Lady Windermere’s Fan Grove Talk

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.

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Derik K. Cowan, International Man of Mystery

Cal Shakes Marketing & Communications Director Janet Magleby introduces you to our new box office manager.

Derik K. CowanEarlier this summer, Assistant Box Office Manager Derik K. Cowan stepped up to replace departing Box Office Manager Robin Dolan as the person who runs the Cal Shakes ticketing ship. Derik is the only child of a Navy family—he lived on three different continents by the time he was five years old. Having earned his B.A. from Amherst College as an English and Theater/Dance double major, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s. Derik joined the Cal Shakes box office staff as an associate in 2009 and also worked at the box offices of West Edge Opera and 42nd Street Moon. He currently lives in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco with his partner and their two cats, dreaming up things to do in his spare time now that he’s no longer working multiple jobs!

Some other things to know about Derik:

Last production he was in: “This past January I was in the world premiere of a play called The Witch House by an emerging playwright named Morgan Bassichis. I played Tingle, an 11-year-old boy who, during a visit to Salem, gets possessed by the spirit of Ann Putnam Jr., one of the main accusers in the Salem witch trials. The play went up at the Garage in San Francisco and sold out an extended run there.”

Favorite role he’s played to date: “This one’s tricky. I’d really have to break this into two parts—favorite role and favorite production. In college I played Chantal in a production of Jean Genet’s The Balcony that played both at Amherst and then down in New Haven, CT. The production was a bit of a mess (I actually came to the production as the stage manager but got sucked in as an actor, as well, when the original person playing the role quit) but the way they staged my scenes was just ridiculously over the top. I actually decided I wanted to keep developing the character after the show was over, so Chantal was my stage name at drag clubs for about five years.

My favorite production was a production of Equus that I did in 2005 at Ashby Stage. The director came into the show with the idea that the horse spirit isn’t just a psychological projection but an active archetypical “spirit,” active throughout the production; so she choreographed responses from the horses to anything in the text that might catch their interest. It was an amazing artistic experience to be a part of even though, as a horse, I didn’t have a single line.”

One food/meal he could eat every day for a year: “There really isn’t anything that I’d want to eat for a year—my food preferences generally come and go in waves that only last a couple of months. Most recently I was on a Pad Thai kick. I was ordering it from like every restaurant in SF that would deliver it for the past three months. Then the most recent time I ordered it from my favorite place, I couldn’t eat it. I’m just done with it for a while. Though I have to say that my habit of getting a garlic bagel from Berkeley Bowl for breakfast every day as I come into work started last season, so…”

Book on your nightstand right now: Brandon Sanderson’s A Memory of Light, which was the conclusion to Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series. I’m a sucker for fantasy fiction serials, but I’m also not the person to talk to about what’s new. Night reading for me is comfort reading, so I’m far more likely to snuggle up to something I’ve read multiple times than something that I’ve never read before.”

Last time he was star-struck: “I don’t know if this counts as a star-struck moment as much as it was an awkward moment involving a star. When my partner and I were first dating we went to see Cyndi Lauper and the B-52s at the Greek Theatre. After the show we took the rambling route back to BART, ending up across the street from where the official after-party was occurring, just as the B-52s were getting out of their car to go into the club. My partner totally wanted to run over and get their autograph but I made him stop and stay with me, mostly because the whole scene seemed very awkward. Their lead singer Fred Schneider was looking at us with this deer-in-headlights, ‘I’m not ready to deal with the public yet’ look, and I wanted to get as far away from that as possible.”

What he likes best about living in the Bay Area: “I love the diversity of the Bay Area and the openness we have to embracing that diversity. I love the value we place on personal expression. I love that San Francisco is a city that believes any day can be a reason to dress up in costume and have fun. At this point I’ve lived the majority of my life in the SFBA and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Favorite childhood memory: “I don’t have a specific memory that I’d say is my favorite, but my favorite memory era is when I was living in Western Australia as a three-to-five-year-old. Most of my memories are momentary from that period—feeding an emu from my hand in our front yard, kangaroos crossing the yard, seeing Goanna lizards at the beach. Almost all of my memories of Australia revolve around nature, and being in nature in such a different habitat. It was actually quite hard for me when we returned to the U.S.—I’d pretty much learned to talk while in Australia and had the full accent. When we moved back, my mom and I stayed first in Wisconsin with her family while my dad found us a place to live in Connecticut where he was being stationed. No one had heard such an accent there, and I got teased mercilessly. There were other little things that stuck with me for a long time after we left as well—I spelled ‘color’ with a ‘u’ all the way into high school!”

Last thing he spent too much money on: “Have you seen what the rents are in San Francisco? Just kidding (but only a little). My last frivolous thing that I spent too much on was Scissor Sisters concert tickets last June. They were performing on my partner’s birthday and I wanted him to experience them live. In fact most of my frivolous over-expenditures end up being for concert tickets.”

Favorite Cal Shakes production and why: The Verona Project, hands down. I love shows that are messy and heartfelt and drag you in by sheer will, and that was what that show brought. Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m really into the pop-rock concert experience, so the whole concept for the show was right up my alley.”

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Making Oscar Proud

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.

Stacy Ross (Mrs. Erlynne), Emily Kitchens (Lady Windermere), and Aldo Billingslea (Lord Windermere) in Cal Shakes’ production of Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde, directed by Christopher Liam Moore; photo by Kevin Berne.

Stacy Ross (Mrs. Erlynne), Emily Kitchens (Lady Windermere), and Aldo Billingslea (Lord Windermere) in Cal Shakes’ production of Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde, directed by Christopher Liam Moore; photo by Kevin Berne.

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.

 

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Volunteer Scoops the Scoop!

Volunteer Zoe Halsne attended the Inside Scoop for Lady Windermere’s Fan and submitted this review about the event.

Inside Scoop panelists (from L-R): Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly, actor Emily Kitchens (Lady Windermere), Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone; photo by Jay Yamada. (Not shown: set designer Annie Smart)

Inside Scoop panelists (from L-R): Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly, actor Emily Kitchens (Lady Windermere), Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone; photo by Jay Yamada. (Not shown: set designer Annie Smart)

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.

Lady Windermere's FanIt 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.

Lady Agatha's act 2 costume

Costume designer Meg Neville's sketch for the Act 2 costume of Lady Agatha, played by Rami Margron.

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.

Thanks, Zoe! 

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Ask Philippa: LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN Edition

Emily Kitchens (Lady Windermere) and Aldo Billingslea (Lord Windermere) in Cal Shakes’ production of Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde, directed by Christopher Liam Moore; photo by Kevin Berne.

Emily Kitchens (Lady Windermere) and Aldo Billingslea (Lord Windermere) in Cal Shakes’ production of Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde, directed by Christopher Liam Moore; photo by Kevin Berne.

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.

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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:

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Volunteer Spotlight: Georgia & Don Lee

Georgia and Don Lee are a fixture in the Cal Shakes volunteer corps. They’ve volunteered with us since our very first season at the Bruns, in 1991. They reside in Oakland and lead an active life of theater-going, traveling, dancing, and supporting the SF Giants. They volunteer at our Inside Scoops—panel discussions with Jonathan Moscone, production directors, and Philippa Kelly—at the Orinda Library and as volunteer ushers at the Bruns.

Volunteers Georgia & Don Lee

Volunteers Georgia & Don Lee

How do you both spend your time when you are not at Cal Shakes? Georgia is still working part-time, working at least two days a week. Don is an avid Giants baseball fan and enjoys following their games. We also do folk dancing and square dancing (although not as much as in years gone by). We also “do” a lot of theater, ushering at various venues in the Bay Area.

Where have you traveled to in the last few years? Georgia made a trip to Africa in 2011 and enjoyed seeing all the wild animals in their natural habitat and also visited Victoria Falls. In the past, we’ve also visited Iguassu Falls. Other trips included Antarctica, the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, countries in South America, China, Russia, and European countries, among others.

What does Cal Shakes mean to you? Cal Shakes provides fantastic entertainment value to its patrons.  The staff and performers are a very friendly and talented community!

Thank you, Georgia & Don!

Volunteers are a vital part of our Cal Shakes community. With over 1,000 volunteers, our volunteer corps represents a wide and diverse demographic. Our volunteers hail from throughout the Bay Area, San Francisco to Pleasant Hill, to across the state, from Grass Valley to Los Angeles. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, coworkers and friends. Volunteering with California Shakespeare Theater can be a great opportunity to experience and learn new things, spend time with family and friends, earn high school credit, fulfill community service requirements, see great theater for free, and, most importantly, pay it forward in the spirit of volunteerism. There are many ways to lend a hand at Cal Shakes, and signing up is easy.

Interested in volunteering? Click here to register; once your application has been approved, you will be able to sign up for ushering dates and will be notified of other opportunities.

If you have any questions about volunteering with special events, please contact Special Events Manager Shelly Jackson at 510.809.3297 or sjackson@calshakes.org.

 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Zoe Halsne

Zoe Halsne is a senior at Alhambra High School in Martinez and a volunteer on our Community Ambassador team. Her first experience was at the opening of American Night.

Cal Shakes isn’t Zoe’s only volunteering gig. In fact, she’s actively involved with several nonprofits including the California Scholarship Federation, Harry Potter Alliance, and National Honor Society. “I think it is very important to help the local communities, especially in the arts,” says Zoe.

We’re thrilled that Zoe is a member of our Cal Shakes family and we’re happy to introduce her to all of you!

Zoe Halsne

Special Events Volunteer Zoe Halsne

What drew you to Cal Shakes? I’ve always had a huge enthusiasm for plays, as well as the arts in general. I went to my first Cal Shakes performance—Hamlet—in the beginning of my senior year in high school, and I loved it. I wanted to become more involved, so I started volunteering the next summer.

How do you spend your time when you’re not helping out Cal Shakes? I’m a huge movie buff and I love reading. I also volunteer for a nonprofit website that is host to tens of thousands pieces of literary work submitted by aspiring writers, and I’m currently working on getting into the film program at New York University, where I’ll be attending as a freshman this fall.

Describe a memorable experience you’ve had volunteering at Cal Shakes: The first time I volunteered was very memorable. It was opening night, so of course there was a lot to do. It was a great experience learning how to prep for events like the pre-show dinners, but I also felt like I burned a million calories just from the heat—it was nearly 100 degrees when I arrived!

What’s one of your special talents? I really like writing, and it’s helped me receive some scholarships this year for school. I also have the ability to watch all six season of LOST in one month.

If you could be a character in any play, who would it be and in which play? I recently started reading Much Ado About Nothing. I really enjoy the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice, so I think it’d be awesome to play one of those two characters.

What’s one of the most exciting things you’ve done this year? Last summer I went to my first convention, LeakyCon. It’s a convention for Harry Potter as well as some other fandoms, and it was so fun! I met so many awesome people and went to a bunch of different events that was just as nerdy as I am.

Thanks, Zoe!

Volunteers are a vital part of our Cal Shakes community. With over 1,000 volunteers, our volunteer corps represents a wide and diverse demographic. Our volunteers hail from throughout the Bay Area, San Francisco to Pleasant Hill, to across the state, from Grass Valley to Los Angeles. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, coworkers and friends. Volunteering with California Shakespeare Theater can be a great opportunity to experience and learn new things, spend time with family and friends, earn high school credit, fulfill community service requirements, see great theater for free, and, most importantly, pay it forward in the spirit of volunteerism. There are many ways to lend a hand at Cal Shakes, and signing up is easy.

Interested in volunteering? Click here to register; once your application has been approved, you will be able to sign up for ushering dates and will be notified of other opportunities.

If you have any questions about volunteering with special events, please contact Special Events Manager Shelly Jackson at 510.809.3297 or sjackson@calshakes.org.

 

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Romeo & Juliet Grove Talk

Click on the arrow below to listen to a podcast of a pre-performance Romeo & Juliet Grove Talk, presented by Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Romeo & Juliet runs through July 28, 2013.

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Dispatch #5 from Inside the R&J Rehearsal Hall: Costume Preview

The latest peek inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room from Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky.

In a previous post, I summarized the main points raised by set designer Dan Ostling as he discussed director Shana Cooper’s upcoming production of Romeo & Juliet.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to get a sneak peek of Romeo and Juliet’s costumes with costume designer Christine Crook, so today I want to write about (and show some pictures) of that! Based on Cooper’s vision for the production, Crook has tried to create costumes that reflect an edgy, guerilla street-theater aesthetic. Her costumes feature the heavy use of army green, camouflage, hoods, and rough, heavy black boots. Like the set, the costumes will be pared down to what is essential, exposing the actors and the harsh rawness of the story. The actors will wear masks, however, during the dance party at Capulet’s house where the young lovers first meet. While the costumes will be contemporary, the production will showcase an appreciation for distressed and repurposed things, and this will be reflected in the costumes as well as the set. The masks in particular are made entirely from repurposed costume shop stock.

Caught between a world of secret love and a world of violent masculinity, Romeo’s (Dan Clegg) costume contains bohemian as well as “harder” elements. Clegg appears in a denim jacket and rust-colored corduroy pants, with boots, black suspenders and a belt with rose buckle. The costume of Juliet (Rebekah Brockman), with lace dress, veil, and floral garland, is designed to match many of Romeo’s bohemian elements. She also wears a black leather jacket in some scenes. Other male characters, however, disdain romantic accoutrements: As Tybalt, Nick Gabriel wears a dark jacket and leather kilt with black boots; as the less naturally aggressive Paris, he wears a green sportcoat with green vest and green collar. Most hardened and minimalistic of all, Joseph Parks’ Mercutio wears jeans and an olive green shirt with heavy boots and a chain necklace; his Apothecary covers his face with a hooded sweatshirt. Hoods also feature in Dan Hiatt’s reversible costume, allowing for immediate transformations between the Friar and Lord Capulet. Other rapid costume costumes include Arwen Anderson removing her stocking cap and putting on a coat and eyeglasses to switch from Benvolio to Lady Capulet, and Domenique Lozano putting a wool cape over her base costume to become the Prince. As the Nurse, she wears a calico-colored smock over her base costume.

As of this writing, the actors were preparing to start previews on July 3, and in my next post, I’ll talk about watching the cast’s dress rehearsal, and about the evolution of the production now from the start of the process. Romeo & Juliet runs until July 28, and you can order tickets online at the Cal Shakes website.

Big thanks go to Jay Yamada for making this blogging fellowship possible.

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