First actor blog of the season! Or, insights from inside the warehouse

What follows is our first actor blog of 2009. This one is by Thomas Azar, who plays Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, currently in rehearsals. Tom also portrayed Valentine and Curio in 2008’s
Twelfth Night (yes, he was one of the guys in the purple pants), and was in the Ensemble of 2007’s Richard III.

Since rehearsals for Romeo & Juliet have been under way for about two weeks now, it seems kind of silly to try to start from the beginning. However, it does seem necessary to catch you, dear readers, up on what’s been happening inside the big warehouse that is the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall. Here are some interesting tidbits from the past two weeks:

– This R&J is fast and violent. Jonathan Moscone, the director, has more than once referred to the idea that the characters are trying to catch up to the plot. The events of the play happen in very quick succession, and this production seems to heighten that even more, to the point where, as characters, we are trying our best not to drown in the misery that can (and will) envelop Verona.

– For those of you wondering, yes, it is a “modern-day” adaptation, but don’t let that turn off the purists. Jonathan is very true to the heart of Shakespeare’s words. As a matter of fact, as we read through the scenes for the first time, he asked us not only “what are you saying?,” but just as (if not more) importantly, “why?”. These are real people with real problems, and Jonathan does not let anyone forget that.

– The party where our star-crossed lovers meet has a kicking dance sequence. (Kickin’ as in high-energy and fierce, not kicking as in can-can. -ed) I think Mary Beth Cavanaugh, the dance choreographer, has done an awesome job of creating a grungy/swingy feel. And it’s really fun to do the “Moscone jump.”

– Vespas are deceptively fast little buggers, especially when you have no prior experience driving one.

– This cast is a marvelous ensemble. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of them before, most right here at Cal Shakes. And those that I haven’t worked with before are most likely not new to you, especially if you’ve attended any Bay Area theater in the past decade. Even though we’re still a couple of weeks out from opening, one can already get caught up in watching the actors work on their scenes. These guys and gals are truly a talented bunch.

So, you are more or less up-to-speed with Romeo & Juliet rehearsals. Keep your eyes peeled for further insights from inside the warehouse. (And for even more backstage lowdown, come to the free Inside Scoop tonight at the Orinda Library, for a panel discussion and Q&A with director Moscone, dramaturg Philippa Kelly, and actors Alex Morf and Sarah Nealis—Romeo and Juliet, respectively.)

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