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Monday, November 18, 2013

Everyman will never be de-feeted!

One week before Everyman opened, Hallie Martenson, who plays the eponymous role, gave us quite a scare.  On the cast's night off, she broke her big toe, seriously impeding her ability to walk.  All turned out well, despite the injury.  What's it like it do a physical show on a serious physical injury?  See her journal below!  Just don't tell her to "break a leg"!  She might actually do it!

November 4th, 2013

It's our day off from rehearsal, but excited as I am for Opening next week, I can't keep myself from the set.  I sneak into the Theatre after my evening class to practice a sequence in which I run up the set's amazing sloped wall (designed by incredible student designer Seth Thomas Schmitt-Hall).  Maybe in punishment or karma for being in the theatre when I'm not supposed to, and despite the fact that I had run up that wall about a hundred times before without an ounce of trouble, something goes wrong.  I can't say what, but when I came back down that wall, my big toe was completely numb.  When I looked down, my stomach turned.  Imperceptible to anyone outside of my own body, my toe was pointing in the wrong direction.  

So what's an actor to do?  An actor who holds the titular role in a show that previews in eight days?  An actor who has a whole department full of people depending on her to anchor a production?

Ignore it, obviously.  Go to a rehearsal for another scene, stomp around on an injured foot in physical character work.  Enter the sweet state of denial.

November 5th, 2013

Why the other two toes are bruised is beyond me.

I wake up and my foot is swollen to twice its normal size.  I decide to go to Villanova Health Services, who I'm sure will just tell me that I banged myself up, that I would be absolutely be fine.


The nurse balks at the swollen state of my foot.  She says she is going to send me to go get x-rays.  I quickly intervene.  "That's not necessary.  I'm sure I'm fine."  She tells me to stay off of it, and to bow out of any physical work I do in the show.  I smile and nod, ignoring every word she says.

Leaving the health services building, I call the office of Father David Cregan, our director and chair of the Department.  His assistant answers the phone and tells me he is in a meeting.

"Okay, well, I just wanted to talk to him before he heard any rumors.  I'm totally fine, but hurt my toe.  I'm about 12% worried that it might be broken.  Please don't worry him, just tell him to call me back."

Next thing I know, Father David is in my office, winded from sprinting across campus.  He assures me that he isn't worried, but I can read the concern all over his face.  He insists that I go to the hospital immediately.


After two consultations with nurses and two sets of x-rays, I am sitting in the doctor's office, awaiting judgement.  I am confident, almost cocky, that she will walk in with a smile and say, "Yep, just bruised.  Nothing to worry about."  I am sure that I will be dancing in rehearsal in a few hours time.

She walks in.  There is no smile.  "Oh yeah.  It's broken, alright."  The air leaves my body.

"Bad?" I ask.  It is the only word I can croak out.

"It's very serious.  Looks like you'll need an understudy."  Great bedside manner, doc.  I immediately burst into tears.

As those tears transform into uncontrollable, embarrassing, hiccuping sobs, my doctor's sternness fades.  She tells me to take as much time as I need.  I hobble out of the doctor's office on my crutches, tears still running down my face.


The tears have finally stopped.  I get Father David on his cell.  He is confident and comforting.  "Well, I said at the beginning of the process that we didn't know what the show was going to be.  Now, the show is Everyman with a broken foot.  We will make it work."  But my heart is still broken.

I crutch my way into my Script Analysis class.  Half of my cast mates are there.  They look up and do a double take.  I can hear them muttering to each other in concern from across the room.  I can't look any of them in the eye.  My professor Valerie Joyce, a director in her own right, tells me not to worry.  "These kinds of things happen.  We will make it work."


Rehearsal.  Father David tells the cast about my toe.  He is, once again, kind and confident.  He tells me to sit in the house and deliver my lines while sitting.  Even in my chair, I am able to get myself to the emotional heights I need to reach.  I am comforted.  Immediately after rehearsal, I get myself home, crawl into bed, and fall into a deep, dark sleep, emotionally and mentally spent.

November 6th, 2013


Rehearsal.  Father David lets me onstage, as long as I keep my boot on.  I am thrilled to be back onstage - until I'm actually there.  My boot is heavy and clunky, and makes loud noises as I hobble from moment to moment.  

About two thirds of the way through the show, our stage manager stops us.  "We're almost at time."

Father David pulls me aside and lets me know quietly that they had stopped us when we were already 9 minutes over the length of time it had ever taken us to run the entire show.  I am mortified.  My worst fears has come true.  My foot has negatively impacted the show.

I try hard to bite back tears, but Father David sees them immediately.  He puts his arms around me.  "Hallie, you need to know that I'm not worried.  I am not worried," he repeated.  "This is what the show is now."

November 7th, 2013


I go see a specialist, a orthopedic podiatrist.  It is the fanciest doctor's office I have ever been in.  I fill out my intake papers on an I-Pad.  

I explain to the doctor, who specializes in sports injuries, that it's kind of like the quarterback breaking his toe before the big game - we need to do whatever we can to get me on the field.  I think I'm cool.  He doesn't crack a smile.  "A quarterback would be benched with this injury in a second."

He explains that my toe snapped back at the first joint, shattering through the joint.  It would almost certainly require surgery.  My heart falls again.

But then he gives me a gift.  An inflexible graphite insole for my stage shoe.  It would prevent my foot from bending at all.  A spark of hope flashes in my brain.  My hearing is dulled as he talks about how I need to scale back on my activity.  All I can do is stare at that graphite insole and imagine the possibilities it holds.


I get back to the theatre and sit down with Parris, the theatre's Production Manager, to explain my woes.  He is appropriately funny and sympathetic.  Father David appears and we visit the Costume Shop, where Courtney Boches, the Costume Designer, and Janus Stefanowicz, the Costume Shop Manager, are waiting.  They present me with a pair of combat boots, with a hard outer shell that would protect my toe.  They shove in the new graphite insole before asking me to try them on.

I squeeze my swollen foot into the boot carefully and lace them up.  I stand.  I take a few steps.  And I almost cry.  But this time from joy.

I am not even limping.  My foot is completely stable and protected.  Father David and I visit the stage and I walk through some of my blocking.  I am nervous, but there is no pain.  Father David looks as relieved as I feel.  For the first time, I actually believe that everything is going to be okay.

In this moment, those boots, simple, cheap, innocuous, become my MIRACLE BOOTS.  Gratitude doesn't begin to express how I feel toward the costume shop and designers.

November 12th, 2013

It's preview day!  Over the last five days, which include long tech days, I experiment more and more, and become more and more confident.  I dance.  I run up the wall.  I walk the runway.

On the second day of tech, Father David approaches me.  "You're back!  Can you feel it?"  I nod, smiling.  

And now, hearing the audience a few feet away muttering and fidgeting, I feel no fear.  Just excitement.  And something else, something very important that shadows all other emotions.  Something that blossoms inside me as I glance around at my cast mates, who have  held, and comforted, and supported me through every step of this process.  

Gratitude.  A whole lot of gratitude.  Which, for Everyman, feels exactly right.  

My toe twinges.  I shake it off.  I have a show to do.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fashion of Fierceness: Designing Strength by Courtney Boches

Courtney Boches, Theatre MA student and costume designer for Villanova's upcoming production of Everyman (opening this Wednesday!), spills about building one of the many INCREDIBLE costume elements present in this show.  

COURTNEY: Everyman is a visually fascinating, but complicated show.  When thinking about how to explain it in a concise (and mostly spoiler-free!) blog, I thought the most interesting thing to do would be to take you on a journey for one piece.  Here's an inside scoop on Strength, particularly his headpiece, from inspiration to completion.

COURTNEY:  One of the first things that happened early in the process of designing Everyman was a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to see the new exhibit "PUNK: Chaos to Couture."  Much of the inspiration for the show grew from that trip and the pieces featured at the museum and in the accompanying book that the Met published.

COURTNEY:  When thinking about the character of Strength, one of my initial ideas was to explore a military theme.  His jacket evolved out of that thought, and the detail on his shoulders is meant to recall the armor of medieval knights.  This was an attempt to bring in aspects of the time in which the original play was written.

COURTNEY:  Another thing that I did early on in the process was to research and identify all of the punk "stereotypes" that should be incorporated, like safety pins, tartan fabrics, use of found objects, and, of course, the mohawk.  It made sense to me that the mohawk should be worn by Strength - an imposing hair style for an imposing character.  

COURTNEY:  I also wanted the mohawk to evoke the feeling of a helmet, both of knights and other military eras.  I was particularly interested in the plumes found on helmets of various eras - Greek, Roman, and even the metal pieces that run down the center of medieval knight helmets.  To me, the mohawk was the perfect modern punk interpretation of this classic military style.

COURTNEY:  Our undergraduate work-study students had fun using papier-mache to construct this awesome headpiece.  We won't give away all the details of Strength's headpiece or any other fabulous costume here - you'll just have to come to a performance of Everyman to see the finished product!  It's been an honor and a phenomenal learning experience for me as a student to work on this production and I couldn't be prouder of what we're presenting onstage.

The costumes in this show are to die for!  Come see Courtney's breathtaking design in Villanova Theatre's production of Everyman, running from November 13th-24th.  For ticket information, call the box office at (610) 519-7474, or visit