Cory Dunn is the Production Manager at Gulfshore Playhouse and also the Assistant Director for The Christians.
One of the greatest opportunities that Gulfshore Playhouse presents its staff members is an open ear; we value every voice and try our best to help our staff and interns with any need they have. This tone is set by Kristen week-in and week-out, providing an open door to any in need of assistance. But this does not necessarily just mean helping employees with their day-to-day issues – it also means trying to accommodate younger staff members and interns who have interests in other areas in the theatre industry by allowing them to experience work in different departments.
For me, theatrical directing has always been a passion. There is nothing like creating a piece of art with talented collaborators and being able to share that with a community. After expressing my interest and passion for directing to Kristen, she graciously offered me the opportunity to shadow her as Assistant Director on our production of The Christians; an experience that has proven to be invaluable to me.
The first day in the rehearsal room blew my mind. Having limited experience in working with Equity actors, it was incredible to me how much each actor brought to the table. Not only was their first reading of the script incredible, but the discussion that occurred following the reading was truly passionate and full of discovery. We spoke about the construct of heaven and hell, shed some light on our own religious backgrounds and beliefs, and over the next few days really dove into the story of each of these characters. What is going through the character’s mind in each scene? What is the timeline of this play? (The play is written so stylistically that the script is almost entirely dialogue, with very little textual information on time passage.) Where does each character stand on the issue that the lead character, Pastor Paul, brings to the congregation? Most of this work is made easier when you have brilliant minds around the table, which we certainly had. Alan Campbell, Amy Van Nostrand, William Oliver Watkins, Kate Fahrner, and Stephen Bradbury bring many years of experience and also have some of the sharpest minds in the performance field. And of course, we were led by our fearless director, Kristen Coury, who navigated the tough waters of each character’s intentions as well as the differing religious views of our cast, crew, and audience.
By the time we got on our feet to start blocking the play, everything just seemed to naturally slide right into place. With each run through of a scene, these talented actors charged more and more life into their characters – tensions within each scene became palpable, and raw emotion spilled out in all the right moments. When we reached tech week, the show was ready; a rarity in my experience. These actors had it all together, and with some minor tweaks throughout the week the show only got better. As we layered in our incredible live band, led by Music Director John Austin Clark, as well our lights and projections, the play filled out and became stunning to watch each night, readying for an audience.
If you haven’t already, I greatly encourage you to see this production. The script is challenging and unlike anything you’ve experienced before, and this incredible group of actors really makes it a life-changing experience. As for me, the opportunity to be in this room, to collaborate with these artists, and to shadow a director as phenomenal as Kristen will forever have an impact on me, and for that I am truly grateful.