Blog: August 10th, 2018

It's here! Dress Rehearsal day of Session 2, 2018 is here! This day is so special as we, as a community, share in the experience of five shows that have each camper's heart and soul within. Tomorrow we will open up our circle (as our co-founder Tim Brownell always put it) to our friends and families to share with them as well. Each summer holds a very special story and journey and this summer is no different. Casts and crews and musicians have each worked diligently with the exciting challenges each play presents and we are thrilled to be reaching the pinnacle of our sixteenth summer and celebrating the love we all share of making theater!

Our final Director Q&A is a twofer! Chris Murrah, a ten year and fourteen show veteran of Acting Manitou, shares his Q&A with first year Music Director, Rachel Dean.

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Be More Chill
direction by Chris Murrah; musical direction by Rachel Dean

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1. What was one initial excitement you about the show you are working on?
Rachel: I knew going in that Be More Chill is a show that has resonated with teenage audiences. It was exciting for me to imagine what that would mean for our cast, who are for the most part the same age as the characters in the show; these were characters they could identify with immediately, whose struggles were their own. I couldn't wait to see what they would build on that already-solid foundation.

Chris: For many years I have chosen plays that I hoped would challenge the expectation of what young adults are capable of when it comes to making theatre. This year, I focused on coming to material that seemed to be in the current zeitgeist of our community. Be More Chill, currently in a sold out run off-Broadway, resonates with young adults, though I didn't really know why. I was excited to hear and feel what about this musical made our campers excited and use that as the springboard for making the show.

2. What has been a surprise for you in the rehearsal room?
Rachel: The openness of every kid in the room. Every single one has responded well when we push them to go further and discover more. They've all had surprising and thrilling breakthroughs.

Chris: The ability of our incredibly mature campers to embrace this material which they feel reflects their experiences while simultaneously having a critical eye on the writing and seeing how their generation is already responding through theatre in more sensitive and inclusive ways than even a generation before them. 

3. What about doing this play at Acting Manitou has been enlightening or exciting?
Rachel: Seeing what it means to the kids and how the show informs their own lives. I've had enlightening discussions with several cast members about what the show means in the context of 2018 and their own lived experiences, and it's reminded me just how aware of the world they are, and the good they are determined to go on to do.

Chris: I echo what Rachel has said. It has also been exciting to realize that no matter how awake to change I am, nothing stops the aging process and if I wish to continue to be truly inclusive I have to continue to listen to those who are both younger and older than I am. 

4. We do a lot of “teaching” here, but what have you learned by working with your cast?
Rachel: You must be the energy you wish to see in others. And there is always room for so much more kindness in our lives. And to be vulnerable and present always. Honestly, we teachers do a lot more learning than teaching here.

Chris: I have learned that I am one person, with a very specific energy. There are many ways to come at making theatre and mine is only one. On stage you will see 14 other ways of approaching rehearsal that are so thrilling and lead to the same end.

5. What show would you like to see Acting Manitou do in the near future?
Rachel: I would love to see a show that centers stories and struggles reflecting the experiences of so many of our campers, but that aren't often told on stage in a big way yet -- stories of LGBT kids; teenagers' stories taken seriously; stories that deal with issues they're facing in their world now. I don't have a specific show in mind, but I'd love to see it!

Chris: I have always supported bringing classics from Greek and international traditions to camp and allowing the productions to be specific to our campers in the telling of those stories. More of that. More original work written for young actors, not just young characters. Fun Home.