Building ‘Our House’

Kristi Garabrandt

Seven weeks might seem like a long time to some people, but it flew by for the seven cast and 15 production crew members who worked hard to put together “Our House,” the production opening April 4 at the Fine Arts Theater at Kent State Stark.

It took just seven weeks from first rehearsal to opening day to put together the 90-minute play. That means dedicating three hours of rehearsals five days a week — including weekends — and weekly production meetings. The cast spends more time together than they do with their own families and has formed bonds through the process.

Brian Newberg, director and assistant professor of theatre and his crew have become like their own family throughout the process.

Cassandra Terry, junior human development and family studies major, plays the part of Grigsby, a second-year intern at a Presbyterian hospital.

“It’s so cool how only in a matter of weeks you get close friendships and get real comfortable with each other,” Terry said. “I love working with Brian [Newberg] and the people, it’s family, is what it becomes, and I really appreciate that because it’s not just about what’s happening on the deck, it’s what’s happening behind the scenes too, having those relationships with your actors.”

In addition to the rehearsals, they also have cast meetings, costume fittings and production meetings. The 22 members have to decide on everything from sound and special effects and how to best make use of them along with costumes and props.

Thought was put into everything. A gun being used in the play had to be carefully considered and discussed in great length during a production meeting. They had to figure out the logistics that go along with using a prop gun and cueing sounds effects to coincide with the firing of the gun — which is not an easy task — or decide if they wanted to use a starter pistol, which can be fired without blanks and still produce a realistic sound.

The cast and crew have tech week March 30 to April 3. This is the final week before performance when everyone is working the hardest.  A full run dress rehearsal takes places every night, where lighting, sound effects and props are all set up and tested to make sure they are working correctly and to ensure everything goes as it should for the opening performance. They run through the complete play from start to end in an empty theater as if they were performing it for a live audience.  

Despite the many cancelled rehearsals due to bad weather conditions, the production is running smoothly and on schedule. The cast and crew are geared up and ready to go for the first performance.

“If you are into dark satirical funny material, something that reflects society in a twisted way that not only speaks, but demonstrates about a problem in society in a very rough visceral way, this is the play to come see,” said Jessica Swank, a senior theater major who plays the part of Merv, a woman obsessed with television and a beautiful news anchor who is drawn into the world of reality TV. “It’s raw, it’s gritty and in your face,“

“Our House” is a play written by Theresa Rebeck about a TV executive named who is desperate to increase rapidly falling ratings. To fix it, he puts a famous news anchor, whom he is also in love with, on as host for a realty show.

“This show questions what is the role of the media in today’s society,” Newberg said. “What’s the role of television in today’s society? What is this thing they call reality TV? What’s the power of network television? And how does it run our lives?”  

 “ ‘Our House’ is about the media’s influence on the public,” said C.J. Pinter, a sophomore marketing and theater major who plays the character Stu. “There’s never a dull moment. There’s gun violence, an attractive news anchor, there’s shooting, people die — there’s something for everybody.  You can relate to any character.”

“Our House,” which is intended for a mature audience due to sexual overtones, strong language and violence, opens April 4 at 8 p.m. and will also be performed April 5, 11, and 12 at 8 p.m. and April 6 and 13 with ASL interpretation at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free to students with student ID.

A note from the writer and photographer:

Doing this story on “Our House” has been an interesting experience for me. The cast has welcomed me into their family and allowed me access into their world. Before starting work on this story, I was totally unaware as to the amount of work that went into putting on a production. I have enjoyed talking and laughing and spending time with the cast and crew watching as “Our House” has gone from a script on paper to a live production.  The time spent with the cast both on and off stage has be en enlightening and humorous as I witnessed how they interacted with each other. I have been working with the cast, photographing and documenting their work, since their first rehearsal. Now I’m looking forward to being with them and watching them as the curtain opens for their first performance and being there for the final curtain call on the last showing.

Contact Kristi Garabrandt at [email protected].