is the grass any bluer...

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In the Nick of Time: Vannoy's a Creature of Habit in Frankenstein

With Frankenstein opening in just a few days at the Arboretum, the presence of Nick Vannoy is preparing to make itself known on stage as the Creature who will loom over the cast and audience when Kentucky Conservatory Theatre folk brings us yet another gem of a show, the second jewel in its Triple Crown of the season known as SummerFest.  The third show which opens July 20th is the tremendously popular and physically exhausting Rocky Horror Show that is bound to pack the place, but in the meantime, Frankenstein is bounding with energy and about to awaken our artistic sensibilities and cause our hearts to work overtime.  

With Joe Ferrell as the Director, the cast is certain to be at their best, one of the main reasons Ferrell is so popular amongst the acting crowd.  He allows the artists the freedom to develop good habits and has a gentle way of nudging the bad habits off the stage.  Vannoy echoes this feeling, speaking about Ferrell with great reverence, "This is my first opportunity to work with Joe as a Lead role. Joe allows you to totally own the character that you are playing. He invites you to play at all times and will never try to get in the way of that. Joe loves to watch actors be in the moment, he is at his happiest when you are living in the scene and really taking in your surroundings and your scene partner. He loves good acting and will let you know when it's not ringing true. That's why you feel like a pro when he leans over to you, puts his hand on your shoulder and whispers 'good'.

Vannoy is a gifted actor, and so it's no surprise that once the Creature exits the stage next Sunday, he's setting his sights on other venues that will afford him the opportunity to further exploit his skills.  "After Summerfest, I will be moving to Louisville to be a part of Actors Theatre of Louisville's Acting Apprentice Company for the 2011-2012 season. Ellie Clark and Dara Jade Tiller are some of the Alumns from past years. After that I hope to move to New York or L.A. to pursue a career in Theatre and Film."
Back to the page-to-stage process of Frankenstein, though.  Nick is comfortably familiar with the writer and relishes working with Bo List's newest adaptation. "I have performed in Our Time written by Bo and went to Scotland with it in 2006 after I graduated High School. He is incredibly talented and writes with a lot of care and attention to detail."

Over the past year, I have seen Vannoy in a number of shows, but now realize I didn't have the chance to catch every performance he's squeezed in over the last months.  My first time watching him in last year's SummerFest third-and-last show, the popular musical extravaganza, Rent, where he sang and danced his way into the hearts of one and all.  He then blew me and my play-date away with his portrayal in Bloodgrass, a short play in Midway last Fall. Shortly thereafter, I saw him in a 2-man play with Tim Hull in Lonely Planet, (directed by Evan Bergman) where Nick once again played a vastly different character than the two I had previously seen him portray.  
Henry Layton and Eric Johnson on the set of KING HENRY IV
Layton is the fight guru of local theatre, but also is a stunt man,
motion capture actor and professional fight choreographer.
Recently, Layton's concept of a fight scene he taught in a class
at Kentucky  Conservatory Theatre transformed into the delightful farce,
KCT and SEE Theatre at the Downtown Arts Center.

That is the cool thing about knowing that Nick Vannoy is in a production -- he never bores the audience with a pinched performance from a past character, he completely transforms the role and himself and convinces the audience that he's never played anything you've ever seen him in before.  Although I knew him from those three fabulous performances, he again killed me as Lt. Fairfax in the wildly entertaining The Impersonation of Being Ernest, a farce upon a farce produced by Kentucky Conservatory Theatre and adapted by another local talent, Spencer Christiansen.  Christiansen plays Victor Frankenstein in next week's show at the arboretum, and it will be interesting to see him interact with Vannoy and others from the Ernest show, which Spencer also directed.  

For some reason, this rehearsal photo simply will
not sit upright. Maybe it's waiting for lightning to
strike and spark some life into it.  (sorry, lambsies!)

Vannoy describes his journey from last year's musical to this year's monstrosity this way:  "Since Rent I have done The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee ( I have wanted to do that show since i saw it on Broadway in 2006) I did the ten minute play festival show Bloodgrass (directed by Beth Kirchner and played opposite Martha Campbell, both of whom I absolutely adore). Then I did Lonely Planet with Tim Hull and Evan Bergman. (this was one of the most amazing theatrical experiences of my life. I credit both of these men with teaching me the most about acting out of anyone I've worked with. Both incredibly talented, patient, kind, and I still can't believe they trusted me with such an amazing role.)"

Bo List adapted the play from the book
by Mary Shelley.  List has enjoyed success
on many levels with his writing and ability to
update and transform classic works for
contemporary audiences and venues.
"Then I did Crimes of the Heart with the Woodford Theatre (worked with another amazing cast, Ellie Clark in particular who I greatly admire and taught me as a highschooler, and with Beth Kirchner directing me for the 4th time.) Then I got to work on the incredibly creative and collaborative Impersonation of Being Earnest. (In that show I got to work with an all star dream-cast of people I've looked up to and close friends. Spencer Christensen and Henry Layton both taught me when I was a highschooler. Henry has been a mentor and friend to me for a long time and is the most physically gifted actor I've worked with by far. When I was growing up, Spencer was the actor that I wanted to be. I really did Idolize him. The cast also included Ellie, Evan, Jenny Fitzpatrick, one of my best friends Sharonda Piersall, and Jesse Hungerford. So working with all of them was a blast and a dream come true."

As for Frankenstein, Vannoy tells me he loves the instant part because "the Creature is fascinating. He's so hurt. It's interesting to try to inhabit someone who has known almost no kind words, no sympathy, no mother, no father, not even a hug. All he knows is violence and that the world hates him, and that he doesn't belong. Playing a character like that is in some ways a gold mine of emotion and in some ways a trap to fall into the melodramatic. I'm trying really hard not to fall into that while also playing the reality of how much he hurts. It's a nice challenge.”

In the end, though, Vannoy is just as much into the challenge of the physicality of the show as well as working again with his former mentor. “I have worked with Joe (Ferrell, the director) in Cyrano in 2005 when I was still at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School -- I played Bellerose and was a Cadet of Gasconey, basically an ensemble member. Then in 2009 I was in Henry IV Part 1 and I played the Earl of Douglas, which was a role that came on at the end of the play and did a lot of fighting, which I enjoyed.”



Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s
adapted for the stage by Bo List
July 13-July 17
Directed by Joe Ferrell
SummerFest’s monstrous 2011 season continues with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s classic
“Frankenstein” adapted by Bo List and directed by Joe Ferrell.
Purchase tickets online or via phone and receive a discount by going to or by calling 866-811-4111-  Mon-Fri 9am-9pm EST and Sat-Sun 10am-6pm EST.  Tickets for each evening’s performance can be pre-purchased online or via phone before 4:30 PM and onsite beginning at 7:00 PM.
Frankenstein contains simulated violence and loud gunshots.
Victor FrankensteinSpencer Christensen
The CreatureNick Vannoy
ElizabethJoe Fields-Elswick
AlphonsePaul Thomas
JustinePamela Perlman
HenryJacob Karnes
Capt.WaltonG.B. Dixon

What a fantastic cast Joe Ferrell has assembled for Bo List's revival of Frankenstein!  Come for the scenery, stay for the simulated violence choreographed by Henry Layton.  Bring your wine, your picnic and blanket, and prepare to be entertained!  opens tomorrow night -- I highly recommend buying a chair seat if you don't like the whole blanket-ground thing.  For only a few dollars more, you can sit upright and enjoy the show...but the whole blanket-picnic thing's kinda fun, too.  At any rate, I'll see you at the show!

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