Posts Tagged Harry Bouvy

Time Flies

by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
Anyone who hasn’t seen The Clockmaker still has one last weekend to do so, thanks to a formula of popular demand + snow that required us to extend the show. Performances are Friday at 8, Saturday at 5:30 and 9 and Sunday at 2. If you didn’t read Sloan’s e-mails with the links to the great reviews, here you go again:

Gordon Spencer, Pittsburgh City Paper          http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A74725

Alice Carter, Pittsburgh Tribune Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/theater/s_664959.html

Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blog                                 http://community.post-gazette.com/blogs/onstage/default.aspx

It’s hard to believe we’re at the show’s end—time has passed quickly. Before he takes off again for New York and future engagements, we wanted to touch base with Harry Bouvy once more. If the reviews have not convinced you to see The Clockmaker, then let me make a pitch that you see it for Harry’s portrayal of Heinrich Mann, the title character. Charming, funny, sad, sweet, poignant—he will touch you where you live. The memory of his onstage relationship with Frieda (Tami Dixon) will be one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Harry with plawright Stephen Massicotte at the opening night party.

Carlyn Aquiline: So we’re about to enter the final week of The Clockmaker. And in keeping with the themes of the play, time sure has flown! What kinds of discoveries did you continue to make through the run of the show that hadn’t emerged yet in rehearsal?

Harry Bouvy: How funny the play is. You can never really know everything about a play until the audience arrives. While we knew there was humor in the play, I’m not sure we knew the degree to which people would find it funny. The laughter comes in many different forms, mostly out of the audience’s need to release the tension in the room because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of tension and conflict in the play. 

CA: The play is a puzzle for the audience to solve, and of course people solve puzzles at their own pace. What does the audience “feel” like from the stage for this show? Have you felt like there’s a moment, though, before the final scene when a lot of people have clicked and gotten it—have had the “aha” moment? Or does the puzzle pull them right into the final scene before they get the solution?

HB: It varies. It’s funny that you put it that way—what does the audience “feel” like. I often talk about how the audience “sounds” as the play goes along. The sound of an audience is sometimes as confusing for actors as the plot of the play is for the audience.  If the audience is silent during a moment that usually gets a laugh, you immediately think, “oh wow…. that joke really bombed.” But it can also mean an audience is really listening intently and simply aren’t as tuned into the humor of a particular moment. So it’s not always a bad thing that the audience doesn’t laugh. Sometimes you crave an audience to tune in more to a certain moment. The reaction of the audience for this play is very unpredictable; all over the map. I do think there’s a moment just about halfway through the play when the audience starts to piece together the plot, right around the time of the bench scene under the lights in the trees. There’s something extremely sweet and accessible about that scene where the audience is finally able to exhale a little bit and love the characters. 

On the bench, under the lights in the trees.

CA: One of the great pleasures of the production is the lovely ensemble work among the actors.  Can you share two thoughts about each of the actors you’ve worked with on this show, and the relationships you’ve developed with them: 1) onstage and 2) off?

Tami and Harry celebrate on opening night.

HB: Oh gosh, it’s hard to think of just one thing about each. I would say the same thing about all three of them on stage, and that is that they are extremely present. Tami, Joel and Daryll are all extremely focused and in the moment. I think that’s why it’s such a good ensemble. We’re all very much in tune with each other and the audience, and ready to shift gears at a moment’s notice. We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to hang out together offstage because of the stupid snow, but I feel like I’ve known these people for a long time. All three are easy to love. Daryll is a seasoned pro who knows so much about life in the theatre, and I love talking to him about shows he’s done. Joel is nothing like the character he plays on stage… I want everyone to know that.

Joel and playwright Stephen Massicotte sharing the love on opening night.

He is a dear, sweet guy and loves being an actor. He is very focused on doing his absolute best at every moment. Tami is a dynamo, running her theatre company (Bricolage). She is such a passionate, caring person. She loves the theatre and loves people. I just love them all. Love love love…. 

Harry (second from left) with the Clockmaker company, (L to R) Daryll (Monsieur Pierre), Tracy (director), Tami (Frieda), Joel (Adolphus) and Stephen (playwright).

CA: We’re scheduled to have a student matinee this week. What do you hope those teenagers primarily take away from the play?

[Unfortunately, the student matinee, which had been postponed to this week because of the big snowstorm, was cancelled once again—and for good—because of more snow.]

HB: Well, mostly, I just hope they pay attention. Student matinees are rough for actors, and not only because they’re held at the ungodly hour of ten o’clock in the morning.  Teenagers can be so… well… unruly, you know? And with a play like this, that’s all over the map in terms of tone, it’s hard to keep the attention of an adult audience, let alone an audience with the attention span of a Twitter update. … But it’s important to expose kids to theatre for that very reason—to expose them to the fact that there are issues in life worth their attention, worth their time. I’d like them to go away with the knowledge that time is precious. Fleeting. That life can be beautiful and sad and tragic and uplifting. I would say to them: sit up and pay attention. Grasp every moment for its worth. … I don’t know. Mostly I just want them to not talk while I’m up there. Is that wrong? 

CA: No, that’s not wrong. We all want them not to talk while you’re up there! Once a show has opened the actors have to maintain their performances and yet there is always evolution within that. How do you feel the show has grown since opening night?

HB: Speaking for myself, I’m not as afraid of the story, which is gut-wrenching. I’m willing to go to the depths of it. Also, when we first started, I was afraid the audience wouldn’t love the play as much as I do. I go through that with many of the plays I do. I fall in love with the piece, and I want the audience to love it too. I needn’t have worried about this play. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The audience is moved by the play because it deals with issues we’ve all thought about. Also, Tami and I are a well-oiled machine at this point. It’s as if we’re the same person out there, very in tune with each other.

Mann and Frieda trying to solve the mystery of The Clockmaker.

I also think we’re not hitting it on the head as hard, you know? Less is more. Just speak the words. We’re not “sawing the air” as much, I think (to quote Hamlet). I don’t know that anyone would notice a difference if they saw the first performance versus the last one, but it feels simpler to me now, like we’ve gotten out of the play’s way.

CA: Have you heard anything that has struck you in the audience comments or questions at the talkbacks you’ve participated in?

HB: Mostly, it’s that people feel really good at the end of the play. I see a lot of smiling faces out there during the talkbacks. I wouldn’t have called this a “feel-good” show when we started rehearsals, but maybe I’m wrong about that. I’m satisfied that people have come to care about Heinrich and Frieda during the course of the play. They want to see them happy at the end. And while the end is bittersweet, I do think there’s a contentment in the characters that is extremely satisfying.

CA: In keeping with the play, what one moment will remain dear in memory about being back in Pittsburgh for a month and a half (I bet it has nothing to do with all the snow!)?

HB: No, definitely not the snow. Old Man Winter is a sour old puss. … There’s not one moment. It’s the whole experience. I’m so happy to have been around family and friends during the course of this play, especially because it’s so much about the connection between people. It’s about how people affect the course of your life. Here in Pittsburgh, I’m surrounded by the people who influenced me early in life. These influences continue to this day. I carry them with me every day, and will continue to carry them with me for the rest of my life. … Oh, and playing Barbies with my three-year-old niece. That was pretty darn great.

Keep up with Harry’s whereabouts at www.harrybouvy.com/. Hopefully, it won’t be long until he’s announcing his next return to City Theatre.

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Behind the Scenes with: Patti Kelly, Production Stage Manager

The Air Traffic Controller of the Production

by Rachel Enck, City Theatre Literary Intern

Have you ever wondered what all those titles on City Theatre’s staff list at the back page of the program mean? What’s a Technical Director? How about a Draper? What’s the division between the Managing Director’s job and the Artistic Director’s? Audience members know there are people who work behind the scenes to produce each show; however, they may not know what these individuals actually do, how their involvement creates what the audience sees.  And so on the Backstage Blog, we’ll be occasionally featuring those people and highlighting their jobs to give you a more expansive idea of what goes into making each of our productions. The first person we’re starting with is Patti Kelly, our Production Stage Manager.

Patti at the tech table preparing for a dress rehearsal. For performances, she moves into the control booth with the lighting and sound board operators. Holly, our light board op, can be seen in the booth in the background.

Patti Kelly has been a City Theatre staff member since 1989.  “My early years here were very exciting,” she says, “because we were in the process of moving from Oakland to the Southside and building our current space.  We were a small staff and were all involved in the process in a hands-on way.”  Not surprisingly, the ongoing dedication to City Theatre on the part of Patti Kelly has everything to do with how much she feels she has invested herself in this building and the life and survival of the organization.  Most staff members don’t have the organizational history Patti does, but the few who do, the “core group of people who have done the same thing”—dedicated themselves to City Theatre—have also been influential in keeping Patti Kelly here.

During her years at Pitt, Patti met actor Harry Bouvy and the two became good friends.  Harry plays Friedrich Mann in The Clockmaker, by Stephen Massicotte, City’s next production [see Harry’s blog entry from 1/11/10].  “The fabulous Harry Bouvy and I have been friends for years and years.  I first met Harry when he was a freshman at Pitt and we were doing a production of In the Boom Boom Room.  I was actually in the show and was asked to choreograph Harry’s routine.  What a way to get to know a person.  ‘Hi, lets go into this hall way and we’ll do some dirty dancing.’” The two bonded immediately.  “Harry is such a positive person and so ready to jump right in and try anything, which makes him not only a great actor but a lot of fun to be around.  I’m so thrilled that we are actually getting to work together again after all of these years.  We really did grow up in the theatre together with many a long day at Pitt and at the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival. Now I’m enjoying the fact that I get to see him every day!”

Patti (right) checks a measurement in the rehearsal hall with the help of production assistant Lauren Connolly. The taped floor is how stage management delineates the floor plan of the set so the actors and director can block the show in the rehearsal hall.

Patti’s favorite things about stage-managing are the possibilities each season brings.  “I learn so much each season.  I love working on new pieces of theatre and I also love getting to meet so many interesting people.  I love that I have been able to make and maintain so many wonderful friendships.  It is great working with most of the actors I encounter because they tend to be bright, witty, fun-loving people –and if they aren’t they go away after eight weeks!!”

Clearly, the stage manager is bright and witty, too, humorously needling the actors. But read Harry Bouvy’s blog entry–he’ll let you in on how Patti Kelly really treats actors, kidding aside.

So, then, what is a stage manager?  Patti answers, “The stage manager is essentially the air traffic controller of the production.  I am with the production from before it begins rehearsal until the last performance.  I am responsible for such things as writing down all of the movement that the actors make onstage, communicating to all of the departments in the theatre any notes that arise during the rehearsal day and for scheduling all rehearsals and costume fittings.  I am also the person who is responsible for making sure that the union rules are adhered to and I am the union liaison between the actors and the theatre.”

The union Patti is referring to Actors’ Equity Association. Most people know that City Theatre employs actors belonging to the professional actors union.  But what many people might not be aware of is that stage managers are also members of Actors’ Equity—and that we quite literally can’t go into production without Patti Kelly.

During tech for Mother Teresa is Dead, lighting designer Andy Ostrowski looks on as Patti updates her book, which records all the technical cues of the production.

Describing her job, Patti continues, “During technical rehearsals, I am responsible for recording all of the technical cues (lights, sound, set moves, video, etc.) into the production book.  During each performance, I then ‘call’ all of the cues, which entails working out timings with the action of the play and then telling the technicians when to change the lights and sound, etc.”  Since directors leave after a show opens, Patti, as the stage manager, is also responsible for, “giving notes to the actors during the run of the show to maintain the production as it was directed.”

When asked what the necessary qualities are of a good stage manager, Patti says “organized and efficient,” “calm and compassionate,” and “able to interact with various personalities.”  She also says, “You also need to never take anything personally. Actors need to trust that you are there to take care of them.”

Finally, I was curious what one thing Patti would want to communicate to the audience from her perspective as the stage manager.  “I’d love the audience to know that the actors are working very hard up on that stage.”

Patti's view as she calls the show during a performance of Mezzulah, 1946 by Michele Lowe. Onstage can be seen actors Theo Allen (left) and Larry John Meyers (right) in the final scene of the play.

In addition, she wants to highlight the equally hard work of many of the people we’ll be featuring in future Behind the Scenes with entries: our technical staff members backstage and in the shops (Lauren, Holly, Brad, Tony, Paul, Louise, Dustin, C.J., Sean, and Leah) who, as Patti points out, “do incredible work with very little time and resources” to make the audience’s experience a good one.

She did say one thing more, actually. “The actors can see you text messaging and checking the game scores.”

So turn off your cell phones.

And enjoy your flight, secure in the capable hands of Patti Kelly.

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Back in the Burgh

by Carlyn Aquiline, City Theatre Literary Manager and Dramaturg, and Harry Bouvy, The Clockmaker cast member.

Actor Harry Bouvy is a native Pittsburgher—his family still lives here—who grew up in the South Hills, went to college at Pitt, and still has friends in the local theatre community. But, though Harry played his hometown while on tour with The Producers, he hasn’t been back to work with one of Pittsburgh’s resident theatre companies since he moved out of town in the early 90s. City Theatre is thrilled to welcome Harry, now a New Yorker, back to play the title role in The Clockmaker, playwright Stephen Massicotte’s romance/murder mystery running January 23-February 15. Harry and I talked at the start of our second week of rehearsals. 

Carlyn Aquiline: Why don’t we refer to this as your “not a blog” entry—since I did a little research (I am a dramaturg, it’s part of what I do) and found out you’re not a fan of the blogosphere. I was surprised when I found out you’ve never been back, in all the years since you moved to New York, to do a play with one of Pittsburgh’s resident companies. Welcome back! What and when was the last show you did with a Pittsburgh company?

Harry Bouvy: This question feels appropriate, since one of the themes of The Clockmaker has to do with memory. I’m going to have to wrack my brain to answer this one! I last appeared in Pittsburgh in 2005 when I was in town with the national tour of The Producers, in which I played Carmen Ghia. But as far as appearing with a Pittsburgh company… um… I believe it was in a production of The Sum of Us at the Public. Anyone who saw that wouldn’t really remember me, though, because I was essentially part of the “ensemble.” I was among four scene-changers in soccer uniforms who changed the set between scenes one and two. That’s it. Are there theatre awards in Pittsburgh? Because I would have won Best Scenic Move of the Year for that one. 🙂 

CA: “Best set changers” is one year end list Chris Rawson doesn’t compile. You’re an alum of Pitt’s theatre department, so some of your close friends still work in the Pittsburgh theatre—including Patti Kelly, City Theatre’s long-time stage manager, and CT Steele, who sometimes designs costumes for us. Looking back, what was the best thing you took away from the training you received at Pitt, and why?

HB: Hm. I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, because there are two routes a theatre student can take when he enters college: the B.A. route, where you major in theatre while being exposed to a liberal arts training (like the program at Pitt); or the B.F.A. route, a conservatory style of training where you are immersed in “all things acting”: voice, movement, scene study, etc. (like the program at CMU). For a while, I regretted not following the more conservatory style of training, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really valued my liberal arts training. It exposed me to a broader spectrum of life, and when you get right down to it, acting is about taking your life experiences and loading them into your performances. So when I entered Pitt at the tender age of eighteen—after growing up in a relatively sheltered environment in the South Hills—I was glad to be exposed to new experiences that fueled the acting training I later received in graduate school (at the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory in Sarasota).

CA: How does it feel to be in rehearsal getting ready to perform again for the hometown crowd?

HB: Really great. You mentioned Patti Kelly and CT Steele in the last question. The three of us shared a house right here on the South Side when I graduated from college—wow, twenty-one years ago—just over on Jane Street. God, we rented a three-story, three-bedroom townhouse for 525 bucks! Total! Those were the days, right? To be back here, rehearsing just blocks from where I used to live is surreal. And my entire family still lives here in the ’burgh, so I’m seeing a lot of them. My nephew Benny, who is six years old, just had me over the other night to watch an episode of The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network! And I just had dinner at my mom and dad’s house last night. Pot roast. Delicious. So yeah, I’m loving it. …. And being back in a rehearsal hall with Patti Kelly is fantastic. More about that later…

CA: In the play, the main characters are time-travelers of a sort, the choices of a life time (and the afterlife) receive a gentle existential examination, and the tenacity of memory is a dubious gift. I’m wondering how you think being “home”—i.e., where you grew up and went to school—might affect or intensify your reflections on the play’s themes of time and memory, or vice versa.

HB: Yeah. That’s a good question. I sort of touched on this earlier, the fact that acting is loading your life experiences into your performances. Heinrich (my character in the play) starts off with what seems like a case of amnesia, and slowly remembers parts of his life as he goes along. I feel a bit of a parallel going on as well… people from my past popping up on Facebook, for example. All of a sudden, a person you hadn’t thought of in many years has materialized and wants to know how you’ve been. And I think, “How have I been? Since 1985?!” How do you answer a question like that? Suddenly, all these images start to pop into my head… and I wonder if these images are the most significant events in my life? And what made them significant? And so I’m forced, in a way, to map out my past, which takes me right into the play. I’m doing what Heinrich is doing, essentially. So it fuels the rehearsals and, hopefully, the performance.

CA: When we were doing table-work, at the end of a read-through I heard you saying just what I kept saying after I first read The Clockmaker: “I love this play, I love this play, I love this play!” What do you love about this play? Why did you want to take on this role?

HB: This past year has been a difficult one, personally. A person I love died this year. I was at his bedside when he passed. And the main question in my mind was, “Where are you going?” I kept asking that question in my mind, over and over… “Where are you going? Where are you going?” The past six months has been about answering that question. And this play presents an answer that might be true. Might. Because no one knows, right? I love this play because, for me, it’s really ABOUT something. It deals with one of the great mysteries of life: where do we go when we die? I think Stephen Massicotte (the playwright) is a genius. The language he uses, his sense of humor, the structure of the play… it feels like a real mystery, a true reflection of what’s going on in our minds when we ask big questions like “Why am I here?” or “What is the Meaning of Life?” Sort of messy, unstructured structure. And beautiful.

CA: By some twist of fate, for the past few years you’ve performed only in either musicals or one-man plays. You’ve mentioned what a joy it is to be doing a straight play again—and with other people to act with! Can you talk about the differences in each of those acting challenges and why it’s great to be in a rehearsal room with some fellow actors again?

HB: Yes, I’ve done four one-man shows and lemme tell ya: it’s a lonely row to hoe. It’s also thrilling, though. The actor is in full control of the show… it takes a skill that is unlike acting with other people on stage. And it was a skill I didn’t have before doing the first one. Or, if I did have the skill, I didn’t know I had it. In essence, the audience is your acting partner. You become very attuned to how the audience is reacting to the show… if they’re not laughing in certain spots, or they’re coughing, or shuffling around in their seats… You have to be aware of everything going on in the house while continuing to say your lines and keep the show moving forward. It’s a big responsibility because if you have a “bad show” that night, you feel like, “Well I really screwed that up tonight!” And there’s no one else to blame! … I’m so glad to be in a show with other actors. It’s just more fun, frankly. There’s a camaraderie among actors that is unlike anything else. To go through a performance with other actors creates a kinship that’s hard to beat. And this cast (Tami Dixon, Joel Ripka, and Daryll Heysham) is fantastic. We’re having a great time.

Director Tracy Brigden gives a set presentation to Harry, along with Joel and Tami (sitting on the floor in front of him), to introduce them to the world they'll be living in for the next couple of months. Playwright Stephen Massicotte watches in the background.

CA: This is a play whose world has been wholly invented by the playwright. In this case, what textual and/or character exploration did you do on your own prior to the start of rehearsals, and then what did you discover last week as a result of the readings and table work with Tracy, Stephen, and the other actors?

HB: I didn’t have to do a whole lot of outside text work for this one because of some of the reasons I mentioned earlier about the year I’ve had. Also, a few years ago, I was a confirmed atheist. Organized religion just wasn’t working for me in my life and I wanted to allow my brain to consider that there was no God and no afterlife… that if you can’t explain something with science or logic, it doesn’t exist. I read books by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and pretty much toed the atheist line. When my friend died, that all changed. Not in terms of organized religion, but in terms of accepting that there are certain mysteries in life that cannot be explained. Sitting around the table last week with Stephen and the cast was just more confirmation that so much of life simply cannot be explained. People have their beliefs and opinions about God and the afterlife. I’ve never really understood why people insist that they KNOW the answers to these questions. I just don’t know. I’m comfortable with not knowing. I’m comfortable with a little mystery in my life.

CA: You’re into the second week of rehearsals now, the play is fully blocked and you’re going back to re-work and refine each scene and the blocking. What physical and mental challenges are the most present for you at this point in the process, and what primary challenges is the play presenting to you as we exchange these thoughts?

HB: Rehearsals are really about learning how to tell the story in the clearest way possible, with our thoughts, voices, and bodies. I’m currently focusing on Heinrich’s physicality… how he presents himself to the world. He says in the play that he’s “a nervous person.” What does that mean? How does it manifest itself in his voice and body that is different from mine? Or similar to mine? I think of times in my life when I’ve been nervous and try to apply some of it to the character in the circumstances of the play. As an actor, you’re constantly seeking truth. I don’t want to just go onstage and “be nervous.” You know what I mean?… shake and jitter and stutter… I don’t want to come off as a cardboard cutout. I ask myself lots of questions: Why is Heinrich nervous? How did he get this way? In what situations is he NOT nervous? It’s all trial and error, all in service to telling the story in the clearest way possible.

CA: Upcoming on the blog, we’ll be highlighting Patti Kelly, City Theatre’s Production Stage Manager for 20+ years, and what exactly she does as a show’s stage manager. So as a prelude and a little teaser, tell us: What’s the scoop on Patti Kelly? You’ve known her for 25 years, if I’m correct in my math. Can you share a classic “PK” tale from back in the day—you know, in the pre-iconic stage manager days?

HB: Okay, Patti Kelly is one of the best in the business. The thing I’ve always loved about Patti is that she loves actors. Loves them. And enjoys the process of watching an actor develop a performance. She’s “on our side,” if that makes sense. Yet she also has this amazing ability to sit on the other side of the table and give the director and designers what they need to make the show work. People don’t understand the role of stage managers very much. Let me tell you, I have worked with a few really bad stage managers and oftentimes, the show can just fall apart. You need that person who is going to somehow be all things to all people. I think it’s the hardest job in the theatre. And Patti Kelly is one of the best.

Harry with Patti in rehearsal last week.

My classic Patti Kelly story is the one where she choreographed a striptease for me when I played a go-go boy in David Rabe’s In the Boom Boom Room, the first show I did at Pitt. I wore a tank top, a leather cap, Daisy Duke cutoff shorts, motorcycle boots, aviator glasses, and chains that hung off my belt. Five minutes after meeting Patti, she was showing me how to bump and grind and exude sexual energy. I was eighteen and she was twenty. What the heck did either of us know about being a go-go boy?! But lemme tell you: it was hot! 🙂

CA: Patti Kelly in a whole new light! I should tell those reading that it is not usually in the stage manager’s job description to teach actors to bump and grind. BUT if you’re curious to know what IS the stage manager’s job, check back in a few days when Patti will tell you herself. (And I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn something new about Harry from her.)

Getting back to Harry, we’ll be catching up with him periodically to see how The Clockmaker is going, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out his website at www.harrybouvy.com, especially for the terrific “show gallery” of productions he’s done in the past few years. As for me, I’m puzzled as to why Carrot Top ended up in the midst of a Spamalot cast photo. But I think I won’t ask—you know what they say: what happens in Vegas…

Thanks for talking to me for the “not a blog,” Harry!

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