You may already know that Provision Theater’s newest project is an original work. You may also already know that the script is penned by Artistic Director Tim Gregory and is based on a popular novel by writer Tim Downs. But what you may not know is that many of the faces you will see on the Provision stage are appearing there for the first time. This cast is crawling with newcomers, both to Provision and to professional theatre arts. Frederick Williams plays Emmet and though he’s done numerous films and voice over work, this is his first experience performing in live theatre. “It’s my premiere!” he says with a big smile, “This is a new kind of acting that I’m learning!”
The cast has been rehearsing for over a month, but this isn’t your average rehearsal process. Since the writer is also the director, the cast has gotten a rare opportunity to provide input on their characters. Holly Bittinger, also new to Provision Theater, plays Liv Hayden, the play’s famous actress who might be a little past her prime by Hollywood standards. “Tim wrote the script but he allowed us all as actors to have input.” she said, “During the rehearsal process, if something didn’t ring true we’d figure out something that worked better.” Holly also used the original novel that the play is based on in her preparation for the role. “There was information in the book about my character that wasn’t included in the dialogue and it helped to inform my choices. It’s definitely a very useful tool.” Anna Dynarski, who is making her professional theatre debut as Annie, agrees, “Tim (Gregory) is very open to your ideas and how you think your character would say something… you have more liberty with this kind of script.”
Jobe Cerny, who plays Hollywood agent Morty Biederman, and Mike Wollner who plays Wes, are also new to Provision Theater, although you’ll probably still recognize them. Both have extensive national commercial resumes and as well as appearing in quite a few films. Jobe observes that Chicago is “a very healthy theatre city, with a lot of organizations that foster new works. It’s interesting to help create a new script that will go on to have a life after words and I think it’s an important thing for actors to do.” Mike Wollner agrees and details how he was able to use his improvisational and on camera training during the process. “We’ve been able to work on and tighten the script through improve techniques and that’s kind of how it works on a film set. That whole process is a big workshop.” What sets this show apart from the actor’s standpoint is the fact that they have had the chance to be the first to develop their characters, working directly with one of the people who helped create them. And it’s a rare opportunity for the performers to be able to participate in the development of a new work. As Mike summed it up for us, “The classics are great, but you don’t get to workshop Shakespeare.”
Next on the Provision Theater blog…an interview with the youngest star of Wonders Never Cease, Caroline Heffernan!