Oct 142014

ArianaMarlowebattle (350x205)Thursday, 9 October, two weeks to the opening – we are at Flashpoint theatre, almost half way through rehearsals. The set is almost ready, complete enough for the re-creation of scenes to take place. The Director and the Actors are now ‘separated’ and away from the discussion table – a crucial stage of deconstructing the characters of Laura and Rage through analysis of their personalities, motivations and behaviors. The process of ‘decoding’ the protagonists both in their private and school contexts allowed the Director to reveal the characters’ personas and bring them to life; and was necessary for the Actors to understand Laura and Rage as human beings they were going to impersonate.

Rage is a two character play with an extremely intense plot, based around complex issues and conflict, and a gun as the actors’ companion. Such was the scenario the Actors entered when they were cast in the roles of a pacifist teacher and a radical, suicidal student. Based on my chats with both Ariana Almajan and Marlowe Vilchez, sorting out their initial instinctual and rational reactions towards the characters they were going to become and the roles they were to play, was crucial in being able to move forward toward rehearsing and perfecting scenes.

Ariana commenced her adventure with Rage overwhelmed by how intense the play was, and how exposed she would be on stage as one of only two players. Playing a female subjected to physical violence only added to her pre-rehearsal jitters and a list of challenges she had not faced in her previous roles. Also, there was a barrier Ariana felt existed between her and the character – she simply did not feel comfortable in Laura’s skin. Whilst being able to relate to the teacher’s personal life, the actress was not accepting of Laura’s blind idealism and naive trust in a non-violent way of life, a stance which seemed to her to be totally devoid of realism.

Marlowe had his own set of issues to deal with, such as the age factor and complexity of the character. Rage is not your average teenager, but a well read, intelligent and articulate person with maturity well above his years. To add to the challenge, he also happens to be a sociopath, and as such brings an extra layer of complexity to his already diverse identity – quite a challenge for Marlowe, who is no longer a teenager and who never impersonated a young sociopath before.  He also never handled a gun, a task requiring practice and getting used to, which next to working on voice modulation, language and mannerisms became one of many challenges to overcome.

Ariana and Marlowe tell me that whilst they are now much more relaxed having had the opportunity to get used to the characters and reconcile with the personalities they had to become on stage, the challenge of bringing Rage and Laura to life is very much on and the nervousness has not left them yet. They must have internalized the tension, as I cannot detect it when observing them practicing and perfecting scenes, under the guidance of Joe Banno. What seems obvious is that Joe’s directing style is very much team based. The actors feel comfortable responding to his comments, advice and instructions, as well as asking questions and offering their input. There is always time for impromptu discussion, if necessary, and humor, which gives all a much needed respite from a very intense effort.

Most of the director’s work is done from outside the performance space. As an experienced, highly skilled director and an amazing withaguncommunicator, Joe rarely needs to join the actors on stage to demonstrate specific movements, gestures or the Actors’ positioning. His input is smooth and transparent, his intentions clear, and his rapport with the actors exceptional. The three make an amazing team. I am excited to be able to witness a great director and two talented actors bringing the play to life, adding new layers and depth to the characters with every repetition of a line or a scene, every instruction, question and response, and every digression,  exploring new dimension of a dialog or the Actors’ interaction.

It is still a work in progress, but the end result can already be seen and sensed. Cannot wait for the premiere!

October 22, 2014 Preview at 8 pm

October 23, 2014 at 8 pm, Opening  & Reception Follows

Saturday, October 25, 8 pm Press Night

Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Matinees: Sundays at 2:00 pm

TICKETS: $8 – $40 Online: http://www.aticc.org/home/category/get-tickets

For 16 + Audiences

WHERE: Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint

     916 G Street NW, Washington DC

WHEN: October 22 – November 16, 2014

Oct 092014

PMP_8947 (3) When I first got the script, it was evident to me that Rage was going to be a pretty complex character. It is not say that  the other characters I have played were not complex, but simply that there are aspects of Rage that are difficult to  gauge and manipulate in order to present him believably. During that first week of rehearsals, our Director, Joe  Banno, helped me with finding the right balance in the many aspects of Rage’s character. The aspects of his character  that I had to consider and be mindful of were Rage’s anger, his age, his maturity level, his intelligence, and of course  his level of “crazy” and “creepy”.
I knew from the start that his anger had to fluctuate. I did not want Rage to come off as solely angry the entire length  of the play. Joe and I also agreed that we did not like the idea of Rage’s burst of anger to come out of left field. We came to the consensus that there had to be smaller bursts of anger towards the beginning of the play that build at certain points throughout. These bursts of anger, however, have to be strategically placed or else they might not coincide with the progression of the show. I think this allows Rage to be less stagnant. I think it is a lot more interesting and more real for a character to have different levels. As an audience member, if an actor is yelling every line, I find it hard to empathize with them. And honestly, it is boring to watch a one dimensional character.
When I tried to focus in on Rage’s anger, Joe pointed out to me that what I was doing with my voice really matured Rage beyond his 17 years. He mentioned that the register of my voice had gone much deeper than my natural voice. Subconsciously, I must have made the connection that a deeper voice was much more serious and sounded angrier. It is not a huge stretch, but it just does not fit with who the character is. I had been given similar notes in the past regarding my voice; I realized that because my natural voice was a bit high, I was compensating for it by bringing it down to a lower register. However, by doing so I was compromising Rage’s age. It’s something I will definitely have to monitor much more closely. There is a quality of my voice that I have to tap into to make sure he sounds young but also mature. More than likely, I will have to decide when in the show it would be appropriate to sound one way or the other. That will be dependent on how comfortable and confident Rage is with what he is saying.
Despite the fact that Rage is quite intelligent and formulates mature arguments in his discussion with Laura, his age cannot be ignored. If we forget to address his age, the audience cannot be expected to believe that he is 17. The show also loses that element of innocence being overpowered by anger and violence. It is something I have somewhat been struggling with because what I naturally gravitate towards usually comes off as a bit older. I might deepen my voice, change my posture, or even move in a grandiose fashion. Again not necessarily way off track as these mannerisms can reflect Rage’s confidence in his intelligence or his assertive personality, but not exactly what I should cling to if I’m 17 years old. I’ll sometimes catch myself and realize I might be coming off a bit older, and compensate for it. The problem is I find myself overcompensating and lose the threat level. It is truly a matter of finding the delicate balance of youth and maturity without compromising either.
When considering the threat level, I thought I would benefit from doing some research on psychopathy. Specifically, I wanted to look at the characteristics that come with psychopathy as well as those associated with it. I thought psychopathy would be a good starting point, because the shooters to which Rage relates were described as psychopaths by psychiatrists. Rage also shows signs of being a psychopath because of his lack of empathy and his bold behavior. I found that self-assurance, cruelty, and disinhibition were the main characteristics in psychopathy. My goal thus far is to highlight these characteristics in Rage but only to the extent that a juvenile would be able to address them. I say this because he “still a kid” as Laura puts it, and similarly to what I mentioned before despite his violence and anger we cannot forget he is a teenager. I hope that has the rehearsal process continues I will get more comfortable with the voice, physicality, and anger that comes with playing Rage.

Marlowe Vilchez

rage_200x200 (2)                                                                 Ambassador Theater Presents


By Michele Riml

Will “justifiable” violence or passive resistance win the day? Who will survive?

Directed by Joe Banno

Helen Hayes awarded director

Featuring: Ariana Almajan as Laura Whalen

                                     Marlowe Vilchez as Raymond Stitt

October 22 – November 16, 2014

Flashpoint, 916 G Street, NW, Washington DC 20001

Wed – Sat at 8 pm; Sun at 2 pm