An extra helping
Frogs, locusts, and … extras? OK, so maybe a horde of actors wasn’t exactly one of the biblical plagues, but that’s about to change. Starting June 9, UNR’s Nevada Repertory Company Summer Festival presents Epic Proportions, a Hollywood farce that literally makes the most out of its minimal (and extremely hardworking) cast.
Set in the 1930s, it’s the story of two brothers who head to the Arizona desert to be extras in a biblical epic called Exeunt Omnes. Hijinks ensue, and soon, one brother is directing the movie, and the other brother is the star. In the meantime, both men fall in love with Louise Goldman, played by UNR student Sarah Potts.
“My character is the assistant director in charge of extras,” explains Potts. “She’s really nervous about being in charge of this. She doesn’t know if she’s ready to be in charge of such a big thing.” Not to mention the off-screen complications. “When these two guys are both interested in her, she’s excited but confused,” says Potts. “It gets really intense. The play starts becoming like the movie’s plotline, and it’s just really funny.”
Potts, 20, is fairly new to Reno. She’s been here for a year-and-a-half but has been acting since she was five years old. She’s appeared in several UNR productions, most recently in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and she says she enjoys performing this comic role.
"[With] the last two roles I’ve played at this school, I’ve played really sad characters, and with this show, I get to have fun and be crazy and be a strong woman,” Potts says. “I love working with the people because everyone’s really fun, and they actually get to have fun on stage. There are parts where we’re actually supposed to overact, which is something we rarely get to do.”
So how does a handful of actors portray a cinematic cast of thousands? It takes some creativity, says Potts, but the results are surprisingly convincing. “Because it’s a farce, it works really well,” she says. “We have the same people coming on, playing five different roles in the movie and the play. They have crowds of 3,400 people, but there’s only five on stage … it becomes realistic. We have sound cues and people offstage yelling, and it’s fun.”
Things have been hectic behind the scenes, as well as in the play. The Summer Festival runs on a tighter schedule than the company’s other productions, which means less time for cast and crew to prepare—in this case, just 16 days from the first rehearsal to opening night. “I did the Summer Festival last year as well, but they were one-act shows,” explains Potts. “This year, I’ve got a lot more lines just because it’s a longer show.”
Still, she adds, they’re ready to put on a play of, well, epic proportions. “It’s really surprising how well it’s coming together,” Potts comments. “It’s really nice. It’s one of the best processes I think I’ve been part of; it shows you how much you can do within the time constraints.” After all, if the universe was created in just six days, imagine what the Repertory Company can do with 16.