"14" Cast Q&A

Starting Friday, Kent State's School of Theatre and Dance will open its newest production--"14." The play, which has only been produced two times before, follows the life of Ron, a gay professor who in the story reflects back to his younger years when he was apart of an experiemental "ex-gay" therapy treatment at Brigham Young University.
"14" premieres tomorrow at the Curtis-Wright Theatre in the Music and Speech building.
"14" premieres tomorrow at the Curtis-Wright Theatre in the Music and Speech building.

Starting Friday, Kent State’s School of  Theatre and Dance will open its newest production — “14.” The play, which has only been produced two times before, follows the life of Ron, a gay professor who, in the story, reflects back to his younger years when he was a part of an experimental “ex-gay” therapy treatment at Brigham Young University.

The production is being directed by the original playwright, John Cameron of Iowa University. Not only is Cameron the playwright, but he is also the main character the story is based on.

Last week, Fusion got an exclusive question-and-answer session with Cameron, the stage manager and the most of the cast members of “14.” The following is the Q&A transcript.

Eric Van Baars plays the main character, Ron, in “14.” To listen to his audio click here.
*note: Just last Wednesday, Van Baars began subbing in the role of Ron for Marc Moritz.

Q: Who is Ron, and how was it becoming him?

Eric: I haven’t become Ron yet. (laughs) Anyway, Ron is the central character in the play. He’s someone who’s dealt with his sexuality and his gender all of his life, and at mid-life he’s still dealing with that and the repracausions from choices he’s made earlier in his life. He’s confused. He’s stalling. He’s angry. He’s hurt. He’s a survivor.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Eric: Yeah, I read the script last year when we were considering it for this year, and I fell in love with it. I thought boy, I’d love to play that role. I just didn’t think it’d be under these circumstances.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Eric: It’s interesting because the playwright and the director and the main character are the same person since Mr. Cameron wrote the play about his own experiences. You really want to be truthful to what is given to you because you got the character, the director and the playwright in front of you. Those are big shoes to fill.

Aaron Schoonover plays Aaron in “14.” To listen to his audio click here.

Q: Who is Aaron and how was it becoming him?

Aaron: My character, Aaron, is a good Mormon boy who is struggling with his sexuality. He doesn’t want to admit he could possibly be gay. He has his life all planned out, and that’s going to mess it all up. One thing that was cool becoming the character in the show was we got to work with John Cameron who wrote “14” and is now directing it. It’s also about his life, so I’m playing his younger self.

Q: “14” fist came out in early 2008, so it’s a fairly new play. Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Aaron: I’ve only read the play this summer. It’s cool we’re the 2nd school to do an actual production of “14.”

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Aaron: Since the story follows Cameron’s (the director’s) own life, it’s really cool to have him here. If you have questions: “I feel like my character wouldn’t do this,” or, “did my character have this problem in life?” Cameron will tell me. “Aaron has never done that,” or “Aaron will never do that.” It’s such an awesome tool to have him here.

Melissa Cotton plays Denise in “14.” To listen to her audio click here.

Q: Who is Denise and how was it becoming her?

Melissa: Denise is a student of Ron’s in the present part of the story. She is very Christian and very determined to stand by her beliefs. She kind of gets in Ron’s way during the play.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Melissa: I wasn’t. I read “14” the night before our first rehearsal and I fell in love with it. I stayed up all night just to finish it.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Melissa: Having John (Cameron) here is such a luxury. This never happens that you have someone who is so familiar with all of the characters. He really helped us learn to love every single character, even when they do things we may not agree with.

Jason Luepold plays Paul in “14.” To listen to his audio click here.

Q: Who is Paul, and how was it becoming him?

Jason: Paul is a gay man who came out in the late 1960s, which, back then, was unheard. People didn’t really do that. It’s been really interesting to become the character for me because I’m not gay. It was a bit of a challenge trying to figure out what mannerisms to use. I’ve been working with John a lot, and he’s helped push me in the right direction. It’s also been a challenge because he plays an important role in Ron’s memory. He ends up becoming this sort of guide through Ron’s subconscious mind to try to figure out his past and current life. It’s been really interesting to become the character and put the weight into it for the message to be put across.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Jason: No. I heard about it over the summer because it was announced we were doing the show here. But I didn’t read it until I was casted and got my script. I had no idea what it was all about until everything was said and done really.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Jason: It’s been incredible to have him here and be able to work with him. As other people have touched on, he wrote the story, and he knew all of these people who the characters are based on. If there were any problems we were having or if we were going in a different direction we could just ask Cameron, and he would tell us exactly what these people were like. It’s been amazing just to have him here and be able to work with him.

Tricia Bestic plays Judy in “14.” To listen to her audio click here.

Q: Who is Judy, and how was it becoming her?

Tricia: It’s interesting because Judy is based off of someone in real life, so John had a lot of information about what this person was like. (laughs) However, he had never met her in person. Most of their conversations took place over e-mail. It was only later he learned some things about her. It’s interesting because I got the viewpoint from a second party, and some of the things we worked on were what were Judy’s objectives, what was her background, etc.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Tricia: Not at all. Although it is a pretty new piece. It’s only been produced two times before. (First time at Iowa University, the University Cameron teaches at and then produced in Salt Lake City without Cameron’s direction.)

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Tricia: Wow. Well first of all, you’d never want to insult the playwright. (laughs) It’s interesting because a lot of times when you’re working, either the playwright is dead, and/or there’s no way you can get answers. But with this, having the playwright here, it was great because we can just ask him: “what did happen” or “how did you feel?” or “what happened in this situation?” We got the real deal.

Dane Castle plays Professor David in “14.” To listen to his audio click here.

Q: Who is David, and how was it becoming him?

Dane: David is the new chair of the department of English at the University Ron teaches at, and he’s a real good friend of Ron’s. He’s a very lonely guy. He’s gay, and he just hasn’t found the right guy yet and so he’s still searching and he thinks he sees that in Ron. I wouldn’t exactly call them lovers because they never really have sex or a stable relationship in any sense. There’s always that tension there, however. Getting ready for the part was kind of crazy. I’m 21 playing a 35-year-old man. I’ve gone through a lot of voice stuff to be able to lower my voice and make me sound a little bit older. (For the role,) I kind of thought of everyone’s dad. It’s kind of the stereotype I had in my mind. It instantly makes you feel a lot older than you are.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Dane: No, I wasn’t familiar with “14” at all. We got the script about two or three weeks before the auditions and kind of circulated through e-mails to all of the students, so we can prepare. Other than that, I had never heard of it.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Dane: Amazing. I’ve done it once before. I’ve worked in a show where the playwright was in consulting, but this is obviously 10 times more intense than that, considering the playwright is the director. It was really nice to be able to come in and have questions about your character and your director knows exactly whose your character is. He knows him. He possibly still talks to him. It gives you new insight about a lot of small details you can build into the role, which really helps. It makes your character rounded.

Jysten West plays Donald in “14.” To listen to his audio click here.

Q: Who is Donald, and how was it becoming him?

Jysten: Donald is the bad boy of the schoolroom. He causes a lot of commotion and never reads but is very active in the classroom. He is also one of Ron’s closest students even though he does cause a lot of trouble.

During rehearsal one day John Cameron talked about what he saw in each of the characters. He described Donald as a lot of what I see in myself. So I just started overacting what I would do in normal situations. Or for instance, I’m kind of a jerk, so I’d be just be a little more of a jerk on stage, which was fun.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Jysten: I heard my friends talk about “14,” because the script had gotten around the summer before I auditioned. I never got the chance to read, but I heard a lot about it. But no, I didn’t get the chance to read it before.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Jysten: It was really cool because everything was his life. It was really weird getting notes about any scene because these events really happened. It’s like you’re replaying it but only a little bit more dramatically. It’s also weird just to have the writer working with you because it makes the story more real, especially this particular story.

Erin Diroll plays Marla in “14.” To listen to her audio click here.

Q: Who is Marla, and how was it becoming her?

Erin: Marla is Aaron’s girlfriend when it’s the younger version of him. Trying to figure out her was really interesting because I know what it’s like to be a girlfriend but just hearing what John had to say about how she actually was really helped me get Marla’s character. She’s just a driven and strong-willed girl, and I think she’s an awesome character for the play.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Erin: I read the first Act of the script before auditions, and then I read the second Act before callback. So I was not really familiar. Just one of those last minute things where I read it and then I fell in love with it.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Erin: Awesome. It was such a great experience because he knew what he wanted, and so if you had any questions like “I wonder what the playwright wanted,” you’d just go up to him and say, “OK, John, this is how I’m doing it but what actually happened — how do you want this being done?” He was just always willing to help.

Brian Crowley plays one of the four narrators in “14.” To listen to his audio click here.

Q: Were you familiar with the play before you got involved in this year’s production?

Brian: No, I had read it once because it was available for us to read before we auditioned.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Brian: Awesome. Absolutely loved it. You know, there were so many times when you’re rehearsing a play and ask: “Oh, I wonder what the playwright meant.” You know what the playwright meant because he is right there — he’s directing us.  And it’s based on his life, so we’re like “Oh, did this really happen?  Tell us more about this scene and what inspired it.” He can, and it just gives us more to work with and more life to the show.

Kristen Boehnlein is the Stage Manager behind “14.” To listen to her audio click here.

Q: How was it having the original playwright direct the production?

Kristen: It has been a fantastic experience. It’s been fantastic to get that insight with the show that he’s written and put his life into. It’s been awe-inspiring.

John Cameron is the Director, Playwright and real life character the story is based off of. To listen to his audio click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Q: What encouraged you to come to Kent and direct “14” here?

John: This all came about because I happen to hand the script to a friend of mine, Karl Erdmann who is on the faculty here at Kent State’s theatre department. Karl passed the script around and before I knew what was going on I had been contacted by the Theatre department, asking me if I would consider coming to Kent to direct it. I was thrilled because I got my graduate degree and PhD here at Kent State. To come home and direct a play that means so much to me — that was a privilege, an honor. I was really excited to be back here.

Q: Has directing “14” the second time here at Kent State been any different for you from your first time at UI?

John: I’ve only directed “14” one time before at the University of Iowa, as part of their Partnership in the Arts. Each year, they develop a new piece of theatre for their main stage because UI is famous for creating new theatre. They have a pretty well-respected play-writing program. Two years ago, the faculty asked me if I would direct “14,” and I did. I loved it. Most of the time, a playwright doesn’t want to direct his or her own work because they don’t get a very clear perspective of what’s going on. (laughs) But I felt good about directing the show, and the response to it at UI was very strong. When Kent State invited me to do the same thing here, I jumped at the opportunity because it gave me a chance to develop and change the script a little bit more, and I’ve actually rewritten about 15 pages of the script for this production. It’s vey exciting. It’s kind of a homecoming and a new beginning at the same time.

Tickets for the production are available at the Music & Speech Center’s box office (open noon to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or contact the box office at 330-672-2497. Performances of the production last until Sunday, Oct. 18.

~Simon Husted

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