A Quick Guide for Choosing a Night to See Sons of the Prophet
by Jake Penner
Actors are crowd pleasers; they can’t help themselves.
And because of this — a characteristic that renders these types practically useless in other lines of work — plays tend to change night to night according to the reactions of any one specific audience. If an audience came to laugh, the ensemble will play for laughs; if the audience seems more contemplative, the actors will provide a more thoughtful experience. Essentially, the audience gets the show for which they’ve asked.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a brief guide for all of you still in the process of choosing your night to come see Sons. (Don’t wait too long, tickets are tough to come by). Enjoy.
Come to a Thursday show if…
You love to laugh.
Thursday night audiences are particularly energetic, which in turn makes the performers more energetic. Personally, I love a loud audience, and playing a comedic role like Charles Douaihy, Thursday’s are likely going to become my favorite nights to perform Sons. Have a beer, be loud.
Come to a Friday show if…
For you, theatre is a contact sport.
Friday audiences are always intense listeners and there’s usually a critic or two in the house. You, Fridayers, are the old-school connoisseur theatre-goers and you take your plays seriously. You’ve spent some time in New York or Chicago and you can’t wait to talk with friends afterward about how we stack up against Broadway. We always have our game faces on for Friday.
Come to a Saturday show if…
You want to sit back and let us entertain you.
It’s been a long week and you’ve probably come straight from dinner...it’s likely date night...there may have been wine (there was probably wine)…
Come to a Sunday show if…
You’re an intellectual and you’ve come to the play as much for the post-show talkback as the show itself.
Sunday audiences are thinkers and they always have a lot to say afterwards. These tend to be more even-paced, contemplative shows. Come Sunday if you want us to give you something to think about and then if you’re dying to pick our brains at the talkback later.
Still haven’t purchased your tickets for Sons of the Prophet? Visit our tickets page at Overture Center Online now.
by Charles Ford, M.D.
Board of Directors member
Stephen Karam’s play Sons of the Prophet is provocative, revealing, and particularly disturbing to me --a health care provider and concerned citizen. The action reveals a perfect storm in which the common denominator is sickness and related vulnerabilities. His father dies and elder son Joseph must assume unanticipated responsibilities as he struggles with a cascade of stressful events including caring for his progressively disabled uncle and attempting to deal with his own undiagnosed illness: He was an elite runner, burdened now by progressive knee pain of no obvious origin but portending grave implications. My experience as physician and patient leads me to believe that the stress of awaiting diagnosis is generally under-appreciated. We’ve often heard the misleading phrase “It’s only a diagnostic test”. Several studies have measured stress levels in patients to uncover the real impact of not knowing while awaiting results of diagnostic tests. In one such study, women awaiting results of breast biopsies scored twice as high on standardized tests of stress level compared to women awaiting chemotherapy treatment for known liver cancer. Similarly, men awaiting prostate biopsy results showed much higher stress hormone levels than those who had been informed that they had cancer.
It is only a snapshot, but this story reveals something of our values and raises ethical issues about our healthcare system that transcends politics. The local efforts to protect a star high school football player from facing charges for his reckless prank that resulted in the death of Joseph’s father reflects a prevalent attitude about the primacy of sports. In The Atlantic last month there was a disturbing article contrasting the excellence (and expense) of our high school sports programs with the mediocrity (relative to other developed countries) of our academic programs. It gave examples of schools where expenditures for football or cheerleading students were twice that expended per math student. Exchange students (both US and foreign students) were quick to note these differences.
As a surgeon in a major academic center like UW, I am aware of the excellent care we are capable of rendering. I am also aware that many patients are faced with having to maintain employment in less than ideal situations in order to keep needed health care insurance benefits. This dependency is greatest when the person is encumbered with pre-existing conditions such as Joseph’s. Having visited many countries and participated in numerous international medical programs,I am convinced that our patient care, technology, innovation, research, facilities, and medical schools are as good as it gets. Colleagues from other countries generally share that opinion and come here as post-doctoral students, scientists, and young surgeons to participate and learn. Nonetheless, they do not agree that our health care delivery system is the best model. Uwe Reinhardt is a world famous Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton who bluntly expressed this discrepancy: “When you go to international conferences, there's always two themes. They admire our medical clinical care, because we're advanced. They admire some of the stuff we try to do with quality control, and they abhor our insurance system. They call it "asocial", "inhumane", "inegalitarian". They really think it's a horror show.” In Sons of the Prophet, Stephen Karam has managed to peel back the layers of the “horror show” and infuse it with sufficient humor to keep us entertained yet mindful of our vulnerabilities and values.
Rehearsal Room LOL's: Prophet's Best Rehearsal Moments
By Jake Penner
For all those who’ve never helped stage a play before, the rehearsal period is always a fun experience. A cast and crew often takes away more than a few inside jokes after being locked in a room with each other for a month.
So this week, we’re giving our loyal Forward Theater blog readership an inside look at a few of the funniest moments from the Sons of the Prophet rehearsal period. Following are three of my favorites...
1.) Actor Michael Herold’s gradual transformation into Carl from Disney-Pixar’s Up.
Sometime around Scene 2, you might start getting the feeling like you’ve seen one of us before.
You have. When in costume, Michael Herold, playing Uncle Bill Douaihy, looks uncannily like Carl from the Pixar film Up. Herold’s transformation has been gradual, but by the time we hit the stage for real come November 7th, he should be fully Carl-ized, cardigan and all!
2.) Actor/Director Nick Harazin helps me visualize an important story element.
For a creative type, I’m surprisingly unimaginative. So when it came time to start working on my character Charles’ defining characteristic -- a gift for equating a country’s shape to animals or everyday objects -- I needed all the help I could get.
Thankfully, Actor/Director Nick Harazin (apparently) has some free time on his hands. Midway through the rehearsal process, Sons of the Prophet created a Facebook group for sharing dramaturgical info, which included Harazin’s helpful drawings of countries as their everyday objects (See below).
A nice Easter egg for our blog readership when you come to see the show next week.
3.) Karen Moeller, MD…
Some actors like to approach a role from a technical standpoint, working tirelessly on analyzing text and vocal technique. Others prefer to access their characters via emotional or sense memories first.
And then others, like Karen Moeller, prefer to buy spinal tap kits and scare the hell out of the rest of us.
Late in the play, one of the characters undergoes the very painful procedure. Moeller, playing the doctor who administers the spinal tap, researched the process to the point of being able to identify every instrument in the spinal tap kit and timeline the process beat by shuttering beat. I don’t know how she learned all this -- I don’t want to know -- but Moeller has assured us that many hours of YouTube video were consumed in service of getting her character just right.
How’s that for professionalism?
A comedy about suffering.
In addition to being a timely exploration of pain, faith, and family, Sons of the Prophet is an unbelievably funny play. Come see the midwestern premiere at Overture Center, opening November 7th - November 21st.
Poetry and The Prophet
Written by Karen Moeller
One of Forward Theater's goals is to build artistic partnerships within our community. To that end, FTC partnered with Verse Wisconsin to create a collaborative project around our 2013-14 season opener, Sons of the Prophet. Last summer, area poets and writers were given the challenge of writing an original poem that incorporated a line from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Over sixty poets responded, and Verse Wisconsin chose sixteen winners to be featured in a display outside the Playhouse Theater during the run of the show. In addition, the Wisconsin Book Festival and the Wisconsin Historical Society each hosted events that featured some of the winning poems read by the poets themselves, along with readings of scenes from the play.
When I invited all of the participating poets to read at the Book Festival, I crossed my fingers and hoped that we might be lucky enough to have seven or eight of the poets attend. Instead, fifteen of the sixteen poets came and read their poems, and it was an absolute delight. One of the things that struck me was how different an experience it is to hear a poem read by the author, as opposed to just reading it on paper. My favorite example of this was a poem that contained every use of the word "heart" found in The Prophet. What appeared to be just a random list on paper, "His heart, My Heart, Their Hearts", etc., turned into a heartbeat when read aloud. It was such a thrill to see the looks on people's faces as they realized what the poet had done -- it was brilliant.
Many of the poems connected back to the play, Sons of the Prophet, both intentionally and sometimes, by coincidence. That was even more evident at the Historical Society dinner, which featured only four of the poets and four scenes from the play. The poems and scenes flowed into one another seamlessly, and I was fascinated by how different forms of creative performance and art can illuminate the same subject matter in their own, unique ways.
All of the poems have been published at the Verse Wisconsin website, and I urge you to check them out when you can. In addition, when attending Sons of the Prophet, be sure to allow extra time to visit the display in the lobby. After all, poems are best experienced when you can allow the rhythm of the words to overtake you.
Written by Richard Ganoung
Getting Good People Off to a Great Start!
Greetings stargazers and theater watchers, it's your old pal and founding FTC member Richard Ganoung. Last week Forward Theater began rehearsals for Good People and in doing so we launched on a very personal, and deeply moving emotional journey.
Our first rehearsal started with a bittersweet moment – when Celia A. Klehr was presented with a bouquet of pink roses, as the Colleen Burns memorial actress for this season. We were all reminded once again of the loss of our dear friend, founding member, and brilliant comedic actress Colleen Burns. She was with us in spirit as the award in her name was bestowed.
As soon as we started reading, I remembered why I had looked forward to this moment for so long. When the company read this play back in 2011 we knew we had an obligation to bring it to Madison audiences and share this extraordinary insight into the human condition which poses the question, “What makes us ‘good people’?” Is it the bond we share with our community? Is it the lengths we would go to, to care for and protect those we have grown up with? Is it indeed possible to climb out of any given circumstance and economic condition? To better one’s self? And what are the sacrifices we are willing to make to do that? These are just some of the questions that this thought provoking piece of drama offers.
The six characters who inhabit this Boston locale have complicated and deeply intertwined lives. Sitting around the table during our first read through, those characters really leapt off the page because the passion of their stories could not be contained. (Or maybe that was just me who couldn't sit still.) I have been living with my character, Mike, for a couple of months now. I had a strong sense of how Mike's world and his life were being threatened by his past, and how his past was barreling toward a head-on collision with his present. And that's just one of the characters!
There are five others who are struggling to find their way in this world. To find the glue that will help bind them together and give them a sense of community. Our director, Jennifer Uphoff Gray has an uncanny ability to cast just the right person for a particular role, but it doesn't stop there. She is wise enough as a director to know that it is her job to create an environment which will foster creativity. She’s not here just to put her own individual stamp onto a production. That very personal space, that sanctuary for growth was established from the very first rehearsal. It's our incubator now, where we will all begin to craft a most unique event, one we will share with our own community in a few short weeks.
Written by Laura Frye
Observations in Fantastic Town
I've been in Madison a week, survived a fast, two-day tech, previewed the show to an amazing audience, and had an incredible opening weekend. Needless to say, I have fallen in love with Madison.
There is a quirky, charming feel to this place that can only be compared to that of Austin, Texas. Doing a small amount of exploring, I've been able to experience State Street and Willy Street. I look forward, in the next two weeks, to finding more gems in this great town.
Going back to opening weekend, my mind can't help but think of the amazing audiences we have experienced. My initial observation, during tech, was the way the larger thrust stage made me feel, as both actor and character. The openness was freeing, both vocally and physically. I felt like I had come home. My body seemed more relaxed and I felt more at ease in the character of Lisa.
Once we placed an audience into the mix, everything clicked. The houses here in Madison have been some of the most intelligent audiences I have played to. From the start of the play to the last words uttered, Madison audiences have been with us the whole time. I mentioned in a talkback, what great listeners they are and how they seem to listen to both sides of the argument before coming to any conclusions.
Talkbacks have been incredible. Audience members have presented topics I hadn't even thought about and that's amazing. It makes me realize just how much of the greater whole I'm a part of, which is why I love doing what I do. So excited to see where this week takes us!!!
Below are pictures of my Madison adventures... Laura
Written by Laura Frye
Moving Forward to Forward!!
Hello Madison!! I'm Laura Frye and I play Lisa Morrison in Collected Stories by Donald Margulies. I could not be more excited to start the new year off by sharing this incredible play with Madison. I'm also looking forward to taking you on this journey with me as we transition to our new home. With a new space, new audience, and new growth, it should be an exciting ride!
While looking back over our run in Milwaukee, I think of the growth that occurred during our weeks of performances. So many new discoveries happened between preview and closing, which is a definite plus when doing long runs. Actors tend to always have a couple roles that they'd love to go back and re-examine, but I feel with Lisa, I've been given the opportunity to make new discoveries as we work on this longer run.
Lisa is a very complex character who deals with multiple issues, from bulimia to abandonment, self-deprecation to insecurity with success. Over the course of rehearsals and the run of the show, I've been able to really get to the heart of where she is coming from, why she makes the choices she makes, and eventually the consequences of those choices.
One thing I've learned over the years is non-judgment when playing a character. There are times that my own personal opinions of Lisa come up in my mind, but my (Laura) opinions are not Lisa's and I must respect not only the character, but the playwright.
I've fallen in love with Lisa and can't wait to share her story and see what new and exciting conversations it sparks with the audience. I look forward to keeping you update on Lisa's growth as we begin this new adventure!