By Matthew Munroe
IU Summer Theatre is happy to welcome summer guest blogger Matthew Munroe! A Bloomington native, he has been involved in theatre from a very young age, participating in youth theatre summer camps at St. Charles and the Bloomington Playwrights Project. In 2013, he graduated from Bloomington High School North, and is currently a rising senior at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he is majoring in Theater, Dance, and Media, with a focus on directing.
“Make sure you pick up the new pages,” Trish Hausmann, the stage manager, tells actors as they enter the theater. Every day there are freshly printed, brightly colored pages piled high on the stage management table. These pink, purple, yellow, and green pages represent changes to the script made during the previous day’s rehearsal.
The King’s Critique, the new musical that is kicking off the IU Summer Theatre season, is a living, breathing entity. The writers, Nat Zegree and Eric Holmes, and director/choreographer, George Pinney, are constantly tweaking it and refining it.
For the past week, I have had the privilege of sitting in on rehearsals for this show and have seen it grow and develop. But perhaps what is most interesting about this process is the dynamic between these three creators. Watching them work together is astounding. They are constantly building on each other’s ideas, working together with the openness and flexibility that allows the script to keep evolving and getting better.
Nothing reflects this better than when Eric, while discussing a bit of inter-song dialogue, said, “We can do those lines or we cannot. I don’t care.” His willingness to so easily let go of lines he wrote exemplifies the creative energy that filled the room. As we learn from Diane Paulus of ART, “Hold on tightly, let go lightly.” Cherish your ideas but don’t be afraid to throw them out if they don’t work. It is that openness to change that Eric, Nat, and George shared, making them a great team to develop this new show.
Where their teamwork really shines is in staging the physical comedy of the show, and there is a lot of it. Without giving too much away, in the second act, there is a hilarious scene about sex and elbows. While George was staging this moment, trying to figure out the elbows’ potential for physical comedy, Eric said, “I wrote this without a particular body part in mind. I just put elbows in the script as a stand-in; it doesn’t have to be about elbows.” George responded, “No, I like the elbows. There are just so many elbow jokes that can be made.” And, indeed, when the scene was staged, the whole room laughed out loud.
Beyond exemplifying how fluidly George, Nat, and Eric work together to bring this ever-changing script to life, this story also captures the lighthearted dynamic of the rehearsal room. One of the most striking things about the rehearsals is how fun they are. Everyone takes their tasks seriously, of course, but hilarity and comaraderie abound. In fact, two people, one of the actors and Nat, independently brought in boxes of donuts for the cast and creative team to celebrate National Donut Day!
Of course, the material helps this vibrant atmosphere. The King’s Critique is zany and infectious. One can’t help but smile and laugh while watching or performing it, and that atmosphere takes over the room.
George, Eric, and Nat play into that buzz, building on the show’s fun energy to keep rehearsals lively and moving. Eric jokes to Trish, “Nat’s always playing at a 12 when the scale goes to 10.” “That’s why we’ve broken three pianos in a week,” Trish replies. And it’s true, the energy in the rehearsal room is electric, thanks to George, Nat, Eric, and their incredible script, so I can’t wait to see what happens when this show gets an audience!
The King’s Critique
June 8-11 @ 7:30 pm in the Wells-Metz Theatre
More information at theatre.indiana.edu