This summer, when she started preparing for her production of Aaron Sorkinâ€™s â€œA Few Good Men,â€ the playâ€™s director, CSU theatre professor Laura Jones, knew she would need to seek outside help â€“â€“ somehow, she had to transform a cast of college thespians into a believable group of U.S. Marines.
â€œI needed to get everyone in that military mindset,â€ Jones said. â€œAnd I didnâ€™t think I could do it alone.â€
So she walked into CSUâ€™s ROTC office, asked around, and eventually enlisted the help of Sergeant Major Ret. Brian Olsen, who is now the playâ€™s official â€œMilitary Consultant.â€
Over the past two months, with the initial direction of Sgt. Olsen, the cast members of â€œA Few Good Menâ€ have become seasoned to the ways of military life: theyâ€™ve learned to salute, stand at attention and most significantly, theyâ€™ve learned to think like Marines.
Senior business major Kiernan Angley, who plays the lead role of Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise in the playâ€™s movie adaptation), fully embraced Jonesâ€™ decision to use a Military Consultant. So much so, he attended multiple ROTC physical training sessions last month, and he eventually came up with a military-esque warm-up he leads the actors in before each rehearsal.
â€œAfter seeing everyone so focused and lined up in their rows, I thought, â€˜Why havenâ€™t we always done this (in theatre)?â€™,â€ Angley said. He was also surprised at how the military techniques so closely mirrored those used in traditional theatre warm-ups.
â€œAs actors, when we get ready, we aim for energy, vocals and focus. What does the military aim for? Energy, vocals and focus,â€ he said.The playâ€™s cast, made up 16 men and one woman, say they can see the effect the military training has had on their character development â€“â€“ and most tangibly, they saw it when many had their hair buzzed, Marine-style, two weeks ago.
â€œI feel like the entire show stepped up a notch when we got the haircuts,â€ said junior theatre major Parker Stegmaier, who plays Private First Class Louden Downey, one of the Marines accused of murder.
â€œAnd the sergeant was really helpful with so many things. That was one of my favorite parts, when he came in. I mean, he got into a lot of our faces though,â€ Stegmaier said.
â€œThere was a moment when someone just had a little hint of a smile, and (Sgt. Olsen) was just on them immediately. And I was just like, â€˜oooh, OK then!â€™â€
After having motivation (and fear) instilled in them by the sergeant, the actors took it upon themselves to become immersed in the mindset of a Marine â€“â€“ they even started wearing clunky, black combat boots to rehearsal, making it a challenge to remain silent when the stage managers yells â€œquiet backstage!â€
And thatâ€™s something Production Stage Manager Kaylen Higgins says sheâ€™s had to do a lot of lately.
â€œYeah, those heeled boots make a lot of noise backstage,â€ Higgins, a senior theatre major said. But one thing sheâ€™s found to be easier than imagined is working with a cast made up of mostly men.
â€œI kind of feel like a mom, saying, â€˜Okaaay boys, here we go!â€™ But theyâ€™ve all been really well behaved, actually. It definitely hasnâ€™t been as bad as I thought,â€ she said. â€œI was prepared for the worst.â€
Someone else who gets to act as â€œmomâ€ to the group of young men is assistant director, and junior theatre major, Meghan Connor.
â€œItâ€™s really funny, because I came off of â€˜Twelfth Nightâ€™ where I was surrounded by all women,â€ Connor said. â€œAnd now, Iâ€™m working with all the boys. Itâ€™s actually really nice, though, because thereâ€™s no drama. Theyâ€™re all just a really nice group of guys.â€
And while the cast consists of mostly men, the directorial and stage manager team is all female, Connor said. â€œItâ€™s the women in charge this time.â€
This is Connorâ€™s first time assistant-directing a main-stage production at CSU, and she says it hasnâ€™t been difficult getting people to recognize â€œA Few Good Menâ€ when she tells them about it. Because while some may not automatically recognize the title, almost everyone knows Jack Nicholsonâ€™s famous line from the movie adaptation.
â€œWhen I explain to people what play it is Iâ€™m doing, I always say, â€˜You know, the â€˜YOU CANâ€™T HANDLE THE TRUTHâ€™ one,â€™â€ she said. â€œThen they usually say, â€˜Oh yeah, they made a play out of that?â€™ And I say, â€˜Actually, it was a play first, and then a movie.â€
In both Aaron Sorkinâ€™s original play and 1992 adapted movie screenplay, the only female speaking part belongs to Lieutenant Commander Joanna Galloway, or Demi Mooreâ€™s role in the movie.
Senior theatre major Jaccie Serbus plays â€œJoâ€ (as her male cast mates call her) in CSUâ€™s production of â€œA Few Good Men.â€
â€œItâ€™s a lot of fun. You donâ€™t often get a chance to stand out like that,â€ she said.
Serbus is one of the few cast members who didnâ€™t have to get a buzz cut two weeks ago, but she says sheâ€™s still felt the transformation through rehearsals, and sheâ€™s definitely noticed it among the men.
â€œAt one point in the beginning (of rehearsals), everyone was really nonchalant, saying â€˜Whatever, yeah Iâ€™m a â€˜Marine,â€™â€ she said.
â€œBut now, itâ€™s gone from actors pretending to be Marines, to actors actually believing they are Marines.â€
Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.