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Collaboration is the Bomb-Diggity

I always worked behind the scenes on shows in high school. I think it began when I wasn’t cast in a show, and I was left with alternative methods of involvement. But ever since, even when I was acting in a show, I took advantage of the occasional opportunity to do tech. I found that it gave me whole new perspectives on the action that took place under the spotlight. An actor understands how to work with each technical component, once they’ve been involved in the design and/or implementation. And one better understands the people working backstage, gaining a respect and appreciation for their work, once one understands the work that they do: what it is, how it’s done, and what it feels like.

The work I did on this show provided nice examples in support of this tech-savvy actor. At the simplest level, painting the shelves and arch-room walls made me take special note of these elements’ outcomes, probably leading to my acknowledging much more deeply the skill and detail that went into their creation. Had I not worked on the set, I may have turned a blind eye to this detail, whereas an appreciation for the detailing helps me tune my acting to work in-sync with all the other elements presented to the audience. We also had an opportunity to explore new aspects of the show while walking through portions for the hang and focus/cue-to-cue. This gave me a new perspective on moments, not having to perform them the same way I’d been conditioned, instead being able to look at them in a more detached way.

Most importantly, working on tech makes me feel even more like this production was a collaborative effort. The creation of this show was most notable for me because everyone was so excited to work with the group and brought the best attitude, especially important because of the great need for collaboration this show, in particular, required. Perhaps the best kind of environment to work in is one in which you feel that everyone is working whole-heartedly towards the success of the group’s goal.


—Mike Myers

“Why are you laughing?” “I don’t know!”

What an incredible couple of weeks these have been. There have been ups and downs, to be sure, but all in all, it has been a glorious experience. Exhausting, yes, but glorious, and totally worth it.

As an actor, I’ve been aware that the presence an audience has and how they react to the action onstage has a significant effect on the outcome of a performance. Yes, it is true that performers shouldn’t let an unresponsive audience effect their performance, and I don’t think that it ever really changed our performance per se. For example, I personally felt (don’t know about everyone else) that in our first matinee, I gave a performance on par with the one I’d given the night before, which had gotten a nice response from the audience (laughter, etc.). However, the audience that Sunday simply didn’t react very much, which was a bit disgruntling. Despite that, I kept doing everything that I usually do, and was content with my own performance, as well as those of everyone else in the cast.

The only times I felt our performances have changed (for the worse) were on opening night and “second opening night” (the second Thursday). This was more a product of having an audience again and remembering all of the things we needed to do after a short hiatus. In other words, we were doing everything that we had to for each scene, but it was more mechanical and disjointed than it should have been, which resulted in a less responsive audience. This was entirely justified, because our (or at least mine) performance was not as engaging as it could have been.

Having an audience helped me cement some aspects of my character and performance, such as the scene between Waffles and Astrov. On the first night, I’ll admit, I tried to play that scene for laughs, and it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. After that, I let it go: either the audience would find it funny, or they wouldn’t. And, somehow, that scene has gotten progressively more funny as the run has gone on. Now that I’m not actively trying to get a response, but rather actually working with Nick, it feels more natural. Waffles is certainly not trying to get laughs; he’s genuinely pissed off at Astrov and shows it. That is what the audience finds funny, not Rory Eggleston being Waffles and trying to be funny.

I feel like that should have been an obvious conclusion that I could have come to a long time ago, but there it is. Now I know.

-Rory Eggleston

When I hear the sound of wind rustling in young trees

Trembling Giants


From the “See the Bigger Picture” visualization series by Vienna-based graphic designer Michael Paukner, the interwoven lines connect over 20 of the world’s oldest trees and clonal colonies to their geographic origins. I thought maybe I’d see some of these lines connect back to Russia but alas no.

Finding the DNA

I’ve been doing theater for a while now.  Actually, I’ve been acting for over half my life, and for the part before I was still acting, just without a stage.  I love performing, and every show I do is unique in some way.  The never ending diversity of shows is part of what draws me to theater.  No two will ever be the same  However,  it has been a long, long time since I have been this excited about a play.

The way we are going about rehearsals, and the work we have done in the first few weeks, is radically different from how I have ever gone about a show before.  But the coolest thing about it is that I am not weirded out by it, or afraid that it is time wasted (a fear that undermines much of my past forays into more experimental theatrical approaches).  Everything that we have done, every exercise and warm-up, is in a very real way linked to the show.  Some make us look at characters in a different way, and some just bring us together as an ensemble.  What I have found most intriguing are the exercises that involve, as we have begun to say, “The DNA of the Play”. Actually, for me that is what this has all been about, really.  I have never thought of a play this way, but it makes so much sense I feel like it should have been obvious all along!

Now, I’m not but a lowly English major, and terms like DNA usually make my brain shutdown on first contact.  However, it just makes sense.  Everything in the play is connected, every line resonates differently due to the lines that come before it, whether in the same conversation or not.  All the themes, all the characters, everything is connected, and it is the discovery of this, the mapping out of the arcs and through-lines that I have found amazing.

And, of course, working with Kali has been fantastic.  She brought us a massive tool box, and filled it with inventive, interactive, and most importantly FUN ways of finding the DNA, finding our characters, and finding a new way to enjoy theater.  When the group lurches around the room together, then falls to floor crying, then hysterically starts laughing (And all without any prompt to do so!), I as an actor feel the DNA.  It is one thing to talk about it, and quite another to become part of the DNA yourself.  To which we owe Kali a tremendous debt.

I know I have mentioned it before, but I’m going to say it again.  This cast is awesome.  With a show like this, and the direction that we are taking it, it is crucial for everyone to be on board 100%, and to try their absolute hardest.  Which is exactly what is happening.  The work ethic of every member is astounding, and everyone comes to rehearsal with an open mind.  And the best part is, we all have fun together at the same time!  I could not have picked a better ensemble to work with, or one I would have more fun working with.

We’ve done so much in so little time.   I thought I knew the play before, but now I see it in a completely different way.  Actually, its more accurate to say that I see it in a myriad of different ways.  The subtleties of the text, the dark humor, the way everything fits together, I never noticed any of it before.  Its like we are doing a completely new play.  Which, I guess, in a way we are.  Because the very way in which we are searching for and discovering the DNA of the play alters it permanently at a profound level.

And all of this before we even began working directly with the text!  I have learned more about “Uncle Vanya”  than I thought would be possible in just three weeks.  I cannot wait to see what more we can do in the next couple of months.


what a piece of work is (hu)man

One of the loveliest feelings I can have when I’m working hard on something or for something is the feeling of “This is why I do this.”

This is why I spend my time and energy on this. I hope you all are feeling that lovely feeling as often as I am through this process. I know I’ve said it a few times to a few of you, but the reason I love the performing arts so much is that they let you be—and force you to be—human. Theatre I think is the most visceral, primal, and rudimentary because it forces us to be exactly what we (as humans) are. Scared, sad, vengeful, lovelorn. And it forces us to do that by becoming uncomfortably real. All we do every day is put on the acceptable clothes, say the acceptable things, and move in acceptable ways. Sit, walk, lie down. I’m fine, how are you. And while I appreciate that that is how society functions I still feel such relief when we can come into the studio and use our bodies and voices. The realm of potential for physical and vocal expression is virtually endless, and we use such an incredibly miniscule patchy crummy sliver of it every day. What rich pleasure to scream and cry and laugh and sing and dance and fall and crawl and run with abandon! That in itself is fulfilling!

And the best part of this simple and wonderful four hours of humanity is that it is teaching us how to be humans. Specific humans, in this case, but who says that can’t give us some general knowledge as well? I bet we all have a heightened awareness of who is speaking to us at what pitch, and from what center of their body.

I can almost liken it to being this body with no sense of self. Kali helps us figure out how to move. How do people move? How does this person move? And why? And the why comes right from Jules and Jeff teaching us how this person might think or feel and what causes those thoughts or feelings and gradually we understand how to be a human being. Maybe one named Sonya.

What I usually hold in my left hand is the worry that the characters I try to take on aren’t distinct enough from who I am. How can I differentiate between myself and this person? Especially if it’s someone I feel like I know, who I can relate to. I think every person in the world can relate to Sonya. But the more I learn how to be human, the more I can see that I’m just pulling pieces of Play-Doh off of Faye to stick on Sonya because it’s all the same material. It’s becoming less “how can I be Sonya?” and “how can I be human?”

I think most of these ideas are sinking in so well for Vanya because what is it about if not humans doing human things. We talked about Chekov wanting his plays to reflect everyday life—the monotony and the discontent, the shuffling, sitting, standing, lying down, I’m fine how are you. This isn’t song and dance, not an acrobatic feat. But this fulfills us by utilizing that tiny sliver of human expression to reveal how much is really there, how much hurt and joy, and humanity. And for us in class or in the audience that is so satisfying. To look at humans doing human things and recognize ourselves. Quietly, with our hands in our laps.