Interviews

Concept, Dynamics, Finesse, and Passion: A delve behind the screen with Erinn Dearth and Dan Beckmann

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

A mysterious alien called Flogg has taken control of the earth. All human beings find themselves held captive in their own homes. As the lock-in takes over, suddenly nothing is the way it seems. And what will happen next? Only Erinn Dearth and Dan Beckmann know.

“…We knew we wanted to keep the Spring Theatre community together working on a project,” says Erinn Dearth, the Executive Director of Spring Theatre, “Especially with all of the new uncertainty that was happening at the world. So, we decided to do a Digital Performance Project and structure our writing of the project very much like we have done with our Christmas show each year at Spring—writing the story around the talents of the folks who want to participate. We had no idea we would get so many! Coming up with the storyline was crazy. We knew about 3/4 of the performers already, and got to know the entire company during our recording of the Alex Boyé song “Lemonade” which we used as an introduction to the Project and to our cast. After that, we literally took 100 tiny sticky notes with each actor’s name on it and put them all over a white board with potential roles for them.”

In the words of Dan Beckmann, the theatre’s Artistic Director, “The writing process was similar to how Erinn and I wrote Holly Jolliday…We eventually arrived at this alien concept which turned out to be the perfect blend for completely outside the realm of realism and a very close comparison to what people were going through…And then the script-writing came.”

“…I would go through and speed write the scenes,” says Dearth, “And Dan would come after me and clean up, finesse, or sometimes completely rewrite the scenes.”

“ …We had a timeline of events that we tried to connect completely through what I call the “rope” concept…linking everyone and everything together in the universe through a television, phone, or radio.” Beckmann tells, “The challenge with the script was to sculpt these 100 characters into distinct people and give them distinct voices and of course to make them all feel relevant and important to the storytelling.”

As Dearth muses, “Our work flow is best as we say when I ‘splash the paint’ and get something on paper, and Dan comes after me to make it into a beautiful or absurd painting.”

With the storyline set, the scenes written, and the finished videography back in the directors hands, the ball of making a movie out of bunches of clips begins to roll. So what is key to the finished product? Editing.

“One of the cool things about the editing process,” shares Beckmann, “Is that it has been that similar to molding characters around people, I’ve been molding the editing around the performance—so each of the characters and scenes has a distinct editing voice, which both lends itself to the tone of the show (being recorded from over 70 different households), and also supports the performances of the actors therein.” He chuckles, “The whole thing has been such a whirlwind that I don’t have a very distinct memory in time when it started. Suddenly, I woke up one morning and we were doing a feature film with 100 people alongside us. And now here I am…50 hours into editing with only a scratch off of the surface of the final product. It’s massive but amazing.”

The world is filled with aspiring play writes, screenwriters, and authors. But when uncertainty pops in, many would shy away from such big and amazing endeavors as Erinn Dearth and Dan Beckmann have tackled.

“Never doubt yourself!” Dearth encourages, “I think that there are so many genius people out there who don’t put their work out there due to overthinking or fearing starting a project. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and the world is always in need of new perspectives and art…so truly, just do it!”

“DON’T DO IT!” Beckmann laughs, “Kidding. Call upon your experience and listen to your gut. Base your characters on real people, because it gives them more tangibility and makes writing them—the actual dialogue that is—more dynamic, specific, and more fun and easy to write.”

Dearth smiles. “Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid of rejection or judgment. So much of the world is an awesome accepting place that wants to hear from YOU!”

Beckmann agrees, “Another thing I’d like to convey is that this project is SO weird and new, that I have been living in a world that is completely improvisational and whirlwind-like, but it’s absolutely 100 percent affirmed to me that if you have an idea, and you’re feeling creative, you should just jump…because doing so can make pure magic.”

Spring Theatre’s Digital Performance Project will proudly present: Lock-In, a full lengh feature film on Friday, May 29, 2020 at 8PM EDT on Spring Theatre’s YouTube page.

www.SpringTheatre.org

Show Reviews

Standing here with poison in my pocket.

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

Lady Hyacinth: If I’m ever to show my face in society again, I’ve got to find a new cause of my own and quickly. Come, come, any ideas?

Monty Navarro: If I may your Ladyship, one hears about such an abundance of actors in Winston-Salem these days…

Lady Hyacinth: Winston-Salem. Land of the actors, directors, and wigs. Home to the arts and the dramatically obsessed. That’s it! We’ll establish an assembly of reporters, who will all write acclaimed reviews. Capturing national attention, to honor and admire the measly efforts of those Broadway types. As my first move of charity, I will take over publishing reviews on behalf of that Miss. Luscinda Dickey. My selflessness will be met with great acclaim! Come to think of it, what is the point of helping others unless you let the whole world know? Call the Winston-Salem Journal!


A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder: a review by Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith

I am one of the starring—and most famous—characters in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I most recently took the stage February 7-9 & 12-16, 2020 in the The Little Theatre’s of Winston Salem production which was directed by Chad Edwards and music directed by Rick Hendricks. But enough about me.

Richard “Trey” Cameron III offered a charmingly, engaging performance as as Montague “Monty” Navarro. He was so engaging that you found yourself feeling that the stage was lacking something when he was not there. Mr. Cameron has a voice that freely moves from a rich lower tone to a pure high falsetto that was the perfect dose for the complex yet fun vocal parts of the lead role.

The two leading ladies—Ms. Kaitlyne Colbert as Sibella Hallward and Ms. Kira Arrington as Phoebe D’Ysquith—gave beautiful performances as Monty’s two love interests. Ms. Colbert brought to life what Monty says about Sibella: “…There’s that smile with a secret inside, and here are two eyes that are bright with a mischievous light…I know that your embrace is a treacherous place. There’s danger in your smile.” The flirtatious Sibella pushed and pulled Monty’s emotions back and forth raising his hopes in one scene only to let them crash in the next. Ms. Arrington embodied the tender, strong, and well-bread characteristics of Phoebe. You could not help but get caught up on Ms. Arrington’s storytelling especially when she sang. She boasted a pure soprano voice that flew up and down the musical staff like the voice of a nightingale.

Of course, how can I not mention that terrific actor who played me and rest of the D’Ysquith Family. This actor is the best of the bunch—Seph Schonekas. He is the talent of the quick change and one amazing character developer. His comedic antics and expressions brought bouts of roaring laughter from the audience.

Before I finish, let’s hear a round of thundering applause for the talented ensemble lead by Heidi Shafer as Miss Shingle. Last, a standing ovation for Tara Raczenski who designed the stunning costumes and Bland Wade who created the lovely set!

For adorable musical theatre enthusiasts, I think they all did rather well don’t you?

www.ltofws.org

Reflections

Spreading Christmas Cheer

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

I love Christmas! Wait—put that in all caps: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! And add periods: I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. I mean who doesn’t? More than anything I want to be a part of Christmas. I have wanted to be a part of it for years. I know it sounds weird to say that I can’t, but it’s true. On Christmas day, I sit with nothing to do painting Christmas trees onto eggs… I mean cookies… and watching The North Pole Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza! But I have never been able to really participate in Christmas. “That’s crazy!” you say, “why, everyone can be a part of Christmas!” That is true. BUT there is one teensy-weensy itsy-bitsy practically microscopic problem: I have a bunny ears. And I have bunny ears because I have a bunny’s head. And I have a bunny’s heads because I am a bunny. In fact I am The Easter Bunny.

Now, imagine it’s Christmas Day and you happen to see me waltzing down the street covered in tinsel and mistletoe with a basket full of brightly wrapped Christmas presents. What would you do? Well, you would either run the other way screaming: “Ahhhhh! A bunny covered with tinsel and mistletoe with a basket full of brightly wrapped Christmas presents!!” Or—and this is the most likely choice—you would begin laughing and pointing and shouting: “Hey, look at the crazy, weird bunny thing!” Then you would start throwing rotten eggs and moldy carrots at me. “No we wouldn’t” you say, but you would and you know it. No one would accept me.

So, that’s why I came up with my wonderful, amazing, terrific, spectacular idea! Here it is: I am going to masquerade as the Wistful Witch of Winter. So what is the Wistful Witch of Winter? I have no idea! I just made her up! All the duckies, chickies, and bunnies say that I must be going mad. But oops, I already am mad so who cares?

Thus far, my brilliant plan is working out perfectly! I am going to be part of Christmas and take part in this year’s broadcast of The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza! What could possibly go wrong!?! (I just hope no one takes off my hat!)

From first read through to closing night’s final bow, the Wistful Witch of Winter has, out of all the characters that I have played, been my favorite. And The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza, written and directed by Dan Beckmann and Erinn Dearth, was a show fresh and different from all others.

The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza only performed in a theatre one out of nine shows. The rest of the time we were dancing around the Triad spreading Christmas cheer to nursing homes and retirement communities. From singing a joy filled version of “Jingle Bells” with a sweet lady who when the song went into a slower three part harmony asked: “why did they slow down?” to shaking the hand of a grinning gentleman who although looked frail had a grip of steel, there was truly magic in the air. The true beauty of Christmas wasn’t in the classic songs we sang like “Oh Holy Night” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or the favorite Christmas characters on stage like The Grinch (Brandon Lloyd Hicks) or Mrs. Claus (Mary Cain), but the true beauty was in the amazing people we met and talked to.

Spring Theatre’s The North Pole Centennial Holly Jolliday Christmas Yule-A-Palooza had its final performance Tuesday, December 17, 2019. From tour start to finish, the cast, crew, and audience shared the magic, joy, and love of the season. In the words of the Wistful Witch of Winter: “Christmas is the time of year where for one day families are joined together under one roof. Everyone is so very, very happy! Strangers are kind to one another! The true quality of the human spirit shines through. And [we got] to be a part of that.”

SpringTheatre.org

Photos credit of PB and J Photography

Show Reviews

A Winston-Salem Classic Has Returned!

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

Billions of shows have been performed in my home state of North Carolina. Many of those billions have been performed in Winston-Salem, and in Winston-Salem, there must be over 10 being performed and rehearsed right at this very moment. But out of all of those shows, there is one that means a great deal more to Winston-Salem than others. That show is called Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon. It was originally presented by Emanuel Azenberg on December 31, 1990 at The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Winston-Salem. Lost in Yonkers went on to make its Broadway premiere at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York. Now, after winning many awards including a Tony Award for Best Play, 40+ Stage Company has brought Lost in Yonkers back to Winston-Salem.

Set in a 1942 apartment in Yonkers, New York, this emotional, engaging, comic drama follows the trials and tribulations of brothers Jay (Adam Sherrill) and Arty (Kalonji Lerian Patterson) on a quest to fit into their upside down extended family. From dashing comic relief, ruff and tumbled, New York gangster Uncle Louie (Mike Shapiro) to heart wrenching, dramatic, theatrical thriller, German immigrant Grandma Kurnitz (Maggie Gallagher), Lost in Yonkers host a wide variety of memorable characters.

Not only was the acting talent extremely high and the set top notch, but when one of the actors (Eddie) dropped out last minute the Director (Jay Smith) successfully stepped in the role. Though Eddie—father of Jay and Arty—was played opening night script in hand, I was so impressed by the fact that you could barely tell that Director Jay Smith was reading part of his lines.

A shout out to the amazing cast! I thoroughly enjoyed your performance, and I know many more will as there is still one weekend left to see the show: November 22-24, 2019 at the Mountcastle Theatre within the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. Lost in Yonkers is truly one in a billion.

40plusstage.com

Show Reviews

From Audition to Stage: Wait Until Dark

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

I am filled with excitement! My heart is pounding, and I feel my energy surging. “Break a leg!” says my friend Caroline Mendenhall as I walk down the hall with my reading partner Rene Walek. “Thank you!” I whisper.

For days I have prepared for this audition. I have developed my character by researching and writing and through bodywork. On arriving at the audition, I warmed myself up. Then, Mrs. Rene and I ran over our scene five times.

I am all set. Director Gene Johnson smiles. “Begin when you are ready,” he says. After weeks of anticipation, it is finally time for my audition to be a part of Little Theatre of Winston Salem’s production of Wait Until Dark. I am reading the character Gloria while Mrs. Rene reads Susy.

I take a deep breath, settle into Gloria, and say my first line: “Is the grocery list ready?” “Yes it’s on the table by the phone,” says Mrs. Rene (Susy), “and five dollars. Can you see it?” “I’ve got it,” I say miming picking up a list and the money from off a table, “what else?”

I am not me. I am Gloria, and before me I see that Mrs. Rene is not herself. She is Susy. It is amazing! The character of Susy is blind, and if I had not been with Mrs. Rene when she was herself and not her character I could have guessed that she was blind as well. Even when I speak she does not look directly at me or focus on anything in particular.

It is a few seconds later when the scene gets more intense: “That’s the girl, thanks!” Mrs. Rene (Susy) says. “For what? “I laugh. (We are coming to my favorite part.) “Oh! I thought you shut it.” “Well, I didn’t.” I reply. “Look here four-eyes, I thought I made this clear: when I open the icebox I shut it, and when you open it…did you drop that by mistake?” The way Mrs. Rene says her lines is wonderful! The level of emotion and meaning she offers read into my portrayal of Gloria. With the whole reading, she gave me something real to play off of—something that inspired my character choices.

Now let’s cut to Wait Until Dark’s final performance in Reynolds Place Theatre on October 20, 2019 in Winston Salem. “Don’t you ever call me that again!” says Gloria (Caroline Mendenhall), “and I do not steal!” “Steal!?!” cries Susy (Rene Walek), “who said anything about stealing?” Wow! All the emotion and truth that Mrs. Rene had in the reading with me is exploding on stage—plus even more! Not only in this scene but throughout entire the show, Mrs. Rene—with everything in her—made every person in the audience feel the character of Susy.

As an actress, you never know how you come across on stage unless someone tells you. Looking back over my audition with Mrs. Rene and her performance as Susy, I think one of the things that she has taught me is that if you feel your character and you truly believe in the story you are telling, your character choices will be right and real.

Wait Until Dark was an amazing show. From the thrilling script to the talented actors and actresses, it lifted you up in suspense only to drop you down in surprise!

Congratulations to Mrs. Rene, Caroline, and the rest of this great cast for their truly chilling run of Wait Until Dark.

http://www.ltofws.org