Virgins to Villains’ Robin Goodrin Nordli talks Shakespeare’s Women, Life with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival , and her Return to Cal Shakes

On Monday July 20th—for one night only—Oregon Shakespeare Festival favorite and Cal Shakes’ alumna Robin Goodrin Nordli will bring her one-woman show Virgins to Villains: My Journey with Shakespeare’s Women to the Bruns Amphitheater. From Queen Margaret to Lady MacBeth, Goodrin has performed over 70 roles in 25 different Shakespeare plays. In her own work—which also includes a kind of how-to for playing Shakespeare’s women called Bard Babes—Nordli strives to make Shakespeare more accessible and personal. With Virgins audiences will see her mix Shakespeare’s language with intimate, poignant, and often hilarious stories about how these characters have affected her life and career as a performer.

Producer and Cal Shakes board member Craig Moody first saw Nordli, who has been a member of OSF for over 20 years, as Regan in King Lear while on a trip to the festival in Ashland. He knew from that moment that he wanted to help bring this gifted performer back to the Bay Area if only for just one night. Here, the lawyer-by-day-and-theater-enthusiast-by-night interviews Nordli about her favorite Shakespeare characters, the struggle to find great roles for women in the theater, and her long-awaited return to Cal Shakes.

What prompted you to create both Bard Babes and Virgins to Villains?

Bard Babes was the first one I did. That started out because I realized I had played a lot of female Shakespeare roles and I kind of missed playing them. I missed the characters, and I wanted to talk about playing them. One season when I was doing The School for Scandal and Henry IV, Part 1 I had a lot of offstage time. I had like 45 minutes to an hour and half break between entrances sometimes. While I was sitting at my dressing space I just started writing. I originally wanted to make Bard Babes a one-woman show, but I realized I couldn’t; I needed an assistant, and it needed a lot of props, so it wasn’t exactly the piece I wanted to write, but I liked it well enough. Then I did it as a Carpenter Hall lecture here at OSF [in 1998] and it worked. I had a couple of people give me feedback on what it needed, and how to tweak it. I ended up doing it a variety of places and still do. Then I wrote [a piece] for Shakespeare Santa Cruz called Shakespeare’s Labors in Love about how dysfunctional relationships are in Shakespeare. It’s kind of a comedy piece that I wrote for Michael Elich [Nordli’s husband] and myself . We did it for a benefit and it went over very well, and then I finally sat down and wrote the piece I’ve always wanted to write which was Virgins to Villains. I sat down with Lue [Morgan] Douthit from OSF—she was very helpful to me with Bard Babes—and I told her I wanted to write this other piece, but I was so afraid that it would turn out like Bard Babes. She said, “Write down all the information. Write down everything you’ve done. Write down when you did it and what was going on in your life at that time. Make a bunch of lists of anything you feel is important and it will appear to you,” so I did that and it kinda did.  I sat down and I wrote this piece. Sometimes it helps me if I have a date that I have to perform it by, so I called up the [Oregon] Shakespeare Festival and asked if they could give me a Carpenter Hall lecture.  It was a good first shot at it, but since then I have changed about one-third to half of it and gone on to perform it in various places. It doesn’t have any props except a music stand and some chairs. It’s very simple and portable, which I love—and it’s just me.

Other than Virgins being a one-woman show, what are the main differences between Bard Babes and Virgins to Villains?

Bard Babes is more about how to play a Shakespearean character; it’s a “how to.” It’s about why Shakespeare isn’t scary, but it’s actually funny, and that it’s very accessible and why, as opposed to Virgins which is my personal journey with Shakespeare’s female characters.

Do you have any particular thoughts about coming back to Cal Shakes where you were so many years ago?

Of course I do! I badly wanted to do this because Cal Shakes—which was Berkeley Shakespeare Festival prior to—was one of the most influential places I’ve worked. I was there for three seasons when it was Berkeley Shakespeare Festival and two as Cal Shakes, and those five years were huge for me and my development. I’ve always wanted to come back and do something and this seems like the perfect piece to do there.

What are some of the roles you  remember doing while you were at Cal Shakes /Berkeley Shakespeare Festival?

 One season while it was still Berkeley Shakespeare Festival I was Mistress Quickley in Merry Wives of Windsor, while I was doing Desdemona in Othello, and Imogen in Cymbeline. Then we rehearsed Twelfth Night and I was Viola, so at one point I had those four in my head. My first year there I did Ariel in The Tempest with Louis Lotorto, who was also Ariel and it was just phenomenal. It was the role I was dying to play. I ended up splitting it with Louis, and we had a great time.  I wrote my Master’s thesis on it [because] it was such a phenomenal experience.

It sounds like those five years here were a good time in your life.

Definitely. The last year I was there I was Rosalind in As You Like It, Constance in King John, Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, and multiple roles in Hamlet, so that was another one of those hard-core seasons which was just great.

There’s always a lot of talk about Shakespeare having cast boys in women’s roles and women not always having the best parts in his plays. Do you think Shakespeare gave short shrift to female roles?

 Well whoever he—or she—was, he [for the sake of this interview] was a commercial  writer. He wrote to make money. He wrote for his audience, and he wrote for the actors that he had. I think you always have to keep that in context. It was the world he lived in. Other than the fact that a woman was running the country for most of the time he was around, it was very much a man’s world. Also, he was writing for boys playing those women roles who would grow out of those roles. With some of the male roles the guys could play them for much longer, so you always have to take that into consideration, but that said he did not write two dimensional women. For the most part they are multi-dimensional characters, even the small ones. That’s what’s so astonishing. I wish there were more. I wish they had more language. I wish they had more power, but the fact that he gives us characters like Beatrice and Volumnia… There were a bunch of them that he wrote—more so than anybody else at that time—that were fairly wonderful and multi-dimensional, particularly the pants roles.

Can you explain pants roles for those who may be unfamiliar with that terminology?

Those were women who disguised themselves as men in order to survive or get something done. There are basically five of them: You have Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Rosalind  in As You Like It, Viola in Twelfth Night, Imogen in Cymbeline, and Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. They’re very multi-dimensional, and you learn a lot about what the world was: what surviving was, and where the power was to make changes. It was in a male society and therefore you had to adapt to achieve what you needed to. But I am surprised to say that my two favorite productions of Twelfth Night—which I’ve seen more than any other play, and I’ve done more than any other play—are Mark Rylance’s all-male production, and a Russian version that came to the United States about 10 years ago that was just interesting and phenomenal, and it was also all male. There’s another layer in the play that you get when it’s all men that you don’t get when it’s played by women. It’s fascinating. It’s something on a subliminal level. It’s hard to explain, and I was quite blown away, but those are fabulous roles for women. I wish there were more, but I understand at that time, with those people that he wrote for in that climate, and the culture that he lived in, for him to do what he did was quite a lot.

Do you think women’s roles in the theater are improving?

 Not a whole lot. I think new writers are trying to address the female issue, but I don’t think there’ve  been any huge breakthroughs yet. In the 1800s you had Sarah Bernhardt, Julia Marlowe, Fanny Davenport, all these fabulous women actresses who toured the United States, or Europe with their companies and they played male and female roles. They were power-driven forces, and they were the actors and managers of the companies. We don’t have anything like that anymore. Even with movies in the 20s and 30s, there were women who were huge stars, and box office draws, now it’s the guys. We’ve kind of taken a step backwards in that direction, and I think in theater we have too. There’s a number of people out there trying to shake it up, but it’s tough.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite roles that you’ve played?

I have favorites for different reasons, and I have ones that I can’t stand for different reasons. I don’t have just one. I will tell you this though, I really loved playing Margaret through the Henry VI cycle. We did Henry VI, Part 1 and then a combined Parts 2 and 3 and then Richard III, so I played her through from a teenage girl to an old lady. Nobody gets to do that. Usually you break it up, and different people play different ages, but I got to do it all the way through. It was fabulous.

You also played Elizabeth in last year’s OSF production of Richard III right?

Yes, that was fun too—to turn around and play [Richard III] from a different angle. I’ll also tell you that the first time I ever felt like I played a character who really drove the boat, so to speak or controlled her own destiny, was with Imogen in Cymbeline. That was the first time I felt a character control things, as opposed to reacting to things.

I had a great Measure for Measure at Berkeley Shakespeare Festival. I did it in ’89 there. Richard E.T. White directed it. It was one of my favorite productions anywhere, ever, but of course I love Twelfth Night too. As far as least favorite? So much of that has to do with the production instead of the play, but I can’t think of a Shakespeare one that I didn’t enjoy in some way, or have a good experience with.

Are there any Shakespeare roles you haven’t played yet, that you still want to play? I can’t believe there are…

You’re going to have to come to my show, because I talk about that. You will understand and be satisfied with my answer.

We certainly will! One last question: How has your life changed since putting down roots in Oregon?

The beauty of this place is it’s a repertory theater and you don’t get that at many places now. When I started out there were a lot of places to go and do rep, and not just Shakespeare, but other plays too, and that experience is really lost in America. Even Cal Shakes is show to show. It’s not a rep anymore. Berkeley Rep used to be a rep at one point, and A.C.T. too. I miss that, so here I get to still do that. This year I have one of the best rep seasons I’ve ever had. I’m only in two shows, but in The Count of Monte Cristo I play a spy who goes into all these different disguises, so I get to play all these different characters under the same character. I also get to do Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. It’s not Shakespeare this year, but it’s infinite variety, and that’s kind of what I really love to do, and what I’ve always wanted to do. And I get to live in a small town. I ride a Vespa or a bike everywhere. It’s pretty ideal at the moment.

Robin Goodrin Nordli will perform Virgins to Villains at 7:30pm on Monday, July 20th. For tickets click here. You can also meet Nordli in person at an after-show dessert reception by purchasing premium-priced tickets.


Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ask Philippa: Life Is a Dream edition

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo courtesy Philippa Kelly.

Like Shakespeare, Spanish Golden Age playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca, wrote about very human ways of dealing with some of our biggest emotions. Life Is a Dream, one of Calderón’s most famous plays, is about a prince whose father is told at his birth that he’ll become a vicious ruler. In order to protect the kingdom from this terrible monster, his father locks him away in a tower. Twenty years later, the prince is given a chance to rule, but he goes on a rampage and is locked up again, persuaded that his brief spell of freedom was only a dream. Life Is a Dream became famed for its questions about what makes us human and what, in life, can be counted as ‘real’.

In his translation and adaptation, Cuban-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz has distilled Calderón’s immense canvas—with its poetic rhythms and captivating questions—into a contemporary story, brought to Cal Shakes by one of America’s most important directors, Loretta Greco.

I’d be delighted to answer any artistic or dramaturgy questions about what’s in store for this season’s production of Life Is a Dream. Curious about cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Ask Philippa! Please leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.

—-

Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question.

Buy tickets for Life Is a Dream, or subscribe to the 2015 Season, by clicking here; or, call the Box Office at 510.548.9666.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Going Beyond the Bars with The Green Life and Triangle Lab

This past spring, members of the Green Life, a re-entry project formed by former prisoners, came together in healing circles led by  Ayodele Nzinga,  an Artist-Investigator with Cal Shakes’ Triangle Lab, to share stories of heartbreak and healing around the topic of “home.” The stories shared in these circles served as the basis for a dramatic piece entitled Beyond the Bars: Growing Home. This  Friday, June 19th from 6-8PM, a free staged reading of the piece will be produced at United Roots Oakland, in collaboration with the youth group DetermiNation, and The Lower Bottom Playaz, a theater troupe based out of West Oakland.

11081141_998654933518101_3558082437594885171_n.jpg

The setting for the Green Life healing circles.

The Project

The Artist-Investigator Program investigates how artists can help bridge differences, heal hearts, and connect communities.  This year, we are focusing on how theater artists can partner with social service organizations to help serve their clientele and advance the organization’s mission.

Four partnerships between artists and organizations have taken four rich paths to melding the organizing strengths of the non-profits with our artists’ skills at gathering stories, building performance, and bringing together disparate groups of people. The four projects will all share the lives of disenfranchised populations through story, image, performance, and poetry.

In the partnership with Green Life, the impact of Nzinga’s skills was greatly felt. “What was surprising was that everyone was willing to share deep and meaningful stories,” says Green Life program director, Angela Sevin. “We observed cross generational connections and communications that inspired us for our future.”

We invite you to join us at Beyond the Bars: Growing Home on Friday June 19th from 6-8PM at United Roots Oakland ( 2781 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California 94612).

Click here for more information about the event.

For Additional Information about Triangle Lab Programming go to http://www.calshakes.org/trianglelab.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rehearsals have started for Life Is a Dream!

Life Is a Dream castmates Sean San José, Tristan Cunningham, Amir Abdullah, and Sarah Nina Hayon get ready to rehearse.

Last week rehearsals started for the second production of our season, Life Is a Dream. The cast and creative team mingled with staff, producers and crew in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall for a quick meet and greet before diving right into a read through of Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz’s adaptation and translation of the Spanish Golden Age classic by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

The play follows Prince Segismundo, whose father, King Basilio, locked him up in a tower when he was born, after receiving a chilling prophecy about the prince’s future. When his son is a young man, Basilio has a change of heart and decides to release him in hope that he could in fact become king, but having been treated like a prisoner his entire life, he turns into the monster his father feared. He is then drugged and locked back up in the tower. When he wakes up he is told the experience was just a dream, but when a rebel army forms to join him in the fight to restore his rightful place on the throne, he is given a final opportunity to be a better man. Segismundo’s tale, made more accessible and modern by Cruz, raises questions about what we as humans can control, and what we can’t—what is free will, and what is left up to fate.

To interpret this rarely produced, but beautiful work, director Loretta Greco—the current artistic director of the Magic Theatre—has gathered an exciting ensemble that is a blend of familiar faces and ones that like Greco, are making their Cal Shakes debut. Sean San José, who was last seen at the Bruns as the title character in 2013’s American Night: The Ballad of Juan José will take on the role of Segismundo. Breakfast at Mugabe’s Adrian Roberts will play his father Basilio, and Drama Desk-nominee Sarah Nina Hayon is Segismundo’s unlikely ally Rosaura. In an interwoven plot line, Rosaura stumbles across Segismundo’s chamber when she and her servant Clarin (the very funny Jomar Tagatac) are on a quest for revenge on Rosaura’s ex, Astolfo (Amir Abdullah), who also happens to be Basilio’s nephew, and next in line for the throne. Tristan Cunningham, whose Cal Shakes credits include last season’s The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, plays Estrella, Basilio’s niece and Astolfo’s latest conquest, and Cal Shakes veteran Julian López-Morillas is Segismundo’s tutor, Clotaldo.

Click here for tickets and follow us on InstagramTwitter and Facebook for more candid shots of this handsome cast!

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ask Philippa: Twelfth Night Edition

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo courtesy Philippa Kelly.

Twelfth Night is Shakespeare’s last and darkest comedy, written in 1601. Director Christopher Liam Moore calls Twelfth Night his favorite Shakespeare play, treasuring its capacity to soar to the heights of mirth and delve to the darker parts of humanity. Set on the tiny island of Illyria, the play takes its characters on a huge emotional journey, in which they question who they are, mourn losses, entertain big dreams, and discover parts of themselves that they didn’t know where there.

I’d be delighted to answer any artistic or dramaturgy questions about what’s in store for this season’s production of Twelfth Night. Curious about cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Ask Philippa! Please leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.

—-

Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question.

Buy tickets for Twelfth Night, or subscribe to the 2015 Season, by clicking here; or, call the Box Office at 510.548.9666.

Share
Posted in 2015 Season, Ask Philippa, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Main Stage, Twelfth Night | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

From Twelfth Night to Life Is a Dream: Fate Works in Mysterious Ways

Get Tangled Up In Love show art for Twelfth NightThe first two productions of our 2015 season—Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night about falling in love with mistaken identities and Life Is a Dream, Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 1635 drama, translated and adapted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Nico Cruz, which examines the relationship between fate and reality—couldn’t seem farther apart at first read. But it turns out Olivia, Viola, Orsino, and Sebastian have more in common with King Basilio, Segismundo, and Rosauro then one might think. Here our Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly explains the link between these two wildly different productions.

The question: Where character comes from and where it can lead? is at the core of both Twelfth Night and Life Is a Dream. Twelfth Night’s characters have their dreams, but they end up with fates they never dreamed of. In Life Is a Dream, Calderon’s 17th century Spanish masterpiece, translated and adapted by Nilo Cruz, the question grabs us from the very start and chills us with its development. Does a person have any real power to change the fate that’s written for him or her? And if not, why not? Malvolio struggles with this idea in Twelfth Night and we’ll see in Life Is a Dream the vengeance that is wreaked by a son who is imprisoned for the first 20 years of his life. Was his father right to lock him up? Was he wrong to release him, given that he’s done exactly the monstrous deeds that were predicted at his birth? Or is his vengeance created by his father’s actions? (Who wouldn’t want to go on a rampage after being locked away since birth?) Do we have the power to change our fates and to change the way we adapt to experience? Come judge for yourselves.

Twelfth Night starts Previews on May 17 and runs through June 21. Life Is a Dream starts Previews on July 8 and runs through August 2. Click here to learn more and buy tickets. Hear more about the link between these two shows from Philippa herself at the Life Is a Dream Inside Scoop, June 22 at the Orinda Library. Reserve your spot here.

 

Share
Posted in 2015 Season, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Inside Scoop, Life Is a Dream, Main Stage, Twelfth Night | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy 451st Birthday Shakespeare!

By Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg

“With Shakespeare’s depth of humanity as our touchstone, we build character and community through authentic, inclusive and joyful theater experiences.” This is Cal Shakes’ mission, and today we celebrate the 451st birthday (399th death day) of our bard. William was born in 1564 to John Shakespeare (leather merchant turned prominent alderman and town bailiff – equivalent to town mayor) and Mary Arden (local heiress). No birth records exist for William, but the records of the local church in Stratford-Upon-Avon indicate that a “William Shakespeare” was baptized on April 26 of that year. From this we deduce that he was born on or about April 23: infant mortality at that time was very high (25% of children died before the age of 2, and, indeed, three of Shakespeare’s siblings died in early childhood), which meant that children were baptized a few days after their birth.

William was the third of eight children. The very sketchy records of his early life have caused endless speculation as to how he obtained the immense breadth of education demonstrated in his plays. Historians surmise that William was able to till his naturally gifted mind by virtue of being a public official’s child, entitled to attend the King’s New School in Stratford, which afforded a classical education. As was the case in all Elizabethan grammar schools, Latin was the primary language for learning. Although Shakespeare likely had some lessons in English, Latin composition and the study of Latin authors like Seneca, Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, and Horace would have been the focus of his literary training. (Just as an extra point of interest, during the years that Shakespeare attended the school, at least one and possibly three headmasters stepped down because of their devotion to the Catholic religion proscribed by Queen Elizabeth.) William’s father’s fortunes declined when young William was about 14, however, and he never got to go to university.

In 1582, when William was 18, Anne Hathaway, a 26 year-old woman of some family means, became pregnant with his child. They married late in that year, before the birth of their first daughter, Susannah. William soon deposited his wife and family in Stratford – including the couple’s twins, Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585 – and the playwright went to London to build his theater company and pursue his craft, returning to Stratford only when onslaughts of the plague forced the closure of the theaters in London. It was in these fallow years that he wrote most of his sonnets as well as his longer poems. Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died at the age of eleven, and, given that it took three days to get a message from Stratford to London, and the contagion of the plague so great that by the time Shakespeare received news of his death, his son had already been buried.  Judith and her father were not close, and Susannah remained William’s favored child until the end of his life.

Over a period of 18 years, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays (give or take two recently discovered and believed to be his and a couple of collaborations) and 154 sonnets. He stopped writing about three years before his death in 1616. Some scholars have speculated that this was because he had nothing left to say: however, I think this theory is highly unlikely when applied to a man of 47 who wrote a late play as gifted as The Tempest. It’s much more likely that he developed Scrivener’s Palsy, a degenerative disease that impeded his capacity to write. If you look at the range of his signatures, they markedly change as his physical state deteriorates. He could barely sign his final will, made in March 1616 (altered to convey his displeasure at his daughter Judith’s marriage to a man who had at the same time got another woman pregnant).

Shakespeare, registered as “Will Shakespeare gent”, was buried on 26 April 1616 at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford Upon Avon. His tombstone is inscribed with the unlikely quatrain said to have been prepared by him:

Good Friend for Jesus sake forbear

To dig the dust enclosed here.

Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.

FUN FACTS:

  • Vegetables discovered in Shakespeare’s day: cabbage and carrots
  • Households made their own beer and ale
  • Flush toilets were a long time coming: families deposited their waste matter in mounds outside the house.

 

 

Share
Posted in 2015 Season, Ask Philippa, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Main Stage, Twelfth Night | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Play On: Madness and Reality in Twelfth Night

By Cory Downing

I’ve always seen Twelfth Night as perhaps Shakespeare’s most extreme experiment with human psychology. For a writer who is successful in large part due to an understanding of human psychology, Twelfth Night takes enormous risks in terms of the sheer number of characters whose actions, back to back to back, threaten to strain credulity. I simply can’t think of another writer who could take proud, pious Malvolio and drive him so swiftly and completely to yellow-stockinged, cross-gartered puppyhood, and then, even further, to piteous vulnerability. Certainly there are stories such as that of Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or even Athelstan from the History Channel’s show Vikings, with straight-laced characters struggling with and abandoning some of or all of their virtues for lust or love or some other purpose. But Twelfth Night has always struck me as pressing the boundaries of plausibility, without once (barring a bad performance) truly breaking the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

Think of Duke Orsino, who goes through fewer character changes than the rest of the cast, and who, in the hands of a lesser playwright, might be a very weak character. Instead, he is at once brilliant, absurd, relatable, and memorable. We have all heard his famous line “If music be the food of love, play on,” though few remember that the following lines are “Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,/The appetite may sicken, and so die.” He’s willing to go to enormous lengths not so much for any love interest in particular, but for the sake of love itself.

Twelfth Night is arguably Shakespeare’s most homoerotic play, taking especially the impetus of Duke Orsino’s obsession with love to force not only himself, but two other characters (Olivia and Viola) into situations of questionable heterosexuality. Olivia lusts for Viola-as-Cesario, while Viola-as-Cesario-as-Olivia helps Orsino practice his fantasies with his “male” servant. Both instances serve as sources of comic relief, and perhaps they subtly gesture also toward Shakespeare’s own bisexuality. The veil of laughter, pulled back, unmasks questions at the forefront of today’s political landscape regarding sexual identity and sexual orientation. What would happen if there were no Sebastian, the “male Viola”, to come in, pair off with Olivia, and tie up all the loose ends? Would Olivia really abandon her attraction to “Cesario”? Is her attraction to Sebastian really the same as her interest in Cesario—is she, a smart, layered, powerful woman, truly that shallow? Is it not interesting how Orsino, immediately upon revelation of Viola’s true gender, instantly agrees to a relationship with her, no questions asked? Is this merely Orsino being Orsino? Shakespeare tying up loose ends? (Go look at Shakespeare’s genderbending Sonnet 20!)

Along the way to the absurd conclusion of Twelfth Night – duels, mistaken identities, psychological torture, pranks, marriages—every step is marked clearly by completely reasonable choices made by understandable characters. A woman dressing as a man for safety of travel, particularly in a dangerous and comparatively sexist time, makes plenty of sense. For a woman pretending to be a man to continue pretending, long after it starts becoming dangerous and ironic, if only to keep her position’s advantages, makes just as much sense. Pranking a hated, stuffed shirt of a person in power is a desire many have—and it is perfectly understandable, on the other end—who hasn’t been crazy for love with no reasonable hope of success? This is the magic of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Who needs powerful, mysterious fairies when humans will make wonderful fools of themselves all on their own?

Share
Posted in 2015 Season, Main Stage, Twelfth Night | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Off to Ashland!

Antony and Cleopatra. Photo courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival

This October 2-4, Cal Shakes Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly will lead a trip to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Attendees will stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel and attend three plays during their stay, while enjoying dinners, cocktails, and conversation with Philippa and other guests. Philippa will lead discussions on each play and give her own insight. If you are interested in attending or learning more, please call or email Interim Special Events Manager Zoe Westbrook at 510.809.3297 or ashlandtour@calshakes.org no later than Friday, May 15th.

This year’s fantasy weekend at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will begin the moment we put our cases down in our beautiful rooms at the Ashland Springs Hotel, discovering, on our pillows, the little sachet of lavender and, on our bedside tables, the bar of chocolate especially wrapped with a picture of the hotel.  We’ll meet for drinks and dinner, joined (and for the whole weekend) by Director of Development Megan Barton, whose grace and charm help make the weekend perfect.

Our first play is Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s tempestuous romance as reimagined by director Lileana Blain-Cruz. Much Ado, written between 1588 and 1599 in the middle of Shakespeare’s career, features a plot that’s moved along largely by eavesdropping, mishearing and gossip. Shot through with the acerbic puns and jokes hurled back and forth by Beatrice and Benedick (a wittier, much more sophisticated version of the relationship between Kate and Petruchio written almost ten years before), the play is at once hilarious, unnerving in its twists and turns, and deeply moving. It's intriguing to think that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet at the same time as Much Ado. In the notes I prepare for our group, I'll speculate on the melange of themes that Shakespeare was able to calibrate in both comic and tragic contexts at the pinnacle of his career.

Saturday lunchtime we’ll see Sweat, the world premiere by Pulitzer Prize winner and Macarthur ‘genius’ grant winner Lynn Nottage. Sweat is part of the American Revolutions cycle, which sees 37 new works performed at OSF over a ten-year period, each of which addresses some pivotal moment in American history. Says Portland Theater Scene, ‘Dodging the artistic dead ends of whimsy, wackiness, “magical realism”, and manic profanity that entrance so many of her contemporaries in the American theatre, Nottage is the real deal and writes plays that matter. As good playwrights must be, she is an activist deeply engaged with the world. A new work by this talented Brooklynite is national news...’ Sweat follows a group of friends who work in a steel plant in 2000 Pennsylvania, when a horrific crime shocks two generations. After the play we’ll have legendary OSF actress K.T. Voght  join us for a talkback.

On Saturday evening we’ll have a delicious dinner, accompanied by an interview with dramaturg Lue Douthit (she is so good that she threatens to steal whatever show follows!) That evening we’ll see Antony and Cleopatra, part of a momentous trilogy of plays (the other two being Macbeth and King Lear) that were written in just over a year, circa 1604-5. Interestingly, all three of these plays stage a conflict between desire and duty in very different forms. We'll see the struggle for Mark Antony, Roman warrior, as he falls under the spell of Cleopatra, queen of the Nile. Written when Shakespeare was in his forties, about 12 years after that other drama about doomed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, this play shows a Shakespeare in his middle years examining the passion between characters of his own age (not the children whose naïve, desperate love makes us gasp). Antony and Cleopatra risk more than the fates of two families  – they risk the fates of entire empires in their love. Afterwards I’ll go to the Mezzanine, where there’ll be cookies and tea and hot chocolate, awaiting anyone who wants to chat about the play. And those who want to carouse can go actor-spotting at Martinos, Ashland’s most famous bar.

Sunday morning we will have a post-breakfast chat with two of the actors from Antony and Cleopatra.

I can’t wait to join you all – it is such an honor for me to guide you through this trip.

If you'd like to experience this incredible theater adventure, email Zoe Westbrook (zwestbrook@calshakes.org) or call 510.809.3297.

 

Additional Details on the Ashland OSF Tour with Cal Shakes Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly:

WHEN: Friday, October 2 through Sunday, October 4, 2015

LODGING: The elegant Ashland Springs Hotel in the heart of downtown, just steps away from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

DINING: Your package includes Friday night cocktail reception and dinner, and Saturday night dinner at a restaurant in town; breakfasts included with your stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel.

ENTERTAINMENT

FRIDAY EVENING: Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s tempestuous romance reimagined by director Lileana Blain-Cruz, is a cunning comedy of love, language, and wit, one of Shakespeare’s few comedies that manages to be both moving and frivolous at once-featuring an ensemble cast of scheming characters and a twist-ridden wedding plot.

SATURDAY MATINEE: Sweat, a powerful world permiere by acclaimed playwright Lynn Nottage (Ruined, Intimate Apparel) and directed by Kate Whoriskey, explores America’s Industrial decline at the turn of the millennium with a look inside a Pennsylvania town whose people struggle to reclaim what they’ve lost, find redemption, and redefine themselves in the new century.

SATURDAY EVENING: In Antony and Cleopatra, directed by OSF’s Artistic Director Bill Rauch, Shakespeare’s tragedy presents history as a breathtaking pageant full of passion, intrigue, exotic locales and the larger-than-life character that brought about the death of an Egyptian dynasty and the birth of the Roman Empire.

SUNDAY MORNING: We’ll come together to reflect on our experience of all three productions this weekend, facilitated by Philippa’s illuminating insights.

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation to and from Ashland is not provided. Short distances in Ashland (from hotel to restaurant, hotel to theater) are readily walkable by people in moderate health.

COST: $1,250 per person double occupancy, or $1,400 single occupancy (includes a $500 tax-deductible contribution to Cal Shakes). A deposit of $300/per person is required to confirm your reservation.

RSVP: Please call or email Interim Special Events Manager Zoe Westbrook at 510.809.3297 or ashlandtour@calshakes.org no later than Friday, May 15th.

Share
Posted in Ashland, Ask Philippa, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cal Shakes in Ashland with Philippa Kelly

Please join us for Cal Shakes in Ashland with Philippa Kelly, a three-day, Ashland 2014_4two-night theater adventure in Ashland, Oregon, from October 2–4, 2015. Immerse yourself in theater during a weekend at the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the company of Cal Shakes Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly.

We’ll stay at the elegant Ashland Springs Hotel; see three Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions (Much Ado About Nothing, Antony and Cleopatra, and Sweat); dine together at a top-flight local restaurant; and enjoy surprise guest appearances by Oregon Shakespeare Festival company members.

Philippa—an accomplished scholar and beloved Cal Shakes Grove Talk Speaker—will give us unparalleled entrée into the fascinating world of these productions. You’ll gain indelible memories in the good company of an intimate group of your fellow Cal Shakes supporters while simultaneously benefiting California Shakespeare Theater’s work on stage, in classrooms, and throughout communities.

Reservations are filling fast for this exceptional experience so please reply soon to secure your space. Contact Special Events Manager Zoe Westbrook at 510.809.3297 or ashlandtour@calshakes.org no later than Monday, May 15.

2014 Ashland guests; photo by Cal Shakes.
Share
Posted in Ashland, Special Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment