Next Friday at PDST our first show of the season opens! The show is Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire. For this blog post I decided to sit down with the director of the show, Alex Scholinsky, and one of the cast members, Cara Chumbley. I got to ask them about their experience with the show, what they’re learning, and what challenges they’re facing.

First I spoke with Alex, the director. Alex is a senior theatre major here at Millikin University. Somehow he made time to sit down and chat with me about his show, Rabbit Hole.

Q. What is your previous involvement with PDST?

A. In the spring semester of my junior year I was the Marketing Director for PDST and then I interviewed to be the Artistic Director that next fall and got the position. So I’ve been the Marketing Director and the Artistic Director.

Q. What brings you to directing and why do you enjoy it?

A. I’ve always enjoyed directing and I’ve done a lot of directing in the past but I’ve done a lot of children’s theatre. This is something I want to continue to do in my professional career. I think what draws me to it is the ability to take everything I’ve learned and try and try and filter it through my brain and pass it on to people that way and shape art through them.

Q. Tell me about the show you’re directing now, Rabbit Hole.

A. Rabbit Hole is about the Corbett family who has lost their son Danny. It was eight months ago. This play just happens on a regular day in February and it’s about them trying to pick up the pieces and get back together and reconnect with each other.

Q. What challenges does a show with the content of Rabbit Hole bring to a director?

A. A show like Rabbit Hole is challenging, especially because, given the fact that we’re college students, none of the actors don’t have children so trying to get that connection, specifically with Becca who is played by Jaime Patriarca. Being able to understand the thought processes and emotions and understand where Becca is coming from is a little bit more difficult to understand. As well as the fact that every character is highly emotionally involved so it’s just a lot on the actors.

Q. PDST is a black box theatre, what challenges does that bring to directing a show?

A. Fitting ninety people into that theatre. Rabbit Hole, in particular, has three specific locations in the house then there is another location that is kind of “to be announced” and that’s based on your production. So trying to figure out how you’re going to convey a fairly wealthy family in an all-black space is quite the challenge without being able to put up walls.

Q. What’s it like working with a completely run, completely acted by student theatre?

A. I think it’s great. For the fact that I haven’t directed in so long I finally have been able to take directing and let that sit in my body and process that and be able to take everything that I’ve learned as a technique of acting to my personal thoughts on what directing and acting is. Being able to have students who are volunteering their time as well to do this production is, I think, one of the best assets that I could have asked for.

Q. You’re almost done with your rehearsal process, you open in close to a week, what are you learning through this process?

A. It’s hard to explain what I’ve learned so far. I try to come to rehearsals with a really strict idea of what I’m going to do. Then I get there and that never happens. So it’s always being able to adapt and figure out what the actors need. I have assumptions on where I think rehearsals are going and where I think certain scenes are going to happen and how they’re going to happen, then the actors get there and they have an entirely different set of problems. Which is great. So then it’s shifting my mind after I figure out “how can I help you without wasting your time while I sit here and think about how to get that done.” So it’s a lot fast pace than I thought it would be. So that’s great for me.

Q. Why should people come see Rabbit Hole at PDST?

A. People should come see the show because I think they will be genuinely surprised by the level of work that has been put into this show already. About a week ago, with actors still on book, there we’re rehearsals with people still absolutely sobbing. It’s not to say you should come so you can cry your eyes out. The show is very funny as well. I think it has a good underlying message throughout it, which hopefully I’ll do justice too.

Q. What’s your dream directing role?

A. I really want Wicked on Broadway to close so that I can revive it because I have a really cool concept idea for it, which has to do with the character Glinda. Then I really want to direct a new musical, from workshops to Broadway. I want to be there for the whole experience. I think it would be the hardest experience but also the most rewarding.

Later in the day, before rehearsal started, I got to sit down with Cara Chumbley and talk about Rabbit Hole with her. Cara is a senior acting major at Millikin who is play the role of Izzy is this production.

Q. What is your previous experience with PDST?

A. I’ve done it since freshman year when it was more of student written productions. So I’ve been with it as it’s grown into an actual theatre company as it stands.

Q. What do you like about working with PDST?

A. I really like it because I feel like I’m a part of the community of students. Sometimes I feel like it’s easier to talk to students about what you’re doing. I just really like being apart of the student community and feeling really comfortable in that way. I can interact a lot better with them and throw in my own ideas.

Q. What challenges does working in a black box theatre bring to an actor?

A. I think where to place the action, where you want to be seen, while also following the director’s blocking. From a director and designer’s stand point as well it’s difficult to figure out what points are important to see, where you want your audience, things like that.

Q. What are some of the challenges of working on a show like Rabbit Hole?

A. I think the content. A lot of people haven’t dealt with the loss that these characters have and I think trying to figure it out at our age is really hard.

Q. How would you sum up Rabbit Hole?

A. Alex always says it’s not a story of a dead kid. A lot of people get that confused. It’s the story of the family, how they cope afterwards, and how they connect to get past the grief they’re going through.

Q. Why should people come see Rabbit Hole?

A. I think a lot of people are scared of the show because of the content, because it’s based around a child’s death so I think a lot of people are afraid of it. It’s got a lot of comedic points in it though. It’s got a lot of fun things and I think you can’t not relate to this show. Coming to see it, you’ll see that one of the characters is your mom, or your sister, or some crazy family member that you have. So I think it’s worth it to come and connect with these people.

Q. Last question. What’s your dream role?

A. Elle Woods in Legally Blonde or Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire.

Rabbit Hole show dates are March 2nd at 8:00PM, March 3rd at 2:00/8:00PM, and March 4th at 2:00PM. Tickets are $5 for MU students with your ID and $8 dollars for non-students. Hope to see you there!

-Jane DavisImage

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