Monday, May 20, 2013

An Open Love Letter to the LAMB Cast of Les Miserables

I promised that I would try to record my feelings about the experience I just had with all of you as we tackled a personal dream of mine:   producing Les Miserables.  It is still hard to put into words the wonderful experience this has been for me....and I hope for you.   What an accomplishment.   What a labor of love.    What creativity...dedication....talent....determination went into this production.   As a teacher/director I reveled in the personal growth of each of you as artists which I witnessed each rehearsal and with each performance.  The sensitivity and reverence which you demonstrated throughout these past two months has been inspirational.

I joked that I have been in love with this musical since it first appeared on Broadway 25 years ago....back when I could have played young Cosette (I think I am stretching that a bit!!!)  This was the musical that I decided to center my middle school general music class on and I was delighted to teach and teach and reteach the epic tale between 50 - 60 times.   The three week unit was a high point as the music and story had the ability to grab a young teen's interest.    What youngster doesn't enjoy action, good/evil, romance, intrigue, and powerful messages about living.   When especially energetic, I would jump up on the piano bench and die the good Javert death.... In my mind the lights, costumes and set pieces were there.   I loved those times and so it went without saying that I felt so honored and so fulfilled to be given the opportunity to translate my imaginings to a fully production that others could ACTUALLY see.....

We were so fortunate to be among a small handful of productions of Les Miserables that have been produced by non-equity houses since the rights were officially released this spring.   There will be thousands of productions to come after and I wish for each and every one of them to be as fulfilling and have as dedicated and talented actors/techs/designers as we have been blessed with.   Thank you, dear cast and crew, for making this experience a once in a lifetime one. I look forward to working with each and everyone of you in the very near future.   

Diana Guhin Wooley 
417 Market Street Sioux City, IA 51103
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Questions and their Answers about Les Miserables

These were questions and answers that didn't make it into the Sioux City Journal about our current production of Les Miserables.  Joanne Fox wrote a wonderful article centering attention on the message of this epic musical centering on the character of the Bishop and his act of forgiveness and grace which empowers Jean Valjean to dream--and expect more for his life.  
The following are some of the questions and their answers which fills out more about our particular production:

1.How are you handling the music? Live? Canned?
The music…and this musical is considered “sung through”, like an opera….. is one of the challenges of producing this show. Donny Short has created beautiful music tracks that utilize the full orchestra sound.   In fact, in the opening number over 60 different instruments are tracked!   We rarely use live music any more.   We have found that for our purposes, tracks allow us to begin the finessing of our shows sooner as the tempo for songs/dances are set and will never change.  We also have a consistency on what the actors will hear each and every time they need to make a vocal entrance.   I personally love performing with live instruments, however, with wonderful tracks that assurance that everything will be there exactly as it was when rehearsed is an enormous comfort and allows a performer to still demonstrate inspired emotion without losing their way.    Donny works with each of the actors to determine the tempo and flexibility that each wants within their solos so that everyone ends up comfortable and happy.  We would have to hire the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra to get the sound and depth and complexity that we get with Donny's music tracks.

2.How will the movie help/hurt?  The movie was great.   It really helped to define relationships between the characters in a way that I hadn’t seen or thought of before.   So that is what I liked about the movie: it brought something new to a story that I thought I knew so well.   There are some song order changes in the show that doesn’t follow the stage version and an added song plus a lot more dialogue than what is done in the stage version.  But there is nothing like live theatre. As we have been rehearsing we have taken time to analyze what each scene needs to tell the order to propel the plot forward.   Sitting in an audience and being up close and personal is a thrill like no other, especially when the actors are so invested in the story.  Our intimate stage really allows the audience to feel as though they are a part of the story, as you could actually reach out and touch the action.  You can’t get that feeling in the movie theatre.
3.What do you like about the show?
It has so much drama ----and humor.   It teaches by example how we all must choose for ourselves the role we will play in our own lives and in the lives of others.  It is a powerful story of redemption. We talk about theatre being a reflection of society and that we can learn from history.    This show is such an excellent example of that.  It truly is an uplifting, inspiring time in the theatre.
4.The staged musical is known for its revolve: How might you be including that?
We do have a 16 foot turntable that is permanently installed in our stage  but we made the decision not to use it for this production.  That is what everyone expects to see.  The way the musical is being billed is “ a new production”.    We took that very seriously as we went about creating our show..   My students know that I rarely do anything the same way twice, that there is always more than one way to create a feeling or actually do anything.   We have, through Michael Rohlena’s beautiful design, done that.   We have our “new production”.  We are imagining this story, this musical in ‘a new “ way.   
5.What might surprise the audience about this performance?
Those audience members who have never seen Les Miserables will be pleased and surprised to see that they can understand and appreciate…and maybe even fall in love…with the story.   Our production is purposefully not dark and depressing but rather very uplifting.   For those who know this musical well, I think they will appreciate the clarity of the story and our “take” on the production.
6.Side notes on this production:  
Connor O’Brien is playing Marius, the young student revolutionary. He is a Marine who recently returned from two tours in Afghanistan.   His experiences there and his experiences in the military have really informed a lot of what is done in the battle scenes.    “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” takes on a whole new dimension because of his so recent experiences overseas.
It has been absolutely thrilling to direct Luke Saunders in a musical again.    As a former LAMB School student/actor, Luke’s voice and commanding stage presence reassures us that the training that we offer our young people is right on target.   As we have been rehearsing I have “flashbacks” to his Professor Harold Hill as a seventh grader in MUSIC MAN, jr.   His grasp of the essence of Jean Valjean inspires the entire production and his impressive voice just soars through the theatre.

We have many family combinations in this show:
Complete Family Combo:   Nick Prior as Enjolras, Chuck and Andi Prior as multi character ensemble and daughter Lydia as spot operator

Mother/Daughter combo:   Mary Madsen as Mme Thenardier and Christine Madsen as Cosette.

Father/Daughter combo:   Rev Matt Miller as Bishop & Multi Character Ensemble and daughter Andi (spot operator)

Brother/Sister Combo:   Connor O’Brien (Marius) and Bronwyn Eastlick (Booth Technician)

Mother/Daughter/Daughter:   Allison, Grace (Multi Character Ensemble) and Sarah Beumler (Children Multi Character Ensemble)

Husband/Wife:   Matt and Lindsey Rixner as Multi Character Ensemble

Brothers:   Michael and Billy Danner (Student Revolutionaries)

Diana Guhin Wooley
417 Market Street Sioux City, IA 51103
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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

This is me preaching to the choir.....

I have more clothes than I know what to do with them.
I have more clothes than I have time to wash; more clothes than I have space to put them; more clothes than I have days to wear them.

I have more clothes than I know what to do with them, but I know…I can’t get rid of them. Some of them are chained to me through hope; hope that my waist will once again be the x inches required to button that shirt or my backside will magically fit back into those jeans. (You know…those jeans.)

Some of them are permanent fixtures of my wardrobe because no matter how ratty they get, or perhaps because of how ratty they get, they are the most comfortable things to wear. Clothes I’ve had so long and wore so often, they are an extension of my personality and myself.

Some are reminders of other times. The shirt I swiped from an old boyfriend, the skirt I got on that trip, the sweatpants from my high school track team. Some of these are even wearable; but the ones that aren’t can rest peacefully in the Tupperware totes under my bed, secure in the knowledge that they are safe from any theoretical closet purges because of my debilitating sentimentality.

I can’t imagine getting rid of them. I know for many of you, I’m preaching to the choir.

I also can’t imagine having to leave them all behind in the middle of the night to escape a dangerous situation. But there are women in this world who have to do exactly that in order to choose safety for themselves and their children. Usually they don’t get to pack a bag before they go, or if they do, I imagine it is a rushed process, to put it lightly.

It’s hard for me not to think about this as we head into a show that examines the ties that clothing has into our lives. And the courage it takes to cut those ties; all ties. And how little it takes for me to help ease that transition and make sure that the woman who is starting over has a nice outfit for work.

So heads up, Closet. We need to have a little talk…

During LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE running February 15, 16 and 17th, LAMB Arts LTD will have a donation box for gently used clothing donations to benefit the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. All donations benefit our community locally. For more details, click here.
Jessica Wheeler
LAMB Arts Regional Theatre
Marketing-Promotions Specialist

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What is RED about?

I have had so many people ask about what RED is all about.   I think what Jessica, our Marketing specialist, has written will give you some pretty good clues.  I can not wait to see this show.   It is ambitious undertaking by all involved.   I love the fact that theatre can be TEACHER.   To learn more about creative people learn about their contributions....their inspirations....their demons...To me, theatre can do all this in ways that other mediums can't.  And to be as up close and personal as THE BOX offers it's audiences.....Wow!   I hope to have you join me!  
Diana Wooley, 

“What do you see?” These are the first words Artist Mark Rothko says to his new assistant; he is referring to one of his paintings…or is he? Life, art, and our understanding of both are challenged and questioned in RED, the next production at LAMB Arts Regional Theatre. Playing on THE BOX stage, Jan 31-Feb 10, this play is a powerful and intimate portrait of a man and an artist as he faces down his demons and fears. RED won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2010.

Master abstract expressionist Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art, a series of murals for New York’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant. In the two fascinating years that follow, Rothko works feverishly with his young assistant, Ken, in his studio. But when Ken gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. Raw and provocative, RED is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

“This show is really a portrait of a great artist as he wrestles with the act of creation and his own demons,” says Russell Wooley, who plays Rothko in the show. “At one point, Rothko says to Ken, ‘There is one thing I fear, my friend…one day the black will swallow the red.’ On one level, he’s talking about his painting, about the act of creating art; but he’s also talking about everything else, too. His own life, his fears…I think that’s something that’s very relatable and very intimate.”

The staging for this production reflects that intimacy; THE BOX is the second stage at LAMB, inspired by the black box theatres found across the country. “The space is smaller than a normal auditorium so you’re very close to the action,” Wooley says. “For a piece like RED, that has a lot of drama and passion, it’s a very powerful experience.” In addition to Wooley, the play features local actor Peter Swanke who recently was seen in THE PILLOWMAN last fall.   The production of RED is directed by Luke Saunders.

LAMB Arts Regional Theatre is a part of the non-profit LAMB Arts, Ltd. and has been presenting theatre for the Sioux City community for over 30 years. LAMB is located at 417 Market Street, between Hamilton and downtown, in Sioux City, IA. Admission prices are $12 for students through college, $15 for Seniors, and $17 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 712-255-9536. Evening performances are held Thur 1/31-Sat 2/2 and Wed 2/6-Sat 2/9 at 7:30PM, with a 1:30PM matinee on Sunday Feb 10.

Jessica Wheeler
Marketing Specialist
LAMB Arts Regional Theatre
417 Market Street
Sioux City, IA 51103

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Theatre is a Reflection on Society-columbinus

Fall of 2011, a talented band of young actors rehearsed, performed and vicariously lived through some of the Columbine experience through their production of 'columbinus'.   To say that any of us view society the way we did before would be erroneous.   'columbinus' changed us.   I have heard the same from audience members and family members of the cast.   And we were all affected in such different ways.   Those of you who witnessed that production will remember how the first act dealt with the modern high school experiences.....the isolation, the questioning, the anger, the well as the joys.   The second act was a theatrical reinterpretation of the events that occurred at Columbine High School in 1999.   With the recent tragedies and the discussion in our country about the role of guns in our society, we are opening up a discussion on this blog for others to express their views.   What we find so exciting at LAMB is that theatre can promote lively discussions where we can continue to grow as human beings.   This is the statement that begins our discussion:
COLUMBINE STUDENT'S FATHER 12 YEARS LATER Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was recently invited to address the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee. The following is a portion of the transcript:

"Since the dawn of creation there has been both good & evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

"The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart.

"In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA - because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughter's death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder I would be their strongest opponent

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy -- it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best.
Your laws ignore our deepest needs, 
Your words are empty air. 
You've stripped away our heritage, 
You've outlawed simple prayer. 
Now gunshots fill our classrooms, 
And precious children die. 
You seek for answers everywhere, 
And ask the question "Why?" 
You regulate restrictive laws, 
Through legislative creed. 
And yet you fail to understand, 
That God is what we need! 

"Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs -- politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.
"As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA -- I give to you a sincere challenge.. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone!
My daughter's death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!" 
- Darrell Scott

Now to our ongoing discussion.   Join us!

Diana Guhin Wooley 
417 Market Street
Sioux City, IA 51103
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ANNE FRANK AND ME--A production for all generations

To say that I am excited about opening night of Anne Frank and Me tomorrow night would be an understatement.   I am thrilledOne of our biggest challenges every season is locating scripts that will challenge and excite our students and this one certainly fits the bill.  I am always amazed...and actually saddened when I hear students complaining about having to study history at school as they find it so boring.   I love history.   I think it is one of the reasons that a lot of us at LAMB love acting as it gives us that chance to live lives that are so unlike our own.  So it is gratifying to see these young people embracing the events surrounding our play.  That is what is so great about either acting or viewing live theatre......the wonderful opportunity to share with each other dramatic or comic events in the lives of interesting people and times.   This particular show will be an excellent production for discussion among a student's family and friends of different generations.   I would love to see grandparents taking their grandchildren to this show.   As the young actors in this production said early on, "Looking at history this way is so different from reading about it in a book.   I feel for what these people went through." is a great teacher.    I hope that we will have many, many people decide to "use" theatre for what it can do.....excite a young person to want to learn more about a time in history, to help a young person to develop empathy and understanding of others in difficult challenges and to perhaps think at length about how they themselves would respond in such a situation. 
I salute the cast as they are giving this production their all.    It will be one you will talk about for a LONG time.   Hope to see you there.   (Check the performance information at  
Nicole Burns/Nicole Bernhardt: Grace Beumler-9th grade Heelan
Little Bit Burns/Liz-Bette Bernhardt: Melody Rain Beaulieu- 6th grade Dakota Valley
Renee Zooms/Renee Bernhardt: Geana Schneider-LAMB Theatre adult actress
Mimi Baker/Mimi Poulin: Bronny Ohl- 11th grade East High
Marvin Burns: Kent Behr- LAMB Theatre adult actor
Anne Frank: Kate Kaplan- 10th grade North High
Suzanne Lee/Suzanne LeBeau: Grace Rants-12th grade East High
Chrissy Gullet/Christina Goule: Aubrie Wauhob-11th grade Dakota Valley
John Urkin/Jean Bernhardt: Nolley Vereen/ Matt Rixner LAMB Theatre adult actors
Jack Polin/Jacques Poulin: David Meis-12th grade East High
David Berg/David Ginsberg: Ben Wigton-8th grade North Middle
Eddie Valley/Edouard Vallee: Michael Danner-9th grade Heelan

Student Technicians: Abby Peterson-12th grade East High
Hillary Ping-8th grade Sergeant Bluff-Luton
Lydia Prior-8th grade Lawton-Bronson

Directed by Diana Wooley
Set and Lighting Design by Russell Wooley
Costume Design by Karen Sowienski
Art and Graphic by Jessica Wheeler
Recommended for children 9 years old and older. Some scenes may be disturbing for sensitive students and will require parental post show discussion.
Diana Guhin Wooley 
417 Market Street
Sioux City, IA 51103
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Friday, September 14, 2012

LAMB Caravan to travel 2100 Miles Sept 12 -22, 2012

We are on our fall tour traveling to 10 cities and performing 11 times!   Whew!
Check out the   to follow the escapades of this mighty quartet.
AND....don't forget to make your plans to attend PILLOWMAN which opens at LAMB on Sept. 14 for three weeks.

Diana Guhin Wooley
417 Market Street Sioux City, IA 51103
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