Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Play's the Thing

Wow! That was one of the most intense 5 weeks of my life, but directing Rings of the Tree turned out to be one of the most delightful experiences I've ever had. It was one of those rare times where you get to do something for the sheer joy of doing it (free from feeling the pressure to try to please or impress someone else i.e. boss, coworkers, clients, professors etc.). I had nothing to prove and therefore simply enjoyed it!

One fun side note is that one of the official adjudicators from ACTF (college theater competition) was none other than my directing teacher from Rick's who is now the dean of BYU's theater department. The whole story came full circle!

Here are my Top 5 Moments with the play (I have 100's more)

1. During a dress rehearsal/ faculty review, just as the villain revealed his true identity. . . the power went out. The entire campus and the surrounding neighborhoods were completely black for hours. That’s taking the dramatic moment just a bit to far, don’t you think?

2. The most perfect impression of Mad Hatter from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland that I've ever seen. It came from our leading man, and my stage manager and I were laughing so hard that tears were rolling down our cheeks. I laughed more doing this play than I have in YEARS!

3. The costumes were gorgeous, but it was terribly amusing to watch the girl’s hoop skirts pop up and jerk to the side and rock every which way. They even brought them to their knees on occasion!

4.Talking incessantly with a British accents and saying very cool phrases like “blinding brilliant” and “gobsmacked” and "biting my arm off" etc. and having it all be official rehearsal behavior. Since it was still a work in progress we got to do a lot of shaping of the script---with the playwright's permission of course.

5. Watching the audience get sucked in to all the plot twists night after night and laugh and cry and come out saying “I wasn’t expecting anything like that!”
Also, watching the actors put heart, body and soul (several rehearsals ran until midnight and beyond) into pulling the whole thing together to create something exceptional.

A lovely, lovely experience. I will miss it!

Here are some reviews from a couple of contributors to the "Association of Mormon Letters- List" if you would care to peruse!

Rings of the Tree- a stage play
Reviewed by Nan Parkinson McCulloch

Thoroughly Mormon Mahonri has written a Victorian fantasy/romance premised with thoroughly Mormon theology. The best selling Victorian mystery writer Anne Perry, also a Mormon, unsuccessfully attempted to combine fantasy and Mormon theology in her epic fantasy, Tathea. Fortunately, Stewart's fantasy is less serious, faster moving and highly entertaining. Rings of The Tree has broad appeal. Folks from 8 to 80, especially feminists and young women will enjoy the play.

Who could write fantasy without symbolism and Stewart has served it up in abundance. We find ourselves searching to identify Holy and Heavenly persons holding the keys to our Eternal Life and their own. And we are introduced to those, otherworldly, who would thwart that plan.

The thought provoking plot twists and turns make the play interesting and keep the audience fully engaged. This is a play you can't leave at the theater, you take it home with you. Stewart has a gift for writing dialogue. His conversations are well thought out and go a long way in developing the characters. For an ensemble cast, I found all the characters surprisingly well developed.

This premier production of award winning playwright Mahonri Stewart's senior project, Rings of the Tree, is the first such project approved by UVSC since adding this new four year degree in theater. It was a significant event and a remarkable achievement for Stewart, the talented cast and the university. I was sincerely moved by Mahonri's play, which left it's unique ring around me...

A mini-review from James Goldberg:

I don't know if anyone else on the list got to see Mahonri's play, Rings of the Tree. I still am not over the high production says in the program his sister hadn't done theatre in ten years and came back to direct it...I wish that after ten years of almost-uninterrupted directing experience I was close to as good as that. Nice sets and costumes, crisp pacing, good work on the accents, excellent emotional connection for moving, realistic performances, nice little touches to accentuate the humor and the was just very, very good. Is it OK to ask Mahonri through the list if his sister's married? :) If not, you should send me her number off-list. ...just kidding...but only sort-of...:)

Not that we should neglect the talents of Mr. Stewart himself, who not only wrote, but also acted the villain in his own play. And (since this is a writing, not performance list) managed to put together an engaging period / fantasy / sci-fi (it's not really time travel, but seems like it) / romance piece that doubles as a theological thriller. (Mahonri: my favorite part was probably when she's crying on the floor "Forever in my sins...forever in my sins")

So...for those of you who missed out: sorry. It's theatre so you'll never get to see it quite like that again. Still, I thought I'd briefly share one of those experiences where you find out there's a lot more to Provo Theatre than apparent at first glance.


Naoma SW said...

I am still so sad that I missed it!! But you taped it right?! So hopefully I will still see it even though I know it is definantely not the same. Hope all is good, loves!!

Annette Lyon said...

It really was terrific all around. I still love what my 12-year-old Daniel said afterward: "Brilliant."

Hey, now you have a great pick-up line: "Did you see Rings of the Tree? I directed that . . ." :D

Annette Lyon said...

Sam: TAG!

(See my blog--or Blondie's. I tagged her, too.)

Jamie said...

Those are great reviews! I wish I could have seen it. Way to go! I check in on your blog here & there and love it.
Your old pal,

Rebekah & Mike said...

Hey Sarah! It was such a blast catching up with you and the girls in Salt Lake today. Sounds like the play did SO well!! I am so proud of you! Great reviews. (Rebekah Sellers)

Rebekah & Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.