Don Quixote update

As we continue to workshop our devised production of Don Quixote, we’ll post some photos from time to time.  Here’s a couple from the first week of October – our process is to break the story down into shorter parts (sometimes a couple of the 125 chapters at a time) and do a quick “bad first draft”, staging it in just a few minutes.  We video the draft, then watch it back and make decisions about what we could do better, or differently, or more interestingly, then get back up, re-stage it, film it and watch it again.  After multiple passes, we end up with a stronger (yet still rough) draft of the scene.  Over the next month, we’ll take these rough scenes and work through them until we put them down in script form, to tighten the action and clean up the dialogue.

Theo and Adrian doing a rough draft of a scene from Don Quixote for the camera (while Mac and Lydia hide)

In a working rehearsal of the devised production of Don Quixote, we never know what we’ll create

Playing with lighting effects and shadows during a working rehearsal for Don Quixote

The Glass Menagerie

Belhaven University Theatre Department will present Tennessee Williams’ timeless memory play The Glass Menagerie September 27-30 in Barber Auditorium in the Library building on Belhaven’s main campus.  An extremely complex and emotional play such as this is always a challenge to present, but our brave cast and crew are tackling the play in an intense rehearsal process, where the cast was set only 4 weeks ago.

Our cast is made up of 4 BFA performers – Grace Reeves (junior, Acting) as Amanda, Noelle Balzer (sophomore, Acting) as Laura, Christopher Miller (freshman, Acting) as Tom, and Caleb Henry (sophomore, Musical Theatre) as Jim.

Barber Auditorium is a highly intimate space, which can bring out the best in performance, but presents special challenges for the design team and our director, Dr. Elissa Sartwell.  We are excited about the dramatic potential of presenting a play with such personal power in a space with such immediacy.

Join us next week for The Glass Menagerie!
To reserve seats, contact or call 601-965-7026.

early rehearsal for Don Quixote

One of our productions for this semester is a devised theatre work based on the novel Don Quixote – which will be in production in November.  Devised theatre is a process of creating a play as an ensemble, and the early part of rehearsing is largely about learning to create together, and establishing an environment where we all feel comfortable sharing ideas and allowing each other to respond and expand those ideas.

Here’s a couple of quick photos of our first rehearsal this week – learning Viewpoints and getting to play with some props and lighting effects.  

LOOK AWAY by Jerome Kilty opens February 12th

Student-directed Look Away will kick off the spring season of shows at Belhaven.  Student blogger, Eric Henderson shares his thoughts on this stirring piece of theatre being produced in our Second Stage space.


‘Everyone on the train seems to be reading my letters. I heard one man refer to me as though I were dead.’

                               -Mary Todd Lincoln, Look Away


It is my pleasure to announce that on Thursday February 12th, 2015 a two-act play based on Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress and confidant, Elizabeth Keckley will kick off our spring semester of shows. This compelling production is based upon the life and letters Mrs. Lincoln wrote to friends and family during President Lincoln’s terms, after his assassination, and during her stay in the Bellevue Hospital for the insane.

The action of the play occurs in that hospital on Mary Todd Lincoln’s last night of residence before her sanity hearing.  A stirring journey toward hope and recovery through avenues of grief, the first show of our spring season is not to be missed. Look Away was first presented at the Playhouse Theatre in New York City on January 7, 1973 with Geraldine Page as Mary Todd Lincoln and Maya Angelou as Elizabeth Keckley.

Belhaven University’s Theatre department prides itself on seeing their students explore their truest potential. With that being said, senior Theatre Production major Anna Bryant directs the show with conviction, enthusiasm, and fervor. Bryant says, “Mary Lincoln and I have the bond of both being Kentucky-born. Her story pulls at the very heartstrings of life. This story has tragedy, love, and friendship intertwined together giving you the woman who stood faithfully by one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America.”

Look Away by Jerome Kilty runs Thursday, February 12th through Saturday, February 14th with performances nightly at 7:30 PM in our Second Stage space located in the Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. Admission is free for Belhaven students, faculty, staff and their immediate families. For reservations, call 601-965-7026.

ICE ISLAND: The Wait for Shackleton

This week, we open our first production of the year, Ice Island : The Wait for Shackleton by Marjorie Duffield.  It tells the story of the crew of The Endeavor, who faced the loss of their ship on their expedition to Antarctica, and had to survive 18 months of waiting and struggle, hoping to be saved.  (Shackleton and his crew left England in 1914, 99 years ago…)

Performances are Sept 19-28; Thursday through Saturday night, then the following Wednesday through Friday night, all at 7:30, and 2 pm matinee shows on both Saturdays.  Contact or call (601) 965-7026.

Preparing The Drunkard!

With the opening of the show this week, we wanted to share a couple of photos of the construction work in process…



And a few of the work in the costume shop…



We’ve put a lot of time and energy into the preparation of this show, and we can’t wait to share it with audiences over the next two weeks!  Come out and see the show if you can!

Back drop for “The Drunkard”

As we are preparing for our upcoming musical “The Drunkard”, we have been making our own back drop.  Some of our students have done similar work but for most of those involved it is new.

The finished size of the drop is 30 feet wide and 15 feet tall.  Over the past several days we have been prepping it for painting, which should start tonight.  Before it could be painted however, three pieces of 10 foot wide fabric had to be sewn together and than the entire drop needed to be starched.  After the starching process we were able to hem the top, and add in our hemp for suport, as well as add in our pipe pocket at the bottom so it will hang correctly.  And now for several more days of action to get the finished product that we are looking for.

The Week After

This is our first week after the closing of HENRY V.   The entire H5 team blew it out on the last day striking the set along with the rest of the Theatre Department.  The cast party was a pizza break for all.  I deeply appreciated this.  It took the entire department working together to pull the show off, so it is fitting that the cast party involve everyone together.  And it was fun.  The theatre majors at Belhaven know how to work, they know that they are integral in the storytelling.  What’s great about the process here is all members of the team are valued equally.  You may direct your senior project, then you are hanging lights for the next show and then stage managing a one act play that another student is directing.  There is no doubt that each job in the theatre demands different skills, however the work ethic must be the same and ultimately the service to the story for the sake of the audience is a group goal.  Joy is the result.  I’m grateful to now have space to process the rehearsals and run of HENRY V.  To ponder the work that was done and next time take another step forward in actor training.

Week 2 of HENRY V!

It has been so rewarding watching the storytelling deepen.  Hearing the language used more richly.  Seeing the physicality of the actors become more specific.  Today, I’m thinking about what it means for a show to grow.  Too often when one is learning the craft of acting and they are in an educational production of some kind the actor may think growing is “trying something different” or “saying my lines differently” or “getting bigger” or “getting more laughs” etc.  If acting is living believably in imaginary circumstances then the growth of a play becomes simply living deeper; richer.  The audience is the final ingredient in understanding the story you are telling as a theatre artist.  They inform us. We grow in our understanding of the story.  Notice I don’t say the audience controls the story.  The play and the production are 2 of the 3 elements that make a theatrical event.  A production should be like a tree, deep roots to support the beauty above the ground.

In honor of SAINT CRISPIN’S DAY (which is today!)  I give you the St. Crispin’s day speech from Henry V. Read it.  OUT LOUD.  Live it.  You are King Henry.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

HENRY V tech day!

Saturday was a low key tech day which is what I always shoot for.  All the sound for the show is live so the big focus was lights.  Kris Dietrich created a space/set that utilizes light beautifully.  There are lovely moments in the play where the intentions are full of meaning and emotion and the lights really deliver.  We started the morning with a classic cue to cue.  Besides a bit of a computer problem it was rather fun.  Most of the plays I directed in LA the designer would come into rehearsals during runs and build the show so I would have seen most of the lights before our Equity 10 out of 12 day.  After lunch we came back, finished up cue to cue and then did 2 runs with notes in between. The actors were exhausted after running a fast paced Shakespeare in which they play multiple characters, have many costume changes, fight & sing.  Sunday was a day off and tonight we do our first run with all the elements adding costumes, makeup, hair and final props.  We have 2 nights before opening to fix any problems, make any final changes and learn more about the story.  The actors have been completely dedicated to the story and the process and this makes for some smooth sailing.  Here’s a pic from tech!