All signs point to the Windmill Theatre Company’s debut production, “Farragut North,” being a resounding success.
Each of the three evening performances, held April 25-27, were filled to capacity, some nights requiring emergency overflow seating. Provost Stephen Miles attended the production and was so impressed that he sent each cast member a personal, private e-mail. Most importantly, however, is the fact that this production sets the stage for the Windmill Theatre Company to establish itself as a lasting, successful theatre company at New College.
“The reaction from students has been very positive,” first-year and director McAlister Grant said. “I think it’s a good start [for the Windmill Theatre Company].”
Grant and first-years Michael Valdez and Lara Grauerholz-Fisher, who played the roles of Steven and Molly, respectively, chatted with the Catalyst about preparation, being on stage, and lessons learned from their first experience in New College theatre.
Kicking off the discussion, Grauerholz- Fisher compared her work on “Farragut North” to her very different experiences in high school theatre.
“I did a lot of theatre in high school,” Grauerholz-Fisher said. “This was very different because in high school, the directors had creative control, and with this, McAlister was doing an experimental method where he would supervise and make sure we were going in the right direction, but as actors, we had a lot of freedom.”
“I liked [Grant’s] version a lot better [than high school,]” Valdez, added.
Challenged with the leading role, Valdez found himself struggling with the material.
“I had to say some extremely misogynistic, racist, offensive, disgusting things, and at first I was like, McAlister, I don’t know if I can say this,” Valdez explained. Though Grant told him he did not have to use those lines, Valdez said, “Once I started getting more into the character […] I felt that I needed to.”
Grant, who had never directed before and he referred to directing “Farragut North” as a “fulfillment of a lifetime goal.” He also found great inspiration in the teaching of Professor Andrei Malaev-Babel, with whom he took Acting I last semester.
“I really connected with his style of acting and directing where you don’t so much tell the actors what to do,” Grant explained. “But you just create a space where they can express things organically.”
Grauerholz-Fisher found the style liberating and refreshing.
“In high school, it felt like we were doing the same show every night and it was the same thing,” she said. “It was interesting to not know how your partner was going to play the scene.”
“A person who comes to see all four shows is not going to see the same show twice,” Grant added.
Strapped for time, both the cast and crew had their challenges in preparation. According to Grauerholz-Fisher, the actors “probably could have had more time to rehearse” but noted that, given time constraints, they got in as much as they could.
“We only had a handful of run-throughs together,” she said.
“We did like once-a-week things during ISP, and then it geared up toward March [and] early April,” Valdez recalled. “We started doing full run-throughs a week before the show – it could’ve been more intensive, but we are all full-time college students!”
Grant, meanwhile, was confident in the ability of his actors throughout, even though as a freshman director he felt it was difficult at times to “communicate with [the] actors.” More-so, he referred to himself as a “scatterbrain,” struggling with the technical aspect of putting on a production.
“I put that off much longer than I should have and so it was kind of like a mad dash to get everything together technically in the last couple weeks,” Grant admitted.
In terms of the performances themselves, both Grant and Grauerholz- Fisher felt they really hit their stride in the final production.
“I thought on Saturday night they just nailed it,” Grant said. According to Grauerholz-Fisher, he told her “the final show was everything he wanted it to be, and wished he could have been able to get it from the start.”
While finding the experience rewarding, Grant plans to focus on other aspiring directors and upcoming projects of the Windmill Theatre Company.
“I want to … help other productions become successful in the same way ‘Farragut North’ was, and hopefully at a greater level than ‘Farragut North’ was,” Grant concluded.
Without question, the success of “Farragut North” has set the stage for the Windmill Theatre Company to look onward to future, greater achievements.