In one room, a salesman dies; in the other, a group of teenagers struggle with the importance of appearance and identity. That’s just a typical evening of rehearsal at Lamb Arts Regional Theatre.
From mid-afternoon to sundown, the local theater is bustling with actors of all ages practicing their lines for “Death of a Salesman” on the main stage and “Hoodie” on the smaller and more intimate setting known as “The Box.”
It’s not very often that Lamb hosts two shows during the same week. As a result, the offices were a little “crazy” last week. Jessica Wheeler was feeling the pressure but still managed to put on a smile.
She’s in charge of directing the youth show “Hoodie,” a play that delves into the lives of teen-aged kids struggling with the idea of image in school and whether it’s best to fit in with “the clump” or wear something to standout.
“It’s performed by the age group that it’s written for and the issues that they are facing,” said Wheeler, highlighting Lamb’s youthful cast. “It’s an incredibly clever script that adults are going to really enjoy as well. It’s a well-written piece and it’s been a lot of fun.”
An aspect of the show that’s been particularly enjoyable to portray is the inclusion of a character called “The Clump,” which Wheeler said is comprised of every member of the cast as a single entity.
“It’s symbolic of ‘the crowd’ when you’re trying not to standout or be noticed,” she said. “It’s really easy to not draw attention to yourself and just be one of the faces. That’s actually been physicalized as a character.”
Jakob Licht, who stars in “Hoodie,” said the 10-person cast plays several roles in the vignette-style show, which has proved to be quite the challenge for young actors.
“You’re playing multiple characters that are completely defined in their own personality,” said Licht. “It is a lot of fun to figure out whether one character is going to be angrier or one is going to be more laid back or something like that. You have to figure out where the characters need to be and knowing which one to bounce to next.”
Over at the main stage, actors are preparing for the theater classic “Death of a Salesman.” Bryan Deck and Brian Hamman star as the sons, Biff and Happy, of the aforementioned salesman named Willy. Deck said the play’s timeless message about the American dream and what it costs is one of the reasons why “Death of a Salesman” is still treasured and revered to this day.
“And certainly the way it’s written,” he said. “It’s well-crafted and the conversations are realistic. It really starts out with a family you don’t care about and kind of makes you care about them in the same vein as the family in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums.’”
Although first released in 1949, “Death of a Salesman” still carries a certain level of relevancy in relation to its message and theme, which Deck said is “more relevant now than ever.” Hamman said the heart of the show lies in the family itself. The interactions between certain family members are important to the show as well and demand plenty of emotion from the actors. Hamman said that has been the most challenging part for him.
“There are parts where we flash back to when Biff and Happy were in high school, so the energy in those scenes are going to be a lot different,” he said. “They become hardened by the way their father is becoming and how he’s falling apart.”
While deliver those emotions is a challenge, Hamman said those emotional moments are his favorite parts of the whole play.
“It’s challenging show for anybody that’s in it,” he said. “Willy’s character drives a lot of the scenes. As an actor, you really have to come up with your own character to kind of balance that out because Willy drives a lot of the show. But a lot of the things the other characters say are very important, so getting those across through the acting is very important as well.”