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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Summer Shakespeare Conservatory Wins Best Teen Camp

The nice folks over at Alameda magazine just published their “Best of 2013″ issue, and we were thrilled to see our Summer Shakespeare Conservatory named Best Teen Camp! Thanks, Alameda, and congrats to all our fellow winners. Check them all out here.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Come watch our wonderful campers show off what they’ve learned this summer during their culminating performances. Five-week Conservatory performances take place July 19 & 20 at Bentley Upper School, 1000 Happy Valley Rd., Lafayette. Three-week Conservatory performances take place July 26 at Holy Names High School, 4660 Harbord Dr., Oakland. Two-week Conservatory performances take place August 2 at Bentley.

Campers themselves have free entry to all performances, and camper families are entitled to two free all-day passes per day. Additional tickets are available for conservatory performances by calling 510.548.9666 or visiting our online box office.

Ticket Prices
Pre-Sale Adult: Two-week performances $8, three- and five-week $15
Pre-Sale Youth/Senior: Two-week performances $5, three- and five-week $10
Day-Of Adult: Two-week performances $10, three- and five-week $20
Day-Of Youth/Senior: Two-week performances $7, three- and five-week $15

Schedule of Performances
Five-week July 19 & 20 at Bentley Upper School
10–11am                       Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11:30–12:30pm           Two Gentleman of Verona, performed by the Noble Knaves
1:30–2:30pm               As You Like It, performed by the Riotous Knights
2:30–4pm                    Cast Party
5–6:30pm                    Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Queen’s Own

Three-week July 26 at Holy Names
10–10:30am                 Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11–11:30am                  Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Noble Knaves
12:30–1pm                   A Winter’s Tale, performed by the Riotous Knights
1:30–2pm                     Twelfth Night, performed by the Queen’s Own
2–2:30pm                     Cast Party

Two-week August 2 at Bentley Upper School
10–10:30am                  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by the Merry Kinsmen
11–11:30am                  Two Gentleman of Verona, performed by the Noble Knaves
12–12:30pm                  Romeo & Juliet, performed by the Royal Jousters
1–1:30pm                      Richard III, performed by the Riotous Knights
2–2:30pm                      Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Fortune Artists
3–3:30pm                      A Winter’s Tale, performed by the Queen’s Own
3:30–4pm                      Cast Party

 

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Get Wilde & Win

Oscar WildeI 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  ENTER? Comment here; tweet to @calshakes with the hash tag #Wildean; write on our wall at facebook.com/calshakes; or email marketing@calshakes.org.

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.

Lady Windermere’s Fan begins previews at Cal Shakes on August 14, and opens on August 17. Get your tickets today.

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Ask Philippa: ROMEO & JULIET Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. Romeo & Juliet runs through July 28, 2013.

Choose your side. Choose your weapon. Choose your love.“My mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the stars,” says Romeo early in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This, Shakespeare’s first great tragedy, has long been seen as a tale of young love blighted by fate. Yet, as director Shana Cooper notes, the “fateful” blow to this love story is delivered not by fate, but by Romeo himself when he chooses to kill Tybalt, protecting his honor above the fragile blossom of his new love. Intriguing, provoking, heartbreaking, Romeo and Juliet compels us to question our most dearly-held beliefs about love—when to indulge it, how to express it, how to protect it, and whether it’s possible to let it go before it expires of its own accord.

Are you going to see our production of Romeo & Juliet?  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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Dispatch #4 from Inside the R&J Rehearsal Hall: On Quick Changes and Indispensability

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

In my last post, I wrote about watching the cast of Shana Cooper’s Romeo and Juliet perform their initial run-through of the first half of the play on June 14. Since then, rehearsals have focused entirely on blocking and practicing scenes from the second half; on June 20 I was able to see the first run-through of these scenes in order. Just as before, the speed with which the actors assimilate direction and blocking was remarkable, but I was especially impressed by the emotional depth and fluidity to cast was able to achieve in such a short time.

Condensed to suit a cast of seven, the script brings on the calamities of the second half with a merciless suddenness, creating a strong contrast with the good humor and relative expansiveness of the play until Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths. At the beginning of the play, Romeo has all the time in the world, and doesn’t seem to take the conflicts around him seriously. In its early stages, the play allows for pleasurable digressions and spectacles such as Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech or the Capulets’ party. By contrast, the second half is nightmarish, sped up and out of control with confrontations and miscommunications escalating in rapid succession. After the brief final moments between the lovers near the beginning of the second half, circumstances force them apart and then unite them in death.

As in the first run-through, the pace and logistics of the production require actors to make instantaneous costume changes in front of the audience. Arwen Anderson wears a stocking cap when appearing as Benvolio; we in the audience see her become Lady Capulet by putting on a coat and eyeglasses several times during the play. Perhaps most notably, Dan Hiatt becomes Lord Capulet after a scene talking to Romeo as the Friar; later, Hiatt has two consecutive scenes with Juliet, one as the Friar, one as Capulet. I’ll be writing more about these quick costume changes, and about the costumes in general, in my next post.

At least in this first run, Hiatt’s performance as Capulet was less tempestuous than one familiar with the play might expect. Rather than merely ranting, Capulet reacts with a mixture of controlled rage and exasperated confusion upon discovering that his daughter does not share his wishes for her future. In general, Hiatt’s Capulet gives the sense of a man who is not used to being out of control, and now, therefore, doesn’t know what to do. At the same time, his genuine care for his daughter is apparent, and seems to be confirmed by his anger. All this is re-emphasized in the scene in which the Nurse and parents believe they have found Juliet dead in her bed, as Capulet’s orders—“All things that we ordained festival/Turn from their office to black funeral:/… And all things change them to the contrary”—sound like his determination to take control of the tragedy before even possessing the ability to process it.

With such a small ensemble, each member is indispensable, and all have memorable moments in the second half. Dan Clegg is a highly likeable Romeo and Rebekah Brockman brings a quiet maturity to the role of Juliet; the leads have excellent chemistry together and their shared scenes are delightful. Domenique Lozano (the Nurse, Prince) has a memorable discovery of Juliet’s apparently lifeless body. Nick Gabriel, Tybalt in Act 1, returns to play another foil for Romeo, Juliet’s intended husband Paris; Joseph J. Parks, Mercutio in Act 1, returns as the Apothecary.

Romeo and Juliet begins previews at the Bruns Amphitheater on July 3, opens July 6, and runs through July 28. Tickets are available at the Cal Shakes website.

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

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Posted in By Peter Selawsky (blogging fellow), Professional Immersion Program, Romeo and Juliet, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Getting Around a Transit Strike

As of this writing, employees of the San Francisco Bay Area Transit System are on strike. AC Transit workers are still on the job.

BART Strike parking map

In case of a transit strike, additional parking and shuttle service will be available. CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

Should the public transportation  strike continue, Romeo & Juliet ticket holders need not worry about finding parking at the Bruns Amphitheater. Overflow parking will be available in the parking lot at Wilder Fields, on Wilder Road, just across the freeway from the Bruns parking lot, with regular shuttle service running to and from the lot. 

Please do not park at the Orinda BART station.

See map at right for the location of the Wilder lot; click image to enlarge.

No matter how you arrive or where you park, we can’t wait to see you at Romeo & Juliet.

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Dispatch #3: First Half Run-Through

Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky continues to blog from inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room.

Arwen Anderson plays Lady Capulet and Benvolio.

As rehearsals for director Shana Cooper’s upcoming Romeo and Juliet continue, the production is coming together and the process is intensifying. The work the actors, directors, and crew have been doing was apparent on the afternoon of June 14, as the cast performed a full run-through of the first half of the play. After over a week of watching individual scenes blocked and worked in slow detail, I was impressed to see the unexpected fluidity and lively pace of the first half as a whole. The actors have already found many exciting ways to engage with the audience and the physical space surrounding them and, as someone who’s not used to observing this sort of process, it’s been fascinating to see how quickly the cast members experiment with choices of movement and line interpretation. Many of the transitions revolve around finding the most fluid transition from a moment of love or humor to a moment of danger or violence.

It’s also been fun to see the actors, many of whom are playing three parts, switch between characters without ever leaving the stage and even, in some cases, in the middle of a scene. For example, some sequences or transitions require both Benvolio and Lady Capulet (both played by Arwen Anderson) or Dan Hiatt (both played by Dan Hiatt) at different points. Letting the audience see quick costume and character changes calls attention to the cast as constituent parts of a resourceful and flexible unit, playing roles as needed to best tell the story. Without spoiling any details, I can say that director Shana Cooper and the cast have come up with several creative solutions to the sorts of logistical problems that come with a small cast. If what I’m seeing at this point in rehearsal is a good indication, audiences will be impressed with the versatility and energy of the cast, and entertained and moved by the play.

The run-through would not have been possible without the hard work the cast has been putting in with movement coach Erika Chong Shuch and fight choreographer Dave Maier. Although both the fight and dance scenes were rehearsed at half-speed during the first run-through, the sequences are now fully blocked and the cast is becoming increasingly comfortable with them. With the production’s X-shaped stage, spacing choices are a major consideration.

Much of the blocking leading up to the deadly duel between Mercutio, Tybalt, and Romeo is designed to emphasize the danger of direct confrontation. For the beginning of the fight, Maier and Cooper carefully consider how far apart Mercutio and Tybalt should be in each moment, whether or not they can touch and how, when and where they should circle each other, and what specific lines or moments create specific motivation for escalation.  The result is a memorable fight that creatively utilizes the space and surrounding materials.

Romeo and Juliet opens at the Bruns Amphitheater on July 3 and runs until July 28. Tickets are available at the Cal Shakes website.

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

 

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Posted in By Peter Selawsky (blogging fellow), Main Stage, Professional Immersion Program, Romeo and Juliet | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where, and Who, Are the Mothers In Shakespeare?

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly muses on maternal absences in Romeo & Juliet and other Shakespeare plays—an update on this blog she wrote last summer.

Nurse, Mother, Juliet 2009

Catherine Castellanos (Nurse), Julie Eccles (Lady Capulet), and Sarah Nealis (Juliet) in our 2009 production of R&J; photo by Kevin Berne.

In Renaissance times the mother was the family member principally involved with her children’s education and upbringing. Yet in Renaissance drama older women were rarely represented on stage in what would obviously be one of their more sympathetic roles: that of the loving and nurturing mother. This lack is partly explained by the fact that women were not allowed to perform on the English stage: All of the female roles were played by young boys before their voices broke, so that a younger character part was obviously a better physical and vocal match. The lack of mothers in Shakespeare is notorious:  We have the three sisters in King Lear, Marina in Pericles, Miranda in The Tempest, Portia and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, Beatrice and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Ophelia in Hamlet, Desdemona in Othello, Isabella in Measure for Measure, and Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It, all of whom are deprived of mothers. Moreover, almost all of the older women Shakespeare does represent on stage offer negative images of motherhood: Volumnia in Coriolanus and Gertrude in Hamlet, and then Lady Macbeth as well, who says that she would have been a terrible mother if she had had the chance to be one. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet of course has a mother, but not one who will protect her: Lady Capulet, anywhere from age 26 to her mid-thirties (Juliet could have been born first or, perhaps, after a long line of children), is thoroughly subjected to her husband’s will. We can infer that Lady Capulet is significantly younger than her husband (who talks of his younger days: “tis gone, tis gone, tis gone…”), and a fairly distant mother. Her relationship to Juliet, and to the whole subject of marriage, seems perfunctory, accentuated, for example, in the stiff rhyming couplets in which she describes the bookish “joys” of an upcoming marriage:

This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him only lacks a cover.
So shall you share all that he doth possess,
By having him, making yourself no less.

For a surrogate mother, Juliet has the garrulous old Nurse, possessor of four teeth in her head and purveyor of bawdy jokes.

Prospero and Miranda, 2012

Michael Winters (Prospero) and Emily Kitchens (Miranda) in our 2012 production of THE TEMPEST; photo by Kevin Berne.

Why does Shakespeare exploit this idea of the older woman as an unsympathetic figure (except for those few rare mothers who, like Hermione in The Winter’s Tale and Thaisa in Pericles, are effectively buried alive, losing their children either forever or for most of the play)? We might hypothesize about the playwright’s own life—married, as he was, to a woman eight years older than himself who reached middle age well before he did. We know that William Shakespeare spent most of his married life living in London, while Anne Hathaway lived in Stratford with their children. We also know that Shakespeare’s plays were written in an extremely patriarchal period. But we can also see how useful a mother might be to a girl as, at a very young age, she comes face-to-face with the complexities of love and life. And this is where there emerges a structural and thematic reason for the absence of mothers in Shakespeare. Aside from helping to solve the difficulty of finding boys who could play the parts of mature women, this lack allowed Shakespeare to create an important dramatic pretext: By taking away the mother (either, as in Romeo and Juliet, as a figure of real guidance, or, as in many of his plays, as a presence on stage at all) Shakespeare creates a gap in the young female characters’ lives, compelling them to develop that extraordinary independence and character that makes them so attractive. It is Juliet, after all, who changes Romeo, urging him onward to transform himself from an idle young man “in love with love” to a passionate and committed lover.

Shana Cooper’s production of Romeo & Juliet plays July 3-28 at the stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA.

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Dispatch #2 from the R&J Rehearsal Hall: Repurposing, Re-creating

Cal Shakes Blogging Fellow Peter Selawsky continues to blog from inside the Romeo & Juliet rehearsal room.

In my last post, I summarized the main points raised by director Shana Cooper as she discussed her upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet with Cal Shakes staff. Today, I want to take a closer look at how her general vision for the play is being reflected in the details of the production’s set design. We were lucky enough to recently hear from set designer Dan Ostling (Cal Shakes’ productions of The Verona Project, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing) who shared some of his general thoughts about the play, and how they might relate to the specific needs of this production.

Ostling’s first observation was that the world Shakespeare created for Romeo and Juliet is “not what we immediately think about… it’s not perfume and flowers, it’s brutal.” More specifically, he pointed out that Renaissance Verona had the reputation of being a fortified, violent city. He imagines Verona as a fortified city filled with fortified houses and dangerous streets, torn by internecine strife and random violence where opposing forces meet in the public square—but with internal gardens and sanctuaries such as Juliet’s balcony or the Friar’s cell. The idea that love and beauty could grow up from the very heart of hate and violence may be why the story of the children of bitter enemies falling in love was ever considered remarkable in the first place, and may be why one of Shakespeare’s best-loved works still has the capacity to move us. Like director Cooper, Ostling emphasizes that the harshness of the young lovers’ surroundings not only endangers but highlights their love.

This focus on the bleakness of the surrounding world explains why Ostling envisions a bleak set with nothing superfluous: We “start from a bare stage and build up from there.” Indeed, Ostling claims to be the rare set designer with “a distrust of scenery,” refusing to allow any elements that do not prove themselves to be necessary. The set will feature barn wood that will be torched to look like reclaimed wood and worn, aged, rusted grates on the downstage corners of the stage. Both set and costume will display an appreciation for the possibilities of repurposed things, utilizing tension and distress of materials and creating an austere, militaristic vintage aesthetic. The stage will be built in the shape of an X, creating a neutral, public focal point for the collision of equal and opposing forces.

Set Model for Romeo and Juliet

While the set will have a very minimal backdrop, Dan is interested in including (potentially) mobile spaces where actors can perch. For example, the crew has discussed various possibilities for re-creating the famous balcony scene. Seen with fresh eyes, this moment has the potential to appear as an unexpected miracle, full of tender humor and the wonder of the discovery of love.

Romeo and Juliet opens at the Bruns Ampitheater on July 3 and runs through July 28. Tickets are available on the Cal Shakes website.

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

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