The Man in Back

Hello, everyone! My name is Matt Johnson. I am a sophomore Theatre Arts major with a focus in acting from Elmhurst, IL. You might recognize me as a member of the Blog Team. Additionally, I've also been part of our Public Outreach and a Stage Manager for one of our four shows.

This is me. 

This is me. 

I know I'm supposed to update the world as to everything I've been up to recently and share my own experiences. but before I get into that, I really want to take a moment and share with you all what I've had the honor of seeing that no one else here could write about. From day one I have always considered myself an actor. I've always been under the lights so when I injured my foot in the first week here, I knew right then that I was going to see the beauty of theatre in a new light.

I have never been a stage manager before. I took on a role that was entirely new to me and in my opinion that's exactly what this two week course was all about: doing something I've never done before. And I have to say, it's been a really rewarding decision. I've been able to sit in rehearsals with my cast and watch them grow as their character and also as actors and people as they worked with their respective director. 

We've had three shows now and each one has been a unique experience. With the way our production is set up, I am also Run Crew, which means I help change the sets in between the plays. Because of this, I spend a lot of time backstage with the rest of the cast and the company that isn't in the house working sound or lights. Now that I've got you to this point, I want to share with you some of the things I've been able to see that no one else can.

To start, there's all the built up excitement and adrenaline running through the cast backstage before the show even begins. I know what that's like because I'm usually one of those people with all the nerves preparing myself for the first entrance, but this time I get to take a deep breath and live off of all the excitement radiating from everyone else. 

A group of us backstage before the final dress rehearsal.

A group of us backstage before the final dress rehearsal.

The other thing no one else gets to see is the playwrights while their play is being performed onstage. I have to say watching them listen to their own creation while it is performed in front of a live audience has been a really heartfelt moment. The gleam in their eyes and the genuine smile when one of their jokes is well-received or when they can tell the audience is enjoying their piece is a really special thing to see. But also to see their reaction when something isn't going quite as well as they hoped  for is sad. Even though it isn't my play, I sympathize with their feelings and cheer silently with them when it's going well. I think that goes along with the company as a whole.

All of us want to see everyone succeed and see a great turnout for everything we've worked for. The entire time we've been here, we've all supported each other and even now during the performances themselves, we're all still backstage rooting each other on and hoping our audience will enjoy our final product just as much as we have the last two weeks. That feeling has a strong place in my heart. I've never been a part of something before with a group of people as large as this where every single person was simply 100% in love with what they were doing and was dedicated to the work and to each other. 

I guess that brings me to what I've been up to aside from admiring everyone else. Even though I didn't act this time around, I am still performing in the show in a way I never dreamed I would. In between each play there is a musical act from other students not in the next show. I brought up my harmonica on the off-chance that it might be useful for something or just for fun at night when we keep ourselves entertained after our sessions are over for the day. It turned out that our Musical Director, Daniel Vinitsky, was very interested in fitting a harmonica into one of the acts. So in addition to Run Crew, I am stepping aside for one transition to perform a song with Erik Morrison on banjo.

I have to confess, this is the first time I have ever played an instrument in front of an audience. I only bought a harmonica and started learning how to play it over this summer, so I'm still very new at it and the positive reactions to our musical number has been reassuring and confidence boosting. Again, it's an aspect of the art of theatre and live performances that I have never done before

I always loved theatre and the stage and everything  that makes it what it is, but now I know so much more than I did before, I've made my instrumental debut, and had the honor of working with a group of people behind the scenes and partaking in all the excitement and joy that goes on that people don't get to see or hear about. I knew when I signed up to be a part of this that I was signing myself up for a challenge that would put my love for theatre to the test and force me to question if devoting my life to this life was the right decision. It's been tough, don't get me wrong. The business side of theatre is not easy, but it is so worth it when people come together to create something beautiful. I can say without a doubt that taking on this new role has allowed me to fall in love with the world of theatre all over again.

Greyfell Theatre Company: A group of people I have come to love very much.

Greyfell Theatre Company: A group of people I have come to love very much.

Double Show Day

Tonight we had two shows (at 7:30 and 9:00).  It was a very quick turn around between shows, but the adrenaline just kept pumping!  We were visited by the wonderful gentlemen from Third Avenue Playhouse, who were thrilled to see us producing new works.  We also did a talk back with some high school students and teachers after the 9:00 show and told them about our playwrighting process (how we chose the slate, writing the shows, reading everyone's work, etc), as well as the other parts of the process that you are all familiar with from reading the blog (good on you).

Earlier in the day, we met with Alan Kopischke to discuss the future of Greyfell.  We talked about how starting a theatre company without the support of Lawrence and Bjorklunden would look different than our current company, as well as reflected on our experience thus far.  We continued the conversation in the afternoon with our professors and gave feedback on how we think this company/class could improve in the future.  All of us were struck that this class cannot be recreated.  We started this theatre from scratch, nothing.  We had no predecessors, few connections, and little to no experience in creating a brand, applying for grants, reaching out to Door County, writing a play and turning this nothing we were given into a show.  Sure, next class will still be Greyfell Theatre, but they've already got a website, a blog, a name, a place, a history.  It's crazy to think of all that we have created in these last two weeks.  It's really something incredible.

But we're not done yet! We've got our final show tomorrow at 3:00 before we wrap all of this up.

Greyfell members at the question and answer session.

Greyfell members at the question and answer session.

Taking the Plunge

Happy Friday the 13th! I’m Madeline Bunke, a senior Theatre Arts and English major with a Spanish minor from Brookfield, WI. I am also an aficionado of Björklunden food. Here is a picture of me when I found out that in visiting the local high school I had missed Steve Martin’s (yes, that’s our chef’s name) clam chowder:

Such sadness

Such sadness

Last night was an exhilarating evening for everyone here at Greyfell Theatre Company. Opening night is always a satisfying experience, but this was fulfilling in a new way. I’ve been fortunate enough to act in several productions at Lawrence, but this is the first time I have ever written a play. It was not an easy process – my roommates can attest to the horrible case of writer’s block I suffered on the first night. I managed to turn my problem into my inspiration, however, and began writing a play about two ad men struggling to come up with a slogan…for toilet plungers. (I’m coming around to potty humor about 10 years too late.)

It was an honor to have my play selected by my peers, particularly as there were so many great choices. Watching my characters, who had so quickly become so dear to me, come to life was an amazing process. I had to balance revisions from our literary manager and let go of how I originally pictured the blocking while still working to maintain the spirit of my creation. I am greatly indebted to director Portia and actors Erik and Brian for their detailed, dedicated, and good-humored work. Sitting backstage listening to your play being performed is quite different from normal actor nerves. In some ways, I felt much more pressure. If a joke fell flat, I felt like it would be fundamentally my fault for writing a weird line. I am slowly learning to free myself from over-analyzing and focus instead on the overwhelming positive.

 

 My baby is born! Erik and Brian in last night’s performance of Down the Drain.

 My baby is born! Erik and Brian in last night’s performance of Down the Drain.

Actually, I feel like that’s what the Greyfell experience has been all about – approaching new, potentially scary tasks with an active positivity. From leading workshops with high schools students to memorizing my lines for Tick-Tock on an extremely tight schedule to Björklunden “opportunities” themselves, activities that once made me nervous have transformed into activities that make me excited. We at Greyfell have thrown ourselves into making this newborn theatre company the biggest success it could be, and our passion has given us tenfold returns.

Phillip and I in Claire Conard’s Tick-Tock

Phillip and I in Claire Conard’s Tick-Tock

We Did It!

All of our hard work paid off tonight!  After a week and a half of intensive theatre and business work, we opened our show and let an audience in.  And it went really well!  But I am getting ahead of myself.  That was the end of the day!  We still had a full day of work before opening!

Students waiting for the show to begin.

Students waiting for the show to begin.

Starting at 9am, each play had 20 minutes to rehearse their show.  Then, at 10am, everyone involved in the technical side of the production gathered to run the transitions between each play.  They did this twice before actors joined in order to run a cue-to-cue.  For this, we did the beginning and end of each play and then ran all of the transitions, including the musical acts that perform during the transitions.  This took us all the way until lunch.  Following lunch, there was a mass cleaning of Björklunden.  Everyone pitched in to make the lodge look its best so that we could open it up to the public.

At 3pm, we had our final dress rehearsal and everything went incredibly smoothly.  This rehearsal made us all realize that we had, in fact, succeeded in creating a theatre company and a show in just a week and a half.

We have a theater!

We have a theater!

We have a light board and everything!

We have a light board and everything!

Following dinner we did last minute preparations, actors got into costumes and people working backstage put on their blacks.  It was time to start the show.  The audience was small but very enthusiastic and everything went incredibly well.  We had a reception afterwards and talked to people who came to see the show and just had a great time.

 

Growing Together

Hello! My name is Jessica. I am a junior Economics major and Government minor from Wauconda, IL. Amongst several other small jobs, I am on the Blogging Team, the YouTube team and I am Stage Managing Sitting with Strangers.

DSC00012 (640x360).jpg

I originally enrolled in the Start-Up Theatre class because my two roommates (who are theatre majors) and I thought it would be a fun experience to combine our majors and interact in each other’s worlds. I’m going to be completely honest and say that this adventure initially sacred me to death.  I am a very quiet person so when we pulled up to Bjork on Monday I was incredibly intimidated by all of the outgoing theatre majors around me. I have worked on run crew for two shows at Lawrence but I've never really interacted in the theater making part of a production. The thought of participating in movement and Alexander technique workshops would have sent me in to a panic attack a few weeks ago. But, here, with these people, I feel comfortable. I am able to be weird and goofy without being afraid of judgment. Spending this much time with a group of people can be frustrating and stressful but it also allows you to make connections that you never would have thought possible. I know this sounds pretty cheesy, and maybe it is, but all of the stress and anxiety over the workload of this project is totally worth it when you are surrounded by 20 new friends that are willing to do whatever it takes for us to succeed as a company.

A group of us went caroling and had our picture taken with Santa last week.

A group of us went caroling and had our picture taken with Santa last week.

The theatre making aspect of this project is totally new to me. I paired up with my roommate, Portia, to write a play earlier this week. We wrote (well, honestly, she wrote most of it. But she’s an English major so she is much more articulate than I) a fantastic play. It wasn’t chosen for our production but, it has been read at our visits to Sevastopol School. It’s amazing to see the words we wrote being performed. When we submitted our first drafts, we had to perform 20 lines for the group. We had the choice of finding actors amongst us or just performing it ourselves. I immediately turned to Portia and suggested that we perform it, which is completely out of character for me. I still can’t believe that I got up there without any reservations and spoke in front of the room. I think it speaks a great deal to the amount of comfort we all feel with each other. In only a couple short days, I was able to get over my anxieties in order to contribute to a company that, I think, is very successful. Along with the business and theatre production skills that I have acquired from this experience, I have also grown as a person. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and was able to be a part of something truly amazing. 

A group of us backstage at one of our final runs before we open tonight.

A group of us backstage at one of our final runs before we open tonight.