The behind-scenes-blog of Bare Theatre and its affiliates.

Original Works

Out of the Gates in 2014!

image

With a powerfully transformative year behind us, we launch into this Year of the Horse at full gallop.  An original Bare Theatre production begins to tour, three other productions explore oft-overlooked plays by William Shakespeare, and we begin to delve into some of the other noted Jacobean writers.

Five full productions are on tap for this year, three to finish out our ninth season and two in our our tenth.  We will return to some of our favorite places to play as well as discover new spaces.  Here’s a quick rundown of things to come:

February 21 – March 16: Let Them Be Heard (In Winter)

HortonGrove-snow
The original slave quarters cabins at Horton Grove, Historic Stagville.

The critically-acclaimed original drama based on real slave narratives returns to Historic Stagville in Durham, this time with new characters and stories from North Carolina history.  The program is a walking tour that moves in and out of the original slave quarters at Horton Grove, stopping by the bonfire pit outside.  Narratives detail life during slavery and The Civil War, and they give insight into life during Reconstruction and beyond.

After a two-week run at Historic Stagville, Let Them Be Heard moves to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro for our first-ever performance there.  ArtsCenter Stage Director Jeri Lynn Schulke will take over directing to adapt the show to the theater space and the show will expand to 75 minutes with more narratives.  Let Them Be Heard runs at The ArtsCenter March 7 – 16.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 8.56.45 AM
The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

Later in the year, in June and July, we will also begin to tour Let Them Be Heard to other historic plantation sites, including Hope Plantation and Historic Somerset Place.

March 27 – April 12: Cymbeline

At the end of March, we take on an oft-overlooked gem from William Shakespeare.  Cymbeline is a true favorite of some of our company members, and has been referred to by some as “Shakespeare’s greatest hits.”  The play is epic, spanning locations and genres, and thus it is difficult to categorize.  As such, scholars have listed it among Shakespeare’s comedies or tragedies.

We place it among the comedies because it fits the original sense of the term “comedy” – meaning that the protagonists succeed and there is a happy ending.  There is still plenty of humor, however, often provided by the villains of the play.  There is betrayal and sadness as well, and the play culminates with a huge battle.  There’s romance, laughs, tears, even a beheading…This is a play well worth taking in!

Laura Bess Jernigan, who performed in the very first Bare Theatre production ever, directs Cymbeline with a cast of nine who will double and triple-up roles.  She is very interested in the recurring theme of rebellion found in the text, and is taking this production “underground.”  We will be performing for our first time in the Cordoba Arts Center at Golden Belt in Durham.

Cordoba Arts Center
The cavernous Cordoba Arts Center space.

May 23 – 31: Two Noble Kinsmen: Fire & Shadows

This Spring we return to Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre for the third time with a play not usually included in Shakespeare’s canon.  The Two Noble Kinsmen is attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher, another renowned writer of the era who took over as house playwright for The King’s Men after Shakespeare.

“Kinsmen” is a re-telling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales, and the story centers around two cousins of nobility who both fall madly in love with the same woman and are eventually forced to fight each other to the death.

The theme of this production, “fire and shadows,” reunites Bare Theatre with fire and pyrotechnics artists from Cirque de Vol Studios and Mesmerizing Arts, and will also include shadow play mixed in with live action.  The mix of light and dark, fire and shadow, along with a gripping script will captivate audiences in the beautiful outdoor setting.

Mundi Broda with fire fans in last year's "The Comedy of Errors."
Mundi Broda with fire fans in last year’s The Comedy of Errors.

Season X

Our tenth full season kicks into high gear with another lesser-known work by Shakespeare: Coriolanus.  This time Bare Theatre will team up with parkour/freerunning athletes from the newly-opened Enso Movement to perform an unforgettable outdoor experience.  Inspired by the Moral Monday protests at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh (which tie in remarkably well with the political climate in the play), we will turn the government complex into our stage and lead audiences on a thoroughly modern take of this gripping tragedy.

parkour silhouette

We then turn to the pool of other Jacobean playwrights that get overlooked because of Shakespeare’s prominence.  Veteran actor Matt Schedler, who last directed The Merchant of Venice for Bare Theatre, directs a bloody tale called The Revenger’s Tragedy.  The play, originally published anonymously in 1607, was performed by The King’s Men and attributed later in the century to Cyril Tourneur, although modern scholars believe it more likely to have been written by Thomas Middleton.  Nonetheless, fans of violent revenge dramas will enjoy this show next October.

revengers title

It’s going to be an exciting year.

We want to thank everyone who has participated with Bare Theatre in 2013 – the actors, directors, crew members, Kickstarter supporters, and of course, audience members!  Theatre is about community – live, in person, visceral and intimate – and it is about memorable experiences that cannot be duplicated in the same way on film or television.  The community we have found in the Raleigh-Durham area has been wonderful, and we simply could not do any of this without all of you.

2014 stands before us.  Come join us for the fun!


Reflections on WINTER ACTS 2013.

With WINTER ACTS – our fourth annual collection of contemporary one-act plays – under our belt, we’re feeling pretty good. We premiered two original works by North Carolina-raised playwrights, R. Alex Davis (Raleigh) and Jordan Carlson (Tarboro), and presented a little gem from 1967 from Australia’s Pat Flower.

Each night kicked off with a different circus act from Raleigh’s amazing Cirque de Vol Studios, so we want to thank Sara Phoenix for all her help in coordinating those acts.  Lots of thanks and praise go to Paige LaWall (aka “Papyrus”), Liz Bliss Roberts & Julia Hartsell Crews (Jewels) of Carrboro’s Flowjo, Betty Adorno (Lady Gatita), and Adam Dipert.  They truly displayed some awesome talent, and we are looking forward to collaborating with these and other artists on our upcoming show, the circus-themed Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Stephenson Amphitheatre.

cirque folks

Paige LaWall (aka “Papyrus”), Liz Bliss Roberts & Julia “Jewels” Hartsell Crews, and Adam Dipert perform at WINTER ACTS 2013. Photos by Heather J. Strickland and G. Todd Buker.

We also want to thank our wonderful stage manager, Emily Huffman – it is hard to believe this was only the second show she’s ever stage managed!  Our running crew of one, the fabulous Tim Randall, is an absolute champ and somehow managed to perform major surgery on magnetic tape!

Of course, our three casts deserve much love and respect.

Justin Smith and Matt Fields are two of the nicest guys we know, not to mention talented actors.  Asking them to be absolutely terrible people onstage is asking a lot, but they went with it and found their dark sides somehow!

Youth Knife - Mike Norman

Matt Fields and Justin Smith in R. Alex Davis’ “The Hitler Youth Knife.” Photo by Jason Bailey.

Mary Forester, Jeff Buckner, and Loren Armitage tackled the strange and wonderful story of Fun House head on. This was a very collaborative process with everyone weighing in on where we had all been, where we were, and where we were going. There is not a better, more supportive team to be stuck in a fun house with.

Fun House - Malachi dark

Loren Armitage in Jordan Carlson’s “Fun House.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

“The Tape Recorder” was a really unique process, and I am very thankful for the talent and adaptability of Maegan Mercer-Bourne and Loren Armitage.  It wasn’t an easy play to do, especially for Maegan having to carry a half hour piece without speaking!

Tape Recorder - Miss C concerned

Maegan Mercer-Bourne in Pat Flower’s “The Tape Recorder.” Photo by Jeff Buckner.

One of the highlights of the production was the addition of audience discussions with the playwrights and actors. We learned a lot about each artist’s individual work, the process, and ourselves in sharing those behind-the-scenes pieces with our audiences. We are also grateful for those that stayed after curtain to ask thoughtful, insightful questions.

This show reminded us how good it is to look at new material.  We want to thank all of the playwrights who submitted their work and thank them for the fresh perspectives and new ideas they brought to the table.

Looking forward to next year’s collection!

– GTB & HJS


Behind the Scenes of “The Tape Recorder.”

857294_414571868632962_1751166410_o

The title character in “The Tape Recorder” at WINTER ACTS 2013. Photo by Stephen Wall.

We began rehearsals by having Loren read The Writer’s part and let Maegan walk through her wordless performance so that Loren could see how she acted and what she did.  Once he had an idea of how she would react, we recorded his voice digitally and then burned it to a CD so Maegan could practice with the recording now instead of his live performance.  We re-recorded some of Loren’s voice for timing or delivery reasons, and updated Maegan with new versions.

Finally, the tape recorder arrived.  I have to say, it exceeded my wildest expectations.  I never thought in a million years we would find an actual reel-to-reel tape recorder, and when this thing showed up I got really excited.  Multiply that excitement times 10 when I found out it worked.  And…it had one reel of tape that didn’t have someone’s family memories recorded onto it – so we could record Loren’s voice onto analog tape!  It got real creepy after that.

It also got pretty intense working with that tape.  We discovered in dress rehearsal that fast forward was evil and it would snap the tape.  It wouldn’t just snap it, either – it would get caught and twisted in the reels.  This was bad.

Running Crew-master Tim kept his cool with this.  We just wouldn’t fast forward.  We had now split our one reel into two pieces, but we only had one empty take-up reel.  I took the tape recorder home late one night after dress and attempted to record Loren’s part onto the larger of the two pieces.  It fit.

On the other piece, I recorded our pre-show music.  It almost fit, so we would just open house late each night.  No big deal.  And…I went ahead and ordered the one reel of tape I could find that could be delivered in time for the show, just in case anything else bad happened to the tape.

Two days later, the order for the tape was cancelled.  No real reason given – just that the order had been cancelled and our money had been refunded.  So.  We had no backup.

Our “backup” was Emily.  The plan was that she would play and stop the digital version of Loren’s voice on her computer with the sound muted through the house speakers.  If anything were to happen during the show, she would simply un-mute the track and continue with Loren’s voice coming through the speakers instead of the tape recorder onstage.

Not ideal, but at least it would have kept broken tape from being a show-stopper.

After tech week and four performances, we managed to break a wooden chair and a mirror, but miraculously the tape did not break.  I am supremely thankful for this, and I love the effect created by the creepy-looking old tape recorder slowly turning as the writer laid out his terrifying plans to the unsuspecting Miss Collins.

IMG_1338

A study in making children look creepy, with Aurora Strickland and The Tape Recorder. Photo by G. Todd Buker.

– GTB


“The Tape Recorder.”

The Aiwa TP 1001 becomes an instrument of psychological terror in “The Tape Recorder.”

Loren Armitage has just concluded his performance, but the show doesn’t open until five days from now.  Maegan Mercer-Bourne is now doing all of the heavy lifting in this play, although she doesn’t actually say anything.

What is most immediately striking about Pat Flower’s 1967 play, “The Tape Recorder,” is that no one has to memorize any lines.

There are two characters. Miss Collins, played by Maegan, is onstage the entire time but has no lines. The Writer – Loren – is heard via the show’s namesake, but is not seen (or will he be?).

Loren Armitage records the voice of The Writer in Pat Flower's "The Tape Recorder." Photo by G. Todd Buker.

Loren Armitage records the voice of The Writer in Pat Flower’s “The Tape Recorder.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

“The Tape Recorder” was originally written as a teleplay, and it has the distinction of being the BBC’s very first color broadcast. Flower’s career was actually more involved in television than theatre, and it was only after her editor persuaded her that she wrote the stage version we will be performing.

Because the piece began as a teleplay, there are a set of challenges when producing it live. Simple cutaways and common editing techniques can create surprise effects that we cannot replicate onstage. A prop cannot just appear or disappear onstage without some sort of cover. So we had to take a few liberties with the suggested set design (Flower’s was pretty involved for a one-act play!). We’ve simplified the set design quite a bit, but I think it will still give us a perfect setting for terror.

Maegan Mercer-Bourne in "The Tape Recorder" rehearsal.  Photo by G. Todd Buker.

Maegan Mercer-Bourne in “The Tape Recorder” rehearsal. Photo by G. Todd Buker.

This play is creepy. There is a menace that slowly sinks in as the play moves forward.  It’s one of the big draws of doing this play for me. I love it when theatre or film makes everyday objects scary, and in this case we have a real relic…the tape recorder.

It’s the most important prop in the play. It becomes another character, serving as a physical proxy for the writer. Early on in our rehearsal process I knew I wanted to use a working tape recorder. I wanted the prop to be practical, so that the writer’s voice coming from the tape was authentic and not cued from house speakers by Emily, our wonderful stage manager.

I thought we’d be lucky to find a functional cassette recorder. It would have been somewhat anachronistic, because the play feels more 1960’s, but no matter because we were able to borrow a genuine reel-to-reel…and it is beautiful.

This is hands-down my favorite prop I’ve ever handled. Not only does this baby work, but the slowly turning reels are the perfect visual as the writer weaves a web of terror and suspense around the unsuspecting Miss Collins.

I just hope it continues to work for one week.

The machine itself is almost 50 years old. The speakers kind of come and go, which might be great for the creep factor or they might just crap out altogether. The reels of magnetic tape are an even bigger concern for me. Will they hold signal? We’ve already discovered the hard way that the tape can easily break when trying to stop it after a fast forward.

If it works, the tape recorder adds a dimension to this play that I have not seen before. Sure, I’ve seen and worked on many plays that use pre-recorded material, but it’s all been in the digital age. A stage manager can stop and start tracks from CD or playlist easily and quickly.

With this tape recorder, everything is laid out ahead of time. Timing is everything. Maegan will work a tightly choreographed sequence throughout the play, and it must line up with the entire reel of tape.

One week. It just has to hold out one week!

– GTB

A 2011 iMac computer hooked up to a 1960's-era Aiwa tape recorder.

Old meets new: a 2011 iMac computer hooked up to a 1960’s-era Aiwa tape recorder.


“The Hitler Youth Knife.”

photo

“The Hitler Youth Knife” has been on our desk for a while.  It was written by R. Alex Davis, who performed in our first three Rogue Company productions beginning with Titus Andronicus (2005).  He played Reverend Hale in The Crucible (2006) and the title role in King Lear (2007).

With that background, Alex is obviously no stranger to dark psychological material.  This short play is a disturbing but fascinating study of two college friends.

Mike is typical of many young men – once at university, he pushed his boundaries.  Towards the beginning he got heavily involved with drugs and became sexually promiscuous.  He has since moderated his drug habit, but there is some question about his relationships with women.  He claims to have fallen deeply in love with at least two women in particular, but also seems to have a “love ’em and leave ’em” attitude – which could be an act.

Norman also has gone through some pretty serious experimentation, but doesn’t appear to be as callous with regards to women.  Whereas Mike found meaning in the writings of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, Norman is more interested in religions of the world.  In fact, he seems to fancy himself something of a teacher, perhaps even a prophet of sorts.  He is particularly occupied with atonement and retribution.

Mike and Norman have a young woman in common.  Mike dated Therese first, and took her virginity in a night of drug-fueled excess.  According to Norman, this was not a consensual experience, and Mike’s abusive behavior and callousness towards Therese afterwards left her extremely hurt and confused.

Norman is now with Therese, and he is focused on exacting punishment on Mike.  The two have not spoken to each other for a while, presumably since Norman and Therese have been together.

“The Hitler Youth Knife” is the conversation that occurs when Norman confronts Mike with what he now knows about Mike’s relationship with Therese.

I’ve tapped Matt Fields, who has been performing with Bare since he was 14 (he’s now in college himself), to play Mike.  Matt has been in almost every show I’ve directed.  Justin Smith debuted with Bare in our critically-acclaimed adaptation of NC slave narratives, Let Them Be Heard (2012), and he plays Norman.

Both actors are talented individuals who are fearless onstage.  I am looking forward to the energy they bring to this piece, and I think it will be an electrifying part of WINTER ACTS!

-GTB


We Have a Show.

Winter Acts 2013 web image

Kittens.  Babies.  Warm fuzzies.  These are not things that are part of our next production.

In a way this, our fourth annual collection of contemporary one-act plays, is a return to what began this project.  Five years ago we were doing mostly Shakespeare, and while that is fantastic and fun, we felt a need to stretch ourselves in different ways every now and then.

The first set of one-acts was incredibly dark.

Though it was simply titled Boys & Girls, it contained death of a parent, alcoholism, drug abuse, murder, psychological trauma, molestation, rape and revenge.  It was not the feel-good hit of the summer.

The material was disturbing, and it did push us.  It challenged us as actors and directors, but also challenged the audience – who even got to vote on whether one of the characters lived or died after he confessed his crimes to them.

These one-act collections – which we are now simply calling WINTER ACTS – come about from a variety of processes.  We accept original script submissions each year, we collect interesting plays from a variety of sources, and we workshop new material.  We don’t set out to create a theme, but rather let the various works speak to us and see where that guides our directors.

The goal is to tackle new material and show audiences something different, that they may not otherwise see.  It’s not The Music Man.

We’re kicking off 2013 with an evening of entertainment that will amaze and thrill.  For starters, this WINTER ACTS will feature performance artists from Cirque De Vol Studios in Raleigh.  This is a preview of coming attractions – we’re performing The Comedy of Errors in May with an old-fashioned circus theme in collaboration with Cirque De Vol and their affiliates.

The scripted material gets decidedly more ominous, as you may be able to tell from the title, “The Hitler Youth Knife.”  This is a play from a former member of our Rogue Company student conservatory, R. Alex Davis.  We’ve been talking about doing this short piece for the last three years, but the starts finally aligned this time out.  Playwrights, take note: just because we don’t choose your script one year, it doesn’t mean we won’t ask you about doing it in the future!

Heather is directing a piece called “Fun House” that caught our attention among the scripts from our last call for submissions.  It’s by a young playwright named Jordan Carlson, who is originally from Tarboro, NC (we love doing work from local playwrights!).  This supernatural story keeps twisting in new and creepy ways, and has been a lot of fun in rehearsal.

Finally, we have “The Tape Recorder” by British television writer Pat Flower, a transplant to Australia.  This play was originally a teleplay, and it was the first color transmission of the BBC back in the late 1960’s.  Despite it’s being obviously dated (how many readers remember tape recorders?), it is a fascinating psychological thriller.  It is rare in that it involves two actors, neither of whom has to memorize any lines.  One is seen onstage the whole play, but never speaks; the other is heard but not seen (or is he?).

We’ll post more details in coming posts.  Go ahead and put it on your calendar, though, because we’re only doing one weekend of shows.  Or, grab tickets early: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/323181.

-GTB


Looking back on 2012.

2012 was a challenging year in many ways for a lot of people.  The economy was still a bit shaky and we all endured a grueling election cycle.  There were challenges for us in Bare Theatre – the most notable being the unfortunate closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players, which had seemed to be the perfect new home for us in Raleigh after Much Ado About Nothing.

It’s always interesting to me to look back at what we’ve done and where we’ve been.  2012 brought a lot of firsts for us, and it saw our “little company that could” transitioning into a more established company here in Raleigh and in the Triangle as a whole.

Here’s a brief look back:

February.  Winter One-Acts: One Night of Absolute Dismay

Untitled-2

Jeff Buckner as Lawrence and Joanna Herath as Amanda in “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls.” Photo by Jason Bailey.

February held our third collection of one-acts, a mix of short plays from playwrights new and well-established.  We presented new works by Lucius Robinson, Rajeev Rajendran, Ben Ferber, Donnie McEwan, and Mora Harris, as well as a favorite by Christopher Durang.

We premiered three installments of “Hot Greek Porn,” a mashup of Greek tragedy, the European debt crisis, and well…porn.  We bloodied the stage with “Everything Seems So Plausible at 1 A.M.,” and explored a couple’s faith being tested by a homeless person.  The show wrapped up with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls,” a twisted retelling of Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie.

Notable firsts included Jason Bailey’s first time directing on stage and Olivia Griego’s first time directing with Bare!

May.  We had so much fun with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” in Absolute Dismay that we decided to mount the entire collection from which it came, Durang/Durang.  That show, originally scheduled for May, had to be postponed because of the closure of REP.

We had already rehearsed well over a month by the time we got the sad news, so rather than cancel the show entirely we moved it to July, thus canceling our summer youth conservatory, Rogue Company.

June.  Let Them Be Heard

Justin Smith as Dave Lawson and Phillip B. Smith as Reverend Squire Dowd in Let Them Be Heard

Justin Smith as Dave Lawson and Phillip B. Smith as Reverend Squire Dowd in Let Them Be Heard.  Photo by Jason Bailey.

Our first location-based production, Let Them Be Heard, took place at Historic Stagville in Durham, NC.  The seven monologues taken from the Slave Narrative Project were staged in actual slave quarters and a hand-built mule barn at the site.

Let Them Be Heard was a powerful experience for us.  The fact that the narratives came from men and women who lived in Raleigh and Durham and grew up as slaves made already compelling stories even more meaningful.

Among many firsts with this show was our first Kickstarter campaign, which successfully raised over $1,250 to cover the costs of the production.  This in turn helped us donate 100% of ticket sales – over $1,800 – to Historic Stagville to support their mission of historic preservation.

It was also our first appearance on WUNC 91.5 FM’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio.  It was also our first (of hopefully many more) production that was audio recorded and broadcast with the help of Kurt Benrud and Triangle Radio Reading Service.

Additionally, the sold-out show was recognized by Byron Woods and The Independent Weekly as among the best of 2012’s Triangle Theater, receiving recognition for best achievements in ensemble, directing, production, and a special achievement in the humanities.

July.  Durang/Durang

Durang-Stye5family

Clockwise from left: Jason Bailey as Wesley, PJ Maske as Mae, Richard Butner as Jake, G. Todd Buker as Beth, Lucinda Gainey as Dr. Martina, Hilary Edwards as Meg, and Julie Oliver as Ma in “A Stye of the Eye.”  Photo by Andrew Martin.

July saw Durang/Durang finally get its run (with a few new cast members), and it was a blast.  Olivia was a fantastic director, and we even got her husband Drew onstage with us!

Not only did this show have the honor of being our first-ever production at Burning Coal’s Murphey School, it was also the second-highest grossing show in Bare Theatre history (after our 2011 run of Much Ado About Nothing).

September.  SPARKcon 2012

SparkClown_0018

Cassandra Wladyslava, Matthew Hager, Patrick Cox, Matt Fields, and G. Todd Buker making friends at SPARKcon. Photo by Patrick Campbell.

SPARKcon 2012 was Bare’s second appearance at the huge four-day creative explosion in downtown Raleigh.  TheatreSPARK wanted to go bigger and better, so local theatre companies took to the streets with an interactive scavenger hunt.  With our upcoming clown-centric show, The Leader, rapidly approaching it was time to send in the clowns.

October/November.  The Leader

Matt Fields, Jeff Buckner and Matthew Hager in "Excuse Me, pt. 2"

Matt Fields, Jeff Buckner and Matthew Hager in “Excuse Me, pt. 2.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

The Leader involved several firsts.  Using Eugene Ionesco’s short 1953 play by the same name as a jumping-off point, we explored a creative process unlike our typical process.  The devised short plays and sketches that filled out the show were created by the ensemble, with several pieces written by Chuck Keith, and Todd Buker.

Our pals, The Nickel Shakespeare Girls, came to participate in our clown workshops, and we took what we learned out onto the streets of downtown Raleigh to field test it.  The Leader was our first production in an art gallery, too – at the wonderful Visual Art Exchange.  We also got to visit Frank Stasio at The State of Things again to talk a little about political theatre!

What a year.  There were so many unforgettable moments on stage and back stage.  We had the pleasure of working with a ton of great new actors, and trying new things with old friends.

Here’s to 2013, which we’ll discuss more on the next post!  Wait ’til you hear what’s in store!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

– GTB