Spotlight on Natalie Safley and The PheasantBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jun 7th, 2007 • Category: Interviews, NVTA
Listen to Mike talk with Natalie Safley, director of The Pheasant [MP3 8:35 2.5MB]. The Pheasant will be performed at the NVTA One Act Festival on June 15th, at 7:30.
Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio and I am talking with Natalie Safley who is directing the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s entry into the NVTA One Act Festival. How are you doing Natalie?
Natalie: I’m doing well, thank you.
Mike: The show is called The Pheasant. I see it’s kind of a different type show. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Natalie: It’s what we call a dark comedy. It is what would happen if the government started to put a ban on the food that we’re able to eat. It’s kind of timely since the government is starting to put a ban on trans fat in cities like New York and Chicago. It is the greatest chef in the world. His name is just Chef. We don’t know what his name is. He has decided that he is going to protest this ban on food that the government has put forth. He and his wife, Gloria, come up with a plan to protest. He is about to cook the last meal for his customers, which is himself.
Mike: Ok. I read that on the paragraph description. It’s kind of different. That’s unique.
Natalie: The show is written by Isaiah DuFort. He is a young playwright from the Seattle area. It was first produced in San Francisco. We are the second theater company to produce it. After it was produced in San Francisco earlier this year, he did some rewrites to the script. We performed it as it was rewritten earlier in May and then again at the festival.
Mike: Is it written as a one act or is it part of a larger show?
Natalie: No, it’s written as a one act. He actually came to the production in May when we performed it at the Little Theatre of Alexandria. He was quite surprised. He said he was influenced by British comedy when he wrote it. He was reading a lot of British comedy at the time. Noel Coward etc. That’s why there’s a lot of conversation, a lot of dialog. It’s very witty banter back and forth. It is a lot of fun. It does have a dark twist at the end that I will not reveal.
Mike: Is it just the two characters or are there other people in it as well?
Natalie: There are two other characters. The Chef, his wife Gloria, his assistant chef, Helen who is the last of his surviving crew. He’s fired everyone else. Then there is an agent who comes in from the government. His name is Jasper. He comes in to try to persuade the chef to not cook himself as the last meal.
Mike: How long is the whole piece?
Natalie: The piece runs about forty five minutes. It is a lot of dialogue. There are a lot of different things going on. It’s very interesting. When the audience comes in they will see a real simple stage with a bath tub in the center of it, and a desk. It is an interesting way to set up a stage. Not usual that you would see a bath tub center stage.
Mike: Has it been challenging working on such a simple set where you don’t have the opportunity to get a nice complete kitchen type set set up?
Natalie: Actually I prefer working with minimalistic sets. I work a lot in educational theatre where we usually don’t have a large budget for sets so I’ve become used to working with just the bare minimum. Since we have to set it up and take it down so quickly at the festival, it was nice to be able to just use the bare minimum and really focus on the text and the actors and the actors creating the scene for the audience to believe in.
Mike: How did you find the actors?
Natalie: The actors auditioned at an open call for Little Theatre of Alexandria’s evening of one acts. They did an evening of three one acts. Ours was the final one act performed that evening. They did two other one acts, both were original. One was called Send in the Clowns and the other one was called The Party. The Pheasant was the third one of that series. There were several actors who came out from the community and auditioned. It was very full of talent so it was a very difficult decision. I’m really happy with my cast. They are phenomenal. Great actors. Good sports. Good people to work with.
Mike: It seems like it’s a lot of work for a one or two time production.
Natalie: It is, but I think often times people that do community theater or they want to get involved in theater and they don’t know how to do it or they don’t have a lot of experience. They go for the one acts to get that experience that they need to see if this is something that they really want to do. Also in the case of my actors, they wanted to work on another show, but they didn’t have time to invest in a three month rehearsal or a three week run. They knew going into it that we would only have three shows to perform and we had a month of rehearsal and then we would perform it again for NVTA. They like that because they could still perform and still be involved in a production, but they didn’t have to invest the amount of time that you would for a full length show. It actually worked to my advantage.
Mike: When did you start rehearsals?
Natalie: We started rehearsals the second week in April. Then we went up the 18th of May at LTA.
Mike: How did you get involved in LTA?
Natalie: I had applied to direct one of their main stage productions for their next season. I did not get that show that I had applied for, but they said here’s another opportunity. Would you like to take this opportunity? I read the script for The Pheasant and it was really an interesting script. It was very challenging. It holds a lot of challenge to it. It was very interesting and intriguing. I wanted to work with them and work with that theater so I said I would do it.
Mike: How has it been different working from the educational groups you work with versus working with the adult groups at LTA?
Natalie: I work with college students. I have a wide age of students I work with so it’s not that much different. The rehearsal space is very nice. The facilities there are very nice. My actors really were dedicated. Almost to, well not almost, to a profesioanl degree. It wasn’t like, “Oh, this is community theater.” They were fully invested. I think the community theater in this area has very high standards, which I really like about this area. I think community theater gets a bad rap sometimes. The community theater in this area is very strong and very professional. My experience with the actors at LTA was the same. They were all very professional.
Mike: What are your plans after this?
Natalie: I am actually working on a Master’s in Directing. I take classes in Chicago at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. I head there at the end of June. In the Fall I will be directing The Children’s Hour, by Lilian Helman, at the College Community Theatre. It is a community theater that we have that runs out of the Northern Virginia Community College, Loudon Campus.
Mike: Very good. That’s exciting. You’re pretty busy.
Natalie: Yes. I like to keep busy. It keeps me out of trouble.
Mike: So the show is on June 15th at 7:30. You’ll be one of three performances that evening.
Mike: Is there anything else we need to know about the show or what we should do to get ready for it?
Natalie: There is some strong language and mature content. I don’t recommend it for children.
Mike: Good to know.
Natalie: Other than that it’s a great show and we’re looking forward to performing it at NVTA.
Mike: Well, thanks very much for talking with me and telling me all about that.
Natalie: Ok, thank you.
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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.