Friday, September 23, 2016

Libby Grunenwald

This is my first STC production, and it has been challenging! As you may know, one of STC’s values is acting with honesty, which just means that its actors should try to put on the mindset of the character and interact and react from that, instead of acting as if you were that character. I have found it more difficult than I expected to act with complete honesty. Sometimes, I unintentionally slip into the related “show you what it would be like if this were happening to this character ” mode instead of trying to react as if I actually were that character. At other times, I have felt pressured into acting in a dishonest way so that I’ll look like I’m doing the right thing.

Another thing that I need to work on is going “all in”. On Wednesday the Witch’s Army gathered to start staging our scene with Aslan at the Stone Table. The first thing we did was read-through with acting, making it up based on the script. We were all hesitant about making noise or doing any big  actions. Kivan tried to get us to “loosen up” and be a noisy, jeering mob. We improved, but it still wasn’t what it could have been. At the end, Kivan told us that we didn’t get as far as he wanted us to, because we spent so much time discussing commitment. I’m sorry now that I didn’t commit fully at rehearsal. Not only is it making the scene more structured and less exciting, since we’re being told what to do a lot  instead of creating it ourselves, we now have more work to do later. I know it’s going to be difficult, but with God’s help and application of what I’ve learned on my part, I believe I can become a much better actor by the end of this production. I’m praying that God will help me to “work at it with all. . . [my] heart” (Col. 3:23-24), even if it is humblingly hard..  

One of the things we did last Monday at rehearsal was run-through part of Act 1. Since I have a small part, I have not been at all the practices, and have not seen all the work that was being done on stage combat. Wow!! Some of the stage combat between Zander (Fenris Ulf) and Ben T. (Mr. Tumnus) was very convincing! In addition, I could feel the strong tension in the air during James (Peter) and Zander’s fight scene. Other things that impressed me during the run-through was Parker’s performance of the White Stag and Morgan’s of the White Witch. For both of them, it was apparent that they were being their character and not just portraying it, which grasped my attention and made me interested in their character.

I am thankful that I am a part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and look forward to where we’ll take it between now and opening night.

-Libby Grunenwald
Witch’s Army

Monday, September 19, 2016

Julia through the Wardrobe!

I really love the story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I was really excited when STC announced it as their fall play. I didn’t know the story behind it though. I thought it was just a cool story about 4 kids visiting their uncle, then discovering a magic world. But it turns out, their “uncle” wasn’t an uncle at all. He was a professor that lived in the country during the Blitz. The Pevensie didn’t know him at all, and their mother had just sent them off to live with a stranger to get them out of the dangers of London. That shows you how far people will go to protect their children. When we started staging our first scene, a montage, or a collection of short scenes, about the Blitz, it really hit me how hard this was on families. I started to understand more about the reasons behind the story, and I think it really helped us get in the world that the Pevensie children were living. I don’t think a lot of people understand how Narnia was such a place of happiness and peace for the children because home was the exact opposite. Narnia is an amazing place and I really think more people should know that. Even though Narnia isn’t all good, most of it is. There are really cool magical creatures that we wouldn’t get a chance to be anywhere else. In the two armies, everyone has their own creature that fits with their personality. Narnia seems like a really amazing place that everyone would love to visit, and what I think is even more amazing is that we get to. The Blitz wasn’t a happy place in time, but Narnia was. I’m learning a lot about both as the rehearsals go on. I love our first scene and I’m really excited to stage the rest of the play. I think as we go on we’ll keep learning more and more about the show and our characters.

Lion, Witch, & Wardrobe

This is my second production with Story Theater Company. My first production was Honk Jr!,
which was a musical. That makes the Lion Witch and Wardrobe my first play to ever act in, and  I am excited for this experience. I’ve helped backstage with plays, and they seem a lot different than in musicals. So I am very excited to see what acting in a play is like. Acting in Story Theater Company is amazing. I’ve learned so much, and the friends I’ve made there are now my family, and the experiences I’ve encountered there, I have learned a lot from. I am so excited and thankful that I am a part of Lion Witch and Wardrobe.
Our very first rehearsal, we had a read through. We all were in a circle, and when it was our characters turn we would step out in the middle, and act/read our lines. This gave us a chance to see all the possibilities our story had for blocking, and we were able to get a good first picture of what Lion Witch and Wardrobe could turn into. With the read through, we can develop the pictures that we think of when we read the script, and then work with the blocking and directions are given to us in the script, and we can make it an honesty story.
The next rehearsal we had, we learned about all of our characters, and their history. By learning about our characters, we are able to better understand them, their circumstances and their objectives, so we can portray them well. With the dramaturgy, I was able to learn more about my character, before that, I never really knew what Wood Nymph’s (evil) did, much less was. With knowing what they are, I am able to put my circumstances, even though I may always be fighting in the witch's army, I still have to consider that I have to protect my tree and it’s surroundings- or else it will die. We also learned some stage combat. We learned how to stage punch and fall, and basic swordplay. It’s always important to know that in any stage combat, the victim is always in control of what is happening, that way nobody gets hurt.  
      Within the first rehearsals, we have already gotten a lot of work done. I am so proud of all the commitment that my peers have made, and all the progress that we have already done. I can't wait to see what Lion Witch and Wardrobe has ins tore for us. I believe this will truly be a great and honest play.

Anika Slowing
Witches's Army

Fun Challenges

In this play we face several challenges, all of which are a little hard and mostly fun, and some of which I’d like to talk about.
There is the challenge of acting honestly onstage, using our given circumstances to make a character real.
There is the challenge of memorizing and blocking the whole play, not only for the sake of performing but also getting to know the story and making it our own. Specifically to this story, there is the challenge of staging an entire battle as realistically as possible.
These things are not only challenging, but also fun. We tackle each rehearsal with a willingness to learn and discover. One of the things we discover more every time is how to become a character.
To become a character honestly, you have to understand that character. One of the hardest things for me to do is to actually be the character, instead of analyzing every action the character would do, and what exactly would make it most realistic. This challenge is different for each of us, but we all understand the importance and difficulty of it. Every time we are set to work on character discovery, I try and find out more about my character; things like: What are my character’s objectives? How does she walk and talk? Is she confident? Trying to define a character in this way helps you become them; think like them; act like them.
I think Kivan’s dramaturgy really helped most of us with defining our character and understanding how they think, move, and live.  Doing research on the kind of animal you are, or what London was like during the Blitz, helps to find out about the environment your character lives in. These new discoveries are very interesting, and I can’t wait to keep learning to live out my character as if I was she.
Another challenge we face is creating the story. By this I don’t just mean memorizing and blocking, but really understanding the story and making it ours. We can use the script for most of this, going over it and thinking about the scenes; but it also depends on how you interpret it. It’s up to us to take the written lines and make them our own, to turn the whole thing into something spectacular. Each new play is a new learning process, whether it is your first, your last, or somewhere in between. With every new script and character, we have fun with experimenting and discovering what the play really is. A good way to do this is the kind of read-through we’ve done for the last few shows, which means we not only read the lines but we also get up and move around, making actions as we come to them, and taking risks with what we do and how we do it. Taking a risk with one of your lines or movements is a really important part of staging. If we all flatly said the lines written down for us, then wait for Kivan to tell us what to do, the play would be very hard to do and very boring, indeed.
We have all done a great job of jumping in and using the script to create a wonderful experience, and a fantastic show. For some of us this is our first show experience, and I hope all of our newcomers feel welcome and excited. You’re not newcomers anymore, you’re one of us now!
A third challenge we face is the stage combat involved in this play. So far we have learned the basic punch and some sword movements, and I’m excited to see what we can do with them and what else we can learn. This is another instance where knowing your character comes into play, because if you have no idea how your character fights, it might be very hard to move forward in staging the battle.
STC has not done much stage combat in shows before, especially not a battle in which almost the entire cast is involved. As this is a new experience for most of us, it’s fun to discover new fighting styles, who works best together, and the like. This battle may be one of the biggest challenges we face, but it can also be one of the most fun. As we move forward, it will be interesting to discover the intricate blocking and the right movements to make the battle awesome.
Even though we are still early in the rehearsal process, we have already grown together as an ensemble, and we’ve been working together fairly well. As we continue to learn and discover, I believe we will work through each of these challenges, not only taking them seriously but also seeing the fun in them. Let’s make this play awesome!

~Bethany VanDyk (Unicorn)

Thursday, September 8, 2016


After previously participating in eight productions at Story Theater Company, it is wonderful to be participating in another show. However, I am always amazed that a show is never just “another show” at Story Theater Company. We explore every aspect of every production and every character, and each ensemble creates a new and fascinating new product. The process of discovering this show has already begun, and I am sure that, with a lot of hard work, we will be able to create a truly beautiful piece of theater.

First, we had the read-through, a rehearsal in which we explore the story for the first time, put our initial thoughts into the playing space, and begin to develop a tightly-knit ensemble. Story Theater Company has begun to do read-throughs in a very unique way. Instead of sitting in a circle and reading our lines, we go into the center, the playing space, and act out our scenes. Each time that we have done a read-through this way, I understand more advantages of this system. Last Saturday, I discovered that being in the center forces you to actively explore the story. You care more about what other characters are doing when you are watching them, which is essential to creating the most interesting play. Other characters can influence your character, as well as help you understand where you fit into a greater picture. Our goal is to tell a story, and we can not do that without every piece of the puzzle. Seeing how Aslan acted towards the children, gave me a better understanding of what Mr Beaver, my character, already knows about his king. Watching that scene also helped me see how I contributed to making the prophecy come true. All of the details in every scene can have an impact on your scene. This form of read-through also helps us to create a stronger ensemble since you get to experience your relationship with other characters early on in the process. I know that I have already become closer to Olivia, the actress portraying Mrs Beaver, from the read-through. Our characters were constantly relying on each other for support throughout the show. This is a fantastic opportunity, because you need to understand the importance of everybody else to create the best quality of show.

Another concept we have been exploring in this production has been stage combat. Though this is not the main concept we will be exploring during this production, it is a very useful storytelling device that we will be utilizing. With an emphasis on safety, it has been fascinating to investigate a completely new concept. I have learned how to be specific when throwing a punch and reacting to a kick or punch, as well as battling with swords. It was really interesting to see James VanDyk and Zander Reed demonstrate a battle because they were able to be incredibly specific and keep the stakes high. If we can all be this dedicated, the stage combat will be very effective in this story. I also learned about effective stage combat from watching the Fenris Ulf and Mr Tumnus scene being worked on. Every time that Mr Tumnus was attacked, Ulf had a very important reason to harass him. His objectives were very clear, so the audience was able to be engrossed in the scene. It was also very interesting to see Ben (Mr Tumnus)'s reaction to the stage combat improve throughout the day. When they were done staging the scene, Ben had very committed actions and vocal reactions, which caused a very realistic fight.

As many of you know, honesty is something that is highly valued at Story Theater Company. It is very important to make sure every moment in the show is realistic and well-earned. We are working very hard to make sure this production is extremely honest. To make sure you have an honest performance, you need to carefully consider all of your circumstances, the facts, before you go into a scene. We often talk about "the magic 'if'". If a certain situation occurred, how would you actually respond to it? To know how your character would respond to any given situation, you need to know the facts about them at that moment. Achieving honest performances is something that I am still working on, and I am still struggling to define what honesty really is. The first couple of rehearsals for Narnia have helped me with that, because we all tried to re-discover what honesty meant. In one of the exercises that we did, we were told to perform a piece titled "Sitting on an Acting Block". The cast members who went into the playing area during this exercise felt the need to move. They felt that it would not be entertaining if they did not perform actions. However, we learned to put up the fourth wall and not worry about entertaining people. Even though it may seem that everything you do is subtle, it is important to stay true to reality and not "perform" for the audience.

Finally, we have been doing a lot of dramaturgy, finding true facts that will influence the story, during this production. Kivan did an abundance of research on the mythical creatures of Narnia, and he gave a presentation with important facts he found. However, he encouraged us to dig deeper and find more facts that would influence our characters. As Mr Beaver, I researched beavers and found many facts that helped to explain moments in the play that seemed dishonest. For example, I came across the fact that beavers typically have families with approximately ten children. This helped me understand why we feel the need to take care of the children. We are very loyal to our country and want the prophecy to come true, but we also might feel more significant if we get to care for children, as we never had any of our own. I also found that beavers can stay active during the winter and are not greatly affected by cold weather. In one scene, I say, “It’s this blasted cold weather. I’ll never get used to it.” This fact helped me be more specific in that scene, since I knew that he was not bothered by the cold weather itself, but the spell that made it cold. It also made it more clear that he is taking his anger out on other things because his dam broke. As we continue to research, everybody is able to specify their character more and more, and this work has already showed in rehearsal.

I am so excited to discover every moment of this show, as we continue to refine our acting with specificity, honesty, and all of the other matters that we explore at Story Theater Company.

Ben Siegel

(Mr Beaver)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Parker McIntosh

I have learned a couple things working on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  The first being it takes commitment to your role outside of theater as well.  In my case, when I was offered the role of the White Stag, ballet was mentioned.  Having no past ballet experience, I knew it was going to take more than just working while at the rehearsal space. It takes more than just committing while you are at the space.  Practice makes perfect, and in a show full of stage combat and fight scenes, practicing could save someone a few bruises.
The other lesson I’ve learned is you can never know too much about the play you are in, or the characters involved, even if they aren't yours.  Knowing more about your character makes things much easier when you are a part of ensemble.  Sometimes it’s easy to make an ensemble of many people all playing the same character, but that leads to things being rather boring and cliche.  In our show, everyone has their own specific creature to research, and we can all create our own personal versions of them.  We could have a group of kids all making the same angry, but where is the fun in that?  We have amazing creatures such as Ogres, Hags, Boggles, and Specters.  And it doesn’t just apply to the Witch’s army.  Aslan’s army has its variety of creatures as well: The Wood Nymphs (Flower, Oak, Wind, Fresh Water.), a Phoenix, Centaurs, and Minotaur.
Sure, you could always perform a show the way it was originally made, but I’m not sure I would want to see a show the same way more than once.   It’s the same old thing for the audience, and it’s too easy for the actors.  I think having a challenge creates a better experience.  It’s easy to stand and be the nasty White Witch who loves no one but herself, but digging past that, and finding the inside: her objectives, her circumstances, and finding out if maybe deep down she has some compassion for her followers. 

We are early on in the process, but I can already tell this is not a show I couldn’t miss seeing.

       Parker McIntosh.

Carly Breen

I’ve been doing STC shows for a long time now, and I’ve never gotten bored
of them. I’ve loved every play I’ve been in and I love all the people I’ve
met through STC. It really feels like a welcoming community of people to
just be themselves and put together a show we are all proud of, and I’ve
grown to look up to everyone I do these plays with. However, Narnia was
different for me. This was the first non-musical I’ve ever been in. I
didn’t know how different it was going to be from every other play I’ve
been in, or whether or not I’d be able to keep up with both the play and
school. Even though I knew I would have a fun time, I was nervous about
doing this play. But I tried out for it anyway. I wanted to give it a try
because even though it might have been very different from a musical, I
wanted to try something new. And I don’t regret. Like I said before, I knew
I was going to have a fun time. Yeah, it may not be a musical. But really,
what would have changed? There are still the same people who always make me
laugh, we still have that shared goal to make something great, nothing has
changed. And even though it may not be a musical, that still doesn’t stop
us from bursting out into song together randomly. So again, I don’t regret
being in Narnia, and I never will. And to anyone reading this blog, whether
or not you decide to give it a chance is up to you. But you are truly
missing out on something if you decide it’s not worth your time.

-Carly Breen