Click on the arrow below to listen to a podcast of a pre-performance Lady Windermere’s Fan Grove Talk, presented by Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Lady Windermere’s Fan runs through September 8, 2013.
Dramaturgy Intern Clio McConnell blogs from inside the Lady Windermere’s Fan rehearsal room.
Before actually landing one’s dream job in the real world, the average college student looks upon that prospect as a sort of utopian ideal: Naturally, one’s dream job involves spending all day doing something one enjoys and is good at. If one is lucky, of course, this utopia will eventually become reality.
By that standard, hanging out at Cal Shakes this summer has been a really lucky break for me. The more time I spend in the rehearsal room for Lady Windermere’s Fan, the harder it is to imagine a better workplace. From the first read-through it has been clear that this early Oscar Wilde play is seriously complex, with a lot of complicated relationships and moral quandaries. But I assumed that director Christopher Liam Moore would have a vision to dive into straightaway—to my untrained mind, that is what a director does. Of course, Chris had a thoroughly better idea about how to approach directing.
On the first day of rehearsal he spoke to a huge group of actors, designers, production crew, Cal Shakes staff, and donors, essentially saying to us: “I could tell you what I think this play is about. But instead, I’m going to wait for these actors to teach me what it’s about.” And from then on, the process of Lady Windermere’s Fan has been a great big learning experience—for everyone, I think (directors, actors, stage managers, dramaturg), but especially for me.
Indeed, we have all learned (or been reminded of) a fair amount about Oscar Wilde and his London. We know about the peerage system—a Duke is higher than a Lord, for anyone who was wondering—and about how to properly convey one’s feelings with a certain wave of a fan. We know about 1870s fashion and train schedules and Victorian gentlemen’s clubs. Hopefully all of these fascinating minutiae will afford lessons that the audience can learn from their seats. But I have learned one thing above all that will not (and should not!) manifest in the final production: that this show has had a head-spinning trajectory of evolution.
After the first day of work, I remember chatting with one of the actors and telling her how great her scene had looked (because it really had been lovely). She grimaced, saying, “No, no—let’s just forget about today.” This has been the overwhelming attitude of everyone involved: We can always know more and we can always change things.
So, my utopian ideal of working in the theater is largely based on a dream to work with intelligent people. As far as that wish goes, I think I have fallen in with the right crowd, because the Lady Windermere’s Fan rehearsal room is pervaded by an air of intelligent wit—an air, I think, which Mr. Wilde would have much appreciated.
Lady Windermere’s Fan, directed by Christopher Liam Moore, is on stage at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda from August 14 to September 8.
Volunteer Zoe Halsne attended the Inside Scoop for Lady Windermere’s Fan and submitted this review about the event.
On Monday, July 29, I attended my first-ever Cal Shakes Inside Scoop—for Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan—at the Orinda Public Library. In addition to this event, I confess I did not know much about the play itself. However, I quickly became enthused about it after chatting to longtime California Shakespeare Theater-goer, Joan. She told me that, despite the unusually long line for the ice cream, she was looking forward to Lady Windermere’s Fan, especially as a feminist.
Indeed, after the Q&A, it was clear the mere 24 hours of Lady Windermere’s life covered in the play portrays a significant change in a young woman, while simultaneously providing comedic elements. It produces a sense of independence and disillusionment and, despite my disappointing lack of Oscar Wilde exposure in high school, I could relate the description of the themes of the play to other stories like Zora Neale Hurston’s bildungsroman novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Or, as was mentioned during the Q&A, there are even similarities between the struggles of Hamlet and those of Lady Windermere.
It was also interesting just to hear how this particular production was put together. Emily Kitchens, who plays Lady Windermere, actually auditioned for the role over video while she was with her mother in Georgia. She went on to describe her personal process for dissecting the script including determining the distinctions between producing a sense of realism versus a sense of melodrama. Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone also mentioned the additional difficulties with speaking with 19th-century British mannerisms.
One audience member asked why the production wasn’t adapted to another time period, like the theater often does with Shakespeare plays. Moscone said it would be possible to set the play in decades like the 1950s (and he had even seen a 1930s version once) but for several reasons they decided not to—one of which is the love for the costumes. “You can flirt like nobody’s business,” Set Designer Annie Smart said, pointing out the enormous poof the skirt had on the costume’s backside.
Though the production is definitely not set in the 21st or even the 20th century, Smart admitted that the costumes are not entirely designed based on when the play originally takes place, for good reason. The true attire of the play’s age would require a tiny waist of about 17 inches, and actors have an understandable need for access to their diaphragm.
Besides a mannequin sporting one of the female costumes from the production, there was also a model of the stage’s set design on display in the front of the auditorium. Smart described how even something as simple as a living room was difficult to replicate for this specific stage, especially when there was a need for several niches within the set, in order for the characters to be able to share secrets without other onstage characters “hearing” those secrets.
I felt informed and excited after hearing the background of Lady Windermere’s Fan directly from the some of the creative team and cast as well as other theater enthusiasts. It sounds like a fantastic production of a universal story (though with rather fixed societal standards), and I can’t wait to see it! Lady Windermere’s Fan, directed by Christopher Liam Moore, is on stage from August 14 to September 8. The next Inside Scoop is for A Winter’s Tale on September 9.
Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. Lady Windermere’s Fan runs August 14–September 8, 2013.
Lady Windermere’s Fan has an intriguing subtitle: A Play About a Good Woman. Written in 1892, this was one of Wilde’s earlier plays, a “drama” with farcical undertones, as distinct from the more broadly farcical The Importance of Being Ernest that would emerge a few years later. The entirety of Lady Windermere’s Fan takes place over a single day, which happens to be the protagonist’s 21st birthday. “I’m of age today,” she tells Lord Darlington, and we see her, over this 24-hour period, go through what Jonathan Moscone described at our Inside Scoop as “24 YEARS of experience.” Among other things, she comes to question what a “good woman” actually is in this fascinating drama that combines mystery, comedy, and a measure of malignity.
Are you going to see our production of Lady Windermere’s Fan? Do you have questions or comments about the production’s cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.
In 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:
I 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 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.
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.
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”?
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.