Friday, September 28, 2007

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 9 - Beau Heckman (playing Christy - middle of photo below)

I'm so sorry that I have not posted a blog before now.

The process for this show has been like none other for me. From having a life cast taken of my face, a process not for the claustrophobic, to gun classes and a trip to a gun range. Oliver turned out to be an amazing shot, while I on the other hand, should just stick to acting! Any show as laden with special effects, as is ours, is bound to have its challenges, and we had our share. Luckily, our special effects man was up to the challenge.

The time in the rehearsal hall was full of laughter and challenge. I very much enjoyed watching everyone discovering the wonderful collection of characters that make up this play. One particular challenge that occurred to me early on was how to be a "villain" to an "antihero" while still managing to be occasionally funny.

The run of the show has also been full of surprises. Knowing from the start that this material was not going to be for everyone, it has been interesting and sometimes challenging, listening to the wide ranging reactions of our audiences.

All of these experiences have been an amazing ride for me. I owe many thanks to our special effects man Cory R. Starr and an amazing crew(costumes and laundry included) led by stage manager April S. Smith. Really, this crew has stepped up to every challenge and performed above and beyond with the clean up that is required after this show!

We have only three performances left at this point and I must say that this has truly been an honor to work with old friends Cale Epps, Kerry McCue, Tim Shawver, and David Vining as well as new ones: David McCormick, Colin McFadden, and Oliver Wadsworth.

I look forward to working with you all again.
Also Much Thanks to Matthew, April, and are all amazing!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 8 - Tim Shawver (playing Davey)

Well, it is just a few hours until opening night of The Lieutenant of Inishmore and I am contributing my first blog. I would've blogged sooner but I every time I tried I felt overwhelming remorse that the time would be better spent working on my lines. My thinking being that Matthew (the director) or April (the stage mamnger) would read it and think, "Oh, Tim has time to blog, but not enough time to get off book." ("off book" being an high-falutin theater term for knowing all your lines.) But opening night has arrived and I can blog guilt-free.

What an experience this rehearsal process has been! There is nothing quite like hearing things from your director like, "We'll have a dowel rod in that fake arm so when you cut it off we hear a snap." or "Which of these tools do you think you would use to decapitate this dead body?"

I shouldn't focus so much on the gore. As much as the blood is a big part of the show, it is not the MAIN thing. And gory as it is, the comedic (even farcical) tone of the piece keeps it from becoming morbid.

So what is the MAIN thing, if not the gore? FUN! I don't think I have ever had such a good time on stage. I love being funny. The sound of laughter that I helped create makes me want to explode inside. And this play is so very clever, so very surprising, so very everything that a good comedy should be that it takes me hours to wind down after rehearsal to get some sleep.

I'm sure that if you reading these blogs you already have some interest in the production. But in case you aren't quite sold yet let me just say that if you do come to see it, that you may not see anything else like it in your theater-going life. Even Martin McDonagh's other plays (great as they are) are not as unique as this particular work.

Well, I'm heading down to the Herberger now. Sorry if this blog was too much of a commercial. Maybe once were open I'll post another one about craft and process and all that crap.

Thanks for indulging me,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 7 - Oliver Wadsworth (playing Padraic)

Hey hey hey! I’m Oliver and I play Padraic in Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Before this play I had never shot a gun before. Padraic is an Irish Terrorist whose specialty is knocking off his enemies at point blank range.
Sooo, as an actor, I thought it would be a good idea to reconcile our differences. David McCormack, an ex marine who plays James, suggested we go to Caswells Shooting Range and I jumped at the opportunity. He told me that his own personal firearm was very similar to the stage gun I would be using in the show and that I was welcome to borrow it. And then he said that just the thought of going to the shooting range gave him a hard on.

Hm. Interesting.

What the heck was he talking about?! I was excited but more excited/scared than excited/hard on. Clearly I was entering into new terrain. The land of manly men and their firearms! The night before we went I had a dream that I was at Caswells aiming at the target when I got a fit of giggles that I couldn’t control. The owner decided that I had become a danger to the other patrons so he approached me with a smile on his face and a semi automatic behind his back. I never knew what hit me. As my spirit left my body it floated over to the Shooting Range Rules posted on the wall. In bold lettering, right below "No alcoholic beverages" was written, "No giggling like a prepubescent girl!".

That morning, I got to the shooting range early and nervously pawed over the notes from our crash course in gun use given by Cory Starr, a former policeman and the Special Effects man on the show.

The range opened and our group of four, filed in and split the cost of ammo, eye and ear protection and extra gun. It all cost about $20 an hr. per person. I let everyone take a turn at the target before I did – all under the guise of gentlemanly courtesy. Beau Heckman, who plays Christy, was a first time gun user like me. I watched him approach the target with a swagger and confidently fire off four rounds. After him came David and Cory, who took turns pulverizing the target. Jokes were made about how the silhouetted figure didn’t have any more brains!
Then it was my turn. I held the gun with my thumb pointed up the way I had been practicing at home with my imaginary gun. Cory told me that if I fired the gun like that I would probably break my thumb when the magazine snapped back. I thanked him and then put my thumb down.

I fired some rounds and I felt a rush of adrenaline as the loud noise of the gun put me into high alert. When I finished, I turned back to the boys and couldn’t help grinning ear to ear. This was really fun! More than a little scary! And yes, I thought I had a wee bit of a hard on, if not physically, at least metaphorically.

Then we decided to compete. A round bullseye target was sent out to 60 feet, twice the distance of the previous spot. Each of us had two shots.

David shot slightly down and to the left and blamed his breathing. Beau looked like a pro again but didn’t seem to be hitting the target at all. Cory managed to get one shot right to the edge of the bulls eye.

As for me, I got one shot four inches off center and my second shot was a near perfect bulls eye!!
I was sure that the guys would lift me on their shoulders and parade me all around the Valley of the Sun like a victorious gladiator but instead we went out for burgers and French fries.
I used to pride myself on being modest and soft spoken. Those days are over. Some of my friends have noticed the change. They seem to be giving me a wider berth these days. I have pinned the target with my bulls eye to the rehearsal hall wall and to any newcomer that walks through the door. I bark orders, directing their attention toward it, and gloating over my natural abilities with a gun.

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 7 - David Vining (playing Donny)

Hello......David (V) here, finally adding my thoughts to the Inishmore Blog. I've enjoyed reading everyone else's thoughts during the last week, but somehow couldn't find the time and energy to add my own! Yesterday's run-through was an excellent end to a very good week, I thought. As I watched and listened while I was off stage, I was so impressed with how solid
and confident everyone looks. In my own scenes I was especially pleased with how strong my relationship with Davey (Tim Shawver) had become this week. All the scenes between us took a big step forward, but the "blaming" sequence in Scene 8 ("and pegged stones, Padraic!") in particular really caught fire Sunday afternoon, which made the tricky timing seem effortless.
As we were walking to our cars after rehearsal, Tim and I were agreeing that it is such a pleasure to work with such an extraordinary cast--everyone is so committed to the work and keyed in to the play and each other. That's made it possible for all of us to tweak and fine tune so many hilarious moments
during the past few days.

I'm very eager to start adding the costumes and technical elements to the mix starting Tuesday night. All sorts of lovely surprises, horrendous problems, and glorious solutions will occur, I'm sure! I plan on getting lots of rest so I have the stamina to stay focused, energized, and cheerful. I'm especially eager to start working with the electric saw on the "real" Brendan corpse and to work out the decapitation moment, coordinating all the physical moves with the blood spurts.

On a sad note, I awoke this morning to discover that my own beloved old cat, Ian, had died during the night. Although certainly not "wee" (he was twice as big as our mini dachshund, Heidi!), he had a very "Wee Thomas-y" look about him, black and white and sweet as can be. By all evidence, he "died peaceful, in his sleep, like." I was glad to have the day free, to give him a good send off and to have at least a 24 hour buffer from all the dead cat humor in the play. To paraphrase Donny, "It's incidents like this does put actors off comedy."

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 6 - Cory R. Starr - Special Effects master

Hello everyone –

This is Cory R. Starr, the weapons and special effects coordinator for The Lieutenant of Inishmore. We often read many interesting blogs from the actors, but not so much from the crew - well I thought I would share some of my viewpoints whilst working on this fantastic play.

It has been such a pleasure and privilege to work with Actors Theatre in this production, this is only my second theatrical project – and what a fun and eclectic challenge it is. The most amazing thing about working with Actors Theatre is that they love so much to push the limits of entertainment. It is so invigorating to see the caliber of entertainment offered to our community through Actors Theatre, everyone should take the time to come see this, or other plays of theirs.

I have been working as a special effects and weapons coordinator in the motion-picture industry for nearly twenty years, and the differences between on-stage and on-set are vast. For example: on the set, we can conceal cumbersome mechanical devices (blood cannons, for example) by moving them out of the camera’s POV, but on stage, the arrangement of the audience makes this impractical. On the set, we can load a particular effect just moments before the scene is shot, and still be able to cut just before something might become visible in the next camera angle. But on stage, this luxury is mostly absent – sometimes a pyrotechnic effect must lay in waiting for up to 90 minutes or more before it will have it’s glory. The problems presented are mostly issues of safety, and how to absolutely guarantee nothing will go off before intended. Perhaps equally important, to make certain they will go off when we intended. Sure, there may be goofs, but only in the latter. From a safety standpoint, it is far better to have something not function when intended, than to function without intention.

The most technical challenge on Inishmore was to conceal what I am calling “blood cannons” to project un-humanly copious amounts of blood. There was no way of attaching such an apparatus to the actors without it being visible from all but one angle, and to have the actors wear such a contraption throughout the play was out of the question. What I came up with is a neat device that…well; you will just have to see the play to see the results. If you want to learn more, attend the play during one of several Post Show Discussion nights.

Another challenge for this play was to coordinate all of the weapons and gunplay scenes. There are a total of five firing weapons and one non-firing weapon, totaling about 80 blank shots per show. This will be quite a rush for everyone – audience, cast, and crew included. The main characters even have their weapons tailored to their persona. It is important to note that just because a character is keen with their weapons, does not automatically mean the actor portraying that character is. Talk about dedication, many of the cast met at a local shooting range to understand how handguns fire, and to properly handle them. These actors are looking great in rehearsal, and the gunplay is just amazing. Speaking of actors, you could not ask for a nicer team. Kudos to everyone!

This week I get to install all of those gadgets, and perfect the timing of everything. I hope you all enjoy this show, because every one of us is putting in tons of effort to make this an astonishing show for you. Back to the workshop.

Take care - Cory

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 5 - Cale Epps (playing Brendan)

Hey. I'm Cale. I play Brendan in this wacky show. Matthew says I'm the only one allowed to write a sensitive blog. I'm not sure why he's picked me for that honor, but here you go. I'll try to have some sensitive romance dripping from each and every letter that I type.... yeah... not really, though.
So rehearsals are going well. Everyone is falling into their roles. We've learned our lines. We all are moving well in our blocking. We've really come together as a cast... Are you still awake?
What I think is cool about the process of rehearsing a play is this thing of how there are these words on some pieces of paper and then this guy or this girl says them and then if that person is telling the truth and speaks loud enough for a group of people to hear them, for the most part, something really compelling happens. The telling the truth part is a bit peculiar and can be incredibly elusive. It's like an actor El Dorado. But tapping into just a little bit of that really gives life to what ultimately is just words on paper. I'm struggling a bit with that right now. Every process is new and different. Every play has a voice that is prismed and shaped by a captain. Part of my job is to find my own voice in that shape. To tell my truth through the captain's mouth. So sometimes that can be challenging. But challenge is cool. You get to learn more about all this and how you do it and deal with it. If the process eats you or if you embrace the process. I want to be an embracer!
Another thing also is the difference of having a large line load and having a small one. With many lines are many clues as to who the person you're portraying is. The opposite is so with a short line load. It almost becomes more difficult to know what you should be doing here in this moment or there in that one. I think this playwright is very specific with the people he has created. Because of that, I believe who my person is, is written into the lines and why can't I just say them and get it right?????!!!!!!! Well........ I guess like Larry Mullen Jr., who is the drummer for U2, said in Rattle and Hum, "It's a musical journey." I have no idea what that means, but he said it in an Irish accent, so...? Alright, enough for now. Please enjoy the show. Great things are going into it. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Blog 4 - David McCormick (playing James)

Anything for my Masters Degree!

I knew I was entering an entirely new league of theatre when the first sound I heard as I entered the rehearsal space was April grinding coffee beans! Our amazing stage manager insists on only the best (well, better than mediocre) for her actors. I simply thought to myself, "Whew! At least I'm not going to have to make coffee and go on bagel runs!" I assumed that being an intern would mean that I would be the virtual slave of the theatre.

Arizona State and Actors Theatre have fostered a new relationship in which the MFA actors with the Herberger College of Theatre and Film have an opportunity to work with ATP if there is a role in the season that suits them and the director's vision. I remember auditioning for the 07-08 season and feeling quite comfortable from the start. Now I'm the fourth member of the ASU MFA program to be given an opportunity to work with ATP. Cathan Bordyn was in The Inteligent Design of Jenny Chow, Kane Anderson and Kerry Weider were in The Pillowman, and now here I am as James, the tortured upside down guy. Talk about a crazy debut on the professional stage!

Another great aspect of my internship is that I was awarded the opportunity to assist Cory Starr, our effects supervisor and weapons master. I'm learning about how he is constructing the "blood cannons" and our "catapulp" (see the show and you'll know what that term means...enjoy!!). Also, I will help him with the firearms before, during, and after each performance. Realistically, I'm expecting to do alot of gun stripping and cleaning, paired with cleaning up ridiculous amounts of blood! Luckily, we're not using nearly as much blood as they used in the Broadway production! I'm quite comfortable with the weapons as I've used a vast array of them; real one's while serving in the military and theatrical ones as well.

All in all, it's refreshing to say the least that everyone here operates on an entirely professional level and to me that shows a respect for each other and to art. I believe that we are artists first and foremost. Everything else is just paying the bills! I'm excited that my family is flying out to see me (in my one scene) and I know they are going to be laughing so hard they'll practically be rolling in the aisles! My folks love the kind of raw humor that is in this play.

Well, that's all for now. I have to ice my sore ankles...