2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cynthia Tupper Returns to Barn Stage in Unique Role

Cynthia Tupper (seated) plays Nat, mother to Laurel Stroud's Becca

It’s been almost four years since she’s been onstage, but Cynthia Tupper is certainly no stranger to the Barn. In addition to directing a dozen shows (starting with Pajama Game in 1984, and most recently The Producers in 2011), Cynthia has designed and created costumes for 59 shows, has been a cast member in 28 shows, produced 7 shows, and was a long-time Board member and former President of the Farmington Players.   Despite all that experience, Cynthia says that her role in Rabbit Hole – as Nat, the grandmother – is “very different than anything else I have done.  I always love the challenge to transform physically and emotionally into another character who is nothing like me.”  What’s not different is the chance to work with her husband Brian, who is directing this show.  Cynthia says, “Brian and I enjoy a history of collaborating together when we each direct.   I may be biased but he is one of our best directors and I also love creating a character with him. When either one of us is directing, we never stop talking about the show during the process!”

Cynthia’s role as Nat is complex in that both Nat and her daughter Becca had sons that died unexpectedly.  As Cynthia says, “Nat feels great sympathy for her daughter, but her attempts to comfort her daughter fall short and seem to make things worse most of the time.  Nat is also very outspoken and blunt and her opinions and suggestions always seem to hit a nerve with her daughter, even though there is a deep love between them and they are very different on the surface.”  Cynthia does a great job of making Nat real, and not a caricature.  As she says, “the beauty of Nat is that she does provide some of the comic relief, but she is counter balanced with sensitivity and pathos even when you don’t expect it with her brash personality.  It’s a fine line to balance, but like most people she has good qualities and bad qualities, but the positive outweighs the negative and she is mostly likeable.  Although you can understand why she drives her daughters crazy!”

While Rabbit Hole is a poignant drama, Cynthia thinks “people will be surprised that the show is uplifting and funny and reflects a part of life that we all can relate to. At many points in our lives, we all deal with loss and grieving.  There is no right way to grieve.  All five characters deal with it differently – it changes them – but they learn to go on and not judge each other.  Life goes on as it should.”

Rabbit Hole runs from February 15th to March 2nd at the Barn Theater, 32332 West Twelve Mile Road, Farmington Hills.  Reserved seats for this drama sponsored by the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Joel Hunter Fits Right In Outside His Comfort Zone

Joel Hunter plays high-school senior Jason Willette

If the audience feels uncomfortable whenever Joel Hunter appears onstage, he’s doing a great job. In Rabbit Hole, Joel plays Jason Willette, who Joel describes as “a quiet, under-the-radar senior in high school. He's not super athletic or incredibly popular. He doesn't do much that would get him in trouble, or do anything really unusual. He's down-to-earth, well meaning, and honest. He's a good egg.”  Despite being such a nice, normal guy, Jason is also the cause of a family’s misery, as the driver in the accident that killed Danny, a four year-old boy.  Some of the tensest moments in the play include Jason’s interactions with Danny’s parents.  As Joel says, “Despite the fact that Danny's death was an accident, it weighs on Jason. It's difficult for him to accept that what happened is no one's fault.”

Joel’s natural reticence comes in handy when playing Jason: “I can relate to Jason a bit. I may seem like a goofball to those who know me now, but whenever I am meeting new people or putting myself out of my comfort zone I become very much like Jason when he does that: nervous, unsure of what to say to avoid awkwardness, and hoping I don't make a fool of myself. I fit into Jason pretty well, actually. We do share a lot of similarities [such as a love of sci-fi], but I often find myself being a bit quieter when I play Jason and my articulation suffers. So that's something I've had to work on.”

Joel auditioned for Rabbit Hole based on a teacher’s recommendation without really knowing much about the show.   He’s also never suffered the deep personal loss of a close loved one, saying “I’ve known kids my own age die, and two years ago, my aunt passed, but it has always been something surreal for me.”  But this sense of freshness, of experiencing something new and surreal, keeps Joel’s performance authentically uncomfortable, which is a natural fit for the role of Jason.

Joel is a student at OCC and plans to transfer next year to a four-year university to major in theatre. This is his second show with the Farmington Players, having recently debuted as B.J. Gibson in the 1940s Radio Hour. Some of his favorite roles are Georg in Spring Awakening, Pony in Suburbia, and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Rabbit Hole runs from February 15th to March 2nd at the Barn Theater, 32332 West Twelve Mile Road, Farmington Hills.  Reserved seats for this drama sponsored by the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Laurel Stroud Takes on Her Toughest Role in Rabbit Hole

Laurel Stroud (standing) as Becca and Cynthia Tupper as Nat: Each deals with loss in her own way.
Why do bad things happen to good people?  If God is merciful and omnipotent, how does He let them happen?  And how can such tragedies be part of “God’s plan”?  These are some of the hard questions that Laurel Stroud’s character Becca must deal with in Rabbit Hole.  Becca lost her son in a car accident she is trying to figure out how to put her life back together.  As Laurel says, “It was an accident, so she has no clear place to put her anger and grief.  She is angry at God and snips at the people closest to her.  I think she is someone who had been used to carefully planning life and successfully working out the plan.  This was obviously not part of the plan, and there's nothing she can do to change it, so she doesn't know quite how to deal with it.  But she hasn't given up, and I think the audience will see she is still hopeful for the future.”

Laurel enjoys playing Becca because she is “smart and talented.  She likes to bake and have things in order, like I do.  Family is important to her.  She perseveres, even when it's hard.  She is a normal person, doing the best she can in a tough situation.”  But when Becca lashes out at her family to diffuse her anger, it is a fine line for Laurel to show that Becca still loves her family, and really wouldn't have gotten through this without them.”  If you know Laurel, you know how hard it is for her to say an unkind word about anyone.  But as Becca, she must not only be blunt, but also swear.  Laurel admits, “At first, it was tough saying the words.  That sounds silly, but it's true.  Becca also lashes out when she's angry and I tend to get quieter the angrier I get.   She and I have different views on how God figures in to the ‘why bad things happen to good people’ issue.  I had to come to terms with playing a character like that.”

How did Laurel’s own life experience help her prepare for playing Becca?  As she says, “I did lose my dad a few years ago, and that was a big loss for me.  But in terms of identifying with Becca, and for me, the whole "why God?" thing, I think realizing that a dream I'd had most of life wouldn't materialize comes closer.  It's not going to happen, I can't do anything about it, I just have to deal and figure out what life is like in the new paradigm.” 

Laurel has been a member at the Barn for almost 10 years and is currently on the Board as Director of Communications.  Some of her favorite roles include, Jennie in Chapter Two, Mom in Leaving Iowa, Essie in You Can't Take It With You and Laura in Whose Wives are they Anyway?  Laurel’s day job is to edit the clipsheet for Ford Motor Company. 

Rabbit Hole runs from February 15th to March 2nd at the Barn Theater, 32332 West Twelve Mile Road, Farmington Hills.  Reserved seats for this drama sponsored by the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jay McNeill Keeps It Real as Howie in Rabbit Hole

Jay McNeill as Howie and Laurel Stroud as Becca try to reconnect as a couple

A rabbit warren is a series of connected tunnels that rabbit communities live in for shelter from the outside world.  In Rabbit Hole, a family bound together by tragedy struggles to reconnect and to find emotional shelter.  The depths of each person’s own sorrow makes it hard for them to comfort one another.  But while no one lives “happily ever after” in Rabbit Hole, ultimately, it is these family ties that enable life to go on.

Jay McNeill plays Howie, a New York City banker whose four-year old son Danny was killed in an accident eight months earlier.  Jay sees Howie as “the most level-headed person in the family after the accident, while everyone else is seemingly going off the rails. I find strength in a local support group for grieving parents and try to keep the memories of my son as fresh as possible.”  His wife Becca, played by Laurel Stroud, grieves very differently from Howie by trying to repress some of the daily reminders of their son, and this creates conflict between the couple.   

While the play is generally restrained, Jay says that Howie and Becca have one “extremely emotional scene that is gut-wrenching. It's difficult to rehearse and play out again and again and keep the emotion fresh and real.”  Unfortunately, Jay has had a recent loss that he can draw on as an actor: “My life up until last year was remarkably untouched by death. But in the spring we lost my brother at a young age and that experience certainly helps me relate to the characters in this play. There's one scene where my mother-in-law Nat is explaining how the death of a loved one never really goes away and she's exactly right. Even in life's most joyous moments thoughts of my brother are never really far from my mind.”

Jay also relate to his character’s personality, saying, “Howie and I are remarkably similar. He tends to be a little more on the flip and sarcastic side of things, which I like because I'm that way much of the time with my friends and the people I'm most comfortable with. Also, I am an accountant and have spent most of my career in finance-related activities. I lived in New York and worked on Wall Street for eight years so playing this character is certainly not a stretch for me.”

While Howie’s character comes naturally to Jay, this is his first show as an actor since high school almost 25 years ago. He says, “It's been a lot of fun to get back into the swing of things. My fellow cast mates have been great, and our director Brian Tupper has been fantastic with his suggestions to fill out our characters and maximize our performances. It should be a great show.” 

Rabbit Hole runs from February 15th to March 2nd at the Barn Theater, 32332 West Twelve Mile Road, Farmington Hills.  Reserved seats for this drama sponsored by the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. are available now at www.farmingtonplayers.org or at the box office (248) 553-2955.