As If Going to the Theater Wasn’t Fun Enough, They Had to Invent the Lottery

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A crowd of people eagerly await the results of a ticket lottery for Book Of Mormon at The Straz.

It all started with Rent.

When that show blew up and became the hottest ticket in town, the producers tried a radical idea to make the show more accessible to as many theatergoers as possible: sell the first two rows of orchestra seats for a scant $20 a pop on a first-come-first-served basis. In no time, students lined up at dawn to purchase these “rush” tickets when the box office opened, and the idea – like the show – was a huge hit.

Since then, producers have been concocting fun ways to get massively discounted tickets into the hands of the widest possible audience. Recently, one of the most exciting pre-show events to emerge for these ultra-affordable tickets is the lottery.

That’s right. A good, old-fashioned luck of the draw: go to the theater, write your name on a card, drop in in a box, then wait. Competition is fierce, and hope runs high, with sometimes 200 people vying for up to one pair of coveted tickets to shows such as Matilda, Kinky Boots and Wicked.

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A few hours before curtain, a representative of the show (or theater) passes a hand over the box as the crowd of fans holds its breath with anticipation. The person reaches in the box, draws one card, then reads the name to the waiting crowd. Most groan, but there is one cheer – if your name comes out, you’re the lucky winner of one or two seats to the big show at a fraction of the box office rate. As technology advanced, the old-fashioned ways included a new-fangled digital lottery, where patrons can throw their proverbial names in the hat via a cell phone app – and be notified by text if they are winners.

One show hosting a pre-curtain lottery is Wicked*, running in Morsani Hall Feb. 1-26. This thrilling game of odds gives all people a chance to buy a ticket and take a ride to the other side of Oz. And if you lose … who cares? You can always come back and try again tomorrow. But you gotta show up in person; there’s no app to get you to Emerald City on the cheap.

*A limited number of tickets will be available by lottery for the performances of Wicked. Entries will be accepted at the Straz Center Ticket Sales Office two and a half hours prior to each performance. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each – cash only. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid identification to purchase tickets. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availability.

Talking With Yu Ho-Jin, The Manipulator

This week, we are pulling a little sleight-of-hand by sharing this “Behind the Persona” feature from the Straz Center’s INSIDE magazine featuring Yu Ho-Jin, The Manipulator, from The Illusionists, which returns to Tampa Sept. 23.

YuHo-Jin-Smoke

How did you get started in the business?
I got into magic at the age of nine after witnessing a magician doing a stage card manipulation act. Eventually my parents, who were opposed to me performing magic, became my greatest supporters when they realized the passion I had for it. Soon I began to receive awards at various magic competitions. When I was 19, I won the Grand Prix award in the stage magic division at the International Federation of Magic Societies’ 2012 World Championship of Magic in Blackpool, England. This gave me the opportunity to perform around the world.

What’s always in your refrigerator?
There is always Korean food in my refrigerator. I love ice cream; I am huge big fan of it. Also eggs and ham. And not in the refrigerator, but in the kitchen, there are bananas.

What is your worst quality?
Hmm … hard to say (laughs). Well, I love to cook but am not very good at it. So I eat bananas.

What music is on your playlist?
Classical music played on the piano is a passion of mine. It inspires me. While I’m a fan of most music, hip-hop gets me moving.

What’s your favorite place to vacation?
Natural wonders make me very happy. Of course, the best place for vacation is anywhere my family and friends can join me. Someday I hope to show my family Florida.

What are your thoughts about our great state of Florida?
Miami is one of the places where I want to stay for a long vacation with my family. Florida has unique natural landscapes and a beautiful coastline. I can’t wait to enjoy Florida!

Read any good books lately?
I used to devour self-help books about self-management, leadership and communication skills but these days, I look for a good novel for an escape.

Ginger or Mary Ann?
Well, I like both, but if I have to choose only one, Mary Ann.

What’s the greatest thing since sliced bread?
There are too many choices! To me, the Internet and computer, hands down. Without the ability to search, download music, play games and send emails, I cannot imagine what we would do with our lives.

What’s your “guilty pleasure” television show?
I usually don’t watch television. When I travel and I am feeling lonely, I will watch a Korean mini-series.

Who or what inspires you?
I respect my friends, like the other performers who work with me in The Illusionist shows. Theyinspire me in every moment. Also, I respect David Copperfield and the way he has made his own magical world.

What do you consider your greatest successes – personally and professionally?
Personally, of course, I love my mother, father, sisters. Without my family, what does my life mean? Professionally, I want to create more mystery and wonder using my magical inspiration and share my magical creations with people around the world.

If you hadn’t chosen a career as an illusionist, what other career path do you think you’d have followed?
Well right now, this is my dream and it works. I just concentrate on my present.

 

manipulator

FROM THE VAULT: Teddy & Alice

December 1987, Americana Magazine

Article from Americana Magazine

Article clipping from Americana Magazine, December 1987.

In November 1986, the Iran-Contra scandal broke in the Lebanese media, quickly spreading to international headlines. With key players such as Oliver North, Fawn Hall, President Reagan and the Nicaraguan Contras, that drama cast a sour shadow over American politics and government.

Needless to say, it was bad timing for a romping musical about beloved president Theodore Roosevelt’s wily relationship with his insouciant, teenaged daughter, Alice. The musical, Teddy and Alice, inspired by that true tale, had its tryouts at The Straz before heading to Broadway for a two month run. The show focused on Roosevelt’s inability to run the country while containing his irrepressible daughter, and he chose the former job, but not without paying the personal price of an outspoken, free-spirited daughter in love with an ill-favored match in the form of Ohio representative Nicholas Longworth.

Reviews were not favorable to the show, mostly citing too much one-dimensional painting of Roosevelt outside of his political and historical context. Perhaps, in 1987, reviewers merely wanted more truth about a president than what was revealed? Or maybe, as it happens in any industry, the product just missed the mark. Either way, The Straz, then and now, proudly supported the premiere of the show—without new works, performing arts in America will not evolve, grow or expand to the next level. As with any business, supporters of the arts must be bold enough to take risks. Tampa’s very own Hinks Shimberg, a long-time supporter of The Straz whose family also produced the original production of Oklahoma!, produced the show and helped it mount on Broadway.

The show ran November 12, 1987 to January 17, 1988 at the Minskoff Theater.

In December 1987, Americana Magazine’s Hilary Ostlere promoted the musical’s Broadway run with an interview of the playwright, Jerome Alden. According to the article, Alden, who had previously written a one-man show about Teddy Roosevelt called Bully! states: “When they came up with the idea for Teddy and Alice … it was as if T.R. bit me and I went mad, as someone once said.” Alden completed the book, and the musical was scored to John Philip Sousa tunes.

Notably, Alden also wrote “Bicentennial Minutes,” a series of short history lessons for CBS in 1976. He died in Manhattan in 1997 from kidney cancer. He was 76 years old.

The original Teddy and Alice starred Len Cariou as the president and newcomer Nancy Hume as his daughter Alice. The show was revived as recently as 2012 by Seven Angels Theater of Waterbury, CT.

The Lioness Returns

Kissy Simmons as Nala in The Lion King.

Kissy Simmons as Nala in The Lion King.

Kissy Simmons’ early career began on stages around the Tampa Bay region, one of which was our Jaeb Theater. She left for New York City the week of Sept. 11, 2001, to audition for Aida, a Disney production. Her audition led to an interest in her for The Lion King, and she and her husband stayed in the city during the chaos of the September 11th crisis. That Monday, Sept. 17, Kissy was cast as Nala in The Lion King, directed by lauded Julie Taymor, and began a decade-long journey with the show on Broadway, in Las Vegas and on the first national tour, which came to Morsani Hall in 2002.

Kissy, short for Kissimmee, a town close to her birthplace of Floral City, FL, returns to the Jaeb Theater Nov. 1, 2014, for a solo show as part of our brand new Cabaret Series. In many ways, she is returning to her roots, and we are happy to welcome her home. Caught in the Act caught up with Kissy by phone in her New York City apartment to talk about identity and place and her upcoming performance in the Jaeb.

CitA: We’ve been hearing rumors that your show is going to be a retrospective/introspective look at your life from the Straz to Broadway and back again. Is this true? And will you talk a little bit about how your upbringing in Florida has shaped your life as a performer?

KS (laughs): My show centers around the Straz, how I got my start, and where life has gone. For me, it all hinges from church. I was just a church girl who wanted to play the organ. I saw our organist in church and I thought “oh my goodness, I want to play the organ!” My talent derived from that environment and was facilitated there—even acting. We did skits and had to deliver Christmas speeches. You know, you don’t think about ‘down the road’ when you’re doing it, but now I look back and see. I look at my daughter (2-year-old Sadie), and I know that experiences like that matter. It makes a difference, at least it did for me. Those are my roots. The Straz … well, that was a really big deal. I had this idea of being a performer, but I didn’t know what that meant, it felt like a fantasy. I didn’t know how I would get there. I would audition at the [Florida] theme parks and couldn’t get a job with them. Luckily, the Straz was there and I was able to do so many cabaret shows. The Straz was a blessing. I even got married there!

We didn’t know that! Do tell.

Yes, by the water. We were in rehearsals for Swing! Swing! Swing! I approached Judy [Lisi, Straz Center President] to do something small, and she was like “oh, honey…” and my little idea turned into a wedding I never could have imagined! It was run like a show with calls and everything.

Kissy Simmons returns to the Jaeb Theater on Nov. 1 to kick-off the Straz Center's brand new Cabaret Series.

Kissy Simmons returns to the Jaeb Theater on Nov. 1 to kick-off the Straz Center’s brand new Cabaret Series.

That’s fantastic. So this is a real coming home for you.

I feel no shame in where I’m from. I’m from Floral City, the town with one traffic light. I walk around New York City in my cowboy boots. That’s where I’m from—I’m a small town country girl. You are who you are. For me to come back from being away and experiencing so many cultures, Vegas, New York … it’s refreshing to come home and see how people can ground you. When I go to Winn-Dixie [the grocery store], people say hello. My high school friends who stayed now have their kids at Inverness Middle School. It’s nice to see people I have roots with rooted in their own families. There are so many people to keep me connected, and it’s important for me to come back—but it is just as important for me to give back. You realize people have been rooting for you this whole time, and it’s a two-way street. It’s an opportunity to perform for people who supported me. People give me the strength to be able to do this, and I like to give it back. I’ll always be in and out of Florida even though New York is where we are.

You are an extremely down-to-earth person, with a relatively normal life, long-time marriage, a child … how do you stay humble in the entertainment business and stay out of a lot of the traps of the lifestyle?

I met Anthony [her husband] when we were both running track at USF [the University of South Florida]. I saw him and knew that was what I wanted, and that was that! (laughs) I know entertainment is what it is. I see it as such a blessing and opportunity. I get to do what I love. All jobs are important. All of our jobs no matter what it is are so important, and I view life that way. To blow it or waste it, for me, would be tragic. I know people recover [from addictions] and overcome, which is wonderful. But I just look at it like a huge blessing that I get to participate in. I’m my own worst critic, and in this business, it’s subject to people’s opinions. It’s a judged environment, and that can be hard. I learned humility through church, and maybe if I didn’t know to pray then I would be tempted to do something external to help me out, but I can stay grounded in being grateful for the opportunity. But that’s just my perspective, just the path I have been on.

We are really looking forward to having you to all to ourselves for your cabaret show. Will you give us a little sneak peek of what we can expect?

Let’s just say … expect some familiar tunes! Especially from shows done in the Jaeb. This performance is going to be a great time. Expect lots of fun and fun moments. Stan Collins, my piano player—he’s phenomenal. I wouldn’t do this show with anyone else! It’ll be me, Stan, and bass and drums. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Kissy Simmons, as Nala, and the Lionesses in The Lion King.

Kissy Simmons, as Nala, and the Lionesses in The Lion King.

William Ivey Long’s Designs on Broadway

William Ivey Long’s costume designs are a killer.

William Ivey Long’s costume designs are a killer. [Photo by Paul Kolnick; newcitystage.com]

The ultra-sexy revamped sheer black palette of the Chicago revival. The yellow dress in Contact. The frogs in Frogs. Sally Bowles’ maximum-leg-power mini-dress in Cabaret. The feather-trimmed muu-muu in Hairspray.

Long’s hand-drawn sketch along with the real-life costume shows the evolution from imagination to reality.

Long’s hand-drawn sketch along with the real-life costume shows the evolution from imagination to reality. [(c) Richard Kornberg and Associates and William Ivey Long]

And here, at The Straz, the mind-blowing, magical wardrobe changes in Rodgers+Hammerstien’s Cinderella.

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. [http://www.williamiveylong.com]

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. [http://www.williamiveylong.com]

There is one mastermind behind these historic works of theater couture, and that man is the diminutive, Southern-spoken genius Broadway loves named William Ivey Long. As *the* costume designer of the Broadway set, Long’s name brand is sewn into over 70 shows and counting. His designs—spectacular, fabulous works created after intensive, obsessive research—have been known to become as famous as the actors who wore them and, in some cases, lasted as works of art far longer than the show itself.

This bodysuit, designed for Anita Morris in “A Call from the Vatican” for Tommy Tune’s original production of NINE is allegedly the sexiest costume in Broadway history.

This bodysuit, designed for Anita Morris in “A Call from the Vatican” for Tommy Tune’s original production of NINE is allegedly the sexiest costume in Broadway history. [http://imgarcade.com]

One of the most illustrative tales of Long’s creative design genius came from the set of The Producers, where he had created meticulously detailed pearl leotards for the chorus of Pearl Babes. During their number, they sit on a piano, and, as it turned out, sitting on pearls on a piano is terribly uncomfortable. Can you fix this? they asked Long.

Pearl Babes from The Producers.

Pearl Babes from The Producers.

Long thought about it, and he turned that difficulty over in his mind. He did not want to sacrifice his precious pearls shimmying in the back, and he didn’t want any other effect. So, he gathered up the costumes and took them home for a few days. Then he returned, handed each actor her costume and said the problem is solved.

The Pearl Babes put on their costumes and sat down, and, certainly, the pearls gave way beneath them. Long had replaced the hard plastic pearls with fake grapes, the kind found in most Grannys’ bowls of fake plastic fruit, and painted them an opalescent white. Problem solved.

And the audience never knew the difference.

Long’s designs for Dreamgirls exemplify his unique style that blends theatricality and haute couture.

Long’s designs for Dreamgirls exemplify his unique style that blends theatricality and haute couture.

For more on William Ivey Long:

William Ivey Long Keeps His Clothes On By Alex Witchel

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/magazine/29long.html?pagewanted=all

“William Ivey Long, Costume Designer, Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella

William Ivey Long at TEDx Lizard Creek: “The Design Process”

How It Works: Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Big, blockbuster Broadway musicals come with singers, dancers, fabulous costumes … and many trucks. How do those whopping set pieces end up on Carol Morsani stage? The answer is lots of (literal) manpower. We took some after-hours and behind-the-scenes photographs of the “load-in,” which is the usually very quick turn-around time between when the show trucks arrive to when the curtain rises on the opening performance. Here is a look at the shape a Broadway musical is in when it gets to town.

Two trucks arrive at the Straz Center on the first day of load-in for Cinderella.

Two trucks arrive at the Straz Center on the first day of load-in for Cinderella.

The view from the back of the trucks in the loading dock, and onto Carol Morsani stage. The loading dock at the Straz Center is truck-level and stage-level. This allows for easier load-in and load-out of shows.

The view from the back of the trucks in the loading dock, and onto Carol Morsani stage. The loading dock at the Straz Center is truck-level and stage-level. This allows for easier load-in and load-out of shows.

Preparing the stage lights on day one of load-in for Cinderella.

Preparing the stage lights during day one of load-in.

More trucks arrive for day two of load-in for Cinderella.

More trucks arrive for day two of load-in for Cinderella.

Looking into the trucks parked in the loading dock.

Looking into the trucks parked in the loading dock.

The horses arrive in one of the trucks on day two of load-in.

The horses arrive in one of the trucks on day two of load-in.

Close-up of the horses.

Close-up of the horses.

I spy a pumpkin hiding in a pile of props!

I spy a pumpkin hiding in a pile of props!

Putting set pieces and props together for Cinderella.

Putting set pieces and props together for Cinderella.

More Cinderella stuff off the trucks!

More Cinderella stuff off the trucks!

A vegetable cart for the tour of Cinderella.

A vegetable cart for the tour of Cinderella.

Set pieces and props for the tour of Cinderella.

Set pieces and props for the tour of Cinderella.

A look into the orchestra pit on day two of load-in for Cinderella.

A look into the orchestra pit on day two of load-in for Cinderella.

Setting up more scenery for Cinderella on day two of load-in.

Setting up the scenery for Cinderella on day two of load-in.