Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brighton Beach Memoirs: Meet the Jerome Family!

Brighton Beach Memoirs cast members Ryan DeLuca, Michael Curran-Dorsano and Lori Wilner sat down with us and answered a few questions about their characters, playing in a hilarious and heartwarming Neil Simon play and what it’s like to play to St. Louis audiences. Enjoy.

Ryan DeLuca - Eugene

Introduce us to Eugene – what is he like? What drew you to this role?   Neil Simon makes it very easy to connect to Eugene. He’s a joyful, fun-loving, intuitive kid who is quick to ask questions and quicker to spit out a witty response. Where I connect most with Eugene is the natural structure and flow of his speech, which has become a joy to recite.

How have St. Louis audiences reacted to the play so far? Has anything surprised you? A St. Louis audience is simply a gift. Each house has been filled with very attentive and smart audiences. Half the time they’ve made it to the joke before it’s even stated. At first I was surprised at the audible responses we were getting to the smaller details in the show, but now the contribution from the crowd has a very supportive and comfortable feel.

In real life you’re actually an older brother; what’s it like to get to play the little brother? Being the younger brother is so much fun and freeing. It feels great to be the one who gets away with everything while someone else is constantly in trouble. Never thought that would happen.

What’s your favorite part of the play? The quick banter between the family always cracks me up, and it doesn’t get any more fun than the dinner scene.

Why will audiences love this show? Besides the fact that the show is funny, heartwarming, and relevant, Brighton Beach Memoirs is relatable to any audience member. Whether someone is connecting to a particular character, reliving a pastime, or losing themselves in a day in the life of the Jerome family, they are going to love what they experience.

Michael Curran-Dorsano - Stanley

Introduce us to Stanley – what is he like? What drew you to this role? Stanley is a young man transitioning into adulthood. Impulsive, daring, charismatic, but doesn’t always think things through. Above all, he has a strong moral center inherited from his father. He is wrestling with defining himself as a moral human being and also facing the challenges of being a working adult. He loves his family dearly, even though they drive him crazy. I was so glad when I was cast in this role because I am like Stanley in so many ways. I love Neil Simon, I love this era, and the job has been a blessing.

How have St. Louis audiences reacted to the play so far? Has anything surprised you? I was surprised by how vocal and enthusiastic they are! St. Louis loves theater, and is so engaged. What a great town, and a great audience!

In real life you’re actually a younger brother; what’s it like to get to play big brother to Eugene? Eye opening. I finally sympathize with my brother. Really quite an interesting role reversal for me… Makes me appreciate our time together even more. And of course Ryan plays the part so well, it certainly makes me regret a few things I did to my brother…

What’s your favorite part of the play? I would say the scenes with my father. I think I relate to that dynamic the most, partially due to the fact that I wasn’t an older brother so the Eugene scenes have taken longer to sink in. Also, Adam Heller is fantastic and a pleasure to work with. I suppose the scenes with Lori (my mom) as well. Though they are short and sweet, they are full, and she embodies the matriarch so well.

Why will audiences love this show? The show is so relevant because its an accurate and multifaceted portrayal of the family unit. Everyone can relate to these experiences. And Neil Simon is hilarious. His humor is so old school and springs from a generation that understood wit, and rhythm and timing. There isn’t anyone like him anymore. I feel like most of the comedy I see today is so jaded, vulgar and self depreciating that it’s refreshing to hear someone make a joke that doesn’t involve a curse word every 1.5 seconds. The man really knew how to make people laugh, and all without leaving the privacy of the American home.

Lori Wilner - Kate

Introduce us to Kate (Eugene and Stanley’s mom) – what is she like? What drew you to this role? Kate is a terrific part. She is a fiercely strong and capable Jewish woman. She holds the family together and orchestrates the well-being of an entire family and household. She represents tough love. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a warmth that she demonstrates not so much with words, but with action. There is tremendous range in Kate, so I get to be efficient, stern, loving, enraged, worried, vulnerable, repentant and ironic. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough to give you the idea. Also, Neil Simon writes such perfect dialogue and the rhythms are so easy to say that the laughs are practically guaranteed.

How have St. Louis audiences reacted to the play so far? Has anything surprised you? St. Louis audiences have responded very enthusiastically to the play. They are totally with the story - the funny parts, the powerful parts, the sad parts. They are right there. Sometimes there is nervous laughter or gasps at something with high emotional velocity.  It’s always fun to hear that kind of vocalized response when you’re doing a play.

What’s your favorite part of the play? My favorite part of the play, I think, is a short scene with Jack (my husband) in the second act. It shows a surprising intimacy between them - a light loving moment in the midst of a real scare that is lovely to do every night. And of course I get to have it with the wonderful Adam Heller!

Why will audiences love this show? Audiences have so much to love about Brighton Beach Memoirs. It shows a family struggling to get by and thrive in difficult times while at the same time trying to stay open to more global concerns. The comedy is completely character-driven, which means you fall in love with the idiosyncrasies of the people in this family and how they relate to one another under stress. You recognize yourself and your own family. And Neil Simon is such a brilliant craftsman that you discover all this in the most effortless, delicious way. It’s a great journey, and one that is still so relevant today. The particulars may have changed - the clothes, the current events, the music, etc, but the basic questions of how to live, thrive, love, educate the next generation, have community and pay homage to the generation that came before are just as relevant as ever! I’m glad to be in such a terrific production at The Rep.

Hurry! Show closes September 30. Click here to get your tickets and learn more about Brighton Beach Memoirs.

September 19, 2012 at 11:18 PM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | Mainstage

Sunday, April 8, 2012

WiseWrite Festival 2012!

Kids’ Plays at The Rep!

WiseWrite Participant

Whew, what a day! On Tuesday, April 3, we welcomed nearly 300 kids to The Rep. Half of them, fifth graders from Hudson and Wyland Elementary Schools, spent the school year learning playwriting in our WiseWrite program. The other half, fourth graders from the same schools, will participate in the program next year.

On April 3, we honored the fifth graders’ work with a festival of tiny plays. And we had a blast!

Each season, The Rep and Springboard bring WiseWrite to two St. Louis elementary schools in a program that introduces playwriting and theatre as well as improving kids’ writing skills. It’s really a joy to watch these fifth graders create unique and often hilarious works, and it’s equally fun to see their creations come to life on The Rep stage.

Whether it’s a play about dolphins, tennis shoes, talking pickles or singing stars, these plays are so much fun that everyone on The Rep’s staff can’t help but make their way over to the theatre to watch a few of the 15 shows. And just who brings these plays to life? Volunteers of course! Each season we are lucky to have dozens of professional actors volunteer their time and talents to bring the students’ works to the stage. We congratulate the playwrights on their hard work, and thank our partners at Springboard for helping us with another successful year!

Sarah Brandt
Associate Director of Education & Publications Manager

April 8, 2012 at 2:09 PM | (56) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Steady Rain: Q&A with the Actors

A Steady Rain cast members Michael James Reed and Joey Collins sat down with us and answered a few questions about their characters, the intensity of this powerful and engaging show and what it’s like to play to St. Louis audiences. Enjoy.

Michael James Reed - Joey

A Steady Rain is a powerful and provocative play, with serious subject matter. What specifically attracted you to this role? What attracted me initially was just the challenge of the piece. It’s not often you get to do two-character plays, especially ones with this intensity. I was attracted and excited about the muscles it would exercise in me.

Is it daunting to have so much dialogue? Is it hard to be one of only two characters in a show? Yeah! At first I thought, “Well, how on earth will I learn all this?!” I mean, there’s only two of us up there and if he ain’t talking, I am! I wanted to be as confident as I could with the dialogue so I started early committing it to memory. It’s slow going when you do it that way, but it pays off.

Your character, Joey, has a thick Chicago accent – but you do not! What was your process for learning the accent? Do you find yourself using the accent in everyday conversations now? Well, I did a few things. First of all, I’m lucky that my uber talented wife, Nancy Bell, is a voice and speech specialist and professor at SLU and was hired to work with us on this show! She helped me locate initially the basic shifts in vowel sounds you need to make. I then watched a lot of internet content, particularly Mayor Daley. I’d never done the accent so I was pretty daunted at first. I took a trip to Chicago about a month before rehearsal and spent time on the south side and, amazingly, people do have that thick, thick accent! I recorded a lot of folks and even met with the dialect coach at Steppenwolf. Nancy was present for some of the rehearsals and made sure things sounded authentic and not cartoon-ish. And yeah, I hear it slipping in to my general speech more and more – which probably isn’t the best thing in the world! Better work on getting rid of it before my next show.

How would you describe the character of Joey? Hmm. Well, Joey takes a great journey in this show. He goes from passive bystander in his life, to an active leading participant. It’s a great change to go through as a character. He spent so much of his life letting everything dominate and overwhelm him, and now he is confronted with the chance at a better and new life. I admire his eventual courage to rise to the occasion. He’s an honest man torn by his dishonest feelings.

You’re a Rep veteran, having acted in several plays on The Rep’s stages. What is your favorite part about playing to audiences at The Rep? Audiences at The Rep have always been attractive because they are so appreciative. They seem to, whether upstairs in the Mainstage or down in the Studio, really enjoy being at the theatre and know and understand its importance. You feel that from them. It’s a smart crowd. They’ve worked hard here building and maintaining an audience base, and it shows and elevates the process as a result.

Joey Collins - Denny

A Steady Rain is a powerful and provocative play, with serious subject matter. What specifically attracted you to this role? I really was tired of being “Joey” and I thought I’d give someone else a shot this whole “Joey” phenomenon, ya know? No, seriously, Michael James Reed was already cast in the part of Joey, so when Steven Woolf came to New York he was only looking for a Denny.  When preparing for the audition I was attracted to how Denny was not only living on the edge, but how he seemed to live on the ledge. Denny’s ledge is high up in this world and before this story starts he appears to have been a trapeze-artist-type-of-cop and had never really fallen. At the story’s end we know “trapeze artist” wouldn’t suffice in describing Denny. He’s not a circus act or keystone cop. He lives much more dangerously than that.  But the living “high” metaphor sticks. His ledge is skyscraper high. No one knows how wide that ledge is or how high it may be. Denny doesn’t know either. But Denny seems comfortable up there, sure of himself, to the point where there is no way down–no ladder, no parachute, no elevator button to push. And when the rain comes, he’s still on that ledge, navigating his logic as the ledge gets narrower and more slippery.  My attraction to Denny, and why I love him so much, is directly related to that ledge. I know that ledge. And like Denny, on that ledge I get to shake hands with my own demons, you know? But unlike Denny, in my life now, it makes me saner. I get to share that ledge with people. And then I go away, they go away and I get to Skype with my kids afterwards.

Is it daunting to have so much dialogue? Is it hard to be one of only two characters in a show? The most difficult aspect of learning this part was getting inside Denny’s rhythms. Keith Huff (playwright) has written this guy with a very concise bit of gab. He’s this walking jazz instrument is how I see it. He’s a trumpet. But the jazz he blows is not hard bop Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Freddie Hubbard (my favorite). No, he is this acid-Jazz-virtuoso-like instrument. His dissonance he believes is beautiful in this Major key. But it’s not. It’s dissonance and improvisational. Denny thinks fast and blows hard and loud. What others in his world might call vulgarity in his “music” or language, he has mastered. He can turn a phrase that is just as elegant and poetic as the great framers of rhythm, and after a while you (the listener) understand on an intuitive level where he gets his mojo… But finding that mojo, his essence, was difficult. He mixes metaphors, tenses, his grammar is off, he omits words where most of us do not, he has malapropisms. I keep aspiring to do Denny justice. He has great virtuosity and technique in being this “Denny instrument”, if you will allow me to stretch this analogy any farther. However, the play as a whole is this masterful duet. Keith Huff has written these characters with a masterly bit of proficiency. The two can only co-exist. Otherwise the composition he wrote wouldn’t work. So I wouldn’t say it was nearly as daunting as it is an exercise in aspiring to play every note until the lights go down. It’s a thrill.

Denny says in the play that he has a problem with his mouth, meaning explicit language. Is it difficult at all to portray a character who uses harsh language? F*** no. I have a five-year-old and a 2 1/2 year old at home. It’s f***ing liberating! I haven’t said Drats, Zippety, or my favorite “uncuss” Jon Hamm! since I arrived. The difficulty, I’m afraid, will be going back to New York.

How would you describe the character of Denny? The character of Joey describes me quite well when he says: “Denny was his family. He needed them to need him.”  That’s true. He wants the best for his family. He has a TV in every room. He lives in a beautiful house (probably out of the price range of most cops). He aspires to being in the “privileged ranks” and believes at the start of the play that he has made it there. He finds it valuable to be a Nielsen Ratings family. It gives him status. He wants, desperately, to be the head of this model family. He believes he’ll make detective some day. He doesn’t see himself as the obstacle in the way of getting promoted to detective. It doesn’t fit into his scheme of logic. He believes the law has “testosterone” in it and that it shouldn’t be taken away. Almost like the use of power is an entitlement if you have a badge. He would have been a great (if you will) torturer I’m guessing. His identity is comfortably molded around the old neighborhood, his Italian immigrant parents, the “them and us” mentality. He’s partial to trusting other Italians and white folks and Catholics. It’s almost like he comes from a few generations before ours. And he truly believes he’s a good cop. He “knows” he’s a good cop. From his perspective he’s a great cop. He believes in his method of policing. The people he polices aren’t exactly model citizens. He justifies his use of power through this logic of his. However, he has his enemies confused with his compatriots. And as he gets farther away on that ledge his footing has less grip. So does his logic. He is a man of principles and he sticks to those principles–no matter how dated they are. To him they are “the ways things are.” Denny is a soldier fighting for these principles. But Denny is a man who I’m not sure would have the skills to cope with the world’s perception of him. He’s not really a “talk it out” kind of guy–which is ironic because he can f***ing talk, ya know?

You’re a Rep veteran, having played to Rep audiences before. What is your favorite part about playing to audiences here? First of all, there is a thirst for plays here. And in the studio Mr. Woolf (director) feeds that need. He should be championed for it. It is rewarding to perform here because the people that come to the Studio Theatre series really want to be there. And they want plays! The studio audience likes plays that are a little farther away from the art-meets-commerce-model…edgier stories and plays which contain suspect language or all of the above. I love the audiences here. They are smart. And as a performer you know they are smart because of their reactions to the writing. Keith Huff’s play is biting and witty and concise. You can always sense an audience’s EQ and IQ with a play like this because of it’s depth. Thus far we’ve been impressed with the depth at which they have their fingers on the nervous system of this play. Some may credit us, or Mr. Huff’s play, or Steve’s directing, but we must also accept the fact that the audiences here are sophisticated and they don’t mind sharing their intellectual wealth with us. It is very rewarding as an actor to work here and experience that.

Hurry! Show closes February 5 and there is LIMITED AVAILABILITY. Click here to learn more about A Steady Rain.

January 25, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | Studio

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Cast Q&A

A few of the The Adventures of Tom Sawyer cast members sat down with us and answered a few questions about their characters and performing in this new and imaginative adaptation of the classic novel by Mark Twain. Enjoy.

Tim McKiernan - Tom Sawyer

What is it like to play such an iconic character like Tom Sawyer? Playing an iconic character always poses a challenge fro the onset of rehearsals.  Everyone knows Tom Sawyer and everyone has their own expectations of what that he should be.  In my experience, I try not to think about Tom as an iconic character at all.  Rather, I try to focus on what exactly Tom needs to do at whatever given part of the play we find ourselves in, and if I can do that honestly, than the character sort of takes care of itself in it’s own unique way.

How do you prepare for a role like this? My prep involves reading the book, of course, and then just taking a lot of time with the script.  Like i said earlier the process for me is more about understanding what the play requires at any given time and then transferring that to the stage.

You’re a young adult actor, but your viewpoint is that of a young boy. How do you bring that playfulness to the stage night after night? It’s my belief that bringing a sense of freshness to everything is really the key to playing Tom truthfully.  Everything for him is still a new experience whether that be falling in love or hunting for treasure.  Nothing to him is a joke or cynical.   It’s all real and it all has a weight and large level of commitment to it.  I think that if I keep that in mind - the show works out :).

What has been the reaction of audiences so far? Have you been surprised by anything? Audiences have loved it so far.  Everyone reacts differently from elementary schoolers, to seniors, everyone seems to find something to connect to in this production.

Why do you think audiences will love The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? This production is fun. We tell a story that lots of people are familiar with but we tell it in a fresh, modern way that still does justice to the source material and  keeps it interesting for children and adults alike.  I can promise you’ve never seen this story told like this.

Robbie Tann - Huckleberry Finn

What is it like to play such an iconic character like Huckleberry Finn? It is truly nothing short of a privilege to have the chance to play such an iconic character. Huck Finn is such a widely known and recognized character that it is rare to find people who don’t have a fully realized idea of who he is. And before we started this process I really didn’t know the story, so it has been incredible to be able to discover who I believe him to be by trying to live through his story night after night.

How did you prepare yourself for a role like this? I read the book a lot. We had a good four months before we started rehearsals. So I buried myself in the world of Tom Sawyer. I would read the book at home and listen to it on tape while I was riding the subway. Interestingly enough, we got cast at the end of spring and had an entire summer before we started rehearsals in the fall. The book actually follows the same time frame. End of spring through summer. So in many ways I really tried to live as a kid this summer as much as I could, trying to capture the essence of this book. Which is all about imagination, play, and unbridled enthusiasm and optimism. It was hard, being in NYC, to shake my cynicism but I really believe it helped me grow as a person as well.

You’re a young adult actor, but your viewpoint is that of a young boy. How do you bring that playfulness to the stage night after night? I think the biggest trick is remembering that this is supposed to be fun. Granted there is a lot of ‘business’ stuff that is involved in the career of acting, but I always try to take a moment before I hit the stage to remember those feelings I had when I was acting in high school. When there were no pressures or paychecks or reviewers and I was purely doing it because it was the only thing I truly wanted to be doing at that moment. It’s easy to forget that, but I think Tom Sawyer in particular forces us to go back to that time in our lives and just go out there and let it rip. And I think we’re all a little better for it.

What has been the reaction of audiences so far? Have you been surprised by anything? Audiences have generally LOVED this play. All ages seem to connect to it in a very visceral way. And I think that’s really because we’ve stayed true to the spirit that Twain was writing about.

Why do you think audiences will love The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? I think children will love this play because they will feel understood. A child can watch this play and see adults doing what they do, and feel like they are being communicated with on their level. Eye to eye. Not looking down. Adults will love this play because it is truly necessary to be reminded of that innocence and joy and wonder that we all at some point in our lives possessed. Because many of us have forgotten it. Childhood can often times feel like a distant, foggy memory even to those of us who are not too far away from it. Watching this play kind of reawakens those senses that may have seems for a long period of time to be dulled. I LOVE this play for that very reason and I think people will too.

Hayley Treider - Becky Thatcher

What is it like to play such an iconic character like Becky Thatcher? I feel so grateful for the opportunity to run around in her shoes each night. I think she’s such a great character. Jeremy (director) & I both agreed that while Becky was probably raised to be poised and polite, the daughter of a judge, she still has to have something inside her that is enticed by Thomas Sawyer. And I get to go on the journey each night of allowing that excitement, that boldness, and that fun to unfurl. By the end, Becky easily keeps up with Tom and I think, even teaches him a thing or two!

How did you prepare yourself for a role like this? I usually over prepare for every role I take on. But I knew the nature of this production was going to be very physical, with a lot of movement. So I didn’t want to have too many decisions made before I came to day one of rehearsals. I wanted to really be able to discover Becky through the action taking place with the other cast members, the director, and the choreographer. I did however read the play many, many times so I was clear of the story we were telling, both of Twain and the lovely adapting eyes of Laura Eason (playwright).

You’re a young adult actor, but your viewpoint is that of a young girl. How do you bring that playfulness to the stage night after night? First of all, lots of rest! This production takes a great deal of energy. We’re running around both on and back stage to bring you these very full lives of children realized in a very physical way. One thing our director Jeremy Cohen was really clear about, was never wanting us to feel like we had to play the age of our characters. If we come each night to play, to experience each relationship and discovery as if it’s the very first time - then the story will take care of the age. I just keep coming back to the fact that Becky’s never experienced any of these things before! And how exciting, and scary, and thrilling that can be to a girl! Whether it’s the first time being alone with a boy, or the first time being truly lost and afraid for your life - it has to be new and immediate every night.

What has been the reaction of audiences so far? Have you been surprised by anything?The audiences here in St. Louis have been so warm and inviting. We’re in Twain country! It’s lovely performing for audiences who have a real love and ownership of the material and the author. I think they’ve been very accepting of the adaptation thus far, and as a cast, we’ve been very encouraged! I think the show has really grown and taken a huge step forward as we move along on our four city production.

Why do you think audiences will love The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? I think it’s a play that really speaks to the child in each of us. It’s a great show for any age. Now, we don’t shy away from any of the realities of childhood - scary things are really scary. Joyful things are truly joyous. Because we want the audience to know we’re always going to be honest with them - we’re never going to play down to them - this is a story of the adventures of Tom Sawyer! So come on this adventure with us! It forces both the actors and audience to let go of any cynicism or jadedness towards our lives, and remember what it was like to truly face the world with open eyes and hearts.

Michael Nichols - Injun Joe

What is it like to play such an iconic character like Injun Joe? It is an interesting challenge. As an actor I like to think of my characters as my own. Fortunately, Injun Joe wasn’t an iconic character to me personally. So, with the help of our director we built him from the ground up, almost. Some things like movement, dance and fight choreography came directly from the show’s inaugural production in Hartford. We also had the novel as the springboard from which to launch this play but, our Injun Joe is slightly different than the novel’s in order to fit the needs of the production. The actor then must fit his character into the production and the director’s vision of how the story will be told. The latter being a constant with every play. Through the Talkbacks with the audience I have learned much about this Iconic character, at least people’s perceptions and recollections of what he came to mean. I know that he was based on a real person but, he is a fictional character. However, fictional characters in literature often times seem to take on real-life personas that people identify with. And Joe strikes a chord with many people. It is a privilege to portray him on the The Rep’s stage. I continue to search for truth in my performance and hope to fill all expectations of the character.

How did you prepare yourself for a role like this? Well, one starts with the script and in this case has the novel for reference. I try to understand and empathize with the character’s text and actions. Although I am different from him, I look for similarities, no matter how small, and cultivate them into stronger connections. For instance, I’ve never been ‘horsewhipped’ but, like most human beings I have suffered humiliation. I take what I know about my experiences and magnify them in a way that gives me a window through which I begin to understand what the character might be feeling. It was important to me that Joe wasn’t just evil for the sake of it, but that he wanted vengeance for wrongs or perceived wrongs done to him, so that his actions come from a place of pain. Ideally this would give the character added layers and/or texture that rounds him out and makes him more believable as a human being.

How do you bring the scariness of Injun Joe to the stage night after night? My hope is to bring the same intensity and focus to the stage each performance. If I can believe what I am saying and doing as the character, the words and actions will do the work for me. Another very important element is the generosity of the other actors onstage and how they endow the character of Injun Joe with ‘scariness’. That kind of contribution to the play makes the story telling easier and I think, more clear.

What has been the reaction of audiences so far? Have you been surprised by anything? The audience response has been wonderful. The opportunity to perform this show in St. Louis is a real treat. Perhaps a little surprising was the knowledge and appreciation with which these audiences have received our play.

Why do you think audiences will love The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? I know they will love it. I know it because one of my characters has some narration in the beginning, middle and the end of the play and I use that opportunity to check in with our audience, visually. Without exception at each performance I have gazed upon a sea of bright and shiny smiling faces waiting for what was coming next. In addition, many patrons have approached me outside the theatre after having recognized me from the play. They are grateful, we have gone back to a simpler time together and are reminded of the good things in life.

Hurry! Show closes December 23. Click here to learn more about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer!

December 16, 2011 at 3:02 PM | (3) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | Mainstage

Monday, October 24, 2011

God of Carnage Cast Q&A

A few of the God of Carnage cast members sat down with us and answered a few questions about their characters and this hilarious and thrilling 2009 Tony Award-winning play by Yasmina Reza. Enjoy!

Eva Kaminsky

What intrigued you about God of Carnage? Why did you want to be a part of this play? It’s a challenging piece. Particularly, for me, the language. I had seen the show twice - once with a replacement cast on Broadway, and once at a theatre I was working at out of town. I thought the language was somewhat stilted, probably due to the translation factor. I was interested on how to make it sound human. I think we’ve done a good job with that, as people have commented on how naturalistic the dialogue is. It’s also a bear of a play to perform, and being up to the task of that is usually interesting to me.

Veronica’s character has a lot of physical comedy in God of Carnage – how did you prepare yourself for a role like this? Once we got into rehearsals and performance - sleeping, eating, and sleeping again. Oh, and a lot of stretching and vocal warm-ups before the show. Other than that preparation wise all you can really do is jump in head first and not be scared to take risks. I’d like to say I took up running or something, but really the play has become my workout for the day.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far throughout this process? Have you been particularly surprised by anything? It’s always interesting to me what things wind up making the audience laugh. The things I thought were hilarious often aren’t, and the things I think are tragic get huge reactions. I’m constantly surprised by how exhausted I am after each performance. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it somehow catches me off-guard.

If you could use only one word to describe this play, what would it be and why? Messy. But then, so is life.

Susan Louise O’Connor

What intrigued you about God of Carnage? Why did you want to be a part of this play? It’s an actor’s dream project. The amazing dialogue, the hot circumstances, the constant engaging and rejecting of alliances - it’s an acting adventure.

Annette’s character has quite a range in God of Carnage, going from sweet to salty in some hilarious scenes. How did you prepare yourself for a role like this? One of my acting teachers says, “Don’t work on the similarities between you and the character.” I took that to heart preparing for this role. The way that Annette negotiates the circumstances of this play makes a lot of sense to me, the trajectory is one that feels very organic to my emotional core. And when that is the case, I find the most useful work I can do is to trust myself and my fellow actors and the audience. Just be there and trust.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far throughout this process? Have you been particularly surprised by anything? The wide range of audience responses to this play is very interesting. You never know what to expect.

If you could use only one word to describe this play, what would it be and why? Revealing.

Triney Sandoval

What intrigued you about God of Carnage? Why did you want to be a part of this play? I’m so glad to be asked this question. I’ve been asked this before about other plays and I’ve never been satisfied with my answers. I always speak to the specifics of the play and end up sounding like if one or more of the elements of the play had not been in place I wouldn’t have done the project. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. What intrigues me about God of Carnage is exactly what intrigues me about every play I do, the discovery of humanity in a work of theatre. This is what keeps me going as an actor, to interpret works by great (and sometimes not so great) writers and find the humanity in in those works that audiences can see and recognize themselves in.

There is a very small percentage of actors who have the luxury of waiting for the perfect role to come their way. Most of us look for parts where we fall into the general type and then seek out an audition. This was my case when I was told that there was going to be a co-production of God of Carnage between Cincinnati Playhouse and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. I fit the general description of the character and so my agents submitted me for an audition. The director, based on my headshot, resume, and past experiences auditioning me decided he would see me as well as a number of other people for the role of Michael. Why he chose me would be a question for him, but I’m glad he did.

Michael’s character has a lot of physical comedy in God of Carnage – how did you prepare yourself for a role like this? There’s actually not that much physical comedy from Michael’s character in the script. It was something I wanted to play with and that our director Ed Stern seemed to encourage. I don’t really do anything in the show I’m not already primed for so there’s no physical prep that I need before a performance with the exception of the fight call where Eva beats me up. What does take some extra focus is the amount of shouting I do in the show. If I’m not careful I won’t have a voice by the end of the week. Even with being careful, when Sunday comes around, and we’ve done 7 or 8 shows, my voice is a bit ragged and tired.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far throughout this process? Have you been particularly surprised by anything? I’ve always been a little slow on the uptake, so I don’t tend to figure out what I’ve learned until after a production closes. Usually the way it works for me is the next production is where the lessons of this one will come into focus. As for surprises, nothing surprises me more than Tony Marble’s capacity for eating THAT MUCH clafoutis!

If you could use only one word to describe this play, what would it be and why?I keep going back and forth on this one. I like both “brutal” and “funny.” The problem is neither one alone quite does the trick. So let’s go with “brunny”? OR “frutal”?. While there are some moments of compassion, the fact of the matter is that these characters can be petty, small and downright hateful at times and the “funny” is the spoon full of sugar that helps the bitter pill of how “brutal” human beings can be go down. If the show were merely “funny” it would simply be a sit-com. If it were just “brutal” nobody would want to watch—or if they did they would simply write the characters off as “those people” and never have moments of connection, where they feel “I see myself in that person.” So: “Brunny”.

Hurry! Show closes November 6. Click here to learn more about God of Carnage!

October 24, 2011 at 1:14 PM | (24) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | Mainstage

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meet The Rep’s Imaginary Theatre Company (ITC)!

What’s going on as we start a new season at The Rep? Lots! New faces will be joining us for each Mainstage and Studio show of the year, as well as for our touring Imaginary Theatre Company. We love having all the actors come and go, getting to know new friends with each production, but our ITC group is a little different. Since they are here for the entire season, these four actors really become part of the family. Let us introduce you:

Lakeetha Blakeney

Favorite ITC moment: When Jordan (a member of last year’s company) accidentally put on my costume during a show. OMG!
If I wasn’t acting, I’d be: A college professor or a zookeeper.
My favorite hobby: Coloring in a coloring book.
Pet’s name: I don’t have a pet, but if I had one it would be a dog and his name would be Dog.
Favorite indulgence: Cranberry juice!!!

Alan Knoll

Why I joined ITC: I joined ITC because I missed it;  I was lucky enough to be a company member for 10 years and I am thrilled to be back.  What a great job it is to help create audiences of the future!
If I wasn’t acting, I’d be: looking for a job.
My favorite hobby: fixing up our old house.
Pet’s name: Sally, a little beagle/border collie/basset mix .
Favorite indulgence: Watching any of the following shows: Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men or 30 Rock.

Jerome Lowe

Why I joined ITC: Because I really believe in the power of theatre in the lives of young people. THEATRE ROCKS!
If I wasn’t acting, I’d be: A famous singer :)
My favorite hobby: Cooking. I love eating, therefore I cook A LOT.
Pet’s name: My dog’s name is Quiane; he is a 10-year-old shih tzu.
Favorite indulgence: I LOVE television, the more obscure the better.

Cara Myler

Why I joined ITC: I joined ITC to share my love of story telling through musical theatre.
If I wasn’t acting, I’d be: a director/choreographer.
My favorite hobby: dancing.
Pet’s name: Pebbles.
Favorite indulgence: fried chicken.

Tickets on sale now. Click here to learn more about ITC!

October 16, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | General News | ITC

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Cast of Red: Q&A

Brian Dykstra on Red and playing Mark Rothko

What intrigued you about the play Red? Why did you want to be a part of it? Well, there’s all these wonderful things you get to act. They say Artists can be temperamental (of course there are a handful of temperamental actors out there, as well) and the opportunity to act that kind of person is delicious. The debate is spirited and intelligent and that’s not always the case. I love to argue. And so does Rothko. So that’s great fun.

Mark Rothko was a complex individual – how did you prepare yourself for this role? Pretty much the same way I always do. For me, all the information is in the script. Or, if it isn’t, there’s a problem with the play that may be a fatal flaw. Yeah, I read the Jimmy Breslin autobiography, I watched videos on Rothko, I went to art museums, I read "The Birth of Tragedy" (which is discussed at length in the play), but really, it’s about identifying values, signals, needs, and wants in the script. For instance, some of the things said about Rothko are indeed about his opinionated nature, but I found most of the research to describe a guy who argued passionately, but didn’t really get all that vocal about it. Even in the script he’s described by the other character as "restrained, intellectual, sober, rabbinical," which may be true for his Art, but that’s not the character the playwright wrote. The character in the play apologizes to no one. If he wants to throw a tantrum, he goes ahead and throws one with no brakes engaged. He burns much hotter than I think the real Rothko burned. At least as I understand it. I suppose it is helpful to know his place in the world and the Art World. To know he was the most famous and respected artist (at least since Pollock died) is to start to understand what he stands to lose when the threat of pop art encroaches on that fame, respect, and fortune.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far throughout this process? Have you been particularly surprised by anything? I guess the process by which Rothko painted. I wasn’t really a huge fan before this experience. My wife has said for years how he’s one of her favorite painters (actually, I think he’s her very favorite) and that would mean that at museums she’d stand and watch the paintings and I’d meet her down the wing looking at some other painter. To discover the technique involved in creating dozens of layers of color that allow light to play in a way that no one else has been able to accomplish in quite the same way, is fascinating and has given me new appreciation of Rothko’s work. Hearing about what he thought about, and how to look at his work, has been fascinating. Now, that being said, if I were playing Robert Rauchenberg (whose work I don’t particularly care for) I’m sure the research would lead me to a similar relationship with his art. Knowledge brings appreciation and certainly, I admit that playing a famous artist makes you "Want" to like the art your character produces. I mean, if I were playing a guy who made "bad" art, my job would be to love it and suffer over the fact that no one recognizes his talent. But, I think, it’s a lot easier with someone who is as demonstrably talented as this guy. Surprised? I guess I am surprised by how quickly the evening goes by. I’m always shocked when the first scene is already over and I have a thought in scene three that we should only be in scene two because it feels like we’ve only been on stage for 20 minutes, but that’s not true.

This is your first time performing at The Rep - what do you like most about working here? I have a friend who claims the out-of-town experience is only as good as the housing (which is terrific here) but I think that’s only true when the housing totally sucks. I guess, for me, it’s always the same answer: The People you get to create with, when they’re talented like here, and giving, and patient, then good work can be more possible. Steven Woolf chooses wisely, he’s going to pick people who get to work and are not jerks, and his patience, eye, talent, and (very important) ability to keep the rehearsal room creative and progressing is perfect for producing good work.

If you could use only one word to describe this play, what would it be and why? Passionate. Plays are often about passion because, I think we don’t have enough in our lives and we need to be reminded to embrace it. I mean, after the first flush of a new romance, or dive trip to the Blue Hole in Belize we often ease into our "life." Here’s a play where the adults try (in fact it is their job) to see the world the way artists do. That is to say, with a childlike fascination. It is also the way actors are trained to relate to the world. Losing that sense of wonder is often a condition of maturity, but I think it doesn’t have to be. Now, there is a downside to embracing this childlike view in everyday life, in that we don’t always fully understand cause-and-effect, we don’t much plan for the future, we don’t really feed our retirement account or worry about health insurance, even the next job is a leap of faith, so we have to remind ourselves to do the mundane things required of adulthood, or, in my case, marry an exceptional woman who bridges both worlds so perfectly – she’s a terrific director who has the discipline to plan for things, even as she lives in the now. So, I’m pretty sure it’s better to live in the moment than worry about some theoretical reward for good behavior. And to live a passionate life sounds like about the best thing there is. Who wants to work for the weekend, or for that dive trip, or for retirement, or some other future reward? If you don’t love your job, quit. If you can’t quit because of real responsibilities, then find passion in what you do. Or something like that.

Matthew Carlson on Red and playing Ken

What intrigued you about the play Red? Why did you want to be a part of it? Red is about the world of visual art, but it’s very easy to find parallels to a life in the theater. I find working on this play to be really personal and it forces me to look at my own life as an artist, certainly the relationships between self-expression and self-doubt, between creativity and perseverance. And Ken has a significant arc in this play: slowly finding his voice and coming into his own as an artist. Sharing that with an audience each night can be incredibly satisfying.

Unlike the character of Mark Rothko, the character of Ken is fictitious and is likely a compilation of many of the assistants Rothko had over the years – how did you prepare yourself for a role like this? Well, the first thing I did was to set aside the need to do incredibly specific research on Rothko himself, since Ken comes into the play knowing very little about his personal life or history. Instead, I focused on what my life would be like in the New York (and specifically the art world) of the 1950s, which led me to a book called New Art City by Jed Perl. Then I set about familiarizing myself with the art and artists mentioned in the play, especially those who would be Ken’s contemporaries.  Documentaries like Painter’s Painting (which includes Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns) and Roy Lichtenstein feature both interviews and actual footage of the artists working.  I think you have to be careful that research remains human and not simply academic, and documentaries especially help with that.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far throughout this process? Have you been particularly surprised by anything? I certainly didn’t know how complicated Rothko’s process was.  His paintings glow from within, and sometimes it seems as if you could walk right into them.  He apparently achieved this through layers and layers of paint, thin glazes, some of which are clear (having no pigment) and are simply meant to refract light.  I see the paintings a little differently now, knowing more about how they were made. But more personally, I was caught off guard by how uncomfortable he was with success.  You always assume that we gain confidence with recognition and age, and it’s somehow reassuring to know that even great artists at the height of their success have to deal with the same day to day insecurities that the rest of us face.

You’ve performed at The Rep before – what do you like most about working here? I have to say, I love the physical space of the theater.  Walking back onstage for the curtain call, the aisle lights glow all the way up to the last row.  A lot of theaters can feel cold or efficient, but the Rep has a certain warmth to it.  I also grew up in the Midwest, so I appreciate the practicality (and again, the warmth) that finds its way into the work, relationships, and process of making theater here.

If you could use only one word to describe this play, what would it be and why? I have the urge to quote Ken’s one word answer to Rothko about how the Seagram Murals make him feel. So how about “disquieting?” Plays and films about artists often sentimentalize what that life is like, but I think Red is an exception. The honesty with which it looks at both the exhilaration and exasperation of being an artist is exciting, and at times, unsettling. For more information on Matthew visit

Get your tickets to see Red today! Click here to purchase.

September 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM | (2) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | Mainstage

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Rep’s New Play Festival

Seth Gordon Introduces us to The Rep’s New Play Festival

The name ideas are coming in. We recently announced that anyone who wishes can suggest a name for The Rep’s new play festival - and so far there have been over 100 suggestions. By July 15, the deadline for submissions, I’m sure we’ll have many more. It’s exciting and gratifying to know that so many people are putting thought into this.

I’ve been involved with new play development throughout my career. At first it was out of necessity. I was young and had a thin resume in New York City and the only people willing to take a chance on me were young playwrights with thin resumes.  Soon, however, I made two discoveries. One was that an effective way to advance my career was to ride the wave of a playwrights’ career growth, and the other was that it was very empowering to help a new play find its way into the American canon. One could do a fine job directing the ten thousandth production of Romeo and Juliet, or one could direct the very first production of a play whose trajectory, and influence both in the field and on the lives and imaginations of countless people, cannot be predicted.

I wound up working for many years with a company in New York called Primary Stages, which specialized in new plays. I produced and directed countless premieres by some of this era’s leading playwrights. I also founded a group that helped develop plays by some of the “playwrights of tomorrow.” This was a while ago, so a few of those playwrights have graduated to become playwrights of today. The most notable is David Lindsay-Abaire, whose first play, Fuddy Meers, was written in my group. David is now a Pulitzer Prize winner and multiple Tony Award nominee.

At the Cleveland Play House I continued this work. Between the two groups dozens of plays have been written and developed in the very quiet, supportive and unglamorous fashion that one stewards a new play into existence. One of the main reasons I decided to move to St. Louis and work at The Rep was the opportunity to start another festival and spread the good word about new play development into another city.

New play development, as I hope you’ll all see when you come to the festival in March, is exciting to the audience as much as it is to the artists involved. Ever hear of a Tennessee Williams play called The Poker Night? Probably not. That’s because The Poker Night was the first draft of a play that eventually became A Streetcar Named Desire. Now, imagine coming to The Rep’s new play festival and attending a reading of The Poker Night. Then a year or two later you come back to the festival and its main event is a full production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Imagine witnessing that development; the birth of one of the most moving, dramatic and celebrated play in this nation’s history. I’m certainly not promising such a play will come out of this festival, but hey, you never know.

The festival will begin in March of 2012. There will be a full production in the Emerson Studio Theatre of a new play called The Invisible Hand, by Ayad Akhtar. We’re also going to commission some plays, which you’ll be hearing about as the season begins. And we’ll be reading some plays that are works-in-progress. After the readings we’ll all, as a group, talk about the play and what still needs to be worked on. That’s how you’ll be able to contribute to this play’s development, if you’re there.

Why are we asking for ideas for the name? At Primary Stages my group was called The New American Writers’ Group. In Cleveland my group was called The Cleveland Play House Playwrights’ Unit. I’m hoping to come up with something not quite as dry. Like the transformation from The Poker Night to A Streetcar Named Desire, let’s develop a more poetic, dramatic title for this endeavor together.

I hope you’ll join us in March.

Click here to submit your name idea(s) for The Rep’s New Play Festival through July 15!

July 4, 2011 at 4:16 PM | (33) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | Studio

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Q&A with Edward Coffield

The Rep’s Production Manager and Sing-A-Long Sound of Music Host at the St. Louis Symphony

Edward Coffield as Liberace Von Trap in 2001

People all over St. Louis are itching to know - how did you get involved with the Sing-A-Long Sound of Music (SASOM)? Believe it or not I was originally brought into the process to hire the person who would host the Sing-A-Long. After searching for a while and not finding what they were looking for, the producers asked me if I would be interested in doing the show in St. Louis. They said, “What we’re really looking for is someone like you, someone funny - would you do it?” How could I resist?!

How many times have you hosted the Sing-A-Long and at what locations? Honestly, so many times I have lost count! This isn’t really a “consistent” gig, but I do it whenever I can. I would guess that I have appeared as Liberace Von Trap 40 times in a handful of cities – Memphis, Houston, Austin, Columbia – this will be my fifth time in St. Louis. The last time I appeared in the SASOM was a sold out performance at The Hollywood Bowl.

How did you get the gig for the Symphony this year? I was referred to the Symphony by Mike Issacson who hired me originally. It’s been a few years since I’ve done SASOM so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to whip out the old lederhosen and sing-a-long with the people of St. Louis to one of the most beloved musicals of all time.

What’s your favorite part about hosting? I love to make people laugh. The whole evening is about entertainment and enjoyment and I really savor being a part of that. I have so many good memories - plus, I’ve seen people in some of the most outrageous costumes to have ever appeared on stage - it’s so engaging!

What do you think makes The Sound of Music so magical and exciting? People of a certain age have a very significant attachment to the movie. The affection people have for both the musical and the movie is fun and overwhelming – in a good way!

What can the audience look forward to? It is a really fun event - the movie is always a wonder. All of the lyrics to each song are shown on a large screen, people dress up (the costumes are over the top!) and you receive a little bag of props, such as an invitation to the ball, a champagne popper, etc to use during the movie. One of the best things about this Sing-A-Long is that it’s truly a great family event – it’s a really fun evening out that you’ll always remember.

Will you be wearing your lederhosen on Friday? All I will say is that St. Louis will be alive with The Sound of Music. Guess you’ll have to come and find out!

For more information on this event and to purchase tickets, visit

June 1, 2011 at 4:05 PM | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why I Love WiseWrite

Katie Puglisi talks about her love and appreciation for The Rep’s WiseWrite Program

Katie Puglisi

No question about it, WiseWrite is one of my favorite events of the year.  I have been involved with WiseWrite ever since I began working at The Rep—this is my sixth festival.  This program was started by our late Associate Artistic Director, Susan Gregg, who once said that she thought WiseWrite was one of the most important things she had ever achieved.  Just looking at the children’s faces as they watch the plays being performed, I have to agree with her.

A lot of these children have never seen live theatre before, much less their own works being brought to life.  WiseWrite is a collaboration with Springboard, whose teaching artists do a wonderful job of going into the schools and showing the children how fun writing can be.  The process of playwriting not only teaches them important linguistic skills, but it also helps them communicate in new and exciting ways and encourages teamwork.  The students are always so supportive of each others’ works, cheering and clapping at the beginning and end of each piece.  The proud smiles on their faces light up the room.  They have learned, through this year-long process, that creativity and imagination can open up a whole world of opportunities for them.

As an actor who performs in all types of plays, I have to say that no theatrical endeavor has been more gratifying than performing in WiseWrite for the students.  You want to make this as wonderful an experience as possible for them—you know that the work you are doing onstage is having a great impact on their lives.  And it is just plain fun!  When else do you get to play various forest animals or a pencil or even a Martian?  Whereas a lot of times actors can over-think their parts, these plays force you to fully embrace your given circumstances and just go with it!

I am also always amazed at the important lessons that are taught in each play.  The students approach their pieces with such honesty and abandon—as an actor, it is so refreshing to work on these plays with characters who literally say everything they think.  Some students excel with their wit and cleverness; others make you take pause to think about the important theme(s) in their pieces.  WiseWrite is such a giving process—I find that I learn just as much from the students as they do from us.  Even if the students do not necessarily go on to pursue the arts, you hope that you have at least fostered an appreciation that will help color their decisions and created an experience that will live in their minds as a positive example of what the power of imagination can achieve.

April 5, 2011 at 3:58 PM | (5) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Directing Stage Fights

Staging the Fight: Q&A with Macbeth Fight Director, Brian Peters

Brian Peters

How would you describe being a fight director to someone who has no idea what the job entails? A fight director is a specialist in creating staged combat. He or she works closely with the director to create the violence that is appropriate for the production. As its name implies, staged combat is not real violence, but the carefully choreographed illusion of violence. Great care is taken to supply each actor with the proper technique and safety protocols to help keep everyone safe.

From the beginning of the rehearsal process, the fight director consults with the director about his or her vision of the play. What is the tone? What kind of violence is desired? Is it the flashy swashbuckling style of The Three Musketeers? Is it the ultra-real gore-driven violence of The Lieutenant of Inishmore? Is it a more stylized violence, which utilizes lighting effects, and slow motion fighting to emphasize important story points in the violence that would otherwise flash by our eyes at full speed? What kind of weapons will the actors be expected to use? How much time will they have to learn to use these weapons? What kind of surface will they be fighting on? What kind of costumes are they wearing that might hinder their movement? Will there be blood?

The fight director also checks in with all the other designers of the production. I check in with the prop department frequently about the weapons that we are using. I visit the costume department about gloves, shoes, swordbelts, etc. I consult with the technical director about the details of the set. The actor’s environment, costumes and props are all variables in terms of their safety, and its my job to make sure I have all of that information ahead of time, so that I can keep them prepared from the very first rehearsal.

How/when did you start directing fights? Coincidentally, the first show I ever provided the violence for was also Macbeth. I had graduated from Lindenwood University the year before, and returned the following year to be fight director for Macbeth. I had been performing in live action stunt shows for Six Flags (where my love of swordplay was discovered), and my professor asked me to help with the production. It was a daunting task, and a whole lot of responsibility. Sure, the weapons we use are blunted, and dull, but it doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Each actor brings a different energy to the fight, which is born of their character, and their own physical abilities, and the fight director must be able to recognize that energy and adjust for it. I’m always keeping an eye out for the growth of a fight…how it expands in terms of space and energy as the actors begin to develop a “muscle memory”. Out of that development, new dangers can arise, and must be dealt with.

A fight director can never just “set the fights” and leave the production early in the rehearsal process. He or she must be present while the fight is in its growth stage. A member of the cast is assigned to be the “fight captain”. Once the show is open, and the fight director leaves, the fight captain is responsible for maintaining the fights. That first production of Macbeth wasn’t one I could walk away from easily. Young actors who get the opportunity to engage in swordplay can often become suddenly self conscious and overly cocky. Adrenaline is a powerful drug, and one of the worst enemies of the fight director. That production opened my eyes to the reality that it isn’t enough to just create “safe” fights. The fight director has to be tapped into the energy of the combatants, and has to have an eye for their progression. Otherwise, the best laid plans can quickly deteriorate. From that first production of Macbeth, I went on to choreograph for other local companies and stunt shows, before I made my transition into film.

How did you get the opportunity to get involved with Macbeth? I’ve been working with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis for many years. My first shows were Three Tall Women and The Life of Galileo. The following year, I was in their production of The Three Musketeers. I spent a decade with the Imaginary Theatre Company as an actor, stage manager and fight director. Steve Woolf has pulled me in to help with violence on various productions over the years, including The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Blackbird and The Pillowman. With all of the stunt work that I do in Chicago, I wouldn’t have been able to work on Macbeth without the assistance of Mr. Shaun Sheley (assistant fight director). Shaun teaches stage combat at the Webster Conservatory, and has been assisting me throughout the process, and I am very grateful to have him with me. We’ve collaborated on several projects, including a couple of Muny shows.

Macbeth: Michael Keyloun, Shanara Gabrielle and David Graham Jones as the Witches.

How do you decide how actors “fight” and the props they use? During my early conversations with the director about the tone and style of the piece, I will suggest appropriate forms of combat. If the fighting style doesn’t match the world of the play, it can stop the forward motion of the story. Imagine watching a traditional production of Romeo and Juliet: Romeo watches his friend Mercutio die from a sword wound. Furious with Tybalt for slaying his friend, Romeo charges after him, and attacks Tybalt with a series of elaborate Judo kicks. Sounds ridiculous, but it has been done…and with that action, the world of the play comes crashing down.

By contrast, some productions are “timeless”. Their themes are so universal, that a unique world can be created, where normally anachronistic props and environments can be merged for effect. A great example of this is the film “Titus”, directed by Julie Taymor. Taymor has woven a world together where it is perfectly acceptable for Roman chariots to be flanked by Harley Davidsons. Printed newspapers and automobiles are set against ancient Roman architecture. Weapons range from swords and arrows, to butcher knives and pistols. Such a world is one where any violence is possible, so long as it serves the story.

Any object that is used in a fight is thoroughly examined by the fight director, and deemed “fight worthy”. Calling a prop or weapon “fight worthy” doesn’t mean that it is 100% safe. Every object that is used in violence is potentially lethal…whether its a sword, a torch, a gun, or an ashtray. Even the fake blood that we use can be potentially lethal. Many fake blood recipes call for peanut butter (for consistency) or special detergents (so that wardrobe can be cleaned easily). Both are very dangerous to actors with those specific allergies. A blunt sword is no more “safe” than an aluminum baseball bat. A blank firing prop gun might have a blocked barrel for safety, but the blank still releases gases and debris…and if the wrong ammunition is loaded by mistake, worse things can happen.

It’s the responsibility of the fight director and the property master to know what is expected of the weapon. Will this sword be used for blade on blade contact? Or is it simply a costume piece? There are a lot of swords out there, and most of them are not intended for actual combat. They are simply “wall hangers”, and in fact, very dangerous. Sometimes, common household objects might become part of a fight: A vase is broken over someone’s back, an actor is struck on the head with an ashtray, someone’s hand goes through a pane of glass… There are many options for presenting this violence in a safe manner, all of which would be determined by the specifics of the story and direction.

Tell us about your involvement with stunts and film – what’s next for you? For the last decade or so, I’ve been part of the Midwest Stunts Association. We’re based out of Chicago, and supply the stunt work for film and television in the region. Our stunt ensemble won the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Stunt Ensemble for “The Dark Knight”. Myself, and four others from that team, were awarded the Taurus World Stunt Award for Best Highwork in a Feature Film, for our work in “The Dark Knight”. The five of us stunt doubled as a swat team that was kicked out of a high rise building, tied together to a common rope, 420 feet above the ground.

We were also nominated that same year for the film “Wanted.” Our work can also be seen in “Public Enemies”, and “Conviction.” Keep an eye out over the next year for several films, including “Stone” (Ed Norton/Robert DeNiro), “Contagion” (Matt Damon), and “30 Minutes or Less” (Jesse Eisenberg). At this moment, I am doing stunts for “The Chicago Code” (which premieres on Fox in February), and I am the stunt double for William H. Macy on the series “Shameless” on Showtime.

With the little spare time that I have, I’ve been trying to become an independent film maker, and get involved in the local film scene. Our industry here in Missouri is very fragile, and in danger of losing its tax incentive, which is important for keeping our state a consideration in the film market. For the second year in a row, Missouri has produced an Oscar nominated film for Best Picture. Last year was George Clooney and “Up In the Air”. This year, “Winter’s Bone”, filmed in the Ozarks, has received four nominations, including Best Picture. We could really use some support for our incentives in Jefferson City. Anyone interested in helping can find information on the St. Louis Media and Communications Association page on Facebook.

What is the most exciting part about fight choreography? The evolution of the fight: watching the process develop from concept to final product. Per my discussions with our director, Paul Mason Barnes, Shaun and I selected a single hand sword that would reflect the brutality of the world that is being created. It’s quicker and smaller than the typical two handed broadsword. The result for me, was a new understanding of the style of swordplay…and what’s at stake in the fights. Anytime you choreograph a fight, you develop it in your own body. But what feels natural to me, might not be comfortable or normal for the actor.

As a result, in my experience, once we put the fight into rehearsal, and we’re watching the actors demonstrate what we created, we might end up changing 25% of it because it just doesn’t work. We work with the actors to find discoveries in their own movement and abilities, and cater to their “muscle memory”. It does me no good to force an actor to learn some complicated move that “looks cool” but doesn’t flow from their natural sense of abilities. In the same way that an actor must “make the character their own”, the same can be said for the fights. The fights must appear to generate themselves naturally from within, or the audience will disconnect from the character. I must say that this cast has surprised me with their commitment and attention to the violence (most notably, the younger actors). We have a very talented cast, and I’ve been delighted to develop these fights with them.

February 8, 2011 at 11:30 AM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | Mainstage | Rehearsal Notes

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Community of Theater

We often talk about the “theater community”, but the cast and crew of The Rep’s production of Over The Tavern are changing that to the community of theater.  Rather than exchanging holiday gifts among themselves, they have collected items for the women and children spending the season in one of the St. Louis safe houses.  The only difficulty seems to be controlling the amount of things jumping into the shopping carts! Today representatives happily picked up quite a number of bags overflowing with games, toys, gloves, sweaters, balls, art supplies, wrapping paper and bows. The cast and crew got everything done just in time so that the mothers can choose gifts for their children and wrap them in time for the holidays.

The folks participating in this special gift giving range from those in the sixth grade to those who haven’t been in a grade for a while. Their generosity on and off the stage is a wonderful reminder of the spirit of the season.  I am proud that they are a part of my community.

Marsha Coplon
Director of Education

December 19, 2010 at 10:27 AM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | General News | Mainstage

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Local Over The Tavern Actors Q&A

Spencer Davis Milford on Rudy Pazinski

Over The Tavern is a really fun play. How excited are you to be a part of it? What do you like most about being in this show? I am extremely excited to be a part of Over The Tavern! The thing I like most about being in the show is learning from the more experienced actors who are in the show with me. I have learned a lot from watching them.

Rudy is a really fun kid, he’s wisecracking and he loves jokes - but he is also very inquisitive and smart. How did you prepare for such a diverse role? I prepared for Rudy by trying to identify what Tom Dudzick (playwright) was looking to accomplish with each of Rudy’s lines and mannerisms in the script. I found that Rudy wasn’t trying to be a "wise guy" with the questions he asked Sister and his family, he was just curious about why he was supposed to memorize the catechism and what purpose that would serve in life. I try to portray Rudy more as a curious kid who is interested in religion.

What do you like most about being Rudy? I like the challenge of having many monologues and being on stage for long periods of time in the show. It keeps me on my toes and I have to be ready for anything that happens during the performance. That is the best part about being Rudy.

What do you think is the best part about acting? What do you think is the hardest part about acting? The best part about acting is becoming another person on stage. You don’t have to worry about what is going on outside of the show; you can leave your social life in the wings for two and a half hours every day. The hardest part about acting is knowing that your instincts are not always what the director wants. You need to realize that what you think is right doesn’t always work for the play.

What is your favorite scene from Over The Tavern? My favorite scene from Over The Tavern is the last scene of the show. I think that Tom Dudzick wrote a great ending to the play and I think that scene is also one of the funniest scenes in the play.

How did you find out about this show and what made you want to be in it? Carrie Houk, the children’s casting director, called me while I was in Chicago and asked me to audition for the show. I wanted to be in it because I wanted to return to my hometown (Webster Groves) and I thought it would be a good challenge being Rudy.

Your Ed Sullivan impression is right on! Did you know who Ed Sullivan was before this show? I knew that Ed Sullivan had a weekly show on CBS, but I had never seen any clips of him and I certainly didn’t know how to do an impression of him. I watched many DVDs of his shows with the Beatles and many Ed Sullivan impressionists to prepare for the show.

Braden Phillips on Georgie Pazinskil

Over The Tavern is a really fun play. How excited are you to be a part of it? I am very excited. It is so fun and the role is challenging for me.

What do you like most about being in this show? The cast is awesome!

The character of Georgie is cognitively disabled - how did you prepare for this role? I observed mentally challenged people and imagined what it would be like.

What do you like most about being Georgie? Cussing and not getting in trouble! He he!

What do you think is the best part about acting? You get to be someone else!

What do you think is the hardest part about acting? Getting prepared for a role.

What is your favorite scene from Over The Tavern? When I pretend to fall like Sister Clarissa.

How did you find out about this show and what made you want to be in it? My acting teacher Carrie Houk told me about it and it seemed like it would be really fun and a new adventure.

December 8, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | Mainstage

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Fond Farewell

After decades of work at The Rep, our friend and colleague Peggy Thierheimer is heading off to the warmer waters of Florida! Peggy has been a wonderful Master Electrician and friend to the theater and we were happy to celebrate her career at The Rep with a send-off lunch today.

Peggy, we cannot begin to imagine how many hours you have witnessed the action on our stage. Incalculable. You will be missed, your talents will be missed and your ability to remember details many of us forgot years ago will be missed. It is stunning to think about your retirement, and what stuns us the most is the tears being shed by all of the lighting designers whose work you facilitated.

Take a look at what some designers with have said about Peggy:

“Peggy is one of the top regional theatre master electricians with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. I really appreciate that she not only cares about the immediate concerns (working notes, etc.) but that she cares deeply about the design as a whole. I’ve found it a delightful experience to work out particular issues—especially ones having to do with The Rep’s peculiar space—in collaboration with her and her impressive experience in the venue. She really embodies the artisanal heritage of a true stage-hand: One who loves the work and their part in it, rather than just a technician at a job.”

Marcus Doshi
Lighting Designer


“Peggy is the glue that holds our ‘electrics world’ together. She knows all of the equipment in all of our spaces and she knows the schedule like the back of her hand. Peggy is a tremendous resource for the students (and the Faculty) and she teaches several classes. Peggy is also very supportive of the other theaters in the area and has done a lot over the years to make sure that we could achieve our goals whether we were working in the Browning, or at the any of the many summer places that we staff. She’s terrific.”

John Wylie
Lighting Designer
Head—Design and Technical Production
Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts

Peggy, we wish you well and hope you enjoy your time on the beach!

With much love and appreciation,
The Rep Staff

December 6, 2010 at 11:53 AM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Magical Fun at The Rep!

Ok, working at The Rep is always a lot of fun, I mean where else are dancing fairies and Ed Sullivan impersonations just another day at the office? But today was extra fun because we had a Harry Potter party! That’s right, in celebration of the “Epic Finale” coming out at midnight tonight, the Harry Potter fanatics in the office (and some less-than-fanatical co-workers) joined together for a celebration that would make our wizarding friends proud. We indulged in carefully crafted Butterbeer and homemade Pumpkin Pasties, as well as a viewing of Harry Potter Puppet Pals and movie trailers. Now that’s a cool lunch break.

Sarah Brandt
Publications Manager

I have to agree with Sarah! As a die-hard Harry Potter fanatic, I was super excited to have a Harry Potter party in honor of the movie coming out tonight at midnight. I’ll be attending said midnight show, and even though some people think it is nuts, it’s super thrilling! I may be dragging my feet at work tomorrow, but it’ll be worth it - and the best part is that the gang at The Rep will want to hear all about it - and maybe even have another Butterbeer with me!

Becky Hadley
Public Relations Manager

November 18, 2010 at 5:50 PM | (1) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Looking Inside the Box…Office

Hello Folks!  I’m Michael Dorn and I’m one of the Box Office Assistants.

First, let me start by saying that I have found great joy these last 2+ years working for The Rep and with all of my co-workers. I truly enjoying sharing my love of theater with the world and being able to offer the best seats I can to everyone that I talk to.  Plus, I get to see so much incredible theater and work with the most talented and amazing people!

A typical day in the in the Box Office for me begins at 9:00am, at which time I log-in all of the computers for the Box Office staff and print all of the internet sale tickets for the previous day. All of these tickets are packaged either for the mail or for will call, depending on how the patrons would like to receive their tickets. Soon after, all of the mail orders are brought in to the office and the whole staff divides them and we print all of those tickets or create subscriptions as needed.  Before we know it, 10:30am is here and we are live-the windows are opened and the phones go online!  This is when the real fun begins.  The entire staff is inundated with a queue of calls and patrons begin arriving at the windows.  With an amazing and powerful show like High, that is currently playing, it’s always a challenge to find “fabulous” seats for our patrons, but somehow we succeed! But sometimes (well really when the show is so successful) we only have limited seats and choices, because we are nearing a sell-out.  These are the times I feel the irony.  YES! WE ARE SELLING OUT!  But also, the best seats in the house are already gone.  My hint for best available seats…ORDER YOUR TICKETS EARLY!!!

The real fun is right before a show, beginning about an hour before curtain time.  We have 3 windows open: one for pre-sale and exchanges, one for the current show and will call, and one for rush tickets.  What are rush tickets you ask?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  30 minutes before all curtain times, we offer any unsold seats to seniors 65 and over and full time students at a drastically reduced price.  $15 for seniors and $10 for students!  That’s right!  What an amazing deal!  But with the deal comes a caveat:  there is no choice as to where you will sit.  The job of the person manning the “rush” window is to “dress” the house.  That is, filling in where we believe we need to make the house feel as full as possible and fill areas that have many empty seats.

Working in the Box Office, we consider ourselves to be “full service”.  We often get calls for Opera Theater, Stages, the Fox, the Muny and yes, even movie theaters! But you know, we always give the callers the contact info they are looking for, because we think of everyone as a potential patron and customer service is our highest mission. Although we cannot sell or exchange your tickets to Opera Theater.  Oh, yes, I know our performances are in the same theater…but, we are totally different companies.  I think of it like this:  Macy’s and Dillard’s are in the same building, but they are different companies.

As much joy as I get from working in the Box Office, there can also be stress sometimes!  Every once in a while, someone will feel that we have a less than friendly exchange and refund policy.  Only subscribers receive exchanges as a benefit to their subscriptions.  Even if a subscriber misses their performance we allow them to come to a future performance of the same show, so they don’t lose the value of their tickets.  So for our subscribers, we really do have a liberal exchange policy.  However, for our single ticket purchasers, we are much more strict.  We do tell all single ticket buyers that once they have purchased their tickets, there are no refunds or exchanges.  This really is common throughout the theater world, so remember, it really isn’t personal!  And sometimes, our patrons come to us to vent about their reaction to the content of a show or choice of shows for the season.  Remember, we didn’t choose the show, write the show, direct the show, or perform in the show.  We simply sell the tickets for the show.  But, as I mentioned earlier, we are a “full service” Box Office, so we listen and try to be empathetic to the wants, needs and reactions of our patrons.

So come see me at the Box Office for your next purchase - I’m happy to help!

Michael Dorn
Box Office Assistant

November 2, 2010 at 11:52 AM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

But It’s Not Even Halloween Yet!

Tonight was the very first rehearsal for the Imaginary Theatre Company’s holiday play, The Nutcracker.  It’s so exciting to be working on brand new work!  Commissioned by The Rep to write a new children’s play, playwright Sarah Brandt has constructed her own interpretation of Tchiakovsky’s famous ballet with original music and lyrics by composer Neal Richardson, and we are the lucky bunch that gets to bring it to life.

As a stage manager, I look forward to the first read-though of the play—the first time the actors dive into the script as a cast.  Everyone around the table made interesting character choices, including some very funny voices.  Our playwright, director, and set designer also explained their vision for the piece.  Witnessing my company members strut around like zany roosters and chickens during our first week on tour with Chanticleer! was one thing.  Now Ann, Lakeetha, Jordan, and Christian transform themselves into loving parents and godfather, a curious young girl, a nutcracker, and even a menacing mouse king!

Not only did we read though the script, but our musical director taught the cast all the songs and our choreographer had them on up their feet, teaching them the steps to the opening song.  I bet you the cast will sleep well tonight!

We will now spend the rest of our two-week rehearsal period staging the rest of the show, perfecting the songs, and reviewing the dance numbers.  Meanwhile, our costume, scene, and prop shops continue their hard work creating our very own “Kingdom of Sweets”.  Based on tonight’s presentations of the set/props design and the costume design, I can already tell you that audiences of all ages are in for a real treat!

Danny Maly
ITC Stage Manager

Rendering by Costume Designer Dorothy Marshall Englis

October 26, 2010 at 10:11 AM | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes | ITC | Rehearsal Notes

Saturday, October 23, 2010

All About “Next Fall”

Greetings from Next Fall rehearsals!  We’re in the middle of our third week of rehearsal.  It’s been a wonderful journey exploring this beautiful play and working with such talented actors under the fearless leadership of our director, Seth Gordon (aka The Hitmaker).

We’re all atwitter here because we moved into the theatre today!  After two and a half weeks in the rehearsal hall behind the theatre in Webster Groves, today we’re playing on the actual set in the Grandel Theatre in Grand Center.  Tech is a tedious process of learning how the set works and figuring out lighting.  The first part of today has been a little jarring for the actors because now we’re being asked to speak much much louder than we did in the rehearsal hall.  But in this theatre sound travels differently and obviously it’s a much bigger space.  We have to make sure every single audience member can hear every word!

Jeffrey Kuhn (Adam) and Ben Nordstrom (Brandon) in Next Fall

The set is amazing.  It’s so fun to rehearse for so long in an empty room and then walk into the theatre and see this beautifully grand structure that we’ll get to play on for the next three weeks.  Today, we are primarily focusing on scene changes and making sure all of the furniture can get on and off stage smoothly and safely.  Shout out to our awesome stage crew of Webster students!  We run through a scene once quickly and when we get to the end of the scene, we stop, discuss whom is doing what and how, and then we slowly walk through it.  Then we do it two or three more times to make sure it’s smooth.  We move on to the next scene, whip through it quickly, then stop at the end again, discuss the next change, and work it multiple times.  And on and on…

Tomorrow (Sunday) is a super long day for everyone.  The actors are called from 12 noon to 12 midnight, which means the crew will be here even longer.  They arrive before we get here and leave after us.  We will get into our costumes for the first time tomorrow also. Monday will be our day off to rest, run to the grocery store, and do whatever else we may need and then we’re back again on Tuesday from noon to midnight.  Wednesday afternoon will be a bit of last minute tweaking and then we perform in front of our first audience Wednesday night! Yowza!  It’s a fast and furious process and we love it that way.

Come see us at the Grandel!

Ben Nordstrom

October 23, 2010 at 10:52 AM | (1) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes | Studio | Rehearsal Notes

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Actors from “High” Talk About Their Characters

Michael Berresse on Father Delpapp

What attracted you to do this show? The majority of my stage career has been spent doing Broadway musicals, including six revivals. Although they have all had their assets, it was creating the original musicals like The Light In The Piazza, Busker Alley and [title of show] that remain my most satisfying experiences. Building something from the ground up has a completely unique set of challenges and rewards. With High, I not only have that unique opportunity to create something new, I also get to give my body and voice a rest!

Specifically to this story, I was very attracted to the fact that the play is almost completely character driven. It places more pressure and excitement on the actors to execute the material without a net as it were. These characters are also not only deeply feeling, they are deeply flawed individuals and the examination of “faith” and “addiction” is an endless reservoir of opportunity for an actor to discover.

How have you prepared for your role/character? I was raised in a Catholic home and attended an all-male Catholic school so I have very visceral, very complex associations with both Catholicism and the priesthood. As a socially marginalized kid, I was drawn to the protective, enigmatic aura that the clerical community had. On the other hand, I was witness to some very destructive and self-destructive behavior within their ranks. I am relatively well-versed in Catholic tenets and rituals so it was more about demystifying and humanizing for myself these imperfect men and women that ultimately are not so different than the rest of us.

What have you learned by playing this character and what will you take away from this experience? In terms of story and function, the integrity of my character has made a 180 degree shift during the play’s development. As Matthew (the writer) continues to deepen Fr. Michael’s history and motivation, many other natural nuances are starting to emerge for me in playing the character. Interestingly, there is not only more drama, there is more stillness and more humor. He is far more whole now than he was when this process started four months ago.

What has been the biggest challenge/reward with this show? As I said, Father Michael has gone through quite a transformation during the development process. The challenge as well as the reward has been finding the right balance of patience, availability and challenge in helping to define the character, in creating a complete person, no matter how complex or contradictory. If the play lasted a decade, I’m convinced I would still continue to discover nightly new possibilities or threads or facets of behavior.

What do you hope people take away from seeing High? I hope that our audiences leave High feeling like these characters are not just theatrical devices but relatable, full-bodied, albeit deeply troubled people; people that remind them that despite our failings or damage or beliefs, we all have the opportunity to evolve, to grow and to not be afraid to open up the conversations necessary in order to do that.

Evan Jonigkeit on Cody Randall

How have you prepared to play your character? In preparation for the character of Cody I just absorbed as much information as I could. Thankfully my life hasn’t been directly touched by this kind of abuse or drug use, so I read as much as I could and took in as many films that dealt with the subject matter. I also lost a good deal of weight for the play in order to whittle my body down to a drug addict’s frame.

What has been the biggest challenge/reward with this show? The biggest challenge of this role has been the traveling and being away from my loved ones…and staying away from some of my favorite treats.

What do you hope people take away from the High? I hope people leave this play with questions. I hope they are taken into a world in which they care for the characters in a way that makes them question their own faith, whether they use that faith to excuse their actions or take advantage of the opportunities, “GOD” or whatever their deity, provides to reach out to the world around them. I also hope it helps those afflicted with addiction to come to terms and take one contrary action to begin the road to recovery. Finally, I hope this play helps all of us have conversations about this disease. Silence is as destructive as the disease itself.

What are your goals and aspirations for after High? I simply want to continue working. Whatever the medium, whatever the city - as long as I am busy I’m happy. I loved my life as a working Philadelphia actor and I am certain, if and when High moves to New York I will love my life working there.

October 20, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes | Mainstage

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Set of High - by Tony Award-winning set designer David Gallo

In High, a tough-talking and formerly hard-drinking nun reluctantly agrees to sponsor a defiant drug user in her church-sponsored rehab center.

High: What does it mean?

I suppose that can mean a lot of things to many different people.

Personally, I have always been turned on by the possibilities of new work in the theater. To some, it may not seem as interesting as having a heavy drug problem but the “high” is there none the less. I have also gotten my “high” during my journey through show business by a form of time travel. By that I mean one of the great things about being a working designer is my ability to constantly reconnect with so many valued collaborators from year to year, decade to decade.

When our director Rob first contacted me about the assignment of creating sets for this production, the first thing that jumped out to me was his saying that the show would have it’s pre-Broadway tryout at two of my most favored regional theaters: The Cincinnati Playhouse and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Here was a great new play, a director that was a new collaborator and chance to travel through time to return to valued houses that I adore and yet had not spent time with in several years.

Ed Stern (artistic director of The Cincinnati Playhouse) and Steve Woolf (artistic director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis) have always been visionaries to me. The theaters that they run and the seasons that they produce are remarkable. Hosting both this play and my designs gave me an incredible “high.”  Add to that, the chance to work with noted production managers such as Edward Coffield and Phil Rundle, crews that included old friends from my MUNY days in St Louis, and you could say I was more than a bit “high” to work on this show.

But of course, as every HIGH person realizes, there were certain realities to face. Face them or crash.  One “reality” was the unique nature of the different theaters. Although my last collaboration here in St. Louis went well (Sweeney Todd) I knew that the specific requirements of this play would call on an entirely new set of skills. The set for High was going to have to be more intimate. The playing space would require a finer touch than the one I brought to that vast Sondheim musical. Facing a large space with a tale about confinement was a harsh reality indeed. That’s where I decided to surround the space with a simple star field…a black void of universe that would allow the audience to feel “high”, while the harsh confines of the rehab center where the characters live are illustrated in tight reality. The confines faced by these characters would have to be real to them, while the open space would have to be real to the viewer.

My favorite scenic moment in High is the transition into the “street scene” where the harsh reality of addiction and abuse are illustrated by the tall brick walls that put our nun and patient into a final confrontation. As you will see, it is a confrontation that does not go well.

My contribution to this play, my reconnecting with valued collaborators (both old and new), and my love of new theater give me hope….  And hope is what being “high” is all about; especially when you don’t find it through drugs, but in quality theater.

Enjoy the play.

David Gallo
Set Designer, High

October 14, 2010 at 7:10 PM | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes | Mainstage

Friday, October 1, 2010

Garden Apartment Makeover

The Repertory Theatre owns a twenty unit apartment complex, previously owned by Webster University, that houses our actors, designers and directors when they come to St. Louis. Thanks to our incredible BVB board members, the amazing Christy Marshall, editor of AT HOME magazine, and some very creative and resourceful designers, we have been able to transform these apartments into something lovely and livable.

The transformation began three years ago when the BVB board had a very successful fundraiser and chose to put that money towards renovating some of the apartments that were very worn and tired. There was a plethora of pink lamps, mismatched furniture and artwork that was crying to be taken off the wall and pitched. Don’t get me started on the comforters….That summer began a process of redecoration with themes - shopping at discount stores, repainting with color, acquiring new carpet, artwork and some new furniture. I used the best of what we had and found a home for the rest. I will admit to using a sledgehammer to some pieces of furniture with the help of Laura Wandersee, our administrative assistant and Wade Duffy, one of our actors. It was cheaper than finding a hauler, and more fun!  I don’t consider myself a designer (and this summer proves that), however I did have fun working the themes. My friend, Todd Schaefer painted a Peter Max design on the wall in the 1960s apartment and designer Bill Clark painted a Gustav Klimt design in the Klimt apartment while he was here for one of our shows. The women of development got involved painting some apartments that first summer. It was exhausting yet exhilarating at the same time as we knew we were making a difference in these actor’s lives. (Fun fact: Some of the actors, designers and directors are at The Rep and living in the apartments for as much as two months!)

This past summer AT HOME magazine got on board and we fully renovated five of the apartments with new kitchens and bathrooms. Five design teams along with Christy Marshall were able to get furniture, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, tile, carpet, and furnishings donated (yeah!) and these five apartments are absolutely incredible!  Each one with a different look and feel to it.  The actors are thrilled! So am I.  Not only that, we’re working on landscaping the yard so it will truly have a ‘garden’ feel (and live up to their name as “the Garden Apartments”). Ken Repp, our apartment manager is going to manage that transition.  Nicole Angeli, a previous apartment manager and I started the process three summers ago with border brick, boxwoods and a plant bed—and now we’re expanding on that.

Could be the talk of Webster Groves. Who knows!

Deborah Sharn
Company Manager

October 1, 2010 at 11:02 AM | (1) Comments | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What is ITC?

I’m writing a new musical. Actually, it’s my third musical, and I’m writing along with composer Neal Richardson, who is sort of amazing. Neal and I have written together two other times with great success, but I think I might be the most excited about our new project—The Nutcracker. As a person who starts purchasing Christmas gifts in June and arranges her living room based on the placement of a December Christmas tree, I am absolutely thrilled to be writing a holiday play.

We’re writing this children’s musical for The Rep’s touring children’s ensemble, Imaginary Theatre Company. If you don’t know about ITC—it’s a pretty cool concept. Four actors and a stage manager, all professionals, pack a whole show in a van and take it to schools, community centers, libraries, etc, all over the Midwest. And just because ITC is for kids does not mean it is a secondary thought to the folks at The Rep. Just like all the other high-quality work The Rep turns out, ITC shows are directed, designed and built by the same pros who put work on the Mainstage.

Also, ITC brings their shows to the public a few times a year. The Nutcracker will be on The Rep’s Mainstage on December 18, 20 and 21, and is a pretty great way to entertain the kids for an afternoon. Especially since the ticket price is only $6—less than a movie.

See you at the theatre!
Sarah Brandt
Playwright & Rep Publications Manager

September 29, 2010 at 2:57 PM | Permalink
Categories: Adminis-trivia | Behind the Scenes | General News | ITC

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spinning Plates

When I was younger we used to watch The Ed Sullivan Show. There was one performer who used to spin plates on top of thin bamboo poles. He would get about 10 plates spinning and then run from one end of a table to the other keeping them in motion. That is sort of what it is like in The Rep’s education department these days.

WiseWrite, a writing literacy program The Rep does in conjunction with Springboard, starts in the schools this week. Fifth grade students from Hudson Elementary and Wyland Elementary will learn to write their own plays over the course of the school year. And I have to say YEAH! for our dedicated volunteers who put together 115 resource notebooks in an hour and a half! The really exciting part of it all is that at the end of the program each young playwright will get a published copy of his or her play, which is pretty cool. If you want to help celebrate all of their hard work, come to our WiseWrite festival on April 8 and see some of the plays on the Mainstage.

Kids ArtStart has its first free event on Saturday, October 2 which will be the Imaginary Theatre Company’s Birthday Bash. You remember those old fashion Halloween carnivals where you went from activity to activity doing crafts and dressing up? That is what the birthday bash is like. In the course of the next week and a half, my office will become a storage place for boxes, spin art machines, tissue paper, dress-up costumes, musical instruments, ribbons, glue, tissue paper and other crafty stuff. However, for those of you who know me, be assured there will not be glitter. Everything will be ready to go by 10:00 on the Saturday, October 2. Again, YEAH! for all of the volunteers who help get it all put together.

Oh, did I forget to mention that The Rep’s Imaginary Theatre Company (yes, it’s 35th birthday is being celebrated at the bash) is getting ready to go into first rehearsal on October 4? And the two Shakespeare residencies we are going to do this season—have we talked about them??

Did anybody hear a plate crashing?

Marsha Coplon
Director of Education

September 21, 2010 at 4:28 PM | Permalink
Categories: Behind the Scenes | General News | ITC

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Student Matinee of the Season

Around 800 high school and middle school students packed the theatre Thursday morning for our first student matinee of the season. It’s always a little crazy, but also a lot of fun, to see huge groups of kids exit their buses wearing their best clothes and girls teetering in new high-heels to see one of their first professional plays.

Granted, some of these students have been here before. We see several teachers year after year, who truly recognize the value of theatre in a well-rounded education (Joe Schulte at SLUH, Jean Peters at Lafayette HS and Brian Welch at Villa Duchesne, just to name a few). There are, however, always some students who have never seen a show before, not to mention a professional production. It’s really awesome to see them as they go from being more than a little skeptical to truly enjoying and learning from a play. Season after season, we see students react in ways we never could have imagined, and we watch in wonder as they rise to their feet at the end of a performance, giving ovations that leave us smiling for the rest of the day.

If you’re a teacher or you want to tell your kids’ teacher about our student matinees, check out our student matinee web page at .

Sarah Brandt
Publications Manager

September 16, 2010 at 3:41 PM | Permalink
Categories: Mainstage

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