Of Dice and Men (ODaM), the Dungeons & Dragons play created by Cameron McNary, had the premiere of its first full production (outside of PAX) this weekend at the IMPACT Theatre in Berkeley, California. Meanwhile, down in Georgia, a college production of the play is about to kick off at Oglethorpe University. Recently we spoke with Danielle Hitchcock – a senior at Oglethorpe who will be directing the play – about her expectations for the production, how she found out about the play and most importantly what super-power she wants.
As a member of Oglethorpe’s Alpha Psi Omega (APO) theatre fraternity, Hitchcock became aware of the play after a fellow member heard about the performance at Pax Prime last year. Several of the fraternity members are gamers, and while Hitchcock has only recently been exposed to tabletop gaming, she was excited by the message and prospects of the show. “I would say that the thing that really hooked me is just how real it is. The characters are all real people. They are so alive and the emotions are so tangible throughout because everything in this script is truthful. It’s really the truth of the relationships and emotions that got me.”
Hitchcock remarked that there wasn’t a singular “aha” moment where she knew she had to direct the play, but it was more the emotional connection she developed to the characters and story, despite not being a hardcore gamer. “Most of my friend group is composed of pretty hardcore gamers, so these are people that I know and care about…The characters in this play are the people I see everyday and the tight knit friendships that Cameron displays in ODaM are ones that I have.”
As Hitchcock also mentioned, it helps that the play “is absolutely hysterical, but that’s just gravy.”This production will end up being a landmark of sorts for a few reasons. Chief among those is that this will be the first college level production of Of Dice and Men. Oglethorpe University (yes it is a real school) itself seems like the perfect place for ODaM to premiere. A small liberal arts school of just over 1,000 students that looks like a castle. What could be more perfect?
For Hitchcock, it marks her first solo full length production gig. A senior theatre major, she has previously worked as director of nine other shows of various sizes and at times as a co-director. Such responsibility is sure to bring its share of anxiety, but when asked, Hitchcock replied that most of her nerves come from “really [wanting] to do the script justice and put on the kind of show that the story deserves.” She went on to add that “I have a really great team though and an amazing cast, so I think we will pull it off well.”
Speaking of the cast, the show was auditioned for back in the spring and after a brief hiatus, the team is back together to start rehearsals. As far as how progress has been so far, Hitchcock had this to share. “The first read through my cast had, there were times that I thought we weren’t going to get through certain scenes [because of all the laughter].”
While the cast and crew appear strong and Hitchcock is in good spirits about the play’s prospects, the special distinction of being the first college production is not lost on her at all. “It is always exciting to work on a premiere of a show. I have been a part of a couple of regional premieres and one world premiere of a theatrical production, and the energy is always a little different. You go through the same process that you would for any other show, but there is a bit of a rush knowing that you will be presenting something that no one has ever seen before, and, in some cases, something that people have been waiting to see.”
So how do you deal with that kind of energy and pressure? Well, if you listen to Hitchcock, all you need is a little magic (literally). “In acting we have a tactic called “the illusion of the first time”, meaning that every time you perform, it should look like none of this has ever happened before, like it is natural and unrehearsed. Having a premiere is like a built-in illusion of the first time because you know that the audience will be surprised with you at every turn.” Apparently the APO students at Oglethorpe are all wizards, casting illusion spells and whatnot. If that doesn’t provide more incentive to go see the show, I’m not sure what will.
In addition to discussing the play with Hitchcock, Cameron McNary, playwright extraordinaire also chimed in with his thoughts on a group of younger actors taking on his story. “I think it’s absolutely wonderful that a younger group of artists has seen something in the script that speaks to them. So far, they’ve demonstrated the same drive and artistic vision that the best professional theatre artists have. I think the play is going to get a sharp production by people who love the script; a playwright can’t ask for much more.”
McNary went on to echo Hitchcock’s sentiments about not making major changes to the play despite the age difference of the actors, but admitted that it would be “an interesting acting challenge.” He did mention that a few very minor tweaks have been made to the script, based on things that arose during IMPACT’s preparation, but aside from that “the script is pretty lean and mean at this point.”
Regardless, he seems unconcerned stating, “I am interested to hear how it goes for a cast of younger performers; the characters are all in their early 30s and up (and their age is critical to the message of the play), but tend to sound a little younger than they are, as we geeks tend to do.”
Of Dice and Men is slated for only a two day run at Oglethorpe, on October 14th and 15th. That means you better get tickets and not waste time. What more could one ask for anyway? Dungeons & Dragons + a castle + a cast and crew of wizards + good theatre. If you need anything else, well then you’re just being greedy. Don’t be greedy! Go see the show.
For more information about the production of Of Dice and Men at Oglethorpe University, or to donate to the production, check out their Kickstarter page.
Oh, and as for the super-power, Hitchcock chose telekinesis because she “…could get so much more done (and be super awesome) if I could move stuff with my mind!” She’s already half-way there with the illusion spells.
(photos courtesy of Kickstarter.com, Oglethorpe.edu and Oglethorpe blog)