Hello there! My name’s Stefanie Kalem, and this silly blog is my idea. I started to title this first proper entry after the opening line of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” but stopped myself for fear of being unoriginal. Also, I’m not so sure how appropriate it is, though it comes quite natural to me to quote songs for titles to things, since, long ago and in a galaxy east-coast state far, far away, I was a professional music journalist. Since then, I’ve published calendar blurbs, cover stories, and self-involved essays creative nonfiction. But when I was younger, I was, you know … “into” drama.
My debut role was as the first pig in a kindergarten production of The Three Little Pigs; from there, my career took a short dip (playing the corpse in the window seat in Arsenic and Old Lace) before soaring to such star turns as Anita in West Side Story and Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, both summer camp productions.
But I grew up in suburban New York, where nearly every grade was lucky enough to have a kid among its ranks who’d appeared on Broadway (revivals of Annie, Oliver!, and The Sound of Music keep Long Island stage moms busy). So we did musicals, and nothing but. And as I got older, a shocking thing was discovered–guess who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket full of buckets?
So I was relegated to non-singing leads, like Cha-Cha in a high school production of Grease (which, having been mounted in 1987, featured a whole lot of terrifying, Dirty Dancing-inspired lifts and things). My senior year, my best friend and I tried to stage a guerilla production of Feiffer’s People, but got shut down because of “adult content.” It’s no wonder that my interest shifted away from theater and toward writing and music — the kind you listened to on vinyl and cassette, not the kind you sang with a handful of your classmates while dressed in period costume and dancing as one.
But now I find myself back in theater. But, thankfully not back in musical theater, although I eventually came around to rock operas and, actually, lots of folks down here in The Bullpen — the downstairs area of Cal Shakes’s West Berkeley office, which houses a mix of Marketing and Development folk — really like musicals. And I’m sure that that will come up again on this blog in the future, either by my hand or theirs. They’re going to pitch in, too, to give you a window into the off-season goings-on. Because, once the season ends, things change around here at Cal Shakes. There aren’t a whole lot of actors running around, for one thing, and I don’t have any glossy programs to produce (which takes up a large portion of my time between May and October). But our adult and youth classes our gearing up, as is our latest New Works/New Communities project, and planning for our big gala fundraiser in March, and a lot of other little things that are funny and fascinating and weird. As a bit of an outsider* in this world, I’m looking forward to finding out, along with you, how things run. And as a trained reporter, I’m also looking forward to bringing you juicy scoops from all over this company.
I can’t promise highs and lows of Shakespearean (or even Rolling Stonesean) proportions. But I’m curious as to what happens, and I hope you are, too.
* I’ve actually done a dramatic thing or two in my adult life … my friend Gabe and I wrote a play that was produced, twice, in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall (quite coincidentally), and I occasionally narrate shadow puppet shows with Teatro Penumbra.