Mary-Grace Bunker (Director), Gia Damp (Producer) and Joseph Murphy (Victor Le Pewe) discuss the John XXIII Dramatic Society’s upcoming production of Drop Dead.
Why do you think that theatre is important?
MGB: There’s nothing else like it. It’s the most ancient form of storytelling we have, and in my opinion the most powerful. I think it’s the fact that every element of theatre must work together, in perfect harmony, in real time, in front of an audience. It’s the difference between reading Hamlet in an English class and seeing it come to life. It’s being in an audience next to complete strangers, and sharing the same series of emotions and thoughts in the dark. Seeing a fantastic movie is memorable, but seeing a very good play can stay with you for a lifetime.
I understand that you are looking to market the production beyond just the Johns XXIII community this year, what prompted this endeavor and why do you think it is important?
GD: When I took on the role of producer I said to MG, “I want this to be bigger than Johns.” Every year the Colleges put on amazing productions and a lot of the time, only their own residents attend. We really want to encourage everyone to ‘get around the play’ by offering $10 student tickets for our Thursday performance. We have been liaising with other colleges to see if they are interested in coming to our performance, and having us at theirs. But there are challenges – it is difficult to know who to get in contact with as there are no clear channels of communication. To be honest, I just try everything I can, because I really believe that it is important for everyone to start ‘getting around’ all the fantastic productions on offer.
Without giving too much away, can you tell me a little about the plot?
GD: It is about a group of washed up actors trying to revive their careers, and a megalomaniac “wonder child” director (Victor Le Pewe) who is trying to prove he’s still got it. Essentially, it is a play about a play. And more specifically, it is a murder mystery, about a murder mystery.
Given the amount of murder in the play, can we expect anything gruesome at all?
GD: Of course! In any good murder mystery there should be some blood and guts. The audience won’t be getting their money’s worth without it. Only kidding, no gruesomeness – all the blood spilled will be for comedic purposes.
I gather that the set is fairly minimalistic, does this place any extra pressure on the actors themselves?
MGB: The best thing about the set this year is that it is almost a character in itself. (The other best thing is that it’s truly ‘budget’!) So many gimmicks revolve around the construction of the set in the play itself, which gives the actors hilarious little opportunities to interact with it in different ways. So I suppose rather than adding pressure, it actually offers the actors cool moments of comedy.
As a Director, how did you go about uniting the cast, some of whom likely did not know each other that well before rehearsals began?
MGB: My biggest fear was that the cast wouldn’t gel as well as it had done in previous years. We have three first years in the cast of ten, which is far better than I’d hoped, considering auditions are dauntingly early in the year. The combination of old-hands and newcomers just worked from day one, without the need for me to do anything. Within a week we were playing board games together. I actually can’t get them to shut up, I wish they didn’t like each other that much.
How did you develop your character and come to be able to take on Victor’s personality? Do you ever have trouble turning your character ‘on and off’?
JM: Victor Le Pewe is a character with one purpose, to perform. He has obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to directing broadway productions, and as such it gives him a number of unique quirks, in some ways, Victor resembles the quirks of my own personality. The nail biting, the anxious hand movements, and especially the obsessive and addictive nature we share. To develop him, I looked at my own mannerisms and trivialities, embellishing them until they bordered near psychotic levels. I love playing Victor because he really gets my endorphins going no matter my mood. So yeah, I do sometimes struggle to turn him off. Not because ‘I’ve become Victor Le Pewe’, but because his passion and conviction is exciting to be a part of.
What reaction would you like to get out of the audience?
JM: I’m not too sure what I expect Le Pewe to do to the audience. I don’t want him to shock them, or scare them, but I think his purpose in the play is to make the audience pay attention to the struggle of working with a company of actors with A.D.D. Don’t get me wrong, his purpose isn’t one of metaphoric symbolism, as he consistently manages to provide comic relief in the form of self-indulgence and a stereotypically theatrical fervor. Nonetheless, Le Pewe is one of the most wacky yet wonderful characters on stage… keep your eyes peeled.
As members of the audience, will we be left guessing up until the final moments?
MGB: I hope so! We’ve tried to make everyone a suspect. That’s all I’ll say.