Almost, Maine takes main stage

By Nathan Ress

Features Editor

Walking into the Marie Maday Theatre on the final night of dress rehearsal, The Griffin was able to detect the energy in the building. Directors Nick Morelli and Callie Keavey, both juniors and first-time directors, sat giving their actors some last minute notes before the practice. It would be the last practice before opening night.

The play Almost, Maine will be produced this weekend, Thursday, September 29, Friday,  September 30, and Saturday, October 1. The Thursday and Friday performances are each at 8p.m., while the Saturday performance will be at 2p.m.

The play centers on the respective stories of eight couples and takes place all on the same night.  Some relationships are beginning, ending, or changing beyond identification.  Most of the stories feature literal hyperboles of relationships, such as a heart physically breaking into a million little pieces and being carried by its former owner, or characters literally falling on the ground when they realize they are in love. All of this adds to the fun and energy of the performance.

The play has been nearly a month in the making with a specialized practice schedule for all involved. The play saw nearly 40 people audition after Little Theatre’s first general body meeting for the 19 available roles in the performance. There were “a lot of new people this year,” said Keavey, many of them freshmen or first time Little Theatre members. She continued saying they were “thrown into the deep end” with the production. Despite that, Morelli added, the directors were able to watch the relationships between cast members build throughout rehearsals. “We watched for chemistry and people who worked well together,” said Morelli.

Keavey added, “those not cast were able to find their place” within the performance. These places ranged from stagehands to lighting and sound positions. Keavey and Morelli hope that first-time members will run with this start and continue on with Little Theatre throughout their Canisius career.

There were also a few seniors in the cast, to whom Keavey and Morelli expressed their gratitude. Each acknowledged that the seniors are “juggling a lot,” just like any student, but they are willing to devote the necessarily large amount of time to the performance. For many of these seniors, it was a labor of love, starting off their final year in Little Theatre with a great production.

The play is a very personal narrative and has a very human focus according to both directors. It follows the relationships of several couples in the fictional location of Almost, Maine. The set reflects a snowy little town with snow-covered pine trees in the background, sleepy cabins at each side of the stage, and the stage floor painted a soothing blue. The set was designed by Morelli and reflects forethought and adaptation as it is frequently altered slightly between acts. The action also stretches out towards the crowd with a small wooden footbridge and bench.

As for the on-stage action, Morelli affectionately describes the play as “corny and cheesy,” “but relatable,” adds Keavey. There are “so many different types of people in this play, there’s something for everyone to relate to,” Keavey said. All types of relationships are represented in the play, and they are performed in a very human way. “We wanted to make sure it felt real,” said Keavey. “The moments and characters are fun,” she continued. “We wanted to turn each scene into its own story.” The play is a love story that everyone will be able to enjoy and the story as a whole will provide interesting food for thought for the audience.

After the final dress rehearsal, Morelli and Keavey sat their actors down on stage for final notes and encouragement. The pair mainly pointed out small changes as well as general encouragements for the cast. They recognized nerves in some cast members, but also looked to senior cast members as pillars of the performance. “We’ve done the show a thousand times,” said Morelli. “They are ready.”

The directors also looked forward to opening night to provide a spark for the actors involved. Morelli spoke of the first moment an actor gets on stage and sees the audience before performing as one of the most invigorating in their career. He described it as a “first time spark,” and was very excited to see how his carefully-selected actors would handle it. More broadly, Morelli was excited to see how the cast would react to the energy the audience members brought. Rehearsing in an empty theater, the performers get somewhat lonely on stage, but with audience interaction – laughter, applause – the performance becomes all the more enjoyable and invigorating.

This is the first of four shows this year for Little Theatre. The performances alternate from student directed to faculty directed, with the next play to be directed by Theatre Artist in Residence Eileen Dugan. The show is slated for mid-November and will be a Shakespearean performance.

All Little Theatre shows are free and open to the public. For ticket reservations, email LTclub@canisius.edu.

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