This blog was written and originally posted by my colleague Ting Ting Cheng for Park Square Theatre on the theatre’s own website. You can read it here.
In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Vincent Hannam plays the cruel and menacing Curley, the boss’ son at the ranch where migrant workers George and Lennie have just arrived. Upon their first encounter, George immediately sizes him up as a “son-of-a-bitch.” It’s an accurate assessment supported by the older ranch hand Candy’s description:
“. . . . Curley’s like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He’s all a time pickin’ scraps with big guys. Kinda like he’s mad at ’em because he ain’t a big guy. You seen little guys like that, ain’t you–always scrappy?”
Curley’s insecurity is also evident in his controlling nature toward his new wife. He treats her like a prized possession to show off as a testimony of his power and masculinity. She’s forbidden to talk to the workers, but she does so behind his back anyway, which simply highlights his lack thereof.
Vincent himself lacks admiration for his character, describing Curley as “a punk and a brat, used to getting his own way” and “a bully.” To play Curley three-dimensionally, though, he needed to find even a shred of sympathy for him. To do so, Vincent built a backstory that explores Curley’s familial relationships. He asked questions, such as: In what way does Curley really care about his wife or his father? Why is his mother never mentioned? Did he grow up without one? How might that have impacted his relationship with his father? Did his father give him the attention that he needed?
Despite being the mean antagonist in Of Mice and Men, Vincent is having a blast on the set. He basically gets to play cowboy, wearing Western boots and a hat and getting into fights.“Hate and love are close emotions,” Vincent said. “Sometimes the only way that some people can express love is through hatred.”
“It’s also a fun change of pace to show that villainous side,” admitted Vincent, who has played plenty of “good” characters throughout his career.
“There’s nothing like being on stage, connecting with someone and doing a scene,” Vincent said of acting, but he is also a multi-talented theatre professional who directs, writes and teaches. Amongst his other skills are the ability to do Chewbacca and Godfather impressions and to whistle (but not simultaneously).
As my fellow Park Square blogger, I know Vincent as a lighthearted, easygoing individual. But I can’t wait to see him unveil his dark side as Curley in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Bring it on!
Ting Ting Cheng Ting Ting Cheng joined Park Square Theatre’s Front of House staff in 2014. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Los Angeles, she became a Minnesotan after graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in English Literature. She loves live theatre and has a passion for writing.
For those of you who are interested, the adaption of The Oresteia that I was in last year is actually being published! The original is by Aeschylus, of course, but Minnesota writer and poet, Rob Hardy, turned the trilogy of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides into one action-packed narrative.
GHS Drama Troupe Bound for Tampa Friday, 06 February 2009 By Jessica Solis – staff writer, Osceola News-Gazette
They’re breaking legs left and right at Gateway High School’s drama department.
It has been a winning year for students from acting Troupe 4061, which has won an award in every competition it has entered since the beginning of the school year. Now, the troupe is preparing for the year’s climax: a pair of performances at the Florida State Thespians competition in April.
Drama teacher Donald Rupe said he saw potential in his students; enough to have a good year in the drama competition circuit, but the accolades the group has received weren’t completely unexpected, either.
“I’m thankful, but I’m not surprised,” Rupe, a 2003 Gateway graduate, said.
In December, the troupe competed with 25 schools from around Central Florida, and was selected as one of five to take its one-act play, “Woman at a Threshold, Beckoning,” to be judged for April’s Florida State Thespians competition in Tampa, the first time the school has had the opportunity.
Last month during the District Individual Events Competition, the school won three best-in-show awards – the competition’s highest accolade – for acting and set design. The school also won awards in more categories than any other school in the district that makes up most of the Central Florida area.
For April’s state competition, the troupe also will perform “A Few Good Men” twice to audiences of more than 2,000. The play about military lawyers who uncover a conspiracy while defending a group of soldiers is one of six plays to be performed by schools from around the state, and it will be the third time a school from Osceola County takes the main stage at the competition. The first time was during Rupe’s senior year at Gateway.
The schools selected to perform at the state competition are usually established performing arts schools, Rupe said.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said.
And for the students, the class provides them a workload lighter than the usual math or science course, but still requires them to memorize lines and “break a leg” once they hit the stage.
It’s not an easy class, because what we do, it’s actually a lot,” Vincent Hannam, drama club president, said. “But it’s generally relaxing … it’s a fun atmosphere.”
Hannam, a fourth-year drama student who’s also in Gateway’s International Baccalaureate theater program, said he’s trained himself to focus on the people watching him. “I’m saying the words, but I’m also looking at the audience, trying to get the feel from them,” he said. Hannam received excellent and superior ratings in two pieces he performed during January’s district competition. “I’m just thinking about how they’re going to react,” he said.
Senior Luis Penedo has only been in Rupe’s class since last year, but said acting has given him the opportunity to learn more about himself. He, along with Hannam, will perform in April’s production of “A Few Good Men” at the state competition. “I wasn’t as shy anymore,” Penedo said. “I just try to be confident.”
Rupe, who’s been directing theater since high school, said the class not only gives students a rewarding experience, but also an outlet for him. “Obviously, I like to see the smiles on their faces, but I also like to do my art,” he said. “Everybody gets something out of it.”
“Our Town” opens Friday, April 29 at the Poe Theater in Newcastle. Heartwood’s production of the play, under the direction of Griff Braley, strives to bring the production directly into the audience. It has an inclusive quality that welcomes the attendees into the story.
Thornton Wilder began his 1938 play “Our Town” with some of the most famous stage direction in American theater: “No curtain. No scenery.” He could have added “no props” as, nearly without exception, all props are imagined in each production of this timeless classic.
In “Our Town,” Wilder highlights the importance of communication and human connection, literally bringing his audience into contact with his characters by breaking the fourth wall and defying the theatrical convention of separating the actors from the audience.
“Our Town” insists on a lack of artifice, both in pared-down staging and in the person of the Stage Manager, who speaks directly to the audience much as an interlocutor does. Its emotional transparency – no hidden meanings, no brooding silences – and its spare, realistic dialogue are its greatest assets.
Its evocation of life in a small New Hampshire town in the early 1900s seems idyllic: the only deviant in this righteously decent community is a drunken choirmaster.
Even Wilder’s formal innovations have been picked up by others: his portrayal of a bride’s inner panic was brilliantly exploited by Stephen Sondheim in a number in “Company” called “Getting Married Today.”
“Our Town” is really every town at any time. The story is simply told: a boy and a girl in a small New Hampshire town and the people of that town go through an ordinary day in the first act. It all revolves around Emily and George, the children of the town’s newspaper editor and the town’s doctor, and how they go through life, and death, in their small town.
The cast is perfectly suited, both in talent and in appearance, to their parts in this ode to the quieter life we all need to revisit at times. Braley and his crew have brought Grover’s Corners to life, a tribute to the dedication of the actors as well as the determination of the director.
Grace Experience captures all of Emily’s smarts and exuberance, her joyousness and openness, and her pained acceptance of a new reality.
It’s a smaller moment, but there’s a scene where a teenage Emily stares out her window at the moon, while George, across the way, does the same. The actors are perched atop stepladders, and Experience stares out into space with such palpable yearning and intensity, marveling at the beauty of the world, that the audience can’t help but absorb her wonder.
Vincent Hannam, as George, is a find. He persuasively plays a dreamy, naive adolescent living in 1900s rural New England, without resorting to condescension. He is uncertain and awkward and utterly charming.
The final scene, with Hannam leaning on Experience’s gravestone, is heartbreaking with his understated grief.
The “Ice cream soda” scene has the Stage Manager (Stephen Shore) doubling as the shopkeeper. (Shore, Experience, and Hannam made a field trip to Waltz’s Soda Fountain in downtown Damariscotta on Sunday to see how the drinks are made.)
Kathleen Creamer, who served the three, was impressed at the dedication to be realistic. “They watched every move I made,” she said, “and then watched each other carefully.” The lesson in making an imaginary ice cream soda looks real with no props at all; drinking from invisible straws from absent glasses must have taken as the three did an admirable job at preview.
As Julia Gibbs, Allison Eddyblouin catches her character’s insecurities and anxiety, her pride in being a small-town wife and mother, and her frustration that she is probably doomed never to achieve her fondest wish, to see Paris.
Garrett Martin, as Doc Gibbs, epitomizes the man’s decency and integrity, and also his obtuseness where his wife is concerned.
As Charles Webb, the newspaper editor, Steven Hufnagel strikes the right notes of mildly jaundiced skepticism, acerbic humor, and, in his scenes with Experience, the kind of paternal affection and wisdom that make their scenes very affecting.
Mary Boothby, in the role of Myrtle Webb, Emily’s mother, has a no-nonsense, pragmatic humor and generosity. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town will know her, and that her gruffness is a shield for a soft heart.
The two mothers, Eddyblouin and Boothby, are perhaps the most credible characters onstage. They never “act,” they simply offer up these hardworking women with matter-of-fact ease.
Stephen Wallace, as the dyspeptic Simon Stimson, has some lines of pointed dialogue but conveys, in a way that no dialogue could, that there is often a heavy price to be paid for so much small-town intimacy, so much judgment, so much knowledge.
As the Stage Manager, Shore has a comforting gravitas, a self-deprecating manner, and an easy way of letting important lines sit lightly before they sink in. Once in awhile, a resemblance to Hal Holbrook appeared. He is the glue that holds “Our Town” together and Shore’s charm extended into the audience.
In the smaller roles of Howie Newsome, the milkman; and Mrs. Louella Soames, the town gossip; Mike Rowe and Susan Goodwillie Steadman, respectively, make vivid impressions. Sam Bailey, Nick Buck, Lainey Catalino, Elizabeth Chasse, Kent Cooper, Jonah Diaute, Thalia Eddyblouin, Andrew Lyndaker, Nick Miaoulis, Isobel Petersen, Scott Petersen, John Reinhardt, and Riley Stevenson ably round out Wilder’s assortment of townspeople.
In the opening of act three, as the Stage Manager looks over the cemetery, he says, “Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” There is something eternal and appealing about this production of “Our Town.”
“Our Town” opens Friday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. The show runs April 29 and 30 and May 5-7 at 7:30 p.m. and May 1 at 3 p.m. Student tickets are $10, adult tickets $30. On Thursday, May 5, adult tickets are $25. Reservations are suggested. To make a reservation, call 563-1373.
From the Wiscasset Newspaper, publishedApril 13, 2016
By Joy Braley, Heartwood executive director
HEARTWOOD PRESENTS “OUR TOWN” – IN OUR TIME
“Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder, opened in 1938 in NJ, went on to enjoy Broadway success, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama … and has remained in performance on the global scene, ever since. Heartwood Theater opens their version of this long running classic on April 29th, running through May 7th.
Heartwood’s approach to this incredible script is to bring its relevance straight into our time, staging it in a contemporary fashion. Director Griff Braley notes, “Rather than recreating Wilder’s play in its period, we’ll strive to illuminate the central tenets by staging the play in modern dress. Our goal is to re-experience the tremendous moment in American theater, which occurred with the opening of Wilder’s play, in 1938.”
This story of small town America, narrated by the stage manager, who directly addresses the audience, brings in guest lecturers and even fills in to play some of the roles, focuses on the simplest, ordinary moments of each extraordinary life.
Stripped of artifice, “Our Town” quietly, deftly argues for: a community of core values, in the face of a rapidly evolving world; the best of our humanity over the worst; and the faith to live in the mystery, without answers to some of our deepest questions.
The large cast merges a trio of strong, young professional actors playing the three major roles, with a talented cross section of local players and age appropriately cast students.
Stephen Shore, from NYC, returns for his third Heartwood production, taking on the weighty role of Stage Manager. Previous Heartwood roles include Jim in the second, musical version of “The Legend of Jim Cullen” and Le Bret, Cyrano’s sidekick, in “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
Grace Experience, also from NYC, played the captivating Blackbird, in “The Legend of Jim Cullen” and returns to Heartwood’s “Our Town” as Emily Webb.
Leaving the warm temperatures of Florida to round out the visiting actor trio is Vincent Hannam, playing opposite Miss Experience, in the role of George Gibbs.
Audience accustomed to the magical black box feel of the Poe Theater, will find a keen simplicity, as this story is told with no set (but not without the use of carefully crafted, narrative lighting).
Both script and presentation focus on the essence and beauty of our daily lives.
Produced by Special Arrangement with Samuel French.