Ann Lowe on Directing Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ by Teresa McCormick Ertel

Prince George’s Little Theatre is in production for Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo, which is a hilarious farce/comedy that takes the audience into the world of a theater company. It’s being produced by area veteran William Powell Jr., who has teamed up with Director Ann Lowe. Here, Ann gives us a peek into her process. The duo’s dynamic collaboration is set to open February 1, 2013 at The Bowie Playhouse.

Director Ann Lowe. Photo courtesy of Prince George’s Little Theatre.

Teresa:  How did you get your start in theater?

Anne: When I was in junior high school I got the part of an annoying but well-meaning old maid who keeps bringing gifts of pineapple rice, in Jenny Kissed Me.

Where are you, process-wise in the production of Moon Over Buffalo?

We have just finished blocking rehearsals – that is, we have created the “stage pictures” – deciding where everybody and everything is on the set. But this is always subject to change, of course.

What is your auditions and casting process?

At auditions I don’t ask actors how old they are or any of their personal details. I rely on my impression of them during auditions. If an actor seems to be 50 then he can play a 50 year-old character; it doesn’t matter if he is 30. This is, after all, the theatre. What you see is exactly what you get.

Who is in the cast, introduce us to their characters and why you selected them for these specific roles. What will they bring to their roles?

I’ve cast these fine actors in the following roles:

Norm Gleichman plays George Hay, the male lead.  George is the head of the acting company that is the subject of the play. He is in his fifties but still playing the younger roles like Romeo and Hamlet, so he’s a bit “past it,” as it were. There is an extended drunk scene for George and Norm does a devastatingly funny drunk. He is an experienced actor; I hardly have to direct him at all – he knows what to do.

Barbara Lambert plays Charlotte Hay, the female lead. Charlotte also is in her fifties and still playing the younger roles like Juliet and Ophelia. Barbara is a very pretty woman with a wonderfully expressive face and excellent comic timing. She is perfect in the role.

Caity Brown plays Rosalind Hay, the daughter of George and Charlotte. Roz has left the theatre company and her boyfriend Paul because she wants a “normal” life.  Caity is a pleasure to direct because I only have to give her a hint and she takes it and runs with it. For example, there is a scene which is a play-within-the-play, in which Roz is on stage alone and the character who is supposed to join her doesn’t come. I asked her to build the scene. She instantly knew what to do, taking her character from perfect confidence that the character would appear, to panic and then frenzy as she continued to be alone on stage, trying to make up dialogue.

Brian McDermott plays Paul, the former boyfriend of Roz and company manager for the Hays’ theatre company. Brian is talented and versatile, and is studying to become a professional actor. He has subtlety and imagination. His character comes off as likable and straightforward. He is excellent in the role.

Donny Singh-Perry plays Howard, the current fiance of Roz and a TV weatherman in Buffalo, New York. His character comes off as fresh-faced and amiable. Donny is strong and agile, two big plusses for his character since he has to dodge swords and then a knife.

Millie Ferrara plays Ethel, the mother of Charlotte Hay and therefore mother-in-law to George and grandmother to Roz. Millie is a very experienced actress who needs almost no direction. She also has an excellent sense of comic timing.

Keith Brown plays Richard Maynard, lawyer to the stars who is in love with Charlotte.  Keith is another experienced actor who needs little direction. He has subtlety and charm.

Tiffany Yancey plays Eileen, the ingenue in the company. One line in the play describes her like this: “She could give milk.” Tiffany captures that wholesomeness perfectly.

And let us not neglect my excellent production team:

William Powell, Jr. – Producer
Cynthia Bentley – Assistant Director and Set Decorator
Dan Lavanga – Set Designer and Master Carpenter
Ken Kienas – Properties Manager
Denise Loukus – Costume Designer
Connie Spittler – Assistant Stage Manager

How did you become involved with this theater group?

Many years ago I showed up at auditions for A Man for All Seasons. I was cast as Lady Alice More.

What drew you to this project?

PGLT’s method of choosing plays is to invite directors to submit a play they would like to direct. I submitted this play because it is extremely funny and extremely well written.

What have been the biggest challenges in staging this production?

There are three different sets – the play starts with a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac and near the end there is a scene from Private Lives. The theatre company that is the subject of this play is running those two shows in repertory. My set designer, Dan Lavanga, has done a wonderful job of keeping the scene changes as simple as possible so as not to slow down the momentum of the play.

How would you describe your directing style?

I try to give actors the freedom to create the characters as they see them. If I tried to impose on an actor my own view of a character – then whatever depth and nuance the actor would have created on his own would be lost. We’d end up with one-dimensional, puppet-like characters. But if I feel an actor is being dishonest – that is, the actor himself does not believe in what he is doing or saying, or that what he is doing is out of character with the person he is attempting to portray – then I will point that out to him.

As for influences, I have been privileged to work with many excellent directors over the years, and I also frequently attend performances of both amateur and professional productions.  When I see something that works I often try it myself

Who were some of your influences , what shows did they direct or were you in, and what did they teach you which made you a better director?

I’ve had the opportunity to attend some workshops at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, where I observed the work of the wonderful actors there and their very creative directors – Ralph Cohen and Jim Warren. One thing I learned there is that if you hold anything back the audience will know it.  So the character has to be yours from the very core of your being.  It is exposure of the most intimate kind – rather frightening, really.

In graduate school at the University of Massachusetts I learned a lot from Dr. James Young.  He directed me in Danton’s Death, a play about the French Revolution. Sadly, I did not do the part justice, but it was all part of the learning process. Sometimes you learn as much from your failures as your successes.

Moon Over Buffalo opens February 1, 2013 for three weekends at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD, which is right off Maryland Route 3.

Moon Over Buffalo plays from February 1-16, 2013 at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD, which is right off Maryland Route 3. has performances on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2, 2013, at 8 pm; Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at 2 pm; Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8 and 9, 2013, at 8 pm; Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, at 2 pm; Friday Feb. 15, 2013 at 8 pm, and Sat. Feb. 16, 2013 at 2 pm. Purchase tickets online, or call the box office (301) 937-7458 and pressing ‘1.’ Here are directions

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