Ask Philippa: AMERICAN NIGHT Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. American Night runs through June 23, 2013.

Since the Founding Fathers, immigrants to America have been assessed on the basis of their worthiness to be Americans. In American Night, directed by Cal Shakes’ own Jonathan Moscone, it’s America itself that is held up to scrutiny, with all the hilarity and astringent social commentary that is playwright Richard Montoya’s signature style. His work has been described as “living cloth” pulled “from the threads of social fracture and cultural schism that is the world we live in.” In a 100-minute extravaganza, American Night takes us on a breakneck road-trip through American history, in which we see the “mainstream” challenged and reinvented through the jokes, the colloquialisms, the preoccupations, the parodies, of Montoya’s Chicano culture.

Are you going to see our production of American Night? 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.

Posted in American Night, Ask Philippa, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Main Stage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Hills Are Alive…

with state-of-the art wireless microphones that allow audiences, no matter where they sit, to hear every word spoken on our stage as if sitting in the front row.

Omozé Idehenre uses a wireless mic in Spunk

Omozé Idehenre uses a wireless mic in SPUNK; photo by Kevin Berne.

Thanks to our generous partners at Meyer Sound Laboratories in Berkeley, and their friends at Sound Associates in Yonkers, NY, Cal Shakes will implement wireless microphones for all shows this season. In our ongoing quest to provide access to everyone, we enlisted their help to ensure that audience members never have to strain to hear our actors.

“I am so grateful to Helen and John Meyer and their colleagues at Sound Associates for providing us a tool to enable an equal audio experience for everyone in our audience, regardless of where they sit,” says Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone.

The weather at the Bruns can get windy, and when the trees rustle, sometimes people have to strain to hear.  Even on a perfect night, it’s hard for some people who have difficulty hearing. And this system has the capacity to lift the voice with subtlety and nuance that provides everyone the ability to hear the great words of Shakespeare, Wilde, Montoya, and of every writer we bring to our stage.” Other theaters—the Old Globe in San Diego and Shakespeare in the Park in New York—have already gone this route, but Cal Shakes is the first Bay Area theater to incorporate this subtle yet effective technology on a regular basis.

Meyer Sound designed an entire system to help Cal Shakes accomplish this goal. New for this season will be Meyer’s coveted “UPQ” loudspeakers, as well as a six-speaker “MINA” line-array dedicated to reinforcing the actors’ voices. Our approach to reinforcing the actors with microphones will be similar to the San Francisco Opera: to maintain the delicate balance of giving enough reinforcement without allowing the show to sound artificial. Our goal is that audiences will not notice this change on a conscious level; they will simply find themselves more relaxed and able to enjoy more of the actors’ performances.

Meyer Sound Laboratories is a leading top-tier manufacturer for professional audio applications, and have been in the vanguard of audio systems research since the company was founded in 1979 by John and Helen Meyer. Along the way, Meyer Sound has been granted 34 patents as well as countless research and development awards. We are fortunate to have such awesome neighbors! (No, really, they’re like two blocks from our offices.)

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Meet Our New House Manager Betsy Ruck

Cal Shakes Marketing & Communications Director Janet Magleby introduces you to the woman who will ensure the excellence of your visit up at the Bruns Amphitheater this season.


Photo of Betsy Ruck by Jamie Buschbaum.

When Betsy Ruck and her husband, Terry, moved back to the Bay Area at the end of last summer, she was looking for something to keep her busy until she found a permanent position in Bay Area theater. Cal Shakes Box Office Manager Robin Dolan introduced us to Betsy, and it wasn’t too long after that she joined Cal Shakes as one of the hard-working house associates up at the Bruns. Betsy worked through our season-ending production of Hamlet; during the off-season, we enticed her to return as our House Manager. Betsy has worked for several Tony Award-winning regional theaters, including Actors Theatre of Louisville and South Coast Repertory. Locally, she’s worked in ticketing for the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera, ticketing and house management for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and development for the California Symphony.  A little more about Betsy:

Tell us about where you grew up, and what kept you busy as a child? I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and spent a lot of time doing craft projects and teaching myself to sew.

How many siblings do you have? One younger brother, Tom.

Childhood pets and names? A couple of cats and a beagle with the obligatory name of Snoopy. But she did get on top of her doghouse.

Where did you attend college, and what was your major? University of Louisville with a major in Theatre Arts and Speech.  Go Cards!

Movie you could watch over and over again? My Favorite Year

Book on your nightstand right now?  How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto by Eric Asimov

Who is your hero and why? I’ve always admired women like Hallie Flanagan and Margo Jones, who paved the way for regional theater.

How did you meet your husband? We both worked at a movie theater.

What you love about outdoor theater?  How wonderful it is too look up and see the stars during the show.

Best advice you’ve received, and who did you receive it from? It wasn’t so much advice but learning by example: I’ve always admired the way both of my grandmothers lived their lives, not necessarily doing what society expected of them.  One of them owned and operated a candy store in the 1930s.

Favorite thing to enjoy at the Bruns Café? Hot Chocolate

Other House Associates at the Bruns Amphitheater this summer will be: Jordan Battle, Erika Budrovich, Samantha Cook, Carolyn Day, Jamie Harkin, Patricia Kelley, Skyler Larkin, Carol Marshall, Cashua Spellman, Scott Tignor, Junior Viernes, and Deborah Woods.

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Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly presents a birthday meditation on the late, great one who gave us our name.

Today is Shakespeare’s birthday (also nominated as his death day 52 years later).

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 to John Shakespeare (leather merchant turned prominent alderman and town bailiff—equivalent to the town mayor) and Mary Arden (local heiress). No birth records exist for William, but the records of the local church in Stratford-Upon-Avon indicate that a “William Shakespeare” was baptized on April 26 of that year. From this we deduce that he was born on or about April 23: infant mortality at that time was very high (25% of children died before the age of 2, and, indeed, three of Shakespeare’s siblings died in early childhood), which meant that children were baptized a few days after their birth.

William was the third of eight children. The very sketchy records of his early life have encouraged Oxfordians in their belief that “Shakespeare” was a local lout whose name was used as a cover for the Earl of Oxford who really wrote his plays. When challenged with this hypothesis at the grove, I remind Oxfordians that it was very common in the sixteenth century not to have much in the way of childhood records. Historians surmise that William Shakespeare was able to till his naturally gifted mind by virtue of being a public official’s child, entitled to attend the King’s New School in Stratford, which gave a classical education. His father’s fortunes declined when young William was about 14, however, and he never got to go to university.

In 1582, when William was 18, Anne Hathaway, a 26 year-old woman of some family means, became pregnant by him. They married late in that year, before the birth of their first daughter, Susannah. William’s wife and family lived in Stratford, including the couple’s twins, Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585. Hamnet died at the age of 11. Judith and her father were not close, and Susannah remained William’s favored child until the end of his life.

As a man of the theater, William spent much of his life in London near the theater, living away from his family in Stratford. Over a period of 18 years he wrote 37 plays (give or take one “discovered” extra and a couple of collaborations) and 154 sonnets. He stopped writing about three years before his death in 1616. Some scholars have speculated that he stopped writing because he had nothing left to say. I, however, think this theory is highly unlikely when applied to a man of 47 who wrote a late play as gifted as The Tempest. It’s much more likely that he developed Scrivener’s Palsy, a degenerative disease that impeded his capacity to write. If you look at the range of his signatures, they markedly change as his physical state deteriorates. He could barely sign his final will, made in March 1616 (to register his displeasure at his daughter Judith’s marriage to a man who had at the same time got another woman pregnant).

Shakespeare, registered as “Will Shakespeare gent,” was buried on 26 April 1616 at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-Upon-Avon. His tombstone is inscribed with the unlikely quatrain said to have been prepared by him: 

Good Friend for Jesus sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

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Season Artist Profile: Paloma McGregor

In the months leading up to the start of our 2013 Main Stage season, I am once again profiling the creative minds behind our productions. The final installment of the 2013 Season Artist Profile series introduces you to choreographer Paloma McGregor, whose movement work on last summer’s Spunk helped make it one of the liveliest productions in our nearly-40-year history. This season, she again teams up with her sister, director Patricia McGregor, for our production of A Winter’s Tale.

What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Paloma. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.

Stefanie Kalem: What are your most recent, current, and upcoming projects?

Paloma McGregor; photo courtesy of Angela's Pulse.

Paloma McGregor; photo courtesy of Angela's Pulse.

Paloma McGregor: I rounded out last year with two exciting projects: 

In September, I directed a devised performance work about food systems at UC Berkeley, developed during a five-week residency with three dozen participants from across the Bay Area. In October, I was invited to show a work-in-progress development of my latest Angela’s Pulse project, Building a Better Fishtrap, at St. Mark’s Church as part of Danspace Project’s DraftWork series. Fishtrap, based on my father’s fishing stories and my memory of building a small fishtrap as a child, is a performance work that explores water, memory, and home, as well as examines what we take with us, leave behind, and reclaim. I have been developing the piece for more than a year. In December, with support from the Jerome Foundation, I traveled home to St. Croix to do more research for the project, including spending two weeks as a fisherman’s apprentice. I will continue developing the work this year, involving Patricia in the text development and dramaturgy, and plan to premiere the work in the 2014–15 season.

Also this year, Patricia and I are excited to spend time in June, July, and August at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, developing a new musical together (our latest Angela’s Pulse endeavor). The piece is based on the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case on mixed-race marriage. At a time when marriage rights are once again at a historical crossroads, we will revisit this political precedent, and the young black woman and white man who had to choose a quiet life apart or the fight of their lives.

I joined NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics as a yearlong Artist in Residence, researching embodied memory, agency, and cultural reclamation.

And…I’m still dancing, collaborating as a performer two works that premiere this Spring: How to Lose a Mountain, choreographed by Cassie Meador, artistic director of Dance Exchange, and last days/first field, choreographed by Jill Sigman. 

SK: Had you any experience with designing movement for an outdoor stage before Spunk? How was Spunk/Cal Shakes different? What were the challenges or advantages specific to choreographing for our stage?

IndomitablePM: I grew up in a culture of public performance. In St. Croix, formal parades and informal “tramps” at Carnival time are an integral part of community life. My first major performance as a child dancer was in an outdoor theater, Island Center, the same stage that Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem performed on. Two summers ago, I brought those experiences to my work as choreographer for Indomitable: James Brown, a show Patricia directed for SummerStages in New York. The show involved—among other things—a soul train line that the audience could join. With Cal Shakes, I was able to build on these experiences with the added gift of time: I had weeks to work in the actual performance space, during which I could consider the setting, stage, scenic design, lighting, and costumes in my movement development.

SK: What’s your experience with Shakespeare—watching it, working with it—in general, and A Winter’s Tale in specific?

PM: My first introduction to Shakespeare was the witches’ chant from Macbeth—”Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”—which I used to recite when I was maybe 5 or 6, as though it were a nursery rhyme! Later, in high school, King Lear drew me in with its tragic reflections of love, justice, and betrayal. I saw A Winter’s Tale at Shakespeare in the Park a few years ago, and delighted in its magic and wit.

SK: What can you tell me about your thinking about the Cal Shakes production this early in the game? What role will movement play in the story? What other early thoughts can you share?

Aldo Billingslea, Omoze Idehenre, and Tyee Tilghman in Cal Shakes’ SPUNK; photo by Kevin Berne.

Aldo Billingslea, Omoze Idehenre, and Tyee Tilghman in Cal Shakes’ SPUNK; photo by Kevin Berne.

PM: I often say that characters reveal themselves in their bodies first, before they ever say a word. I am excited to develop and differentiate the two worlds of this piece—Sicilia and Bohemia—by distinguishing the ways their people walk, stand, sit, revel, fume … and dance.

SK: I understand you were a journalist for a time. What kind of writing did you do? I’m thinking of that famous quote (attributed to everyone from Martin Mull to Thelonious Monk to Laurie Anderson) that says “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”—but is there any way that journalism and dancing intersect? The skills you use, the perspective you need? Or do they engage completely different parts of your brain and body?

PM: I like to think of the brain as just another important part of the body. So being a dancer allows me to use my full body to hone the skills I practiced as a journalist: listening deeply and to everything, obsessing over details, noticing subtle shifts, adjusting to what the circumstances require, being efficient and creative, thinking and acting fast, and synthesizing multiple layers of information to make a legible statement. Good storytelling, whether in the body or on the page, necessitates patience, persistence, and grace.

SK: What was the first piece of dance or performing arts that you saw that inspired you to think, “I want to be a part of that”?

Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun

Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.

PM: As a young child in St. Croix, I saw Alvin Ailey perform. After the show, I took my autograph book back to have the dancers sign it. They were all so beautiful and kind, and I knew one day I wanted to be like them. Every time I sign a program for a child now, I think of that moment.

My first memory of going to see theater was Annie Get Your Gun, probably when I was 6 or 7. The lead character was so dynamic, funny, and brave, and I believe she shaped some of my early notions of what a strong, sassy woman was capable of—ideas that stick with me today. I remember that show when I think about the impact I want my work to have.

SK: What or who inspires you right now? Any particular writers, music, current events, people, et cetera?

PM: My mom and sister are always an inspiration when I think about working with purpose, integrity and compassion. My current project is tangling with objects and sites as containers of memory, so visual artists are inspiring me a great deal, particularly Theaster Gates and El Anatsui. The slow, powerful work that’s happening around developing, supporting, and perpetuating sustainable environmental practices inspires me each day.

 Secure the best seats at the best prices for A Winter’s Tale and the rest of the 2013 season: Subscribe today!

Posted in A Winter's Tale, By Stefanie Kalem, Main Stage, Spunk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does It Take to Awaken Your Faith? A Note from the Director of A WINTER’S TALE

Director Patricia McGregor’s early thoughts on her fall 2013 production of A Winter’s Tale.

Patricia McGregor_by Matt Holliday

Patricia McGregor by Matt Holliday.

What does it take to awaken your faith?

At some point in our lives, each one of us is sure to have suffered from the diseased itch of jealousy or paranoia; perhaps we’ve endured the consequences of succumbing to the scratch, as well. A Winter’s Tale plunges us deep into our personal dark corners, where insecurity and fear battle against logic and love. As Leontes unleashes his irrational wrath, the strength of Hermione’s grace is put to the ultimate test.

My production—told as a fable by Paulina and her traveling group of gypsies—will enliven the muscular and miraculous natures of forgiveness and faith: Bohemia and Sicilia will be drawn to emphasize the correlating restraint and playfulness of the literal and psychological landscapes of the “twinned lambs” (Leontes and Polixinies). Using the simple magic of traveling storytellers and the natural beauty of the Orinda hills, we will evoke the elements that draw us toward and away from our best natures.

While this is a tale that, on the surface, has clear markers between good and bad actions, I’m interested in digging deeper in order to explore how each character holds both iconic attributes and also their opposite. Is Leontes driven to exert his power due to his fragility? Is jovial Polixines a tyrant when crossed? Part tale of warning against the decayed mind or heart, part celebration of the triumph of hope and love, A Winter’s Tale is all magical realism and rugged theatricality.

This timeless fairytale has a truth and power that resonates with all ages.

Read all about our 2013 season here.

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Season Artist Profile: Christopher Liam Moore

CLM in Ghost Light

Christopher Liam Moore and Bill Geisslinger in GHOST LIGHT at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; photo by Jenny Graham.

In the months leading up to the start of our 2013 Main Stage season, I am once again profiling the creative minds behind our productions. The March installment of the Season Artist Profile features Christopher Liam Moore, a frequent guest artist at Oregon Shakespeare Festival who may be familiar to you as the actor who played Jon in Ghost Light at OSF in 2011 and Berkeley Rep in 2012. The noted director makes his Cal Shakes debut this summer when he helms Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde.

What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Chris. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.

Stefanie Kalem: What are you working on right now? What projects have you done most recently, or do you have coming up?

Christopher Liam Moore: I am directing two shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this season. I am currently in rehearsals for A Streetcar Named Desire, which opens on mid-April. I start rehearsals next week for A Midsummer Night’s Dream which opens in mid-June. This winter, I directed Red Herring by Michael Hollinger at Artists Repin Portland.

Red Herring at Artists Rep

The cast of Moore's 2013 production of RED HERRING at Artists Rep; photo by Owen Carey.

SK: Is this your first time directing Wilde?

CLM: This will be my first time directing Mr. Wilde. I am thrilled and terrified.

SK: What do you like about directing for an outdoor stage?

CLM: I love the scale of it. I love that the stars are the roof. I love the intimacy and claustrophobia of a Victorian drawing room juxtaposed against the expansiveness of the hills and trees.

SK: How do you think working on our stage will be different from working with the OSF one?

CLM: In the Elizabethan Theatre at OSF, there is a massive two-story Tudor facade that is the backdrop for every production. It is a decidedly strong visual presence which can be wonderful and also challenging. I am very much looking forward to having the hills of Orinda lend their magic to Mr. Wilde’s world. I am looking forward to learning the space acoustically as well.

SK: Can you share with us any additional early thoughts on this production of Lady Windermere?

CLM: We have a tremendous cast. I know we will dive deep and create an emotionally fearless production which honors Mr. Wilde’s wit and sharp insight. Our early design meetings have been exciting. There will be some unexpected choices.

SK: Was there a piece of theater you saw when you were younger that made you think, “I want to be a part of this”?

Original production of Streetcar

Elia Kazan's original Broadway production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, starring Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Jessica Tandy.

CLM: Yes, I saw Midsummer at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts when I was in high school. I had never seen Shakespeare done with such wide-open imagination.

SK: What inspires you right now? Any particular theater artist, music, film, television, visual art, politics?

CLM: Two people: my husband, Bill Rauch, the artistic director at OSF, for always putting his heart into the work and inspiring me to do the same; and Jon Moscone, for being brave and daring me to be so, too

SK: And lastly, if you could have directed or acted in any production in history, what would it be?

CLM: Right now, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the rehearsal process for the original production of Streetcar.

Posted in By Stefanie Kalem, Lady Windermere's Fan, Main Stage, Season Artist Profiles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Pound of Flesh (and Further Adventures at the USITT Annual Conference)

Cal Shakes Costume Director Naomi Arnst blogs from this year’s USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Milwaukee.


Tutus and more from the Milwaukee Ballet's 2009 production of The Nutcracker.

Tutus and more from the Milwaukee Ballet's 2009 production of The Nutcracker.

The first session for costumers was on building tutus, led by the professionals at the Milwaukee Ballet. They had beautiful samples from their Nutcracker, built in 1989 and still ticking. Discussions ensued on creating tutus as well as the costumes of other animal and nonhuman characters that need mass, but still need to be danced in. There was a lot of use of plastic boning and hooping for these structures; other structures were shaped entirely with pleated tulle. The presenters also discussed methods of painting and decorating tutus, bodices, and doublets.

Next was the “Pound of Flesh” session: a discussion on different methods of constructing Fat Padding, as it’s called in our business. This includes any change in body type, including pregnancy pads. Air-conditioning foam and latex foam are the preferred materials. Doll pellets—the same thing as the acrylic beads used for fake flower arrangements—are also common; we use these at Cal Shakes. We cannot use bird seed for costumes worn at our outdoor theater, as it attracts all sorts of wildlife and does not launder well. I learned about a new material for this purpose: bean bag filler, which you can get new or used. The bean bag filler they had on display was Styrofoam-based, lightweight, and really the size of a bean. It seems like that would work really well. Fat Padding is usually applied to an existing t-shirt, undergarment, unitard, or custom-made garment, always taking into consideration how easy the costume is to get in and out of, and whether or not it requires a quick change.

For a designing break, the following session was a hands-on series of round-table discussions about different products used in costume renderings. Each table had different products, and session-goers were able to try their own hands at it. There were tips for design markers, watercolor pencil, grey-scale inks, and more. It was fascinating and it worked well for a big crowd.

Katherine Hepburn, fashion icon

Katherine Hepburn, fashion icon

The next session I attended was called “Costumes of Hollywood Legend & Fashion Icon Katharine Hepburn.” When Hepburn died, all of the clothing and costumes that she owned were given to the History Museum at Kent State University in Ohio. Since then, some of it has been loaned out for exhibition at museums in NYC and Ocala, Florida. We viewed her transformation into a leading lady, and learned about the iconic styles she pioneered until the day she died.

To end the day, it was time to attend the annual Costume Commission meeting where we get together and discuss new projects, old triumphs, and more. We also get to vote on next year’s session lineup, which is quite stressful since there are so many to choose from! I mostly voted for sessions on Costume Management, of course.

With a long day over, it was time to go enjoy some food and drink with my professor of Costume Design and Drama from Santa Clara University, and my former Shakespeare Santa Cruz employee Debbie Webber. Debbie is now the Costume Shop Manager at her Alma Mater, San Jose State University.

That was a very long conference day! Stay tuned for news from Thursday’s events.


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Corset in a Day (and Other Adventures at the USITT Annual Conference)

Cal Shakes Costume Director Naomi Arnst blogs from this year’s USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Milwaukee.

Monday 3/18: Monday was a travel day, and I got stuck in Chicago O’Hare Airport for an extra three hours—snow everywhere. But I made it to Milwaukee with minutes to spare before watching Zendaya knock her dance out of the park on Dancing with the Stars.

Tuesday 3/19: Professional Development Workshop

The corset-in-a-day project in process.

The corset-in-a-day project in process.

I rose early the next morning to find the weather at 16 degrees. We took a school bus from the Milwaukee Convention Center to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Costume Shop where 25 of us set about the challenge of making an 1890s corset in a day. We cut out our coutile (underlining) pieces, picked our fashion fabric, and cut that out. We sewed the backs, put the ¼-inch bones and grommets in, and then learned a new technique to conceal the seams while sewing it. These concealed seams also turned into boning channels, making it much faster to construct.

Onto the front of the corset, and time to get the center front ready to put in the busk: the center front closure that has hooks and eyes embedded in the ½-inch boning. After intricate sewing and awls to push the hooks through (this was not so easy) it was time to sew the side front seams.

The corset-in-a-day project, a little further along.

The corset-in-a-day project, a little further along.

We had lunch, and then got back to it. Unfortunately it was about this time that the power went out at all of UWM, creating an even bigger challenge. And the emergency lights didn’t work either! So we used our iPhones to safely reach the windowed front hall of the Theater building, all were a bit sad since we were so close to finishing our corsets. Now it was all very uncertain. But with warning sirens and constant beeping, we decided this would be a good time to do fittings and final lectures! After about a half-hour the sirens stopped and 90 or so minutes after the initial power outage, the power came back. We ran downstairs to try and finish our corsets.  With a few more hours of super fast-paced sewing and bone setting, I almost finished! (I just need to finish some of the binding, sew the side seams, and place the bones and boning tape in the side seams. This will be finished when I get back to Cal Shakes next week, so stay tuned!)

From there we were off to the Convention Center with a nice bumpy school bus ride along Lake Michigan.

Stay tuned for more recollections of technical theater convention fun.

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Getting to Know Brett Jones

Brett in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall

Brett in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall; photo by Janet Magleby.

Cal Shakes Marketing & Communications Director Janet Magleby introduces you to one of the minds behind this summer’s Conservatories.

One of two new Summer Shakespeare Conservatory coordinators joining us this summer is Brett Jones.  A recent Theater Performance graduate from the University of Northern Iowa, Brett spent last summer with Cal Shakes as a Teaching Artist Fellow in the Artistic Learning department, working alongside our fabulous teaching artists. He helped teach classes in movement, acting, and Shakespeare history at the Bentley (Lafayette) campus. The summer prior,  Brett was an intern in our Professional Immersion Program. This summer as the Oakland Conservatory Coordinator he’ll be busy making sure every detail of our Holy Names campers’ days run smoothly.

Brett was born in Japan to an Air Force family. When he was 10, his dad retired from the military and the family moved to Iowa. After achieving the highest-ever score on an application exam, Brett’s dad went to work for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. Brett’s mom works as a student counselor for St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

In high school, Brett kept busy performing, taking voice lessons, and collecting shoes—more on that later. Favorite band in high school: Fall Out Boy.

Brett and Cordelia at the 2013 gala

Brett as Galileo (with fellow former intern Corey Miller as Carmen Miranda) at this month's One Great Party gala fundraiser; photo by Jay Yamada.

Brett spent a lot of time during his undergrad acting (six productions in all), working hard as a teacher’s assistant, and spending time with his best friend Bailey. Brett’s first play at the UNI was Marat/Sade wherein he played an inmate at the asylum. “It was a completely different kind of production that I was used to,” he recalls, “and the experience and opened my eyes to all the forms in theater. How movement and what the body can do inspired me and pushed me along in the art. ”After his summer here at Cal Shakes, Brett spent part of his last semester at UNI as a TA for a Creativity and Performance class.

“There isn’t much to do in Iowa,” he says. “That’s why I wanted to move to California.” But he did admit that there are loads of beautiful places to hike in Iowa; he spent a lot of time doing just that in the numerous nature preserves in the state. One time, he remembers, he and his BFF were hiking at Hartman Lake and they saw a couple of frogs hopping about, so they decided to sit down to watch them. There was a big noise and the pair saw ripples on the top of the water; they watched for a few more seconds and—right when the frog leaped up in the air—a giant snapping turtle (he estimates two feet in diameter) popped up and ate the frog in mid-air! Speaking of good eats, Brett’s restaurant of choice in his hometown of Cedar Rapids is Pei’s Chinese, where he loves to nosh on Crab Rangoon. Recipe: a delicious mix of cream cheese, crab and onion deep fried in a wonton dipped in the best sweet and sour sauce ever.

When Brett visits his mother and sister in the great state of Texas, he strolls over to visit the River Walk: He shops, checks out the street musicians, and eats at Taco Cabana.  “I usually buy a dozen homemade tortillas and snack on them all day!” Brett’s sister Julie teaches high school physics and astronomy in Texas, and is married to Army Staff Sergeant Scott.

A few more things about Brett Jones:

  • Favorite role he has played: Charles HP Smith from David Mamet’s November
  • Role he’d love to play: The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera
  • What movie makes him laugh: Clue
  • Best book ever: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • TV show that he never misses: 30 Rock, but sadly, now, it’s over.
  • Favorite play: Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
  • One food he could eat for the rest of his days: Sesame Chicken
  • Color that makes him smile: Green (editor’s note: He wore these bright-green Adidas low-tops to our interview.)
  • Band he’s obsessed with right now: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  • Things that would surprise people about him: “I like to cook. I like to create my own Iron Chef Challenge by making something with only the ingredients in my fridge on a given day.”
  • Shakespeare character he’s learned the most from: The Tempest’s Prospero. “He is a person that has immense power. When he realizes his powers do to others he gives it up and doesn’t allow it to corrupt him. He realizes that he can walk away from a situation and change myself for the better.”
  • What else Shakespeare has taught him: “He taught me that you can do and be anything. “
  • He’d like to live for a year in: Ireland.  “It’s green, there are countless places to hike, I love the ocean, and the people seem friendly.”
  • Car he’d love to drive to and from Summer Conservatories: A Bentley
  • Website he gets caught up
  • Smartphone: Android. “I don’t Tweet much or talk on the phone much, but I do text a lot.”
  • Achilles heel: “I love shoes; I have a ton of them. I own 50–60 pairs. Black Aldo dress shoes are my power shoes. Favorite kick-around shoes are my red Aldo zip ups with buckles, zippers, and laces. So, on the first day of Conservatory make sure you check out my shoes, ‘cause I’ll be checking out yours!”
Posted in Artistic Learning, By Janet Magleby (Director of Marketing & Communications) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment