Pictured: Rogge during the first read-thru. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Actors Theatre.
In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside KCAT’s production of SEA MARKS through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here.
By Matt Sameck, KCAT Marketing Director
In January, Kansas City Actors Theatre will present Gardner McKay’s “Sea Marks,” an Irish romantic comedy and winner for Best Play from the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle. Darren Kennedy and Cinnamon Schultz star in this touching story of Colm, a fisherman living on a remote Irish island, who has fallen in love with Timothea, a woman he’s met only once, and the love affair that develops solely through the written word.
The production is being directed by Jan Rogge, a longtime Kansas City-area actress who makes her directorial debut here. She sat down to talk about what drew her to the story and her process for directing this sweet and delicate romantic comedy.
On what attracted her to the project:
When I first read it I enjoyed the romance and the love story of it. Particularly the fisherman aspect and that Colm is a fish out of water. I just love the whole fact that he has no modernity about him and comes in with such an open heart. He is so vulnerable and to for me to see a man in that state is just a beautiful thing.
And I was really attracted to Timothea’s role, who is a professional, modern woman in every aspect. She’s the one that really is controlling the relationship, and not in a bad way, but there’s always someone controlling a relationship at some point. She’s the one that asks him to come over and she’s the one that makes the first move.
I do love the things by the sea, too. I’m a big “by the sea” person. It’s funny… I lived in Milwaukee, but I went to Lake Michigan all the time to get away. I even had a special spot right by the harbor, right where the sailboats were. I was captivated. All our vacations we would go to the water. Not to beaches; we’re not a beach family. We’d go to the harbor or working villages. You know how some people have Disney, and no matter what, they have everything Disney? They vacation, they have dolls, t-shirts… I’ve always felt that way about the sea. It’s beautiful and dangerous at the same time.
On the preparation and challenges of directing:
This is a really interesting balancing act. Sometimes when you’re directing, you really have to front-load your preparation. If you’re doing “Henry V,” you have to be sure you have your soldiers in a row, you have to know when they’re coming in and out; there are so many people on stage. This is completely opposite. I can’t strong-arm it.
I have a lot of the blocking to do with the letter-writing, because that first 20 pages is tricky. That’s going to be really technical and physical. I’ve got some things laid out, but I won’t know until I get the actors in there.
I have to find ways for Timothea to share her story, because there’s not anything about her story in the letters; it’s all about him. But the emotion is completely her reaction to it as she’s falling in love with the words he writes and the images he builds. That has to be the stepping stone so that when she sees him, she thinks it’s even better than she expected. And then even when they’re talking at first after all the romantic letter-writing, there’s still this wonderful combativeness about them. She doesn’t let it go. She stays tit-for-tat with him, which I think inspires him. But he’s still a mystery. What keeps him going? He says his moods change by the sea and the weather, and other than that everything’s the same. But yet, nothing’s the same after he meets her.
Some of the best directors I’ve worked with have blocking somewhat laid out. They have the important places to be at a certain time, but they see how it goes with the actors’ instincts. I can’t manhandle that. It’s a delicate thing. I have to know when to get in there and help them, and when to stay out of it. I’ve worked with both of these actors on stage, and I have an exceptionally rich history with Cinnamon. After being directed by her in “A Lie of the Mind” last September, I have learned a lot from her.
What’s refreshing is that these characters are not archetypes. These are not characters I’ve seen on stage. They have to be honest, authentic, and respond in a way that has got to be believable, and I can only do so much work ahead of time. The language can be flowery at times, but really it’s those two in that room, and if that’s not believable, it’s not going to work. It’s nice that we’ll have the rehearsal time to really find the characters and their romance. I’m excited to start working on this beautiful show with my exceptional cast.
Gardner McKay’s SEA MARKS runs January 10th to the 28th. For more information visit kcactors.org.