2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Monday, October 31, 2011

This Bird Has Flown

A.D. Tony Targan and Director Michael Schacherbauer giving notes at rehearsal.
Photo by Dave Ewick

Now that To Kill A Mockingbird has closed, I want to share some personal reflections from the past four months.   We really didn’t know what to expect at auditions in June, but we got an amazing turnout of 60 actors, including many newcomers to the Barn.  We were very lucky to have such talented kids try out, and Nina White, Patrick Vietor and Nicholas Zupancic quickly stood out as Scout, Jem and Dill.  Rehearsals started in July with table work and once the actors got on their feet, things really started to click.   August and September were challenging with rehearsals four nights a week, but everything came together by opening night.  As word of mouth spread in October, we closed to enthusiastic audiences and full houses by the last weekend.

Mockingbird was my first experience as an assistant director.  I learned so much just by watching director Michael Schacherbauer:  How to block movement so that the focal point is on the right actor; How to use lighting and sound to strike the right mood; How to organize all the moving parts that need to come together.  But most of all, I learned to trust my own instincts.   On an interpersonal level, I learned what each actor needed from me to do their best, whether it was praise or correction.  Sometimes it was just being there.  Kandi Krumins told me that I was her security blanket … Just seeing me in the front row every night during rehearsals checking lines gave her confidence.  

Mockingbird was a bit risky as a choice for a fall production, but the play was successful by any measure, including financially.   I am also proud to work with so many fine African-American actors, including Grover McCants, Vanessa Davis, James Hodges, Camille Jamerson, Elizabeth Hemmingway and Adrienne Kelly-Webb.  I have so much respect for their professionalism in dealing with the racial themes of the play.  Like Jean Louise Finch, we will always remember our time together in Maycomb, Alabama.

For more information, go to www.farmingtonplayers.org or call 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook at "Farmington Players" http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000154976336

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kandi’s “Can Do” Attitude Makes Mockingbird Fly

Kandi Krumins:  Photo by Jan Cartwright

Kandi Krumins plays Jean Louise Finch, the adult Scout, and serves as the onstage narrator of our play.  Originally cast as Miss Maudie, Kandi quickly embraced her new role when the initial Jean Louise dropped out unexpectedly.  Kandi willingly jumped in with both feet and made a seamless transition to Jean Louise.  She even dyed her blond hair brown to match Scout.  

Kandi feels that the use of a narrator “really helps the audience better understand the play, and I think the narration adds great depth to the story. The characters are introduced as young Jean remembers them, which adds some levity to this otherwise ‘heavy’ story.”   As the youngest of six children, mother of two, and long-time middle school teacher, Kandi felt well prepared for this role: “I'm guessing that most people go back in time and try to make sense of their childhood -- particularly with the things we didn't understand and crave resolution with.  I know I've done it many times.  I can relate to Jean Louise, and feel very comfortable playing her role.”

Kandi says she has gained some valuable life lessons from Mockingbird:
“(1) Remember, your children are watching you.  At some point they WILL question what roads you travelled in life.  When that time comes, hopefully you can look into their eyes and feel good about your answers.
(2) The people you choose to spend time with affect who you are.  Choose your friends based on the content of their character...not the color of their skin, height, weight, age, etc.
(3)  Many hardships are really blessings in disguise.  Sometimes it just takes a while to see it.”

She also has some great insights into the directors’ roles in making Mockingbird hum: “It's the fine-tuning of good directors that makes the whole thing RUN, like a machine.  All the parts need to mesh together, or we break down.  The funny part is, we people on stage get most of the credit, individually.  It's kind of like thanking the individual parts of a fine car for its performance, instead of recognizing the brilliance in the mechanics that put it all together.”

Kandi’s warmth and sense of humor comes through onstage as Jean Louise and she deserves kudos for her fine performance in this show, which includes three more performances on October 20, 21 and 22.  Get tickets while they last at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook at "Farmington Players" http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000154976336

Friday, October 7, 2011

This Boo Wouldn’t Say Boo

Nina White (Scout) and Dave Ewick (Boo) clowning around at rehearsal.

The reclusive Boo Radley is a central figure in To Kill A Mockingbird.   Jem Finch first describes him like an animal:  “Judging from his tracks, he’s about six and a half feet tall, eats raw squirrels and all the cats he can catch.  His teeth are yellow and rotten, his eyes pop out and most of the time, he drools.”   In the course of the play, we come to learn that this pre-judgment of Boo – like most prejudices -- is far from accurate. 

I asked Dave Ewick his impressions about the challenge of playing multiple roles in Mockingbird, including Boo Radley.  Dave describes his characters as follows:

“My first character is Nathan Radley [Boo’s older brother].  My take is that he's a guy who thought he was "free" of Maycomb, only to be brought back through his sense of responsibility to his family when his father died and Boo needed a caretaker.  Nathan isn't necessarily happy, but he is resigned to his fate.  He sometimes resents having to come back home, so can be a little short with folks, but he's a good man.  I see him as more educated than most in Maycomb.

“My second character is the nameless "big man". I see him as a typical '30's redneck, farm boy; part of the background of the town.  Due to his size, he's a bit of a bully and likes to throw his weight around.  Due to a lack of education, and a typical southern home life; he's a bit of a racist.  He likes to go out with the boys for a drink or two, then enjoys the rowdy things the guys do.  While he doesn't like Bob Ewell any more than most, he willingly drinks with him and hangs out with him in the group.  

“My final character is my favorite.  Boo Radley isn't seen on stage until the very end, but his presence is felt throughout the play.  The descriptions of him really push the audience into thinking he's almost a monster.  … My view is that Boo is a gentle soul, and that he was over-protected by his family ….  Boo loves to watch Jem and Scout at play.  He feels safer with children than with adults or older kids, who scare him.  … To me, Boo represents innocence and his actions show that he wants to protect the innocence of others.  While the kids have been afraid of him, his only thoughts have been affection and curiosity for them.”

Dave’s thoughtful character studies help him bring these characters to life, and he has certainly made the most of his few lines in the play.   For example, Nathan Radley’s first line, a terse but simple greeting of “Afternoon,” always brings a laugh from audiences.  Dave really helps us see these characters as more complex than we might assume based on first impressions: “I've been using these thoughts to guide me in my reactions.  There are so many ways to see "the other" and to realize how it can affect our lives - this is just one facet of so many ways to see it.”  Well said, Mr. Boo.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Every Night Is Opening Night

Grover McCants as Reverend Sykes and townspeople Elizabeth Hemmingway and Adrienne Kelly-Webb observe the trial from the "colored" balcony with Jem, Scout and Dill.  Photo by Tom Bigwood.

To Kill A Mockingbird finally opened this weekend.  I say “finally” because it has been months in preparation since auditions in June, and rehearsals that ran from mid-July through September.   It was very gratifying to see all our hard work pay off.   On opening night, every actor had a little extra pep in his step.  Lines were delivered with more energy and enthusiasm.  Cue pick-ups were tight.  And despite a few glitches that only the directors would notice, the show went off without a hitch.

Every audience is different, and as director Michael Schacherbauer likes to point out, “Every night is opening night for that audience.”   He encouraged the cast to keep their focus and to perform with the same energy level in every show.  Each audience reacts in its own way.   Friday’s opening night crowd was in the mood to laugh, and found humor in the eccentric characters that make up Maycomb, Alabama, the fictional setting of the play.   The first act is relatively light compared to the heavier themes of the courtroom scene.  But even Sheriff Heck Tate’s announcement of someone’s death drew incongruous laughter, perhaps because it was unexpected.

By comparison, Saturday night’s crowd was more subdued.   They were clearly engaged in following the play, but less vocal in their responses.   I sat with friends who absolutely loved the performance, but it was just not a laughing matter to them.  Given the play’s serious themes of racism and prejudice, this is not surprising; it just reinforces how every audience experiences the play differently.

When my friends asked me if seeing the play as assistant director was like “giving birth” to my creation, I responded that “It is more like seeing your daughter go off to college.   You know that she is ready, but it is still a little hard letting go.”  This cast is certainly more than ready to deliver another top-notch performance, so I encourage you to come see another “opening night” real soon.

Tickets are available at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook at "Farmington Players" http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000154976336