FRIDAY 5 (+1): CLYBOURNE PARK's Walton, Prince and Treutle
Circle Players, Middle Tennessee's oldest community theatre organization, continues its 2016-17 season tonight with the opening of Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, in which the playwright delves deeply into white flight and gentrification over the course of several generations, using Lorraine Hansberry's classic A Raisin in the Sun (which, in one of those interesting coincidences that happen often in Nashville theater, opens in a new production from Nashville Rep, starring Eddie George, Jackie Welch Schlicher and Tamiko Robinson Steele on March 25 at TPAC's AnDrew Johnson Theatre) as a starting off point. Today, three members of director Daniel DeVault's cast - Chandra J. Walton, M. Caroline Prince and Ethan Treutle - offer some insight into their creative process in Friday 5 (+1): Clybourne Park.
Here's your chance to get to know them better before seeing them onstage at the Z. Alexander Looby Theatre and they each tell you why you should come see their show...
Chandra J. Walton
What was your first "live onstage" taste of theatre? When I was four, I watched The Wiz with Stephanie Mills live.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? My favorite pre-show ritual is watching a cartoon to laugh and being by myself to pray.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? I missed a whole step in the dance and fell.
What's your dream role? I would like to be in a horror movie and live.
Who is your theatrical crush? Hmmm...Pass!!!
EXTRA-SPECIAL BONUS ROUND QUESTION: Why should people come see your show? It deals with real-life situations... and because it's the arts.
M. Caroline Prince:
What was your first "live onstage" taste of theatre? This was in the early 1970s, and it was in Huntsville, Alabama. My mother's best friend was a community theater actor and had a starring role in Babes at Sea. My mother took me with her to see the show. And before my very eyes, I saw the woman I knew for feeding her four children crust-less peanut butter sandwiches, yelling at the dog, and leading my Brownie troop transform into a vivacious and glamorous singer and dancer! I saw Mrs. Reny soon again in You Can't Take It With You, so confident and happy on stage. Soon after, I begged my mother to let me take acting lessons at the local children's theater, Fantasy Playhouse. And the ensuing years were some of the best of my life. The first time I went onstage, it was as a cook and then a tree in Three Fairy Godmothers. My first scene ever onstage began with me having a pound of flour dumped over my head by a cruel and unhappy princess. So, maybe it was not glamorous. But I had found my home.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I like to lay out all of my make-up and hair tools neatly at my station and then slowly and painstakingly transform myself into the person I am meant to be that night. This time it's also usually spent chatting and laughing with my fellow cast mates. It's a good way to focus and loosen up before starting to show.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? Well, I'm experiencing that now. I threw my back out a few days ago, and I'm gritting my teeth through every costume fitting and dress rehearsal. Let's hope that I can walk this Friday, opening night!
What's your dream role? Strangely, I don't have one. Instead, I have dream directors and dream casts. I love any play in which I get to stretch and expand my understanding of myself, people and the world (like in Clybourne Park). And that's made all the better by working with people that I trust and enjoy. For example, I would love to work with Daniel DeVault and anybody else in this cast again.
Who is your theatrical crush? Right now, I am fascinated with Andrew Rannells, who is perhaps best known for The Book of Mormon and the television show Girls. Of course, he is handsome and can sing and dance like nobody's business. However, it's his comedic timing that I love. That's a hard thing to learn and an even harder thing to pull off. But he can make me laugh with the twitch of a nose or the roll of an eye. He's full of charisma and charm, star-making qualities that, again, cannot be learned. So maybe he's not my crush, exactly. Maybe I just want to single-white-female him.
EXTRA-SPECIAL BONUS ROUND QUESTION: Why should people come see your show? The show is about so many different things. It is of course about race relations and gentrification. But it's also about seemingly disparate topics like the horrors of war, a parent's love for her child, and xenophobia. These issues are complex and can't be solved in two hours in a theater, though, and I like that the author doesn't try to come to any grand resolution. Instead, he focuses on the tenuous connections between people who love each other and who want to love each other. If people choose to come see Clybourne Park, they'll have a great time because it really is funny! But they will also have a lot to think about as they drive home.
What was your first "live onstage" taste of theatre? My first "live onstage" taste of theatre was probably the same as a lot of others, in a Nativity production for my church when I was 7 years old. I didn't really come to appreciate performing on the stage for an audience until my 7th grade production of Tom Sawyer, Jr
What is your favorite pre-show ritual I have two favorite pre-show rituals. One, I like to listen to hip hop music or anything loud with a beat you can move to. I like to do a little bit of dance in the dressing room to up my heart rate a little and bring my energy up. Two, 5-10 minutes before I take the stage, I like to stand in the dark on side of the stage, and focus. The darkness, the stage lights, and the electric feel of the buzz of the audience helps me get focused and centered so I'm ready to get to work.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? It's hard to really recall a very bad or unfortunate "show must go on" moment, so I would have to say I have been pretty fortunate on that front. If I had to recall one, I suppose I'd say in a production I had to fire a gun off stage. The gun was live and had a full round of blanks, and on top of it all it was the final sound of the show. One night, the entire round misfired, no sound. I panicked for about half a second, then I took a quick leap, pulled my legs up as high as they would go and slammed them down as hard as possible to make the loud boom to replace it.
What's your dream role? My dream role is Richard III, it's my absolute favorite Shakespeare of them all.
Who is your theatrical crush? I am fairly certain this is asking about fictional characters, so obviously there's only one correct answer. Angelica Schuyler.
EXTRA-SPECIAL BONUS ROUND QUESTION: Why should people come see your show? So here's the truth, I have been in good productions and bad productions. When I don't have confidence in the production, I don't try to sell it hard because when I tell someone that's something is good I want them to be able to trust that my opinion is objective and honest. This show is very good. This is a very strong, tight cast that has a chemistry that is palpable from lights up to curtain call. The show has a director whose vision is so clear and specific that the message of this show shines. The crew (stage manager, costumer designer, lights, sound, set designers) are so supportive and dedicated to making this the best show. This is an A+ production, I promise you'll be entertained, enlightened, and encouraged. See this show because it's worth it, and I wouldn't say that if it wasn't.
About the show: Daniel DeVault directs the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama - and 2012 Tony Award winner for best play - Clybourne Park, running March 17-April 2, at Nashville's Z. Alexander Looby Theatre in a new production from Circle Players.
"Clybourne Park speaks to the times and the cultural landscape we see in Nashville and across the country right now," DeVault suggests. "Norris examines gentrification and racial divisions, and poses sharp-edged questions to audiences-questions that do not have simple 'black-and- white' answers. Have the dividing lines actually moved in 50 years? Have we changed our structure or merely changed our face to hide behind expected political correctness? Has the foundation of our country evolved or are we merely altering the surface?
Picking up where Lorraine Hansberry left audiences at the end of her iconic (and historic) A Raisin in the Sun, Act 1 of Clybourne Park centers around an all-white community in 1950s Chicago as neighbors splinter over the black family about to move in.
Act 2 of Bruce Norris' play fast-forwards fifty years, and the same house-now in an all-black neighborhood-represents very different demographics: a white family now seeks to purchase, raze, and rebuild a larger structure in its place. What begins as polite conversation over the legalities of real estate quickly degrades as jokes fly and hidden agendas unfold.
One of the most-produced plays across the nation over the past five years, Clybourne Park is described as "a powerful look into race, privilege, gentrification, and communication" revealing just how far our ideas of the social and cultural landscape have changed - or have they?
"I hope audiences walk away from this production both curious and challenged; I hope they leave wanting to start conversations, to share ideas, and to think about how and if our city and our world has evolved," DeVault says. "Both daunting and significant, I hope audiences want to explore wherever we have come and wherever we are going as a society living in the present, living in a collection of communities, and living in a world of change."
Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park is presented by Circle Players March 17-April 2 at the Z. Alexander Looby Theatre, 2301 Rosa Parks Boulevard. Tickets are $15 and are available by calling (615) 332-7529 or at www.circleplayers.net/tickets.