Meet a Few of the GTA Faculty

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” —Mark Van Doren

 

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

We recently sat down with some of the GTA faculty to ask them what they have learned over the last year and what their plans are for the upcoming summer break. Read on for our conversations with Professor of Theatre Larry Cook, Associate Professor of Theatre Pamela Workman, Professor of Theatre Elisa Carlson, and Senior Instructor of Theatre Terri Becker.


Larry Cook, Professor of Theatre, UNG
Professor of Theatre Larry Cook

What is your role at GTA?

Larry Cook: Mostly, I teach now. I still get to design and work in the shop on shows a bit, too. I suppose if I had to pick just one, I’d teach. While I love working with my hands and creating, I can do that on my own anytime I’d like—and I have. Teaching has the singular joy of allowing me to have a part in the formation of young artists. I was telling someone just the other day that the real payoff is when you’ve been in it long enough to see your once young and emerging artist students now, as fully developed artists in their own right. Sometimes with students of their own. So, yeah, teaching, and continuing to learn myself, is my favorite part.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Larry Cook: That I still have a lot to learn. And, I have yet to outgrow the mean streak of procrastination and laziness that is within me. It’s a daily struggle but I keep working at it. Maybe one day…

What are you looking forward to next year?

Working with Michael Jablonski again in production. I love Michael’s approach to, and energy in, production and I’m thinking Urinetown will be lots of fun and a potent piece of theatre for this time in American culture. I’m also looking forward to finding out what GTA is next semester. In many ways we’ll be starting anew for the second time in two years. That is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. There will be challenges but what a great time to be in GTA!

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Larry Cook: I like to be outdoors. So I spend a fair amount of time in the summer camping, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, etc. I also like to accomplish home improvements in the summer.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Larry Cook: Best advice I ever got: “Learn everything you can.” In my experience, there is no such thing as a “waste of time” spent learning—no knowledge is wasted. For a theatre artist this is especially true. Our craft is as old as humanity, so anything that is encompassed and created by humanity is a part of theatre. The history of theatre is the history of humans. I could give numerous examples but here’s an easy one: when an actor/director/designer analyzes a script, one of the primary things they are looking for are the “whys.”  Why did this character do or say this specific thing at this specific moment in the story. Psychology is the study of why sentient beings, mostly humans, do what they do. Why wouldn’t a theatre artist want to be well-versed in psychology, sociology, anthropology and the like?  Even though, on the face of it, these things have nothing to do with theatre. Math and science are all over the design/tech side of theatre. History is any theatre artist’s bread and butter. So I hope my words inspire GTA students to take this advice: “Learn everything you can.”


Pamela Workman, Associate Professor of Theatre, Brenau
Associate Professor of Theatre Pamela Workman

What is your role at GTA?

Pamela Workman: I’m an Associate professor of Theatre and resident costume designer of GTA. One of my favorite parts about my job is that it’s never the same. Every semester is completely different and it comes with its own highs and lows. The research for the show is different, the production team is different, the actors are different, so I’m never bored with the work. From a teaching aspect, I really enjoy seeing my students grow throughout a semester, usually starting off from a place of “I can’t do this” and gradually evolving into “I’m confident with makeup now!” which is really awesome.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Pamela Workman: People are completely different humans on the screen than they are in person. I also learned that if you have the right supportive network, you can literally get through anything, and through that experience, I’ve learned what it’s like when people step up for you, opposed to when they are going to be stagnant.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Pamela Workman: Hopefully next year we’re more streamlined. We’ve had a pseudo year back after a pandemic, and it’s taken a while to get up and running but I really want us to get back into full swing and get our audience built back up and let the let people know that GTA just took a little break, but we’re still just as determined to bring theatre to the community.

One of Pamela’s sketches for GTA’s 2019 production of Legally Blonde.

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Pamela Workman: Well, relaxing is not relaxing. I have three boys so for fun we like to go hiking or kayaking or other adventures like that, but personally I find enjoying the space around a waterfall to be really relaxing. I have also recently bought a fixer-upper, and so I spend the summer going through small to-do list goals that I can accomplish. I actually hang out with the Beckers (Terri and David) and the Morrises (Celeste and Darrell) a lot as well. We all like to get together when we can and go on excursions which is a lot of fun. I do read more over the summer. Right now I’ve started reading the Bosch novel series and it’s been nice to dive into something that’s not related to theatre because that’s what I’m always reading anyways.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Pamela Workman: For one thing, whether it’s on your phone or you have a physical copy, have a schedule book and fill it with everything you’ll be doing in a given week. Scheduling and prioritizing is something that I see students often have trouble with, so if you start out with just having a schedule book that you put everything in, even including your free time, it can do wonders for you. I mean, Terri and I were planning on going to the movies Sunday, and we have it on our schedules. If we don’t, we will either forget or just not do it. Our brains hold a lot of information, to the point where it can be overwhelming, but keeping an extensive record of your schedule can really help with that. It’s exhausting to have to keep a schedule book but if you want to succeed, then you kind of have to, because our brains only hold so much information. I also want students to understand that professors have their classes done in such a way because there’s a growth arc, so if you don’t do projects at the beginning of the school year, as a student you are taking away from yourself the educational process to grow to your full potential. I think that is highly important for students to understand. I personally think by not pushing yourself you’re doing yourself a disservice, and you should value yourself and value your mind enough to go out there and try. I’m not saying that you need all A’s by any means, because the world is not all A’s when you leave the institution, but take full advantage of your education because this is the best place to challenge yourself.


Elisa Carlson, Professor of Theatre, UNG
Professor of Theatre Elisa Carlson

What is your role at GTA?

Elisa Carlson: I’m a Professor of Theatre, teaching voice, speech, senior seminar and acting classes. I’m also a Resident Director for GTA and usually direct a play each season. One of my greatest joys is when a student has a breakthrough in their training and accomplishes a critical goal in their creative journey.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Elisa Carlson: I’m not sure yet, but I will say that this year I’ve experienced a lack of patience with and acceptance of myself when I’m having a difficult time. Really working on that. I think being kind to ourselves is important. Artists who spend too much time listening to their inner critic spend less time freely exploring and expressing their artistry.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Elisa Carlson: I think the GTA season is exciting and look forward to directing Pygmalion, by the great George Bernard Shaw. Shaw has been a research focus of mine for years and while I’ve coached dialects/text and acted in many of his plays this will be my first experience directing one. I can’t wait.

Elisa with playwright Topher Payne and the cast of Entertaining Lesbians

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Elisa Carlson: I love to travel, hang out with friends and family, and work in my garden.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Elisa Carlson: I’ve noticed that theatre-makers who calm their inner critic make room for excellence and joy. Try it and see.

 
 
 
 
 
 


Terri Becker, Senior Instructor of Theatre, UNG
Terri Becker’s Practicum class hard at work.

What is your role at GTA?

Terri Becker: I am a Senior Lecturer at University of North Georgia, and I am also the Lighting and Projections coordinator for GTA as well as the resident lighting designer.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Terri Becker: Returning from Covid is hard. There is a gap in student knowledge and a motivational gap as well. Students struggled in practicum classes and we were not even running full tilt yet. It was an experience learning how to deal with this and still get a show up on time.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Terri Becker: Knowing what I am doing. Both Brenau University and University of North Georgia are making changes at the highest level that will affect our departments. What those changes will be we can only speculate. Like with anything, change works slowly. I am not very patient so it drives me crazy!

Terri’s lighting design for GTA’s 2022 production of The Secret Garden

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Terri Becker: Try not to spend money. Just kidding! In May, I’m usually split between a sad attempt at gardening and playing the newest DLC (Downloadable Content) of Elder Scrolls Online. In June, we get a week at the beach, then in July it’s prep time for the next year. I have ADD so it is as important for me as it is for my students that I have my classes all set up and planned out before the semester begins.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Terri Becker: Go out to the university social events and spend face to face time with new people. It is important to practice your face-to-face social skills. Theatre is a face-to-face art, even for technicians. Also, get a hobby that takes you outside and enjoy the sun!

 

Meet GTA Graduating Seniors!

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

The spring 2022 semester is coming to a close and seniors are preparing for graduation. We spoke to seniors Maleah Boyd-Gouveia (BFA Musical Theatre), Clara Woodfield (BFA Design & Technology for Theatre), and Joshua Daughtry (Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Theatre & Philosophy) about what they have learned in their time with the program, their career prospects, and advice they have for GTA underclassmen.

Maleah Boyd-Gouveia, BFA Musical Theatre

How are you feeling about your upcoming graduation?

Maleah: I have mixed feelings! I used to be so ready to leave and get out there, but this past year I’ve made a lot of great friends and relationships. I’m going to miss seeing everyone everyday, but I’m ready to stop being a student and start being an artist!

Clara: I’m super excited! I’ve been so focused on school and nothing else for so many years now that it’s both exciting and terrifying to know that, come fall, I’m not going to have to worry about essays and class projects.

Joshua: Well, I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s definitely keeping me focused to the point where I’m not really focused on being absent in any way, shape, or form. As much as I’d love to be able to say that I set up the last couple weeks as a senior completely stress-free, I chose to not do that. Right now I’m working on Heathen Valley, which is my senior capstone, and a lot of students have very generously donated a lot of time and energy into that production and a lot of hard, hard work, so that’s been taking up a lot of my time along with other standard school final exams and projects.

How has your senior year been different than your previous years at GTA?

Maleah: 2 words: Michael Jablonksi. Not only did he quickly become my favorite professor, but a really big mentor to me. He put faith and trust in me like no one else has. He was confident in what I could do before I was. He saw so much in me that I didn’t even know I had. For the first time in all my years here, I felt seen. My growth this semester is all thanks to him, and Giovanna, my vocal teacher. I would not be anywhere close to ready for the professional world if it wasn’t for them. And I am so so so grateful that they came in my last year here, when I really needed them. I will forever hold them in my heart and in my life.

Clara: The people. I’ve both met new people and gotten to know people better this year and it has made so much of a difference in how happy I am in the program. I didn’t make that many friends my freshman year, but I’ve been putting myself out there more this year, and it has sure paid off. The GTA leadership has made a massive difference, too. I got to be Wardrobe Crew Head for The Secret Garden, directed by our lovely Dr. C (GTA Associate Artistic Director & Brenau Chair of Theatre, Dr. Tracey Brent-Chessum), and I loved getting to see the great leadership she’s shown us! GTA seems to be on a path of change from where it was my freshman year and I think it’s changing for the better (and I’m someone who hates change, so that says a lot!)

Joshua: My age! Yeah, My first year with GTA was back in 2009. So naturally, a lot of things have changed around here and in my absence, as well. I stayed for two years and took time off to get acclimated and get an understanding of other ways of the world, and I think the biggest change is how my curiosity has turned into passion. What once used to make me feel excited in a naive way is now excitement that comes from “I know what I’m doing.” I’ve also had time to become more of a patient person, which has led to a lot of close relationships with the people here.

Clara Woodfield, BFA Design & Technology for Theatre (Costumes)

What advice would you give to the “freshman you”?

Maleah: I would say, “It’s going to suck. It’s gonna be hard, I’m not gonna lie. You’re gonna want to quit, pack up, and go home. But I promise you, it will all work out at the end. If I were to tell you, you’d never believe me. Just know, you’re gonna make it. And it’ll all be worth it.

Clara: You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, not even you. If you feel more at home in the costume shop, just change your major, don’t wait until halfway through sophomore year.

Joshua: Don’t settle for anything until you’re where you feel you need to be and if you’re somewhere you feel like you shouldn’t be, learn and be friendly as much as you can while you’re there. Let yourself be known. If there’s a project that you desperately want to work on, even if you weren’t cast, do what you can to at least sit in on rehearsals because just getting in the room and being in the audience finds you that much closer to what you want to do on the stage. I’d tell him to do all that with humility as well. Everything that you take part in is never beneath you, and that’s crucial to keep in mind as an artist.

What is your biggest takeaway from being at GTA?

Maleah: Control what you can control, and what is meant to be yours, will be yours.

Clara: Do what makes you happy, honestly.

Joshua: I mean, besides the knowledge that I should check my schedule before I make plans, the ultimate takeaway is that this place is here, and that’s a blessing in itself. You can get from it what you need, as long as you know what that is.

Joshua Daugherty, BS Interdisciplinary Studies, concentrations in Theatre & Philosophy

What advice do you have for upcoming seniors?

Maleah: UTILIZE YOUR CLASS TIME!! There was a time here where classwork did not matter much. But now it does, so USE IT! The best work that I’ve ever done here was in class. I know it’s your senior year and we all want to be involved in shows. As a BFA Musical Theatre major who was never in a musical, I know how hard it is to not be involved in shows. BUT you have some great professors here who can and will guide you to where you need and want to be. All you have to do is listen, and be fearless in the room. You got this.

Clara: For the love of all things, TAKE PROGRESS PICTURES OF YOUR WORK! Take pictures of that prop you’re making, get pictures of yourself in rehearsal and backstage, take pictures of that really straight line you sewed or painted

Joshua: Don’t take classes that don’t make you want to learn and if you’re in classes that you don’t necessarily care about just find something to make the best of that. Separate from that, I truly believe that mentorship is the most important thing as a senior. Find the time to go reach out to people that you’re working on projects with and offer them your perspective. You’ll often find they’ve been itching to give theirs and you could really learn something from that. The first time I came around I didn’t ask for one, probably out of how audacious I was, but even then I had a lot of really close friends that taught me a lot of things. In coming back, I’d definitely say that I’ve been more specifically mentored by (GTA faculty) Gay Hammond, Zechariah Pierce, and Jayme McGhan and I’m forever grateful for their eagerness to help me with my passions and loves regarding theatre.

What are your after-graduation plans?

Maleah: You know the life of an actor, always auditioning. At this present moment I am still waiting on casting notices from a few summer stock theatres. I am still sending in auditions. If I don’t get booked for summer stock soon, then my plan is to go to New York right after graduation to stay with my high school best friends and go on all of the open call auditions I can. And then depending on that, my wife and I will either head straight to New York, or they will stay and work their interior design job in Atlanta while I’m booked at summer stock. And THEN we’ll go to New York! OH, and we’re celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary May 22nd!

Clara: I’m planning on moving to Kentucky with one of my best friends to pursue sewing somewhere that’s not as hot as Georgia and has more consistent weather.

Joshua: I relax with work that I like, because I’m a psychopath. You know, I have a couple of really great, fresh paperback spines that I am ready to break open, right? Eager to keep learning. This summer for me is not going to be a break from what I’ve been doing. It’s going to be a deeper dive into what I’m trying to get at from what I’ve been doing. So you know, I’ve been working for a couple tech internships and been hunting for jobs around the area and just continuing the hunger for producing more art. I think that one thing we’ve all learned after the pandemic is if we didn’t have art through the worst times in our life, it would just be a wild tangled ferment of darkness and sorrow waiting in the absence of life. To combat that I’m on a constant mission of feeding my soul, heart and mind.

Any last words you want to leave for us?

Maleah: Don’t be shocked when your playbill mentions me!

Clara: Thank you all so much for your support this year! I have so loved my time at GTA.

Joshua: For one thing, check out Heathen Valley, coming up on April 29th. That’s going to be a lot of fun. But I’d also say to never be shy about asking someone to let you into their life. And when somebody does let you into their life, I think you should let them know that that’s important to you. I like to live my life openly and for all, from any background, and it’s done wonders for me.

Be sure to check out Joshua Daughtry’s senior capstone, Heathen Valley by Romulus Linney, playing in UNG-Gainesville’s Ed Cabell Theatre April 29 at 7:30pm. Tickets on sale now!

Upcoming Graduate to Perform at Woodstock Playhouse

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

Senior BFA Musical Theatre major Allie Hill is jumping into the theatre industry head-first this summer at the Woodstock Playhouse Summer Theatre Festival. Woodstock Playhouse is a celebrated site of American Theatre history, established in 1938 as one of the first rural extensions of Broadway and is a popular theatre on the summer stock circuit. Prominent actors and actresses have graced the stage at Woodstock, including Larry Hagman, Anne Meara, Peter Boyle, and Diane Keaton.

Allie will be originating a role in Gatsby: The New American Musical, which will get a staged reading during Woodstock’s summer festival. GTA audiences will remember Allie from her performances as Judy in 9 to 5, Martha in The Secret Garden, and Wallace in Living Out. We sat down with Allie to talk about the exciting opportunities she has coming up and how GTA has prepared her for her future in theatre.

BFA Musical Theatre major Allie Hill

How did you get cast at Woodstock Playhouse?

I auditioned for the A1 Conference back in January, and I got a callback for Woodstock through that. For the callback, I sang sides for certain shows in their season and sent them a vocal reel and a dance reel. They contacted me again and I had a phone interview. I got the offer around the middle of February.

What was it like auditioning at the A1 Conference? 

Well, it was virtual, so self-taping central. Funnily enough, I usually wear sweatpants or pajama pants or running shorts when I film, but I made myself put on a whole outfit, like shoes and everything just to make myself feel like I was really there and in person, which I think really helped. I actually had Covid when I first filmed my auditions, so I like to think that even Covid couldn’t stop me from getting the part. I was inside my house quarantining and drinking lots of fluid and trying to belt to this guy, but it all worked out in the end.

Tell us about the summer festival.

The festival runs from June 10 to August 21, and includes Footloose, Beauty and the Beast, Noises Off, Cabaret, and Gatsby. Gatsby is a new musical being adapted there, and I’m principally contracted under that show. I will be in the ensemble of all the other musicals and I have the opportunity to audition for Noises Off once I get there.

Allie Hill as Judy in 9 to 5

Are you excited to work on a new musical?

It’s really exciting to originate a role, but it’s also a little daunting to think about There’s all the music, all the lines, elements of a new show that people don’t really think of. But it’s also really exciting and creatively liberating to think about how I get to interpret it and not have any preconceived notions get in the way of that. Obviously I can consult my peanut gallery of friends and professors, but ultimately I get to make my own choices which is really freeing, especially considering the risks of imposter syndrome so it’s really nice to be able to do my own thing.

That’s a lot of shows in a short amount of time! What is the schedule like?

It is a lot. On one hand, we have to learn Footloose in nine days—it’s nine 10-out-of-12 rehearsals and then we open. On the other hand, the rush of theater is intoxicating. I want to eat musical theater for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day anyways, so I’m really grateful and excited to be a part of shows I love.

How has GTA prepared you for life after graduation?

I’m very grateful for all of GTA. I think this place is great, but the Audition Technique class with Michael Jablonski has really helped me learn how much work you need to do before bringing in a song or a monologue or even a side to an audition or callback. In class, we review three different sectors of analysis for a song, and the one that really helps me with the music analysis is where we look at the more technical elements in music, such as time signatures and verbiage, and how it kind of tells you how to act out a song. Growing up as someone who was primarily a singer I had in my head that I just have to sing what’s written and sing it correctly, but it’s really about your acting more than anything. It’s crazy actually, everything is literally laid out in front of you textually and musically and it’s up to you to decide how to interpret what you’re analyzing.

What is your advice for upcoming GTA students?

It’s cliche, but truly you’ve got to show up, be kind, and be thankful. I feel like we all sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it is our right to perform when it is an absolute privilege. Opening night could also be closing night, and we never know the last time we’re gonna be able to perform, so take every single opportunity as a gift. I think the passion speaks for itself, so, if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, you’re gonna get there. That’s the attitude you have to bring to all the auditions you’ll be doing.

Do you have final thoughts about your time with GTA?

Not to make myself a tree and be sappy, but I am so grateful for GTA and all my friends and professors who have really poured into me and made sure that I was taking care of myself while also taking care of my art. It’s really important to me—I’m really going to miss it here. I’m excited to go to Woodstock but I’m not excited to leave the people I’ve created bonds with over the years. Still though, I am very thankful.

Get to Know Seniors from The Secret Garden

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

On the opening weekend of The Secret Garden, we had the pleasure of speaking with seniors Alexis Trammell, Devin LaPointe, and Eric Nabeth about their experience with this final show of the season and their last semester in college.

Alexis Trammell is a BFA Musical Theatre major and is playing Mrs. Winthrop in The Secret Garden, and is the understudy for Mrs. Medlock.

Tell us about your role in the show?

I’m part of the cast that starts out as the Dreamers. We become ghosts and we haunt the mansion. Then, I am Mrs. Winthrop later on in Act 2, who’s the headmistress, and she has her moment to shine because she’s trying to get married.

What’s your approach to play multiple roles?

It’s pretty simple for me because I’m a Dreamer for all of Act One, so I only have to focus on that role, and then Mrs. Winthrop for Act Two. Then, I go back to being a dreamer for the finale, so it’s actually not really that hard for me to go back and forth from character to character. For most of Act One, we’re just trying to scare Mary and we’re just kind of living our lives as ghosts. Well, I guess technically not living but, we really just get to float around and do our things. So it’s pretty simple. It’s a lot of fun.

What has the rehearsal process been like?

As we were doing the read-through Dr. Tracey gave us our blocking to speed up the process, then we had music with Paul (musical director, Paul Tate), and then we started putting the blocking and the music together. Hearing the songs so much, you pretty much catch on because we record it and listen to it all the time. Most of the songs I hadn’t even heard before, but I’m a really fast learner, especially when it comes to music.

How do you approach ensemble acting in a musical?

As the Dreamers, we had to figure out who we were before we died. Most of us are married in the show so we had questions to answer: What was our life like as a couple? Did we hate each other? Are we happy? In those moments, we’re supposed to be telling a story even though we’re completely still; while the principles are doing their thing. We have to figure out what story we are telling. Marcello Valencia is my partner and we decided that in the moment we go up the stairs, I’m losing my child. That story creates our still moment when we’re up on the platform. It’s things like that, just figuring out who I am and what my story is as a Dreamer, and how do I show that to the audience without taking away from the principal actor’s performance.

What’s your favorite part of the show?

I would say the song “Lily’s Eyes.” That’s Eric Nabeth and Sammy Nelson’s duet, and they sound absolutely beautiful. I just love being on stage getting to hear them sing it every night because I’ve always loved that song. I also love Savion Gates’ song, “Winter’s on the Wing,” because he’s just incredible and I cannot wait for everyone to see him. I’m a sucker for males that can sing! I feel like most of the recent GTA musicals have had female leads, so I’m glad that the guys get to have their time to shine. We have some really beautiful voices in GTA.

What should people expect from The Secret Garden?

The show challenges your sense of curiosity and imagination. I feel like the audience will be just like Mary, curious to see what the garden is and why it’s a secret. That’s just sort of who Mary is, she’s a child and she’s very curious. Most of us are. It’s not necessarily a feel-good musical but there are things to be happy about. So prepare to feel all kinds of different emotions throughout the show.

What’s it like being a senior?

Very stressful, to say the least. It just doesn’t feel real. It’s kind of weird, I definitely don’t feel like a senior, but graduation is getting so close now, so that’s really strange. It’s really stressful trying to figure out what you’re gonna do, like auditioning and marketing yourself to get booked, but it’s nice that we have faculty members with contacts and things like that so I’m not completely in the dark.

How have you grown as an artist in your time with Gainesville Theatre Alliance?

Just staying true to myself. I used to be scared when my professors or directors asked me about my character, because I felt like they wanted a specific answer, and if I didn’t give them that answer, then I was a failure or they were gonna think less of me. But since I’ve been in the program, I’ve discovered there’s not always a correct answer. Professors and directors really just want to pick your brain and figure out what you’re thinking, so they can share with you what they’re thinking and then you can collaborate. Before GTA I treated those questions like it was some sort of quiz and I got really nervous that I might give them the wrong answer. My confidence has definitely increased since freshman year. I still don’t have as much as I would like to have, but I’ve definitely grown a lot, especially when it comes to being confident in my responses and what I’ve discovered about a particular part that I’m playing. I’m more confident in sharing that with people and showing them how the research I’ve done affects my performance on stage.

 

Devin LaPointe is a BFA Design & Technology for Theatre major and is the the Assistant Scenic Designer for The Secret Garden.

What are your responsibilities as Assistant Scenic Designer?

I worked with our Scenic Designer, guest artist Dennis Maulden, on the creation and realization of our set. I got to create a digital Vectorworks model for the shop and a foam model for the director. I also sourced and edited the images for the doilies that hang at the top of the set.

What is your favorite part of the show?

I love how the lights make the set come to life.

What are you looking forward to most after graduation?

I’m looking forward to using my skills in a professional environment and studying more about set design.

What is something you’ve learned about yourself in GTA, both as an artist and a person?

GTA has taught me how to be more confident as a learner, as a leader, and as a creator. I’m grateful that GTA has let me put my hands into as many mediums as possible. I’ve learned to embrace being a “jack of all trades.”

 

Eric Nabeth is a BA Theatre major and plays Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden.

How did you approach the role of Archie Craven?

This role has been one of my most challenging roles to fulfill so far at GTA. I always approach a role by finding something within the character that speaks to me the most in an honest and vulnerable way. This acts as the bridge that connects the character and me. The more things I fall in love with within the character, the more I can present myself through that character in the most honest way possible. Otherwise, I would be just speaking words and standing with no purpose. Once that purpose is found and channeled, it’s up to my presence and the given moment within the scene to take the audience on the journey that is my character within the show.

What has the rehearsal process been like?

The rehearsal process has been extremely enriching. My style of finding a character is always on the organic side. I believe it is the actor’s job to provide the gift of their individuality and creativity that drives the scene forward. The character is based on how well I did my homework and script analysis of the work, which is always a must. That mindset and attitude has been reflected in this rehearsal process quite nicely and the room is very open to the foundation of the work of the actor.

What do you love most about this show?

Its honesty and absolute beauty. It’s truly one of my favorite musicals of all time and is a strong love letter to the more classical style of musical theater. This show is truly a must see!

GTA Student Makes Professional Debut

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

Emmanuel Cologne is a senior BA Theatre major who recently made his professional debut as Paul in A Chorus Line at City Springs Theatre Company. We spoke to Emmanuel about the audition process, rehearsal process, and what learned from this experience.

Emmanuel Cologne
BA Theatre major

What was the audition process like?

It started all the way back in October 2021 with an open call video submission to City Springs. I sent it in mid- to late-October, and I didn’t hear anything for a while. I saw that they were having the Atlanta callbacks the first week of December, and I hadn’t gotten called back at all for that. I was like, “well, that’s that’s weird,” but I remembered that on the sign-up sheet, there was a place to check if you’re a local, and I was like, “well, I live an hour away, so I guess I’m technically not a local,” so that was a stupid mistake. Essentially, I didn’t find out I got called back for the show until maybe a day or two after New Years. I got the email and I was like, “oh my god, I have to go to New York City!” That was a big thing, that the callbacks were in New York City, and I had no idea that they were in New York.

I called my dad and said, “Hi Dad, Can you loan me some money for a plane ticket?” and he did, so I just dropped everything. I went to New York, had my first professional callback experience at Ripley Greer Studios in New York City. You look out the window of the studio, and the Empire State Building is right there. Turn a couple blocks past Times Square, and you’re in the theater district. It was just really surreal for me to be there.

I arrived in New York a day before and then I prepped everything for the next morning. I go in to the audition and a lot of people who already know each other are there and I’m the only one that’s like, “I literally don’t know anybody here right now.” It’s my first time ever “breaking out into the industry.” So I sign in, I warm up and then we go into the dance call and there’s Baayork Lee with her four-foot-ten self just standing there ready and excited to teach us the opening combination and the ballet combination. I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t care what happens at this point. I’m just really excited to be here.”

We learn the opening and she works us to the bone. We do it over and over and over and it’s in this very encouraging environment. It was very exciting. That’s the first round and then they ask you to stay and sing. So I dance my heart out, did everything and we eventually had to do groups of two. We go to the holding room and we wait to see if they want us to sing for them. I got called back to sing and I said, “Oh great, made it pass the first round!” That’s fantastic. That’s what everybody wants. I went in and sang and it went great. After that, I just let it go. I said, “Whatever happens, happens.” Later, I got the email that I got called back for the role of Paul San Marco. I was like, “Well, this is everything that I wanted fully. Holy crap.”

Emmanuel as Paul in A Chorus Line (Ben Rose Photography)

So I get prepped with the sides, the whole monologue, the song, everything. I go in the next day, I’m not called until like five o’clock. Mind you, my flight is at like 7:30-7:45pm. I go in and they see us—it was me and two other guys called back for Paul. We go in one by one. We do the song, the monologue, everything. I thought it went okay, I did what I could do. I was really nervous because when Baayork was right there and you’re doing this iconic piece, you’re freaking out.

I ran all the way through midtown Manhattan to get to the airport. I didn’t hear for two days and then I got the call that I had gotten a part as a swing and understudy for Paul, Mark, and Larry. I was like, “Oh great, I’m in the show!” I get to be in the opening and I get to understudy three principal roles. Then, a week later, I got a call and they asked me if I would like to take on the role of Paul. Like, are you kidding me? Yes! Oh my god. It was crazy. I was freaking out, I had my dream role.

I was so nervous about the process. You get what you’ve been asking for for such a long time, but now I’m having this huge case of imposter syndrome because I’m gonna be in a room full of people who’ve been in Broadway shows and they’ve been in national tours. They’ve done the thing. I’m this random guy from Gainesville, Georgia, who’s never done anything like this before. I’ve been wanting it for a long time, particularly this show. I’m prepping mentally and everything. Then we have the first day rehearsal and I’m so, so nervous. But everyone was really nice and welcoming and I just ease myself into the process.

What an incredible story! How did you celebrate your achievement?

Well, when I initially got the swing understudy contract, I remember I was at Allie Hill’s apartment with Grace Deedrick and Abby Hand (all GTA students) and we did a toast and it was cute! But then when I got the call that I got Paul, I was in the car. I was in the parking lot of the Hosch and the first person I tried to call was my mom but she was at work, so she didn’t answer. I called Allie Hill and I said I got Paul! She was on her way to go to Michael Jablonski’s tap class and she went to the Hosch saying, “Where are you? We’re gonna go tell Michael!” So we ran to Michael’s class and I was like, I got the part! Then I took the tap class.

Emmanuel as Paul in A Chorus Line (Mason Wood Photography)

How was the rehearsal process different from your classes or being in shows with GTA?

I would say that GTA prepares you for professional setting. However, these were very professional people that were on top of their game. The good thing is that Baayork allowed us room to make mistakes. She really made it clear that this is rehearsal, and it’s okay to make choices. If you make a mistake, you’re in rehearsal for a reason. There was this huge sense of professionalism that was really inspiring and really motivating. It made you really want to step up your game every time you were in rehearsal. But of course, we’re still theatre people. During our breaks we joke around, laugh, talk. It wasn’t all super serious.

How long was the rehearsal process?

It was a really, really quick rehearsal process. I think we had maybe three or four weeks until we went into the theatre. It was super quick to get all the material in. It was really nice because we learned everything and then we had time to clean everything up.

Did you feel that GTA prepared you to work professionally?

I felt pretty prepared. The only thing that was in the way for me was just those nerves and imposter syndrome. But, once you get through those hard days, I realized I do belong here and once you get through that and you do the work and you do all the preparation. I feel like GTA, and the faculty especially, really prepared me to carry myself as a professional versus just a student.

Emmanuel as Paul in A Chorus Line (Mason Wood Photography)

What have you learned from this experience?

I wanted this role for the longest time and I resonate so much with a role like this. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, I was very vulnerable. I’m on stage by myself for like 10 minutes, and it feels like centuries, in one of the few moments in the show where it’s complete silence and it’s just me speaking. I learned how to be very vulnerable and very okay with flooding my emotions out to thousands of people and being comfortable with that. I’m sure there will be roles in the future where I will have moments of, “Should I even be doing this?” But I think now I feel very confident going out there and getting what I want in terms of auditioning and just pounding the pavement. Of course, there’s always still gonna be those nerves, right? For an audition, they’re always will be. But I feel very confident and where I’m going in life in terms of being an artist.

Do you have any advice for your fellow students who are looking to work professionally?

I think one thing this experience has taught me is to trust your gut. If you have that burning feeling inside of you that there’s something that you want to do and there’s something you want to pursue, it’s possible. Just remember that you have to be your biggest advocate, and no one’s gonna put in the work but you. You need to go into the studio, go into the practice room, and use all the resources that we have on campus. Read books about theatre, engulf yourself in what you love to do. Do the work and great things will happen. Talent is great, but it’s not enough. Once you go out there into the real world, talent is the bare minimum. Many people are talented. But are you a hard worker? Can you put in that work? Are you a nice person? Are you kind and get along with people? That’s what matters. Just stay inspired. Keep going.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

By Jeilianne Vazquez

 

“Wherever women gather together, failure is impossible” – Susan B Anthony

 

March is Women’s History Month! In celebration of this month, I spoke to senior BA Theatre major Katelyn Zeller and freshman BA Theatre major Emily LaPollo to discuss what it’s like being a woman in theatre.

Katelyn Zeller
BA Theatre major

What does Women’s History Month mean to you ?

Katelyn: I believe it is about acknowledging all of the great achievements women have made throughout history and celebrating the importance of what it means to be a woman.
Emily: To me, it means a chance to celebrate some of the most amazing people in the world. It is a time to bring awareness to the struggles that women have faced and continue to face to this day. Women literally make the world go round. They are strong, independent, and fearless. We deserve a month at the very least to be celebrated.

 

If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be?

Katelyn: I would like to have dinner with Morgan Marcell, Meryl Streep, and Lily James. I look up to these people for their work in the arts.
Emily: Eva Noblezada, Megan Thee Stallion, and Rihanna

 

What is your experience being a woman in theatre and the arts? Have you faced any barriers and, if so, how have you overcome them?

Emily LaPollo
BA Theatre major

Emily: Being a woman in the arts is not easy. I have found that in the past I have not been taken seriously and that is something I have to be aware of. I think comparison is my biggest barrier, not just in theatre but in everyday life. I constantly compare myself to other actresses and their styles and I wonder if I’m good enough. In today’s society, social media is notorious for being detrimental to confidence. There are so many women with the “perfect” skin, bodies, clothes, etc. on their feed and the rest of us have to scroll and feel horrible about ourselves. However, I remind myself that all I am is enough and I have to remind myself how amazing I am. We are all perfect in our own ways and a little self love goes a long way.

 

What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?

Katelyn: Always trust in your abilities. Trying and failing is better than never trying at all.
Emily: The most important piece of advice I have been given is that it’s okay to make mistakes. Failure is inevitable and life has become so much easier now that I have learned to accept that.

 

Who has inspired you and helped you become who you are today?

Katelyn: The person who has inspired me the most has been my grandmother. She always encouraged me to follow my aspirations in life and remind myself of how much power I could hold if I just believed in myself.
Emily: Both my mom and my grandma are such strong and beautiful women inside and out. My grandma came here from Italy with my grandfather and they built a life for themselves out of nothing. They have always given us everything, but they didn’t always have everything. That has been super humbling and it taught me to appreciate things more. My mom has always put me first and worked really hard to support me, as a single mother. Both of their sacrifices have helped me to become the best self I can be.

 

What made you choose to study theatre?

Katelyn: This is a question I have always asked myself time and time again and my answer has changed constantly throughout the years. But to me, theatre shows people hope, what life can be, and shines a light on what the world is like.
Emily: I have a general anxiety disorder and it is actually therapeutic for me to take on a role and escape my reality every once in a while. It has become my safe place and makes me feel like I belong.

Costume Design for Rapunzel

Costume Designer Pamela Workman is an Assistant Professor at Brenau University. She is the costume designer for GTA’s upcoming production of The Secret Garden, and recently designed costumes for Lexington Children’s Theatre‘s Shooting Stars YouTheatre production of Rapunzel. We ask Pamela to tell us all about this professional opportunity and her process of creating costumes for a fairytale story.

How did this project come about?

This design opportunity came about because I had worked with Octavia Biggs, the director, years ago on another TYA productions. I heard she was in need of a costume designer, so I sent her a text saying “Heard you need a designer. Want to work together again? Call me anytime.” She was instantly on the phone with me and we agreed to work together on Rapunzel.

Did the actor’s ages influence your design choices?

Theatre for Young Audiences focuses on the ages of the audience. You want lots of color and texture and shapes in order to keep Elementary and Middle-School-aged kids interested.

Where did the inspiration for the costumes come from?

The director chooses the final concept for a show. I can offer my input as a designer, but the director has the final stamp of approval. Octavia was pulled towards cubism artwork that was created by the Shooting Stars YouTheatre students. She presented this to the design team and we ran with it.

What elements of the script are shown in the costumes?

The only real descriptions in the script were the long blonde hair that keeps growing. Rapunzel starts the show bald and then her hair keeps growing until it is about 20 feet long. The other description is when Rapunzel dyes all her hair purple and then cuts it off. The main thing about this script is that it rhythmically moves fast and the actors never leave the stage.

What is the process you usually use to approach shows and how did that relate to this one?

I always start with reading the script, then move into a concept meeting. Then multiple design meetings with research, sketches, paperwork, renderings, and troubleshooting. The main obstacle for this production was how to deal with the wigs. I posted in a couple of Facebook groups to get some ideas. In the end, I came up with my own solution of a series of braids that clip on. Twenty-six yards of silk were used for the braids and I used Shibori dye techniques to create them in my kitchen.

How often are you in contact with the director?

I was in contact with the director via meetings every two weeks until the designs were approved. Once the cubism style was chosen, Octavia pretty much let me go with what my brain gravitated towards. Then I worked on my own and built the show. Fellow GTA faculty Terri Becker and Celeste Morris, along with my kids, helped me paint the final looks.

What is the nature of the costumes, in terms of build? Did you get overalls and paint/design over them, or did you build overalls from scratch with designs printed?

I had to invent the Thai fisherman pants. Those don’t exist in life. For the overall dress and overalls I used patterns from JoAnn Fabrics. I took the children’s artwork that was commissioned for this project and had them printed on fabric. Those were strategically placed on the bleached muslin shells, then I drew out and painted to continue the children’s artwork through the entire costume. I never saw the costumes on the actors until I showed up in Kentucky for first dress. That was the first and only time they were fitted into costumes.

Congrats to the GTA New Works Festival Winners!

The GTA New Works Festival is over for this year but we are still thinking about the beautiful, original work we saw! On Saturday night of the festival, GTA Shorts featured seven short plays written and directed by students and two awards were presented. The Playwright’s Choice Award was presented to Jeilianne Vazquez for her play Mi Familia, and the Audience Choice Award was presented to Halli Rider for her play Truth or Dare. Both winners received a one-year membership to Working Title Playwrights, a new play incubator and service organization providing playwrights with development opportunities, workshops, and networking events. We sat down with Jeilianne and Halli to discuss their plays.

 

BA Theatre major, Jeilianne Vazquez

Tell us about your play, Mi Familia.

The play is about a Puerto Rican family who are having dinner. Abuelo is back from Puerto Rico while his daughter is separated from her husband, and we see how that affects the two older kids and their relationships with each other.

What inspired the script? Were you drawing from your real life?

They are based on my family, extended family, my latino friends family–basically every family I’ve ever known. I wrote it my freshman year and submitted it to a play festival honoring Latinx playwrights in Atlanta. Unfortunately, it wasn’t chosen, but when it was time to submit for the New Works Festival, I decided to look at it again and give it a second chance. I made some edits and here we are!

At the time you wrote the script, did you already have a writing method, or was this project a step towards creating that method?

This wasn’t my first script for the GTA (I had a play in last year’s festival) but I did have a different approach. This year, I just wanted to write what I know. My process is evolving and I’m discovering what works for me.

What was it like being in the audience of your own play?

It was great! I think if I hadn’t seen any rehearsals I would have been very nervous. But, I was able to go to two of the last rehearsals and I was in awe of the work that had been done. The actors Michelle Stover, Marcello Valencia, Madelyn Moreno, and Juan Suarez were absolutely incredible and were guided by the great Otis McDaniel (director). I was fully confident in them and they exceeded my expectations.

Congratulations on winning the Playwright’s Choice Award. What was going through your head when you won?

I was just in shock! I was extremely happy and grateful. I was just so proud of my cast and director. All the hard work that was put in and they shined! I was just so happy. Latino stories were being shared and honored. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

What’s next for you? Are there any scripts that you are working on?

Right now, I’m working on a full-length play for next year’s New Works Festival. I have some other short scripts I’d like to polish and possibly expand. I haven’t decided if I want Mi Familia to be full-length. We will see!

 

Halli Rider, BFA Acting major

Tell us about your play, Truth or Dare.

Truth or Dare is about two newly found anxious and odd roommates who find themselves out of food and an internet connection. After ordering pizza, they decide to play a friendly game of truth or dare to pass the time. 

What inspired the script? Were you drawing from your real life?

I definitely pulled from my life in small aspects. I was rooming with one of my best friends when Covid first hit, and we both are very anxious people by nature. That is kind of what sparked the idea, and then it kind of snowballed from that.

Something that I would like to point out is that Hollis and Charlie are gender-neutral in the script. I did this keeping high school theatre programs in mind. When I was in high school, we would often have to gender-bend characters because we didn’t have enough guys. I wrote the characters as gender-neutral to allow anyone to be able to play them!

At the time you wrote the script, did you already have a writing method, or was this project a step towards creating that method?

When I first started writing Truth or Dare, I was in my first playwriting class. I had never really written anything before (aside from small creative writing projects) so the idea of playwriting was really new to me. Needless to say, I didn’t have any method for writing. In the class, we had to complete a one-act play as our final, which is where I got most of the material for Truth or Dare. It actually comes from my one-act entitled Hey, Sorry to Bother You!, where the characters play truth or dare in the last ten minutes of the play. My process is still currently evolving, as I am still very new to writing, but I am slowly finding what motivates me and what doesn’t!

What was it like being in the audience of your own play?

At first, I was really nervous because it was the first time I was going to see it all the way through with props and on the Ed Cabell stage. So, it was a little scary at first, but as soon as the actors started, they had such an easygoing energy about them (which is exactly what I felt when I was writing the characters), I was able to enjoy it. A lot of that ease came from the director, Dellan Short. He directed the heck out of it. During the rehearsal process, I tried to make it to rehearsals whenever I could, but I never felt worried that the show wouldn’t be good. I never had to worry about whether or not something in the writing would get lost because Dellan pays such close attention to detail, and makes sure choices from the actors are clean and well read from an audience’s point of view. However, while he pays attention to details, he also allows the actors to find their own version of the character. He’s great at making sure he gives the actors freedom to play while making sure it works for the character.

Congratulations on winning the Audience Choice Award. What was going through your head when you won?

It was a very overwhelming, yet exciting feeling. I’m not sure what to call it. I was honestly just super proud of the people I got to work with (Dellan Short, Molly Van Buren, Olivia Leslie, and Corbin Adriano), cause they all worked so hard, and they made a show that I wrote come to life in the best way possible.

What’s next for you? Are there any scripts that you are working on?

I actually just finished my first full-length play this past semester. It’s called A Spoonful of Chaos, and it takes place in a tiny ice cream shop in Tennessee. It was super challenging to write in one semester, so it is currently in the revision stage. However, I’m going to be submitting it for the New Works Festival next year, and if it gets chosen then you can learn more about it!

 

Meet The Marketing Team: Ethan Baez

Today’s blog post is about our newest contributor, Ethan Baez. You may recognize his name from recent posts, where he led the interviews of some cast and crew from Our Town. Today we get to know him!

Ethan Baez, Junior B.A. Theatre major

Ethan, tell us all about yourself.

On February 13th 2001, in Kissimmee, Florida a beautiful baby was born in Kissimmee General Hospital. A couple doors down, I was being pulled out via plunger because I wanted ten more minutes and already my mother had enough of my antics. When I was a toddler, I looked like something a bakery you would call a roll, and yet I wanted to dance when I got older. If you ask me, it’s because I knew my dad would have hated it and even as a toddler, I lived to spite. As I mentioned though, I was in the shape of a circle, not a Zendaya, so that dream quickly died. Then, in middle school, I learned you could be so good at something people would bully you for it. In my case, I’d get pushed around and called a nerd on the basketball court, because I was really good at writing history essays for Mrs. Andrews. I soon learned my designated bullies were not so good at those things, which began to explain a lot. It also explained the origins of my own sarcasm, because I quickly went from coming home with hurt feelings to coming home with vindicated feelings but black eyes.

In eighth grade, I remember having to recite a poem for English class called “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. I got a B just for attempting it, and although I couldn’t memorize the whole thing, Mrs. J praised my delivery. Then I started writing my own poetry, which I knew was bad, but I also knew I wanted it to be better. I then went to an arts school for my high school years where I learned how writing poetry is painful, so I wanted it more. What I didn’t want was to worry about academics and grades, so in my sophomore year when I was told I needed to fill an elective credit, I chose theater. At that point I had already shown a successful inkling towards performance poetry, and monologues didn’t feel much different than that, so I was allowed to take some acting classes. I also auditioned for Peter and The Starcatcher, in which I used Reuben’s monologue from Oceans 11. This was a rookie move that my teacher told me not to do ever again, but he liked my energy so I played Alf.

The show was funny, a technical marvel, and I made friends. I also got to witness enough behind the scenes drama to last me until my final moments, but the draw of the stage had its hold on me. I played Lt. Shrank in West Side Story, General Hammond in M.A.S.H., Eurydice’s father in Eurydice, performed in a number of director showcases, and did enough actor work to rival the work I was doing to better myself as a writer. When it came time to start thinking about what I was going to do in college, I stressed over whether I’d pursue writing or theatre. I knew I could only do those two things for the rest of my life, but my family could only afford for me to pursue higher education in one of them. This is when I found out about GTA, and when I had an honest conversation with my high school teachers who felt I was a better writer than I was an actor. I made a choice that I do not regret for a second. I still do not know if I agree with them.

Some years later, I am now twenty-one. I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, and I’ve joined the GTA Marketing Team to help fulfill my writing itch. You may have seen me as Gonzalo in The Tempest, or in the audience of every GTA show since Legally Blonde. I was the one laughing like a hyena. I still write poetry, but unless you frequent open-mic nights in Atlanta then you have not heard or seen any of it. I also write plays and sketches, one of which will be performed in the GTA New Works Festival along with some other really amazing scenes done by amazing people. I’m extremely happy to be working with the marketing team for the foreseeable future, and I look forward to giving you all the GTA updates all the time.

Meet the Crew of Our Town

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

 
As Our Town comes to a close, we want to spotlight the backstage crew who make the magic happen. Peyton Wehunt, Prop Master, and Allison Lamb, Assistant Stage Manager, work hard on the tiny details that really make the show come to life. We asked them about their process, their perspective on the show and script, and what this show means to them.

 

Peyton Wehunt, BFA Design & Technology for Theatre major

Tell us about yourself and what it means to be Prop Master for Our Town.

Peyton: I’m Peyton, and I’m a sophomore here, BFA tech design with a focus in scenery and costumes. Working on Our Town props has been a lot of fun. It’s not a show that has a tremendous amount of props. It’s very mime-focused. For me, personally, I felt like those props really needed to stand out and tell their own story in their own way. So working on those props (I believe there are five), every single one of them has either been completely handmade from scratch or has been pulled from storage. For example, we have some songbooks in the show. We got them out of an abandoned church and they are from the early 1900s. It was a miracle that they weren’t torn to pieces.

All those little things have been fun and honestly, I would say, a little more challenging than the bigger shows that we do. Because in those shows I probably have a hundred props. You can say, “This is a great baby bottle, we’re moving on,” however, for something like this, those five props are gonna get seen a lot closer. The audience can say, “Why is that prop real if the others are fake? What gives it that justification?.” You’ve got to spend more time and justify its existence.

Do you just have organizational control? Or did you have any hand in actually making them?

Peyton: The work of a Prop Master is a little weird because we’re kind of what we call ourselves, and by ourselves I mean me, the “redheaded stepchild” of the backstage crew. You find yourself lumped in with Paint Charges and Board Operators, but prop masters go to production meeting, while those other positions don’t come into the process until tech week. Prop Masters deal with more design work. We do script analysis; reading the script, trying to find the meaning behind the text, making our list of everything needed for the show, researching the time period and what that time period looks like for these specific pieces. Once you get that paperwork done, you gotta go out and figure out what’s in prop storage. If we don’t have it in prop storage, can we borrow it? If we can’t borrow it, can we buy it? And then the buying is a whole process. We’re kind of in the middle because on the one hand, we don’t get to go to design meetings and we are not considered designers. But, on the other hand, we are more involved in the pre-production process than most other technical positions are. So it’s kind of a unique space!

Is part of your process removing emotion from the script, or do you like to keep it there? How long does it take? What’s your experience with that?

Peyton: That’s a great question. It’s complicated because my first read-through of a script is just to get an idea of what the show is about. I actively don’t watch shows I haven’t worked on before because I don’t want to muddy my work with somebody else’s or accidentally steals somebody’s idea. So I find myself reading through the first time just to get an idea of what the show is about, and then I read the second time to start breaking things down. For example, I am currently working on The Secret Garden. For Mary’s props, I’m going through and looking for things like what kind of person is Mary? And then I have to hone in on it. What would her doll have on it? What would a doll for her be like?

In Our Town, the newspaper bag for the paperboy gets handed down generation after generation. You really have to dive into the script and realize that this bag doesn’t just belong to the paper boy. When he leaves this job, it’s going to the next guy and it’s not gonna be a one size fits all so we have to adjust accordingly, so I make little notes about that. But really, those honed-in, fine details don’t come until I go and see a rehearsal. It’s really just words on a page until you see an actor make it come to life.

What connections do you have to this show?

Peyton: The show really does make you hone in on the idea that everything happens really fast and you’ve really got to sit down and appreciate the moments you have with people, because if you don’t, you’ll end up down the line realizing how much you regret it.

What character do you relate to the most?

Peyton: I really gravitate to Editor Webb. There’s a lot of characters that have their own personalities, but don’t get the real moments to shine, or they have a little humorous moment, but then that’s all they are, a humorous moment or a serious moment. But Editor Webb kind of falls in the middle. It’s a big bummer, because I don’t make any props for him but I really like that character! He’s not portrayed the way that you would imagine a father in the early 1900s to be. He feels like a person you would talk to now. It’s not entirely because of the script. Sammy Nelson does a terrific job of making you feel those emotions, but his connection with Emily (Maddie Compton) on stage is also really good. You can really feel that father-daughter connection between them.

Once the show starts, do you start taking your foot off the gas a little bit? Or do you have backstage duties that you’re responsible for?

Peyton: While we do get to breathe a little bit, my job isn’t done. For example, with Living Out, I focused on the heavy-hitter props, like the food, that had to get reset and cleaned and replaced every night. If it’s a show with weapons, those weapons need to be cleaned and maintained every show. You’ve got to see it through all the way to strike. You’ve got some stuff to do, but if we’re going 100 miles an hour, all the way to opening, after the show opens you’re probably going, maybe 45.

Anything that you want to tell the audience?

Peyton: I try to take one of the props and I make a little easter egg for the next show that’s coming up. In Living Out, there was a train that was sitting on the set, representing Murder On The Orient Express. There is a hint on the Our Town stage for The Secret Garden, so anybody in the audience that’s watching, see if you can try to figure out where our easter egg is! There are only five props, so I have no doubt somebody will find it.

 

Alison Lamb, BA Theatre major

Tell us about yourself and your role for Our Town.

Alison: I am a junior BA Theatre major and I am an Assistant Stage Manager for Our Town. Basically what that means is that I assist Kailie, our Stage Manager, help with paperwork, set up the rehearsal space, and run the show.

​​Have you read the show and if so, do you need to know the show to be a good stage manager?

Alison: I like to read whatever play I’m working on at least once or twice before rehearsal. I was already familiar with Our Town, but do you have to be familiar with it to be a good stage manager? Absolutely. I don’t know how you would function if you didn’t know what was happening. In order to be on top of things, you have to have a good idea. The interesting thing about tech and stage management is that when you’re reading a script, you’re looking for very different things than an actor would, because we’re in charge of tracking deck, tracking props, and tracking costumes.

Do you find any emotional relevance in the work that you do as a stage manager?

Alison: Absolutely! I can’t speak for all stage managers, but if they don’t, I’m not sure why they’re working in theatre. The emotional side is partly why I get excited about it. I mean yes, doing paperwork and stuff is very satisfying. But also at the end of the day, I’m there for the story and what the script and the play has to offer the audience and the cast, just as much as anyone else. I’m just experiencing it in a slightly different way. Stage managers are potentially reading the play even more than the actors are, because we have to analyze the script, write up paperwork and then be “on book” during rehearsal, in case an actor forgets their line. When the actors are “off book”, we’re still looking at the script in case they need a line. So we’re reading the script night after night. You pick up on a lot of details that you missed at the very beginning. That also kind of helps with motivation and passion for the work that you’re doing because you find little bits of gold here and there that you know aren’t gonna stand out. An audience might never see it but we know, and it’s so cool. In the rehearsal room, I would be sitting next to the rest of the stage management team or Zechariah (the director), and something clicks at the same time for multiple people. Then you just look over and it’s like “Wait, like did you hear that? That’s right!” So all of that is definitely emotionally grounded.

Why do you want to be a Stage Manager? What do you love about it?

Alison: Well, the interesting thing about stage management is that stage managers are one of the biggest cogs in the wheel, but also, they are one of the biggest areas that no one sees. Of course, if you’re working in professional theatre, you know how much stage management does. But for the average person, if you say, “Oh, I’m a stage manager,” they will have no idea what your role is. The idea of being such an integral part of the massive enterprise of theatre is really attractive to me because it leaves the work to speak for itself. Being behind the scenes, a kind of stage ninja. If you’re doing your job right no one knows you’re there. I’m always attracted to the people who are moving mountains and never get recognition or the people who are making the world go round but no one quite sees them do it. I think that kind of speaks to our world and how the little guy can make a difference. And just every day, seemingly small things, you know, end up changing the world.

What is a normal day as far as rehearsals look like?

Alison: Stage management usually gets to rehearsal 45 minutes before anyone else. We make sure that the stage is swept and cleaned, we preset for the show, we set up all the props, make sure everything’s in place and where it needs to be. We make sure that all of the actors are present and feeling well. If anybody’s running late then we call them and make sure that we’re helping them in any way that we can. Because of COVID, we check everybody’s temperature. Our stage manager Kailie is in the booth during runs. She is calling the show and that’s the majority of what she’s doing. Once we hit go, that’s her one big job! Makes everything go round. For ASM’s like me and Phoebe (Sweatman), we’re making sure that nothing catastrophic happens backstage. We are on headset, so we’re in constant communication with stage management and other crew members. If anything needs to be stopped or delayed, we’re all in communication to create a safe environment and to keep everybody updated.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Alison: Sometimes I think that straight plays get a bad rap. We all love the big musical that has all the dance numbers. I’m a sucker for musicals because you’ve got to love all of the pretty, shiny work that’s happening. But I think plays, like Our Town, get overshadowed which is such a shame because Our Town is such a beautiful story. It’s one of the simplest places maybe ever. Even when you walk in the space, you’ll see two ladders and the table, and it only gets simpler. In the third act, really the point of the story is seeing beautiful things in the mundane, that life is worth living because of the small moments. Truly living life, not doing crazy, big things but just simply being with each other and having community. I think that that is something that we all need reminders of.