is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Laurie Genet Preston Returns to Stage: Much Ado!

Laurie's last role was in Studio Players'
Catfish Moon with Dave Dampier,
she says this photo was taken when
she was 4 months pregnant with twins  

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
Galileo Galilei 

When Much Ado About Nothing makes its way to Talon Winery in early December, there will an abundance of motivation to go see it.  For many local theater-goers, however, the marquee attraction will be the lady who will breathe life into the role of Beatrice, as Laurie Genet Preston makes her exhilarating return to the stage in Bluegrass Community & Technical College’s production of Shakespeare’s classic, directed by everyone’s favorite professor, director and theatre guru, Tim X Davis.  Rather than using a celestial body to illuminate the masterpiece, Davis has cleverly dished up some disco light to give the play a faceted array of new perspectives.  

Davis and Preston's devotion to their craft, their commitment to the relationships developed in the process of bringing works to the stage reminds me of the Galileo quote above, in that they treasure each performance by each player as much as they cherish their own roles in a production and in doing so, they enhance the presentation so that its full body and taste can be appreciated upon the palate of the audience with confidence that the work is ripened to perfection.  They are not complacent to sit back and simply enjoy the fruits of their own labor, nor will they allow any goodness to wither on the vine ... and for that, they deserve accolades, applause and full appreciation for their generosity.

Preston tells me the role is one she’s had her eye on for quite a while. “I will be playing Beatrice in Much Ado, and I have to say, it has long been one the roles on my "Roles-I-Have-Always-Wanted-to-Play" short list. I finally hit the appropriate age to play her.  Actually, I probably hit the ‘appropriate’ age a while back…but who's counting? I have taught Much Ado for years in the classroom and have always loved the humor and honesty in this work. It is truly one of Shakespeare's most accessible comedies.”

As most who have performed with X and his ‘BicTic’ cast and crew, Laurie is enjoying the process of bringing the script from page to stage.  “Well, the play is shaping up in a fantastic way and the rehearsals have been pretty darn funny because the cast is full of people with wacky senses of humor.  There's just something even funnier about Shakespeare being set in a disco.  Poor William is probably groaning audibly wherever he is, but it truly works.  Besides the creative forces at work in the cast and the wit of our great director, I'd have to say, that for me, the funniest moment has been the one time I had to bring my twin 2 year old daughters to rehearsal.  We ended up with three Beatrices onstage -- the girls wanted to do all my blocking with me!” she laughs.
Billy Breed and Preston in AGL's Arcadia

The popular veteran actress explains that "the most difficult task is being a mom, wife and actress. I have never had to do that before, so it is all new.  The role, I am very familiar with it fits me pretty well. There's an ease in that, thankfully -- but, the last time I was onstage, I was 5 months pregnant with the girls.  Learning lines in the small snatches of time I have to myself, doing the kind of ‘homework’ I like to do for a part, all of has been like learning to rollerblade after you were really good at rollerskating.  It's kind of the same, but the balance is different.”

I asked her if becoming a Mom has changed her perspective/approach to performing -- I would think it heightens the senses in a good way...but perhaps personal life doesn't affect how one acts on stage.  Being a Mom absolutely changes everything.  More than I thought.  It's interesting.  I have a lovely relationship with the young lady (Christina Duong) who plays my younger cousin...I feel motherly towards her.  I feel comfortable in that feeling.  Also, while I was picky about the roles I wanted to play and the people I wanted to work with even before I became a Mom, it is certainly different now.  My family is the single most important thing in my life. I have to find it very worthwhile to be in play. By that, I mean, if it is going to take time away from them, it better feed my artistic passions well.  I'm certainly a better wife and Mom when I get to express myself artistically. It is part of who I am.  However, the choices I make will be a bit more selective, absolutely.”
With Sara Heifetz in AGL's production of Stop Kiss

How happy is she to work with Tim X Davis again?  Every time I take a hiatus from the theatre, I come back and work with Tim.  What does that say?  I can tell you that Tim is one of the best directors I have EVER worked with.  He's an ‘actor's director.’ I think actors call directors that when they feel respected as an artist.  He does that. He's wickedly smart about actors, about staging, and about expressing what he wants from you.  He's just cool.  I have no other way to put it.”

LAURIE’S SECRET TALENT:  "None of my ‘talents’ are particularly secret, per se, but ... I can do some cheesy 80s and 90s dances pretty well…oh and wrangle two toddlers in a single bound!"

[I consider wrangling toddlers to be no easy task in and of itself, let alone doubled!  This busy mom has her work cut out for her in the coming years, but she seems to take it all in stride.  I admire the way Laurie embraces the importance of relationships and sharing her invaluable insights to young actors like Christina Duong, who also had a few things to say...  :)  kjt ]


Christina is relishing her role as Hero in Much Ado 

Christina Duong’s relationship with Laurie is etched upon her heart as much as her love of the theatre, the seeds of which were fostered by Tim X Davis, and further nurtured by Preston.  

Well, I took a couple of Tim's classes this past spring semester, and from there I tried to figure out ways to get involved. I worked backstage as the Assistant Stage Manager for the production of See Jane Quit – that was the first show I’d ever done with Tim, or in general (aside from a few little things in high school). Watching the show take place, I knew I had found something that I really wanted to do! After that, I auditioned for the production of A Few Good Men, and was rewarded a 'swing' role, which was pretty much little parts and lines here and there. I got a better feel for how the rehearsal process works and all that good stuff with A Few Good Men, and towards the end, this show opened my eyes and made me realize that I was falling in love with theatre, and I wanted to work harder and harder to get on stage, and be great.”
Christina says Laurie can still "rock the stage"

In this production of Much Ado About Nothing, I am playing the role of Hero, which I was soooo surprised/excited to get! This is like, the first real role I have ever gotten, the first time I will really be recognized on stage, and I couldn't be happier!

I absolutely LOVE working with Laurie! I must admit that I was a little nervous to work in front of her when we had those first couple of rehearsals, because I had heard how great of an actress she was…but working with her, I have seen first hand how amazing she is. This may sound cheesy, but I look up to her as a role model throughout this journey. I'm always asking her questions like, 'Did that sound ok?', 'Am I doing this right?', 'Does this even look believable?!'. And Laurie is always there to look me in the eyes and say something that honestly helps me. Since I am new to this theatre stuff, I doubt myself a lot because it can be hard when you're working side by side with some really talented actors, but Laurie makes me feel like I am doing something right, growing as an actress. Not only is Laurie a great actress/mentor on the stage, but she is so much fun in general! I LOVE hearing about her Bourbon tasting extravaganzas, the tales of the twins, and her story of her life on the stage. I could go on for days about all of the things I love about working with Laurie, but the list would be endless. She is an amazing actress, who has proved that she can still rock the stage, even after taking a break and having twins! She is like my stage-mother, and I hope that someday I can be the wonderful woman, and actress that she is.

“I can't express enough how grateful I am to be working with these people. I give all my thanks in the world to Tim for giving me this life-changing opportunity, who knows when another chance like this will come along, so I take it for what it's worth!”

CHRISTINA DUONG’S SECRET TALENT:   "Let's see: I like to free-style rap when I feel like being silly, I can chain smoke cigarettes like there's no tomorrow, I like to dance outrageously where ever I go, I love coming up with unique outfits to wear that may look weird to some, but awesome to others, and I have a knack for growing my hair extremely long, very fast ... the free-styling rapping like a gangsta' is probably the best of my abilities! Wow, this made me realize that I may need to get a (better) life!," she laughs.



So, I asked X - why Much Ado, and why now? “I always loved the script (it's my favorite Shakes comedy), and I felt this was a good time to tackle it. Last Spring, some of my acting students ventured into classical scenes, and they nailed their Chekhov and Shakespeare so well, that I felt it was time for us to go out on a limb and give it a try. One of the things I've always been about with this program is challenging the students, and pushing them to reach beyond their grasp. Another reason is that I've wanted to work with Laurie again, and this seemed the perfect project. We initially talked of doing this together as an acting project and bringing in another director, but when that didn't come to fruition, I decided to keep the idea alive and bring in Chris Rose to play opposite Laurie. Their chemistry is scary good, and (with Pete Sears onboard) we have a mini- Side Man reunion (one of my favorite shows I ever worked on)…so that’s nice.”

Davis emphasizes that the cast includes lots of other faces you will recognize from BCTC and elsewhere. “Aside from Chris, Laurie and Pete, Kevin Greer, Emanuel Wright, Aly Miller, Jared Sloan, Vince Harris, Kathy Swango, Caitlyn Capriette, and Hayley Williams (amongst others).”

Caitlyn Capriette with Nils Hamilton in Beth Ann (Proverb Films)

Tim reminds me that he’s happy to present any show at the winery. “Well, I love Talon -- it's a great space that's very vibrant and fun, and we ALWAYS get good, rocking crowds there. However, when working in that space there are ALWAYS challenges: Primarily creating a theatre where none exists. Making sure that all the seats have a good, unobstructed view, lighting the space adequately...there are tons of things to take care of…BUT- we've had two incredibly successful productions out there (Dark of the Moon, and Middle Aged White Guys), so I'm truly looking forward to going back. Also, the folks there treat us so well -- they're good people.”

Since the word has been mentioned, I wondered if it is set in the 70s, and where does the disco part fit in?  X explains, “We are approaching it from the 1970s, and the term ‘disco’ does have somewhat of an impact on the show and the environment. I'll leave it at that :)”
Tim X and crew's Much Ado will be under the
stage management of Natalie Cummins
(sorry, guys, but I la-la-la-LOVE this
pic of Tim as Brett Michaels :)

Davis expects the return of his friend, popular teacher and actress will be sufficient to convince folks to take the pleasant drive out to Talon.  “Laurie Genet Preston back onstage after a two-year absence ought to be reason enough!  We have an excellent cast, a great mix of seasoned vets, experienced students and some newbies. The show is a spirited, funny tale with some beautiful language and wonderfully drawn characters. The cast and I are all striving every night to find new and engaging ways to approach the material, and I think people will be quite pleasantly surprised with the direction we're going in -- AND of course, there'll be lots of great music from the period...and oh yeah -- there's wine to be had!”


When Shakespeare serves up the classic battle between the sexes, with two different couples, you get twice the misunderstandings, twice the fun.  

Director Tim X Davis twists the tale into a comedy of behavioral dance that plays out its steps and twirls about under a bright swirling disco light.  

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING opens at Talon Winery December 2 and runs through the matinee on Sunday, December 4 at 2:30 pm

Call 971-3214 for reservations -- December 2 - 4 at Talon Winery -- tickets are $7 for students, $12 adults, $120 VIP tables

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