Age in the Cage

Ladies and gentlemen!  This is it.  The battle for the heavyweight championship of the room.  In the house right corner, wearing the muted colors, she is known as the Brooding Brawler. . Abby!!!!  Her opponent, fighting out of house left, wearing the light, bright colors, she is called Sinfully Sweet. . .Marilyn!!!  And now. . .LET’S GET READY TO RIPCORD!!!!!!!! at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord tells the story of two senior home roommates who mix about as well as oil and water.  Curmudgeonly Abby is used to having the room to herself and cannot stand her new perky roommate, Marilyn.  When Marilyn claims never to get angry and Abby claims never to get scared, the two ladies make a bet.  If Abby angers Marilyn, then Marilyn will move to a different room.  If Marilyn scares Abby, she gets Abby’s bed by the window.  The result is an escalating war of pranks between the two women as they pull out all the stops to win the bet.

Lindsay-Abaire has written a clever script reminiscent of The Odd Couple with the exception that the two main characters are not friends, giving their interactions a bit more of an edge.  The script moves quite fast and is seasoned with hot zingers, sautéed with some well placed over the top moments, has a dash of drama and sensitivity, but has a peculiar palate cleanser of an ending.

Kimberly Faith Hickman has gathered a gaggle of comedic talent which she leads to solid and uproarious performances.  Ms Hickman has mastery of the beats as she knows when to let her performers go huge, be normal, or pluck the heartstrings.  The staging of the show is quite strong as, even in the slower moments, there is always a bit of movement from the actors to keep the scenes animated.

Three character actors playing multiple roles support the action of the play, but each also has a particular role that allows them their best moment in the spotlight.  Matt Tarr’s towering presence and rich voice serve him best as a zombie butler in a haunted house.  Kaitlyn McClincy serves up some laughs as Marilyn’s somewhat devious daughter who gleefully assists her mother in winning the bet.  Kevin Goshorn shines in the show’s most poignant scene as the estranged, recovering addict son of Abby who visits her for the first time in years.

For a debut performance, Sahil Khullar is quite capable in the role of Scotty, the aide at the senior living center.  Khullar definitely has the personality for the kindly Scotty who is implied to be a struggling actor.  He also has a good instinct for timing, though his gestures need to be a bit more economical and precise.

But this show does indeed rest on the shoulders of its leading ladies.  Rest assured that Charleen Willoughby and Judy Radcliff are more than up to the task as the pair deliver gutbusting performances and have a chemistry and repartee bordering on the symbiotic.

Charleen Willoughby is a bitter delight as Abby.  Ms Willoughby well communicates Abby’s cynicism with a stony, stoic expression and bearing that says, “Just let me read and leave me alone”.  She always has a quiet sense of mourning about her, lamenting the things she either lost or never had.  Despite this downer description, Ms Willoughby does make this stick in the mud quite entertaining as her sense of delivery always makes Abby’s retorts and put-downs funny.  Ms Willoughby also allows Abby’s long buried decent heart peek out from time to time with her love of her plants and the wistfulness of wanting grandchildren.

Judy Radcliff is a darling scream as Marilyn.  Ms Radcliff makes Marilyn so sweet and sunshiney that one could probably spit in her face and she would laugh it off.  Ms Radcliff brings an incredible sense of fun and kindness to the chatty Marilyn who just wants to bring a little brightness to the days of others.  But a bit of orneriness lies beneath the sweetness as Marilyn dreams up the more dangerous pranks played in her war of oneupmanshp with Abby and the fact that she does it with a smile on her face makes it all the funnier.

Paul Pape has designed a fluid, open set bordered by ropes that easily transforms into the bedroom at the senior living facility to an airplane and to the airiness of a haunted house and the outside.  Jim Othuse’s lights are some of the best I’ve seen in a Playhouse show as they really help define the scenes with the eerie greens and reds of the haunted house to the shadows of trees and sunlight outside of Abby’s window.  John Gibilisco delivers on sound once again, especially with an impressive propeller sound effect in the skydiving scene.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes well define the personalities of the leading ladies with Marilyn’s bright, pretty dresses and Abby’s muted, sedate pantsuits.  I also was quite pleased with the original score composed by Timothy Vallier.

There were a few blips in this preview night performance.  Actors broke character on a few occasions with some of the jokes.  There also seemed to be a bit of a dead spot on house left as microphones didn’t seem to work quite as well there as they did on house right.  But these are easily fixable items.

I also thought the leading ladies were a little young to be in a senior living facility, but I also recognize the tough balancing act as I’m not certain older ladies would have been capable of handling the needed physicality for the roles.

This show has all the right ingredients for a most amusing night of theatre.  It’s got laughs.  It’s got heart.  It’s got sensitivity.  Get a ringside seat and watch the comedy brawl to win it all.

Ripcord plays at the Omaha Playhouse from Jan 19-Feb 11.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students.  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  A little discretion is advised due to some coarse language and inappropriate gestures.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Upcoming Auditions at Barn Players

The Crucible

By Arthur Miller
Directed by David Martin
Assistant Direction, Set Design & Sound Design by Steven James
Stage Management by DK Evenson
Lighting Design by Chuck Cline
Costume Design by Jenny Knecht
Props Design by Valerie Martin

AUDITIONS:

Thursday, March 2nd
from 7:00pm – 10:00pm
At St. Pius Church
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:

Auditions will be an open call and will consist of cold readings from the script. Callbacks are by invitation only on Monday, March 6th from 7:00pm – 10:00pm

Please come to auditions with as close an idea as you can as to your availability for June and July. The rehearsal period will be a fairly standard Sunday-Thursday, 7-10 pm schedule. All efforts will be made to arrange a rehearsal schedule that allows for actors only to be called when needed, but please try to keep conflicts to a minimum. No conflicts will be accepted during the final week of rehearsal.

A NOTE ABOUT DIALECTS

All characters, with the exception of Tituba, are from the New England area and should speak with a more proper Americanized nearly British accent. No character should have a Boston accent, nor should they speak in full on British accents. The best way to think about it would be to think of an American Shakespearean actor aiming for a regionless dialect.

If you have any questions about the process for this show or expectations or to arrange an alternative audition time should those dates not work for you or anything at all, please contact David Martin at dmartin922@gmail.com.

PRODUCTION DATES:

July 14 – 30, 2017
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm
Industry Night is Monday, July 24th at 7:30pm

SYNOPSIS:

The Crucible is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the late 1600’s. It focuses on accusations, trials, heresay vs. evidence, and character assassination. This production will take those elements and paint a broader picture of persecution over the entire history of witchcraft along with historical moments of those wrongfully accused. Great attempts will be made to bring the audience in as pseudo-jury members for the trials portrayed within the play.

CAST BREAKDOWN
(all ages listed refer to playable age and not actual age):

LEAD ROLES

John Proctor
A local farmer known for his independence and temper. He is married to Elizabeth Proctor who is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams, in part because Abigail and John had a brief affair. John is also accused of witchcraft and eventually sentenced to hang. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

Elizabeth Proctor
A quietly strong frontier wife who is honest to a fault and is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams. Married to John, she is spared the death penalty due to the fact she is pregnant. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

Abigail Williams
Prior to the start of the play, worked as a maid for the Proctors until she was fired by Elizabeth under suspicion of an affair with John. The ringleader of the young girls in terms of creating the witchcraft scare in Salem. Reverend Parris’ niece. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Reverend John Hale
A young minister from nearby Beverly, MA who is called in due to his knowledge of witchcraft. At first, Hale attempts to carry out the court’s wishes, though he later believes the entire situation to be false and fights for the victims of false accusations. (Male – 30+)

SUPPORTING ROLES

Reverend Samuel Parris
The minister of Salem. He is obsessed with keeping up his good reputation and assumes that anyone who does not attend church regularly or fails to recognize his piety is someone not to be trusted. (Male – 40’s)

Mary Warren
Replaced Abigail Williams as maid to the Proctors. She is alternatingly weak and strong when faced with pressure from others. She is a mostly sympathetic character who seems to simply be in over her head. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth
The chief judge of the court, he is power hungry and believes in wielding his power over any and all who are accused. According to Arthur Miller, he is the true villain of the play for he should know better than to let the trials proceed. (Male – 45+)

Judge John Hathorne
A judge of the court who essentially believes Abigail against all evidence to the contrary. (Male – 40+)

Giles Corey
A close friend to the Proctor family, his wife is falsely accused of witchcraft. He is frequently accused of various crimes himself, so he knows the law. He may resemble a town drunk, but he is smart, honest, strong, and outspoken. Must be visibly strong. (Male – late 60’s+)

Tituba
Slave of the Parris family, Tituba came to Salem from Barbados. She has knowledge of a mystical nature and helps the girls become infatuated with magic. This character will speak in a Barbados dialect. (Female, African American – any age)

Rebecca Nurse
Well respected and pious, Rebecca is accused of both witchcraft and infanticide by Ann Putnam – Rebecca had worked as a nursemaid for Ann. Married to Francis. (Female – 60+)

Francis Nurse
Tries incredibly hard to clear his wife’s name and his other friends who have been accused. Married to Rebecca. (Male – 60+)

Ezekiel Cheever
Clerk of the court responsible for crafting and carrying out warrants for arrest. (Male – any age)

Betty Parris
The young daughter of Reverend Parris, the play opens with her being ill. This sets off belief that she was caused illness by witchcraft. (Female – 15ish, must look younger than the other girls)

Thomas Putnam
A rich landowner trying to use accusations of witchcraft to buy up land cheaply from those convicted. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

Susanna Walcott
One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Mercy Lewis
One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Ann Putnam/Sarah Good/Martha Corey (these three roles will be combined)
Ann accuses Rebecca Nurse after seeing seven of her children die shortly after birth. Sarah is essentially accused for being strange. Martha (who we never see) has some questionable books about witchcraft and is eventually sentenced to die. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

Marshal George Herrick
A heavy drinker, Marshal Herrick carries out warrants and guards the inmates under arrest. (Male – any age)

NOTE – The Role of Hopkins has been cut.

Rumors

by Neil Simon
Directed by Bill Pelletier

OPEN CALL AUDITIONS:

Saturday, April 8, 2017 1pm – 5pm &
Sunday, April 9, 2017 1pm – 5pm
(No callback is planned at this time)
At St. Pius School
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS.

SYNOPSIS:

At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden’s Landing (Palisades) townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of Farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken and wife Chris must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusion and mis-communication mounts, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:

Prepare: Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Prior to auditions, please read and familiarize yourself with the play and the role/s that interest you.

Bring: Please bring a current resume and headshot. Also bring all known conflicts from April 30 through the June production dates listed below.

Rehearsal: Rehearsals will begin Sunday, April 30 and run Sunday-Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to approximately 10 p.m. Rehearsal will be at St. Pius School until the production moves to the Barn Players stage on Monday, May 8.

Additional Notes: Cast members are required to assist with strike following the final performance on June 18. Cast members may also be asked to assist with costume pieces.

PRODUCTION DATES:

June 2 – 18, 2017
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Monday, June 12 (Industry night performance) at 7:30 p.m.

All performances take place at The Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway, Mission, KS

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN

5M – 5FNOTE : Age ranges listed for characters are suggested ages only. These may be flexible depending on the actors.

KEN GORMAN – (M – 40) A well-to-do lawyer. Wealthy, but by no means pretentious. Takes charge of the situation. Married to Chris. Halfway through the show, a gunshot causes his temporary deafness.

CHRIS GORMAN – (F – mid-30s) Another lawyer, married to Ken. Beautiful, easily flustered. Frantically tries to maintain normalcy at the party. Has recently quit smoking, which drives her to drink a bit more.

LENNY GANZ – (M – Late 30s, early 40s) – A wealthy accountant, distraught over the recent destruction of his new car. Starts the show with an extreme case of whiplash. Intolerant of the gossipy-lifestyle that he is often involved in.

CLAIRE GANZ – (F – Late 30s) – Lenny’s wife. Very concerned with appearances (hers and others’). Likes to gossip.

ERNIE CUSACK – (M – Early 50s – 60s) – A psychiatrist. Affable, loves his wife very much. Tries to be as helpful as possible cooking the evening’s dinner.

COOKIE CUSACK – (F – 40s – 50s) – Has her own cooking show. Suffers from extreme back spasms. Loves her husband very much. A bit absent-minded at times.

GLENN COOPER – (M – 30-40) A handsome man running for State Senate. Worried about his own reputation. Struggles with placating his wife, who is convinced he is having an affair (which he may or may not be).

CASSIE COOPER – (F – late 20s, early 30s) Glenn’s beautiful wife. Obsesses over her husband’s relationships with other women. Quick to anger. Obsessively rubs her quartz crystal to calm herself down.

OFFICER WELCH – (M – 30-50) – A city police officer having a rough night. Does not tolerate lying. Sees through the “classy” façade that these high-society types put on.

OFFICER PUDNEY – (F – 20-40) – Welch’s partner. A strong but silent type.

For more information, please contact Eric Magnus, Artistic Director of The Barn Players, at emagnitude@me.com

The Barn Players embraces diversity in all aspects of our organization. Non-traditional and equal-opportunity casting is encouraged.

Open Auditions at Barn Players

Audition dates set for the Barn production of RUMORS!

Rumors

by Neil Simon
Directed by Bill Pelletier

OPEN CALL AUDITIONS:
Saturday, April 8, 2017 1pm – 5pm &
Sunday, April 9, 2017 1pm – 5pm
(No callback is planned at this time)
At St. Pius School
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS.

SYNOPSIS:
At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden’s Landing (Palisades) townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken, and wife, Chris, must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusion and miscommunication mounts, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:
Prepare: Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Prior to auditions, please read and familiarize yourself with the play and the role/s that interest you.
Bring: Please bring a current resume and headshot. Also bring all known conflicts from April 30 through the June production dates listed below.
Rehearsal: Rehearsals will begin Sunday, April 30 and run Sunday-Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to approximately 10 p.m. Rehearsal will be at St. Pius School until the production moves to the Barn Players stage on Monday, May 8.

Additional Notes: Cast members are required to assist with strike following the final performance on June 18. Cast members may also be asked to assist with costume pieces.

PRODUCTION DATES:
June 2 – 18, 2017
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Monday, June 12 (Industry night performance) at 7:30 p.m.

All performances take place at The Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway, Mission, KS

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN
5M – 5F
NOTE : Age ranges listed for characters are suggested ages only. These may be flexible depending on the actors.

KEN GORMAN – (M – 40) A well-to-do lawyer. Wealthy, but by no means pretentious. Takes charge of the situation. Married to Chris. Halfway through the show, a gunshot causes his temporary deafness.

CHRIS GORMAN – (F – mid-30s) Another lawyer, married to Ken. Beautiful, easily flustered. Frantically tries to maintain normalcy at the party. Has recently quit smoking, which drives her to drink a bit more.

LENNY GANZ – (M – Late 30s, early 40s) – A wealthy accountant, distraught over the recent destruction of his new car. Starts the show with an extreme case of whiplash. Intolerant of the gossipy-lifestyle that he is often involved in.

CLAIRE GANZ – (F – Late 30s) – Lenny’s wife. Very concerned with appearances (hers and others’). Likes to gossip.

ERNIE CUSACK – (M – Early 50s – 60s) – A psychiatrist. Affable, loves his wife very much. Tries to be as helpful as possible cooking the evening’s dinner.

COOKIE CUSACK – (F – 40s – 50s) – Has her own cooking show. Suffers from extreme back spasms. Loves her husband very much. A bit absent-minded at times.

GLENN COOPER – (M – 30-40) A handsome man running for State Senate. Worried about his own reputation. Struggles with placating his wife, who is convinced he is having an affair (which he may or may not be).

CASSIE COOPER – (F – late 20s, early 30s) Glenn’s beautiful wife. Obsesses over her husband’s relationships with other women. Quick to anger. Obsessively rubs her quartz crystal to calm herself down.

OFFICER WELCH – (M – 30-50) – A city police officer having a rough night. Does not tolerate lying. Sees through the “classy” façade that these high-society types put on.

OFFICER PUDNEY – (F – 20-40) – Welch’s partner. A strong but silent type.

 

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller

Directed by David Martin
Assistant Direction, Set Design & Sound Design by Steven James
Stage Management by DK Evenson
Lighting Design by Chuck Cline
Costume Design by Jenny Knecht
Props Design by Valerie Martin

AUDITIONS:
Thursday, March 2nd
from 7:00pm – 10:00pm

At St. Pius Church
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:
Auditions will be an open call and will consist of cold readings from the script. Callbacks are by invitation only on Monday, March 6th from 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Please come to auditions with as close an idea as you can as to your availability for June and July. The rehearsal period will be a fairly standard Sunday-Thursday, 7-10 pm schedule. All efforts will be made to arrange a rehearsal schedule that allows for actors only to be called when needed, but please try to keep conflicts to a minimum. No conflicts will be accepted during the final week of rehearsal.

A NOTE ABOUT DIALECTS
All characters, with the exception of Tituba, are from the New England area and should speak with a more proper Americanized nearly British accent. No character should have a Boston accent, nor should they speak in full on British accents. The best way to think about it would be to think of an American Shakespearean actor aiming for a regionless dialect.

If you have any questions about the process for this show or expectations or to arrange an alternative audition time should those dates not work for you or anything at all, please contact David Martin at dmartin922@gmail.com.

PRODUCTION DATES:
July 14 – 30, 2017

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm

Industry Night is Monday, July 24th at 7:30pm

All performances take place at…
The Barn Players Theatre
6219 Martway in Mission, KS

SYNOPSIS:
The Crucible is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the late 1600’s. It focuses on accusations, trials, hearsay vs. evidence, and character assassination. This production will take those elements and paint a broader picture of persecution over the entire history of witchcraft along with historical moments of those wrongfully accused. Great attempts will be made to bring the audience in as pseudo-jury members for the trials portrayed within the play.

CAST BREAKDOWN (all ages listed refer to playable age and not actual age):

LEAD ROLES

John Proctor:  A local farmer known for his independence and temper. He is married to Elizabeth Proctor who is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams, in part because Abigail and John had a brief affair. John is also accused of witchcraft and eventually sentenced to hang. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

 
Elizabeth Proctor:  A quietly strong frontier wife who is honest to a fault and is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams. Married to John, she is spared the death penalty due to the fact she is pregnant. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

 
Abigail Williams:  Prior to the start of the play, worked as a maid for the Proctors until she was fired by Elizabeth under suspicion of an affair with John. The ringleader of the young girls in terms of creating the witchcraft scare in Salem. Reverend Parris’ niece. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

 
Reverend John Hale:  A young minister from nearby Beverly, MA who is called in due to his knowledge of witchcraft. At first, Hale attempts to carry out the court’s wishes, though he later believes the entire situation to be false and fights for the victims of false accusations. (Male – 30+)

SUPPORTING ROLES

Reverend Samuel Parris:  The minister of Salem. He is obsessed with keeping up his good reputation and assumes that anyone who does not attend church regularly or fails to recognize his piety is someone not to be trusted. (Male – 40’s)

Mary Warren:  Replaced Abigail Williams as maid to the Proctors. She is alternatingly weak and strong when faced with pressure from others. She is a mostly sympathetic character who seems to simply be in over her head. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth:  The chief judge of the court, he is power hungry and believes in wielding his power over any and all who are accused. According to Arthur Miller, he is the true villain of the play for he should know better than to let the trials proceed. (Male – 45+)

Judge John Hathorne:  A judge of the court who essentially believes Abigail against all evidence to the contrary. (Male – 40+)

Giles Corey:  A close friend to the Proctor family, his wife is falsely accused of witchcraft. He is frequently accused of various crimes himself, so he knows the law. He may resemble a town drunk, but he is smart, honest, strong, and outspoken. Must be visibly strong. (Male – late 60’s+)

Tituba:  Slave of the Parris family, Tituba came to Salem from Barbados. She has knowledge of a mystical nature and helps the girls become infatuated with magic. This character will speak in a Barbados dialect. (Female, African American – any age)

Rebecca Nurse:  Well respected and pious, Rebecca is accused of both witchcraft and infanticide by Ann Putnam – Rebecca had worked as a nursemaid for Ann. Married to Francis. (Female – 60+)

Francis Nurse:  Tries incredibly hard to clear his wife’s name and his other friends who have been accused. Married to Rebecca. (Male – 60+)

Ezekiel Cheever:  Clerk of the court responsible for crafting and carrying out warrants for arrest. (Male – any age)

Betty Parris:  The young daughter of Reverend Parris, the play opens with her being ill. This sets off belief that she was caused illness by witchcraft. (Female – 15ish, must look younger than the other girls)

Thomas Putnam:  A rich landowner trying to use accusations of witchcraft to buy up land cheaply from those convicted. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

Susanna Walcott:  One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Mercy Lewis:  One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Ann Putnam/Sarah Good/Martha Corey (these three roles will be combined):  Ann accuses Rebecca Nurse after seeing seven of her children die shortly after birth. Sarah is essentially accused for being strange. Martha (who we never see) has some questionable books about witchcraft and is eventually sentenced to die. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

Marshal George Herrick:  A heavy drinker, Marshal Herrick carries out warrants and guards the inmates under arrest. (Male – any age)

NOTE – The Role of Hopkins has been cut.

For more information, please contact Eric Magnus, Artistic Director of
The Barn Players, at emagnitude@me.com

The Barn Players embraces diversity in all aspects of our organization. Non-traditional and equal-opportunity casting is encouraged.

A Season of Exploration, Part IV: From the Other Side of the Table

Well, it’s been a while since my last theatre tale and this one will actually conclude this season of tales.

As I stated in my last entry, I was going to serve as an Assistant to the Director for Lara Marsh for the Playhouse production of Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods.  This was an interesting process from start to finish as Lara actually put me through an orientation of sorts before launching me on the project.

First and foremost, she wanted to know why this particular show because she knows how selective I am about the projects I choose to take on.  I’ve always been particularly attracted to scripts that feature great strength of spirit and this play has that in spades in the form of its two leading characters, Christine and Gabriel.  Since I had also read for the role of Michael Dolan back when the show was a staged reading, I had enough familiarity with the script to decide it would be a good project to learn the ropes of directing.

My first assignment was to do some background research for the show.  As the story centers around helping a young refugee from the Sudanese Civil War, I compiled some research about Sudan, the Sudanese Civil War, Sudanese culture and customs, and Somalia and its culture (due to one of the characters being from that region).

Lara had done a large amount of research as well.  Over the past two years Lara had become a living encyclopedia about the Sudan and the Lost Boys in her efforts to bring this show to life.  She had mastered the extremely difficult Dinka dialect, had watched a number of documentaries, and read What is the What by Dave Eggers, a very hard to read, but eye opening account of the trek of the Lost Boys through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng who lived through it.

I am a big “devil in the details” type of person and Lara is of a similar bent which is why we worked so well together during this process and saw eye to eye on 98% of things.  Some directors prefer actors to have done no prep work before beginning the creative process so they can grow organically.  Others want the actors to have read the script before auditioning.  But Lara wanted her cast to be well grounded in the history behind this play so they would be able to better develop their characters.

Then came the night of auditions where I got to formally meet Jeanne Shelton, a stage manager I had read in front of on numerous occasions.  The auditions were a little less than I hoped for in terms of size.  I had secretly hoped for a slew of actors so we could have an overwhelming selection to pick and choose from.  We had enough people show up to cast the play with just a little overage.  But the lack of quantity was, by and large, made up by the quality shown by the people who did come to audition.

I had once heard it said that a director only needs 15 seconds to determine whether or not he or she is going to cast you.  I agree with that to an extent.  We may need more than 15 seconds to decide to cast you, but it only takes about 15 seconds to decide not to cast you.  And don’t think that means that the audition was bad.  I mentally eliminated a couple of people who had great reads immediately simply because they were not suitable for any of our roles.

Fortunately, we were able to cast most of our cast from the auditions.  A couple of roles didn’t have enough people audition and those that did were not quite right, so Lara had to find people to fill those roles.

Now we had a cast and could begin the creative process.  During the process I learned that directing is a lot more than just handling the artistic side of things.  I’m used to coming early and staying late as an actor, but a director needs to be there much earlier than anyone else and must stay much later.  Countless details need to be considered like sounds, lights, props, etc.

I even learned that directing has its own political side to get the things one needs for a show to be the best that it can be.  One prominent thing I learned is that the season finale in the Playhouse’s smaller theatre is nicknamed the “death slot”.

This isn’t a bad moniker.  But this show takes place at the end of the season so a great deal of money has already been spent by this point and there is still the final musical to be produced on the Playhouse’s Main Stage which is going to need a lot of money as they are usually big, lavish affairs.  It just means that some strategy and negotiation is necessary for the shows in this slot to get what it needs.  Keep in mind that some of the Playhouse’s best shows have taken place in this slot such as Biloxi Blues, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and our little effort which has become a critical darling.

As Assistant to the Director, you may think that my job duties were relegated to getting Lara’s coffee, sharpening her pencils, and being her all around gofer.  The reality was that I was closer to an Assistant Director.  I gave ideas to Lara and took very copious acting notes for the performers.  Lara took me very seriously, often incorporating my ideas into her own notes.

I learned a great deal about directing under Lara’s learning tree.  Like acting, directing is also an art because it’s about a lot more than telling actors how to perform.  It’s about working with all types of learning curves, temperaments, and experience levels.  It’s about knowing where, when, and why to give a note.

As a details guy, I was ready to get into the grit and gristle of things right away.  Lara taught me that you have to let the actors experiment at first.  Early notes are simple as the performers build the frame of the house.  Directors gently guide it so the proper foundation is built.  As that confidence grows, the notes become more detailed and nuanced to refine and shape the story.

I would have to say that my favorite directing moment came when I was working on a scene with our lead actress, Julie Fitzgerald Ryan, and Victoria Luther, who was playing her daughter.  They were having an argument and Julie’s character has a line where she says, “We’re supposed to be living in circles.  Concentric circles.  Circles within circles.”

When I heard that line, I said, “Do I dare?  Yes, I dare.”  Then I asked Victoria to mouth the words along with Julie as I felt her character had heard this speech about a million times.  It’s hit the mark every single time.

One thing I’ve noticed about working in this slot is that the rehearsal period seems to be a bit reduced.  There’s only about 4 weeks of rehearsal as opposed to the 5 or 6 weeks I’m used to.  That means rehearsals almost every day for 4 to 5 hours at a clip to get where we need to be.

So fast forward to preview night.  I hadn’t been so nervous for a show since my first one.  What will the audience think?  Will they love it?  Will they hate it?  Will they ride me out of town on a rail?

I wait with baited breath until the end of the show and the audience rose to its feet for a standing ovation.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  One hurdle crossed.

Now it’s opening night.  The extra real deal, as it were.  The cast came out all guns a blazing and just nailed it to the floor.  Every review (5 of them at this point) has been glowing making Lost Boys Found at Whole Foods one of the most critically well received shows of the season.  And I had helped make it happen.

I rank this event as one of my prouder accomplishments in theatre and something more remarkable happened.  As I helped to guide this cast, my own skills as an actor were reinforced and, for the first time in a long while, I good and truly felt the itch to perform again.  So now I’m looking to tell a story again and found at least one promising show next year.

Well, that wraps up this season of tales.  I will return with a new season that I like to call “A Season of Renewal”.  We’ll see you then.