BWW Blog: Libby Servais of Transcendence Theatre Company's 'Broadway Under the Stars' - Magic Land
This is my second summer with the Transcendence Theatre Company in Sonoma, CA. I come here by way of my dear friend, Carrie Manolakos. Carrie and I once shared a dressing room in the musical Wicked and have remained close friends ever since. Two years ago she called to tell me all about her life changing, heart explosive time with the Transcendence Theatre Company and encouraged me to join her for their next season. I went to the theatre's website and learned that TTC's mission is "to go beyond the usual limits and to change the world in extraordinary ways." I was immediately intrigued. I continued to read about the company and their vision. They hire Broadway performers to collaborate in wine country where they not only create a magical show but also celebrate a healthy company culture and deeply connect with the community, all the while. Oh, and let's not forget that the theatre is located inside the enchanted ruins of a historic winery surrounded by vineyards, under a twinkling blanket of vibrant stars in the gorgeous Jack London State Park. This all sounded like a euphoric dream to me!
Needless to say, I signed my contract and was on an airplane from New York City to San Francisco in no time. I was elated to be a part of "Broadway Under the Stars" and the radiant Transcendence Theatre Company that Carrie had so passionately raved about. Little did I know that my quick 10 day experience with this new incredible theatre company would literally change my life forever.
I'm now out here for the second year...and this time as an integrative artist (along-side the amazing Eric Jackson and Rachel Thomas) for the entire summer! This means I get to help plan the community events, volunteer opportunities, Broadway kids camp, as well as perform in all of the glorious concert series'. This season has already risen to new heights for me and is twice as spectacular as last year. First of all, I get to be here with my incredible boyfriend, Stephan Stubbins (one of the founding members and co-executive director of the theatre) everyday. Stephan and I actually met last year during my brief 10 days out here...I won't go into detail about how we met because our story is so mushy and magical that it most definitely requires it's own blog.
Anyway, we've just closed our first show of the season, "One Singular Sensation," which was a phenomenal success in endless ways! A shooting star flew across the sky while Trista Moldovan and James Sasser sang "All I ask of You"....the adorable married couple, Megan McGinnis and Adam Halpin got to sing their own rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," with Amanda Lehman and Dylan Smith sparkling in a beautiful duet dance along side them.... Lexy Fridell and Scott Barnhardt made the audiences pee their pants and laugh their faces off every single night during "The Song that Goes Like This".... our stellar dancers made audiences weep as they did the entire "One" number in full costumes from A Chorus Line....as usual, Carrie Manolakos astounded audiences with one of her amazing original songs, "Paint the Universe," ....and now Transcendence Theatre has actually blended their own signature wine and titled it "Paint the Universe,".... I scatted and sang the Lillias White part in "Brotherhood of Man" earning me the nickname of Libbias White...talk about going beyond the usual limits...teehee...AND my favorite part was when Stephan Stubbins, Adam Halpin and James Sasser rode in on 3 REAL LIVE HORSES (Cowboy, Brewster and Buzz) as they opened the show with "Fugue for Tinhorns!" WHAT?!?! This place really is "Magic Land!"
The talent and generosity of the "One Singular Sensation" cast inspired me everyday. I always try to watch performances from backstage as much as I can because these artists create absolute miracles here. We had a TV medley in the show which might have been my favorite to perform in because the audiences would often sing along with us. A truly transcendent experience for us artists to feel our hearts connecting with the audiences. One portion of the medley was the tv theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air...I had to giggle at the hilariousness of doing a hip hop dance number along side Megan McGinnis and Trista Moldovan....the three of us are probably the most unlikely women to be hip hop dancing together and it makes me SO HAPPY! Our music director, Ben Rauhala stopped us during rehearsal one day and exclaimed, "Seeing Christine Daae, Belle and Galinda hip hopping is a dream come true for me!"
I could go on and on about the marvelous concert but what has truly been most fulfilling for me was our first community project day which we refer to as our "inspiration initiative." Our TTC artists volunteered at the WillMar Grief and Healing Center, for young children who have lost parents or loved ones. This creatively, inspiring day with the kids taught me so much and changed my life forever. I'm extremely grateful that we were able to offer the kids free tickets to our show that week because having them in the audience left an incredible impact on my fellow TTC artists and I, more than the kids will ever know! They brought us back to why we are in this profession in the first place. Service. After our time with them, suddenly, all ego was lost and our performances were no longer about how our high notes sounded or how precisely we hit our marks....they were about connecting our hearts to those kids and that audience in that exact moment. We were reminded that our soul mission and purpose was to tell them a story and to fill their hearts with so much love and inspiration that they'd walk out of that theatre having felt something powerful. Musical theatre is such a special gift and show tunes are actually an amazingly powerful way to communicate with others. I'm forever grateful to the kids of the WillMar Center for reminding us of that.
The 2014 season has only just begun and I cannot wait for what's yet to come! I will now leave you with my favorite inspiring quote that our fearless TTC leaders, Amy Miller, Brad Surosky and Stephan Stubbins share with us at circle up before each show, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."- Theodore Roosevelt
First day with the cast and crew of "One Singular Sensation" at TTC!
My beautiful friend, Carrie Manolakos and I backstage!
TTC artist's volunteering at the WillMar Center for Grief and Healing
My boyfriend and Cowboy singing to the audience from the hilltopâ€¦.this makes my heart explode! -Photo by Ray Mabry
Scotty Barnhardt and I singing about love! - photo by Ray Mabry
So grateful to share this experience with my longtime friend, Trista Moldovanâ€¦this marks our 3rd show together!
Backstage of One Singular Sensation! - photo by Stephan Stubbins
Little Sophie loved Stephan's performance so much that she gave him her autograph on his hand.
Ben Rauhala, Trista Moldovan and myself celebrate opening night at Benziger Family Winery's Wine Cave.
Pearl, my dog child was in Sonoma's 4th of July with TTC!
From This Author Guest Blogger: Libby Servais