Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wiley and the Hairy Man has opened!

This weekend Wiley and the Hairy Man opened! Whew! It seems as if it's been a long time coming and an enormous amount of work. The show is fantastic - really fun and innovative. It's been one of the most creative projects I've ever worked on. I always love working with John Graham, the director. He's one of the most collaborative and creative directors I've seen.

I helped design all the sound for the show. We brought in George Grant as a special guest artist who taught the cast how to Drum Talk, which is vocal percussion and improvisation. After George left, it was my job to review the rhythms that were set with him and create more. Every member of the cast contributed to shaping the sounds in the show. I love that.

Another fun thing about the show is that the set, lighting and costumes were all student designed. Here's a tree getting a fitting with the costume designer. The technical aspects of the show are really amazing! As a student, it's a great opportunity to get to have such an impact on a show at a real theatre.

Here I am ironing the tree skirts (can you iron burlap?) As a student, you are involved in all aspects of the show from acting to nailing together the sets. I can now weild power tools with aplomb!

The remaining show times are September 20, 23, 24, 25, 27, 30 and October 1 and 2 at 7:30. There are also Saturday matinees (9/25, 10/2) at 1:00. You can get tickets at 801 863-PLAY. There might be a buy-one-get-one-free offer if you're bringing kids too. Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 3, 2010

"BE"coming Wiley

The world was created with a word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

In the Koran it says:

To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth; when He decreeth a matter He saith to it: "Be"; and it is. (al-baqarah 2:117)

Cultures the world over believe in the creative power of the word. It is found in their creation myths and folktales. It is found in their rituals.

In Wiley and the Hairy Man, we are the speakers of words and the creators of worlds. Through word and sound we create setting, mood, a moment of palpable fear, a child’s nightmare. The cast worked with musician George Grant who taught us not only how to make cool swamp sounds and vocal rhythm patterns, but how to be composers. We learned how to listen. When you come to show you won’t hear swampy chirps and croaks; you’ll hear conversations – many created improvisationally in that moment. Effects – Images – Harmony Pods – Ostinato Choir – Framing Patterns – Pulsing – Overtone Chanting – these elements and more are techniques that we employ throughout the show to create the world inside Wiley’s head.

Come play with us for:

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams” (Willy Wonka)

Wiley and the Hairy Man playing Sept. 16th - October 2nd, 2010
Noorda Regional Theatre Center for Children and Youth
Utah Valley University

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wiley and the Hairy Man

We started rehearsals this week for Wiley and the Hairy Man at UVU and it is different than any other production I've ever been involved in. I am the assistant director and am there to help design the sound for the show. George Grant, the creator of Drum Talk ( is coming tomorrow and will work with the cast all week. Drum Talk is a unique way to improv music. He teaches a basic skill set and then shows you how to use those elements to layer rhythms and sounds with a group. Some of the rhythms will be notated and set and others will always be improved live throughout the show.

I thought our director, John Graham, was brave to let George and I use such an unheard of, free-style method with the show, but then I saw how John worked this week with the movement for the show. John uses a very similar technique with movement based on the Viewpoints. The two fit together like a hand in a glove. I can't wait for George to meet John tomorrow and watch them work all week.

There are also elements of Bunraku puppetry in the show. This form of puppetry comes from Japan and uses people dressed in black to manipulate life-size puppets. There's been some work with puppeteers manipulating live people as well. We will be using elements of both in the show. To get a little taste, you can watch the You Tube video above. On Saturday, we had races down the hall with two people running in mid-air. Now you don't see that everyday!

I'm going to try to take pictures and video and document the progress of the show on the blog... so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Story

Every year at Christmas for our neighbor gift, we share a new Christmas story. Being a storyteller, it seems like a good thing to do. Well this year, my daughter Kate wrote the story. She is a student at Utah State University and has a sense of humor all her own. When I read her writings, I wonder why I'm even trying to be a writer at all! Enjoy:

The Christmas Plant
A Gourley Family Epic

There are those who question the legitimacy of this story, a few call it myth, and there are those who dare to say it is fable, but I am here to tell you that it is history. Every word is solid fact.

It all began at 6:14 PM a few days before Christmas when Richard Gourley, the father figure in this tale, announced that it was time to trek to the local Albertsons and hunt for a luscious Christmas tree. The man cub Adam and the wee girl child Kate zealously cheered for joy while the Megan sat on the couch and did nothing—needless to say Megan has no part in the rest of this story, but I thought it essential to mention her existence because she is part of our family. Anyway the two youngest of the Gourley clan dressed snugly in warm yet functional garb and ran out to greet their destiny. For this tree hunt would define their young lives and perhaps suspend their childhood above the vast quandaries of life and make them ponder for a moment the meaning of Christmas (don’t worry this won’t get too sentimental so keep reading.)

The Richard and the two children drove successfully to Albertsons and began scrutinizing the evergreens. Now each had a different philosophy by which they abided: Richard sought economy, while Adam searched for hugeness, whereas Kate, the true visionary, looked for a tree that fulfilled basic aesthetic needs. And there it was—in a transcendent moment they all gasped because before them was the perfect tree. Of course they bought it. It was shaping up to be a lovely trip. The man from the store offered to secure the tree to the car roof, but father’s hubris always was his square knot. Therefore the three lurched out of the parking lot with a haphazard tree perched on the roof of their car. Rounding a particularly icy corner Kate detected an odd whoosh.

“Dearest father,” said the darling child, “I do believe our tree might be gone.”

“Impossible, I used a square knot,” grunted the father.

But then again who’s to say what’s impossible? It was vital that they brought the tree safely home. It was their duty. Rolling down the window Kate looked out at the snow zooming by. Adam the stalwart pacifist sat peacefully as Kate dangled out the window to check on the tree. Kate clung to the car like a baby marsupial and poked her head up above the roof line....the tree…..was……….gone. The tree they loved so deeply was gone. The roof was an absence. Squinching back into the car Kate announced the dreadful news, but like prophets of old her truth-speaking was met only by the incredulous statement: it can’t be so.

But it was. When they reached home all was made clear. Stepping out of the car the three travelers stood and faced the ultimate conundrum: they had picked and paid for a Christmas tree, but all that they saw was a staring void were a tree should be. Broken and weary they shuffled into their home with no bounty except for some orange twine that once held the most beautiful tree in the world. As they entered mom greeted them with an idea—they would buy another Christmas tree, but somehow the magic had gone out of the adventure. There could not be two most beautiful trees in the world. Then Richard was struck by true Christmas genius or perhaps another bout of frugality. He pointed to an unnamed tropical plant forgotten in a corner of the room and decreed: “This year, we will have a Christmas plant!”

And thus the Christmas plant was born. The family tenderly decorated the palm leaves with kindergarten clothespin Santas and strings of lights. As they sat around the unconventional Christmas tree they smiled because they realized that the true meaning of Christmas was not a perfect tree but the true meaning was love (If I remember correctly Megan possibly helped to decorate the tree. We will say that she did because it supports that time old theme of family unity). This is the very end of this story but that famous plant still resides in a corner of our front room and has in recent years grown to monstrous proportions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Persephone Revisited

Well the end of the semester has come and gone and I survived! Persephone can emerge from the darkness for a few weeks before it starts all over again.

Looking back on the blogging experience, it wasn’t so bad after all (refer back to my first post in August 2009.) I’m glad Mel made us blog. I enjoyed having a place where I can process through some of my thoughts and challenges. I’m not sure anyone read it (Mel, are you even out there?) I’m not sure I care. But I’m glad I had a deadline to force me to write more often. I am going to try to keep going – even weekly, although I’m not sure I will without a grade tied to it. Perhaps I’ll post some of the things I write for my classes next semester. Who knows?

So, thanks Mel! It was a great semester! Ha, I even joined Facebook today – I’m really getting sucked in now – the pod people have got me…

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Stepping into the Light

This morning I woke up and looked out my window. I saw the mountain shrouded with fog with our neighborhood Christmas tree shining through from above. There was a light dusting of white on everything – and I was filled with joy!

I sat through ward choir with the basses at least a half a measure ahead and the alto section desperately fishing for notes – and I was filled with joy!

Today I listened to beautiful music, spent time with people I love and did a few nice things for others – and I was filled with joy!

For the first time in weeks the knot of fear inside me relaxed, the fuzzy-headed exhaustion lifted and I felt as if I was stepping out of a long dark tunnel into brilliant light.

Now maybe the change from the past few weeks is thanks to large amounts of sleep – and surely that’s part of it, but Much Ado About Nothing opened and I feel exhilarated that I have survived!

This truly has been a transformational experience for me – I have gained new skills and abilities as a performer, I have experienced personal insights and growth and I have forged on through an emotional and physical challenge that has pushed me beyond my limits.

Am I now a phenomenal actor? Not likely, although I definitely have improved – but I am more interested in becoming a phenomenal person and I have just taken a giant leap forward in that direction.

I feel phenomenal…I feel powerful…I feel bathed in light.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Letter to Leonata

Dear Leonata,

Well we open Much Ado About Nothing this week and I can honestly say that to portray you I have never worked so hard, been so challenged or felt so terrified in my life. The last couple of months have been exhilarating, upsetting and exhausting. I am passionate about learning, so in the end, because I have learned so much I am so grateful for this whole experience, but I have to admit when I woke up this morning with a big knot of fear in my stomach I thought, “Can you please just go away?!”

As I have studied you, I have learned much about myself and for that I will always be grateful. I have learned that I did not know how to scream. In your big emotional monologues, I have to scream – and I was at a loss as to how to do that. It’s not that I’ve never raised my voice, but I came to the somewhat surprising realization that I did not know how to scream. I can now – I practiced!

When comparing myself to you, I learned that I apologize for myself – all the time – often on a daily basis. I use self-depreciating humor, I preface what I have to say with a tone of voice or words that excuse what I’m about to say. I even move apologetically. I’ve come to realize that I’ve done it all my adult life, probably beginning back in ninth grade, when I purposely set out to take my rather large personality and make it fit more acceptably into the society around me. You would think an apologetic person would have self-esteem problems and I’m sure some of mine is related to moments when I am feeling less than confident, but most of it stems from hiding. Deep down I have always felt as if I have great power and ability (a great gift I thank my parents for,) but I have often felt that my confidence and joy made others uncomfortable. I have also felt that as I pursued things outside my home, that I was open to criticism from others who did not understand or appreciate my choices – so I have hidden the larger parts of me and apologized them away. This has been a rather shocking self-realization and I am still processing what it means and how understanding this changes me, but one thing is certain: it does change me.

The last thing I learned is that I am very cut off from my body. I have developed my intellect, my character, my talents, but not my body and my emotions. I have a highly developed ability to control and process my emotions in acceptable ways, but not to feel them fully. I have always felt a barrier in my performing and my writing and I think this is it. Until I can experience and process emotion more fully, how can I portray them on paper or on the stage? Next semester I am taking Movement for Actors, which I suspect may end up being one of the most important classes I take at school. I really look forward to exploring this more.

So Leonata… you terrify me. You’ve made me look at myself in new and surprising and sometimes painful ways. You live life raw and real and I don’t always know how to deal with that, but you inspire me to push towards more authenticity in my life. I will not be the same for knowing you. My dearest wish this week is that I can breathe you in and give you life with all the passion and pain that is you – and when all is said and done that I take a piece of you home with me to stay.

Thank you for the journey,

Wendy opens as Leonata in Much Ado About Nothing at UVU on Dec. 3, 2009. Call 801 863-PLAY for tickets.