BWW Interview: Ally Guay of THE EXPLORERS CLUB at Theatre Baton Rouge
The fast-paced Nell Benjamin's comedy THE EXPLORERS CLUB has come to Theatre Baton Rouge and fans of British comedy are in for a real treat.
Set in 1870's London, the Explorer's Club, for whom membership is a point of considerable pride, is in crisis. Why? Because the club's forward-thinking president proposes admitting a woman (gasp!) into the boys' club, and they can't get a decent drink. Under the direction of Ally Guay, EXPLORERS CLUB offers to deliver silly-smart humor for a lively, laugh-filled evening for Baton Rouge audiences.
DIG: How did you get involved with theatre?
Guay: You know when I was a kid growing up, I used to go to summer camps at Theatre Baton Rouge, then Baton Rouge Little Theatre. I grew up there on that black and white floor and in those same places. Then I moved away to California and lived on the East Coast for a while and then moved back home when I had my first child, and it just brought me back to the theatre. It's something I've always loved. So, I came back and did some shows as an actor, and then Jenny let me direct Christmas Carol first and now, I get this baby. Every aspect of the theatre there is theatre for the community by the community and Jenny's done such an amazing job.
DIG: So, what attracted you to direct Explorer's Club?
Guay: Jenny came to me and said, "Hey how would you feel about directing Explorers Club," and I said "I have no idea what the show is, can I read the script and let you know?" and she said yeah so I took the script home and that night I plowed through it and laughed my ass off and had texted her immediately and said "Oh my God, yes, thank you so much for trusting me with this." It's been a fantastic ride.
DIG: That's funny because I did have a loaded question. So, I don't know much about Explorer's Club, and I hear that it's funny, but is it funny?
Guay: It is so ridiculous. Quite honestly, from the first read through, to even the auditions, we could have cast this show three ways over. There was so much talent. Everybody really brought their A game because it's a British farce about male scientists and the origins of the scientific community told by an American woman, which is hilarious. So, it has a fun spin anyway, but I think what's funny about the show is that it's so relevant and that's what makes it hilarious. Like any good comedy, it's the truth of it, and the sad fact is for all our amazing scientific leaps there were roots in some goofy stuff.
DIG: And this is the regional premiere of this show? What are your thoughts on that?
Guay: Theatre Baton Rouge does a really good job of getting those regional premieres, and it's so lovely to allow the whole area to see a show that they might never have heard of but would absolutely love. I think that's what's really cool about regional premieres especially of new shows like this. I mean the show isn't very old so it's cool and I didn't even know what it was until Jenny asked me to read it and now it's fantastic. It sent me down a journey of my own exploration, you know going back to science and researching these characters and their different branches of science and understanding how we got to where we are now because of people like this, but as told as a completely ridiculous farce. However, it legitimately makes you think about stuff, which I think is great.
DIG: Tell me a little bit about your cast. How well are they working together?
Guay: Oh my gosh, it could not be any better, truly. They have become such a close-knit group because it's almost like improv the timing and the synchronicity must be so ratcheted that they can pull off this sort of fast-paced, funny comedy and they have linked together from the very first read. From auditions they already had chemistry, and now it's like they give each other permission to explore their funny. My job as the director has mostly been to tell them okay, that's the moment, stay there. They brought so much to each character but helped each other too, I think, really discover what's super funny about each other. I mean you really see them like it's as though they've known each other their whole lives although only two or three of them knew each other going into it. I think any show is that way. I mean it's an opportunity to create art with your friends you know whether that's in the cast or the crew or the production team I mean its collaborative art for the community. It really doesn't get any better than that.
DIG: Comedy is so much harder to do the drama.
Guay: You know I made them really explore their characters. I asked a ton of random questions like what is your relationship, and how did you guys meet, and how long have you been in the club? Just questions that have no right or wrong answer, but force them to explore their character as thoroughly as they would a dramatic role because I think to deliver that level of comedy you have to know down to the mannerisms who this character is and sell them 100% and be totally committed. And they have risen to the challenge.
DIG: Anything that you would like to mention about the tech side of things?
Guay: You know I'll tell you, normally you wouldn't think a show like this that the sound design would be much. You know it's a stationary set, it's a stage play, not a musical, there are a couple of cues of sound, but our sound designer Miranda Miller is constructing a beautiful soundscape that goes with the show that really brings it to life. I have a background in film as well as sound, I went to school for recording engineering in fact, so I have a background in sound as well as film and so I think that both visually on the stage I see it as a frame and it feels that way and just like a great movie, I think that sound can really enhance the experience for the audience and bring the entire moment to life and make it more immersive. And so, she has just jumped in with all my crazy ideas. I said, "What if we could have like Guinea pig sounds coming from the wall?" And she's like "On it!" I know her for wholeheartedly jumping into original Foley work and you know amazing things where she doesn't just go find a sound cue, she makes it, and she really commits to creating something more with the sound that just door sounds or a doorbell sound.
DIG: Anything you'd like to say to potential audience members?
Guay: You owe yourself these laughs.
THE EXPLORERS CLUB runs through May 12.