BLUE: An Obituary

Happy September, all!

I’ve had the great fortune this summer to begin a new collaboration with Laura Cleminson, founder of the Pre-Dead Social Club, a Seacoast, NH-based organization whose mission is “to make having compassionate conversations about death and dying a bit easier, less burdensome and more tenderhearted before it’s too late.” It’s a fascinating group, and I suggest you check out the site to see all the events in store. But, for the next two weeks, I’ll be on deck leading the PDSC’s DEAD-LINES, a Creative Obituary-Writing Workshop!

I’m sure I’ll have more to share with you about this whole experience, but in the meantime, one preparation I’ve made to lead this workshop is to write an obituary myself . . . for my first clown character. I was casting about for a subject to write about that felt pertinent and emotional but not too vulnerable, and I also happened to be reviewing digital footage of my year in clown school. I realized, Blue is dead, and I mourn her. So I marshaled my skills to tell her story, truthfully, but with a bit of humor. Enjoy! And I’ll report back to you on the workshops after their done.

BLUE: An Obituary

The feisty, mercurial clown character known as Blue was declared officially dead on April 27th, 2023, after a decades-long decline spent mostly out of the spotlight. 

Blue was born fully-grown in the spring of 1995 in Blue Lake, CA, at the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre. The exact date is unknown, as her birth was multi-phasic and included several abandoned makeup designs. In her heyday, Blue was known for her daring-to-the-point-of-reckless acrobatics, which often surprised audiences distracted by her curvaceous frame. Blue sported a vertically striped baby-doll dress worn over flowered bloomers and a gleaming teal unitard that screeched “80s fitness craze” at the top of its thrift-store lungs. Yes, tights from thrift stores are somewhat sketchy, but Blue was unafraid of where that thing had been. She was unafraid of so much in the early days. 

Blue’s brother Max was her partner in art, with their career-making performance arriving in the summer of ‘95, just months after their joint birth. In “Maximum Blue,” the pair danced jitterbug and viciously laid hands upon one another: Blue clawed Max in the privates, and he responded by bashing her face into the wall once, twice, then one more time. As for so many siblings, this violence hinted at disturbing erotic undercurrents, to the delight of Blue Lake audiences. 

After that giddy summer, Blue found herself the proud owner of both lumbar and cervical injuries that only worsened in the coming years. When acrobatics became too difficult, she allowed herself to be mostly subsumed into the mask character, Brighina. Brighina’s use of speech allowed Blue to perform less extremely physical performances, although she still danced. Indeed, Brighina’s greatest work, Clean Room, which expanded on the themes of love and violence within the family unit, was greatly served by Blue’s mischievous facial expressions and poignant gestures of the wrist. But it was hard for Blue to see her contributions go unacknowledged as Brighina’s star rose, and she fell into a depression that never really lifted.

Throughout the aughts, Blue periodically attempted comebacks, pushing herself through grueling training sessions which resulted in additional injuries and debilitating pain. Hobbled, she attempted to practice acceptance and content herself with watching from the wings or the audience as other artists ran, jumped and flew. But, in the back of her mind, Blue repeatedly thought, “Once I’m better, I’ll be back up there.” This delusion persisted until April 2023, when rheumatologist Daniel Kunz pronounced her death sentence: “You cannot do those things anymore. Ever.” Within the span of an hour, Blue had died, in a flood of tears in the overheated car, still parked in the lot behind the hospital.

There is archival footage of Blue at the literal peak of her powers, standing tall on the shoulders of her brother, Max. She reaches out her arms, elbows hyper-extending as she strains to grasp an enormous rainbow-colored lollipop suspended from the ceiling. When Blue finally plucks it into her hands, her astonished grin is so wide that her teeth resemble fangs ringing the black cavern of her mouth. With shining eyes, and with syrupy stage blood staining her lips, arms and hands, Blue’s joy swirls together all the pleasure and all the pain of the moment, until they are indistinguishable. You can see her eyes dart to the audience and hear the laughter rise and rise. And then, as she leaps to the ground, you hear the applause. 

That’s me as Blue with my partner, Chris Whalen, as Maximum Damage.

Fall Playwriting Workshop is Filled!

By request, I’m bringing back my Zoom Playwriting Workshop for four weeks this fall, and it’s already fully enrolled! I’m delighted to keep Lemon Punch Theatre Lab arrive via internet, especially as Zoom helps us stay connected to artists outside the NH Seacoast. In this case, I’ll have two Providence playwrights and three from Massachusetts, woo!

My plans are afoot to also bring some in-person workshops to various venues in the greater Portsmouth area, so so please stay tuned. Also, I’ve got a new collaboration brewing with the Pre-Dead Social Club. Creativity marches on, in forms both familiar and totally new. I will share more ASAP! EMAIL ME if you have an idea or request for an acting or writing workshop or if you’d like to explore private coaching. Happy August!

A fond goodbye to the Cedar Street studio!

After a glorious final month of classes, we’ve closed the door to the Cedar Street studio.

Many thanks to our students, theatre collaborators & audience members for your support over the past four years!

Stay tuned for news of workshops and events later in the year,
as Lemon Punch Theatre Lab continues to make space for play.

Here are some of the many memories we’ve made over the past four years . . .

Carol Raiche sported her hoodie for Escaped Alone rehearsal,
and James Grillo surprised me by showing up to perform in ourStory/Creature/Scene showcase in his LPTL tee!

I confess that one reason for starting my own business was to rock some merch! Who doesn’t want a snug sweatshirt with a cool logo? And who doesn’t want their life’s motto on a t-shirt?

But back to the beginning . . .
Way back in 2019, leading warmups for Scene Study class!

Brad Ritchie and James Grillo getting intense in a scene from True West.

When the pandemic hit, we all scrambled onto Zoom and learned new skills!

I had to learn quickly how to produce Zoom classes and performances, turning my home office into a command station. But it was hugely gratifying work, and, together with colleagues existing and new, Lemon Punch produced three Lemon Live Festivals, one evening of lengthier staged readings, and a brand new one act that I created with Pam Battin-Sacks and Steve Sacks,
I’ll Be Right There

And I give a huge shout-out to theatre KAPOW‘s Matt & Carey Cahoon for inspiring me and sharing tips for creating the best virtual theatre experiences!

Peter Leonard-Solis was a Lemon Live actor who really worked the Zoom frame, and who happily continued to play with us in the studio after re-opening!

One of my new online colleagues, playwright and actor Matt Cogswell, worked with me throughout the Lemon Live festivals and into a series of Physical Comedy classes. He even joined us for Improv last month!

I was delighted to “reunite” with him in the real world once the studio reopened and we could go back to the theatres. Other colleagues from this time period whom I continue to cherish include the women of the Blue Cow writers’ group in Providence.

Here’s a picture of Mary Sapp & Orlik Guzman in a chilling scene with the guillotine. Photo by Tim Gurczak.

I also had the joy of using the Lab to rehearse two New Works shorts and two main stage shows for The Firehouse Center for the Arts. in 2022, I directed Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS.

Branwyn Ritchie as Charlotte Corday. Photo: Tim Gurczak

Mikayla Bishop as Marie Antoinette. Photo: Tim Gurczak

Last fall, we installed smart lights and reorganized the space to create a performance venue for Story/Creature/Scene.

***This is a good time to acknowledge that “we” often means “my husband Paul,” who often had the brightest ideas and always went up the ladder for me when I needed him! Thanks, Paul! 

I taught myself QLab, so I could run sound cues from my computer. Meanwhile, I ran lights through my iPad. What a world!

This crash course was helpful later when I designed my own sound for Trifles & Escaped Alone. It’s amazing what you can do with the aid of YouTube tutorials!

Deborah Baker co-devised a solo piece with me, Holding Sway. It was a lovely process of brainstorming, co-writing, and choreography. 

Carol and James kicked theatrical butt in a short play I wrote for them, You Are Here. They were hilarious, eerie, and extremely playful!

Peter brought his clown out of Zoom and into the Lab in Ophelio Wakes Up.

Photo by Justin Lahue, scenic design by Justin Lahue, lighting by Ben Bagley.

Last but far from least, it was a great joy to rehearse Trifles & Escaped Alone in the Lemon Punch studio, a setting enhanced by two exquisitely written texts performed by two dynamic casts. John, Steve, Dan, Rebecca, Pam, Sally, Barbara, Carol & Becky, it was an enormous privilege to work with you and watch you perform–every single time!

Huge thanks to Pamela Battin-Sacks & Steve Sacks, 
who co-produced this show with The Firehouse. Great work, my friends!

Like Boris, I have more mischief planned in the coming months!

Thanks once again to all those students and colleagues who brought your artistry to the Lab, and to our audiences and supporters.
Best wishes in your work and play.
See you again soon!

Lemon Punch Theatre Lab hosts first in-studio production!

We’re delighted to share our first boutique performance in the 14 Cedar Street studio space, November 4 – 6!

Deborah Baker rehearsing her monologue, DANCER.

STORY/CREATURE/SCENE is a workshop performance in the intimate setting of the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio. This lineup of shorts includes a story of a girlhood experience and the marks it left behind; an eerie encounter that shifts the ground beneath two friends’ feet; and two Creature turns that culminate in an unforgettable meeting! Featuring performances by Deborah Baker, Peter Leonard-Solis, James Grillo, Carol Raiche and Leslie Pasternack, all the scenes and stories are original and were developed collaboratively. Running time is approximately 60 minutes. GET TICKETS HERE!

***Masks are strongly recommended to protect the performers and we will have masks at the door it you need one.***

Questions? Contact or (603) 321-8550

Welcoming 2022 at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab!

Phew! What a year, yes? I’ve wound up classes and coaching at Lemon Punch Theatre Lab for 2021 with tremendous gratitude to the students, audience members and friends who cheered us on as we kept the lights on in the studio, while hopping back on Zoom when COVID exposures threatened. Like many performance and training venues, we are adopting a hybrid schedule as we approach 2022. I are staying hopeful, but remaining careful as I lead the Lab into the new year!

First off, I’m delighted to announce that I’m directing Lauren Gunderson’s THE REVOLUTIONISTS for The Firehouse Center for the Arts! That show opens on March 11th, and I’ll be hosting many of the (COVID-protocol following) rehearsals in the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab studio. This is what the space is for–to create art!!! I haven’t held rehearsals there since January 2020, so this makes me extremely happy.

Next, I’m expanding my Thursday pay-as-you-go offerings in January and February by alternating my successful and filled-to-capacity “Not-So-Cold Readings” with “Between the Lines” classes, which will focus on all the physicality that fills our scenes in and around the text. All in-person class participants must be fully vaccinated and agree to follow the Lab’s “COVID-safer” policies, which include staying home if you are symptomatic and being ready to pivot to Zoom if the situation requires it. This fall, we moved to Zoom for two classes following a possible exposure, and we also happily used Zoom one stormy night when we thought it was unsafe to drive! It’s great to have a new tool to help navigate the winter season.

Last update: I’m rolling out a Zoom-only Scene Study class in January for some folks who wanted to stay tucked in at home. And before we know it, spring will come, and hopefully we can all breathe easier as we continue to make and enjoy theatre. Best wishes to all!

Lemon Punch Theatre Lab has reopened!

On June 1, Lemon Punch Theatre Lab reopened our studio space at 14 Cedar Street in Amesbury for fully-vaccinated students! This month, we are doing one-on-one coaching, and we plan to bring group classes back in-person in August, after a much-needed break! We are also continuing to teach acting and playwriting via Zoom. Stay tuned for news of future in-person and Zoom offerings!

Here’s how our sunny, air-conditioned space looks this week:

And here is our sanitation station–we also have our own handicapped accessible bathroom inside the space!

We hope you’ll join us soon for in-person theatre making! Be well and stay safe!

Another Zoom success for Lemon Punch Theatre Lab!

“I’ll Be Right There” was a huge success! Thank you to all those who attended!

On February 20th and 21st, Lemon Punch Theatre Lab presented two performances of our original play, “I’ll Be Right There,” and enjoyed two marvelous post-show discussions. Steven Sacks and Pamela Battin-Sacks knocked their roles out of the park, and Martha Douglas-Osmundson led our conversations with insight and joy.

Here are some of the awesome comments from our audience:

“Felt dynamic, even in Zoom! Forgot that I was watching a play!”

“A heartfelt slice of life, and so refreshing.”

“Your play grabbed you in the beginning and never let go.”

“Mesmerizing. Kept me right there the whole time.”

We also received many fascinating comments and questions about the process of writing current events into our work and the particular challenges of performing in Zoom. These explorations will continue throughout the spring in a variety of classes and workshops.

We’ll see you again soon in the virtual Lab!

virtual theatre marches on

Post-show applause with some of the cast and audience of Lemon Live 2.

Here we are in October, still struggling to make our way forward in the midst of the COVID pandemic and an extraordinary time of political and social upheaval. Those of us who make and love theatre crave it more than ever. So the work continues, and I’m extremely grateful to have a virtual platform to keep Lemon Punch Theatre Lab alive online.

In July and early August, my explorations of Zoom theatre culminated in the third Lemon Live Festival, with 14 new plays ranging from two to fifteen minutes. This was a rehearsed, produced, ticketed event with four performances over three days, with large and responsive audiences cheering on a stellar group of playwrights and performers. In the weeks since, I have been teaching a constant succession of playwriting workshops, acting classes, and private coaching sessions, the fruits of which will roll out as more events in November and then after the first of the year.

I don’t know when I’ll be welcoming you back into the studio at 14 Cedar Street. But all this Zoom activity is helping me pay the rent on that space, which helps sustain that wonderful building full of artists. I will keep that connection alive as long as I can. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy, protect your good cheer, and please consider joining us in Lemon Punch Theatre Lab, the online play space.

Moving in new directions, with Lemon Live!

Chatting in Zoom with three of the Lemon Live playwright/actors! Clockwise from upper left: Pauline Wright, Matt Cogswell, me, and Scott Sullivan.

Hello, friends. In this amazingly stressful time, I’m taking comfort and even finding joy creating theatre through my studio. Lemon Punch Theatre Lab, via Zoom!

I first pivoted to Zoom pretty quickly in late March, just to remain connected to my colleagues and Lemon Punch students. I had no expectations and was not at all sure how the new platform would work. It sure has its quirks! But since then, I’ve hosted two free microplay festivals, taught two multi-week classes and one movement workshop, and have now spent almost 6 weeks developing the Lemon Live New Play Festival, volume 3, which will go up on Zoom July 31- August 2. The Lemon Live team is brilliant, funny, and incredibly resourceful–we’ve produced two lineups of 7 short plays, for a total of 14 new works that challenge our idea of what Zoom theatre can be. For more information, or to book your tickets, visit the Lemon Punch Theatre Lab “box office.”

During this play development process, I asked one of the playwrights, Haley Dunning, if she’d like to co-direct one of her pieces with me, and it’s been extremely fun to collaborate! She asked me one day for some pointers, and I came up with a list that sums up my approach to theatre directing, and leadership in general, pretty well. So I want to share it with you!

We all need to lead with “what’s working,” rather than, “this isn’t working for me.” If we receive too much negative criticism and no highlights of what is good, we may throw out all of our work, get confused and lose confidence. So I try to always lead with what is working—often actors don’t even realize it, so it’s important to draw their attention to their successes.

In acting, as in writing, we don’t want to simply evoke static emotional states. We want to see/hear real people doing things. Acting is doing. So I talk a lot about thinking in verbs rather than adjectives. Instead of, “She needs to be more sad here,” you might say, “Could you try to mourn the loss?” Or, instead of saying, “I think she’s defensive,” you would say, “I think she might try to defend herself.” You might follow that up by saying, “Hmmm, how do we defend ourselves? What verbs are embedded in that? Does she attack someone? Does she blame another person? Does she deflect attention from herself?” Verbs keep the performance realistic and interesting.

Ask your actors/writers/designers questions. You may have all kinds of ideas about improving the scene, but until you know what your collaborators are thinking, you can’t shape your ideas to suit their frame of reference. Also, in listening to their response, you will learn more about your own ideas and might see ways to refine or improve them. Lastly, when people feel listened to first, they are often more relaxed and willing to listen to you back.

Set a calm tone. If you are frazzled, acknowledge it. If there’s something you don’t know, say, That’s a great question, I will find that out for you! Actors get nervous when they feel the director isn’t calm. The director doesn’t need to have all the answers right away—in fact, they shouldn’t, if they want to foster collaboration and exploration. But you can model a relaxed, interested response to challenges that come up. For example—oh, if we all turn off our cameras in Zoom, something weird happens?! That’s interesting! I will sort that out and get back to you on we’re going to handle that.

Remember that it’s only a play. While many of these scripts give us the opportunity to explore serious topics and feelings, ultimately we are not working not he COVID vaccine or defusing a bomb, so we should give permission for people to be less hard on themselves. We maintain a foundational level of respect and consideration for each other’s time and talent, but we don’t push people when they are uncomfortable. If it’s not fun, why make theatre? Keeping the play in perspective helps you create and maintain an upbeat rehearsal space. And we all need that right now!

So, those are my tips for directing, and for life right now. Give me a holler and tell me what works for you in the studio, whether it’s live in-person or on Zoom!

Lemon Live Microplay Fest a success in ZOOM!

On March 31st, 13 playwrights and 12 additional attendees took part in the LEMON LIVE MICROPLAY FESTIVAL, which set the challenge to write a 150-word, 2-character play on some aspect of this coronovirus moment. It was joyous to be together, virtually through ZOOM, and the plays were both moving and hilarious. The event was also a great way for me to explore the cool features and unique challenges of making theatre that is live in time but spatially fragmented and mediated through a standardized platform. Just in time, too, since I’m kicking off my Advanced Scene Study class in Zoom on April 12th! A huge round of thanks to all the playwrights, readers and audience members. Thank you for helping us keep theatre alive while keeping ourselves and the community safe! Visit Lemon Punch Theatre Lab to learn more.