Sunday, April 16, 2006

Right around the 'Hot Corner'


Here is a small feature on 'Rounding Third' in the sunday arts section of the Lexington Herald-Leader here in Kentucky. We open this friday, April 21st...

Roles reversal
Two-man show's actors swap parts each night
By Rich Copley
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE WRITER

With a play that has several strong leading roles, it's fairly common for an actor to walk away with a desire to play one of the other parts somewhere down the road.

That won't happen with Actors Guild of Lexington's production of Richard Dresser's Rounding Third.

Each night in the two-man show, actors Adam Luckey and Scott Wichmann will play the opposite character from the ones they played the night before.

Gimmick?

Acting exercise?

Intriguing look at theater for AGL patrons?

Wichmann, Luckey and director Richard St. Peter claim all of the above.

"Hopefully it will show people who don't normally come out to theater what is possible when you just have two guys and a script," Wichmann says. "It becomes a completely different experience when we put the different roles on."

The play is about Don, a win-at-all-costs little league baseball coach, and his new assistant coach, Michael, who has no experience and is in it for the fun. "If this isn't as serious a commitment as you make to your job, your marriage, I respectfully suggest that you bow out," Don tells Michael in the first scene.

Michael refuses to step aside, setting up a turbulent season for the team, particularly when the team makes the playoffs and Don decides to cheat to win.

"Taken in and of itself, it's not a great piece of dramatic literature," St. Peter says. "I don't think we'll be studying Rounding Third 200 years from now.

"But when you put it in the context of its time, I think it says a lot about where we are as a society and what it is that we stand for. What do we want to accomplish? Are we breeding the next generation of Enron CEOs, or are we going to figure out some way to instill some empathy within our children, which we seem to have lost as a society?"

The play is close to St. Peter's and Wichmann's hearts, as both are baseball nuts, and St. Peter once seriously aspired to a professional baseball career.

Luckey admits that a lot of his cohorts' baseball repartee flies over his head, but he sees parallels between theater and team sports in that both are small groups of people who come together for a set period of time to accomplish a goal and then go their separate ways.
This goal just happens to be a bit more daunting, as both men basically have to learn the entire play and play very different characters every night.

For Luckey, it was a particularly arduous undertaking as he started Rounding Third rehearsals while he was playing Jack in Actors Guild's production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
"There are times you think, 'What am I supposed to say next?'" Luckey says. "'Who am I?'"
St. Peter says he was inspired to do the role flipping after John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman did the switch-off in Sam Shepard's True West on Broadway in 2000.

"For me, the challenge was process," St. Peter says. "How would you rehearse it, how would you make it happen. In a commercial setting, they have as much time as they need for rehearsals. Could we make it happen in a non-profit setting where we have four weeks?"
As opposed to each actor just stepping into the character's blocking, the actors and director say, it's like producing two plays.

"It was important that they brought their own individual impulses to each character," St. Peter says.

Luckey notes, "There's a different physical relationship," as he is a head taller than Wichmann. In a rehearsal, as the two trade off the opening scene, it's apparent that Luckey's Don uses size to intimidate Michael, while Wichmann's Don is "a bulldog," St. Peter says.

Referring to his stars, St. Peter says that if the production had been done with each actor set in one role, "it would have been a great show. But why not stretch ourselves? Why not challenge them, challenge us, challenge the audience and take a step forward and say, 'Look, we're capable of doing this.'"

'Rounding Third'
When: April 21-May 14, performances at 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun.
Where: Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St.
Tickets: $24 general admission, $18 ages 65 and older, $15 students with valid ID. Available at the Downtown Arts Center box office, by calling (859) 225-0370 or at www.actors guildoflexington.org.

Preview performances: There will be previews, essentially final dress rehearsals, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday's performance is "pay what you can," and Thursday's is $20 general admission, $15 ages 65 and older, $12 students with valid ID, $6 student rush (available five minutes before curtain).

Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217, or rcopley@herald-leader.com.

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