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.”


The Illustrated SHREW

As anyone who does any kind of educational work can tell you, kids can be awfully cute. And the emails, letters, and surveys we get here at Cal Shakes from conservatory campers, residency students, and Student Discovery Matinee attendees range from the sweet to the surprising, the inspiring to the painfully adorable.

The illustration to the right, from an Oakland middle schooler, falls firmly into all four categories. Click on the thumbnail to see the detail with which the student depicts Shana Cooper’s 2011 production of The Taming of the Shrew. Anyone who saw that show—as this student did as part of a Student Matinee audience—will instantly recognize the scenes and the actors! My personal favorite is the caption “MEAN MEETS CRAZY!” (And she obviously knows what she’s talking about when she squeezes in “Cal Shakes iss [sic] the place for go [sic] theatre!”)


SHREW Grove Talk Podcast

Philippa KellyDr. Kelly explains it all! Our resident dramaturg provides historical and theatrical perspective on Shana Cooper’s production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Music by production Sound Designer Jake Rodriguez. Podcast produced by Will McCandless.



Joan Mankin blogs from the set of SHREW

By Associate Artist Joan Mankin

Joan Mankin, Doug Hara, and Danny Scheie in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (2009)

Joan Mankin, Doug Hara, and Danny Scheie (who she rejoins in Shrew) in A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009); photo by Kevin Berne.

I’m so happy to be back working at the Bruns! I missed last summer, so being in the gorgeous new green room and dressing rooms is wonderful. To say nothing of being able to work with such a magnificent cast and crew for The Taming of the Shrew.  I remember when Shana Cooper was an artistic associate at Cal Shakes in 2002—my first year performing there. She’s come back as the director of this show, and her knowledge of outdoor performance and working at the Bruns Amphitheater is incredibly helpful in putting up this complex piece.

We all have so many costume changes. Last night (Sunday) was our first run-through with costumes, and we were all running around backstage trying to figure out what to put on next. I’m really interested to see how this piece works for the student matinees. I can’t imagine that the kids won’t love Kate and Petruchio wrestling. Right now my hardest task is figuring out how many different mustaches I can wear.



Notes from the SHREW Meet & Greet

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? —Dr. Seuss

The Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday was the first rehearsal day for The Taming of the Shrew, the final production of our 2011 season. And though the last show of the season is always steeped in bittersweet, this one has a sense of triumphant closure to put the anticipation level right over the top. As Cal Shakes Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone explained at the start of the traditional first-day meet-and-greet presentation, our 2000 production of Shrew (directed by Lillian Groag) was not just the start of Moscone’s very first season here—it was also the first show that his new Associate Artistic Director, Shana Cooper worked on.

Fast-forward to 2011, and a new Shrew is being created in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall, directed by none other than Cooper. It took some work to get her out here, said Moscone, but he kept a promise to Cooper that started the negotiations rolling: As he’d sworn to do when she left Cal Shakes in 2004, he want to see her MFA senior show at Yale, Ghost Sonata.

Love's Labour's Lost at OSF

Cooper's recent production of LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST at OSF; photo by T. Charles Erickson

“I wouldn’t be where I am today or be able to imagine worlds the way I do if it wasn’t for my time here,” said Cooper, fresh from a production of Love’s Labor’s Lost at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She went on to explain how she started 2011 with Romeo and Juliet at Yale Rep, and how she also considers Shrew to be a great love story as well—albeit from a far more adult perspective. In her Shrew, the extremities of violence in R & J‘s culture are replaced by extremes of seductive commercialism. Kate and Petruchio are untamed spirits, creatures of authenticity who stand out in sharp relief to the culture of Padua. And in this play, they begin an adult relationship, which is, by its very nature, a challenging journey.

SHREW set model by Scott Dougan; photo by Dave Nowakowski.

SHREW set model by Scott Dougan; photo by Dave Nowakowski.

Her challenge—and that of her cast and creative team—is to re-hear this play, so that they can give that fresh hearing to the audience. Cooper, herself, heard something in our current production of Candida, which she saw this past weekend, that director Moscone had not heard. In the final scene, Cooper heard Kate in the title character, particularly in this passage:

“Ask James’ mother and his three sisters what it cost to save James the trouble of doing anything but be strong and clever and happy. Ask ME what it costs to be James’s mother and three sisters and wife and mother to his children all in one. Ask Prossy and Maria how troublesome the house is even when we have no visitors to help us to slice the onions. Ask the tradesmen who want to worry James and spoil his beautiful sermons who it is that puts them off. When there is money to give, he gives it: when there is money to refuse, I refuse it. I build a castle of comfort and indulgence and love for him, and stand sentinel always to keep little vulgar cares out. I make him master here, though he does not know it, and could not tell you a moment ago how it came to be so.”

Bianca costume sketch by Katherine O'Neill

Bianca's costumes; sketch by costume designer Katherine O'Neill.

Cooper has no doubt that Shrew is a love story, one with a cost. Both Kate and Petruchio are changed by the end, but only Kate is asked to make her compromises public. Recalling a conversation she had with the freshly-married Erica Sullivan, who plays Katherine in our production, Cooper said, “This play is a testament to the great challenges and joys of marriage. At the end of the day, all we can do is turn to our partners and ask, ‘Is the cost worth it?,'” as the couples of Shrew all do at play’s end.

The world of the play, explained Cooper and set designer Scott Dougan, is one in which appearances are crucial. The whole thing is inspired by pop art, from Warhol and Lichtenstein to Jeff Koons and Banksy and beyond—beautiful colors and bright, graphic pieces that are seductive but ultimately prove themselves to be shallow, empty. “Part of what pop art is about,” said Dougan, “is that it’s not real. Everything is repeatable and sellable.” That is the world of Padua—Baptista’s Hollywood Hills-type home is decorated in the midcentury modern style and intersects with a garish billboard; Bianca (Alexandra Henrikson, currently buttoned-down to the nth degree as Prossy in Candida) is auctioned off using giant cardboard cutouts of herself, and rides something akin to a famous Koons creation into one of her lessons.

And this kind of world, said Cooper, “is what makes what happens between Kate and Petruchio even more miraculous.”