Archive for December, 2011

As promised, I can finally share some stories and photos (video footage still to come!) from “Out of the Box,” the original play from Daytime Moon’s fall program with the Peoples Improv Theater. “Out of the Box,” written by Meredith Hackman and Cooke Center Academy Intern Nagisa Mikami, chronicled the story of 5 museum artifacts attempting the save the job of Emily, the museum curator, by thinking of an exciting new exhibit. Meredith and Nagisa’s script was based on original characters developed by the cast over the course of the program.

Preparation for “Out of the Box” was, as with any theatrical performance, fraught with hilarity, hard work, joy and (at times) a little craziness. After finding out that Jeffrieal, who had developed a character based on his favorite baseball players, was leaving early for the holidays, we rushed to film all of his lines so that he could appear in the museum as a painting that came to life! Certainly tech design brings its own level of insanity, but thanks to Meredith’s determination and everyone’s refusal to accept that Jeffrieal wouldn’t be a part of the final performance, Jeffrieal was onstage like the rest of the cast: dancing, speaking, and pretending to be a dinosaur! All of our other actors also were 100% dedicated to making “Out of the Box” a huge success–you’ve already seen footage of some of their character interviews, of Jake’s songwriting session with country singer Harold Allen, and some of the commercials they made, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much additional work each actor put in to learn their lines and deliver them loudly and with emotion. Talia even perfected an accent for her role as Princess Anastasia!

I continue to be amazed by the achievements of our participants, and “Out of the Box” was no exception. They played to a packed house on the mainstage at the Peoples Improv Theater, and frequently had to stop for laughs and cheers as the audience actively engaged with and responded to the story being played out. Every single participant had their moment in the spotlight and they shared the stage with such presence. They showed us the purest aspect of theatre: the sheer joy in creating and expressing. I’m so proud to have been able to witness it.

Enjoy the pictures!

Libby helping Nicky get into his Tyrone costume

The cast and I checking in before the show started

Jake sneaking a peak at the audience

Nicky breaking out of the box as Tyrone the Dinosaur


Teddy as Ben Franklin


Jake as the Famous Country Singer

Jake, Talia and Nagisa during Curtain Call


The whole group (including Jeffrieal!) after the show



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Tomorrow, two weeks will have passed since members of the Cooke Center Academy Alumni Association and students in the Cooke Center SKILLS Program made their Daytime Moon Creations stage debut in “Welcome To Camp.” The cast performed on the mainstage at the Peoples Improv Theater to a huge and enthusiastic crowd. It was an overwhelming success!

I couldn’t have been prouder of our actors, who worked together to write the entire play themselves. This huge feat of collaboration was only eclipsed by the passion with which they tackled the performance. The group never once let nerves get the best of them and approached each moment onstage with emotion, honesty and confidence. It was incredible to watch, and I’m so thrilled to finally be able to share some pictures with you!

The cast going over last minute preparations before the show

Alexis as Rapone, the Camp Director

Sam as Kelly, a new camper


Christina as Taylor, one of the bullies at Camp Ojai Lake

Carrie and Geraldine onstage as Molly and Alex


Jake as telling a ghost story as Hal, the oldest camper


Patrick and Nagisa celebrating after curtain call

The cast of "Welcome To Camp" with Michelle and I



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Hello again!

So I just finished going through this amazing footage and couldn’t wait to share it with you.

As you already know, “Out of the Box” chronicles the story of five museum artifacts–a Ben Franklin dummy, a statue of Princess Anastasia, a T-Rex skeleton, a painting of a famous baseball player, and a country music concert poster–as they work together to create an amazing exhibit and save the job of Emily, the museum curator. Naturally, as we created the play, we turned to the unique talents of each of our amazing actors: For example, Teddy already knew so much about inventions and was so interested in improv-ing about Time Travel, it was an obvious choice to cast him as Ben Franklin and allow the character to explore each of the other characters’ time periods and lives. For Jake, who has an extensive knowledge of (and unparalleled passion for!) country music, we would have been remiss not to allow him a chance to perform a musical number.

Early in the show, Jake’s character shows the group his “favorite song to play when [he] was alive” and performs country legend Hank Williams’ standard “So Lonesome I Could Cry.” But the truly amazing part comes later in the play, when the whole group talks about how museums house stories and memories of such a wide array of people and events, not just any one thing. Jake’s character reminds us about how country music is similar; often country songs tell stories of past events and remind us never to forget. And then, you guessed it, he sings an original song with the group.

So how to create that moment?! We couldn’t have been luckier. And it couldn’t have been more fun:

Harold Allen, country singer and the centerpiece of Harold Allen and the Bonfire Choir (a country band that has toured the country, opened for Leann Rimes, and just released their first live album!) came into Daytime Moon a week before the show to work with Jake to write the song!! It was an amazing experience for Jake to be able to work with someone as excited as he is about legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Kris Kristofferson, and it was great that Jake was able to be in the driver’s seat with some of the writing, really working with Harold to create the final song (In Harold’s words, “Copyright Harold Allen and Jake.”)

The song they wrote was absolutely perfect for the show: sweet, melodic, touching, and country to the core. Check out part of the video from their work session:

And here are some amazing shots:

Harold's guitar--this guitar has played in Nashville, strummed the chords of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, and toured the country with Harold Allen and the Bonfire Choir. Jake was beside himself with excitement!

Harold and Jake singing "So Lonesome I Could Cry"

Harold and Jake celebrating their successful songwriting session

Jake trying on Harold's cowboy hat

Showing off their original song, "Museums and Memories"

Hope you enjoyed!


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Today feels funny. It totally could be because it’s Christmas Eve and there’s not a snowflake to be seen, but I think more than anything the overwhelming feeling of strangeness is because of one simple reason: This is the first Saturday in eight weeks that I haven’t been at the PIT rehearsing with our amazing Saturday actors! It’s weird to think that two more programs with Daytime Moon have come to an end, but I’ve got some incredible stories, photos, and videos to share with you.

From the classroom to the rehearsal hall, from the improv exercises to the final performance, the journey’s been incredible. I couldn’t be prouder of our two groups and the work they did. In each performance, our actors rose to the occasion–bringing energy, excitement, passion and emotion to every line and creating a special theatrical experience for every member of the audience (and both shows packed the 99 seat house at the PIT!!!) Watching these performances never ceases to amaze me, to humble me, to warm my heart, and to remind me of the importance of the arts. The confidence I see our actors embrace, that moment when they each realize the spotlight is on them, nail their line and are rewarded with laughter and applause from a generous audience, when they take their curtain call and wave to their families… I’m never prouder as a teacher than seeing our actors proud of themselves. And as an artist, I’m never more grateful or inspired than seeing the pure creative process at play in our casts. I’m so excited to share the joy with you through this.

There’s a lot of great stuff to share, so I’m going to post the highlight reel of photographs, then do an entry with details about “Welcome to Camp” and an entry about “Out of the Box.” Anything to make the memory live longer, right?

Both shows had a "Meet the Cast" display in the theater lobby. Here you can see the one from "Welcome to Camp"

Jake performing as Hal in "Welcome to Camp"

Nicky as Tyrone the Dinosaur dancing with Talia as Princess Anastasia in "Out of the Box"

Enjoy the sneak peek and stay tuned for more detailed stories and extra photos from the two shows!



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With our final performances of Welcome to Camp and Out of the Box coming up on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, I can hardly believe that the time has flown by like it has.  It seems like we were recently only talking about what different emotions look like, and now we’ve written plays!  And at the risk of sounding corny, it feels like I met Jake just yesterday!

During our last meeting, I asked Jake to reflect on Daytime Moon and his internship, and he brought tears to my eyes as he told me about how and why it is so special, both in and out of the classroom:

I have a feeling that when Daytime Moon’s young actors put themselves into their characters’ shoes, they’re channeling their everyday lives and interests into their acting.  In my mind, these special actors are like chameleons, metaphorically changing color into each character.  With skilled acting and bravery, an actor or actress may be using his or her strength and courage to step up into the spotlight.  It helps them grow because when they do acting, it helps them get together with other people and channel their acting into their everyday lives as well as their everyday lives into their acting!  It’s important to express their feelings the right way and to mature in the good direction.  Acting helps people to learn things and experience new things in their lives the fun and exciting way.  It guides them on their way to accomplish certain goals: what they dream of becoming in the far future.  Putting on a play is working on a goal.

Daytime Moon has given me a big opportunity and it’s a stepping stone to my future because it’s working with film, and acting, and helping people at the same time.  With the writing of the blogs it allowed me to express my feelings.  Daytime Moon helps you to… it can channel your feelings about what you are, your person, bringing it out on the stage to express your feelings.  And it’s fun because it’s putting feelings in balance, putting on a play, and I helped write a play.  Because that’s my kind of dream!


And just for fun, Jake improvised (that’s right, improvised) mock movie trailers for both Welcome to Camp and Out of the Box, coming to the Peoples Improv Theater near you on Thursday and Saturday!  Enjoy!!

Welcome to Camp Trailer:

Out of the Box Trailer:

See you this week for our final shows!

-Michelle and Jake

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We’ve had an incredibly exciting couple of weeks writing and polishing a script for our Saturday program at the PIT, and Jake and I have been keeping tabs on all the latest footage!  In our last blog entry, we looked at a couple of original commercials.  The next step in our actors’ process was to help them create characters based on the commercials they made up.  After the characters had been decided, our volunteers interviewed each character to further aid in our playwrights’ development of the script.  And then… we finally got the script!!  After looking at the commercials, the interviews, and finally, the recent rehearsals, I sat down with Jake to talk a little bit about what it all means.

MK:  Jake, the final performance for the Saturday program is coming up.  Have you gotten a chance to look at the script?

Jake:  Yes, last week I got a glimpse of the script for the upcoming show called Out of the Box to get a sense of what the characters’ performances are going to be like.  The play is about museum exhibits who are determined to save their museum director from losing her job.  A sort of ‘Night at the Museum’ type thing because the exhibits come to life.  The stakes are high since they are trying to save the museum director’s job, and they may lose their chance if they don’t help her think of a new exhibit.

MK:  Who are the characters in the show?

Jake:  Talia plays Princess Anastasia Romanov, who was, by the way, the last grand duchess of Russia.  Teddy plays Benjamin Franklin, Nicky is Tyrone the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Jake plays The Famous Country Singer, and Jeffrieal is The Famous Baseball Star.

MK:  From the original commercials and the subsequent interviews, the actors have helped us develop their characters as the people (and animals!) they are most interested in.  Can you talk a little bit about that process?

Jake:  For example, in the case of Teddy, we originally saw a commercial for the iPod.

MK:  And then Teddy became two characters who were major inventors in history, is that right?

Jake:  Yes.  I watched a pretend interview with Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin on their inventions.  Edison turned on the light, while Franklin created electricity.  Teddy played both characters (talk about a double role!), acting like each guy, and it was a bit challenging because he had to change his character.  Teddy really likes inventions so in the show, he’ll be playing Ben Franklin who is an amazing inventor.

MK:  What do you think it’s like playing a character that is based upon something they are passionate about?

Jake:  It makes them feel happy and excited and it’s like they are following their dreams.  They are being modest about it.  They aren’t showing off.  They are acting in a more honest way.  They’re sincere in their acting, they are using their soul for the acting when putting themselves in their characters’ shoes.

MK:  How did the rehearsals look [from the Flip Cam footage]?

Jake: They are doing very well at getting themselves into the character, few mistakes, few flaws.  They are getting into the process through thinking what their character is like.  They are changing their voices to bring the characters out.  These actors are chameleons.

MK:  Can you speak a little bit more about some of the actors interests, as made clear by their interviews and final characters?

Jake:  Jake [in Saturday’s program] really loves country music so he really put himself into the character of his interest.  Jake explained about his ‘life’ as a country singer.  He mentioned that once he sang with a singer named Kristofferson, and I could tell he was excited about being that character in the upcoming play.

MK:  And what about Talia, whose commercial we also saw last time?

Jake:  In the case of Talia, we originally saw her commercial for an American Girl doll.  And then for her interview, Talia went from an American Girl to a famous and feisty princess. I’ve come to understand that being a princess doesn’t always mean being born into royalty, wearing pretty dresses, and getting their prince.  It means being modest and sincere in what they say and do for others.

MK:  What is her life as a princess like?

Jake:  She talked about how she loved dancing with her prince, Nicky, and how she loved her “palace life”.  During her interview, she pretended she had an argument with Teddy [as Benjamin Franklin], who was upset that she had candles in her palace because he was worried for her safety.  It was a bit challenging to pretend to get to know another character, but when Talia stepped up to the plate it was really daring, just as the princesses of the films I’ve seen are.  Back to the show!  Jeffrieal plays The Famous Baseball Player.  He loves baseball, he’s really fond of it.

MK:  How do you think that helps him?

Jake:  I think he’s going to be amazing putting himself into this role because the baseball player is part of the museum and hopes kids can see him and be inspired to play baseball.  It’s his passion.  And it’s easy for him to imagine himself in that character’s shoes, he is able to talk like they talk and move like they move.

MK:  Is it important for characters to have a back story, like we saw in Nicky’s interview?

Jake:  Yes, Nicky had a pretend interview on life as a dinosaur.  He mentioned that he roared whenever he was furious, but had a nice family, and that he wanted to be a doctor who looked after the sick ones.  Hey, even a dinosaur has feelings about his life, doesn’t he?  And I think that Nicky will be amazing putting himself into this character’s shoes (or in this case, claws).  Plus he had an amazing theme song.  We see his passions, what he wants most, and his feelings about things.  This helps with the character development.

MK:  How does this all compare with your Thursday workshop at the Cooke Center?

Jake:  In our theater workshop, we have been studying and rehearsing our camp play called Welcome to Camp.  Like the young actors on Saturday, we also work on a lot of character development.

MK:  Have you faced any challenges in Thursday’s program?

Jake:  Usually, I play Hal the most enthusiastic and helpful of the campers, but when the actress who plays Rapone, the lead counselor, was absent, I put myself into her shoes [and filled in].  This was a challenge because I had to break away from the character I was used to playing, and then had to create a balance between these two personas and feelings within myself.

MK:  Wow!  And how did you do that, exactly?

Jake:  For Hal, I was a helping hand and led people to do good things.  With Rapone I played more of the leader.  I also changed the accent for Rapone – I used a Southern accent.

MK:  And what’s your favorite part about rehearsing?

Jake:  That you get to learn how to put yourself into another character’s shoes to bring your feelings to life!

MK:  As we approach the final show of Out of the Box, and also your own performance of Welcome to Camp, do you have any last words?

Jake:  We will be able to see a magnificent performance!  I am certain that the performance of Out of the Box is going to dance its way to the stage!  And so will Welcome to Camp!

MK:  Thanks, Jake!

PLUS: Check out some exclusive footage from last week’s rehearsal!

Until next time…

-Michelle and Jake

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