Kicking off Parkland’s Actors’ Studio Series is Dear Brutus by J.M. Barrie, the man behind the story of Peter Pan. (Which interestingly enough, Parkland’s next show Peter and the Starcatcher delves into Neverland.) Parkland veteran BJ Gailey directs this comedy in three acts that will be the first production their newest series. Parkland College Theatre Productions has established the Actors’ Studio Series through a recently-awarded I.D.E.A.S. grant. As described on their Facebook page, the series will entail three productions during the fall and winter months.
Announcing our new Actors’ Studio Series! This is a three-show series in addition to our traditional four-show season. All performances will be in the Second Stage Black-Box Theatre, with the first and third shows being completely free to the public!
I had the pleasure to ask current series director B.J. Gailey about his time piecing together this anticipated inaugural show. In a charming manner, Barrie and director Gailey together tell the story of a collection of people who venture into the woods and come out with new perspectives.
Smile Politely: For those who have not heard of Dear Brutus, can you share some background information on this early 20th century piece?
BJ Gailey: Dear Brutus is a J.M. Barrie (creator of Peter Pan) play from 1917. It has seen a bit of renewed interest in the last few years, but even so it is rarely produced because it’s such an odd mix of almost farcical comedy and gut-wrenching tragedy. The basic plot is that a group of friends are invited to a country house by a mystery host. Once there, they are told about a local legend — a magical wood that appears every year on Midsummer. Those who go in the woods are rumored to receive their hearts desire. But wishes aren’t always meant to be granted, as they discover.
SP: What drew aspect most drew you into this story?
Gailey: First, it seemed [like] a perfect fit for the project. The Actor’s Studio Series is all about putting the spotlight on talented Parkland students, and this script provides some very unique challenges for young actors in addition to not requiring much in the way of set, tech, etc. Second, I was fascinated by the script, particularly because it’s an imperfect piece. There are so many ambitious ideas and not all of them work — I am far more drawn to those interesting failures than I am to proven masterpieces. So our work on this show is as much about adaptation as anything — making this flawed but great show work for modern actors and audiences.
SP: Tell me a bit about your cast. (Madelyn Childress, Gabrielle Smith, Melissa Goldman, Kylie Moubry, Collin Downen, Marcus Aviles, and Jacob Blanchette.)
Gailey: I couldn’t be happier with my cast. They’ve already made so many new discoveries, they are asking difficult questions, and seem just as interested in this confounding script as I am. They are really making the work their own, and I think people are going to be very impressed by the imagination, honesty, and craft these students are bringing to bear.
SP: In rehearsal, discoveries can bring about plentiful discussion. What are the most whimsical topics you have covered throughout the process?
Gailey: Ha! Well one of our cast members has remarkably vivid dreams and has been sharing them at the start of rehearsals, which is great fun. We’ve also had some involved discussions about method acting, decanters, and cake. Mostly though we stick to the themes of the play as topics for conversation — infidelity, love, and regret.
SP: Three words you would use to describe this production of Dear Brutus?
Gailey: Dreamlike, haunted, and hopeful.
2400 W. Bradley Ave, Champaign
October 25th at 7:30 pm
October 26th at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm
This event is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first serve.
Photos and Actors’ Studio Series description courtesy of Parkland College Theatre’s Facebook page