Volunteer Spotlight: Joyce Weissman

Meet Joyce!

Joyce Weissman joined the Cal Shakes Volunteer Corps in 2011. Joyce commutes from the South Bay via public transit to serve as an usher at our Student Matinees, and as a raffle ticket seller at our evening performances; you may have even seen her at your picnic table at the Bruns.

When asked whose dramatic shoes she’d like to fill on our stage, she said “If I could be any character– and since I love to laugh and hear others laugh– my dream part is to play any character, in any play performed by Omozé Idehenre, Stephen Epp, Bill Irwin, and Danny Scheie.”

Read on to learn more about Joyce and her passion for theater and how she spends her time as a volunteer at Cal Shakes.

What does Cal Shakes and theater mean to you?

I am transported to a passionate place in my heart and my mind to a creative and inspirational world of storytelling at the Cal Shakes outdoor theater. The endless possibilities of learning, changing a belief, seeing something differently, sensing how a play moves inside me and moves me, being open to the magical world of theater, I am just plain PASSIONATE about theater, hands down.

What’s a typical volunteer shift like for you?

My two favorite volunteer positions at Cal Shakes include: firstly, student matinees, I love hearing the students immediate response to what happens on the stage, and being with the students, I allow myself full expression and response to happen freely. My second is raffle ticket volunteer. I indirectly help support students get to the theater and have all sorts of creative theater learning experiences in the classroom via Cal Shakes. The students become involved in the arts, and receive the bonus of expanding their creativity, imagination, and confidence building skills.

Joyce, thank you for being an important part of our Cal Shakes family!

Volunteers are a vital part of our Cal Shakes community. With over 1,000 volunteers, our volunteer corps represents a wide and diverse demographic. Our volunteers hail from throughout the Bay Area, San Francisco to Pleasant Hill, to across the state, from Grass Valley to Los Angeles. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, coworkers and friends. Volunteering with California Shakespeare Theater can be a great opportunity to experience and learn new things, spend time with family and friends, earn high school credit, fulfill community service requirements, see great theater for free, and, most importantly, pay it forward in the spirit of volunteerism. There are many ways to lend a hand at Cal Shakes, and signing up is easy.

Cal Shakes Volunteers on our Community Day of Service. Photo by Jamie Buschbaum.

Cal Shakes Volunteers on our Community Day of Service. Photo by Jamie Buschbaum.

Interested in volunteering?

Click here to register; once your application has been approved, you will be able to sign up for ushering dates and will be notified of other opportunities.

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My First Week at Cal Shakes

On my first day as Cal Shakes’ new publications manager, I biked to the Berkeley office and parked in the workshop next to a wall of stage props.  One box on the wall was labeled “BODY PARTS/BONES.”

When I mentioned this bemusement to our Managing Director, Susie Falk, she laughed; after years of working at Cal Shakes, she’d grown immune to funny details like this.

Folder, Notebook, Folder, Wine

Folder, folder, folder, wine, folder...

I noticed a lot of Cal Shakes was like this—little theatrical oddities that clash with the normal idea of what a Serious Office Environment should be. For instance, there are a lot more wine bottles sitting around than in most workplaces, much of it left over from our successful gala last week.  It becomes part of the office background of folders and memos, as you can see.

The wall art is more interesting than the average office, too–lots of great old play posters and advertisements. This poster in the hall motivates me and reminds me what we’re working for:

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-Keith Spencer

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Single Tickets on Sale March 31

Join us for A Classic Summer…with a twist!

Single tickets go on sale Monday, March 31 for Cal Shakes’ 40th Anniversary Summer Season and you’ll want to get your tickets now before it’s too late.  We’re so excited about our four productions and we very much hope you’ll join us for one or two of them.

This season we’re proud to present:

  • Lorraine Hansberry’s American classic A Raisin in the Sun, directed by rising national star Patricia McGregor
  •  Shakespeare’s masterful comedy The Comedy Of Errors, directed by Aaron Posner, who helmed 2009’s smash-hit A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Cal Shakes Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone grappling with George Bernard Shaw’s great anti-romantic comedy, Pygmalion
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, infused with movement and raw power by director Shana Cooper and choreographer Erika Chong Shuch

If you’re a subscriber and would like to make changes to your subscription before single tickets go on sale, please contact our Box Office, Mon-Fri from 10am-5pm, at 510.548.9666 or at boxoffice@calshakes.org.

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Division, Harmony, and “Medical Mistakes”: Twins in Shakespeare

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly muses on twins in Shakespeare’s work and time.

Twins. Frontispiece from "Tales from Shakespeare," McLoughlin Brothers, 1890. Public domain.

Frontispiece from "Tales from Shakespeare," McLoughlin Brothers, 1890. Public domain.

This season Cal Shakes will stage Shakespeare’s two plays—The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night—the plots of which are facilitated by identical twins. In Twelfth Night, directed for us and Intersection for the Arts by Michelle Hensley (Artistic Director and founder of Minneapolis company Ten Thousand Things), there is one set of twins, a boy and a girl, who constitute Shakespeare’s famous medical “mistake.” You can’t have identical twins of different genders—we know that now—but in Shakespeare’s day this wasn’t known. There was, however, a great public interest in twins, due in no small part to the fact that twins were supposed to be engendered by an excessive female response to sperm, and also to the fact that twins were so difficult to give birth to, let alone to raise to maturity. Today twins are very common, partly because of in vitro fertilization and partly because the infant mortality rate has greatly shrunk in the western world. But in Shakespeare’s time this was not the case. Many parents did not name their children until the age of five, so great was the chance that the child would die during its early years. Shakespeare himself was not the oldest of his siblings, but was the first to live past infancy.

Imagine how even higher the stakes were for parents of twins. With twins’ added risk of a great range of nutritional and obstetric problems, as well as low birth weights and increased prematurity, they were widely thought to punish their mothers by adding to the pain borne by every pregnant woman (such pain being referred to in The Comedy of Errors as “The pleasing punishment that women bear”). Shakespeare and his wife had twins, only one of whom survived past childhood.

Perhaps because the survival of identical twins to adulthood was rare in that time, many writers before Shakespeare were intrigued by their value, not least as a plot device. There was an enormous number of twins in folk tales and ballads, court poetry and prose. For Shakespeare in both Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors, identical twins provide the basis for foils, doubles, misprised identity, and gender confusion. The playwright may have been inspired to use them in both plays by the thought of who his sponsors were. The first recorded performances of both plays were at the Inns of Court—The Comedy of Errors  in 1594 and Twelfth Night in 1602—and lawyers were at this time fascinated by identical twins because of the legal implications of mistaken identity. (Interestingly, in this context, we might note that The Comedy of Errorshas three references to “law.”)

Poster for an 1879 production on Broadway, featuring Stuart Robson and William Crane

Poster for an 1879 production on Broadway, featuring Stuart Robson and William Crane.

Twins provide a great plot engine for Shakespeare—they allow him to create complications, mockeries and new inventions. Thematically, moreover, twinning gives him an opportunity to explore the mind-body connection which is still so puzzling today, and which can be reflected in Shakespeare’s own puzzlements about the relation of the mind to the body (“Your face, my Thane, is a book/Where men may read strange matters”; “There’s no art/To find the mind’s construction in the face…”Macbeth). Conversely, twins also allowed him to explore his fascination with the “twinned” juvenile soul of friendship that is, as children mature, gateway to minds and bodies that become fatally divided in adulthood (“Two cherries on one stem,” A Midsummer Night’s Dream; “twinned lambs/That did frisk in the sun,” A Winter’s Tale). But in this season’s two plays about physical twinning, division returns to harmony. In each case, the brutal “splitting” of the ships that have carried identical twins away from each other resolves in the jubilation of togetherness, the celebration and relief that is reclaimed in a single root.

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Volunteer Ushers Needed for Twelfth Night Performances at Intersection

Rami Margron as Orsino, Cindy Im as Viola/Cesario, and Maria Candelaria as Olivia in Cal Shakes and Intersection for the Arts’ coproduction of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Michelle Hensley; photo by Kevin Berne.

Rami Margron as Orsino, Cindy Im as Viola/Cesario, and Maria Candelaria as Olivia; photo by Kevin Berne.

Public performances for our all-female production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Michelle Hensleya coproduction with Intersection for the Artsbegin on Thursday, February 20, and we’re in need of volunteer ushers for all performances at Intersection, 925 Mission, Suite 109, San Francisco.

There is a lot of good information about Twelfth Night on our website. During your volunteer shift, we consider you part of the Cal Shakes extended staff. We ask that you act professionally, treating your volunteer shift as a job and a responsibility to be taken seriously. In return, you’ll get to see the full performance of Twelfth Night!

Interested? Contact Jamie Buschbaum at jbuschbaum@calshakes.org or call 510.548.3422 (email strongly preferred). Read on for more information.

We ask that our volunteers:

  • Be on time.
  • Be positive, helpful and friendly.
  • Be responsible

Here is some information on eligibility requirements for these shifts:

  • You must be 17 or older to usher alone
  • If you are between the ages of 13 and 17 you must come with a parent or guardian and they must usher with you.
  • You must be able to walk and climb a few stairs to get into the venue.
  • You must be comfortable standing for long periods of time.

Dress Code: All volunteers are asked to wear comfortable, sturdy clothing and shoes. Please wear appropriate black. Clothes should be casual and comfortable, but tidy. No open-heeled shoes allowed.

Call Time and Training: Please arrive at the theater at your report time, ready to work. When you arrive, please let the box office associate know you are an usher. Cal Shakes depends on your being on time to your ushering shift. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not be permitted to usher and it will count as a no-show. After two no-shows, you will not be allowed to return as an usher. You will be trained in your duties for the night by the box office associate or their designated substitute. Please consult with any staffer if you have any questions or encounter a situation you cannot handle.

Before, During and After the Performance: After checking in, you will go through a brief orientation with the box office associate and assigned to a position. Please do the job asked of you until the curtain speech begins. While ushering, please do not eat, drink or chew gum.Please leave any valuables at home.

General Policies:

  • All shifts must be scheduled in advance. Please do not show up unannounced.>
  • A volunteer usher who drinks, or leaves without cleaning up at the end of the performance will not be allowed to return.
  • Cal Shakes reserves the right to turn away any volunteer usher.

Interested? Contact Jamie Buschbaum at jbuschbaum@calshakes.org or call 510.548.3422 (email strongly preferred).

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Talking About Love

Marketing intern Natalie Sanchez reports back from rehearsals for Twelfth Night.

Love is a complicated thing: how our bodies and minds process it, how we become brave enough to begin to verbalize it, how we share it with the world, how we fight for it. But have you ever fallen in love with someone who only saw you as a friend? And—to make things worse—that friend trusted you so much that they would confess to you their love for another person? They might even be so desperate as to ask you to help them convince their beloved to be with them.

Rami Margron as Orsino, Cindy Im as Viola/Cesario, and Maria Candelaria as Olivia in Cal Shakes and Intersection for the Arts’ coproduction of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Michelle Hensley; photo by Kevin Berne.

Rami Margron as Orsino, Cindy Im as Viola/Cesario, and Maria Candelaria as Olivia; photo by Kevin Berne.

Rehearsals for Cal Shakes and Intersection for the Arts’ coproduction of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (performing at Intersection February 2—March 2) are happening right now, and many of these questions arise as the actors begin to embody the characters. What could be going on in the head of Viola (Cindy Im) when she is asked by her own beloved, Duke Orsino (Rami Margron), to chase after his love, Olivia (Maria Candelaria)? Why does she agree? And how can these feelings become manifested in one scene, as full of emotions as the first encounter of two women who have such different intentions? I got to watch members of the ensemble work through some of these challenges when I sat in on rehearsals for Act I, scene 5 late last week.

Viola is persistent when passing as Cesario, promising to sleep outside until Lady Olivia lets him in, which she ultimately does, slowly and unintentionally inviting him to her life. “Bring me my veil,” she says to her gentlewoman, having her stand next to her, showing that her guard is up. But she eventually removes the veil, and the unveiling carries meaning to both characters: For Olivia, this is a moment of letting Viola/Cesario in, although, when she shows herself, she turns her face with her hand, asking, with a stern look, “Is it not well done?” For Viola, this is the first time that she gets to look at the face of her rival; in rehearsing this moment, director Michelle Hensley asks Cindy (who plays Viola) to be honest and really say that she is beautiful.

The director states that, among the many feelings that could be going on in her head, Viola might be curious to know why Olivia does not love the Duke.

“For Orsino loves you with adorations, fertile tears, / With groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire” says Viola. “Where does that come from?” asks the director. Possibly from the Duke, Cindy responds. Or it could be talking more about the feelings she has for the Duke. Curious to know more, Maria Candelaria (playing Olivia) makes the character choice to sit on a nearby stool as she backs up: With her body language, she says “it isn’t easy to reject you.”

When the director stops the scene to ask how they are feeling, Cindy shares her thoughts about the moment: “As a man, Viola gets to speak more candidly that she would as a woman.” Meanwhile, Olivia is enchanted, noticing the vulnerability in the way Viola speaks to her of Orsino’s love for her. Maria says, “Even when she is mad at me it is beautiful.” Michelle questions her further: “Why do you tip him?” Maria answers: “It’s courtesy.” As she thinks about it a little more, she says, “She is also trying to keep it together and process what she is feeling. Maybe she is trying to reinstate the social norms.” “But she keeps talking,” Michelle counters. If Olivia wanted Viola/Cesario to leave, she would have let him leave. After Viola leaves, when Olivia talks about what she is feeling, the director says, “Talk to them (the audience). They are here to process this with you.”

Who are you rooting for in this love triangle? Come prepared to help these characters unravel their emotions next month! Information on the cast, the production, and how to buy tickets—all costing $20—can be found here.

 

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It’s our 40th anniversary: Tell us a story.

The Tempest at John Hinkel 1980

Jane Macfie as Ariel and Julian Lopez-Morillas as Prospero in THE TEMPEST at John Hinkel Park, 1980

As you may have heard or seen us mention, 2014 is our 40th anniversary season. Yes, we’ve come a long way since our first show, of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on May 10, 1974 at the Unitarian Fellowship Hall in Berkeley. For one thing, we’ve had a lot of names: Emeryville Shakespeare Company (which is what we were called for that production of Midsummer, at least), Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater/Cal Shakes, and probably a couple more in between. For another, we’ve performed a lot of places: the Unitarian Hall, John  Hinkel Park, our current Bruns Amphitheater, and now—for the special production of Twelfth Night coming together in our rehearsal hall as I type this—at the intimate performance space of our co-presenters, Intersection for the Arts.

Howard Swain as Puck and Dan Hiatt as Bottom in MIDSUMMER

Howard Swain as Puck and Dan Hiatt as Bottom in MIDSUMMER, the first production at the Bruns, 1991; photo by David Allen.

Did I forget some names and locations? If so, I’m hoping someone will let me know. Because there are scores of folks who have been with us, if not from the very beginning, then at least for decades. Nancy Carlin, for example, was in As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream our first summer in John Hinkel Park, 1975; and she’s portraying Malvolio and Valentine in Twelfth Night next month! There are patrons who had first dates at John Hinkel, and whose children or grandchildren now attend our Summer Shakespeare Conservatories. There are generations for whom an evening or afternoon at the Bruns is a family tradition. There are actors, staff, and volunteers who have been with us for 20 or more years. Are you one of them? Because we would love to hear from you. As the year unfurls, we’ll be rolling out new initiatives, celebrating special events, and publishing historical articles in our Main Stage show programs—all honoring our decades of history, and the bright future yet to come. And we want to hear your story.

Did you meet your lifelong best friend in one of our youth programs? Were you at that first performance, in the audience or backstage? Do you remember John Hinkel Park fondly? Have you been subscribing since the Bruns opened in 1991? Have you seen every production we’ve ever done?We’re hoping to collect your stories throughout the year, for a variety of uses. If you have one, you can share it in nearly as many ways as there are Shakespeare plays:

We’re really looking forward to hearing from you, and to honoring our four decades with you all year long.

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Ask Philippa: 2014 Pre-season Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, invites your questions about our 2014 season, which begins May 21. Subscriptions on sale now.

Philippa Kelly 2013

Photo of Philippa Kelly by Jay Yamada.

2014 brings a very exciting season for many reasons—not the least of which is that it’s Cal Shakes’ 40th anniversary.

First up is Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Patricia McGregor, who first joined us at the Bruns last in 2012 with her magnificent Spunk. A Raisin in the Sun offers a stunning portrait of a black family’s experience in racially divided Chicago, injecting domestic and racial tension into 1950s self-portraits of the post-war American Dream. Raisin made Hansberry the youngest playwright, the fifth woman, and the only black writer ever to win the New York Critics’ Circle award. (The play also inspired the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, written 60 years later and directed by our own Jonathan Moscone in an award-winning production at A.C.T. in 2011). Next is Shakespeare’s early play The Comedy of Errors, directed by Aaron Posner, a comic take on mistaken identity that offers a brilliant look at the dark side of Shakespeare as well as the light—loss, isolation, family reunion, and redemption. Third in our season director Moscone brings us Pygmalion, often seen as George Bernard Shaw’s most enduringly important play, a savagely ironic critique of the British class system. (This play, too, made such a social impact that it gave birth, 44 years later, to another masterpiece, the musical My Fair Lady.) Lastly is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare play most often described as “perfect” in its exploration of love that opens out, concertina-like, from an early threat of punishment and even death. Buoyed by perhaps the most beautifully poetic language of Shakespeare’s entire career, director Shana Cooper will take us into the “green world” of the forest—will the lovers emerge from the forest different, or more truly themselves?

Look out, too, for my free, off-season session, Reprises and Rehearsals, a look at how the plays of the 2013 and 2014 seasons connect to different works and themes in their authors’ lives. Date TBD. In the meantime, post any question or observation you like right now (and into the early spring) and I will post an answer as quickly as possible—often within 24 hours.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Hsu

Sam Hsu

Sam two-timing us as a volunteer at the Episcopal Community Services SummerTini event.

Sam is a longtime volunteer usher at the Bruns Amphitheater. He’s originally from Taiwan but he now lives in Fremont and claims to have the ability to “nap anywhere.” Sam is an active volunteer at several other Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Volunteering at Cal Shakes is, according to Sam, participating in “outreach to the community and four fun-filled weeknights during the extended summer months.”

Read on to learn more about Sam!

Describe a memorable experience you’ve had volunteering at Cal Shakes. I was selling raffle tickets and interrupting patrons’ dinners, and a few of them offered me food! Of course I graciously accepted.

Do you have any special holiday plans? What kind of holiday traditions does your family like to do in celebration? Well, we’re Asian, so the tradition is to go out and eat. But this year I’m taking mom to visit some of the grandkids at Disneyworld.​

What play—or plays— are you most looking forward to seeing at Cal Shakes in 2014? I’d have to say A Raisin in the Sun and Pygmalion because the non-Shakespeare plays seem just a little bit special in this context, and they’ve always been great fun.​

Who would you cast to play yourself in the movie of your life? Jackie Chan…Underlying almost everything I do is a bit of slapstick and humor, and a touch of cluelessness.

Sam, thank you for being an important part of our Cal Shakes family!

Volunteers are a vital part of our Cal Shakes community. With over 1,000 volunteers, our volunteer corps represents a wide and diverse demographic. Our volunteers hail from throughout the Bay Area, San Francisco to Pleasant Hill, to across the state, from Grass Valley to Los Angeles. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, coworkers and friends. Volunteering with California Shakespeare Theater can be a great opportunity to experience and learn new things, spend time with family and friends, earn high school credit, fulfill community service requirements, see great theater for free, and, most importantly, pay it forward in the spirit of volunteerism. There are many ways to lend a hand at Cal Shakes, and signing up is easy.

Interested in volunteering? Click here to register; once your application has been approved, you will be able to sign up for ushering dates and will be notified of other opportunities.

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