Cal Shakes at the Theatre Bay Area 2014 Awards

It was a wonderful 40th Anniversary surprise to wake up on Tuesday and find that shows from Cal Shakes’ 2014 Season had received accolades at the Theatre Bay Area Awards, held Monday night in San Francisco. While 3 of our 4 main stage shows had cast or staff nominated for awards, we emerged with five awards to five different actors and creative staff:

James Carpenter as Alfred Doolittle. Photo by Jay Yamada.

James Carpenter won “Best Featured Male Actor in a Play” for his role as Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion. (Read an interview with James Carpenter about his role in Pygmalion, including how he rehearsed.)

Danny Scheie won “Best Principal Male Actor in a Play” for his role as the Dromios in The Comedy of Errors.

Andre Pluess won “Best Sound Design” for The Comedy of Errors.

Beaver Bauer won “Best Costume Design” for The Comedy of Errors. (Read our interview with Bauer about her inspiration for the Comedy costume design).

Danny Scheie and Adrian Danzig in The Comedy of Errors. Cal Shakes' Comedy of Errors won awards for direction (Aaron Posner), costumes (Beaver Bauer), sound design (Andre Pluess) and lead actor (Danny Scheie).

Aaron Posner, who won “Outstanding Direction of a Play” for directing The Comedy of Errors.

And as a bonus, our PR and Marketing Manager Marilyn Langbehn won an award for “Outstanding Direction of a Play” for directing August: Osage County at Contra Costa Civic Theater.

 

Congratulations to all the wonderful theater-makers in the Bay Area for coming together and making such wonderful work. (69 awards were given last night). And thanks to all our staff for such a great 40th Anniversary Season! We can’t wait to see what fun 2015 will bring.

 

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Our Story Part One: The John Hinkel Park Years

For our 40th Anniversary, Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly has penned a four-part series on the history of California Shakespeare Theater. Each piece appears in our playbill before arriving on the blog–four articles for each of our four summer shows. Part one of the series originally appeared in the program for A Raisin in the Sun.

By Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly

By the 1970s, Berkeley had established itself at the heart of the counterculture, a multifaceted outgrowth of the Beat movement (“cool jazz,” “beatitude,” anti-materialism, anti-institutionalism) in which the children of post-war Americans sought to express their independence. These young people rejected their parents’ drive for security and prosperity, forming collectives and movements of their own that pushed for environmental reform, sexual freedom, and a stop to the Vietnam War. There were profound engagements with non-Judeo-Christian beliefs, including Buddhism, the EST self-realization movement, and the Hare Krishnas; the hedonism led by Timothy O’Leary, a direct outgrowth of drug-taking; and the music of Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, Janice Joplin and the Woodstock Festival, iconic political embodiments of youthful idealism.

Howard Swain and Annette Bening in "All’s Well That Ends Well," 1983

The California Shakespeare Theater had its origins in this culture. It began as a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts who wanted to stage performances. Led by Peter Fisher, graduate student and musician, the group originally met as the ”Emeryville Shakespeare Company,” gathering in a shed in Emeryville, with an aim to stage only Shakespeare, leaving other playwrights to other newly-established theater companies like the Berkeley Repertory Theater and the American Conservatory Theater. Every decision was to be arrived at, where possible, through a non-hierarchical governing structure—what plays to perform, in what order, who to direct, and what budgets could be allocated. Each director, once selected and given a budget, had the freedom to cast and staff the show at will.

James Carpenter as Hal and Michael McShane as Falstaff in "Henry IV, Part 1," 1987.

In 1974 the company pooled funds to establish a season budget of $3000, moving to the ready-made amphitheater provided by Berkeley’s John Hinkel Park. They re-named themselves the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival. The park was shaded by a glorious oak tree, and at an early performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Puck swung onto the stage from one of its branches. Bay trees scented the amphitheater, and old, broken-down redwood benches, probably dating back to the 1930s, were built into its tiers. Once the City of Berkeley had replaced the benches with gravel, audiences camped along the tiers, making themselves comfortable on cushions and lawn chairs, often arriving very early—through either the bottom or the top of the park—to secure their favorite spots. Many brought sleeping bags so that when the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped, they were able to stretch out, warm and snug, with a picnic and a bottle of wine. (In the first few seasons the company members also made a big pot of stew for each performance, which was offered to the audience at intermission.) Two dank, dark old toilets were available for use at the perimeter of the audience area, later to be upgraded via the rental of porta-potties. Over time the electricity was upgraded and, under the supervision of production manager Michael Cook, lighting towers were constructed to allow full stage lighting. Elaborate sets were designed for the space in front of what is now left of the old stone fireplace. From 1974 to 1976 the company didn’t sell tickets or charge admission, suggesting instead a donation of $2.00 per show. Effective publicity consisted of parking old cars topped with large painted signs at strategic locations in Berkeley and near Hinkel Park. The cars had to be moved from time to time, but the advertising system was effective. By the end of the first season, the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival had become very successful, filling to capacity and scoring reviews in local papers and even one in the highly prized international journal, Shakespeare Quarterly. Company members were able to reimburse themselves for their investment, also setting aside a small sum to bankroll a winter production of All’s Well That Ends Well and to start up the next season. The collective awarded every participant—from directors to the children who were fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest—exactly $1.00 for each performance. Those who were there for every performance would receive a total compensation of $41.00 for the season.

Kandis Chappell as Witch, Julian Lopez-Morillas as Macbeth, and Howard Swain as Witch in "Macbeth," 1983.

This system of collective governance worked well, but after its third season the board began contemplating ways to expand, and members discussed the possibility of appointing an Artistic Director. In 1979, against some objections, the collective appointed its first Artistic Director, George Kovach. It also elected its first Board of Directors, which included Bernard Taper, journalism professor at UC Berkeley and one of the original “Monuments Men” who tracked down works of art pillaged by the Nazis and restored them to their rightful owners.

Louis Lotorto and Dakin Matthews in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," 1985.

From the appointment of Kovach, the Festival went through four artistic directors, two of whom—in the grand tradition of Shakespeare’s Lear, Coriolanus, Prospero, Richard II, Titus Andronicus, Timon of Athens, the Thane of Cawdor, and Macbeth— were banished by collective command. The company’s second Artistic Director, a brilliantly resourceful actor/manager named Dakin Matthews, instituted season concepts, as well as company “sharers,” an early version of today’s Associate Artist structure. Under Matthews’ five-year tenure (1983–1987) the Festival produced four plays in repertory every summer, and actress Lura Dolas was recruited to run a Summer Conservatory. During this period, however, the company outgrew its premises, prospective audience members were being turned away, and the neighbors were complaining about noise and parking. Audience members often came out after a performance to find their tires slashed, and one irate man was caught taking an axe to the stage. Even after an 11pm curfew was instituted to mollify the neighbors, the unrest continued, and a new location was clearly on the menu. But more about this in next program’s article, where we look at Artistic Director Michael Addison who led the company through its search for new premises, culminating in Professor Hugh Richmond’s near-arrest and an eventual move to the Bruns.

Lura Dolas as Rebecca and Annette Bening as Rowena in "Ivanhoe," 1983

Many remarkable artists joined the Festival in the early days, including Annette Bening, Robin Goodrin Nordli, Howard Swain, Nancy Carlin (who continues as an Associate Artist with the company today), Lura Dolas, Richard E.T. White, and Julian López-Morillas. The collective spirit required everyone to pitch in to make ends meet, and Dolas, for example, recalls her multiple roles on and off-stage—administrative work, publicity, directing, script cutting, driving the van from venue to venue, and, in the off-season, running a teaching conservatory. Jim Carpenter, lacking a beard, was obliged to carefully cut the hair of the company mascot dog for a performance of The Comedy of Errors (opening on June 28, 2014, hopefully, though, with no need to coif Jonathan’s Chihuahua, Lucy). The company members’ resourcefulness in these early days puts me very much in mind of how Shakespeare and his actors must have worked. They, too, made and hauled their own props, and they, too, had neighbors who didn’t want them (forcibly shut down at one point, Shakespeare and his troupe had to break down their theater and carry its parts across the Thames in the middle of the night.) “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves…” Four hundred years apart, the members of regional theater companies are living proof of this.

Learn more about California Shakespeare Theater, and support our work, by clicking here.

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Rave “Raisin” Review Roundup

Our 40th Anniversary Summer Season has only just begun, and the buzz has been overwhelming. Since Opening Night on May 24, reviews for A Raisin in the Sun have been praising the stellar cast and inventive production.

Karen D’Souza, in her review in the San Jose Mercury News, called Cal Shakes’ Raisin a “resonant revival” that “taps into the timelessness of the characters, the way their struggles to keep their heads above water echo our own.”  D’Souza praised the “powerhouse actresses” that portray the three women. “Ryan Nicole Peters etches Lena’s daughter-in-law Ruth with great sensitivity,” wrote D’Souza. “Walter Younger’s wife doesn’t usually get a chance to speak her mind but Peters colors her glances with so much exhaustion and regret that you always feel the impact of her presence. Peters also shows us how easily Ruth blossoms in a rare moment of kindness from her husband.” Continue reading

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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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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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