Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Walking the Wire

I find myself dashing through the thick Iowa corn field, Jody’s words chasing behind me, “Would you like to act in the monologue you wrote?” I burst through the stalks and see Ink Pond just yards away. I collapse by the side of the water and stare deeply at my reflection. “What do I do?” I ask myself. The water shifts and my reflection answers me, “You must look inside yourself.”

Ok, so perhaps I am starting this blog a little far fetched. I admit, I never ran through a cornfield nor stared intently at the mossy green waters of Ink Pond seeking answers. But it seems so much more dramatic than me sitting in my dorm room pondering the question in my head. I’m getting to far ahead. Time for a flashback, perhaps?

Why, hello! It’s so nice to meet you for the first time ever! My name is Lindsay Tornquist and I am a Theater Major at Cornell College. I consider myself an actor, but I’ve recently gotten into playwriting. Actually, one of my monologues, "A Piece of Cake", was chosen for Riverside Theater’s show Walking the Wire. I’m very excited!

Enough exposition. So where’s the conflict here? Well, I love theater and have been acting since I was old enough to understand what that is. However when I came to Cornell College, suddenly (in a wonderful coming-of-age type of way), I’ve been trying out other areas of theater, like costuming and directing and…[cue dramatic music]… playwriting. I took my first playwriting class about a year and a half ago with playwright C. Denby Swanson. I haven’t stopped writing since. This year I took a class with Naomi Wallace and fell even deeper into the spiral of writing. My monologue was chosen for Walking the Wire and suddenly I’m stuck in a dilemma- Jody asks me if I want to act in my own play.

GASP! What do I do? I am an actor. So one would assume I would want to act. But I want to see someone else perform my work. Hear someone else say my words. But can I really let that opportunity go? What do I do?

And we’re back to the reflection in the water. “Lindsay,” My water reflection says to me, “what do you want to do?” I dramatically splash the water, but the ripples stop and the reflection is still there. I finally look back and reply, “I don’t want to act in my piece.”

Alright, we’ll consider that the climax of the story. Now for the falling action. So I decided I wanted to fully try on these playwriting shoes I’ve found and let someone else perform my piece. I may consider myself an actor, but I must have the courage to look myself in the face and say, “I am a writer,” also. As a great teacher of mine, Bill Schulz, once told said, “A writer writes. If you write, then you are a writer.”

Resolution! As in all stories there is a happy ending. The actress who was chosen for my piece, Ashley Boots, is not only an amazing actress, but also friend of mine. As soon as Jody told me Ashley would be in my show, I could image it perfectly in my head. I couldn’t be happier. As I get up from the pond, I give one last look at my reflection. My watery self smiles as the real me turns and strides back through the cornfield, the orange sun slowly setting into the brilliant amber horizon ahead.

-Lindsay Tornquist

Lindsay's piece, "A Piece of Cake", will be performed by Ashley Boots during Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside - Food! The show runs from March 5 - 8, and tickets are on sale now. To reserve your seats, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Monday, February 16, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Walking the Wire

For me, and for a lot of other actors I know, the stand alone monologue is among the most daunting of pieces to prepare. Above all, it’s a true test of skill. Public speaking without a net. So, “Walking the Wire” is an apt description of the feat you will witness March 5 – 8.

So, how do we do it? Well, it all begins with the piece. Monologues—a fancy term for solo speech—generally have a beginning, middle, and end. It could be an anecdote or a confession, a song or a tirade. And I should note that an actor’s process will differ entirely from one to the next, but for me…I get my monologue, roughly five minutes in length (which is an eternity in theatre), and to boot—an original piece. I like that these pieces are brand new because there will be no expectations for how it should be played. I am free to explore the material and put my signature on it. So, once I get the piece, I read it a couple of times and mull over my initial impressions. Then, read it aloud and see how the words sound. It’s amazing how different a piece rings from one’s mind to one’s lips.

One would think that one five minute piece would be a simpler task than a two hour play. For me, it really isn’t. I tend to rely heavily on the rehearsal process. In rehearsals, I learn a lot in a short amount of time. For WTW, we have two individual rehearsals with Ron before the week of show—thus the majority of the time we spend creating the piece is self guided. I prefer dialogue to monologue, because I can use the impulses and reactions from the other actors to guide the scene. Most of that work is moot for a solo piece, so it challenges me to work outside of my comfort zone.

But what about memorization? Is it hard to learn a five minute speech? It can surely be tricky, but it helps to have a system. I have two methods. First, I always write out my lines by hand. That way, I have to slowly churn each word onto paper and check that I’m learning the lines correctly. Second, I tend to learn a lot of lines “on my feet” while working the piece in rehearsal. Once you get a pattern of movement and blocking associated with certain lines, it really helps to solidify them. After a time, you just have to trust that the lines are in your head and will come out in the right order.

When breathing life into a monologue, an actor should answer the questions: why must I (as the character) say this? why now? And more questions tend to arise from there depending on the character. The foremost aspect of creating a monologue, for me, is to find the truth of the character in this moment they’re sharing. This is really hard to explain. It involves being open and receptive as the actor to the suggestions and frequencies of the character. Having empathy, perhaps. One thing that Ron has encouraged me to explore with my piece is to build a rapport with the audience. Good advice. Casting the theatre audience as my character’s audience is really going to help me find that truth and ground myself in her story. It’s a story that will sound familiar to a lot of audience members, which will only help that rapport.

The beauty of Walking the Wire is that you will see one of a kind performances and one of a kind playwriting in a one of a kind theatre. We’ll be using our own breath to make the characters in this variety show come to life. Come and get ‘em while they’re hot!

-Sarah Hinzman

Sarah will be performing a piece by Shirley King, "Sandbags and Sandwiches", during Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside - Food! The show runs from March 5 - 8, and tickets are on sale now. To reserve your seats, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Walking the Wire

To be honest, I was hoping to find someone else to perform my piece. Then I saw Megan Gogerty during Riverside Theatre’s production of Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much, and was inspired. She is adorable; memorizing and performing a wonderful solo show that she’d written. I decided to opt for bravery, facing head on this question: “Does the audience hate me, what I’ve written, or both?”

I foresee only two problems:
1) I am not adorable. 2) Memorization.

I could use my age as an excuse for the lack of memory. I used to look only for things, “Where are my car keys?” “Have you seen my glasses?” Now I also look for phrases and words. “Where is the, you know, white stuff that you use to stick things together?” “Hand me a, that thing, it’s ah, you use it for eating.”

It’s like playing a very tiresome game of charades or catch phrase, by myself and I’m always on the losing team. I’ll use anyone nearby as a resource, even strangers, peering closely into their faces and asking, “What was I saying?” I could use age as an excuse, but performers of my demographic, talented women like Rachel Lindhart and Jody Hovland, dance through pages and pages of memorized text, as dense as Shakespeare, and linguistically challenging as…oh the guy, he writes, it’s French, begins with oh, maybe an M?

So, I am committed. I printed my piece and I read it and say the lines walking my Labradors over the frozen farm field in the morning and at night. They are no help when I ask,” What comes next?” But I think their argument is more substantive, they would have phrased some of it differently, would have chosen different metaphors thanks and do you still have cheese in your pocket?

-Janet Story Schlapkohl

Janet will be performing her piece, "Sacrificial Turkey", during Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside - Food! The show runs from March 5 - 8, and tickets are on sale now! To reserve your seats, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Don't Miss "Diamonds or Denim"!

Looking for a fun night out with your sweetie in February? Then don't miss this year's "Diamonds or Denim" event on February 27, 6:00 pm, at the hotelVetro suites and conference center. Tickets are $45, $35 of which is tax deductible, and all proceeds go directly toward supporting high quality programming at Riverside Theatre!

This year's event will feature hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants and caterers, and a silent and live auction. The 24-item live auction includes trips, furniture, dinners, and more. The silent auction features over 100 items donated by local businesses. The evening will also feature a special performance by Dan Knight and Betsy Hickok, who are partnering to offer a concert for bidding on the live auction.

What sort of items will be featured in the live auction? Click here!

The event will close with a raffle drawing for prizes including a 14 karat two-toned white and yellow gold diamond bracelet valued at approximately $2,800, and a week of fun in the sun at Ann Feldmann's vacation home near Phoenix, Arizona. Roundtrip airfare for two and $200 in golf and dining certificates complete this package, which has an approximate value of $1,150. Winners need not be present to win. Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25 and can be purchased at the Riverside Theatre box office.

Get your event and raffle tickets today! Call (319) 338-7672, order online, or stop by the Riverside Theatre box office, located at 213 N. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

Hope to see you there!