Monday, August 23, 2010

Curtain Going Up!

In that moment just before the curtain rises on an SCR Players production, do the young actors have a word for how they feel? After the opening weekend of the sold-out run of Cinderella, three cast members shot back their quick responses.

Zach Yeates (Lionel, the Prince’s sidekick): “Positive.”
Kailyn Dunkleman (Cinderella): “Exhilarated.”
Jamie Ostmann (Mouse, one of Cinderella’s sidekicks): “Connected.”

If those answers evoke confidence, blame SCR Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa, who staged Cinderella with Music Director Erin McNally. In class and onstage, one of their goals is for the students to understand their endless possibilities.

To prove that they do—in more than one word—Lionel, Mouse and Cinderella talked about the Players experience.

Kailyn Dunkleman and Akshay
Sharma in Cinderella.
When the stage manager calls “places,” Hisa and Erin gather the cast for a quiet moment intended to clear minds and stay focused. How does this exercise help you prepare?

Kailyn: It gets rid of pre-show jitters. I believe it also unifies the cast and reminds us of our goals as actors and how we want to impact the audience.
Zach: It helps with any anxiety I may have before the show. Tech week tends to cause me a lot of stress which, in a way, causes my pre-show anxiety. So the exercise kills two birds with one stone!
Jamie: It helps me to escape distractions and concerns outside of the play and to find my focus.

Do you get “butterflies” before your first appearance?

Kailyn: A little bit, but more from anxiousness than nervousness. There was no need to get nervous before the show because I had been working very hard and was excited to share Cinderella’s story with the audience.
Zach: I only get butterflies right before the first performance of a show.
Jamie: No. As long as I have everyone else in the cast around me, I feel calm and loved and ready to work.

Whitney Brooks and Zach Yeates
What have you learned in class that helps your performance?

Kailyn: I’ve learned that there are multiple ways to interpret a character. It’s important to explore these different interpretations because you can find a more interesting way to present a character. Cinderella is not just a sweet and innocent ingĂ©nue; she is constantly dreaming and searching for a brighter future. She is very optimistic. My character stays true to herself despite her hardships, and she finds happiness in the simplest of things.
Zach: You have to trust yourself, and you must be willing to take risks. Part of developing our characters and building relationships with cast members comes from taking risks.
Jamie: I have learned that acting is not about pretending; it’s about becoming a character. I've learned that I perform better if I have an objective, or goal, for my character that I can focus on. I’ve also learned that I have to communicate—watch, listen, pay attention—with my fellow ensemble members in order to transport the audience to our world.

Kailyn and Zach: How is the classwork and production work distinctive from your other theater experiences?

Jamie Ostmann, Rachel Charny
and Kailyn
Kailyn: At South Coast Repertory my teachers and directors focus much more on the process. Whether I’m preparing a piece for class or rehearsing for a performance, they take the time to help me explore, develop and understand my characters. As a result, I believe I am growing as a performer. This is what I love the most about being a part of SCR.
Zach: The overall production quality was much higher than I’m used to. We made use of the professional fly system (something I have never had the opportunity of working with), and we had the help of professional lighting and set designers. I'm used to helping build the set pieces, and because I have no woodworking skills whatsoever, I was pleased to discover that the sets were to be made by professionals!

Jamie: How is working on the Argyros Stage for the first time different from being in the Nicholas?

Jamie: The big difference is the audience. It's much bigger, and there are a lot more eyes on you. I think I feel more comfortable in the Nicholas because it's cozier and more homey, and the Argyros is more formal.

Do you feel performing in Cinderella (and the classwork leading up to the show) has helped you as actors—and as people?

Kailyn: As an actor, it has reminded me to always be aware of my character’s background and motives. Sometimes when you’re in a show, you get so worried about the blocking and the lines that you forget what drives your character. Performing in Cinderella has helped me as a person because it finalized my future goals of becoming a performer; to be honest, I am happiest when I am onstage, and I cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life.
Zach: Cinderella was by far the most “professional” production I’ve had the opportunity to take part in. I feel that the show gave me at least an idea of what a professional production could be like. We learned some very important lessons working on Cinderella that easily transfer to the real world. What we all came to discover is that there is always going to be hope, there will always be people to help you deal with life, and most importantly, we learned to always believe in ourselves.
Jamie: I have been inspired by the song “There Is Music in You” the whole cast sings at the end of the show. To me this song means that I can be confident, I can do anything I want to do and there’s nothing I won’t try. I'm sure that will help me both as an actor and a person.

Photos by Henry DiRocco/SCR.

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