Titus Wears Titus

Jim Carpenter swung by the office today, to finally pick up the Titus Andronicus T-shirt that bears his likeness. So, of course, we took pictures. We’re not sure quite yet what we’ll do with them (possibly use them as part of our Theater Store online sales). But for now, they can at least make you guys laugh. Photos of James Carpenter by Jamie Buschbaum. Photo on shirt by Kevin Berne.

Titus makes a Titus face

 

Titus cracks a smileHappy Titus

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The Bloodshed Continues for the Cast of TITUS ANDRONICUS

TITUS ANDRONICUS cast members Chad Deverman, David Mendelsohn, and Galen Murphy-Hoffman donate blood for the Red Cross.

In light of the closing of Titus Andronicus, cast members Chad Deverman, David Mendelsohn, and Galen Murphy-Hoffman—who, together, played Tamora’s brutal Goth songs—joined crew members Dallas Kane and Sam Schwemberger in donating blood to the American Red Cross. Being in a play is the perfect opportunity to get your cast to give back to the community in some way. Deverman thought that, having spent so much time onstage as Demetrius, “shedding other people’s blood, it was only fitting that I shed a little of my own offstage. So I invited the cast and crew to come give blood with me; the American Red Cross center in Oakland was the perfect place. ”

“The staff was great and made us feel totally comfortable through the whole process,” continued Deverman. “Donating is absurdly easy and makes an incredible difference. Plus, you get free Girl Scout cookies afterward. Really, what could be better? I would encourage anyone reading this to take an hour and go donate.”

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Internpalooza 2011!

By Sloane Henry, Artistic Learning intern

Internpalooza delivered on everything its name promised. Lots of interns. Lots of paloozing. The only things more gorgeous than the weather were the bright and smiley faces of eager young interns who, of course, always look that happy when asked to get up at 7am to hear lectures all day.

audition workshop

But seriously, I enjoyed listening to all of our guest speakers at this second annual event, which Cal Shakes organized as a professional development opportunity for its own interns as well as those from Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Rep, Berkeley Rep, and Livermore Shakespeare. This year’s event took place at our own Bruns Amphitheater and featured presentations from experts in casting, fundraising, and other areas of the theater world.

interns in the groveThe highlight of my day was watching a staged reading of Toil and/or Trouble. The author, Lauren Gunderson, was present along with the director, Josh Costello. The cast included Michael Barrett Austin, who I had seen just days earlier in the Hapgood Theatre’s Imaginary Love. The show was a hilarious and modern take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The language used in the show bounced between very modern slang like “totes” to traditional original Shakespearean text. It was really incredible to be able to ask the author about her process and choices in the piece while examining the purpose and techniques for staging and performing a new work. As the actor who played Adam (Banquo/Macduff) said: “We cannot walk and talk at the same time. We have to choose one or the other.” The actors communicated the script beautifully despite the hassle of having a script in their hand.

interns tweeting in the green roomThe takeaway points from the staged reading were: 1. You don’t have to justify anything. “Just because” is good enough. 2. Staged readings are a great way to get calls for jobs in full productions for actors. 3. Don’t fall into the trap of giving the actors too much blocking. 4. When you do readings you get to meet more people than you would doing a full production = connections = phone calls = paying jobs.

I think I speak for all the interns when I say we were exhausted by the end of the day. We ate burritos and quesadillas in the grove and many of the interns stayed for that night’s performance of Titus. It was really nice to meet interns from other theaters and have a chance to network and make connections.

Photos by Laura Neill.

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California Shakespeare Theater Teen Night

The following was written by Bristol Glass, Artistic Learning intern.

As an intern, about to see the bloody glory that is Titus Andronicus, I hadn’t quite anticipated my own excitement combining with that of the group that attended Teen Night. It was a blood bath of enthusiasm—ha! What exactly is Teen Night, you ask? Well, aside from it being the most fun you’ll ever have, it’s a pre-show event for students ages 13-18, this time including delicious pizza and soda (which flew out of the coolers—thanks to the Professional Immersion Program crew) in the Upper Grove. A mesh of California Shakespeare Theater staff, parents, students, and my fellow interns created a rowdy groundling-esque bunch. Clearly, there was a love for Shakespeare all around! Our fun, interactive pre-show activity for the night was a “32 Second Titus Andronicus” competition between, of course, the Romans and the Goths. Brevity was key in successfully completing the ultra-abridged version of our Teen Night Titus. It’s very telling that the Romans won, but thankfully all character participants remained alive and well to continue eating their pizza after the activity. Highlights of each teams’ run included a lot of blind gender casting—specifically the roles of Lavina and Tamora, which provided our cast with some interesting dynamics. Getting to see involved teens in their element was my favorite part.

I’ll even say that watching that night’s Titus performance with this group in the audience was a theatrical experience all on its own, as the teens were deeply engrossed in the show; in awe of the skillful fight scenes or even surprised at the comedic moments-jaws dropped to the ground and snickers were shared between amused friends. It was an entertaining time with an uproarious, artistic, eager group of under-30 folks. It was an opportunity like no other to have experienced Titus Andronicus with such a unique, eager crowd in the seats.

For more details about the event, click on http://calshakes.org/news/tag/titus-andronicus/.

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TITUS Grove Talk Podcast

Listen to a podcast of an illuminating pre-performance Titus Andronicus Grove Talk, presented by Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly.

Podcast produced by Will McCandless. Music by Andre Pleuss.

Titus Andronicus runs through June 26, 2011.

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Staring Your Future in the Face with a Smile: Titus opens!

A dispatch from this weekend’s Titus Andronicus opening, by Stage Management Intern Cordelia Miller.

I’ve never been so overwhelmed by so many emotions on an opening night. As I got in my car to drive to my last tech rehearsal, I actually started to cry because I thought, “I don’t want to open, because opening means closing!” But then I remembered that this isn’t college theater: I’ve got three more weeks of glorious Titus to go. So I smiled.

Opening night was exhilarating. The energy in the green room and the dressing rooms was completely different from the previews. Of course, we were all nervous about the impending rain, but the theater gods smiled on us, giving us a dry performance. By opening, we had smoothed out the kinks and determined the most efficient paths for quick changes, prop handoffs, and set changes, giving me (as part of the run crew) the opportunity to breathe around this amazing piece we were putting forth. I even almost had the chance to watch the show, by which I mean that I could truly listen to the scenes and pair them with what I’d seen in rehearsals. Backstage, I couldn’t have asked for more.

I’ll never forget the feeling as I emerged from the green room to go to the opening night party after we had struck the stage. I turned the corner and met music, food, drink, and incredibly happy people. Everyone was hugging, smiling, and chatting; the sense of catharsis was palpable.

Something awesome: being in the middle of a life-changing experience and realizing it. Six months ago, the idea that I’d be working on a show at Cal Shakes was not even a remote possibility. I never thought that I could be here. All of the reality hit me double as Jessica Richards and Susie Falk, associate artistic director and managing director, respectively, made their speeches at the party. I cried again realizing just how amazing it is to be a part of this Titus family here at Cal Shakes. The joy that I feel being a piece of this machine is inexplicable. It’s worth waiting ten years. I am staring my future in the face, and I can only return a smile. It is inspiring to know that you’ve chosen the right path.

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Titus and Friends: Cordelia Miller blogs from tech

The author and the director at tech rehearsal

The author and director Joel Sass at tech rehearsal.

Stage Management Intern Cordelia Miller offers some insight into the long days and nights of Titus tech rehearsal.

Tonight, after our second preview, Rob Campbell, who plays Saturninus, said, “I actually don’t want tech to end.” I realized in that moment that I agreed with him. Yes, the hours are long and it can get a little chilly but, in truth, I’m doing so much running around backstage that I keep warm. We’re in previews now, which means we’re almost through tech—I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as we draw nearer to opening, I realize how much I’m going to miss these long hours—and how lost I’ll feel the first few days without them.

Tech really helps bring us together in a way that always reminds me of why I do theater. The family that exists here in Titus (“Titus and Friends,” as the Andronici are sometimes called) is the part I could never give up. The hours become the glue and it’s a connection that every single person, cast or crew, will be able to reach back and touch, anytime in their futures. Sometimes I pause, in the brief moment of tranquility and silence, and realize that I’m working somewhere I’ve wanted to be for probably ten years. It still brings the warm feeling I had on the first day of rehearsal.

I’m so impressed with everyone here—not only the cast, but my fellow crew: Sam and Dallas, the deck manager and production assistant, who have been with us barely two weeks; and Caitlin, my fellow stage management intern, who joined us just barely over a week ago and has solidly planted her feet in the ground here. There is such a “Yes, and…” attitude here, really helping us glide through. I can feel myself learning lessons faster than I can process. I want to shower with flowers and chocolate everyone that’s lent a helping hand along the way. They’ve all taken me under their wings, and it’s pretty cozy from where I’m standing.

So come see the show, because it’s worth it.

 

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A Breathtaking Adventure: Puzzles, Weapons, and Blood in the Titus Rehearsal Room

Cordelia MillerFirst, the vitals: My name is Cordelia Miller and I’m Cal Shakes’ stage management intern for Titus Andronicus; first preview June 1, opening June 4. The events in my life leading me to the rehearsal room of Titus are why this experience will stay with me many years from now, no matter what career I end up choosing.

Eight years ago, I attended my first Cal Shakes show: George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, directed by Lillian Groag. Since then, I have attended 26 shows and been a subscriber for seven years. To say it’s been surreal participating in the rehearsals for Titus is an understatement. Before I was an actor, I was an avid theatergoer, so being introduced to actors I have applauded on stages for more than 10 years is a humbling experience. I am still in awe when I watch their processes. People like Jim Carpenter, Stacy Ross, Anna Bullard, Dan Hiatt, Delia MacDougall, Nick Pelczar, Liam Vincent—all Bay Area gems I’ve probably seen in more than 200 shows combined. I get to know young actors still in school for their craft as well as actors from Los Angeles, the Midwest, and New York. I have only seen productions directed by Joel Sass, Titus’ director, twice, but both made a sincerely lasting impression: Pericles, which still tops my list as one of the most unequivocally beautiful productions of any Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen; and, of course, Macbeth, which will never leave my mind because of its unrelenting ability to make me terrified for my life (and for most of the poor, sad characters). Now I get to watch Joel mold and shape this world he has envisioned for us, with the entire rehearsal room filled with people I have respected since before I even knew I wanted to be a part of this world. Now I get to be a part of it. It’s a breathtaking adventure, watching all this magic unfold before me.

I joined rehearsals on Monday, May 9 and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I help set up every morning, making coffee, filling water pitchers, opening windows, and sharpening pencils (school supplies have always been my vice). I sit in on production meetings, which I get immense pleasure from. During rehearsal, I began mostly being on book (the person responsible for threading through the rehearsal text and prompting actors with their lines), helping set up and strike scenes, cleaning some awesome weapons (be jealous) and doing various bits of paperwork for Laxmi, our incredible stage manager.

It’s been a bit like watching a puzzle being built without knowing what the picture on the box looks like. I wasn’t here for the first day, so I’ve been re-creating the world in which Titus takes place from the scraps I discover in rehearsal along the way. The first thing I saw, before I even arrived, was the set model: Immediately I felt the sense of antiquity and the fierce, stark atmosphere that this immensely violent play lives in. When I arrived in the rehearsal room, one of the first things I noticed were the costume renderings on the wall, which helped define the moving pieces of this board game a little more. But the key that really glued everything together and cemented it in my mind was the sound. The first time I saw the opening scene, Laxmi turned on the music and I’ll never forget how I felt: I just knew. I knew exactly where we were, I knew what time, I knew what this environment meant to each of the characters—it was because of that sound that I was able to fit all the pieces together. Plus, the opening scene does exactly what Joel said it would: It’s the pilot that sets up the rest of the miniseries. Seeing that for the first time really informed the other parts as well. I can’t wait to see everyone in costume—the renderings are breathtaking.

How much I’m learning and the experience I’m amassing should be illegal. I’m working alongside complete professionals; I feel something like a voyeur. Lynne Soffer, our vocal/text coach, and Philippa Kelly, our dramaturg, are both so open, giving, and willing to teach that it’s all I can do to soak up every bit of information they provide. There almost aren’t words for how exciting it is to watch the scene stopping and starting with notes from Joel, then watch the same scene take on a totally different, vibrant life. As a stage manager, I get to look up to Peter and Laxmi, who never falter or show any signs of stress or weakness—they’re warriors and fabulous role models. Every task set in front of them is manageable and can be completed. I’ve been keeping a list of things I want to do as a stage manager (mostly modeled after the way they do things, and how silly it was of me to not be doing them before now!). As an actor, I love learning the dos and don’ts, how different actors learn their lines and use their props, rehearsal costumes, and set pieces; how each actor goes about learning each bit of the script, from the simple physical task of entering a scene to the mountainous emotional task of portraying murder, death, unimaginable loss. As a writer, I am intrigued by the intricate life of checking different quartos for alternate lines, substituting and changing as our world requires, keeping track of every word; as a director, my ears are pricked for the language and tone Joel uses to communicate with the actors to create this masterpiece; I love the sense of teamwork as everyone works together to create a living, breathing, work of art.

There is definitely excitement growing within me like a snowball as we hurtle towards tech. I feel like I started yesterday, and already, less than 72 hours from now, we’ll be at the Bruns, lighting and costuming and fighting it out. I hope to write another blog during tech, which may be a slightly insane thing to do…

Cordelia and the Titus blood test!Lastly (and I wanted to keep this until the end because it’s such a wonderful closer), the tagline for this play is “It’s about bloody time.” Naturally, there’s a hefty amount of stage blood. Naturally, it would come up in a production meeting that it needs to be tested before it’s used. Naturally, I vehemently volunteered to be the testee. I mean, come on, what is cooler than trying out several different types of edible/non-edible/goopy/runny/viscous/chunky/gelatinous (enough adjectives? They were all true for at least one type I encountered) blood? So, OK, the inner eight-year-old-boy reared his little head inside of me. But really, it’s been one of the most hilariously awesome things I’ve done—and a great many people think it’s very strange how much I enjoy it… but I do…

Until next time…!

(Click here for more information on Titus.)

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