Monday, Dec. 8, 2008

Patrick Schmitz: Pt. 3 of The Rudolph Trancsripts

By Russ Bickerstaff
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In this, the final part of of my interview transcripts with the writer/director/promoter/producer of Rudolph the Pissed-Off Reindeer, Patrick Schmitz talks about working with child actors, expectations and the importance of confidence when jumping off a cliff.

THE KIDS

Me: I ran into Kirk from the Alchemist at the Boulevard opening on Wednesday and he’d mentioned that there are kids in this.

Patrick Schmitz:
Yes. Yes . . . the five young actors I’ve got on board are five kids that I teach here. [“here” being First Stage. I guess I didn’t mention Patrick’s day job . . .] I talked to all of their parents beforehand. I agreed if [they] wanted to see the script, by all means, I will send . . . a copy. So I got the approval from the parents first. That was very important to me. And so . . . I wanted Rudolph to be a younger person. I wated Clarice to be younger. And once Rudolph came-in ( . . . and he’s Joel Boyd he’s wowing the adult actors. He’s creating his own comedy club at In Tandem. Very funny. Very sharp guy.) And it just sort of trickled . . . once I had one child actor . . . I had to have Clarice, the love interest be a child as well. (Child, teenager, whatever..15 or 16 year olds) and then if Hermey and Rudolph were going to be best friends, it would be a little creepy if there was a 43 year old guy being friends with this 16 year old boy. And then I had to make Hermey a student of mine as well . . . and then Nevin [Langhus] is playing Fireball, the other reindeer who Rudloph befriends and now THAT has to be a child actor, too.

Me: and it quickly became a rather large child cast.

Patrick Schmitz: Yeah, there’s five of them. In the nineteen character show there’s eighteen actors. I’ve got one person playing two parts, but . . . they’re [the child actors] five people I brought on board due to first-off: the parents [permission] their maturity level, their talent level, their being able to commit to the show and the times and the rehearsal dates. I Took a bit of a risk, but, y’know . . . it’s great. No regrets.

THE SCHEDULE


Me: Has the schedule of the child actors been difficult to work with?

Patrick: I only rehearse three days per week. The actors are only asked to be there twice per week. Because Monday is everyone EXCEPT for the interrogation room. Tuesday is JUST the interrogation room. And then Wednesday is everybody combined. [at this point, I will remind anyone who started reading with this part 3 of the transcripts that they should probably go back and start from the beginning, as this likely sounds very strange out of context.] So it’s only two nights per week and it only goes technically from 6 to 8 [pm.]

THE PROJECT


Me: So this is the first thing you’ve ever directed?

Patrick: Yes. And full-length written as well.

Me: You’ve never tackled anything quite this big before.

Patrick: No. [Sketch and Improv group] Gentlemen’s Hour is the closest I’ve ever sort of done with writing or directing.

Me:
And you wouldn’t consider that directing?

Patrick:
No. I mean, if you’re writing, you direct it, but. . . it’s not really directing. So yeah, this is my first full-length thing. I just kind of went step by step, I said, “all right, here’s how I’m going to do the audition process and then it just happened. I got people around me who know what they’re doing, so any advice that I needed . . .

Me: But you’ve worked with child actors before with Organized Chaos [Patrick’s child actor Improv group through First Stage] but there you’re not actually directing them?

Patrick: No . . . I’m a coach more than a director. A director has their vision and the kids better be on board with that vision where as coaching is, “what’s you’re vision? Okay, let’s alter that. Let’s work with that.”

EXPECTATIONS

Me: But now you’re working with child actors AND adults. Sort of bridging the gap.

Patrick:
Yes.

Me: Now with that and . . . everything else, did this project turn out to be more work than you’d expected?

Patrick: No. I mean, the budget . . . the funding was the only thing that I wasn’t expecting . . . that I’d have t pay this much. Y’know . . . now I need this much more. But, [it’s] not a problem, I just wasn’t expecting that. And I do want to pay my actors. I want to pay myself. I want to pay the staff, my assistant director . . . and the there’s money towards advertising, there’s the props and the costuming, the set-building and . . . so all of this is kind of catching me off a little bit, but Is et-up a budget from the beginning and I’m pretty tight and close to the budget as of right now, s I’m in a good place. [right now being the week of November 19th. The show has since come very close to selling out]
It’s been fairly problem free up to this point. From everyone having their lines down to getting the programs done and . . . flyering. I’ve gone through 3,000 flyers now. And just going to different businesses and y’know . . . giving little piles here and there. We tried to get sponsors in the beginning and I was told I Wouldn’t have a lot of luck with that, but I had one restaurant say, “Sure. Let’s do it.” It was worth it to have that one . . .

Me: So, they’re advertising in the program?

Patrick: Yes. And then Matt Kemple with the Milwaukee Sketch and Improv Comedy Festival, he’s in it as well . . . and so I have my three “sponsors,” there and then with the Fund raiser tomorrow . . . [there was an event at the Alchemist Saturday November 22nd. I’m told in went well] . . . I’m not risking so much, but it’s really been worth it. Even if I lose money on this, it’ll have been worth it.

BUSINESS AND SELF-CONFIDENCE

Me: But initially [the funding] was all you.

Patrick: Yes. Oh, yeah . . .

Me:
But isn’t that KIND OF LIKE jumping off a cliff? I mean . . . y’know . . .

Patrick: Honestly, I had that much confidence in the show itself because everyone who read it was like, “wow. This is going to sell out.” A: Everyone loves Rudolph. B: It’s Christmas Time. C: It’s kind of a thriller. And you’re going to have all these actors who are going to know people. The Alchemist only seats 51 people. So there was just this constant . . . don’tworryaboutit, don’tworyaboutit, When I was contemplating doing it, I had al these voices, people who’d been down the road saying, “you’re not going to have a problem.” And [crosses fingers] we’re sold out opening night. We have 245 tickets sold already. And I wasn’t expecting pre-sales to be more than 50 or 75. I though maybe in that range. And to have 250 sold already is . . . Honesly, I think that’s where we’re going to be. I think that if we’re going to sell out, we’re going to just barely sell-out . . . because that’s 563 tickets . . . 663 tickets total.

Me: For the entire run.

Patrick: Yes. For the thirteen run . . . fort thirteen shows. I’d be really surprised if we didn’t have that many more people want to come see this show. I know, like 70 people who are coming. Ad that’s about it. That’s on my end and y’know . . .and obviously bringing out young performers . . . they have a lot of their friends still and y’know . . . living around here, they have their family and friends, so that’s gonna help, too.

Me: And how does the child actor thing work with the logistics of the Alchemist being a bar?

Patrick: I think the biggest concern is that it’s smoke-free. I Can’t speak for the parents. I don’t know what they’re biggest concern is. I think that’s it, though. It’s the Alchemist THEATRE. I it was the Alchemist BAR there might be more of a . . . it’s called the Alchemist Theatre and they just happen to serve alcohol there. They’re in a trusting environment. Everyone on board in the cast with one exception are all people I know. It’s all people in the comedy world that I’ve known fort he past 2 . . . 3 or more years. So they’re good people. They’re nice. I take pride in my friends and the people I surround myself with.

Tomorrow: My coverage of Rudolph ends with a full review of the show.

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