Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Rainmaker: Building a Family with Strangers

Relationships are one of the most important aspects of a play for me. A play is also about theme and plot and conflict, sure, but it is the people who inhabit the play; their individual personalities and beliefs in relation to one another that create the heart of the story.  One of the most challenging relationships to create on stage is that of a family unit; complete with a sense of life long history and personal interaction with all its quirky banter, ugly warts and love for one another.

After being cast in BoHo Theatre's the Rainmaker, my mind instantly jumped to these questions: who will play my father, my brother, my sister? Who are these people, these strangers; and will my personality and style fit in with theirs to make this family work? Thankfully both the playwright and the director did an amazing job, and most of the hard work; Mr. Nash, by writing four wonderfully unique yet intertwined characters, and Steve, by casting three wonderfully talented actors to comprise the rest of the family unit.

As I read through the script for the first time and in our initial rehearsals, one of the most challenging aspects of Noah was that, on the surface, he seemed very archetypal.  I discovered I had to try to avoid playing the obvious with Noah, not allowing him to become only grumpy and angry.  I had to find the love.  As he is written, he is very literal and opinionated in his interactions with others. So, how do I find the love in Noah and not betray the way he is written?  My hope, as you watch this play, is that you will be able to see the wonderfully deep relationships that have been forged between these characters - this family, and the incredible love they bare for one another in times of need.  And that in Noah you see a concerned son and brother who, despite his rough nature, truly does love and care for his family.

-- Daniel Gilbert, who plays Noah, is originally from Oklahoma. He moved to Chicago from Nebraska, where he attended grad school at UNL, in the fall of 2010 with his lovely wife Sara and their disingenuous cat Electra. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Rainmaker: Bill Starbuck, A Peddler of Dreams

Bill Starbuck is a liar and a con man.


For me, the biggest challenge with this show has been trying to understand this Rainmaker, this peddler of dreams. He arrives in a whirlwind of fast-talk and misdirection, telling people what they want and need to hear. He offers hope to the hopeless… for a nominal fee. How can anything be trusted that comes out of the mouth of such a man? How do you trust a man who tells you he can do the impossible? A man who believes he can do the impossible?

Everything we know about Starbuck comes from Starbuck himself. The man and the myth are so intertwined can they really be separated from each other? How would you even try? Most of this process for me has centered on trying to discern the lies from the truth, and the why behind each; because to a man who deals in dreams, there is nothing more dangerous than the raw, unadorned truth.

At the end of the day, it’s simply a matter of figuring out how the card trick works. Because no one can make rain.


 -- Matthew Keffer will be playing the role of Starbuck in BoHo Theatre's production of the Rainmaker

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Rainmaker, Designing a Drought With Theresa Ham

When I first heard that BoHo would be producing Richard Nash's The Rainmaker, I knew I wanted to design it. I had been in love with this story of discovery, chance and hope for years.

At the first production meeting the director, Steve Genovese, made the statement that the world of this play is "desolate, not desperate." The idea that, even in these difficult times, this family still has $100 to give to Starbuck says they may be down, but they are certainly not out. The challenge then became how to represent their extreme situation, while maintaining a stronghold on hope. These characters are experiencing both a literal drought and a symbolic drought, so we decided to use the symbolism of rain in a drought to inspire the design.

We decided that the costumes needed to have color and texture that helped the audience feel the dryness and hopelessness of the drought. The outer garments all have rough textures, such as leather and denim, and bland colors that would match the dry earth. Yet, if you were to dig beneath the surface, you will see cool tones of water beneath. This helps us see the hope that lies at the core of all of these characters.

When Starbuck appears, he looks and feels different than the other characters. The color and texture of his clothing is light  to  symbolize the hope that he brings to this family. Lizzie also goes through a significant color change, she sheds her dry outer shell and dons a dress that is lighter and brighter showing how the hope of change lightens her life.

I am so fortunate to be working with such a talented team, both production and cast. I hope that as the audience watches the play unfold, these subtle costume touches allow them to get more deeply connected to these characters. I hope that as people walk away, they are inspired to take a chance on hope even if it means taking a great risk.

-- Theresa Ham is a Chicago based costume designer and adjunct faculty member at Wilbur Wright College. She has been working with BoHo since 2005. In 2010, she won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Outstanding Costume Design for The Glorious Ones. She lives in Beverly with her husband Patrick and their son Cole.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Rainmaker: Anna Hammonds Explains Why Everyone Needs a Rainmaker

Every person needs a Rainmaker. Whether it be a friend who encourages, an advocate who gives confidence, or a significant other who unconditionally loves beyond faults, we are all in search of someone who will make us believe we are worthy of having simple, wonderful things.  Such is the case with Lizzie Curry, a girl past the prime of courtship, on the brink of losing hope that her dreams will come true.  I have had a wonderful time rehearsing this role, and I have found that at the heart of who Lizzie is, lies every woman’s story.

From my perspective, this piece is a sort of homage to a time when women were given worth solely by their roles as a homemaker and a wife.  Lizzie has a wonderful honesty that sets her apart from other women of her day, but at the heart of who she is, she secretly longs for someone to know her and consider her beautiful apart from her two brothers and loving father.

Now, in the year 2012, I am a woman who is enjoying the independence and luxury of choice that so many women have gone before me fought hard to gain.  A woman’s worth is no longer found in only her husband or how she stitches a dress.  However, over the course of history, nothing has changed the fact that women are still in search of someone to believe in them, outside of those who are seemingly obligated to want good things for us.  We want to be considered beautiful by an outside source. But more importantly, in Lizzie’s case, we need a rainmaker to help us believe it within ourselves that we are, in fact, beautiful.
I am overwhelmed to share Lizzie’s story in this simple, timeless story!

Hope to see you there!

-- Anna Hammonds is thrilled to portray her real-life family dynamic as she is the sister to two brothers and daughter to a loving father.  Her amazing mother taught her how to clean a house, but also encouraged her toward her dreams.  She dedicates this show to her family, and to the Rainmakers in her life who help her believe.