Personalize Our Onstage License Plate!

In our upcoming production of A Winter’s Tale, travelling storytellers spill out of a vehicle to invite you into the story. And since we marketing folks have got connections with the props department (who are so much friendlier than the DMV), director Patricia McGregor has asked us to ask you to decide what goes on the license plate!

The entry the company likes the best gets put on the plate—and earns its creator two tickets to see A Winter’s Tale, and a photo with the vehicle.

Post your entry—no more than seven characters long—by 5pm PST on Wednesday, September 18, one of the following four ways:

Patricia and the cast would like it to have a nod to Spunk, our 2012 production that got so many of them together for the first time.  Here are some ideas that have been thrown around already; maybe they’ll get you thinking.

Mo-Joe
diddly wah diddy
D wah D
GT2GT
JOE CLRK(E)
JULY JAM
6BITS
ZORA
4ZORA
MI-C-MAY
VICE

A Winter’s Tale runs September 25–October 20, 2013.

 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Cormac Kelly

Cormac KellyCormac is a sophomore at Bishop O’Dowd High School and this is his second season volunteering at Cal Shakes. Volunteering primarily at the Bruns, Cormac has sold raffle tickets, distributed programs and blankets, and helped audience members participate with the Triangle Lab.

When asked what was the most exciting thing he’s recently done, Cormac replied: “Participating in the reenactment commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg with my father. This took place in Pennsylvania with 15,000 other re-enactors in the scorching heat and rain over the course of 5 days.”

Read on to learn more about Cormac and his special talents, summer vacation, and what his dream Shakespearean role is.

Where are you from? I was born and am being raised in Oakland. This is an adventure in itself. I have two younger sisters, one is 10 the other is 13.  They bicker when they play, which continues to confound me.  My father, a former journalist, runs our family packaging business.  My mother is in charge of design and marketing for our business and is a gifted photographer.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Time is spent reading historic fiction, history and practicing French.  I just completed The Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield about the Spartans at Thermopylae, which I loved.  Presently, I have the good fortune of writing this from the base of the French Alps.  Life is good.

Do you volunteer anywhere else? I also volunteer at Fort Point, a Civil War-era fort beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

What’s one of your special talents? Speak any languages? Play any musical instruments or sportsI am gradually learning French, enjoy narrative storytelling, am blessed with a strong memory, and have a sense of humor.  I can write a good essay if it’s about something I like. I can do an excellent Virginia reel.  Also, I love European history and Shakespearean theater.  As for talents, they’re still evolving.

If you could be a character in any play you’ve seen at Cal Shakes, who would it be and in which production?  Charles Condomine in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit.

Cormac, thank you for being an important part of our Cal Shakes family! 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.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Ellie Raissi

Ellie RaissiEllie is a Bay Area native, born and raised, and this is her third season volunteering at Cal Shakes. A volunteer of all trades, Ellie helps out in the administrative office and out at the Bruns. “I always associate Cal Shakes with summer,” says Ellie. ”For a Shakespeare nerd like me, there’s nothing better than seeing a great summer production of one of his plays in an amazing outdoor space.”

Ellie is a valuable member of our Cal Shakes family and we’re happy to introduce her to all of you! Read on to learn more about Ellie, her not-so-fat cat, her organizational talents, and how Ira Glass cracks her up.

Describe a memorable experience you’ve had volunteering at Cal Shakes: One time I volunteered to make buttons in the Cal Shakes offices. I needed a mat board for the project, and this really nice staffer helped me hunt for one. She wound up taking me on an impromptu tour of the building. I’d never been beyond the front office, so it was really cool to see where the amazing props and costumes in Cal Shakes’ productions were made. 

What’s a typical volunteer shift like for you? When I volunteer as an usher, one of my favorite tasks is to organize the chairs that patrons will pick up before going into the theater. The chairs are usually stacked on top of each other in a big jumbled mass, and sometimes it can be hard for patrons to quickly grab the number they need. But I’ve worked this volunteer job enough times to know the most common group numbers—like a couple who will ask for two chairs or a family who will ask for four. So l try to stack the chairs in easy-to-grab groupings, neatly arranged in rows, that makes the process a lot easier and faster. I also like to put out the nicest chairs in front so early birds get a benefit. 

How do you spend your time when you’re not helping out Cal Shakes? In addition to volunteering with Cal Shakes, I volunteer as an usher with Cal Performances, which I actually learned about from another Cal Shakes volunteer. And before I graduated in May, I did a lot of tutoring with young kids. My favorite organizations are 826 Valencia, Reading Partners, and Stories to Go. 

When not volunteering, I can be found at my local used book store, the Friends Corner Book Shop. I love to hang out with my friends, discover new coffee shops in the Bay Area, and watch unhealthy amounts of televisionmy current favorites are Suits and Covert Affairs.

What’s one of your special talents? Speak any languages? Play any musical instruments or sports? I have a freakish talent for cleaning and organizing. Nothing makes me happier than to bring order to chaos, especially the chaos of people’s closets. I single-handedly cleaned and organized every closet, cabinet, drawer, and storage space in my dorm room, apartment, parent’s house, and grandmother’s house. I love to clear out clutterone of my favorite parts of the show Hoarders is when the cleaning crews throw out all the junk!      

If you could be a character in any play you’ve seen at Cal Shakes, who would it be and in which production? I would be Elvira from Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which I saw last season at Cal Shakes. Not only was the play hilarious, but Elvira was super entertaining as the dead and vengeful first wife who comes back to haunt her husband and his second wife. Fortunately, I’m not the vengeful sort, but it might be fun to wreak a little harmless havoc on my friends’ lives.  

What’s one the most exciting things you’ve done this year? I saw Ira Glass at Cal Performances, and he just blew me away with his amazing storytelling skills. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Do you have any pets? I have a formerly fat cat named Chubby.

Tell us about your family. I have a big extended family in the Bay Area, with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. I’m especially close to my maternal grandmother, who loves to cook and who has tried repeatedly, with a lot of love and more than a little frustration, to teach me. (We’re still working on making rice.)

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.

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Ask Philippa: A WINTER’S TALE EDITION

A Winter's Tale

Callie Cullum's show art for A WINTER'S TALE, featuring Omozé Idehenre as Hermione; photo by Jeff Singer.

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. A Winter’s Tale runs September 25–October 20, 2013.

As directed by Patricia McGregor, A Winter’s Tale suggests the overwhelming power of emotion to govern and transform the authority of a king: At the start of the play, it is explosive jealousy that “rules” Leontes, the king of Sicilia; by the end, it’s compassion and sorrow that govern him, by way of the transformative power of his own tears.

Coming right in the middle of King James’ reign over England, Shakespeare wove into this play his profound belief in the truth of monarchy as well as his skeptical knowledge that a king is but a man. The collapse of a king’s authority into blind personal jealousy—resulting in death and even in assumed murder—would have been, to Shakespeare’s audiences, like an apocalypse. For any man, tears have all-too-often been seen as weakness: yet here we have a king whose tears take him to a new strength, a new belief in the power of love, and a knowledge that no man should assume power over others that serves only his own interest.

The “saint-like sorrow” performed in A Winter’s Tale evokes Christian parables of penitence—but these, like the old oral traditions that the title calls on, are in the service of a wondrous theme: that no matter what authority is vested in a king, it takes a village to raise a full-grown human being.

Are you going to see our production of A Winter’s Tale?  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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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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