February 24, 2009

A little about Regent Lab Shows

Last weekend, Regent University’s acting lab was transformed into a police department’s interrogation room as 4 of our third-year MFA actors thrilled audiences in a suspenseful new play, The Confessional, written and directed by third-year MFA student Jayson Akridge.

This upcoming weekend, the acting lab will become the meeting house, chicken coup, laundry room, and meadow of a Shaker Village set in 1830’s Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, as MFA and MA actors perform Arlene Hutton’s As It Is in Heaven.

These productions, known to us here as Lab Shows, are part of Regent’s “Second Season”—shows put on in addition to our Mainstage Theatre season. There are usually 1-2 Lab Shows a semester. Last semester, we put on Tim Mogford’s Libby Pearce Drinks as well as the debut of a work by second-year MFA student Alaska Reece Vance, Moonlight in Boxes. Lab shows exist so that the theatre students can be presented with more chances to act, direct, and produce, as well as be exposed to more types of material than what we can fit into our Mainstage season. As the audiences for these shows are comprised largely of the Regent Theatre community, these shows are a prime opportunity for acting students to take a microscope to their technique, to explore different methods and different roles, and to get practical feedback from both their professors and fellow students.

Showtimes for this weekend’s performances of As It Is In Heaven are Thursday Feb 26 @ 7:00 (invited dress rehearsal), Friday Feb 27 @ 7:00, and Saturday Feb 28 @ 3:00 & 7:00pm.

February 19, 2009

The Academy Awards are Nearing, Part II

Here are a few thoughts from '08 MFA Acting Alum Michael Woods about the Oscar nominees. Read on!

Best Supporting Actor? "Heath Ledger. They will never be able to give him another award, and (that aside) his performace was the most specific, layered, and captivating showing from a supporting actor. And with few nominations for The Dark Knight already, Heath Ledger is as much as a sure thing as we can get."

Best Supporting Actress? "Penelope Cruz was completely unihibited in her role in Vickie Cristina Barcelona. She didn't hold anything back and we saw a dangerous and hilarious performance. Viola Davis is the only other one I would cross my fingers for. It is a rare thing to shine out among established stars, and shine with very little screen time. But Davis knocked it out of the park. Cruz or Davis. . . It's a toss up."

Best Actor? "My heart yearns for Mickey Rourke to walk away with the Oscar for his devestatingly beautiful performance in The Wrestler. However, Sean Penn is equally strong in Milk and living in a post-Prop 8 world may lean some votes in that direction. It's a toss up."

Best Actress? "Come on, Kate Winslet! When people hear that she has never won an Oscar, they cannot believe it. Meryl Streep deserves an Oscar for her performance...but she has been nominated more than any other actor and she has two statues on her mantle already. Will that be enough to sway votes? Again, it's a toss up."

Best Picture and Director? "Everyone predicts Slumdog Millionaire, and I must agree. The film explores new territory in a somewhat cliche story. Performances are powerful, the cinematography is captivating and the location of Mumbai is absolutely breathtaking. Danny Boyle is a fantastic director and he has a brilliant ability to direct children, capture beautiful camera shots, and to keep a story moving--a rare trait in many directors."

Do you agree with Michael's predictions? Comment and let your opinion be known!

The Rivals: Cast Reflections

“Getting to work on such an intimate show where you have 2-3 acting partners was a joy; I got to deepen friendships with people. Michael Gaunt made it easy to transport yourself back to the 1770's, he knew so much about the period! And then there were those great dresses!” Kaja Dunn (Julia)

“My thesis experience couldn't have been better! Gaunt was so knowledgeable and passionate about the characters that it made me even more passionate about mine! He expected professional work from us the moment he arrived and I think that was a wonderful motivation for us to keep moving forward, rising to that standard. The other actors I was able to work with were trustworthy and sensitive; and I could truly see that everyone was holding themselves to a high standard of performance. The rehearsals didn't stop with rehearsal. There was line running, improv in character, and discussions of moments continually heard off stage. Every night was an experience—especially the night my dress broke during my first scene! Needless to say, I loved this opportunity.” Ashley Larsen, (Thesis role: Lydia Languish)

“Working with Professor Gaunt was very interesting. He was never cross with the cast, but you could tell if he was disappointed—it was frightening beyond all belief! He would always give notes is the most pleasant ways. We all really wanted to improve for him.” Bradley Archer (Sir Anthony Absolute)

“It was fun to think that this show was always evolving—even during performances. I would constantly come off stage with new insights about my character, relationships, new connections with the language, new tactics I wanted to play with. It was exciting and challenging to think that I could continually delve deeper into the role, the play, and my technique.” Katie Cheely (Lucy)

The Rivals, for me, was not just a culminating theatrical experience; it was a confirmation of the ministry that God has called me to. Having different elements such as Mrs. Malaprop's age, the period and style of the piece, and a plethora of malaprops to remember and enforce, presented me with a choice. I could either cower in fear of all of the challenges, or I could use that same energy to get to know this wonderful character and share her with the audience. I first had to believe that God had equipped me for this role. So, in addition to a tremendously talented cast, faithful and encouraging director, and an amazing script, I was blessed to conquer my fear of failure and celebrate the beauty and mystery of this art with those on and offstage. I'll never forget this experience!” Christina Browder (Thesis role: Mrs. Malaprop)

February 17, 2009

Spotlight on. . . Michael Gaunt, Director

Last weekend, we closed our production of Sheridan's The Rivals, during which process the cast had the privilege to be directed by guest director from the UK, Professor Michael Gaunt. We want our patrons and prospective students to get to know the director whose unceasing pleasantness and Restoration Theatre expertise charmed and awed us all!

Michael Gaunt was trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and King Alfred’s College (now the University of Winchester), and has been working all over the UK as a professional actor and director for over twenty years. In addition to over fifty film and television appearances, he has performed in the theatres at Malvern, Nottingham, Norwich, Guildford, Edinburgh, and Bath, and has also acted at Leeds, Plymouth, Farnham, Chesterfield, Dundee, Bromley, and Palmers Green. In London, he worked at the Little Theatre Club, Comedy Theatre, The Haymarket, and Shakespeare’s Globe. He has been the principal of the Guilford School of Acting, the Birmingham School of Acting, the Director of Drama at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and a visiting professor at the University of Central England. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society for Arts and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, a committee member of the Society for Theatre Research, and a consultant for the Council for Dance Education and Training. As a director, he has been responsible for some seventy productions and has directed at Dundee, Palmers Green, Oval House, the Edinburgh Festival, the University of Surrey, as well as a number of productions that have toured the UK. He has also directed productions in Santa Monica, Amsterdam, Moscow, Hong Kong, and Brussels—where he was awarded a gold medal for his production of The Merchant of Venice.

We had a few questions for Professor Gaunt as he directed the production!

Many of your actors have commented on your familiarity with Bath, where all the action of the play takes place. How has this expertise specifically served you as you directed this production of The Rivals?

I have been interested in Bath since I was a young man because of its incredible history. Of special interest to me is the Theatre Royal which stands in Old Orchard Street, although it is no longer a theatre, and The Rivals was performed here in March 1775 two months after it opened in London. The streets in the world of the play are the same streets that Sheridan walked in and they are still there today. We can still see the family house in the Royal Crescent that Elizabeth eloped from with Sheridan. Most of the places referred to in the play are still there and can be found on the city map. It is easy to imagine Sir Anthony exercising his gout through the bustling streets and his son Jack trying to elude him as he makes his way to Lydia. This awareness helped bring the play alive during the rehearsal period.

What has been your experience working on this British play with American actors, and have there been any new challenges or new insights gained?

The experience of working with American actors on this play has been an extremely good one. When the play was written, the American and British people to a large extent shared the same play repertoire in their respective theatres and they often saw the same actors on both sides of the Atlantic. The Douglass/Hallam theatre at Williamsburg, VA was such a theatre in the eighteenth century. The actors at Regent have moved easily into the style and language of The Rivals and the challenges have been few as we have worked together to lift the play off the page and on to the stage!

This production was designed to feel like a true Georgian Theatre. Can you expound a bit upon what this means and give us your take on the significance of historical accuracy when directing a period piece?

The design concept is based on a real Georgian Theatre in Yorkshire that was built in 1788. The theatre has not been altered and is still in active use. Georgian theatres were not large and probably seated four or five hundred people in the pit, boxes and gallery and they were near to the actors. Thus an intimate style of performance that reached every section of the auditorium was possible and the performer’s every look or nuance of speech was potentially accessible and had meaning. With reference to the significance of our choice of historical accuracy, or rather the illusion of theatrical accuracy, we should state that clearly no contemporary production can replicate a performance of more than two hundred years ago, as present day theatres are not equipped to do this – for a start health and safety regulations would prevent it! We no longer have actors with the same level of stage experience, for example, a good Georgian actor would normally carry between forty and fifty roles in his or her head and be able to play them at almost a moment’s notice, sometimes in more than one play in an evening. But imaginatively we can try to connect with the playwright’s concept, as opposed to the director’s modern concept – how was the play conceived and how is this revealed in the play’s text? What was the writer’s experience and awareness of the life of the time? What do we learn of people’s beliefs and fears, pleasures and hardships, privilege and poverty and the heart beat of the time? What is contained in the life of the play that is different to our life experience today? What did the writer introduce into the play that would appeal to the Georgian audience and bring them to the theatre? What might appeal to an audience today and bring them to our theatre? And so in this production of The Rivals we hope that our audience will empathize with these moments of fun from another time. That they will be amused by the personalities of these characters from the past, and the extraordinary situations they find themselves in: whilst relying, as much as we can, on Sheridan’s creativity and wit to carry the day.

As someone outside the immediate Regent community, what compelled you to accept this position and come to Regent to direct this show?

Some twelve years ago I worked with Dr. Michael Kirkland in Pennsylvania and we have remained good friends and colleagues ever since. When he told me he was joining Regent University, a Christian University, I was at once intrigued to know more. Over the years we have met on both sides of the Atlantic. Last summer we spent a rewarding day in Bath, exploring the streets and architecture together and enjoying coffee at the Pump Room. I have been invited to direct four acting workshops at the university during their Modular weeks over the past four years and each of these has been a rewarding experience. This year I have been invited to direct The Rivals which I am honored to do. I know some of the cast from the Modular Weeks and have quickly got to know the actors I am working with for the first time. They are, without exception, friendly, bright, and talented young actors. The production team has also been extremely welcoming and it is a pleasure to work with them as the rehearsals came together. I enjoy the special atmosphere on the campus and I have found Regent University a calm and peaceful place in which to work with the next generation of actors.

The Academy Awards Are Nearing. . .

Check out the blog of Michael Woods, '08 MFA Acting alum, with movie reviews and discussions of films old and new. Click the below link for his thoughts on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."


February 10, 2009

Upcoming MFA Auditions Reminder!

The professors have already done quite a bit of traveling around the country, auditioning actors for next year's MFA cohort. Here's a reminder about our three remaining audition sites:

-Our Artist-in-Residence, Professor Mark Paladini, will be holding MFA auditions in Los Angeles County on Saturday, Feb. 28. Auditions will be held on the campus of Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, CA.

-Mark Paladini and Head of the MFA program Dr. Michael Kirkland will be attending, teaching, and auditioning actors for Regent’s MFA program at the SETC Spring Graduate Auditions in Birmingham, AL on March 5-6.

-Finally, any students wishing to combine their audition with a visit to Regent’s campus and Virginia Beach are invited to the University’s Spring Preview, where auditions with the performance faculty will be held on March 13.

-To schedule an audition at any of these locations, contact recruitment coordinator Jennifer Jackson at 757-352-4228 or email auditions@regent.edu.


February 4, 2009

SHORTS! Audition Notice

Auditions will be held on February 14, from 9am – 12pm in COM 128 (the Main Theatre and Studio Theatre will also be used for callbacks). SHORTS! is a one-act play festival to be performed as part of Regent University’s studio theatre season on April 3-5, 2009. SHORTS! will consist of six one-act plays, all directed by MFA directing students as the culminating experience for THE 723 – Advanced Directing. The festival titles are designed to provide unique opportunities for MA and BA casting, as well as expose students and audience members alike to material beyond our mainstage season selections. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin March 9, from 5-7pm, but all directors are expected to have some flexibility in scheduling. Auditions will consist of prepared readings of the actors’ choosing from one of the six plays, immediately followed by callbacks. The entire audition will conclude promptly by noon. Selected sides and a sign-up list will be available from Diane Clark’s office (COM 221) beginning February 9. Please sign up for the earliest slots first. The final titles and synopses under consideration are below. There are casting opportunities for approximately 27 women and 11 men.

Play Synopses:
-ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN ON FIESTA DAY by Eva Sutter (1 M, 1 W, 2 - 3 flexible). During the cafeteria’s Spanish-themed “Fiesta Day”, the reality-weary lunch lady explores her romantic, Spanish-themed fantasies.
-THE FREAK (ST. GEORGE) by Eric Ehn (0-1 M, 2-4 W). The play is about a smart girl who is born with wings that get removed in a dream turned reality with St. George. She goes on to become a teacher liberating the wings of others. Play will incorporate puppetry and mask.
-HUMPY by Krissa Woiwood (3-4 M, 2-3 W, 1-7 Ensemble Members). Richard III in 10 minutes.
-I DEFENDED YOU by Joseph Dougherty (2 – 6 people, flexible casting). Pair of buddies (or 3 pairs) discuss the incident in which one friend defended the other’s honor.
-LET US GO OUT INTO THE STARRY NIGHT, by John Patrick Shanley (1 M, 1 W). A skinny woman in a cafe is approached by a haunted young man who reminds her of Dostoevsky. They have an intensely serious conversation which temporarily transports them into an ecstatic spot among the stars.
-THE MAN WHO COULDN'T DANCE by Jason Katims (1 M, 1W). Past lovers meet up again at a game night and examine their life intersections.
-MEDEA, by Christopher Durang (2 M, 4 W). Medea and her chorus of three women try to figure out if it's appropriate to kill your children just to punish your husband.
-SURE THING by David Ives (1 M, 1 W). A hilarious examination of the endless variations of boy meets girl and the ensuing pick up lines.
-VARIATIONS ON THE DEATH OF TROTSKY by David Ives (2 M, 1 W). The Marxist revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, tries to cope with an axe he discovers embedded in his own head.
-WEDDING DUET, by Lauren Wilson (1 M, 1 W). A bride and groom encounter the first rocky elements of their marriage as they attempt to cross the threshold of their honeymoon suite.

February 2, 2009

Virginia Beach Bash '09: Fighting for Film and TV!

The Virginia Beach BASH ’09 has activated its web site. The BASH is a Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) sanctioned regional stage combat workshop. You can visit the site at http://www.regent.edu/beachbasheachbash. There you will find staff profiles and registration information. This year’s headliners include Richard Ryan and Dale Girard.

Richard Ryan is a certified Fight Master with the SAFD and the BASSC (British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat) and former Master of Arms at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Combat. He has also served as fight director on such motion pictures as TROY, STARDUST, THE LAST LEGION, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, THE DARK KNIGHT, and the new Robert Downey, Jr. vehicle, SHERLOCK HOLMES, currently in production.

Dale Girard is a certified fight master with the SAFD, an honorary Fight Master of Fight Directors Canada, and an honorary member of The Russian Guild of Stage Movement Directors and Teachers. He is author of ACTORS ON GUARD: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger for the Stage and Screen. He served as stunt coordinator on Richard Claybaugh’s EYEBORGS, and teaches stage combat at North Carolina School of the Arts.

Additional staff include: J.P. Scheidler, SAFD Certified Teacher and instructor of Stage Combat at Mary Baldwin College; Jill Matarelli Carlson, SAFD Certified Teacher, and instructor of Stage Combat at East Carolina University; Gregg Lloyd, SAFD Certified Teacher, and instructor of Stage Combat at Christopher Newport University, and Dr. Michael Kirkland, SAFD Certified Teacher and instructor of Stage Combat at Regent University.

This two-day, intensive event will take place on MARCH 28 & 29, 2009 in the Communication and Performing Arts Center on the Virginia Beach Campus of Regent University. This year’s focus will be FIGHTING FOR TV & FILM. Questions? Contact the BASH Coordinator, Michael Kirkland, at 757-352-4730 or email him at michhil@regent.edu.

Also--Virginia Beach Bash is on facebook!

Left: Aishwarya Rai, performing Richard Ryan’s choreography in THE LAST LEGION
Right: Dale Girard working with students at North Carolina School of the Arts