Last time we caught up with actor Sue Neuer, she was playing a lead role in Deathtrap and readying to play the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Neuer, an innkeeper in Cannon Beach by day, is tackling a new role, one that may prove to be among her most difficult.
Neuer has signed on to co-direct The Wild Women of Winedale, by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. It’s her first go at directing and the challenges are plenty. Opening night is planned for Labor Day weekend at the NCRD performing arts center in Nehalem. The question is, will the show really go on? We talked with Neuer about the task ahead.
How, in this crazy time, did you end up with your first directing gig?
Neuer: I was planning on auditioning for Spamalot at the Coaster. That got canceled and I hadn’t made any plans to do anything else. I am on the board of Rising Tide Productions. George Dzundza was going to do Wild Women. [You may remember Dzundza from his roles in The Deer Hunter, White Hunter Black Heart, Basic Instinct, Crimson Tide, and Dangerous Minds and the long-running NBC series Law & Order.] He backed out for personal reasons. I thought about it and contacted Margaret Page, another Rising Tide board member, and said I’d do it if she would co-direct — even though I’ve never directed before — and she agreed.
What’s been the toughest part so far?
I’m having difficulty casting the show. I posted on our Facebook page we are going to try to do the show and were holding private auditions. I didn’t get any response to that. So, I’ve just been reaching out to actors I know to precast the show.
No, it’s not because people are scared of the virus. I think it’s the timing. The show opens Labor Day weekend. Some people already had plans. I have a couple of actors in Astoria interested, but they don’t want to drive to Nehalem to put on the show.
Tell us a bit about the show.
It’s a great script, all women between 40 and 60. There are six monologues and three leads. It’s about two sisters and a sister-in-law. They’re at a crossroads in their lives. They’re the Wild sisters and they live in Winedale. The show takes place mostly in the living room of one of the sisters. She is the director at a museum and is working on a project videotaping women to talk about profound events that have shaped their lives.
What roles have you cast?
One of the sisters and all six of the monologues — three women are doing two each. My co-director is willing to play one of the sisters. But she’d rather not, and I’d rather she didn’t, as it will make more work for me. So, I still need two sisters. One is just turning 60 — she’s the museum director. The other is the sister-in-law. She’s in her mid-50s, but we can fudge the ages. We can use makeup to make someone look a little older or younger.
If others wanted to take on the monologues the three actors are doubling up on, is that open?
Sure. I’m open at this point if someone is interested. It’s going to be challenging having the same person do two characters, because they are different characters and we’ll have to dress them differently. A monologue, even though it sounds scary, is probably a good thing for someone who is new, because they don’t have to interact with anyone else. It’s just them alone.
You mentioned private auditions and virtual rehearsals. How does that work?
They can read over the phone. Or in one case, one of them came to me. We practiced social distancing and she read for me. It can be done electronically, by Zoom or Skype. Or, if they are comfortable, we can meet in person. For virtual rehearsals, we can start on Zoom, then eventually we’ll have to get together to do the blocking. The first part of rehearsal is what we call table work, evaluating the character, if there is an arc in the character, where that falls, and looking at developing the character. The people with the monologues can rehearse on their own and then get together.
You’re going through all of this knowing it may not happen?
Yes. We’re fine with that. The board talked about it and we said even if no one shows up, we don’t care. Our whole mission is to do theater. Of course we’d like an audience, but our mission is to support actors and let them work in their craft.
There’s also the possibility that the state will still be in some form of lockdown, yes?
It may be that we open and we have to do social distancing where people are seated apart. I really don’t know. We won’t be able to do that with the actors, because they hug and touch. I guess we could have them stand apart and not do that, but the play wouldn’t be as good.
Not to sound too corny, but is this kind of “the show must go on”?
Yes. Actors love the theater and we definitely want to keep working. We’re going stir crazy not doing anything. If the show gets postponed, which has happened to a lot of other theaters, at least we’ll have a show for another date.