An Actor’s Perspective, Part 2

By Abram Yarbro and Holly Mancuso

Microburst Theatre Festival opened last week, and it has been great to have an audience. As Lee Hall explained in an interview, “Whether you are a writer, or an actor, or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise. That’s what theatre was, always. And live performance shares that with an audience in a specific compact: the play is unfinished unless it has an audience, and they are as important as everyone else.”

This week we’re fortunate to hear from actors Clayton and Madison about performing and producing this show.

“It’s week two of the run, and we could not be more excited to get back in the Margetts! Our names are Madison Dennis and Clayton Cranford, and we’re two of the actors in Microburst. Our fellow cast mates and good friends Emily and Cooper talked a bit about the rehearsal process and working with the playwrights, so we thought we’d share some of our experiences performing these ten-minute plays, thus far.”

Clayton Cranford and Madison Dennis

Clayton Cranford and Madison Dennis

Clayton Cranford plays Evan in The Piano Room, Mr. Samson in Different But EquaI, Dad in Memory Jar, and Fletcher in D&D and the Big Date. Madison Dennis plays Mila in The Piano Room, Jeanne in Different But Equal, Stephanie in A Death in the Family, and Josephine in D&D and the Big Date. 

“One of the most challenging parts of performing in this production is moving from character to character. Not only does it take extreme focus to flip in and out of distinctly different characters in little to no time, we also have to deal with the technical aspects that go along with that:  hair, make-up, clothing, shoes, accessories, and so on.  Thankfully, the set list (or the way the shows were ordered) was done so each of us actors only have one show back to back. These quick changes require us to re-enter the stage with new clothes, hair, physicality (which can include vocal placement or dialect!) and frame of mind within a matter of seconds, minutes if we’re lucky. But the challenge is also what makes this production so exciting to be a part of; it stretches you as a performer. And talk about an adrenaline rush!

The Piano Room, the opening play in Microburst

The Piano Room, the opening play in Microburst

And as wonderful as it is to perform these characters, and it really is wonderful, the most enjoyable part of being in this production has been working with such incredible people.  Everyone involved with this production knows that it’s all about George.  He’s been delightful to work with; he is incredibly supportive in his directing approach and makes what he wants very clear. Thanks to his leadership, everyone is on the same page, which saves lots of time and energy when tech week comes. The stage managers and dramaturgs have been just as wonderful to work with. The playwrights have all been incredibly supportive and giving. And getting the opportunity to work so closely with Emily and Cooper has been a blast. There’s been a great energy on this production from day one, and we believe that plays a significant role in any production’s success. We are very lucky to be surrounded by such talented, warm, giving people.

We hope you’re able to come see us this week!”

Make sure you get your tickets for Microburst, which runs through Saturday, March 14th. Check out for more information.

An Actor’s Perspective

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

10431515_10203807448002568_645819162647585720_n Betty Davis said, “Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.” We are fortunate to have a very talented cast for Microburst Theatre Festival. Usually an actor plays one role in a show but in Microburst, each actor plays multiple roles which requires them to quickly jump from one character to another. These actors have worked hard to discover the “wonder and insight” in each play. This week we asked two of the actors, Emily and Cooper, to share their thoughts on the show and the production process.

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Emily Lyons

Emily Lyons plays Jade in Playing Around, Stephanie in A Death in the Family, Maggie in D&D and the Big Date, and Jane in Goodnight, Graham.

“My experience with Microburst so far can be summed up in two words: fun and scary. This play has been fun from the very first callback. Playing original roles has allowed me to put so much of myself into every character. Even though I’m playing four different women, they are essentially four different versions of myself. It has been so fun to experience the development of the plays and to work with such a small cast. As an actor, this show has made my work feel important. Continue reading

7 Plays, 1 Show. What is Microburst?

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

I always buy my movies with the “extra features” disc. On there you find interviews with the cast, behind-the-scene photos and videos, bloopers, and all sorts of neat material. In theatre we can’t give you an extra features DVD but we have this blog, the 4th Wall, where we give you the backstage scoop on BYU’s newest show, Microburst Theatre Festival! Check here often for interviews with the creative team, glimpses into rehearsals, and the most up-to-date information about this exciting show.

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Some of the Microburst scripts

What is Microburst Theatre Festival?

Microburst Theatre Festival is one show made up of seven ten minute plays written by BYU students. The plays are brand new, in fact this is their world premiere! Isn’t that exciting?

Wasn’t there a Microburst Theatre Festival last season? Is this the same show?

BYU held its first Microburst Theatre Festival last year and it won three national awards at the 2014 Kennedy Center for American College Theater Festival. This year features seven new plays. The title is the same but the plays are brand new.

How do we perform seven plays in one night?

We have a core cast comprising of five talented actors and who perform multiple roles. For example, in the play Goodnight, Graham our actress Emily is a tired nurse trying to survive the night shift at the hospital in but only a few minutes later she plays a seductive con artist at a fancy restaurant in Playing Around. Jumping from character to character is difficult but our actors love the challenge!

Rehearsals are under way, and sometimes under the table...

Rehearsals are under way, and sometimes under the table…

What are the plays about? Continue reading

10 Best See How They Run Moments

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

It is hard to believe that nine months ago I sat down for my first See How They Run production meeting. Saying goodbye to any show is difficult but I find it especially hard with a show that is so hilarious. I know Philip King’s show inside and out but tonight when I watched the show again, I laughed. I laugh at the clever actors, the roaring audience, and the memories of all the inside jokes we’ve made since starting this project. Before the cast says “and that’s how it all began!” for the last time on Saturday night, here are my top 10 favorite See BYU Run memories:

10. 8am production meetings every Friday morning.

Occasionally they turned into nap time.

Occasionally they turned into morning nap time.

9. Auditions.

This was my first opportunity to sit behind the desk and be auditioned for instead of being the auditioner. We had a wonderful pool of actors audition and I couldn’t help but feel their nerves as they stepped to the mark. Thank you to all who auditioned.  Continue reading

See How They Run Character Quiz

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

See How They Run_BYUBuzzfeed quizzes are all the rage so with the help of the cast, I created one for See How They Run! Take the quiz and find out which character you are. Share with your friends (and let us know in the comments below!) and don’t forget to use our hashtag: #seebyurun

Take the See How They Run Character Quiz!

Happy Quizzing! Continue reading

Meet the Cast, Part 3

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

See How They Run opened on Friday, November 7. Before one of our final rehearsals, I sat down with each member of the cast and asked them to introduce themselves, talk about their character, the show, and if they had any fun bloopers they wanted to share. To meet the other members of the cast, check out Part One and Part Two.

Interview with Canute Peterson

Abram Yarbro: Tell me about yourself.

Canute Peterson plays the escaped Russian spy.

Canute Peterson plays the escaped Russian spy.

Canute Peterson: I’m from Blue Springs, Missouri which is just about an hour east of Kansas City and I am the eighth of ten children. My older siblings did theatre in high school and when I got to that age I started doing it and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I also enjoy drawing, playing frisbee and soccer.

AY: Tell me about your character, the Russian.

CP: The Russian is an escaped spy so he is in a tricky spot when he enters. He is trying to get away without being detected so when he is kind of forced into a position where he has to lean on other people to not be detected it’s a stressful situation for him. For him, it isn’t a situation of a silly misunderstanding, this is a question of his freedom. He will use whatever means necessary to make sure that happens.

AY: What is your favorite part of the show?

CP: I like his (the Russians) presence. The show is very comedic but my character really isn’t. There are some funny things that happen as a result of the fact that I’m there but I don’t really do anything that is funny. A lot of the roles that I’ve played in the past have been more comedic roles. It is especially funny to me that my character in a farce is more serious than the comedic characters I have played in the past that were not in a farce.

AY: Do you have any bloopers you want to share? Continue reading

Meet the Cast, Part 2

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

See How They Run opened on Friday, November 7. Before one of our final rehearsals, I sat down with each member of the cast and asked them to introduce themselves, talk about their character, the show, and if they had any fun bloopers they wanted to share. You can read part 1 of the “Meet the Cast” series here.

Interview with Ann Lopez

Abram Yarbro: Tell me about yourself.

Ann Lopez plays Miss Skillon

Ann Lopez plays Miss Skillon

Ann Lopez: I’m from Harriman, Utah. I just got back from my mission in El Salvador, Santa Ana mission. I’m a pre- acting major and this is my second year at BYU.

AY: Tell me about Miss Skillon.

AL: She is crazy! She is really interesting. She is not afraid to tell people what is wrong or correct people. She has a good moral code. She knows what is good and what is bad and she lets people know. A lot of time that is overbearing for other people but deep down she thinks she is doing what is actually good. That has left her incredibly alone and that has made her loved starved. She gets really drunk and that is really fun to play in the show- the first time she gets drunk in her life.

AY: What is your favorite part of the show?

AL: I love farces. The energy is what is what I love about the show in general and making people laugh. I think when you’re doing a show, a comedy, people laugh and actors get the energy. That drives everything forward and I love that feeling. Specifically, my favorite part is the beginning of act two when I’m drunk. That is my favorite part to be in. Continue reading

Meet the Cast, Part 1

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

See How They Run opens TONIGHT (Friday, November 7). Before one of our final rehearsals, I sat down with each member of the cast and asked them to introduce themselves, talk about their character, the show, and if they had any fun bloopers they wanted to share.

Interview with Noelle Houston

Abram Yarbro: Tell me about yourself.

Noelle Houston plays Ida, the Maid

Noelle Houston plays Ida, the Maid

Noelle Houston: I’m in the BFA Acting program. I’m a senior and this is my senior project actually. I’m from New York City, born and raised in Manhattan because my Dad was a professional Ballet dancer. I’ve actually never been in a farce and my mom and dad love farces and when I found out this was a farce I was like, “Oh my gosh, I need to be in it so I can be in a farce!”

AY: Tell me about Ida.

NH: Ida is the maid. She is cockney. She is actually the youngest in the play, she is 18, and she came from a poor class family. She is younger, lower class, and thinks it’s a scream to be with this American actress housewife. She loves American movies and Americans and everything like that so it is the most wonderful thing to work for them (Lionel and Penelope). She worships Penelope and because she works in a vicarage she feels that she is part of a bigger thing.

AY: What is your favorite part about the show?

NH: I think my favorite part about this show is the third act when everything has gone berserk and poor Humphrey comes in and gets rushed into it all. He has no clue what is happening. I think it is hilarious how everything unfolds.

AY: Are there any bloopers you want to share? Continue reading

Welcome to the Margetts Theatre

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

It’s a week until opening night and last night’s rehearsal was the first on set in the Margetts Arena Theatre. The designers, set shop, and builders have worked tirelessly to whip the performance space into shape and we couldn’t be more excited (to see an interview with a set designer, click here).
See How They Run will be performed in the Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the HFAC; built in 1965 by architect William Periera and named after BYU’s 5th President (read the HFAC’s Dedication News Release from 1965 here). It houses the College of Fine Arts and Communication’s School of Music, Department of Theatre and Media Arts, and Department of Visual Arts. It has 281 rooms, 5 performance spaces, 2 galleries, and over 280,000 square feet.

Continue reading

Everyone Pick an Animal!

by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg

This week included a curiously fun rehearsal. We’ve gotten to what I think is the funnest part of the rehearsal process. The cast has their lines memorized, which frees them to explore more of their characters. Last week our director asked each actor to associate their character with an animal and research that animal. Tuesday night, everyone acted like their animal while exploring each other and their environment. This exercise is meant to find the different energies of the characters in See How They Run.

Rehearsal started with a simple calming exercise.

Rehearsal started with a simple calming exercise.

With everyone calm and relaxed on the floor, Director Barta Heiner gently asked them to imagine their chosen animal and impersonate it. The key is to let go of normal human reactions for the animal’s impulses. The actors were asked to explore the animal’s primitive emotions, how they react to the other animals in the room, and the environment (the rehearsal room randomly set with blocks, chairs, and pads). The room became very active and started to look something like this: Continue reading