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.


Personalize Our Onstage License Plate!

In our upcoming production of A Winter’s Tale, travelling storytellers spill out of a vehicle to invite you into the story. And since we marketing folks have got connections with the props department (who are so much friendlier than the DMV), director Patricia McGregor has asked us to ask you to decide what goes on the license plate!

The entry the company likes the best gets put on the plate—and earns its creator two tickets to see A Winter’s Tale, and a photo with the vehicle.

Post your entry—no more than seven characters long—by 5pm PST on Wednesday, September 18, one of the following four ways:

Patricia and the cast would like it to have a nod to Spunk, our 2012 production that got so many of them together for the first time.  Here are some ideas that have been thrown around already; maybe they’ll get you thinking.

diddly wah diddy
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A Winter’s Tale runs September 25–October 20, 2013.



Fanning the Flames of Victorian Desire

The language of the fanIn Victorian society—including that of Oscar Wilde and the dramatis personæ of Lady Windermere’s Fan— it was said that fans were used to communicate silently across a room. Some claim it was merely a myth made up by advertisers to sell fans, like what De Beers did with engagement rings and, less romantically, what Campbell’s did with green-bean casserole. Regardless, it’s a lovely idea, not unlike the language of flowers, a more ancient form of wordless-yet-poetical communication that also saw a rise in popularity during Queen Victoria’s reign.

Here are just a few unspoken sentiments one could convey with this useful accessory. When you take in our production of Lady Windermere’s Fan, see if you can find any hidden meanings in the actors’ fan choreography!

  • The fan placed near the heart: “You have won my love.”
  • Resting the fan on her lips: “I don’t trust you”
  • A closed fan touched to the right eye: “When may I be allowed to see you?”
  • Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: “Yes.”
  • Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: “No.”
  • The lady fans herself with her left hand: “Don’t flirt with that woman.”
  • Covering the left ear with an open fan: “Do not betray our secret.”
  • Fan opened wide: “Wait for me.”
  • Running her fingers through the fan’s ribs: “I want to talk to you.”

Read more about the Victorians’ secret language of fans—regardless of its actual, factual existence—at the following websites:


Get Wilde & Win

Oscar WildeI am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.

Ah, Oscar Wilde. Was he the cleverest man in all Christendom? You be the judge:

I can resist everything but temptation.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

The thing is, we’re pretty sure our Cal Shakes community has some masters of the aphorism in its ranks. Fancy yours a Wildean wit? We hereby challenge you to come up with your own Wilde-style witticism, for fun—and prizes.

HOW DO YOU  ENTER? Comment here; tweet to @calshakes with the hash tag #Wildean; write on our wall at; or email

HOW DO YOU WIN? Be clever! Extra points will be awarded to those entrants who:

  • Attribute their line to a particular character
  • Make the topic Cal Shakes
  • Make the topic one of the plays in our 2013 season

WHAT CAN YOU WIN? The ones we like will be published in our program for Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. The one we LOVE will earn its creator a pair of tickets to the show!

So slip into something fur or velvet, sharpen your walking stick, gaze longingly into the camera…and get that wit cracking! Contest ends July 17.

Lady Windermere’s Fan begins previews at Cal Shakes on August 14, and opens on August 17. Get your tickets today.


Season Artist Profile: Paloma McGregor

In the months leading up to the start of our 2013 Main Stage season, I am once again profiling the creative minds behind our productions. The final installment of the 2013 Season Artist Profile series introduces you to choreographer Paloma McGregor, whose movement work on last summer’s Spunk helped make it one of the liveliest productions in our nearly-40-year history. This season, she again teams up with her sister, director Patricia McGregor, for our production of A Winter’s Tale.

What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Paloma. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.

Stefanie Kalem: What are your most recent, current, and upcoming projects?

Paloma McGregor; photo courtesy of Angela's Pulse.

Paloma McGregor; photo courtesy of Angela's Pulse.

Paloma McGregor: I rounded out last year with two exciting projects: 

In September, I directed a devised performance work about food systems at UC Berkeley, developed during a five-week residency with three dozen participants from across the Bay Area. In October, I was invited to show a work-in-progress development of my latest Angela’s Pulse project, Building a Better Fishtrap, at St. Mark’s Church as part of Danspace Project’s DraftWork series. Fishtrap, based on my father’s fishing stories and my memory of building a small fishtrap as a child, is a performance work that explores water, memory, and home, as well as examines what we take with us, leave behind, and reclaim. I have been developing the piece for more than a year. In December, with support from the Jerome Foundation, I traveled home to St. Croix to do more research for the project, including spending two weeks as a fisherman’s apprentice. I will continue developing the work this year, involving Patricia in the text development and dramaturgy, and plan to premiere the work in the 2014–15 season.

Also this year, Patricia and I are excited to spend time in June, July, and August at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, developing a new musical together (our latest Angela’s Pulse endeavor). The piece is based on the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case on mixed-race marriage. At a time when marriage rights are once again at a historical crossroads, we will revisit this political precedent, and the young black woman and white man who had to choose a quiet life apart or the fight of their lives.

I joined NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics as a yearlong Artist in Residence, researching embodied memory, agency, and cultural reclamation.

And…I’m still dancing, collaborating as a performer two works that premiere this Spring: How to Lose a Mountain, choreographed by Cassie Meador, artistic director of Dance Exchange, and last days/first field, choreographed by Jill Sigman. 

SK: Had you any experience with designing movement for an outdoor stage before Spunk? How was Spunk/Cal Shakes different? What were the challenges or advantages specific to choreographing for our stage?

IndomitablePM: I grew up in a culture of public performance. In St. Croix, formal parades and informal “tramps” at Carnival time are an integral part of community life. My first major performance as a child dancer was in an outdoor theater, Island Center, the same stage that Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem performed on. Two summers ago, I brought those experiences to my work as choreographer for Indomitable: James Brown, a show Patricia directed for SummerStages in New York. The show involved—among other things—a soul train line that the audience could join. With Cal Shakes, I was able to build on these experiences with the added gift of time: I had weeks to work in the actual performance space, during which I could consider the setting, stage, scenic design, lighting, and costumes in my movement development.

SK: What’s your experience with Shakespeare—watching it, working with it—in general, and A Winter’s Tale in specific?

PM: My first introduction to Shakespeare was the witches’ chant from Macbeth—”Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”—which I used to recite when I was maybe 5 or 6, as though it were a nursery rhyme! Later, in high school, King Lear drew me in with its tragic reflections of love, justice, and betrayal. I saw A Winter’s Tale at Shakespeare in the Park a few years ago, and delighted in its magic and wit.

SK: What can you tell me about your thinking about the Cal Shakes production this early in the game? What role will movement play in the story? What other early thoughts can you share?

Aldo Billingslea, Omoze Idehenre, and Tyee Tilghman in Cal Shakes’ SPUNK; photo by Kevin Berne.

Aldo Billingslea, Omoze Idehenre, and Tyee Tilghman in Cal Shakes’ SPUNK; photo by Kevin Berne.

PM: I often say that characters reveal themselves in their bodies first, before they ever say a word. I am excited to develop and differentiate the two worlds of this piece—Sicilia and Bohemia—by distinguishing the ways their people walk, stand, sit, revel, fume … and dance.

SK: I understand you were a journalist for a time. What kind of writing did you do? I’m thinking of that famous quote (attributed to everyone from Martin Mull to Thelonious Monk to Laurie Anderson) that says “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”—but is there any way that journalism and dancing intersect? The skills you use, the perspective you need? Or do they engage completely different parts of your brain and body?

PM: I like to think of the brain as just another important part of the body. So being a dancer allows me to use my full body to hone the skills I practiced as a journalist: listening deeply and to everything, obsessing over details, noticing subtle shifts, adjusting to what the circumstances require, being efficient and creative, thinking and acting fast, and synthesizing multiple layers of information to make a legible statement. Good storytelling, whether in the body or on the page, necessitates patience, persistence, and grace.

SK: What was the first piece of dance or performing arts that you saw that inspired you to think, “I want to be a part of that”?

Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun

Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.

PM: As a young child in St. Croix, I saw Alvin Ailey perform. After the show, I took my autograph book back to have the dancers sign it. They were all so beautiful and kind, and I knew one day I wanted to be like them. Every time I sign a program for a child now, I think of that moment.

My first memory of going to see theater was Annie Get Your Gun, probably when I was 6 or 7. The lead character was so dynamic, funny, and brave, and I believe she shaped some of my early notions of what a strong, sassy woman was capable of—ideas that stick with me today. I remember that show when I think about the impact I want my work to have.

SK: What or who inspires you right now? Any particular writers, music, current events, people, et cetera?

PM: My mom and sister are always an inspiration when I think about working with purpose, integrity and compassion. My current project is tangling with objects and sites as containers of memory, so visual artists are inspiring me a great deal, particularly Theaster Gates and El Anatsui. The slow, powerful work that’s happening around developing, supporting, and perpetuating sustainable environmental practices inspires me each day.

 Secure the best seats at the best prices for A Winter’s Tale and the rest of the 2013 season: Subscribe today!


Season Artist Profile: Christopher Liam Moore

CLM in Ghost Light

Christopher Liam Moore and Bill Geisslinger in GHOST LIGHT at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; photo by Jenny Graham.

In the months leading up to the start of our 2013 Main Stage season, I am once again profiling the creative minds behind our productions. The March installment of the Season Artist Profile features Christopher Liam Moore, a frequent guest artist at Oregon Shakespeare Festival who may be familiar to you as the actor who played Jon in Ghost Light at OSF in 2011 and Berkeley Rep in 2012. The noted director makes his Cal Shakes debut this summer when he helms Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde.

What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Chris. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.

Stefanie Kalem: What are you working on right now? What projects have you done most recently, or do you have coming up?

Christopher Liam Moore: I am directing two shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this season. I am currently in rehearsals for A Streetcar Named Desire, which opens on mid-April. I start rehearsals next week for A Midsummer Night’s Dream which opens in mid-June. This winter, I directed Red Herring by Michael Hollinger at Artists Repin Portland.

Red Herring at Artists Rep

The cast of Moore's 2013 production of RED HERRING at Artists Rep; photo by Owen Carey.

SK: Is this your first time directing Wilde?

CLM: This will be my first time directing Mr. Wilde. I am thrilled and terrified.

SK: What do you like about directing for an outdoor stage?

CLM: I love the scale of it. I love that the stars are the roof. I love the intimacy and claustrophobia of a Victorian drawing room juxtaposed against the expansiveness of the hills and trees.

SK: How do you think working on our stage will be different from working with the OSF one?

CLM: In the Elizabethan Theatre at OSF, there is a massive two-story Tudor facade that is the backdrop for every production. It is a decidedly strong visual presence which can be wonderful and also challenging. I am very much looking forward to having the hills of Orinda lend their magic to Mr. Wilde’s world. I am looking forward to learning the space acoustically as well.

SK: Can you share with us any additional early thoughts on this production of Lady Windermere?

CLM: We have a tremendous cast. I know we will dive deep and create an emotionally fearless production which honors Mr. Wilde’s wit and sharp insight. Our early design meetings have been exciting. There will be some unexpected choices.

SK: Was there a piece of theater you saw when you were younger that made you think, “I want to be a part of this”?

Original production of Streetcar

Elia Kazan's original Broadway production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, starring Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Jessica Tandy.

CLM: Yes, I saw Midsummer at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts when I was in high school. I had never seen Shakespeare done with such wide-open imagination.

SK: What inspires you right now? Any particular theater artist, music, film, television, visual art, politics?

CLM: Two people: my husband, Bill Rauch, the artistic director at OSF, for always putting his heart into the work and inspiring me to do the same; and Jon Moscone, for being brave and daring me to be so, too

SK: And lastly, if you could have directed or acted in any production in history, what would it be?

CLM: Right now, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the rehearsal process for the original production of Streetcar.


Season Artist Profile: Richard Montoya

In the months leading up to our 2013 Main Stage season, I will once again be profiling the fertile minds behind the season’s productions—American Night, Romeo and Juliet, Lady Windermere’s Fan, and A Winter’s Tale—in our e-newsletters. For the inaugural installment of the year, I spoke with Richard Montoya, founding member of the legendary performance trio known as Culture Clash, which began in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1984. He collaborated with them and with Jo Bonney to write American Night: The Ballad of Juan José, developed as part of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “American Revolutions” program (the same program that developed Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone’s Ghost Light). When it ran at OSF, it resulted in their first-ever extension performances; when it opens our 2013 season in May, it will only be its fifth-ever production.

What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Richard. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.

Stefanie Kalem: When and how were you attracted to writing for performance, with Culture Clash and as a solo writer? Did you have a formative experience with theater as a kid, or did it happen more organically? 

Richard Montoya by Jenny Graham - OSF

Richard Montoya; photo by Jenny Graham - OSF.

Richard Montoya: It happened organically as a child—my folks were involved with the United Farm Workers Union and close to César Chávez, and there was a Farm Workers’ theater at that time that was used as a great tool for organizing workers, pulling them directly from the fields to join a fledgling union. This was done with song and earthy humor and satire and absurd comedia styles; all of that is very much in my tool box to this day—theater for a purpose beyond entertaining. I like entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but the theater of those times was urgent: The sheriff and the Teamsters could be rolling down the street so there was that need to be nimble, mobile, swift—make your point, get a laugh, sing a song, and move on. This is American Night

SK: What made you first decide to sit down and write a play on your own, without your regular collaborators?

RM: I started writing solo out of need. I was tired of missing deadlines or getting three schedules together. Writing for one is hard enough; three crazy guys through the years, near impossible. Like in a boy band, there are dynamics—we started out as a committed collective like the Cheese Board in Berkeley but found eventually that one guy was better at sauce, another guy could make the dough. And so I enjoyed the hours and solitude and relative peace of writing solo. But it really took flight in the year following 9/11. We were mid-commission at Arena Stage with Molly Smith (for Anthems: Culture Clash in the District) and the tragedy happens; six days after September 11, 2001, I am on a plane to DC to finish the commission which completely changed at that moment. I sat at LAX with a grief counselor on his way to walk a family through the Pentagon. We talked for 11 hours nonstop at the airport bar. I wrote feverishly—I was never a super patriotic person, but when the counselor took his American flag lapel pin off his jacket and put it on mine and told me I was a war correspondent with a greater responsibility, my life changed: I didn’t suddenly go around saluting flags but I knew what is what like to be a writer in America. And I wasn’t in the boy band anymore. Anthems: Culture Clash in the District was my first solo outing.

American Night at Yale Rep by T. Charles Erickson

The cast of AMERICAN NIGHT at Yale Rep; photo by T. Charles Erickson.

SK: How will the American Night that Cal Shakes produces differ from the original production at OSF? Or more recent productions at Yale Rep and elsewhere?

RM: It is always very fun and essential to write specifics for a region, I believe. The Bay Area version for Cal Shakes is already a riot for me—I know, or I like to think I know the East Bay fairly well. The difference between LA and the Bay is vast, and so is New Haven; Orinda sounds very Spanish to me and romantic and I love all that confusion and clashing of Alta-California and how un-Spanish Walnut Creek and Dublin sound!

I also relish the things that bind us; our country is getting smaller. I remember a “thank you” note from a lovely couple following a show at Yale Rep, and it said come visit us anytime in Newtown CT. It tears me up to look at it now but it draws me in at the same time and allows me to feel that tragedy is ever more present, not just a far-off news item and pundits yelling on CNN. I think a lot of Americans felt that way. And so this huge country can be a small town, too.

These are the things I think that are difficult for a recently arrived immigrant to feel and know, but I want our American Night hero Juan José to know that, while America can be a violent place, here—as is Mexico—there are more reasons to stay and become a citizen and contribute and make a place better as our grandparents and those before them did.

My hardest job sometimes is explaining to my Salvadoran house keeper (yes, I have one, too!) that after the Korean Conflict my dad and his comrades took their GI Bills and went to art school at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and that action changed our family’s life. I am still riding the wind from that decision. And that a country does that for those who serve—not a bad idea, my housekeeper thinks!

SK: What’d the latest on your film directorial debut, SF Noir? And how did it come to pass that you’d direct a film adaptation of Water & Power?

RM: I participated in four films in 2012: My own picture Water & Power, based on my play of the same name; Chavez with Mexican director Diego Luna about the life of my childhood hero; The Other Barrio, based on a short story from Alejandro Murgilla, the Poet Laureate of SF; and something else I film this week in LA. W&P is my baby and I am super proud of it—it took years of Sundance Lab time, which I am grateful for, and it will be ready in early spring 2013.

SK: What inspires you right now? Any particular music, current events, people, et cetera?

RM: Work inspires me. I have four play script deadlines this week and I am on vacation! Campo Santo inspires me and it’s why I am writing a very intimate new work for them inspired by the life and loss of their guiding spirit, Luis Saguar. I was riding in the back of a shuttle van a few months back, traipsing thru the Santa Cruz mountains near Watsonville with Lynn Nottage and Amy Freed, and I thought, man these chicks inspire me! We’re all conspiring on a play about food for your old friends at Berkeley Rep and the Ground Floor Project; that whole thing just had me buzzing for months, and I am thinking jeez, I am writing a play with Lynn and she is curious about me and it’s just a bunch of nerds bouncing around the organic farms and migrant camps of NorCal doing our work. Also on the bus was a newcomer named Octavio Solis, but I spent my time with the ladies! They inspire to no end…

SK: If you could have written any play in history, what do you wish it could have been?

RM: American Night put me in touch with a deep regard for history—American history, sure, but actually all things old. What did West Texas in 1918 really look like, smell like, feel like? I have to drive there and feel it and sit with it and stand with it and ask permission to use it; I stand at graves and say little prayers or sing songs or leave bottles of cold Coca-Cola and this is my way of thanking and borrowing. What I often drive away with is my mind loaded with richness and an understanding that the early America was a multicultural camp with characters armed to the teeth… Oh, westward ho, indeed, carefully and swift as night.

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Associate Artist Roundup: Scrooge, the Circus, and a Baby

It’s time for our annual shout-out to the theatrical antics our talented Associate Artist company is up to during the winter months.

Dan Hiatt as Jacob Marley

Scrooge (Richard Farrell) is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Dan Hiatt) in San Jose Rep's A CHRISTMAS CAROL; photo by Kevin Berne.

L. Peter Callender is in the midst of directing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which opens January 26 at his African-American Shakespeare Company. Then, in February, he will be headed to Virginia Stage Company to play Simon in The Whipping Man, directed by Marin Theatre Company’s Jasson Minadakis.

Ron Campbell is still playing the King of the Clowns in Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza; the show will be performed January and February at the Royal Albert Hall in London before heading to Madrid, Bilbao, Moscow, and Paris. Back here at home, he’ll be doing readings of Yorick’s Last Laugh, a one-man-show written for him by Mark Leiren-Young.

Nancy Carlin just directed Honk!, Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s holiday show. She’ll be teaching acting at UC Santa Cruz this winter, and will appear, alongside fellow Associate Artist Danny Scheie, in their groundbreaking production of Peer Gynt, as part of their Guest Artist program.

James Carpenter is, of course, in his seventh year as Scrooge in A.C.T.’S A Christmas Carol, directed by fellow Associate Artist Domenique Lozano and featuring its usual slew of Cal Shakes and Bay Area favorites; Carol runs through December 24. Carpenter will play Pozzo in Waiting for Godot at Marin Theatre Company, and then on to as-yet-to-be-determined roles in Berkeley Rep’s Pericles.

Dan Hiatt is currently playing Jacob Marley and others in San Jose Rep’s A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Rick Lombardo, running through December 23. In January he starts rehearsals for Old Wicked Songs at Center Rep in Walnut Creek, directed by Jessica Heidt; it opens in February. From there, Hiatt goes straight into rehearsals for Max Frisch’s The Arsonists at the Aurora, directed by Mark Jackson.

Taming of the Shrew at OSF

Nell Geisslinger as Kate in OSF's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, with costumes designed by Meg Neville.

Jennifer King will direct The Bandaged Place for Aurora Theatre’s Global Age Project in February; from there she’ll direct The Sound Of Music for Napa Valley Conservatory Theater.  She continues to head the Theater Program at Napa Valley College, where she founded Shakespeare Napa Valley.

Joan Mankin has been keeping busy teaching physical comedy at A.C.T. Studio; she’s now directing Crackpot Crones for Stage Werx Theatre, running December 15–30.

Meg Neville will design costumes for a rockabilly-inspired The Taming of the Shrew at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed by David Ivers, opening in February; Pericles at Berkeley Rep, directed by Mark Wing Davey, opening in April; Krispy Kritters at Cutting Ball, directed by Rob Melrose, opening in May; and our own Lady Windermere’s Fan, directed by Christopher Liam Moore, opening in August.

Danny Scheie will be appearing in Troublemaker at Berkeley Rep, written by Dan le Franc and directed by Lila Neugebauer; it opens in January.  As mentioned above, he’ll be playing Peer Gynt (the elder) in UCSC’s multidisciplinary production, directed by Kimberly Jannarone. He is also directing a touring production of Henry V for Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and then directing playwright and actor Colman Domingo’s new play Wild with Happy at TheatreWorks for a June run; it is fresh from a run at the Public in New York (and Cal Shakes alumnus Domingo can be seen onscreen in the first scene of Lincoln).

And finally, Susannah Schulman has, as she puts it, “only one event to report for the upcoming few months, and that is that I’m gonna have a baby! A boy, due January 8. The proud father is another Cal Shakes alum, my husband Reg Rogers.”


A Haunted HAMLET

Blithe Spirit has been such a witty whirlwind that things got a little behind in the Hamlet department around here. As a result, here’s a belated combo blog, featuring impressions from a lunch the marketing department had with director Liesl Tommy, notes from the first rehearsal day Meet & Greet and table reading, and photos from the Meet & Greet. Notes by Director of Marketing Janet Magleby; blog by Publications Manager Stefanie Kalem; photos by Marketing Intern Marivie Koch (view the full set here).

Liesl Tommy grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, with her brother, Kurt (yes, both of them are named after characters in The Sound of Music). She has lost many people in her life—one roughly every ten years—and therefore her ancestors and their spirits are of crucial importance to the director. “I don’t know if I’ll ever stop exploring the way the dead and their spirits effect my thinking,” she told us.  “Even in the production Party People (the story of the Black Panther Party, produced earlier this year at Oregon Shakespeare Festival —ed.) I changed a character—made him dead.”

Clint, Liesl, Philippa

Clint Ramos, Liesl Tommy, and Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly on he first day of rehearsal.

This is the door through which Tommy, her set and costume designer (and frequent collaborator) Clint Ramos, and the rest of the Hamlet team is entering the venerated tale of Hamlet: as if entering a haunted version of Shakespeare’s world, a place where the dead pile up, wherein being a survivor is a position of dubious triumph. Tommy and Ramos took early inspiration from a New York Times photo spread on the abandoned homes of busted Mexican drug lords, then places like Saddam Hussein’s palace and Mike Tyson’s mansion. “We decided the story needed to happen on this emotional level,” said Ramos on the first day of rehearsal. “The set needed to contain violence, confusion, and solitude. We looked at places that were post power, pre-ruin. This is a place that was not allowed to die.” Ramos’ clothes for this production are modern, but not contemporary: Slim suits, long dresses, a palette of grays, blacks, and blues with shots of color. And Jake Rodriguez’s soundtrack will include R&B ballads—music that delivers pure emotion.

LeRoy, Tommy, Kitchens

LeRoy McClain, Liesl Tommy, and Jessica Kitchens (Rosencrantz, back to camera) on the first day of rehearsal.

Hamlet is played by LeRoy McClain, who Tommy has also worked with before, and of whom she says, “I trust him with my life.” In a New York restaurant, she told us, they sat and talked about Hamlet all day—through three consecutive meals. McClain’s first-day script-reading was almost completely from memory, eyes closed but tones smoking with wide-open anger; Tommy’s idea of the title character is poetic and romantic, sad and violent, and—like the empty pool that takes up much of Ramos’ set—unsatisfied. “I love everything to do with water.” said Tommy. “Water is romantic, dangerous, and beautiful.” The pool, she says, is “in a state of unfulfilled function and  purpose, like Hamlet himself.”

“We are going to have an adventure together,” said Tommy that first day of rehearsal. And indeed, we all left the room that day with a combination of anticipatory chills and fevered fascination with this stellar cast and with Tommy’s unique, provocative vision.

Hamlet plays September 19 through October 14 at the stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater. Get your tickets today.


The BLITHE SPIRIT Cocktail Contest

Noel Coward with cocktail

No, it doesn't have to be a martini: Coward with cocktail.

“Anybody can write books, but it takes an artist to make a dry martini that’s dry enough.” — Blithe Spirit

As spirited comedies go, the work of Noël Coward tends to take the boozy cake. The current Cal Shakes script for Blithe Spirit, which will grace our stage August 8–September 2, contains seven uses of the word “martini” (all in speech), ten of the word “cocktail” (eight in stage directions, two in speech), and an intoxicating 18 uses of the word “drink” (nine in speech, nine in stage directions). So it is only proper that we expand our 2012 cocktail contest series beyond the borders of a single event for Blithe Spirit—this contest asks you to think outside of the martini glass and invent a sophisticated cocktail for a chance to see your recipe published in the show program.

Simply submit your Blithe-inspired alcoholic beverage no later than Tuesday, July 17 at 10am, one of these ways: