Spotlight on the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre and ShenandoahBy Laura & Mike Clark • Apr 16th, 2010 • Category: Interviews
Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre
Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre, Lorton, VA
Through July 11
2:30 with one intermission
Weekdays and Sunday: $42; Saturdays: $45
Ages 11-15: $35; Children 10 and under: $25
Interviewed April 11, 2010
Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio. I am talking with Hans Bachmann, who played the role of Charlie Anderson. Tell me a little about Shenandoah. What is the story?
Hans: Shenandoah was originally written to be an anti-war story. I think it was originally done on Broadway right after the Vietnam war. It is an anti-war story about a man who during the Civil War was a Virginia farmer who decided he was not going to get involved in the war. I guess he was the first true conscientious objector. He is going to keep his family out of the war by not joining the South or the North and eventually, as war does, it drags him into it and he experiences a lot of personal loss in his family and of his ideals. It is an interesting story that way.
Mike: The second act was much heavier than the first act. The first act was joyful and fun and then all of a sudden the second act…
Hans: Turns very dark.
Mike: Turns very dark. So is that hard to work?
Hans: It’s good in one way because it keeps the audience in a very uplifted mood for the first act. And the second act when it gets dark it just keeps going. It has a quick resolution toward the end. It does not drag out forever, but it does get very dark. The hardest part for him is his youngest son, who was born the night his wife died, who he relates to the most and feels closest to of all his sons, is carried off by the Union army because he was just wearing this little Confederate cap that he picked up somewhere. The rest of the second act is trying to find his son. Desperately going from Union camp to train depot and the loss that he suffers.
Mike: Is it hard for you to tap into the emotions you need to get those emotions that we can see?
Hans: No, it’s basically going through the emotions in the moment of it. It comes every night. I’m always thankful. I never think about it. I try to never think because I’m always terrified that I’m going to sabotage it somehow.
It is interesting because the part of Papa Charlie is kind of a self assured know it all. He has all the answers. He is keeping his family out of the war and all of that. At the very end he is just totally broken down. He realizes he does not have all the answers. He goes back to his wife’s grave asking her desperately to help him because he has no answers anymore. I think just the whole weight of the show crashes down on me at that point and takes me there.
Mike: Is the religious aspect at the very end where Martha has the church bells ring…
Hans: I love that. That is uplifting for me. That is what makes all the hard and heavy parts worthwhile. He asks her for an answer and she gives it to him as she always did which is you need to find the answers with the Lord. Going back to church and you will find them there. It does provide him with some resolution and with as happy an ending as he can possibly have in the show.
Mike: You are only two weeks into the run so far. It’s very early and it is going until July?
Hans: It runs until July.
Mike: Are you performing the entire run?
Hans: I’m very blessed to have someone sharing this role with me. A very good actor, Mike Baker. He is very renowned in the area. He is also a television personality. He is on Bravo and things like that. He does an extraordinary job as well. We alternate weeks. One week he’ll do it and the next week I’ll do it. Unfortunately because I’ve had so many conflicts going through this run that it was not really right for me to do the whole run.
Mike: Is it hard to keep the character fresh or does it get stale?
Hans: No, because something happens every night. Like tonight one of the actors forgot to make an entrance and I was standing on stage thinking about how to improv a monologue real quick on the fly and praying, “Light booth, please just take the lights down.” Something always happens to make it always fresh. Some night you say a line a certain way and suddenly it changes the dynamic of the entire rest of the show.
Mike: How about the fact that there are several parts that are double cast? Is that tough on each actor because you have to relate differently?
Hans: It is interesting because it sets up a different rhythm. You develop a rhythm with one actor and then when another actor come in you just have to keep working on the rhythm. It must be hardest for the cast in general because I know that Mike and I approach the role similarly, but differently enough that they have to deal with a really big change in rhythm when the other Pap Charlie comes in.
Mike: What other work have you done in the DC area?
Hans: I have worked in almost all of the professional theaters, Arena, Folger, Shakespeare, Ford’s, Signature. I’ve directed around the area at a lot of the community theaters and here and at some of the professional theaters as well. Also if you are up late at night you can also see some of my science fiction films as well. I did two sci-fi films that run in rotation very late at night on the SyFy Channel or on ShowTime.
Mike: So what do you prefer to do, acting or directing?
Hans: They are so different. Acting is a lot of self gratification. Performing up there and in one way manipulating the audience to have the emotions that you are hoping to draw out of them. Directing is very parental. You sit back here and they are your children up there and you hope they do well and you are so proud of them when they do well. Plus I tend to be a little obsessive compulsive so it is wonderful having control over the whole thing.
Mike: Something we have been seeing a lot of lately are good directors at theaters breed good directors and then other theaters who do not have as high a quality of directors kind of breed that. So how do you become a good director? What are some hints or tips?
Hans: I think I was very lucky to start out as an actor. My very first role I kind of fell into it. For extra credit I auditioned for Romeo and Juliet. I was going to write a paper on it for my English class. It was for a local professional theater in Ohio. The next thing I knew I went through the process and they were calling my parents and asking if we could cast him as Romeo. I had no idea what I was doing. But starting as an actor you know of all the insecurities and things that actors deal with so that when you are not on the director’s side you can go up there and understand exactly why they are having a problem with that and then you can try to help them through that. So I think I was very fortunate starting as an actor because I can understand what pitfalls they all experience up there.
Mike: A lot of directors are collaborators with everybody else and others are dictators with “this is what you gotta do.”
Hans: Well, I have a very strong vision. I spend months ahead of time before I start and I keep reading the script and reading the script over and over until I kind of get this mini movie that kind of pops up into my head and then I try to just grab that mini movie and throw it out there and try to recreate it on the stage. Sometimes actors will come up with something that is great that I did not think about so then we explore it and work with it. There are certain times when I have this vision. A lot of directing is casting and then the other half is pretty pictures. So it becomes “you don’t understand, I’m making a pretty picture here so do what I ask you to do and you will see it. It will make sense.”
Mike: So that trust has to go both ways.
Hans: Yes, and I think I elicit trust from my actors that when I ask them to do something that they are not 100% sure of they will give it to me. I am also not the kind that I will give them four or five chances to do it and if they are just not going to get it then I sit them down and we think of something else. “This is not working for you, let’s try something.” And I work with them until we find something that does work. I always tell my actors that my motto is that I want to make sure that you are comfortable 100% of the time on stage. Because the moment you are up on stage and you are uncomfortable, the audience is going to see that. So that is my goal for them.
Mike: So how long does the rehearsal process take? I’m sure it is different for each show, but in general.
Hans: Here, it is usually about a two and a half month rehearsal process with rehearsals only on Monday nights, Saturday mornings and early afternoons and Sunday morning and early afternoons. Because a lot of the actors who are in the next show are currently working in the next show that is running which means they are tied up Tuesdays through Sundays the other times.
The schedule forces you to really ask everybody to concentrate and focus in on what they need to do. I have been lucky not only on this show to be blessed to be with so many talented people, but I have been very lucky to have people come and audition to be in my shows, too.
Mike: What do you see as a difference from community theater and professional theater? That is something that we are struggling with. People that look on our site for shows, they do not care. They just want to see what is near them.
Hans: And the remarkable thing about this area is that community theater is the quality level of professional theater almost throughout the rest of the country in a lot of ways. I mean you go to a show at Arlington Players or you go to Little Theatre of Alexandria. Their quality of shows are equivalent to even the small theatrical company in the area. The line of demarkation is blurred I think here because there are so many good people. For instance like Mike Baker and myself. We do professional theater and then if there is a really great show we want to do then we will do it in the community theatre and back and forth. The talent pool is just amazing. The bar for professional theater in Washington is really very high.
Mike: So how about dinner theater? You have a different dynamic from people sitting in chairs looking at you. So how does that work as an actor or director?
Hans: Unfortunately I think a lot of people look down on this venue. I think the quality and professionalism here is equivalent to any other theater venue this size with these resources. The hardest thing I think is that the tables are right up at the edge and you are doing something and suddenly you catch somebody’s eye and all of a sudden it’s like, “oh no. There goes the fourth wall.” It’s great because when they are not looking at you you can look down and see them smiling and enjoying the show. It is great. I do like working in this venue. I am lucky that I have been doing a lot of shows here lately. I don’t know if you have had a chance to come back the last two Christmases to see The Christmas Carol that we did?
Mike: No, we have not been able to do that.
Hans: I had written that back when I was in college.
Mike: Oh really?
Hans: Glen the owner and producer of the theater said he was considering doing A Christmas Carol. I told him I wrote one a long time ago. I don’t know if it’s any good. Let me dig it out. So I dug it out and Glen was like, “Wow, this isn’t very bad at all.” So it gave me the opportunity to have actually be doing a show that I had written a long time ago.
Mike: Did you direct that one?
Hans: I directed that one and there was a rewrite or two.
Mike: So you were busy on both ends.
Hans: Back then I found Christmas Carols that were written at the time Dickens wrote “Christmas Carol” so I incorporated them. So it is like a play with music. It is like a musical, but it has all the traditional Christmas Carols so I also helped orchestrate all of those on my computer late at night.
Mike: Are you wanting to write other things?
Hans: I have written a couple of other things. You write rather avant garde things in college that would not be good for here.
Mike: Thank you for chatting with us today.
Hans: Thank you. You were a wonderful audience.
- Charlie Anderson: Hans Bachman, Mike Baker
- Jacob Anderson: Aaron Richardson
- James Anderson: Ryan Schaffer
- Nathan Anderson: Michael Colby
- John Anderson: Ian Neville
- Henry Anderson: Casey Fero
- Robert Anderson: Forrest Browne, Ben Cherington
- Jenny Anderson: Katheen McCormack
- Anne Anderson: Katherine Lipovsky
- Sam: Joshua Smith
- Gabriel: Dejan Campbell, Jamila Velanur
- Men’s Ensemble: Terry Barr, Greg Bingle, Jeffrey Brice Davidson, James Howard, Bruce Levy, George Rouse, Lyle Blake Smythers, Anthony Turchiano
- Women’s Ensemble: Dayna Fernandes, Samantha Nichols, Amy Wolf
Understudies and Swings
- Male Swing: Tim Adams
- Jenny Anderson: Dayna Fernandes
- Anne Anderson: Amy Wolf
- Director: Kevin McCormack
- Producers: Harold and Glen Gates
- Stag Manager: George Rouse
- Choreographer: Kathleen McCormack
- Costumers: Jennifer Pelath, Reggie Eusebiio
- Lighting Designer: Jeanne Forbes
- Musical Director: John Edward Niles
- Vocal Director: Lori Roddy
- Set Construction: Reggie M. Eusebio, Aaron Richardson, George Rousse
- Set Painting/Set Dressing: Karol Kaldenbach, Linda Shaw
- Technical Staff: Aaron Forbes, Jeanne Forbes, Jesse Forbes, Gregory Lee
Disclaimer: Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this interview.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4890.
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.