One Weekend Down

So “SideQuests: The Princess & The Peasant” is a thing. Opening weekend has come and gone and we have one brush-up rehearsal and three remaining performances before the show is a wrap.

At the time of my last post, we had just held our first read-through. The show has come through extensive changes since then, not least of which was the title.

I did, in fact, find the subtitle “The Un-Adventures of Blink” to be a little too video game-y, so three or so weeks before opening – and before most of the marketing had gone out – we changed the title to “SideQuests: The Princess & The Peasant,” which makes way more sense and is an easier sell, especially when making comparisons to films like “The Princess Bride” in terms of tone.

The new title also is a bit of an intentional misnomer – obviously for most of the show the assumption is that the titular Princess and Peasant are Rana and Blink, respectively. In the final scene in the show, where the subtitle is actually uttered, it’s revealed that it’s actually about someone else entirely.

The script is about the right length, but it’s only thanks to the help of our stage manager Nate Hein and the stage crew that the show is able to be pulled off in roughly a page-a-minute. I would be remiss not to also thank the costume designers Stacey Martin and Jenna Harrington, who dedicated at least, if not more, time to the show than even the primary cast members in pulling out some elaborate designs. Similarly, Daryl Person and Dan Van Bibber made many of the set pieces possible, and a massive team of cast & crew pulled out all the stops to paint the scenery on the revolving flats and static backdrop.

The cast went through some minor shake-ups as well. For a good chunk of the early rehearsals, Skeeter Bite Productions vet Jake Pannill (Indiana Jake from back in the Week in Hot Springs days, Gus in The Christmas Heist) was playing Sir Billiam, but he unfortunately had to drop out. However, that opened up an insane and not-entirely-coincidental spot for Zach Cox, who had originally played Blink back in 2016, to jump in and join the cast as Sir Billiam.

And wow, what a change Zach’s energy brought to the show. His cocky yet cheerfully charming portrayal of the pompous, arrogant and selfish Sir Billiam added a whole new dynamic, especially in his interactions with Breanna Remington, who played Billiam’s squire, Rowan, and Blink himself, Jesse Powers.

Jesse had, only a couple years ago, played the role of the young brother “Billy” in “I Sent My Grandma Into the Past.” Billy was essentially a Dennis the Menace-esque 50s-era troublemaker archetype, and with that show being Jesse’s first, he played it very timid. Man, what a difference 2 years makes. At age 15, Jesse is able to carry the whole first half of the show without much problem. His portrayal of Blink is a little more awkward and shy than Zach’s more assertive approach in the short film, so he has his own spin that you absolutely buy into as soon as you hear him start to speak.

Zach joining in partway through – and bringing that sort of quiet earnestness that he had brought to Blink, Spencer in “Grandma,” and Robin in “Christmas Heist” – really made me reconsider the character of Sir Billiam and as we rehearsed, there was a gap in the show where we needed some dialogue to cover Blink’s filling up Rowan & Billiam’s canteens, so I dashed out some new dialogue between Billian & his squire to not only fill time, but also allow Billiam the one moment of letting his guard down, and it ended up becoming one of my favorite parts of the show.

I really will have to sit down and write a lengthier blog about the character of Rana, probably after the show’s run finishes, so I can talk spoilers, but suffice it to say that in SHCT newcomer Abigail Kreilaus, we found someone who could really take that character and run with her, and surprised the hell out of me once we cracked what made her tick.

The character of Lexi, too, who had only really come about in the last month or so before auditions, found shape in Paetyn Van Bibber, who has really just blew me away throughout the run at her intuition as a performer at such a young age. As a nod toward the Jamie Klotz’s Diary movies, I pulled out the purple hoodie that had been purchased (and never used) for Jamie Klotz’s Diary 3 and passed it on to Lexi – and although it’s not mentioned verbally in the show, a prop work order for the Narrator character canonizes Lexi as Jamie’s cousin.

And that little frog puppet, who had made his way into my life back in 2009 for “The Frog Gump,” got his own little hat to match the one worn by Craig “CR” Gates, who plays Gorf in the show (which had been Oliver Juhl’s role in the short.)

If I can be a bit candid, I have been disappointed with the attendance over the first 3 nights. They’re very much “on par” for our previous normal summer shows (excluding the musical HMS Pinafore), but for the sake of the 40-odd cast & crew, who have put their heart and soul into this show, I had really been hoping for more, and am really banking on the Arts & Crafts Festival to drive more people to the show next weekend.

But I always end up being the eternal optimist, and I am already looking forward to what other projects I might be doing on the horizon. I had been worried for a long time after Graceland that maybe I was done for, and had used up all the good ideas, but now that I’ve possibly found some fun new collaborators through this show, I have been inspired with some new ideas. As usual, most of them probably won’t go anywhere, but I am excited to just have ideas again at all.

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