Tag Archives: Terry

Backstage Book Club

Well, it’s here: the final weekend of Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve seen the play, or even seen it many times, you’ve laughed and cried along with all of us as we’ve brought Jane Austen’s story to life. Those who have been waiting for closing weekend are in for a real treat! We have a very full cast as we’re welcoming Nick back for our final two shows. That means you should get ready to fight for front row seats because no one wants to miss being serenaded by our lovely crooners.

Speaking of a full cast, it’s a wonder we can all fit backstage! Here’s an exclusive peek at the backstage world of Pride and Prejudice:

First, we concentrate on what’s important for the show. We set props, get ready for our scene changes, check our posted schedule, and double-check with our scene-change partners. We listen for prompts and cue from Steven in the the sound and light booth via intercom. There are leisurely costume changes, extremely quick costume changes, and make-up and hair re-touching (the boys keep their hair slicked down with pomade, and claim to be Dapper Dan men). If we have a moment to spare we help zip each other into or out of dresses or make sure suit collars are nice and straight – everyone needs help with their costumes at some point!

Barry, Scott, Terry, and Nick rehearse one of many scene changes.

If we’re not immediately needed on- or off-stage, we take a moment in the theater’s tiny kitchen to sit down, listen (and laugh) at the sound feed, read, study, snack, chat or just breathe. When we’re all packed into that tiny space we sometimes start to get a bit silly, leading to such backstage events as:

San Leandro Glee Club: There’s lots of music in our show, and we all like to sing along. So it’s no surprise that when everyone kept getting Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” stuck in their heads, we gave in and started singing. Barry (Mr. Bingley) even suggested a mash-up: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody that I Used to Know!” Rachel and Taylor (Kitty and Lydia) have even been coming up with a “Kittya” rap!

Amateur Theatrics: We’ve done/seen the show so many times now that we all know each other’s scenes very well, especially the most memorable ones (Lady Catherine’s scenes are big hits with us). Sometimes we even act out over-the-top versions of our favorite lines, such as everything Lady Catherine says and, for some reason, every time Charlotte mentions lemonade. (Apparently there’s now a entire dance number around my lemonade line. Our glee club is going to have to have it’s own performance.)

Danielle Gray (Caroline Bingley), Sarah Asarnow (Charlottoe Lucas), and Julio Oyola (Mr. Collins).

Backstage Book Club: After Danielle (Caroline Bingley), Julio (Mr. Collins) and I (Charlotte) realized we’d be offstage for much of Act II, the Backstage Bookclub was born! Our book of choice was “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (perhaps a distant descendant?). Now that we’re done with the first book (and eagerly waiting to start the second) we plan to spend our last two meetings in discussion, just like any good book club!

This cast loves each other! Terry and Alex during one of our many after rehearsal excursions to The Englander.

Finally, we spend as much time as we can enjoying each other’s company. We’ve all become very close in the past few months working on our show, and it’s important to make the most *sniffle* of the last of our time together, backstage, putting on a play that makes us all unbelievably proud. I am so grateful to have been a part of this production, to have spent this time with such an incredible group of people. I know our last two shows are going to be the best we’ve ever done, and I am so excited to help make that happen. As long as I can get through that lemonade line, now that I know what’s going on backstage.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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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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A Well-Oiled Machine

Alex and Sarah chat during a rehearsal break.

It seems like it was only yesterday when we had our first reading of the script with the assembled cast . . . and now here we are a couple of months later, a well-oiled machine in my opinion. Our opening weekend was a strong indicator of this as smiles and laughter filled the space on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Even our small audience on the preview night was receptive to our hard work. Everything sort of came together magically the last week of rehearsals and the result is an awesome show put on by a fun group of people. The sound and lighting have been on point, and Michael Guillory’s  set design has enhanced everybody’s work and has made me step up in my role (onstage and off). Even the scene changes (which seemed ridiculous at many points in the final week before opening) now feel like a breeze.

Kitty, Mrs. Bennet, and Mr. Wickham share a laugh.

I know that the show is only going to get better from here and that new discoveries will be made every night we take the stage.

— Alex Skinner (Mr. Wickham)

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Woe is Mrs. Bennet

“Raising five daughters is so exhausting!  They’re all beautiful (unlike poor Charlotte Lucas!) grown, and ready to wed, but where are all the good, rich, husbands? 

What a mess my husband’s family made of our prospects!  My poor daughters have no estate to inherit (alas, we have no sons), so we’re facing the prospect of being thrown out in the street when their father dies!  Oh, he looks healthy enough…but you never know!  Oh, what’s a poor mother to do!”

Back: Jane, Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet, Mary
Front: Kitty, Mr. Bennet, Lydia

Anyway, that’s the situation Mrs. Bennet faces in Pride & Prejudice.  It’s fun connecting with social attitudes that are over 150 years old; that almost the only good prospect for a girl was marriage to a rich man.  Ugghhh!  How far we’ve come…or have we?  This story still resonates, and it says something to each of us.  Different things to different people, but there you go!

— Terry Guillory (Mrs. Bennet)

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Smiling from Ear to Ear

Nick is all smiles.

We’re gearing up for opening night now. Rehearsals have been getting longer, more frequent, and more intense. Tempers should be flaring, egos should be showing. Are they? Not at all. I’m proud to say this has been one of the most pleasant rehearsal processes I’ve ever had.

This cast is so wonderfully talented. Every single actor shines brilliantly in their role (roles for some people). I’ve been the rehearsal prompt when I am not onstage, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching all of the scenes multiple times. Every single time I’m grinning like a kid (sure I can still be considered a kid, but shhh, that doesn’t matter). Last night’s rehearsal was the first time I’ve seen Sukanya in one of the scenes, and I swear the laughs that escaped my throat were inhuman, really.

Most of the people coming to this show expecting a haughty, grand, pretentious love story will be pleasantly surprised. At the heart of this story is a charming tale about family and expectations, and although many of those expectations are left unmet, the characters triumph (spoiler!). It’s uplifting.

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If you’re following this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re going to come see the show, so I probably don’t need to advertise much. However, I must say, in (more or less) the words of Lizzy: Whoever leaves this show not smiling from ear to ear should have their eyes examined. I adore every single person involved in this production, and what they bring to the show is a warm, genuine feeling that makes this show what it is. You do not want to miss this one.

— Nick Kempen (Vocalist, Captain Denny, William, Mr. Reynolds, Uncle Gardiner, and the mailman)

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Snappy Suits & Dandy Dresses

One of my favorite moments of any rehearsal process is the day the cast goes on a costume parade. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Actors raid their characters’ closets and walk back and forth across the set while the director and costume designer give each outfit an official “yay” or “nay”.

Nick knows he looks good in this snappy jacket and vest combo.

Perhaps I’m biased, but don’t you agree that Pride and Prejudice is filled to the brim with ridiculously attractive actors looking exceptionally dapper? (I know you do. And I promise not to be mad if you come to the show for the romance, but stay for the wardrobe).

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— Hallie

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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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Six Ladies and a Gentleman

Mr. Bennet and his women.

I vaguely remember reading Pride and Prejudice in high school many moons ago. I remember it was a difficult read and pretty dense stuff.  It seems that the folks who write the SAT exams must pull a lot of sections from the novel and use it for reading comprehension as part of their standardized tests.

I’ve been rereading the novel as we rehearse, and although my memory was sound (it still seems dense), I am really enjoying the writing and the story. Perhaps the passage of the many intervening years has helped a little in that regard. It’s clear that Jane Austen was a very smart lady and her most sympathetic characters in the story, Lizzie, Jane, and Mr. Darcy are pretty darn smart as well. I’ve found myself rereading a lot of what they say in the novel in order to better understand what they truly mean, and I’ve discovered that they have a lot of great things to say about integrity, loyalty and modesty.

Kitty, Rose, Mr. Bennet, Mary, and Jane.

While playing the role of Mr. Bennet, it is easy to be especially sympathetic to my two eldest daughters, Jane and Lizzie, because of their strength of character and the way they treat others. The play is also a lot of fun for me as the only male in a family of ladies who are each unique and provide lots of good acting choices and challenges. Some of those choices include having fun with some trying circumstances for the family.

The story and the play have several situations that would give any parent a lot of grey hair and worries. Coming from a large family of seven children, the play is giving me a more powerful sense of the stress I know that my siblings and I put our parents through. The story also shows how the Bennet family members, including their cousins, support each other in tough situations.

The cause of grey hair.

It’s been a lot of fun to work with a dedicated and talented group, and I’m looking forward to a great run in a few short weeks.

— Scott Van de Mark (Mr. Bennet)

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Becoming Jane

Jane and Lizzy

As someone who grew up with a brother who I forced into dress up clothes, it is refreshing and exciting to find myself with four very different sisters to console, gossip with, scold, and dress up with. I can’t wait to explore these relationships further.

Another delightful thing about playing Jane is that she is so graceful, sweet, and pure. Jane reminds me of my lovely great-aunt Jackie who I will try to channel when playing Jane.  Jackie was always loving, joyous, feminine, romantic, graceful, and saint-like. Like Jane, she was terribly forgiving and never thought ill of anyone. Her gentle nature could be perceived as passive sometimes. However, like Jane, she disliked confrontation so remained peaceful in the face of adversity.

Rose, Elena, and Terry

Jackie and Jane both enjoy domestic tasks and are natural care-takers. This is not to say either is repressed. They both genuinely like house tasks and care-taking, and don’t have a desire to enter the work force.  Although Jane and Jackie are quieter types, they are by no means stupid or dull.  They are shy and introspective. Above all, they are good listeners who are used to really hearing what other people have to say. Jackie, similar to Jane, was okay taking the back burner around strong, bold personalities like Lizzy or Mrs. Bennet. Jackie and Jane are like flowers, beautiful but delicate, blooming with romance. I am so grateful to explore the world of Pride and Prejudice with Hallie, SLP, and this very talented cast.

Audrey Hepburn’s poem about beauty reminds me a lot of Jane’s philosophy on beauty and life.

Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
Never throw out anybody.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!
— Elena Mae Spittler (Jane)

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