Author Archives: Michael Dove

Acting is Weird

So, since it’s been over 5 years since I’ve last performed, (and my first full production as an actor for Forum), I thought I’d write a bit about the experience. I’m currently rehearsing for bobrauschenbergamerica and playing the role of Wilson, the hapless, confused, romantic who pines for Susan and a greater understanding of love. It’s a super fun role and has me really excited about being onstage again.

That said:

Acting is weird.

And kinda hard.

Has it only been 5 years? It feels like 25. We had our initial “on feet” rehearsal a few days ago and it was not disimilar to using my legs for the first time. I felt like my lower body was attempting to speaking Chinese and my upper body was in a straightjacket.

Now, as a director, I can rock out some table work. I can intellectualize the hell out a script—it’s my way in. So, for those rehearsals, I felt great. In fact, I really enjoyed the process of delving into a single character and doing all the work I wish I could as a director.

Working out the through line for my character (Wilson) in such a non-linear play is teaching me a great deal about how to work with an actor in such a process when I direct, next. Derek Goldman is hands-on, thoughtful, and questioning in all the ways you’d ask for in a process like this. I’m sure his background in devising and writing plays a factor in this and it’s been a great learning experience, already.

But then came time to get “up on feet.” Full-time actors: you truly have a great gift and amount of skill. I have always respected the ability of my fellow collaborators, but having been out of the game of acting for so long, I’m in awe of the level of focus you bring to a show.

Trust me–these early parts of the rehearsal process are delicate, frustrating, self-conscious, and confusing. It’s a lesson in patience and awkwardness and failure. I can hear my own director voice reminding me to “make big choices! Throw any idea onto the wall!” and my new actor voice responding with various versions of “I FEEL LIKE AN IDIOT MOVING THIS WAY AND SAYING THAT LIKE THIS!”

Add to this the fact that bob contains a great deal of dancing. Now, old friends of mine will remember that I did show choir in high school. These same acquaintances will also be aware of how unsuccessful my efforts at graceful movement were. Kelly Mayfield, our amazing choreographer (who somehow has more energy than any of us, despite being mere weeks away from giving birth) has encouraged us to find how we move naturally and embrace our mistakes. Let’s just say dance step failure has become a “character quirk” for me.

We still have a few weeks to sculpt and play. Tonight is the dreaded “off-book” night….another big event in my other-side-of-the-room adventure. Hopefully, I’ll put up another post closer to opening. Make sure you get your tickets—there are some amazing folks involved with this project and a really fun script that I think you will all enjoy.

….and if that’s not enough, there’s the curiosity factor of seeing me onstage. Probability level of me tripping and falling during a dance number is very high 🙂

–Michael

Choosing a Season: A Diary (part 2)

Now that One Flea Spare has closed, the focus of the company has returned to what we’ll do next season. We continue with our series of posts on choosing a season that started with part 1. Again, Artistic Director, Michael Dove:

OK. So, first an apology for going a few months in-between these posts. I did the last one on December 7th, and here it is mid-March, and not only have we not announced our season (after hoping to do so a few weeks ago), but I haven’t even been checking in and reporting on the process. The Forum Transparency Police have given me a swift slap on the wrist and we are moving on.

What we have been doing over these past few weeks and months is reading. Reading. Reading. Then discussing. Then cutting down the “shortlist” and reading and discussing again. What started as a list of about 50 plays made its way down to 7-8.

Now, in certain years, we’ve had two solid choices and then some time where it didn’t look like we’d find a third only to have an 11th hour surprise that excited us all and made the season complete–both numerically and spiritually.

This year, we really love more than three. Some have returned to the list after not quite making it, for one reason or another, in seasons’ past. They include those “dream projects” that didn’t fit in previous line-ups, plays that have literally been developing over the years and keep getting better and better, and a few completely new ones that just came onto our radars and have us seriously jazzed about the prospects of producing them.

This past Sunday, we gathered to talk about the list and discuss what excited us most about each project. What themes seem to be surfacing, what the stories say about us, in this present moment, and what questions these plays pose to our audience. Many came with some fears, too: “Can we really afford that? Will this story speak to audiences in the way we think the playwright intended? Are we the right group to tell it?”

We then take all of these factors and see how they stack up against one another. It’s not quite alchemy, an I still don’t exactly understand how it all comes together, but it’s a beautiful and challenging experience.

So why haven’t we just come up with a season and told you all about it? Well, for many reasons. In essence, we’ve confirmed some choices, but we are throwing a few unconventional ideas into how we produce, next season, and that takes a bit more planning. Some possible collaborations to confirm, a few different scheduling ideas. So, at the risk of going on and on in this uber-cryptic manner, I’ll just say that we are playing with a few really exciting plans that go beyond our typical three-show/four week run way of producing and that takes a bit more time than usual. (tease! tease!)

Stay tuned….I promise you’ll hear from me sooner than later…..

–Michael

 

(Re)Action to FLEA: “Contagion and Quarantine”

As part of our Naomi Wallace (Re)Acts event on February 28, Company Member Jesse Terrill composed this piece, as a reaction to One Flea Spare. For the performance, we asked writers and composers to create work that was in reaction to Wallace’s poetry and theatre.

Jesse described the composition as “a piece influenced by One Flea Spare, musicalizing a shift from one’s once vibrant, cultivated lifestyle in mid-17th Century London to a lonely, uncertain quarantine from the Bubonic Plague.”

Check out what Jesse composed, plus images from the production, all by Melissa Blackall:

One Flea Spare Cast/Crew Bios

If you weren’t able to read up on all the amazing artists and crew members who are making One Flea Spare, you can read their bio’s here: One Flea Spare Bios

Open Thread: The Power of Theatre?

Very interesting blog post from The Guardian titled “Subversion on stage: can theatre change the world?” focusing on the recent interactions/confrontations between theatres in Hungary, Belarus, and Iraq.

What do you think?

Belarus Free Theatre's production of Being Harold Pinter

Up Next: ONE FLEA SPARE (show artwork)

Up next at Forum is Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare and here’s the awesome show artwork by the ever-awesome Carolyn Sewell! Flea runs February 17 – March 12, 2011.



Notes From the Cast: Joseph Thornhill

Joseph Thornhill (L) and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (R)

 

How does someone move on from war…?

Imagine waking up one morning, and something feels different.  You get out of bed, put some clothes on, then step outside and look around your neighborhood.  All the windows of neighboring houses are shut, maybe even boarded up.  Many of your neighbors are packing all their earthly possessions into their cars, some only taking what they can easily carry. There’s actually a traffic jam on your street, with cars backed up in every adjoining street as well. The whole world seems to be trying to get on the interstate, trying to get away.  You approach your next door neighbor’s house, but it’s clear no one is home. You go further down the street to ask anyone who you encounter what exactly is going on. Before you even get to the next house, however, you see it….

Across the street. What once was the house of a neighbor is now a burned out husk. You approach the charred wreckage, stunned by the sight of it all, the acrid smell stinging your nostrils. You desperately try to remember if you heard sirens in the night from fire engines.  You don’t see any sign of the home’s inhabitants, but clearly make out the scrawls of graffiti painted on the lawn and driveway. “This is no longer your neighborhood. Get out. Or you are next.”

You run home. The world is now upside down. “Where are the police? Why haven’t they come? How did this happen? How long do I have before the attackers of my neighbors house come back?”  You do as your neighbors do: you don’t think, you grab everything you can, pack up your car, and join the throngs of people fleeing. You aren’t sure where to go, maybe a relative’s house, maybe a friend’s.  The roads are packed, cars barely moving, the traffic jam stretching for miles.  People step out of their vehicles while they wait, discuss what they know. You hear stories of attacks by groups of armed men on sleeping families. Roadblocks. Executions.  Angry civilians seeking retribution for wrongs done to their families, to their neighborhoods. Overnight, the established order is gone, and the birth pains of a new order are beginning.

I’ll stop here, and I’ll ask my initial question again. How does someone move on from war? What exactly is that adjustment like from war to peace? Especially in situations where the war was a war of neighbors, a war of families.  When all is said and done, when the cease fire is called, when the treaties are signed, how do get up and go to work the next day remembering what your neighbors did to you, to each other, or what you did to them?

For one character I play in the show, the janitor Fahim, those questions were central to how I would portray him on stage.  He committed a terrible crime against humanity, and never suffered any consequences for it.  He wasn’t a commander or leader, he was a grunt, someone who followed orders. However, in spite of his apparent powerlessness, his one moment of redemption reveals that he was never without power.  He could have made different choices, he didn’t have to go along with crowd.  How does that weigh on a man’s soul? How does he wake up day after day for decades after and accept what he did.  Can his life ever feel fulfilled knowing that the greatest thing he ever did was the worst thing a man could possibly do?

Can the victims of violence ever forgive? Can people learn to overcome the cycle of hate and violence which tears apart so much of our world’s surface? Can those of us in the United States ever come to understand that we too play a role in our own cycle? As of September 2010, there were approximately 1.5 million internally displaced people in the country of Iraq. 1.5 million people who fled their homes following the overthrow of the old order, and the advent of the new.  1.5 million stories, all different, yet all the same. 1.5 million memories of anger, victimization, and loss. 1.5 million cries to make sense of it all. 1.5 million Fahims.

–Joseph