Directing Much Ado

The cut is done, concept chosen, and we just had our first full production meeting.  Very happy to be directing Much Ado About Nothing for Rice University this fall!

Kenneth B and that nonpareil of actresses, Emma Thompson
Kenneth B and that nonpareil of actresses, Emma Thompson

Although I’ve seen productions at various theatre companies and enjoyed several film versions (Emma Thompson, anyone?), this is a Shakespeare play I have never before been in — or involved with — directly.  How exciting!  What articulate woman doesn’t feel some affinity for the witty, passionate, vulnerable yet joyful Beatrice?  Who doesn’t delight in the verbal sparring and chemistry of this more mature, more socially savvy Kate and Petruchio?  Throw in some misdirection, a couple of bumbling cops, and a literal bastard as unapologetic as Aaron the Moor, and you’ve got a very strong domestic comedy.

But where is the magic?  As the daughter of a director whose office drawers are filled with different kinds of glitter, I’m drawn to plays and stories that transcend the ordinary.  I want to be engaged by something I don’t experience every day, surprised and moved when I recognize the universal human truth, then inspired by the exploration of — and maybe solution to – the central question.  Much of that will (hopefully) be found through collaboration with the actors but so far the magic of this play seems to lie in the power of self-determination; people trying to sculpt, reject, or discover who they are.  That focus lead my design team and me to set this production in 1840’s Texas.  A time just after the Mexican American war (giving our boys a conflict to return from), a place with relaxed enough gender rules (enabling Beatrice to be desirably fun instead of embarrassingly shrewish, as well as some fun casting options for gender-flipping), and so many colorful groups of different people looking to seize and build a new life/identity.

Beatrice will be in skirts but probably not Conrade...
Beatrice will be in skirts but probably not Conrade…

Sound engaging?  It does to me!  For a taste, you can check out some of my and my team’s inspirational images or glance over my 1840’s Texas character breakdown below.  Would love to hear your thoughts or stories of other productions!

MEN: 10
Leonato — An open-minded patriarch whose fruitful ventures in the West have made his family comfortable and happy
Don Pedro — Of aristocratic Spanish descent but loves his new country and the frontier army he leads
Don John — Haughty in his loyalty to Spanish heritage, he has nevertheless become an expert at exploiting the lax laws of this new society
Benedick — A rakish man of the land who enjoys the fraternity, if not always the structure, of the cavalry
Claudio — A young cavalry officer with hot blood and aspirations to Eastern refinementCalifornia Rancher
Borachio — Unlike his employer, Borachio made sure he wound up on the right side of the war . . . but his timing will never endear him to the officers, a slipperiness of character often overlooked by the ladies.
Balthasar – Leonato’s faithful ranch hand with a surprising gift for culture and eye for beauty (needs to play an instrument)
Dogberry — Heard far too many Western legends and now fancies himself the deadliest and most seasoned cowboy ever to tame the wrong-doings of the wildest outpost
Friar Francis/Seacoal — A missionary of infinite patience / A silver prospector who lost the trail and found the bottle
Verges/Messenger — An adoring and loyal citizen intent on honoring the title of “Deputy” with both his intelligent thoughts / a young Ensign in Don Pedro’s army
Antonia — A woman strong-willed enough to pack up and head West with her brother, she is infatuated with the Spanish Texas society she missed by several years.
Beatrice — Blessed to now be in the perfect part of the world for her to blossom, she is as delightful as she is savvy . . . in spite of her hardships back East
Hero — Raised very conventionally in the East but thrilled with the adventure of her new life
Ursula — Bookish and efficient, used to taking on the settlement’s responsibilities whenever reading and writing are required
Margaret — Local girl who has been happy to capitalize on the male to female ratio in this part of the world
Conrade — Dangerous and useful, knows how to live off the land and those who inhabit it
Frontier Wash Day by Jerome Thompson
Frontier Wash Day by Jerome Thompson

VO Atlanta 2015 Conference

What an incredible weekend of joyful learning and networking with an international pool of Voiceover professionals!  I was able to attend at the last minute and am so glad I did not miss out on this immersion in the world of VO.

Gerald Griffith, Kellie Conn, Amelia Fischer, Joe Loesch
Gerald Griffith, Kellie Conn, Amelia Fischer, Joe Loesch

In Houston, I was fortunate enough to work as a voiceover actor for several Anime shows — Nobunaga the Fool is being released in April 28th, btw, listen for Kitsuno!  Now that I am in Atlanta, I am up for more and more voiceover genres that I had not worked before like commerical, promo, e-Learning, and audiobooks.  Haven’t come across automotive yet but after a wonderfully specific session by Cliff Zellman, I definitely hope I do!

And that is what was so valuable about the VO Atlanta Conference: the variety and depth of knowledge available through all their different sessions.  From 9am – 11pm each day I was able to select back to back sessions that engaged and challenged me, taught by VO professionals with years of experience and success like Andrea Romano, Pat Fraley, David Goldberg, Joe Loesch (the lovely man who first told me about the conference, check him out!), and so many more.  Not true of all conferences I’ve attended, so I highly recommend attending VOAtlanta2016.

Amelia Fischer and Andrea Romano
Being a fangirl of Andrea Romano’s, she directed most of the cartoons I grew up watching!

Best Tips Gained:

  • Industry currently favors realism/naturalism reads
  • VO is a tonal language, know what each tonal pattern conveys
  • Home Studio — Mic positioning is more important than type of mic
  • Commercials — Rock the problem/solution structure
  • Audiobooks — Slow down and create emotional orientation towards action or facts, even with narrators

If you have a specific question or need a referral for a VO professional in your area, I’d love to hear from you!  Otherwise, I’m off to record an audition…keep your fingers crossed!

via VO Atlanta Voiceover Conference – Official Website for VO Atlanta Voiceover Conference VO Atlanta Voiceover Conference.

The Speckled Band — Last week!

Photo by Pin Lim at Forest Photography
Photo by Pin Lim at Forest Photography

My run as Helen Stoner, the damsel in distress, is ending this weekend.  This Gothic, Sherlock Holmes adventure of The Speckled Band has been a dark ride and I have enjoyed working with the Classical Theater Company (Houston, TX) a lot.

Whenever a show is about to end I feel myself doing a quick, emotional analysis.  Am I the appropriate level of sad that the show is ending?  What exactly will I miss?  Did I enjoy the rehearsals?  The production team?  The cast?  The run?  No matter how fulfilling the production is, there is almost always that anticipation of having some evenings off — which is ridiculous, because I go crazy when I’m not working and immediately compile an obsessive list of ten million things to do.

During this particular show, I have definitely enjoyed sharing the stage with my castmates, though it was an new experience for me to be the only woman in a cast of more than two or three people.  Thanks to some inspired gender-swapping in some of the Shakespeare productions I’ve done, there has always been at least one other woman.  Even if I didn’t exchange lines with her (TSC had a female Ariel when I played Miranda), she was still a palpable energy onstage.

James Belcher as Dr. Roylott
James Belcher as creeper Dr. Roylott

In The Speckled Band, Helen spends the  entire  play either grieving for her dead  twin sister or  fearing her own immediate  demise.  She is emotionally isolated,  physically abused, and denied connection  at many points throughout.  These  circumstances make me jump back to  Ophelia, whose world was similarly bleak  in my production at HSF but who still had  Gertrude.  The presence of a woman to  idolize and whose  sympathy could be  hoped for/appealed to — even  if her  rejection was the norm — felt very different.  Ophelia also has the mess of a relationship with Hamlet to lean on (until that prop gets shattered) while Helen becomes engaged to a man we never see and rarely talk about.  Dr. Watson, the warmest character Helen encounters, is still a fairly distant outsider to the every day struggles at Stoke Moran.  When Watson first offers friendship to Helen in our play, I believe Helen’s dependency on/loyalty to her forceful step-father, Roylott, is a much stronger compulsion.

I still feel this lack of love interest and lack of female companionship during the course of the play, which may be the very things that make Helen ultimately more capable than Ophelia.  It’s been pretty cool to discover that my own instincts — or habits — are to seek a fellow woman or the romantic partner in my character’s moments of distress.  Without these crutches, however, Helen still resists the accusations of madness and continues to scratch her way towards justice for her sister and a secure life for herself.

So yes, I’ll miss playing her.  For tickets to our last three performances, visit!  Tonight and Saturday at 8:00, Sunday at 2:30.

Helen Waits... (production photos by Pin Lim at Forest Photography)
Helen Waits… (production photos by Pin Lim at Forest Photography)

Outbreak Company English Dub

My first anime voice over work is being released March 3rd!  Sentai Filmworks officially announced the cast, so I get to talk about it now.  This tongue-in-cheek show is a love letter to all things fantasy and anime as a young otaku (anime aficionado) is dropped into a world where everything he has spent years idolizing actually exists!  We’re talking elf-maids, dragons, wolf-girls, dwarves, a tiny Empress, and so much more.

Shinichi and Ms. Teacher discussing the purpose of Manga
Shinichi and Ms. Teacher discussing the purpose of Manga

I play the lead character’s inspiring field trip teacher (creatively named “Ms. Teacher”) in a flashback, who validates Shinichi’s love of manga as another avenue for learning about life.  Soooo basically what every 12-year-old boy wishes to hear.

Elfko about to take on the dwarves...
Elfko about to take on the dwarves…

Then I also voice the hot-headed Elfko, head of the elven contingent in Shinichi’s new school.  Really enjoyed getting to participate in one of those classically anime, knock-down, drag-out fights during which everyone’s faces get red and scarily large.  Plus, the artwork for Elfko is pretty great, right?

Overall, Outbreak Company is tons of fun and features several of my favorite Houston actors.  Check it out here once the English dub becomes available March 3rd!  Points to you if you can find the third, smaller character I voice…

Knife vs. Magazine

bourne knife fight
Bourne’s famous Kinfe vs. Magazine fight

Was flown up to teach combat and Suzuki at the TN Thespian Conference last weekend and even got to fight my brother!  Connor — who is also an actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors — joined me in Murfreesboro, TN to teach masterclasses in knife, improv, and Rodenburg’s circles.

Getting to work with, and learn from, other skilled artists is one of the best parts of this kind of conference but getting to work with and learn from my brother was incredible.  My own combat masterclass was in Unarmed (alluringly titled, “Fight Club”), so Connor helped me choreograph a very pugilistic fight between two characters with training and intent to kill — not usually the case in contemporary plays, though much more common in TV/Film.  Since the class drew 60+ high schoolers each time it was taught, having him there to partner me and help coach students was excellent.

Connor rolling magazines -- these things hurt!
Connor rolling magazines — these things hurt!

My brother’s masterclass (“Bourne to Knife Fight”…get it?!) centered on teaching a very intricate and brutal, knife vs. magazine fight he choreographed, inspired by Jason Bourne’s encounter in The Bourne Supremacy.  The beauty of Knife is that neither hand/arm is ever just hanging out, they are always moving in concert or opposition.  Great practice for Kali or Rapier Dagger work and it was fun to brush up my skills.

The lesson of Connor’s choreo: if you aren’t Jason Bourne, don’t bring a magazine to a knife fight.

Anime Voice Work

Had two more recording sessions for Sentai Filmworks last week as I continue down the rabbit hole of anime voice acting!  While my brother and I only watched a few easily accessible shows growing up (Gundam Wing, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z…) it has been fascinating to dive back into this sci-fy meets fantasy meets war-epic meets teen-romantic-comedy world.  The creativity of the plots and worlds is amazing and getting to voice multiple characters in the same session is a fun, vocal gymnastic event.  Tuesday was my first time spending a couple hours on the same character, though that project won’t be released for another few months.  In the meantime, stay tuned — the first series I recorded will be out soon!

For more info and some great voice work by some of my Houston theatre friends, check out Sentai’s website:

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

It's a Wonderful Life 2014
Connor Hammond, Elizabeth Price, James Taylor Odom, Amelia Fischer, Alex Van, Matt Magill

Driving away from my contract with the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, I had time (when taking a break from my audio book and striking out trying to phone-a-friend) to enjoy the experience of the last few weeks.  My third time performing in this show, I so enjoyed playing Mary Bailey again this year but with a new cast and in my hometown!  Sharing the stage with my brother was incredible, and being a part of rediscovering this lovely story in the radio format was a blast.  We played to sold out houses in Brenau University’s Downtown Center (a theatre I grew up playing various Cratchit children in) and partnered with the local radio station, WDUN, to broadcast the show live on opening night and Christmas night.  Favorite on-stage sound effect this year: a metal washboard and scrub brush to produce the engine of a train!