Category: UCO

At the Pussycat Motel

Eugenia, Bernard, and Ferrallion

Eugenia, Bernard, and Ferrallion

By Dr. Pamela Washington

All the characters from Act I end up at the Pussycat Motel, but a whole group of people call the Pussycat home. What type of person would live and work in a place like the Pussycat?

Owner Ferrallion and his wife Olympia (the leather lioness), represent divergent responses to violence and chaos. Perhaps because of his military experience in Korea, Ferrallion dishes out violence at every opportunity, but there is a complex psychology at play in Ferrallion. Potts was under his command in Korea, and Ferrallion seems to dish out military style violence to him, but he also continues to employ Potts even though he is an alcoholic and in some ways incompetent. The same is true with Bernard, Ferrallion’s alcoholic uncle whose moaning—well enough said about that. In Ferrallion, our playwright, Feydeau has created a very complicated psychological portrait.

Olympia was a French stripper, now married to Ferrallion and living in Scarsdale, New York, and what is a French stripper doing in Scarsdale? Come hear the story.  Her nickname implies aggressiveness, but she has some trouble dealing with the chaos that Victor, Laura, Maria, Histangua, Andrew, Edward, Antoinette, Stephens, and our good doctor, Finache, bring to the Pussycat. Fainting, crying, drooling—what brings our sophisticated Olympia to this state?

The previous maid at the Pussycat Motel was fired for bringing a camera to work—and using it! Why is college student Eugenia working at “the love motel”? What part will she play in the chaos?

Klaus, a visitor from Germany who speaks almost no English and desperately wants “a friend,” is our most elusive resident. Laura, Maria, and Antionette all visit his room—who stays to play?

When two worlds collide, who ends up in the Jungle room, who goes mad, and who survives the chaos to play another day?

At the Pussycat Motel

At the Pussycat Motel


10 Reasons to see “A Flea in Her Ear”

By Dr. Pamela Washington

  1. There is a double—one is prim and proper—the other—not so much;
  2. Laura and Maria—think Lucy and Ethel;
  3. 9 doors which slam, hide, expose and reveal;
  4. A mauve letter;
  5. The Pussycat Motel has a new jungle room;
  6. Doctor Finache can cure anything with simple household products;
  7. Senior Homenides De Histangua is a jealous husband with a gun;
  8. Fabulous 1960’s fashions;
  9. Olympia (The Leather Lioness) and her husband, Ferraillon trying to “control” the action at The Pussycat;
  10. Andrew Tournel—finally a man who understands women’s fashion.

Meet Our Directors

Alyssa Moon and Daisy Folsom

Alyssa Moon and Daisy Folsom

By Dr. Pamela Washington

In both of the previous posts about “A Flea in Her Ear,” I’ve talked about the physical comedy of farce, but I haven’t introduced the two people who are bring the frantic physical activity to life. This post is a mini-interview with the two women who are sharing the directing duties.

Our director, Ms. Daisy Folsom is a Full Professor in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Theatre Arts Department. In action, Daisy is a quiet force to be reckoned with and is a bit like a feather-covered brick wall—lovely and fun, effervescent, but solid and steadfast underneath.

What is your philosophy of directing?

“My philosophy is to always listen to others, take suggestions, encourage and support everyone involved with the production, and strive to maintain an up-beat, positive attitude. I’ve been influenced by working as an actor under Gail Smith a professor at Eastern New Mexico University. She was a dance teacher and used the choreography of the dance to block the works she directed.”

What guided you as you selected the cast for “Flea”?

“Greg Leaming, whose adaptation of the play we are using, provided an in-depth description of each character. I found myself thinking about the characters as he conceived of them as actors auditioned. His work was very helpful.”

How do you balance between being a professor and being a director?

“I believe that directing in an educational setting is similar to having a science lab.  As a professor, I teach technique.  In rehearsal, students apply what they learned in class.  However, rehearsals require I continue teaching in an effort to help students bring their characters to life.”

What is your collaboration with Alyssa like?  How do you work as a team?

“We problem solve—she re-stages when necessary, and she takes notes for actors during rehearsal.  Although she is a student, as the Assistant Director, I consider her a colleague. Often times, she catches mistakes I do not see. I am grateful for her advice and support.”

What is the one thing you would like the audience to know about you?

“I worked as an actor in Hollywood for several years and had the privilege to work with director Christopher Coppola, Nicholas Cage’s brother, in the film ‘The Clockmaker.’ We filmed in Romania, and it was a great adventure!”

Make a prediction—which moment in “Flea’ will get the biggest laugh?

“There are so many humorous moments—it’s hard to pick!  I’d hate to give away any of the surprises, so I’m not answering this one!!

Our Assistant Director, Ms. Alyssa Moon is a sophomore Theatre Arts major. She says that she didn’t originally want to be a director. “Last year, my freshman year, I came in as a Theatre Education student,” states Allysa. “Through the year I felt horribly unmotivated and could tell that my heart was not in what I was doing. After a lot of discussion with my professors, I has changed my major to Performance, and now I dream of going to grad school to get my MFA in Directing.”

What are your responsibilities as the Assistant Director on “Flea”?

“I don’t have any one job as Assistant Director—I get a taste of different parts of what it takes to direct.  I currently take notes with Daisy during rehearsal and I was given the opportunity to re-block a section of Act 2 which I am absolutely thrilled about!”

How are you balancing also being an actor in the play? (Alyssa also plays the part of Antoinette)

“It is difficult also being an actor I had to speak to Daisy about how to handle this because I was unsure of how to balance the two.  After speaking, we both came to the conclusion that in the parts of the show I am in, I would be strictly an actor, and I could be assistant direct the other parts of the show.  I usually work on my character outside of rehearsal and focus on being the Assistant Director inside of rehearsal.”

How is the production of “Flea” different from what you thought it would be when you read the script?

“This script is insane.  When I first read it, I couldn’t keep up with the traffic patterns of every character for each act because they were constantly going into and out of multiple rooms in each set.  I was even more scared when we started blocking in rehearsal that the actors would get overwhelmed, but Daisy did a fantastic job of breaking down each page and explaining in depth to each person where their character is to go and when.”

What has been a pleasant surprise in your role as Assistant Director?

“I never thought I would be as involved as I am now. Daisy has given me an experience that I could never replace.  She has thrown me in full force.

Make a prediction—which moment in “Flea” will get the biggest laugh?

“I find that with each new day and each rehearsal we find different moments of the show that are our biggest hits of the night!  That’s the trill of getting to work on a farce, even if you know the script by heart, you never know what’s going to knock you out of your chair in a fit of laughter and hysteria.”

Why Is Farce Funny?

By Dr. Pamela Washington

Actors at A Flea In Her Ear Rehearsal

At rehearsal of A Flea in Her Ear last night, I witnessed the physicality of farce at its best and couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Histangua kicks Chandler into a closet threatening him with a gun and again when Laura aggressively backs Tournel onto a desk. I went home with a smile on my face.

Why do we love plays like Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, or the most famous farce, Moliere’s Tartuffe? Why do we watch reruns of Seinfeld or I Love Lucy, and can someone please tell me how a movie like The Hangover becomes a franchise with multiple sequels? The answer lies in the function of farce in our culture.

During Medieval Times, farcical plays were used as a way to bring laughter into a world of religious oppression and impending death from the plague. Farce helped people deal with what felt like an overwhelming life situation. Using physical humor, absurdity, characters in altered states of mind, satire, and exaggeration, farce, as a genre, helps the audience look at serious issues through laughter.

It is a release valve of sorts.

The humor of a farce provides comic relief for a culture’s most serious tensions. For example, laughing at Lucy trying to get into show business or make money relieved the tension society was feeling about women reentering the workforce and the feminist movement in general.

A Flea in Her Ear is a typical farce using all its genre elements to help the audience laugh through the things that we are feeling tension about today. The physicality and bawdiness of the humor paired with the sometimes serious subjects being lampooned make farce a particularly difficult genre to stage.

Our director, Daisy Folsom comments, “It took me over 100 hours to work out the blocking of the play because there is so much physical action. You have to get the slamming, slapping, threatening, and kicking just right or it’s not funny. The audience has to believe that no one is getting hurt, but they also have to believe that the threat of harm is real. It’s a fine line for the director and the actors, but already in rehearsal there are times we burst out laughing.”

“I’ve been so grateful for the help of Emily Heugatter,” says Folsom, “she has been our movement coach and has really gotten the best physicality out of our actors.”

So why choose to produce something so difficult? “There is an old adage in theatre, ‘dying is easy, comedy is hard.’ This is especially appropriate when performing farce,” comments Kato Buss, Chair of the Theatre Arts Department. “Farce is challenging for actors, because it demands a truthful performance within highly improbable and often ridiculous situations. It is important for our students to learn this style of acting because it exercises their skills on multiple levels…and it’s also a lot of fun.”

“A Flea in Her Ear” is a lot of fun, a release from cultural tension, and you do not want to miss this show.

Actors at a Flea in Her Ear Rehearsal

Movement in Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear”

By Dr. Pamela Washington

Two Actors at "A Flea in Her Ear" rehearsal.

Photography by Michael Washington

The bedroom farce, as a genre, requires slamming doors, people appearing and disappearing through them, and quite a bit of physical confusion.  The mechanics of misunderstanding are starting to come together in the blocking of the UCO Theatre Arts Department’s first season offering, “A Flea in Her Ear.”  A French farce by Georges Feydeau, the play was originally set in the early 20th century, in an old French apartment building with a traditional multi-room, two story floorplan.  How has Greg Leaming adapted this play’s setting to 1968 Scarsdale, New York, and more importantly how has the Theatre Design Team adapted two sets with a total of nine doors—yes nine much used doors—to the Mitchell Hall stage? The tape on the floor during a recent blocking rehearsal only partly tells the story. Watching these young actors figure out which door to go through when—well, the laughter has already started!

Director Daisy Folsom, movement coach Emily Heugatter, and Meisner coach Kato Buss are working as a team to help students learn the physical movement that will be necessary to perfect the comedy of this farce. Faydeau is NOT easy to stage. Besides the on-stage movement, our main character has to exit through one door, change costumes, and re-enter the stage through a different door as a different character in the matter of a few beats (Oh, did I forget to tell you the main character has a double?) Mathew Stuttgen has taken on the challenge of overseeing the building of two sets, an elegant home and a sleazy hotel, which will have to be solid enough that actors can slam the doors (without the walls shaking), but light enough that they can be moved quickly between acts.

Like a chess master, Feydeau will move his characters around this confusing game board of a set to build the interior tension of the play—the tension between reality and the unreality of the situation in which the characters find themselves. Stay tuned for more insight into “Flea” and the UCO Theatre Arts Department production. Mark your calendars, performances are October 13th_16th.

Actors at "A Flea in Her Ear" rehearsal

Photography by Michael Washington