"Kate and Sam" is more than just a comedy

Imagine screaming at your best friend at the top of your lungs, hitting them, shooting them, and then going out to coffee the next morning, as if nothing happened.If this sounds fantastic to you, that’s because it happens only in the theater, the realm of the strange, wonderful, and unbelievable. The events described above all take place in the show “Kate and Sam Are Not Breaking Up,” which will be shown at the Mill Theater on April 21-24 and April 28-30. It will be the culmination of much hard work on the part of all involved: be they actors, directors, or stage hands. For many of those involved, work on the play began a couple of months ago when the actors auditioned for their roles. Each actor prepared two monologues—a comedic one and a dramatic one—for their audition, just as they would for a professional show. “Over the years, actors build up a repertoire of monologues to use in their auditions,” said Isabella Yanke, who plays Becky Park in the show. “These monologues give the director some idea of what each actor is capable of.” After the preliminary auditions, a few actors are called back for a second round of auditions in which they are asked to read a monologue from the play so the director can get an idea of which actors would be best for which role. He then chooses the lucky actors—four in this case—who will act in the play. Next, all the actors meet with the director for a read-through. “We basically just sat around a table and read the script so we had an idea of what the play was like and who the characters were,” said Yanke. “This particular play moved pretty fast through this stage for a school production. We had to be off-book by the third rehearsal, when we got back from spring break.” The rehearsals moved to the Mill Theater where the actors did some informal blocking. Props were chosen, and scenery was designed and built. This is where the stage-hands came in. “Kate and Sam is the first time I’ve ever been backstage for a play,” said Mary Margaret Tarsitano, the assistant stage manager. “During rehearsals, I had to help with props and scenery and prompt the actors if they forgot a line.” For the most part, Kate and Sam is your average play except for one thing—the fight scenes. For these scenes, the director hired Dave Gonzales, a fight choreographer, to work with the actors. “Fighting on stage is all about timing and positioning,” Yanke said. “The actors have to position themselves so the audience can’t see what’s going on, and each separate part has to be done in the right sequence at the right time. For example, there’s one scene where Karly Hannah (Kate) gets slapped by Danny (Bill). Danny pushes his hand towards her, she moves back, and Lukas (Sam) claps his hands for the slap noise.” The show also includes fake blood, some knives, and a prop gun. “I had never fired any gun, real or fake, before this show,” Yanked commented. “I was surprised at how hard it was for me to pull the trigger. I have to use both hands to do it.” For most of the show, these “weapons” will be backstage with Tarsitano. “We do this thing called ‘fight check’ where we check all the weapons before production to make sure nothing will happen to hurt the actors. They will stay by me during the performances until it’s time for them to go onstage.” Handling a gun, albeit a fake one, does not worry her. “I’m from the South, so I’m used to guns,” she laughed. The play has certainly developed from the beginning, where it was just four actors sitting around a table reading a script. However, many of those involved would say that the greatest development occurred in the actors’ portrayal of the characters. Hannah noted that her perception of Kate has changed since they started production. “It’s easy to play Kate as a ‘stuck’ character, someone who fits a particular mold or stereotype. I had to work to make Kate complex; she’s a bluffer, someone who puts up a brave front despite being terrified. This show may be a comedy, but it has real depth to it, a depth which needs to shine through our acting.”