Theater Cast Immerses Itself in Local Scenery
Nov. 12, 2012
By Erich Burnett
Strike-Slip’s Nate Krasner and Karyn Todd go through the motions—and emotions—at a bar near campus.
By the time Strike-Slip debuts on Oberlin’s Little Theater Stage Nov. 15, its cast will have drowned its sorrows together, bought a house together, and served hard time together.
It’s a lot of living for a single semester, but it’s all part of the naturalistic approach to acting espoused by first-time Oberlin director Heather Anderson Boll, an assistant professor of theater.
Strike-Slip is an ensemble drama that focuses on fate, chance, and the friction between its eight characters. The show gets its name from the geological term for a type of fault associated with earthquakes—particularly those near the play’s Los Angeles setting. Playwright Naomi Iizuka has fashioned a world that is ever perched on the precipice of calamity, leaving everyone involved quietly wondering when the big one might hit.
“She explores mixed identities, whether that means mixed races or not,” Anderson Boll says of Iizuka, an L.A. resident whose own heritage is a mix of Japanese, American, and Latina. “More often than not, she brings characters of different cultures together. She sets you up to believe that you know the situation between two people, then you discover someone is not who you think they are.”
A native of Northeast Ohio, Anderson Boll has starred on stages in Cleveland and New York, where she devoted 10 years to her craft after graduating from Hiram College. It was during a year spent at the famed Actors Studio Drama School in Manhattan that she fell in love with “The Method”: the naturalistic approach to acting, pioneered by Russian performer Constantin Stanislavski, in which each actor strives to truly become the character he or she is portraying, rather than merely playing the part.
“The whole principle is that you’re finding the role in you,” Anderson Boll says. “You get to the point where you’re not thinking as an actor; you’re thinking the thoughts of the character. It gets you back to just being a human being, as opposed to living outside yourself.”
To achieve that, Anderson Boll led her cast on an extended odyssey around campus, the city of Oberlin, and beyond, seeking environs that closely mirror those experienced by Strike-Slip’s conflicted characters.
That meant bellying up to the bar at B. McK’s on Main Street. There, seniors Nate Krasner and Karyn Todd ordered the drinks they presumed their characters would sip, and they stumbled through a makeshift courtship for all to see.
“He’s trying to get to know her, and she’s not really interested,” says Anderson Boll, who encouraged the duo to reenact the awkward meeting until their emotions genuinely clicked.
“That experience was hilarious,” says Krasner, a senior from Philadelphia. “It’s rare that you get so many chances to get shut down in a bar and then try again.”
From there, the cast spent a day in a hotel room at the Oberlin Inn. They toured the facilities of a nearby penitentiary. They visited Anderson Boll’s newly purchased home near campus, assuming the life of the play’s real estate agent and a house-hunting couple. They broke off a relationship on a moonlit terrace.
They even traded blows in a dangerous alley—well, sort of. This is Oberlin, after all, not a gritty corner of L.A.
“We actually found a safe place that would feel like a dangerous alley,” Anderson Boll says with a laugh.
And while the cast chewed the scenery around Oberlin, curious students and townsfolk inevitably were taken in by the proceedings. As Krasner and castmate Linus Ignatius battled in the alley, the director found herself directing passersby not to be alarmed.
“I was in the middle of the street going, This is a rehearsal! It’s a play!” says Anderson Boll. “Then people would realize what we were doing and say, ‘Oh, this is great!’” And as she retells the story, a contented grin stretches across her face.
“Only in Oberlin!” she says.
Strike-Slip will be performed Thursday, Nov. 15, through Sunday, Nov. 18, at Oberlin’s Little Theater. Tickets are $3 in advance or $5 at the door, available at Central Ticket Service in the Hall Auditorium Lobby or by calling 440-775-8169.