By Naomi Melvin ('16)
Morning light flooded into Hexen’s rehearsal space, casting a warm glow over the room and the moving bodies. I saw peaceful, playful preparation for the day’s work. Several truths presented themselves as I took my seat.
One: I was amongst friends.
Two: These were talented young artists (undoubtedly).
Three: I knew nothing about Hexen…
…aside from reading the play’s event description on Facebook as “a vibrant mix of song, movement, dance and text to tell you something you’d already know if you’d been listening”.
Evelyn (Director) transitioned the cast into “run” mode and suddenly I was in the wings of a theatre with that familiar buzz all around. Final sips of coffee, texts sent, props placed - they were all prepared. In the opening moments of the play, the witches sing, “we are going to tell you something you already know.”
At which point I felt the play’s familiarity - like an old friend. If you have followed Hexen on social media, you will notice familiar things too upon seeing the show. It is like watching a movie trailer and subsequently seeing the scenes fit into the entire movie. I knew the opening scene of Hexen, I knew the austerity of the play and I knew the witches’ MO. But regardless of prior knowledge, you will leave the show having latched onto a theme, idea or perspective that you have grown up understanding.
Hexen, by Canadian playwright Caleigh Crow, asks simple questions about our world. Yet the dialogue surrounding these questions is rich and palpable. The characters are people we know but also archetypes for much larger powers that seem too inaccessible. The world of the play is our backyard but also disregards time and space. Hexen is a dichotomy of things. But again, I insist that it is familiar.
Filled with many themes, the actresses recognize that picking just one focus would be a disservice to the play. Evelyn adds that all she wants is for the audience to see talented young women show their strong chops through a piece with which she connects deeply. They are a humble, beautiful group who have been rehearsing since August, very shortly after all graduating from Randolph Academy. They started by rehearsing outside which, for this play in particular, is highly appropriate. I saw the pay off as the piece is aware of nature in the way the bodies move onstage.
I asked Evelyn some further questions, given that she is a fresh-faced graduate and director who is creating new work.
N: Why Hexen and why now?
E: I think every artist has a message they want to send and mine has always been change. Which, yes, is very vague but I've yet to find something that fits my beliefs any better. Without realizing it, I’ve always tried to challenge the predictable ways of thinking and doing things. Through Randolph, I found a clearer voice to express my beliefs. Hexen is all about change. How people have changed for the worst. How the world is begging us to change for the better. How people resist change unless it makes our lives easier.
Why now? Because once I got my hands on this script, images came almost immediately. I've always had a photographic memory, so Hexen was literally all I dreamed about once those images were in my mind. I've always believed that if you have a strong passion for something and it's all you think about, you have to do that thing until you lose your passion or achieve what you want. Letting things pass you by is the biggest mistake. You have to take chances.
N: As a director, how did you open the rehearsal process with your actors?
E: I knew immediately who I wanted. In fact I was so drawn to the piece because people I really admired and loved fit the roles perfectly. So, I had them each read for a few parts to solidify my original casting ideas. Then I held individual rehearsals with each cast member to see how I could tailor their parts more using music, dance and the text.
N: What is the biggest transformation that you’ve seen over the course of the process?
E: We’ve been doing roughly two 2-hour rehearsals per week for two months and a few during the end of Footloose [our final show at Randolph].
Watching the ideas from myself, my cast and other actors/directors turn into an actual show has been the most rewarding part. Even some joking comments have made their way into the show and everything we've added that wasn't in the original script has definitely helped shape this show into much more than a one-act play.
N: What is the thing that has kept you awake most at night with regards to the show?
Doing it all. I think it'll be a while before I take on as many responsibilities as this. Between directing, producing, set and costume design, and the dramaturgy, there was always something to be thinking about every night. Many nights I woke up from a witch fever dream to pages of scribbled, incoherent note paper. So much has changed since we started and I think that's because I'm always up for taking criticism and every comment and suggestion as meaningfully as possible.
N: How did you source space to rehearse and perform?
E: It’s hard to find free space. I wish this wasn't the case. I wish more places had opportunities for upcoming companies to get their feet off of the ground. Of course, I understand that all art workers need money as much as we did in this process. Working outside was a blessing because our show has such a environmental message but bringing it into the B.Streets Party Room was essential for our focus.
N: What is something that you must have at every rehearsal?
E: Communication. There were troubles in the beginning with power struggles. Asserting myself as a director and not dictator was a challenge. I'm not good with conflicts so I made many back-handed comments that I'm not proud of. Learning through this process to completely explain the issues and LISTEN to all sides has definitely helped solidify our rehearsals.
N: Dramaturging this show - what was your starting place?
E: I started by reading the script 5 times back to back. Then, reading it as many times as possible every day I dramaturged. I think knowing the script inside and out is essential. I then broke down every line and stage directions for what they meant - what they referenced and the relevance to our world here and now. Then, I added in the music I wanted after carefully figuring out if it was necessary or just fluffing the show. In fact, we are still dramaturging at this point. The current election is very compelling and poignant to cover in our show so we tried to add in an aspect of that as well.
N: What is your director eye always looking for in a rehearsal?
E: Improvement. We spent two straight years at Randolph learning how to go deep into our work, so I like to think I gave the girls a structure and left them to design the house. I'm very strict on blocking and intentions but the style, character and depth is all theirs to apply. I have seen these characters grow so much since we started. Kaitie has turned her human character into one of the most dynamic forces on stage. Taylor stays on stage silently for half the show and draws all eyes to her. Kaia and I have worked endlessly on her movement work which is by far the most difficult. Marley’s text work started out brilliantly and now every word, breath and pause is utterly compelling. Rachel never said no. She plays a deer, a wolf and a miner, she sings and dances and moves and did everything without questioning it. These girls work so hard and I don't think I'll find such a dedicated cast again for a very long time.
N: What is something that you directly applied from Randolph to the work?
E: It is work. It is hard. You should be giving 100%. There is nothing that could stop this production once we got going because we know how bad we want it and how much it takes to make it happen. There are no sick days. There are no excuses. There are no breaks in the work.
N: What are you reading/listening to/watching right now?
E: A Green History of Planet Earth, a BBC non-fiction about the evolution of civilizations and their impact on our world.
Anything and everything about the U.S. presidential election.
I’m listening to 21 pilots, specifically “Car Radio” and “Migraine”.
Hexen runs October 28 -30 at the Storefront Theatre Studio Space at 296 Brunswick Ave. Tickets are available here
Nixe/Hunter - Katie Allinger ('16)
Erde/Fisher - Kaia Richardson ('16)
Tier/Miner - Rachel Cvecich ('16)
Brennan - Taylor Shouldice ('16)
Messenger/Child - Marley Kajan ('16)
Stage Manager: Sydney LaForme ('16)
Directed by Evelyn Marie ('16)
October 28th @ 8pm
October 29th @ 7pm and 8:30pm
October 30th @ 7pm and 8:30pm