Behind The Scenes of NORWAY (Week 2)

January 10th-15th, 2011.

Hi everyone, Evan Sesek here again to bring you behind the scenes of the NORWAY rehearsal process.  The first week of rehearsal was about getting a general “shape” to it–getting some basic blocking down, and figuring out where there are some majors shifts (emotionally or otherwise). This week (Week 2) is more about running what we’ve worked, stopping, and refining certain moments. For example, in one scene, we spent a good deal of time on the words, “I’m sorry.” It’s funny how just two words can have such weight and if said in the wrong tone can completely change the scene. Like the words “I love you”, they’re so loaded and could be said to hurt someone, to comfort someone, or to mock someone. It’s also a credit to Matt’s great directing, always paying attention to details while keeping the entire play in mind.

In this second week, we’ve also been dealing with the challenges the script presents. One of the awesome things about this play (and one of the biggest hurdles) is that it not only takes place in between two time periods (2001 and present day), but also between spaces (bedrooms, coffee shops, parking lots, etc.). So, how do we communicate to the audience where and when we are, while also not lengthening the play or distracting the audience with scene changes? I don’t know if we’ve completely settled on a solution, but having Matt, Sam, Peter (sound designer), and Mike, and eventually Racquelle Davis (lights, she’s currently in NY) all on board, I know there will be an interesting solution.

Speaking of Peter, it’s been great to have him in every rehearsal. In my experience, the Sound Designer works with the director during the process, but very intermittently and then shows up around Tech Week to lay in the sound cues. However, Peter is there for every rehearsal, listening and watching the scenes, and experimenting with sound and music that will heighten and support these scenes. At the top of the play, he experimented with four different pieces of music/sound, and he and Matt decided on one. With Peter here, the performances and the text influence the sound choices (and vice versa), making the process that much more collaborative.

George Prentice of the Boise Weekly interviewed the cast, Sam, and Matt on Friday–so keep a look out for a Preview article there. Anyway, hope the weekend has been swell for everyone, check in next week for another look behind-the-scenes of NORWAY.–Evan

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Behind The Scenes of NORWAY

January 3rd-7th,2011

Hi there, Evan Sesek here to bring you behind-the-scenes for the co-world premiere production of NORWAY by Samuel D. Hunter (in which I play the character of Andy).  Just to give you some quick background info on myself, I started taking acting lessons when I was about six years old through ITY (later the Idaho Shakespeare Festival Drama School). So from a very young age I was running around the halls of Boise Contemporary Theater, dreaming to one day to be on that stage in a mainstage show.

Since then, I’ve interned and acted for the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference,  a two week conference in McCall, ID dedicated to developing new plays. I met Sam Hunter there and have seen two of his plays developed at the conference (I AM MONTANA, read in the 5X5 Reading Series in ’08, and IDAHO/DEAD IDAHO—another fantastic play). And for the past year and a half, I’ve been the Marketing Intern at BCT, so I’ve been working in the office, getting to know Matt Clark (director of NORWAY/BCT Artistic Director) and the rest of the awesome staff here.  Then last year, I read in the 5X5 reading of NORWAY (then titled ATLASING SODOM). The title changed for a few reasons, but I often remember telling people about the play and thinking I was saying Atlas In Sodom (or some variation). NORWAY is much simpler, eh?

But enough about me, let’s talk about rehearsal, which just started this week. (January 3rd). On the first day, I met Clint Morris who plays my best friend in the play, Brent. He’s a cool dude and everyone is enjoying having him around. He actually grew up in a city in Georgia not too far away from NORWAY set designer Michael Baltzell (small world!).

Speaking of Mike, he showed us the set model (You can check out a picture of the set model here: ) Just a ¼ inch model to give a general idea of what the set will look like. Sam’s description in the script is: “The stage should look like a parking lot; paved asphalt…In back of the stage, a shiny baby grand piano—the only ‘beautiful’ part of an otherwise industrial looking stage.” I think it looks great and really fits Sam’s concept. It’s simple, bare bones, and really captures the desolation. It goes without saying that Mike is a great set designer (among other things, including director, technical director, and musician).

Then we went ahead and read the play. I think we’ve got a really good team assembled and it’s going to be an exciting process.  Sam has already suggested some minor cuts and plans to rewrite a scene or two. From the few years I’ve worked with Sam at Seven Devils, he’s never been shy of rewrites and often would come in with several new pages a day—often whole scenes.  The fact that we have three world premieres this year is exciting because the process is so cool and, also, not often done in Boise. The ability to have the writer in the room, providing insight into his vision for the play, and changing things to clarify or emphasize is fantastic and I hope it’s something we continue to do at BCT. (Check out a picture during rehearsal, with Sam rewriting, here:

Anyway,  I’m super excited for this play and I can’t wait for everyone to see it. That’s all for now, I’ll check in with y’all in a few days. Also found out I’ll be in the reading of THE WHALE (also by Sam Hunter), which will take place next Monday (1/10) as part of the New Work Reading Series. It’s a funny, brutal play and you don’t want to miss it. –Evan

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Behind the Scenes: Namaste Man

Check out these videos of Andrew Weems and Davis McCallum talking about the creation of Namaste Man, now playing at BCT.
Thanks to Evan Sesek for putting these together. The Music is by Jeff Rice.

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Day Five: Names

Today’s work included a discussion of names, specifically, the names of people and places in a particular section of the play. What names do we choose to use when speaking to one another? Do those choices change with circumstances? Mom, Mother, Mrs. Weems, Barb, Barbara, Mabel, Memsahib, these are all names for one character in Namaste Man, Andy’s Mother. The name used to address her  at any given moment says a lot about the relationship and the moment. Even the house where Andy lived in Nepal had a name: Woomera Ghar.

I went to Rattlestick tonight to see Craig Wright’s newest play, a modern adaptation of Oedipus. It’s nowhere near as good as The Pavilion or Lady. Too bad. Of the three plays I’ve seen in New York this week (two world premieres and a modern classic), it was the fresh interpretation of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, written in 1937 , that will stay with me.

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Day Four: Workshop

One of the unexpected benefits of this rehearsal structure (one week in NY, then two and a half in Boise) is that it helps to keep the options open early as if it were a workshop week. Andy is not yet standing on the stage at BCT where you (Do you have your tickets?) will soon be gathered to see Namaste Man. In a way, we are free from that pressure of production and we can better explore the options of style and chronology that will make the show in Boise distinct from the original production. Have I mentioned that this is just the second time Namaste Man has been produced? And it is already a very different, and even better incarnation of Andy’s play.

A Behanding In Spokane
Kristy, Justin and I went to the The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre last night to see McDonagh’s newest show. We all worked on The Cripple of Inishmaan together at BCT in 2001. And for Kris and I, the twisted brilliance of The Pillowman (BCT 2008) proved that McDonagh could tell stories that weren’t set in Ireland. Unfortunately, this play, his first set in the U.S., is not his best.

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Day Three: Travel

Wednesday’s rehearsal included a quick trip across the globe. One of the puzzles to solve in the staging of this show is about distance. Andy’s family traveled and lived all over the planet when he was a kid: Rome, Paris, Thailand, the Suez Canal, Zambia, a brief stop in Virginia then Calcutta and Kathmandu. Davis spent a good bit of reahearsal today working with Andy on different ways to tell that piece of the story. Should he use the width of the BCT stage to create real distance or should he be confined to a small square of light and depend more on the text. In the end, the part of the story most about movement may end up being the most still.

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Day Two: Ring Ring

Another great day with Davis, Andy, Peter & Kris. Andy arrived with a fresh version of the script with cuts and rewrites done the night before. Cutting a script can be hard for any playwright even when every character and scene are pure fiction. With Andy and Namaste Man it must be even harder. I can’t imagine the complex relationship he must have with this story, his story. The characters are real people, his parents, his siblings, his long lost friends. But he is up to the task. This is very hard work, but he is up to it and he has a fantastic collaborator in Davis.

It’s great to have Peter here (generously, on his own dime) to begin the work of creating the sound design from the very beginning of this rehearsal process. It was Peter who first brought Namaste Man to my attention. He was the sound designer for the world premiere in Seattle and lobbied for a BCT production. I’m happy that I listened to him.

The range of topics covered in a single day of rehearsal is always entertainingly broad. Today’s highlights: the difference between one telephone ring and two (ring…ring…ring vs ring ring…ring ring…ring ring), as well as Andy’s belief that all great plays contain some reference to, or exploration of the purpose of theater itself.

I witnessed further evidence to support that theory tonight.

I saw David Cromer’s production of Our Town at the Barrow Street Theater. I don’t know that I’m capable of describing the show without using what would seem to be hyperbole, but there was a scene change near the end of the play that made me weep and Michael Shannon was brilliant. Understated and simply brilliant. All the “folksy” pitfalls of a play that I thought had devolved into a bad community theater cliche were avoided. The power of simplicity was proven, proven again and then turned on it’s head.



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Day One: Namaste means hello. . . or goodbye.

It was a fantastic first day of rehearsal in New York. We are on the third floor of the Gowanus Arts Building in Brooklyn, a wonderfully weird old building with mosaic tile floors and oddly uneven stairs. Marion Williams, the set & costume designer was there to present her scenic design in the form of a beautiful model that recreates BCT impressively well, especially considering that she’s never been there. It features a large crate of objects, each of them important, suspended from the center truss. From this crate the pieces of the story are retrieved and revealed, many of them are Andy’s actual possessions, brought to rehearsal today in a well-worn suitcase. Andy read the most recent version of the script and we spent some time discussing the recurrence of antithetical yet coexistent truths: the play is about Nepal and yet the play is not about Nepal, it’s about all places; the “opposite thing can always be true.” I can’t wait for all of you to experience this story. Andy is a magnificent storyteller and the characters he creates in Namaste Man, are not only memorable but powerful.

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