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Becoming an Actor: The Process of Role Sharing

There are many facets to the life of an actor in the live theatre. One of those facets is taking on a role that you did not create in the official rehearsal process of a production. The theatre term for that is role sharing and it is the position that Lauren Schulke found herself in when accepting a spot in this year’s theatre apprenticeship class. She would be taking over the role of Marcy Park in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for outgoing ensemble member Abbie Cathcart. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, Lauren describes this tricky process for her and what it means for the entire production. 

An Actor Challenge: Role Sharing

by Lauren Schulke

2018-19 Commonweal Professional Theatre Apprentice Lauren SchulkeI am so honored and excited to have stepped into the role of Marcy Park—an overachiever with dreams of underachieving—in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch Abbie in the role of Marcy, and working alongside her to create my own version—or in theater terms, role sharing—has been a dream.

When I first got the call from Hal Cropp (Commonweal Executive Director) about my acceptance into the 2018-19 Commonweal Theatre apprentice class, I was offered the role of Marcy and a role in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. I’ll admit, I was ecstatic for the latter, but was slightly hesitant about the former. My early years of becoming an actor consist of a lot of musicals, but I really haven’t been in one for the last 5 years or so. So when I Googled the role and watched the YouTube videos, I was a little nervous and worried I may be in over my head. However, much like Marcy, I faced the challenge head-on, and unlike Marcy, I decided to go all-in. I called up a recommended voice coach to work on the music and I got a copy of the script and started memorizing.

Moving to Lanesboro was a big change! But I’m grateful I had some time to see Spelling Bee and really feel settled in before I jumped into rehearsals. I worked with Abbie to learn my blocking and the dances and I worked with Stela Burdt, our music director on getting the music in my head and in my body. I watched the show like 5 million times and had a wonderful cast holding me up on my first night.

The adjustment into a role that had already been crafted by Abbie was a balance. It was hard to not feel as if I was just copying someone else’s work and I found myself questioning some of the choices I was making. But after many conversations with Abbie, rehearsal with our stage manager, Bailey, and finally a few performances under my belt, I’m really starting to feel my own Marcy Park blossom. She’s a misunderstood kid who uses a spelling bee as a platform to finally start to understand herself. The exploration of her character has been a wonderful journey and I’m excited to see where it continues to grow over the next 3 months.

Seeing Lauren make the role of Marcy Park her own is just one of the many great things to do in Lanesboro. CWL ensemble member Brandt Roberts has another idea to add to that list, Silent Movies in the Park sponsored by Lanesboro Community Theatre. 
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is currently playing through September 24th alongside The Clean House
Get Tickets —> For Both of These Fantastic Shows!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre.—Jeremy

Guest Actors: A Vital Part of the Professional Resident Theatre Company

An Integral Part of Professional Resident Theatre Companies

For our production of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl opening Saturday, June 30, it has been necessary for us to search outside of the Commonweal professional resident company for the purposes of filling three female roles in the production. These guest actors, or seasonal actors as we refer to them, are quite valuable and provide an integral part of the success of the plays they are involved with. Without them, a majority of the productions you have seen on the Commonweal stage would not have made it there. Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to the seasonal actresses appearing in The Clean House. The first is a familiar face in that she made her Commonweal debut in last season’s Steel Magnolias and is also currently playing the role of Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Betti Battocletti.

Commonweal Theatre Companiy Guest Actress Betti BattoclettiiDescribe yourself in a sentence.

-I am a true Virgo with a twist; quirky and free-spirited but still very organized and pragmatic.

Where is your hometown?

– Milwaukee, WI

Where are you living now?

-Minneapolis, MN

What is the best part about that place?

-The city lakes and all of the great bike trails.

From your time at the Commonweal, what have you learned about the company?

– I have learned that the Commonweal is comprised of a small group of incredibly dedicated artists who, as a team, run all aspects of this amazing professional theatre company and make it work in such a surprising place as Lanesboro, MN.

As a child, did you have dreams of what you wanted to be when you grew up? What were those dreams?

-As a kid watching movie musicals on TV, being taken to live theatre by my parents and seeing my oldest sister in her high school production of Guys and Dolls, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer/singer/actress.

Guest Actress Betti Battocletti with Commonweal Theatre director Alan Bailey

   Betti with The 25th Annual Putnam County                    Spelling Bee director Alan Bailey

Why did you choose to take this role at the Commonweal?

-I enjoy working at the Commonweal, love Lanesboro, and thought that the parts that I was offered were challenging and would be fun to tackle.

Do you recall the moment or set of circumstances that led you to the stage?

I guess the same thing that I said above about childhood dreams. Started with little grade school shows, ballet classes, high School musicals and acting class. I had a great high School theatre teacher!

Tell us something about you that might be surprising.

-I spent a year bumming around the world by myself. Lived in Australia for 6 months. Ran out of money and had to work to get back to the States.

You love the live theatre. Why?

I love pretending to be someone else. As an introvert, I like the ability to touch people but still have the safety net of the space between the stage and audience. I like to move people as much as I like to be moved.

Catching one of Betti’s fine performances this summer at the Commonweal is just one of the great things to do in Lanesboro. Another great idea comes to us from Commonweal Board President Chuck Aug. Chuck says that the perfect evening includes dinner at The Old Village Hall, taking in a play at the Commonweal and then grabbing a nightcap at The High Court Pub or Lanesboro’s American Legion post. 
The Clean House previews June 29 and officially opens with a gala celebration on Saturday, June 30. Both performances begin at 7:30. 
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee returns Monday, July 2 and plays through September 24. 
GET TICKETS —> FOR BOTH OF THE FABULOUS SHOWS!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre. — Jeremy

My “Silent Sky” Highlight

It is my opinion that we could not have chosen a better way to open our 30th Season at the Commonweal than with Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson. We at the Commonweal search for stories that are transcendent and relevant and we hope you agree that this play fit that bill with no exception. As of this writing, Silent Sky has two performances remaining and for this edition of Drama Unfolds, I have asked cast and crew to provide one highlight from the production they know they will always carry with them. Here’s what they had to say.

Elizabeth Dunn (Annie Cannon) — The moment in the show where women’s rights are emphasized (and then later) women getting the right to vote. It’s been a thrill to portray a kick-ass suffragette, who worked so hard to pave the way for future generations of women.

Adrienne Sweeney (Production Director) — Sitting in the audience show after show and hearing/feeling the collective inhale when Henrietta finally sees her “heaven.” Knowing that we were all sharing the same breath at the same time gave me chills every single time.

Eric Lee (Peter Shaw) — My Silent Sky highlight is having been a part of such a moving story. My deepest love is for art that asks of us what we can be. For me, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky encourages us to find our meaning, our wonder, our “Heaven” where it exists for us, and to recognize that there is much in common in that experience, however it may come about. Our experience of the transcendent, of being part of something bigger than ourselves, may be unique. But I do believe that there is something vital and essential in having it, whether it be through religion or through a profound wonder at the simple fact of existence.

Stela Burdt (Williamina Fleming) — Henrietta’s final monologue and these words specifically:  Because wonder will always get us there…Those of us who insist that there is much more beyond ourselves. And I do. And there’s a reason we measure it all in light. Wonder is something I have truly begun to have great belief in. Because I believe it is wonder that will help us solve many challenges we face today, both personal and worldwide. The drive to keep learning, keep discovering, keep on keeping on. And doing it within the greater connected world.

Philip Muehe (Stage Manager) — Henrietta’s line at the end of the play about how Hubble’s telescope, which uses her work, shows us “how vast and beautiful it all is.” The fact that she had NO idea how her work, dedication, and hardship would lead to the beautiful discoveries and knowledge we take for granted now, hits me so hard every performance. It always puts things in perspective for me. Keep plugging away y’all.

Abbie Cathcart (Margaret Leavitt) — I love the last scene in which Margaret’s piano playing helps Henrietta make her big discovery about the Cepheid stars. Up until this point in the story, Henrietta had logged thousands of hours studying these stars. She knew them intimately, but it wasn’t until she heard the music that she was able to think of them in a different way and then make her discovery. I love this scene because I feel like playwright Lauren Gunderson is reminding us that art does not merely decorate more serious endeavors, but rather plays an important role in human progress.

Megan Pence (Henrietta Leavitt) — The epilogue. Every time I hit the phrase “And I know that distance is only space and time…and for some of us, light,” I feel the catch in my throat because it so perfectly encapsulates life’s journeys. As I finish my time here at the Commonweal, I know that it is not the end, but rather a shift. And that my time here truly has been measured in light.
Seeing one of the final two performances of Silent Sky is just one of the great things to do in Lanesboro. How about another idea? Commonweal resident ensemble member David Hennessey suggests a stop at the historic telephone booth at the History Museum downtown. There you can dial up any of several local interest stories, all narrated by area residents—including David himself. 
Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson plays Friday, June 22 at 7:30 and Saturday, June 23 at 1:30. 
GET TICKETS —> SILENT SKY AT THE CWL
Thanks for reading; I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy

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