MFA Directing student Brett Dahl has a conversation with Aaron Refugio and Mackenzie Sutton, two 4th year BFA Actors who have been anticipating the premiere of Beth Graham's Weasel since their 2nd year. The transcript is lightly edited for clarity and length.
Brett: What is it like rehearsing for a play written specifically for you and your class?
Mackenzie: In second year, we heard some ideas Beth was bouncing around.Then we got an outline of what the script would be. Then we had two readings with the class and then a workshop in the fall. The script was dramatically different each time we saw it, but also so familiar.
Aaron: The work feels so personal. There is a sense that we’ve contributed to the writing of it. There is something to be said of the collaborative element of this process.
Mackenzie: The thing I am most impressed with is how Beth has put 14 bodies on stage and all characters have an arc and connect and breathe together.
Brett: What have you learned about acting through developing a new play?
Aaron: As an actor, I feel like the most fascinating thing in the process has been negotiating changing lines. There are moments when Beth is rigid with specific phrases she wants, and it affects the way you have to maneuver your objectives to say it how it is written and other times she’s open to changing lines to suit the actor.
Mackenzie: She changed the end of a scene for a couple of us on Saturday morning that completely changed my character’s intention and arc in the play, but that speaks to how organic the characters have become in our bodies. Who ‘Charlie’ is for me is completely different from the first read-through!
Aaron: There is an ownership that comes with that - you are growing up with a character. That’s one advantage of working on a new play, because you know all the versions of your character that could have been. It opens windows of how you embody them.
Brett: What unique challenges does a new play require of you and how has your training prepared you for this experience?
Mackenzie: I’ve only worked on plays that already existed, so I think the malleability and exploration and imagination that is asked of us every day in our classes, that kind of imagination and extension is also required to create something that hasn’t had breath in it before.
Aaron: Coming from an improv background, it has the same energy of improv. We don’t know what it is yet and we are discovering what it can be. Willingness and patience. Willingness to go fully in the direction the director or playwright asks you to go, so they can see what that possibility is to see if this new thing will work!
Mackenzie: And there’s the trust we have after three years of working with each other. There is a safety and camaraderie as we explore new things as a cast.
Aaron: We got what I’m hoping is the final, final draft of the show this weekend. Saturday [Oct 1st] was the first time we were running the show top to bottom, but there was so much trust in the room.
Mackenzie: That’s also part of Kevin’s atmosphere as a director. He has taken a monster of a script and he is learning at the same time we are. Sometimes we will get new lines that he doesn’t have in his script yet. It’s pretty funny sometimes.
Aaron: Every pass is like, buckle in, let’s go!