- By gentleguide
- On Fri 11 oct 2019
The grass is always greener… or is it? That’s what a mother and daughter learn in Disney’s Freaky Friday, the next production coming up at the Des Moines Playhouse starting (appropriately) next Friday, October 18. This magical musical about being forced to live someone else’s life is even switching places with its location, moving from the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre to the Mainstage at the Playhouse (due to the upcoming Century Celebration utilizing the Goldman space).
Mother Katherine and daughter Ellie are played by Chelsea Haaland and Anastasia Deace (at least, to start!) In Freaky Friday, the characters spend a crazy day and night when they magically exchange bodies and lives, with Mom now in Ellie’s body having to deal with high school problems and social terrors, and daughter now in grown-up Katherine’s body trying to work through everything from parenting to planning a wedding. Directed by Megan Helmers, Freaky Friday is a classic “switching places” show, with fun tunes and production numbers gleefully added to the mix.
I Got This
Haaland is an instructor at Waukee high school, but is jumping back into performing again after a bit of a hiatus. “In the past ten years, I have directed over 20 productions, coached countless IHSSA speech team events, and taught a variety of theatre classes around the state... but I haven't performed in a show! I never meant to take that long of a break from performing; it somehow happened by accident as I was fully entrenched in the other responsibilities of my day-job as well as becoming a wife and mother of two in that decade.”
“This year, I decided to take a major break from my work with school extra-curricular activities and pursue things that filled my cup in a different way. Theatre has been an important part of my life for nearly 30 years, and I wanted to take the opportunity to learn and discover my craft in ways that I haven't been able to pursue. Reminding myself what it feels like to be an actor, working under the direction of creative persons who think differently than I do, being part of a team - these are all experiences that will ultimately make me a better director and teacher when I do return from this sabbatical.”
“I have been teaching theatre in some capacity for the past 15 years. In that time, I feel I've been able to develop a unique voice as a director; I have learned how to communicate my vision for a scene with my actors and production team, and I'm often displaying or exemplifying choices with silly physical or vocal choices. As rehearsals began, I surprised myself; I realized I had grown much less self-conscious than I was as a younger performer, and it was easier to make bigger choices without second-guessing myself. However, I forgot what it felt like to memorize lines and music and that has been more of a struggle than I remember it being when I was younger!”
I’m Not Myself Today
The daughter-as-mom in Freaky Friday is portrayed by Anastasia Deace, who has recently worked with a number of theatre groups in the area including Tallgrass Theatre and DM Young Artists’ Theatre. When you’ve got to essentially play the same part as someone else in the show (as both Deace and Haaland have to do), you end up trying to pattern your performance after behavior you observe. “Towards the beginning of the process,” says Deace, “we had a sit down meeting with Megan about how we can copy each other’s mannerisms. She would have us do the scenes as each other and then switch, and so on and so forth. It was a very helpful exercise. I can definitely think of some things that we copy of each other’s and some hilarious scenes where we act like a fish out of water, but I guess you’ll have to see the show to find out.”
“Early in the process,” says Haaland, “Anastasia and I discovered that we strongly connect to our age-appropriate roles, but have a harder time accessing our body-swapped role. Anastasia sways or scratches her arm when she's nervous; she speaks with her hands to express emotion and jokes to deflect uncomfortable attention. Those are characteristics that I can pull in when I am playing Ellie in Katherine's body. Anastasia has picked up on my nervous habit of playing with my pant-seam - something I had no idea until she pointed it out to me; my husband and friends immediately said, ‘Oh yeah, that's something you do.‘”
Both Haaland and Deace consider themselves more actors than dancers, and yet there’s plenty of music and movement in Freaky Friday. They both point towards one person who has made their lives both easier and more challenging. “I've been hoping to work with Megan Helmers in some fashion for years, and I was excited to learn that she was directing and choreographing this particular production,” reports Haaland. “I have been most appreciative of her keen eye and her ability to choreograph numbers that display the strengths of each actor while minimizing the weaknesses. She has a number of different ensembles - adults, a teen ensemble, a group of cater waiters - and the difficulty of choreography varies among each group. I was not blessed with beautiful dancing feet, and don't dance often in the show - but there is a lot of interesting movement occurring around me, which will be visual candy for the audience.”
“Words honestly can’t describe how great of a director Megan is,” says Deace. “She’s so one-on-one with all of the cast, and has created such a personal bond with all of us. I’m not much of a dancer, but Megan has definitely encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone when it comes to the dancing in the show. I just want to give a shoutout to the amazing student ensemble! Their dances are so incredibly hard, and they definitely deserve some of the spotlight!!”
Haaland exclaims, “I'm so excited for this! Rehearsal has been the best part of my day for the past several weeks, and it is going to be a great experience to be in front of an audience for the first time in a decade. This is a family show, and will be a great show for parents to attend with their young kids, tweens, and teens alike. It's a great message about empathy and learning how to best communicate with a family member whose personality might be different from your own.We can't wait to share our work with audiences and hope many people turn out to see the show!”
If you want to be one of those many people, Freaky Friday opens on Friday October 18, with performances on Friday evenings and multiple Saturday and Sunday matinees for three weekends. Tickets are available from the DM Playhouse website, at the Box Office at the Playhouse at 831 42nd Street, or by calling 515-277-6261.
Publicity photos by Steve Gibbons, courtesy of the Des Moines Playhouse.