is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Allie Darden 'Checking In' at New York Theatre July 17th

Allie Darden and Brian Hampton
Hear ye!  Hear ye, y'all!  Checking In's VIP Screening will be held at the reRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn on Wednesday July 17th (2 weeks from today)!   

Checking In, Brian Hampton's play that premiered successfully to an appreciative Actors Guild of Lexington audience in 2005, will be shown in movie form on that day as a show of appreciation for the author's supporters, cast and crew, and our own most gracious of gorgeous folks, Allie Darden will be among the attendees.

Color me chartreuse with envy.  I love New York in the Summer, and I adore Allie and Bob and Brian and Roy.  Dangit.  Still, I'm happy to live vicariously through Ms. Darden -- she is surely to be applauded as she so richly deserves.
I  first met Brian Hampton at THE JUNGLE FUN ROOM opening night at Studio Players

Allie says, "Bob is accompanying me on this trip and he's super excited for me and all of us! My outfit choice: I've got 2 choices in mind, just have to make the final decision. Gotta dress to impress! hahaa!"

When I told her I wanted to blog about the news I received in her happy message, she replied in her usual humble fashion. "A blog would be awesome, but honestly, I wasn't writing for that reason. You had been asking me about it, and I wanted to fill you in. I know how much you love Brian Hampton too!"

Allie and hubby Bob Singleton
Indeed, my love for all things Brian Hampton is unabashed, as I have posted more than just a few blogs about him ... and about Allie Darden, too. They are two of the most refreshing people I have met in covering the arts over the years. They're also both ridiculously fun to talk or drink or eat or watch plays or do just about anything with -- they're true entertainers, in and out. Their friendship began when Allie was cast as Brooke in Checking In when the play first came to Lexington, and since they are more or less birds of a feather -- for example, they both are the consummate professionals and arrive early at the theatre before each performance -- their kinship has grown over the last 8 years or so.  Brian has written more plays, each as fabulous as the others, and has met a measure of success that is simply a pleasure to watch.  He and Allie are also the ultimate advisers whenever my spirits are a bit down or out. So it is no surprise their paths continue to meet, much to their enjoyment.  

Darden is "so very, very excited to get to watch the movie, edited in its entirety, with the cast, crew, and the real ladies who inspired these characters!"

"Checking In has been such a part of my life since 2005. Started at Actors Guild of Lexington, then a staged reading at The Blackbird Theatre in NYC, then a festival run at The Midtown International Theatre Festival, the shooting of the film in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, and now finally, I feel like we're coming full circle with the VIP Screening in 2 weeks.  I have been honored to have been asked consistently to play Brooke after originating this character at Actors Guild. Getting to know Brian through the creative and professional process has made us lifelong friends. It has been an amazing, wild ride!  We've all worked so hard with each new adventure, and this screening is going to be so much fun. We can just sit back and watch. I'm so thrilled! I can't even put it into words. I don't know where the movie is going to go after this, but I know that I personally have achieved so many things during this process."

I'm sure I'm saying something important here. Lol
The shooting of the movie was full of ups and downs, as anything creative with a time limit will be. Darden relates a few of the stories for us.  "One night, we had an all night shoot scheduled, and we all tried desperately to nap all day so that we would be rested for an all-night shoot. It came time to shoot, and I was rested and ready for it, when a beautiful storm rolled in and lightning blew out a transformer shutting off all of the power. We waited, and finally were released and told to resume the next morning. I should have been relieved, but I was wired! I had forced myself to sleep all day in preps for the all-night shooting, so needless to say, it was a struggle to go back to sleep." 

Roy Chicas and Brian Hampton, a/k/a The Champtons

"One night, we were filming a particularly emotional scene outside by the pool. We kept getting interrupted by guests of the hotel out on their balcony watching us shoot the scene. They were so interested and kept asking questions and discussing things to themselves very loudly, and it was being picked up by the boom mic. We kept stopping and starting, and stopping starting. It was getting frustrating, and it was also around 3 AM when this was all happening, so we just hoped that eventually they would go to bed!"
"Finally, one of the funniest things that happened was during another nighttime outside shoot. All of a sudden one of our actresses screamed. Running up behind her was a skunk! We had never heard of a skunk hanging out at the beach, but there it was. It was hilarious! We had so much fun, and yes a lot of stress, during the entire process.  I'm ready to bask in it all and raise a toast to celebrate.  I will cherish these memories, the people that I've meet, and the experience for the rest of my life."

Brian Hampton is anxious to reunite with his beloved cast and crew, too. He also tells me this play set the wheels in motion for his now-established writing career. "Checking In was my first full-length play I'd ever written. So it took me a long time, probably 5 years. It's hard to tell. I had no idea what I was doing. But I learned. I kept putting it down, and then I'd pick it up again, and then I realized one day that it was done."
The play is set in Atlantic City, where a group of friends gather for a reunion of sorts.
As for the setting and plot of the play, Brian admits, "The premise was easy ... and I feel like it's really relatable.  Friendship takes work; but, if you put the time and energy into it, it leads to family."

"Friendship takes work, but if you put time and energy into it, it leads to family."
So, what is next for Hampton?  He has so much going on, it's hard to keep track if you're following him on social media.  He takes it all with the same ease with which he writes. "Well, next up is my first screening of Checking In which I decided to do on my birthday, July 17th. This is for all the major backers, the actors, musicians, and pretty much everyone who gave their talents. It's my way to show them the movie and to thank them for all they've done for it. And to celebrate BIG TIME. It will also give me an idea of what to do with it next. I've learned a lot about patience and following the path that opens up, so I'm looking forward to hearing from my friends and the first audience. Their reaction will drive the next decision for the piece."

"Gossip" is a new high school one-act Hampton wrote.  

"Then, I'm finishing up my new piece which is a brand new book. It's completely original and completely wicked. I can't wait for people to read it. I'm not talking about the details yet, but let's say, if you know me, you are not going to be surprised.  Then, I've got a new play in the works...but I think maybe I'll hit that after a little rest."

When asked where he wants to take his work, Hampton seems happy to let his art lead its own way.  "Where do I want to go with my work? Hmm. I'll go wherever it takes me."

Rick St. Peter (far left), the former director of  Actors Guild of Lexington directed the film, just as he directed the play when it premiered at AGL.  St. Peter and Brian Hampton have been friends since college.  St. Peter describes Hampton as "one of the funniest people I have ever known."  Hampton's humor is sure to take him far in the world of entertainment.
Brian had once told me his "secret talent" was as a cartoonist, so I asked him if he'd done of that lately. "Funny you mentioned my cartoons! Original Works Publishing actually chose my drawing for the cover of The Jungle Fun Room book, which is so cool -- and I just drew the logo for Gossip too!"
"Gossip is a new high school one-act I wrote. It centers around a group of high school friends who graciously befriend a mysterious and infectious new student. But, as stories are manipulated and relationships crumble, all roads tragically lead back to one place. 
It's a twisted little tale about Gossip and the effects of it.

Me, and lambchops Kathy & Greg Jones and Allie & Bob
Hampton is eager to chat with his good friend again soon, as anyone who has the pleasure of knowing Allie Darden would. "I'm so excited to see Allie! I haven't seen her since we finished filming 2 years ago, and that's just not right! Plus Bob is coming with her, and the three of us have a lot of celebrating to do!" 

I was invited to the VIP screening, but I'm staying home and playing my ukulele.  I wish the cast and crew of CHECKING IN all the very best and hope it is a big smashy-smash!  See y'all at the, Kimmy

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