Playing the Part: Part I

by jenthorn

 I’ve long been yearning to try and capture some of the magic that is the “process” of theatre, especially as it exists at MOXIE.  Today I begin documenting the creation of a character I’m playing in MOXIE’s next production The Butcher of Baraboo

The First Rehearsal –

A  few days before our first rehearsal I had a nightmare.  In my dream I was cast to play Sevenly (the character I am playing in MOXIE’s production of The Butcher of Baraboo) but at a different theatre.  This “other” theatre was going o be producing the play before MOXIE did.  I had to travel to wherever this theatre was and when I got there and started the first rehearsal we began working on some very modern and wordless  movement piece, which apparently was how the play began and I had overlooked it in the first few pages.  All the other actors seemed aware and prepared for this part of the play, except me.  They all knew how to move and had great ideas. I was unprepared but too ashamed to admit it and so I was making stuff up on the fly and the director wasn’t impressed. I think my nightmare was my way of processing those jitters an actor has before they have  taken that risk that you do at a first rehearsal, when you reveal you have already begun to make choices and you hope the director isn’t second guessing having cast you.

Here is Sevenly in the production at Second Stage in NYC. Ali Marsh. Yeah it’s that woman from that 70’s show playing Valerie the butcher… Debra Jo Rupp, and Michael Countryman.

Our first rehearsal was this past Saturday.  As usual I walked to the theatre and thought about the play on the way there.  I thought about the amazing cast (Linda Libby, Deanna Driscoll, Wendy Waddell and Don Evans) and was honest with myself that I felt a little intimidated I am to be playing with some of the women who are considered to be the funniest actresses on stage in San Diego.  I feel excited to be working with Chelsea Whitmore for the first time, and with Delicia Turner Sonnenberg again (they’re co-directing).  We started our first rehearsal by sharing a secret of our own since this play revolves around secrets.  I wish I could share some of those secrets with you..everyone had a juicy one…but I can’t tell.  Then we looked at a presentation of the set design which Amy Chini and Esther Emery are co-designing.  Jennifer Brawn Gittings spoke about costumes and our Technical Director Dustin Long assured us he would make sure we were all safe on the set…then we read and oh how we read. The play is funny. Sometimes we had to just stop and get the laughs out in order to continue.  We were half in character and half ourselves just enjoying the writing.  This is my favorite way to explore a new play!

My Character:  I play Sevenly a 30 year old Mormon woman from Provo, Utah who moves to Baraboo Wisconsin. Sevenly is the mother of 6 children. She is married to a man 20 years her senior, who she loves. Sevenly is very kind and likable.  She is a perfect party guest…well that depends on the party I guess. Sevenly has a secret that she fears may land her straight in hell.  In my research to learn more about my character I discovered the following about her hometown:

Population: 117,592
Third Largest City in Utah
The MOST conservative city in the United States with over 100,000 people!
88% Mormon
88% White
Home to the largest LDS Missionary Training Center
Home to Brigham Young University
Home to the entire Osmond Family

We finished off the day asking questions about things that we weren’t sure about in the story.  We made decisions about timelines and back story and then we called it a day. I stood outside afterward and picked the directors brains for a few more minutes which was productive.  I was assured that my character isn’t stupid and that through the course of the play we see her get stronger. We discussed how heavily her secret ways on her.  I walked home feeling electrified.