Grand Rapids Community College Players is presenting “A Sleeping Country” as their upcoming fall production.
The show is directed by GRCC theater instructor, Nancy Wagner, and is described by leading lady, Alex Petkus, as a “finding yourself story.” Petkus said, “it is a comedy, but it has depth, and the other characters kind of come out throughout the story, and you realize that there is more to them than just being a supporting character to the plot.”
The story revolves around the character Julia, played by Petkus, an insomniac who believes that she has the worst case of insomnia ever. The story starts with Julia in her psychiatrist’s office, talking to her best friend Midge, played by Kendra Jones, who also happens to be her psychiatrist. She finds out that her insomnia could possibly be fatal.
In response to this, Julia leaves her home in New York after breaking up with her fiancé, played by Nick Favreau, to go seek out a woman, played by Maddie Jones, under the name of Isabella Orsini, who supposedly has the same version of insomnia that Julia does. Julia travels to Venice, Italy, where Isabella lives, to go and meet this her and learn about their supposedly shared condition of insomnia.
There are four cast members who playa total of eight characters. “It is not challenging for me as Julia, because I play Julia the entire time,” Petkus said. “Two of the other cast members have to change up their characters throughout the play.”
Petkus said the difference between working with Nancy and other directors is “she focuses on diction and tonal quality. We are doing more with voice and movement than I initially thought we would. I thought we would just be like ‘lets just put this show on,’ but Nancy really cares about tone of voice and body movement. I have never had a director who works on specifically that stuff.”
“At first I did not like Julia at all,” Petkus said. “When you start working with a character, you have to do some thought process behind their motivation. She left her fiancé, and I was like ‘what is she doing, she is so mean for doing that.’ I had to get out of myself in order to understand her. I discovered that it is more internal stuff that she is dealing with.”
Petkus said she thinks people should come and see the show “because the play deals with important lessons about finding yourself, being honest with yourself, and developing relationships with other people.”
“When I first read the script I was really touched by how creative it was. It is quirky, but sweet. It’s a comedy, but it is romantic, and I was really excited when the board that selects plays at GRCC contacted me to direct this play,” Wagner said.
When asked what was the most difficult thing about directing this show, Wagner said that “trying to create the different geographic places, and finding what the style was going to be for the different locations. A lot of it has to do with the sound and light that we use.”
She said that the most fun thing was working with the students who she casted in the show. This is her first time directing a GRCC Players show, and she has really enjoyed her experience.
“I have seen such an incredible amount of growth in each one of them,” Wagner said. “They all had things that they wanted to work on as actors coming into this show, and we were able to do that. I love seeing how as a cast they have developed as an ensemble. It is a dreamy play, so come see it.”