Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday, May 31

As rehearsals began this weekend, the cast of The Bluest Water came together as performers beginning to set the stage, but most particularly as active participants in the story of Hurricane Camille. As part of the Nelson Ensemble, Wanda Bond shared with the cast her personal connection with the hurricane; she was twelve years old when her family huddled on the second floor of their home in Massie's Mill, watching the water reach the tenth of thirteen steps of their home. She remembered the roaring sound of the water throughout the night, as they waited for the water to subside. Even today, Wanda can recall the smell of the mud in the days following the hurricane. Hearing her story was not only moving but grounding for the cast - a constant reminder of the personal elements, the many lives impacted in August of 1969. There is a significant story to tell.

As Jason, our devoted playwright, exits for the moment, having revised, re-arranged, and removed as well as adding portions of text, our fearless director Geoff forges ahead with staging the opening prologue of the show and the complex scenes with characters Jared and Liz. The vision is becoming a reality, thanks to the collaboration not only of the production team, but also with the support from the community and Sweet Briar College. The journey continues...

Sally Southall and Ken Parks rehearsing Liz and Jared Boyle

Sally Southall
Endstation Blogger

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creating an Environment

Affects of harsh weather on the land.

The design process continues for The Bluest Water. We met a few days ago to discuss the environment that is taking shape for this new work. After reading this story and collecting research over the last year regarding Hurricane Camille, to me, the lasting impressions left on the landscape of Nelson County are reminders of the hurricanes devastation. However tragic these memories are, the people, the land, and the stories live on and are retold, bruised but hopeful.

How do we represent this? How do we create an environment that speaks volumes about the gash that was torn in Nelson County's heart in 1969? The designers have collaborated to transport the viewer to the eye of the storm, to the calm that brings destruction; to the memory that has sculpted a terrain upon which we live today.

The set will consist of large amounts of debris arranged in such a way that it appears as though something has pushed through the space and has left an imprint, a memory. Natural colors will aid as a backdrop, or neutral palette to emphasize atmospheric lighting and contrast with costumes. Natural materials will be implemented, wood, stone and dirt. Rusted metals and odd relics will dot our landscape and peak the curiosities of the characters inhabiting the space.

Concept Sketch for The Bluest Water

Stay tuned for more posts with process photos including shop days with construction and painting of the set as well as load in photos later in June.

-Krista Franco
Endstation Blogger and Resident Designer

Adjustments and New Experiences ... (or, "Do What?")

Now that the rehearsal process for both productions is fully under way, the two casts are settling into their new routines. Participation in the festival, even in the first week, has for many members come with its share of adjustments to make. A common concern for those journeying from Lynchburg to the Sweet Briar campus has been the cost of fuel, so an interesting almost-daily coordination of schedules has been taking place (in person and by e-mail) to accommodate carpools. Even the theatre is not immune from the effects of rising gas prices!

Ken Parks, Shelbie Filson, and I carpool to rehearsal!

This week has, of course, primarily seen both shows in their "table work" phases, which involves a different set of adjustments altogether.

For Romeo and Juliet, analyzing every line and finding the appropriate meaning for our production results in new discoveries and sometimes changes of an individual's own preconceived notions about a scene, character, or bit of dialogue. A plethora of editions of the text, in addition to a number of other resources, can be found on-hand (thanks to the director) to aid in this discovery process.

A sampling of the many tools kept within reach.

"Here, you take that one, I'll take this. Let's see what everyone has to say about that point."

For The Bluest Water, these adjustments include not only the same character discoveries and variations in interpretation but literal adjustments to the script itself. As an original, premiering work, it is updated almost nightly (even if those updates are minor), with "new pages" provided to the actors and production team after every day's edit. Throughout a given rehearsal, the author will often re-work lines on the fly (allowing them to be immediately tested out).

Playwright Jason Chimonides keeps a soft-copy of the script at his fingertips for editing.

This revision process is but one example of the new experiences provided to many of those involved. Watching a play take shape throughout the run is something to which many of us are unaccustomed. It has been an enjoyable, interactive process, with the cast actively involved in dialogue changes (particularly fun when it adds additional local flavor ... such as a recent inclusion of the interestingly-southern response, "Do what?!"). As Ken Parks (who plays the character of Jared in The Bluest Water) stated with a smile, "I'm used to having a set script in front of me and simply having to make it work. Now, I keep thinking, 'You mean I get to have a say in what actually winds up on the page for good?' "

Another cast member of The Bluest Water, Casey Carden (who plays the character of Emory), says this is "the realest thing [he's] ever done." As a Central Virginia native, Casey turned 18 a matter of days after the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Camille, and members of his family were involved in the rescue and cleanup efforts. "So it's definitely close to home for me."

There seems to be something new for almost everyone. For many of the members of Romeo and Juliet, this will be their first experience with outdoor theatre. Other festival participants are taking their first stab at Shakespeare, performing at Sweet Briar College for the first time, or are new to Virginia itself. For a handful of actors involved with the festival, myself included, this provides the first opportunity to be in two productions running concurrently in repertory.

Ken Parks leaves rehearsal as The Bluest Water's Jared to join rehearsal upstairs as Romeo and Juliet's Friar Lawrence.

Shifting gears nightly (or, for some, often between different rehearsals in the same evening) will take some getting used to, but those who've accepted this challenge (to essentially form two or more separate and distinct personas) welcome it whole-heartedly. Derek Arey (Neddy in The Bluest Water / Balthasar in Romeo and Juliet) says he thinks the difference in staging for the two shows will help a lot. "I look forward to being able to leave Balthasar outside while coming into a completely different space for Neddy."

The six actors performing 'double duty'.

It's an exciting challenge indeed. Already, even in its first week, the festival has been a learning experience. Things are quickly shaping up to be quite a ride, for us and our audiences alike.

Jared M Anderson
Endstation Blogger

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Double The Fun

The Summer festival started out strong and is continuing on as such. Tonight (Wed) was the first night that both shows were rehearsing at the same time. It was the third evening of table work for Romeo and Juliet and the start of table work for the Bluest Water. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits as they are continuing to dive into the shows.

Here are some of the Bluest Water crew working through some scenes.

One of the exciting aspects of the Bluest Water production is that the script is continuing to undergo tweaks and revisions. We have been fortunate enough to have Jason Chimonides here in town with us this week. Jason and Geoff have been breaking down and dissecting the Bluest Water script in order to continue making changes and updates as they see fit. The cast members have been excited to share in the process as well by making suggestions, participating in the discussion, and reading aloud to see if each revision works.

Here you can see that Jason was particularly happy with a change he had made moments before.

Romeo and Juliet continued full steam ahead upstairs in the seminar room, as they have been breaking down Shakespeare all week.

Our fearless Romeo and Juliet director, Bill Kershner deep in concentration.

We are looking forward to the coming weeks when the shows will begin to "get on their feet" as they head into the staging and blocking component of the process. It is really pretty amazing to see the different pieces of the puzzle come together as the process rolls on. While the rehearsals with the cast are in process, there is additional preparation happening with other aspects of the festival. Everything from lighting to ticket sales, there is a lot that goes into making a production a reality, and we are excited to see it all unfold.

Maria Hayden
Endstation Blogger and Production Manager

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Return to Old Stompin' Grounds

Today, I returned to a place that I have not been to in over 10 old high school.

Jason, Natalie, Michael and I went to Amherst County High School today to do a Shakespeare workshop for a group of English classes. It was a very rewarding and high energy experience.

We had 200 students for an hour and forty-five minutes. Not a small feet, but Jason, Michael and Natalie were an INCREDIBLE team.

The presentation included work with text from Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet (Michael's "redneck" Romeo and Natalie's "goth chick" Juliet, very popular), a stage combat demonstration (the crotch kick, very popular), and a Shakespearean insult workshop (Elizabethan "your momma" jokes, always a hit).

We will be doing a similar set of workshops at E.C. Glass High School on Friday and one at Heritage High School on Monday. Working with high school students in this kind of setting is both challenging but incredibly rewarding. Their energy was fantastic. Thanks to the Lancers of ACHS!!

-Geoffrey Kershner
Endstation Blogger and Artistic Director

Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 2 - High Noon on the Mercutio Clock

Tonight's R&J rehearsal kicked off our "table work" week. I arrived at SBC right at 7, the official call-time, and walked into the formal beginning of rehearsal (re: "So...hello everybody!") I smiled politely and semi-apologetically and took a seat at the far end of the table, directly across from Bill Kershner, the director. Immediately, I noticed a high-powered energy, a certain je ne sais quoi, about the room, and though I feel a lot of that has to do with the spirited cast, I won't rule out the possibility that a lot of it stemmed from the colorful drawing I ended up facing.

Seriously, though, I already have a good feeling about the R&J cast. Having only known a few people prior to yesterday's read-through, I'm excited to work with the people I don't know, and just as excited about getting to know them. Chalkboard frescoes aside, the mood in the room did seem very light and fun, and there's already a lot of comfortable dialoguing amongst people. Tonight's group was small: seated at the table were Romeo, Juliet, the Nurse, Mercutio, Benvolio, and Tybalt. The point of this rehearsal was to read through the scenes again, and then go back and break each scene down line by line. And when I say line by line, I mean it quite literally. Every line was considered individually, even if it was only to laugh about the transparency of it.

I have always loved breaking down Shakespeare and, acting solely as an observer at the rehearsal, I got to silently bask in the intricacy and history that goes into the lines. Bill would often present his own view on the main action of a scene or on the certain meaning of a word or phrase and then turn it over to the actors to discuss. In between Bill's boisterous laughing, Shelbie's hilarious comments, and the on-going joke about Mercutio's, ahem, sexual nature, the scenes got broken down into the most basic emotions and actions and then pieced back together into a larger, much more complicated picture, and neither director nor cast was ever afraid to offer more than one complicated picture.

I personally cannot wait to see how this show pieces itself together. I came away from yesterday's read-through in quiet awe of our outdoor set, and came away from tonight's rehearsal reminded of how brilliant Shakespeare shows himself to be. While discussing a line, Bill told us about the history behind a certain fair-ground monkey trick. "You would teach a monkey how to play dead and then, oooooh, resurrect it for a crowd," he said, "and the rubes would give you a penny." Although I hate to use a falsely-deceased monkey comparison, I think it's a pretty good analogy for what we hope to accomplish. A R&J audience comes in "playing dead"--they all know how the story ends, for there never was a story of more woe--and we can only hope to resurrect the love, the passion, the tragedy of Juliet and her Romeo (and to earn a few pennies from the rubes along the way). I think we are well on our way to being deemed resurrectors.

Kirin McCrory
Endstation Blogger


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Day 1

Here is the first read of Romeo and Juliet on the lawn in front of Benedict where the show will be staged.

The audience will walk past this fountain with musicians playing music when they arrive at Romeo and Juliet.
Here is a portion of the first read...

Here are images of the first read through of the The Bluest Water: A Hurricane Camille Story

Playwright Jason Chimonides hard at work...

State Trooper Ed Tinsley and his wife, listening to reading...

Ed, myself and Jason

Sally Southall (Costumes and Liz) measuring Casey Carden (Emory)

This was an exciting first day. We have two wonderful casts and the journey has begun! We also discovered that there is only one restaurant open in Amherst on Sundays...Thank you #1 Wok!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Blogging Team

We are very excited to announce that starting this Sunday (May 25th) we will have daily postings about the festival. This is also the start date for the summer fest rehearsal process.

Our contributors are:

Kirin McCrory
Jared Anderson
Sally Southall
Dan Gallagher
Maria Hayden
Krista Franco
Bryce Page
Brian Chaitin
Geoffrey Kershner

This group are members of the casts and production teams and should supply a very broad view of this exciting summer!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dan's Lighting Images

Last week we had our first "phase" design meeting. Dan, Krista, and Bryce and I discussed initial design ideas over the phone (we will bring Sally our costume designer into the process soon). I must say that I love the internet for design purposes. Dan and Krista were at Sweet Briar, I was at FSU, and Bryce was in Tampa...but we were still able to have a meeting. Dan created a facebook account called "Endstation Show." On this account he posted images that we all had access to. Bryce was able to post his initial music and sound ideas online where everyone was able to access them and listen. I was on the phone and Bryce spoke to us through i-chat. Krista was able to do some initial sketches that were then sent to us through email during the meeting. ;)

The following are some of Dan's images.

These first images are ideas that Dan has for the storm in1969. There is a sepia look, like an old photograph. A memory, worn and faded but still very present.

I love the image above. I love it on a metaphoric level and I love the look.

This next image is a look that we will play with for some of the recovery scenes from 1969. Dan is interested in heat, lack of shade and shadow, and a blistering sun. The play takes place in August in Virginia and the day after the storm it was incredibly clear. This feel is very helpful to us on all kinds of story telling levels. It is exposed, overwhelming, and under duress.

Next is a series of images for the 2008. There is something softer, cooler, and progressive about these images.

These following images are for a scene with a retired State Trooper (Emory) and one of our central characters, Jared.

These next images are also for 2008. We want a sense of the woods, a cooler look, less extreme...again progressive but the shadow gives us depth and texture.

This last image is "The Priest" in Nelson. This is a very important element to the play. Dan will be working with this image for the very end of the piece. Dan took this picture just the other day when he came for a visit.