Education

TRAIN STUDENTS: SISTER ACT!

No Comments 11 December 2017

TRAIN DECEMBER STUDENTS: SISTER ACT!

We often say that every student who participates in our TRAIN program becomes part of our TRAIN family. Some of our TRAIN-ers, however, are lucky enough to already be family.

Elise and Molly Nugent and Emmy and Caroline Gravely are our two sets of powerhouse sisters in TRAIN this year. All four acknowledged that their natural competitive tendencies make them their sister’s most honest critic and source of motivation to challenge herself. But they also agreed that, as the person who knows them best, their sister is their favorite scene partner as well as their biggest supporter.

Our dynamic duos answered a few questions for us, giving some insight on how their journey began together as actors, their process while working together, and what it’s like to share the stage with your sister.

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The Nugent Sisters

Elise (left) and Molly (right)

 

Who started acting/performing first?

Molly: Since I am the younger sister, Elise started performing first, but I wasn’t too far behind. My whole family started doing CharacterWorks theater and went on to Virginia Repertory Theatre.

Have you worked on any projects together?

Elise: Molly and I have performed in many musicals together. We’ve taken many classes and intensives together such as TRAIN. Within TRAIN, we were part of the TRAIN Express ensemble that performed at events last year.

Molly: We also improv around the house whenever we can!

What’s it like to work with your sister?

Molly: I always have so much fun working with Elise. Knowing each other so well makes connecting and building on each other’s work super easy. I love to have her around during the practices of shows and for moral support.

Elise: I really enjoy working with Molly because we think alike when making choices on stage. This makes it easy to build scenes and understand the direction of the scene. It is also really fun to have her with me in the rehearsal process. Molly is my personal director as an actress, and vice versa.

How do you two differ as actors? How are you alike?

Molly: I tend to lean towards more serious roles whereas Elise goes for the comedy, but we both love to try it all. I look up to Elise because of her ability to make the character her own and make it super believable. She can always get people to laugh. As I’m growing as an actress, I want to make sure I can do all types of roles, but we both can take a challenge.

Elise: Molly is a more talented actress than I am. She can and will do it all. Molly puts on very compelling serious performances that are so believable, it’s awesome. On the other hand, I tend to make choices that are out of the ordinary with the sole purpose of getting a laugh or two — of course, only when it is appropriate for the scene!

What’s your favorite area and why (film, voice, etc.)?

Elise: This is a challenging question, because I love to experience it all. Over the years, I’ve found that musical theater feels like home. I love the storytelling that it requires alongside the difficulty of perfecting singing, acting, and dancing at the same time.

Molly: I personally love the film side of things because of the intimacy and detailed work. The process of film really fascinates me. I love both film and theater, but film is definitely where my head is pointed.

What’s next for each of you?

Molly: On December 15, the movie Permanent will be released, and I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of it. The movie was my first big project, and I’m very excited for it to come out. As for right now, I am auditioning and waiting for my next big thing.

Elise: I am a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Henrico High School, and I aspire to be an orthodontist. But I don’t want to leave the arts behind. I hope to join club theaters in college and perform as a side gig when I graduate.

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The Gravely Sisters

Emmy (left) and Caroline (right)

 

Who started acting/performing first?

While both of us began putting on small performances in the backyard for our family at a young age, Emmy was the first to act outside of the home environment. She enrolled in an acting class with SPARC at age 7.

Have you worked on any projects together?

Yes. Most of our projects have been school Drama Club productions, but we’ve also performed in various other summer programs and at Chickenstock, a local festival that was created to benefit the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund (FARF). We really enjoy working together because it gives us both an immediate burst of confidence to know we’re always there for each other.

What’s it like to work with your sister?

We deal with the occasional sibling rivalry, but for the most part, we both believe working together strengthens our performance and connection to each other, not only as actors but also as sisters. It’s nice to have one another for support, honest critiques, and spontaneous pre-show hugs.

How do you two differ as actors? How are you alike?

Emmy tends to have a very boisterous, energetic, and comedic style, while Caroline’s style is often more dramatic. We both approach new roles in a similar manner, but we always end up taking different paths to achieve our end result.

What’s your favorite area and why (film, voice, etc.)?

We both prefer live theater because of the intimacy and connection between the actors and the audience. The exhilaration of being on stage in front of a live audience is a feeling unlike any other, and it is what inspires us to continue doing what we love.

Camps & Workshops, Education

TRAIN Students Land Film Roles

No Comments 02 November 2017

Magnolia Pictures International

Cadence Theatre Company and Virginia Repertory Theatre are delighted to announce that two TRAIN students, senior Nena Daniels and freshman Ellie Duffey, both students at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, have landed roles in Permanent, a coming-of-age comedy set in 1983 in a small town in Virginia.

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Nena Daniels

TRAIN is the two theater companies’ year-long, sequential program that helps serious acting students in the Richmond area learn practical applications of their artistic craft, build relationships to succeed in the business, and get a better understanding of themselves as artists. Daniels has been with the program for two years, and Duffey has been with the TRAIN program for three years.

Permanent, starring Rainn Wilson (The Office) and Patricia Arquette (a Best Supporting Actress winner for Boyhood), tells the story of an idiosyncratic family striving for an artistic identity. The film centers around the family’s 13-year- old daughter, who tries to fit in at her new school despite encounters with bullies.

Ellie Duffey

Ellie Duffey

Daniels and Duffey, along with some of their fellow TRAIN students, heard about the opportunity to audition through TRAIN, which involves not only acting technique for the stage but also acting for film and television. This helped Duffey overcome an unfamiliarity with auditioning for film. “Before TRAIN, I had never been drawn to film,” Duffey said. “But after our classes, my interest and knowledge of the business grew. Auditioning has always been nerve-wracking, but with the tools I had studied in class, I felt more confident auditioning for this film.”

Both young women drew on the skills they had learned in TRAIN during filming. Daniels had already learned how to react to her scene partner and develop a backstory for her character. But some challenges were new. “I realized early on while filming that theater and film are two different platforms,” Daniels said. “I noticed that I would act big on screen when I didn’t need to. Film acting is about simplicity. The more simple it is, the more complex.”

Duffey also found acting on film to be a new experience. “I learned how to connect with another actor on camera,” Duffey said. “Throughout the entire process, I practiced patience and flexibility.”

Landing the role in Permanent is not Duffey’s only recognition this year. As a cast member of Quill Theatre’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, she received a Richmond Theatre Critics Circle nomination as Promising Newcomer for her portrayal of Moth. “Being nominated was so amazing and so cool,” Duffey said. “I’m so proud of the work we all put into Love’s Labour’s Lost, and to be recognized for that was so special. It meant a lot to me and to the entire cast.”

Both young actors look forward to the seeing the results of their work on screen.

“I had an absolute blast from the first day of filming to the end,” Daniels said. “I was in an environment with loving and caring people who had immense talent, from the working crew to the actors. When I finished filming, I felt this immediate sadness that an experience like this was coming to an end but appreciative that I had been involved with such a wonderful production. All of a sudden, everyone in the room burst into applause. I was filled with emotion to the point that I gave them all hugs one by one.”

TRAIN Program Director and Acting Technique teacher Laine Satterfield said, “We are so proud when our students get a chance to share their artistry with a wider audience. Our objective at TRAIN is to give them as many possibilities to further their craft in the professional world.”

Permanent will be out in select theaters, Amazon Video, iTunes and On Demand on December 15, 2017.

 

Education, Onstage

4th Wall Reviews Fun Home

No Comments 26 September 2017

 

4thwall_darrenTheatre Review:  Fun Home

by Darren Bradley

Fun Home is a Tony Award-winning production that is an adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir. Cadence’s production of the show opened on September 9th, and has been extended to October 15th. The show tells the story of Allison Bechdel growing up in the Bechdel Funeral Home which is own by her dad. This show is well done by putting the audience in the perspective of the performers, literally, and showing them the life of these characters. The role of Allison is played by three separate people who represent her childhood, teenager, and grown-up version of herself. Violet Craghead, Elizabeth Wyld, and Becca Ayers respectively. It tells the intriguing story of her life growing up with a gay father and her coming into her own light of sexuality. The story takes you on a wild roller coaster that one can never forget.

 

4thwall_elleTheatre Review:  Fun Home

by Elle Lockett

Fun Home was thrilling and relatable from the very beginning. Alison Bechdel’s description of a “perfect” family interlaced with Alison’s current perspective and knowledge of the many situations her younger self had gone through were hilarious, sweet, and revealing. Under the direction of Chase Kniffen this show flourished with upbeat, happy dance based numbers, such as “Raincoat of Love” that sharply contrasted with the more solemn, serious songs like “Telephone Wire” and “Edges of the World.” The show gave me a new perspective on growing up and the influence a father can have on his children. Virginia Repertory Theatre did a fantastic job showing how Bruce’s actions forever altered Alison’s life.

One of my favorite aspects of this show was the onstage seating. I think that it’s a wonderful way to arrange Virginia Repertory Theatre’s Theatre Gym and a wonderful way to play towards all parts of the stage. This gave the audience the opportunity to feel as if they were in the home itself. While sitting on stage left I felt included in every scene and that I was never subjected to starting at the actors’ backs. In fact, some scenes were played more towards the on stage seating. This can be seen when Roy and Bruce are upstairs alone or at the end of “Edges of the World.” All together the arrangement of this set was clever and inclusive to all audience members..

Duke Lafoon’s performance was groundbreaking. When dealing with an extremely complex character, like Bruce,  he was able to show the patterns of cheating and the beginnings of insanity with perfect clarity. I was not once confused when trying to understand his objective, except for the overall why he killed himself; however, I think that is the thinking point of the show. It’s a question that was swimming around in my head all day.  

In short Cadence Theatre’s production of Fun Home was thought-provoking, meaningful, and realistic. The show was supported and empowered by a strong message of how your life can change other’s. The experience was highly enjoyable and cathartic, just as expected from the idea of adding a monumental musical like Fun Home, to Cadence Theatre Company’s and Virginia Repertory Theatre’s amazing cast and crew.

 

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Theatre Review:  Fun Home

By Eden Johnson

Fun Home is a biographical musical about the life of cartoonist and LGBT activist Allison Bechdel. It weaves through many different parts of her life and her journey of self discovery. While she is realizing her own identity, her father waivers between suppressing and experimenting with his own sexuality, which drives him into depression.  Mr. Bechdel’s struggles, and eventual suicide changes the Bechdel family’s future, as well as their own memories of their past.

The narrative is told through Allison’s eyes at different stages of her life: childhood, the college years, and as a present-day adult. As all three figures recount her story, adult Allison narrates with hilarious comments and gripping insights about what was really going on as these events unfold.

The role of Allison Bechdel is marvelously played by Broadway veteran Becca Ayers (Les Miserables, The Addams Family, Avenue Q). Ayers gets the humor, emotional torment, and complexity of this character. I truly connected with Allison Bechdel throughout the show. Ayers perfectly delivers every comedic line and will have you in stitches at times. The actor who played Bruce, Duke Lafoon, was perfectly cast in his role: you could slowly see Bruce crumbling to pieces as the show progressed. Overall, I believe that everyone was expertly cast and each actor brought something important to the show.

The set was another standout part of the show. The intimate theatre had onstage seating, and pieces of the set were in the audience. The “surround sound” orchestra (split between two pedestals) was wonderful, but could get a little loud at times, especially for seats directly in front of the drums. Allison’s drawing desk was in the aisle, which is a wonderful idea for people on end seats, but people off to the side or in the front had obstructed views during certain scenes in the show. I did enjoy how a lot of the scenery was done using lighting. The crew projected images of Bechdel’s drawings on the wall so they didn’t have to fill their limited space with a bulky set. Any visibility issues were outweighed by the artistic benefits of distributing the set beyond the stage.

Finally, I have to talk about musical numbers, because Fun Home is a musical. Every number in the show was wonderfully executed. Becca Ayers, Duke Lafoon, and Andrea Rivette (Helen) all delivered beautiful emotional ballads, but the songs involving the young actors were the showstoppers.Ring of Keys is my personal favorite because it shows the moment when Little Allison realizes she likes girls. Violet Craghead-Way (Little Allison) has such a powerful voice coming out of her tiny frame! I also enjoyed “Come to the Fun Home”, the song where the kids create an imaginary ad for the funeral home that was reminiscent of The Jackson Five. It was full of such energy and joy, despite the subject matter, that it made me want to get up and dance.

Don’t miss your chance to see Fun Home at Cadence Theatre! It is  approximately 90 minutes long and is recommended for ages 15 and up for language, thematic elements, and some sexual content.

 

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Theatre Review:  Fun Home

by Maya Jenkins

Fun Home. Fun Home is musical. It is a musical that is humorously depressing. It is tragically beautiful. It is familiar, yet a stranger. Fun home is a show. It is a show that I most likely will never forget.

This interactive story is about Alison (Becca Ayres), a butch 43-year old woman, who is retelling and rethinking her past for her graphic novel. The majority of Fun Home revolves around her connection to her father, Bruce Bechdel (Duke Lafoon), and the Funeral Home her family, Helen (Andrea Rivette), Christian (Brandon McKinney), and John (Cole Johnson), lived in. The story primarily focuses on her fluctuated relationship with him from them both being gay, and his suicide when she was a young adult.

This wasn’t my first time in Cadence, but as soon as I walked in with my ticket, I was no longer where I was outside of the theater.  I walked into the Bechdel Funeral home, in rural Pennsylvania. I was greeted by burgundy curtains and antique lamps. The walls that I once knew to be black brick, now wore yellow, floral wallpaper. Cadence is a theater that is already intimate but the scenery and lighting, lead by Daniel Burgess and and Joe Doran, consumed me. This was different than any other show I’ve seen at Cadence because there were people on stage as well as actresses and actors in the traditional audience. Characters often watched  alongside audience members, as if we were experiencing the same thing. From the set looking so realistic, the funeral home was more than “cozy.” It was almost trapping as many of the characters were in this show. At times when I saw the characters imploding on themselves, I felt the theater getting smaller. Various Alisons’ were trapped in the idea of what her father wanted her to be. Helen (Andrea Rivette), her mother, was trapped in a loveless marriage. Bruce (Duke Lafoon) was trapped in a man who did not embody his true sexuality.

The band serenaded from the balconies above, and will probably be the cause of endless humming for the next few weeks. Below them we saw these perfectly executed flawed characters. This musical is unique in the fact that three people played the same character, but at different stages of the character’s life. Because all the Alisons presented themselves as one, I periodically had to remind myself that they were separate. All the Alisons  seemed bonded through experience, however each actress gave a diverse flare to which stage they were playing. Violet Craghead-Way, who played Little Alison, gave such a mature role a youthful touch that brightened the stage. Elizabeth Wyld, who played Medium Alison wore a familiar awkwardness on every phrase and hand gesture that everyone could relate to. Becca Ayers, who played Big Alison presented the most vulnerable side to her character. We could see her inner emotions crypted on her face, projected on the wall from her book, and through her captioning in the graphic novel. We were all watching her characters life drifting past us like it was drifting past her. As she was retelling and rethinking her history for her book, so was I. When Ayers looks at the audience, she did as if we were good friends. She told the story as if she was telling it to herself. I could see Helen’s (Andrea Rivette) frustration from her dying relationship  with her husband in this funeral home.  Duke Lafoon (Bruce) showed his character’s slow death, from his lack of knowing who he was.

This musical is wildly unique. Not everyday do I come across a story narrated by a lesbian graphic novelist. Not everyday do I watch a musical on a woman’s journey of truly being free through reviewing her past with father, who was a closeted homosexual, mortician. Not everyday do I even see three characters playing the same one. Fun Home is immensely different.

One of the first lines in the show by Big Alison  was “My dad and I were nothing alike…. My dad and I were everything alike.”  I couldn’t name even a subtle likeness between me and Alison’s life. However in that theater, I felt like we carried all the same similarities, as if we carried the same life. Sometimes as I watched Alison watching her life and smiling, I saw a audience member beside her smiling the same way. Every person in that theatre shared something. We shared an experience. We shared the knowledge of her experiences. Even though Alison’s situation was not like many the core meaning of her journey is universal. As I heard Medium Alison sing “I’m changing my major to Joan,” I thought of all the people who have been so infatuated with someone that they have analyzed the knowledge of that person in an truly scientific manner. I felt a connection to  Little Alison when I heard her singing  “La la la la” over her parents arguing, because we all have  wanted to drown out the noise of awful things surrounding us, When I saw Bruce’s “identity attack” near the end of his life, I thought of how relatable it was to see a person not knowing who they are because they have tried to be someone they are not for a very long time. This musical was sad a times but happy at others. Behind the smiles and humorous moments, their was true meaning.

Art is suppose to unite us when it’s hard to find something to bring us together. Theater to me is storytelling in which we can gravitate toward people who are nothing like us from shared experiences. Theater to me is an artistic representation of progression. When we can see ourselves in our worst enemy, it is so much harder to hate them. When we can see ourselves in characters involved in the French Revolution, curious adolescents tragically discovering their sexuality at a religious boarding school in nineteenth century Germany, or immigrants living in Washington Heights, it brings the human race together. Theater shows that we are more alike than unalike. That is what Fun Home did. Alison is a Butch graphic novelist. She is the daughter of a funeral director in rural Pennsylvania, who was gay and committed suicide. Also, Alison is just a person who is trying to get self understanding through her journey to freedom. I see myself in Alison. Do you?

 

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Theatre Review:  Fun Home

by Samantha Game

Caption: From the intimate staging to the truly beautiful direction done by Chase Kiffen, Fun Home is sure to amaze and astonish all audiences. Written by Lisa Kron and Jeanne Tesori, Fun Home is both a heartwarming and heart wrenching autobiographical musical that follows Alison Bechdel, a middle-aged lesbian cartoonist, as she recalls memories from two time periods in her broken past: one being her 10-year-old self and one being in her first year of college.  This honest story focuses in on what it is like to be part of a highly dysfunctional family and opens up conversations about subjects such as sexuality, infidelity, and death.

Becca Ayres brilliantly effuses a sense of rawness while portraying Alison.  Her technique paired with her extraordinary vocals is sure to move any audience. Likewise, the innocence displayed by both Violet Craghead-Way (Small Alison) and Elizabeth Wyld (Medium Alison) give the audience perspective when telling the backstory to the facets of Alison’s personality and how that ties into who the character is as an adult. Also, Duke Lafoon (Bruce Bechdel) and Andrea Rivette (Helen Bechdel) both take a truthful approach to their characters, which is highly important when portraying such emotionally-charged people.

The intimate performance space was perfect for this show and the staging was sublime. Perhaps the best part of this interpretation of Fun Home was the splendid use of the projections, however. Since this show is based off of a comic book, Joe Doran (Lighting Designer) took to projecting drawings of paintings, signs, and other objects that would typically be set pieces, onto the set.  This stellar idea is a smart way to give this show an artistic touch.

To conclude, this breathtaking show is a must-see, as it is sure to resonate with all audiences.

 

Contemporary Award-Winning Theatre

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