“Grace” – Creating a Character

Here’s the deal: Tech week is intense.


For the month or so before, the actors rehearse in an empty room with folding chairs standing in for couches, tape on the floor standing in for walls and doors and Altoids cases standing in cell phones, revolvers and microphones (those cases are curiously strong stand-in props).


Then, tech week comes. And the actors are thrown into the fire. Costumes are yanked onto them, tugged and adjusted. They are pushed out under hot stage lights and forced to stand there silently while the technicians make subtle adjustments. They’re given a prop gun and asked to point it at a friend of theirs and pull the trigger.


And, if you’re Zach Stofer, you’re given a box full of makeup and told to make yourself look like you’ve been in a horrible accident where half of your face has been scraped off.


Like we said: Tech week is intense.


Thankfully, Zach Stofer – in addition to being an infuriatingly talented actor – knows his way around a makeup kit. And he was kind enough to have some photos taken of the several hour-long process he goes through each night to create his character of Sam in our Regional Premiere of “GRACE” by Craig Wright


Step 1


Zach starts by putting on a little Barry Manilow (you know, the hits) and doing some deep breathing. Then, he makes himself a nice cup of English Breakfast, slips off his shoes and makes fists with his toes.


Okay, actually, the first step is applying a base layer of liquid latex. That stuff’s the shit.


Step 1 part 2


Zach REALLY likes liquid latex.


Step 2


Step 2 Part B


Next, Zach works out some aggression on helpless cotton balls by ripping them into strips and shoving them onto his face while he screams “this is what you deserve!”


All of that is true except one part. Guess which.


Step 2 Part C


Then, he puts some liquid latex on top of the cotton ball shreds. Not cause he has to, just cause he REALLY likes liquid latex.


Step 3


Then, he pretends his hair dryer is a microphone and belts out “Mandy.” He also uses the hair dryer to dry the liquid latex and make a firm adhesion between the makeup and the cotton.


But mainly it’s about singing “Mandy.”





Then it’s time to do a little face painting. Zach uses a palette of various skin tones along with shades of red to accentuate the peaks and valleys of the scar tissue, popping out the highlights and deepening the shadows to make the texture deeper and more pronounced.


When he’s all done, he ends up with a finished product that looks a little something like this:




One final piece is added to this look, which we won’t spoil here. Let’s just say we owe a great deal to the fine folks at Hanger Clinic right here in Duluth, who helped us out in a huge way. So thank you, Hanger Clinic. You all rock.


And it’s only AFTER this final secret piece is added that Zach heads out on stage and spends 90 minutes systematically breaking your heart.


Honestly, guys: “GRACE” is one of those shows that we can point at and say, THIS is who we are and what we do. THIS is Renegade.


So, please. Come see this show.


You’ll Need To Talk About “GRACE” – We’ve Got You Covered



Nothing against those kinds of shows, but GRACE isn’t a show you watch passively. It’s not something pretty with good music and a nice, happy romance tied up with a bow and some jazz hands. We here at Renegade believe the best view is always from the edge of your seat. And GRACE is a show that makes you lean in, give your date a few “did that just happen?“ looks and, after it’s over, it’s the kind of show you want to spend the rest of the night talking about.


In other words, GRACE is the kind of show we here at Renegade love.


And every Thursday night during the run of GRACE, Renegade is pairing with Zeitgeist Arts to make sure our audience has an outlet for their need to discuss this incendiary piece of theater. Each Thursday evening of the show’s run – October 9th, 16th and 23rd – Renegade is gathering local leaders from both the faith community as well as the atheist/agnostic community to engage the audience in informal, frank and friendly discussions regarding the themes the play presents, and their responses to those themes. Just a few of the people joining us for these discussions are: Lawrence Lee, Pastor at the United Church of Two Harbors; Ryan Bauers, Spiritual Facilitator at Blue Waters Church and David Bard, Pastor of First United Methodist Church.


And even the Zeitgeist Arts Café is getting in on the act, by offering New Belgium’s Lips of Faith limited-edition brews on tap for the run of GRACE.


This production is gearing up to not only be a jaw-dropping production of a thrilling new play featuring some of the finest local talent our community has to offer, but also a means to bring a divisive topic out in the public square and give all sides a chance to hear and be heard.



“GRACE” – An Interview With Playwright Craig Wright

We are just over one week away from the Oct 9th opening night of the regional premiere of GRACE by Craig Wright! For those of you unfamiliar with this remarkable writer, Craig Wright is originally from Minnesota, where he was earning his Masters in Divinity degree when his career as a writer exploded. In addition to GRACE, he is the author of ORANGE FLOWER WATER, THE PAVILION and RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS. He also has had a very successful career as a television writer on SIX FEET UNDER, BROTHERS AND SISTERS and LOST.


GRACE is a searing and unflinching new drama that plunges fearlessly into questions of faith and religion and proves that they aren’t necessarily the same thing at all. Craig Wright’s powerful drama is packed with moments profound, incisive and dangerous while at the same time toying with conventions of how an audience experiences a play. Bold and breathtaking, GRACE pulls no punches in its quest to explore and explain the things we do in the name of God.




As we gear up to head into tech weekend, we thought we’d take a moment to share an interview Mr. Wright gave to the Furious Theatre Company in Pasadena, CA about the script.


Craig, what put the idea for this play into your head?
I heard a story about a love triangle in Florida that operated a little bit like the one in Grace does. Also, I wanted to write a play about someone who reaches the end of their belief system. I wanted to write something that said: There is grace, but grace is a lot weirder than we think. 

Steve and Sara are from Minnesota, like you. Are there more parallels between you and the characters?
Well. I wrote the play when I lived in Minnesota and came to Hollywood. And the play is about people who lived in Minnesota and went to Florida – another hot, dangerous place. That’s about it.


Let me borrow a line from your play: “Did you go to church growing up?”
I was born Jewish and went to synagogue and Hebrew school every week. My mother died when I was seven, and once she was gone I wasn’t as exposed to Judaism as I had been. When I was 14, I became a Born-Again Christian. That ended when I was about 20. I started writing plays when I was 21. When I was 29, I decided to go to seminary. So I went to United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities to get a Master of Divinity degree. I thought I was going to be a minister.


What stopped you?
Right around the time I graduated, I wrote a play called The Pavilion which kind of took off. So I did not get ordained and instead I kept being a writer.


Did your seminary training turn you into a better artist?
I don’t know about “better,” it certainly made me a different artist. For many years I had been searching for a style. Once I went to seminary, I found my subject.


Does that make you a religious playwright?
No. I see myself as a writer who tells stories about normal people with really big questions. Sometimes they are religious, sometimes they are romantic, sometimes they are both – like in Grace.


You are a successful writer for TV – why does writing plays appeal to you? 
The appeal is twofold. First, writing for television is a very collaborative process. When I’m writing plays I have more power as the sole writer of the play. And second, I really believe in live theatre and the irreproducibility of it. Unlike a TV show, a play’s value resides somewhere other than the marketplace where reproduced commodities can be purchased. The reason a play matters is not that it can be sold as a reproducible experience. It matters because you bought a ticket that night, you saw it that night, and those moments will never happen again. I find that more inspirational.


Interview: Ina Rometsch LINK