Monday, December 7, 2009

The End: An Introspection

Being a part of a theatre production is an experience unlike any other. Participating in a theatre piece is essentially participating in a piece of living art. The final product is constantly changing and each time the piece of art is presented to an audience, it is different and new. I truly felt like an integral piece in this ever-changing display of art like the finishing tile of a mosaic. Being a member of the cast of “Arsenic and Old Lace” has allowed me to discover how sincerely impacting theater can be. Good theater does not act merely as an outlet for entertainment, but as a vessel for thought provocation and change. Merely attending a performance can result in this enlightenment, but even more impacting is being a member of the performance. Acting can be such an illuminating experience, allowing the actor to look at the character he plays through the lens of his own experiences and assess his own real life actions through the eyes of his character. Although this sounds like a metaphysical and slightly erroneous nightmare, I’ve found this to be true. Playing the role of Martha Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace” has allowed me to look at myself in a number of different angles. Because Martha and I are so similar, this has been quite fascinating for me. I was able to look at her flaws as a character and assess why she acted this way. By allowing myself this opportunity, I was able to look at my own flaws and assess through the events in the play why I acted this way. For example, I often find myself trying to placate everyone. By observing this flaw of my own through Martha’s character, I realized that this goal of mine to please everyone was impossible and at times counter productive. By observing Martha’s interactions with Jonathan especially, I realized the damage that could be done by such placating responses. I realize that this sounds fabricated, but I really did go through a period of introspection after the show. The power that a character wields to change the thoughts and emotions of its actor is incredible and almost unfathomable if one has not had to opportunity to experience it. Being a part of this amazing experience has taught me so many things, not only about theatre, but about myself.

No Longer an Outsider

I saw “Arsenic and Old Lace” on Saturday November 21st at 8pm. While those who attended the play can agree that it was entertaining, unexpected, well performed, and worth the five dollar admission, no one can feel as I did at the end of the performance. No one was filled with a sense of happiness and pride like I was. Ok, well maybe with the exception of someone’s mom or family member, heck maybe even the director, but as I hurried down the stairs down to the stage, to praise all of my friends, I was met by the arms of the scary looking Jonathan Brewster, also known as my team member Tim Smela. I go from Control Variable to “Proud Mom” simply with a hug. Yes, I now call myself a “Proud Mom.” Tim asked what I thought of the show and I tell him I loved it, that it was wonderful, and how he did a great job. I’m pretty sure I made a snide comment about his makeup as well, but Tim of course laughed. Really though, Tim got so into character it was disturbing! His character was creepy and dark and nothing like the lovely and charming Tim that I know and love. In class on the following Monday professor Steven Fraiberg commented on Tim’s performance as well. He thought Tim’s character to be so creepy, especially with the heavy makeup that he had to wear. I hear a very familiar voice and I find myself hugging and congratulating Martha Brewster also known as my roommate Emily Nott. I was overjoyed to see her and I was and still am blown away by her performance. She totally embodied an elderly woman from her voice, to dress, to mannerisms; Emily did such a convincing job. It was great to be able to see her in character, to see the context of the lines that were repeated in my room every night. During the play I could laugh and now know what I was laughing at this time! It’s such a great feeling to be in the loop! Whoever said ignorance is bliss is wrong. Well, in this case anyways, I am glad to finally know what the play is all about. Another elderly woman, Abby Brewster then caught my eye and I am squealing with giddiness with my other team member Grace Pappalardo. I gave her a big hug as well and congratulated her on a performance well done! I tell her how impressed I am by the play and how cute of an old lady she made. I can totally see Grace when she’s older behaving as her character did in the show. As I continued to congratulate the other actors, friends, meet family members of performers, and mingle with other audience members, a fellow classmate approached me and asked, “So Kelsea, what’s it like to no longer be on the outside?” We both laugh. “Haha, very funny” I replied. She obviously recalled my previous entry on the blog about my “Outsider’s Opinion” of the play, but since the play has come to an end I guess I am now an insider. I tell her how it feels great to no longer be looking from the outside on in. I’m now looking outward with my team Brewster, Brewster, and Brewster. I’ve seen the final product. I saw my friends in character saying their lines to one another on a stage instead of in their pj’s in my room. I can now laugh knowingly and smile with pride in my friends’ talents. I am no longer the Control Variable. I am no longer dumb (well, in regards to ‘Arsenic’ anyways), I am no longer ignorant, and I now understand why and how a play can take over someone’s life, how a play can become one’s life and I realize why that doesn’t bother those involved in the play. How exciting for me to finally be able to understand all that is ‘Arsenic.’ I am so very proud of all those involved in the play. Great job again to everyone who had anything to do with ROIAL’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” From the set, to the acting, to the directing, I am thoroughly impressed by the quality of this student run production. I now am looking forward to the next ROIAL production!

Oh, and Grace and Tim, always remember that Momma loves you! Haha

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Results Are In!

Brewster, Brewster and Brewster created a survey in order to glean some feedback about how effective our poster was and the results have arrived! We asked some people to anonymously fill out the survey and respond to the following questions:
  • Was the poster visually effective?
  • What do you think about the poster?
  • What questions do you have about the show or the poster?
  • Do you feel you understand the event better after viewing the poster?
  • Does this poster make you want to see the show?
After analyzing the results, we found that a majority of respondents had a positive opinion of our poster. Some particular elements of the poster that were commented on were the use of visually appealing graphics (specifically the "dripping blood" text), the inclusion of the blog website, and the dates and times of the show. Conversely, some readers were looking for more information, specifically how much the show would cost. Included in our survey was a question entailing how visually effective our poster was, on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being visually ineffective and 10 being very visually effective. The average visual effectiveness rating was 8.8 out of 10, a fairly high score.

Every person interviewed said that they were persuaded to see the show after viewing the poster, however, only 50% of people interviewed said they would visit the blog. We found this number a bit low, seeing that the link is included in our poster. This result may mean that either the poster gave enough information about the play that readers thought it wasn't necessary to visit the blog for more information, or that some readers just didn't want to put forth the effort to visit the blog.

Some questions/concerns that we found about our poster, after analyzing the surveys, were mostly involving ticket prices. At the time of publication, ROIAL Players had not yet set a ticket price, so it was impossible to include this in our initial poster. Secondly, we had a few respondents that were confused about the nature of the show. One response specifically stated: "It doesn't really seem to illustrate a comedy". In revisiting the poster, some slight changes could have been made to make that point clear to the reader.

Overall, our survey confirmed our initial thought that our poster is an effective advertising tool for the show. We hope that it drums up enough interest in our show to really pull in people to come see it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Insider's Opinion

By Grace Pappalardo

I’ve always joked about sharing an unhealthy amount of qualities with octogenarians. I enjoy knitting, watching the news and solving crossword puzzles, all stereotypical pass times of the classic “old person.” I have perfected the art of aging myself decades with my habits. However, I never could have guessed that my strange talents for acting like an elderly woman would ever come in handy. When I heard that my dear friend and fellow thespian Matt Swartz was casting roles for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” an upcoming play he was directing, I decided to follow the countless pieces of advice I had received from current Michigan State students and got involved. I did a little research on YouTube before my audition, investigating the potential roles I might be asked to read for. While watching clips from the old film, I found myself becoming quite suddenly attached to one character in particular. She was a charming elderly woman wearing a high lace collar and a whimsical expression of complacency. I watched her bustle around the movie’s set in a slight cloud of reverie. She seemed to maintain her endearing, spry quirks, despite her old age and I became immediately intrigued. This was my first encounter with the character of Martha Brewster and at that moment, I silently hoped that we would somehow meet again.
As fate would have it, Matt cast me as Martha Brewster, the lovable and quaint aunt character that I had originally been endeared by. Overtly ecstatic, I arrived at the first rehearsal, ready to begin the saga of developing my character and fleshing out Martha Brewster to the fullest. At our first read through, Matt took meticulous steps to help the cast realize that acting in this play was not about memorizing the lines or accomplishing a perfect blocking format, but, most importantly, to become our characters. This idea was completely novel to me as a rookie in theater. In every other school play I had been in, line memorization and choreography trumped character work and I had never experienced becoming close to a character. As rehearsals continued and people began to develop the voices, mannerisms and habits of their characters, I began to see why Matt had been so adamant about his cast getting to know and love the characters they played. The acting was more real than I’ve ever before experienced in a school production. Each character had his own motivations, thoughts, and mannerisms and these seemingly miniscule elements created such an enormously authentic setting. During each practice, I felt like an eighty year old women whose only concerns were cooking and her nephews. I began to let myself feel the emotions that Martha would feel in the circumstances that arose in the play and I could feel my fellow cast members doing the same around me, adding volumes of energy and legitimate feeling to the scene.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” has allowed me to discover what the actual aim of theater is. It not only acts as an outlet for entertainment, but also as a vessel to portray the emotions and persuasions of the different characters and even those of the playwright himself. I think that this production of the show does exactly that and helps the audience identify with a character on stage. I’m hoping that, since the cast is so vehemently dedicated to the quality of the performance, the audience will laugh at our jokes, gasp at our lack of morals and feel like a part of the Brewster family.

An Outsider's Opinion

By Kelsea Solo

“Why yes dear!” “But of course dear!” “Oh Abby!” “Oh Martha!” Laughter fills the room and I find myself laughing as well; just another typical evening in room 219. My roommate Emily Nott and dear friend Grace Pappalardo are going over their lines for the play ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’ Let me tell you, these girls really get into character! Emily and Grace are quirky to begin with, but when they start speaking like elderly women with a hint of a British accent, their quirkiness is just taken to whole new level. I find myself laughing with them and I honestly don’t know what I’m laughing at. Yes they make for quite the pair of adorable elderly sisters, but other than that I have very little knowledge about the play. Everyone I know and almost everywhere I go ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ is there though! I am beginning to sound crazy, but I mean what the heck?! I am beginning to feel left out! I come to my room and cast members are rehearsing lines, I see my roommate before she goes to rehearsal in the evening and I am asleep when she returns. In my RCAH 111 class we are told about an upcoming group project and who do I get assigned to work with? Two members of the cast of ‘Arsenic’: Grace Pappalardo and Tim Smela. And what do we decide to do our project on? You guessed it, the upcoming play ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’ While I may not be in the play, ‘Arsenic’ has most definitely, undoubtedly, become a big part of my life at the moment. Sure, I am not in the play, but I am promoting it. I am living with the lead in the play. Majority of my friends are in it or will be on the stage crew. But my role in the grand scheme of this play is of Control Variable. That’s right. I am trying my best to stay ignorant as to the plot of this play and what happens in ‘Arsenic.’ While I love listening to Emily and Grace go over lines in their cute little old lady voices, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with on my group project (Tim and Grace are wonderful project team members who know I am unfamiliar with the play and are doing their best to not ruin the show for me), I feel as the Control Variable, I am constantly being tested to remain dumb. Yes dumb to ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ which is very difficult because like I said before, ‘Arsenic’ is everywhere. While Tim did have us watch a little clip of someone else’s production of ‘Arsenic’ in one of our project meetings, I still am left a bit clueless as to what this play will entail (which is good; it means I am still ignorant!), but for now I am perfectly fine being the Control Variable, sitting on the outer edge, listening from outside of the circle, analyzing the madness that is ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ going on before me. I know that my role in this play is to remain constant in my lack of knowledge of this play, to analyze those involved in the play, meaning to understand why my friends laugh when ‘Matt Swartz’ and ‘ass’ are used in the same sentence and to be so very proud of all my new friends committing themselves and their time to this show. Just as I type time commitment, I hear Emily mumble under her breath, “Damn, practice is at 5 today!” And the clock now reads 4:36. Ahh! I am so anxious to finally see what the final product(ion) will be like, to finally see what everyone has been practicing for and staying up late for will be wonderful. Hopefully after the show everything will come together and I’ll no longer be standing on the outside looking in at this play. This weekend can’t come fast enough! I can’t be the Control Variable forever. Hahaha
So I guess I’ll continue promoting the show! Come see Arsenic and Old Lace this weekend Nov. 19 @ 9pm, 21 @ 8pm, and 22 @ 2pm in the RCAH theater (in the basement of Snyder’Phillips). The cost is to attend the show is $5, but finally being able to understand how a play can take over your friends’ social lives is priceless. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ROIAL Players Present: 2 NEW VIDEOS!

2 brand new interviews with cast members from Arsenic and Old Lace are now up. Check out the side bar or go to
That is a link to our YouTube Channel, where you can also check out all of our other videos.
Less than a week to go until showtime! Tell your friends! Tell your mom! Tell your estranged ex-girlfriend that you secretly still love!

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Video: What Didn't Make It

Look over in the side bar to see the brand new Arsenic and Old Lace Video: What Didn't Make It, including a very special guest appearance from Elton John!

Less than two weeks to go! Posters are now up and will continue to be posted around campus. Tell your friends, relatives, and strange acquaintances! Look out for more new videos (at least 3 this week!)
Quotes from people around campus:

"It looks fabulous!"

"Your poster caught my eye! The dripping blood looks really good."

"I look forward to seeing the show!"