Ask Philippa: As You Like It

ask-philippa-othelloAs You Like It is in some ways Shakespeare’s most ambitious play. It follows a group of exiles—some banished, some running away—all of whom leave home to journey to the forest of Arden, finding en route a new home of sorts.  And then there are the banishers in whose hearts “exile” lives: they are given a chance for renewal and a kind of plentitude that they didn’t know existed. Written in Shakespeare’s mature years just before the great span of tragedies, As You Like It features Rosalind, perhaps his greatest female role to date, a character who would, in another age and time, make a very effective lawyer or theatrical director. Rosalind provokes the other characters —and herself—to consider unshackling themselves from social straitjackets: what’s left behind? What is revealed?

Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question.

As You Like It begins performances May 24 and continues through June 18. Click here to learn more and buy tickets!

Posted in 2017 Season, As You Like It, Ask Philippa | 11 Comments

A Sunny Day in Ashland

by Philippa Kelly

A sunny day in Ashland, Oregon. A cup of black coffee (director Desdemona Chiang) and a pot of tea (me). Two people sitting in a café, brainstorming about what kind of infant is to be born, raised, and, within a month, sent out into the world as a full-grown being: As You Like It, Shakespeare’s mid-career exploration of greed, abandonment, ambition, the gift of contemplative peace, and the mysterious fact that no human being is beyond redemption.

“I’ve got two big ideas,” says Desdemona, “And I want you to talk me off the ledge or help me jump.”

So, while the sun filters out over the hills of Ashland, we talk about how these ideas might shape what we are about to prepare for our season opener at the Bruns. Desdemona’s first question: “Who is Rosalind in 2017? Who can she become? I want to have her do something more interesting than stepping back into a dress.”

Four hundred years of history have had Shakespeare’s Rosalind breaking out of the restrictions of court life into the Forest of Arden—in boy’s clothes, as Ganymede, Jove’s beautiful male page; using her newly-engendered (and regendered) freedom to go for broke, quickly arranging four marriages (including her own) with wit and wisdom. I’m intrigued by Desdemona’s question. Why must Rosalind step back once more into those old girl-clothes, content to live as wife and mother, looking back at the character of Ganymede as a brief dream of borrowed power? How about we consider that Rosalind actually likes her inner Ganymede? Enough to want to embrace him, to be both Ganymede and Rosalind? Why must she choose? Can she have both?

And what might this vision require of Orlando, Rosalind’s lover? Perhaps he can “come home,” too, to a place he’s never been before. Because despite all the long-winded poems he writes to Rosalind, Orlando does love Ganymede, his rubious lips and excellent complexion, his wit, his playfulness, his lawyer-like precision.

“I’ve always wondered why Rosalind suddenly jumps at the idea of dressing like a man”, says Desdemona. “It’s as if she seizes this surprise moment as an opportunity for liberation, something that feels inspiring to her.” So, as we kick back in the sun, Desdemona and I talk about what this can mean: what we can gain by keeping Ganymede with us; and what we might lose. Duke Senior, banished to the forest, can get his longed-for daughter back again—but not as she was. He’ll get Ganymede. And if, with him, we’ve been through the Forest of Arden—a symbolic “everywhere”, where the mind is opened and expanded, enriched and deepened, where the thrumming heartbeat of humanity replaces the drum beat of the city—“now” can be even better.

Our next big question…but we’ve run out of time. And so, after I’ve finished rehearsals that day with OSF’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, we plan a 5 pm meeting on my way to the airport—this time at our Ashland’s Liquid Assets, to lubricate, via wine, our expanding imaginations. “I’m interested in what the forest can mean,” says Desdemona. “Celia’s line: ‘I willingly would waste my time in it.’ It’s as if the forest is a place out-of-time.’” What if we invert the play’s city/vernal opposition, making Arden a place of transformation that speaks to our Bay Area today? Oakland is where Desdemona’s imagination has landed: not Oakland the place of gentrification, a cheaper real estate for urban dreams and aspirations; but the place of exile, the 24-hour hum of the streets, people surviving on very little under freeways and in abandoned lots.

Can Oakland be our Arden? We need a world where we can invite our audience into mystery and transformation—a place both familiar and strange, a place within whose rhythms the straitjacketed world of business and finance feels like a dream, far away. Money has no value in the forest—you can’t eat it. But love does. Compassion does. And a simple banquet, open to all, at a makeshift table under a bridge or in a park with rusty swings.

As You Like It begins performances May 24 and continues through June 18.
Click here to learn more and buy tickets!

Posted in 2017 Season, As You Like It, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Main Stage | 10 Comments

Announcing the Cast & Creative Team of As You Like It!

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We are pleased to announce the full creative team & cast of As You Like It.
Rehearsals began Tuesday with introductions, designer presentations, and the first read-through.

Click below to see photos from the first rehearsal! AYLI MG wDes

CREATIVE TEAM
Director—DESDEMONA CHIANG
Scenic Designer—NINA BALL
Costume Designer—MELISSA TORCHIA
Lighting Designer—MASHA TSIMRING
Sound Design—SHARATH PATEL
Resident Fight Director—DAVE MAIER
Movement Choreographer—STACEY PRINTZ
Music Director/Transcriptionist—ELTON BRADMAN
Lynne Soffer–TEXT/VOCAL COACH
Stage Manager—DEIRDRE ROSE HOLLAND
Assistant Stage Manager—CHRIS WATERS

CAST
Duke Frederick, Duke Senior—JAMES CARPENTER
Audrey—PATTY GALLAGHER
Silvius—WILLIAM THOMAS HODGSON
Phebe—LISA HORI-GARCIA
Touchstone, Adam—WARREN DAVID KEITH
Oliver—CRAIG MARKER
Orlando—PATRICK RUSSELL
Celia—MARYSSA WANLASS
Rosalind—JESSIKA D. WILLIAMS
Jaques—JOMAR TAGATAC

The Actors and Stage Managers employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Read the whole press release for As You Like It here.

As You Like It runs from May 24 through June 18.
Order Today!

 

Posted in 2017 Season, As You Like It, Main Stage | Leave a comment

Othello Tour: Community Response

Last season’s Othello was one of the most talked about productions in Cal Shakes history. After 29 performances reaching almost 13,000 people at the Bruns last fall (including five student matinees), the conversation didn’t end. Othello went on to tour to 8 community sites throughout the Bay Area, including the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California. See how the show translated to these more intimate settings, and how audiences responded to the piece.

 

Posted in #Shx400, 2016 Season, Main Stage, Othello | Leave a comment

Guiding Star Award Recipient Bill Rauch: Keynote Address

The following is the text of Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch’s acceptance speech, given at our Inaugural Guiding Star Awards Gala, on March 4, 2017.

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Thank you, Eric, for that beautiful introduction. I am so grateful to you and Susie and everyone from Cal Shakes for this honor. It’s a special treat to be here tonight along with my colleagues who are the recipients of the first-ever Luminary Awards.

I want to acknowledge my colleague Alison Carey, who is here tonight. When the two of us co-founded Cornerstone Theater Company over 30 years ago, we had a hunch that we wanted to test: we would make better art and become better artists ourselves if we created our work in collaboration with communities. We spent our first five years adapting some of the greatest hits of the Western dramatic canon including several Shakespeare plays to the realities of isolated low-income rural communities across the United States, involving 20 to 50 first-time actors onstage alongside our small ensemble. We then moved to Los Angeles to begin to build bridges within and between diverse urban communities. This work was life-changing for all of us, and completely made me the artist and arts leader that I became.

After 20 years as Cornerstone’s artistic director, I realized that I wanted to contribute to an institution that worked on a larger scale for a larger audience, but that once again had classics and new work and an acting company at the heart of the work. I was blessed to find all that I was looking for when I was appointed the fifth artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

This is my tenth anniversary season as the Festival’s artistic director. As we’ve tried to shift our large-scale classical theater into being more inclusive, more equitable and more dynamic, we’ve tried many experiments. We’ve built on OSF’s long-held tradition of casting diverse actors (in fact, our acting company is currently 62% actors of color), experimenting with culturally-specific approaches to Shakespeare texts including a largely Latino Measure for Measure, a Comedy of Errors set in the Harlem Renaissance, a Trolius and Cressida with production parallels to the Iraq War, and a Winter’s Tale set in Dynastic China as well as a mythical U.S. West Coast. We have expanded our very definition of the classical canon to include Sanskrit, Nigerian, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and Korean dramatic and literary traditions. Inspired by the scale and scope of Shakespeare’s history plays and the number of plays in the canon, we’re commissioning 37 new American plays about moments of change in United States history; in less than a decade, that cycle called American Revolutions has yielded a greater bounty of influential new plays than we ever dreamed possible.

We’ve also tried to take the time to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing and to write it down. We’ve created a values statement for our repertory acting company. When some of our colleagues sensed that our executive director and I were not on the same page about OSF audiences, we challenged ourselves to create an Audience Development Manifesto, spelling out the four pillars of new audiences that we wanted to reach to strengthen and build on our core audience.

And a few years ago, with the help of a lot of my smart colleagues—including our extraordinary Repertory Producer Mica Cole, who’s also here tonight– I wrote a set of guiding principles for how we approach our namesake playwright at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I wanted every artist working at our theater to be able to see spelled out clearly in black and white what the assumptions are that we make about Shakespeare, and to understand our ‘house style’ when it comes to producing his work.

Shakespeare’s uncanny ability to capture the human experience with his characters, themes and especially his language may mean that he belongs to all ages and cultures, but the fact is, we are producing him in the United States in the 21st century. We need to be rigorous in our efforts to make connections between the plays of this radically populist author and the messy experiment that is our American democracy. And how do we reconcile the paradox that Shakespeare is often used as an elitist tool to make others feel intellectually inadequate, that the Shakespeare industry has been used too often to uphold the white supremacy that continues to hold back our country from achieving its full potential, with the equally true phenomenon that no writer in the English language has ever more fully explored the breadth of society and the complexity of the human heart, that in fact a spirit of aesthetic and spiritual and even political revolution seethes under the very words of his plays?

Dr. King talked about “the fierce urgency of now.” Whatever your political point of view, I imagine that most if not all of you will agree with me that we live in a moment of increased polarization, often destructive rhetoric and with desperately high stakes for the future of our democracy and even our planet. WWWSD: What would William Shakespeare do, right now? The good news is that we don’t need to waste a moment mourning his death four hundred and one years ago. William Shakespeare is right here with us, at the institutions that Eric and I are lucky enough to lead and that you are lucky enough to support.

I understand that Cal Shakes is in the midst of a strategic planning process to further refine your mission and vision. My brilliant husband Chris, who is here tonight and to whom I owe most everything good in my life, has directed two shows at your fine institution. I have long enjoyed conversations with Jon Moscone and now Eric, admiring your past and current artistic leaders as profound thinkers and innovative artists. From all these experiences, I know that OSF and Cal Shakes share an ever-growing understanding that social impact must be on equal footing with artistic excellence. Our fears may sometimes make us want to artificially separate them, but if my 30-plus year career has taught me nothing else, it is that social relevance and artistic achievement are inextricably tied, are two sides of the same coin.

In fact, as you endeavor to weave more inclusive voices from your communities into the very fabric of your art-making, you are pulling off what my teenage son the soccer player would call a hat trick: you are simultaneously being more responsible stewards of a literary legacy that is now in its fifth century, you are protecting the foundations of our own country’s democratic traditions that are approaching the 250 year old mark, and you are actively strengthening the foundation of the future for all our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will see the triumphs and disasters of their times accurately reflected in the glorious words of William Shakespeare. Both our organizations’ shared commitment to education is especially vital when it comes to those future generations.

It’s pretty darned exciting, when you think about it, what we all get to do together as lovers of the classical canon and believers in the potential of our own society. I’m a lucky guy that I get to be on this journey with all of you in this room, and I feel humbled that you’ve honored me tonight for merely walking down that path alongside so many of you.

As Eric and I can both attest, what we do as leaders of non-profit classic theaters is often really hard. An acknowledgment like this award will help my heart on the most challenging days to come. For that and for so many others reasons, I thank you.

 

Posted in 2016 Season, Ashland, Gala, Special Events | Leave a comment

#PIP2017: An Introduction, or “What is this PIP thing anyway?”

PIP logo blue

“I received a comprehensive and enriching education in the inner workings of a regional theater, and could not have asked for a more inclusive, diverse, and passionate community of which to be a part.”  

~Camille Hayes, 2016-17 Artistic Fellow

 

Every summer, Cal Shakes welcomes a group of emerging artistic leaders, designers, teachers, and technicians who spend the summer working alongside theater professionals in the classrooms of our Summer Shakespeare Conservatory, in the rehearsal hall assisting the director or stage manager, alongside designers and craftspeople, or on the Bruns Main stage with the cast and crew.

All of this is possible through the Professional Immersion Program. PIP positions fall into one of two categories: internships and fellowships. What’s the difference between an internship and a fellowship, you ask?

  • Internships are discipline-specific and fit into either the season (April-August) or the off-season (August-April). This is great for students who want to get more experience in their discipline over the summer.
  • Fellowships are multidisciplinary and span both the off-season and the season, allowing fellows to deeply engage with the day to day work of a professional theater company. Fellowships are perfect for recent graduates who are looking for a bridge between their educational and professional theater career.

Interested?

We’re now accepting applications for the next round of PIP! We are currently seeking people for the following positions:

  • Artistic Engagement fellow
  • Artistic Learning intern
  • Costume Design intern
  • Costume Shop intern
  • Stage Management intern

If you are an emerging theater professional interested in learning more about the Professional Immersion program, please visit the PIP website. Applications will be accepted online through March 13; our priority deadline is February 20. Questions can be emailed to PIP@calshakes.org.

Posted in 2017 Season, Professional Immersion Program | Leave a comment