Tag Archives: Theater

The “Sui Generis” Moment on Stage

It happened last night at rehearsal for Almost, Maine. It surprised me. It’s early in the rehearsal process and, while it’s not unheard of at this point in that process, it’s relatively rare in my experience.

The Latin term “sui generis” means “one of a kind,” and there is an experience that occasionally, mysteriously happens on stage that I find to be sui generis in life. It is an experience I have found unique to the art of acting, and actors who experience it once usually long to experience it ever after. It is a moment on stage that is other worldly, when actors cross over into another dimension, into the reality of the scene they are playing. It doesn’t happen all the time. You can’t predict it and there is no formula for conjuring it. But, when it happens you never forget it.

When this moment happens, when you cross over, you feel the emotions your character feels and think the thoughts that are flying through your character’s brain. You are at once in both dimensions: being two actors on the community center stage in Pella Iowa, and being two characters in a living room at 9:00 p.m. on a dark winter’s night in northern Maine.

It is an indescribable experience. It is sui generis.

Wendy and I were rehearsing our scene Getting it Back last night. We haven’t rehearsed it many times. Our lines are not memorized, we don’t have all our props, and we’re still struggling to remember our blocking. Yet, as our characters began to argue and things escalated between Gayle and Lendall, it happened. We crossed over. It was incredible. When it happens, I can sometimes also feel those watching being ushered into the moment with us. That happened last night, too.

Wendy and I often comment that we love the rehearsal process almost more than performances. Last night was an example of why. It is in the rehearsal process that you do the work of excavation and exploration. It is in rehearsal that you seek out the doorway to that sui generis moment. Like the portals into Narnia the portals to those moments can mysteriously appear and disappear. The same entrance can sometimes usher you to that moment multiple times. Then, suddenly, the way is shut and you pick up the quest once more.

The quest for that sui generis moment is part of the mystery and magic of acting. It is what draws me back again and again. And when the moment surprises you, like it did at rehearsal last night, it is a one of a kind experience of Life.

I can’t wait for rehearsal on Thursday.

Marley’s Ghost Appears

Marleys Ghost Appears

I captured one of my favorite moments from this past weekend’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” Scrooge (expertly performed [and I don’t use those words lightly] by Lonnie Appleby) arrives at his home unknowing that he stands on the threshold of a fateful night filled with four visitors. As Ebenezer approaches his door (complete with an amazing gargoyle-like, lion’s head door knocker painted by set designer Mat Kelly), the ghost of Marley (hauntingly performed by Pat Moriarity) appears in a apparition and foreshadowing of things to come.

I loved standing outside the theatre during performances to hear the gasp of both children and adults as they found themselves as surprised as Scrooge himself. I love the magic, live moments that theatre creates.

They Say the Neon Lights are Bright…

The Broadway Theatre, showing the musical The ...
The Broadway Theatre],Manhattan, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a quick post this morning. For any who follow my chapter-a-day posts I want to let you know that a rather insane business travel schedule coupled with it being production week for my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad is going to make my posts a bit sporadic this week.

There is, however, a bit of irony in the way things have unfolded which I’d like to share. In all my travels around the country and and around the globe, I’ve never been to New York City. Late last week I found out I had to make a quick business trip to the Big Apple to visit a client. So after a long day of meetings today I’ll fly to New York for a day full of meetings tomorrow at my client’s office…on Broadway.

The day before my play opens in Pella, I’m going to be standing on Broadway for the first time. 🙂

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“Ham Buns” is Cast

Canon EOS 6D f/4 1/30 ISO250
Canon EOS 6D f/4 1/30 ISO250

On Saturday afternoon the cast of Ham Buns and Potato Salad was officially cast by director Ann Wilkinson. Last night the cast met for the first time and read through the script. I’ve been asked frequently if I was going to act in the show and that discussion continued until the final moments of audition. In the end, I decided that I did not want to be in the show. As the playwright, I’d rather watch the rehearsal and production process. I know there are things that are going to need to revised and rewritten to make the script even stronger (several things came up at last night’s read through) and I’d like to pour my energy into that process.

Not being in the show also means I get to take photos of the process, which I like to do, as well.

I’m excited about the cast and crew. Auditions yielded a strong group of actors (especially women and girls) and Ann had several difficult choices to make. It’s always hard when you know there are good actors who would have done a nice job in this or that role. That’s part of the sometimes brutal realities of theatre. Choices have to be made and for every person you make happy by casting them, you make several people unhappy by not casting them. Wendy has been cast to play one of my favorite characters in the play. There are two newcomers to the USP stage and I love having a few newbies in the mix along with a capable group of local stage veterans.

Here we go.

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Theatre is Ultimate Fitness for Your Brain!

A Little Brain Workout. It's True!
A Little Brain Workout. It’s True!

I’ve gotten a lot of interest over the past year or two for my post 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success. Now scientists are lending credibility to the fact that theatre may just be the ultimate fitness exercise for your brain! Check it out:

http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/04/12/is-theater-the-ultimate-brain/

 

Ham Buns and Potato Salad Downloads

Photo Pete Zarria via Flickr

Sometimes you have no choice but to go home.

When Thomas Prins was 18 his hometown of Hebron, Iowa (population 318) was boiling in  a scandal that was never resolved. He packed his bags and left for college in New York City. He went to school, found unexpected success as a writer and never looked back.

Twelve years later, after his parents lose their lives in a tragic auto accident, Thomas has no choice but to return home. The town prepares for the funeral and the local residents are atwitter that “Tommy” is coming home. With his return, heat is turned up on the old scandal which has quietly simmered in the town’s collective conscience since his departure.

Ham Buns and Potato Salad is a play about going home. It’s about grief and hope. It’s about confronting our past and stepping into our future. It’s about small town quirks and human frailties. It’s about fear and love and grace and forgiveness.

I’ve received requests from those who’d like to read the script and so I’m making it available for download in a PDF format along with a low-tech MP3 recording of an informal table reading of the script (in the event you’d rather listen than read). In addition, this post will remain as a page on my blog. Simply click on the “Ham Buns and Potato Salad” link in the header of my blog’s homepage for quick access. Feel free to pass it along if you know of anyone who’d be interested.

The Skinny on the Play

Ham Buns and Potato Salad is a full-length play in two acts.
Ten Characters:
Five Adult Males (Ages 30-60)
Four Adult Females (Ages 30-60)
One adolescent female (Age 12)
All action takes place in one setting and can be performed with minimal set.

All copyrights and production rights for Ham Buns and Potato Salad are held by the author. The downloadable script and corresponding audio recording are intended for private individual perusal and/or listening. They may not be copied, produced, performed or broadcast without the expressed, written consent of the author.

Please direct any questions or requests to tomvanderwell@gmail.com.

Downloads:

Ham Buns and Potato Salad.pdf

Ham Buns & Potato Salad Reading.mp3 (1 hr 40 minutes; 45 Mb)

Please note that the MP3 audio recording is of a table reading of the second draft of the script. Changes to the script were made after this reading.  Be advised that the audio version will not match perfectly with the PDF (but it’s close!).

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 29

“Children, don’t drag your feet in this! God has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship—this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.” 2 Chronicles 29:11 (MSG)

I was at rehearsal last night for our community theater’s production of Annie. It felt great to be rehearsing. I love it. I’ve been involved on stage most of my life. I was trained in theater all through junior high, high school and college. Then, I didn’t step foot on stage for sixteen years.

There is something inside you that is always out of sorts when you aren’t doing what you’re gifted and called to do.

Photo by Madison Vander Well

The people Hezekiah assembled before him were the men of the tribe of Levi, who were given responsibility for overseeing the temple and leading in worship. Everything in the nation was out of sorts. They hadn’t been doing what they’d been called upon to do, and until the Levites did their appointed work, and did it well, no one was going to experience the blessing of worship.

Do what you are gifted, called and given to do. Do it well.