Friday, August 28, 2015

Five Questions for Samantha Phillips-Norton, Actor & Fight Choreographer

We are happy to have Samantha Phillips-Norton teaching Theatre Appreciation for the Division of Theatre & Dance this fall while Professor Krupp is on sabbatical. Sam is a regular collaborator with the division. She taught Stage Combat for theatre students and was the fight choreographer for last fall’s BU Players production of Macbeth. We asked her five questions.

Fight rehearsal for Macbeth choreographed by Sam Norton.
How did you first become interested in theatre?
I first became interested in theatre in Rota Spain where my Father was stationed. My parents had a wild pack of friends, both military and native, who jumped on the idea to start a local community theatre. My Father was the leading force in this endeavour since he had more "theatrical training" than the others, meaning he had once dressed in drag to do a radio play when stationed in Antartica.  I remember the sensation of being bewitched watching my Mother and Father performing Shakespeare.

What is your favorite thing about theatre?
My favorite thing about theatre is Samuel Tayor Coleridge's coined phrase, "suspension of disbelief"- (1817 Biographia Literania): "[...] to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."  There is nothing like that moment we find ourselves 'inside' the story. It's a very elusive victory for the actor and their audience.

What's one of your favorite shows you have ever worked on?
I was cast in the American Repertory Theatre's national tour of Shlemiel the First. It was my first time working with an ensemble of real pros., Robert Brustein, Hankus Netsky, Robert Israel, Catherine Zuber, and David Gordon. David Gordon directed the musical to the break-neck tempos of Klezmer music. In addition to understudying the two female leads, my job was to replace, without interruption, any 'wise men' who left the stage with a stunt dummy. I loved the speed and precision of the exchanges. Also exciting was the opportunity to perform the lead female part for a weekend and being cast in the Broadway(bound), production.

What’s one show you would love to work on someday? 
Mrs. Peachum in Brecht's Threepenny Opera, (hint, hint). Any play Mark Rylance is in, (like his upcoming production, Nice Fish) or ANYTHING Dame Judi Dench is doing- like The Winter's Tale at the Garrick theatre in London. It's not so much the role that I desire, it's the dream of working with extremely talented artists.

If you were a fruit of vegetable, what would it be? Why?
If I were a fruit it would have to be the banana. As a banana, kids love you. It's also one of the fruits they often have a hard time pronouncing- which can be funny and endearing. Grown-ups think you're funny. They use your skin for pratfalls.The polar opposite of the popular banana is my favorite vegetable-the brussel sprout. It is one of the most hated vegetables in America. I am the brussel sprout. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside with a surprisingly nutty flavor. Even the most ardent loather can be converted when they pay attention to we're prepared. We are secretly delicious.

Samantha Phillips-Norton holds an MFA in Opera and Theatre from the University of Maryland College Park, and is an Affiliate Artist with The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.  Recently at BTE, Samantha played Jean in Good People, Mrs. Billiams in A Very Special Christmas Special and the Musician/Judge in The Merchant of Venice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Five Questions for Bob Cardana, Technical Director & Lighting Designer

This fall we welcome Bob Cardana as our technical director, lighting design instructor and lighting designer for Neighborhood 3. He is with us this fall while Professor Ethan Krupp is on sabbatical. We asked him five questions. 

How did you first become interested in theatre?
Fresh into college, I was all set to become a chemist. Taking both chemistry classes and theater classes, I found myself spending way too much time in the theater and way to little time in the Chem lab.
I much preferred the scene shop and lighting grids, learning how these new-fangled computers made the lights change, rather than memorizing the periodic table of the elements.   We did the Scottish play. Whoa, that was cool! I ran a manual 5 scene preset light board.  I could do this for a living? Someone would pay me to do this?
Needless to say I dropped chemistry and added more theater. 
But the real infection took hold when I walked into a dress rehearsal of "Tosca" at the San Francisco Opera.  The music and the visuals were overwhelming.  It was in Italian, and I had no idea what was happening, but that didn't matter, it was beautiful and I could feel the light.  Add in torture, murder and in the end (Spoiler Alert) she throws herself off the top of the castle. It was so epic.

What's your favorite thing about theatre?
I love that it allows me to learn anything and everything from art to physics. That we study the entire universe, change, arrange, manipulate it, squeeze it down into its essence, take a tiny drop of the distilled truth and make it come alive again.  
And each project is different.  No assembly line work for me.  Oh, the boredom of repetition. 
Electricity, wood, design, building stuff - solving problems, thinking, doing, login and emotion - New projects, different theaters, working with so many different people, various schools and so many students.  But my favorite thing?  Proving Socrates got it wrong, theater is truth.

What's one of the favorite shows you have ever worked on?
Of course we never forget our first, do we?  I'll always have a place in my heart for the Scottish play. Look it up, if you don't know which one that is, and the first freshman to see me on campus and whisper the name into my ear (but only if I am outside, never inside) wins a prize.
My first lighting design was Studs Turkle's "Working". I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and I had to figure it out as I went along, but I knew from that moment, my life was never going to be the same. 

What's one show that you would love to work on someday?
Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom.

If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would it be? Why?
But I am a fruit AND a vegetable!  What's wrong with that?  Why are you asking?  Don't you know? Isn't that OK?  I thought it was the right thing to do. No, not really.  Actually I am a bear.  I sit in a freezing river catching salmon, then lay in the sun eating huckleberries the rest of the day. A solitary, active animal that works like hell half the year then hibernates.
I act like a grizzly bear but if I stay around long enough, you might eventually find out I'm secretly a teddy bear.  But, we know not to poke bears with sticks, right?  And don't forget you can tell grizzly bear crap from black bear scat by the little bells in the grizzly poop. 
Nothing like avoiding the question and then answering another question that wasn't asked. 

Bob Cardana has worked theater from Montana to Mexico and Maine to Marin since his first paid design job too many years ago.  He used that money to buy a drafting table.  After earning a Bachelor’s of Arts in Technical Theater at California State University, he received a full-paid scholarship plus housing, to attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas as part of their 3 year MFA design program, where they gave him a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Stage Design with specialties in Lighting and Scenery.