October 31, 2011

Second Stage Production Offers Political Drama

by Rachel Judy

Chris Bookless and Debbie Wright
Photo courtesy of School of Communication & the Arts
Regent University Theatre opens its first show of the 2011 Second Stage season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning political drama, Two Rooms. The show runs Oct. 28 - Nov. 6 with both evening and matinee performances.

Based on true events, Lee Blessing's Two Rooms tells the riveting fictional story of a woman named Lainie whose husband Michael is taken hostage in Lebanon during the Beirut hostage crisis. As he waits blindfolded in a prison cell, she struggles with an icy representative from the government and a pushy journalist. When she finally takes her efforts public, complications arise triggering the tragic series of events that brings the play to its startling conclusion.

Though written in 1988, the issue of terrorism is  clearly still relevant. "Islamic extremism took on a whole new meaning for us in the United States after September 11, 2011. It's one thing for us to hear about terrorism overseas," commented guest director Hannah Graham '11 (Communication & the Arts). "It's something completely different for us to experience it first-hand."

The play examines moral questions concerning the ethics of war and the value of human life. "I think people will find it extremely thought-provoking and surprisingly relevant," said Graham. "It's a tough story but one that needs to be told," adding that the intimate performing space of Theatre 128 lends itself well to the difficult subject matter and the small, four-person cast.

The play earns it title from the two rooms of its location: the room where Michael is being held hostage, and the room where Lainie fights to free him. "The rooms serve a two-fold purpose," Graham explained. "In reality, Lainie and Michael are both isolated in their respective rooms. In the end, however, you realize they aren't so far from each other after all."

Hannah Graham returns to the Regent stage after graduating this past May with a directing concentration from the MFA in Acting program. "I've always been proud of the caliber of our productions at Regent, so being asked to direct here is both humbling and challenging," she said.

Two Rooms features the acting talents of both Regent's undergrad and graduate students. Senior English major and theatre minor, Debbie Wright, takes on the role of the show's protagonist. Her counterpart and husband in the show, played by Chris Bookless, is a second-year MFA in Acting student. Undergraduate theatre majors Dan McGary and Tianna Downey complete the cast.

Two Rooms will be performed in Theatre 128 Oct. 28-29 and Nov. 3-5 at 7:30p.m., and Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 5-6 at 2:30 p.m.

Purchase tickets from the Regent University Box Office.

October 28, 2011

Alum Update - Kendal Tuttle

Kendal Tuttle, MFA 2006
 Former Regent student Kendal Tuttle recently completed shooting a film with Zac Efron, called The Lucky One.  Read more about what Kendal has been doing since graduation!

After graduating Regent in 1997 with an MA in Communication/Performing Arts and teaching at  Emmanuel College in Georgia for 6 years, I decided it was time to step out, get more training and pursue a professional career in the Industry. In what aspect I wasn't sure, but I felt the Lord once again leading me back to my ol' stompin ground. In 2002, I met with Gillette Elvgren who told me about the new MFA program in the works at Regent. I returned to Regent as a member of the first MFA cohort, graduating in 2006 with an MFA in Theatre Directing. During those 3 years, however, I acted in a few films and absolutely fell in love with the film process. Though I was still planning a move to N.Y. upon graduation, Mark Paladini (a new artist-in-residence at Regent and casting director in Hollywood) encouraged me to consider pursuing film. I listened to him, and headed west in August of 2006.

My season in L.A. was exactly what it needed to be, though I still consider it to be my very own "best of times, worst of times." I survived by working background acting gigs on Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal, Medium and a few others. I also had a great experience playing Norman Bates at Universal Studios (Hollywood) shortly after I arrived in 2006. My "rent" however came from doing P.A. gigs for various commercials, as well as working part-time at U.S. Airways and a charter school called Options For Youth. Six months after arriving in L.A., I got called to come back to Virginia for 7 months to play Captain John Smith in a new outdoor production called 1607: First Landing, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. I collaborated on this production with former Cohort A graduate Chris Nelson, who directed the production while asking me to also be the Fight Choreographer. We finished First Landing in September of that year, and I immediately headed out to San Diego to co-direct a feature-length film called Escrow, the Musical, a fun and quirky project I had been co-writing with two other Regent alumns, Joshua Tucker and Joseph Frost. But then the writer's strike happened and as a new member of SAG, I showed my solidarity and hit the street corner. But then SAG began talking about their own strike, so things weren't looking so good.

Once 2008 rolled around, I was praying about direction and provision. Eric Harrell gave me a call to see if I'd consider coming back to Regent on a one-year appointment to help lay a foundation for their new B.A. program. So for the 2008-2009 school year, I had the privilege of returning to Regent to teach, thinking I'd just head back out to L.A. once the year was finished. By that time, however, the economy had tanked, affecting everything, including the Industry. So I stayed in Virginia, reconnected with my agent, Sylvia Hutson, and began doing some local and regional film work.

The Lucky One

In October 2010, I learned that I had a call-back for a Warner Brothers film, the latest Nicolas Sparks adaptation called The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron as Logan Thibault. I flew out to New Orleans and auditioned for director Scott Hicks. Three weeks later I learned that I had booked the role I auditioned for, "Aces" (Drake Green), brother to the heroine with whom Logan falls in love. The role is small in screen time, but significant in story-line. I die while fighting in Iraq, and my family (namely, my sister Beth Clayton) is left to deal with my death, causing serious crises in the love story.
Though my character will be seen in pictures and flashbacks throughout the film, my only scene is at the very beginning of the movie (so don't be late to the theatre!...haha), as Aces and Logan come face-to-face nearly firing on one another while clearing a building.

Training Sessions for The Lucky One

Because the scene is short, they had only scheduled me for one day of shooting. But I learned later that they were bringing me in for military training. Director Scott Hicks wanted everything as authentic as possible, so I came a week early to get a crash course boot camp. Our training unit had us learning all the guns, how to hold them, shoot them, even how to walk and stand. The training culminated in learning what we were to be doing in our scene -- "taking" or clearing an enemy-combatant building. Zac joined us in training on most days, which is where we all gained some cohesiveness. We were all very professional, but it was nice when we got to relax and be a little crazy. I was relieved to find Zac as nice and approachable and professional as he was. Also, some days were lighter than others, giving us all plenty of time to tour New Orleans.

Kendal with Director Scott Hicks

Working with Scott Hicks was a pleasure. I had always loved the movie Shine (1996), which he directed. I also loved knowing his history as a photographer. During meals, he always invited me to take a seat at his table, introducing me as "my Aces." His wife Kerry is a sweetheart, too. He directed our scene with precision, even re-working our lines to flow better and consulting our "military experts" on the tiniest detail. I also loved that when he had a personal note, he always came to you, up close and personal. Though being "my Aces" during the shoot, it was nice to hear him refer to me as Kendal when I went to L.A. for my ADR sessions.

Kendal with Zac Efron

Latest News

While on the set of The Lucky One, I got to hang with a good many of the tech crew, all having traveled in from L.A. and N.Y. for this movie. But they were talking about all the work moving out of the larger markets and into the Southeast and that they were thinking seriously about changing zip codes. I flew back to Georgia from New Orleans with a clear vision of giving the Southeast and more specifically the Atlanta market my full attention. I grew up in a small town in N.E. Georgia, so my decision to move back to the Peach state made my family very happy. Besides a two month trip out to L.A., I have been back in Georgia getting things established. I auditioned for all the big agencies in Atlanta, and was blessed to get offers from all of them. I ultimately went with People Store and they have been great. Just recently, I shot a regional commercial for O'Charley's and co-starred in a episode of Tyler Perry's House of Payne. Upon moving back to Georgia, I also met my soon-to-be wife, Bree Dawn Shannon. We will wed on November 13, 2011. God is so very good!

October 26, 2011

A Message from Hannah Graham - Director of Two Rooms

Hannah Graham
 Originally written in 1988, Two Rooms examines the Beirut Hostage Crisis of the 1980s. About one hundred American and European citizens were abducted and held hostage in the prisons of Lebanese terrorists over the span of a decade. Some were executed, some died in prison, and some were eventually freed.

In light of September 11, 2001, Blessing’s play still rings as shockingly relevant. Still, we fight terrorists. Still, we have hostages overseas. Still, we worry for the well-being of our nation, as we grow increasingly unpopular in the Middle East. Though penned in ‘88, Lee Blessing boldly examines this uncomfortable issue, bringing to light a perspective all too often unacknowledged.

In addition to our foreign policy, however, Blessing also examines the morality of good intentions and the ethical dilemmas of war. Two Rooms asks the question, what happens when our best isn’t good enough? How valuable is one human life? If terrorists do what they believe is right and honorable, are they justified? What does that mean about our own beliefs? These are questions that we would all do well to consider. Particularly as Christians, it is important to take time to ponder what it means to be human, and reflect on what or on whom we rely for support.

Two Rooms is a play about survival. Yes, it’s about politics, but it’s primarily a love story driven by determination and fortitude. It’s about facing fears and making tough choices. It’s about success and failure. It urges us to hope when there is none, refusing to settle for less. This is not a play for the weak at heart. It’s a story for fighters.
So the next time your best isn’t good enough, return to your mat. You just might find someone there listening.

Two Rooms opens this Friday, and runs through Nov. 6th.  Showtimes are 7:30 on 10/28 - 10/29, 11/3 - 11/5 and 2:30 on 10/29-10/30 and 11/5-11/6. Call the box office for tickets at (757) 352-4245.

Please be aware, there is a content advisory with this show. The production contains mature content, including adult language, and is not appropriate for children or audience members who may be sensitive to such material.  

October 14, 2011

Redeeming Love adapted by Scott Hayes

“I want you to love me. I want you to trust me enough to let me love you, and I want you to stay here with me so we can build a life together. That's what I want”
― Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
Scott Hayes, Associate Professor of Theatre and head of the MA Theatre program, is currently rehearsing a production of Redeeming Love, an adaptation of Francine Rivers’ novel of the same name. The book is extremely popular, having sold over a million copies, and Scott was thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt it for the stage. He states, “I was able to contact Francine Rivers through her writing agency. I expressed interest in adapting the novel, and send my resumé  to her. Up until that time, apart from a one man play I wrote for a college project and some short drama sketches for churches, I had very little playwriting experience… Francine granted me the rights to adapt the novel, and told me later that many requests had come before mine. I was amazed, and clearly saw this approval as a work of God. Francine only had a couple of stipulations. First, that I remain faithful to both her novel and the book of Hosea that the main female character was a prostitute. Second, that I faithfully dramatize Angel's conversion to Christianity. Because of my strong identification with the novel I had no problem with either of the stipulations.”

The play was produced in a workshop setting a few years later, and was a major success. Since that initial staging, the play hasn’t been produced again, until now. A local area church, New Life Providence, recently chose the novel Redeeming Love for a women’s reading group. The pastor, Tina Davis, heard of Scott’s adaptation and contacted him, asking him to present a couple of scenes for the reading group. Scott says, “The response was fairly overwhelming. Women were crying with identification, there was quite a bit of prayer, and repeatedly we were asked when we would produce the entire play. A few months later, I was working on other things, assuming that Redeeming Love was once more back on the shelf. Out of the blue, Tina Davis called me and asked if the church could commission a production of Redeeming Love."

Redeeming Love is based on the story of Hosea in Bible, who marries a prostitute named Gomer. Although she is repeatedly unfaithful to him, he continues to pursue her and call her back to being his wife. The story is a picture of God’s relationship to the Church, and how His unconditional love always calls us away from our sin and back to him. The novel is set in “California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.” The prostitute named Angel meets a man name Michael Hosea. “A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go.” (Excerpts from Francine Rivers’ website: http://francinerivers.com/books/redeeming-love)

The story had a very personal connection for Scott. He says, “A couple of years before reading the novel I had been delivered from an addiction cycle, and that deliverance came when I finally accepted my identity as a Christian - adopted by the Father as an heir, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Angel, the prostitute, was struggling against her relationship with Michael Hosea because she couldn't accept she was good enough, she couldn't separate herself from her past sin. Redeeming Love wasn't just a romance novel, or a woman's novel, it was my story.”
The company for this production is made up of Christopher Graham, a graduate from Regent's MFA in acting program; Brittany Baird, Marilyn Schappacher, and John Scritchfield, all current M.A. theatre students; and Elizabeth Litwak, Alicia Bonham, and Justin Winters, current MFA students.

Elizabeth Litwak has enjoyed the challenge of working on another original script (she was previously cast in Disorientation of Butterflies, written by MFA alum Alaska Reese Vance, which premiered this summer at the New York International Fringe Festival). She says “Working with Scott has been so amazing, because he’s taken this story, primarily viewed as a woman’s novel, and interpreted it from a man’s point of view, which gives a lot of life and color to the story. It’s a great challenge because Scott can do whatever he needs to do to shape the story. His specific point of view brings cohesion and a definite through-line to the script.” Beth also identifies with the universality of the story. “It’s a true story of redemption – raw and real, not sanitized like many Christian stories tend to be. The message is pertinent to everyone today – that redemption that’s available to us all.”

MA student John Scritchfield agrees. "I think more people than we realize struggle with grace. This play tells the story of undeserved and unexplainable love...I have had to take a look at my personal relationship with Christ and admit that, like Angel, I've fled from the open arms of love. I have sold myself short. It's wonderful to know though that this love will always take you back. In the love of Christ, you always have a home."

MA Marilyn Schappacher enjoyed the experience of using theatre in a ministry capacity.  She states, "I intend on using my training and knowledge of theatre for Christ and to raise the spirit of excellence in the theatre ministry community and craft. Many souls can be led to the amazing God that we serve and that is where my heart is at the end of the day."

The production of Redeeming Love is to be the culminating event for New Life Providence's DNA Conference, an annual event for young women. The conference is on October 21. There will be one additional performance the next night as part of New Life's Arts Cafe series. For more information, contact Tina Davis at mailto:tina@newlifeprovidence.com.

October 10, 2011

Three Musketeers Promo Video

Check out this amazing promo video for Three Musketeers.  You don't want to miss this show!

Three Musketeers runs Oct. 14 - 23 in the Main Theater.  Get your tickets today! Call the Box Office at 757-352-4245