“The Other Two Men”: The Actors (Part II)

Casting my science fiction play The Other Two Men (review) was difficult.  A lot is at stake:  while we’ve joked about landing spaceships on stages, smoke machines, and robots for comic relief this play is science fiction with no special effects — just these two characters and their unique problem about history, predetermination (genetic, sociological, and psychological), and choices.  Tomer Oz  (Oz Productions) and I knew that the casting could make or sink the play before the first table read.  We had two auditions and callbacks and were at a bit of a loss with so many talented and experienced actors to choose from.
We both kept notes and checked in with each other – but I could not feel any winnowing happening as we went through a long day of callbacks.  During a late break near the end of the day we turned to each other and said, “I really like Bailey for Nebraska II.”  This was not a decision:  Tomer was casting a two-hander, a very small ensemble cast – one promising actor on his own is not ‘an ensemble’.   My director shook his head.  “Who I cast for one part will depend on who I cast for the other part.”  He remarked.
During rehearsals I’ve been trying to put my finger on what caught my interest in Bailey Weakley’s audition and callback:  it’s continued to be there.  I think it’s actually two things:  he’s able to portray a complexity or gravity that reads older than his actual age (a particularly important trait for this part, given the revelation at the end of the play) and he’s good at putting across several things at once.  The part of Nebraska II in The Other Two Men is thankless – the character is a walking box of defense mechanisms who hides behind his masculinity and his military profession.  I spent quite a while worrying that any actor in his 20’s might hold onto those aspects a little too tightly …. and the part does not give many chances to see the character without those masks.
Bailey portrays Nebraska II as someone who has needed to build a protective shell and he gives the character more depth than he has on the page.  This perceptive choice makes the role into an intelligent man who is always thinking – and feeling at least three things at once, including the reasons why he isn’t just saying what’s on his mind.  It is still a role that could push away an audience’s sympathies (as well as the other character, Saskatoon II’s (Emery Lawrence)) but Bailey gives the part a touching sweetness that makes you want both characters to find their way through the play’s strange dilemma.
Looking at Bailey’s professional experience I can see where this comes from:  he’s been acting for 15 years.  His last role at the Players’ Ring (in Memento Maury) called for him to stand on stage – wearing a full mask – while projecting an ominous numenosity.  Not easy, and not easy to keep that moment from becoming silly or absurdist, but it lifted the play (along with outstanding monologues by James Ouellette and Shaughnessey H. Gower) into the realm of chill-inducing metaphor.  Bailey’s training and experience comes from work at New Hampshire Theatre Project.  Notable roles include:  Valentine (Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona), Mortimer Brewster (Arsenic and Old Lace) and Berenger (Rhinoceros).

 

Bailey was also the assistant stage manager for Memento Mary.  A Portsmouth local, he is an artist of broad and genuine talent:  he is also musician and an expressionist painter.  He will soon be releasing an album with his band, Marvel Prone — and see one small part of his extraordinary talent in “The Other Two Men” (review) —

 

Oz Productions is proud to present:

The Other Two Men:  A New Science Fiction Play by Lisa Shapter
with Emery Lawrence and Bailey Weakley
at The Players’ Ring Late Night Series
July 15-24, 2016
10 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
9 p.m. Sundays

Tickets at:
http://playersring.org/box-office/
or call: (603) 436-8123

  • Lisa Shapter
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Poster Reveal!

This is Kaitlyn Huwe‘s magnificent poster design for “The Other Two Men“! (review)  (Art: Kaitlyn Huwe  Used by permission. Concept art: Tomer Oz.)

TOTM_FBsquare_150dpi

Oz Productions is proud to announce

The Other Two Men
with Emery Lawrence
and Bailey Weakley
at The Players’ Ring Late Night Series
July 15-24, 2016
10 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
9 p.m. Sundays

Tickets at:
http://playersring.org/box-office/
or call: (603) 436-8123

 

“The Other Two Men”: The Actors (Part I)

When director Tomer Oz (Oz Productions) and I met to talk about staging my science fiction play The Other Two Men (review), we agreed one of the most important elements was casting. We continued to talk about it through two auditions and callbacks. We heard nearly every young male actor in the region, we talked about the play and its two characters, and I mulled over the positives of the casting at last November’s reading (Generic Theater’s Collin Snider and Alex Pease).
One of those many positives was age: Alex and Collin are both seasoned actors. The Other Two Men is a play about a relationship (in the entire breadth of the term) and last Fall’s reading left me in a quandary: this script asks a lot of actors who are the same age as the characters (early 20’s) – depth of lived experience, professional craft, and the ability to ‘open up’ a text full of idiosyncratic science fiction ideas and peculiar experiences no one in this world has gone through (i.e. being raised in a living history museum).

 

I should not have worried: both Emery Lawrence and Bailey Weakley have the empathy and talent to run away with these two parts. Both of them are in their 20’s with the called-for ‘energies’ and they are a good match as performers: theater audiences often try to pick one standout performance and I look forward to the lobby conversations where no one can finish a sentence for praising both of their work.

 

One of Emery’s great strengths is his way of reading a script. He has directed (Paula Vogel‘s The Baltimore Waltz). He writes himself and is a Creative Writing minor. I have had the privilege of watching him think (and feel) through the script, scene by scene. From his first table read, his character (Saskatoon II) had a vividness and subtlety that has only gotten more complex and breathtaking over rehearsals. (I recommend getting a seat close to the stage.)

 

Emery’s primary strength is his innate ability as an actor. He is a Theater & Dance major at Colby, and their program is a thorough one including acting, directing, designing, and play writing. He has played Orlando (Orlando), Sylvio (The Servant of Two Masters), and Butt the Hoopoe (Haroun and the Sea of Stories). At Colby’s student-run theater club, Powder and Wig, Emery has played Jacques (The Miser), Alfred (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), and Romeo (Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet). In fact, this Fall, he’ll be attending the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

He doesn’t have an easy part in The Other Two Men. Saskatoon II is a voice of hope but in lesser hands the character could come across as something of a nag. He spends much of the play trying to persuade the other character, Nebraska II, out of a place of empathy – but it’s a subtle thing to get right and a difficult, rather quiet, inner life to put across to an audience. Emery does a spectacular job with this part – come out and see how well he handles every dry joke, strange conundrum, and each place where you watch this character thinking through his own self-determination and these two characters’ mutual happiness.

-Lisa Shapter

Support me for the Clarion Write-A-Thon!

Support me (or another fine SF author) in the Clarion Write-A-Thon!
http://clarionwriteathon.org/members/profile.php?writerid=380064

When I started writing I was bad at short stories: I couldn’t write them.

Meaning, I couldn’t write anything shorter than a novelette (a piece than unfolds over the length of 2-3 short stories). I had written the occasional short work, I had even gotten one or two things published, but for most of the history of science fiction a career worked like this: get known for short fiction then publish a novel. I felt there was something missing if I couldn’t write short stories and my late friend and fellow writer Gil Pettigrew recommended writing (and sending out) a lot of short pieces. There was a greater chance of success, he said, and it was a quicker and less bruising process than sending a novel out to agents.

I decided to get over being bad at short stories. I had two sources of inspiration: my pottery professor in college and Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles, recommended writing and sending out a short story a week. (This is all the more impressive when you realize in those days each draft of a story had to be completely re-typed on a typewriter.) So I took his advice: I’d write a short story each week, revise it, and send it out to a magazine before 7 days had passed.

I quickly realized my unconscious had added a twist to this challenge – I found myself writing science fiction stories from the same narrator (Resada Gestae), a human trafficking survivor looking for her stolen children among the planets of the Milky Way galaxy. Each story took place 2-6 months after the previous story and I quickly realized the point was not simply to write a story each week but to follow how the narrator grew from rage and resentment to integration and empathy. Part way through the process her security team, her police escort, took over the week-to-week stories then handed the narrative back to her.

After several years (and the interruption of three smaller interlinked short story series set in the same universe) I am ready to finish this 74 Story Project. Resada Gestae will visit her last half-dozen destinations and return home to her husband and rest of her story (the novel I was trying to write when her security team interrupted me. I have often wondered if I would ever finish the 74 stories: there have been interruptions (serious and not so serious), I feared I would lose inspiration or interest, and the series has not found its stride with magazine editors.* (Half of my rejections slips for each of the stories read “this is too much background!” and the other half say “why isn’t there more background?”)

So, I will finish the 74 Stories Project this Summer with the help of the Clarion Write-A-Thon.  I have promised to finish the final stories of this interlinked 74-story series in order to support Clarion and I need backers (pledges per story). If this project doesn’t interest you there are other authors who will.

Wish me luck as I finish this multi-year project (now the equivalent of 3 novels in length) and support a Write-A-Thon author to benefit Clarion!
* With the notable exception of the editor at Black Denim Lit.

-Lisa Shapter