Many of my readers know about my passion for plays and theater and music. So when the opportunity came to be involved in a rock opera, I had to audition for the chance to sing in the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice masterpiece, Jesus Christ Superstar.
L-R: Amanda Pillow, Heidi Scheibmeir and Amy Shojai reunited in the Finley dressing room. Last fall, we acted and sang together as an evil trinity in Little Mermaid–and now, the sinners have reformed!
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR CAST IS FAMILY
Besides, it’s just plain fun to meet new people, and reconnect with friends from previous productions. Working so closely together builds unique ties and relationships that are treasured long after the curtain goes down. Yep, many of us work full time jobs, and then spend long hours late into the night rehearsing, perfecting, and gnashing virtual teeth to make things right.
Why? Because we love it. Theater is my brain candy, and a part of who I am. I got hooked at six years old, and never looked back.
Another dressing room picture with a new theater friend, Cynthia Brandt, brilliantly playing “Queen Herod.” Hey, I told you it’s a novelization!
MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS
I was honored to be offered a role in the Superstar company, and play multiple parts (as do several of my colleagues). We love singing the challenging music–this is a ROCK OPERA, for goodness sakes!–and the emotional content of this novelization of biblical history is joyful, thought provoking, heart-rending, and uplifting by turns.
Being “Mary, mother of Jesus.”
The production boasts more than 50 individuals serving as actors, singers, orchestra members, and technical crew perfecting lights, sound, costumes, choreography and more, all from the North Texas area. Some are veteran performers, and for others, Jesus Christ Superstar is their first production. The audience, though, won’t be able to tell the difference–yes, the entire cast is that good!
Amanda Pillow (Mary Magdalene) with Grant Bower (Jesus), and Amy (Mother Mary) singing from balcony. Note: The role of Magdalene is shared with Teresa Natera, not pictured.
What can you expect? A joyful explosion of color, movement and song, gorgeous set and costumes, creative props, and an energetic outpouring from the cast and crew. We LIVE these parts…and after all, everyone knows how the story ends. The emotion is very real–and we couldn’t do this without each other.
Jesus Christ Superstar is our gift to you, the audience. And I feel blessed to be a part of this, and believe my fellow cast members feel the same.
Historically, audience members hail from the Dallas metroplex into North Texas and southern Oklahoma and beyond to attend Sherman Community Players productions mounted at the history Finley Theater in Sherman, Texas. Although performances are scheduled every Thurs-Sunday throughout June, the 200+-seat house often sells out. Tickets and details are available here–get your reservation asap!
Chills, thrills and spills with Thriller Thursday by Amy Shojai
THRILLER THURSDAY is a new occasional feature of Bling, Bitches & Blood. As a member of International Thriller Writers and alumni of the ITW Debut Author Program, it is my honor to showcase select ITW authors and books participating in the ITW Bloggers Program. If you love reading great books as much as I do, check out my Spotlight Guest Elena Hartwell!
Now here’s something you don’t see every day–a playwright deciding to write thrillers. (I’ve found my identical twin separated at birth! Ha!) When I learned that Elena shared my love of theatric-icity, I had to ask for more information. Take it away, Elena!
Elana & Chance
Question:What do theater, horses, and murder have in common?Answer: Author, Elena Hartwell.
My writing career started in the theater, as a director, producer, and educator. As a playwright, I’ve had several productions around the US and abroad. Sometimes it was satisfying and wonderful. Sometimes it was painful and always required I “sell” my script over and over and over to the next theater down the road. For twenty years, I worked teaching theater, directing, and producing.
But my heart always returned to the writing.
Plays are satisfying, but require a village to “complete.” So I started my first novel. It was a 120,000-word mystery. I was worried it was too short. I’ve since learned most first time mysteries are 65-70,000 words. I learned a lot with that first book. Plays are in permanent present tense and each character has their own POV, because they are inhabited by individual actors. Novels, on the other hand, are usually in past tense and with a specific POV. I learned the difference between writing atmosphere and writing specific descriptions.
I wrote another book. It was better. But didn’t sell. So I wrote a third book and landed an agent. I thought I’d “made it.” But that book didn’t sell either. So I wrote a fourth book and pitched it to an Independent press. One Dead, Two to Go hit the shelves on April 15th.
Elena’s husband J.D. and Jasper
So how do you stay grounded in a world where you have little control over your own destiny? My method is my horses. Two years ago, I met an Arabian gelding named Second Chance. He was given that name because he survived a kill pen, where he was to be sold for dog food. He arrived at the equine rescue where I volunteered and I fell in love. Unwilling to let anyone touch him, he walked over and put his head on my shoulder the first time we met. We’ve been together almost every day since. In December, my husband and I bought Jasper, a dynamic, confident ranch horse we found at the end of a dirt road on the Nevada/Utah border. Now I share my love for these magnificent animals with him. No matter what happens in the publishing world, I stay grounded. For that I am eternally grateful.
Thriller writer Elena Hartwell
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elena Hartwell was born in Bogota, Colombia, while her parents were in the Peace Corps. Her first word was “cuidado.” At the age of nine months, she told two men carrying a heavy table to be careful in their native tongue. She’s been telling people what to do ever since. After almost twenty years in the theater, Elena turned her playwriting skills to novels and the result is her first book “One Dead, Two to Go.” The Eddie Shoes Mystery Series launches April 15, 2016, to be followed by “Two Dead Are Better Than One” and “Three Dead, You’re Out.” For more information on Elena, please visit elenahartwell.com or like her Facebook Page ElenaHartwellAuthor and follow her on Twitter and at Pinterest. You may get to see cute pictures of her dog and her horse.
“One Dead, Two To Go is smart, page-turning fun, with the most feisty and likable P.I. since Kinsey Millhone. Looking for your next favorite detective series? Look no further.” —Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist and author of He’s Gone
“Elena Hartwell doesn’t just burst onto the scene with this clever mystery novel—she kicks the door in and holds the reader at gunpoint.” —Peter Clines, Award-winning author
“The writing is cinematic and vivid, the characters well-drawn, but the dynamic between Eddie and Chava, which reminded me fondly of Cagney and Lacey, is what makes the story. Fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich should de nitely check out One Dead, Two to Go. Recommended.”—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series
“Unlike the standard-issue PI, Eddie seems allergic to guns and violence and worries about a bad haircut as much as stalking danger. Funny, clever, and full of grabbing plot twists, Elena Hartwell’s One Dead, Two To Go, the debut novel in her Eddie Shoes series, takes the mystery lover into unexpected territory, including the introduction of Chava, the intrepid mother who is kicked out of Vegas by the Mob and shows up uninvited on Eddie’s doorstep. is is a fast, memorable and entertaining read. Warning: you’ll want more.” —Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home
Elena Hartwell’s debut novel One Dead, Two to Go
SYNOPSIS: Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman… alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?
Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.
Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.
Yes, I’ve been cast in the Sherman Theatricks production of Mary Poppins, and I’m having a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious time! Tonight is opening night, yee-haw!
Some of y’all know that I’m also an actor/singer and that performing for me is brain candy that reduces stress and invigorates all other parts of my creative life. The more “creative schtuff” that I do, it seems that just feeds the muse. You can find out more about my “playing around” endeavors here. And when able to combine acting, singing, and PETS, what could be better!
Playing Multiple Roles in Mary Poppins–Meet Miss Lark!
Miss Lark loves her Willoughby!
That’s right, betcha didn’t know there’s a character in the cast who is dog-crazy. Gee, why did I get that role? LOL! Miss Lark carries around Willoughby, a small barky and very opinionated canine she treats like her child. (Oh gee, now that’s a stretch for moi as an actor…). I found a brilliant Yorkshire Terrier puppy puppet, from the paw-some folks at Folkmanis Puppets.
Willoughby’s paws and mouth can move, as well as his head. We’ll see how believable his “acting chops” are!
Miss Lark only appears in the first act. I’m fortunate to also be able to sing with the brilliant company in all the chorus numbers, too, many of them sung from backstage. But in the second act, it’s “evil nanny time” and I get to play the part of the polar opposite of Mary Poppins in the role of Miss Andrew.
Evil Meanies Offer Lots of Fun to Play!
Miss Andrew “seeks satisfaction in punitive action” using brimstone and treacle to punish (instead of a spoonful of sugar).
The Tap-Dancing Chimney Sweep
Finally, all the extra hair comes off, and I get to pick up a broom to sing (and try to dance!) in the Step In Time number as a chimney sweep. Hey, it’s all about challenging ourselves with new things. There are some brilliant dancers and singers and actors in this show, and how kewl that I get to “play” alongside them? I have a feeling some of these experiences will go into a future book.
Actually, the next thriller has a scene in which my main character plays cello in the orchestra for Secret Garden (something I was pleased to do last year). In my world, EVERYTHING is material!
Here’s the details from the theater’s press release, so for those of you in the North Texas area, I hope to see you at the show. Make reservations quickly. We’re only performing two weekends, and the theater holds just barely 100 seats.
So…will I see you there? Please share and tell your friends, this is a delightful show–with FLYING, too!
The story unfolds in 1910 England as the jack-of-all-trades, Bert, played by Rafe McConnell, narrates a tale of the troubled Banks family. Mr. and Mrs. Banks are played by Paul Jordan and Jennifer Becherer alongside Erica Romm as Jane Banks and Luke Rostyne as Michael Banks. Jane and Michael are naughty children who give the household staff and townspeople plenty of trouble. Kaitlyn Casmedes, Christina Childress, and Leigh Walker play household staff and the colorful town characters are played by Brandon Carnes, Lew Cohn, Drew Crocker, Ken Kozak, Bella Ortley-Guthrie, and Amy Shojai.
Mary Poppins, played by Amanda Ferguson, arrives on the Banks’ doorstep and uses magic and common sense to teach the family how to value one another. She takes the children and the audience on whimsical adventures where anything can happen. Characters they meet include Mrs. Corry, played by Leanne Duigan, and her children Annie and Fannie played by Andrea Bryson and Alivia Bryson; Neleus, played by Caleb Crocker, and the other lively statues in the park played by Brittani Crocker, Reagan Hayes, Allison Hill, and Queen Victoria, played by Logan Shurtleff. Amy Shojai reappears as Mr. Bank’s old nanny, Miss Andrew to shake things up further. Jane and Michael also learn important lessons about kindness and generosity from the Bird Woman, played by Heidi Scheibmeir and the life-size toys played by Charley Becherer, Molly Brown, MacKenzie Kozak, and Sarah McGinn.
The cast was selected in late July and has been working under the direction of Webster Crocker, choreographer Amy Wallace, vocal director Sylvia Rivers and Thomas Bryson. Costumes and make up are the creation and handiwork of Shelley Shurtleff, Tina Ross, Cheryl Hayes and Anne Schell. The show is accompanied by a 12 member orchestra conducted by Thomas Bryson.
Performance times are 7 p.m. on September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19; and 2 p.m. on September 12, 13, 19 and 20. For reservations, call the Sherman Community Players box office at 903-892-8818 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday or visit the box office inside the Honey McGee Playhouse, 313 West Mulberry in Sherman during the same hours. Tickets are available for season members beginning Monday, September 7 and for all other beginning Tuesday, September 8.
Tickets are also available online at www.theatricks.org. Ticket prices are $12 for adults and $10 for students. 2015-2016 Season Memberships are available at the ticket office for $25 adult, $20 senior, and $18 student and include Mary Poppins, James and the Giant Peach, and The Boxcar Children.