Deseret: The Musical
Lend Me a Tenor
The Greatest Love
Fefu and Her Friends
As You Like It on DVD
As You Like It - The Play
Turn of the Screw
The First Wife's Tale
Failure: a Love Story
Barefoot in the Park
Still, Still, Still (Assist Director)
Kiss and Tell
Annie Get Your Gun
28 - 28
8 - 8
'Lend Me a Tenor' kick-starts Hale Center Theater Orem's new year by Sharon Haddock, Deseret News, 2013
OREM — It can be difficult to harness the attention of a rowdy crowd eager to welcome in the new year. But soften them up with hot, good food, hand out plenty of horns, hats and paper ribbons, add in a stellar cast with terrific comic timing and a fun script, and you've got 'em.
The packed house for "Lend Me a Tenor" roared for the antics involved in the story, which included having to switch out a world-famous tenor with a wannabee guy and a girl who thinks a fling with a star will outstrip one with her steady boyfriend.
They laughed and followed the action up to the ringing in of 2013, partied and then were pulled right back into the story when the cast fell right back into character and proceeded (not an easy trick).
It's a story full of zaniness born out of Maggie Saunder's (played by Brighton Quinn Hertford) crush on famed singer Tito Merelli (Marshall Lamm). She's willing to stalk him to get a few minutes alone.
Add in Max (played in excellent fashion by equity actor Blake Barlow) and you instantly have a love triangle involving a man waiting to be acknowledged, a groupee and a tenor with big appetites.
Then there's Diana (played by Holly Anderson), who too wants Merelli's time and affection and doesn't care how she gets it.
Maria Merelli, the jealous and typically shrewish wife (played by Heather Jones), is haughty and fed up. When she leaves her husband in a huff, it opens the way for Maggie and Diana — but now there are two Tito Merellis running about.
Julia Leverett (played by Karen Baird) is a little in love with Merelli, too.
Then there's the bellhop (played by Chase Ramsey), who is only supposed to have a bit part but the director (Kym Mellen) was so tickled with his antics that his part was expanded to include a singing Viking during the "love" scenes. It all works even though on opening night a piece of door molding fell off and the audience could see through to the lobby through the doors when two of the six opened and shut.
The set is genius, with an early 1930s fancy motel room suite decorated to the nines, complete with two rooms divided by half walls on the tiny but magic stage.
The costuming is excellently put together with period touches and details like the button-down suit coat for Merelli. It's well done throughout with the highlights in the delivery of the dialogue and in the interchanges between Lamm and Barlow as Tito and Max, even before they take on each other's role.
In one scene they finish each other's sentences. In another they stir one another's drinks as they become friends before your eyes. Their Italian accents are perfect.
Hale Center has taken measures to "clean up" the lovemaking scenes so the whole show can be enjoyed without discomfort.
It's polished, funny and fine.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience at the Deseret News.
Ciao! When I first read the script to Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me A Tenor, I thought 1.) This is FUNNY, and 2.) this is similar to a detailed puzzle: tricky, with lots of intricate connections needed to complete the big picture. What I need is some brilliant people alongside me to make this FUN!
And we found them! Our two days of auditions and callbacks were so entertaining for us as casting and artistic directors, that we had to pause to relax stomach muscles tense from belly-laughing. Every one of these performers made big, brave choices on audition day, which they have continued to deepen and finesse. They are funny, generous, courageous, and intelligent individuals on-stage and off. They have worked with mathematical precision to find just the right rhythms and delivery for maximum laugh effects. Comedy is a science, a very precise one, with the line between comic brilliance and complete failure being a very fine one. All comedic actors need to be able to make complete fools of themselves. And we have.! We’ve laughed ourselves silly at each others’ bold, foolish antics.
Not only are these actors funny, but they can sing! In this production, you will hear snippets from various operas: Otello, Rigoletto, The Barber of Seville, Don Carlo, Linda di Chamounix, Carmen and The Marriage of Figaro. It’s always great to be exposed to another genre of theatre.
My suggestions to you? Lean forward and enjoy. Try to keep up. This is a farce. Don’t look for subtlety or even logic in this escapist comedy. Farce is full of low-brow humor, mistaken identities, slapstick, sensual innuendo, broad physicality, silly word play, a heavy dose of slamming doors and near misses. There will be a few moments of heartfelt simplicity and hopefully you will leave the theater wanting to experience some real opera while re-evaluating the people in your life who offer up their love to you so ardently.
Okey-doke! Let’s have some fun!
6 - 6
THE GREATEST LOVE fosters provocative thoughts, by Janine Sobeck
Director Kymberley Mellen does a great job in creating the presentation of the reading. Moving the actors away from a more traditional music stand presentation, Mellen helps distinguish the many locations described in the script with the help of rudimentary set pieces and props, distinctly delineating parts of the stage as certain locales. Though the years are clearly announced by the narrator (Michael A. Harding), the physicality of the actors, specifically Daniel, greatly helps marking the passage of time in the staged reading atmosphere. Above all, the removal of the music stands in favor of simple staging also helps emphasize the focus on the relationships between characters.
DIRECTOR'S NOTES for Fefu and Her Friends:
“Let us awaken life dormant!”
First let me explain a little about how this play was chosen and what a Conservatory project is for.
We decide the actors who will be eligible to participate in the Conservatory production based on top proficiency scores (performance of 2 monologues by all acting class applicants). There is a very limited time frame between the end of the semester proficiencies and a need to announce a play to be work-shopped the following semester. This past Fall semester, all top proficiency scorers who indicated interest in this process, were women. That meant I was madly searching for a challenging play involving as many strong women’s roles as I could find.
The purpose of the Conservatory process is manifold. It is meant to expose actors to genres and material they have not recently been expose to in their collegiate career. It is a great opportunity for tackling some more difficult subject matter, because no tickets will be sold. We’re not worried about technicalities: costumes, sound, lighting, set design, etc. The focus is foremost on the actor’s development of craft; on the process not the product. I wanted to find a script that would demand deep character work and textual analysis; that would NOT be readily accessible at first read; that demanded an ensemble approach to figure out; that involved elements of realism with physicalized and metaphoric presentation. I think I found a script that serves all those needs in Fefu and her Friends.
This script confuses me, angers me, saddens me… and that’s a fantastic place to begin exploration. We began with Viewpoint composition exercises, trying to find key themes in the script which spoke to us as a group of collegiate aged, Mormon, female actors. We identified many similarities between our current obsessions with appropriate gender role expectations, body image issues, co-dependant relationships, the purpose of our educational training, struggles with depression and female competition. The script began to feel less and less foreign. We began to recognize ourselves in all these women. Even when the locations and audience relations are constantly changing, the one thing that holds constant in Fefu and her Friends is the conflicted emotional truth behind the sometimes pedantic and sometimes lyrical, poetic beauty of Maria Irene Fornes’ text. Her words hold power and are loaded with visceral images. They make you feel things, see things, remember things.
I hope you are left bewildered and in a place of self-examination by our performance. Be prepared – it’s unpredictable. Reality doesn’t hold constant. We go in and out of these women’s heads and psyches. You don’t know quite whom to trust for accuracy of interpretation. The 1st and 3rd act take place in Fefu’s living room. Act 2 takes place on the lawn, in a kitchen, in a foyer and in a dungeon of sorts. You will have to physically and emotionally get up, move, and shift your perspective a few times. Sometimes you’re the audience, sometimes a complicit accomplice, sometimes a voyeur, sometimes a trusted confidant. We’ll lead you.
Here are some themes to keep an eye out for…
Impulse vs. Convention
Generosity vs. Judgement
Fight vs. Flight
Escape vs. Confrontation
The accuracy of self-perception,
Metatheatricality: who is performing what and for whom?
Homosociality (who do you identify with, associate with?) Not to be confused with homosexuality.
The power of language, speech, text.
Enjoy! Don’t you dare sit back and relax. You’ll need to lean forward and engage to get a grasp on this piece.
-Kymberly Mellen (Director, or more aptly, Lead Collaborator)
Easy to understand, this contemporary American interpretation is designed specifically for High School and College Drama or English/Literature courses.
9 - 11
11 - 11
Put on this mask and pray for grace
That what you wear become a face.
-From“Repentance,” a poem by Wayne Yorgensen
When we began planning this production, our dramaturg Zach Archeleta, asked me if I would be directing As You Like It in the style of a political commentary or a romantic pastoral comedy. I answered: "Yes… Why choose one over the other?” Throughout As You Like It, scenes of violence and sorrow are slammed right up against love banter and laughter. Musical interludes are placed alongside some of Shakespeare’s most thought provoking speeches. We decided to perform it in that fashion.
Those used to seeing Shakespeare’s plays performed in traditional doublet and hose, with Elizabethan instruments and "English-y "accents, might be jarred by our contemporary approach. However, as Hamlet advises the players "the purpose of playing… is to hold the mirror up to nature… to show the very age and body of the time his form and pressure." For example, the actors in Shakespeare’s day brought their own clothing to wear as costumes. Shakespeare didn’t write the music performed at the Old Globe. Could it have been the 16th century equivalent of a rock concert? Inspired by these possibilities, we set the play in our contemporary world with modern clothing and musical selections, chosen to emphasize key motifs and characters.
As You Like It is a political piece – a commentary on violence and the constant battle within each of us to love or wage war as individuals and communities.
"Christ asks us to create rather than to destroy, to do good rather than evil. That is the only way to stop one violent act from becoming a cycle of revenge, the kinds of revenge we see being carried out all over the world in incidents between nations, ethnic groups, gangs and even in religious communities. It requires considerable imagination to return good for evil."
- Susan Elizabeth Howe, The Moral Imagination.
My unedited, primal response when threatened or injured is “fight or flight.”Without personal role models, moral instruction, the Holy Ghost’s guidance or even powerful fictional examples such as As You Like It, I might not remember there are other, more charitable responses. Choosing forgiveness, repentance, and peaceful resolution over revenge, violence and continued grudges can break cycles of abuse and victimization, leading instead to healing and progression. In As You Like It, Duke Senior and his forest followers consciously choose peace over revenge. The various lovers courageously decide to open their hearts to one another. These are bold and risky choices.
As You Like It is also a romance about "love – as you like it." The Forest of Arden might be free from treason and murder, but no one there is free from the hazards of love. The characters in this play try many tactics: deceit, disguise, persuasion, pursuit, threats, and insults - in order to attract and manipulate their desired one. As we watch their exploits, we might ask ourselves: how do we get/find/create the particular kind of love we think will make us happy? What kind of purposeful disguises and public masks do we hold tightly to? Are we afraid that others won’t accept us for who we really are? Rosalind’s boyish disguise is the most obvious example of avoiding honest interaction and commitment, but all these characters are on a journey of finding and sharing their authentic selves.
My hope is that we leave the theatre rejuvenated “with a Hey, Ho, Hey Nonny-No!” - likening these characters unto ourselves – ready to believe in community, forgiveness, fresh chances and true love again.
2 - 6
One cannot read the original text of Berenice by Jean Racine without being simultaneously aware of two things. First, the play is remarkably simple. It proceeds in nearly real time, is set in a single room, and follows one narrow plot whose conflict is a decision that has already been made. Secondly and surprisingly, the simplicity is compelling, moving, and beautiful. The play feels out of place compared to contemporary works that focus on action or intricate plots or epic adventures. Readers might not think that such a narrowly focused story could hold an audience’s attention. Racine was confident in his skills, however. Writing to his critics after the opening of the play, he points out that:
It is not merely that some people have reproached me with this same simplicity which I have sought so carefully: they have thought that a tragedy which was so little charged with intrigues could not be according to the rules of the theatre. I inquired if they complained that they had been bored. I was told that they all admitted that it had not bored them at all, that it had even moved them in several places, and that they would see it again with pleasure. What else do they want? (Preface to Berenice, 1670).
It was this comment by Racine that was the inspiration for our new adaptation of Berenice. We wondered at the contradiction and complexity of Racine—so confident in his personal life yet so sensitive in his writing. We questioned how someone who was clearly dismissive of criticism not only worked within the prescribed boundaries, but perfected the highly controlled form of French neoclassical drama. We were fascinated with Racine’s private life, which frequently intersected with his art in spectacular ways. We took these observations to the very talented Matthew Greene, who reconceived the original Berenice from the perspective of Racine – a writer torn between many influences in his life and writing. The result is the production you are seeing tonight.
Berenice is not performed nearly as often as Racine’s Phaedra, which is considered his greatest masterpiece. It has never been performed in this adaptation before, so the play itself is a first. Additionally, this is the first time either of us have directed a play that we commissioned. The creative process started with our idea, which was researched by our dramaturg Sarah Amundsen and Matthew Greene, and eventually found shape in Greene’s play. The play was then subject to group revisions by the entire team to arrive at its final version. This process was exhilarating and created an atmosphere of collaboration that continued throughout rehearsals. This collaboration was impacted by yet another first—neither of us have co-directed a play before. As two women with very strong and often opposing ways of approaching directing, working together was as challenging as it was rewarding. We encouraged our production team and our actors to bring their strong opinions to the process as well. The result was a vibrant and exciting environment that we realized mirrored Racine’s writing process. In both Racine’s play and in our production, we believe that multiple voices are better than one. We hope you agree.
Megan Sanborn Jones and Kym Mellen
5 - 5
Horror In Happy Valley: “Turn of the Screw” and “Nosferatu” by Mahonri Stewart, 2008
Something wicked this way comes to Utah Valley in the form of two shadowed shapes, masquerading as highly theatrical plays. The Turn of the Screw at The Covey Center for the Arts, and Nosferatu at Utah Valley University are both superb pieces of theater that deserve sold out audiences and loud applause. They both boast superb casts and visionary directors. If you live in the Utah Valley area, run, yea, scream to the box office, if you have to. Whatever you do, pick up tickets to these shows, if you have the slightest enjoyment of theater or Halloween… you won’t regret it….
The other powerful Halloween tale playing in the valley right now trades vampires for ghosts… or are they? Turn of the Screw, playing at the Covey Center for the Arts, is adapted from the classic novella by Henry James with skillful artistry by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher. Drawing as much from the literary criticism sorrounding the story as the actual story itself, the play poses a good many questions about what exists in our minds and what is indeed real and supernatural. It also has questions about affection and what happens when we are not given this vital and basic need. Psychological drama as much as ghost story, the classic tale follows a governess who is given charge of two children, but with the express orders that she is to never contact their guardian about them– even when, it turns out, they are in the most dire need. Soon figures from the children’s past appear to the governess as she tries to piece together why she can see these figures when no one else can (except for perhaps the children?).
As with Nosferatu, this play rises on the wings of its director. Kimberley Mellen is a revelation to me, for I had very little previous knowledge of her until now. The concepts and execution of this play in Mellen’s hands are nothing short of miraculous.
To understand the limitations set upon her (and then the amazing things she did with the space), one has to understand the Covey Center’s “little theater.” It’s not that much of a theater, it’s really just a big room painted black with risers and installed theatrical lights. And before those lights came in, I have seen productions in there where the stage manager would just turn on and off the lights for scene changes. Actors have to enter through the same doors the audience does, and often music or other performances can be heard from downstairs where the more “grand” theater exists. So, to say the least, it’s never been an ideal space. But Ms. Mellen does something splendid with the space, using it to her utmost advantage.
Instead of staging the play in its proper Victorian period, the director garbs her actors in simple black clothing and relies heavily upon masks for most of the characters except the governess. She creates a square out of shower curtains, which can be drawn back and forth throughout the play, and which have a whitish, transluecent quality to them. With the curtains off-setting them, the black, large brick walls behind the actors suddenly seem less like a room, and instead take a very disturbing, clinical quality to them. As if you have just found yourself in an asylum.
As the curtains are drawn back and forth, back and forth, back and forth with increasingly reckless abandon, where this governess exists and what she tells us becomes highly debatable and we do not know whether we are being “seduced” into her way of thinking, or whether what she is telling us is real. A hand held, electric lantern is also used throughout the play, sometimes pointing at the audience (again, an uncomfortable glare), sometimes shadowing the actors in frightening ways, sometimes casting our focus (or distracting it) to and from where it needs to be. All of these elements combine to make a very visceral and highly dramatic theatrical experience. This revelation of Mellen’s talent, I hope, is only a preview of great things to come from her. She easily joins people like Chris Clark, David Morgan and Barta Heiner in my personal pantheon of favorite directors.
And, of course, half of the job of good directing is good casting. Here Ms. Mellen does not disappoint either. All of the roles are divided between two actors. Rachel Baird plays the lonely governess, while Benjamin King plays everyone else. Ms. Baird gives a startling beautiful, yet frightening, portrayal of this governess. Aching, lonely, vulnerable, yet with a repressed passion and strength, it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen all year. A perfect complement to Ms. Baird is her fellow actor Ben King, who is a force of nature in and of himself in this play. Taking on several very distinctly different roles (complimented by some very evocative masks), he is able to give us a very convincing portrayals ranging from a seductive employer, trapping the governess into a strange and often frightening occupation; to a vulnerable, yet slightly creepy young boy, quite the feat since King towers above the governess; to the housekeeper, which King does a surprisingly excellent job at, considering his manly height and physique. Between the two performers, the show was one of the best acted pieces of theater that I have seen for a very long time.
So between Nosferatu and Turn of the Screw, there is a chance for Utah Valley Residents to see truly compelling theater and get their Halloween tricks and treats at the same time. Corn mazes and haunted houses are all part of the fun of the season, but I hope that it becomes a tradition within the valley to see shows like this every All Hallow’s Eve.
Right to tight: 'Turn of the Screw' ramps up psychological tension by Amber Foote - Herald correspondent, 2008
Let your imagination run wild. That's the best way to experience the haunting tale "The Turn of the Screw," which is playing now at the Covey Center for the Arts Little Theater.
The play was written by Jeffrey Hatcher and adapted from Henry James's novella of the same name, which was first published in 1898 and is a Victorian thriller that unravels best when audience members use their own fears as a vehicle to move them through the story, said Kimberly Mellen, director of the play.
"While there are some great moments that will make you jump out of your seats, its terror is more rooted in psychological horror," Mellen said. "The more the audience is willing to bring their own fears, imagination and personal background to the piece, the more it may disturb them."
"The Turn of the Screw" deals with supernatural phenomena combined with disturbing real-life issues and events. The story is narrated mainly through a young governess who has been hired to care for two children, Miles and Flora, who have been orphaned through the death of their parents and abandoned by an absentee uncle. The governess becomes captivated with the children, but soon begins experiencing troubling happenings around the estate where the tale takes place.
The children's previous governess and her lover, an abusive valet, both died under strange circumstances and their ghosts are seen frequenting the property. Believing the apparitions are somehow predatory toward the children, the governess determines that she alone is capable of healing the children and getting rid of the demons.
"The Turn of the Screw" has long been studied by readers and critics alike, who are still trying to determine just what exactly the issues and evils are in the story -- and if they're actually real, or simply imagined up by an insane governess. Most agree the underpinnings of the story, however, lie in the veiled accusations of abuse committed against the children by the dead lovers.
"As in Henry James's novella, the play is purposely ambiguous," Mellen said. "Most events are insinuated and the readers/audience members are invited to actively participate in piecing together the clues while deciding for themselves where the greatest danger lies."
The play at the Covey Center is acted entirely by a cast of two, creating an intimate interaction between the audience and the events on stage. Rachel Baird, an acting student at BYU, plays the governess in the play, and Benjamin King, also a BYU student, transitions between four other roles. The character of Flora in the play is mute and though the governess interacts with the child on stage, she remains unseen by the audience.
"We do a lot of things to help the audience with the characters," Baird said of the unique casting. "There are really stark differences between each character so that it's not confusing. It's not like you don't know who I'm talking to."
While not a slasher Halloween horror, "The Turn of the Screw" gets its thrills on playing with your mind and hinting at issues that are never made quite clear in the story and will leave audience members wondering after they leave.
"People will enjoy taking the journey with the characters," Baird said. "Everyone can relate to being blind to a situation that you weren't prepared for, that's way over your head, and then having to make your way through it."
2006 Director – The Forgotten Carols, Community Theatre, Mundelein, IL
2006 Director – Steps to Zion, Musical collaboration between the City of St. Louis, The Museum of Westward Expansion and LDS Church, MO
2004 Assistant Director – It’s All True, Dir. Lou Contey, Timeline Theatre, Chicago, IL
2004 Assistant Director – Benefactors, Dir. Michael Halberstam, Writers’ Theatre, Chicago, IL
2004 Dramaturgy – Doctor’s Dilemma, Dir. Michael Halberstam, Writers’ Theatre, Chicago, IL
1996 Director – Children of Eden: MDT Senior Project, BYU, UT
1996 Asst. Director – Miss Saigon: MDT Senior Project, BYU, UT
1995 Director – Blood Brothers: Senior Directing Project, BYU, UT
29 - 29
6 - 6
3 - 3
21 - 22