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4 Aug

On Sunday, July 31, the designers and Cornerstone team members were treated to the first run-through of the entire play, A Man Comes to Fowler.  Director Laurie Woolery had warned the cast and audience alike that this would be more like a “stumble-through,” since it was the cast’s first attempt to perform without stopping, but there was no need to manage our expectations.  It was quite exciting to see this play take shape after little more than a week’s worth of rehearsals.

Before we began, set and puppet designer Lynn Jeffries (assisted by Birdie and Amy) did a show and tell of some of the puppet scenes for the cast and crew. Although we were watching a modified version of the projection effects, the intricate designs of antique cars, historic homes, and whimsical storytelling devices were vibrantly clear.  I’m anticipating that the shadow puppets will be one of the highlights of the production.

The cast is already performing like a well-established ensemble, evident in moments of singing from the choir and the entire company, as well as a rhythmic and dance-like sequence of grape harvesting that accompanies a poem by Jose Montoya. The play tells the history of Fowler and a stranger’s encounter with the town. There were moments of sheer fun and joy, as well as poignant scenes, particularly those recounting the internment of Fowler’s Japanese-Americans during WWII. Many in the cast and crew were moved by the rehearsal, and we’re all excited to see the play develop in the coming week as we further work each scene and begin adding production elements like costumes, sound, and lights.



Casting the play

27 Jul

While staff members from Cornerstone Theater have been visiting Fowler and learning about its history and people for several months, the official residency for the nearly 30 Cornerstone folks began Sunday, July 17.  Very quickly the reality of this intensive process set in – we have less than a month to put on this brand new play, A Man Comes to Fowler!  So Cornerstone folks hit the streets of Fowler on Monday and Tuesday to encourage people to audition for our play.  Auditions were Monday and Tuesday at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church, St. Paul’s AME Church, Presbyterian Church of Fowler, and the Fowler Library.  We were delighted to meet the talented performers who turned out for these low-stress auditions facilitated by our director Laurie Woolery and Cornerstone Ensemble member (and the actor playing the leading role of the Man in the play) Peter Howard.  Auditions involved brief conversations so that we could get to know each other a bit, then each person selected a sentence from the newspaper to read aloud.  The atmosphere in the audition room was light and playful as we explored different ways to say the same sentence using vocal, facial, and physical expression.

Callbacks were held Tuesday evening already at the Baptist Church of Fowler.  After some energizing physical exercises such as moving to music and creating freeze frame images of evocative characters such as cowboys, monkeys, and Lebron James, actors were assigned scenes to read from the script.  I was impressed by the enthusiasm and talent evident in this group of Fowlerites!  Some had lots of theatre experience, but many had never been in a play before.  They all committed fully to the audition process, bringing joy, good humor, and high energy to the process.  Then came the daunting task of assigning roles. Director Laurie Woolery was able to cast nearly 45 people in the play.

Our first rehearsal was Thursday evening.  The cast and production team gathered to meet each other, learn which role they had, hear about the costume, set, and puppet design ideas for the play from our designers, and read the play for the first time.  After the read-through, playwright Julie Marie Myatt and actor Peter Howard solicited feedback from the cast – what did they think the play says about Fowler?  This generated thoughtful responses.  One that resonated for me was, “Fowler grows not only good produce, but also good people.”  We in the community engagement team are certainly finding this to be true so far and are looking forward to meeting more people in the coming weeks.

Siobhan, Melissa, and Sabrina – community engagement team