Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day Nine


It’s like they say. A play is called a play for a reason. It’s always been fascinating to me the amount of stress that comes with doing a play. Now, I’m not talking about the behind the scenes aspects. Everyone knows business is hard. I’m talking creatively. It never made much sense to me to tear myself apart, or have others do the same, in order to put up a good product. To me, if it is your “passion”, or “goal”, or “desire”, shouldn’t it be fun?
I want an environment where work and play are intertwined. Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that we are to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. This is to simply remember that, to some extent, this is a release. This is fortitude of spirit. This artistic endeavor is what gives you balance. Let’s be real. Nobody makes money in theatre. So why else do it if it isn’t giving your soul some joy?

I believe in theatre as entertainment. As an escape. There are plenty of amazing works I love that deal with social classes, racism, rape, disintegration of family, etc. But the plays I like to see take me away from the world for a little while. Let me have a bit of fantasy. Let me inhabit a world I wouldn’t otherwise. To me, this is the cardinal goal in putting up any show. To entertain.
Let me emphasize: This show is no cream puff. Cream puffs taste good, but don’t stick with you. It’s dense like mercury. But. We still have an obligation to create an alternate world for the audience. And in order to do that, in my thinking, we must have fun.

Tonight, we had fun.

It’s amazing to me the things that can be gained from improv. In being given a set of circumstances, a relationship, and a setting, you are opened to many possibilities. Barriers are broken. Nothing is off limits. The impossible is possible. (the last statement may have been stolen from many movies, and isn’t necessarily true. As a rule, the impossible is not generally possible).

I, again, feel a great sense of ease where we are in this show. I’m comfortable. I’m confident. I’m content.
I’m not content, but I am comfortable and confident.

To my actors: Awesome work.

To the rest of you, in all sincerity…

Thanks for reading my blog

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 8


So, as I’m sure you all noticed, I didn’t post a blog last night. Please excuse my negligence. My little Pomeranian, Mac, had gone missing for two days. I was a wreck. A Good Samaritan found him for me this morning. He was being held at the West Valley shelter. They picked him up at 3600 S 6200 W. I live downtown! I know he gets tired after walking two blocks, so I have no idea how he got way the hell out there. But he’s home and all is well. Two sleepless nights and $50 later, I’m back to writing…

I tend to get a little carried away during rehearsals. I get so excited once I see things starting to happen, that I start to want it all now. I try to keep that in check. It’s not very fair to the actors. We had our first off book run tonight, and I took five pages of notes. Five pages? Really We aren’t nearly far along for me to be taking five pages of notes. But I write down everything I think, no matter how insignificant. It’s a fault, and I’m working on it. But I am very excited about things, and that I don’t want to work on.

These actors work so hard. I know they are very hard on themselves, whether they admit it or not. In a way, I like that. In another way, I like them to know I’m not worried. We are doing amazing things. I have complete confidence.
I’ve mentioned before the density of the script. It has twists and turns, and twists and turns that don’t seem like twists and turns. It’s pretty easy to have an answer to something one day, and have a completely different answer to the same thing the next. It is the nature of this script. There are so many peaks and valleys in this roller coaster of a play that it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s up and what’s down.

The run went well tonight. We are coming up on a ten day hiatus next week Everyone needs a summer vacation. I am supremely happy that we are in a comfortable spot. I’d be nervous if we weren’t where we are. Road bumps? Yes. Wrong turns? Definitely. But that’s the fun of discovery, isn’t it? We do know what we want and what we think works. And knowing is half the battle.

Becky’s mom is coming back into town tomorrow for her birthday. She lives in Hawaii, and won’t be able to come see the run. So, she’s coming to see a rehearsal tomorrow night. I’m interested to know what she thinks.

Signing off for now. See you tomorrow.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day Six

Plugging away. We’re working through the play in chunks. Five pages left, then a run on Wednesday.

Intensity is an interesting thing. There are so many ways to express it. Through volume. Through lack of volume. In body. With a look. It’s a tricky proposition, intensity, because it has to be thick. It needs to be palpable. And the only way to make that happen is to know exactly what’s going on, to know exactly what you are saying.
As I work through a script, I don’t let any word slide. I don’t let any moment slip by. They are all important. Every phrase, every line, every word…every raise of an eyebrow, every turn upstage, every time you sit down…it all means something. That’s what we are in the middle of right now. Pounding away until we figure out what everything means. It gives an immense satisfaction when we figure it out. And these two actors are figuring it out. Already, moments are becoming electric.

I’m thinking about levels a lot during this process. Tactics. Motivations. It’s always fascinating to me how real some characters can be. Even stylized ones like these. We all play games. We’re all after something. And we attack our goals in different ways. Sometimes overtly. Sometimes on the sly. Sometimes we’re so clever, nobody knows we’re paying a tactic. And they always change. There’s a lot of that in the show. The game changes sometimes with every line. It’s like playing Where’s Waldo with human emotions.

We have finalized our poster design finally. They should be in circulation within a week. Very classic, clean, crisp. Evocative. There is something unsettling about it, and I love that. Look for them soon!

We have tomorrow off. I’ll be back Wednesday. Have a good Tuesday!
Thanks for reading my blog!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day Five

First week down! It’s always a nice feeling to me to make it through the first week. It makes me feel like the show is actually going to happen. I don’t know about you, but I always have that voice in the back of my head telling me I’m never going to really get this thing off the ground. After the first week, that voice quiets down a little.

More work on character relationships tonight. Worked the second ten pages. Some days, everything is funny. This was one of those days. I like a cast who can laugh together. I think one of the biggest curses you can encounter as an actor or director is taking yourself too seriously. If you can’t have fun with each other and the material, it will show in the final product. I don’t care how serious a show you are doing, you have to have fun. The audience can tell when you’re not.
That was the theme of tonight’s rehearsal. Fun. We started laughing at the beginning, and we didn’t stop much. Loose in rehearsal, loose in performance.

I’m going to cut tonight’s blog a little short. Becky’s (executive producer) mom is in town, and I want to spend some time with her before she leaves tomorrow. We have the weekend off, which means you won’t be hearing from me until Monday. Have a good weekend!

As always,

Thanks for reading my blog

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day Four

Finding something is the greatest thing in the world. It brings relief. It brings comfort. And it brings a certain sense of accomplishment. Maybe you lose your keys and you find them in the pocket of your pants. Maybe out of nowhere, Mr./Ms. Right shows up. Maybe you’re directing a show and you find interpersonal relationships in your characters…
It doesn’t matter how much research and preparation you do for a show, some things just can’t be found until you are in the trenches of rehearsal. Jeremy and Cassie are already acting like they’ve worked together for years. It’s such a gift to have found these thoughtful, intelligent, insightful actors at the top of their game. I’ve worked with many amazing actors around town, and these two can hold their own. It makes the process extremely interesting.

Moving on. Tonight. Tonight we worked the first ten pages of the script. In these first ten pages, mind you, Jeremy breaks out all four of his characters plus a few sound effects. One of the issues with the characters the male plays in this show: How do we make each character subtly unique. The answer comes in the answer to the second question. What are the relationships of each of these characters to the Governess, played by one actress. This is not to mention his character’s relationship with the audience.
This was the focus tonight. How do each one of the characters act towards the Governess, and how does she, in turn, react? Let me mention here that it is not unusual for us to take our time. Less than a week in, one could easily find us spending an hour on three pages. And you know what? That’s exactly what we did tonight.
I imagine the feeling of finding oil must be pretty cool. You get out there in the dust and dirt, and you dig. And you dig. And you dig. And then, something happens. The black gold, she comes a bubblin’. And it doesn’t come slowly. It comes in a rush.

That’s this show. That was tonight. That is all.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day Three

There are three great ghost stories in the English language: Hamlet, A Christmas Carol, and The Turn of the Screw. By default, that makes Screw the greatest American ghost story, the other two, obviously, being British. Even though James lived in Britain, wrote like a Brit, in general wanted to be a Brit, he was in fact American. And he wasn’t that well looked upon by his contemporaries. James was a wordy guy. Oscar Wilde said that he wrote as if it was a tedious duty.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever read James’ novella, but it’s tedious to read, as well. However, the story is amazing. Yes, he liked to express every little thing with as many words possible. But he created characters and a story that grabs you, throttles you, and leaves you unsettled.
This is the genius of this play, and of Jeffrey Hatcher. He has retained an extremely dense, passionate story, and developed such thick, layered characters from James’ original, that he makes this script stand on its own. One need know nothing about the novella to be fully enthralled with Hatcher’s treatment. Just goes to show, a great story and strong characters are everlasting. Why do you think Shakespeare’s been done in every style under the sun?

Tonight we finished blocking and had a rough blocking run. The show looks good. I’ve never been one to draw out the blocking process. Get it done, so you plenty of time to work on the harder stuff. Isn’t it funny anytime you mention you’re an actor to someone, the first thing they ask is “How do you remember all those lines?”, or “How do you know where you’re supposed to move?”, or, as one dubious fellow said to me once, “How do you mesmerize all those lines?”?
Yes, these are legitimate, valid questions. Except the last one. “I slowly work them into a trance, then I bob my head…”. But we all know this is the easy stuff. I realized tonight the brilliance of Hatcher breaking this show down to its essence. With no set, no costumes, and no props, it almost opens up huge amount of freedom. It took me a couple days looking at it, but tonight, I thought “We can do whatever we want. The fact we have nothing is no way a hindrance. It’s a blessing”.
Now, it’s no secret from my blatherings that this show has always been about story and character. Story and character. Story and character. Get used to it. You’ll be hearing it a lot.
I digress. I was particular hit with the idea of dimensions. I can work in dimensions, with no barrier. Not just three, either. 4, 5, 10. How many do you want? Now. Can an audience’s imagination handle a 10-D play? I guess we’ll find out…

Great day today.
In short: Blocking done
Strong story
Strong actors
Each of the two previous three more times

That’s all for now.

Thanks for reading my blog.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day Two

Two-thirds the way blocked. Taking my time blocking this one, but, again, it is a very dense script. We’ll finish tomorrow and have a rough blocking run.
It occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned much about the players in this grand experiment. I’ve mentioned who they are, but not much about them. Allow me to remedy that.

Jeremy W. Chase – Actor.
I haven’t known Jeremy long. He and his wife, Nova, are transplants from Boise. They recently moved to Salt Lake, and this is his first tread on the boards in this town.
Jeremy has something about him that I don’t see a lot of. His face morphs. I defy you to tell me what age he is. In this show, he is convincingly equal parts 30, 40, 70, and 5. The 70 year old is a woman. It is not possible for me to watch Jeremy without buying what he’s selling. And that’s just with his face.

Cassandra Stokes-Wylie – Actress.
I’ve known Cassie quite a few years. We’ve never worked together. But. For my money she is one of the best actresses around. She is from Albuquerque originally, and is a graduate of the Actor Training Program at the University of Utah.
It is a challenge to watch Cassie sometimes. She doesn’t let you off easy. She is one of these actresses who is an envelope. She takes all the information from every character she does, and fills herself up. When, as an audience member, we open this envelope, there is so much there it is almost overwhelming. How can an actress put this much into to every role. But, there she is, doing it. In everything I’ve seen her in, the envelope is bulging.

Rebecca Johnson – Executive Producer.
Becky and I started UTAC one year ago. It was her brainchild, and together, we gave it life. She is from Logan. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Becky has the unglamorous, unenviable role of finding us money. Becky books the space. Becky pays the actors and the rights. Becky sets up fundraisers. Becky gets us reviewed. She is the captain of this ship. She’s not seen much, but without her, we’d go down.

J. J. Pearson
J. J. is our stage manager. He grew up in Murray, and is a graduate of Southern Utah University in theatre. He’s recently spent many shows as a dresser for Pioneer Theatre Company. We owe J. J. one big debt, outside of being stage manager: He turned us on to the script. He gave it to us, we read it, and haven’t looked back.

As for myself. I suppose you’ll learn enough as these blogs continue.

We will be performing this The Turn of the Screw at the Sugar Space, 616 E Wilmington (2190 South). The dates are 9/18 – 10/03. Get your tickets online through our website, They should go fast!

More tomorrow…time for bed.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day One


Day 1.

Here it is! The first installment of my director’s blog. Blog. What a weird word. This is a blog.
The show: The Turn of the Screw
The players: Jeremy W. Chase - actor
Cassandra Stokes-Wylie - actor
Rebecca Johnson – executive producer
J. J. Pearson – stage manager
Yours Truly
This is an experiment in style. Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation, based on the novella by Henry James, is spare. No set. No costumes. No props. No sound effects! Spare. And here’s the kicker. Two characters. Gone is the superfluousness of James’ flowery prose. This is a bare, stripped-down, gritty script. There’s not much to it in length, it should be a brisk 75 minutes or so. But it’s deep. There’s a lot to this thing.

Cassie plays the governess and Jeremy plays everyone else.
This includes: Man
Mrs. Grose
And various sound effects
Lots of inherent challenges here. The set really does consist of 1 block and 2 rails. The actors are in blacks. That’s it. Blacks and blocks. How do we create sense of space? How do we keep character shifts clear? How do we keep the tension high? Lots of How Do’s. These are some of the easier questions we’re out to answer.
Short and sweet about tonight: We blocked the first third of the show and talked a lot. Blocking and talking. Answering questions already…

Until tomorrow,
Thanks for reading my blog. Ha! Blog.