November, 2018

Text Review #2

Cast Member Confidential by Chris Mitchell follows his return to working at Walt Disney World after a personal crisis causes him to move back to Florida. He works as a PhotoPass photographer at the different parks mainly working with the characters.

Throughout this book Michell does a very good job of recreating scenes. I believe this is the best part of his storytelling. He has very detailed conversations that he recounts in the books. There are two stories that really stuck with me. They are both used to back up the idea that no one has ever died on Disney property.

The first story opens the book. He recounts his time while working as a roaming photographer that a parade performer working as Tarzan jumped off the parade float and saved a boy who was drowning in the lake in the park.

The second story is the end of the book. Mitchell witnesses a character attendant having a heart attack during his shift. He runs across the park in order to perform CPR and ends up getting berated by his superiors. He learns later that the man was not declared dead until the ambulance left what would be considered Disney property. This story was the reason he quit his job at Disney.

Mitchell describes a number of interesting people and situations he encounters during his time at Disney. He talks about the divide between the regular employees and the employees that play the characters. He also talks about the hierarchy within the character performer field, the top of that heap being the face characters.

As a photographer, Mitchell was able to infiltrate the character performer circle since he was always with them. He was also able to take banned photos, such as Goofy smoking, and develop them before his boss found out. This gained him the trust of the character performers and he was able to learn of the shady things they did, including selling drugs out of the fur suits.

This book seems a little hard to believe to me. I can absolutely believe that the performers are the trouble makers of the park but the amount of stories he has makes me question the legitimacy of the book. Also since Mitchell was a professional skateboarder and photographer before writing the book he doesn’t have the legitimacy of being an established journalist beforehand.

Since I have been to Disney eighteen times and am currently planning another trip I find this book very interesting. It also helps that I want to be a performer and I know that theme park work could be a logical career move at some point I enjoy hearing all the backstage stuff. If someone is a Disney-buff I think they will also enjoy this book.

Profile Sketch

I plan to do my profile on Leslie Werden. After getting to know her in Mamma Mia! I have learned that she is a much more interesting person than I originally thought (because I was initially terrified of her).

I have an interview set up with her that has not happened yet so I don’t really have any information to put here yet that is an actual story. I plan to talk to her about balancing the work she does at Morningside and her work in the community theatre scene.

I also plan to talk to some of her students that know her mainly in a classroom setting that have watched her on stage and talk about the perception of people and how it changes when the are actors. I personally find it weird that the perception of a person can change after seeing them on stage because the person is playing a character, not performing as themselves.

This is a common problem in the entertainment industry that can be seen when an actor is most commonly associated with one character they have played or get typed in to a certain personality that is extremely different then how they really are. I plan to explore this in the more “educational” side of the profile.

What Makes Me Angry

I hate missing rehearsals when I am in a show. I do my absolute best to make sure I have a clear schedule in order to commit fully to a show. However, sometimes conflicts are unavoidable.

In my latest show I had to miss a choreography rehearsal to do a show I was booked for months in advance. It is standard in the industry that if you miss choreography you go to the dance captain to learn it. So the rehearsal before,  I asked the choreographer who the dance captain was. He laughed at me and said “yeah we don’t do that here.”

What makes me angry is a lack of professionalism in theatre and, furthermore, being treated like an idiot when I expect that professional behavior is universal.

I try to conduct myself in a way that would be considered professional in theatre. I show up on time (5 minutes early), do my work as asked, never question the director, and perform to the best of my abilities every time. I have noticed that I seem to be the only person that does that.

I know that a number of directors and technicians around the area are getting tired of the lack of professionalism in our local actors.

Amy Jackson, who recently directed a play on campus, has said that this lack of professionalism is unfair to performers who do act professionally. “When you have a cast you can’t really kick the unprofessional ones out, you are stuck with them. If [a performer] is late all the time, I can’t kick them out. They are the lead and that’s unfair to everyone else.”

Travis Metzger works as a music director in the community and is not only tired of a lack of professionalism in actors, but also in directors and crew members. “There are some people that don’t even sing the part they are assigned. And the sets should be built right the first time but they never are.”


Community and educational theatre settings are not meant to be extremely professional. There is a reason that these people either aren’t doing this for a living or are there to learn how to do it for a living. However, with the lack of other options in our area those who are not giving it their all or are refusing to change their behavior continue to be rewarded with leads because directors have no other clear option for the role.

This is upsetting to those of us who put the time in to work and learn how to be a professional. It’s just annoying when the work goes unnoticed because an audience has a view of the lead actors that doesn’t have to include professionalism.

Two members of the cast of Grease at the Sioux City Community Theatre were upset by the outcome of some local theatre awards recently. “These two actors got best actor and actress and they started the most shit backstage and caused all the drama. Our Danny didn’t even come to rehearsals for the first three weeks!”

I would just love it if we had to record the rehearsal process and distribute it to audience members before they saw a show. They could see the lateness, the argumentative nature, and the lack of respect in some of their local “favorites” and maybe that would solve the blind encouragement problem.

College Culture Final

It was just another night in Klinger-Neal theatre when I sat down with Taylor Clemens to ask him about the ghosts of the theatre. Rehearsal for the current production had just concluded and there were four people left in the theatre.

Two of us were in the lobby listening to Clemens recount his tales of ghosts both at Morningside and elsewhere. About ten minutes in to the interview though, we were interrupted. The fourth was in the main part of the theatre on the phone with her mom.

“Well, I am not going back in there tonight!” Amy Jackson exclaimed as she bolted out of the house. “I just saw two people sitting in the seats!”

Taylor laughed and asked her who it was. “No,” Amy said, “there were two people sitting on the seats behind the set and just starring at the curtain.”

Instantly the three of us who had been in the lobby darted in to the theatre looking for these people she spoke of. We asked questions and received answers both on my phone, as I was still recording from the interview, and in taps that we heard in the theatre. Clemens and I also saw shadow people walking around behind the set.

The night concluded as I viewed a female face looking down on us from the booth. “Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.” I exclaimed as I ran out the door. The others followed me. Taylor quickly closed and locked the booth door in order to contain anything that may be up there.

Ghosts and superstitions are a big part of the theatre community. Many theatres have their own ghost stories and their ways to keep the ghosts happy.

One of the most accepted ways to keep theatre ghosts at bay is through the use of a ghost light. The ghost light is one light, usually some form of lamp, left in the middle of the stage over night so the ghosts can perform their own shows.

Though every theatre takes part in this tradition, not many believe in the reasoning behind the light. However, Morningside theatre majors know how important it is because many of them have had supernatural experiences in Klinger-Neal Theatre.

Klinger is said to have three ghosts that reside there. Two in the basement and one on the stage. Clemens, who spends almost all of his time in the theatre has certain ways in place to keep those ghosts happy.

“They like things done a certain way. Whenever I go to the basement I say ‘Hello, theater!’ I tell them what I am going to do and I say goodbye when I leave. I also say good morning when I get to the theatre and when I leave I tell them goodnight and I always make sure to say that I will be back in the morning.”

There are many stories that are passed on from older theatre majors to freshmen such as the story of Dallas’ chair. It is said that if you move the chair in the back corner of the basement you will be tripped as you try to go back upstairs.

Many students and faculty, though have their own stories of weird and unusual things that have happened to them in the theatre.

Some days the aura in the theatre is so malicious that Professor Taylor Clemens has to instigate a rule that no one is allowed in the basement alone because “theatre ghosts be scary.”

One story he tells his students happened during the run of Next to Normal. “I went down to the basement to collect some props that the community theatre wanted to borrow and the whole time it just felt wrong. It was that feeling of someone being behind you. It got to a point that on the way up the stairs I stopped, turned around, and yelled at it to back the fuck off. After that I made the rule that no one was allowed in the basement alone until Next to Normalwas over.”

He has also had a number of unexplainable experiences in other theatres outside of Morningside. “I was working on a show at Fisher Theatre at Iowa State with Casey [Clemens]. She was the stage manager and I was working backstage so I was waiting for her to close up the booth and I watched her turn off the lights and walk downstairs and as she got down to where I was the lights just flipped back on. I pointed it out to her and she said ‘time to fucking leave.’ We were the only two people left in the theatre that night.”

Amy Jackson, a senior Theatre and English double major, has recently had unexplained experiences while conducting rehearsals for Octopus.

“There were only three people in the theatre that night and the atmosphere just felt…wrong. Like, it was dead silent even when the actors were performing. So then, at our second to last run of the scene I heard voices from the direction of the stairs [to the basement] that sounded like little girls. I wanted to put it off as people outside but we have never been able to hear people outside any other time I have been at a rehearsal in the theatre. It freaked me out. So I let rehearsal out a little early that night and I left.”

Last year, junior Grant Turner experienced some paranormal activity when he was in the theatre after hours. He was an acting partner for scenes presented at KCACTF and was doing a last minute rehearsal after dark in the theatre. His scene partner, who is a big believer in the paranormal, was transfixed on a piece of paper that was moving on it’s own on the “port-a-desk.” The two went over to investigate.

“We checked for a draft or anything that could be moving the paper but nothing was happening. So we decided to investigate other things in the theatre.”

They then turned off the lights and do some amateur ghost hunting performing EVP sessions and taking pictures of the theatre. While they were investigating there were a number of footsteps coming from the shop area, the upstairs grid area, and coming up from the basement. His acting partner was able to catch a picture of a misty human figure walking up the basement stairs.

Even with these reported experiences, some people are skeptical of the need for the ghost light. When he found out the reasoning behind the ghost light Jared Martin couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s what it’s for? I figured there was a REAL reason!”

Only about 37% of American’s believe in ghosts or hauntings. Turner didn’t believe in the stories until his own experience. “I normally consider myself a skeptic on the supernatural, but I was a believer that night!” Jackson said it takes a lot to make her even think that something is off but that rehearsal did it.

Clemens says that he absolutely believes in ghosts. He has had paranormal experiences since he was four years old. “I remember one time when I was at my babysitter’s house and I was upstairs and I heard a voice calling my name and I was like ‘NOPE’ and this was me at, like, four years old. I was always really creeped out by that house.”

Whether or not a person believes in ghosts, there are a number of things that happen in Klinger-Neal that are not immediately explainable. Because of this, theatre majors for years will continue to plug in the ghost light.

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