Saturday, October 22, 2016

Experiences So Far and Ensemble Experiences

    I am always amazed at how each show that I am in at STC is different from each of the previous shows. Every show, I learn something new that I have never learned before. This show, we have been focusing a lot about circumstances and how we can apply circumstances to our acting. We have also been focusing on some other very cool things that I am excited to share with all of you!

    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has been a fascinating play to work on so far! I can already tell that with all of the work that the actors and actresses are putting in that this is going to be a great show. Compliments aside, this show has also served as a portal for many new members to the Story Theater Company community and it has been such an honor to work with all of the new members! I love watching all of the newcomers act, I learn so much from seeing fresh new faces at Story Theater Company! So many things have been going on during rehearsals and I have learned so many new things through the course of this production.

On our read through day, we continued a read through style that we did for some of our more recent productions. When we were in scene, the actors and actresses would go up on the stage and work together to create a scene that went along with the lines that they were reading. This read through style is better than just reading lines for many reasons. One reason is that it gives actors and actresses a chance to lay out a scene’s framework and get ideas out at the beginning of the rehearsal process rather than waiting until the middle of some random day to finally say “Hey, I’ve been thinking...” It is also a great way to build the start of different relationships with different characters. When we just read from a page, it doesn’t build anything other than some line memorization or some honesty practice. When we go out and perform a scene, it builds more things than just honesty and line memorization. The read through was great and gave us a chance to really utilize this new type of read through that we have created and critiqued over a big window of time.

    So far, there have been so many different cool aspects that we have used during the rehearsal process. One of my favorites is the stage combat. Almost every rehearsal we have a specific amount of time allotted for working on our battles during the end of the show. Stage combat hasn’t just taught us how to safely fight onstage honestly, but it has taught us about trust and cues as well. The most important aspect of stage combat is trust. If you don’t trust your partner, you will get nowhere in making a successful stage fight. It’s as simple as that. Trust is the foundation on which stage combat is built upon. Cues are another important part of stage combat. You need to make sure to make your cues big when you are fighting. When they aren’t as big as they should be, the fighting can be unclear and unconstant (and unsafe!). We can apply both of these things into normal acting. It’s surprisingly simple and concise. You have to trust your fellow actors and actresses onstage and offstage and you need to pay attention to cueing and how you cue other people. It’s that simple and that’s why stage combat is a great way to work on trust and cues.

We have worked tremendously on our circumstances for this show. On Wednesday our director told us to discover another circumstance for our character. At first I was a little puzzled. As an ensemble member, I already have so many circumstances for my character, so why do I have to think of more circumstances? Then I remembered somebody saying that day that since Narnia is a fictional world, the circumstances are more extreme due to all of the different things that can take place in a fictional world. Some of my circumstances are that it has been winter for hundreds of years with no Christmas because the witch is in power, the witch’s spies are always watching every move and every decision I make, and the Pevensie children are here to fulfill the prophecy that can save us from the endless reign of the White Witch. Because those circumstances could never be true in the real world, people usually don’t take them as seriously as they need to be. When we acknowledge that these circumstances are more extreme in a fictional world due to absence from the real world, we are able to understand why they are important and apply them better to our story.

Now it’s on to finally discovering a new circumstance. Most people think about the mental circumstances that different characters have, but I feel like some of the overlooked physical circumstances need to be acknowledged as well. As a part of the ensemble, my character has probably been through a lot of battles with the witches spies already. This makes me tired, hungry, thirsty, and physically wounded. I feel that it has been a while since we have been in a battle, but this doesn’t mean that all of our wounds have been treated or all of our needs have been filled.

Something related to physical circumstances are body centers. I remember that my director Kivan really liked to talk about body centers in some past shows that I was in, but lately we haven’t really been talking about them too much. We have talked about them here and there and I’m pretty sure that everyone takes them into consideration, but these relate to our physical circumstances more than most people think. Body centers are points on your body where your character leads in walking and in basic movement. Because Aslan’s army has been through countless battles, our body centers could be towards our head or shoulders to make it seem like we are tired and weary. Because we are proud of our work as soldiers, our body centers could be towards our chest or stomach. We also have to take into consideration our characters physical appearance and mental state while choosing our body centers. Our body centers can also change throughout the story because of our character’s physical and mental state as I mentioned before.

Thinking about all of these things has given me a whole different perspective on how circumstances are handled, how they are applied, and how physical circumstances can be applied to body centers and other aspects. When any theater company takes these aspects of theater into consideration, they can turn their shows from good to great!
Now I should probably stop writing before this blog post takes up another page! If you have read this far you must be very committed. I admire you for reading my long long post.

Ryan Hinderaker
(Battle Boar)

Discoveries from our First Through

On Wednesday, we completed our first complete run-through of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It helped me to make many discoveries about specific concepts that actors must consider, as well as discoveries that are specific to my character, Mr Beaver.

    While I was onstage, I felt that our biggest obstacle was the lack of energy. One of our strengths at Story Theater Company is typically our strong listening, both on and off stage, and I felt that our listening was strong throughout most of the run. Since we are listening to each other so intently, we feed off of each other’s energy. We always build on each other’s ideas. If somebody has low energy as they share their character’s idea, it impacts the energy of every other actor/character in the scene. If we do not come into the scene with strong enough intentions, it hinders everybody’s ability to fully explore all of our options. We must fully commit to one idea before we can decide if there is a better one. Since it is still early in the process, it is understandable that many of us are uncertain about pieces of our acting and blocking. However, we cannot allow these uncertainties to lead to hesitancy. One actress that was very engaging during the run-through was Morgan Reetz, who is one of the actresses playing the White Witch, because she was able to overcome this obstacle. When she entered for the first time, she exerted an incredible power over Edmund. Not only did her commitment terrify and amaze everybody sitting in the audience, we were able to accurately analyze the blocking and acting of the scene. She truly showed what the characters and scene could be, and it will be very beneficial to further exploring that moment, as well as the character of the White Witch. In a later scene where Morgan gave a speech to her followers, I was fascinated by the way her energy was shared with the ensemble members. It proved to me that energy is contagious on stage.

This scene also helped me understand where your character’s energy comes from. I feel that you gain energy with strong adherence to circumstances, or facts about the story. When you boil down your circumstances and make them as specific as possible, you are able to become more personally invested in the story, since you are able to determine exactly what your character wants in each moment, exactly what may be keeping your character from achieving this goal, and exactly why your character needs to achieve this goal. This was proven to me in this scene, because there was a clear split between the actors who had specified their circumstances in this moment and those who had not. Some of the characters didn’t seem like they really cared about what happened, or their only motive seemed to be their desire to please the Witch. This mindset was a strong contrast from those who had specified every fact until they cared about everything that happened. I came to this conclusion after seeing a difference between characters with a lack of energy, characters with unfocused energy, and characters with focused energy. Those with a lack of energy or unfocused energy drew my attention away from the story and were not leaning in as much, while those with focused energy were incredibly invested on a personal level, making audience members care more about the story.

    Throughout the process of creating this show, I have learned so much from the acting of new artists at Story Theater Company. Each of the actors has a strong set of strengths, and they have helped me understand many important ideas. One of the most thought-provoking actors is Nate VanDyk.  He is always in the moment when he is acting, and every action he commits is related to what had just happened to him. This results in a very honest performance, as he is truthfully considering how his character, Edmund, would react. When you are watching Nate perform, you become incredibly engaged in everything that is occurring in front of you. He is working so hard to achieve his objective, and you are able to feel the importance of every one of his tasks. However, he is able to avoid the trap of becoming unrealistically intense or fighting as hard as possible without a break. He explores various dynamics, making his performance more relatable to the average person, who experiences a wide range of emotions. Nate’s fascinating balance between keeping the stakes high and remaining relaxed has helped me understand more about the potential depth of characters, and he has helped me realize that it is more important to let each obstacle hit you than it is to aggressively pursue your objective all of the time.

    We have been given the opportunity to make an endless amount of discoveries about theater, as well as this specific story, and these thoughts are only the beginning of the explorations we have been able to delve into. I am thrilled to continue to work at these issues and the other obstacles that we will face as we continue this process of creating Narnia, and I am extremely excited to specify all of the specific moments in this piece of storytelling.

Ben Siegel

(Mr Beaver)


Risk Taking

Risk: A situation that can involve exposure to danger. A situation that can, not will expose us to danger. Can and will are two very different words, and we often get that mixed up on stage. In theatre you have to take risks. They don’t always go as planned, but if we didn’t take risks, how would we tell the story? How could we build off of each other's ideas? At STC risk taking is one of the key ingredients to a great show.  We have to be comfortable with trying something that may not work. 
In rehearsal we play this game called the number game. Everyone sits in a circle, with their eyes closed, and we have to count as high as we can without two people saying a number at the same time as someone else, if someone does say a number at the same time as someone else then we have to start back at zero. This game often gets very stressful, but it wouldn’t get anywhere, unless people take a risk.
There are often long pauses of silence and no one wants to say a number, because they think someone else  will say that number at the same time as them, and if we didn’t take risks this silence would go on forever. Nobody wants to go see a show where nothing happens. That is exactly why we take risks, to make something happen. This is where we need to remember that we don’t always get exposed to danger, and when someone remembers that they count up another number.
 They may have successfully taken that risk, or someone may have said a number at the same time as them. But it’s ok if it doesn’t work, that’s how we fix it. Sometimes all it takes to spark an idea is a small mistake. So don’t be afraid to take a risk, because if it doesn’t go your way, it could create something even more beautiful than what you expected.
In the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe it’s especially important that we take risks. There are so many creatures that aren’t in our world, therefore we don’t know how they act, or what they’re like in general.  So we pretty much just have to get up on stage and try it. For instance, my character is Mother Christmas. Santa Clause isn’t a very uncommon character, but it’s a little harder for me because I’m a girl. I have to take everything I know about Santa and alter it to fit me. We also have creatures that some of us have never even heard of. Like Hags, Boggles and Spectres. The only resources we have are the stories that we've heard about them.  Our director recently gave us the privilege of a presentation giving us more information about our characters.  So now that we know about our characters, we have the challenge of figuring out how to portray them on stage. 
Looking back on the previous shows I done with STC I get to see how much I’ve grown, and I can honestly say that STC is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life. If anyone is thinking about going out for a play, or going to a workshop, please do it, because you will be so happy you did. I’m so excited to be apart of more STC productions and I can’t wait until you can all come see The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Libby Gens
(Mother Christmas) 

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)