The Past Year of Theater, pt 3

By Nathan Bergstedt

nathan bergstedtOver that pitcher of beer, John and I brainstormed a bit and decided, essentially, who our local dream team cast would be if we simply had our pick of actors in the community. It seemed a bit of a stretch since we didn’t even know if one of them was going to be in town, having gone off to college a couple months earlier, but that’s why we called it our dream team. But besides the cast, we thought one of the vacant rooms in Old Central School, the lawn of which was where we performed “Shrew” a few months earlier, would be the best spot, and First Friday in January was to be our date.

I got in contact with Patty Kampa to see if she were, by any chance, planning on coming home to Grand Rapids during winter break. John and I agreed that she would do a great job as Sabina, the sultry and vindictive contortionist. As luck would have it, she was going to be back in town the week we planned on starting rehearsals, and she wasn’t going back to college until the Sunday after the show. I’m not exactly sure where the saying “Flattery will get you nowhere” came from, but for the record, it’s horseshit. Despite her relatively short stay back in Grand Rapids, she agreed to take on the role of Sabine. Truly, how apt would one be to decline such an offer after being told that you were hand picked for it?

Josh Cagle was cast as Andre, the primary protagonist, because he played it originally for InsomniActs and was a big part of the reason the show was even being revived. And for the role of the harsh and demanding Petra, Catholic school music teacher Marina Whight fit the bill perfectly. And both of them, same as Patty, were in. We actually had our dream cast.

We borrowed a rack of stage lights from a local musician who had some just sitting around. Wasn’t using them. Honestly, what a strange thing to have just laying about. From there, we borrowed some supplies from the Grand Rapids Players in order to make a simple set, as well as a few articles of clothing for costumes.

Since we decided that we were going to keep putting on shows, it seemed like a good idea that we should develop a partnership with the Grand Rapids Players. As it was, we had an informal relationship with the board, all of us having been involved with the Players for a number of years as actors and directors, but this was something pretty different. We needed something a bit more formal so that everyone would know the extent of the relationship so that no one was being taken advantage of. For the time being, the board was cool with us rooting around for this show. There was a gentleman’s agreement that all set pieces, props, and costumes would be returned in proper order.

Not Playing with a Full Deck

Not Playing with a Full Deck

It should be noted that whereas the script was left essentially untouched from the original production, I did take the story a bit further through another medium. Between October, when we decided to revive the show, and December, when we did the work of reviving the show, was November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. I’d attempted to write a novel in a month, as per the challenge, in past years, but hadn’t succeeded. So I decided I’d try again, only this time I’d take a different approach. Instead of taking the story idea too seriously, I took the character of Andre, came up with a vague starting point and an even more vague ending, and from there just presumed that there was no wrong answer in the telling of this story. That was it. And as it turns out, that approach works. Over the course of November, I greatly fleshed out the story of Andre, Petra, and Sabine with a 50,000 word novel. Since I knew so much about these characters, I decided to direct the revival of “Full Deck,” and John took a producer role in the show.

The winter was wicked cold and ridiculously snowy. January First Friday wasn’t much of an exception, though there was a relative break in the brutality that day. It was only ridiculously cold by normal winter standards, not by all standards. Still, the people of northern Minnesota are a hearty tribe; they can only be shut in for so long before they decide enough is enough. So we got a good size audience from for each of the four performances of the 17 minute show we did that evening (except the second one, for some reason. We only had a couple people in the audience for that one). The former classroom that we transformed into a theater was full of life on that cold winter evening. Most everyone, minus perhaps some of the parents who brought their young children without knowing that the show incorporated some sexual double entendres, appeared to have a wonderful time.

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