I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?
The Accidental Writer
I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:
What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.
Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU
Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.
And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?
“I own this content!”
What Do You Want to Be…?
As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.
I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”
Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea
Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)
I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.
Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.
Becoming My Best Self
Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.
I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.
When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?
When I Grow Up…
I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.
For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.
I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.
And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.
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!
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.
Gotcha day adoption during STRAYS. (All images courtesy of Mike Marlow, used with permission)
I call myself the “accidental pet writer” because I had plans to be a New York Broadway star…and instead my career went to the dogs (and cats). There were very few jobs available in a small town in Eastern Kentucky where my husband and I first lived after we got married, and so I interviewed with a veterinarian for an office manager position.
My interview took place during a Chihuahua’s C-section, with the vet asking me questions while handing newborn puppies for me to resuscitate. I think I got the job because I didn’t pass out!
There were so many amazing experiences as a result of working with veterinarians and I used to share them with my mother. She finally said, “Amy, you’ve got to write those stories down!”
And so I did, and my nonfiction pet-writing career was born. A few thousand articles and 30 nonfiction pet books later, my dream of writing fiction became a reality by combining the cat and dog expertise with fast-paced emotion-driven stories in novels. My debut thriller LOST AND FOUND introduced animal behaviorist September Day and her service dog Shadow, and my most current release HIDE AND SEEK continues her story.
But I never could have imagined that writing about cats and dogs would lead me BACK to the stage—to the Honey McGee Playhouse as a playwright/composer with my partner-in-thespian-crime, Frank Steele.
DREAM CAT song, sung by “Queen Cat” Christina Childress (above) and danced by “Pariah Cat” Kaitlyn Casmedes
THE THEATER CONNECTION
We’d already collaborated on other scripts, including KURVES, THE MUSICAL, but both of us are passionate pet people. I think Frank first brought up the concept of a pet-centric show, with actors portraying cats and dogs in funny or poignant scenes to not just entertain, but explain these behaviors. We didn’t want funny animal makeup or elaborate costumes, though. Our characters, we decided, would be developed strictly through the actor’s skill—so they’d need to love pets themselves.
STRAYS was born over countless glasses of iced tea and scribbled notes, developed through back and forth emailed lyrics and dialogue, written and revised music, recording the orchestration, and finally polishing with the help of two different volunteer casts, setting up a “cast recording” and three preview performances. Truly, the show was written in “kitty litter” with final polishing help from the cast.
The generosity and support of SCP Theatricks made the performance possible–how often does your own hometown get to debut an original theater production? PLEASE support the arts in your community–Frank and I hope this experience opens the door for other local artists. It’s been quite a journey.
“PUPPY MONOLOGUE” was the first scene written in STRAYS, with “Puppy” performed by Kate Carson.
THREE YEAR PROJECT
The first scenes were written in August 2011. Now, after a 40 month gestation, STRAYS has been born this week, thanks to a brilliant cast and crew of local talent. Mee-WOW!
STRAYS was written to be performed for (and by) animal rescue organizations as a fund raiser. Frank and I never intended to write a “kids show” and STRAYS was designed for an all-adult cast. Through the review-style performance, the various scenes and a dozen songs highlight the many ways cats and dogs lose their homes—mostly because of “normal” behaviors—and also offer tips to solve problems and preserve that most special loving bond between pets and owners.
Our youngest cast members shine in “NORMAL” chorus.
Because of the venue and its wonderful support, we’ve cast the show not only with experienced adult performers but also talented young thespians from the Theatricks program. Their own “furry muses” are featured in the curtain call, too!
“THE MUSE” song, led by MacKenzie Kozak (center) with slide show above illustrating how our cats and dogs inspire us every day.
Last night was OPENING NIGHT of STRAYS, the MUSICAL. The amazing cast of 30 performers prompted laughter, cheers, and perhaps a few tears in the generous crowd gathered for the event. What a feeling! To have the words and music come to life–and take on a furry life of their own–is every creative’s dream-come-true.
If you’ve never visited the lovely Honey McGee Playhouse, now is your opportunity. STRAYS takes the stage again tonight and tomorrow, 7 pm. on November 7 & 8. Tickets are $10 general admission at the door, or reserve online at www.THEATRICKS.org on the STRAYS page.
There’s even a fund raising program to benefit Animal Refuge Foundation and Red River SPCA during the show. At last night’s event, we gave away a big basket of dog food and a cat-care basket with fun toys, pet CD and cat care books. Pet carriers, more books and pet food, a “well pet vet package” and waived adoption fees are also offered!
Here are a few more photos from the show, taken by the amazing Mike Marlow. He also videotaped the entire show last night, so DVDs and photos from the show will be available to the cast. We may be able to make it available to theater groups interested in producing the STRAYS show.
“Puff Puff” (Jim Barnes) and “Mom-Cat” (Marty Burkart) discuss how litter-ary mishaps lost them their homes.
Theresa Littlefield sings the dawgie blues to “Show Dog” (Jesse Childress) about the normal behaviors that got her kicked out of her home.
Lew Cohn (left) and Susan McGinn (right) in the Pet Debate….”why dogs roll in “schtuff” etc.
No, I never intended to be a writer. I never planned to be an animal behavior consultant. For sure, I never thought I’d be a choir teacher, or a composer, or heck…never imagined I’d live in Texas…But I did all of that. Sometimes, the unexpected turns into something wonderful.
Please come share our “something wonderful” celebration this week, as our STRAYS cast makes our dream comes true. And don’t forget to dream up your own “something wonderful.” You just might discover an unexpected, glorious dream-come-true of your own! Learn more about Shojai & Steele Plays here.
STRAYS, an original musical by local playwrights Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, premiers at the Honey McGee Playhouse for three nights only November 6, 7, 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm. Cast with 30 local talents, the review-style show explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view.
STRAYS was written to be performed for (and by) animal rescue organizations as a fund raiser, and isn’t specifically a “kids show,” although talented thespians from the Theatricks program are cast. All ages will enjoy STRAYS.
“I’ve been a fan of STRAYS since I saw the concert preview back in 2013,” says Susan McGinn, “so I’m delighted that my husband John, daughter Sarah, and I are cast for the first fully staged production! It’s been fascinating (and unique in all my theater experience) to be directed by the co-writers of the show and watch them refine and tweaked the script and score during the rehearsal process. It’s an honor for all of us who are acting in the production to know that our work has contributed to shaping STRAYS.”
Susan McGinn (far left) and the other “cats” intimidate the Pariah Cat (crouched center) played by Kaitlyn Casmedes.
Jim Barnes recorded the show songs for the preview cast album, and decided to audition for the staged performance. He portrays the only boy cat, a feline who has used up 8 of his 9 lives. “I like performing in STRAYS because it gives me a chance to make people laugh,” he says. “Everyone should see it. You will laugh, you will cry a little and you will learn some insight on the behaviors of animals.”
Jim Barnes sings how he’s wasted 8 of his 9 lives, while two dogs (played by Theresa Littlefield and Lew Cohn) look on.
The large cast has become close. Lew Cohn says, “It is great to see talented performers of such a wide variety of ages come together to perform original material that is so well written and informative about the plight of stray animals. My favorite scene is the Old Dogs Talking, in which I play a Bassett hound with various “difficulties” that make for a lot of fun. But there’s something for everyone—bust a gut comedy, tear jerking drama and great original songs that tell a story.”
Two dogs played by Lew Cohn (left) and Steven Mildward (right) discuss bulldogs, bullfrogs, worms and Poodles–and other important dog schtuff.
Steve Mildward has been involved in many productions, both onstage and backstage. “I can address the excitement that comes from the direct involvement with the writers. In the classics, you can’t ask what the intent was. In this production, the directors are there to lend that insight.”
Cohn also appreciates being able to create a role from the ground up. “This is an exciting opportunity to set the bar in an original show.”
Abraham (a puppy) and kittens Eliana and Sofia Guerra have featured roles in the show.
For some actors, STRAYS is their first onstage experience. Carolina Guerra and her daughters Sofia and Eliana are first-time performers cast when Carolina’s son Abraham decided to audition. She especially enjoys being able to share the experience with her family. “My kiddos love to perform but I am more of an introvert so I was not sure how it would go. Much to my surprise, the play has been both educational and fun for all of us. It has been a great introduction to being in a theatrical production. I might even consider trying out for another one.”
Her son Abraham is a veteran of Theatricks productions, and says he likes getting to wear a bone as one of the puppies. He also performs a dog rap. His favorite scene is Show Dog, because it’s so funny. “The main difference (compared to other plays) is being on stage the whole time,” he says. “In some ways it is easier because we are not running back and forth but it is also hard because you have to stay in character the whole time.”
Both Sofia and Eliana Guerra like playing kittens. Sofia loves to sing and march in GOTCHA DAY, while Eliana prefers the fun song NORMAL.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be not only working on a new show but a show with an important message,” says Kaitlyn Casmedes, who choreographed STRAYS and portrays the “pariah” cat. “Anyone whose heart goes out to animals will love this show.”
Carolina says her favorite song is RAINBOW PETS, the finale. “In particular the lines, “Lessons learned don’t come for free…shed no tear have no fear pay it forward in kind.” What a great life lesson not just about pet ownership but everything in life. I hope my kiddos will remember these words forever.”
“There’s a line in STRAYS that I think describes perfectly why the show is so appealing,” adds Susan McGinn. “There’s a lot of love represented here, a lot of love.” When the joyous finale arrives, we all truly feel it. We want the audience to know about the happiness that comes from helping cats and dogs in need. We can’t wait for opening night!”
Everyone in my family is an accomplished photographer–but we still couldn’t figure out the “timer” to get us all in the frame!
I wrote this post in October 2014. Today, my parents are on the verge of celebrating their 94th birthdays. After more than a year away from them, due to the pandemic, I feel nostalgic for the last time my siblings and I gathered with them. Stay tuned for an update when I finally get to visit with them again!
Last week, I drove to the airport 90 minutes away, waited during a 40-minute plane delay, sat on the plane for 2+ hours, boarded a bus for another 3 hour ride and discovered I’d left my laptop behind during the routine airport security check at DFW. I hate travel. But I’d do it all over again, and gladly.
It was my parent’s 60th Anniversary celebration. My two brothers and their wives and I rented a house in Michigan, and we gathered together for a rare but blissful reunion with great food, fine beverages, late night laugh-fests, shared memories, and bitter-sweet farewells.
We grew up in Northern Indiana where my parents still live. My twin brother (and nope, we’re NOT identical, LOL!) and his family live in Ohio where he’s a brilliant speech writer and PR pro, while our younger brother, a professional photographer, lives in far northern Michigan. My SILs are accomplished professional women, too, and my niece and nephews make us all proud. But how did my “little brother” become a grandpa, twice over? Where did the time go?
I live the farthest away in Texas, and traveling that far plus coordinating all of our busy schedules proves the greatest challenge. In fact, my husband wasn’t able to come due to a number of scheduling conflicts with work–and caring for the fur-kids. Sometimes I feel guilty that we moved so far away…
PEDIGREES & GENEALOGY
When together, I’m reminded of what a friend calls our “charmed childhood.” Our home was full of books, art and music–even today Mom and Dad’s house looks like a cross between an art gallery and a library, with musical instruments thrown in. Memories of being read to–story time was important when we were kids–and then arguing which one got to practice on the newer upstairs piano rather than the old-timey one in the basement. And later, when cello, violin, trumpet, voice lessons, track and wrestling, sewing lessons and play practice were added. How did my folks find the time, with their teaching schedules, to give us such wonderful gifts of creativity to explore?
Pets, too, of course–Shelties now gone for years that taught me about dog training and patience, and still prompt tears when stories are fondly shared. My Dad, a long retired elementary music teacher, has become a recognized pastel artist, and one of Mom’s most cherished pictures is the portrait of all the Shelties together: Pickles, Mac, Chad and Skye.
Living on the river, I could sneak away in the canoe to perch in my “reading tree” out of sight for lazy summertime hours. Baby bunnies rescued, turtles and snakes caught and released, river snails the size of your fist–and college fees times three. I am in awe, and a bit weepy thinking back.
We spent time this past weekend looking through a family genealogy, marveling at our ancestors, and how far they’d traveled to meet their future spouses and raise families. And I learned that my Mom, born and raised in Kentucky, had also taken a chance and left her family for a teaching job in Indiana more than 60 years ago–and there she met Dad.
GOOD GENES & LUCK
With cats and dogs, we have the luxury of reviewing pedigrees and choosing ideal pet parent matches–but even then, anything can happen. Humans are more in line with the “lovable mutts” that just happen to get together. What results can be good, bad, or hopefully a happy accident.
I am me because of my parents, and my brothers. How lucky that my ancestors took a chance on coming to a new country, and that my Mom left her family during an era when most young women stayed home and married a neighbor. They still love life, my parents, and it shows in all they do–and I pray they’ll continue to stay healthy for another decade and beyond. Neither looks or acts their age and if I’m sometimes silly or act quirky well–it’s THEIR gene pool! And I’m proud and lucky to be a part of it.
Friends sometimes share with me their sorrow, anger, or indifference that they’ve lost touch or are not close with their families. That makes me sad–and also makes me feel even more lucky to have the parents and brothers that I have.
I see myself in them, in how I was raised, and the decisions I made to arrive at this place in my life. I, too, left home. But I took home with me. It’s who I am. All the things I love most in life–pets, music, art, puns and laughter, theater and bling, books and stories, love and honesty–all comes from them. With a pedigree like that, I am indeed blessed.
Oh, I did get my laptop back. Just lucky, I guess!
When was the last time you had a family reunion? Do tell!
The cast of STRAYS has been rehearsing since late September, preparing for the November 6, 7, 8 performances at 7:00 pm at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman Texas.
STRAYS is an original show by Amy Shojai and Frank Steele that explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. “All new scripts are written in (forgive us) kitty litter. Working with a cast helped us tighten scenes and refine songs for the best actor/audience performance experience possible,” say Shojai and Steele. “We’re proud to premier the show with this fantastic cast, courtesy of Theatricks and the Honey McGee Playhouse.”
All actors remain onstage and each portrays several feature roles—including human owners—in this hilarious and often moving “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior that too often gets pets kicked out of the house. In addition, Petco, Natural Balance pet food, and others have donated pet-centric gift baskets (including some waived pet adoption fees to qualified owners) to raise funds for the local Animal Refuge Foundation and Red River SPCA.
“Our pet loving cast ranges in age from kindergarten to mature adults, including several parent/child castings,” say the playwrights. “Many are experienced performers you know from Theatricks and Finley productions, while others are first-time actors.”
The cast of 30 includes Denison performer Avery Hall, and Van Alstyne performers Kate Carson, Charlotte Thomas and Sofia Westmoreland. Sherman performers are Sophia Allen, Jim Barnes, Marty Burkart, Kaitlyn Casmedes, Christina and Jesse Childress, Lew Cohn, Roxy Farrel and her mother Katie Wiley, Kevin Gautier, Ava Gibson, Carolina Guerra and her children Abraham, Eliana and Sofia, Ken Kozak and his daughter MacKenzie, Theresa Littlefield, Brenna Michaelsen, Steven Milward, John and Susan McGinn and their daughter Sarah, Charity Riley and daughter Brynn, and Liam Troncalli.
STRAYS is co-directed by Steele and Shojai, with assistance from rehearsal pianist Dr. John McGinn and choreographer Kaitlyn Casmedes. In addition, Steven Milward is technical adviser, with Michael Gardner running lights. Brenna Michaelsen and Tobias Scheibmeir share the duties of stage manager.
The show is suitable for all ages, and children will especially enjoy the funny songs—just remember that the actors are pretending to be cats and dogs doing what often “hisses” owners off, like scratching, barking, jumping or missing the litter box. Parents of very young or sensitive children should be aware the show briefly addresses the reality of what happens to unwanted pets. “Rest assured, there IS a happy ending!”
The Honey McGee Playhouse seats slightly over 100, and the three performances November 6, 7, 8 are expected to sell out quickly. Tickets are $10 each, and you can purchase tickets at the door or reserve seats online at the Theatricks website by clicking on the STRAYS link on the night you wish to attend.
CLICK HERE FOR THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE
Learn about Theatricks productions here.
CLICK HERE FOR SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE
Come channel your inner cat and dog and audition for STRAYS, THE MUSICAL on Tuesday and Wednesday, 6:00-9:00 pm on September 23-24 (callbacks September 25) at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman Texas.
STRAYS explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. The actors give voice to a variety of cat and dog characters in this hilarious–and often moving–musical review “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior while honoring the bond we share with them.
STRAYS seeks up to 25 actors, singers and dancers, from kids to adults. Families (parents and kids) are encouraged to audition together. Rehearsals are at the Honey McGee, Sunday through Thursday evenings beginning September 28 with performance three nights only November 6, 7, 8 at the Honey McGee. The show will be rehearsed in individual scenes, so actors won’t be needed at every rehearsal. Families will be scheduled at the same time frame.
HOW TO AUDITION
No experience is necessary. Auditions consist of filling out a form, singing a short selection of your choice (or simple music will be provided), reading scenes from the script, and demonstrating your best cat and/or dog character. A pianist will be available for you to bring sheet music, or bring your own CD for your song and/or dance audition. Dancers may be asked to learn a short routine.
There are up to 20 individual speaking/singing parts; you may be cast to play more than one role or given additional lines and/or solo verses in company songs. STRAYS includes music styles from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel and musical theater, and even rap, country-western, jazz, and Celtic. The show will be performed with full orchestration via CD recording.
Featured roles for men include BOY PUPPY (age 13-20), CHOW HOUND (adult bass/baritone), OLD DOG (adult tenor), LUCKY CAT (adult, talk-singer), DOG RAPPER (any age), and HUMAN-OWNER (adult).
Featured roles for women include GIRL KITTEN (soprano/actor age 13-20), QUEEN CAT (soprano/adult), OLD CAT (non-singing, mature), CAT RAPPER (any age), PETS TRIO (any age, close harmony), DANCE CAT (solo-modern/ballet), and HUMAN-OWNER (adult).
Several featured roles may be played by either males or females of any age, and include BLUESY DOG, BEGGING DOG, WISH CAT, and GOSPEL CAT (all mid-range solos), EGO DOG (non-singing), and DANCE PETS (any age).
THE SECRET GARDEN show just closed at the Honey McGee Playhouse, and this gorgeous set will be re-purposed and used for STRAYS.
STRAYS will be co-directed by Frank Steele and Amy Shojai, with assistance from rehearsal pianist Dr. John McGinn and choreographer Kaitlyn Casmedes. In addition, Steven Milward is technical adviser. Anyone interested in technical/crew positions is encouraged to attend.
For further information contact Amy Shojai, (email@example.com, 903-868-1022). You can also fill out an audition form online at the Theatricks website.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Those who regularly read this blog know that I not only write about pets, but also give talks about pet behavior. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes I write music about pet behavior, too and even SING about cats and dogs. (Magical-Dawg howls, Seren-Kitty does her lion cough and Karma yawns…everyone’s a critic!) Now you have a chance to sing along!
I’m proud to partner with local actor/writer/musician Frank Steele to co-write STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Next Saturday, September 13 from 10-noon at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, we’ll present a free workshop about the show. The workshop is designed to help pet loving performers prepare to audition for STRAYS on September 23, 24, 25. Those who attend may learn a thing or two about cat and dog behavior, too!
I’ve written lots of pet-centric schtuff, and Frank and I have written other scripts and performed on stage a great deal. But STRAYS combines all our loves—writing, music, acting and pets. Now we want to share STRAYS with area actors and audiences.
Love theater? Love pets? You’ll fall in love with STRAYS!
We’re looking for up to 20 performers and production folks to bring STRAYS to life. A few human characters appear in the show but most actors portray cats or dogs—but without any special makeup or costumes. That’s right! You get to create your own character using your skill as a performer—are you a Great Dane? Chihuahua or Siamese? Mutt or tabby? We’d love to cast families, too—with the kids playing kittens/puppies and parents as the adult pets.
During the workshop, you’ll practice channeling your inner pet. Feel free to bring a dog or cat toy to help get into character. Participants will learn one of the songs from the show and practice pet-centric moves. Are you a rapper or beat box expert? Come show your skills! Dogs and cats move and act in very specific ways that communicate to each other (and to clueless humans!). Shake your puppy tail or display kitty ballet moves to evoke the pet’s mood. During the workshop you’ll also practice reading funny or poignant scenes from the script.
Two featured parts call for 14-year old actor/singers to play the parts of Girl Kitten and Boy Puppy. But all other parts have no age or type limitations and performers aged 9 to 99 are welcome. STRAYS includes solos, ensembles, rap, featured dancers, non-singing actor roles, and fun company numbers in styles ranging from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel, jazz, and Celtic. If you’re like me, you often “speak” for your pets and now’s your chance to bring that cat or dog character to the stage.
We look forward to working with Supporting Cast members from SCP-Theatricks. We also seek technical assistance with lighting, sound, projection, choreography, stage managing and more.
Dr. John McGinn will assist us as rehearsal pianist, and the show will be performed with a CD of full orchestration on November 6, 7, 8, 2014. We hope STRAYS will benefit animal welfare organizations in their fund raising efforts, as well as entertain pet lovers. And purr-haps bring a new audience to Sherman Community Players.
Now is your chance—come to the STRAYS workshop Saturday September 13 from 10-Noon to learn more. Please SHARE this post with cat and dog lovers and theater peeps. 🙂
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!
I’ve been grinning and doing the HAPPY-DANCE for two days now, ever since Monday night the Sherman Community Players Board voted YES to allow STRAYS, THE MUSICAL be produced as a full-fledged show, November 6-7-8, 2014 at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, Texas.
My co-author (co-conspirator?) Frank Steele and I began this journey more than two years ago when we conceived the notion of a musical theater show from the cats and dogs point of view. For some of y’all who have read my dog-viewpoint thrillers, this probably sounds familiar. 🙂 We’re both passionate about proper pet care, and I’ve carved a career out of helping to educate pet lovers.
We wanted STRAYS to be a hopeful and funny show that also shines a spotlight (literally!) on how cats and dogs lose their homes, and celebrate the heroes who make it possible for the lucky ones to be chosen and have forever homes. Our fondest wish is that STRAYS helps rescues, shelters and pet lovers everywhere with info-tainment that inspires, offers hope, and maybe even raises funds for furry causes.
The best way to reach the widest audience is to publish. In theater, publishers require that a script be performed before they’ll even consider it.
So as we wrote the script and score, with the help of talented local actors, STRAYS took baby paw-steps in a preview performance of sample songs at the national 2013 Cat Writers Association Conference in Dallas. And this past March, we were granted a “staged reading” of the entire show (script/music in hand), thanks to Webster Crocker, administrative director of Sherman Community Players (SCP). He agreed to our request to mount the full show in the fall under the THEATRICKS umbrella (children’s theater program), and June 23, 2014 the SCP Board approved the proposal.
Auditions will happen sometime in September–so if you’d like to “channel your inner cat/dog” please come out! Frank and I can’t wait to work with the Supporting Cast members, the young thespians who participate in Theatricks programs. But there are parts for singers, dancers, and actors of every age and type because, after all, cats and dogs are as unique as snowflakes, too. Wouldn’t it be PAW-some to have whole families perform in the show together?
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!
“Seren, I can be a GREAT lion. Wanna hear me roar? Do ya, huh, huh, huh?”
Karma has been miffed he’s been left home in the evenings while I rehearse for the first annual Shakespeare In The Grove production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s free to the public and performed at 7:30 pm outdoors at Pecan Grove Park these next two weekends, May 30, 31, June 1, 6, 7, 8.
Other than vet visits, Karma has only been outside one time since he showed up on our back patio, and he trembled and became so upset that I’ve not taken him out since. So I reminded him of that fact. But Karma wanted to know more.
Karma: Magical-Dawg goes Outside. He likes playing Outside, I watch from the window. Does he get to go with you to see that Spear-guy shake? Does he shake his spear cuz he’s scared of Outside, too?
Amy: William Shakespeare doesn’t shake, that’s his name. He wrote the play, he’s not IN the play. Only actors are IN the play. Actors pretend to be romantic and confused lovers, or magic fairies and sprites with wings, or actors entertaining royalty who pretend to be lions, and there’s even a dog…
Karma: I can be an actor! I pretend to attack Magical-Dawg all the time. I can shakee my spear-like claws and roar. Let me play the lion. I will roar so good everyone will say ‘Let him roar again, let him roar again!’ Does the lion get to chase fairy wings? Do sprites taste like chicken? (Pause) Wait. There’s an actor dog? Why does Magic get to go and I don’t?
Amy: This is another dog . . . maybe it’d be better for you to talk to him and he can explain everything. You can interview him about being an actor dog and appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Karma: Oh look, there he is! Gee, he’s not near as big as Magical-Dawg. And he’s mostly white. Wow, he sure moves fast and jumps nearly as high as me. Didja see that back-flip and high five…I mean, high four?
Amy: Karma, be polite. Should I call Seren to do the interview instead?
Karma: I can do this! (clearing kitty throat) Mr. Dog, your poochy honor, your canine-icity …uhm…What do I call you?
Benedick: Senior Benedick and I am delighted to be here. You may call me Ben but I won’t answer. I go by Benedick. If you are too lazy to say that then Dick will do.
Karma: I’m not lazy. All cats sleep a lot, it’s our nature. You should see how much Seren-kitty sleeps. (whispering) She’s reeeeely old, like seventeen-eleventy years or something. And my best dog friend is three times as big as you. Why do you look so different? How old are you, Dick?
Benedick: I am a Jack Russell Terrier. What’s my age! What’s yours?
Karma: (puffing up) I’m almost a whole year old! I’m not a kitten anymore, can’t you tell?
Benedick: Fine, I am twelve-years-young, but I can still play a six-year-old character. It’s my good English Genes I got from my father. He immigrated to America from England.
Karma: Wow. Did he dog paddle all the way? Was he an actor, too? Amy says I can’t come to the Shakee Spears show, so how come you’re such a lucky dog?
Benedick: I was born a Thespian and have been preparing for the stage my entire life! I was last seen playing Crab the Dog in the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival’s production of Two Gentleman of Verona.
Karma: That Shakee Spear guy sure gets around. Oh, Amy wants me to ask if you consider Shakee Spear to be your forte? I don’t know what that means but Amy’s the boss…
Benedick: I don’t consider Shakespeare to be my forte. I consider it my fortissimo! I sing, I dance, I even used to do a magic show with my pet human.
Karma: How did you get the part? Was tryouts scary? Did the Director bark and hiss at you?
Benedick: Darling, when you’re as well versed in Shakespeare, the Director auditions for you.
Karma: How do you learn your lines? Are you a method actor?
Benedick: I am, I don’t like doing the same thing every time. I like to be spontaneous and keep those human actors on their toes! I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement clicker training and repetition.
Amy: Excuse me Karma, but I have to ask. Senior Benedick, how do you feel about the characters in the show heaping so much praise on the Hounds of Sparta, with nary a mention of the merit of holy terriers such as yourself?
Benedick: Well, my dear, you must first consider when it was written! Jack Russells weren’t around till the 1800s. It’s like seeing an old movie that talks about how amazing and convenient the new telephone booths are at the train station! It might be archaic NOW but then…well…it’s all they had.
Karma: Do you get paid in treats? Clicker training is paw-some! I think bacon would be a great payday. How are the two-legged actors to work with?
Benedick: Well I’ve had to give a few acting suggestions here and there, but overall I think it will be a fine show. Bacon! With this figure, I think not. I only accept homemade whole grain peanut butter biscuits when I am in a show. It’s in my rider.
Karma: What can everyone expect of your performance in the show?
Join Senior Benedick and the rest of the human cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Pecan Grove Park, 3200 Canyon Creek Drive in Sherman. Learn more about this family friendly free production at ShakespeareIntheGrove.com
Tonight our cast gathers at a recording studio to create a cast album of the songs from STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Stay tuned–I’ll post some samples here on the blog as soon as they’re available!
TOMORROW NIGHT is the big day! Saturday at 7:00 pm, please join us for the FREE staged reading of STRAYS, THE MUSICAL! My co-author Frank Steele and I have lined up a stellar cast to present the complete script and 11 original songs (with full orchestration). The actors portray cats and dogs, and that’s enough to get purrs rumbling and tails wagging, dontcha think? (Your kids will love this, too).
A staged reading (with script in hand) allows the playwrights and cast to figure out, with the help of the audience, what works and what needs finagling, so the show can be improved when it’s finally performed. That means YOU can be a part of the process. Besides that, it’s free!
Here’s a taste of one of my favorite songs, in which cats and dogs alternate singing verses that describe NORMAL behaviors that aggravate owners–it’s a jazz number with RAP section about how to fix the problems!
“Gonna match that scratch
Make my mark, mark, mark.
While they snatch to catch me
In the dark, dark, dark.
Can’t stop my paws–
From making claws.
“Gonna start my diggin
Cuz I been figgerin’
How to dig a hole,
Cuz I been tol’
Ya need to do it,
So the bone’ll fit it.
Yea! Dig-gin'” . . .
So…if you were performing as a cat or a dog in the above lyric, how would you show the audience your character? No “ear and tail” costumes allowed…the actor must do the job and channel his/her inner pet :).
For the staged reading, our actors double up on parts with some playing cats in one scene and dogs in another, and even human owners in the final song. But the fully mounted show likely will include a larger cast including a chorus, and is appropriate for any age actor (or audience). We will mount the full show this fall and will hold open auditions for local performers to join the furry throng.
Please join Frank Steele, Amy Shojai, Gil Nelson, Johnny Flowers, Diana and Aaron Adair, and Lacey Wesson (running audio) Saturday evening March 22 at 7:00 pm at the Honey McGee Playhouse, 313 West Mulberry Street, in Sherman, TX.
Please SHARE this post with anyone who loves cats and dogs and theater. Hey, you may want this show to visit YOUR animal shelter fundraising event in the future!
UPDATE: Open auditions will be held to cast the full production this fall, with performance three nights October 23, 24 & 25th at the Honey McGee Playhouse. See you there!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? I’m a new Brand Ambassador for The Honest Kitchen and you can get FREE samples here, check it out! (Karma loves this!). Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!
(Sherman, TX, 10-17-13) – Local playwrights, co-authors Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, have cast STRAYS, THE MUSICAL with five popular local performers. The completed original show will feature a dozen catchy songs, an ensemble cast, and laugh out loud dialogue.
A free preview of the music from STRAYS, THE MUSICAL will be performed locally at Trinity Lutheran Church on October 27 from 7-7:30 pm. The show will also be the featured entertainment on Friday, November 1st in Dallas at the 19th Annual Cat Writers Association Conference.
STRAYS, THE MUSICAL explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. The actors give voice to a variety of cat and dog characters in this hilarious–and often moving–musical review “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior while honoring the bond we share with them.
Playwrights Amy Shojai and Frank Steele are both passionate pet advocates. STRAYS, THE MUSICAL is written especially with pet lovers in mind. “We hope the completed show will benefit animal welfare organizations in their fund raising efforts, as well as entertain pet lovers,” they say. STRAYS is their fourth co-written show. The duo most recently wrote, directed and produced the critically acclaimed original show KURVES, performed at the Rialto in Denison.
The cast for the STRAYS preview performances include both Steele and Shojai, with Theresa Littlefield and Gil Nelson (both performed in KURVES), and local orchestra teacher SuEllen Davis. Not only talented singer/actors, the cast brings their love and understanding of cats and dogs to their performances.
Cast for the preview/premier performance of songs from STRAYS, THE MUSICAL: L-R: Amy Shojai, Frank Steele, SuEllen Davis, Gil Nelson and Theresa Littlefield
The music includes solos, duets and full company numbers in styles ranging from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel and Celtic. The 30-minute performance is accompanied by recorded full orchestral arrangements.
“The performance is a preview only, intended to offer a taste of what to expect from the full two-hour show,” say the playwrights. “We’re looking for feedback from the audience after the performance. That helps fine tune the future show.”
Shojai and Steele plan to hold open auditions (all ages, singers and nonsingers alike) for the premier of the full show at a future date. The completed show’s monologues, scenes and music are written to be modular, to allow only the cat portions, only the dog sections, or both to be performed, based on the audience demographic.
See the free preview performance of music from STRAYS, THE MUSICAL on Sunday, October 27, 7:00 pm at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1515 N. Travis Street in Sherman.To learn more about the performance at the Cat Writers Conference in Dallas, refer to http://www.catwriters.com for more information.
Please SHARE with all your pet-loving friends and animal advocacy groups!
Local playwrights Amy Shojai and Frank Steele announce the revival cast of KURVES, THE MUSICAL. This family friendly show returns by popular demand to The Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas in mid-October.
Eight quirky characters, misfits all, become trapped inside MAXINE’S, a woman’s gym in Kurves, Texas. Despite numerous failed attempts to find happiness and true love, they finally succeed—but in unexpected ways.
The ensemble cast remains onstage the entire show. KURVES features laugh out loud dialogue, and twelve original songs—from ballads to blues, gospel to 40s-style numbers—complete with full orchestration.
Frank Steele directs the show and plays the cross-dressing Maxine/Max who owns the women’s gym and sings the title song. He has appeared in many TV and radio commercials, movies and TV shows including DALLAS. He taught drama for twenty-seven years and has appeared in over fifty plays as an actor or professional musician.
Amy Shojai directs the music and plays Celia, the bling-wearing visitor who sings, “Dreams For Sale.” Shojai is a local author with 26 published pet books, and has a performance degree in music and theater. She has appeared in several dozen plays in six states, most recently as Golde in Fiddler On The Roof, and has made countless TV and radio appearances both locally and nationally, including CNN and Animal Planet.
Nikki Silva is cast as the many-times-married Mabel, director of a soup kitchen, and sings the rousing gospel number, “Suck It Up, Sweetheart.” Silva is a theatre director and debate teacher at Denison High School. She graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in drama, and is currently working on her Master of Arts degree in directing. Nikki has been singing and performing since she was five years old in musical theatre and country music opries, jamborees, and contests around the state. She has directed, co-directed, and/or performed in over 45 productions during her career, co-writing and touring an original musical in 2001. She wishes to thank the KURVES cast for inviting her in to their little family and being so helpful, kind, and encouraging.
Theresa Littlefield is cast as mousy poetry teacher Jane who transforms from plain-to-sparkling in the duet “Poetry & Jazz.” Theresa has performed in numerous college, church, and community productions. She is an active member of the First United Methodist Church choir and handbell choir. She often plays saxophone for high school plays and church programs. She is a counselor at Fairview Elementary in Sherman.
Hilary Gregory-Allen is cast as newlywed Ronnie, and sings about her insecurities in the plaintive song, “The Picture.” Gregory-Allen majored in Theatre at Austin College and attended the Stella Adler Summer Conservatory. She most recently performed as Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and has appeared in leading and featured roles: as Viola in Twelfth Night, Kolenkhov in You Can’t Take it With You, and Ophelia in Hamlet. She also directed The Zoo Story and stage managed Waiting for Godot. She would like to thank her family and friends for all of their tireless support. She plans to pursue a career in theatre.
Johnny Flowers is the inept but lovable movie-quoting robber Fingers who laments his lack of finesse and brings down the house in the song, “Silver Screen Blues.” Johnny has been active in theater for the past 30 years. Most recently he delighted audiences in productions of The Odd Couple, Arsenic & Old Lace, and Smoke On the Mountain III. Johnny is also involved in the Music Ministry at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison. He is a graduate of Grayson County College and works at the Sherman Kroger’s Store.
Joe Maglio plays ladies’ man Boots and sings, “You’re The Chick For Me.” He was one of the original dancers on American Bandstand and will show off smooth moves in KURVES. He attended Lon Morris School of Drama and worked for eleven years as technical director at Finley Playhouse. He graduated from Southeaster School of Theatre in 1988, moved to Hollywood and was active with Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood. Joe is a member of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and served on the nominating committee for the SAG awards. Joe most recently booked a role in the feature film Redwing starring Bill Paxton and Glen Powell, in which he plays Bill’s Mexican foreman “Louis.”
Gil Nelson plays Ronnie’s husband, Troy Chadwick Noonan IV, who literally holds the key to MAXINE’S and ties up all loose ends in the song, “Life Happens.” Gil Nelson was a professional radio broadcaster for 25 years and has spent over 25 years acting in leading rolls in Community Theater productions such as The Odd Couple, Moonlight and Magnolias, 12 Angry Men and The Nerd just to name a few. He is also a talented playwright and in 2011 partnered with Gene Lenore to write the musical, The Lone Star Truck Stop, produced in cooperation with the Grayson College Theater Department. He is employed part time with Workforce Solutions Texoma, performing resume, interviewing and resource seminars.
Mickie Martin is stage manager. Rehearsal space is courtesy of Leah, Rachel and Rebekah Martin. The Martin family has lent their considerable talent both onstage and off with the Sherman Community Players and Theatricks for many years.
KURVES, THE MUSICAL returns to The Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas at 8:00 pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday October 11, 12 and 13. Tickets are $10 adults and $5 for kids (12 and under). For individual or group reservations call the Rialto at 903-465-SHOW. For reviews, song samples and pictures from the original production and to learn more about KURVES, THE MUSICAL here.
First off, I’ve added audio files to the KURVES, THE MUSICAL page (above) so folks can finally hear some of the songs.
Seren-kitty had her vet visit yesterday. She’s not a youngster any more and I’ve been worried about her health since she’s drinking/urinating more. I’ll have a full recap on Friday but wanted to thank everyone for the good wishes. It is NOT diabetes (whew!). It may be early kidney issues (her tests are ‘borderline’ and not yet in failure). We’re expecting Texas A & M results tomorrow or Thursday to let us know about thyroid function. Paws crossed that’s negative…
Some of y’all know that I’ve long aspired to write thrillers. Last Thursday, just before I headed out for the KWA Scene Conference, I heard from my editor at Who Dares Wins Publishing that they will publish my thriller LOST AND FOUND probably this fall (date tba). SNOOPY-DANCE-O-JOY!
Animal behaviorist September Day has 24 hours to find her autistic nephew and his service dog before he–and hundreds of other children–become victims of a deadly experimental autism treatment. And yes, there is “dog voice” as well as a highly-trained kitty, along with assorted quirky two-legged characters in the book.
To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. But today I also learned that I’ve been accepted as an ITW Debut Author class of 2012/2013. When I got that email I bawled. With happiness, of course. But that really upset the Magical-Dawg. Any tears upset him. And yes, the hero dog in the fiction came about by channeling my inner dog/cat. *s*
Anyway, I had to let y’all know my news. It’s been an “on top of the world” to “worry-icity” to “floating-again” sort of week. Sometimes you reach for, grab, and actually catch the brass ring.
Local playwrights, co-authors Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, have cast KURVES, THE MUSICAL with eight popular local performers. The original show features twelve catchy original songs with full orchestration, an ensemble cast, and laugh out loud dialogue. KURVES, THE MUSICAL will be performed for three nights only, March 1, 2, 3, 2012 at newly renovated Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas.
Frank Steele directs the show. He has appeared in many TV and radio commercials, movies and TV shows including DALLAS. He taught drama for twenty-seven years and has appeared in over fifty plays as an actor or professional musician. “I’ve co-written several benefit shows,” says Steele, “including the sold-out Star-Struck Night musical benefit with Amy Shojai, produced for Theatricks some years ago.”
Shojai directs the music. She is best known as a local author with 23 published pet books. “But I have a degree in music and love composing and performing,” she says. “Frank Steele and I have acted and written together, so we decided to combine forces to write fun and poignant characters that we’d like to perform.” She has acted in several dozen plays in six states, and made countless TV and radio appearances both locally and nationally, including Animal Planet appearances as an expert. KURVES is her third co-written show.
Eight quirky characters, misfits all, become trapped inside MAXINE’S, a run-down woman’s gym located in Kurves, Texas. The cast remains onstage the entire show. Despite failed attempts to find happiness and true love, they finally succeed—but in unexpected ways.
ORIGINAL CAST: L to R, back row: Joe Maglio, Cheri Anderson, Craig Sturm, Johnny Flowers, Frank Steele. Middle L-R: Amy Shojai, Theresa Littlefield. Front: Leah Martin
REVIVAL CAST L-R: Frank Steele (Maxine), Joe Magio (Boots), Theresa Littlefield (Jane), Amy Shojai (Celia), Gil Nelson (Troy), Nikki Silva (Mabel), Hilary Gregory-Allen (Ronnie), Johnny Flowers (Fingers).
Steele plays the cross-dressing Maxine/Max who owns the women’s gym and sings the title song “Curves.”
Shojai plays Celia, the sequin-wearing visitor to Maxine’s who sings “Dreams For Sale.”
Cheri Anderson is cast as the many-times-married Mabel, director of a soup kitchen, and sings the rousing gospel number “Suck It Up, Sweetheart.” She has performed in many local theater productions, including all three Smoke On The Mountain shows and the recent Ring Of Fire music review. She has performed gospel, bluegrass, country and classic rock-n-roll and performs with a number of country musicians in the area. She works as a Paralegal at Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Joplin P.C. in McKinney.
Nikki Silva is cast in the revival as Mabel. Silva is a theatre director and debate teacher at Denison High School. She graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in drama, and is currently working on her Master of Arts degree in directing. Nikki has been singing and performing since she was five years old in musical theatre and country music opries, jamborees, and contests around the state. She has directed, co-directed, and/or performed in over 45 productions during her career, co-writing and touring an original musical in 2001. She wishes to thank the KURVES cast for inviting her in to their little family and being so helpful, kind, and encouraging.
Theresa Littlefield is cast as mousy poetry teacher Jane who transforms from plain-to-sparkling in the duet “Poetry & Jazz.” Theresa has been in numerous college, church, and community productions. She is an active member of the First United Methodist Church choir and handbell choir. She often plays saxophone for high school plays and church programs. She is a counselor at Fairview Elementary in Sherman.
Leah Martin is cast as newlywed Ronnie, and sings about her insecurities in the plaintive song, “The Picture.” Leah has logged countless hours working backstage with Sherman Community Players and has performed leading roles in The Mousetrap and The Miracle Worker. She most recently appeared in The Big Friendly Giant, and has appeared in the City of Sherman “Can the Trash” commercial. She works as a Nanny for Dr. Clint Hayes and his wife Sunni’s children.
Hilary Gregory-Allen is cast as Ronnie in the Revival show, and majored in Theatre at Austin College and attended the Stella Adler Summer Conservatory. She most recently performed as Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and has appeared in leading and featured roles: as Viola in Twelfth Night, Kolenkhov in You Can’t Take it With You, and Ophelia in Hamlet. She also directed The Zoo Story and stage managed Waiting for Godot. She would like to thank her family and friends for all of their tireless support. She plans to pursue a career in theatre.
Johnny Flowers is the inept but lovable movie-quoting robber Fingers who laments his lack of finesse in the song, “Silver Screen Blues.” Johnny has been active in community theater for the past 30 years. Most recently he delighted audiences in productions of The Odd Couple, Arsenic & Old Lace, and Smoke On the Mountain III. Johnny is also involved in the Music Ministry at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison. He is a graduate of Grayson County College and works in the produce department for the Sherman Kroger’s Store.
Joe Maglio plays ladies’ man Boots and sings, “You’re The Chick For Me.” He was one of the original dancers on American Bandstand and will show off smooth moves in KURVES. He attended Lon Morris School of Drama and worked for eleven years as technical director at Finley Playhouse. He graduated from Southeastern School of Theatre in 1988, moved to Hollywood and was active with Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood. Joe is a member of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and this year serves on the nominating committee for the SAG awards. KURVES marks his return to performance after a 19-year retirement.
Craig Sturm plays Ronnie’s husband, Troy Chadwick Noonan IV, who literally holds the key to Maxine’s and ties up all loose ends in the song, “Life Happens.” Craig has seen over 80 Broadway musicals, and has performed in many musicals both in the orchestra pit as a percussionist, and on stage. Craig brought the butler character to life in the Finley’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2003. He is a gifted arranger and composer, often sharing original compositions at Trinity Lutheran Church where he serves as pastor.
Gil Nelson plays Troy in the Revival show. Gil Nelson was a professional radio broadcaster for 25 years and has spent over 25 years acting in leading rolls in Community Theater productions such as The Odd Couple, Moonlight and Magnolias, 12 Angry Men and The Nerd just to name a few. He is also a talented playwright and in 2011 partnered with Gene Lenore to write the musical, The Lone Star Truck Stop, produced in cooperation with the Grayson College Theater Department. He is employed part time with Workforce Solutions Texoma, performing resume, interviewing and resource seminars.
Special thanks to Trinity Lutheran Church for rehearsal space. Mickie Martin serves as stage manager, and Garrett and Greg Guymon and The Rialto provides lights, sound and the performance venue. Show time is 8 pm and tickets are $10 adult and $5 (general seating) and can be purchased for the March 1, 2, 3, 2012 performances by calling the Rialto Box Office at 903-465-SHOW. Learn more about KURVES, THE MUSICAL here.
Happy Thanksgiving! After a whirlwind trip last weekend to New York and back, I’m grateful to be home safe again. The Cat Writers’ Association conference has been good to me, and this year was no exception. While I’m thankful for the business opportunities and awards bestowed, those pale compared to the friendships developed through my work. I am honored to be in the company of these wonderful, dedicated professionals.
I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-nit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain healthy.
I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.
I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.
I’m thankful that I found a dumped kitten fifteen years ago and brought her into my home and heart. I’m thankful that Seren-kitty still acts like a kitten and stays so healthy. I’m sure my veterinarian also is thankful Seren remains spry, since she is not a happy patient and the clinic staff likes to keep their fingers intact. I’m thankful Seren only rarely presents a hairball “gift” and that I’ve not found it barefooted at 3 a.m. for many months. I’m thankful she’s given up playing “gravity experiments” with my fine breakables, and has decided it’s okay to nap on my lap now and then. I’m also thankful that she’s decided the dog is a boob and great fun to torment, rather than spending all of her time sequestered upstairs.
I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that Magic-dawg at age five has become a bit…just a bit…less driven. I’m thankful for water hoses, and tennis balls, stuffed teddy bears and Frisbees that wear Magic out without exhausting me at the same time. I’m thankful my roughneck dawg hasn’t had any injury or digestive “whoops” this year. I’m thankful Magic is smart, funny, a comedian, and a wonder to train—and doesn’t argue but has accepted that the cat is the boss of him.
I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Seren and Magic as much as I do. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!). I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m particularly thankful to the Cuchara Gang (you know who you are) who lift me up with friendship and love.
I’m thankful for music that has always been so much a part of my life. I’m thankful for theater that feeds my soul. And I’m thankful my co-author helps me combine music, writing, theater and pets into exciting new possibilities–see the sample in video, below. Note that all the CUTE DOG AND CAT PICTURES are in the video. *s*
Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this blog or any of the other writer-icity hangouts I frequent. Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled. Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide. Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK YOU.
Black and white, brindle or tabby,
Merle or brown, sable, Abby,
Persian, Collie, whole or fixed,
Rainbow pets a perfect mix.
I was young, I was old.
I was rescued, I was sold.
I was sick, and you were kind.
By some mystic Master’s design
Can’t you see, meant to be
You will always be mine.
Whoops or planned, shown or banned,
Shelter, rescue, foster, pound,
Bottle babies, purebred ladies,
Perfect, damaged, all are found.
You were clueless, so were we.
Lessons learned don’t come for free.
Can’t go back, regrets define.
By some mystic Master’s design
Shed no tear, have no fear,
Pay it forward in kind.
Blond or blue, calico, curly,
Pointed, smooth, wirehair, surly,
Sweetheart, bold, or shy thereof,
Rainbow pets—we’re yours to love.
Love me now, love me then,
Love me when we meet again
At the bridge, the rainbow shines
By some mystic Master’s design
In its light, Ever bright,
You will always be mine.
It’s the back-to-school time of year, and that conjures up a mixed bag of memories. I loved being a student–yeah, I was a school nerd, and classes were pretty easy for me maybe cuz I took the “artsy” classes like writing, singing, and suchlike. I had mixed feelings about my parents being teachers, though. And lots of angst when for a short time I actually became a high school teacher. On Facebook my relationship with school would be “it’s complicated.”
Part of that is disappointment, I think. After study of music and acting I had every intention to take Broadway by storm. Ha! Then life happened. I met someone special, we fell in love, got married, and my “dream life” was no longer practical. That empty spot inside begged to be filled up with some kind of creativity. So I “made do” with writing. *snort*
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”448″ caption=”My in-house editor, Seren, never holds back her opinion.”
Yep, I’m an accidental writer who actually made a career out of making do. I wonder how many of us end up with accidental careers?
The dreams we have early in life evolve as we grow and have obstacles and hard choices thrown in the path. Have you ever regretted a choice you made? Would you go back in time for a “do-over” if you had the chance? Are you satisfied with your life today? All those choices along the way–the doors opened or slammed shut, the “mistakes” that lead to other opportunities–for good or ill, they get us to this spot–HERE, NOW, where we are at this moment. A different choice 10 years ago, or even last week surely could lead to a different reality but who’s to say it would be better?
Today I head back over to the Denison High School–where I taught for that brief wonderful-awful-glorious-crazy period of time–for a rehearsal. I’ve been invited to perform in a fund-raiser “talent show” for the theater department this Saturday night. So what better choice than an original song from the new musical dramedy KURVES written with my co-author Frank Steele. Oh, it’s cast and will be presented in full in early February, stay tuned…
Wait a minute, what happened there? Yes, after all these years that drama-dream resurrected with a detour into accidental script/music writing. That’s some scary crappiocca, I gotta say! And guess what? The 8 characters angst over missed opportunities and whether to risk what they have for a do-over new chance at happiness.
Sort of gotz me a theme going, ya think?
A couple of decades ago I could have turned down that marriage proposal, headed to Noo Yawk and who knows what would have happened? I do know what would NOT have happened: 23 books, pet writing and behavior consults, teaching music, Seren-Kitty and Magical-Dawg, moving to Texas, meeting y’all–none of that would have happened.
So what about you? What do-over would you wish for? If you had a chance for a “do-over” would you take it?
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