New York City may be the center of the theater universe, but members of the city’s Ground UP Productions keep coming back to Chapel Hill.
The theater company was started in 2005 by a group of five N.C. natives — almost all UNC alumni.
Since 2007, the group has come back to Chapel Hill every year for their UnderGround project, where they host master classes and direct a production with a primarily undergraduate cast and crew.
Ground UP held auditions at UNC in March for this year’s play, “Three Days of Rain,” by Richard Greenberg, which opens today.
“They wanted to be able to give back to the UNC community,” said Catya McMullen, a 2011 UNC graduate, current Ground UP member and an assistant director for the show. “It’s a very UNC-focused family.”
The first act of the play tells the story of two siblings trying to figure out their family’s origins after their father’s death.
The second act goes back 35 years to 1960 and tells the true story of their parents’ relationship.
Since the production’s six characters are played by a three-person cast, the actors switch roles in the second act.
Playing two different characters was a challenge for the performers, said Zac Moon, a 2011 UNC graduate. He plays Walker in the first act and Walker’s father, Ned, in the second.
“It’s almost like two different plays, but it’s impossible to ignore the ties between the two acts,” Moon said. “It’s interesting to see how the same set of events can affect different people so differently.”
Kate Middleton, Ground UP’s producing artistic director and a 2000 UNC graduate, said learning the play was an “intense rehearsal period.”
In just two weeks, the students rehearsed the play, went to master classes and traveled to New York to rehearse, network and attend a Broadway show, she said.
“That’s what makes it so wonderful, is when you can succeed at something that is this intense,” Middleton said. “The payoff on these educational shows is astronomical because of the pride that goes into the success of them.”
Middleton said the main goal of Ground UP’s UnderGround program is to prepare UNC theater students to enter the tough theater business.
“We try to teach the students about the real world within the safety of a shared vocabulary, a shared history, a shared school,” Middleton said.
“But we push them the way the real world pushes you.”
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