Theater Thursday, Featured

Theater Thursday: Flowers For Algernon

Acting hasn't been a part of my life for too long, but in the last few years it has been incredibly influential and undeniably eye-opening. As I wrap up my eleventh production in almost five years, the conversations I've had and the memories I've shared with my theater family have made me realize I don't remember all of my previous productions as well as I had thought. So this blog series seeks to delve deep into the experiences I've had thus far, as few as they may be when compared to many people I've acted beside.

I had done a lot up to this point with theater. Comedy, drama, supporting role, leading role, large cast, small cast. I really felt I had run the gamut of what Brainerd Community Theater had to offer. And when I heard that BCT's next production would be Flowers for Algernon, I felt like this was my chance to land the leading role in a drama...

Flowers1

Casting Should be a Shoe-In... the Wrong Direction

In the interest of remaining transparent with this blog, I'm going to continue to share my thoughts and expectations - as unrealistic as they may have been - regarding all productions I have been a part of. Know that this does not, in any way, mean that I bear any measure of ill will towards people who worked against my expectations, nor does it mean I resent how the production turned out to any degree. All it means is that, at the time, I expected things to go one way, and then it turned out they went a different way.

In this specific case, I remember talking to a fellow actor off-stage during rehearsals for Bill W. & Dr. Bob, who said that she would love to be a part of a production of Flowers for Algernon, and that she thought I would fit the role of Charlie perfectly. I was unfamiliar with the show, but I took that to heart, knowing to keep my eyes open in case it came up. And lo and behold, it did, and I auditioned.

I had tried for one of the leads in Bill W. & Dr. Bob, and due to casting limitations I hadn't landed it. But I always felt like I could have done it, like I had the capabilities, just that the opportunity was taken from me due to necessity. And so I went into Flowers For Algernon auditions fully expecting to land the role of Charlie. Not only did I feel I was dramatically capable, but also I fit the physical description of the character fairly well - dark hair, average build, late twenties/early thirties. And looking at who else was auditioning, I felt like I had little to worry about.

And then the email came back with the cast list on it, and I was to play the role of Billy, medical student finishing his PhD. I was a bit shocked at first, and when I checked who landed the lead - the ever-talented and always inspiring Scott Lucas - I was also a bit confused.

 Mackenzie Renford and myself on opening night

Mackenzie Renford and myself on opening night

Annoyance to Acceptance to Agreement

I took the casting in stride. My knee-jerk reaction was to text Patrick, the director, and ask him why he had made the choice he did. But I knew that to do was to be in very poor taste. This is his show, at least right now - before actors have even brought it to the stage - it is, and to start questioning that was to show a lack of faith from before the word 'go'. And I knew that I had faith in Patrick, and in Scott, so I swallowed my pride and went to our first read through forcing myself to keep an open mind.

And I wasn't disappointed. Anyone who has seen this show knows that the role of Charlie is one to be taken with a measure of care, and anyone who saw BCT's production of this show knows that Scott played the role beautifully. That much was evident from the very first read through, and it didn't take me too long to realize that Patrick had made the correct decision.

I still think that I could've done the role, and well. But could I have done it better than Scott had? I don't know about that.

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Live Performance - 2016

Flowers not only marked my return to the stage alongside Scott Lucas, but also with the ever-talented Kevin Yaeger, Bri Keran, Jesse Brutscher, Barb McColgan, and Marc Oliphaunt, Nitasha Sanders but also was my first time working with Mich'le Rolan, Connor Nichols, Troy Stritt, and Mackenzie Renford, among others. Ultimately it was a strong cast filled with both veterans and new blood.

Additionally, this was my first experience performing with children, which was taxing in its own right. I never interacted with the children on-stage, and I had little interaction with them off-stage as well, but I found that working with kids was generally a positive experience when they had an adult with them to help keep things running smoothly. Kids get excited, and they lose track of their volume level, or of timing with a show, and that sort of thing. Hell, I know a number of adults who are like that as well. As long as there is someone nearby to remind them to keep their voices down during a show, or to remind them when to head out on stage for their scene, things went great.

Audience reception of Flowers for Algernon was mixed, in my experience. From the few people I spoke with about it, many said things like "everyone did a great job with the production, but it wasn't what I normally like." That is to say that it wasn't a comedy. Which was yet another reminder in a long line that said the theater goers around Brainerd greatly preferred comedy to drama. Which was also noticed when it came to my next production, Play On!...