Article Series: Face to Face with Face to Face

While summer 2021 will begin a partnership between Smith Scripts, U.K. and Face to Face Films, producer/director Anthony Laura concludes his spring season with a pair of new works from his own hand.

Korinne, a drama involving mental illness, written by Anthony Laura, featuring C Gabe Calleja, Vivien Cardone, Jose Duran, Madison C. Gray, Jacqueline Guzman, and Callie Medley, will air on YouTube, Saturday, June 26, at 2:00 p.m.

And closing the season will be another Anthony Laura work entitled Hayley, a one-person show, featuring Alexandra Rooney. This will air on Facebook on June 27, also at 2:00 p.m.

Visit Face to Face Films on YouTube to learn about Face to Face’s web-series, interviews, and other artistic endeavors.

ShowTones spoke with cast members of KORINNE about the new work.

KORINNE:

What was your first reaction to reading the script? 

JACQUELINE GUZMAN I found it very compelling from the first couple pages, I felt myself wanting to know more. The story itself is very rewarding. There are so many complex sides to the relationships she has with all the characters. It’s also a very fresh, raw, and honest story. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It made me ask a lot of questions which is always a good sign. 

CALLI MEDLEY I love that the circumstances of the story are so unique and different than anything I’d ever read. It immediately perked my interest having a story centered around two leading females under extraordinary circumstances and who are dealing with extraordinary mental illnesses/difficulties, and diametrically opposed in their ways of coping with them. The story itself is very deep and intricate with all characters involved, and reading it the first time I could glean that very clearly, which made going back, re-reading it, and being able to detective-ize these characters more made it really enjoyable work.

VIVIEN CARDONE My initial reaction after reading the script was amazement at just how raw Anthony’s portrayal of mental illness was. He didn’t sugarcoat or romanticize the highs and lows, the frustrations and fears, the confusion and isolation. He really took on the challenge of thrusting a very complex and controversial topic into the faces of his audience, but he did so in a tactful manner. Mental illness, specifically suicidal ideation, is still very much a taboo in today’s society. Many people prefer to sweep the idea under the rug, and put on a front that everything is perfectly fine. Yet with Korinne, you can’t help but want to go on the journey with these characters, and understand what’s motivating all of them to make their decisions. 

GABE CALLEJA The relationships between the characters are unique and surprising. This script is not very conventional, which, in a market saturated with recycled ideas, is very refreshing. I love how it ends!

Talk about what surprised you over the rehearsal process? 

JACQUELINE GUZMAN So two things that surprised me most were my immediate ability to connect with my cast mates and listen and play over zoom, secondly was the intricacies of Korinne’s mental health issues and how they would differ from my own. As for zoom, I had a lot of preconceived notions as to what this work would be like. I would’ve never imagined I’d be able to reach such clear depths with a character and her relationships to those in her life and the space around her over a screen. I give a lot of credit to my cast mates and how giving and open they’ve been through this process. As for Korinne, wow. As someone who battles depression and anxiety I thought I would just immediately understand and be able to portray BPD. I wasn’t expecting how different these disorders would manifest in our day to day and the challenges of working through them were so different.

CALLI MEDLEY How much laughter there was. When you are working with material that is so intense and emotionally challenging, you forget how important it is to have joy, laughter, and light-heartedness in rehearsals to relieve some of that heartbreaking grief these characters have to go through. It created a very comfortable, trusting, and loving environment while working on the material.

VIVIEN CARDONE I think what has surprised me the most was just how much humor we have found in our rehearsals. You would think that there would be very little laughter when taking on such an emotionally heavy story. But there have been several times where one of us has broken character and just burst out laughing. Or we have uncontrollable giggle fits and have to take a five minute break to refocus. But I guess that’s the way it is in life too. Even in the darkest moments, you find some way to make the connection, find the good, and create memories. In all the cracks and fissures of life, light always finds its way in. And that is really what is at the heart of this story. 

GABE CALLEJA I was surprised with how easy everyone is to work with. I should learn to be less surprised by now, as Anthony never fails to choose driven and compassionate actors for his company.

Why did you want to take on your role? 

JACQUELINE GUZMAN Well simply put, I was compelled by her story. It’s unique, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done.  I felt that I would be met with a lot of challenges, I also felt there was a lot of depth to be found within the work. So for me it seemed like a great invitation to have fun, explore. I also felt seen, as a woman who struggles with mental health, this is exactly the kind of work I wanna be doing. 

CALLI MEDLEY I knew it was going to be challenging material to work on, especially in Jane coping with her trauma/illness in the opposite way of how people “expect” them to behave. To me, that really grounded the character of Jane in reality. It reflects how many people who deal with their mental illnesses and trauma to cope. The fact that Corbin comments on how happy Jane is shows how hard she has to work to make people believe the mask she’s created for herself.

What is different about this show that audiences haven’t seen?

JACQUELINE GUZMAN For me it’s a number of things, but most importantly it’s the strong, unique, and accurately written female characters. The way the story unfolds, and the way it’s almost frantic and organized chaos, sort of how Korinne’s thoughts are, it’s beautiful. Also it passes the Bechdel test. 

CALLI MEDLEY I feel that this level of focus on mental health isn’t something that is commonly explored in the film industry, and if it is, it’s usually from the story of a leading male character. The fact that we get to see two female leads with a very intimate exploration in how they relate to each other through their mental health is really something special.

VIVIEN CARDONE I think it’s really nice that we are getting to see how mental illness doesn’t just affect the individual, but also the people that are around them. Samantha is not only Korinne’s big sister, but her acting guardian as well, so she is walking a fine line between maintaining that sisterly camaraderie while ensuring Korinne’s safety and wellbeing. And we also get to see how Samantha’s attempts to help Korinne are inadvertently causing strain on her marriage. While we do see these issues portrayed in film and theater, I think what makes Anthony’s writing unique is that it is shown in such an authentic way. When you ask the question, “how is this type of situation like in real life,” Anthony’s work gives you that answer. 

GABE CALLEJA The story follows an unreliable narrator, so nothing is as it seems. There are some twists and turns, which feel like they’re straight out of a thriller at times, and the prevailing conflict is somewhat turned on its head. You may have seen my character before in some way or another, but the circumstances surrounding him are fresh and interesting to follow. 

Can you describe your relationship working with Anthony and Face To Face?

VIVIEN CARDONE I don’t just view Anthony as my director. I see him as a mentor. He has taught me so much about my craft, and what it means to fully understand and see where a character is coming from. Every rehearsal feels like a new lesson on making connections, listening, and looking deeper than what’s simply written on the page. I feel very lucky that I can learn and grow as an actor under Anthony’s direction. And I am very proud of what we have accomplished together. 

GABE CALLEJA He thinks of everything. He is very patient and kind, and really works for his actors. An incredibly thoughtful and thorough individual, Anthony stops at nothing to make sure that every actor feels heard and understood. It is a relationship I cherish greatly. 

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