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Charlotte Padrnos and Hannah Jobman side-by-side headshots

Episode 135 - Behind the Scenes with Cast Members from Murder on the Orient Express

UNC senior Acting students Charlotte Padrnos and Hannah Jobman share what inspired their love of theatre, how important the camaraderie of the cast and crew is and their secret weapon for mastering the British and Minnesotan accents that match the characters they play in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.

A behind-the-scenes sneak peek of UNC's upcoming play, Murder on the Orient Express, and a conversation about the importance of theatre in society. (Running time 18:04).

Katie: Hi everyone. Welcome back to this week's episode of The Bear in Mind Podcast. I'm your host, Katie Nord. Let's get started. Did you know that the earliest records of theatrical performance date back to 2500 BCE? Theater has been used as a creative outlet for historical retellings, fictional narratives, and so much more. Theater can be seen in many outlets as well, such as live performance on stage, screen acting for movies and TV, and even voice acting for animated films and video games. Today, I'm joined by two talented UNC students, Charlotte Padrnos and Hannah Jobman, who will be talking about all things live theater, as well as giving us a sneak peek on their upcoming play, Murder on the Orient Express, which they're both acting in. I've been a huge fan of theater since I was a little kid, so I'm really eager to hear from you both. First off, I'll just have you both introduce yourselves. You can tell us your name year and major here at UNC, your role in the play and anything else you'd like us to know.

Hannah: My name is Hannah Jobson. I am a senior acting major at UNC, and I play Helen Hubbard in Murder on the Orient Express.

Charlotte: I'm Charlotte Padnos. I am also a senior acting major and theater education major. I'm also in Murder on the Orient Express and I play Mary Debenham.

Katie: Very fun. So how did you guys first get introduced to theater? Did you have family and friends in the arts, or did you discover it more on your own?

Hannah: So my mom did theater when I was growing up. She sang in the church choir, and I just always loved to sing, and I would go to all of the rehearsals with her because I didn't have a babysitter or anything, but I didn't really start doing theater until I was nine, and it was more something for me to do, because I feel like my parents just wanted me to get out of the house. And so they signed me up for like some theater summer camps. And I instantly fell in love. And I've been doing it ever since.

Katie: I was very similar. My parents were like, please go do something and socialize. So I did a lot of show choir, kind of. Exactly. Yeah, I did that a lot. And what about you, Charlotte?

Charlotte: I started dancing when I was like two years old and I just loved being on stage, but I was like, not the best dancer. Then my older sister and her best friend Mary did this play in middle school, and I remember elementary school aged me, was obsessed, and I was like, I'm gonna do that. Whenever I got to middle school, I tried out for the play and got in, and I just have not stopped doing it ever since.

Katie: You know, I've never related more. I swear I was born with two left feet because I cannot dance for the life of me. That's why every musical I was in, they're like, Katie, you're gonna go in the back row.

Charlotte: Yeah, I was not good. But I loved being on stage. So I was like, how can I incorporate this in my life and not be sucking at dance?

Katie: Exactly. It's a character trait, you know, my character is just bad at dancing. It's intentional.

Charlotte: Oh my God. Yes, absolutely.

Katie: What are some of the coolest things about live performance and watching a production in person?

Charlotte: I'd say for me, the coolest thing about watching live theater is I feel like you're completely immersed in the experience. Most of the time, you feel like you're in the world of the play. There's sound going and there's these wonderful characters on stage, and if it's a musical, then you're just engulfed in the music and the tech and the lights and the sound and everything about it. There's so many elements to theater, and you get to experience all of it all at once. I just always leave watching live theater feeling fulfilled.

Katie: Yeah,.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Katie: No, I completely understand. It's a wonderful way to get out of the house and distract yourself from all of your responsibilities and your problems. Like, I'm just gonna go watch a cool play.

Charlotte: Well, it's so different than a movie, too.

Hannah: There's a kind of energy that you get as a performer on the stage from the audience. As an audience member, you get an energy from the people on stage. It's just very communal and community based, and to feel the presence of everyone in the room and together with the audience, you're creating a story and it just it's an energy and it feels great.

Charlotte: No, I love that. It's totally an energy and it's absolutely a community feeling. I love the way you put that. That's exactly why I feel.

Katie: For sure. I've never felt more attached to people than when I was in theater. For those who don't know too much about theater, do you have a show you'd recommend for them to dive deeper in on the subject?

Hannah: I think the easiest segue into theater is a movie musical like Mamma Mia! But also something that I just feel like brings people together is Shrek the Musical, because everyone knows what Shrek is. And then you see Shrek the Musical, the elements of the theater, the costumes, and Sutton Foster as Fiona. And the music is so good. And it's also like the music from the Shrek movie, but in a Broadway style. And so I think it's really good. It's kind of hard, I'd say, to get people into theater with a play, because musicals are just so much easier because you have something to jam to, I guess. But I do think a good play to, to get people into theater really is Murder on the Orient Express, because everyone loves a good murder mystery. Murder on the Orient Express is a movie, and it's a whodunit show, and whodunit shows are the most fun to watch.

Katie: Yeah, whodunit shows are really very good entry level, because anybody can understand a murder mystery and anyone can get involved and be curious on what actually happened.

Charlotte: I agree with everything Hannah said. I also think if you like to read, I would read a play. Some plays are the best books that I have ever read. It's a very different experience reading a book versus a play. I am also directing a play right now.

Katie: Oh wow.

Charlotte: Yeah, the experience of reading a gajillion plays before choosing one to direct was so fun, and it really reignited my love for reading plays. And I think that if you like to read and you want to get into theater, just read it. You don't even have to go watch it because, you know, things can be expensive or if you don't have time. But I think reading plays is an awesome way to get into theater, and you can experience in a new light that way, for sure.

Katie: Absolutely. A lot of plays come from books as well, and a lot of media is reworked into plays and musicals, like we were talking with Shrek, Mamma Mia! There's also Beetlejuice, the musical is really good. Oh, the music from that one is so good. I am such a fan of Alex Brightman.

Charlotte: Yes.

Hannah: Yeah and Mean Girls, Legally Blond.

Katie: Exactly. I feel like it's really easy to get into theater. If you know mainstream movies, then there's probably a play of it. Tell us the plot of Murder on the Orient Express without spoilers, of course, just to keep things mysterious.

Hannah: Of course. So there's this famous detective from Belgium named Hercule Poirot, and he, you know, like I said, is a famous detective. And he goes on a trip on the Orient Express, which is a train. On the train, he meets a bunch of different people from all over. We have a Hungarian lady. We have French, British, American, just a whole company of actors. While on the train there is a murder that happens and Poirot is trying to figure out who did this murder. And while there was a murder on the train, the train also hits a snowdrift. And then we get stranded on the train. So there's all of these different elements that add and make kind of an exciting plot. And there's a lot of twists and turns. And yeah, it's really exciting. I bet no one's going to guess who did it.

Katie: I'm so excited. That is so cool. I love murder mystery things, and I've never actually seen a murder mystery play, so I'm quite excited.

Hannah: If you like Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot is the detective in all of the stories. All of the different stories follow his investigations.

Katie: That is so cool. You mentioned that each person has a different accent, so each actor has to speak a different accent as well, right?

Hannah: Yes.

Katie: So how did you guys train to speak in different accents. Was there a learning process or did you guys just know it beforehand?

Charlotte: Oh absolutely not. We have a dialect coach.

Katie: Wow.

Charlotte: Yeah, she's a teacher here at UNC as well.

Hannah: Her name is Miranda.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Charlotte: And she's an angel. Also, simultaneously the most talented person I've probably ever come across. She can slip in and out of five accents in one sentence. It's insane. Most of the cast is currently in her highest level voice and speech class, so we're able to dive deeper into our accents there. But we also met one on one with her multiple times, depending on our accent needs.

Katie: So tell us about your character, like where they're from and your accent that you have. I'm curious.

Charlotte: Yeah. So I play Mary Debenham. She is British. She's proper British. She's like very educated woman. I mean, she's pretty young, but she she's classy.

Katie: She's a classy lady.

Charlotte: She's a classy lady.

Katie: I have a little dog at home and I imagine she's a very posh British lady.

Charlotte: Mhm. That's the best. There's definitely some posh British dogs out there for sure.

Katie: She's like, uh, you didn't make the bed. I'm not going to lay on it. No wait. I wasn't doing a British accent. You didn't make my bed. I'm not going to lay on that.

Charlotte: Okay. That was pretty good.

Hannah: It's actually pretty good. Yeah.

Katie: I do this thing where when I get bored, I'll go into accents. I can do two things. I can do British and I can do country because I'm from Missouri, so. .

Hannah: Got that southern twang.

Katie: Yeah, that's what my mama told me. And then I can do a little bit of a British accent, but only because I've watched a lot of The Great British Bake Off.

Charlotte: Okay. Noted. I'm gonna have to watch that.

Katie: I had a hyperfixation for a while, a lot of baking and I can't bake, and I was living vicariously through them. It was a whole thing.

Charlotte: I love that.

Katie: And tell me about your character, Hannah.

Hannah: So I play Helen Hubbard and she's from the beautiful Garden State of Minnesota, so I have a Minnesotan accent in this show. She is super, super flamboyant, very out there, outspoken, kind of very different from all of the characters. She always says what's on her mind and I'm definitely the comedic relief of the show. So that's been really fun to play because I love to be funny. And then she's also like Minnesotan. When you think of like, Midwestern people, you think of, you know, obnoxious and nice and not annoying, but Helen Hubbard is annoying. Yeah. And that's the fun part about this show is that everyone has an accent. And even if you are from America, you have a different American dialect. There's characters from New York and then my character from Minnesota. And so it's really fun and it's fun to see everyone's different accents too. But learning the Minnesotan accent was really, really difficult for me because you don't realize how difficult a different American accent is until you try it. Half of what the Minnesotan accent is sounds like my normal accent, just with like, little changes. And so it's hard to really get into the accent.

Katie: Yeah, now that I think about it, I don't even know what a minnesotan accent sounds like. I don't think I've ever even processed that. A lot of people don't think that they have an accent until you hear other people's accents and you're like, oh, I do have that accent.

Hannah: Yeah, exactly. The Minnesotan accent. It's like, you know, Minnesota, you know, and they say Wisconsin, Chicago, Lat.

Katie: Mhm. Like long vowels kind of.

Hannah: Yeah.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Katie: Like wide vowels kind of.

Hannah: I can do one of my lines for you.

Katie: Yeah. Oh my god. Yes.

Hannah: My first line in the show is Yoo-hoo. Excuse me. Waiter, you had a very nice job and I'm leaving you something extra because of it.

Katie: Oh.

Charlotte: So Minnesotan.

Katie: That is very Minnesotan.

Hannah: Yeah.

Katie: Minnesota. No, that just sounded horrible. Oh. Oh, my gosh.

Hannah: That line just just now that I did it sounded different from my regular American accent, but it's still so similar.

Katie: Yeah.

Hannah: It's very difficult.

Hannah: I feel like it's easier for me personally to like, slip into a different accent from a different country because it's so vastly different from my normal accent.

Katie: For sure.

Charlotte: Yeah, you have to think about the small things when you're doing accents for sure, the vowels and stuff. The difference between like Can't and Kant for British.

Katie: Yeah.

Charlotte: Every word you have to be like, okay, how am I going to say it?

Hannah: Well, yeah. And you also say like privacy.

Charlotte: Yes. Instead of privacy.

Katie: Privacy.

Hannah: Privacy.

Charlotte: Privacy or military versus military.

Hannah: Military.

Katie: Oh really?

Charlotte: Yeah. So that's also been kind of a shift.

Katie: I didn't even think about that.

Charlotte: Yeah. You wouldn't.

Katie: Yeah.

Charlotte: Why would you have thought that?

Katie: Yeah.

Charlotte: I didn't think about it either until Miranda was like, yeah, you got to say that different. Privacy is my favorite.

Katie: Could I have some privacy, please?

Charlotte: Yes.

Katie: That's crazy.

Charlotte: I'm gonna adopt that and just say that instead of privacy.

Katie: Oh my gosh. So what's the rehearsal process like for actors and crew members?

Charlotte: We've been rehearsing since February 7th, so over a month we'll have been rehearsing for over two months by the time the show happens. And so the people that are just in rehearsals right now, from then has been the 11 actors, plus the two swings. And then we have stage manager, two assistant stage managers, a director and assistant director. Those are mostly the people in the room during those rehearsals.

Hannah: Sometimes our dramaturge is there too.

Charlotte: Yes, and that's the person that gives us all the history. Because the show is set in 1930s, we need a lot of help on how to walk and how we should cross our feet differently and stuff like that.

Hannah: Yeah, our dramaturge is literally like our little angel. We have a question. We don't know what a word means. They just look it up and they got it. They did a whole presentation on the first day of rehearsal about the history of the Orient Express, because the Orient Express is an actual train and it travels across Europe and Asia. And then they also had our train route. There's a hotel that we start in, like the Tokatlian Hotel. And so they did like a whole research presentation on that. And so yeah, our dramaturge is just kind of like our guy on the inside, I guess.

Katie: I didn't even think you could cross your legs based off of a decade.

Charlotte: Oh, yeah. You can't, you don't cross your knee. You don't cross your knees in the 1930s.

Hannah: You cross your ankles.

Katie: Oh, wow. I'm sitting like the 1930s.

Charlotte: We are doing a good job. That's who's been at rehearsals for the most part. And then we start spacing next week, which means we'll be in the actual theater that we're going to be performing in. And that's when we get a bunch more crew in there. We've got like a run crew and our costume crew and our lighting crew and our all of our tech crew who put in so much work to this show. I mean, we've been in rehearsals, but they've been working outside of it just as hard.

Hannah: Yeah.

Charlotte: Seeing the set come together right now has been so fun.

Hannah: Yeah. And right now we're rehearsing. Well, we have been rehearsing five times a week for four hours a day, and then on Saturdays we rehearse for six hours. And so we've been doing a lot of rehearsal, and we're rehearsing in a room that's not the theater with tape on the ground, and we're using like, rehearsal blocks instead of furniture, while our set crew is actually building the stage in the Langworthy Theater. And what everyone outside of, you know, the actors are doing is just it's so crazy. We have been getting our fittings done for our costumes, and just seeing these drawings that are costumers drew up them, showing me the fabrics. And the next time I come in, it's a dress and I'm like, oh my gosh, you made that from your head. You drew a picture and then you made it. And it's beautiful. And our costumes are so intricate and even like down to the color of the shoes or like the jewelry that we wear, it's so precise. And so there's a lot of people who are doing a lot of work beyond just us actors, even the sound designer. We have the sound set up in the Langworthy. So it sounds like the train is moving around the theater.

Charlotte: Yeah. So like they're like putting in a surround sound so that it seems like the train is moving all throughout the theater. Yeah. Just such little intricate things that I would never think of as a sound designer.

Hannah: Yeah. And so this next week, we move into the space. We get to start adding those elements into the show. So that's really exciting.

Katie: Very fun. You have lights, set, crew, cast, costumes, props. You've got all of the above.

Charlotte: Oh, all of the above. We haven't even really seen like the full set yet, but it comes together so fast. I've walked past it a couple of times, but I mean, it'll be there and up super soon. And yeah, like the costume designers. Amazing. Hannah gets a homemade dress, but I also get something that's actually from the 1930s, like vintage.

Katie: Oooh vintage.

Charlotte: I know, I'm really excited.

Katie: Do you guys have a favorite memory from your rehearsal process?

Charlotte: I would say just this cast is already so close and we're all pretty much upperclassmen. Not all, but a good chunk, and just walking into rehearsal every day and getting to see my friends. And I'm always met with open arms and warmth from everyone, every person in the cast. The director, Randall Harmon, is the best. He's always there for you. He's checking in on you and how you're doing, and we have the most random conversations, and it just makes me feel like I'm so welcomed in the space. That's definitely something that's hard to find. I feel like.

Hannah: Yeah. We've all become best friends. Charlotte and I, we made friendship bracelets for everyone in the cast, including our creative team, which is like the director, assistant director, dramaturge, stage managers. We like, made friendship bracelets with our characters names on them. Mine says Hubbard, and hers says Mary. And then for Rand Harmon, our director, we made his director. It's so sweet because we wear them every day, even when we're not in rehearsal. I see these people around campus wearing their bracelet. We've really all become best friends.

Katie: That is so nice. Yeah, I love that. What are the official show dates and times and where can we watch it live?

Charlotte: The official dates are April 11th through the 13th. It's going to be at 7:30pm in the Langworthy Theater. And April 14th it'll be at 2 p.m. Matinee show, also in Langworthy. Langworthy is a huge theater in the middle of Frasier Hall here on campus, kind of tucked away. You wouldn't think it's in there, but it's a beautiful space.

Katie: I'm so excited for the opening of the show, and I really can't wait to see it live. I'll be going on the weekend of my birthday, so it'll be like a nice birthday gift to myself. Theater is such a wonderful experience to take part in or simply to watch. It's a creative escape and I hope everyone was able to learn something they didn't know prior about the world of theater. Just to reiterate, for those who want to watch the performance live, the dates are April 11th through 13th at 7:30pm and April 14th at 2 p.m. at the Langworthy Theater. Also, for anyone who wants to find out what plays and musicals UNC has upcoming, if you're listening to this episode later, passed the date that this performance is. You can visit the PVA website at arts.unco.edu. Or if you want to buy tickets, you can visit tickets.unco.edu directly through the site. Thank you again for joining me. And thank you so much for listening to this week's episode of the Bear in Mind podcast. I'm your host, Katie Nord signing off. Bye.

Hannah: Bye.

Charlotte: Bye! Hahaha.

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