Cast before the pandemic, the actors take the stage in the family drama “Independence”

An intimate four-actor production set entirely in the living room of a dysfunctional family opens Friday at the Keizer Homegrown Theatre.

The cast of “Independence”, Rebecca Rowland Hines, Yelena King, Bella Steele and Abby Jones. The show opens April 15 at the Keizer Homegrown Theater (Courtesy/Trill Performing Acts)

The premise of “Independence,” an upcoming show at the Keizer Homegrown Theater, is so intimate it borders on claustrophobic.

It is set in 1980s Independence, Iowa, entirely from the confines of a dysfunctional family’s living room.

“It’s about a mother and three daughters trying to start some kind of family, but they have all kinds of stories, and it’s difficult,” said Joseph Silva, producer and co-director of the episode.

“Independence” is a drama – it focuses on the fallout of one of the girls’ sudden pregnancy, which forces her estranged and successful older sister to come home and deal with her deteriorating mental state. their mothers. For the half-distant characters, their new closeness is the pressure cooker that drives the plot.

But for the actors chosen to play them through February 2020, that was exactly the point: how do you manufacture forced closeness when rehearsing over video chat, miles apart?

“We started just when Covid hit. We did Zoom rehearsals as far as it could take us,” Silva said.

Although the cast was cast over two years ago, they weren’t able to meet in person until September 2021. They met in Silva’s living room, where the first thing was to figure out the fundamentals of actor blocking. They needed to get an idea of ​​how they should move around each other.

Most of the actors had never even met, said Rebecca Rowland Hines, who plays mother Evelyn. But everyone was already out of book for that first in-person rehearsal.

“It was dizzying. We were there hugging, just like we had known each other as family for a few years,” Rowland Hines said.

And finally, bringing the cast together has also proven incredibly valuable for the more subtle aspects of the show, which rely on audiences buying into the specialized and very personal ways family members can hurt and heal each other.

“Once we got together in the same room, it just changed the show a bit. In the right direction. It is the process of action. You need each other to act,” Silva said.

“It became more dynamic, personalities emerged more clearly. Just the ability to know what the other person is doing,” he continued. “You bounce off whoever is on stage with you. What you give yourself is always crucial.

For Rowland Hines, the long rehearsal time was a “double-edged sword”.

It was difficult to get in and out of Evelyn’s mind and body, she said. But she also had the luxury of having enough time to get to know a particularly complicated character.

“This particular role, for me, is the toughest I’ve ever had. He’s a difficult personality – at most points, just not likable,” Rowland Hines said.

Keizer Homegrown Theater offered to host the play, Silva said. He jumped at the chance, seeing it as a perfect space for such a tight-knit production.

“It’s not a normal place,” Silva said. “It’s in a historic building, it’s small and intimate and it fits the show perfectly. It’s almost sixty places. This puts you right in that family’s living room.

“Independence” was written by Lee Blessing in 1985. Silva, who runs production company Trill Performing Arts, co-directed the show alongside Valarie Steele. It stars Rowland Hines alongside Yelena King, Bella Steele and Abby Jones as three girls.

The Keizer Homegrown Theater will host the show for two weekends: Friday through Sunday, April 15 through April 17, and April 22 through April 24. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2 p.m.

The theater is located at 980 Chemawa Rd NE in Keizer. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at keizerhomegrowntheatre.org. Spectators must wear a face mask and present proof of vaccination against Covid.

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