Tag Archives: Hallie

On Being Relational

Here we found ourselves. Two weeks before opening night. About to plunge into an intense string of daily tech and dress rehearsals – full runs almost every night. If you had been following our blog at all, you could tell that excitement was mounting.

Our cast sits in the house, animated murmurs slowly calming to a lull. Hallie stands center stage, commanding our attention. And, after reviewing a few housekeeping items, she gives one of her effectively rare semi-stern moments of honest direction.

“When you are in a scene, you are engaging in a relationship. Not the relationships in the plot – a relationship with your fellow actors on stage.”

Her words struck a chord in me. I fought the sudden urge to slow clap, and instead let Hallie’s message reverberate for a moment.

Rachel, Scott, and Elena

I once told two of my best friends, after a few drinks while poorly trying to explain my framework for life, that I’m relational. And, knowing full well that the word “relational” may never be published by Webster’s dictionary, gosh dangit, I’m sticking to it. I am relational.

Being relational means many things, but one of my most favorite is the incessant need for a sense of connectedness. With people, places, emotions – relations. It’s about a genuine fascination with the actions, feelings and motives moving around you.

Rachel and Sukanya

I think a lot of people who are passionate about theater are purely relational. (Particularly the improv-folk, who get high off of effective teamwork.)

I feel like I can speak for our whole cast when I say that we are, with rare exception, fantastically relational. And it shows in the way our personal off-stage relationships translate to energetic, supportive chemistry on stage.

In our run so far, there’s only one thing I love more than the relationships we’ve built – watching our audience react to them.

My favorite spot to stand backstage is behind the double doors that lead upstairs in the Longbourn home. Peeking through the small sliver of space between those doors, I see faces; completely engaged, usually laughing, entirely wrapped up in the electric chemistry we’re creating on stage around the beautiful story we’re telling.

Kristin, Rachel, Taylor, and Terry

I’m impressed by how we make three hours move so fast.

All of my love,

Kitty Bennet (aka, Rachel Olmedo)

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Break a leg! (But Not Literally)

By the title, you can probably guess where this entry is going.  Yes, I did the unthinkable: braved a trampoline park three weeks before opening night.  Only “braved” would imply some sort of triumph, and regrettably, my experience was anything but this.  The real kicker is, seconds after reality set in as I lay there clutching my dislocated and broken ankle, Hallie’s admonition only a few days prior to “please not break any legs as this could adversely affect the show” suddenly rang loud and clear.  I turned immediately to my roommate/ castmate/ the birthday girl and whimpered: “Rachel, that’s it.  I can’t be in the show anymore.”

Cast birthday parties at trampoline parks may not be the best idea.

Short of death or any number of other horrific events, this is an actor and director’s nightmare scenario.  Fortunately for the show, my three roles are minor and I will still be able to play Anne De Bourgh, whose sickly disposition is arguably enhanced by my real-life circumstances (no spoiler alert here: come to the show and you’ll see just why…)  And contrary to my initial, trauma-induced assumption, the X-rays showed a much more stable fracture than the doctors expected, so there is actually a good chance I will get into a walking cast soon.  For this reason, Hallie decided against casting an outside actor to fill in for my other two roles.  Instead, she has graciously volunteered herself to play Georgiana Darcy, and Sukanya (Lady Catherine) will add Lady Lucas to her repertoire for the time being.


So despite the circumstances, I consider myself very lucky.  The injury could have played out far worse, and I could be sitting here typing up a far more depressing story.  Even if that were the case, though, I like to think I would have found a way to replace the focus on the negatives with a more optimistic outlook, as I have been striving to do these last couple weeks.  I absolutely can’t overstate the healing effect of wonderful, supportive castmates who blanket your facebook wall with well-wishes, not to mention a traditional “Get Well” card oozing with warm fuzzies.

Poor little Anne de Bourgh

I couldn’t be more in love with this cast (the actors, not my fiberglass leg covering) or more proud to be part of this production.  I’m still attending all the rehearsals and helping out with the sound board. It’s something I’ve never done and I’m enjoying learning what goes on in the booth.  I can’t wait to share the joy we’ve all been keeping to ourselves with our first audience next Saturday–onstage and off!

— Laurie O’Brien (Anne de Bourgh, sound board op, and hopefully, Georgiana and Lady Lucas)

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Working Harmoniously in the Dark

We have less than a week until opening night and rehearsals are in full swing. The amount of development the production has experienced over the past few days is both amazing and enriching. I thought I’d pen down few of my observations…

"When Lady Catherine insists, it's best to go with it."

Set Changes: Last weekend we choreographed the set changes. I have never been part of more extensive and complex set changes in past theater lives. And believe it or not, I started with the rather negative approach of , “Why do I have to this.” However, I ended up thinking, “Wow this seems good fun.” This was especially true when Hallie challenged us to make most set changes to happen in under 25 seconds. I loved it. It was like being in a battle field with the artillery being called upon to attack. But all fun aside – it was an amalgamation of absolute team work that required an understanding of every person on stage working harmoniously in the dark, changing a gazillion objects from one place to another. My special thanks to my pouf partner, Danielle, who taught me how to pick up heavy objects without hurting my back.

The Costumes: So, one night of rehearsal was just “costume call.” Seventeen of us tried all sorts of dresses and clothing specifically marked by character, size, and actors. There were, I am told, a total of eighty costumes to try on (not for me alone, of course). The amazing part was there were no overlaps, no fights, no attitude from any actors. We all did our little parade for the director- and she as the costume judge approved and/or disapproved of each outfit. It was a breeze considering there were so many of us and the costumes were a closet full.

Actor Turning into a Prop: My gorgeous daughter on stage, Laurie O’Brien, had a little mishap. She literally “broke her leg” (well ankle to be more specific)! Urg! what a loss to the characters she was playing (Lady Lucas, Georgiana, and Anne De Borough). On the brighter side, however, the character of Anne De Borough is a rather sick girl – so this mishap added a little texture to the play. Laurie turned into a prop and was assigned to four male actors during a scene change who carry her on stage as very sick Anne. This is hilarious and I think a very creative twist considering the circumstances.

Playing Multiple Roles: When I was originally cast in Pride and Prejudice, it was only as Lady Catherine de Borough. However, during our rehearsal period, the director added me as a mysterious, questionable woman, and then after Laurie’s mishap, I was assigned to play Lady Lucas. This gig came with a lot of surprises I thought. I’ve gone from playing Lady Catherine as a haughty, rich woman, to getting flirty with one of the most debonair and handsome actors (Alex, I wish the scene could have been longer), to embodying an old, haggard Lady Lucas. Though all characters make short appearances, I am loving the challenge of portraying all three of them – each one different from the other.

— Sukanya Sarkar (Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Lucas, and Woman of Questionable Character)

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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Last night I was asleep by 9:30. For someone who literally gets 3-4 hours of sleep per night during the week, the 9 full hours I clocked were nothing short of luxurious. Or, as Bingley might say, “They were just…they were perfect.”

But, I can’t say they were completely restful. With one short week before Pride and Prejudice opens it should be no surprise that I can’t stop thinking about the show – apparently even while unconscious. Needless to say, my dreams last night were all show related. Here’s a breakdown of the most memorable moments:

  • Mr. Darcy in 1970-something

    Mr. Darcy, 1970-something

    Someone stole all of the men’s costumes and replaced them with ugly, 1970’s inspired garb. During dress rehearsal, Mr. Darcy strutted his stuff wearing a bell-bottomed leisure suit and Mr. Bennet wore a tight, open-collared, avocado green polo. Both Barnaby and Scott said their new costumes felt more “authentic” than the old ones and refused to take them off. I cried.

  • ALL of the ladies burned their hair off after Elena shared a new curling iron with them. Eileen called every wig shop in the bay area but they were all sold out. I woke up as Terry was researching hats and bonnets…

Elena, post curling iron disaster

  • Nick decided that he didn’t want to sing the songs that we’ve been working on anymore. The Arctic Monkeys, he insisted, would be much more appropriate for the show. 505 became the new lead-in to Act II. Click the links for a better understanding of my ensuing panic attack.

Nick as the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys.

  • And finally, Laurie broke her ankle and I had to scramble to find a last minute replacement. After unsuccessfully offering her roles to four different actresses, I ultimately had to step in and go from crew to cast.

Laurie's current footwear

Oh wait, that last scenario wasn’t part of my stress dream…that actually happened!

Laurie will share all the details later, but for the time being, allow me to introduce Miss Georgiana Darcy:

Hallie as Georgiana

That's me as Georgie.

Oh my. Life suddenly got a little more interesting.

— Hallie (Director, writer, and Georgie, too)

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Feel Free to Invite Jane Austen

Spoiler alert!

With a well-written, compelling story comes….a billion adaptations! Did anyone see the Hunger Games movie? Yeah, it was okay, but everyone liked the books better.  And who’s excited about the new “Spiderman” movie?!!? Trick question. Nobody is. They have already made 15 “Spiderman” movies and none of them were that great. (I don’t want to belabor the point here, but Spiderman is supposed to be good-looking. So they put Tobey Maguire in the role? If I fell off a building and he tried to save me, I would be appreciative, of course, but pretty disappointed. And now Andrew Garfield is supposed to be the Spiderman upgrade? Oh, please. I’d say he’s…”tolerable at best”).

Barnaby and Rose drafting line possibilities for one of the show's most pivotal scenes.

When the audience already knows the story and has high expectations, adaptations can be quite tricky. However, I firmly believe that Hallie respects the essence of Pride and Prejudice and has written a version of the story that Jane Austen would watch with utmost approval. We were originally struggling with the lines for Darcy’s second proposal, but then Hallie sat us down with copies of the original book, transcripts of the BBC version and the Keira Knightley version, and our current scripts. We read various selections from each, combined lines from different versions, and eventually came up with with a scene that reflects the original sentiment. Hallie has changed the language throughout the play to make it 1940’s-appropriate, but Jane Austen’s prose still shines through the entire play.

Our talented vocalists will be performing before the show and during intermission to jazz up the production. We’re not putting on a full-on musical, but it has certainly been done! Check out this clip from the finale of Pride and Prejudice, The Musical:

And our Netherfield dance doesn’t look anything like this scene from Bride and Prejudice, but I have no doubt that we’ll be able to match their level of energy if we drink enough sodas from Rocky’s:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoLtHqS_LhA

–Rose Oser (Elizabeth Bennet)

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Each Fleeting Moment

(This post was inspired by motivational talks from my roommate, cast-mate, and forever-Hall-&-Oates-dance-partner, Laurikins O’Brien).

As opening night rapidly approaches, I feel a cauldron of nervous energy brewing in the pit of my stomach. I genuinely forgot how much hard work a production takes. Sweet baby Jesus, it’s a lot of concerted time and energy.

When the Bennet sisters stand in line according to age, the cast calls it "Von Trapping".

And, as so proves my experience with most other things in life, the more time and energy you put into a project, the more emotionally invested you become. And, the more emotionally invested you become, the higher your hopes and expectations for the anticipated outcome. Anticipation for the unknown causes anxiety…and there’s a helluva lot of unknown tangled up in my expectations for the next few weeks.

My anxiety stems, I think, mostly from anticipation of my ability to deliver for the two groups whose opinions I care about the most: our audience and our cast.

A flurry of questions around those two subjects has been floating around in my head lately. While sitting on BART commuting into work, I find myself imagining our future audience: Will we have an engaged and supportive crowd? Will they laugh at the right moments and appreciate our creative interpretation of Jane Austen’s epic story? What message will they take away from it all?

While throwing my laundry into the dryer at home, a different set of questions about our cast wanders into my mind: Will our long nights spent at rehearsal pay off in the fluidity of our scenes? Will I forget a scene change and screw up someone’s blocking? Will I drop a line and dampen the integrity of Hallie’s script?

An epic battle ensues between Kitty and Lydia.

And the answers? …nobody knows.

Great. More anxiety.

Yet, among the wild unknown occupying space and igniting fear inside my brain, there is one small but significant piece that I can control: how I react to it.

Arguably, I have two choices when deciding how to respond to my fear. I can:

  1. choose to resist; forcing nervous thoughts to the corners of my mind, creating a distant but condensed, and often overwhelming, form of my anxiety… or
  2. use it. Accept my nervous energy as a sign that this is something I care about deeply. Bottle that energy and transform it into a force propelling me to do the best that I can, and to appreciate each moment as it passes—the successes as much as the failures. With a big smile and a light heart, I can choose to embrace and even appreciate my own sense of fear. I can let go of self-inflicted pressure in favor of enjoying the experience.

So, with a resounding sense of confidence, I choose option #2.

I make this choice partly because I care about our audience, and feel that my energy-infused performance will help make the most of their experience, and partly because I care about our cast, and feel that my positive attitude will help make the most of their experience.

Kristin as Mary, Rachel as Kitty, Taylor as Lydia, and Terry as Mrs. Bennet.

…but mostly because, once this is all over, I know it will have passed by too fast. And I know that making a conscious choice to appreciate the distinct flavors of each fleeting moment as it passes is the only way I can possibly make the most of my experience.

And that is what it’s all about, anyway.

All of my love,

Kitty Bennet (aka Rachel Olmedo)

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Austen Meets Improv

Taylor and Alex improving a scene.

I moved to the Bay Area recently from Chicago. If you’ve been to that toddlin’ town, or if you know anything about Second City, you know that Chicago theatre has a strong foundation in improvisation. A lot of people think that improv is solely comedy and coming up with ridiculous situations and ideas in a matter of seconds. That’s definitely a large part of it, but improv is essentially unscripted story telling in its most raw and honest format. It can be between one, two, three, seven, twenty-eight, or any number of people about any subject.

We’ve been using improv during some “Pride and Prejudice” rehearsals for several reasons. First of all, Austen is like Shakespeare in that the language is specific, lyrical, and follows a certain pattern. Even though Hallie is updating the script to fit a more modern setting, some of the language and situations are antiquated. Improv allows the actors to make the scenes and words real for themselves. Second, improv puts everyone on the same page. Whether you are an actor with years of experience or a young person just starting out, on book or off book, improv brings everyone to a similar starting point.

Jane and Lizzy gossip about Mr. Collins.

 

In our production, there are a few wordless moments that are happening in the background simultaneous to dialogue in the foreground. We’ve been asking the actors to improv these moments by adding their own dialogue – which hopefully assists them in finding the emotional reality of the situation as well as their character’s subtext. It’s been very interesting watching the actors tackle and explore this format for rehearsals. This cast is unique in their willingness to explore and play and take chances.

Barry and Barnaby love to improv.

I hope the audience will have as much fun as they are!

— Eileen Tull, Assistant Director

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The Multiple Role Playing Game

As a child, Jane Austen to me was synonymous with a long, boring British miniseries.  For as long as I can remember, my mother has been a die-hard Austen fan, and it took me until my early 20’s to give up the rebel act and discover the sheer joy and brilliance of her works for myself.  No other book but Pride and Prejudice has left me with the same feeling of utter bliss and satisfaction for having completed it.  To this day, I hold it as my firm favorite and as one of the greatest stories of all time, so I knew when my roommate Rachel (who plays Kitty) alerted me to auditions for a local P&P adaptation, I had to jump on board.

Georgiana and her big brother.

I have the privilege and responsibility of playing three roles in the show (in order of appearance): Lady Lucas (Charlotte’s mother/Mrs. Bennet’s go-to partner in gossip crime), Anne De Bourgh (Lady Catherine’s sickly daughter) and last but not least, the frequently mentioned yet scarcely seen Georgiana Darcy.

Although I have fewer lines than the show’s other characters, I’ve got plenty to work with. I won’t give too much away but let’s just say Hallie has had a bit of fun with her sickly Anne adaptation which I can’t wait to deliver for an audience.  I haven’t rehearsed for Lady Lucas yet but certainly look forward to stretching my acting muscles to find my inner middle-aged flibbertigibbet for the Meryton and Netherfield dance scenes!

As for Miss Georgiana Darcy, I love that her role is so crucial to the plot line, even if she doesn’t make her appearance until close to the end.  She is a character left to the reader/audience’s imagination, helped along by various, sometimes conflicting descriptions by Caroline Bingley, Mr. Wickham, and the Pemberley tour guide.  Her brother–Mr. Darcy himself–is the keenest clue we have to forming anything conclusive about what she might be like… but even that point of comparison can only serve to tell us superficial things like how she grew up, her level of etiquette, and good breeding.  Of course she turns out to be modest, sweet, and lovely as can be when we do finally meet her in the flesh… making the anticipation all the more worthwhile.  As someone who grew up with an older brother as my only sibling myself, I definitely identify with that personality-shaping dynamic, so it’s naturally the factor at the forefront of my mind when personifying her on stage.

Kristin House and Danielle Gray practice styling Laurie's hair in a 40's fashion.

Acting stuff aside, I’ve loved getting to know my fellow castmates–everyone is so talented and seems to fit his/her role seamlessly.  It’s so much fun observing the scenes coming together–particularly the ones highlighting the Bennet family at home in a 1940’s context.  I think Austen lovers in particular will get a kick out of seeing their favorite, flawed yet lovable Bennets in this setting.  April 14th can’t come soon enough!

–Laurie O’Brien (Lady Lucas, Anne de Bourgh, and Georgiana Darcy)

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On Being a Bingley

Being a Bingley is harder than it first appears.

Throwing lavish parties, entertaining guests, allowing tourists to walk through your house–managing an estate is tough.

Best friends forever. Charles and Fitzwilliam with their little sisters, Caroline and Georgiana.

Okay, well maybe not that tough. But being loaded does take a toll on a person’s personality. Luckily, Charles has a sweet naïveté. Unlike his sister and his best friend Darcy, Charles seems to not see class. He digs the Bennett sisters even though they are so much poorer than he. He’s a really fun character to play and this will be a great, yet faithful, adaptation of one of the most beloved books in history.

Barry Eitel as Mr. Bingley and Barnaby Williams as Mr. Darcy.

Thanks a lot to Hallie, Terry, and the rest of SLP. I was in their fall production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession and that was a fantastic experience. It’s great that the communtiy of San Leandro supports their local theatre so much. I hope everyone out there can come and see it!!

— Barry Eitel (Mr. Charles Bingley)

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Fools Rush In

Sarah Asarnow, Nick Kempen, and Kristin Tavares

Although music will play a large role in our production of Pride and Prejudice, this aspect of the show has been sort of under locks. The  three of us who will be singing before the show and during intermission have been rehearsing separately and the rest of the cast doesn’t know what we’re performing. They’re really excited to see what we’ve prepared, and I think for good reason!

Nick and Kristin practicing their duet.

Working with Kristin and Sarah (and Hallie too) on all this music has been a blast! I’ve only discovered 40’s standards recently thanks to Hallie, and this is a much-needed crash course. From “I’ve Got a Crush On You” to “Fools Rush In”, I’m singing stuff from all over the charts, and this is such a rare opportunity. Kristin and I are performing “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” together, which is so much fun. It’s such an adorable song and singing it comically with Kristin is a breeze!

Fantastic vocal team.

I can’t wait for our next music rehearsal to show what I’ve been working on.

— Nick Kempen (Vocalist and Ensemble)

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