Western Theater presents Private Lives and God of Carnage to
By Jourdan Ryan
February 20, 2013
Four couples. Two plays. One director. For two weekends in a row, Western’s Theatre Department will be putting on two productions. In Private Lives, divorced exes Elyot and Amanda end up rekindling their romance while honeymooning with their current spouses, which makes for an awkward and humorous situation. God of Carnage is about two sets of parents who meet to discuss an incident between their children and during the course of the discussion, the couples begin to act like children themselves.
Both shows utilize similar themes but each story presents them differently. For the actors, the preparation has not been easy. Both shows consist of 4-5 cast members, which means every actor has a lot of stage time, and thus, a lot of lines to memorize.
“All these actors in these shows have worked so hard. When we don’t have rehearsal, they’ve taken the time to work. They have to. Otherwise, it would just fall flat,” director Dallas Henry said.
Henry has been teaching theatre and cinema courses at Western for three years, and this semester, he decided to direct both Private Lives and God of Carnage at the very same time. The shows will follow a pseudo-repertory style, which means that their runs will alternate each weekend. Private Lives will run in Potter Hall on February 21 and 23, as well as the following weekend, on March 1 and 3. Alternately, God of Carnage will run in Kemper Hall on February 22 and 24, and the following weekend, on February 28 and March 2. For Henry, the balancing act got tricky at times, but he thinks that the end result will be well worth the stress of directing two shows with two different casts.
“I thought it would be fun to alternate every day, but it also messes up a rhythm with the actors, and actors like to get into a rhythm,” Henry said. “I love that these both have small casts. They’re difficult pieces. They’re hard to grab a hold of. It’s been tough, but really fun.”
Narrowing down a cast that small was a challenge. About 60 students auditioned for these pieces and little by little, the nine actors were chosen to fill the roles in both productions. One actor that got a nod was Lauryn Roberts, who had only acted in one production prior to Private Lives, Annie, which ran at the end of last semester.
“With Lauryn, she read the pieces, and she loved Private Lives. She said she had to read it twice in one night,” Henry said. “She is perfect for the era. She and Matt Wright should have been born in the 1930s. They just look the period with ease.”
For Roberts, the process of acting is very new, but after auditioning for Annie, she was hooked. She said that she only wishes that she had built up the courage to audition sooner. She got lost in the role of Amanda, one of the lead characters in Private Lives, comparing her to a “1930s Carrie Bradshaw.” It was Amanda’s commanding personality, and Henry’s encouragement, that pushed Roberts to audition.
“Working with Dallas has been a great learning experience. As someone who is somewhat new to theatre, he has helped me not only with line delivery and finding the laughs, but also with finding the motive behind my character, why she is the way she is, and why she does what she does,” senior Lauryn Robert said. “I appreciated his willingness to take a chance on me in the casting of Annie, and I am honored to be working on another play under his direction.”
Roberts wasn’t the only one who had to jump out of her comfort zone a bit to tackle her character. Riley Bayer, who plays Michael Novak in God of Carnage, had to shave his head in order to have a receding hairline, learn how to walk and sit like an older man, and mastering an adult dialect. This character was a challenge for him, even though Bayer has already acted in a handful of other Western productions, shows like Romeo Juliet, Annie, and J.B.
“Working under Dallas is a great process. He always brings the best out of his actors,” junior Riley Bayer said. “I always learn something about myself when working with Dallas. He has such a great passion for each show he does and will work with anybody with that kind of passion.”
With small casts, witty dialogue, and a director who shares in the successes of his student actors, Private Lives and God of Carnage are two shows that can’t be missed.
“These are the pieces that you do where students really get to work on their education as an actor and grabbing a hold of some difficult topics,” Henry said. “Watching the students grow is what I really love about it, when it works, when they get it. I think that’s why I do what I do.”