CCPA and the Lakers team up for training
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 18:10
It’s 9 p.m. on a Sunday, and 24 CCPA Theatre Conservatory students are playing basketball with the Lakers.
Well, the cast of “Lysistrata Jones” is learning to play under the guidance of Joe Griffin, men’s basketball coach, assistant coaches Kevin Devitt, Aaron Rolle, Ryan Bigelow and a few players for three basketball game scenes in the upcoming musical. Two basketball camps were held Oct. 14 and 21 from 8:30-10 p.m. at the UIC Flames Athletic Center.
“It has been humorous, fun and educational,” Griffin said. “I didn’t know how intent they would be on trying to learn, trying to listen, trying to pick up the stuff we’re showing them. It shows they take their craft really seriously, and this is going to be a musical they want to do the best they can.”
“Lysistrata Jones,” a musical comedy by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn, is based on Aristophanes’ antiwar comedy “Lysistrata”. It revolves around college cheerleaders who withhold sex from their basketball player boyfriends until the losing team starts winning. Adjunct instructor and guest director Kurt Johns will direct the musical.
“It’s lighthearted,” Johns said. “It’s fun. It’s basically a big pep rally with sex and music and comedy. If that’s not reason enough… Plus, one of the reasons I chose this is that it just closed on Broadway very recently. We’re the first company that’s done it besides the Broadway company.”
Johns said he had some inside information about the show and its closing and that he believes he was the first to have asked for the rights to it.
“We’ve already choreographed two of the games, and they worked great,” he said. “We have one more to go, and the kids are like, ‘Can I dunk it?’”
Griffin said he and the assistant coaches are very hands on with their training.
“We’re doing drills with them, focusing on dribbling the ball, shooting the ball, showing them what to do,” he said. “We’re critiquing them and giving them feedback.”
Later on in the night, over the dribbling of basketballs and the squeaking of sneakers, Griffin could be heard saying, “These guys are doing their first layups!”
Some of the actors had previous experience with basketball and even played it in high school, and others had never even held a basketball before, according to Johns.
“It’s been a dream,” Johns said. “[Griffin and I are] both really excited about it. It’s a bridge between departments. It gives [the actors] the fundamentals so me, as the director, doesn’t have to teach them that, which I suck at, anyway. Plus, they’re just having a ball.”
Sophomores Tyree York and Joe Harks are Lakers basketball players who attended the camps.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Harks said. “They catch on really fast. Some of them shoot really well, and there are some good passers.”
“Showing them the different drills we do and interacting and hanging out with them has been great,” York said. “It feels good to teach them. We’re so excited for that show.”
The actors practiced nonstop during the training sessions.
According to Johns, the actors are very athletic and coordinated and must partake in dance and conditioning classes regularly.
“They are learning what it looks like to defend somebody, rebound, fast break, what’s a point guard, power forward, forward-center, all that, plus shooting, passing and dribbling,” he said.
“What these kids do is an art,” Griffin said. “I think basketball is an art, too. Some people don’t, but we’re combining.”
During the musical’s basketball-game scenes, up to 10 actors will be on stage at once playing a game.
“How many times for a requirement for a rehearsal practice do you get to play basketball with college coaches?” Johns said. “The kids get to do something different than dancing and practicing Shakespeare. It’s just fun, and I think the coaches might be enjoying it just as much as the theatre kids are.”
“Lysistrata Jones” will be performed at the O’Malley Theatre in Roosevelt University at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-17 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 and 18.
“We’ve got to figure out when we can attend it based on games and practices,” Griffin said. “But we’re hoping these kids are going to walk out of here better basketball players than when they walked in.”