“Boeing Boeing” landing at FIU Theatre

The cast of FIU Theatre's upcoming play "Boeing Boeing." From left to right: Tatiana Taylor, Izabella Orelle, Helene Lopez, Athena Watkins, William Guevara, Rachel Gil de Gibaja.

Victoria Abella/Staff Writer

If you’re looking for a night where you can just sit back and be entertained, FIU Theatre invites you to their upcoming play, “Boeing Boeing.”

“Boeing Boeing,” written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, is a farce which centers around a scheming architect named Bernard who has 3 different fiances, all flight attendants that don’t know that the others exist.

“This man Bernard believes that he has worked out with the timetable the perfect way to be able to entertain the three women who are all believing that they’re the fiance and they’re gonna get married to this man,” said director Phillip Church.

The play takes place in 1962 Paris. While some plays may be filled with hidden meanings and symbolism, “Boeing Boeing” simply seeks to make audiences laugh.

“In this show, none of them have any relevant past traumas…Every character in the show desperately wants something and that makes it fun to watch…every character is so open with their emotions and so you really feel like you get to know all of them,” said Athena Watkins, a senior majoring in theatre performance, who plays the American flight attendant Gloria.

Watkins and the three other leading ladies – the other flight attendants and Bernard’s French maid who hates him – all play characters who come from a different country. This meant dialect training with professor and coach Rebecca Covey to integrate French, Brooklyn, German and Italian accents and dialects.

Athena Watkins and William Guevara as Gloria and Bernard in “Boeing Boeing.” Photo by Victoria Abella.

“Working with things that are really specific to the character are- those are just things that you really have to integrate to your body. Same thing with the accents, if it doesn’t sound fully integrated to your speech, people are gonna notice,” said Rachel Gil de Gibaja, a senior majoring in theatre performance, who plays Bernard’s French maid Berthe. Gibaja has even started singing along to songs in the car with a French accent to integrate it.

Watkins is excited to move from her usual roles of elderly women to her first time playing a character as young as she is.

“It’s been fun for me to just be able to let loose, to be able to joke around and kiss people and do a voice… And that’s been really fun but also still having to find the structure in it- there’s that really fast paced rhythm, these over the top reactions, and then there’s the precision in the physicality,” said Watkins.

William Guevara, a junior and theatre performance major, plays Bernard, the architect with three fiances.

“It’s a farce. It’s comedic. It’s explosive… Being a farce, rehearsals have lead to ‘things happening’ which though playful and fun for the cast could worry a stagemember. Of course, in the nature of farce, it gets to be included in the actual show as it’s only appropriate in this kinetic and hyper comedy,” he said.

“By nature of the show, we’re allowed to be a little more ridiculous and over the top than any other style.” said Watkins.

In preparation for the show, Church showed the cast the root of their characters through 16th century Italian “commedia dell’arte.” This presented a new learning experience as the students’ previous training was steeped in realism and naturalism.

“A farce asks them to open up and constantly share with the audience their thoughts, they have this relationship even though its in a modern setting, the comedy says don’t leave their audience out,” said Church.

Something else that makes “Boeing Boeing” different for both the cast and audience is the engagement and interaction. While actors stay focused on the character they’re acting with in realism, in this farce they can “make a comment [to a character] and then kind of wink at the audience.”

“[The audience] gets to know everything that’s going on, even if the characters on stage don’t,” said Watkins. who described the audience as a hidden character.

Apriah Williams, fellow theatre student and Theatrical Design Excellence award winner, is the set designer for “Boeing Boeing.” She was previously recognized by the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for her work for “Ubu Rex.”

“She really thinks through her designs. She makes sure that we have the areas that we need, to be able to make sure that it’s still varied and interesting but still fits the time period, style, the show,” said Watkins.

One of the most important roles the production has is the stage manager, which for “Boeing Boeing” is Izabella Orelle, a senior and theatre major.

“Boeing Boeing” stage manager Izabelle Orelle (pictured middle) along with assistant stage managers Tatiana Taylor (left) and Helene Lopez (right). Photo by Victoria Abella.

“I call them [stage managers] the ultimate middleman,” said Orelle, who, as a first time stage manager, coordinates meetings between different people such as designers and actors, announces call times, and provides or finds someone who will provide what the actor needs. She knows the script and cues, inside and out.

“I’m just really happy that I have such a strong team with me,” said Orelle.

Likewise, the actors agreed that the crew make their roles easier as it allows them to focus on their own characters rather than worry about other production aspects such as props and costumes.

“I try and get memorized as soon as I can so that way I can come in here [the rehearsal space] and not have the book in my hands because this time that we have together is more about, like my work with you [at one cast member] or my work with you [at another cast member],” said Watkins.

As the show gets closer, cast and crew prepare for tech week. It’s the week leading up to the play where the whole crew and all the production elements, such as the set, costumes and lighting, come together for rehearsal.

Tatiana Taylor and Helene Lopez, sophomores and assistant stage managers, have stepped up to also assist with paperwork.

With over 60 props, Taylor, a theatre major, assisted with making the prop list and ensuring everything is order and ready for cues.

As assistant stage manager Lopez’s first play, the theatre major learned by watching the seniors play their part.

“They’ve been here for all 4 or 3 years. They’ve been in shows, we’ve seen them. So, to work hand in hand with them is a honor for us as newcomers,” said Taylor. “One thing I can say about FIU Theatre is they treat you like a professional…they [actors] walk in the door, instantly they’re ready to work. For me, that’s very interesting because you have people who come in the door and gag around but once seven o’clock hits, they start going to accents, they start walking like their character, they become their character.”

Watkins appreciated the comfort she has with her cast, especially in a romantic comedy.

“This is part of the show, and we’re here to work, and we’re all going to give it our all because that’s what the character would do and at the end of the day we’re all still friends and we like to still do things together,” said Watkins.

Watkins described “Boeing Boeing” as a perfect first play for those who haven’t attended a play or aren’t familiar with theatre.

“We have a play that you don’t analyze. You don’t sit down and find the meaning of this and that; we need to do plays like that every so often. The community needs something like that to come to, to just sit there, just going to be entertained,” said Church.

“Boeing Boeing” will be at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center from Feb. 22 to March 3 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. For dates and to purchase tickets, visit go.fiu.edu/theatre.

Featured photo by Victoria Abella.

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