. I have found that if the actors are enjoying what they’re being asked to do, the performance will only benefit for that. I can always tell when I thing the actors are having a good time as opposed to when they aren’t. The couples casting is about having a great community theatre experience from the first rehearsal the final performance. Like a cocktail party where we’re all laughing. That is how I hoped it would work. So far, I’m very pleased with the result of it.

Intense concentration required to act as prompt and direct a show at the same time

Tell us about the choice of music you make for the show?

The music choices all have the word “ Kiss” in the title of the song. I stumbled on this idea on one of my many back and forth drives from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. We play a warm-up game with the improv troupe that I play with where we’re all in a circle, one person gets in the middle and starts singing a popular song, from the radio or musical or wherever, then ( as fast as you can) another person in the circle comes into the middle, taps the other person in the shoulder so that they re-join the circle and the new person in the middle sings an entirely different song using one of the words in the song that the first person sang. The goes on an on till no one can think of a song to fit the last song and another song is picked. I was sort of doing  this in the car going to and from  rehearsal. It occurred to me that there were many songs with the word “kiss” in it. I thought that would be fun to just use songs with the word “kiss” in it and see where that lead me. It’s worked out very well. In fact there are so many great songs with the word “ kiss" that  the problem became which to use where based on the scene or act that was about to start or just ended.

comfortable actors

This is your last show in Dubai. Will you share some of the highs and lows of your time in theatre in Dubai?

As for highs ( which is easier because there’s more, thank fully) so far are, when I directed Complete Works of William Shakespeare  (Abridged) working that cast and Emma and it was my first one to direct here in Dubai. We knew it would be good but it was great!

Then there was Doubt, a passion project of mine that I’m very proud of and so, so grateful that I had the cast and crew I had, that trusted me and tried anything I asked them to.

Prelude is still in the mist of how it will turn out but the people and the experience so far are promising to become another fond dear memory.

A list like this won’t be complete with a few on stage experiences. All have been great, truly. Highlights? Doing 30 steps with that cast and crew, wow Glengarry Glen Ross before the much now missed Gordon Torbet and Russell Bell left the UAE.

Lows? I’m going to go with missed opportunities of shows I saw that I thought were great and I wished afterwards I had been a part of. These include ( but are no means  a complete list) A Few Good Men , Carnage, and Hamlet.

There are lots of really talented people here in Dubai, I am glad I had the chance to know them and be involved with projects and to learn from them.

Producer Shihas ( the sweetest being ever) and our saintly director.

Brent has put together a talented cast and a super-efficient back stage production crew headed up by producers Shihas Salim and Jyoti Burman ( wife of Arjun who is stage manager and stage husband to Jenny / Aunt Dorothy. It gets more confusing....). Everyone works well together and is wonderfully supportive of the project and each other. Our cast is headed up by a threesome made up of Asad Khan (Peter) and Olivia Middleton (Rita), as our star crossed young lovers and completed by the Old Man played by Billy Acklam. Olivia and Asad have developed a delightful rapport in rehearsals which will entrance our audience as will the subtle interpretation of the role that Billy plays. We have a stellar cast (if I say so myself) of seasoned veterans. No really - many of the cast members are on the very wrong side of forty. I won’t say who. You can guess when you watch the show. How great that Brent found a play that could include a bunch of grumpy middle aged people as well as some cheeky whippersnappers.

I would look worried too

The script has a lively rapport flowing through it. It has been a treat for me to watch the show develop and get to act with many of the people that I have ,up to now, only ever watched on stage. We have a cast of 12 which is swelled by the occasional back stage crew member. I wonder if we will convince our director to take a turn in a crowd scene?

Each cast member has taken their role and ,with Brent, turned it into a little vignette, do you know what I mean? Can I use “vignette” in this context? It feels right so I will. From the always at the bar Aunt Dorothy ( Jenny Gray who is married to Billy who plays the old man - talk about a short leash, wink, wink) and her henpecked husband Fred ( Arjun Burman), to the old mans devoted daughter (Celia Cookson) to Peter’s friend Taylor (Osman Aboubakr) the characterisations are well defined and engaging. Not forgetting the eccentric officiate at Rita and Peters wedding played by Mike Green ( Mike is devoted to Celia another couple in the show) and oh the convoluted connections in the show). We have Deepan Gandhi and Chineme Prince, who have joined our cast fairly recently, as our perky bar keep and Jamaican waiter respectively.

Brent has done a brilliant job of “herding cats”. Imagine spending three months telling a bunch of outgoing, confident, stroppy adults what to do? It takes balls people. It really does and Brent has done it with the calm demeanour of someone being tested for sainthood. He has gently coached his vision out of the cast to ensure that you, the audience, have a splendid night out.

Come and join us for “Prelude to a Kiss”

Yes we know our lines

Here is some promo info for you:
Backstage is back with our first play of 2015 - 'Prelude to a Kiss' by Craig Lucas!
This is the story of a couple that fall in love despite the girl's pessimistic outlook on life. Shortly after their wedding, a supernatural event tests the strength of their love and commitment to each other.

Working with Bryan

Playing for the first time in Dubai, this romantic comedy was also made into a movie in 1992 starring Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin. 'Prelude to a Kiss' will be staged between 30th April - 2nd May, 2015 at Kilachand Studio Theatre, DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates.

Director - Brent Jenkins

Producer - Shihas Salim & Jyoti Burman

Written by - Craig Lucas


Thursday, 30th April 2015 - 7:30PM

Friday, 1st May 2015 - 7:30PM

Saturday, 2nd May 2015 - 2:30PM & 7:30PM (2 shows)

(Doors open 30 mins before the show)


Kilachand Studio Theatre,


Mall of the Emirates


AED 100 per person

AED 80 for paid-up Backstage members

You could buy your tickets online from TIXBOX (Click Here) or from DUCTAC (Click Here)

Tickets can also be physically purchased from the DUCTAC Box Office (04-3414777).

Event Sponsor - Emax

Event Partner - Lemini Events Management

Print Partner - Gulf Technical Commercial Printing Press

Ticketing Partner - TIXBOX

Venue Partner - DUCTAC

Radio Partner - Abu Dhabi Classic FM

You could also find more info by (Click Here) Hope to see you all there!

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