Off They Go!

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

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Top row (L to R): Logan Ruesch, Danny Brown, Michael Comp, Sierra Docken, Haley Flanders, and Dennis the puppet baby. Bottom row (L to R): Britney Miles Smith, Arianna Krenk, Lauren Wilkins, Kate Coombs, and Teresa Dayley Love. Photo courtesy of Britney Miles Smith.

At its home base of BYU, Water Sings Blue has brought many smiles to many people’s faces. It’s been privileged to have Kate Coombs join the audience. And it has enjoyed good reviews from Utah Theatre Bloggers. (Of course, if you’d like to see Water Sings Blue at the Margetts Theatre, you have until tomorrow, Saturday, 10 October, to get tickets.)

But there is much more ahead.

This last week, our Water Sings Blue cast began their tour! For the next three months, our cast will perform for thousands of children in Utah, Salt Lake, and Summit counties with a goal “to introduce theatre to children at an early age through performances and workshops, helping them to start a lifelong love of fine arts.” At last count, the BYU Young Company performed for 23,000 children a year!

With each performance, the actors will get to hold an educational workshop with classes. Teachers will also receive, beforehand, supplementary educational packets with core curriculum tie-ins to the show. Continue reading

Guess Who?

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

We have a game for you!

Below are some of our fantastic production photos (courtesy BYU Photo). Two of these are used in our lobby display. A third one not in this post is also included. Can you spot which of the following are in the lobby display? How about the third, mystery photo? Which character does it feature?

Come see the show and try to find the answers (and don’t forget to leave them in the comments below!). Water Sings Blue closes this Saturday, October 10th!

Costume design by Sarah Stewart. Prop design by Scott Jackson.

1509-37 014 Play Water Sings Blue publicity at Springville Beach September 8, 2015 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 2512

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo. Copyright BYU Photo 2015. All Rights Reserved.

1509-37 138 Play Water Sings Blue publicity at Springville Beach September 8, 2015 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 2653

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo. Copyright BYU Photo 2015. All Rights Reserved.

1509-37 118 Play Water Sings Blue publicity at Springville Beach September 8, 2015 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 2632

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo. Copyright BYU Photo 2015. All Rights Reserved.

1509-37 332 Play Water Sings Blue publicity at Springville Beach September 8, 2015 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 2973

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo. Copyright BYU Photo 2015. All Rights Reserved.

1509-37 044 Play Water Sings Blue publicity at Springville Beach September 8, 2015 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 2547

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo. Copyright BYU Photo 2015. All Rights Reserved.

1509-37 014 Play Water Sings Blue publicity at Springville Beach September 8, 2015 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 2512

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo. Copyright BYU Photo 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading

Why the 1950’s: a peek into Water Sings Blue’s time setting

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

Design courtesy Sarah Stewart.

If you’ve seen Water Sings Blue, you may have been intrigued about its costumes, props, or choice of music. Why design this show to be reminiscent of the 1950’s?

It’s simple. The 1950’s are often remembered with nostalgia as a carefree time, when life was less complicated and a child’s world less scary. White-picked suburbia was marketed as a place for young families to thrive, as can be seen in this 1957 promotional video for RedbookWhile the reality of this nostalgia is debated, and likely depended on who you were and where you grew up, there is much truth in it.

Design courtesy Sarah Stewart.

According to American psychologist Peter Gray, the 1950’s provided children with an unrivaled atmosphere of play which boosted self-esteem and mental happiness, better preparing kids for adult life. In Gray’s mind, play is essential to human development, and gives children the ability to learn how to cope with negative emotions such as anger and fear. Continue reading

Shimmer and Run: Communicating with Poetry

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

How can we effectively communicate with poetry?

According to the national poetry-reading contest, Poetry Out Loud, every line and word in a poem has meaning. This was confirmed during a visit from Kate Coombs to the actors of Water Sings Blue. If we can understand the tones and connotations of words, possible symbols, and moments of irony and humor, we will find meaning and new life in poetry.

Then, we can share that meaning and life with others. When reciting poems, clear diction is needed. Recitations should not be sing-song, but should express what meaning the reciter has found. Vocal inflections, breath, and tempo all are tools reciters can use, and were tools Water Sings Blue director Teresa Dayley Love focused on, when working with her cast.

For more poetry advice, go to katecoombs.com, where you’ll also find writing tips in general, lesson plans, and more. You can even ask Kate to give a workshop or review manuscripts.

Kate Logo

Photo source: katecoombs.com

Continue reading

How are a poem and a play similar? A visit from author Kate Coombs

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

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Center, with book: author Kate Coombs. Top row, L to R: actors Danny Brown, Michael Comp, Arianna Krenk, Haley Flanders; director Teresa Dayley Love Bottom Row, L to R: dramaturg Spencer Duncan; actors Oksana Poliakova, Sierra Docken, Logan Ruesch; stage manager Britney Miles Smith.

Water Sings Blue‘s author Kate Coombs made a surprise visit to the actors! She signed books, read her poetry, and discussed what poems and plays have in common.

Here are a few of our favorite from Kate’s visit:

“[Screenplays and stage plays have] a tight format…that’s true of a poem…dialogue has to be condensed. It has less rambling around.”

“You have to make it sound natural. You have to work to make it seem like you’re not working… that’s true of acting…and poetry has the same challenge.”

“A poem has to have narrative qualities…poems generally build…often the last line and the last phrase really slams it…I think in a play, you come to certain points in scenes, right, where you’re like that….BAM, I just punched you in the gut as my audience.”

“Like a play, a poem must hold auditions. Words have to audition to be worthy to be in a poem…you cannot afford to waste a word.”

After Kate left, director Teresa Dayley Love drew her actors’ attention to one particular phrase Kate said:

“A poem is an encapsulation of wonder. It’s also an encapsulation of story and life.”

Perhaps, if plays can live up to that Pinterest-worthy quote, they’re in good shape. Continue reading

Devising Our Show

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

And so it began… the biggest week of our rehearsals so far.

Recently, our talented group of actors met from 7 or 8 am-2 pm to rehearse our show. In the evening, they took home assignments to prep them for the next day’s work. Talk about a full day!

What exactly are they doing in rehearsal?

Despite looking confused, actor Haley Flanders DOES know what she’s doing. She communicating in a physical storytelling exercise.

While these photos may make rehearsal look all fun and games (and truly, it is fun), these actors are engaging in carefully designed learning exercises.

Actors Michael Comp (left) and Oksana Poliakova (right).

Because Water Sings Blue is a devised piece, there was not a traditional script. Instead, the cast created the plot collaboratively under the guidance of our director, Teresa Dayley Love. The results were short, audience-interactive vignettes of story revolving around Kate Coombs’ poetry, woven together to tell about a day at the beach and in the sea. Continue reading

We Were Awestruck

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

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Photo credit: Michael Comp. Used with permission.

On a research trip to the aquarium, we were awestruck.

What in the past was the realm of myth, inspiring selkies and mermaids, is now tangible fact, though scientific inquiry. But it hasn’t lost it’s magic.

Sea turtle eyes are sage. Sharks glide with dead, empty grins. You can handle and touch sea urchins and sting rays.

The ocean is inspiring. It deserves poetry.

For the water sings blue and the sky does, too,
and the sea lets you fly like a gull.

-“Song of the Boat”, Water Sings Blue, Kate Coombs

Will you get to meet a shy octopus? Be graced by majestic sea jellies? Witness the sound of a blue whale passing by?

We invite you to play with us. Tickets are now on sale at arts.byu.edu. Continue reading

Let’s Go Diving!

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

sea-79606_640According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ocean covers 70% of the world’s surface, yet 95% of it remains to be explored.

What could be down there?

We may not know, but through the efforts of oceanographers and marine biologists, we have discovered quite a bit. You can get a taste by diving into this clips from the BBC: Continue reading

A Visual Comedy Video Timeline

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

Those who read my post last week may remember that Water Sings Blue engages with visual comedy.  What is visual comedy? Well, for an excellent in-depth look, I recommend Julian Dutton’s book Keeping Quiet: Visual Comedy In the Age of Sound.

For a brief understanding, I invite you to watch this video timeline based in part on Dutton’s book.

Visual comedy is also known as silent comedy. While its existence dates back to the Italian Renaissance’s commedia dell’arte (and likely beyond that) it was the era of silent films which brought visual comedy into the 20th century, with greats such as Charlie Chaplin and the duo Laurel & Hardy. Continue reading

Splashing, Swimming, Sailing: the premiere of “Water Sings Blue”

by Spencer Duncan, dramaturg

The original book by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So.  (Photo credit: amazon.com)

Hi, I’m Spencer Duncan, the dramaturg for the new children’s show, Water Sings Blue, adapted by Teresa Dayley Love.

A highly interactive show, Water Sings Blue follows a handful of colorful characters on their day at the beach. Reminiscent of the carefree childhood of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the show is staged in the visual comedy style of French comedian Jacques Tati (think Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean).

As families and audience members play along, they will get to watch our actors transform from lovable human characters into a myriad of marine animals. Some lucky audience members will get to transform into sea creatures themselves!

This charming play would be nothing without the poetry of Kate Coombs. Based on her same-named picture book, Coombs’ poems ebb in and out, navigating the action, and breaking through like waves in an otherwise wordless production. That’s not to say the sounds of the ocean won’t be present. But what could be better to describe the ocean than poetry? Continue reading