What’s Hair Got to Do With It?

THE HEY DANI DIALOGUES:  An actor/director exploration of how shaving your head enlivens the world

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*Dani Keil (“W;t” Director):  Hey, Kate, what are your takeaways about shaving your head to play Vivian Bearing in “W;t?” Actresses are pretty protective of their hair; why do none of them hesitate to let it all go for this role?

*Kate Goehring (“W;t” Actor):  Hey, Dani, click here for my take on the superable barrier between an actor and a character – What’s Hair Got to Do With It?

Dani: Our collaborators at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center thought you’d gain a deeper understanding of what people with cancer go through as you walked through the community with a shaved head.  Have you found this to be true, and how has it helped you portray Vivian Bearing on stage?

Kate: It’s always a privilege to work for Triad Stage, and the inclusion of Wake in its planning is masterful; what’s revealed is the unparalleled level of openness and compassion community-wide. Winston-Salem’s audiences are showing me what true connection can be.  I have a crush on Winston-Salem.

Dani:  What kinds of reactions have there been?

Kate:  The bald look has stimulated insightful conversations in Harris Teeter and Starbucks, ranging from funny moments with giggling two-year-olds, to poignant, grownup conversations on families; transformative journeys, with regard to illness. It’s getting to be a part of Triad Stage taking what’s found onstage beyond the proscenium. The Medical Center’s potentiated that – bravo!

Dani: Well, we are privileged to have your talent onstage in the Triad.  And you look gorgeous!

Kate:  Aw! Definitely earrings that never made sense in the past now do.

 

Wonderment: An Exhibit

Here at Triad Stage, we are very proud to partner with Wake Forest Baptist Health to present WIT. They have been an invaluable resource to our artistic process during production. Two Wake Forest doctors also have a talent for the creative, and their talents are on display at the new exhibit “Wonderment” at the Hanesbrands Theatre, through the run of WIT.

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Kathryn Greven and Brandi Page are both cancer physicians and are drawn to express their feelings of the power and wonderment of the natural world through their art. They both believe that when we learn to view the natural world around us as mystical and meaningful that our lives are enriched in countless ways. 

In addition to academic pursuits in their field, Dr. Greven and Dr. Page have collaborated on artwork featured on the front cover of a scientific cancer journal, the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.

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Dr. Kathy Greven

”Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars.” - Henry Van Dyke 

Dr. Greven uses photography to capture some of the wondrous moments of the natural world. She has discovered that “the universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” (Eden Phillpotts) As a cancer physician she has been able to witness miracles in healing and coping with physical and emotional illness. She believes that God provides us with daily occurrences of beauty in the natural world and that Nature can have a powerful healing influence on all of us. Her hope as she contemplates the world with camera in hand is to portray the magic and beauty of Nature in her photographs. Her hope is that these moments can endure so that they can be enjoyed and bring peace and joy to the viewer. Dr. Greven is a radiation oncologist and full professor at Wake Forest Medical School. Her involvement in teaching residents and medical students, cancer research and patient care was recognized by being elected to fellowship in the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

”Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” – Stephen Hawking

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Dr. Brandi Page

“A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves–strong, powerful, beautiful–and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.” – Pam Brown

Dr. Page has been fascinated with her favorite subject, the horse which conveys the emotional qualities of freedom, happiness, and strength. Her sculptures start out as inanimate, dormant wire. Over time the wire seems to take on a semblance of personality, movement, and emotion, created in a space filled with music, most notably from Beethoven or Bach. It is the artist’s mission to feel the sleek edges of the metal in the hands, to understand its traction; its pull. To understand its resistance but pliability, continuously and carefully bending the unwrapped shiny wire, to allow the hidden spirit to emerge and come alive. The resultant lively horse is compiled in a continuous, uninterrupted fashion and is composed of several different colorful alloys. Having ties with the Winston-Salem, North Carolina community, Dr. Page completed her radiation oncology fellowship at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and has recently joined the radiation oncology faculty at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. 

“I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free” -Michelangelo

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Creating a gift from the heart

Wit Photo with Art
Pictured: Kate Goehring in WIT. Photo by Fred Kinney.

Dear Friends,

The first few weeks of a season can be some of the most promising and relaxing weeks of the year. Most of us at Triad Stage are focused only on the opening show and most of us still have some sense of calm thanks to a few weeks off in July.

I usually spend my downtime in the summer in the old part of Puerto Vallarta. It’s off-season, rates are cheap, and I accomplish an enormous amount of writing and reading done sitting on a balcony overlooking the Bay of Banderas.
My return to Greensboro always throws me instantly back into rehearsals, but thankfully there’s always Los Gordos, Greensboro’s best Mexican restaurant, to remind me of that Puerto-Vallarta-escape-from-it-all feel. I love the homemade care that goes into their food and the remarkable respect for authenticity.

Good food and good theater seem so much alike. Both are prepared with great love from the finest ingredients, made by hand and shared with their patrons as a gift from the heart. We can always go to a national chain or a national tour if we want something made for someone else, but if what we’re really hungry for is “homemade” buying local promises a level of care that values creativity far more than convenience. (And those homemade tortillas at Los Gordos keep me coming back for more.)

Soon after the Opening Night of the first show, the activity of the season explodes. We’re currently in rehearsal for DEATHTRAP and deep in preparation for two holiday shows and the first shows of the New Year. As many of our staff were toasting the final performance of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, I was in New York casting both VROOOMMM! (with director David Karl Lee, an old friend from grad school and one of the wackiest, funniest directors I know) and BEAUTIFUL STAR. We cast our shows by auditions here in the Triad and in New York. As a result, I spend quite a bit of time in New York — reminding myself why I don’t live there.

Our New York auditions happen at Pearl Studios, located in the mid-thirties on 8th Avenue. We have a New York casting director, Cindi Rush, who has worked with us from the very first show of our inaugural season. Cindi is, as my mountain relatives would say, just good people. She places talent before celebrity and values craft and dedication more than anything else.

She sends out a breakdown describing key characteristics of all the roles we will be casting and requests submissions from actors’ agents and managers. We then spend several days watching actors play scenes we have selected from the play with a “reader” — an actor who reads all the other roles. After the first auditions, we decide who to call back and then see another day of auditions with new material and a chance to revisit scenes from the first day. Once Cindi and I (and the guest director and/or the music director) have decided who we want to hire, we make offers through the agents and wait patiently to see if the actors will accept.

This waiting game can be nerve-wracking. No actor will ever get rich working in regional theater. We are often competing with far more lucrative film and television offers. Triad Stage is building a reputation as a place where actors want to work. Almost always we get our first choices.

Sometimes, we don’t audition a role at all. Sometimes, an actor I know and love is the reason we select a play. We call the agent directly to make an offer. Such was the case when we began the casting process for the first show of our third season at the Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem. I programmed WIT knowing that I could not imagine producing the play without a Triad Stage favorite, Kate Goerhing, in the lead role of Vivian Bearing.

Kate has appeared in numerous shows at Triad, from THE LITTLE FOXES at The Pyrle to UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL at the Hanesbrands and she is one of the most compelling and talented actresses I know. Working with an extraordinary cast including two recent UNCSA graduates and UNCSA legend, Lesley Hunt (the fabulous teacher who taught me how to breathe, stand up straight, take snuff, and dance the Gay Gordon).

Look, there’s no way to sugar coat this: Kate is going to rip your heart out. WIT is one of the most powerful theatrical experiences you will ever see in your life. If you have battled cancer or loved someone who battled cancer, you must see this show.

Even though there is lots of laughter along the way, I’m being honest when I say there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when we watched the final run in the rehearsal hall before moving to the theater to begin technical rehearsals. I’ve seen the play numerous times, I knew what was coming, and I told myself I wasn’t going to embarrass myself in front of the company — but a box of Kleenex later the only thing that mattered was the deep connection with community this remarkable Pulitzer Prize-winning drama creates whenever it is done with great love and truth. And Kate and company are doing just that!

I can’t wait to share it with all of you and look forward to seeing you in Winston-Salem.

Thanks,

Preston Lane, Founding Artistic Director

The “Hey Dani” Dialogues: When Is a Popsicle Not a Popsicle?

Mari Vial-Golden and Kate Goehring in "W;t."

Mari Vial-Golden and Kate Goehring in “W;t.”

When is a popsicle not a popsicle?

When it’s onstage with two characters just waiting to connect.

Dani and Kate discuss theatricality vs. realism in finding the soul of W;t.

 

On the Secret Life of Props.

Kate: Hey, Dani, how has the design concept talked back to you during this first week of rehearsal?

Dani: In the initial staging I felt a real tug between the theatricalism versus the realism of the piece.  We needed a trash can and then also added a sharps container and a biohazard disposal.  And I was asking myself – “Is this too real?” and “Is it enough to tell the story?”  We also needed to look at the very real stage direction of two characters eating food that melts.

Kate: So when a popsicle is not just a popsicle, right?

Dani: Yes.  That scene where your character and the nurse share a popsicle – using the actual popsicles in rehearsal – this is essential to the process, because the more real the props are, the more they become a gift to an actor.  The actor is working on the real activity of putting on gloves, using a syringe, or eating this melting treat, and yet the emotional component of the scene is freed instead of forced, because of those very technical things.  

 

On Creativity and Editing.

Kate: Tell us why messy is best in the first work-through.

Dani: I use to be a lot like your character Vivian; I like details, and I can be uncompromising, expecting perfection from myself.  But I have found this does not serve the early part of the rehearsal process. A huge part of the director’s job is facilitating the creativity of the other artists.  When we work messy, everyone is invited to be creative, freewheeling and even silly.  

Kate: Like how we’ve now started to name the props.  The IV drip is named “Mags” after our very brilliant pulitzer prize-winning playwright – Margaret Edson.

Dani:  Exactly! That silliness shuts down the critical part of ourselves so we’re freer to share ideas. If we explore tons of possibilities, we’ll have more and better material to edit later. We can’t underestimate the importance of laughter in the rehearsal hall. If we only stuck with the hard emotions, it wouldn’t encompass the whole truth.

Kate: Well, then we’re in luck! It’s joyful to work on a text that is stunning in complexity and depth of connection.  At the same time, that same material seems to have so much room for all of us, as actors. Kinda like you, Dani. (Just sayin’….)

The Hey Dani Dialogues: W;t Rehearsals Start

Actor/Director explorations of Pulitzers, eyebrows, a staff disrobed (gotcha!) and rehearsals that shine both ways

Chemo Clinic

*“Hey, Dani, what are your three take-away words from table work for “W;t?”

*“Hey, Kate, we have to think about eyebrows.” 

Actor, Kate Goehring and Director, Dani Keil, still begin conversations like this, as the deeper dive into the Pulitzer Prize-winning “W;t” starts up rehearsals.

 

On the first rehearsal….

Dani: At first rehearsal the design team presented our concept.  Did any ideas or images inform you and your process?

Kate:  Oh, all of it:  our set designer’s ability to create distance (as illness can); the intuitive awareness of silence’s part in a soundscape by our sound designer; and our costume designer’s use of color and white to underscore the thin line between which is more ‘real’ – past or present.

On table work…

Kate:  What is the biggest surprise from the beginning of the process?

Dani: The laughter and joy during table work. The discussion has such passion, and each of you bring an openness.  You are all building off of each others’ ideas and reaching deeper understanding together. I see a chemistry among the cast already.

Kate: What are your three take-away words from table work?

Dani: The word Research is still resonating for me throughout the play. That word was a jumping off point during the design process, and the cast discussion has illuminated the art and wonder that a research process can hold.  The new words I’m thinking about are Time and Vulnerability and especially a relationship between those two ideas.

On poetry….

Dani: Your “100 Poems in 100 Days” Facebook challenge has come to a conclusion. What’s one that surprised you?

Kate:

MY HEART

I’m not going to cry all the time

nor shall I laugh all the time,

I don’t prefer one “strain” to another.

I’d have the immediacy of a bad movie,

not just a sleeper, but also the big,

overproduced first-run kind. I want to be

at least as alive as the vulgar. And if

some aficionado of my mess says “That’s

not like Frank!”, all to the good! I

don’t wear brown and grey suits all the time,

do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,

often. I want my feet to be bare,

I want my face to be shaven, and my heart–

you can’t plan on the heart, but

the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

 

– Frank O’Hara

 

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!

 

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