Friday, October 19, 2018

Candice Oden as Martha - Freedom in the time of #MeToo


I’ve been aching to act with my theater company for a while. I took a little break to work on some writing, which I’ll hopefully be able to share with you in the somewhat near future, but this production round, I was like, “I’m in.” And what an experience it has been. It’s been such an adventure to work alongside Brandon’s writing process, figuring out as a team what story we were wanting to tell. During our preparation process, we discovered so many things about the story that could be told from a feminist perspective, and we realized just how timely we could make this story-telling. 

In addition to the clever and challenging aspects of a many-person story being told by only four people, we also have women playing male roles. And three of the four characters are women in this production. Woohoo! My role has a few characters rolled into one, and some are traditionally male roles. It’s exciting to be able to tell a male’s story from a female perspective, instead of having to actually play a man. And Martha has been such a joy to play. In many ways, she and I are very similar. I think people think that if a character is like you, you have to work less, but I have found that to be quite incorrect. No matter how similar we are, at the end of the day, I’m not Martha, we do not experience the same things, and our responses to things can vary greatly — and with the kind of work we do as a company, those responses can vary night to night!

Candice Oden as Martha in THE HYSTERIA OF DR FAUSTUS. Photo by Russ Rowland.

These are desperate times, and the play speaks to that quite well. It also champions things like the #MeToo movement. The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus is so timely — even reviewers are saying so — and it’s thrilling to execute night after night. This show has so many complexities that are such a delight to deal with on a nightly basis. I was telling my mom I have a place to shove all my emotions, and it’s actually a good thing. Ha! 

Candice Oden as Martha in THE HYSTERIA OF DR FAUSTUS. Photo by Russ Rowland.

It’s also been very gratifying to be working with the cast we have in the way that we do. We have a truly organic process, and in that, if a piece of the set breaks (and it has), we have the acting tools to deal with it. No night is the same, and I treasure the opportunity to do this kind of work. My work as an actor has grown over the course of doing many shows with The Seeing Place, and I’m actually playing onstage more than I ever have. Doing this show has been so freeing — it’s definitely one of my favorite TSP productions. And may the rest of the run be performance bliss! :)


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Candice Oden is appearing as Martha in THE HYSTERIA OF DR FAUSTUS. The show must close October 21 - To get tickets or to see reviews and production photos, visit www.seeingplacetheater.com/shows/9-faustus.html

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rachael Murray as Asst Director - Hell Hath No Fury, Right?

People seem tense these days. I moved to New York this year, after spending 7 years in the nation’s capital. While those years hold many lovely memories, if I’m being honest, those 7 years felt far, far longer. Aside from the traffic, the other piece that makes time move so slowly is living next to the seat of national politics. In particular, since the 2016 election the city has taken on an even more palpable political tension. There is a sense of impending…(doom? anxiety?) in the air, like storm clouds swirling overhead.

One night after a Tech rehearsal, Candice Oden, who plays Martha in The Hysteria of Dr. Faustus, asked me which city was harder to live in: DC, or New York? Without hesitating, I said DC, for sure. That’s not to say I suddenly have rose-colored NYC blinders on, with no recollection of the times I’ve cried on the subway whilst apartment hunting, but suffice it to say there is a LOT to be said for having a little distance from the anxiety-inducing ad nauseum of the Hill.

So how the Hell is all of this related to The Hysteria of Doctor Faustus? (No pun intended. Just kidding. Pun totally intended.) I’ll get to that. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with current events these days, but we have recently had a new Supreme Court Justice sworn in. And the news cycle of the last few weeks has had some eerie parallels to our show.

In doing some of the research during the rehearsal process, we did a little reading on a variety of religious philosophies, from Calvinism to Satanism. I started thinking about modern parallels. What does it mean to be damned in 2018? It got me thinking about privilege in a wide sense, and—as it is most prescient to our show—masculine privilege. And how that interplays with Mephistophiles, a damned, fallen angel. Who is a woman. Fighting to smash the Ultimate Patriarch in the Sky.

Erin Cronican as Mephistopheles. Photo by Russ Rowland

As Erin touched on in her blog post as well, I also got to thinking about how much women are conditioned to behave over the course of their lives. Amongst the sea of “ladylike” or “not ladylike” behaviors that are ingrained from a young age is this sense of being “nice.” Being nice is so closely linked with ladylike-ness. I also began to think of this ladylike demeanor being so closely linked to one’s interactions with men. Part of that sweetness and nicety is often directed at not hurting a man’s feelings—both not to upset their ego, and also not to upset them to the point of…regrettable action, shall we say. So really, a large part of being ladylike is connected to a sense of safety.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the first person to think these thoughts, and it’s not necessarily the first time they have crossed my mind in one form or another. But I think over the course of this rehearsal process/news cycle, I came to understand them more deeply and fully. One of the best things about wrestling with a play is you have to wrestle with its deeper-seated meanings as well. 

Broghanne Jessamine as Gretchen (left) and Candice Oden as Martha (right). Photo by Russ Rowland

Having lived 30 minutes as the crow flies from the Capitol, I was exhausted from the hourly White House drama. New York has held a pleasant sort of escapism for me these past few months. But I suppose there’s still something of a Washingtonian in me, because I can’t quite break the habit of getting up to watch the Sunday morning shows. I suppose my change in perspective has also put a lot into focus for me about what’s going on for us as a nation.

Though it’s been building for a while now, in a post-Kavanaugh world, there is a tangible sense of feminine rage in the air, vibrating around us. A line from Clare Barron’s female-focused Dance Nation suddenly popped into my head at one of our last Hysteria rehearsals: “What am I going to do with all this power?”

What are we going to do with all this anger?

Truthfully, I’m not sure. But maybe I’m just being nice.


(Also, there are magic tricks. Did I mention the magic tricks? Come for the magic. Stay for the rage.)


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Rachael Murray was assistant director for THE HYSTERIA OF DR FAUSTUS. The show must close October 21 - To get tickets or to see reviews and production photos, visit www.seeingplacetheater.com/shows/9-faustus.html