Showcase Recap

The marquee at the El Portal Theater, morning of the showcase.

For the last month, I’ve been working with three pairs of actors who would be in three comedy scenes for NBC‘s Talent Showcase. Last week, the eight scenes went live for two one-day-only performances in North Hollywood at the El Portal Theater. The showcase was for executives, casting directors and industry folks. And of course friends and family.

It was a lot of fun, actually. I hadn’t done too much work in a theater-type setting over the last decade, so it was a great refresher. For example – if you’re facing the stage and you say “stage right” it’s on your left. As opposed to camera right, which is the director’s (camera’s) right hand. So yeah – I screwed that up a couple times.

I was really lucky to work and play with some diligent actors who were eager to please and willing to try different things to get the comedy right.

Kimberley Dalton Mitchell and Kelly Sry.

Kimberley Dalton Mitchell and Kelly Sry starred in the opening scene of the show called “$25,000 Mistake” written by Chuck Hayward. The scene features a couple playing a home-version of the old $25,000 Pyramid game show, the one where you give clues to your partner and they have to guess a category – “Things that fly” for example. But it brings out unspoken/unresolved issues between the two about their relationship. It’s a funny premise and NBC brought this one back from a previous year because it’s a good scene. Kimberley and Kelly got all the right laughs and set up the show for the rest of the scenes.

Mandalyn Meades and Rodney To.

“Internet History” was my second scene, and it went in the middle of the show. Written by New York-based stand-up comic Reid Faylor starring Mandalyn Meades and Rodney To, it’s a hilarious scene set in an office where a boss drills his employee about her internet search history – which gets progressively more absurd because she’s been using it to flirt with a co-worker. We did a lot of blocking and movement on stage and some physical comedy which was a ton of fun to do – both Rodney and Mandalyn came up with a lot of great ideas throughout the process.

Corey Johnson and Miles Heymann.

The showcase’s finale was “Special Occasion” written by Erica Land starring Miles Heymann and Corey Johnson. This, too, was a scene that was brought back again and it’s no wonder why – people laugh a lot at this one. The scene takes place in a fancy restaurant on a date. Corey gives Miles a watch but Miles was expecting a ring so he gets suspicious that Corey has something to confess. The punchline is that Corey ate all of Miles’ Girl Scout cookies – but the scene takes a lot of turns and is really unexpected. The guys were a hoot and improvised a huge amount. Each time I saw the scene it was slightly different – and they really brought the house down at the end.

All the showcase actors get direction from Felicia D. Henderson the morning of the show.

All of the scenes were a huge amount of fun to work on and I’m already sad that I can’t use rehearsing on these scenes as an excuse to not write or update the blog. It was great to spend time with actors and it was also a lot of fun just to put up the show in the last couple days before it went live. The showcase was under the creative direction of show-runner and highly accomplished TV writer and producer Felicia D. Henderson (she even has a scholarship named after her at UCLA!). It was great to have a “principal” – someone who you report to and show your progress. She would give us notes to tweak the scene or something to consider creatively throughout the process.

Class of 2014 – the writers, directors and actors of the NBC Talent Showcase. (My barely visible head is there somewhere.)

When I agreed to direct the scenes, I thought it would just be something fun to do. But it became sort of a creative workshop for me, too – directing actors, working in comedy, working with a producer helping to shape the work. I’m glad I did it. Here’s a behind-the-scenes-type video if you’re curious, my five readers.

Now back to writing. Not sure if I’ll be able to finish this script in the next ten days like I hoped, but I’m going to give it my all.