Tag Archives: Rehearsal

Cate Garrison on Hannah Kennedy, Mary’s Handmaiden in Mary Stuart

In three sentences, describe the character you play in Mary Stuart.

Hannah Kennedy is Mary’s lady-in-waiting, nurse, servant, mother-figure, and friend. She is fiercely loyal and protective, almost to the point of denial of any kind of guilt on Mary’s part. She is also pragmatic and realistic, and tries to keep Mary’s feet firmly on the ground in her moments of romantic rapture. By the end, however, it is Mary’s strength that keeps Hannah from crumbling in the face of grief and injustice.

What is your favorite line in the play (yours or someone else’s) and why?

So many to choose from! I am going to pick a line/image from one of Mary’s speeches to Elizabeth, where she describes herself and her erstwhile hopes:


All my ambitions creep along the ground.”

I love the image of Mary as a lapwing…a bird so often to be seen on the Scottish moors. And what is so compelling about this is, of course, that the lapwing only appears broken. It “acts” broken, to lead predators away from its nest, and is therefore astonishingly strong. Is Mary truly broken? Or is she still hiding something? We know by the end that she is strong. Is she so strong that she can even go to her grave without giving everything away? This question is very much the crux of the encounter from which this quote is taken, and not resolved until the very end of the play, if at all.

So it is a beautiful, but also a clever image.

What is the biggest challenge for you to overcome in this role/play?

As with the previous question…so many, so many! But for the purposes of this blog, I think I would isolate the notion that Hannah is both very like me and very UNLIKE me. I have to focus on her forthrightness, her down-to- earthness, her absolute will to appear…and be…strong, where Cate would probably give in and let go much sooner and more often. Of course Hannah does let go also, but she and I have a very different tipping point.

If you could choose one song that represents this show for you, what would it be?

Well, speaking from my character’s point of view, Hannah’s love for and loyalty to Mary is so powerful that, although it is NOT by any means a romantic or sexual love, the song/poem that comes to mind is of course Robbie Burns’ “ A Red, Red Rose.” I think many people felt this way about Mary, both before and after her death, and of course that is what Elizabeth could not tolerate.

Here is my favorite version, by Kenneth McKellar (I defy you not to weep!):


O my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melodie

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I:

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:

I will luve thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve

And fare thee well, a while!

And I will come again, my Luve,

Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

If you could dedicate your performance to someone, who would it be and why?

My father, Allan Nicol, was a Scotsman. Hannah’s idiolect is based on his. He died, unjustly and innocently, in a senseless road accident when I was a little girl. His absence in my life has been as real as any presence. I would dedicate all Hannah’s words, and love, to him.

Clara Hillier on navigating Susan’s blindness

When we began rehearsals for Wait Until Dark, I was completely terrified. Now as we head into tech, I’m still scared to have an audience share the Shoebox with us, but I also can’t wait to share Susan’s story.

In addition to the typical challenges of rehearsals,the play presents me with the massive challenge of portraying a newly blind woman. In the months that led up to rehearsal, I’ve been researching, reading, watching videos and meeting people that live in this world. With each book or person, I’m fascinated by the struggles and joy of a blind woman. One book in particular, Laurie Rubin’s “Do You Dream in Color? Insights From a Girl Without Sight”, speaks to who Susan Hendrix is at the heart of all the chaos and fear she encounters over the course of the play. Laurie let nothing stand in her way, be that learning how to ski to join her family on winter holidays, attending Oberlin to study voice, and facing rejection in the performing arts.

From an interview with www.out.com:
: Growing up blind, how did you tap into your determination and find the power from within to keep going and continue to your goals?

Laurie Rubin: A lot of it came from just being ingrained in me, because when I was younger my family always supported everything I wanted to do, and they never told me that I shouldn’t be able to do something. They encouraged me to do everything from snow skiing to water skiing and river rafting to just going full force into singing. That and my natural feisty personality, I just don’t like to be told I can’t do something no matter what it is. And I certainly also had enough support beyond family too with teachers, mentors, and friends.”

Although Laurie has been blind from birth and the character of Susan Hendrix has only been blind for a year and half, I think the joy and fire that make up both of these woman are the really weapons they have to tackle obstacle and insecurities presented daily. Susan has her husband Sam, a fellow survivor and true partner to keep her strong and safe at the beginning of the play, but what I personally admire about the character of Susan, is that she must learn how to survive and stand on her own, without him by her side.

As we head into tech, and eventually add audience members, I stand backstage reminding myself of all that Susan has lost but also gained in the loss of her sight. She has been given the gift of truly discovering her inner strength and  purpose, and the power of trusting yourself. I do hope you’ll join us at the theater this fall!

-Clara Hillier, Susan Hendrix, NWCTC company member

Wait Until Dark presented by Northwest Classical Theater Company opens at the Shoebox Theater September 5 and runs through October 5th Thursdays-Sundays. Tickets are at www.nwctc.org.

Jason Maniccia on a Good Rehearsal


Good rehearsal today.

A good day in rehearsal sort or means something different to me now than it did, say, ten years ago. I think, for a time, a good rehearsal was a day that felt like a good performance. A day where you’d say “yeah, I really nailed that”, or you’d get a supportive comment from the director or a fellow cast member – or you would otherwise have some sense or indication that something was done right, or solved, or complete.

But anymore I find I don’t look to have the solution onstage, I don’t see answers as an accomplishment; and moreover I don’t look to have things done right or have anything feel complete. It’s more about finding the problem than finding the answer. It’s more about working through the riddle than having the solution. A good rehearsal now isn’t one where I’ve solved the problem: but one where I’ve identified the problem.

Oddly enough, now that I think of it, it is a little full circle for me in that I do see performance differently than I did ten or fifteen years ago. While I used to think of a good rehearsal as something that approximated a good performance, I do now see a good performance as something that approximates a good rehearsal. I’m more concerned with the process, the finding out, the discovery, the problem – than I am with the answer, the solution, the end result.

So today was all about finding and knowing problems. Identifying those things that need to be worked through. Finding what it is I need to lay hands on every day.

And I am daily reminded of why it means so much to me to be a member of NWCTC, and the value of what we’re doing here. The fearless and open dialogue between Butch and I as we work together to craft this role; the trust and honesty that surrounds every minute I’m on stage with Melissa; the look on Arrington’s face when he’s making his exit from the murderer’s scene, I swear to god that guy…I could go on and on, everybody on this production. How lucky am I?

Now of course, as happens with Macbeth, by this time tomorrow I will doubtlessly have my tail between my legs, lost and confused, facing certain doom. But that’s not as much fun to write about.

Really digging on this orange.


Monday Banquet by Jason Maniccia

Ugh. Worked the banquet scene tonight, and I have still not wound down. Man, it’s another one of those where the guy just turns on a dime. And how to work that out without just schmacting the f**k out of it, right? I mean: he sees a ghost. A GHOST. Put that in your Meisner and smoke it.

Add to that the fact that I am woefully behind on memorization for this scene. Don’t ask me why, somehow it keeps itself under my radar. Some form of denial, I’m sure. Add to that it’s a Monday, that started too hard and ended too late. Add to that that I picked up a long-awaited pair of eyeglasses that were supposed to change my life and did little more than make my good vision four hundred dollars worth of worse to the point I just wanted to cry.

So yes, I arrived at the Shoebox tonight to rehearse the banquet scene: fully prepared to kill people. (please note: no actors were harmed in the writing of this blog).

But the work does funny things to you sometimes. It both feeds into these moments and it saves you from them. With chaos all around you outside, the chaos onstage becomes clay on the wheel. Bloody, explosive, poisonous, beautiful clay.

And oh, the power and empowerment of our little company. To see Melissa Whitney across the table from me…and know, KNOW we are in the same moment, on the same page, at the same time; that I can say anything, do anything, and she will be there; that it’s all happening right now. She is a blessing. How blessed I am, and how I hope I can give back even half what I get from my castmates.

Talked to Todd, a former Macbeth himself, in the lobby. Commiserated as much as we could  – “yeah, it’s a bitch. He’s a-a-a-a-all over the place, he turns on a dime.” Thy fate is the common fate of all…

I’ll attach an image to this blog. I occasionally do some work with art markers, mostly like what you see here. Inspired by the marketing materials created by Butch Flowers and Grant Byington for this show, I wanted to tinker some with oranges and blacks. Here’s a first go. If I come up with any more, I’ll pass them along.

-Jason Maniccia, Macbeth


Transference – by Jason Maniccia


Mamet writes about the play’s influence on the actor, how the events of the play impose themselves on the actor’s process. The problems the actor encounters in rehearsal and in performance are, in fact, the problems of the character he plays in the story. The play imposes itself on the player. It sounds mystical or magical, and ridiculously so, doesn’t it? But it’s true.


I’ve been having this weird experience in my life lately – this wavering of self-confidence, like there’s some kind of on/off switch on my sense of certainty. In a moment I’ll realize that I have no idea what I’m doing, what the future holds, that I’m a fraud and a fool. And in another moment I’ll realize that I’m sure of myself, content with my time and pleased with my choices, safe in the knowledge that the future will be what it will be.


The first thing we uncover rehearsing Macbeth: “so…he’s, like, totally changed his mind here? When did that happen?” In a moment he is fearful and uncertain, wrestling with his conscience – and in the next he has no doubt, no hesitancy. And I think, “He seems to turn on a dime for no reason, how can I possibly deal with these about-faces?” But then I think, “Wait – how could that possibly be a mystery to me?”


-Jason Maniccia, Macbeth

Ted and Clara rehearse the final scene

Ted and Clara rehearse the final scene

Actors Ted Roisum and Clara Hillier (with Nate Crosby and Jeffrey Arrington in the background) work through the final, moving moments of King Lear.

Clara Hillier on Lear the father

This has indeed been one storm of a rehearsal process for Miss Cordelia! I have always been intrigued by the honesty and inner strength of Cordelia, but I could not have anticipated the emotional journey her relationship with her father would need to be, both for the character and for me onstage. This may sound ridiculous and completely obvious, but I personally do not have a good example of a father-daughter relationship. When I received the role of Cordelia I was terrified at how to best convey that love and admiration for a father that is at the core of her being and personal philosophy. Throughout the rehearsal process I have struggled internally with what to do, how to look at, how to touch, how to address, how to embrace a father. I haven’t spoken to my own father for almost 13 years now.

I was out of rehearsal for a week as my health decided to take a turn for the worst, and during that stay I reflected a lot on the impact my father has had on my life, although he has been absent for so long. He loves Shakespeare, I love Shakespeare. He is a performer, as am I. His words and anger still hold power over me daily, but the good memories also stick around. He last knew me as a teenager trying to figure out who I needed to become and has no idea that I’m an actress, teacher, dancer etc. But he is part of me. Let me just tell you, a week in the hospital during a snow storm makes you think a lot!!

Last night in rehearsal, I had a break through. It was unexpected and much more powerful that I care to admit, but our King Lear, the inspiring Ted Roisum, finally broke through my barriers and changed my perspective. In the reconciliation scene between Cordelia and Lear, the language is gorgeous and honest, but it was Ted’s persistence to have me hear and see him on these particular lines: 

“If you have poison for me, I will drink it. 
I know you do not love me, for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong.
You have some cause, they have not.”

And then as we prepare to exit…
“You must bear with me. 
Pray you now, forget and forgive”

And I knew that is all I have to do for Cordelia, forget and forgive, and remember that love is at her core. And then move on with letting the past be the past.

Gary Powell explores how blind Gloucestor really is…

Gary Powell explores how blind Gloucestor really is...

“What a complex work. It asks the BIG questions about the forces beyond our control and leaves them unanswered. In that way, among others, it is a contemporary play.”

Deep stuff, Gary.

Grant Byington on Watching

I like to watch, but there’s more to it than that.

I never went to acting school. There are times when I am envious of those who did. They use a vocabulary that is at times both perplexing and enlightening to an untrained actor. I started pretty young. And I’m willing to admit: Everything I learn about acting I learn by watching.

I’m the guy in the dark corner of the theatre, sneaking into the technical rehearsal. I stand next to the booth and peer down at scenes I’m not in. I frequently get caught-out watching the scenes I actually play in. (I love playing Stanley in this production for this very reason. Although I find myself biting my tongue … a lot … probably something I share with every Stanley out there.) Once, backstage at a performance of Damn Yankees, I was watching a scene from the wings and commented to the person standing next to me that the fellas in that scene were doing a swell job. That same person reminded me that I had the next line.


But there’s more to it than that. Watching isn’t the right word for what I’ve been doing at Richard III. I think witnessing might be more apt. Here’s this remarkable, masterful director — Barry Kyle — crammed in this tiny, sweaty space using every possible tool he can muster to create what I believe will be something remarkable.

But there’s more to it than that. His process is as evocative as his production will be. There isn’t a moment in this play that isn’t fully realized without a true collaboration of text, performance, color, tone, volume, timbre, emotion, intellect … it’s a consummation. The scenes float off the stage like moments in a tortured symphony.

But there’s more to it than that. There are these actors who are marshaling every bit of their collective knowledge of what Shakespeare probably meant, what they feel, and how they can manipulate themselves to channel all that … stuff … into a performance. It’s quite extraordinary. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s this company of generous actors, among whom I count myself lucky to be a part. We play unofficial hosts to our scene-mates. We clean the dressing rooms. We carve out a space in the clutter. We promote. We manage. We strive to be good to each other and our fellow actors. We breathe into the conflicts that arise from lightning-fast costume changes. We work out on our own how to get a prop off stage out of sight. We support our fearless leader Grant Turner as he wrestles with what I believe to be one of the most challenging roles in the canon.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s this time we’re in right now. I have to stop watching. My job is to give myself over now. I have to start seeing what’s in front of my face. There’s this freaky time in every rehearsal process where you simply have to relinquish control. It’s ultimately liberating, but it can be excruciating for everyone involved. Because we all let go at a different rates. At a different times.

Some of us are more likely to let go a little easier than others. There isn’t a single person involved in this production who won’t go from “I know what to do” to “It is what it is going to be.” And that … release is a beautiful, creative thing.

But there’s more to it than that. So much more to it than that.

-Grant Byington (Stanley)

Photo by Jason Maniccia 2013.


Clara Hillier on Conquering Personal Challenges

For those who know me well, they know that acting at NW Classical has been a long time dream of mine. And now it is a reality! Crazy times. Last week as we started Richard III rehearsals with Barry Kyle, it was so much fun and simultaneously terrifying to just take a quick glance around the room and see the amount of talent and experience Barry and Grant had assembled for this production. Then we got on our feet and started a moving read through.

Personally, this production is full of challenges for me to conquer one by one. I’ve been cast as young Price Edward, Dorset, and Jane Shore (a typically omitted role…but essentially the mistress to Hastings and King Edward IV). As a dancer I appreciate the movement challenge of creating three physical personalities, but I have yet to explore such a variety of ages and both genders in a single production: I play a 9 year old boy, an 18 year old male soldier/politician and now a late twenties highly sexualized mistress. I now find myself observing children and male professionals in coffee shops, out walking, at bus stops, all over just to help solidify the physicality of the two male characters. Both Dorset and Prince Edward are coming to life now physically and vocally and I love finding new details about their vastly different personalities and journeys despite the fact that they share the same mother: Queen Elizabeth.

Jane Shore, albeit a small role, has provided the most difficult to work. I need to find that place of comfort onstage where I can use her sexuality as a tool for power and not have “Clara brain” on, preventing me from losing myself in the character and giving an honest performance. Last week’s rehearsal was definitely a turning point, with the costume designer and Barry creating a supportive and safe environment for me to just tackle the sexy Jane Shore scene and get over it! Only a few cast members were present, and they were all respectful and quietly supportive while I wrestled with this vast fear of mine. Although the scene itself will pass by in a flash and may not seem like anything to an audience or another actor, I can recognize how I’m changing as a performer and learning to appreciate what I bring to Jane Shore and finding the beauty in all of that.

This production is thrilling to be part of as Barry has made it clear that he expects a true ensemble approach and he is holding true to that by checking in with all characters in every scene, regardless of your line load in any given scene. So if you’re ready for some savvy tech moments, political commentary, simply fantastic acting, movement work, some mask work, and perhaps some red knickers join us at Richard III!

-Clara Hillier (Dorset, Jane Shore, Prince Edward)