Following on from last month’s article about Dragonfly Theatre Company’s dinner-theatre event next month, An Evening with Tennessee Williams, Jon Aspin interrupts rehearsals to see how it’s going, and ask if he can score a last-minute spot in the cast. The answer? Not a chance
Talking to him are directors, producers and cast members Aaron Toronto, Belinda Smith, Ryan Burkwood and Mandi Manson:
Word: Belinda, you’re putting on five one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. It’s an ambitious undertaking. How are rehearsals going?
Belinda: Well, thanks Jon. With all of our productions we always spend time exploring our characters before we even start rehearsing, so we’re in the middle of that process now.
Word: How intense does it get? A little birdy told me things were heating up the other night…
Belinda: It is intense, but it makes the final product so much more believable. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of actors standing on stage reading lines. By the time we start rehearsing scenes, we understand how our characters might behave in any situation.
Word: Sounds interesting. Speaking of situations, Mandi, you’re playing Blanche Shannon in Interior: Panic, one of Tennessee’s most famous, and damaged characters. How’s that been going?
Mandi: Both of my roles are demanding: physically, technically and emotionally. In terms of intensity, let’s just say there will be sweat and there will be tears.
Word: Glad to hear it. Prior to this we’ve seen you playing Snow White around town. Are there any parallels?
Mandi: [Laughs] Yes, they are quite different. The only common theme perhaps is the awareness of the power of a woman’s beauty. Snow White is of course the fairest in the land — Blanche, she lives in torment and panic as hers fades.
Word: What’s the best part about playing this type of character?
Mandi: What’s not to love? She hears voices, hallucinates and lives in and out of delusional fits of panic. The majority of the play is centred on Blanche’s struggle, so I guess the best part is getting to walk in the shoes of a person who is so thoroughly tormented.
Word: Aaron, you and Ryan are directing and acting in these plays. What’s it like working with this cast?
Aaron: When you have such a tiny community of artists, you get a wide range of experiences. Personally, it’s been wonderful working with actors such as Ryan and Mandi, who are as professionally trained as any actor I know.
Ryan: Shucks, thanks Aaron. I never fail to be humbled by the dedication and commitment of our actors. We’ve all got wildly different schedules, so it means rehearsals at odd times, usually long into the night. But that’s what we all signed up for!
Word: When will you guys know that you’re ready to perform?
Ryan: We’ll know when it’s five minutes before the performance! Ideally I’d like to rehearse like some avant-garde European companies do, for five to 10 years. Sadly we don’t have that luxury, we have a deadline!
Mandi: We will be ready when the lights go down and we are cued to start the show. We have to be.
Word: Mandi, you’re one of the more experienced of the cast, do you still get nervous?
Mandi: I do get nervous, but I know I’m ready when I don’t have to think about what I am doing. That’s when the character lives and breathes without conscious “acting”. That’s when I’m ready to go out there and perform in front of an audience.
Word: And you Aaron?
Aaron: To paraphrase a quote, a play is never finished, it just runs out of time and money. You’ve got to do the best you can to prepare, then when it comes time to perform, bring it.
Word: Bring it eh? I can bring it. What are my chances of getting a walk-on in this? Have you guys seen my beer commercial?
All: [Sound of crickets]
Word: Not ringing any bells? There was a story about it in the last issue of this magazine...
Aaron: ... err, no sorry Jon, we’re not really readers. We’ve got nothing.
Word: Well this is awkward. Can I show you the ad?
Belinda: … umm, not really. Is there another question?
Ryan: Hang on, I think we could fit you in Jon. Don’t we need a good-looking guy to wait the tables Belinda?
Belinda: [Whispering] But he’s not good-looking!
Word: I can hear you.
Ryan: Ahem, best just to move on, Jon.
Word: Thanks Ryan. Belinda, the dinner-theatre concept is still a new one for Saigon. Are you worried someone might get wine spilled on their playbook and write a bad review on TripAdvisor?
Belinda: Good question, I hadn’t thought of that. I think the reviews that Dragonfly gets say that people appreciate what we’re doing, although none on TripAdvisor yet. I think dinner-theatre is the perfect combination for this show. We wanted to make this a whole event rather than just coming to see a play.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s not something we usually do, but I’m really excited about the food we’ll be serving. Proper southern Mississippi Delta style — expect mud pie. It’s just a shame I won’t get to eat it!
Word: I look forward to it. Thank you all for your time. Remind us how we can get a seat?
Belinda: If people want to enjoy the whole dinner-theatre experience they must book seats in advance. To do this they should go to our Facebook page [facebook.com/dragonflyvietnam] to get the ticketbox.vn link. Hope to see you at the show!