Thursday, September 14, 2017

Memo From the RTC: Elephants and Tap Dancers in the Closet

We talked a lot about the visa process. What is going on really does hit home when you meet people in that situation.

Welcoming dancers from Japan to Rockaway at Tony's barbecue (without the tap dancing)
For the Sept. 15 edition of The Wave.

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Memo From the RTC:  Elephants and Tap Dancers in the Closet
By Norm Scott

I’m looking forward to Friday’s opening of “The Elephant Man” at the Rockaway Theatre Company in Fort Tilden. I never saw the play because at the time it won the Tony the subject matter wasn’t interesting to me. But this time I am excited because any production directed by Frank Caiati will be worth seeing. www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org or call the ticket hotline at 718-374-6400.

I used to be an occasional theater goer, going mostly because my wife wanted to go. But since getting involved in the RTC and learning so much about so many aspects of the theater on the stage and behind the scenes, my interest has perked up and I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of the theater experience (except being squeezed into tight seats with my knees pressed against the seat in front of me – and people with big heads.) Now I notice the lighting, the sound and especially the sets and how they are manipulated, often with the thought of how RTC master builder Tony Homsey would manage to do it, expecially given our stage size limitations and the lack of our ability to make things rise from underneath of have things fly in from the top or the wings. We got a tour of a Broadway theater backstage a few years ago and the amount of space was astounding. So the limited space at the RTC makes for some very creative approaches to making the sets work. Last year the RTC invested in two more sets of curtains set back from the main curtain, thus providing some flexibility. But space limitations don’t offer room for a lot of tricks. Very often set pieces have to be moved in and out the side doors. Due to some creative set design, that doesn’t have to happen this time. One more treat is having Suzanne Riggs back to stage manage the show.

Another treat of being part of the RTC is getting to meet so many new people, sometimes from far away. Over the past few years we’ve had some native Japanese actors studying dance in New York who have found their way to our theater for various shows. And through them we have been introduced to some of their friends, many of them dancers too. Recently, we were paid a visit by tap dancer Makiko Kuri, whom we met in Guys and Dolls. Makiko, who comes from the city of Kobi (of Kobi beef fame), brought along two  friends who were visiting from Japan. All three ladies are studying or teach tap and have lived and worked in New York at various times. Tony hosted them at his house in Breezy for a steak barbecue (but not Kobi beef) after they came back from whale watching. He will deny it but I believe the supposed stage shy Tony was hoping to pick up some tap dancing tips so he can lead the tap line in a future show. After the delicious barbecue feast Tony put together, none of us could get off the ground.

Norm often taps his feet while doing his blog at ednotesonline.com

Photo credit: Makiko Kuri
Caption: East meets west  at Tony Homsey’s kitchen table.

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