This is my take on the
short one act play "DMV Tyrant" by Christopher Durang in which a
frazzled man wants one simple thing... his driver's license. Too bad the DMV
Worker is less than helpful.
project was an assignment for a Directing Workshop class at the University of
Texas at Austin: Find a roughly five minute scene from a play with two actors
in one location and create your interpretation of it.
This was a project for one of my favorite classes that I've taken at UT -- Directing Workshop. The assignment was to find a roughly 5 min scene, 2 actors, 1 location, from a play. This is the second assignment like this from that class (my first was a scene from Quiz Show), but unlike the first assignment this could not be from a movie.My knowledge of plays is limited. Since I knew I wanted to do a comedic scene, my mind immediately went to Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, which I know was a play before the film. Vetoed by the professor! He added that it had to be from a play that was never adapted for a film, with the goal being that we would have to have an original vision for the scene.
After weeks of searching I found a book of short plays by Christopher Durang, a name I recognized from speech and debate competition pieces in high school. Most of the plays were too short or had too many characters, and I was about to give up on the book when I found DMV Tyrant, a hilarious scene with two people in one simple location. A man comes to the DMV to get his driver's license after a mix-up and, as many people can relate, does not have the smoothest or most pleasant experience. The DMV worker is far from helpful.
I went through the same process as I did on the Quiz Show project- auditions, rehearsals, live performance in class, adjustments, shoot, edit. The actors were so much fun to work with! During one of the rehearsals I found out that Cassie has a talent for accents, so we ran through the scene with her going from Irish to Guatemalan to Brooklyn accents. During the live performance she had a Brooklyn accent, which made her character more sassy than completely disinterested, but we ended up changing that for the finished piece; she uses her own voice, but still has the sassy quality she had when she started with the accent. Another great thing to come out of rehearsals was having the actors switch roles for a run through. Each of them found something the other did or said when reading the opposite part that they ended up using for their own performance. Definitely a directing trick I'll remember!
The search for the DMV was the hardest part. I originally wanted an office with a window, since I knew the real DMV would be off limits for sure, but after asking several offices around campus if I could use their space, I let that visual become flexible. I ended up going with the Herbarium at UT where I work. It's a huge archive of dried, flattened plants glued onto paper with labels for their scientific information. As you can see from the scene, it's not a greenhouse (which is what most people think of when I describe it), but it does have lots of filing cabinets to store the plant specimens. Another plus- I shot this on the weekend, so there were few people around giving me more control over the environment.
I'm very happy with how this came out! It was a blast to make- thank you Cassie, Hugo, Stephanie, and everyone in the Herbarium!