October 27, 2009

Regent News: Dancing at Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa Brings Music to Life
By Sarah H. Dolan

Restraint marks the beginning of the Mundy sisters' dance—a tap of the foot, nod of the head and light pat on a cooking pot. But as the Regent University Department of Theatre production of Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa unfolds, the sisters let their hair down as their life's dance literally lets loose into chaotic stomps, howls and leaps of unrestraint.

"One of the themes in the play is that music and dancing transcend language," said special guest Director Marianne Savell, adjunct professor at Vanguard University. "And of course the irony is that theatre is truly language-based and yet Friel is always working toward the transcendent."

Dancing at Lughnasa is the story of five unmarried Mundy sisters, eking out their lives in a small Irish village in 1936. Their sparse existence is interrupted by brief, colorful bursts of music from the radio, their only link to the romance and hope of the world at large. The play is narrated by one of the sisters' son as he remembers the women who raised him.

"The Regent actor playing Michael (the son) is a young man that I directed during his undergraduate studies in California," Savell said. "The Regent actresses who play the sisters in the production are quite like sisters off-stage too—which really enriches the play."

The role of Michael is played by Jeff Fazakerley, a first-year MFA in Acting student. Four out of the five Mundy sisters are performed as thesis roles by third-year MFA students: Katie Cheely (Christina), Anna Koehler (Maggie), Alaska Reece Vance (Rose) and Katie Fridsma (Kate). The fifth sister (Agnes) is played by second-year MFA student Tabitha Ray.

Throughout the production the sisters struggle to make ends meet and understand their roles in the society in which they live in. As a result, they face battles of image: propriety versus freedom, and ordinary duty versus the more exciting world of the spontaneous. Meanwhile, the radio, which works intermittently, manages to put their conflicting feelings to music.

"The play also deals very strongly with the idea of 'religion' taking over a pagan society," said Savell. "And one of the characters in the play is a priest who in his 25 years of working with lepers in Africa has lost his religion. His character brings up a lot of questions." The priest is portrayed by first-year MFA student Mike Salsbury.

In Regent's adaptation of the play, Savell directs the characters' interactions with one another to show, rather than tell, time-sequences; the narrator's memory and its relation to present and past. "I think the audience will be delighted with the play...lights, sound, costumes, set and props are all quite wonderful and have a bit of magic to them," she said.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.regent.edu/theatre.

PR/NEWS CONTACT: Judy Baker, Public Relations. Phone: 757.352.4307 Fax: 757.352.4888 E-mail: judibak@regent.edu

October 26, 2009

Regent Welcomes Guest Director for Dancing at Lughnasa

At Regent Theatre, we get a lot of opportunities to work with accomplished guest artists. The cast of Regent's current production, Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa, had the chance to work with guest director Marianne Savell for 6 weeks. During her time here, Marianne also taught several workshops and took time to share her insight and experience with our students.

Check out Marianne's bio and come see Dancing at Lughnasa, which opened this past weekend and plays this upcoming weekend!

Regent Theatre welcomes Marianne Savell, guest director of Dancing at Lughnasa. Marianne is an accomplished actor, director and teacher coming to us from Los Angeles, where she is an adjunct professor at Vanguard University and a member of Directors Lab West. She received her MFA in Acting from the University of Illinois where she graduated with highest honors and was a guest artist at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She is on the advisory board of Provision Theater Company in Chicago and was invited to the prestigious New Harmony Project to direct Margaret Hunt’s new play And the Ravens Feed Us in 2008. Marianne’s professional directing credits include the critically acclaimed Jeff award-nominated Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Victory Gardens, Chicago), the world premiere and LA Weekly award-winner Gulf View Drive, Angel Street, Translations, the West Coast premiere of As It Is in Heaven, The Crucible, Hamlet, God & Shakespeare and Molly Sweeney. At Vanguard, Marianne directed the American College Theatre Festival finalists The Lion in Winter and As It Is in Heaven as well as Saint Joan, America’s Broadway and Three Sisters. Her professional acting credits include A Streetcar Named Desire (ACTC), The Seagull (LA Weekly award for Best Featured Actress), As You Like It, The Voice of the Prairie, The Hasty Heart, All My Sons, Uncle Vanya, Twelfth Night, Bullshot Crummond and Henry V.
Marianne has a few new plays in development and is conducting research in the Virginia Beach area for her new play on generals Lee and Grant, in partnership with Taproot Theatre Company in Seattle, where she is an associate artist. We came to know about Marianne when she directed one of our own MFA in Acting alumni, Dan Roberts (’07) in The Crucible at Actors Co-op, a professional Christian theatre company in Los Angeles. We’re glad to have her here!

October 6, 2009

Reflections from "The Boys"

If you saw our recent production of The Boys Next Door, you saw the endearing humor and humanity the cast brought to their characters. Here are some reflections from some of the actors about their experience finding their way through Tom Griffin's touching work.

“Becoming Arnold was a great challenge and a great honor as well. I made a lot of discoveries watching documentaries, talking with psychiatrists, and hanging out with ‘special needs’ folks. Yet the most brilliant revelation I made, speaking both as an actor and a person, was how I didn't need to adopt an outside understanding to play this ‘special’ role. You see, I've been Arnold; Arnold is me. He's the me who gets too loud when he doesn't get his way with the TV. He was the me who packed a picnic basket and ran away to live in the band shell in the park. He was the me who didn't know how to talk to girls, how to dress cool, how to figure out fractions, how to stand up to a bully, or how to look someone in the eye when they laugh and say, ‘You spent all that money to be an ACTOR?’ What I want to say is, I'm special. We're all ‘special.’ This experience has shown me that we are better served to look inside ourselves and discover the many things we share with the mentally disabled of our society, rather than define that group by their differences.” -Ryan Clemens, third-year MFA Actor (Arnold Wiggins, thesis role)

“Being one of ‘the boys’ was truly one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. Mark Paladini, our director, told us from the beginning that he trusted us. Throughout the rehearsal process he would just let us explore and try different things. He was always open to ideas and would often ask, ‘What would you like to do here?’ We would tell him and his response would inevitably be, ‘Great! Let’s see it.’ Sometimes our ideas worked and sometimes they didn’t. And if they didn’t Mark was always there with another idea to make the moment work. I can remember during one rehearsal Mark told Ryan to come up with a funnier tick. The one Ryan had been using just wasn’t funny enough. Mark said, ‘I don’t know what it looks like, but I know there is a funnier one you can do.’ So, for the next 10 or so minutes Ryan tried every different tick he could think of until he did one that was so funny I couldn’t even look at him. ‘That’s it,’ I whimpered as tears of laughter ran down my cheeks, ‘That’s the one.’ It was this kind of collaborative effort that made The Boys Next Door the success it was.” –Chad Rasor, third-year MFA Actor (Norman Bulansky, thesis role)

“For me, part of fun in The Boys Next Door is getting to be one of ‘the boys’ with three of my cohort classmates. When there’s already a meaningful relationship, whatever connection we’ve found seems to build on something tangible. I also appreciate Mark for his artistic sensibility – how he guides us to find our moments (both comic and tragic), yet maintaining the humanity of these characters. Through the process we laugh, cry, get angry, excited and paranoid… but in the end we find ourselves embracing these characters as we embrace each another and ourselves.” –Shinn-Rong Chung, third-year MFA Actor (Lucien P. Smith)

“For me the key to a truthful portrayal of 'Barry' or any of 'the boys' relies upon finding those things in ones own life that relate to what the character is going through. I do not have schizophrenia, but I do remember several years of my childhood I spent fully invested into an imaginary world--I was a baseball player. I have a good relationship with my father, but I know what it is like to want my father to be proud of me. I like to think I have a good sense of humor, and am a patient person, but I know what it's like to be so frustrated when some one doesn't understand that my patience and sense of humor goes out the window. I said all that to say all of humanity is in each one of us. We are not so far from the socially, mentally, and psychologically disadvantaged as we think we are. Hopefully this play provided some insight into that world, and helped us recognize the need for unconditional love, understanding, and the humane treatment of all. Being in The Boys Next Door was an experience of a lifetime! Mark, the director, truly embraced the idea of letting the actors play. The result of that 'playing' was a collaborative finished product that was satisfying, fun, emotional, and educational for the actors, and audience alike.” –Matthew Winning, 3rd year MFA (Barry Klemper, thesis role)