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BWW Blog: An Interview With Cast/Crew of Martius

Check out a full Martius interview, featuring the directing team, stage manager and cast members! 

BWW Blog: An Interview With Cast/Crew of Martius

Hello Broadway lovers, theatre students, and creators around the world! Welcome back to the blog, as we enter November!! (What?!) During these last surreal months, there have been two constants in my life: a shortage of Clorox...and theatre. Just like the bleach continues to soar off the shelves, the artist hustle also truly never seems to stop. Even with obvious obstacles like...a global pandemic, we continue to connect and create. And I think that constant innovation is one of the most beautiful things about the theatre world.

An example of that boundless creativity occurs at my school, in something called Second Season. Students write, cast, and produce their own shows in whatever way they see fit to share their story. One of the upcoming productions is a musical called Martius. The student-produced show was filmed entirely outdoors, following all social distancing and COVID guidelines.

Enamored with their creativity and perseverance, I wanted to get some insights on the cast/crew's passion for theatre, the rehearsal process, and the stories they want to share during these crazy times. Read below for a full Martius interview, featuring the directing team, stage manager and cast members!

First, I began with Abbie Olshin and Beth Rendely, the directing and creative team behind Martius. I wanted to learn more about their process for creating and staging the show, and how they teamed up to help share this story!

Q: Can you describe a little bit of your process surrounding the creation of this show?

Beth: This musical, inspired by Shakespeare's play Coriolanus, takes a look at what happens when one person is manipulated by nearly everyone in a society that cannot break out of certain toxic cycles. Over the years, the idea of a musical grew in my head. One night, I went back to my dorm after seeing the Maryland Shakespeare Players' production of Macbeth and... plonked out a melody on my dinky keyboard. I consider that one of the turning points in my decision to actually write this thing. I wrote the show completely out of order - some of the earliest pieces of music I wrote occur near the middle or end, while I didn't completely finish the opening number until several days before we started the process this fall.

Abbie: I can talk about how I got involved in this project! Beth had posted about how she was looking for a director for a potential Second Season show she had written that was based on Shakespeare's Coriolanus. As someone who is pursuing a career in directing and someone looking to pursue as MA/MFA in Shakespeare studies, this seemed like the perfect kind of project for me.

Q: As the directing team behind this production, what has been the hardest and most rewarding part of creating theatre during COVID?

Abbie: The biggest "struggle" I would say that we faced was just not knowing what to expect. There were many moments in our production meetings where questions were answered with "we'll find out." But even with those unanswered questions and roadblocks, I felt that it really helped me think outside of the box. We worked the masks into our costume designs and made them a part of the look, and I tried my best to figure out how lack of contact could build and elevate the scene or stage pictures.

Beth: It feels like you're in a perpetual state of barely-cobbling-everything-together. Also, rehearsing music over Zoom is a lagging nightmare. Also, not a single day of filming went as planned. On the flipside, it's very satisfying to say, "I made this. We made this during a pandemic." Working with the team on this project has kept me going during this very strange semester.

Q: What do you want your audience to take away from your piece?

Abbie: I'm hoping that the audience will watch it and resonate with the importance of hope even while dealing with political upheaval.

Beth: [I want the audience to ask to themselves/reflect on] When is a child no longer beholden to their parent? How do we fetishize war and our soldiers'?

Next, I moved on to Aitana Garrison- the student stage manager of the production. I was excited to learn how she managed a hybrid (online/outside) production and made it succeed! See below:

Q: How did rehearsals go? What was a typical "day in your life" like during Martius filming?

Aitana: Rehearsals over Zoom went better than I expected! I created "breakout rooms" for some actors to rehearse music while others worked on character development. The rehearsal process became a little more stressful once we got face to face and began to film. The music had to be dubbed because of the necessity for masks. We had people outside filming while one or two people went inside to record. I am not sure if we did everything the right or most professional way, but we made it work. We were all learning together.

Q: Most rewarding part of being a stage manager/creating theatre during COVID?

Aitana: I am grateful that I was able to still be a part of theatre and a production during this pandemic. The most rewarding part is knowing that theatre and art can still exist and matter even in a pandemic. I was inspired by the resilience in people whom I had the pleasure of working with.

I then asked her the same question I asked Abbie and Beth.

Q: What do you hope the audience takes away from Martius?

Aitana: The only thing I wish they take away from it is something. I hope the production can promote thoughtfulness and mindfulness within each individual audience member.

My final interviews were with two of the actors in Martius, Jake Schwartz and Kailee Goldberg. I wanted to hear their answers to the questions on everyone's minds. What does rehearsal and performance look like in a COVID world? And why did they choose to participate?

Q: Why did you continue acting, even during COVID?

Jake: I'm continuing acting for the simple fact that I love it. It is my safety net, that one constant in my life that keeps me going. There's a saying that I learned from my Acting Mentor in High School. "This I Do For You." The "You" is actually yourself (confusing I know, it took me like 4 years to figure it out.) I continue doing it for me.

Kailee: Theatre is one of my passions, probably my primary passion, and I think it's important to continue expanding my theatrical experience and making art through the pandemic. It's a little harder to create live theatre with the pandemic, but we, as theatre artists, find a way to still share our craft with the world.

Q: How was the rehearsal process, from an actor's point of view?

Kailee: All of our initial rehearsals were over Zoom, to learn the music or do character work. Zoom latency made music rehearsals a little difficult, but we got through it. After everything was learned, we had one full cast in person (socially distanced) sitzprobe and then we started filming!

Q: What was the hardest part of creating theatre during COVID?

Kailee: One difficult thing is wearing masks while trying to emote and act. You really have to use your eyes and body to portray your character and their emotional state, which is challenging, but it teaches you a lot as an actor!

To wrap up all the interviews, I asked each production member the same question...what have you learned about yourself and theatre during this time? Their answers not only gave me an insight into their passion as performers and creators but hope for the future world of theatre- no matter what it may look like.

Something you have learned (about yourself/theatre) while creating art during this time?

Aitana: I learned that I would like to improve my interpersonal skills as a stage manager. I learned that no matter what theatre will always continue, and I will always love it.

Beth: I am very good at coming up with new itineraries on the fly.

Abbie: A phrase that I feel has been thrown around ever since COVID-19 was "theatre will not die". I think that is very true, but it is also really intriguing to see how theatre has been adapting and evolving with this pandemic. By creating theatre in this time, I definitely feel as if it has forced me to be more creative and adaptable with how I approach the work, but also just even more grateful for the ability to be creating work.

Kailee: Art, especially theatre, is very therapeutic for me. I've used my creativity to get myself out of bad headspaces over the past few months. It has just solidified how essential theatre, music, dance, and art are to humanity. The arts are more than just entertainment, they keep us alive.

Jake: No matter what happens, no matter what life throws our way - art will continue to evolve. You can take away an in-person audience, you can take away us being in person/in close proximity, and you can even take away theatre as we know it. But the universe can't take away the fact that we're performers, and we will find a way to (safely) do what we love.

Want to watch the magic happen? Martius streams November 5th. Head To: https://tdps.umd.edu/events/martius-and-crash-test



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From This Author Student Blogger: Leah Packer