1 Counselor. 6 Strangers. 1 Band.

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Our first Dr. Allen is recognized for his work

Isaac Wade – as Dr. Allen

Last night it was announced that Isaac Wade has been honored with a “Featured Actor In A Musical” Ovation award nomination for his portrayal of Dr. Allen in Group. It’s hard to put into words just what a big deal that is and just how proud I am… but I’ll try.

You know how actors love receiving SAG award nominations not only because we are all narcissistic award hoarders who constantly crave attention and recognition, but also because the SAG awards are voted on by fellow actors. Well, the Ovation Awards are voted on by the Los Angeles theatre community. It consists of the movers and shakers of LA theatre: theatregoers, producers, directors, actors, designers, playwrights…

Ovation voters are required to see and vote on tons of shows throughout the year. Now, anyone who has experience putting up a show in LA knows that it can be extremely difficult to get enough Ovation voters to see your show and even more difficult for the ones that see it to rate it high enough for recognition. Just about all of the Ovation voters who honored us by seeing Group saw an early preview version of it… but I’ll get to that later.

Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble

The back-story on Isaac & “Dr. Allen”

Isaac and I had been performing together in radio plays for a few months but had never done a musical. I had just begun thinking about and reworking an idea my brother (Scott D. Southard) and I had years prior about group therapy when I hard Isaac sing. The role of Dr. Allen, which I had thought I was writing for myself, immediately became a role I wanted him to play. From then on, Isaac was the Dr. Allen in my head. It isn’t based on him at all, but it is tailor made for his remarkable ability and numerous gifts.

Isaac got my play and music into the hands of Tom Burmester and Danika Sudik of the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble. They honored me with the chance to perform the show as a script reading with music in front of their company members and anyone else I wanted to invite. Isaac played Dr. Allen, many of my closest actor friends and family performed the other roles and Josh Allan Dykstra and I played all the instruments.

Isaac during the first ever stage reading of Group

One of the first things Tom asked me afterwards was exactly WHO I wanted the show to be about. It was, and continues to be, an ensemble piece but Tom wanted me to focus on one driving story. This inspired me to first add monologues by Dr. Allen that would weave the play together and then add Dr. Allen’s back story which is the heart of the show.

The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble honored Josh and I by giving us six workshop performances. We brought in the great Richard Tatum to direct it and began casting. Now, we did not precast any of the roles, so I was a little nervous that Richard might want someone else to play the role I created for Isaac. Thank God he saw in him what I did and the call back was for all of the other roles.

During the rehearsal process, Tom & Danika offered us the opportunity to turn the workshop performances into previews and to officially open in January. Despite the fact that I was still making extensive rewrites on a weekly basis and the show was still evolving, we decided to invite every Ovation voter and reviewer we knew to one of our early previews.

The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble

It should be noted that I’m proud of our previews and the positive responses we received. It needs to be said, however, that I did 18 pages of rewrites between the previews and our opening and ALL of our critical acclaim and surprising recognition was based on that early version. Now that I know we were on the Ovation map, so to speak, I feel like an idiot for sharing the preview version.

Of course the LA Stage Alliance didn’t recognize us for book or music, the shows that were nominated were amazing and our show was supposed to just be a workshop! I’m not saying that we would have received more recognition had we only invited critics and Ovation voters to see the actual run of the show, I’m just trying to point out how pleasantly surprised and floored I am by the recognition. Then again, something that didn’t change from those early performances was Isaac’s brilliant portrayal of Dr. Allen.

He was freaking amazing during our staged reading, killed it during the previews, nailed it during the run and took it to a whole other level when we did encore performances in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. (I did another ten pages of rewrites for those performances).

As the show continues to grow and change, one thing remains: I will always hear and see Isaac Wade playing the lead. I could not be more pleased that he has been recognized for his remarkable performance.

Here is the complete list of Ovation nominees including the five other nominations for the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s Gospel According to First Squad (including nominations for the producers of Group, Tom & Danika):http://www.lastagealliance.com/ovation_nominees.htm


Group Honored By StageSceneLA

StageSceneLA is a Los Angeles based theatre website devoted to reviewing and supporting local theatre. I don’t know how he does it, but Steven Stanley literally sees hundreds of shows each year.

My musical, Group, was honored to have Steven see Group at the Powerhouse Theatre during our previews back in December of 2010 and then again during our encore performances in the June 2011 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Both times he gave us a “Wow” his signature exclamation for his favorite shows.

Steven Stanley of StageSceneLA

This morning, September 12, 2011, Steven Stanley released his picks for the best of 2010 – 2011 theatre awards, known as Scenies. A full list of the award recipients can be found here: http://www.stagescenela.com/2011/09/stagescenela-announces-best-of-2010-2011-awards/

There are many awards, but if you saw literally hundreds of shows every year, there would be many you would like to recognize as well :)

The awards that Group won include:

OUTSTANDING NEW MUSICALS OF 2010-2011
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR/MUSICAL (Isaac Wade)
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, MUSICAL
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL (Richard Tatum)
OUTSTANDING MUSICAL DIRECTION/INTIMATE THEATER (Adam Emperor Southard)

Technically, I was the co-music director with my songwriting partner Josh Allan Dykstra.

What an honor to be included amongst such respected and amazing shows.


Holding Pattern

Until Group is officially published, I’m just going to consider it a work in progress. I don’t care how many versions of it are performed, I’m going to keep tweaking it until it’s “perfect”… which is not a real thing. SO, now I have ideas about how to take off about 5-7 minutes from the first act, that will tighten it up a little bit, but I’m in a holding pattern. I’m not going to touch it. I would rather see if the next company agrees with my new ideas or if I’ve lost my mind and I shouldn’t touch a thing.

The truth is, I’ve become so incredibly reliant on working with a group of people. I’m barely interested in creating for and by myself anymore. I want instant feedback and interaction. Testing something out with gifted actors is SO much more interesting and useful than simply making a few changes by my lonesome.

So, here I sit with Group in a holding pattern ready to take off into previously unexplored skies. Here it is waiting to go. Here I am plotting the course. Wondering when I’ll be able to take off. Wait, is holding pattern lingo related to taking off or landing…googling… NO! It’s the pattern they fly in while waiting to land. My stupid metaphor makes no sense! I’ve titled the blog after it. Screw it. I’m in no mood for rewrites.

Of course, now that I think of it, there is a reason why a bad plane metaphor is on my mind. I’m flying to by home state of Michigan this weekend. Keeping my play in the batters box would have been a more apt metaphor given the fact that you can strike out or hit a home run with every little rewrite. And yet, here I am rambling… in the waiting room… wondering when the next theatre company will call me in to diagnose me as AWESOME! haha… oh boy… yup. Should have taken a nap instead of blogging about rewrites I’m afraid to make without approval.

Forgive me.

Airline travel always makes me a little nervous.

Look at the photo I used in this blog post. That’s terrifying.

OH, and there are future productions possibly in the works, so stayed tuned will you? Yes? Thank you.


The official Group website

Thank you for visiting the official website for the musical Group. On this site you will find information about the show, reviews from past performances of Group and information about the creatives involved. Group is a musical about college group therapy sessions that ultimately is about our need to love and to be loved.

“You’re going to find your peace here”


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