Interview with Mary Beth Luckenbaugh

Mary Beth Luckenbaugh as Elsa.

Hannah: How did you come to audition at the 1st Stage?
Mary Beth: I belong to the Actor’s Center which is an awesome online group that provides all sorts of services for actors including an audition hotline. I actually auditioned for another show at 1st Stage called Parfumerie which I was not cast in but found on the Actor’s Center hotline. My headshot and resume were on file so I was invited to audition for Flora.

H: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects/scenes of doing this musical?
MB: I loved getting to play so many wildly different roles. I played 6 of the 25 roles. It was really a lot of fun to find a different voice and physicality for each of them. As for my least favorite, probably standing frozen in the picket line mainly because by that point my feet start hurting!

H: Do you feel like there is something your main character Elsa wishes she could say throughout the play that she can’t?
MB: I think it would be easy to fall into the trap of playing Elsa as dumb, insecure, and unable to stand up for herself. I always saw her as a woman who has tremendous interpersonal intelligence. She understands people. It’s not that she lets Flora walk all over her; it’s more that she allows Flora to make her own mistakes and then supports her as she works them out. I actually think that Elsa is one of the characters in the play who is most secure with her own voice.

H: Elsa is an aspiring fashion designer. Do you feel like if she were a real person, she would be any good at the job? What kind of clothes do you feel like she would create?
MB: Oh no! She is TERRIBLE! Watch close and you’ll see Elsa prick her finger on her needle multiple times. Plus she’s the one who made that abysmal brown dress with the velour ruffles that Flora steals for her interview. I think what’s charming about Elsa is that she really has no idea how talentless she is. She just keeps going because she loves it so much.

H: You and the cast have a great dynamic and chemistry. Is it rare that everyone gets along so well? What is it that you feel brings you all together?
MB: I wouldn’t say it’s rare but it definitely doesn’t happen all the time. I think the thing that’s great about this cast is that we’re all so different that we balance each other out.

H: What is your theater history in the DC area? What are some of your favorite moments/plays you have done?
MB: I went to Catholic University for musical theatre. I’m still working on getting my foot in the door but have been blessed to work with Keegan Theatre, Adventure Theatre, and the American Century Theatre along with 1st Stage. My all time favorite role is probably Rona Lisa Peretti in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which I did at CUA my senior year.

H: What projects do you have coming up?
MB: I’m doing Marathon 33 at the American Century Theatre and James Joyce’s The Dead at Quotidian Theatre.

What is it that Daniel Radcliffe cannot do?

Just released today is the single take music video for Slow Club’s song “Beginners” and it is starring one of my (and many’s) favorite British celebrity Dan Radcliffe. I say Dan plays a rather convincing drunken and emotional mess. My other thought is what part of the entertainment industry will Dan invade next?

Also, take a look at Rupert Grint in Ed Sheeran’s music video for the song “Lego House” from last November if you have not already.

No More Apples.

If you saw Flora you would get that reference, but if not I am probably judging you.

Thank goodness for you, readers no longer have to read about Flora the Red Menace. At least until after I write this post. The final performance was last night (June 17th) and we had almost a full house for the matinee, which is pretty darn awesome. It always helps to end the show with a bang.

Any who, being the assistant stage manager or really whatever I was has made me realize one thing: I really like acting. It’s not that I don’t like working backstage; if someone asks me to do it again I would totally do it. Working backstage is just different. Because I have acted and enjoy it there is that shallow part of me that really just admittedly likes being in the spotlight and creating a new character. This sounds awful and I don’t mean that I am a complete attention whore. Just a little bit.

Like I have mentioned before I am really lucky to have been able to work with such a talented cast of people. By watching and hearing them perform I have learned a lot about how to be a better actor. Also, seeing all of the fun and clever choreography in this show has made me want to really try to get back into dancing. I definitely need a ton of practice if I ever want to do a musical again, but maybe I can learn? We shall see. I am also really glad that our stage manager was just so relaxed but got done what needed to be done. I had very little backstage experience so coming in I was intimidated but it was fine. All I had to do was what I was told to do and now I have a better understanding of the function of a stage manager. So fantastic.

Working back stage for Flora was definitely a lucky and timely opportunity for me. If I had waited another day to start my internship I would have been cleaning the costume closet backstage the whole summer, so yeah as bored as I may have been on occasion this was much better. By a long shot.

Even though this show is done my internship is not done yet. I think I am helping with the upcoming children’s show at the 1st Stage, which is The Prince and the Troubadour. It will be performed by the Virginia Children’s Theater Company. So more exciting experiences hopefully! Also, I will be volunteering at the Capital Fringe Festival in July, which means free tickets and a free tshirt (let’s be real, the tshirt is why I am doing this). Basically my summer is shaping up to be very theatrical.

As for the next couple of blog posts I am still waiting on actor interviews so hopefully I will be able to post some more soon. Tomorrow I am seeing an early screening of HBO’s newest show The Newsroom. It airs Sunday, June 24 at 10PM. I will let y’all how it is. It is actually very exciting because it is written by Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network and Moneyball. I am expecting high quality however I kind of hope I don’t like it too much because I don’t have HBO. Sigh—first world problems.

With that I finish this random blog post and say good bye to Flora and Communism.

Interview with Joshua Dick

Dani Stroller as Flora (left) and Joshua Dick as Harry (right).

Hannah: You play the character Harry who tries to get Flora to join the Communist party, but it doesn’t really work out. What do you think Harry could have done differently to keep Flora red?

Josh: I honestly don’t think Harry could of or should have done anything differently. That’s the meaning behind Harry and Flora’s relationship. They are both attracted to the passion the other has for their fellow man, but ultimately, their respective routes to make the world a better place got in each other’s way. That was going to happen no matter what Harry did.

H: Harry has a stutter. Did you have to try to learn a proper way to stutter or were the places to stutter in the script?

J: There are stutters in the script, some of which I followed, but mostly I just did my best to adopt a stutter myself. I also looked for ways to make the stutter speak to the audience about Harry’s current state. In more confident moments, the stutter doesn’t appear as much.

H: What was the audition and rehearsal process like for Flora?

J: The audition consisted of a song and a dance call, then a callback with sides from the script and a dance call for some (not me, which was probably best for all involved). We began rehearsing music once a week in March, then got into the swing of 4-5 rehearsals a week in April for about 3 hours each day.

H: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects/scenes of doing this musical?

J: I am a huge fan of Kander and Ebb, so I do love the music quite a lot. I like that even in softer, quieter, slower musical moments, there is still a great deal of energy to these songs. My least favorite aspect is that, in my opinion, the script could go through another round of cuts and still tell the same story. Certain scenes and songs, though not bad, are just unnecessary. This is a great story, and I think there might be a better way to tell it.

H: You and the cast have a great dynamic and chemistry. Is it rare that everyone gets along so well? What is it that you feel brings you all together?

J: There’s nothing like a cast full of people who work well together. And it certainly doesn’t happen all the time. In my experience, the shows that I say I had the best time doing rarely have anything to do with the onstage product, but with the chemistry I found with my fellow actors, both on and off stage. Chemistry is a weird thing; sometimes it’s there and sometimes it just isn’t, no matter how hard to you want to be. I’m honored to know the people involved with Flora, and it will be a shame when we have to go our separate ways.

H: What is your theater history in the DC area? What are some of your favorite moments/plays you have done?

J: I went to school at American University for musical theatre. I’ve been in DC about 6 years and have worked at about a dozen professional theatres and been involved in about 50 productions (counting college). 1st Stage has been particularly good to me; Flora is my fifth production with them. Favorite shows would include The Wild Party at AU, Don’t Dress for Dinner at 1st Stage, and understudying twice at Signature Theatre, going on for Sweeney Todd and watching George Hearn and Chita Rivera work in The Visit.

H: What projects do you have coming up?

J: I am directing and performing in The Every Fringe Show You Want to See in One Fringe Show Fringe Show at the Capital Fringe Festival this summer. (It’s a spoof of the Fringe. It’s quite raunchy. Don’t bring the kids.) I’m also assistant directing a production of Urinetown with the Theatre Lab. Also, keep an eye out for Confab, a 12-episode sitcom webseries I am in that will debut sometime this summer.

H: So why should people come and see the 1st Stage’s production of Flora the Red Menace?

J: Flora the Red Menace is a never-done musical, so if you are a fan of musical theatre, you must see it. For those who don’t fall into that category, it is a fantastic and unique story told by talented young actors who give their all every show.

Thanks again Josh and for everyone else remember this weekend is your last chance to see the show!

Top 10 List

10. It is only $15 for students and $30 for everyone else!

9. We have an awesome stage manager and a pretty great assistant stage manager (yeah… that’s me).

8. The theater is in a cool space that is modern and industrial. So if you have never been to the 1st Stage it is an experience.

7. The set is pretty “tight”.

6. This is a historic production! This is the first time the musical has been staged since 1987 and with brand new musical composition thanks to the genius music director.

5. Some pretty funny moments and a couple of great puns.

4. The orchestra is fantastic.

3. Two words: tap dancing.

2. Flora has an amazing cast who really make this show work.

1. It is something different to do with your time. It gives you a chance to be cultured.

 

Keep checking my blog if you are interested in reading actor interviews!

Flora Week 3 (June 1-June3)

Basically what I spend my time backstage doing.

I cannot imagine how I forgot to do this. My week was basically characterized by me watching The Walking Dead and Modern Family. I don’t know if I matters since I have nothing exceptional to say. Realistically you don’t want me to go on about all of the aspects of the show that went right. Well, let me tell you that it was a successful weekend… Assuming I am recalling this information correctly. It already feels like ages ago and I can’t quite remember.

I will say though that the lack of disasters is both good and bad for me. It’s good because I do something other than sitting on my behind for two and a half hours. It’s bad for the obvious reason that something bad happened.

Anyway I won’t keep going on and on about my enormous power and responsibility as the assistant stage manager (yeah I have a title!). I do like this job though. It might not be the most exciting but it is definitely a start and gets me out of the house, which my mom appreciates.

Keep a look out though this week for another few posts. I will have the fourth week report and… wait for it… interviews with the actors! Woot!

The show must go on… but really

Internship: Week 2

You know the saying, “the show must go on”? I realized last weekend that it could not be truer. I mean I really had no idea how much theaters follow that saying. In the short time span of 24 hours, which was three performances of Flora the Red Menace, everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. Yet each show went on as scheduled.

On Saturday night, the cast and crew regrouped after a break and the main actress, Dani Stroller, who plays Flora mentioned that she felt odd. One of those feelings where you can’t decide if you are hungry or getting sick. Not thinking much of it she ate a snack and she went to warm up her voice with the rest of the cast. Everyone got into places and the show began. About 45 minutes into Act 1, Dani asked me if I could text our stage manager Colleen because apparently Dani had been throwing up since before the show started. My thoughts: Oh man. What the hell am I supposed to do about this? Dani doesn’t have an understudy so apparently she had to keep performing. I was feeling so badly for her and I was frustrated because I knew there wasn’t anything I could do that would really help. I got a bucket, coke, ginger ale, and water and hoped for the best. Anyway, Dani finished Act 1 and Colleen commented that it did not look like she was sick. As a matter of fact, she was doing a great job performing. This, I was obviously impressed by. I mean if it had been me I probably would have overdramatically crawled onto the floor and into a ball. Then I was struck again by a comment Dani made during intermission. She was upset, saying that she had a high fever, just the she was feeling awful, then she said “How am I supposed to perform the rest of the show feeling this way?” And anyone who was listening responded, “The way you have been.” Dani’s ability to pull through regardless of how she felt was absolutely amazing. I have no idea if there was a possibility of cancelling the musical that night and refunding tickets, but I feel like that idea didn’t even cross her mind. The show must go on. Dani acted regardless.

The next day, we had another two shows: the Sunday matinee and evening performance. For the Sunday matinee, everything seemed to be going fine. Then about a half an hour into the play, I received a text message from Colleen saying that the lights on stage pulsed. If the actors asked me about it just to tell them that she realized it but was not concerned as of yet (this will become important later). A couple of minutes later, Josh Dick (the actor who plays the Communist romantic interest, Harry) came backstage threw his prop onto the table and went in to the dressing room in a bit of a huff. Clearly upset. I was thinking he must have just made a mistake onstage and was mad at himself. Next thing I knew, I received another text from Colleen stating, “Oh shoot. What about Josh?” So I rush over to him and I say something along the lines of, “Are you okay? I have no idea what happened but Colleen wanted me to check.” Well apparently, Josh was choking on a cheese ball on stage. When he was supposed to start singing one of his songs, he couldn’t and luckily Dani noticed so covered for him by starting to sing until he could recover. Basically, we were in the process of potentially losing an actor, but the show continued. Thank goodness, I guess.

Then finally the last show of the weekend came along. Everyone was tired, but everyone was feeling fine. No problems. Mary Beth Luckenbaugh, who plays Elsa one of Flora’s struggling artist friends, decided that we should do some “boot camp” exercises to give everyone a bit of energy. I guess that is kind of an irrelevant detail, but whatever. Anywho, we start the show and about eight minutes in Colleen sends me a text saying, “my light board crapped out.” Basically the lights were going to stay the same until they could be fixed. At least the light board decided to freeze with the lights on (I try to be positive occasionally). There was this major problem and just several little mess ups in the first act. All of the issues that occurred in the last few shows were beginning to feel unreal. Although my favorite had to be when I was helping Kelsey Meiklejohn (who plays another friend of Flora, Maggie and the secretary) change clothes, she said something along the lines of, oh crap the audience just saw me starting to undress… Oops. Because the lights didn’t go off and Kelsey has to change very quickly, this was definitely a possibility. The first act ended and Colleen was able to get the light board working during intermission. Nothing else could go wrong, right? There was only one hour left of the show, everything will be great. Hahaha. Nope. Well in the last thirty minutes of the play it started to rain. Hard. The problem was because of the way the building of the theater is set, the rain was extremely loud inside the theater as it pounded on the roof. I thought the air conditioner was about to explode it was that loud. The actors could barely hear each other and I am not sure how well the audience could hear the remainder of the musical. At this point, the whole cast and I were all just laughing hysterically. What kind of show is this? We couldn’t stop it just felt ridiculous. The whole weekend was a slight disaster. Nevertheless, the actors continued acting without their lighting cues and even though the rain was beating on the ceiling. Each show continued relatively well. Because we are clearly very lucky, as the actors took their bows of that last show, the rain let up and the lights went down as if nothing went wrong.

The show must go on really has a whole new meaning to me.