I CARRY YOUR HEART WITH ME
a new one woman show
at Third Avenue Playworks (Sturgeon Bay, WI)
BY JENNIFER BLACKMER
feat. Karen Estrada as ‘Esther’
directed by Jacob Janssen
MAY 10 – 28, 2023
Wednesday, May 10: Pay-What-You-Will Preview
Thursday, May 11: Final Preview
Friday, May 12: Opening Night
Wednesday – Saturday evenings at 7:30pm
Friday matinee May 19th at 2:00pm
Sunday matinees at 2:00pm
A world premiere!
Esther Shannon (*Karen Estrada) is a government stenographer working for the US Air Force during the tempestuous Vietnam War. Lonely, conflicted, and haunted by voices from her past, Esther finds herself smack dab in the middle of a troubling investigation.
With plenty of twists and turns along the way, Jennifer Blackmer’s taut, suspenseful mystery packs a real emotional wallop at the end. This new play will be presented as part of World Premiere Wisconsin, an inaugural and ambitious statewide festival celebrating original works.
I CARRY YOUR HEART WITH ME is part of World Premiere Wisconsin, a statewide festival celebrating new plays and musicals from March 1 – June 30, 2023, presented by the Ten Chimneys Foundation. To learn more visit www.worldpremierewisconsin.com.
For More info on Jennifer Blackmer and Karen Estrada, please visit TAP’s website: https://thirdavenueplayworks.org/i-carry-your-heart-with-me/
Director: Jacob Janssen
Production Stage Manager: Kelsey York*
Set Design: Alex Polzin
Costume Design: Kärin Kopischke**
Lighting Design: Colin Gawronski
Sound Design: Brian Grimm
** denotes union members
Community Partner Program – Door County Farm for Vets
TAP has founded a wonderful tradition of partnering with local community organizations on each show of their season. All of the ticket sales from the pay-what-you-will preview show goes directly to the community partner. In this case it is Door County Farm for Vets, and truly needed and amazing organization whose mission is to eradicate veteran suicides through farming. I love this so much. What a needed cause and what a fantastic approach.
Since 9/11 we’ve lost roughly 5 times as many veterans to suicide than we have in combat. It is massive problem that needs to be tackled and supported!
From DC Farm for Vets website:
DC Farm for Vets is a rehabilitation farm that provides education and services to Veterans entering into agriculture. This service includes several different programs. We have an available community gardening program along with scheduled training tailored to the specific time of the growing season. Our training program entails regenerative agriculture, sustainable chemical free produce production, livestock, and cherry and apple orchards. We believe in Growing while Healing.
The specific objectives and purpose of this organization is to work towards the elimination of veteran suicide. We accomplish this through teaching skills of sustainability and consumption of nutrient dense produce and livestock. Being able to grow your own food gives you a sense of control over your life and it is incredibly rewarding. Every dollar that gets donated to DC farm for Vets we donate back to our veterans or the community giving our veterans the opportunity to serve something bigger than themselves once again.
Notes on the Sound Design and Score
As always, there is the potential for some spoilers when talking about my design for the show, so reader beware! I’ll be honest, this was maybe the most difficult play and stressful Tech process that I’ve been through. Most of the time I show up to Tech with all of my cues composed, recorded and mixed – already arranged in my Qlab session with best guesses at timings and fades. But this show was a tough nut to crack. I spent 3 weeks working on melodic themes for the different characters and emotional moments. I would compose a theme and develop it into a cue, only to listen back to the recording while reading the script and thinking… hmmm – that’s not quite right. I think this is the most material I’ve ever developed and then immediately scrapped during the rehearsal and design process for a show.
It took me 3 weeks to realize that the reason all of my melodic material did not feel right, is that the character Esther is the melody! Because it is a one woman show, I needed to sink further into the background; purely be the accompaniment support and let Esther drive the show, let her be the melody. It was soooo different than doing even a two actor show. That is something I did not anticipate.
So the weekend before Tech, I made a HUGE design pivot and developed the idea of recording many variations of long tones. It was a tricky assignment – the director Jacob made it clear that we’d probably want sound under most of the show, but it couldn’t be melodic, and it couldn’t be rhythmic… hence the tones. But it made sense because we had the concept of there being fluorescent light tones for half of the play’s design – and these musical tones could be the color of the storytelling world outside of those fluorescent and cold deposition spaces.
On that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Tech (starting Wednesday) – I recorded Emma Cifrino on viola, Greg Smith on clarinet and bass clarinet, and myself on cello and guqin zither (individually) running through “the gauntlet” of tones. I’ve done this before on my own, it’s intense, so I definitely understood the process and what I was asking of these fine instrumentalists. I’m so glad Emma and Greg were down to complete this process. It wasn’t random notes, I created a scale built out of all of the notes needed for each chord progression and melody that I had developed throughout the whole process (even if I thought we were scrapping it). We went one note at a time, recording 5 styles of that note. Long straight tone, no vibrato. Long tone with vibrato. Crescendo to a sting. Sforzando to diminuendo. And my favorite, wobbly oscillating pressure dynamic pulsing long tones! Greg was a total champ, because we ran through the whole process on Clarinet, and then picked up the Bass Clarinet and said… ok here we go again. And then he went on to perform Carmina Burana with the Madison Symphony Orchestra later that evening … WOW!!
I made sure to have every player record every melodic theme as well, just so I had my bases covered for Tech. Even just my melodic and tones libraries were quite extensive for this show – because I knew I’d just have to build most of the cues on the spot. Jacob and I really couldn’t judge what would feel right until we were in the room and tried things out. So it was a slow, brutal process to build cues on the spot, and not at all my ideal scenario. Let’s just say there were a number of all nighters that needed to happen. This is something I try to avoid at all costs these days (by being over prepared), but that just shows you how different this show was and how much needed to be built, created or refined even outside of tech hours.
Besides the melodic and chord tone libraries, I had built up an even deeper library of Military Sounds from the Vietnam war including AK-47s, Air Bombers, Rocket Launchers, and very importantly the Huey Combat Helicopter. I also recorded the forced air heat sound from my vents at home, and the intensely loud buzzing of each fluorescent light in my basement. From these fluorescents and vent sounds I created many variations of tone clusters and chords that created a framework for the sonic tonal texture of the show (which I then replicated with the acoustic instruments).
Throughout the show, you’ll hear the Huey Helicopter as an intense heartbeat. You’ll hear Air Bomb drops and Rocket Launchers as a forced air vent rattling in the corner. You’ll hear Bass Clarinet as the persistent buzzing of the deposition room fluorescent lights. You’ll hear musical themes for the Military, and each individual character in the show. You’ll hear the USA’s actual Military Jazz Band playing dance party music. You’ll even hear clapping from a 1960’s video of people applauding for the IBM Selectric II World Champion Typist who could type 180 words per minute (deep cut!)!! You’ll also hear the iconic music sounds of the 1960’s! My absolute favorite era for popular music! This was one of the huge discoveries that Jacob and I made late at night trying to crack the code of this play. It’s been so much fun to revisit the music of that era, the music I grew up on. If you like this music of the late 60’s, you’ll enjoy the preshow!
Honestly, I felt like I came prepared for 4 different versions of this play, and none of those versions was the show we ended up doing!! So this one was a big learning process for me and I’m glad I had everyone record those melodic themes, because we ended up using most of them! Thank you to the whole production team, Karen, and Jacob for your patience with me on this tech. I know it was stressful for you too, and I appreciate your grace to let me figure out each cue on the spot.
The final two music cues in the show are two of the best cues I think I’ve ever composed and produced. I’m really happy with how those turned out (you can hear the “Poem Cue” above).
Special Shout Outs
In the end, the true star of this show is Karen Estrada who is absolutely fabulous in this piece of 1,000 transitions and micro-moments. I think audiences will love the performance she gives in this show. What a feat to memorize and perform and hour long show alone, all by yourself. So many lines!!! I could never, ever, ever do that. This performance really highlights Karen’s wide range as an actress. Not only that but she kept us all laughing deep belly laughs throughout tech, which I absolutely needed to keep me going! I hope you can come see the amazing work that Karen has put into this show!!
The other star of this show is Colin Gawronski‘s light design and how it interplays with the beautiful scrim paint job by Alex Polzin. The combo of those two elements is GORGEOUS. It’s like a watercolor painting and I love it. It’s worth coming to this show just to see the different worlds that Colin and Alex have created together with their designs.
Congratulation on the World Premiere to playwright Jennifer Blackmer and for building such a dynamic world for us to play in. It is a whirlwind of a play, and there is just so much contrast and emotion to dive into. I want to know more about her mother, who is the inspiration for the stenographer character Esther who is transcribing all of the Vietnam non-com depositions. I’m glad I could be a part of your premiere!
Thank you Thank you Thank you to Emma Cifrino (viola) and Greg Smith (clarinets) for performing and recording on this score!!! I love how both of your instruments support the story and add color to this world. The recordings turned out great and you both killed it in the studio sessions!