Talkback with Reston’s Museum Cast and CrewBy Laura & Mike Clark • May 18th, 2007 • Category: Interviews
After last Saturday evening’s performance of Museum, the cast and crew held a talkback session, and allowed the audience to ask questions and learn more about the process of getting the show ready. We made an audio recording, but the quality was really poor, so we are only making the transcript available. If we have mis-quoted anyone, please let us know and we’ll make a correction.
Producer: Now that we’re a smaller crowd, do you have any questions at all for the people in the cast? Please don’t ask me any questions.
Audience: How much of the characterization was in the script and how much did you have to come up with?
Cast/crew response: There was a basic synopsis of what each character was supposed to be. A lot of them had to sort of morph from that. But most of us were pretty true. We were supposed to be society wannabes. That’s basically what we were.
Cast/crew response: Dave and I were construction workers.
Cast/crew response: French guy was actually cast Chinese.
Cast/crew response: Actually Fred Izumi was Japanese.
Audience: How did you get the robotics? Was that remote control or was that magic?
Producer: I guess I have to answer that one. We have robotics in here. That two and a half minutes took about 2,000 hours to actually get right. There are gears and pulleys and whatever. Actually we got help from the Chantilly Academy High School Robotics Club. They were wonderful in helping us.
Cast/crew Question: Did you enjoy the show?
Producer: I enjoyed your tap dancing.
Cast/crew response: (The Guard: Eric Paul Kelly) I can’t tap worth anything. That’s totally made up. Never taken a lesson in my life.
Cast/crew response: You did really good.
Audience: Was not understanding French a problem?
Cast/crew response: We got the main topic.
Audience: It was a treat because I did understand it.
Cast/crew response: You were the one laughing.
Audience: I got the jokes, yea.
Cast/crew response: Come tomorrow.
Audience: I was wondering why no one found the guy who wrote on the paintings? I kept waiting for someone to say, “Oh, he wrote on there.”
Cast/crew response: I wondered that myself. It wasn’t in the script. It just never comes up. It’s a mystery. Ask Tina Howe. They have her to thank for that.
Audience: This play was rediscovered in the 70’s?
Cast/crew response: This is true.
Audience: I just haven’t seen it produced anywhere else.
Producer: It was quite popular when it was first produced.
Director: A lot of colleges do it because of the size of the cast. That’s where it plays more popularly nowadays. I have heard there was a production fifteen, twenty years ago downtown.
Producer: Also in addition when it first came out, there were people who liked it so much that they would go to art museums and act out the characters.
Cast/crew response: (The Guard: Eric Paul Kelly) I’m really a guard at the Smithsonian. Down there on Monday through Friday during the week. (laughter).
Producer: Have any of you gone to a museum since you’ve performed and what kind of reaction do you get?
Cast/crew response: Actually Andy had us schedule a field trip for us all to go to a museum and nobody went.
Audience: How was the play discovered? Who decided to put it on? What’s the process?
Director: I had seen it twenty some odd years ago when I was in college and I thought it was a really good opportunity for a lot of actors to do a lot of things. There are only so many people you can have audition for only ten roles. Here there are eighteen roles. Even then we had a really good turnout. We had like 85 people come out for auditions so it was really difficult to cut it down to the fifteen to twenty that you wanted to work with.
Cast/crew response: And we’re all so grateful.
Audience: So there are eighteen cast members, but there are 40 characters.
Cast/crew response: Our costumer was challenged. She did a great job.
Producer: Our costumer was first class.
Audience: Did you test security at a real museum?
Director: Recently I was worried about the script and what security was like at museums. And in going to the museum I was surprised especially after 9/11 how little there really was. I was ready to ramp up the set here. Some of them there are very secure, depends on who owns the museum. The Smithsonian ones are like people with guards with guns. The National Gallery of Art has stuff ten feet away. It really varies from place to place.
Producer: Ok. How about from this side of the audience?
Audience: Was that a real sandwich?
Cast/crew response: Funny story actually. I brought it with me for (tech) week and I’ve eaten from that bread every night. I finally got some different bread last night, but it was so dry that I could hardly speak. I really choked there when I was talking.
Audience: Tell us about the artwork.
Producer: There is a group called Max 21. They are a local artist group here in Reston. They are award winning artists. We recruited them to help us with this show. They created all the artwork. We were able to do the white images .They created all the artwork. They even explained the concepts as they relate to the scripts. They took it from there. They are wonderful people. They are here in Reston. They created all the figurines. They are just a wonderful group and we hope to collaborate with them more often.
Audience: There was so much physicality in gestures. Does it stay the same night to night?
Cast/crew response: Everyone gets comfortable. This is the middle weekend. We do this so often. There’s nobody out there except me, my assistant, Dave. We laugh, but after the third time you hear it it gets kind of old. After six weeks, eight weeks, when we finally have a dress rehearsal with an audience, I was impressed with what things were different. The audience reacts instead of us.
We were talking back stage about how when you first come out and you’re standing, even if you’re not on and you’re listening in the back. And you hear a good laugh right in the beginning. It sets the tone for everything. Would everyone agree with that? You ramp everything up according to that first laugh. If the first laugh is kind of muted, it’s really hard to ramp up.
Producer: Especially on a line that usually gets a laugh and you hear crickets.
Audience: You guys were great. (Applause)
Producer: Then the difficulty comes in not trying too hard to pull laughs and messing up the characters. Anybody else? Yes?
Audience: How much has this evolved since the curtain going up?
Director: Tremendously. It’s still evolving. There are people who take notes every night. Others don’t want them, but I take them anyways. It’s really something that’s becoming more comfortable. It’s really the character that they are wearing. They are much more in tune and becoming more natural. This weekend was great. Not that the first weekend wasn’t great, but it takes it awhile to get comfortable.
Producer: And by closing night it will be perfect.
Audience: Is this the minimum number of cast members you can have? You had 40 different characters.
Director: I would have been willing to cut two more characters out. It had to do with being able to double cast the actors. Dave had the quickest change from Bill to Will. He had a crew back there to help with that. Everyone else pretty much has enough time to go back and change and go on. If you start to double them up more then it starts to get really cramped. If anything most cast sizes I’ve seen are larger and you go with 20-30 people.
Audience: Why wouldn’t you use 40 actors for 40 characters?
Director: More people coming to see the shows to see their families and friends. But then you’ll only on stage for five or ten minutes and then that’s it. It’s a lot of time if you’re only on stage for ten minutes. At least by having two roles their characters develop. They are on stage a couple different times. Some people are on stage a long time after their character does their bit. That’s when things really develop more as the show goes on is the stuff that’s not written. The people you bump into while you’re walking. What you’re seeing on stage. Stuff like that. What develops up there is really interesting to watch.
Cast/crew response: It’s much more fun for us because you have three different mind sets.
Producer: During the auditions we had to look for people who could change characters. Change their characterization. That was a challenge to find. Luckily we found 18 good ones.
Audience: Were you actually signing? Did you have to learn sign language for this?
Cast/crew response: The interpreters were doing American sign language. Which is grammatically very different from English. I kind of know signed english with an American Sign Language accent. I taught them what I knew. They did a great job. I only had to go over it once. They were good at everything.
Audience: What’s the range of experience? Professional? Equity?
Cast/crew response: (The Guard: Eric Paul Kelly) This is my first theatrical performance. I lie to you not. This is my first show. (Applause) I did one thing at the Apollo in New York. I sing also. Back in ’92 I sang at the Apollo. As far as this theatre, this is my very first show.
Audience: Who had the farthest to come to be here?
Cast/crew response: (The Guard: Eric Paul Kelly) I live in Woodstock Virginia.
Audience: Other experience?
Various Cast/crew response: Some movie and TV credits. This is my first theater experience since 6th grade. My mother sewed my costume.
Audience: Was your photography scene awkward? Was it awkward rehearsing that?
Cast/crew response: Not really. The way we came up with it. We tried to do the flirty thing and then make it suggestive. Then I thought it would be cool if it kind of happened over time. Then the excitement and sexual tension would come. We thought that approach would work better than let’s just make out.
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.