by Vicki Hildner | University Communications
Are you in need of a good laugh?
The kind of laugh that starts and won’t stop, a communal laugh, in a room filled with people who are all laughing with you?
If that sounds like a remedy for what ails you, run (don’t walk) to buy a ticket for Noises Off, the play that curmudgeonly theater critic Frank Rich called “the funniest play written in my lifetime.”
A joint production of the CU Denver College of Arts & Media (CAM) and the Community College of Denver (CCD), Noises Off answers the question you might ask while watching any play: What’s going on backstage?
“Noises Off is a designer’s dream, or perhaps nightmare!” said AllanTrumpler, production designer and senior instructor in the CAM Department of Theatre, Film & Video Production. “It’s fun. We wink at the audience and they wink back and laugh a lot with us.”
“Making fun of actors”
A 1982 British farce by English playwright Michael Frayn, Noises Off follows the misadventures of a group of mediocre actors rehearsing a play titled Nothing On. In the first act, we see their dress rehearsal. They are hopelessly unprepared, with missed cues and wrongly timed entrances and exits.
The second act jumps ahead one month into the run of Nothing On. The set is turned completely around and the audience now gets the backstage view of the “play within a play.”
“You get to see the actors wreak havoc on each other,” said Nick Dickert, PhD, assistant professor of Theatre Arts at CCD and Noises Off producer. “They are filled with petty jealousy and out for revenge.”
By the third act, the set has returned to normal, the play is nearing the end of its run and Nothing On has deteriorated into bedlam, with a healthy dose of slapstick, not to mention frequent dropping of trousers.
Linda McQuade, a CU Denver biology major who graduated in December, plays the role of Brooke in Noises Off (Vicki in Nothing On).
“I love that this play is making fun of actors,” McQuade said. “Actors can take themselves too seriously. This says we are not gods, we are just people.”
“It validates what they learn in the classroom”
Any theater production is, by its nature, collaborative. Noises Off is doubly so because two schools produced it jointly. The director, Ed Osborn, and producer Dickert represent CCD. The costume designer, Janetta Turner, and production designer Trumpler are from CU Denver, as is the sound designer, Tori Higgins, who is a student in Music & Entertainment Industry Studies. One of the lead roles is played by Carol Bloom, instructor in CU Denver’s Theatre, Film & Video Production Department. The remaining roles are filled by students from CU Denver and CCD.
“Students take directing more seriously when faculty members are doing the same thing,” said Dickert. “It validates what they learn in the classroom when they see faculty engaged in the same processes.”
McQuade spends a part of Noises Off with (almost) “Nothing On,” which might be a stretch for even an experienced actor. But before she came to CU Denver, McQuade had never been on stage.
“What’s cool about CU Denver is that it’s open to letting members of the larger community try out acting,” McQuade said. “It’s not an exclusive club.”
Walt Booth and Ryan Flint, both seniors in CAM’s Theatre, Film & Video department, join McQuade on stage. Booth, who hopes to do stand-up comedy after he graduates, plays Gary (who plays Roger). “Gary has relationship problems in real life and in the play,” Booth said. “But his problems are far worse in real life.”
Flint points out that all the actors in the play who have to drop trousers at some point are preparing for the performance by trying to “get buff.”
He gives the play its best endorsement when he points out that, even after all the rehearsals of this play (about a play in rehearsal), “We haven’t ever stopped thinking it’s funny.”
So if you are in need of a laugh, you’ll find it the last week of April and the first week of May in the Eugenia Rawls Courtyard Theatre at the King Performing Arts Center. There, you can watch what happens when a theatrical train goes off the tracks.
“When all the backstage stuff we normally hide in a production goes smoothly, you don’t know about it,” Dickert said. “Here, you see a train wreck.”