I have been in two productions so far this year. As there was no longer any forum for theater in that other place, I had no way to write about it. Possibly no great loss to our community, however, since both plays were by local authors and therefore unknown to the rest of you.
The first was a spoof on Earle Stanley Gardner. He spent his childhood in Oroville, CA where my community theater group is. Oroville has an annual Earl Stanley Gardner Days celebration lasting about a week and our production was a one night part of this.
All that rehearsal and only one performance!
The second was an original play by Buck Busfield, who lives in Sacramento. Buck’s better known brother is Timothy Busfield who produces, directs and acts. Timothy is the producer for the TV series “Without a Trace”.
This play, “Beneath the Moon, Beyond the Stars” is based on the life of Noor un-Nisa Inayat Khan. She was of Anglo-Indian descent, a writer of children’s stories and, during WW II dropped by British Intelligence into occupied France for espionage work. She was eventually captured by the Gestapo sent to Concentration camp and executed after attempting an escape.
If you want more information about Noor Khan, Google has quite a bit.
My character was her British spymaster, an alcoholic scholar. I possibly used some portions of my misspent youth as reference.
I don’t see anything more of interest in this year’s schedule. My itch may be scratched for this year. But if I do get back into harness you will all be the first to know.
Friday in the mail I got a copy of “Painting Churches” by Tina Howe with a request that I accept the role of Gardner. This is the only male role in the three person cast, so I suppose by default, it is the male lead.
Oh yes; I accepted.
This doesn’t go into rehearsal until next August so I won’t have much to report until then.
I haven’t seen this before and am just now reading through it for the first time. The writing is obviously good but just now something of a jumble for me. Some plays jump off the page at first reading, but not this one. The character is also going to take some finding.
Has anyone seen this one? It was off and on Broadway in NYC in the early ‘80s and got some awards including a Tony nomination.
Although we do not start rehearsals as such, until August, we have been reading and discussing “Painting Churches”. So far we have had two sessions of this.
Elsewhere on Viewpoints, we here were talking about the death of Arthur Miller and the emphasis in more of today’s plays of character over plot. “Churches” falls into this category.
The play takes place in Boston with only three characters;
Fanny Sedgwick Church – A Bostonian from a fine old family, in her 60’s.
Gardner Church – Her husband, an eminent New England poet from a finer family, in his 70’s.
Margaret Church (Mags) – Their daughter, a painter in her early 30’s.
Some of the issues for my character are aging, and with aging the deepening of the inner world which must preoccupy creative persons.
The other artist is the daughter. Between father and daughter there is a close and unspoken bond. They both share the same monkey on the back - the creative imagination.
The mother loves them both but cannot fully share their bond. She is really their only practical link to what is conventionally considered “reality”.
This is going to be an interesting trip for the two women. I believe that they have entered into this project to act out parts in a charming play. I think, however, that as we get into it, the play will prove to go beyond charming and that they will be required to “be” not “act”. This can be very daunting the first time around; but very rewarding; also somewhat addictive.
Prior experience with this theater group in general and with one of the other players specifically.
Typically many people come into community theater with the expectation that it would be fun to do a little “playacting”, in front of their friends. This is all well and good providing the play is a light piece of fluff. However plays dwelling a bit more deeply on interpersonal relations and dynamics have a tendency to reach out and make greater demands.
There comes a time when the actor is no longer out there pretending to be someone else, safely hidden behind the character; but is personally invested in the scene and more or less naked in public. This can come as a great surprise when it first happens and not always welcome, however, this is where theater transcends “fun” and reaches somewhere beyond.
I haven’t worked with this director before, but it appears that she is aware of this and that we are going in the same direction.
It will be interesting to see how far we can take the other two actors and how they respond.
Yes, I know what you're talking about. I've acted all my life and was a theater major in college. That moment that you talk about is my favorite part, that slide into something deeper which connects the meaning of the play and the character being portrayed to my emotions as the actor. The only way I have ever been able to perform is to tap into my own emotions and experiences in order to make the character real for me, and therefore the audience. I welcome that intermingling. I suppose it didn't occur to me to audition for a play to "play act" in a childish way, to show off. I always did it because I couldn't imagine not doing it.
This play sounds pretty wonderful. I hope you're wrong or that they get their act together to do it justice.
Ah, well; I suppose that an update on “Painting Churches” is due.
It is difficult to be objective. We are now about 3 weeks from opening; a time in the progress of rehearsals in which I sometimes feel discouraged, not to say desperate.
The woman who was cast in the leading character, my wife “Fanny”, has never been on stage before; no, not even Community Theater. I hadn’t realized this until recently. She has been unable to learn her lines and so far I don’t see any progress.
Increasing the damage, her character, my wife, is supposed to be holding things together for my character, who has problems with encroaching senility and for that of my eccentric artist daughter “Mags”. Though “Mags”and I can by ad-libbing around her blocks keep the scene going somehow, but it then appears that she and I have it together and that it is “Fanny” who is for some reason loosing it. This is of course the dead opposite of what the play is about.
I am also having other problems with the writing. In several places my role seems to be asking for pathos, which is always a potential pitfall. Usually anything resembling self-pity on stage, as in life, will get you the opposite result. One generally has to find some way to play against it – anger and frustration usually. There is also a lot of dialogue spent on things happening in places and times outside the present action. This is an invitation to yawn.
Also this director is chafing.
Lest you ask; no, I am not enjoying myself.
Well, we go up in three weeks. At that time I will report back on how things worked out. Who knows, this may be just my “half-way there funk”, it may all come out right in the end and I may be forced to eat the glum words above.
“Painting Churches” opened this past Friday. Unfortunately the fears that I expressed in my last post were not groundless. The actress playing “Fanny”, my character’s wife, never did get solid in her lines. Every night she goes off track some place new and “Mags” and I have to ad-lib and drag her back to someplace within the script in order to continue. Continuity, alas, is sometimes dinged beyond repair.
I haven’t seen a review yet. So far the audiences have been responsive and seem to be accepting the performance. They are very unused to live theater and very accepting of whatever they are getting.
One correction: this is not “Fanny’s” first play. She was in two others before this and one of these had the same director as our play. Talking with her she admitted that “Fanny” had exhibited this problem before but that she had cast her anyway hoping that things would be different!
At this point and considering that the theater is 30 miles down the mountain from my house and with gas bumping $3.00/ gal; this will be my last play for a while.
This is a hobby I can no longer afford.
Aravis, I know that you had me at least partially in mind when you created this area; however drama is a very important literary category in its own right. This should no longer be so exclusively about me and the peculiar theatrical itch I occasionally find need to scratch. I will still pop in from time to time but the rest of you will probably have more opportunity to see and comment on live plays than I will up here in the hills.