“john & jen”
Oct. 18-22 at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 22, 23 at 2:30 p.m.
In the Cave Theatre’s latest production, the audience will follow the journey of one woman and her very different relationships with brother and son — two men with the same name.
“john & jen” is the story of Jen Tracy, and her life from ages 6-45. The show focuses on her brother John in the first act, and her son, also John, in the second act.
“It shows how these relationships develop,” said Kelsey Skomer, who plays Jen. “It shows how the love that a sister and brother and a mother and son have can overcome anything.”
Skomer, a junior acting major, said the show is a fun challenge because the changes between scenes and ages are so fast. Skomer plays Jen at all ages, and uses costume changes and different methods to help portray those ages.
“A lot of it is mindset, but there’s also techniques,” she said. “For example, a young girl doesn’t have vibrato, so I don’t use vibrato as young Jen.”
Vibrato is a singing technique that uses rapid pitch changes.
The show is giving Carson Crow, a junior directing major, his first opportunity to direct and produce on his own. It’s also the first fully-produced student musical in the Cave Theatre.
“It’s crazy fun,” Crow said. “There’s the music and acting sides, and so many things are layered on top of each other.”
What Crow finds interesting about the show is the dynamic between what he calls the “two Jens,” the sister and the mother.
“It’s interesting to see her journey,” Crow said. “She can really be herself with her brother John, but we see how that changes with her son John in the second act.”
Vince DeRe, a junior marketing major, plays both Johns — Jen’s brother and then her son. For him, the show has been about getting back into the world of theater.
“It’s been fun getting back into what the department is all about,” DeRe said. “It’s very refreshing from all the business classes.”
DeRe has a background in theater, after performing in high school and being a theater minor. Having connections to the department, he was asked to audition by the director.
Playing two different characters has been fun for DeRe; he said even though they’re both named John, they’re very distinct from each other.
“It’s been fun finding the intricate details that make them different from each other,” DeRe said.
For Skomer, the play has taught her a lot about working with peers.
“It’s always super fun working with your classmates,” she said. “We’re learning and building off each other and get to explore the show in a way that’s very unique.”
DeRe said trust is an important factor in making the show a success.
“Everyone is their own Superman,” he said. “[Skomer] also makes everything tremendously easy for me; it’s so easy to play off her.”
Crow said although the process is stressful, it’s also amazing.
“I’ve learned so much about what the rehearsal process takes, what it’s like to work with actors on a full script and how to work with other directors,” Crow said.
Having a musical aspect has created a different experience for Skomer, who doesn’t normally do musicals. There are about five segments less than a page long that are just speaking, she said.
“The creation of the story is through music,” Skomer said. “Having the opportunity to explore character development through music is new [for me]. It’s more than just words, the way you sing a note can tell the audience something about the character.”
Crow said the show appeals to lots of different audiences because of the musical aspect and the relationships in the story.
“Everyone has been in one of the positions, either a sibling or someone’s child,” he said. “Everyone has experienced at least one of the dynamics.”