What Does the Waldorf Have to Do with Grandma’s House?

When you come to see New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House April 13 at either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m, you’re going to be hearing about the Waldorf. Specifically, you’ll hear about dancing in a Waldorf ballroom. What’s that all about?

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel is a long-time upscale New York City landmark. It was swanky and posh before every hotel chain you can think of north of Motel 6 was trying to position itself as swanky and posh. For members of the Greatest Generation growing up in the Great Depression in New York, the Waldorf was another world, one they could only dream being a part of.

The lobby at the Waldorf.

The lobby at the Waldorf.

A Waldorf ballroom.

A Waldorf ballroom.

So it’s no wonder that one of our characters relishes her memories of the Waldorf. What memories? Let’s just say a ballroom is definitely involved, as is the lobby. To find out more, order your tickets here now. See you at the Waldorf!

What You’ll See at Grandma’s House April 13, 6 or 8 p.m.

New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House has its premiere April 13 at the Piven Theatre in Evanston for two performance, one at 6 p.m, the other at 8 p.m.

Each show will begin as the house lights dim and this video begins to play. This video includes the people on whom characters in New Year’s Eve are based, the members of author John N. Frank’s extended family.

Here, they are first seen in the mid-1990s as the family home in Brooklyn is being prepared for sale. Then watch as they travel back in time to some of the many parties that made that house the home for so many members of this family for nearly 70 years.

As the video ends on show night, you will be in Grandma’s dining room on New Year’s Eve, 1960, wondering along with family members whether that year’s party will happen or not. Come see the show to find out the answer.

See the video on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEP9R2Rz00A&feature=youtu.be

Who Will You Meet at Grandma’s House? Meet Carmela and Pasquale

Carmela is one of momma’s daughters, one who enjoys dressing up and reminding her sisters she usually knows more than they do. She fell for Pasquale as a teenager and married him just before World War II began for the United States in 1941. When he was drafted, she moved back into momma’s house to have her first daughter, a girl all the sisters helped raise in those turbulent war years.

A combination of stylish and street savvy, she can shift quickly from polite to super-tough.

Husband Pasquale grew up a tough street kids in 1930s New York but like many Italian American boys, he has a creative side that comes out in his singing and his love of cooking, something he longs to do more of at his father’s Italian restaurant. Now the father of three girls, he’s given up his childhood love of baseball but clings to his one-time dream of becoming a famous singer.

Carmela makes the fish for New Year's Eve at Grandma's House.

Carmela makes the fish for New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House.

New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House is the story of a family and a time long since past. But within the story are elements familiar to everyone who has ever sat around a dinner table with their extended family.

At its core, it’s the story about people who love each other, sometimes bug each other, yet are there for each other in tough times and in good.

This is the second is a series of character profiles to help you know the Smaldone family a little better.

Rehearsals Have Begun for New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House

The 10-person cast for New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House is having a busy few days. They held their first rehearsal with teacher/director Ryan Kitley Monday night, running through the entire play.

A few days earlier, several cast members were allowed access to the theater in Evanston where the show will be performed April 13 and rehearsed on their own in the setting where they will bring the characters in Grandma’s House to life for two performances April 13.

Cast members getting accustomed to where they will perform April 13.

Cast members getting accustomed to where they will perform April 13.

The two exercises sent playwright John N. Frank back to his keyboard to rework several scenes to make them more theatrical.

“It’s an interesting exercise writing characters based on real people,” Frank says. “They have to be entertaining all the time, something real people often aren’t, and that means changing some events or personality traits. I just hope the relatives I based these characters on don’t come back to haunt me too badly after they see the final product.”

Who Will You Meet at Grandma’s House? Meet Faye and Sal

New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House is the story of a family and a time long since past. But within the story are elements familiar to everyone who has ever sat around a dinner table with their extended family.

At its core, it’s the story about people who love each other, sometimes bug each other, yet are there for each other in tough times and in good.

This is the first is a series of character profiles to help you know the Smaldone family a little better.

Faye is the second youngest of eight children in the family and spent years as the baby, years she doesn’t want to forget even though she has a younger sister now, Juliana. She and Sal met in 1948, after he had spent five years in the Pacific during World War II, an experience that has left him a changed man.

A portion of the cast of New Year's Eve..., rehearsing for its April 13 performances.

The cast of New Year’s Eve…, rehearsing for its April 13 performances.

She brought light back into his world and so he is devoted to her. She in turn loves him passionately because he is a kind and gentle man who can live with her foibles which sometimes drive her brothers and sisters a bit batty.

They have one son who is at the center of one of the major story lines of the play. Although never seen on stage, he could be considered a major character in the play as well.

We hope you’ll come see the show April 13 at either 6 p.m or 8 p.m to find out how.

For ticket information, simply write lvl1971@yahoo.com

Here’s Where the Magic Began

New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House is inspired by parties that took place every New Year’s Eve at playwright John Frank’s grandmother’s house in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.

Park Slope in 1960 wasn’t the trendy urban oasis for young families it is today. Rather it was a typical New York melting pot neighborhood where established Irish families were looking wearily at the Italians who were moving up from below Fifth Avenue while the Italians themselves were looking over their shoulders at the influx of Puerto Rican immigrants staking out their pieces of the American dream.

Our playwright is barely visible here, standing in the background, listening and learning.

Our playwright is barely visible here, standing in the background, listening and learning.

The country was about to get a new president and many hoped it would signal an end to the gray flannel suit mentality of the Eisenhower years. Little did they realize how much the country was about to change over the next decade.

Characters in the play are based on Frank’s aunts, uncles, parents and, of course, his grandmother. Some characters have the same names as real-life people, but all have morphed a bit into characters to aid in our story telling.

At those parties, the children were normally in the living room watching television while the adults sat in the dining room and regaled each other with familiar stories. Luckily, Frank often went into that wonderful room to hear those stories. You can see him in the background in the photo in our left-hand column and above, listening for the day when he would create New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House.

JNF

Here’s Where the Magic Will Happen

New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House is a one-act play set in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1960. But to bring back that time and place, we’re renting the famed Piven Theater in Evanston for our April 13 performance.

Here’s what the empty stage looks like. As you can see, audience members will be on two sides as the performance takes place, helping them to feel that they are in grandma’s dining room along with the fabled Smaldone family.

Piven Theater awaits New Year's Eve at Grandma's

Piven Theater awaits New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s

Tickets are being sold without assigned seating, so arrive early to pick out your seats. Performances are tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m and 8 p.m, Saturday, April 13, 2013. E-mail us here for ticket information.

Please note, this is not a Piven production, Evanston’s 2nd Act Players are renting the facility from Piven for the evening. Do not contact Piven for performance or other information about this show. But do stop by this blog often to see the latest and to read what’s going on behind the scenes.

JNF