The Theatre Program at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland will soon present Southern Crisis: Two Short Comedies by Christopher Durang. The two comedies are For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls and ‘Dentity Crisis. Performances are November 6, 7, and 8, 2014 at 8 pm and November 9, 2014 at 3 pm. The final performance will include a talk back session and sign language interpretation. Student tickets are $5 and all others are $10. For more information on tickets, please check out our website
However, before the polished product is presented, many hours of casting, preparation, and rehearsal go into making this production come to life. Here is some insight from some of the actors and the director on putting together these completely Durang-ed shows.
Jenny: Sierra, tell us about the casting process and how you are preparing to play this iconic woman.
Sierra Young (Amanda): For auditions we were given sides a week or so in advance, in order to become familiar with the material. I read over each piece, and I had a strong connection with the characters Amanda and Edith. As I continued to read I thought of ways I could flesh them out, and play with the characters. I became familiar with all of the female parts, in case I was called in for them and so that I could interact with the other actors at auditions. After the first round, I was called back and went through a similar process in the second round, then later that evening I got a call offering me the role of Amanda, and I gladly accepted.
In order to prepare to portray Amanda I worked on the emotional state first; trying to completely flesh her out. I did a lot of character work with the help of analyzing the character Amanda in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. I found that both versions of Amanda have the similar wants and needs, but they go about handling their issues a bit differently. For my purposes, I thought Amanda should be larger than life but done in a way that is realistic; this is her truth.
Bobby, what is it like to work with Sierra on building that mother/son relationship? Also, what is it like balancing rehearsals for this Durang piece while performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company?
Bobby Henneberg (Lawrence): It’s definitely interesting, especially since this was the first time I’ve ever worked with Sierra, so there had to be that initial bonding that you have with any cast member, then from there forge the mother/son relationship. There is also fact that this was my first show at HCC, and Sierra is a more experienced member of the HCC theatre community.
Rehearsing one show while another show runs is something I’m still getting used to as an actor, but everybody involved has been so understanding and helpful with scheduling that it’s actually been quite doable.
Morgan, tell us about reading ’Dentity Crisis for the first time and why you were drawn to this character right away.
Morgan Mardsen (Jane): My first time reading ‘Dentity Crisis was definitely an experience. I was a bit befuddled at points, but mostly I was captivated by these extensive characters that Durang had created. They were intense and absurd, which made me instantly want more of this “cuckoo” family. Of course I was mostly drawn to the character of Jane, who seemed to be questioning everything and everyone that surrounded her. Most of all, it was the fact that Jane was questioning herself and her identity. I believe there are a great deal of teenagers that go through this confusing process, and it made me identify with her.
Robert, what it is like creating so many characters that keep changing back and forth – first as Jane’s father, then brother, then grandfather, and finally the Count?
Robert Highsmith (Robert): It’s very challenging because not only do I have to worry about switching my voice back and forth, I have to remember to change my posture as well. If I have to be Grandad for a line, I have to become him on the line before I say something. It’s very tiresome as well, and after every run, I need a cup of water because my throat gets so dry. But I love it; I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s a new challenge that I can’t wait to endure.
Grace, this is your first time directing for the Theatre Program at HCC, and this year the program is presenting a workshop production as opposed to last year’s full-scale show. What is the difference between the two?
Grace Anastasiadis (Director): The difference between a workshop vs a full-scale production is that the workshop focuses more on the acting and less on the full realization of the technical pieces, such as set and costumes. The actors go through the same rehearsal period and do all the same character development, but are challenged more because they don’t have the help of their environment contributing to the story. They have to make the audience see the full picture with just a hint of a set or a costume. I think it’s more exciting because I, as a director, can focus fully on our student actors and don’t have to divert my attention to all the other technical elements throughout the entire rehearsal and tech week experience. This has its challenges for me as well, since I have to make sure the actors possess all the necessary tools to make the audience a part of the world we are creating with each piece.
Grace, why are you drawn to Durang? Why should audiences come see this student workshop performance at HCC?
I think audiences will love these pieces, not only because they are funny, but also because they make us think about relationships and the world around us.
Durang is known for his dark comedy and for making us look at the world a little differently, through every day events that might be slightly (or completely) off. This will provide the audience an opportunity come out of the theatre with a different take on what they’ve seen, depending on their background, and that is the exciting thing to me about theatre!
It is quite a challenge for our students to be taking this on because it’s not only about the comedic timing, but also the 100% commitment to the extremely bizarre that is required. As they say, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
Southern Crisis: Two Short Comedies by Christopher Durang will perform November 6-9, 2014 in the Horowitz Center’s Studio Theatre at Howard Community College – 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, in Columbia, MD. Student tickets are $5 and all others are $10. For more information on tickets, please check out our website.