Author Archives: Sue Schnell

Plot Tightens and Twists in ‘Turn of the Screw’

 

Daria Koon, left, and Chris Kuisle rehearse a scene from Rochester Repertory Theatre’s two-person show “Turn of the Screw” on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

 

Rochester Repertory Theatre presents a play adapted from a 19th-century horror novel.

Daria Koon was excited to portray the long character arc of the governess in Rochester Repertory Theatre’s “Turn of the Screw.”

“There’s so much to dive into with this character,” she said.

As events unfold in the stage adaptation of Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw,” the audience sees a young governess changed by the events she witnesses.

“In the span of two seconds, I play three characters,” he said.

Each role makes an opposite demand of its actor in the two-person show. Koon and Kuisle said they found their respective challenges equally enticing. After seeing a notice for auditions, Koon read the play script, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, then she read the original 19th-century novel. A recent graduate with a BFA in musical theater from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., Koon said she was excited for the role.

“There’s so much in this story as a young woman in this time period, and how she deals with all the challenges presented to her and how they affect her,” she said.

Kuisle has focused on making distinct characters clear to the audience without making them into caricatures.

“I think and I hope I have been successful in creating believable characters,” he said. “These guys can attest that I would slide in and out of accents and characters in rehearsal at the beginning.”

Director Kami Sim said Kuisle has been successful, but agreed it took time and practice.

“A lot of times at the beginning, I’d say, ‘That was hilarious, don’t do that,’ ” Sim said.

The show follows a young governess who, caring for two children at a remote estate, begins to see apparitions and becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. The audience, unsure of whether the ghosts are real, is pulled into the suspense, Sim said.

“Two pages into the script, you just want to know what happens next,” she said.

The show is set for performances in the blackbox theater at the Rochester Civic Theatre. The sparse set includes one antique chair and a platform.

“It allows for the audience to fill in those details in their own minds,” Sim said.

A rehearsal for Rochester Repertory Theatre’s two-person show, “Turn of the Screw.” on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Chris Kuisle, left, and Daria Koon rehearse a scene from Rochester Repertory Theatre’s two-person show “Turn of the Screw” on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–John Molseed, Post-Bulletin, July 26, 2021

“Love Letters” Shows Distance Doesn’t Diminish Connection

Anne Black-Sinak and Larry Sinak read their lines at the first in-person rehearsal for Rochester Repertory Theatre’s “Love Letters” on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the black-box theater at Rochester Civic Theater.

Anyone who’s acted in live theater knows the scenario: You’re about to go onstage, everyone is waiting for you, and you don’t know your lines.

It’s a classic actor nightmare.

Two experienced actors are preparing for a show that will make that anxiety dream a reality.

Rochester Repertory Theatre is resuming live performances with “Love Letters,” featuring veteran stage actors Anne Black-Sinak and Larry Sinak. The show opens Friday, June 11, and neither actor is expected to have the script memorized. And neither is a bit worried about it.

They’ll have “scripts” in front of them — the letters their characters exchange over decades of friendship and, later, more than friendship.

The play’s author, A.R. Gurney, specifically instructs directors not to have the actors memorize their lines. The “lines” are letters that begin as a series of thank-you notes after a birthday party where the characters met. Later, they exchange summer camp postcards, and then continue the correspondence through school into adulthood.

Because the actors are married, they aren’t required to maintain a distance under COVID-19 safety protocols, which helped make the show a contender for director Mary Pyfferoen. However, she said her choice was motivated by more than logistics. Pyfferoen wants people to consider their relationships after a year of distancing, she said.

“Part of what drew me to this show was how a relationship can keep going and growing no matter the distance, the time, or isolation,” she said. “I think as we’re coming out of all this isolation, it’s important to start thinking about our own connections and realize that it’s not too late to reach out.”

Pyfferoen said not memorizing the lines can evoke a more honest emotional response to the letters’ contents.

“You want to get to the feeling without going over the top or trying to force it,” she said.

The show will be performed at the Rochester Civic Theater Black Box space. The Repertory Theatre’s building is still under renovations, and its theater space doesn’t have the room to accommodate COVID distancing guidelines.

The show includes no blocking or stage directions. Subtle lighting changes help enhance or reflect the mood of the letters. With the show opening Friday, the director, stage manager and lighting technician met Tuesday for the first in-person rehearsal.

Pyfferoen said she isn’t worried. “I trust (Sinak and Black-Sinak) implicitly,” she said.

Larry Sinak reads a “letter” at the first in-person rehearsal for Rochester Repertory Theatre’s “Love Letters” on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the black-box theater at Rochester Civic Theater.
Anne Black-Sinak reads a “letter” at the first in-person rehearsal for Rochester Repertory Theatre’s “Love Letters” June 8, 2021 at the black box theater at Rochester Civic Theater.

–John Molseed, Post-Bulletin, June 9, 2021