Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Puzzle Runs Amok

In today's post, actress Laine Satterfield describes audience reaction so far to Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes at the Firehouse Theatre. The play runs through Nov. 21. More information and tickets are available at the Firehouse Web site.
We're halfway through the run of Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes, and what is so fascinating is the audience reaction.

It's the last piece of a puzzle in the theatre world, and one never knows where that piece might ultimately fit. I love hearing the different reactions: love it or hate it or some combination in-between.

This is How it Goes certainly isn't a black and white play, as far as the audiences go. We get laughs some nights in places I find horrifying, silences some nights when things are truly funny, a largely unattended talkback juxtaposed with a lively one, full of fascinating conversation. Some people who saw it two weeks ago are still talking, and that, I think, is a good sign. Some people aren't talking to me about it at all, which I find equally fascinating. Some people hate the play but love what was done with it.

I keep trying to find a pattern in the dichotomy from the demographics side: age, education, white, black, open, closed, but it doesn't seem to make any kind of sense, like a puzzle that cannot be solved. I rely on the honesty of my friends and family, and even within that close-knit group, I am befuddled.

So, I say to you as potential audience members, come and see the play, give us honest feedback. We, as actors, aren't in the business of analyzing so much as trying to tell a story. This is the story that Neil Labute wrote and that Bill Patton spearheaded. This is how it plays out this night, whatever night, and we would love for you to tell us how it affects you. This is the stuff that makes a run interesting. This is why we delve into the electronic world to gain insight and information and opinions.

So bring it on - your attendance, your reactions, your part in it. You're the missing piece of the puzzle. Thank you to all who have come to see this play and expressed an opinion about it, no matter what side of the puzzle you land on. It's a fascinating process, and I feel blessed to be a part of yet another puzzling portrayal of our flawed humanity.

Laine Satterfield
Belinda in Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dark Corners of the Human Psyche

In today's post, Scenic Assistant Vivian Buzzard explains how being a part of Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes has reinforced her perception of the Firehouse Theatre. The play runs through Nov. 21. More information and tickets are available at the Firehouse Web site.
This Is How it Goes is yet another great example of why I love the Firehouse Theatre Project so much. The play is thought-provoking and challenging, while at the same time engaging and quite entertaining.

That is typical of a Firehouse Theatre experience. In a cozy, casual, and intimate space, a story unfolds that yanks my comfort zone from beneath me as director Bill Patton shines a light into the dark corners of the human psyche with honesty, compassion, and love. Once again, I leave the Firehouse with a lot to think about, a lot to talk about, but without despair, which is to me the magic of the Firehouse, why an evening there is a rich and vibrant experience that follows me from the theatre.

This Is How it Goes is a play about the attitudes and assumptions that lie in the shadows of our minds, that cause us to act, speak, and think in ways that are destructive to ourselves or others because we keep those assumptions in the shadows, unexamined. The play addresses the issue of racial prejudice from both sides as a black character and a white character struggle with prejudice each perceives in the other. Yet, as true motives are revealed, the content of each person's character, not the color of his skin, is the litmus test by which we are asked to judge the actions of both.

And the acting is simply terrific. The characters are so believable. Fred Iacovo is endearing as "The Man," as he steps forward and confides his hopes and distress to the audience. Tyhm Kennedy's Cody is powerful and compelling. Laine Satterfield, as Cody's wife Belinda, is lonely and sweet, trying to grapple with the conflict between what she needs and the reality of her life in an unhappy marriage.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Call Me "The Man"

In today's post, actor Fred Iacovo describes his preparation for the demanding role of "The Man" in Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes. The play runs through Nov. 21. More information and tickets are available at the Firehouse Web site.
Before I agreed to be a part of This Is How It Goes, I hadn’t been on stage for two years. That was when I had taken the role of Ross in Spinning into Butter, which also played at the Firehouse. It was a nice part but I swore that if I were to do another show, I would have to be the lead. Plays take up a ton of time and keep me from being able to travel. That means I can’t do any on-camera work, and that is how I pay my bills.

Well, be careful what you wish for. The part of “Man” has been the most demanding role I have ever taken on. I didn’t realize exactly how many lines I would have to sink into memory until everything had been highlighted. When completed, I realized that was almost the whole play, or close enough. The script never left my hand for two months.

Director Bill Patton wanted the actors off book before rehearsals started. Although I didn’t quite get there, I was pretty damn close. When I would go the gym to work out, I would mumble to myself through the whole workout. I received many a strange look. The good thing about that though, not many people want to be around a crazy person, so I was always left alone to focus on my lines and my workout.

I also lost quite a bit of sleep. I couldn’t stop running lines constantly in my head. It would wake me in the middle of the night and I would have to get out of bed walking throughout the house with script in hand going over my lines. My wife finally had me stop going to get-togethers with friends because I couldn’t relax, I knew I should be studying my lines. It was a tough couple of months.

Once I got into rehearsals, things didn’t get any easier. This is a very emotional and exhausting show. Fortunately, I was blessed to be working with two wonderful actors in Laine Satterfield and Tyhm Kennedy. Their energy and talent, along with Bill’s direction, enabled us to explore and come up with a very gripping show.

But the best part about this whole process, is that when my friends talk about the show, the have to refer to me as “The Man.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ready for a Punch in the Stomach?

In today's post, Director Bill Patton lays the groundwork for what undoubtedly will be an extraordinary run of Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes. The play opens tonight, Thursday, Oct. 29, and runs through Nov. 21. More information and tickets are available at the Firehouse Web site.

Tennessee Williams once said that theatre is only worth doing if the audience feels like it’s been punched in the stomach and knocked down the stairs.

By that standard, Neil LaBute’s This is How it Goes is certainly theatre worth doing.

I’ll avoid revealing too much about the show’s content, as I’ve always believed it is up to the audience to decide what a particular play is about. However, I believe you will find that this play has a true honesty about it and that the characters speak to each other in ways that often are more truthful than we allow ourselves to be in our real-life relationships. This, in a sense, allows the truth of relationships to be revealed in ways we don’t usually think about or allow ourselves to admit.

That said, it is our job as cast and crew to present the material to the best of our ability, and we try very hard to do that without imposing our own interpretation of the playwright’s vision. Whenever I have asked the actors to do something or give me something, they’ve always given me more than I expected and more than I had asked for. It has been a splendid experience to work with everyone associated with this production, as well as to be directing again in the Firehouse and presenting quality theatre alongside its resident miracle worker, Carol Piersol.

I look forward to opening the show tonight, and hope you will join us this evening or anytime during the run. I am confident we will live up to Mr. Williams’ expectations.

Bill Patton

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jumping in with Both Feet, Blindfolded

In today's post, Keith Fitzgerald, assistant to the director, describes how he came to be involved with the Firehouse production of Neil Labute's This is How it Goes. The play opens on Thursday, Oct. 29, and runs through Nov. 21. More information and tickets are available at the Firehouse Web site.
I came on board with this team on This is How it Goes not really knowing what I was getting into. I am so thrilled that I did. I was seeking some directing experience and Carol Piersol was nice enough to talk to Director Bill Patton about whether he could use my help as an assistant on this production.

I have been a fan of Neil LaBute since my first year of college when my acting teacher's wife gave me a copy of The Shape of Things to read. She loved it and thought it would be a good thing for me to be familiar with. I fell in love with his writing.

So when Carol told me that Bill was willing to work with me and that it was one of Neil LaBute’s plays, I knew it was something I had be a part of.

I didn't get a copy of the script until the first read through. So I was going in blind and didn't know how incredibly thought provoking and morally challenging it was. That was a wonderful surprise. From the minute the read through started until the very last line, I was completely engaged.

Since that read through, I have read the script numerous times and watched it come to life. I have seen the three tremendous cast members ride an incredible emotional rollercoaster through the world of LaBute’s play and it has been a pleasure that will be long lasting in my mind. The way Bill Patton has encouraged the actors to "figure it out" has been something truly delightful to watch.

I am really looking forward to presenting the show to live audiences and seeing how they react, whether it strikes them the way it did for me on that first read through.

Theatre exists to challenge what you think you know about everything, "grab you by the balls", and not ever let go. This is How it Goes does just that. This play and works like it are the reason theatre is my passion and the reason you should come out to see this incredible production.

See you at the show!

Keith Fitzgerald
Assistant to the Director
for This is How it Goes

Friday, October 23, 2009

Navigating the Minefield

In today's post, actress Laine Satterfield, who plays Belinda, describes her initial reaction and growing fascination with the script of Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes, which opens at the Firehouse Theatre on Oct. 29 and runs through Nov. 21. Tickets and more information available at or by calling 804-355-2001.
I was not familiar with all of Neil Labute's work when Carol Piersol first asked if I would read This is How it Goes last summer. I only knew the controversy surrounding Fat Pig and the age issues in In the Company of Men. On my first read of this script, what struck me was the theatrical convention of the narrator, the swerve the story takes, the bigotry and the misogyny. I can't say that I actuallly liked it. In fact, I felt more than a little offended. However, the story stuck with me, so I picked it up again two weeks later and gave it another go. This time, I was fascinated and intrigued. Labute's dialogue is brilliant - conversational, sharp-tongued, funny and right on the money. This time, I found myself identifying with the character of Belinda, and as soon as I finished my second read, I started immediately on the third. I found myself wanting to dive in further.

Auditions were soon upon us. I knew Bill Patton as an actor and director but had never worked with him or even met him officially. On my first read, he asked me, "Do you like the play?" To which I replied a resounding, "I love it, actually". He looked at me like I had two heads and asked, "Why? Why do you like it?” I said, "Because it has so many questions. I love plays where there is so much to mine.” Something to that effect anyway. When Fred Iacovo was asked to play the Man, he called me and told me he had a very similar response to mine when reading the play. We had a long conversation about the humanity in the piece, as well as its possible dangers. When Fred said yes to the role (a very demanding role at that), I knew we were on the road. When we lost our original Cody, we had another round of auditions. That's when we met the incredible and magnetic Thym Kennedy. From that point forward, I knew we were complete in our army and ready to dive into the trenches.

I have now read the play over a hundred times and have committed most of it to memory. I still am fascinated by Labute's style and his story, as we tiptoe, plunge, laugh, claw and cry our way through this minefield of a script. Bill is so generous, giving us actors leeway to figure it out, and I think we are all being surprised by the direction we seem to be heading, pathways that are not at all what we had in our heads, but what we are in the very moment experiencing. My love affair with This is How it Goes continues to grow exponentially. I am still full of questions - mining this rich soil, bumping into explosions here and there when I least expect it, being constantly surprised by the boys. I love that Carol chose it for the Firehouse season, that Bill is our commander and that as treacherous as it can be, the process is full of play, trust and an ultimate encouragement to take chances.

The last piece of the puzzle will be the audience's response. Come join us in the field.

Laine Satterfield
Belinda in Neil LaBute's This is How It Goes

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"I Couldn't Put it Down"

The Firehouse's Founding Artistic Director Carol Piersol discusses how Neil LaBute's This is How it Goes was selected for production in the theatre's 2009-10 season. Tickets are available online at the Firehouse Web site.
How was This Is How It Goes selected? I read it in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down – it smacked me in the gut and kept coming back to haunt me.

I put it in the pile of plays on my windowsill that are “possibilities” and went on with my life, putting on plays, going to track meets and riding my bike.

Mary Burruss, who is a theatre critic for Style Weekly, went to Studio Theatre in Washington to see This Is How It Goes. She called me and said, “You’ve got to do this play – it needs to be done in Richmond.” I said, “Oh, yeah, that’s a great play and I’ve been wanting to do some Neil LaBute. (I use scenes from his plays in my acting class and they are so alive and visceral and popping!)

I gave the play to Bill Patton who was in town directing The Widow’s Blind Date, by Israel Horovitz, here at the Firehouse and he read it in one sitting and said, “I couldn’t put it down – I was on the edge of my seat to find out what was going to happen.” I said, “Well, do you want to direct it next year?” And he said “Yes!”

The play deals with bigotry, gender, betrayal and deception and the RACE CARD!

LaBute says, “Maybe appreciation of diversity is a role that the theatre can foster for itself, as an oracle of truth – I honestly hope so. I suppose it’s ironic that we must gather together in the dark around a little stage to hear the truth rather than tell each other face to face on our front lawns, but that is how it goes.”

See you at the show!

Carol Piersol
Founding Artistic Director