by Kirby Lindsay, posted 12 October 2012
Actor James Lyle recently explained, “my monkey is quoting Milton,” while describing the process of bringing ‘Words, Words, Words,’ to the stage.
Such things happen when Stone Soup Theatre presents eight short plays for ‘an einenvg with the wdeunfrol wdors of Shel Silverstein & David Ives,’ as the first mainstage show of the new season. During a month long run starting October 19th, audiences can enjoy ‘Language Art,’ a showcase of twisted, torn and sometimes tart ‘wdors’ brought to life by the talented cast of Lyle, Zachariah Robinson, Sarah Rose Nottingham, Rebecca Parker-O’Neil, Jaryl Draper, and Erin Ison, and directed by Maureen Hawkins.
It promises to offer up some truly wonderful words!
Communication, Or Mis-Communication
“Maureen has crafted an evening with the theme of communication, or mis-communication,” explained Robinson. As three of the actors – Lyle, Robinson and Draper – waited to rehearse plays that explore the sometimes clumsy art of communication, they attempted to explain the process they use to bring the characters written by Ives and Silverstein to the stage.
For ‘Words, Words, Words,’ Lyle actually plays a monkey (along with Parker-O’Neill and Robinson) and he quotes the poet John Milton. Actually, Ives has the monkey mis-quote Milton, so part of Lyle’s preparation for the role consisted of researching the actual quote, and working out the significance of the changes Ives made to it.
Of the three plays he performs in, Robinson said, “‘Words…’ is currently my favorite.” He also admitted, “I didn’t really like it at first.” All three actors acknowledged that their affection for a play will change as they prepare. “It changes with the people you play with,” Robinson explained, about his co-stars, the director and the other crew, and “it changes with your understanding of it.”
“The great thing about Maureen,” Draper explained, “is that she lets you play.” Hawkins does extensive reading and research before entering rehearsals, and yet she’ll also encourage the actors to explore the material. Robinson praised how Hawkins encourages “a collaborative process,” even if, “sometimes I don’t agree with her choices.” Lyle nodded to both observations, and added, “She’s prepared. When questions come up, she’s got the answer, and is ready to throw that in the hopper.”
Find The Flow, And The Love
In ‘Universal Language,’ Lyle explained, “the playfulness of Ives really comes out.” In this play, he said, “the teacher speaks in nothing but this language called Unamunda, and because the language is so gobbledygooky, [the playwright’s] given a lot of context.” Lyle must not only convey that context to the audience, but also speak lines that consist of nothing but apparent ‘gobbledygook.’ For Lyle, remembering the lines turned out to be much, “like you remember music, or sound,” he explained.
Lyle found the dialogue easy to remember. “The flow of it makes sense,” he said. He did explain that, for his personal process, “I struggle a lot to sit down and memorize lines. For me, it’s easier when we start moving and blocking the piece.”
For Draper, “‘The Lifeboat Is Sinking’ is my favorite.” Written by Silverstein, Draper described it as the one, in the beginning, he had the hardest time with. “At first, it read like a sketch. Reading it just felt flat,” he explained. He watched video of other performances, and couldn’t connect. Yet, once he and Nottingham went to work on it, “Maureen wanted to see the love.” Her direction helped Draper realize, “it’s not about what it says it’s about. It’s a total metaphor,” he said, and now, “I love the piece.”
Know The Character, And Know What You’re Playing
Draper does do his own research of each play – and his character – before starting rehearsals. “I spend at least two hours before,” he explained, “figuring out the character.” For ‘Language Art,’ Draper performs in five plays, performing five different roles, and “each of these has been a pain in my ass.”
“It’s knowing the character, and knowing what you’re playing,” agreed Robinson. “It can be harder for the smaller parts, because there isn’t as much info.”
“Whenever I’m on stage,” Draper said, “I’m just there.” He doesn’t play to the audience, he explained. “I want them to love it. I want them to like it,” but for him, it is more about the take-away. “Hopefully, they’ll come away with something,” he said, “that’s what you try to find in every character. You try to find the humanity. Try to find the faults. Everybody is capable of anything at any time.”
“One of the parts of Stone Soup is that it is very intimate,” Lyle observed, “You can get very different reactions with a few different people in the audience. You are right on top of them in this space.” That intimacy can make it easier for the audience, who will hear, see and experience the action on stage immediately. It can also make it harder as audiences have no escape from the difficult, painful and awkward moments actors may present.
When asked about performing an evening of eight vaguely unrelated pieces, Lyle referenced his day job. “I work at a retirement center,” he said, and, “they liked it,” when they went to see a showcase like this one, “because if they didn’t like [a play,] it would end soon,” and another would take its place.
‘Language Art,’ may appeal to those who enjoy words, the performance also has plenty of action…and silliness. Come see the show, and the word play, by purchasing tickets through Brown Paper Tickets. Performances take place October 19th – November 11th, with two preview nights on Oct 17th & 18th, and pay-what-you-can nights on Thursdays. Another part of being an intimate space means only a limited number of seats are available, so it would be good to reserve yours now…
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.