As director of “Small Mouth Sounds,” to be performed Feb. 24–26 in the Experimental Theater, Clark alum Lyndsey Hawkes ’19 is spearheading a new wave of inclusion for the Theatre Arts program.
Written by Bess Wohl, the play focuses on six struggling people who venture to a week-long silent retreat. With the help of a narrative guru, the characters are forced to fight their fears to find inner peace. The New York Times deemed the show “an enchanting new play … as funny as it is quietly moving … a model of ingenuity.”
Since the script is not dialogue-heavy, Hawkes has allowed each performer to choose their character’s gender, which both encourages the student-actors to feel comfortable with their roles and provides for greater gender inclusivity.
“‘Small Mouth Sounds’ is about six very distressed people in very unique turmoil,” Hawkes says. “The cast and audience witness a lot of mental and emotional action without seeing a ton of plot unfold onstage.”
At Clark, Hawkes majored in theatre arts with a concentration in acting — but today, her résumé is divided equally among spotlight and ensemble roles, and a wide range of vital backstage positions. This extensive background has given her the necessary experience to develop a positive environment for the cast and lets her give the actors insights into how productions work outside of a college campus.
Hawkes will be performing with the Worcester County Light Opera Company as Dory in “Merrily We Roll Along” from April 21 to 30, and was in the ensemble of “Julius Caesar” at the Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. She has also directed three productions for Clark — two in 2019 and one in 2021 — and served as a child actor supervisor for the Hanover Theatre and assistant manager for White Snake Projects, which presents original operas in Brookline.
But even after her graduation in 2019, Hawkes never strayed far from the tight-knit theatre community at Clark, where she appreciates the freedom professors give students and how students are encouraged to learn from experiences in new areas. During rehearsals for “Small Mouth Sounds,” Hawkes applies these important ideas to help the cast adapt to the uniqueness of the play — since the characters are at a silent retreat, there is minimal dialogue, and the actors must use body language to physically connect with each other rather than acting off verbal cues.
The lack of dialogue and emotional intensity creates a notable acting challenge, so in her directing Hawkes has connected with core concepts she initially learned in Professor Ray Munro’s Actor as Thinker course.
Since the play is written for an ensemble, each actor must react to the nonverbal cues of their five castmates. By using skills from Munro’s course, Hawkes says she hopes her actors will rely on a deep understanding of their characters as well as exhibit large amounts of empathy. The key to this work, she adds, is connecting “real emotions to real actions.”
As the actors have progressed during rehearsals, Hawkes has attempted to promote a safe environment by encouraging her actors to connect with each other and scheduling mental health breaks when the intensity of the show begins to weigh on the performers. She also has recruited intimacy coordinator Kathryn Moncrief to ensure the actors’ physical and emotional safety in a production that includes partial nudity.
Hawkes says she’s been inspired by working with Moncrief and is thinking of becoming certified in this new area of theatre. In a post #MeToo world, she notes, “I want to foster a progressive area of theatre.”
“Small Mouth Sounds” will be performed in the Little Center’s Experimental Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, Saturday, Feb. 25, and Sunday, Feb. 26, with a 2 p.m. performance on Feb. 25.
Along with partial nudity, the play also contains sexual situations and simulated drug use.