Thoughts on Morrie by Brad Armacost

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1. Which line in the play would you use to depict your character?

“It’s hard to find your way in life. The accidental journeys, the unexpected questions. We can’t always do it on our own. We need teachers…”


2. What are three words you would use to describe your character?

Alive. Aware. Present.

3. What role does your character play in this story?

I remember sitting at our first “table read” for this play and announcing that I didn’t particularly think of Morrie as a saintly guru, dispensing wisdom from the lofty perch of deeper awareness and knowledge. This was a man who lived a very blessed life, doing the job he loved and with a family around him. That he was faced (as all of us will be) with the prospect of his own death, arguably after a rich and fruitful life, was not of itself reason to confer the title of WISE MAN.
In the weeks we spent rehearsing and bringing the story to the stage my appreciation for Morrie and his desire to turn his “final journey” into yet another teaching experience and to pass along the gift of forgiveness has continued grow. Working again with Tim, getting to know Colin and Denise, working with the design and stage team of Carl, Jessica and Matt, 
and the entire Provision family are all essential parts of my continuing to embrace the man and the message.

4. What really connects to you from Mitch’s/Morries life?

If one laments: “I wasn’t blessed with an avuncular mentor, sage, and resident wise counselor.” Perhaps we should consider another wise man’s advice; that we look to the faces of the poor, the suffering and the children to help us learn life’s lessons.

5. What do you think audiences will go away with after seeing this?

That the “Morries” in our lives are present everywhere. In the least likely places, on the humblest of faces we can find the simple (yet profound) truths that are shared in this play. “We must love one another or die.” 

6. Why do you think this show is worth producing?

Morrie’s words to Mitch: “Farhaltisht deine licht unter a shorten.”

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Meet Mitch…

Provision Theater Company Member Colin Wasmund takes on the role of Mitch Albom in our upcoming production of Tuesdays With Morrie. We asked him a few questions about the show and his character

Which line in the play would you use to depict your character?
p_colin
The character is past and present, so two lines:

Past: “Maybe the person who doesn’t love has more freedom than the person who does. A person who does not love is free to accomplish things, free to experience the world, free of the pain when someone leaves them.”

Present: “If you lead your life as Morrie did, with people as the priority, making memories, giving of yourself, then when you die, you’re not really gone. You live inside the hearts of everyone you’ve ever touched.”

What are three words you would use to describe your character?

Curious, Driven, Anxious

What role does your character play in this story?

The storyteller, really. The story is relayed through Mitch’s memory.

What really connects to you from Mitch’s life?

The overall relationship and the mentorship within the relationship. I can connect with how special it is to have a person like that in your life. Someone who has truly shaped who you are. Someone who was able to break down the barriers that once imprisoned the person you wanted to be instead of the person you thought you should be.

What do you think audiences will go away with after seeing Tuesdays With Morrie?

That is always impossible to determine. If nothing else, I think folks will walk away with a deep and rediscovered love for the special people who are and were in their lives.

Why do you think this show is worth producing?
 
Because it’s an honest, true, and a meaningful story with a focus on relationship. Relationships with the special people in our lives are often parts of our lives that are not given enough attention and they are often overlooked while our focus falls upon our work, money, success, and individual achievement.

Meet Kona and Patrick!

Take a look at some of Kona and Patrick’s thoughts about working in Heaven, How I Got Here!

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Patrick

Patrick is making his debut with Provision Theater in Heaven, How I Got Here. He is a member of Inhabit Theater Company based out of McHenry and also has a “futuristic thriller” short-film named The Return coming out at the end of this year. He is slated to star in a film adaptation of the legend of Bigfoot that shoots in summer of 2016.

His father was a successful Chicago businessman before retirement (Bornquist, Inc.) and his brother Andy runs a successful lacrosse company that currently serves the Midwest (New Wave Lacrosse www.newwavelax.com)

What from HHIGH speaks to you personally?

Levi’s story speaks to me. It’s pretty universal. Every person from every class and/or race has a reason to fight back and start a revolution. It sometimes seems like a logical side effect of cultures mixing. Levi succumbs to this desire. But it’s too easy to fight for only your temporal side. There is a third option and that is the harder option and that is Christ. Laying down the swords and taking that leap of faith to follow Christ.

What do you want the audience to walk away with after they see HHIGH?

I would like the audiences to walk away inspired to take that Higher Option. Please, let’s stop the fighting and look up toward Heaven. Everyone ALWAYS has a response to any sort of gripe or complaint between classes, cultures and races. It won’t end unless we lay down our swords. And then immediately after surrendering we must fill the vacuum before the devil does.

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Is there anything about your character that you can identify with personally?

Being worldly and enjoying many blessings in the professional world but then experiencing a “fall from grace” of sorts and coming out a better person in the end (of course my journey on earth is still continuing).

Any other projects or companies you work for that you want to mention?

I am a member of Inhabit Theater Company based out of McHenry and also have a “futuristic thriller” short-film named The Return coming out at the end of this year. I am slated to star in a film adaptation of the legend of Bigfoot that shoots in summer of 2016.

Kona 2Kona

Kona is also new to Provision Theater, she is a part of Hope 31:9 Theatre Company and her next project is Milk Like Sugar with The Yard Theatre Company at Raven Theatre in January 2016. She teaches English and Drama at Sullivan House High School.

What from HHIGH speaks to you personally?

What speaks to me most is how the grace and love of God is manifested until the final moments of life and beyond.  It is also a humanistic examination of how we all have a story of how we have gotten to the point that we are at in life.

What do you want the audience to walk away with after they see HHIGH?

It is my greatest hope that if audiences don’t walk away with a more spiritual connectedness, they will walk away with a positive experience that will manifest into creating more good in the world.

Is there anything about your character that you can identify with personally?

I portray various characters, but I enjoy portraying the mother of two very strong-willed boys, as that is a reflection of real-life for me!

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Meet the Thief

What if you woke up one morning knowing that it was your last day on earth? That’s what happened to the thief on the cross, who died a few feet from Jesus.  Heaven, How I Got Here is his story, told in his own words, as he looks back from Heaven on the day that changed his eternity. This exciting world-premiere production and is adapted and directed by Provision’s Founding Artistic Director Timothy Gregory. The role of thief is played by Provision Theater Ensemble Member Rod Armentrout who answered a few questions about his experience with the show.

Rod Armentrout in Heaven, How I Got Here

Rod Armentrout in Heaven, How I Got Here

What is it about this show that speaks to you?
The same thing that has always touched me as a follower of Jesus – an infinitely patient, loving and perfect God has provided a redemptive pathway (through His son) to a short-tempered, insufferable and imperfect creature like me.

Is there anything about your character that you can identify with personally?
Levi is a man who is broken and wounded (due to circumstances beyond his control and circumstances of his own making) and often responds by lashing out in anger and pointing the finger at others.  Sounds familiar.

What do you want the audience to walk away with after they see Heaven, How I Got Here?
One of the main themes of the piece is taking personal responsibility.  I would want the audience to consider afresh how easy it can be for us humans to see the fatal flaws in others, but not in ourselves.

Rod Armentrout in rehearsal

Rod Armentrout in rehearsal

Anne with an “E”: Introducing Mary-Margaret Roberts as Anne Shirley

“And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?” -Anne Shirley

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Mary-Margaret Roberts

With her iconic red braids and indomitable spirit, Anne Shirley is one of literature’s most beloved characters. Taking on the challenge of bringing Anne to life onstage in Provision Theater for Young Audience’s world-premiere adaptation of Anne of Green Gables is Chicago actress Mary-Margaret Roberts. Since graduating from Western Illinois University with a MFA in Acting, Roberts has called Chicago home for two-and-a-half years and worked with theaters such as Fox Valley Rep, Emerald City, Metropolis, and the Factory Theatre.  We asked Roberts a few questions about her experience with Provision and playing Anne Shirley.

Tell me a little about the character you play in Anne of Green Gables.

“Anne Shirley is one of the most interesting characters I have ever played.  Her vocabulary is incredible and her love for the world around her is so infinite. I love how her relationships with everyone in the story grow into something so beautiful and meaningful.  You can’t help but love ANNE!!”

Why do you think Anne of Green Gables remains so popular generations after it was published?

“It’s an incredible story! I re-read the book again in preparation for this show, and Lucy Maud Montgomery draws you in through every sentence she composes.  Everyone, boy and girl, alike can relate to Anne in someway, whether through her relationships, her crazy antics, her love for those closest to her, or her extreme positivity in all aspects of her life.”

Mary-Margaret Roberts as Anne Shirley and Jaclyn Holtzman as Diana Barry

Mary-Margaret Roberts as Anne Shirley and Jaclyn Holtzman as Diana Barry

 What has it been like bringing such a beloved character and story to life onstage?

“This rehearsal process has been a blast! Anne, though quite the challenging character, is nothing but a joy to play! The cast is amazing to work with and so supportive, and I think everyone plays their parts so incredibly well.  I have fun everyday with this cast and this famous literary character!”

Anne of Green Gables starts performances on March 14 and runs through April 19. Visit http://www.provisiontheater.org for more information.

Fishers of Men: An Interview with Rod Armentrout and Mark Demel

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The story of the apostles Peter and Andrew gets a modern update in the play ‘Fish Eyes’, which plays at Provision Theater from February 8th-March 31st. Rod Armentrout and Mark Demel are the two actors that have performed the play across the country for over ten years. Armentrout and Demel sat down and spoke about the energy of the play, how it has changed, and how working together has made the show what it is today.

 

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You two have been performing ‘Fish Eyes’ together since 1998. Has every performance brought something new to the work?

 

Rod– One of the things that has been fun over the last couple of years is that we haven’t been performing the show in its entirety. We usually perform pieces of it at churches or schools. So it’s really exiting to do the whole thing in one chunk of time.

 

Mark– It’s a piece we know well, so now we’re able to play with it and find new things. As an actor, one of things that’s really fun is when a play is organic. It’s sort of alive. It’s not the same every night. You might have a whole new feeling each scene. The goal is that you keep the play alive and tingling. It’s great when you find a new quality that helps with that sort of vibrancy.

 

Rod– We often walk off after doing the show and say, ‘Well, that was different’ [Laughs]. But sometimes it’s a good different. Sometimes it’s not. One time, we went to Phoenix, doing the whole play and I was on the verge of being sick. I was getting worse and worse throughout the night. That was not one of the fun organic moments. But we pulled through.

 

You guys are playing characters that are 2000 years old. How is the play relatable to modern audiences?

 

Rod– The writers [Ted Schwartz and Lee Eschelmen] wrote the play in a very current vernacular. It’s just like ordinary guys talking. There isn’t a strange sound to the language, so it makes it very approachable. Also, the stuff that people were dealing with 2000 years ago are the same things that people deal with now. Same kinds of struggles. Different context and circumstances, but still the same struggle.

 

Mark– The 2000 years between when they were walking on the planet and now…There’s a lot of ‘scrubbing’ that happens in their story. What I like about this play is that it makes you think about what happened between the lines in scripture. For example, many times in the show, Peter and Andrew travel a certain distance to go to a town. Well, you just brush over that when you read scripture, and the truth is that that trip might have been a day-and-a half walk. Just imagine what takes place during the day-and-a-half! Think of a road trip you take with your friends where you’re going to visit a place and you’re in the car together and you sleep in the car… that’s the kind of stuff that took place with them, albeit in different situations, but that’s what’s so interesting- these guys were real people! In fact, there’s a scene in the play where one of the guys- Peter- wants to quit. Now, scripture never talks about that. [Rod laughs] But it’s entirely possible that these guys got so confused that they wanted to walk away and they didn’t understand what they were capable of.

 

Rod– And I think that’s one of the things relatable to anyone in any time. Everyone knows what that feeling of frustration is. It connects to audiences everywhere.

 

Has the show surprised you in any way?

 

Rod– Audience reaction is always a surprise. Sometimes it just depends on the crowd. My experience as an actor is that audiences have their own personalities and respond according to that personality. Sometimes it’s more reserved and not as responsive, and sometimes other audiences want to have fun. That has always been a consistent thing with me. Audiences are different and change. After living with the play for such a long time you find new things. One of the ways Mark and I check with each other is by asking ‘Are we still listening to each other? Are we still finding those moments? We’re not slipping into Autopilot, are we?’ Mark’s great about that. He pushes and tries different things and hopefully I’ll respond to those differences he throws at me.

 

Mark– One of the reasons we chose to do this play again is because it’s gotten a good response from the audiences we perform for. We expect people to enjoy it when they come and see it.

 

In a phrase, or a few words, what is this play about?

 

Rod– Faith when you don’t know what’s going on. Following when you have no clue.

 

Mark– It’s about that gap between what you know and what you hope for. It’s about how some people can follow that path even when there’s a gap they have to step over, and others can’t.

 

Provision Theater is located at 1001 W. Roosevelt St. To purchase tickets, call 312-455-0066. Prices range from $10-$32.