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Dear Harvey 2


Richard Norway

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Well, here we go. It is now five days until the performance of Dear Harvey. It'll be this Sunday at 2:00pm, a matinee performance. I think I've done everything I could do to promote this play. The theater usually puts out 70 posters around town for other performances, but I put out 96...it's everywhere. As my cast is all high school students, I even got permission to post the posters in all 5 high schools in Las Cruces.

You will obviously get from this post that it's gate time and I'm as nervous as hell..

The theater holds 422 people, and I calculated (rather hoped for) 150 people to attend. It's the grandest theater in Las Cruces, closed in 1982 as too old, renovated to it's grandeur and reopened 2 years ago. We're planning a "meet and greet the cast" reception following the performance at the theater. If I can expect 150 to buy tickets and attend then maybe 1/2 or 75 will stay for the reception. That's the food that I've ordered...for 75. What happens if we fill this theater? It holds 422 people. I'm going to run out of food. Las Cruces is known for people not ordering tickets in advance, they just show up. What happens if we fill this theater? I'm going to run out of food. What happens if no one shows up? I'm going broke. What happens if the show flops and no one wants to contribute? I'm broke. Remember, this is a fundraiser for our Centers youth center.

I have a full head of hair, even at my age, but I'm pulling it out quickly. I've never produced a play before, and I would like to know if other producers go through the same anxiety.

The cast is great, the director is so talented and we've had tons of community support. So why am I a total wreck?

These kids are so into this play now after not knowing who Harvey Milk was that I have decided to buy them all polo shirts with the play's logo silk screened on the front. We're having our full dress rehearsal this Saturday, and I'm going to give them out then.

Most of these kids have never been to this theater, so we held a rehearsal there tonight. They were in awe with the place. Katy (the director) and I sat in mid theater and found out that the acoustics were so much better that projection (which has always been a problem) was not an issue,

There is a PowerPoint projection of slides during the performance of Harvey and his times behind the actors. The tech guy has worked out a way to show the slides above the actors and place them at locations where the actors are vacant that it comes across wonderfully...no shadows of the actors or slides in their faces.

I had a scare today. We had a production meeting 4 weeks ago and it was agreed that the school, Alma d'arte, would do the programs. I found out tonight that nothing has been done on them...panic time. Katy has already put together the program and all she needs to be done is have the school print them. whew!

These kids are stressed. Graduation from high school is the night before the performance. on Saturday. So at the final dress rehearsal on Saturday, I'm going to give each one of them a white polo shirt with the play's logo silk screened on the front. I'm also going to ask them to wear them during the "meet and greet the cast" so that they can be identified. I want people to know what a great job that they did and to have them tell of their experience about understanding who Harvey Milk was what what he stood for to the audience. This is all about education.

My most challenging thing is to find bullhorns to borrow. Harvey used a bullhorn when he addressed crowds. The police and fire departments don't use them anymore. I had approached the local school, but they don't know me. I wouldn't loan my equipment to someone that I didn't know. So, I asked the principle of Alme d'arte (for those of you who don't know this high school, it's an arts charter high school in Las Cruces) to contact the people that he knows in the other high schools to see if we could borrow their bull horns. Every athletic and band department has to have them. Well, with graduations coming up this week, he's swamped and I've not heard back from him.

When will this frustration and anxiety end?

But, you know something? I'm at my wits end, and...I absolutely love it. I'm so happy that this is coming together. It will happen. I think I've done all that I can do at this point and now it will just happen.

Wish me luck. No! don't wish me luck. Send checks, cash, promissory notes for our youth center...just kidding.

I'm actually having the time of my life.

Richard.

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Thanks Cole. I know you'd enjoy it.Bruim, they won't let me video the performance, but I'll get pics and post them.Katy, my director, has these kids moving all over the stage. It's an avarnt gard production. You all would love it.One rehearsal tomorrow left and then dress rehearsal and tech run through at the theater on Saturday.Of course, I'm a wreck. Will they be ready? Will we fill the theater? Will the public be accepting of a play that deals with homosexuality...in an open way.? What will the papers say? Will the playwright be pleased? Oh God...I just know that I haven't ordered enough appetizers for the reception. We're going to run out. Then again, no one will stay and we're going to have to eat the food for days to come, if they don't go bad. Like I said, I'm a wreck.This is the first time that I've produced a play, and you know what? I LOVE it!Richard

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Richard:Calm down!Food isn't an issue. It's first come, first served, and no one expects you not to run out if the place is crowded. It doesn't matter! If it's that crowded afterwards, it means it was a huge success; enjoy that fact, and don't sweat the small stuff. No one's going to say, "Well, the performance was great, but they didn't have enough cheese puffs. What can one expect from the gay community if they don't have enough cheese puffs!" No, I don't think you have to worry about that.You can't enjoy it if you're frantic, so just calm down and realize what you've accomplished, and use your time thinking about what you're going to say, after the performance, when you're asked to give a speech. Now THAT would cause me to worry!C

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I'm burned right now. The cast left the cast party that I hosted at my house about 20 minutes ago. I'm going to veg for a few hours and then I'll tell you all how it went. As a preview, I'll say that the day was one of the best days of my life. Now where did I put my scotch? I had to put it away as we had a lot of kids here tonight.Richard

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What a wonderful thread. You are one of the good guys, Richard, and you have accomplished something great and significant. I hope it has the desired effect. If I was closer (say, within a thousand miles or so) I'd have come and given whatever support I'm capable of. I'll bet the cheese puffs ran out!Bruin x

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I know I took more time to calm down, than you wanted me to, but, okay guys and gals, here's what happened.Doing this play was one of the most exhilarating experiences that I have had in years. As you all know, I chose a high school to help put this play on. The reason was that young people today don't know who Harvey Milk was. I wanted this be not just an educational experience for the audience, but the cast as well. We had 9 high school students from Alma d'arte, 1 Alma graduate and 2 New Mexico State University students as our cast. Only 2 cast members had seen the movie Milk with Sean Penn and didn't know who Harvey Milk was. For one rehearsal, I took the entire cast to the Center and screened the movie Milk. They came away amazed. One cast member, a female (the only gay person in the cast) was almost in tears. They hadn't realized what Harvey had done and were aghast when they found out that he was assassinated. Through the first rehearsals, they had started to identify with the characters that they were playing.I had originally pictured this as a reading where each actor was allowed to have a script in front of him/her but wanted a better production. Katy, the director, came up to me and asked if they could do it from memorization. I cautioned her on the short time that we had to rehearse, but she said that she could do it. I smiled because that's exactly what I wanted, So...she pushed and pushed, and guess what? They did it!I was an unknown to the young cast that we were working with, but as time went on, I couldn't walk into rehearsals without half a dozen of the kids stop and say, "Hi Richard." When I walk through the school doing post production stuff (gathering borrowed props, paying the director (yes she did it for free, but she did such a great job, I had to acknowledge her), etc,) the kids would come up to me and hug me for the experience that I provided to them. I loved those kids for who they are and for the dedication that they put into their work. This is truly our future! Of course you all have read my previous posts and know that I was a total wreck. I wanted this to be a great performance, but I also didn't want to lose any money. Well, the first came true and the second didn't. Tech was on Saturday, the day before the performance. "Tech" is where they marry the correct lighting and sound to each moment. It was all scripted and programmed for each moment. I worried that the amount of time they had to put in on this was too late as the performance was the next day. Again, Katy Taylor came through. She made it last until she was satisfied. She kept asking me if I thought the lighting on each actor was correct or that the sound was too loud or too soft. She's obviously a politician as she also knew that this was my first production.We had minimal props on stage, just a few painted wooden boxes of varying sizes. The actors used them to stand on top of to deliver monologues for focus. At one point in the second act a young man with long brown hair got on top of one of the boxes with a bullhorn (just like Harvey did) and gave a compassionate speech). Christ, I was in the back of the theater watching and I cried!We shook up the audience last Sunday and I didn't think they'll forget what they witnessed for a long time. This play was intense at the right times and followed with mellow stuff. But it always heated up again and MADE PEOPLE THINK.A family was created with this experience. The kids became very close to one another and bonded as a family does. Email addresses were exchanged as well as cell number amongst them.It amazed me how much the cast identified with Harvey Milk. Harvey Milk was an out gay man in a time when it was not popular to be. 11 of the 12 cast members are straight and they embraced Harvey and his beliefs. I truly believe that I have made a difference in 12 lives who will be speaking to others.I had bought white polo shirts for each cast member and the director with the Dear Harvey loge silk screened on the front and had asked them to wear them at the meet and greet the case reception following the performance. They all did, and I was out there watching. Members of the audience came up to me. congratulating me on what I had done saying what a wonderful group of young people I had pulled together. Hell, I didn't do it, Katy did. One girl was probably only 4'7", but she could project. She also had no problem with her being so short. She just was and believed in herself! Gawd, I'm so impressed with these young people. They taught me as much as I taught them.We had about 160 people attend the performance and the theater director was thrilled. He said that we would loose a small portion of the usual audience because it was a gay themed play, but was still thrilled about the turnout. I had ordered appetizers for 75 and they were all gone by the time the last person left. The theater is in a downtown area that had gone through urban renewal in the 60's and closed off the street in front of the theater. It was devastation to the business in the area. Two years ago the city realized this and opened up the street and renovated the area. The theater was built in 1926, but closed due to a fire in the 80's. It was put on the national registry of historic buildups and renovated. It opened agai9n 3 years ago to it's grandeur. What a venue! The Dona Arts Council (Dona Ana is the county we live in) bought the theater and did the work.Let me tell you about the performance. These kids did something absolutely amazing. I watched from the rear of the theater for most of the performance and I was entrenched in their ability to perform. It was a little bit shaky for the first 10 minutes, but after that, they got into it. No rehearsal ever came across like what they did in front of an audience. I saw deep passion like I had never seen before. I think at rehearsal they held back but still believing in Hervey's message. Now it was truth time and they let it come out.At the meet and greet reception following the performance, most of the people talking the the cast were school friends, which I expected. But some of the older people approached me with their comments, And they were all very encouraging. Of co9urse, I wore a suit, so everyone could identify me. No One wears a suit in Las Cruces unless you're an attorney. LOLActually, I wore a suit because I was to introduce this play on stage. I asked the lighting guy to focus an me when I did. The sound guy gave me a mic that he said he would turn on the moment I came on stage. I waited until the cast was on the stage wing ready to enter before I came out. (no pun intended I walked onto the stage the the front and made sure that I was illuminated. I introduced the play and asked them to turn off their cell phones, But I also said, "I mean it, do it now." while pointing toward the audience, I got a good laugh. I walked off light for a moment and returned, face showing no emotion. I looked up and paused. I said, "My name is Harvey Milk ans I'm here to recruit you." while pointing at them and then walked off the stage. I got a round of applause as I think they knew the line, but back in the tech booth, Katy said, "I hope you didn't give the play away. I said that that is a famous line. She said that the audience doesn't know that...yet. Oops.I asked Katy about a cast party, but she said that they hadn't arranged one yet. So, being the party loving guy that I am ,sai8d that we'll have one at my house. Before the rehearsal and tech session on Saturday, I gave them all a map to my house.Every kid showed up, One had told me that he and his girlfriend were vegan. I really tried to accommodate them with organic dishes, but I had ordered a 5' Italian sub too. OMG, over half of the cast didn't eat meat. Oh well.This cast has bonded. No one wanted to leave and we played serenades for over two hours. They finally left around 10:40 pm. What was it like? It was one of the most fulfilling experiences on my life.. i saw young people become engaged. I saw enlightenment in their eyes oF knowledge gqained. I saw caring in their voices and their eyes.I think I am better off than they are as I gained a view of the world that is to come and it makes me proud to have known our future.

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Richard, you have made a profound difference in these lives. Not only for your cast and crew, but also for your audience--and of course to yourself and those around you. I believe that is the definition of sainthood.I'm in awe.James

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Thank you all for your warm wishes, James, I'm no saint: I drink with the best of them. And Bruin, I don't see myself as any kind of hero. All I do is follow what I believe in. I believe in kids as the future of our country and want the best for all of us, so I promote their future happiness. Some of our kids are troubled. They haven't had the best life, I guess that's why I'm a foster parent, I'm just an average guy who wants to leave this world knowing that I was here and made a difference.Cole, love you and you're not that far away.Richard

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I share the feelings of the others here, Richard. What a wonderful thing you did. It happened because of you. Without you, the kids and the community would not have had such a rich experience.You have a heart as big as the whole state of New Mexico, and a disinclination to sit back and rue how the world works. Instead, you go out and make a difference, a huge difference. There aren't many of us who can say that.Now, you need to be planning your next extravaganza. Hey, how about dinner theater? You're a great chef and can teach a bunch of kids how to cook and serve the meal, and between the culinery lessons you can write a script and train the actors to put on a murder mystery where one of the diners, an actor of course, gets stabbed with a dinner knife. You can get a few community instrumentalists together to play the accompanying music which you can scratch off in your spare time, and then you can sell tickets. Renting a hall, buying the food, advertising the event, making costumes, hey, piece of cake, huh?Sounds like a couple afternoon's work for you. But I bet you coud do it!C

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Dinner Theater? Actually, I have one of those scripted "Throw a Murder Mystery Party" things in a box. I would personally love to do one, but haven't found the right time yet.I asked Katy Taylor, our director, what would be the next performance that we do. She looked quixotically at me, and I said, "How about Who's Of Virginia Wolf ...but only if I get to play Richard Burton." We laughed at that a lot, but...I sparked in her an interest. It's not a kids performance.Now, I'm getting back to Cole's comment. A cooking setup? Now that's something that they would like. A lot of kids, gay or straight, have left the stereo molds that we grew up with, and the major chefs in the world today are straight. This is a great idea, and has me thinking.Richard

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You guys are TERRIBLE. You know why? You've put a lot of good ideas in my head. And now thinking about them, I'm now thinking about acting in them.A "food fight" as Cole suggested has merit. I would want to involve the kids again, but many of them have graduated this week and won't be back. But. this could be a cooking contest for youth from HS to college or anyone else..say 15 to 25 y/o. We'd have to have categories like deserts, main entrees salads, etc. I know the Operations Manager of Best Buy and he would be happy to give us $100 gift cards as prizes. Forget the royalties Cole, you gave me this challenge because you want to torment me, because you know it's something that I would love to do. LOLI'm not sure when this will happen, sometime in the Fall, but the possibility intrigues me.One reservation though. We're in New Mexico, and the culture is such that cooking is a female/wife thing, By addressing youth, I can help change that stereotype.Now. I've got to have qualified Judges. I was thinking about the heads of the culinary arts departments of New Mexico State University and local restaurant owners. Here again, you've all have gotten me thinking about our future. Maybe, just maybe, we can get the Food Network interested in us to do a show on us.I'm only speculating.Richard

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Of course I don't want royalties. I want you engaged with kids. You're so good at it, and it helps you and the kids. They benefit from your expertise and energy, and it gives you something to do so yo won't lie around on the couch all day.C

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