Ladies and gentlemen! I would love to express to you the joy generated by the wonderful journey that I went through this past week in the world of theater. I was fortunate enough to watch a rehearsal process which acted as a performance piece. I am an actor so I have many friends connected to a stage. This past week my friends invited me to a “revisal” of a show that was recently performed at UTEP; however this particular performance might be revived and shown once again. That is still up for debate for the leaders at the Fox Fine Arts but if it does make the list to show again I would love to convey to you how wonderful this show was.
When performing on stage, there are two key fundamentals that actors always keep in mind during the rehearsal process of a play. Months of practice and ritual can become factors that enhance an actor’s work on stage. It does not become robotic, rather imprinted in themselves. Their voice and body are the two tools used to display real characters on stage. The connection of breath, voice, as well as body, all conform to one another to display what we audience members see on stage. In Dead Man’s Cell Phone, written by Sarah Raul and directed by Jay Stratton, an ensemble is wonderfully executed, where the viewers' faces beam as the actors bring to life wonderful characters employing articulation, physical dominance, and voice-body connection.
Despite a small performance space, the actors utilized it perfectly. With their wonderful articulation and presence, they engaged me and made my experience all the more enjoyable. Mrs. Gottlieb, played by Vanessa Keyser and the leading lady, Jean, and played by Katherine Daniel are just two of the more incredible highlights of the production. These two powerful women displayed wonderful technique, and showed great confidence through their voices. Mrs. Gottlieb took much control of her scenes through articulation. She did not leave any bit of dialogue out, and displayed the utmost confidence.
She enhanced my experience with how she used her voice to connect with me, alongside the overall fantastic diction and intonation displayed uniformly throughout the revisal. Her most memorable moment would be her introduction at the funeral. She certainly positioned herself in second allowing all functioning parts of her vocal anatomy to deliver her message. The next most articulate was Jean. A clear example of this was in effect when she was talking on the phone. She was able to speak into a phone but still speak to us, the audience. How unfortunate it would have been to notice she spoke into her phone and did allow us to hear. I’d like to point out that she was really having to focus on breath. Since she was always performing I assume it would be difficult to remain consistent in articulating every word. She mastered this and sharpened all the vowels and consonants stemming from her mouth, which captivated and enhanced my experience all the more.
Fortunately, I was not sitting down to a show with much lack of articulation. I thought it was well done by every performer with the exception of one particular scene. At the beginning of Act Two the audience is invited to listen the “dead man” speak. The character, Gordon, portrayed by Hector Dez, did a wonderful job on stage. However, his introduction after the intermission got me a little lost. In his first monologue he is enchanted with a great deal of speaking, and even more nerve wrecking, he is only speaking to the audience. I missed words throughout his delivery. He was not necessarily energetic, but he was walking in his words. I think the lack of articulation led to a softer speech. He did not have great projection and combined with a slight lack of articulation led to a minor inconvenience in understanding his character.
The language of the play was not difficult to grasp in any way. It was not written in a different dialect or different type of speech, like that of Shakespeare. The text was modern and I thought all the actors did a great job of using this to be real with their words. I thought the message of the story was delivered well by all actors and moreover I felt real connections with the performers and their characters. The play itself deals with very modern dilemmas, such as cell phones and the issues they can bring upon. Someone that stood out was Hermia, played by Lauren Wagner. Her character had both sad and funny moments. She connected well on stage using both her physical and vocal work. More specifically was the scene when Hermia and Jean are speaking to each other at the bar. She captivated me and was able to find all elements of a strong performance.
One thing to credit these actors with is choices. This can probably be a very stressful challenge for actors. A challenge that is brought upon by on-stage choices is the voice itself. Accents can provide an incredibly fun experience, and can definitely make a performer feel like a stronger, more well-rounded actor. In this instance I would like to make note of The Other Woman, played by Christina Gonzalez. Her greatest choice was indeed her voice. She used an accent in her performance and it did not take away from her display as far as delivery goes. Her words were clear and her choices were proper and autonomous. By this I mean that she displayed a great deal of confidence. On the other hand there were moments where I felt her connection to her character was somewhat inorganic. It might have been the actual acting in terms of the action she was actually executing on scene. Because of her choice of an accent, it was difficult to scrutinize other important vocal elements, such as pitch and tempo. In her cat fight with Jean, she threatens Jean’s life with a gun. Her pitch and tempo were the same as when she first met Jean. This took away from her connection and did not add as much excitement as I would have liked.
As far as physical choices go, the award would have to go the character Dwight who was played by Gabriel Kull. His character provided such a different element from the other characters. He along with Jean’s physical work were delightful. Dwight had multiple encounters with success when regarding his physical work. At the dinner scene, where we are first introduced to Dwight, he displays a quirky and energetic gentleman. His awkward bumps and blank stares enhanced his character to the max. Not only was his physical work astonishing, but his connection through his body was real. Every moment and instance of dialogue was hilarious and when he and Jean were on stage together it was amplified by 1000. For example towards the end of Act One, Jean and Dwight share a wonderful romantic moment. This was by far the most favorite moment I was able to live through their physical and vocal choices. An entrée of perfectly placed dialogue and awkward moments of passion made the scene unimaginably hilarious.
To my delight the ensemble on stage was amazing. All factors of body and voice came together to conclude a wonderful story. Strong choices that led to powerful voices, with articulation, pitch, and delivery was magnificent, and the displays of action and reaction through the liveliness of characters matched the realism and tastiness in all their performances. So please let this open your eyes to a different world and be a fan of the theater over at UTEP.