Cheryl Weaver as Diana Vreeland. Photo credit: J. Robert Schraeder/Spinning Tree Theatre
In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of FULL GALLOP through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here.
By Cheryl Weaver
One of the most satisfying things about working in the theatre is that it is a collaborative and ensemble-driven art form. Writers write in solitary, painters paint alone. Actors, though, stand on a stage with other actors. We speak to each other to tell the story and carry it across the apron and out to an audience.
The play FULL GALLOP, about the magnificent Diana Vreeland is, of course, a one-person play. And each night I stand up there alone. Now I’m playing Diana, so she’s with me. My director gave me all the foundation for creating a fully fleshed out character (and went home with me every night and nagged me about rest). And obviously, I’m fully supported by a beautiful set created by De De DeVille, exquisite lighting by Nicole Jaja, and evocative music provided by Jeff Eubank. There’s a production crew: Stage Manager Taylorrae Burton and Assistant Stage Manager Victoria Barbee who hand me props, and sound effects, and once already, fed me a cue. Oh, and there’s an unseen maid voiced by a very popular actress here in town (Who is it?).
But when those lights come up and the music fades out it’s just me. And you, the audience. You are my scene partner. I have to feed you the right lines and hope you return the favor. I have to hope you are responsive and attentive. I have to confide in you and cajole you and a couple of times even insult you.
Actually, this is always the job of the audience. Theatre is participatory. When you’re in the play with other actors you’re working as a unit but asking for help from the observers. Audiences provide validation with laughter and attention and applause. The story has to be told well for this to happen. And when that happens and the audience responds in kind, that’s the magic of a successful show.
The woman I’m bringing to life each night was a FORCE in the fashion world, and hung out with the Duke of Windsor and Andy Warhol. She demands to be seen and heard. She requires you to pay attention. “The greatest thing in the world is passion. Without that, what have you got?” she asks. But also, “People who eat white bread have no dreams.” She really has to have an audience.
During the rehearsal process, I looked at empty chairs and imagined what you would look like and what you would do. Now I see you each performance and am grateful you are there. I obviously cannot tell Diana Vreeland’s marvelous story alone. So, I hope you come and let me put you to work. And if you’re wearing jeans, sit in the front row. Diana has something to tell you about them.
Cheryl Weaver is honored to be making her Spinning Tree debut with Full Gallop. Locally, she has performed in productions of August: Osage County, Romeo and Juliet, Death of a Salesman, A Christmas Carol, Bus Stop, A Trip to Bountiful (Kansas City Repertory); Sideman, Spinning Into Butter, Frozen, (Unicorn); Dixie Swim Club, Social Security, Rumors, Miracle on South Division Street (New Theatre); I’m Not Rappaport, Boston Marriage, (Kansas City Actors Theatre); 1776 (MTH); Little House on the Prairie (Coterie) and Love’s Labour’s Lost and Measure for Measure (Heart of America Shakespeare Festival). Regional theaters include: American Conservatory Theater, Stage West, Dallas Shakespeare Festival and Purple Rose Theater Co. Cheryl is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association and SAG/AFTRA and a graduate of KU and a Jayhawk. She lives in Lawrence with Full Gallop‘s director, Doug Weaver.