Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ASK SOMEONE ELSE, GOD- Notes from the Director

Shari Johnson

In Ask Someone Else, God, Ken Nowell has graciously given a director a lot of room to experiment. In order to make the production a sensory rich event, I decided to make all the sounds of the show live. For almost every scene, one actor or more is off to the side providing a soundscape. I tried to use everyday objects to make the sounds and also tried to find objects that relate to the scene. For example, the restaurant scene's sounds are made by a water glass and silverware. The argument scene in the city is accompanied by snick and click of spray cans. Finding and playing with these objects has been fun and exciting. It's surprising to discover the different sounds one object can make. When we find the right sound to balance the scene it's immediately obvious to all. I'll look over at my two AD/SM's (assistant director/stage manager) and we'll nod our heads and say "That's so cool!"

Ken wrote a scene towards the end of the play that is inspired by Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Like Wilder's Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb, two women sit and gossip while miming snapping beans. I wanted to find something that would make the sound of the snapping beans, something that was reproduce-able. One person suggested breaking pasta. That would be a perfect sound, snapping spaghetti, but it would leave us with a lot of broken pasta. Every night we'd have to have inches of spaghetti for dinner.

During some down time one afternoon at my workplace, I was looking around for inspiration. I tried clicking pens, snapping paper, shaking potato chip bags- nothing seemed to replicate the sound of a bean's stem being snapped off. I came across one of the plastic yellow woven strips used in binding large boxes. When I flicked it with my finger, it made a passable snapping sound. Happy with my discovery, I took the strips to rehearsal.

When I pulled them out for the scene and tried to demonstrate their usage, I was dismayed to discover that the noise didn't carry at all. What sounded great in the office was swallowed by the large theatre space! I handed the strips to my actors, challenging them to fix my "great idea". No problem; within half a minute, actor Adriana Disman had figured out a way to fold the strips over to double them and flick them against each other, doubling the sound. She quickly showed the other actor what she was doing and we got down to rehearsing the scene. We made a few adjustments, such as placing the sound makers where they can see the speaking actor's hands. We let everyone practice so that miming and the sound were timed perfectly together. Eventually, things started to click (or snap?). Maureen, one of my AD/SM's turned around to look at me. "That's so cool!"

-Shari Johnson
Director of Ask Someone Else, God

Friday, August 21, 2009

Notes from Justine Lambert on ASK SOMEONE ELSE, GOD

Notes From Justine
Ask Someone Else, God
Rehearsal Observation

On Tuesday, I witnessed heart wrenching scenes between Husband and Wife, punctuated by extreme comedy between Father and Son.

Man, I love abstract theatre, but it sure is hard. Many “experimental” scripts aren’t. What they are is confusing, unclear and at worst meaningless. Don’t get me wrong; complete abstraction can be brilliant (Richard Foreman), but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about trying to use surrealism to say something. That’s what Ask Someone Else, God is for me.

From the start I thought this marriage of Playwright and Director might be magic. I dared not hope too hard that the timing and circumstances would come together to make this project come to fruition. The skills and clarity of Shari blended with the surrealism and depth of Ken could be such a beautiful thing I could only pray (nice choice here, don’t you think?) that it might work out. Miracle of Miracles, it did.

So what I’m beginning to see emerge in rehearsals is that thing I continually seek: important observation about human nature and emotion told truly using theatre, not merely people talking (not that that can’t be brilliant-Williams, Miller, O’Neill). The stage offers a different medium for exploring this human world of ours, and I glory in the tricks of the trade. Realism mixed with experimentation is pure theatrical joy. This mix of material and director seems to be toying with this combination in ways that tickle and touch me.

The Jonah story here is about a person disheartened, discouraged, and beaten down by life, work and society, not to mention the themes of fatherhood and responsibility that run through the piece. Jonah is dealing with all of this by having a nervous breakdown, but instead of a therapist he has GOD. Yes, it’s Her, the Supreme Being, and she’s chatting with Jonah. Is it in his head? Not sure. But it’s certainly in the theatre. It’s jumping around in time and using wonderful simple transitional techniques to create both story and place without being a slave to “how.” Things happen. HOW is skirted, toyed with, and sometimes ignored - but never casually. We (the theatre audience, people who love this stuff) know we are in strong hands with Shari and Ken. They know how to bring it home, sew it together and make it resonate, sometimes with solid clear answers and deep human meaning, sometimes with more questions ... but always with purpose.

Justine Lambert
Artistic Director
The Looking Glass Theatre
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ASK SOMEONE ELSE, GOD Rehearsal Photos

Rehearsal Photos From

Woman: Ugh! Nineveh! [She spits]
Jonah: You have a strong opinion.

Featuring: Janelle Mims, Will Ellis, Ricky Dunlop
Bound Man: You know, you might find it fascinating: one can’t tie oneself up like this
without assistance.
Jonah: I wouldn’t think so.
Bound Man: Essentially, it is impossible.
Jonah: Yet there you are.
Bound Man: Here I am.
Jonah: Obviously you had assistance.
Bound Man: Yes, but it’s not usually called that.
Featuring: Will Ellis, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey

Captain: Well, what sort of scream was it? Fury?
First Fisherman: Aaaahhhhh!!!
Captain: Or terror.
Second Fisherman: Iiiiiiieeeeaaaa!!!

Featuring: Courtney Kochuba, Kristen Niché-Jeter, Adriana Disman, Will Ellis, Mary Regan

Jonah: One does feel the impulse to cry out for salvation. An absurd impulse. To cry out for release from the logical consequences of a chosen course of action. ... [Another splash]
Uh! Cough! Ah! Help! Help! Help! Save me! Sa …

Featuring: Will Ellis, Ricky Dunlop, Courtney Kochuba, Kristen Niché-Jeter, Adriana Disman, Mary Regan, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey

The Looking Glass Theatre proudly presents the world premiere of ASK SOMEONE ELSE, GOD, a surreal comedy about the prophet Jonah-written by Kenneth Nowell and directed by Shari Johnson. ASK SOMEONE ELSE, GOD opens Wednesday, September 9. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m from September 9- October 4.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Who’s that lady? Wait, that’s no lady, that’s the Super-Essential Godhead, source of all being! And she wants Jonah to go to Nineveh. But how does he feel about it?

The Looking Glass Theatre proudly presents the world premiere of ASK SOMEONE ELSE, GOD, a surreal comedy about the prophet Jonah written by Kenneth Nowell and directed by Shari Johnson, as part of its exciting Fall 2009 lineup.

Ask Someone Else, God opens at The Looking Glass Theatre, 422 West 57th Street, on Wednesday, September 9. Performances are scheduled every Wednesday through S aturday at 8 p.m. and every Sunday at 5 p.m. through October 4.

About The Show:
Jonah is simultaneously God’s prophet and a burned-out businessman working through personal issues. Just as he’s finally escaped the clutches of dehumanizing urban life and the suffocation of a middle class lifestyle, God commands him to return to Nineveh with a message of repentance. Jonah journeys first away and then towards his destiny through a kaleidoscopic dreamscape that evokes the worlds of folktales, Kafka and the Marx Brothers. And there’s that whale part.

Notes from the Director:
Shari Johnson uses the rich musicality of composer/playwright Kenneth Nowell’s text to create a layered production. Along with the songs inherent in the script, (sailors sing sea chanteys, prophets chant prophesy), the ensemble cast creates a live soundscape using both voices and props. Imagine humming and hand drums, the snick of a spray can or jars of water to create the sounds of the sea. The stage will be transformed with bizarre and unusual props, everything from skeletons to children’s flotation toys. Ask Someone Else, God celebrates and explores the absurdities of life along with its difficult choices. Expect deep laughs and deeper thoughts.

Justine LambertArtistic Director
The Looking Glass Theatre