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Monday, June 6, 2016

A Thank You


From the moment that this who thing started several months ago I was skeptical. I have been far busier than I have ever been in my life. Everything has had some bit of stress attached to it. This show has been something that brought along a large amount of stress but all for the right reasons. Never was the stress about not being able to do this or that, or worrying about my actors. It was always on whether or not the audience was going to like the show, or even if I was going to like the show when it was all said and done.

Here we are on the other side. The play is over and we're all still standing. That would not have been possible without the help from so many different people and to each of them, thanks are in order. First and foremost are my actors, Ben Lawrence, Isaac Meisenheimer and Hannah Fretz. Without them this show does not exist. They have worked through my inability to direct and have created something that I believe we can all be proud of. 

Next, I would love to thank Ruth Drake and Emily Upton for all of the magic that they do. These two have brought the characters to life in a spectacular way. From the ridiculous earring and billowing short that Ben wore, to the flowers and amazing makeup designs for both Isaac and Hannah. No matter how stupid or ridiculous my requests were, these two managed to make everything work.

Finally I would like to thank my fellow directors. You are all amazing and without all of you, this term would have been unbearable. We've all shared our directorial woes over drinks and good company. We've all gotten up at an inhumane hour of the morning to hike through forests and jump over tide pools. I couldn't have asked for better group of directors to do this with. Thank you.

Overall Impressions

I apologize for the extremely late posting of all these blogs, however these are records from various rehearsals and conversations with actors.

From start to finish, this has been a great experience for a multitude of reasons. I really find it difficult to explain what this show has done to and for me. I cannot thank everyone involved enough.

From the off, I dealt with complications that usually I see the directors deal with, but have never fully experienced myself. The biggest was trying to make a rehearsal schedule. Brad was booked in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Max had Dam Jam coming up, and Mike was, and still is, in the marching band. Unlike a main-stage production, I did not have the ability to say, “These are our rehearsal times, please adjust accordingly.” There were three weeks when Brad could not rehearse during the times that the others were available. THREE WEEKS. I knew that when I casted him, but once we got to that period of rehearsals, I was worried. I was concerned. However, Mike and Max were ready to go as soon as Brad’s schedule cleared up. That was great that they put in their work even though we did not have rehearsal for a long amount of time.

Our first rehearsal was so much fun. We did walking exercises, and I asked them questions about their characters that can be seen in the blog posts. I ask those questions in order to get the actors thinking, but then ask later once they have a solid answer. The goal of the first rehearsal, for me, is to begin them thinking about the overall production, what they bring to the table as an actor, what their character brings forward, and what they are able to do/restrictions they may have. For example, it was a chance to further see Mike’s French accent. In the first rehearsal, Brad brought something that I did not even think about: a voice for Riverman. It was great to see someone take an unprompted stride toward a strong show. Obviously, we workshopped the accent, but to have something brand new presented to me was extraordinary.

After our first rehearsal, we suffered a set-back. Max fractured his ankle and would be in a cast for at least four weeks, or to put into terms of the production, he would be in a cast until the Tuesday before we opened. Immediately, I began going through the possible ways to correct that; what if we gave him a cane? Or maybe crutches? What about a wheelchair? But that will change all the blocking. Or maybe, we play it up that he’s an injured goon. I plowed through the possibilities. Max came to rehearsal in his cast, we worked around his limited mobility, and then Max told me he believed we would not have to change the blocking. That was a great thing to hear, but would it be true?

Once Liz was able to come to a rehearsal, I was extraordinarily nervous. Not for the guys onstage, but for myself. What if I am not giving them blocking that leads to their best performance? What if my notes have been unhelpful or have steered them the wrong way? Liz gave me notes, obviously, about what could progress further. The biggest was that she felt the guys were not listening to each other, which made total sense to me. Truth be told, our off-book day was two days before she watched, so they were still concerned with memorizing lines and blocking at the same time. At that time, I did not feel we were at our strongest, and that is probably true of all productions. Once actors go off-book, I think there is a minor step backwards as they call for line, or are in the wrong spot so we have to stop and reset. It is a difficult rehearsal the first they are off-book, and I am sure Liz can attest to that.


Once we got into regular run-thrus with the rest of the cast watching, the guys were able to finally learn about holding for laughs. The first run-thru, Liz commented to me that she did not hear half of the lines after a joke because the guys did not wait for the laughs. Obviously there were the general notes about projection, enunciation, and keeping eyes up, but the guys were making strides. After each night, they would ask “Can we do this?” My response was always the same; “Let’s try, and see what happens.” Most of the time, we kept what they tried because it added further detail and excitement to the story. We changed stuff even on the night before opening because something new came up with the costumes. It was a luxury to be able to discover more even at that point.

The performances went well. We were the closing play, so the guys had to bring the energy each night. The audiences enjoyed the show, I believe. And the guys loved acting in it. The smiles on their faces as they took their bows were awesome.

Mike Stephens - Brian Greer

I apologize for the extremely late posting of all these blogs, however these are records from various rehearsals and conversations with actors.

Mike Stephens plays the character of Monsieur Poulette in the play. Like Brad, I’ve known Mike from other theatre work at Oregon State University, most notably Bard in the Quad’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have had acting classes with Mike, so I also have some understanding of how he works and how he works with others. Again, being in the lab theatre, the show calls for an over-the-top nature. And Mike has delivered so far. Poulette is ridiculously stereotypically French. The costume choice is a turtle neck, scarf, beret, and mustache. Mike is excellent to work with as he constantly wants to try something new.

I asked each of my actors five questions to respond to:

What is your character’s primary goal?
He wants to rule/conquer the world.

Who does your character trust the most? It does not have to be another character.
Can I say himself? That would be my answer. Obviously he doesn't trust the two goons to do anything.

What is your character’s relation to his parents?
I have a feeling his mom would have died when he was young and his father didn't really care for him. It sounds so Bond-like, but that’s a lot of villains.

What is your character’s favorite novel?
I have a view that are engrained in French culture, and the world knows it. The Stranger by Albert Camus, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, and In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.

Is your character a virgin?
Probably. Since we’ve determined that part of him taking over the world is a form of overcompensation, I assume he's a virgin as well. The power that would come with ruling the world may allow him to have that first time finally.

The last is obviously an odd question, but it opens up a very personal side of the character and makes the actor think about something they wouldn't normally think about.

Directing

Closing show. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I will miss everyone one of my actors, fellow directors, and everyone else who put effort into the one acts. The whole process confirmed in me a passion for directing that will be with me for the rest of my life. I cannot wait to see what other opportunities and shows I will pour myself into. From choosing the play, to strike, every moment spent working on this show has been enlightening and exciting. Even when I was stressed out or worried.

I can't wait till I get to direct my next show. And I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work as a director for OSU's spring one act festival.


Maxwel Bettendorf - Brian Greer

I apologize for the extremely late posting of all these blogs, however these are records from various rehearsals and conversations with actors.

Maxwel Bettendorf plays the character of Gary. Gary is the other goon in the play. Gary, in a way, is dragged into this crisis rather than entirely choosing to be in it. However, he is the one that comes up with the plan for Blarney to impersonate Riverman. What Max brings to the table is energy, without a doubt. Known for hosting Dam Jam the past two years, he obviously has a great stage personality, and it was good to see him at the one-act festival again. He is charismatic as a person, and it translated to Gary.

I asked each of my actors five questions to respond to:

What is your character’s primary goal?
His goal is to uphold the status quo.

Who does your character trust the most? It does not have to be another character.
I think he trusts Poulette, even though he doesn't like working for him. He wants to ensure that the story carries on the way it’s supposed to, which is why he tells Blarney to put on Riverman’s costume.

What is your character’s relation to his parents?
I don’t know, I bet he’s an orphan actually. Like Brad said about Blarney, he's in a life of crime. And I think that’s why he trusts Poulette is because he is that father figure.

What is your character’s favorite novel?
I don’t think Gary reads.

Is your character a virgin?
God no.


The last is obviously an odd question, but it opens up a very personal side of the character and makes the actor think about something they wouldn't normally think about.

Directors and friends

My fellow directors have become some of my best friends.

PJ is a lovely person all around, inside and out. Her laugh, passion and dedication astounds me. I especially love riding in her car listening to intense dance music and watching her air drum all the beats. Her show had excellent blocking, and a really fun set, not to mention it was really funny.

Reed. I love this kid! He has an awesome sense of humor, great hair, and is a genuinely sweet guy, and he's single ladies! I have been friends with him for over two years now, and I can honestly say he is one of my best friends. His show, "Dark King Kills Unicorn" was full of dark humor and some goofy bits, it was one of my personal favorites being very clever and well understood by the actors and the director. 

Kelsea and I have known each other for almost eight years, ever since high school she has been sweet, goofy, and kind to everyone around her, even me during my freshman year of high school when I was a total nerd. Her show went along with her personality perfectly, it was funny, quick, energetic and fun. 

Sedona's show, "Funeral Tea" was a lovely little British play that was classy and fun, just like Sedona.  Out of all the blocking I say in the shows hers impressed me the most. It is hard to direct five people on one small stage and make it look good! 

Brian is a gem, he is extremely hard working and dedicated, he has good ideas and isn't afraid to make big choices. His show was very clever and interesting. He did an amazing job in the one acts and I am so glad that I have gotten to know him better this year. 

Knokcers- Bonus Clips!!

So, I documented a lot of moments from our rehearsals since, from day one, it was clear that  this was a very excited group. I promised I'd publish this at the end so here you go!

Our Very First Rehearsal
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They're such a photogenic bunch
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Sometimes they just start screaming and there's nothing I can do to stop them.

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They're very flexible, too.


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And of course, there was dancing.
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And of course, since I had to teach Jesse how to strut, we all had to have a walk off.
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