There are many facets to the life of an actor in the live theatre. One of those facets is taking on a role that you did not create in the official rehearsal process of a production. The theatre term for that is role sharing and it is the position that Lauren Schulke found herself in when accepting a spot in this year’s theatre apprenticeship class. She would be taking over the role of Marcy Park in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for outgoing ensemble member Abbie Cathcart. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, Lauren describes this tricky process for her and what it means for the entire production.
An Actor Challenge: Role Sharing
by Lauren Schulke
I am so honored and excited to have stepped into the role of Marcy Park—an overachiever with dreams of underachieving—in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch Abbie in the role of Marcy, and working alongside her to create my own version—or in theater terms, role sharing—has been a dream.
When I first got the call from Hal Cropp (Commonweal Executive Director) about my acceptance into the 2018-19 Commonweal Theatre apprentice class, I was offered the role of Marcy and a role in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. I’ll admit, I was ecstatic for the latter, but was slightly hesitant about the former. My early years of becoming an actor consist of a lot of musicals, but I really haven’t been in one for the last 5 years or so. So when I Googled the role and watched the YouTube videos, I was a little nervous and worried I may be in over my head. However, much like Marcy, I faced the challenge head-on, and unlike Marcy, I decided to go all-in. I called up a recommended voice coach to work on the music and I got a copy of the script and started memorizing.
Moving to Lanesboro was a big change! But I’m grateful I had some time to see Spelling Bee and really feel settled in before I jumped into rehearsals. I worked with Abbie to learn my blocking and the dances and I worked with Stela Burdt, our music director on getting the music in my head and in my body. I watched the show like 5 million times and had a wonderful cast holding me up on my first night.
The adjustment into a role that had already been crafted by Abbie was a balance. It was hard to not feel as if I was just copying someone else’s work and I found myself questioning some of the choices I was making. But after many conversations with Abbie, rehearsal with our stage manager, Bailey, and finally a few performances under my belt, I’m really starting to feel my own Marcy Park blossom. She’s a misunderstood kid who uses a spelling bee as a platform to finally start to understand herself. The exploration of her character has been a wonderful journey and I’m excited to see where it continues to grow over the next 3 months.
Seeing Lauren make the role of Marcy Park her own is just one of the many great things to do in Lanesboro. CWL ensemble member Brandt Roberts has another idea to add to that list, Silent Movies in the Park sponsored by Lanesboro Community Theatre.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is currently playing through September 24th alongside The Clean House.
Every now and then, we are forced to bid farewell to someone who has become quite special to us. This season is one of those times as our dear friend and colleague Abbie Cathcart has chosen to move on from the Commonweal. If you’re a Commonweal regular, you’ve seen her in several roles over the past three years including Shelby Eatonton in Steel Magnolias, Kitty Verdun in Charley’s Aunt and Ragna Monson in The League of Youth. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, Abbie shares a short reflection on her Lanesboro chapter.
I am pleased to announce and am very excited to start graduate school work to earn a Masters of Fine Arts Degree in Acting from Michigan State University. As I prepare to leave Lanesboro and Commonweal, little things here and there keep reminding me of my first experiences at this theatre and the ways it has positively impacted my life. I joined Commonweal in 2015 as a member of the apprentice class for the season. I was 21, fresh out of undergrad and had zero professional experience under my belt. I was also pretty nervous. I remember the first show I saw at Commonweal, which was Woody Guthrie’s American Song. I was struck by the immense love and support that reverberated throughout the theater during that performance. From the cast onstage to the patrons who clapped, smiled and jumped to their feet to sing along to familiar favorites, I felt immediately at ease in this joyful environment. The next day, I had my first of many waffles at Spud Boy diner, then walked on the trails and introduced myself to the exceptional beauty of the Driftless Region.
I had initially only moved to Lanesboro for a job, but what I found once I got there was a delightful, unique gem of a community. Over the past three years, I have performed on Commonweal’s stage around 300 times and learned a lot in the process. I have grown to love my fellow resident company members like family, and believe they have shown me what it means to be a good human and artist. Taking this next step away from Commonweal to begin my graduate school career is very bittersweet. I am so thankful to my coworkers at Commonweal, our amazing patrons and the community at large for welcoming me and letting me collaborate with them for a few years.
Abbie leaves for Michigan at the end of the month after the closing performance of Silent Sky, her last show with us…for now. Bidding farewell to Abbie by sharing a performance with her is only one of the great things to do in Lanesboro in June. Need another idea? Commonweal resident ensemble member Eric Lee suggests a drink on “the deck.” Whether it’s a beer at the High Court Pub, a martini at Riverside on the Root or a glass of wine at Old Village Hall, an evening on an outdoor deck in Lanesboro will not soon be forgotten.
Abbie is currently in both spring rep shows…but not for long!
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Thanks for reading; I’ll see you at the theatre.—Jeremy
He’s the 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Champ and he’s played by our newest apprentice class member Brandon Cayetano. You’ll have plenty of chances to meet Brandon in person over the course of his theatre apprenticeship this year but for now, here he is to introduce you to his character in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—Chip Tolentino.
Hello Commonweal patrons! My name is Brandon Cayetano, and I’m a member of this year’s Commonweal Apprentice Class. I’m looking forward to spending a year both at the theatre and in the wonderful town of Lanesboro. I’m kicking off my season here with a role in the second show of the 30th Season, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino! I’ve been a fan of the show for a long time, and Chip has been a dream role of mine, so it’s been surreal bringing this character to life. I was always drawn to Chip’s character because of his drive to win. He won last year’s Spelling Bee, and he’s back to reclaim the title of Spelling Champ! Once I knew I was going to play Chip, I delved into his backstory to find out what motivates and drives him. Here is a little bit of what I discovered.
Brandon in rehearsal to create Chip Tolentino
During rehearsals, the director (Alan Bailey) and I found that the action of the play is sort of a redemption story for Chip. As last year’s winner, he’s already been to Nationals in Washington D.C, but he didn’t do as well as he would’ve liked. Chip has worked really hard to be where he is today and takes the Bee seriously, so when other kids seem to be able to get away with not working as hard, or don’t take things as seriously as him, you can see his blood boil. He’s the type of person who does things he knows he’s good at, so not doing well at Nationals really drove him to make his way back to D.C. this year. He’s athletic, he works hard at school, and you can just tell he wants to make it to a good college, so he has a lot riding on this competition. Not only is it his second chance to do well at the National Spelling Bee, but if he does well at Nationals, that’s his ticket to that good college! Chip exudes confidence in the Bee, but some may interpret it as cockiness. Chip is kind of like a poker player in that he doesn’t want the other kids in the bee to know what he’s thinking but his head is always in the game.
Will Chip win for the second year in a row and reclaim the championship? I guess you’ll have to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee live onstage at the Commonweal to find out!
A ticket to one of the professional, live theatre offerings at the Commonweal is only one of the many great things to do Lanesboro, MN. What’s another? How about biking or hiking along some, or all, of the 60-mile Root River State Bike Trail. The paved trail veers directly through downtown Lanesboro and is a great way to spend the day before heading to the theatre for the evening.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens this Saturday, May 12 with a gala celebration with the entire cast and Commonweal company following the performance. You can make a reservation and purchase your ticket right here on this website by visiting the full season performance calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre! — Jeremy