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Theatre Department Opens Season With ‘Almost, Maine’
After getting help from the show’s playwright, the curtain rises on the romantic comedy about love and loss on Thursday.
October 17, 2012
The student cast of “Almost, Maine” got a peek behind the curtain of the show they’re producing when Tony-nominated playwright John Cariani stopped by campus to give them insight that only a show’s writer could.
Mr. Cariani, whose acting credits include “Numb3rs” and “Law & Order,” worked with the cast and led a workshop for any interested George Washington University students on Oct. 10, just in time for the “Almost, Maine” opening Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. Additional performances are Friday and Saturday at the same time, and Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Almost, Maine” is a comedic show made up of nine vignettes—set in a mythical small town in northern Maine at 9 p.m. in the middle of winter—where “love is lost, found, and confounded.” Each actor plays multiple characters in the show.
Cast members agreed the session with Mr. Cariani—who provided insight on Maine and on the real-life stories behind the vignettes—was immensely helpful.
“I gained a real sense of northern Maine,” said Matt Nickley, a junior and dramatic literature major, adding he’ll “cherish” the experience of working with the playwright. “It’s one thing for us to just study it, but to actually meet someone from the area roots it in reality.”
Mr. Nickley said he tweaked his timing and rate of speech for each of his characters. “The characters are still the same—they’re just from Maine now.”
Maddie Hendricks, a senior and dramatic literature major and theatre minor, said working with Mr. Cariani was “truly magical.”
“My characters all gained another layer of specificity after talking to him, and my confidence in my performance increased after hearing him laugh,” Ms. Hendricks said. “Because he knew his play so well, he was able to give instant directions in clear, concise ways to each of us.”
The opportunity to bring Mr. Cariani to campus came after Allyson Currin Stokes, an adjunct professor of theater and dance, met Mr. Cariani at a playwriting conference this past summer. When she heard Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang, a professorial lecturer in theater and dance, was directing his show, she fired off an email and, with the added help of the department, Mr. Cariani agreed to come to campus.
“This is a very unique and special opportunity,” Ms. Kitsos-Kang said.
Audience members, Ms. Kitsos-Kang said, can expect “magical, funny, moving and sometimes sad vignettes about the power of love” in this charming, crowd-pleasing show with a strong ensemble cast.
“My favorite part of working with the cast is seeing their intense dedication to the process, and their willing to explore and trust me—and each other—as we take this wild ride as a team,” Ms. Kitsos-Kang said. “Having a strong ensemble is, I think, the most important thing. It creates a safe environment where people can take risks and grow.”
Ms. Hendricks has been able to do just that, she said.
“Whenever you play more than one character on stage, you are forced to be extremely specific about what each character wants, and how they stand, walk and talk in order to differentiate each role,” she said. “It’s an actor workout.”
Mr. Nickley said he’s also grown as a performer, learning to “keep things simple.”
“I did not want to fall into the ‘country bumpkin’ trap that might be funny, because it would ruin the beauty of this play,” he said, adding he learned to not “let the character get in the way of the situation.”
“Almost, Maine” kicks off the Department of Theatre & Dance’s 2012-2013 MainStage Season. Coming productions include Sweeney Todd, DanceWorks 2012, the New Plays Festival, Jane Austen’s Emma and DanceWorks 2013.
Click here for tickets, which are $10 for students and senior citizens and $15 for the general public. Tickets are also available the night of the performances.