Attic brings native man’s play to Ivy Tech stage
Wednesday, December 2, 2020, 4:00 a.m.
Photo made available Fans of actor John Wilkes Booth (played by Joshua Blair) – Edan Solverson, Bethany Worrell, Kelsey Montgomery, Anna Mayhill and Caroline Stone – wait for his performance in front of a theater during rehearsals for “American Brutus” at the Attic Theater An original piece by Ian Hauer of Noblesville that opens tonight in the auditorium in the annex of Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville.
Photo provided Andrew Hale (played by Brock Worrell) introduces his friend John Wilkes Booth (Joshua Blair) to his mother (Kristin Hilger) and sisters (Emily Hauer and Katie Mayhill) during rehearsals for “American Brutus” at the Attic Theater Original piece by Ian Hauer of Noblesville and opening tonight in the auditorium in the annex of Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville.
Photo provided John Wilkes Booth (Joshua Blair of Noblesville) suggests Lucy Hale (Emily Hauer of Noblesville) after a heated discussion of her father’s abolitionist views in Attic Theater’s “American Brutus,” an original by Ian Hauer of Noblesville and Opening tonight in the auditorium in the annex building at Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville.
When Ian Hauer read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”, he imagined a certain scene on stage.
“I wrote it down, then another, then another until I had a first draft,” said the 30-year-old Hauer from Old Town Noblesville.
Tonight, the director and new playwright of the Attic Theater brings his original drama “American Brutus” to the stage. The play runs today through Sunday in the auditorium in The Annex.
The play is about the last two years in the life of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth and takes the form of a fast-moving historical drama, Hauer said. “I’ve always been a history student and a fan of theater, and the interface between the two fascinates me.”
He said the plot centered on John Wilkes Booth, “an immensely dramatic historical figure. The piece of his life almost writes itself: a national celebrity secretly betrothed to the daughter of an abolitionist senator smuggled medicine into New Orleans, opened an oil business, crossed paths with the Lincoln several times, and publicly walked with his older brother, also one of famous actors misguided. There is so much material for me. “
Hauer said, “It was fun telling a story where nobody knows the main character, but everyone knows the ending.”
Writing the piece and fine-tuning it was a lot of work. “It was a long process with several starts and stops along the way.” He relied on a number of editors to refine the script, as well as actors, directors, playwrights, academics, writers, and people from the street. He had two table readings which were very helpful.
“I think the biggest hurdle was hearing my words in people’s mouths,” said Hauer. “That changed the dynamics in so many scenes.”
This is the first time The Attic Theater has staged an original production. The Attic is based in Elwood, but has performed several of its productions in the auditorium in The Annex at Ivy Tech Community College in Noblesville.
Hauer said several members of The Attic read the script and spoke to the theater’s executive director Rebecca Roy about the staging. In late 2019, Roy reached out to Hauer to ask if he would be interested in making his play the first original piece by The Attic, which he quickly agreed to.
“The board is very keen to nurture talent within the group that goes beyond just acting, whether it’s set design, costume design, or now, theater writing.
The piece was already on The Attic’s agenda before the COVID-19 pandemic (Coronavirus Disease). “But obviously it forced us to read very carefully with all elements of the production,” said Hauer. “We had a lot of open conversations with the cast and crew and haven’t had the entire cast together since reading through in August.”
The cast spent all of September, October, and most of November rehearsing small portions of the play, which limited the number of actors gathered in one location.
While they were using the auditorium and an actor’s church for rehearsals, they also had some living room / backyard rehearsals.
Set build was on Saturday and then the cast came for tech week on Sunday with dress rehearsals through Tuesday. On Monday, they put the finishing touches to the set and did minor chores like hanging the curtain and going through the etiquette of the performance night. Hauer picked up the printed programs on Tuesday.
There are 33 characters and 10 crew members. How does it work with so many people during the pandemic?
Masks are required for all samples. Some actors even opt for face shields, Hauer said. While the performers don’t wear masks on stage, the performers and crew wear masks when they’re not on stage, and there’s someone to thoroughly refurbish every seat and touch point after rehearsals and performances.
“We observed the health of our actors and our crew very closely and had to quarantine and test several artists,” said Hauer. “Fortunately, no member of the cast has tested positive yet.”
He said, “We have an extensive list of secondary studies in case an actor has to quit during production. We managed to keep our bubbles pretty small. I think the pandemic has made it a little more difficult to recruit for auditions and I definitely think this will affect the size of our audience. ”
All spectators must wear a mask and have a temperature check carried out at the door. “During the entire production process, we made sure to follow government and company guidelines,” said Hauer.
The cast of 33 people comes from and around Hamilton County, 10 from Noblesville and two from Westfield, others from Cicero, Sheridan, Indianapolis, Lebanon, Elwood, Pendleton and Kokomo.
One of these Noblesville actresses is Mrs. Emily Hauer. They married on October 10th. “Emily and I played and directed together in the attic for a little over four years,” said Ian Hauer. She was his assistant director during The Attic’s 2019 “And then there weren’t any.” And this time she plays on her husband’s show. “I’m biased, but I think she’s a wonderfully expressive actress and I think the audience will be spoiled for her role.” (During the day, Hauer is director of communications for the Indiana Treasurer of State. Emily is the daughter of Bill Smith, who serves on the board of directors of the Attic Theater and former Mike Pence chief of staff in the governor’s office.)
Hauer has directed several shows with The Attic, “and I’ve played since I was in kindergarten,” he said. “I love the camaraderie of community theater and am always looking for new ways to connect with the audience.”
Hauer, who moved to Old Town Noblesville in the summer, loves that the square is within walking distance and so many amenities are close by. He was born in Minnesota, grew up in Newburgh, Indiana, and has been quite active. But he hopes to stay here a while longer.
Whether or not Hauer would stage another show during the pandemic, he said he would likely choose a play with a very small cast. “The logistics of keeping 33 actors healthy and driving a production that only works on small pieces at a time is immensely exhausting,” he said.
He said the benefits of live theater are badly needed at a time like this.
“I think theater is very important at the moment,” said Hauer. “In a time of fear, uncertainty and exhaustion, we have the opportunity to tell a story that has never been told before. As long as we keep our actors, crew and audience safe and take all precautions, this play can be an escape and a balm for those in attendance, ”he said.
“Watching 33 actors in particular create roles that have never been on stage before has been an extremely rewarding experience. Everything is fresh and so many of them bring perspectives to the story that I hadn’t imagined as a playwright. “
The piece is being produced in collaboration with The Attic, “with a kind of workshop approach,” he said. “Some of the Attic board members have come out in favor of royalties for this show, but due to the way we have treated director pay in the past, we decided not to pursue this this time around.” He also sits on The Attic’s board of directors.
Over Hauer is happy about the show. He said: “I would certainly do one of my own plays again. (I have several drafts in the works), but after that I need a breather. “
-Contact Betsy Reason at [email protected]
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