Wolves of Sherwood opens this weekend, and the entire team is gearing up for an action packed run. Our three youngest actors all attend Metropolitan Arts Institute where director John Perovich also acts as their theatre teacher. The four artists connected to interview each other about what it’s been like to work together outside of school, and what their experience has been like bringing Wolves of Sherwood to life.
John: How has working on Wolves of Sherwood at Brelby differed from your last full-length play rehearsal process at Metro Arts for Almost, Maine? What have you enjoyed about the process?
Ashley: My last full-length play at Metropolitan Arts Institute was Almost, Maine. This play only required a cast of nine people. Because of this, the rehearsal process went pretty quickly. We were each only in about two to four scenes and worked closely with only one other person or two per scene. The language and rhythm of the show required a bit more work than what we as high school students were used to. By the time tech week rolled around, we were still trying to memorize our lines. This caused a lot of stress. In the end, the show became a favorite of a lot of the staff at Metro, and it was a truly unforgettable experience because of the bond we all made through that show.
The rehearsal process of Wolves of Sherwood, however, has been a bit more intense. This play relies heavily on stage-combat. Because of this, we have had to work our bodies to ensure that we are strong enough. This applies to mental strength, as well. To guarantee our best performance results, John Perovich, our amazing director, has required us to have memorized our lines from the scenes we had just blocked the previous night. This is very different from my last full-length production. In the long run, I believe this is highly beneficial for the cast. This production will be my first production at Brelby that I have been a part of from the start. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I came in later in the rehearsal process because they were short a few fairies. Since I joined later, I did not have the chance to bond with the cast. I am grateful to have a few familiar faces in this cast and to have made some amazing new friends. Overall, I enjoy being a part of a more professional environment. This will help me prepare for my future endeavors in my acting career.
Terrance: So, your role—Braelyn—is a little sister and always seems to look up to her brother or someone to learn new things. Do you have any siblings that help you relate yourself to Braelyn? If not, what do you do to help yourself relate to Braelyn?
A: The character I play is the little sister of Jean-Luc. Braelyn is constantly asking for him to teach her how to fight. She easily gets annoyed and frustrated when he says, “No,” which is every single time, but she asks him because she looks up to him. She has been to every single training session he has been in and cheers him on. She has seen his growth and set-backs; yet, they still squabble sometimes like all siblings do. In the end, they both care deeply for each other and do whatever is necessary to protect each other.
Fun fact: the actor who plays Jean-Luc—Tyler Miller—went to the same elementary school as my older brother and me. In fact, he and my older brother were in the same graduating class. Through this connection, it is easy to have that brother/sister chemistry on stage. This is our first time, however, acting together in a production. It has been a fun experience, nonetheless.
I would say my relationship with my older brother is very different from Braelyn and Jean-Luc’s relationship. My older brother and I growing up never really fought. We squabbled a bit, but for the most part we were always on good terms. Nowadays, I hardly see my brother. I worry about him, because I know that adulting has been a bit rough on him. He knows, though, that he will always be welcomed back home with open arms. With Braelyn, she is constantly bugging Jean-Luc. Sometimes it is amusing to him while other times it is just annoying. Nevertheless, Jean-Luc is always there for her. They spend a lot of time together simply because Braelyn does not like to be left out and invites herself along on the adventure. Usually Jean-Luc appreciates his sister’s input, but there are times where he wishes she would have stayed behind. All in all, the relationships between the characters and my real life are quite similar. A bit spooky, if you ask me.
Ruqayyah: What are some of the differences between the last production you were in and this one? How have these differences helped you to learn? What is something you’ve learned that you will keep with you and use in future productions?
Ashley: The last production I was in was at Metropolitan Arts Institute. We called it The New Works Festival. This consists of eight to ten plays written by students, directed by students, and performed by students. I actually wrote one of the plays that was performed, too! I also performed in one titled glitch written and directed by Wednesday Estes. Because my character was only on stage right towards the end, the rehearsal process was fairly easy for me. One thing that constantly bothered me was how off-task we got during rehearsals. We were all friends and found each other trying to break our scene partners out of character. To a point, this becomes annoying when everyone else is wanting to get work done. All in all, I learned to be responsible for myself because in the end that is all I can do.
I am lucky to have started out my acting experience in this lenient environment. This was a simple transition to go from high school level of responsibility to a welcoming and accepting professional business. Specifically with this production, I really enjoy the fact that we had to memorize our lines for a scene we blocked the night before. This is a helpful tool I may use in my future. Even if the director does not require it of me, I should take it upon myself to put in the extra effort so that I can only improve from there.
John: Your character in Wolves of Sherwood—Ravenna—is a complex figure in the play. How are you preparing for the role? What has been most helpful? What do you hope to still discover as we continue to work on the show?
Ruqayyah: I have been connecting with my character by comparing the situations in the play to things that have happened in reality. I’ve been trying to embody my character and compare how she would respond to certain things in contrast to how I would. The most helpful thing has been interviewing my character. I would ask my self questions on certain scenarios and have Ravenna answer them. I would like to continue to discover Ravenna’s back story and more of her motives for how/why she reacts to things.
Terrance: What was your first reaction when you got the role? After doing this show, do you plan to continue your acting career with Brelby—in general?
Ruqayyah: I was so excited when I got the role and I was genuinely proud of myself. Because of this show, I have fallen in love theater. I am definitely wanting to further my career in theater!
Ashley: How does it feel to have gotten such an important role in Wolves of Sherwood when this is only your first year in Arizona? How did you find out about this production? Are you happy to be a part in this play? Talk about some of your favorite moments so far in the rehearsal process.
Ruqayyah: It honestly feels great. I had this idea in my head that I wouldn’t get the part because of my lack of experience and skill. To my surprise, I landed the part of Ravenna. I found out about this production from our director, John Perovich. He emailed me about the play and provided a character description that I might be interested in. I am more than happy to be a part of this experience! I loved slowly seeing how the play came together and also loved seeing the life we gave the play.
John: Your character—Cassian—has an incredible amount of stage combat in this show. What has it been like learning all of the show’s fight choreography? What have you enjoyed about the process?
Terrance: It’s been a lot of fun learning the fight choreography for the show! It’s been a new challenge for me and another thing that I’ve always wanted to accomplish so this show gave me the perfect opportunity to do that. The best part about it is the large fights where all of us move in sync to make these epic scenes that the audience is sure to enjoy.
Ashley: Since you are in hockey, did you feel physically ready to take on the stage combat? Are there some warm ups you do to prepare for hockey that are similar to what we do at the theater? If you were to receive a medal in stage combat like you have in hockey, what do you think the medal would be for (jumps, rolls, etc.)?
T: Yes, I did feel prepared to take on the physical portion of the roll because of my hockey background and a lot of the stretches we do are the same: the lunges, the leg and arm stretches, and the steps we do are all things I do before a game or practice to warm-up my muscles. If I were to get a medal for stage combat, I believe it would be for either rolls or being able to take stage punches—I do a lot of both of these things and feel that I’ve become decent at them…especially the stage punches.
Terrance: As director of Wolves of Sherwood, you’re in charge of all the things we do during rehearsal. How do you manage everything? Are there certain things that you want to do that we don’t get to do during rehearsal?
John: I like to think of myself as the captain of the ship that we’re all on—in this case, the ship is called Wolves of Sherwood. I am a member of the overall crew, of course, and I work on a team; but, ultimately, I have to consistently make decisions about what course we’re on…and sometimes I have to alter the course given new information. I always have a plan on what I would like to accomplish, but sometimes other things come up and I have to remain flexible. It’s all a part of the process.
Ruqayyah: Have you learned anything new while directing this performance that you would incorporate in other shows? Do you think this experience will improve your directing?
John: That’s a great question! This is the first time that I have directed a show with so much fight choreography. Going into the process, I looked at the fights as musical numbers—I have more experience with musicals, so I thought it would make a logical approach. I’ve learned that fight choreography is its own particular, fun beast and needs time and attention to improve. This experience has taught me how to work more with fight choreography in my directing work. I now feel more prepared to direct shows that have substantial fight choreography.
Ashley: How do your positions in Wolves of Sherwood and Antigone (at Now & Then Creative Company) differ? What are some responsibilities you have in one that you don’t have in the other? How are you able to juggle these and anything else happening in your world?
John: Luckily, the roles are very different so I’ve been able to juggle both, especially because of the strong teams at Now & Then and Brelby. As Now & Then’s Artistic Director, I’ve been overseeing Antigone from pre-production meetings, speaking often with the director—Cody Goulder, attending weekly production meetings (I also was the sound designer), collaborating with our Head of Marketing & PR—Megan Mattox…so many pieces to ensure that we had a strong production, with a marketing presence, and that the team had everything that they needed for the show. Further, I believe it’s my responsibility to work with the team to ensure that we really do have a great production. It’s a lot of behind the scenes work, checking in, short conversations, and consistently reviewing rehearsal reports from our amazing stage manager—Shyla Bonham. It was also finding time to help hang lights with our lighting designer—Brian Maticic, setting up our online box office, and writing press releases. As I’m writing this down, I’m starting to realize all of the little things I do! I love it! And I’m proud of the work that the team has done. Come see Antigone at Now & Then! We run through May 19! Tickets: nowandthencc.com/upcoming.
Wolves of Sherwood has been a completely different role as the director. I’m directly responsible for creating a unified concept for the show and communicating that vision to our production team (including working closely with Brelby’s Artistic Director, Shelby Maticic) and—my largest task—is collaborating with the cast and the production team to visually tell the story of Wolves of Sherwood. We have a wonderful playwright—Chelsea Frandsen—that wrote this exciting world. Chelsea is the author of the play—as the director, working with the cast and production team—we are the authors of this production. So, I’ve worked hard to create a unique world with a strong style and dynamic characters, all rooted in Chelsea’s writing. This has been one of the best groups of people I have worked with—and I don’t say that lightly. It has been a positive and productive environment, everyone is committed, and it has made the journey so rewarding. Now that we are in tech week, all of the pieces are starting to come together and I’m excited for audiences to see this unique take on the Robin Hood mythos! Get your tickets now at brelby.com!
The last part of your question…about juggling other things happening in my world. That’s a good question. I’ve kind of paused everything else that might be happening in my life during this heavy theatre time. I like to work hard and then play hard. I’ll be heading out of town at the conclusion of Wolves of Sherwood’s run to attend a playwriting conference in Alaska and then head to the east coast to spend time with family.