Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

BUS STOP Q&A with Jacque Troy!

Some great reviews have been coming out about BUS STOP, get your tickets fast! Now, continuing our blog interviews with BUS STOP cast members we have Jacque Troy. Jacque not only plays Grace in BUS STOP, but she is also the Education Director/Literary Manager for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. 

What is it like “going back” to a semi-academic theatre setting with this BUS STOP collaboration?

Jacque Troy
As the Education Director here at MCT, I’ve had several fantastic opportunities to work with young artists; recently during our collaborations with UW-Milwaukee for PICNIC and with Marquette for LION IN WINTER.  I also have the rare joy of producing MCT’s Young Playwrights Festival, which allows me to mentor high school students from all over the city in writing one acts and then employing college students as actors, designers and stage managers.  Michael Wright’s devotion to this part of our mission is a huge part of what attracted me to this company when I joined the staff six years ago. 

Would you like to share any memories of your academic theatre experience?

I chose the University of Iowa as an undergrad very specifically because they have an internationally recognized Playwright’s Festival.  And even though I knew I wanted to be an actor, I also knew that I wanted to work on new plays.  The script itself has always fascinated me as the ultimate tool for creating a character.  I’m also kind of a groupie when it comes to playwrights.  They’re like movie stars to me.  But I can vividly remember my first audition at U of I.  It was for a musical, which is decidedly NOT my niche.  But I was full of youthful optimism and joined the 100 undergraduate and grad students in trying to land a role.  I failed.  You can imagine that my 19 year-old self was devastated and consequently questioned my choice of study.  Luckily, I would later be very successful in landing roles, which is what led me to this place in my life.  I learned so much during my time there and still owe a huge debt of gratitude to my mentors during that time.  Ironically, I was just chatting about one of them with our director, Lisa Kornetsky.  She had asked me to be sure I was vocally balanced with the other actors.  So, she was saying I’m too much of a loud mouth!! I laughed because this is a note I get frequently.  My voice teacher at U of I, Kate Burke, trained me to have a HUGE vocal instrument.  I’m so grateful to her for that, but continue to have to learn to control it. 

What lesson do you hope comes out of this collaboration between UW-Parkside and MCT? Do you feel that you have learned something as well?  

I hope it continues to demonstrate to our audience MCT’s real commitment to nurturing young artists.  It’s a part of our mission that makes us very proud.  And I learn something every time I work on a play.  When it’s with young artists, I am reminded of all the wonder and awe that a good production can generate.  It keeps me excited about this profession and gives me enormous optimism about the amazing work we’re going to see from the next generation of actors and theatre artisans. 

Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.

The students were amazing…nearly off book…which made us “old timers” joke that they were making us look bad!!  Also, Lisa Kornetsky allowed me to go “all the way” with the thick rural, Midwestern dialect that I inherited from my maternal relatives.  It’s something I’ve been carefully suppressing my whole life, so it was a blast to “let the beast out”.  Of course, we’ve pulled the dialect way back since that first reading.  We want the audience to be able to understand what Grace is saying.  But it’s still really fun to honor my kin with the hints of that distinctive sound.  I also don’t think I’ve ever laughed--with my fellow artists--so much on the very first day.  I’m thrilled to report that we haven’t stopped laughing and enjoying each other’s company for even a day since. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BUS STOP Q&A with Doug Jarecki

BUS STOP had a fantastic opening weekend! Thanks to all of you who came out to support the show! If you have yet to see the show you still have plenty of time to get your tickets as it runs until April 29th. But in the mean time you can enjoy this interview with BUS STOP actor, the very funny, Doug Jarecki.  

What is it like “going back” to a semi-academic theatre setting with this BUS STOP collaboration? 

Doug Jarecki
I was initially concerned about how I would "go back" to a semi-academic theatre setting, so I did what any actor would do and prepared myself.  I semi-immersed myself in everything I could.  I baked cookies only using semi-sweet morsels, I led my rec league basketball team to the semi-finals, and I even watched all three Transformer movies.  What does that have to do with anything, you ask?  Optimus Prime, the trilogy's hero, transforms into a semi-truck.  A less prepared actor would have never known that.

Would you like to share any memories of your academic theatre experience?

I was not a theatre major when I started out, and I had always been curious about being on stage, so one day I decided I would audition for something before I got a "real job" in the "real world."  I auditioned for a musical, even though I could not sing.  Thankfully, they needed warm bodies to fill out the cast, and I was able to be a part of this world.  That's when the acting bug hit me.....or bit me, or whatever the phrase is.  Either way, it left a mark.  I spent the rest of my collegiate career soaking up everything I could from anyone generous enough to share their insights with me.  And none of it would have happened had I not taken a step out of my normal routine and tried something that scared the living daylights out of me.  So I guess my academic theatre experience gave me a barometer with which to measure all future projects--if it scares the heck out of you, it's probably worth doing.

What lesson do you hope comes out of this collaboration between UW-Parkside and MCT? Do you feel that you have learned something as well?  

I have never been a part of a show and not learned something.  I tell people it's because I am always open to learning, but it probably has more to do with my overall lack of knowledge to begin with.  Either way, this has been another tremendous learning experience for me.  I felt Lisa (Kornetsky) created a great environment for play and creativity, but kept it all moving in a positive and productive direction.  That's a difficult balancing act, especially considering the widely varied backgrounds and experience levels of the performers.  It was also a pleasure getting to know the UW-Parkside performers.  I don't know that I would have taken the time to do so without Mr. Katula's encouragement.  Our dressing room stations were right next to each other in the beginning, but every day Mr. Katula would move my stuff next to someone new while practically begging me to talk to someone else, "anyone else" as he put it.  He's a generous man, and one day I hope to call him friend.....or even Dan. 

Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.

I really do love this play.  I first performed it 15 years ago, and it is a real treat to be able to revisit a script with an entirely new cast, new director, and new role.  The connections in it are real and widely varied.  There is no one set rule for how to connect with someone, and this play lets us see the different shades of how we go about forming, nurturing, and even severing those connections.  It was a privilege to see how each performer brought those connections to life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BUS STOP Q & A with Brenna Kempf

BUS STOP starts tomorrow April 12th!! As promised here is another actor interview. This time we have Brenna Kempf, a UW-Parkside acting student who will be playing the part of Elma. Here she gives us some insight into what the process has been like as a student in a professional production.

Brenna Kempf

What are some of the differences in the rehearsal process between a typical UW-Parkside show and this experience at MCT?
While working on BUS STOP with equity actors at MCT, we are rehearsing on an equity schedule. This means that we typically rehearse 5-6 hours per night during the week, with two 8-hour rehearsals per weekend. At UW-Parkside, however, rehearsals are usually held from 6-10 PM with no weekend rehearsals. The rehearsal process at UWP can average to about 4 to 7 weeks of rehearsal, whereas with BUS STOP, we've had three weeks of rehearsal (and we are now jumping into tech and opening week!). In short, we've spent much more time in the rehearsal room at MCT, which allowed for us to look at specific scenes and moments much more intimately. At first, I feared that the 6 and 8 hour rehearsals would feel incredibly long and tiresome, but Lisa (our director) and the rest of the team always find new ideas and energy to invest into the specific moments that we work with. Looking back at our three weeks of rehearsal, it feels like such a whirlwind. I sincerely feel, however, that I have found a rootedness within our rehearsal time that has enabled me to grow both as my character (Elma), and as a performer in training.
Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.
When I first read BUS STOP, I immediately adored each of the characters and their personal journeys. There was a sort of sparkle in all of them, and I just remember feeling really excited to see them come to life and not only live out their journeys, but to interact and connect with the journeys of the others. About two months after the cast was announced, I read through the script again and really focused on the environment of the 1950s, which is the setting of this story. I suddenly fell into a small panic, specifically about Elma and her relationship with Dr. Lyman. I wondered how young girls of today could watch this story unfold and be able to relate with Elma, who initially doesn't understand Dr. Lyman's intentions. I felt that with today's teachings on awareness of "stranger danger" and other recent issues, such as online safety, Elma's journey just couldn't relate to teenagers of today. All of this fear was washed away at our very first rehearsal as Lisa reinforced the strength of the themes that she saw in the play. It was not about the time in which these emotions were experienced, but simply about experiencing the emotions of love and loss. We can all relate and remember those feelings, no matter what time or place we experience them in. To me, this was a reminder of what theatre is and why I love to do it: to connect as a community through remembering our humanity. I am so excited to share this story and these emotions with the audience members of MCT!
What is it like to act on stage with your professor?
I've known Jamie since I started my theatre training at UW-Parkside, so he has seen the journey of my performance work and has helped me in shaping and developing it.  So it's been really interesting to work alongside him! Jamie gives a lot of focused energy when working in scenes, (something that he promotes and lectures on in class), and I've been focusing on providing that same sense of energy back to him and all of the other actors. Having him as a scene partner, resource, and support in rehearsals has been great. 

What have you learned as a student/performer during the course of rehearsal?
Working on BUS STOP with the team of MCT and UWP artists has sincerely strengthened my appreciation for our craft and has taught me a lot about performance/character development and creative collaboration. Mostly, though, I have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside so many wonderful people who are passionate about life and sharing it with others. Working with them on this process has fueled my enthusiasm for the future - for both artistic collaborations and life in general.

My Experience in Collaborating with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

As a collaborative participant in William Inge's Bus Stop, serving as Assistant Director and Understudy to Bo, I can wholeheartedly compare this experience to the adventure of a lifetime! As you may know, Bus Stop is a collaborative project between the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Having the opportunity to observe, analyze, and join in on the magic that happens behind the scenes has been both an extreme pleasure and insightfully invaluable learning experience. From the rehearsal hall to the Cabot Theater stage, we have shared sentimental moments, boisterous periods of laughter, and exciting days of innovative discovery. Each and every day contained a fresh, new kind of energy, which motivated the actors to find something new and appealing to incorporate into their individual characters!

The behind-the-scenes process has been nothing short of an imaginative thrill-ride! Each artist involved demonstrated their sense of establishment, creative ingenuity, and full-fledged professionalism!

In working with Chamber professionals, I have observed Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's mission in practice. Sitting in on rehearsals, I have analyzed the artistic excellence and literary empowerment Chamber installs within its practitioners. Intriguing still, MCT's mission to its artists compliments that of UW-Parkside's mission and dedication to its theatre students, which deems this partnership a match made in heaven! Furthermore, the amount of passion, dedication, and commitment each individual has contributed to this project has been incredible! Together, each collaborating cast and crew member has entrusted this project with a vast amount of creative power and ingenuity. The passionate energy, combined with the acting power and love for the Theatre from each involved participant, has been a pleasure to witness, and will produce an explosive product on stage!

~Bobby Johnson

Monday, April 9, 2012

BUS STOP Q & A with Annie Walaszek

Anne Walaszek
As promised, here is another interview with a BUS STOP cast member! Today we have Annie Walaszek who is a student at UW-Parkside and will be playing the role of Cherie in the production. 

What are some of the differences in the rehearsal process between a typical UW-Parkside show and this experience at MCT?
At UW-P, we rehearse for 4-7 weeks, 5 days per week, for four hours. At MCT, we've been rehearsing 6 hours per day, on weekdays and 8 hours each day on the weekends (with Mondays off). At first I thought it would be difficult to adjust to a typical Equity schedule, but it's actually been a great experience. I really enjoy utilizing all 6 to 8 hours, diving into the character and being able to remain in the moment for hours. Also, working with professionals is a very different experience in a positive way:  rehearsals are focused and I really feel the need to be the best I can be all the time, because they're wholly dedicated.

Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.

I read BUS STOP aloud with another student as my first experience with William Inge. I was surprised at how well Inge captured the essence of each person's background. For instance, my character, Cherie, comes from the Ozarks and you can definitely hear it in her speech patterns, both in her dialect and in her diction. The story is so fascinating because it's so inclusive:  these people are trapped in a single place together because of a snowstorm. There's this magical kind of fate feeling to the entire plot, while the characters remain rooted in reality. I remember being fascinated.

What is it like to act on stage with your professor? 

Seeing Jamie [Cheatham, UW-P acting professor] act and acting with him is a little like watching all my acting classes flash before my eyes. I remember certain lectures where he emphasized utilizing certain techniques and I see him putting those into action. It's also much more relaxed than I imagined. Jamie has been my director on previous shows, so he knows what I struggle with as an actor. Having an acting partner who understands that feels really good. I've also found that this has been an amazing opportunity to ask more about acting than I ever have before. While we struggle together on a particular scene, I'm able to ask questions, and he's able to answer both as a professor and as a fellow actor.

What have you learned as a student/performer during the course of rehearsal?

As a performer, I've learned how to be compassionate and generous to my fellow cast-mates. I've learned how to better communicate myself to a director. I've learned how to relax into a role and just have fun, even when you're doing something that is really, really scary (i.e. my solo song). I've learned how to focus my energy and concentrate on technique in a new way. I've learned how to contribute, not only to the director's and my own vision, but also to the playwright's vision. I've also RE-learned how much I love acting. 

I really appreciate my time at MCT and most of all, I'm really excited to share both Cherie and BUS STOP with Milwaukee!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

BUS STOP Q&A with Jamie Cheatham

Jamie Cheatham
Next up for MCT is Willam Inge’s BUS STOP which starts April 12. This production is a collaboration between MCT and UW-Parkside. Because of this we thought it would be interesting to sit down and speak with both the professional and student actors that are involved. We will be posting several of these interviews and today we are featuring Jamie Cheatham. Jamie is both a professional actor and the head of the acting program at UW-Parkside. In BUS STOP, he will be playing Dr. Lyman as well as serving as the fight choreographer.

What is it like “going back” to a semi-academic theatre setting with this BUS STOP collaboration?

I teach acting at Parkside, so there's no "going back" for me.  I love academic theatre.  At Parkside we call ourselves a 'company' instead of a department.  It's great to be able to train together and produce together...a company in the true sense.  

This is a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to a more professional setting. We keep equity hours, rehearsing 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week, over a shorter time frame than we usually find in academic theatre.     At school we rehearse in shorter blocks and shorter weeks for about a week or two longer.   Either way,  it's a challenge, I know, for our students to do all this rehearsing and stay on top of their work as students.  Somehow they do it!  I'm really proud of them.

Would you like to share any memories of your academic theatre experience?
When I was an undergrad, I occasionally acted with my teachers in shows.  It was always a bit nerve wracking, but it also made you 'play at the top of your game.'  I hope my presence in the cast is a positive experience for my students.  I'm having a terrific time working with them, and watching their work.

What lesson do you hope comes out of this collaboration between UW-Parkside and MCT? Do you feel that you have learned something as well?

As a teacher of acting, I hope to learn something new about my work as an artist every time I act, direct or teach.  The great and challenging thing about being an artist is that there is no 'right' answer.  We have to trust and explore, and then put it all on stage without really 'knowing' if it will 'work.'    

It's been a wonderful collaboration with MCT.  I hope that many Milwaukee patrons and theatre folk will get a good chance to see the calibre of our students and continue to be interested in us as a program and a great source for young theatre artists.  I'm glad that Michael came to us with such an exciting project.

Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.

Well, this is the first time that I've read it looking specifically at Dr. Lyman.  There are a lot of great lines and comic moments, but there are also terrific challenges.  I read the script and thought...I hope I can figure out how to play this!  He's something of a degenerate, he calls himself 'an old reprobate.'  Inge is very kind to Dr. Lyman.  Our modern sensibilities are more inclined to see him as a predator, which he is.  However, Inge seems to be writing himself very much into this role (many of the roles, really, but Lyman especially).  He acknowledges Lyman's guilt and self loathing, but also allows him to make an on stage confession.  He is a terrific role, I think, because sometimes the audiences must sympathize with him, and at others, despise him, and then back again.  A tricky balance!  

I was also struck with how funny the script is while also having so much heart, and at times pathos.  It's a really rich piece.