Unnecessary Necessities

Img 0773Starting August 4th, Ankeny Community Theatre has assembled all the elements needed for a night of comedy. Misunderstandings, a set with a multitude of doors, physical pratfalls, clothes that keep being strategically removed, and a completely Unnecessary Farce. The Guide talked to a few of the principals about the science of the art of making people laugh.

Two cops. Three crooks. Eight doors. Go!

The standard bedroom-style farce has been a staple of theatre for many, many years. And yet, farce is one of the hardest types of show to do. In Ankeny Community Theatre's production of Unnecessary Farce, starting next weekend, there is an incredible amount of precise timing, demanding physical performance, and "spontaneous" reactions, all of which have to be carefully planned to achieve the maximum amount of laughter and astonishment from the audience. As much of a joy as it is to watch, it's incredible hard work to make it all happen. 


Unnecessary Setting


First, you have to begin with a set, hopefully one which will lend itself to mixups and near misses.  And with limited rehearsal time, you have to work twice as hard to make it look easy. Just ask Adam Haselhuhn, who's playing the lead in Ankeny's production.

Img 0764"Our set is two identical hotel rooms and the furniture is used often in the blocking. One of the challenges we have faced is having to move the bedroom furniture on and off the stage each night as we rehearse. ACT does not have a dedicated rehearsal space separate from our stage, so as our set builders come in to build we have to move all the beds, end tables, etc. so they can continue to work."

"We just recently got all of our doors installed (there are 8 of them!) so that has helped dramatically. You don't realize until you start moving through rehearsals just how important it is that you remember to leave a door open, or be sure you close it when exiting because it might impact what happens moments later in the plot. Remembering what to do with the doors is just as important as remembering your lines in some ways!"


Unnecessary Clothing


Other actors have other things to deal with. During the rehearsal process, I asked Kaci Kohlepp Conetzkey, who plays Karen, about one of those "other things."  

Img 0771"For many of the characters, there is a ton of dressing and getting undressed that occurs onstage, which is always a challenge, so I think we are going to start wearing extra layers to rehearsals this week to start getting that timing down. I like to joke that Karen is a bit bipolar in that one half of her is so put together, conservative, and professional, and then the other half is this sexual woman who literally can't control herself (or keep her clothes on!)"

"The last few roles I've done, I've had to play a 'sexy' character, which my friends and family get a real kick out of because I am the furthest from sexy in real life! I am the no makeup, yoga pants, walk like a truck driver kind of girl, so playing more feminine roles are always a challenge! Especially with this character, Karen, who is normally so conservative and is really struggling with holding her urges in... so I am really trying to find that right balance!"


Unnecessary Physicality


Sometimes, the laughs aren't dependent upon doors, or clothes, or props. Sometimes, it's just being able to do the physical things necessary to get a laugh, whether it's a take, a line delivery, or just being able to do something no one else can do. Ryan Ingram plays the character of Todd in Unnecessary Farce, and he gets to bring his own uniqueness to the show.

"I'm personally pleased that we are able to use my size to become a comedic advantage, as it can produce some truly amusing sight gags. We have a really good director who has a vision for how the production is going to look. She's very collaborative, and we're able to bounce different ideas off of each other to find ways that we can add to the comedy and the audience's enjoyment."

Adam chimes in with his own view of the physicality of farce. "This show is different from others I've been in because there is a TON of physical comedy that requires well-rehearsed timing and movements. It is also fairly nonsensical in many instances, which I love."

"You have to be willing to dedicate yourself wholly to the movements your character is making - this is part of the fun for the audience, all of the 'door slamming' and running around that is happening. In rehearsal I've already been thrown off the bed and I doubt it will be the last bruise I get in rehearsals! We're having great fun laughing at the show so I know audiences will enjoy it as well."


Unnecessary Accidents


I mentioned the term "Splendid Accidents" to the cast, which an old director of mine had used in reference to the discovery of those moments which lead to comedy gold that aren't in the scripted version of the play. Creating a farce is part meticulous planning and part serendipity, and recognizing those moments in rehearsal can lead to the promised land of audience laughter.

Img 0772"The director, Barb Wagner, has stopped and said 'Oh I love that! Do it again!'" says Adam. "Sometimes you just notice in the way someone is walking or where they are standing at a particular moment, and that naturally lends itself to a farcical physical movement. I think Barb is also known by many to have her preplanned 'Barb gags' in shows, which she continues in this one."

Kaci has her own reaction when I bring up Splendid Accidents. "This question just makes me giggle because I am thinking of so many of these instances that are occurring on a nightly basis! For example, a scene when my character is coming on to Adam's character, Adam has this priceless look on his face, which made Barb think of a dog shaking its leg when it gets excited. So, lo and behold, Adam now shakes his leg like a dog!"

"The entire cast of Unnecessary Farce are so incredibly talented and freaking hilarious! I can't wait to see the end product of this show!"

Whether the moments are discovered by accident, or come from planning and rehearsal, the end goal of a farce is really nothing more than making an audience laugh. The cast and crew have bent over backwards (and fallen over backwards a few times too!) so attendees at Unnecessary Farce will have a fun-filled evening watching their antics. That's what all the hard work is for....

Of course, there's always a little bit of room for one more comedy prop too.... and how many shows utilize bagpipes, anyway??? Not that they're necessary, it's just another gag, on top of so many others.... It IS an Unnecessary Farce, after all!!!

Ankeny Community Theatre presents Unnecessary Farce, beginning Friday August 4 and running for 3 weekends. Tickets are available at the Midwestix website, and the Ankeny Community Theatre building is located at 1932 SW 3rd Street in Ankeny. 

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Ankeny Community Theatre Unnecessary Farce