Darling Dilettante—Discussing the Art of Fear By Haley Sprankle

dreamgirls2

“Do you ever get nervous up there?”

The age-old question for performers—the question of fear.

In just about every production I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, whether I’m the lead or the third white girl from the left, I’m asked this question by a person outside of the performance realm. They ensure me that they don’t understand how actors memorize each element of the show from lines to choreography to even just remembering to smile every now and then. I normally reply with “I used to when I first started, but now it just seems like second nature.”

Most recently, that question of fear prompted me to question myself and the things others around me do, though, and how we do them.

Every day, a banker goes to work. Every day a stay-at-home parent wakes up and takes care of their family. Every day a waiter or a writer or a bus driver or even the President of the United States gets up and fulfills their necessary requirements for the day. These could be things they’ve always done. These could be things they’ve just started doing. These could be things they love, or they could be things they don’t like.

dreamgirls

But they get up and they do them, and like most people feel about performing, I couldn’t even imagine doing these things.

With most things people do for the first time, there was probably an initial fear or nervousness.

What if they don’t like my work? What if I mess up? What if?

We can sit back and ask ourselves “What if?” all day long, but we will never know what WILL happen if we don’t try. Sometimes, it will be a little messy. Sometimes, it will be hard. Sometimes, you will do all right. Sometimes, you will do it all wrong.

One thing, however, is common among all these instances—you learn something new about yourself.

I recently came across a Japanese term: Wabi-Sabi. It translates to “A way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting, peacefully, the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

In every new or old thing you do, there are endless possibilities, but in the end, the best opportunity you have is to take each outcome and turn it into something beautiful.

So why let fear hold you back from trying something new?

dreamgirls3

Last Friday, Dreamgirls opened at Trustus Theatre and will run through August 1st. The cast includes veterans to the stage and newcomers alike, all representing a long process of hard work, fun, and love that we have put into this show. For some of us, each night may just be another performance, but for others, one or more performances may be among the most nerve-wracking things they’ve ever done. At the end of each night, though, all we can do is do what we do best—put on a show. Things may not go exactly as planned, but that’s live theatre.

In live theatre, we support each other. In live theatre, we help each other. In live theatre, we build each other up.

In live theatre, we find the beauty within our fear and imperfections, and we turn it into art.

I won’t be afraid or nervous. I will be excited and proud.

Wabi-Sabi.

(Dreamgirls runs June 26-August 1. Go to trustus.org for tickets!)

Photos by Richard Kiraly

Posted in Haley Sprankle, Jasper Magazine, Theater, TRUSTUS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: Jurassic World is All Bite, Without a Tooth in Sight

jworld-banner-44

By Michael Spawn

SPOILER ALERT ALERT: There is no need to begin this film review with a warning about potential spoilers. Spoiler alerts exist to protect the curious reader against unsolicited advanced knowledge of plot twists, game-changing character development, surprise cameos, or an ending that jolts the nervous system of any moviegoer who thought he knew what he was getting himself into. None of these exist in Jurassic World, so settle down.

(Okay, here’s just one. Jeff Goldblum is not in this movie. The heart breaks.)

In the two weeks that have come and gone since Jurassic World was released in North America, much has been made of the movie’s misogyny, hokey-pokey dialogue, and inattention to scientific detail. All of these criticisms are legitimate to varying degrees (especially the dialogue thing. Holy lord. You know you’re in trouble when the CGI dinosaurs are more convincing communicators than the actors that actually received a paycheck), but to use these complaints as evidence that Jurassic World isn’t a great movie is to miss the point. It isn’t a great movie, but not because the velociraptors lacked feathers or because Bryce Dallas Howard faced near-constant ridicule from male and female characters alike for prioritizing her career over motherhood and romance. As many critics have pointed out, the movie has the high-minded/misguided gall to be “about itself” in the form of Indominus Rex, a brand-new species of dinosaur created solely because parkgoers (moviegoers?) have become so jaded that the present-day existence of animals who died 65 million years ago elicits little more than a passing interest. It says a lot when the characters constantly check their phones in presence of mankind’s mastery over the laws of natural selection. “Our focus groups want more teeth,” a park investor complains near the movie’s beginning. Well, we are the focus group and the moneymen gave us the teeth we’ve allegedly been clamoring for.

No serious person would actually use a term like “postmodern” to describe a two-hour, thirteen-buck orgy of chase scenes and Chris Pratt’s alpha male posturing, but Jurassic World really is, to a small degree, a movie about the public’s relationship to the franchise. And that’s fine. It doesn’t come across nearly as clever as the screenwriters probably hoped, but the effort is admirable. Still, despite any feelings you may have about such an endeavor, successful or not, the mere attempt is a minor problem that’s inextricably tied to Jurassic World’s true albatross: The mighty Jurassic Park.

It won’t do a bit of good for me to heave a self-righteous sigh, turn my thoughts to yesteryear, and wax nostalgic about how groundbreaking and exciting and utterly badass the original film was and continues to be. For people of a certain age, this requires no explanation. It’s a generational touchstone—our Star Wars. We came as close to real dinosaurs as we ever will, and we did it together. A direct comparison of Park and World would be fruitless, but the latter movie never lets you forget where it came from. This is good, in theory. We, as Audience, can’t help but hear Dr. Ian Malcolm’s creepy-but-cool snicker every time one of Jurassic World’s human placeholders says something so patently ridiculous you wonder what strain of medicinal grass was floating around the writers’ room, so it’s reassuring in a way that the movie doesn’t prop itself up as an independent entity with no connection to its Spielbergian origins. But this is the movie’s biggest problem; it wants it both ways. Given the ham-fisted, almost shot-for-shot recreations of some of Park’s most memorable scenes and the fact that characters continually reference the “old park,” (old movie?) coupled with its desperate need to remind Audience that it’s ‘smarter’ than its predecessor—even if its characters aren’t, by light years—Jurassic World commits the deadly sin of unfounded pride. And worse, it invites us to ride along, spellbound, like a pack of raptors charging alongside a motorcycle just because our trainer told us to. And we will, because it’s fun. Toothless, but fun.

 

 

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

We Welcome You to Munchkinland—Elisabeth Gray Engle on Directing This Summer’s Children’s Musical The Wizard of Oz

wizard

 

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh My!

Sixty-five children of all different ages from the Columbia area came together this summer to bring you the youth edition of a beloved classic, The Wizard of Oz through Workshop Theatre.

“We are very excited to be doing The Wizard of Oz this summer! There are so many magical elements to this show already, so that is really fun to explore. But the real magical feeling comes from the cast members. We have a very large cast of kids of varying ages and schools who come together to create this show. They form bonds and friendships, and the excitement and energy that they bring to rehearsal is the real magic of the show,” director Elisabeth Gray Engle says.

The range of experience and ages might often lead to complications in the directing process, but Engle uses each child’s unique talents and personalities to create their own interpretation of such a well-known show.

“…Many of our roles are double cast, so there are two actors who alternate the role. This is really fun because you get to watch these two young actors create two very different characters from the same material,” Engle explains. “So much of the humor of our production has come from the actors, and I think that is what makes our production unique. We have a very talented group of kids who each bring something different to their characters.”

While the 4 to 18-year-olds bring a lot to the theatrical table, the production team has also put their own spin on things. With people like Alexis Doktor doing costumes and Baxter Engle doing set, the wonderful land of Oz is sure to excited audiences aesthetically.

“I cannot say enough good things about our Oz Team. Katie Hilliger (Choreographer), Jordan Harper (Musical Director), Jeni McCaughan (Producer), Braxton Crewell (Stage Manager), just to name a few, make this experience so positive and meaningful for our kids. We have high expectations for our cast, but we have a lot of fun along the way,” Engle affirms.

Engle, herself, is no stranger to the stage or directing. She is a company member at Trustus Theatre where she has taught, performed, and will be seen next in the world premiere of Big City. On top of all that, this is Engle’s 5th summer production through Workshop, her 11th year directing youth theatre, and she continues to teach theatre at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.

“I love working with kids in the summer because it is such a joyous time of year in their lives. The summer musical is different than a school musical or a show during the year because the kids (and adults!) have that special energy that can only exist during the summer,” Engle elaborates. “…They come together during the summer to create this show, so that [in] itself sets the experience apart from school year productions. It’s really exciting to see so many kids from so many different schools who love musical theatre come together. They get along so well, and they love being with ‘their people.’”

The show runs June 25 through June 28, with both evening and matinee performances at the Heathwood Hall Episcopal School auditorium. Go to workshop.palmettoticketing.com for times and tickets!

“Theatre always has a unique way of bringing people together, and we have certainly seen that this summer with our cast,” Engle endearingly states. “Our cast is made up of kids from varying backgrounds, schools, locations, and experiences, and we have loved seeing them come together to create art.”

By Haley Sprankle

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment