Salt Lake Acting Company: Mr. Perfect | Buzz Blog

Salt Lake Acting Company: Mr. Perfect

The cast and crew Q&A about SLAC's latest play

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Not every performing arts company is closing out their season this week. Salt Lake Acting Company is continuing to march on into summer with their latest production, Mr. Perfect, which kicked off back on Wednesday night. The world premiere play from William Missouri Downs explores the life of a romance novel loving flight attendant who thinks she met the right guy, but when things don't go as planned, she deconstructs her life to find out what she's been leading up to. Today we chat with director John Caywood, as well as several actors from the production about putting it together before it kicked off back on April 8. (All pictures courtesy of SLAC.)

John Caywood, Emilie Starr-Zooey, Darrin Doman-Ralph, Stephanie Howell-Donna & Ryon Sharette-Jeffrey
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SaltLakeActingCompany.org

Gavin: Hey everyone, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

John:
I’m a theatre lifer having been fortunate enough to earn my living almost all my adult life in and around the theatre. I have served as a producer, director, administrator, stage manager and cheerleader for my wife who is a theatre educator (among other things). I have a seven-year-old daughter who is already styling herself as an actor and aspires to be a rock star. I am a frequent participant in the great outdoor opportunities offered in the region. I like to camp, hunt, fish and hike.

Emilie: I'm Emilie Starr! I'm a full-time actress so I'm unemployed a lot. I was born and raised in Utah and I'm the youngest of 8 children. I studied Musical Theatre at Weber State University and I like long walks on the Great Salt Lake beach and getting caught in the rain.

Darrin: Hi, my name is Darrin. I like long walks on the beach and... oh wait, that's for another blog. I am a huge fan of William Missouri Downs, the playwright. What else would you like to know? I've been performing since about the sixth grade when I played the title role in a community theater production of Oliver!. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a full-time job at the University of Utah Hospital that I enjoy AND the opportunity to act at a professional theater like SLAC. SLAC will always hold a dear place in my heart as the company helped me earn my membership in the Actor's Equity Association.

Stephanie: Is this like speed dating? I grew up in L.A. and went to college outside of Chicago (Northwestern), where I studied theatre. I've lived in several places since then—Boston, New York, Prague—but Park City is home now. When I'm not acting I hang out with my husband, our two kids, and a big goofy Bernese Mountain Dog. I don't like lettuce. Or whipped cream.

Ryon: I just finished my Bachelors last May in the U of U Actor Training Program. I spent the winter in North Dakota fracking for an oil company in this giant oil boom we find ourselves in. If I had any sense I'd still be there for the money, but the stage calls. I plan to move to New York within a year to attempt to play with the big dogs.

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Gavin: What have all of you been up to in theatre over the past year?

Emilie:
I worked with intermountain health care this past fall on their "Live Well" Tour. We travel to various schools around Utah and Idaho teaching children about staying active and eating healthy. I just closed Bare at Utah Repertory Theatre Company this January. I also acted as the liaison between Utah Rep. and OUTreach Resource Center to help raise money to bring OUTreach down to Salt Lake and help our homeless youth. I'm happy to say it was a wild success! Through our ticket sales for the show, we were about to raise over $4000 dollars for OUTreach.

Stephanie: Last year at this time I was performing in Eric Samuelsen's 3 at Plan-B Theatre Company. Over the summer, I got to participate in The Rose Exposed: Home, also with Plan-B. This past fall I played Evelyn in Pygmalion's production of Spark.

Darrin: I directed the music for A Year With Frog and Toad that played at SLAC at the end of last year. Before that?...I forget.

Ryon: Sadly, It's been a whole year since I was on the stage. I was last in SLAC's Grant and Twain. Coming right out of working my tail off in school, it was a rough dry spell for me.

John: After a 10 year run, I have left my position of Chief Operating Officer of Kingsbury Hall. Hopefully, I will have more time to pursue non-theatre administrator activities like producing and directing.

Gavin: John, what were your first impressions of Mr. Perfect when you first read it?

John:
After working on Exit Interview last year, it was easy to pick up on the Bill Down’s sensibilities and get a deeper look into his quirky view of life. Though the plays themselves are quite different, Exit Interview a dark comedy and Mr. Perfect a quasi-romantic comedy, they share elements like characters who do not behave as you would expect them to and unexpected plot turns.

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Gavin: What were your initial thoughts on being asked to direct it for SLAC this year?

John:
I felt it was a good choice for the season and the type of play that works well for SLAC. Having worked on quite a number of large cast productions through the years, I always relish the opportunity to work with a small cast where there is room for individual attention and ensemble building. One of the play’s challenges is that it is set over seven locations, but there again, Keven Myhre and I have worked on a number of projects together and he knows how to design a set that will facilitate the flow of the show and avoid getting bogged down in long scene changes.

Gavin: How has it been for you working with the cast and crew to put together this kind of play?

John:
It has proven to be the fun and creative process I expected. Casting is the piece of the process that has to be right or nothing else matters. The cast has hit it pretty hard. With a small cast, there wasn't a lot of offstage time and any open time was spent in dialect work. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results of the collaboration. SLAC put together a great design team so I found strength and creativity in all areas, not just the set design. And sometimes overlooked are the administrative staff of the theatre, but not at SLAC. There seems to be support from every area and there is the feeling that the collaboration goes well beyond cast, crew and production team. It’s a great feeling.

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Gavin: For the actors, what did you think of the play when you first read it?

Emilie:
When I first read the show I have to stop a few times because I was laughing so hard I was crying. I thought it was terribly clever and hilarious. I was completely captivated by Zooey.

Darrin: A lot of times, when I read a script, the words fall a little flat and I have to really concentrate to envision what a production would look like. Not so with this script. I was laughing aloud within the first few pages and found myself wanting more when I read "End of Play." There was no question I wanted to be part of a full production.

Stephanie: I thought it was smart and funny and clever and flirty and sexy and fun. I instantly loved the dialogue—the wordplay and the grammar jokes, as well as the unexpected twists and turns. These characters are lovable and kind of quirkily odd in their own ways. I also personally tend to be a tiny bit obsessed with coincidence and chance and the far-reaching ramifications of random occurrences and how we interpret those things in our lives, so the script really "spoke to me."

Ryon: It was funny. I was (and still am) worried about pulling it off. I don't find myself particularly funny. I'm generally the sincere, sensitive guy on stage. Luckily, my insecurities and doubts compliment Jeffrey and the story and the humor the playwright has written.

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Gavin: How has it been for each of you discovering your characters and helping bring them to life?

Stephanie:
Working on the character of Donna has been fascinating because she has this VERY carefully constructed exterior—a kind of veneer that she chooses to present to the world, which is quite different from what lies beneath. I've had a good time playing with her little vocal and physical affectations. She also changes dramatically from the beginning of the play to the end, when we get to see an entirely different side of her. All of that is loads of fun for an actor.

Ryon: You've always got to start with yourself as a template for your character. It's your voice and body that is bringing this character to life. Luckily, I quickly found ways that Jeffrey and I are similar. We're both very careful people. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes that careful behavior gets in the way of our own happiness. Neither Jeffrey nor I believe in fate or soul mates, but we both value romance and meaningful relationships. The rest is a matter of convincing yourself of the world you live in, and the clothes you wear, and the words you choose to express yourself.

Darrin: Being the first to portray a character is rather exciting. I am truly thrilled to be part of a world premiere. We held a weekend long reading workshop with the playwright that was a huge luxury for an actor, very helpful for fleshing out the character. Father Ralph is pretty quirky and has his secrets (to be revealed for those who come see the show). The sky was the limit with regards to where the character could go. I appreciate John Caywood sharing and supporting my vision for Father Ralph's ministerial style with spawned an uncredited character in the show. I call him Obediah.

Emilie: The process hey been a whirlwind of changes and excitement Zooey has so quickly become a three dimensional character for me because the rehearsal process is so fast. I love it! I feel like I discover new things about her every rehearsal. And everything has changed from the first reading to now, from her voice to her posture or the way she walks. I think I finally have the best view of her and am excited to keep exploring.

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Gavin: What has it been like for you interacting with each other and putting the play together?

Ryon:
Oh my. This is one of the best casts I've worked with, and John speaks my language. That's a rare and valuable find, regarding actors and their directors. I'm in love with every one of them. It's still novel to me that people can get paid to hang with people this cool and have this much fun. Who wouldn't love them, I mean, watch them. They're amazing, and beautiful, and talented, and professional, and fun. All the compliments you can give to theatre people are compliments well deserved of this group of people.

Emilie: Each actor has been so giving on stage and laid back off stage, which I am very grateful for since we tend to get in the hilarious potentially uncomfortable shenanigans in this show!

Stephanie: Honestly, it's just a big ol' lovefest.

Darrin: My cast mates have been terrific. We have laughed a lot during rehearsals and had a great time exploring the play and these characters. Many of our characters end up kissing one another during the course of the play so we did get to know one another pretty quickly. Gotta love theater and a good breath mint right?

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Gavin: Being one of the few plays in SLC this season without a major undertone or message for the audience, how is it performing something a little more intriguing and comedic?

Darrin:
Yeah, rehearsing a comedy is a trick. You really have to trust the director and your instincts. We laughed a ton during the workshop with the playwright, but now there's hardly laughter from the house during scene work. I mean, it's just the Director and Stage Manager who have seen it so many times it's not as funny anymore. I crack myself up sometimes, but that's different. Fingers crossed the audiences are going to bust a gut. I think they will.

Ryon: It still has tones, they're just subtle. There's something for everyone. Yes, it's about a bunch of people trying to get it on. But, for the academic theatre-goer, it still raises interesting questions about fate and philosophy and theology. It begs the question, "How much chance is observed and how much is just invented?" And it does that without getting preachy.

Emilie: I think it is a breath of fresh air and will still make you think and go home and talk about the topics with your loved ones with you get home.

Stephanie: At its heart, this is just a lovely and upbeat play and that has filtered into my daily life. I walk around ridiculously HAPPY all the time. I really enjoy the way these characters connect and miss-connect with one another. (Although, I'm still waiting for William Missouri Downs to write a bonus scene for us involving a heart-shaped waterbed.)

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Gavin: What do you hope the audience will take away from this production?

Stephanie:
I truly hope they have as much fun watching it as we have performing it.

John: Hopefully the satisfied feeling of an evening well spent in the theatre with a sweet, funny and quirky story. I’ve called it a quasi-romantic comedy because it doesn’t entirely fit the mold. The play treats us to a range of chance happenings or coincidences that leave us wondering about the notions of fate and meant to be.

Ryon: I hope they take away the fact that I'm hot and awesome! Just kidding. I just want people to have a fun night at the theatre.

Emilie: I hope they will leave laugh and quoting this show. Also, this show is super quotable. And they will think about how lucky they are to have the life they have.

Darrin: An appreciation for the unique string of coincidences that make up their everyday lives, sore stomach muscles (from laughing) and a desire to tell everyone they know to come see the show because they enjoyed it so much.

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Gavin: What are all of your thoughts going into opening night?

Darrin:
Energy up! Don't fluff my lines. Hit all my marks. Make all my scene changes correctly and give the audience the best time of their lives.

Stephanie: Working on this show has been pure joy; I'm excited to share that joy with an audience. I also hope that I'm able to restrain myself from snort/laughing backstage throughout the run. I have my favorite lines/moments in every scene and I wait backstage and listen for them every night.

Emilie: God I hope I'm as funny in real life as I am in my mind!

Ryon: All of my thoughts?! That's a tall order. I think all our minds are racing with thoughts at this point. I'm anxious and hopeful, and excited. I can tell you that.

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Gavin: What can we expect from all of you over the rest of this season?

Emilie:
I’ll be in town all summer! Not sure what I am doing yet. Excited to find out! And if anyone wants to employ me please let me know.

Darrin: I haven't planned too far ahead. I know I'm going to Cuba (barring any major weather that hampers travel). After that, we'll see. Whatever theatrical opportunities come my way, I do try to enjoy the heck out of them.

Ryon: I'm going to ride off into the morning mist, hair flowing wistfully in the breeze, leaving behind only the memory of that one night of unbridled passion.

Stephanie: I guess we'll just have to see what fate, chance, and destiny throw my way.

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