Getting to Know Cal Shakes

By Anna Kritikos, marketing intern

As marketing intern here at the California Shakespeare Theater, I spend most all of my time in the “bullpen” doing various jobs pertaining to the marketing department. Although I am very interested in learning about the administrative side of theater, I still love the performance aspect (I am currently studying both at UC Davis). When I accepted the offer for the Marketing Internship, I didn’t realize that I would be given the opportunity to continue learning about both of these interests, but indeed I have been! One of the many things I really appreciate about Cal Shakes is the size and general feeling of the Heinz office- specifically, how close the administrative employees of Cal Shakes are to the art that is produced by Cal Shakes. The rehearsal hall is less than 50 feet away from the financial office. We see the actors walking down the hall, and sometimes we can hear them as they create the songs that will be featured in The Verona Project.  The rehearsals are even open to all Cal Shakes employees, so we all have the opportunity to watch the rehearsal process.

The Verona Project is an original play written and directed by Amanda Dehnert. Based on Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the play is written almost entirely in modern speech, with the exception of about 70 lines of straight Shakespeare. Music also plays a huge role in the play, as the story is told via a rock band that is also called The Verona Project. Dehnert describes the play as a “play with music” –as opposed to a musical- because she says that the songs featured in the play do not drive the plot forward as songs often do in musicals, but rather, they  are the vehicles used to set the emotional tone.  It was very interesting to read the script, because it was basically like reading a play with poems placed intermittently throughout- there was no music written to accompany the lyrics. At the Inside Scoop event that was held at the Orinda Public Library last Monday, Dehnert discussed the process of creating the original work and she said that she wrote the lyrics, but the actors all came together to write the music. There are 8 young actors who comprise the cast, all of whom play multiple instruments in the play. As Dehnert put it, she created the body, and the actors crafted the clothes.

I stayed a bit late at the office on Friday evening to catch some of the last Verona Project rehearsal before they commence tech week up at the Bruns Amphitheater. Watching a few of the actors rehearse a scene was fascinating and really set my excitement about the show over the edge. It was so cool to see people who are so serious about theater have so much fun with their work. It was fun to see the actors and the director discovering new things and implementing them. They laughed a lot, as did the stage managers and understudies who were also at the rehearsal. Such an awesome balance was struck- fun but serious, crazy but also grounded. It has been a really interesting experience to have observed the creation of this work from afar- reading the script, seeing a bit of the rehearsals, hearing the director and some of the actors talk about the piece- and now I am very much so looking forward to seeing what the final product will be.  I am also very excited to be here at Cal Shakes, where the passion and zest for the creation of really exciting theater is abundant.

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The Good Fortune Artists

The following blog was written by Martie Ogle (pictured center in the photo at right), a member of the Fortune Artists group of the 2010 Summer Shakespeare Conservatory.

Six months after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, residents are still struggling to recover in their demolished country. Since the media has moved onto different stories, donations have slowed; many Haitians aren’t getting the relief they need. Among those who need the most aid are small children, from infants to teens, who are living in ruins of their homes, in under-funded orphanages, or on the streets. Orphans as young as five are now living on their own and have resorted to stealing food for survival. Over a million children are estimated to be orphaned, twice the amount prior to the earthquake.

After reading an article in the paper about Haiti and telling the cast about it, the Fortune Artists decided to hold a fundraiser to benefit children in Haiti. The Fortune Artists are the second-oldest group at Five-Week Conservatory, with most of us entering our freshman or sophomore years of high school. By spending a month in a theater camp with about a hundred other children, we saw how smaller kids really needed help and guidance on a daily basis, and that’s just in a Shakespeare Camp! We recognized that kids the same age as our younger thespians weren’t getting the help they needed in Haiti. So we decided to do something about it.

Our show this year was a punk version of Henry IV set in 1970s England (see partial cast photo at right), highlighting the tension between young rebels and the government. After watching the oldest group—the Queen’s Own—hold multiple successful fundraisers, we decided to use the all-Conservatory performance days as our chance to generate revenue by holding a bake sale to benefit Haiti. So what if none of us had organized a fundraiser before? Phooey on that! We proposed the idea to our director, who gave us a couple of minutes of rehearsal time to divide and conquer. We eventually ended up with two committees (set-up/clean-up and publicity), three different shifts to work, and everyone pledged to bring in some form of sugary deliciousness.

After two days of confusion, chaos and mega-long Facebook messages, we made it to Friday. Performance Day. Bake Sale Day. D-day. For sale, we had cookies, brownies, rice crispies, scones, muffins, English toffee-chocolate bars, cheesecake, water, lemonade, punch, and only about 60 or so cupcakes. The youngest kids were our first major rush, and we made about 40 dollars in the fifteen minutes after their show. The day continued with dashes between last-minute rehearsals, bake sale, costume changes, bake sale, makeup application, back sale, fight call, and bake sale. By the end of the day, we were too tired to count up the money, and left it at the theater overnight.

But first thing the next morning, I was too excited to wait, and quickly tallied the money to come to (drum roll please) … $225.64! From a BAKE SALE! And to make things even better, Matson Navigation Co. has matched our profit to make a grand total of $451.28! That’s amazing. I personally feel proud and honored to have been part of such a wonderful team effort.

Till next time,
Martie Ogle (King Henry IV), Fortune Artist

The Fortune Artists who assisted in the preparation of this bake sale were: Myself, Julia Hershey and Mother, Remy Behrendt, Mariah Neurge, Noah St. John, Eliana Fujita, Madison O’Connor, Alex Jonasse, Miranda Taylor, Stephanie Brannon, Jonathan Bianchini, Lauren McCaffrey, Ariel Coronado, Madeline Clark, Ariel Adair, Alex Shankland, and Katya Walch. We’d also like to thank intern Mirabelle Korn, Teaching Artist Fellow Carrie Foster, and director Dylan Russell. All profits were donated to Save the Children, a nonprofit organization helping children around the world and in Haiti.

Photos by Jay Yamada.

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