Let me be clear – our Comedy of Errors cast is incredible. This is an awesome group to work with, and I can’t wait to add in the circus artists!
It’s the casting process that is always my least favorite part of directing. Why? I’m glad I asked for you.
As one of our compatriots recently posted, casting is not about who’s better than who. It’s about finding the right fit. As a director you have ideas about who the characters are, what their personalities are like, and maybe even what they look like.
There are three things that inevitably happen in casting, in my experience:
- At least one role, sometime several, have a ton of actors/actresses who would be perfect. Frustrating, because there are not enough roles.
- At least one other role, sometimes several, do not seem to have any “fits” with what is in my head. Not as frustrating, but it does require a shift in thinking and imagining the character differently from the first vision.
- There are always several roles that have perfect fits and the actors asked want to do the roles – however, they’re in another show, out of town that weekend, etc. This one is the most frustrating!
Another thing I don’t like about casting is that I always feel like I’m in Jerry McGuire – wheeling, dealing, trying to coordinate with dozens of people and get just the right team put together. It’s just not something I feel great with.
However, there is another truth that I experience every time once casting is complete – I always end up with the cast I needed.
It’s so true. For all the heartache I put myself through in this process, in the end we have exactly the right cast in place, every time.
This time is no different. Although we are still short one Antipholus…
With one week of rehearsal for DURANG/DURANG under our collective belt, we’re feeling good. We always manage to find great people, and Olivia has assembled a lethally funny crew for this show. There’s a lot of unique personalities, but with six short plays and 32 characters we need unique personalities.
When I tell people we’re doing DURANG/DURANG, the main question I get is, “What?” So I’d like to take this opportunity to break it down a little.
DURANG/DURANG is a collection of short one-act comedies written by Christopher Durang that was first produced in New York in 1994. The plays were not originally written together – in fact, “Wanda’s Visit” originated as a teleplay for PBS back in 1986. “Mrs. Sorken” and “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” had also been produced earlier in New York in one-act festivals.
Mrs. Sorken, the title character from the first play, lays the show out in her opening monologue. The first half is “Theatre,” and the second half is “Everything Else.” She then goes on to give a spontaneous lecture about drama after realizing she has forgotten her notes. Mrs. Sorken is one of those people that gives you the impression they like going to theatre, but don’t necessarily like it.
We included “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” in ONE NIGHT OF ABSOLUTE DISMAY back in February (check out photos on our Facebook page), and had so much fun doing it that it was a major reason why we decided to do the entire DURANG program. While it is a twisted tale of American dysfunction that is funny in its own right, it’s a spot on parody of Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE.
I gave MENAGERIE a re-read back in January when we were rehearsing for DISMAY. I have to say it not only helped me catch some of the more detailed jokes Durang included, but it reminded me why that play is such a classic. It truly is beautiful and sad, and Williams has some really interesting stage directions that I did not remember from reading in high school (film projections for a play that was written during WWII?).
So, if you’re looking for a quick read of great American literature, give MENAGERIE a go (or re-read) and then come laugh at “Belle.”
While Durang makes fun of MENAGERIE’s Laura (Lawrence in “Belle”), you can tell he loves Williams’ script. The same cannot be said for A LIE OF THE MIND, Sam Shepard’s saga of abuse and Americana that premiered in 1985. Durang turns this into “A Stye of the Eye,” and proceeds to skewer what he perceives as some pretty pretentious theatre.
A LIE OF THE MIND’s original cast included Harvey Keitel and Amanda Plummer, and featured music composed and played by North Carolina’s very own Red Clay Ramblers. It received critical acclaim, but according to Durang it ran 4 hours and he couldn’t understand why it got the praise it did.
With “A Stye of the Eye” Durang blasts away at heavy-handed symbolism and theatre that really wants to be “real.” While the parody mostly focuses on A LIE OF THE MIND, he works in references to AGNES OF GOD and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. If you haven’t read or seen A LIE OF THE MIND, feel free to pick up a copy (you’ll likely have to order it because our local book stores and libraries don’t seem to carry it). This may help you get the more specific references to the Shepard play, but reading this one is not required to enjoy “Stye!” Just come prepared to see some craziness and laugh.
If you’re feeling especially in the mood for reading, you may want to go ahead and check out John Pielmeier’s AGNES OF GOD and David Mamet’s GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. If you’d rather watch the movie versions, they are both critically acclaimed and have great casts:
That concludes this portion of the Bare Theatre Book/AV Club.
The second half of DURANG/DURANG is pure fun. “Nina in the Morning” is an Edward Gorey-esque portrait of a woman who has everything, and all the neuroses that go with that. Nina reminds me of the Norma Desmond character in SUNSET BOULEVARD, played by Gloria Swanson in the Billy Wilder movie. Her looks are fading and her children are pathetic (similar theme to “Southern Belle”?), and this short is hilariously twisted.
“Wanda’s Visit” is a favorite of mine. It is a classic “dinner guest from hell” story and Wanda is a force of nature. The PBS teleplay Durang wrote it for was for a show called “Trying Times.” It featured works from various authors that centered around “difficult, trying events,” and the original version was just called “The Visit.” It was directed by Alan Arkin and featured Swoosie Kurtz, Jeff Daniels, and Julie Hagerty. Mr. Durang himself played the waiter.
The evening ends with “Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room,” a humorous take on the business end of art. The central character – a playwright named “Chris” – is being pushed by his agent and a Hollywood mogul to write a script for a movie he has no interest in working on. The on-stage depiction of what this script becomes is truly not to be missed, and is an excellent closer for the evening.
We are really excited about this show. It’s not one for people who offend easily, but if you have an open mind and like to laugh at absurdity, we think you’ll enjoy it.
More info on Bare Theatre’s DURANG/DURANG: http://baretheatre.org/upcoming.html
This is the eye of the storm.
I have a habit of taking on too many projects. Recently I finished up a soundtrack to a short film with Altercation Pictures, “Jabberwocky,” and also did a rather extensive sound design on Wonder of the World, by David Lindsay-Abaire, with Burning Coal. I’ve also been working on a short film with some friends and cast members of Much Ado. Rehearsals start in two days. Eye of the storm.
Production is already well underway – we’ve already got several costumes, props and set pieces, and we are working on video projections for scenic backgrounds. However, before things get really hot and heavy, I wanted to share a little story that happened on Wonder of the World.
Art never actually killed anyone, to my best knowledge, but it came close with this production.
It’s a very funny, quirky play, well worth checking out if you get the chance. If you are familiar with the story, you know that most of it takes place at Niagara Falls, and there is talk of going over the falls in a barrel. One of the characters just happens to have brought such a barrel, and it features significantly in the play.
The barrel is a tricky prop/set piece, because it actually has to fit two people inside it and yet not be so heavy or bulky as to be unmanageable for the actors. We were lucky with this production because we were actually able to borrow a large plastic “barrel” that had the bowed-out shape of a classic wooden barrel, and had also been painted to look as such for a production of Wonder of the World several years ago by a different company.
Skip to Load-in Day, a Sunday. We had been rehearsing at a local high school, and all of the set pieces (tables, chairs, a bed, a refrigerator, helicopters, etc.) had to be transported to the theatre. We had to get everything into the theatre and stored out of the way by 4:00 because a band had rented the space for a performance that night. I had been asked by the company to borrow a pick-up truck that Bare Theatre always uses for load-ins, so I showed up at the high school with said truck.
Then the monsoon started.
Perhaps it was an omen, but we had barely got the pick-up loaded when torrential rains came in. I was able to get a tarp over the sofa, table, chairs and barrel just before the skies unleashed their fury. We stood helplessly watching from the school’s loading dock as the ramp down to it flooded under a good two feet of water. We could not drive a vehicle into that, and the assembled trucks waited for us on the other side of what was now a small lake.
Needless to say, this made us late. As with a typical Southeastern thunderstorm, it had subsided 30 minutes later, and the waters began to recede. However, by the time we made it to the theatre, the band was already loading in, and we were unable to unload the trucks.
At this point, we were given a “break.” We couldn’t load in until the band was done later that night, so now I had the pleasure of driving a pick-up truck full of set pieces around to go grocery shopping and get some dinner. I wasn’t crazy about it, but it was only for a few hours so I sucked it up. I got some groceries and phoned in for some Indian take-out. I was on my way to pick up the food when disaster struck.
I was driving on Interstate 440, going a little under the speed limit. What I did not realize was that a handrail that had been propping up the tarp and keeping the straps tight over the load – snapped. The pieces had apparently come apart and the tension in the straps was now gone. I only found this out when I glanced up in the rearview mirror to see the tarp slipping away. I was coming up on the Hillsborough Rd. exit and I thought, I’ll just pull off, re-secure the tarp, and get my Indian food.
Then I saw the barrel fly out of the back of the truck.
The car behind me was able to swerve around it as it rolled down the highway. I was already heading down the exit ramp and now I was in full panic. It was Sunday evening, but that stretch of highway is only two lanes on each side, with very little shoulder, and there was enough traffic for this to be incredibly dangerous.
There was no choice – I had to go back and get the damn thing out of the road.
I couldn’t just go back up the ramp – I had to circle around as quickly as possible, pulling illegal u-turns where possible, go back to the exit before where I had lost the barrel, and then come back up that stretch of highway in order to come up behind it and get to the only place where I could possibly park the truck. My mind was envisioning the horrific pile-up that was now taking place on the highway as I worked my way back to the scene.
As I approached, I let out a huge sigh of relief. No pile-up, no cars scattered on the road. The barrel was resting peacefully in the exit lane. I pulled the truck over on the little patch of shoulder right in front of the exit and sprinted for it, wildly waving traffic around as I did so. I grabbed the barrel and ran for the truck as the rain picked up again. I couldn’t believe my good fortune that no one had wrecked!
And then the police car pulled up.
“Did that come out of your truck?” he shouted over traffic and rain. “Yes,” I meekly replied. “I need to see your license,” he responded. There’s been an accident.”
My heart sank. My worst fears were now back in full force. Had someone been hurt? Or worse? I asked the cop if anyone had been injured and he said he didn’t know. He pointed to the exit and shouted “I have to go to the other vehicle! Meet me down there!”
I nodded and said I would secure the barrel and then follow him. He took off. A few minutes later, the straps and tarp now tight again, I headed down the exit ramp. I saw two damaged hub caps lying in the road that had definitely not been there my first trip down. I swung around the loop to the intersection…and no one was there.
No police car, no people standing on the side of the road like they had been in an accident. There was a beat-up looking car that looked as if it had been in an accident, but no one with it. I pulled into the tattoo parlor parking lot right beside this abandoned vehicle and realized…the cop has my license and now I don’t know where he is. At this point, I’m thinking that someone is now on their way to the hospital and I cannot drive anywhere.
What did people do before smart phones? I looked up the non-emergency number and begged the police operator to find the officer who had my license. A short while later he returned and told me that only one car had been in an accident (the beat-up vehicle parked by the tattoo parlor), and the driver was not hurt. Huge relief.
The driver was an 18 year old girl who had swerved to miss the barrel and apparently overcompensated, swinging past the left lane into the median-curb and blowing out her front tire. She was fine, just panicked, and had apparently agreed to let some guy in a suburban give her a ride away from the scene. She returned a while later, shaken but okay, and I apologized for what had happened. The cops gave me a ticket for not securing the load, and insurance is taking care of the damage – only it’s the truck’s owner’s insurance (so beware when loaning your vehicle!).
Later that evening, I was all too ready to get rid of the set pieces, the truck and the barrel. Here’s the stinger – that barrel got cut! No kidding. The director ended up finding a different barrel to use, so the one I had risked life and limb running into interstate traffic for was out.
I am just thankful more than anything that no one was hurt. I feel bad enough about the scare that poor girl got and the damage to her dad’s car. All in all, I was extremely lucky!
This is what we do for art sometimes. At least there were no casualties.