Saturday, November 10, 2018

PlayFest: The Great Beyond

I sketched a rehearsal for The Great Beyond by Stephen Dietz, leading up to their performance on Saturday, November 10, 2018 at the Orlando Shakes (812 East Rollins Street Orlando FL). This is a four character play that focuses on a family in a time of grief. Despite their differences, sisters, Monica (Courtney Bahr) and Emily, (Melanie Whipple) reunited to tie up loose ends after their father’s death.

The two sisters are always at each other's throats. Emily is the younger and perhaps favored daughter but she lived a life of addiction and with her recovery, she set a task of apologizing to everyone she had slighted.  This became her new addiction. Rene, another character, referred to the people Emily found as her "marks". Some of these apologies resulted in rifts that pulled other people's lives apart. The road to ruin is paved with good intentions.

The true seed of discontent between the sisters, however, is the death of a brother, Joseph, when they were young. Blame, whether founded or not, always surfaced in every conversation. Another point of contention was the estate left behind by the father. Emotions run raw when you want some physical object to remember someone by. Who gets what can become a battle that can divide any family. A coat or table might suddenly become the most important artifact to remind you of love.

Monica's Ex, Rex, (Cameron Francis) is there with his girlfriend, Rene, (Chelsey Panisch) who happens to be a medium. With her help, the siblings attempt to summon their father’s spirit to gain forgiveness and discover the truth. The second act revolved around this seance. Monica dismissed the seance as a hoax from the start but even she was swept up in the raw emotions in the darkened room.

I fell in love with this family as they stumbled to find their way after their father's death. For years an unspoken agreement had held the family together but after the father's death a greater truth was needed. What was so exciting about watching the rehearsal was that the script was in a constant state of flux. Having the author in the rehearsal resulted in his trimming and fine tuning the script as they rehearsed. Actors highlighted their lines as they were changed. Monologues could be made into more concise and polished gems. It was a fascinating process to watch. When you experience PlayFest you are actively participating in the development of new plays.

Director: Cynthia White
Stage Manager: Alli Gersbach
Stage Directions Reader: Krystal Rajkowski

Other Cast: Mark Ferrara as Coach Mayes. 

Tickets for The Great Beyond  by Stephen Deitz are $10. The performance is at 8pm tonight, November 10, 2018 in the Shakespeare Center Margeson Theater.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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