From Page to Stage: A Live Theatre Rehearsal Process

Rehearsals are well underway for Salt-Water Moon, the 10th apprentice company capstone production in Lanesboro, MN. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, apprentice company member and production director Amanda Pyfferoen describes the rehearsal process from her early imaginings right up to opening night.

As apprentices at the Commonweal, we are given the rare opportunity to select our capstone production. This gives us the ability to look at the whole gamut of two-handers, and quite frankly that was a bit daunting. When we first began searching for scripts we brought passion projects to the table. For me, that was David Mamet’s Oleanna and while Megan and Patrick read it in phenomenal fashion, it was not the right fit for us. We realized that we needed a story that was relatable, had a strong message, and was going to challenge all of us. Suggestions came pouring in from company members and friends such as Talley’s FollySame Time, Next YearGreat FallsBlackbird, and Salt-Water Moon.

For me, I know I like a script when I can visualize it in my mind and see it from the beginning of rehearsals, through the technical rehearsals, to the end of the preview rehearsal process and all the way to opening night. That was the case within the first few pages of my reading Salt-Water Moon; even on the Commonweal’s stage to boot. This play is about love and family and how the duty to both of them is interconnected and impacts every aspect of who we are. There’s a ‘slice of life’ aspect to this play; audience members are bound to find Jacob and Mary relatable. I’m actually reminded of my maternal grandparents. My grandmother was engaged to another man when she met my grandfather. Grandpa returned home from being stationed in France and they met at a party, not long later she broke off her engagement and married my grandfather instead. It’s not exactly a direct a correlation to Jacob and Mary’s love triangle, but it gives the story a personal touch for me. The playwright, David French, has written a beautiful script where the words practically come flying off the page. The passion is in everything they say.

We’ve been in rehearsals for a few weeks now and I am extremely pleased with how it’s taking shape. The relationship between Jacob and Mary is strong, rooted in the past that plays into the present and, ultimately, their potential future. Trust has been a pivotal component of this process and one I believe has assisted us in reaching the raw, truthfulness coming across onstage. At the end of our rehearsals, we do a grounding question, a get-to-know-you question that has nothing to do with our production, as a way to become a cohesive and closer ensemble. These questions have run from places we want to visit to which member of the Beatles we think we are. I believe it’s been a good exercise and one I hope to continue as I move forward in my directing career. Opening night is just around the corner so forgive me as I scamper off to rehearsal.

I’m looking forward to sharing this story with our Commonweal family here in Lanesboro MN.

Salt-Water Moon opens Saturday, March 10 to help kick-off Season 30 at the Commonweal. You can get your tickets today by clicking right here.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre!

The Professional Theatre Makers of Tomorrow

The Commonweal Theatre currently has much to celebrate. The 2018 season is the company’s 30th and the current apprentice class…now company…is the 10th of its kind. Just think, approximately 40 young theatre artists committed to the Commonweal and enriched Lanesboro as a community on their way to becoming the next generation of theatre-makers. Where are some of those young artists now? Where are the current crop of artists going when they leave us in April? Well, we just happen to have answers to those questions.
Sarah Hawkins on stage

Sarah Hawkins on stage

Gary Danciu: Gary was a member of the 2010-11 Commonweal apprentice class and then remained in residence with the company through the 2016 season. Gary is now living and working as a freelance actor in Minneapolis and is currently in the cast of Hamlet with Wayward Theatre Co. The element of the Commonweal apprentice program that Gary appreciated the most were the “extensive performance opportunities onstage” and forging many great relationships that he continues to enjoy today.

Sarah Hawkins Moan: Sarah is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN and came to the Commonweal apprentice program in 2008-09. Within a few years following her apprenticeship, Sarah went on to Masters Degree work in acting at Wright State University in Detroit. Sarah still calls Detroit home and is currently teaching theatre on the college level along with being a freelance actor and director. From her time at the Commonweal as an apprentice, she was able to “beef up” her non-profit resume while learning the unique challenges of operating a small, professional theatre company.

Tim Sailer

Tim Sailer: Tim was a part of the 2009-10 “boy band” apprentice company when the team was made up of all men! Tim has been a consistent member of the company of artists at The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. While being in residence with the Commonweal, Tim loved seeing how the theatre “becomes a touchstone for a community of people–both the locals and the tourists.” It made him realize “how important it is for smaller, rural communities to have regular access high-quality, professional art.”

Mike Swan: Mike spent 2013-14 as an apprentice and remained with the company as an ensemble member through the 2014 season. Mike is now a tour manager for the National Theatre for Children and freelances as an actor in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. The thing Mike values the most from his apprenticeship is the capstone project. At the end of their tenure, the group chooses a play to fully produce on their own which “caps” their time with the company. “Having the opportunity to produce a show of our choice from the ground up,” says Mike, “was very unique. That process was one of the most valuable and rewarding educational experiences I’ve ever had.”

Ana Hagedorn: Ana was in the 2012-13 apprentice class and stayed on with the company in residence through mid-season of 2015. Ana is an M.F.A. candidate at SMU in Dallas, TX, and is set to graduate this spring with that degree. The reason she chose to apply for the program is her belief that the best way to learn about acting is to have strong mentors and an artistic home where you are given support to do the work. “We learn acting by doing,” she said, “and being part of the Commonweal Theatre, I learned from a group of artists that supported me and allowed me to grow.”

Daniel Stock on stage

Daniel Stock on stage

Daniel Stock: Daniel came to the theatre as an apprentice in 2010-11. Upon completing his apprenticeship, Daniel joined the resident ensemble, ultimately becoming the box office manager and creating many memorable roles as an actor onstage…there’s no forgetting his King of Bohemia in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. Currently, Daniel is finishing up his graduate degree work from the University of Georgia with a residency at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. What made the program most valuable for Daniel: “getting to work on different skill sets such as dramaturgy, prop design, sound design, etc., in a safe and supported professional environment was also very rewarding.”

Where Are They Going?

Amanda Pyfferoen: Amanda is a current apprentice and is now in the director’s chair for Salt-Water Moon, the 2017-18 capstone. She is currently applying for internships with larger theatre companies to gain an even more intensive focus of study as a director.

Patrick Vaughn: Also a member of the current class, Patrick is one of two actors featured in Salt-Water Moon and will travel overseas for a six-week summer intensive workshop with the Moscow Art Theatre.

There ya have it! That’s just a handful of updated information but, rest assured, the influence of the Commonweal as a company and as a community spreads far and wide across the nation. And our commitment to the young theatre artists of the world remains as strong in its 10th year as it did in its first.
Tickets are now on sale for the 10th Apprentice Company Capstone Production Salt Water-Moon! Purchase yours today by clicking RIGHT HERE.
See you at the theatre…Jeremy.

Auditions, aka Actor Job Interviews

by Jeremy van Meter

When I lived and worked as an actor in Chicago, I was quite familiar with the concept of “auditioning” for a role. In fact, it became a weekly practice and I do think that I came to be good at it. I am now in my 7th season at the Commonweal where those of us in the ensemble do not audition for the roles we play. It’s been seven years since my last audition and, oddly enough, I miss it. And for the past two years, I have found myself on the other side of the auditioning process by joining Commonweal Executive Director Hal Cropp at actor auditions at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN and the much larger national general auditions for actors, dancers and singers at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, TN.

Playhouse on the Square

Playhouse on the Square

These “cattle-call” general auditions can be daunting prospects. At the Park Square auditions, actors are granted two minutes to present two theatrical monologues of contrasting nature. At the Memphis auditions, otherwise known as the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions, actors have 90 seconds to present both a monologue and 16 bars from a musical theatre piece. That’s right, it’s basically a 90-second job interview amongst stiff competition. With Memphis and St. Paul combined for a total of eight days, Hal and I saw over 950 artists of all ages audition for theatre work.

Apprentice Capstone - Salt-Water Moon by David French

2017-18 Apprentice Actors Megan Hanks and                                      Patrick Vaughn

You may ask yourself, “The Commonweal has a resident ensemble of actors, why in the world would Hal and Jeremy sit through all those auditions?” It is at those general auditions that we “fill out” the rest of the company for the season. Our apprentice class of young actors, now in its 11th year, is pulled from those auditions. Any “seasonal” actors that we hire for one or two productions a year are artists that we have seen at those auditions. It is an extremely grueling and exhausting task, especially in Memphis, but it is also exhilarating to see how much talent is out there and how many people are choosing to follow a life in the arts.

And so even as our current company of apprentice artists is busy creating the world of Salt-Water Moon, their own capstone project, the artistic staff at the Commonweal are making offers to the next group of young theatre-makers who we hope will join us to play with us onstage and to learn all that it takes to operate a small professional theatre company. They are the future and all of them got their jobs in 90 seconds!

See you at the theatre!