Who the Hell Are These People?

By Sara Turner

The time is approaching for the play that I’m in called 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, a political satire. To be prepared, I have been researching as much as I can about our nation’s leaders.

So I have been heavily into documentaries and books on all the presidents. The result: an extreme skepticism that we are in a country built on lies! Of course, I have always been into conspiracy theories and this research fits right in with that. I have watched a documentary on Richard Nixon, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Herbert Hoover, and started one on LBJ. Also, I have read about the first twenty presidents. My conclusion is that all of these men basically did whatever they had to do to become president and when they got into office changed their minds on what they wanted to do. The pressure and beliefs they went into the office with disappear when they want their careers to remain pristine. I mean, Nixon…really? He was so paranoid and such a rough guy. Originally, he wanted to be this president who was a fighter for the people but wound up fighting the people he was trying to protect. In the Vietnam War, protestors cried out for him to return the troops and instead he sent military forces to college campuses resulting in four deaths, which were all students. He was scared to shake people’s hands or look them in the eye.

I can’t imagine being the president and all the strategies or paranoia that comes with it in order to gain votes.

The notes I am taking when I watch these documentaries are the interesting ones or the facts that shaped these men. I want to know if they took a nap after they ate lunch. Apparently Harry S. Truman did. I am looking for their gestures and inflections when they speak. How did other people view them? How did America view them? Knowing what people thought about each president is probably the most important piece of information in this process because it isn’t about imitating the person. The play’s instructions in the first few pages of the script are to catch the essence of the president and just play that essence. This play isn’t serious in the sense that you must portray who you are playing but that we see the effect or contribution to America that they made. It’s about how people see him. That’s what I want to play.

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Lessons from Cinderella

By Sara Turner.

For the past few weeks, I have been working on a show, which I am afraid to admit is Cinderella. Now, if you like this show, I’m sorry. I randomly decided that I wanted to help out with my community theatre in June. It worked out perfectly because they just happened to need a stage manager. I signed on for the job.

I think that if you love theatre, you should find a way to be a part of it no matter what. Also, I believe as an actor it is a good idea that you learn all the areas of theatre and experience as much of it as possible The more you know, the more useful you will be. The actors should know what it’s like to be a part of the crew and same for the crew. No divas.

So I went into this not knowing anything about being a stage manager. All I know about is being onstage and that the people backstage help me out a lot. Of course, I knew that there is a prop table and that if you work backstage you dress in black, but I didn’t know how to run a crew.

I have now learned that as the stage manager, I am in charge of putting out the fires…the metaphorical fires of course. Constantly, I am on my headset getting directions and questions that have to be answered with an immediate response and action. I love that I am in charge of running the show and helping people with whatever problems they have. There are small moments in the show where I get to help out in such a small way but it really matters. For example, every quick change, I am there to help them, which they count on from me. Also, there is a crazy waltz they have to do in a ballroom scene and I make sure I am standing by with water after it to keep people hydrated.

If you see that you’re just sitting around doing nothing, get involved in something to do with theatre. Learn a new job and help out. Every show can provide you with knowledge even if it is Cinderella…because let’s be serious here. What could I possibly learn from that show except that it makes me want to gouge my eyes out? Guess what though, I learned how to be a stage manager and have met great people.

The people who I have met have helped me grow and learn. They have helped me heal. So much so that I have been writing again in a journal, which I stopped a long time ago. I bought myself a little journal strictly for my poetry and have been writing almost every day. I don’t edit or censor myself even if it is so cheesy and full of teenage angst. I’m just writing freely.

So people, go write, go read, and go learn about theatre!

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To Sleep Perchance to Dream

by Sara Turner.

I mentioned recently that I saw the Off Broadway show Sleep No More and I would like to share this story because it’s freaking crazy. The first time I saw it I walked out of the venue and had to sit down on the sidewalk in New York City just to get my grasp on reality back. The second time I went was even scarier.

I heard from my friend about this show and was so intrigued to go. When you buy your tickets, you don’t even know what you are buying tickets for because they act like it’s a real hotel. With my best friend Hannah, we walked to 27th street to a warehouse and the only reason I knew it was the right place was because there was a line outside the door. Otherwise, you would never know it was the venue because there are no signs.

When you are inside, you “check in” and they give you a playing card as your ticket. I got the five of hearts. With your key in hand, you go through a dark maze that leads you into a 1930s style nightclub where you can purchase absinthe*. The dark maze scared me so much because you think someone is going to grab you. They recommend that you arrive between seven and eight but it you don’t go in until they call your number. Once they call you up, you go into a room behind curtains with about fifteen other people. This part is when things get freaky.

Behind the curtains lies an elevator, which leads to all of the eighty rooms within the hotel to explore. A very dapper man explains the rules of the hotel in a very seductive way. He provides you with a mask that covers the top half of your face and leaves the mouth to breath, almost like a duckbill.

The rules are simple: no talking and the people in black masks inside are there for your protection, not to guide you. I stepped onto the elevator with Hannah and as this was my second time, Hannah was going to follow me so she would not miss important things. The bellhop dressed in 1930s style clothing, as they all were, pulled me in particular aside and held onto me. He told us that if the hotel became too much for us that we can always go back to the bar. Then he stopped the elevator and said, “And remember ladies and gentlemen, fortune favors the bold. Everyone off.” I turned around and got off thinking everyone was behind me, but he laughed and the door shut immediately. I was alone and unintentionally had left Hannah behind. The first time I went, we all got off the elevator together, so this time I was terrified.

While you are inside the hotel, the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in 1930s dress is going on and you are dropped off into their world. You are a fly on the wall and get to watch these people’s lives. The actors don’t recite lines or put on a show. Instead, they live the story and run throughout the hotel. If they do talk, it’s muttered under their breath or brief but not meant for an audience’s ears. It’s like you’re invisible while watching this tragedy unfold. When you follow the actors, they pretend you aren’t there, or they will move you if you are in their way. However, there are some moments where the actors will take a person to a room and only that actor has a key to that room. Most of the time, you can either follow whomever you want or you can go explore the eighty rooms that are fully decorated with actual props and furniture from the play. You can go through people’s things like luggage or mail. You can open people’s letters and read them. Nothing is off limits. It’s about showing yourself how far you are willing to cross that boundary of personal space. That mask they provide you helps you let go of your inhibitions and no longer do you answer to societal norms.

The actors run through their tracks three times throughout the night because obviously as a participant, you can’t see it all. You are in there for three hours while the lights are dim and music plays the whole time.

Now that that is explained, back to what was waiting for me when I got off the elevator. I was staring at a long corridor that reminded me of The Shinning. There was no music playing and the lights were all on. Suddenly, I heard wheels rolling around the corner. I realized the only place I could go was toward that sound. I turned the corner and saw a nurse with a wheelchair, her back facing me. As she heard me, she turned and motioned toward the seat for me to come sit. Cautiously, I sat in her chair. She was blonde and about twenty-five wearing an old school nurse’s cap. She rolled me backwards so I couldn’t see where I was going. She took me into a pitch black room, reclined the wheel chair into a bed, and closed the door. I was laying in the dark for about a minute, which seemed so long at the time because all I kept thinking is, “oh god, this is where they do the experiments. I’m dead.” I was freaking out and clutching my jeans. Thank god I had been there before because I knew that they weren’t going to do anything to me, but all of sudden a voice over came on in the room.

I realized the voice was reciting the first line from the novel, Rebecca, which is also a messed up story like Macbeth. As the voice became louder, lights came on above me to reveal a miniature town on the ceiling. The town mimicked what the voice over was saying about it. Once it ended, the nurse propped me back up, grabbed my hand and dragged me down the hall. She then put her hands on my cheeks, said, “we can never go back”, and kissed my neck. In one swift motion, she opened a door and had me back out into the hotel. I never saw that room again or that nurse. It was a dream inside a dream.

That night was filled with so much surprise and it was completely different from the last time I saw it. That’s the amazing thing about this show is that every time you go you will have a different experience. Lady Macbeth took me into her room after she got out of a bath. Yes, a naked Lady Macbeth and I ran upstairs to her room and I watched her go insane. It was awesome. I watched Macbeth kill the king with a pillow in front of me. That experience made me so sick because I was just standing there watching it happen, but obviously I couldn’t do anything. It was so intimate. Most of the moments during the show make you feel like you shouldn’t be there because it’s so intense.

By the end, I was so tired and so wrapped up in that world. Hannah and I went to McDonalds and sat there for two hours talking about what had just happened to us. We had completely different stories to tell. She said to me, “I feel like when we are old and looking back at life, we will question if this was real or a dream.”

*, an anise-flavored drink that was once outlawed

Read more:

about Sleep No More

about interactive theatre at The Guardian


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Four Shows and a Wedding

by Sara Turner.

I just sent one of my close friends off on her honeymoon. She is 21 and just got married on Friday. Where are they honeymooning? New York City and the Bahamas. As a parting gift, I told them about my best way to get cheap seats to Broadway shows.

Do not buy tickets ahead of time unless you are going to see Sleep No More which is an entirely different blog, trust me. It would take pages to explain that experience. *

At most shows, they have great deals if you go to the box office of the each particular theatre and ask. Most theatres have an amazing offer they call student rush, general rush, and the lottery.

For student rush, go to the theatre of the show you want to see the day you want to see it (if they have a student rush) and get there two hours before the box office opens. On weekdays, they open at 10 a.m. and on weekends, 12 p.m. Show up with your student I.D. and then they will give you two tickets usually for $26. 50 each. You get two tickets per I.D. and they are usually located in great places.

General rush works the same way except you may only get one ticket and you don’t have to be a student.

The lottery is harder to explain. For example, The Book of Mormon has the lottery. The day of the show, go two and a half hours before the show time and put your name in a drawing at the box office. They pull about 30 tickets. You can win up to two tickets for $26.50.

If none of these methods work out, then you still have time to go to TKTS in Times Square to get half-price tickets.

I just wanted to spill some advice about cheap New York seats because it’s always important to see theatre and seeing it cheap helps us poor college students.

Since I have been in this wedding of the friend who is honeymooning in NYC, I have not been very productive towards this play that I am in at school. Back to work! However, I have a great line up of documentaries waiting for me on Netflix that will help with the research.

Also, I am almost done with Mockingjay and cannot wait to finish it. If you knew me, you would know how much an accomplishment it is for me to finish a series. Trust me. I have so much to read!

I just started watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Kate Winslet. I always love watching things with my favorite actors in them because it always re-inspires me. Hopefully next blog I will have more to report about my progress with my play. Life is so crazy because even when you’re not busy, there is so much to do.

  * from Mary: Sleep No More is an interactive theatrical experience that takes place in the recently restored McKittrick Hotel. It’s not your father’s theatre where you just sit passively and let it all wash over you. It turns the usual theatre-going experience on its ear. And you do have to be familiar with Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy. According to the critics, you shouldn’t miss it.

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Because every 19 year old theatre student loves Jimmy Carter

by Sara Turner.

The research for my play has officially begun. The play is 44 Plays for 44 Presidents and it’s like The Colbert Report or The Daily Show. It makes fun or sheds light on the president’s actions or lack thereof.

The director of this play is also my improv professor and he was looking for people who are not afraid to take risks and who are quick on their feet. I guess I fit that description. For the audition, he had us read the play and then come in and do cold readings as some of the presidents. He insisted that we make bold choices and have fun with it. So, for my reading as Benjamin Franklin who was supposed to have a Boston accent, I went in there with a New York accent and played him like a drunk, bitter old man.  My professor cracked up, so I thought it went well.

Then I got a callback and did more cold readings. I got cast along with four other people, so in total three boys and two girls. Also, we have a great ensemble. I am so excited to actually start it in the fall.

My professor has worked at Second City and with many of the big comedians today, so his class has been amazing. I love improv because of him. In high school, improv was always just some chapter we had to cover in the required text. In college, however, with this man I have learned that improv is about telling the truth. I love how in improv all you can work with is what you know and with confidence  to go where you’ve never been before. Improv makes you open up and trust whatever comes out of your mouth, but it’s more about the other people onstage with you. It’s about making them look good and supporting them, which takes the pressure off of you. If you try to be funny, you will not be funny.

So our assignment over the summer is to learn all about the presidents and then when we get back he will cast the show. The way he works is to let us all basically play all the characters at one point during rehearsal and just immersing ourselves in all the characters. Then, he will choose who is best as what. We will know the ins and outs of this script. To prepare over the summer, we are to watch all the documentaries we can, read about the presidents, find out quirky things about them, and read the play.

As a good student, I watched two documentaries this week. One was on Bill Clinton and one was on Jimmy Carter. It was so interesting to see how much more people liked both of these presidents after they left the White House. What does that tell you? I have been keeping a word document open as I watch these documentaries to keep notes on just the stuff that strikes me about them. For instance, Jimmy Carter came out of nowhere as president. He was only a governor for one term and then decided “hey, this is a piece of cake. Why not president?” Like, really dude? I then went to my best friend’s house where her mom and I discussed Jimmy Carter. Her mom LOVES Jimmy Carter. I remember going to an exhibit with her when I was 15 and we stayed for five hours. Five hours of Jimmy Carter. . . we almost didn’t make it.

But the funny part of my day was when I went to hang out with other friends and they asked what I did today and I said “Oh well, I went on a run and watched a documentary on Jimmy Carter.” This is not what most 19 year olds are doing with their summer.

I love the research involved with acting. It makes me feel like I’m always going to be learning something. This summer, I’m getting a history lesson. How great is that!

Also, as I mentioned before, I think that Washington was gay. Here is my logic: he was an art collector, dancer, had a flair for fashion, designed military uniforms, and decorated Mount Vernon (his estate). He also did not have any children with his wife other than the ones he adopted from her. So, you know what that means then because I don’t know that birth control was high on the list back then. If his wife wasn’t having any children by him then it must have been some pretty cold nights.

And lastly, I am knitting a scarf for fall.  It’s deep orange, maroon, and gold, but it looks pretty jacked up right now.

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Summertime, and the livin’ is random for this theatre student

by Sara Turner.

To kill this obsession with my past relationship I’m keeping myself busy. I hang out with people whenever I can, read my book, knit, scrapbook, run, and shop. I went shopping yesterday and wanted to buy things that made me feel powerful. To come back to life as I call it, I need to feel good—gain back my confidence after being slammed.

So today I finished Catching Fire. What the hell happened? That book just ended with an explosion of twists and unexpectedness. I am sitting here wide eyed.

Also, last night I was with my friend at Michaels craft store and I decided for some crazy random reason that I wanted to learn to knit. Why, you may ask? My guess is as good as yours. I think I am just doing whatever, whenever in order to move on from this hurt by the break up. Learning something new is such a fantastic distraction and using my hands for some reason is really therapeutic. I have to admit the only thing I have done towards making progress with the play I’m analyzing is to get a book called The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia. This book is written by a ten- year old genius apparently. I read the chapter on George Washington…the guy sounds like he was gay. I’m so serious. George makes me happy.

Oh, and I also watched a documentary about the photographer of the White House. It followed him as he followed Obama. It gave me insight into the life of a president and how they live. What I learned and will use is that these people who become president are normal people who then move into this old house. The White House isn’t all that fancy. I also imagined what it must be like to be his daughter and be sleeping in the same bedroom as where John F. Kennedy’s kids slept or something. WEIRD.

Honestly though, I’m resisting diving in which is a problem. . I hate that I get in this funk most times when I have a project and wait until the last minute to do it. It’s like a wall comes up when something important needs to get done. The books that I need to read for this play are right next to my bed and yet I won’t pick them up.

Today I am going to probably going to start the next book, Mockingjay to find out what actually happened next. I’m waiting to hear from jobs too. I would really love a job. It would take my mind off of things.

I also want to plan a trip to New York and see all the shows and actors that just won Tonys. I already saw Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with Audra McDonald. She is just so elegant but real. I love her. Go look her up and watch all her YouTube videos. It’s like an all day thing, she’s done so much.

Why am I sabotaging myself? I wonder why I do this all the time? I just have to get over this resistance and laziness. This happens to me. It’s a pattern that I need to break and like my aunt says it’s because I don’t want to realize that I can’t do it. I’m afraid that if I actually start working toward my goals, someone will tell me that I can’t act, or something.

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Beginning: a play on the horizon, love in the trash

by Sara Turner

I’m going to just dive right in here as if we are already in the middle of a conversation. I am Sara Turner and I am starting this blog for many reasons. I want to get out from underneath my own emotions first of all…but we have forever to get into that and we will. I am now a sophomore starting next year as a theatre major. This is about my journey not about the destination. I know, cliché, however, true. This is the truth, the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be a human with a dream to be in the theatre. I am writing this for me and anyone else who wants to follow an honest journey toward that dream.

This first year of college was the most life-altering of my life. Nothing I planned actually happened. Nothing. I am assuming one day I will see why that is a good thing but right now I am directly in the middle of it all.

This is what I went through: being put at the bottom of the pack in theatre; not getting any roles; a shaky first relationship; a devastating break up. To be honest, this break up is deciding my life right now and I hate that fact. I hate that I wake and think about her but I do. I hate that I still wish she were here sometimes even though she completely destroyed me and was so selfish.

Things are looking better. I just got cast in a play for the fall at my college and this summer will be spent reading that play about 50 times and researching properly for the play. The only issue is that right now I am still in the middle of this break up. People tell you to move on but it’s so hard because reminders come up all the time of that one person you wish you could forget and it brings you back into the fire. I wish that I could do what Clementine does in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and erase my memory, but of course as you know if you’ve seen this movie, it does not help to remove someone because they had an impact on your heart and can’t be removed.

Today I am fighting the urge to contact my ex and contact her new girlfriend telling her that she was cheating on both of us together. I want to tell her that she is with a woman who has been lying to her and will hurt her, but why do I want to do that? Why do I care if this random lady knows? I want justice like any human being would. It kills me to think that she is portraying herself as “so happy and in a new relationship” when I am in so much pain and can hardly think of anything else.

This is the problem I am faced with while trying to be an actor. My aunt is right when she says that all my effort is going into this relationship instead of with acting or my new play that I should be preparing for. I am also seeing that when I do have spare time and I go to work on the play, I feel resentment toward the work because I want to think about this relationship. It’s comfortable and I don’t have to focus on my success or dream of being an actor. My heart resists doing anything to benefit me because I would rather live in this world where my entire existence is to re-analyze this relationship. I need help to break this pattern. I don’t want to be stuck here and this is not who I am. I am a lover of Patti LuPone, great acting, the collaboration of a group of amazing people that is theatre, Meryl Streep, New York City, and acting. Somehow I will find this all again because I cannot let the whole of my existence be about this woman and how she treated me wrong. She then wins again and she doesn’t deserve that honor. She is making me feel crazy by denying that she did nothing wrong and I think that doesn’t help me to move on either because I want to prove that she was wrong. None of this effort will help me heal though. I need to let go, which I have never been very good at. These are my issues. And I have to keep telling myself that she is the crazy one and that I want to not care anymore. So, today I am going to finish the book, Catching Fire…yes I know, very exciting.

Then I am going to go shopping for new clothes because I am going to be a new woman!

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