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Monday, June 12, 2017

The Show Must Go On: The Two Minds of Mr. Coffan

It is our last day of tech and I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, this show is really shaping up!" and maybe that was the first problem. I get a text from my leading lady saying that she is too sick to come in. What am I suppose to do? It is my last rehearsal and tomorrow the show opens. EEEeeek! After telling Liz, my dilemma, she volunteers herself for the role of Adair. Now, if there is anything that I have learned it's that you have to keep up to date on your blocking in case this happens. I can't say that I did this for myself and, having a stage manager who was out sick for the last week, didn't help our case. Thankfully, my actors helped fill in the blanks where I fell short and we were able to watch a new production of The Two Minds of Mr. Coffan featuring Liz Helman. Once it came to performance day, I am glad to say that Amy was feeling better and we went on to have a great first performance. As the saying goes - the show must go on!

The Importance of Playwrights: The Two Minds of Mr. Coffan

I know I have mentioned this before, but I am extremely thankful that I had Hannah as my playwright. I consider myself lucky to have been provided a script which had a clear story and was extremely manageable to put up in the lab theatre by having a small cast, little set, and no scene changes. When Hannah needed to go home, I found it hard at first to collect some of my thoughts for the characters. There were questions that I wished I could have asked Hannah about their different qualities and I longed for clarification from her. I knew that I could text or call her if I was in a bind, but I wanted to take in on as a challenge. As a director, we don’t normally get to interact with the playwright that created the work we are trying to produce and we have to let the script speak for itself. I chose to take on this challenge and to create a show out of the resources that I had.  Although it was challenging, it proved to be fruitful. It forced me to dive into the script more than I might have if Hannah had been there. I had to solve problems, critique characters, and search for answers, on my on which was rewarding. 
The best part was when Hannah saw the show for the first time. I am not going to lie, it was a bit nerve wracking because while all of the other playwrights had some say in the matter, she had none upon her absence. And, it was tech week, so there was very little that could have been done if she were to hate the piece. So, there I was, in the back row, wondering what she would think of what I had done with her play. Thankfully, Hannah is a great audience member because she reacts in big ways to whatever is going on, on stage. When it was all finished, she came up to me and gave me a big hug saying, "You get it!" 
I think that is the cool thing about theatre, whether you're director, playwright or audience member, there are these moments where you think, "you get it!" and we are able to share this common experience. That's what makes it special and worth doing. 

Love Games: It Started Out With a Kiss...

It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling a cab
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it's all in my head
But she's touching his chest
Now, he takes off her dress
Now, let me go
I just can't look its killing me
And taking control
Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibis
But it's just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
Cause I'm Mr Brightside
This play was a lot all at once. It was a comedy, a melodrama, a political statement, and a little bit of tongue in cheek self-humor. Every night was its own roller coaster. I always love sitting with the directors in the back because we are just so alive the whole night. This is the only theatre that I feel actively invested in as an audience member. Normally I just sit back and react as is natural, but with this I find myself grasping the hands of my co-directors as difficult moments come up- as though by stabilizing ourselves together we can keep our actors grounded. 
I find myself whispering about the things that I discover after hearing the words relentlessly for weeks and I find myself laughing at things no regular audience member will find funny. For example- when Adair drops the pen and kicks it to George. On the last night she did exactly as she had before, but it was different this night. The pen broke in half! The actors looked at eachother and fumed for a single moment before George stormed over to his desk, opened the drawer, and pulled out a feather quill. A quill! Saying, "You're lucky I have extras." For any first time viewer, this was planned. They executed it so well that it fit seamlessly into the show. But to Sedona and I it could not have been funnier. We were in silent hysterics for several minutes afterwards. 
Viewing theatre as a crew/production member is wholly unique and something that I think every thespian should endure at least once. You see so much more of the story and of the reality behind every moment. 

Love Games: Seeing Double?

If you saw the show, I bet you noticed something unique. A sort of dejavu, a Parent Trap, clones perhaps? No, you weren't seeing double. Joe Cullen played two roles in the first two plays of the festival. He played Paul in Love Games and Mr. Baldwin in The Two Minds of Mr. Coffan. This was not our intended plan. Joe was originally cast only as Mr. Baldwin. But a few weeks ago when one of my actors, for reasons beyond his control, dropped out, I needed someone fast. Though we reached around the department, Joe was the only option we had on such short notice. I am very grateful to him and I am sure the rest of my cast is as well. He really saved us.

It was weird sharing an actor with another director and I must say I do not wan't to do it again. Being his first director, Sedona had priority with him. I tried not to step on her toes, but I also knew he was working hard to catch up. Sedona and I would schedule our rehearsals around each other so that Joe could get a break in between without having to take too much time out of his day. When it came time for the company runthroughs we would give notes all together at the end. I would pull my 3 aside and Sedona would corrale hers. I would split up notes, give Nikki, Stuart, and Moss their, dismiss them, then wait for Joe to be free to get his.

I know the feeling of doing two shows at once- having just done it with this show and The Upward Beating Heart, but I was impressed with how well he handled it. Though I could see his exhaustion, he never complained and was always 100% on stage. That's a talent. Overall, I would not recommend this method.

Love Games: Who are these humans?

Name: Nikki Hill
Role: Dr. Dahnrae Duran
Favorite line: "woah..sup bruh" "hi"
Favorite show/role you've done: this one! 
3 interests: dance, pasta, shoes
Fun fact: I have (tiny) metal plates in my face
Favorite summer activity: sleeping 



Name: Stuart Ashenbrenner
Role: Pablo in Love Games
Favorite line: “Do I look like I’m joking, Paul?"
Favorite show/role you've done: a dopey version of Longaville in Love’s Labour’s Lost at Bard in the Quad
3 interests: Playing piano and violin, coaching high school basketball, listening to Frank Sinatra on vinyl while drinking whisk(e)y (Sorry, I’m Canadian)
Fun fact: One day, last summer, I judged a pig livestock show at the Benton County Fair, then two hours later went and performed Shakespeare at Bard in the Quad.
Favorite summer activity: Floating down the dangerously, pseudo-poisonous Willamette River, Road trips to anywhere that isn’t Corvallis, and WEDDINGS (I may or may not be a hopeless romantic...)
























Name: Keiley "Moss" Neill
Role: Helen
Favorite line: "She will rue the day she crossed Helen Vasquez!"
Favorite show/role you've done: (HARD ONE...) Claudia the Invisible Girl in Horror High the Musical's original cast production
3 interests: Shakespeare, karaoke and online roleplaying
Fun fact: I can chirp like a cricket (requires some effort; may refuse if you ask me to do it.) 
Favorite summer activity: Working the Clark County Fair with my Cousins. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Love Games: A Play about Love, Deception and Sweet Sweet Revengre

"Getting ready for the best night. Best night of my life, Everything is going to be just right. Putting on a robe that's warm, but light. *Sprays Perfume* Squirt-Squirt Best-best. *Pour Wine* Glug-glug Best-best. Getting ready, my tummy is your nest, because I'm stepping in the best. Ahhh, best."
-Roger Smith

In other words it's show night! All the work of the past months have been building up to this. The One Act festival. We've been ready for this for past week. Our first night was great and I can only see it getting for the rest of the nights.
Last night was a big night for me. Not only was it the first night patrons saw the show, but my grandparents came to see my show. I was a very nervous for them to see, because my play may be more progressive than they are, but my fears went away because my grandma loved it. It made me feel good and even more excited for the rest of the nights.
It was decided that I would be the main Stage manager for the show and I would call the production. It's always a bit weird getting adjusted to people listening to what I need them to do, but it has been working out very well. It can be tough, because I treat everyone's mistakes as my own. Luckily there hasn't been too many, but still my stomach flip flops whenever there is mistakes.
I am so proud of what we have as a cast, all three shows have come together and it has worked so well together.

Everyone should come see the show. It runs for the rest of this weekend June 2nd-4th. The 2nd and 3rd at 7:30, house opens 7:00pm. 4th at 2:00, doors open at 1:30. It's at the Withycombe Lab Theatre, Bring your families, friends, lovers, everyone! Spread the word and it'll be good fun!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Love Games: I'M A POWER BOTTOM

No, you read that right. That is one of Pablo's lines. Yesterday we went outside after relinquishing Joe to Sedona, his primary director, and the three of us worked on projection. I had each of them chose a line and practice projecting it to me from far away. Watching Stewart gleefully shout to all of campus, "I'M A POWER BOTTOOOOOOOM" was a highlight of my day that I didn't expect.

 Projection is something I've found myself being responsible for teaching here. I've always had a large voice but, after 7 or 8 years of vocal training, I have picked up a trick or two. If I had to boil down the lessons that my 3 college voice professors have taught me it would be this:

Dr. Richard Poppino: Good singing is not a matter of trying harder, but trying correctly.

This translates to the fact that projecting is not being louder, but arranging your vocal chords and body in a way that allows the sound to carry farther. Imagine a scenario where you're playing a song on your phone, but it's still too quiet. Take your phone and put it in a cup or with the speaker facing the back wall of a cabinet and suddenly you can hear it better. The sound didn't get louder, it is just carrying to your ears easier.

Dr. Marc Callahan: Breath support is life, 💁.

Singers are afraid to use their breath. It's contradictory but it's true. We're used to singing very long phrases so we instinctively save our breath, but that causes all of the notes to be weaker. Imagine you have a ball of dough in your hands. The wider you spread it out, the thinner it gets. If you make the pizza too big, the dough won't be thick enough to support itself. We speak in pitches and talking is a very staccato form of singing. So having proper breath support is key.

Bereniece Jones: Smell the roses.

We're so afraid of deep breathing. Maybe it's because it takes conscious effort, maybe we don't like our stomach getting larger, or maybe we don't have the time. I could theorize all day on why learning how to breathe properly is not instinctive AT ALL. But Bereniece got one thing right. When preparing to sing, or project, you need proper breath. I have heard Broadway performers use this technique. Try it for yourself: inhale through your nose like you are trying to smell a rose and notice how your chest expands. Maybe you get that stretch and lift in the back of your throat like the beginnings of a yawn. That is great breathing and it's quieter (and deeper) than mouth breathing.