Troupe 1096 has put on many a stellar show in all its years, but recently a new comedy piece has broken through the tradition of shows airing on the more serious side. Drop Dead, a play within a play, has been dubbed a “wacky slapstick comedy that will have you laughing out loud”. Previously running for two weekends, Drop Dead has a cast of ten people – all zany characters who play their parts in the show within the show less than subpar. The play goes from bad to worse as everything that could go wrong goes wrong: cues are missed, lines are altered, names are mispronounced, and cast members are murdered for real. Drop Dead had audiences crying with laughter at it’s hilarious antics. In this article, Rebekah Fowler, the assistant director, and Siena Widen, an actor in the cast, give insight on the piece and it’s process.
How were you related to this production?
Siena Widen: I played the part of Mona Monet, who played the part of Bette Barrington.
Rebekah Fowler: Mattson chose me as his assistant director, which meant that whenever he was unsure about something with the production he would ask me about it.
What were your responsibilities in this show?/How does your role fit into the production?
SW: Mona Monet is a middle aged TV actress who thinks she’s higher up than everyone else. She carries this self righteousness into her character Bette Barrington, who is the older sister of Alexander Barrington, and takes delight in causing him misery. However, Mona does have a soft side when it comes to dead bodies on stage, and often breaks down into a trembling, mumbling mess. She also has a love interest in Inspector Mounds, whom she found rather irritable and unsuited for theater until she learned his true self.
RF: I helped with casting, I watched callbacks, I was in charge of warming the actors up before every rehearsal and every show.
What has been your favorite part of this experience?
SW: As an actor, I have been in many plays. The one thing that always stayed the same was the cast size. It always felt like there were too many people go get close to anyone. This show, and the people I have gotten to work with have given me friendship, trust laughter, and love. These people have become some of my best friends, and they have always been there for me. I cried and cried on closing night knowing we wouldn’t be having our hysterical and somewhat ridiculous rehearsals anymore, but I know that I am always going to have these people; and that means the world to me.
RF: Having to learn all sorts of things on the fly. Nobody’s listening to me? Cool, time to make up focusing exercises that definitely aren’t real. Someone has no idea how to deliver a line? Great, let’s see if I can relate it to their lives or make them connect to it in a different way. For so much of this process, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and somehow, that made the day-to-day improvisations so much more fun.
What have you learned?
SW: I’ve learned that a show doesn’t have to be symbolic and heartfelt deep to bring people together. This show has taught me that friendship really is the most important thing in life. Your friends are the ones who will be there for you when sh*t hits the fan. They are the ones who will love you no matter what, and I know that the friends I have made during Drop Dead are my friends for life.
RF: I’ve learned that laughter is such an important component of theatre, and yet it’s so often forgotten. Personally, I adore dark and contemplative theatre, and generally prefer making an audience cry than making them laugh. But there’s something truly special about accomplishing both: making an audience laugh until they cry. I value comedy so much more now, and hope to do a lot of it in the future.
How does this show differentiate from others?
SW: This is different than any other I have been in mostly because there is absolutely no spiritual, symbolic deeper meaning. This show is stupid, dumb, and hilarious, and sometimes that’s what people need; it’s good to change it up. The size of the cast is different too. The small size allowed everyone to get closer together, and we had some really amazing touching moments.
RF: Drop Dead is stupidly ridiculous, and I can’t recall Troupe 1096 ever doing a show with less substance. This sounds like a roast of the show, but it’s really not – it was so enjoyable to be a part of a show that didn’t have a sadness or heaviness to it. It was full of levity and really dumb jokes, and it was amazing.
What will you miss most?
RF: I’ll miss the playful energy the most. I’ll miss laughing in rehearsals when I could have been getting stressed. I’ll miss the bond I had with the cast and feeling that I was really making a difference.