Bishop’s School grads to stage ‘Our Boys’ at La Jolla Playhouse space
By Ashley Mackin
For three nights only, Aug. 16-18 (though Aug. 16 is already sold out), six recent Bishop’s School graduates will present a production of Jonathan Lewis’ “Our Boys” at the La Jolla Playhouse Seuss Space. The six young actors, all members of Bishop’s 2012 Acting Workshop Class, self-produced the two-act play.
The story is about six members of the British military – portrayed by Sam Jacobs, Felix Murphet, Lucas Brahme, Ted Hunter, Ben Halter and Peter Alexander – stuck in a hospital bay with varying injuries and different levels of military experience.
“It’s a more nuanced view of what it’s like to be someone who is in — or has been in — the military,” Jacobs said. “You really see a more human, more vulnerable side of these guys, who tend to be portrayed as tough dudes who go around and shoot some bad guys … but there is more to it than that.”
Murphet added, “There’s a lot of gallows humor along the way, because it’s about war and the injuries (they’ve experienced), but what I like is you can have a laugh about it. The guys themselves have a laugh about it, hopefully, the audience will, too, even though it’s a serious subject.”
These talented young actors understand their subject matter in an admirable way, and despite the challenge of the tough content (including frequent profanities), they are up for it.
Jacobs said their age is what makes the exploration into maturity so poignant and heartfelt. “This is a play that can only be done by young people; it’s in the title. It’s called ‘Our Boys’ not ‘Our Men.’ There is a certain vulnerability that you see in guys our age and it would be hard, I think, to be older and more experienced and know more about yourself and then try to play the part of someone who is really pretty lost.”
The actors, in the course of extensive rehearsal, said they started to see the story in the context of their own lives. They are all 18 to 20 years old, playing characters just a few years older.
“At 21 or 22 years old, all the dreams of being in the military have been cut off from them,” Murphet said of the characters. “I think it’s easy to empathize with the fact that we have a lot of dreams and ambition and it’s hard to imagine that they, too, might be cut off at some point.”
Therein lies the difficulty. “Getting into the mindset that they had everything taken away from them a couple of years down the road from where we are right now, and living in a very different place than we are, is part of the challenge,” Murphet said.
However, with the support of his cast mates, which includes directing each other, the group comes together to make it work. The six actors share directing duties — offering suggestions and notes — and even changing parts.
In the beginning, Jacobs and Brahme were reading for each other’s roles. Jacobs suggested switching, which proved to be a valuable tip.
Of his character, Brahme said, “Mick is a sort of loveable, somewhat naïve, warm-hearted dude and his naivety blossomed when I read the part. I empathize with his genuineness (because) that genuineness sometimes comes off as stupidity. I see him as a wise fool, like the ones in Shakespeare’s comedies.”
The actors each seemed to find a perfect part to play. The “boys” include one that blames others and makes excuses, one that’s the voice of reason, and one who is an angry young soldier.
Though they share production responsibilities – with the help of stage manager and technical director Nima Malek (also a Bishop’s alum) it was Alexander who got the ball rolling.
“Before I went to school at Berkeley, I spent some time at the Drama Conservatory in London, in a program called LAMDA, and I saw a lot of theater while I was there,” he said. “One of the plays I saw was this one, ‘Our Boys,’ and I really liked it a lot.”
It moved him so much that he texted Murphet during the intermission suggesting they perform it back in La Jolla.
Originally planned for a performance at Bishop’s, Alexander sent out a proposal to perform “Our Boys” at The Playhouse, which was accepted.
“The La Jolla Playhouse is a respected name in the community and it’s really awesome to have this as a launching pad to share our creation,” Jacobs said. “Coming from Bishop’s, which is also a fixture in the community, it’s cool to leapfrog over to The Playhouse.”
Alexander added, “We can never repay The Bishop’s School Theater Program, Courtney Flanagan and Tim McNamara, for the support and base they’ve given us. Also, the technical work is all supported by Tim McNamara, who was able to help us hurdle an army of technical issues with amazing grace and poise. It is really special to us that both Courtney Flanagan and Tim McNamara would rally behind an alumni project that isn’t directly affiliated with the school.”
If you go
What: “Our Boys”
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 16, 7 p.m. Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: La Jolla Playhouse, Seuss 1 Space, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive
Note: This production has adult language and content
Tickets: $5 at LJPOurBoys.eventbrite.com
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