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The Liar: Featuring Michael Ooms

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Michael Ooms:

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ROLE: Philiste, Alcippe’s friend

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT PHILISTE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Alcippe to his friend Dorante)

You know Philiste? The beau monde’s favorite beau?

(Dorante’s reply)

The man they call the Baron Comme Il Faut?
We know each other from Poitiers.

 

Michael Ooms with JuCoby Johnson and Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Michael Ooms with JuCoby Johnson and Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

CAST QUESTION:

This play will be visually and verbally stunning.  Every cast member, including you, must do “verbal acrobatics” with challenging wordplay and perfect timing with not just delivery but also comebacks.  As an actor, how do you get to the point that you can deliver such lines as if with ease?

This is a great question.  In order to pull a thing like this off, a multitude of facets need to fall into sync.  In my mind, there are two truly important elements: hard work and honesty.  As a cast, we work tirelessly to find the rhythm and truth of a piece.  While understanding the title of the play, The Liar, we all have to find our truths within it.  A lie is only as good as the belief it inspires.  And that’s what we work towards.  The belief in these words to inspire something.   Fact or fiction, the words must deliver the story that we as a cast are so graced to have been given.  David Ives has a great mind for so many things.  Among the grandest are language, truth and comradery (in my humble opinion).  Our ultimate goal has been to respect his work and bring it to life, as one.  And that’s the real trick.  To find the key together and unlock the thing.  From where I’m standing, this box is open; and it’s hilarious.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Classical Actors Ensemble: Doctor Faustus; Savage Umbrella: These Are the Men; Swandive: Five Flights; Pioneer Place: Tuesdays with Maurie; Gonzo Group Theatre: Long Day’s Journey into Night; NightPath: Our Town Film Mighty Ducks; Mighty Ducks 2 Training Classical Actors Ensemble: Company Member; Gonzo Group Theatre: Founding Company Member Upcoming Projects Savage Umbrella: The Awakening

 

Michael Ooms with his actor-parents Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens who have also delighted audiences on the Park Square stages Photograph by Connie Shaver

Michael Ooms with his actor-parents Richard Ooms and Claudia Wilkens,who have also delighted audiences on  Park Square stages
Photograph by Connie Shaver

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – Ends Oct 2

The Liar: Featuring Rex Isom Jr.

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Rex Isom Jr.:

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ROLE: Geronte, Dorante’s father

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT GERONTE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Dorante)

My friends, here’s to my dad, without whose virtue
I’d not have known how fraudulence can hurt you!

CAST QUESTION:

As I understand, you have a strong background in improvisational comedy.  How do you plan (or do you plan) on drawing from that skill as Geronte, even though it is a scripted play?

For a scripted play, I believe that improvisation helps the actor with the technical aspects of presenting the character. Since improv really relies on the actor being a good listener and observer, having those skills during a scripted and blocked performance provides the actor with a sort of “behind the scenes” backbone. You are more aware of the overall construct, and thus you can aid more in those “bump in the road” moments, like when a line might be dropped by another actor or a prop falls on stage. You can help out in a much more natural way and stay in character since improv is also about maintaining your character in every way throughout the scene–emotionally, physically and mentally.

Some might think improv makes it harder to maintain the precision of a scripted work. On the contrary, it helps me fortify that precision by keeping me attuned to the whole play and all its parts, not just my part.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Stevie Ray’s Improv Cabaret Show; New Native Theatre: The Meeting; Penumbra Theatre: Black Eagles; History Theatre: To Kill a Mockingbird; Brave New Workshop: Jesse Goes to Hollywood; Guthrie Theater: The Darker Face of the Earth Film Public Domain, Thin Ice Training B.S., Theatre Arts, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Awards/Other Most Outstanding Creative Programming Award, 2009 & 2011, CTV15, Roseville, MN Upcoming Projects History Theatre: The Highwaymen

Rex Isom Jr. with Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Rex Isom Jr. with Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

The Liar: Featuring Shanan Custer

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Shanan Custer:

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ROLES: Sabine, puritanical servant to Clarice; Isabelle, vivacious servant to Lucrece

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT SABINE IN THE PLAY:

Said by Philiste to his friend Alcippe:

. . . . I love her strictness.
She’s adamant as truth, she’s hard to rattle,
And on a picnic–expert with a paddle.

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT ISABELLE IN THE PLAY:

Said by Dorante’s servant, Cliton, about Isabelle:

I too submit me to the moon! Ah, Isabelle,
Sweet Isabelle, who really truly is a belle!
I’d find more rhymes if only she were visabelle.
Is it not risibelle how most invisabelle.
The indivisibelle Isabelle … is?

CAST QUESTION:

You have successfully played poignantly funny characters in the past, which takes great skill.  How will you approach the more directly hilarious task of playing twin sisters?

For me, there is very little difference in approaching these two styles of comedy. Trying to be funny has never been my approach because I’m not sure how to do that exactly.

It’s Acting 101 really: be in the moment, listen, be truthful and don’t be afraid to look silly or vulnerable or ugly or ridiculous. Above all, take care of the people around you; otherwise, you have no scene. There’s a great quote in the book Truth in Comedy about how, if you treat everyone around you like a genius, they will be. There are many ways to interpret this piece of advice; but, for me, the most important layer is to stop thinking about myself and just pour that energy into others and the scene. I can’t wait to play with this cast!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Calendar Girls; 2 Sugars, Room for Cream; Dead Man’s Cell Phone Representative Theatre Interact Theater: Hell is Empty and ALL the Devils are Here; Casting Spells Productions: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune; Workhaus Collective: The Mill; Theatre Pro Rata: Emilie: Le Marquis du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight; 2016 MN Fringe Festival: Sometimes There’s Wine Training M.A., Theater History, Theory and Criticism, University of Maryland, College Park Awards/Other Ivey Award 2013 (Ensemble, 2 Sugars, Room for Cream) Upcoming Projects Park Square: Theatre Pro Rata (at Park Square): Up: The Man in the Flying Chair

Shanan Custer with Zach Curtis in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Shanan Custer with Zach Curtis in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar - Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

The Liar: Featuring Sara Richardson

Sara RichardsonAs part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Sara Richardson:

ROLE: Lucrece, Clarice’s best friend

DESCRIPTION LINES OF LUCRECE IN THE PLAY:

I’m deserving of a first-class mate
As other women. Yet I stand and wait.
Because I’m silent–all right, call it nervous–
Most men just never see beneath my surface.

CAST QUESTION:

What aspect of playing Lucrece will most challenge you?

Lucrece is quiet at first, which can be challenging; but David Ives gives us a lot of fun clues about her later in the script to build upon. Fun friendship rivalries, colorful descriptions comparing her unflatteringly to sea creatures, a clear bookish bent and self-professed as ‘nervous,’ we are given a lot to play with in terms of character. These hints allowed us to find ways of showing her more ill at ease qualities in action–always fun in a farce, especially one with such playfully designed elements (thanks designers Eli, Abbee, Rebecca and director Doug!)! A challenge in a farce is also always to find the honesty in the midst of the absurd so finding Lucrece’s real sense of longing and unrequited love deep down, before making it laughable, is important.

It is a gift to get to play someone who experiences such terribly awkward moments and has to live through them in front of everyone–painfully, earnestly and repeatedly. I love it!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Jungle Theater: The Night Alive; Mu Performing Arts: You for Me for You; Pillsbury House Theatre: Buzzer; Torch Theater: Boeing Boeing; Theatre Novi Most: Rehearsing Failure; Gremlin Theatre/Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival: A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur Film Rough Tender; Per Bianca (Cannes shorts 2011) Training Ècole Jacques Lecoq Other Sara-Richardson.com

Shanan Custer, Sara Richardson, India Gurley and Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Shanan Custer, Sara Richardson, India Gurley and Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar - Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

 

The Liar: Featuring JuCoby Johnson

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to JuCoby Johnson:

johnson-jucoby-color

ROLES: Alcippe, Clarice’s secret fiancé

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT ALCIPPE IN THE PLAY:

(Said by Clarice about Alcippe)

So let him spew. My lover’s lava’s nothing new.
Two years now we’ve been secretly engaged–
And he’s the one who’s chronically enraged?
Oh, very well.

CAST QUESTION:

You have done a lot of Shakespeare.  How difficult is the wordplay in The Liar in comparison?  (For example, you have one line that starts with:  “O faithless, fickle, fraudulent play.”)

The wordplay in The Liar is very similar to that used in Shakespeare. I would say that the biggest similarity is the speed in which the language has to go in order for the jokes to land. If you can get the language to be fast and light while still holding onto the clarity, you’ve won half the battle. Within that lies the biggest difficulty. If it’s all fast and light, but lacking in clarity, the audience gets sick of it very quickly. You have to find a way to tell the story clearly and crisply at a faster pace than may seem comfortable. It takes a lot of trust in your fellow actors and a strong familiarity with the text.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Ten Thousand Things: Dear World; Mu Performing Arts: You for Me for You; New Epic Theater: The Normal Heart; Great River Shakespeare Festival: As You Like It Training B.F.A., Acting, University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program Upcoming Projects Ten Thousand Things: Pericles; Theater Latté Da: Six Degrees of Separation

JuCoby Johnson with Sha' Cage in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

JuCoby Johnson with Sha’ Cage in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

The Liar: Featuring India Gurley

As part of the Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to India Gurley:

India Gurley

ROLE: Clarice, a young lady of Paris

DESCRIPTIVE LINE ABOUT CLARICE IN THE PLAY:

But this Clarice of yours.  Obese, obscene?
Some find her quite the glamorous gamine.

CAST QUESTION:

Clarice’s repartee with Dorante and Alcippe is very funny throughout the play.  As an actor, how do you keep your composure and not laugh out loud in such scenes?

Not laughing at the outrageously funny scenes between Clarice, Dorante and Alcippe is going to be a huge challenge! Especially because I am the type of person to break very easily.

One of the things that is helpful for me is to remember that, when you’re in a comedy, what makes it funny is that these situations are very real for the characters. Their reactions and truthful need to get what they want are what make it so funny and engaging for the audience. It also helps that we rehearse the show for three weeks, so I can prepare myself for something especially funny coming up in the show.

What’s great about doing comedies is that it is always a blast to go to rehearsal everyday and laugh and create hilarious characterizations. Hopefully, I can keep it together on stage!

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Hudson Valley Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Victory Gardens Theater: The House That Will Not Stand; Milwaukee Repertory Theater: The Color Purple; Guthrie Theater: Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House; Ten Thousand Things: Measure for Measure Training B.F.A., Acting, University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program Upcoming Projects The Hypocrites (Chicago): Wit

India Gurley with JuCoby Johnson in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

India Gurley with JuCoby Johnson in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar – Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

The Liar: Featuring Sha’ Cage

As part of our Meet the Cast of The Liar Blog Series, let us introduce you to Sha’ Cage:

 cage-sha-2016-color

ROLE: Dorante, a young man just arrived in Paris

DESCRIPTIVE LINES ABOUT DORANTE IN THE PLAY:

Said to Dorante by his servant Cliton:

No disrespect. Is there a molecule
Of truth in anything that stems from there?
(Points to Dorante’s mouth.)
‘Cause you lie anytime and anywhere!

CAST QUESTION:

What attracted you to the role of Dorante, a constant liar?

I’m often drawn to roles that seem incredibly difficult, things that I’ve never tried, characters that move me or characters that are a bit insane. So what does that say about me, you ask? Dorante has a bit of all these elements rolled into one. I’m still trying to get into his psyche, but he’s absolutely playful and fun.  He really can’t help but tell lies.

As someone who loves a good lie–although horrible at telling one and getting away with it, I must admit that I’m utterly and thoroughly intrigued!

The other day, my son asked me, ” Mom, what if you make a mistake and tell the truth?”

I said, “I’ll just pretend it was my twin brother.”

He got a kick out of that lie.

I’m thrilled to step into Dorante’s shoes and onto this fast-paced journey of discovery, twists and turns.

CAST BACKGROUND:

Park Square Mary T. and Lizzy K. Representative Theatre Ten Thousand Things: Henry IV; Penumbra Theatre: Ballad of Emmett Till; GuthrieTheater: Clybourne Park; Mixed Blood Theatre: Ruined; Frank Theatre: Venus, F*cking A Film New Neighbors, Cry About a Nickel, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Radio, Midnight, Joe’s Somebody, Factotum Awards/Other Regional Emmy; Ivey Award; McKnight Fellowship; Distinguished Fox/TCG Fellowship; Named one of the Leading Artists of her generation by Insight; Named a Changemaker by Women’s Press; City Pages Best Solo Performer (Frank Theatre: Grounded); Star Tribune 2014 Mover and Maker; Mpls St. Paul Magazine Power Couple of the Year 2015 (with artistic partner EG Bailey) Upcoming Projects Co-curating a film festival in Sweden (October); Intermedia Arts: a work in progress of her solo work Say Her Name (Nov 29); touring her show in 2017 (nationally and abroad).

Sha' Cage with Rex Isom Jr. in a rehearsal. (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Sha’ Cage with Rex Isom Jr. in a rehearsal.
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Area Premiere of The Liar - Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage – September 9 to October 2

And More Lies!

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Cast of The Liar

Park Square Theatre’s 2016-2017 season begins with the area premiere of The Liar from September 9 to October 2.  Playwright David Ives’ laugh-out-loud comedy centers on the escapades of Dorante, a gentleman who cannot tell the truth, and his servant Cliton who cannot tell a lie.

In the spirit of the play’s hilarious premise, we asked people to share their own stories about lies with humorous results. The stories kept coming in:

When I was a kid, my mom bought my dad a smoker for smoking fish as her Christmas gift to him. He fished a lot, and we loved smoked fish. It was (and still is) quite expensive to buy but much cheaper to smoke yourself.

I knew my mom had purchased this smoker. It was a hard gift to wrap and would have been obvious as to what it was if it had been placed under the tree. So my mom hid it in another part of the house. Christmas Eve, after everyone had opened all of their gifts, my mom proclaimed that we were all done opening gifts, which was, of course, a lie. I think she wanted to prolong the secret and heighten the element of surprise!

I turned and looked at her and said, “No we’re not. Dad hasn’t opened his smoker yet!”

Whoops! My poor mom’s face fell, and I instantly knew that I had revealed the lie, and her secret/surprise was blown!

After a moment, however, everyone, including my mom, began to laugh about my faux pas.  My mom brought out the smoker, my dad loved it, and all was well. We still laugh about that event almost every year when we’re with my parents for Christmas!

——-

Here I am, sitting in the house my husband and I built with our own hands (and used to rent out), and it’s been almost 11 years since we lived here last.  All these memories keep popping up from when we were here and the kids were younger.  I also keep remembering funny (or not so funny) stuff my past tenants did.

One tenant, Eileen, was a real character.  I’m convinced she was a born liar because she would bluster her way around the truth to get whatever she wanted.  On the application to rent my house, she agreed to get the utilities in her name, “No problem; no problem.”

Soon after, she did her best to sell me on the idea of installing a wood stove, and it would save her money, keep her warmer, etc. I told her (several times) that I was quite happy with my propane furnace, thank you.  But over the next few weeks before she was supposed to move in, she kept working on me to get a wood stove.

Finally, before we were supposed to move out and she move in, I had the feeling to check on the utilities and found out Eileen had bad credit (oops), and the propane company would not give her an account.  At that point, my daughter and I started laughing. We did a big head smack–that’s why Eileen wanted that wood stove so bad.

——

One summer my niece had gone to the PRIDE parade and given me a glow-in-the-dark sperm keychain that she have gotten there. I attached it to my purse as a zipper pull.  One day an eight-year-old boy spotted it and asked me, “What is this?”

Without thinking, I said, “A glow-in-the-dark sperm.”

“A squirm?” he asked. “What’s a squirm?”

“No,” I said. “A sperm.”

“Squirm? What IS that?”

Then I caught myself and replied, “Oh, I meant a worm. It’s a worm!”

“Oh, okay. I thought you said ‘squirm’ and didn’t know what that is.”

A year later ….

The now nine-year-old boy was looking at the glow-in-the-dark sperm again and said, “I know what this is, and it isn’t a worm.”

“Really?”  I asked. “Then what is it?”

“It’s a tadpole.”

“Are you sure it’s not a worm?”

“I know what tadpoles look like,” he insisted. “And this is definitely a tadpole, NOT a worm.”

——

(If you missed it, go back to see the blog “Lies! Lies!”  And, yes, indeed–still more lies to come in a future blog!)

The Naming of Things

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Sha Cage and Zach Curtis in The Liar

As I was watching the final plays of last season, I began to wonder what effect would it have on audience draw and expectations if some of those plays had had a different name. For instance, despite its billing as a comedy/drama, did people think Sons of a Prophet would be a heavier drama, considering its title and central theme on suffering? What if the play had instead been called All Is Well, which was the invariably optimistic mantra of the Douaihy family throughout the play?

Coming up from September 9 to October 2 as the first play of the Park Square Theatre 2016-2017 season is the area premiere of The Liar by playwright David Ives. It features Sha Cage in the title role, Dorante, who just cannot tell the truth (as described by another character in the play: “This guy’s so slippery he’s a sea of grease”). In contrast, his servant Cliton, played by Zach Curtis, cannot tell a lie (his self-described “tragic flaw”). This juxtaposition of yin-yang characters and the awkward situations triggered result in an outright, laugh-out-loud comedy.

To me, The Liar seems an apt enough title for a comedy. Straight and to the point, it is devoid of adjectives, kept open with possibilities. It’s not called The Dirty Liar, for instance, with angry overtones, or The Silly Liar to limit its scope of humor. Nor does the play bear any of these other titles that may cause preconceived notions:

  • Untruthful – sounds like a sinister and heavy drama
  • Honestly!?! – too sincere
  • Dorante, The Liar – must be a tragic period piece
  • Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire! – geared toward a young audience
  • Liar! – potential ripoff of the 1997 Jim Carrey movie, Liar! Liar!

Titles do matter to spark initial interest to see a production. The Liar is a misleadingly honest title that denotes a mystery and a truth that you shall experience only if you come to see the play.

I wouldn’t lie about something like that!

 

 

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