The “Hey Dani” Dialogues

An Actor/Director Exploration of Pulitzers, Hair, a Staff Disrobed (gotcha!), and Rehearsals that Shine Both Ways

 

  • “Hey, Dani, I spent the day with a colleague getting chemotherapy last week.  Here’s a picture in front of the building; it’s all about hope.”
  • “Hey, Kate, I talked with my mother-in-law – a cancer, hospice nurse – and her stories resonate with the heart of the play.  Want to Skype tomorrow?” 

 

 

 

Actor, Kate Goehring and Director, Dani Keil, begin conversations like this frequently, in what they call their deeper dive into the world of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, W;t.

On Triad Stage….

Dani: (Channeling Terry Gross.)  So you’re returning to Triad Stage for your fifth show, and I know you’re excited to come back to Winston-Salem.  What do you like about the area so much?

Kate: Triad audiences own their theater –  so open and eager and present.  This is the third Triad show in which my characters talk to the audience. How many actors get that privilege?  It’s like picking up where you left off in the conversation.

Dani: Yes! I talk to the audience members next to me when I attend the shows.  I like to ask what their favorites shows have been and how long they’ve been coming.  There’s a pride; many say, “We’ve been here since the beginning!”

 

On Grace (Everybody’s Got Some)…

Dani: Edson says W;t is about grace.  Where do you see grace in the world?

Kate: Oh the list….! I love that grace can’t be earned; saints and thieves have equal access (not that I’m encouraging anything other than saint-like behavior – but there wouldn’t be any plays, if only saints existed).  Plays feel grace-filled to me, because characters arrive with agendas about how life should go – as do we – but that is not the way the play goes. The audience catches the transformation and seals the deal. As they say, “There is no present like time”.  Audiences bring that particular gift to the mix.  What about you?  Where do you see grace?

Dani: The image of an adult talking to a child comes to mind, when an adult is honest and respectful and honors the core of a child. It’s like that with actors too; they relate from their core to everyone’s core with real motivations and actions.

 

On Poetry…

Dani: You’re doing the 100 Days of Poetry on your Facebook.  Can you talk a little bit about the response to that?

Kate: It was 30 in 30, based on Bikram Yoga’s infamous 30 Day Challenge.  I wanted to do a deeper dive into where the character and I meet and started putting it on Facebook, and there were just these thumbs-up from the most unexpected places.  People I rarely see, Chicago cops, high school classmates – people you wouldn’t expect – started tracking it with comments: “Oh, you’re killing me with that one;” “That’s my favorite,” “sending that one to my Dad,” etc.  So it became 100 poems in 100 days, because people were so into it.  It’s a lot like theatre;  “you will not find the daily news in poetry but many men have died from the lack of what is found there.”

Having loved poetry anyway, it is amazing to see how deeply people love poetry.  I’m on day 94 – dreading not posting daily after 100.  Guess we’ll have to do a play, right Dani?

Dani: Absolutely!  Rehearsals start on Friday!

 

A Director’s Thoughts Post-Preview #1

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I woke up and the thought that slammed into my consciousness as I opened my eyes was that in less than 12 hours CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF would be in its 1st preview performance. I was a bundle of nerves, anticipation and hope. I had that queasy stomach ache I seem to recall from my awkward childhood as I woke to first days of schools or final exams or big trips to the big city (Winston-Salem and Greensboro for a boy growing up in Boone. I was very impressed by revolving doors and escalators). After 4 weeks of rehearsals, after hundreds of hours of talking, attempting, dreaming and experimenting, after learning how to collaborate with this brave group of artists, halfway through our journey, last night we welcomed the missing and much anticipated character: the audience.

CAHT Preview 1

Last night at 7:30pm I walked down the center aisle and welcomed an audience (right), many of whom have been celebrating watching me in that terrifying 1st preview vulnerability for 15 seasons. I know so many of them from hundreds of conversations in the lobby, from comment cards and Monday morning emails. They’ve seen me and my work more raw and exposed than any other audience. And they have truly shaped the productions Triad Stage shares with our community. They alone witnessed the huge walking skeleton in PROVIDENCE GAP, the improvised final light and sound cues in DRACULA, the failed spin the bottle magnet trick in NEW MUSIC and so many more moments that didn’t make it to the 2nd preview. Their laughter, silence, coughing, comments and applause (or lack thereof) has inspired 14 seasons worth of artists to roll up their sleeves and head back into rehearsal Tuesday morning to risk more and strive for better. We make our theater here from scratch and unlike Broadway tours, the audience is an essential partner in the process.

I suspect last night’s 1st preview audience saw a fireworks display that will be very different from the final version. For the past week, we’ve been in what the theater calls “tech” – short for technical rehearsals. I don’t like the name because it sounds so scientific. I wish we could call them something like “discovery rehearsals”, because it is in this week that the actors and I leave the rehearsal hall and join the designers and production staff in the theater to weave together the set, costume, lights and sound with the lives we’ve been creating. We don’t layer design on top of acting, but discover new language, new moments and new possibilities. It’s an exhausting but thrilling week. And some of the discoveries we make open our eyes to opportunities in the play we had not yet discovered.

One of these ideas grew out of the references to the fireworks in honor of Big Daddy’s birthday. Our original thought was that we would have a couple of loud sound cues and a flash or two of light. But as we bridged Williams’ 2nd and 3rd act, we began to feel we needed a moment to bring the outside in, to make palpable the upset of the night and to contrast the outer and inner confusions confronting Brick. And so, we began to build a fireworks display. We combined lights and sound, developing a design vocabulary. We debated and experimented with how it would start and how it would end. We added two of the kids to the confusion, then added almost everyone else. We tried the fireworks watchers moving in slow motion then tried fast motion. We tried them standing stock still. We convinced five children to listen closely and to run at the exact boom in a long series of booms, snaps and bangs. We altered the moment when Big Daddy rushes from the room and we carved out what we hope will be the perfect moment for Brick to enter his own world. And after hours of shaping and re-shaping, tonight our 1st preview audience showed us something wonderful that we had missed.

I never know how a 1st preview will go. I suppose that’s part of the thrill that keeps me making live theater. I do know, however, I will be back Tuesday making changes from fresh discoveries. The fireworks display will change. On Wednesday it will change again. I have no idea what it will be by Friday’s opening.

And, if you’ll forgive this personal confession, last night (or rather this morning) right before 2 am, I ordered my last bourbon and lifted it, as I always do after a 1st preview, in a silent toast of gratitude for the audience who become artists on our journey towards opening night.

Thanks,

Preston Lane, Founding Artistic Director

Want to help furnish an apartment?

Show of hands – how many of you knew that we house all of our out-of-town actors in apartments? We do and those apartments have to be furnished! We’re now starting our third season in Winston-Salem and we’re able to house our Winston-Salem casts actually IN Winston-Salem. So exciting!

However, we need some help. Below is a list of all the items that we currently need for the apartments. We ask that everything be in good working order.

Jessie, our Company Manager will be coordinating all donations. If you have any of the below items that you would be willing to donate (in-kind contributions are tax-deductible!), please contact Jessie ASAP at jessie@triadstage.org

We can coordinate large furniture pick up – so don’t hesitate to ask us!

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InSight Speaker announced for CAT

We’re so excited to have Thomas Keith back as our InSight speaker for CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. He was last here for KINGDOM OF EARTH and gave us a great look into the world of Tennessee Williams and we’re thrilled to have him back.

InSight Sunday for CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is Sunday, August 30th following the 2:00 p.m. matinee. The program is FREE and open to the public but if you’d like to purchase tickets for the 2:00 p.m. show, you can here.

Triad Stage’s InSight series is sponsored by Pennybyrn at Maryfield.

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Ah, Poetry! Who knew it could be so INTENSE?

  • donne(Pictured above, John Donne)
  • “Would you shave your head for a play?”  Ask any actress about W;t, and she’ll say, “of course.” John Donne probably would, too.

Very, very excited to come back to the Triad and play Vivian Bearing in W;t.  Even more deeply excited by the director/actor conversations already beginning.  Key questions from an early conversation with W;t director, Dani Keil abound:

“What’s the most strategic timing for shaving your head?”

“Was that rhymed couplet in earnest?”

Nothing’s better than this.  We’ll see you in September at the Hanesbrands…Wit