Event Planning 101: My Internship Crash Course

by Sarah Lamb

Opening night is a big deal for theaters, of course. It’s the first time all the artistry and hard work is shown to the public. (Aside from previews, open rehearsals, and the other promotional events along the way.) Other parts of opening night also include audience enrichment, thanking producers and donors, and the after party. The opening night after party is a tradition among professional theaters, and is a way to celebrate the work and the actors with family, friends, staff, and audience members.

In less than two weeks of working at Cal Shakes, I found myself scurrying around at the Bruns in a quiet attempt to set up the after party for The Comedy of Errors. I’m a Special Events intern from central Wisconsin and go to school at Columbia College Chicago for Arts Management. I arrived in the Bay Area less than two weeks before opening night, and during those weeks I absorbed myself into the planning process. In addition, since this internship is part time, I have the time to explore a beautiful city that I have never visited before.

The first couple days of the internship were exactly what anyone expected: orientation and filling out paperwork, introductions to so many people all you have are a jumble of faces and names as you try to piece them together, pretending you remember all of those names for about a week, and tours and instructions no one actually expects you to remember. But bonus points if you do. For me, I was also trying to remember my way home, what bus to take, and where exactly the grocery store was. I live in the intern apartment with three other girls, so the mad dash to learn the area was added to trying to learn the company.

Before I knew it, I was finding myself settling into the company. I was putting names to faces (finally) and could get myself home and fed without needing to ask for directions. If I’m being honest, I was expecting to have to do traditional internship tasks, like making coffee, fighting with the copier, and all that goes with those clichés. On the contrary, I was sitting in on meetings, giving input, and collaborating to create multiple successful, enriching events.

Opening night was filled with a lot of logistics. I arrived shortly after 4:00 to set up the Producer’s Dinner – one of Cal Shakes’ way of thanking the people who make each production possible, and then constantly doing something else. By the time I finished one task, another was on the list to be completed as soon as possible. It’s fast-paced, sudden, hectic, and exactly what I love.

When you’re planning an event, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a large amount of people having fun and enjoying the work and thought you put into it, which is precisely what the reaction was to our Carnival of Errors. Between the jugglers, the dress up photo booth, the atmosphere created, and the food, the guests were happy and enjoying themselves.

Between starting a new position, meeting people I’m sure I will continue to be friends and contacts with, exploring a new city, participating in area festivals, and producing a successful event, I have had an amazing first two weeks in the Bay Area.



Feast on The Dinner Project

This summer at the Bruns, we’ve created a new space called the Story Hub where we’re inviting audience members to share their stories. Shakespeare’s stories may be on stage, but your stories are invited to live alongside them through the interactive exhibits you’ll find in the Story Hub. Here you have the chance to share your answers to the prompts and learn more about your fellow audience members by reading theirs.

At every performance, you’re invited to take part in the Dinner Project, a season-long exploration of the ways our family conversations relate to the larger world. Inspired by Raisin in the Sun’s juxtaposition of one family’s struggles against the challenges of the world around them, this project imagines family dinners as the place where our private and public worlds intersect.  Not to mention that many of our audience members enjoy dinners together at the Bruns!

During Raisin In The Sun patrons responded to the question “What does your family talk about at the dinner table?” Check out some of our favorites below!

“Now that I’m home from school for a hot minute, I spend my free after-noons prepping gourmet dinners for my parents. At the table I’ll often brag about my methods. My parents love it.”

 “”Life, Books, Psychology, Politics, Food, Police Brutality, Education, Relationships, School to Prison Pipeline, Income -> lack of it, Money, Racism/Social Justice, Violence, Poverty, Values, War, Implicit Bias, People of Color”

“No cats on the table! Poor turnout for primary election. Is it time to hire a life planner? How does King Lear speak to us? Is there more wine?”

“New movies”

 Though the theme of The Dinner Project will be consistent throughout the season, the question and way of sharing will change. Visit The Story Hub during Comedy of Errors and contribute to our newest prompt: “Share a secret or surprise that someone revealed to you over dinner.” Maybe your story will be featured on our blog!

About the author: Regina Fields is a Triangle Lab intern and a local actress.


“This was the best field trip I’ve ever been on in my life. …We made Hermione come back to life.”

Actor Christopher Michael Rivera works the audience at a Student Discovery Matinee of A WINTER'S TALE;.

Actor Christopher Michael Rivera works the audience at a Student Discovery Matinee of A WINTER'S TALE;.

From: Ms. Maiuri

Sent: Thursday, October 03, 2013 8:11 PM

To: Clive Worsley

Subject: Thank you so much for everything (could you pass this on?)

Dear Director and Cast of A Winter’s Tale and the Cal Shakes Artistic Learning Team:

I got an email from a student after returning from Cal Shakes’ student matinee performance of A Winter’s Tale: “Dear Ms. Maiuri, This was the best field trip I’ve ever been on in my life.  Also, I’ve discovered that Grace and I have magical powers.  We made Hermione come back to life.  Love, Lisa”

I struggled for years as a teacher in Oakland before I realized that if you’re really honest with students and bring what you love right up to them and put it in their hands, they’ll love it right along with you. I don’t know if it’s the content or the honesty, but it works.

So we study Shakespeare because I love it—the rhythm and the description and the challenge of hearing a play that might be a struggle to understand. I love the slow reveal of the language and the experience of “settling in” when you suddenly realize every word is making sense. I pour my heart into bringing that to my students.

A student asks a question of the cast after a performance of A WINTER'S TALE.

A student asks a question of the cast after a performance of A WINTER'S TALE.

But after I drill and they sweat and we giggle over the plots, we come to Cal Shakes and they’re just mesmerized.  I look over and see kids light up at certain speeches—”It’s too hot, too hot!”—or realize when bits have been skipped or altered, or get quiet and rapt at a moving moment, and I can feel my heart swell and my throat catch.

And then, at the end, to have the actors all come out in hoodies and college t-shirts and sit on the edge of the stage and use real names and talk like real people is the real crux for me.  I can make my students memorize and understand Shakespeare but these artists showed them that it’s okay to stand up and perform in front of others, to cry and feel on stage, to balance football and literature (or even give football up, god forbid), and wear mascara with pride.  Thanks for that. And thanks to the fun and relatable directing and acting choices, they got a Paulina that sounds like their mom’s tough best friend, a steely speech from a jailed mother, a Polixenes that echoes the best and worst of their fathers, and a Leontes who descends into a powerful, believable frenzy that’s surprisingly similar to the throes of middle-school jealousy and spite.

I feel like I’m always making excuses not to write thank-you notes. But Cal Shakes is really special for us, and I thank you all for moving me today.

With gratitude,

Jana Maiuri
(Teacher, Edna Brewer Middle School)

See more highlights of her students’ experience with these photos from Cal Shakes’s 2013 Student Discovery Matinees.


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 in:stumbleupon.com
  • 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!”

Jumping Into the Fire: An Understudy’s Tale

During the extension week of Liesl Tommy’s Hamlet this month, actor Nicholas Pelczar fell ill the morning of the Student Discovery Matinee, and his understudy, Philip Goleman, went on for him.

This is his story.

Everyone said, “Not what you expected when you woke up this morning, huh?” And it was not: It was a whirlwind from the moment (Stage Manager) Laxmi (Kumran) called me to the minute I got back on BART to head back to work after the show.

I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as I was whisked from the green room to the stage for fight call to rework the play’s final fight; to the dressing room to get the down-low on the costumes; to the moment when I finally stepped on stage. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a wonderful, supportive group of actors, stage management, and backstage crew to get me properly through the show.

It’s a show that, from the audience’s perspective, did not seem like three hours—and it seemed a lot shorter from my perspective that day. For me, my favorite moment was coming down through the audience as Laertes, gun in hand, yelling at the King, with the kids in the audience turning to see me and exclaiming “whoa!” as I went down the steps toward the stage. That made the day for me, being there to make sure that they got to see this show and get exposure to Shakespeare.

Going on is not something you expect to happen, especially in the extension week, but you keep alive the idea and the willingness to jump into the fire on a moment’s notice. With a phenomenal show and superb cast and production crew, you know you’re not jumping in alone, and it’s something I would willing jump into again and again.

Pictured above: Goleman with actors LeRoy McClain (Hamlet) and Zainab Jah (Ophelia) after his performance; photo by Jay Yamada.


Listen to Trish Tillman Talk About 32-Second Shakespeare

Trish Tillman

Trish Tillman

Here’s our own Director of Artistic Learning Trish Tillman on the air at FOX 101.1 FM in Salinas yesterday, talking with Mark Carbanaro about her 32-second Shakespeare at the Carmel Authors & Ideas Fest and our production of Hamlet.


Death and Revenge in Hamlet

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly on grief and vengeance in Hamlet and beyond.

Painting of Shakespeare's Hamlet and his father's ghost by Henry Fuseli.

Painting of Hamlet and his father’s ghost by Henry Fuseli.

Hamlet returns from Wittenberg to honor his father’s death, and is suddenly confronted with his father’s ghost. Immediately, it seems, he is roused (or provoked) to an act of honorable revenge; and thereafter there transpires all the mix of rage and scrupulousness that drives us inward—along with young Hamlet—to the maddeningly fascinating heart of Shakespeare’s play.

There is, indisputably, this sword of honorable revenge that helps drive us inward with Hamlet; but I would like to call attention also to the meaning of simple grief. Many in the audience know all-too-well what is to suffer the death of a family member—because we are human, and because death is one of those few things (apart from our birth) that remain, quite simply, beyond our direct control. Now think of Hamlet, returning from Wittenberg, with his father long-buried and his mother remarried to his uncle.“Heaven and earth! Must I remember?” Hamlet says. His very second line in the play is, “I am too much in the sun.” Hamlet is, from the very start of the play, cast in a vale of tears, and his new “parents” are determined and resolved to live in the sun. Hamlet tells his mother that he wants to set her up a glass: to see what? To take her out of the sun and into the darkness where he resides?

Hamlet Before King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, and Ophelia by Christian August Printz.

I suggest that Hamlet’s inward spiral begins before he ever meets the ghost. It is the fact of death itself that has sent him scurrying inwards—the fact of death itself that has raised up, for him, his own inward glass. Much has been written about the ghost provoking young Hamlet’s inner struggles of “to do or not to do,” “to be or not to be”—but I wonder whether Shakespeare isn’t alluding to the very fact of death itself—its ineluctability, the fact that we cannot un-make death, the fact that we can never have again that person, nor replay the day he died and do the day differently—that resides at the very root of Hamlet’s inaction. Death was a different commodity in Shakespeare’s time (much more common) and kings and princes were different commodities as well. But, even for a king, even for a prince, there is still the very fact of mortality, what it means and how we can possibly cope with it. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, has responded to her husband’s death by doing the first best thing—she papers over the hole that her husband left with a new king and a new husband so that things run along as they always have. This doesn’t mean she does not suffer—it possibly means that she is not prepared, internally, to live with the hole that’s opened up by death if she doesn’t have to. In telling her that he will be her glass, Hamlet is not just saying “Look into yourself and see that you have betrayed the memory of your dead husband by marrying his brother,” but “Look into MYself and see the pain that lives there. I am outraged when I see you pretending that that pain is not there—because I have chosen to live with it.”

I suggest, then, that ideas of loyalty and honorable revenge are—even in Shakespeare’s day—not just codes of internal structuring and mechanics for this, possibly his most famous play. Shakespeare was so devilishly psychologically astute, these codes are something else as well: They are masks for the real, elemental emotions of mortality that strike at the heart of all humans in all times and circumstances.

Liesl Tommy’s production of Hamlet  graces our stage September 19–October 14, 2012.


Igniting a Spark

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly offers more contextual information on the writing of Blithe Spirit, on our stage now through September 2, 2012.

Noel Coward visits the orphanage

Coward visiting the Actors Orphanage, Chertsey, Surrey, where he was president, 1939. He arranged for all the children to be evacuated to New York the following year for the remainder of the war.

Despite its having nothing to do with war, Noël Coward very much saw Blithe Spirit as a war effort, designed to lift the spirits of the London public. By 1941, he had been intensely involved with the war effort for the whole of the previous two years (thus spending two entire years away from his typewriter). He had been excused from most of World War I on medical grounds, and had gladly pursued his professional and social ambitions, ending that war as London’s darling. But by the time of World War II he had grown up, and had a real sense of patriotism. He served for a brief time as a secret agent in Paris and entertained the allied troops in Europe, Africa, and the Far East, often covering his travel expenses himself; he also made trips to America, to try to persuade the Americans to join the war. Soon after staging Blithe Spirit, he would go on to write This Happy Breed, a play explicitly imbued with nationalist fervor.

By the time he sat down to write Blithe Spirit, Coward was in a whirl of creativity— he wrote it within five days! He set the play back in the 1930s, in Kent, where he himself had a house. During the war period Kent was actually deeply immersed in the war effort, with planes flying constantly overhead and inducing evacuations of women and children to safer parts of England. But in the ’30s, due to a massive renovation of England’s public rail system, Kent had been prized as an upper-middle-class urban idyll, pleasurably removed from the noise and bustle of London and yet easily accessible to it by rail for reasons of work, theater, and upmarket shopping.

After writing Blithe Spirit, Coward sat back and said “This is the best comedy I’ve ever written.” He changed only two lines of the initial draft before the play hit the boards on July 2, 1941. It opened to 1997 consecutive performances, breaking West End box office records.

Read the Blithe Spirit program and many more articles about our Main Stage productions at calshakes.org/articles.



Food for Thought: Blithe Spirit Rehearsal Blog July 18

The following was written by Director of Marketing and Communications Janet Magleby, after sitting in on rehearsals this week. Stay tuned for weekly dispatches from the room!

Anthony Fusco as Charles, Jessica Kitchens as Elvira, and René Augesen as Ruth; photo by Kevin Berne.

Anthony Fusco as Charles, Jessica Kitchens as Elvira, and René Augesen as Ruth; photo by Kevin Berne.

As the Blithe Spirit rehearsal picks up after a ten-minute break in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall, Stage Manager Corrie Bennett announces, “and we’re back.” Rebekah Brockman, playing Edith the maid, practices walking and balancing a silver tea set on a tray. “Let’s start with page 77 and the doorbell,” says Director Mark Rucker.  Composer/Sound Designer Will McCandless presses the magic button and the doorbell announces Madam Arcati (Domenique Lozano). She has come to visit Ruth Condomine*, at her request. René Augesen (Ruth) answers the door, invites her in, and instantly offers her some tea.

Ruth: “Would you like some tea, Madame Arcati?”

Madame Aracti: “Chinese or Indian? I never touch Indian—it upsets my vibrations.”

Ruth confirms it’s Chinese.

Madame Arcati:”What is in these sandwiches?”

Ruth: “Cucumber.”

Madame Arcati: “Couldn’t be better!” (She helps herself to one.)

This is when I knew that I’d better eat at the café at the Bruns before I sit down to enjoy this production … all this talk about food is definitely going to make me hungry!

Ruth then begins to describe what has happened to her husband and her home since the recent séance. Madame Arcati is thrilled when she realizes that she has accomplished something extraordinary, but apologizes to Ruth and asks how she can help.

Ruth: By zipping her (Elvira) back to wherever she came from!”

Blithe Spirit Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012

Blithe Spirit runs Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012 at Cal Shakes.

When Ruth insists that she go into a trance or “something” and take care of the ghostly issue at hand, Madame Arcati says it takes several days to prepare and she even has to watch what she eats. She then says, “I had Pigeon Pie yesterday.”

Q: What is Pigeon Pie?
A: Recipe here.

After Ruth infuriates and insults Madame Arcati, the medium she leaves in a huff, exclaiming, “You can stew in your own juice!” (For those of you playing at home, that’s food/drink reference number four.) Then, Elvira (Jessica Kitchens—yes, I realize the coincidence here) and Charles (Anthony Fusco) enter. Elvira announces that she’d like a cucumber sandwich, too … alas, she can’t eat in her ethereal state.

Scene Three

Ruth is visiting with Mrs. Bradman. Ruth offers Mrs. Bradman a cocktail: “Sherry, perhaps?” Dr. Bradman enters and Ruth offers him Sherry, too. Director Rucker makes several blocking adjustments to assure that they are bringing the action downstage. But for the most part he lets the scene run completely through, without stopping. I am stunned at how well the actors already know their lines and places. The emotion that René employs in playing Ruth is astounding.

A Few Glossary Words from Scene Three:
Fortnight: 14 nights or two weeks
Dotty: mentally unbalanced, crazy

Corrie announces we’re going back to page 92. Elvira and Charles start again with the line…”Oh, let her go, Charles,” referring to Ruth storming out of the room announcing she’ll have “dinner on a tray.” Anthony wonders how his character will pick up his cocktail with his injured arm.

Then a slight interruption as Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, who has just returned from Italy, unexpectedly drops in. Instant hugs and kisses all around. He is thrilled with the look of the furniture and wondered where we got it. Jon starts noshing on some of the snacks on the actors’ table (he knows the importance of a nice snack) and then is was off as quick as he came.

Everyone goes back to work … page 100. I’m headin’ to dinner.

Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, directed by Mark Rucker, plays Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012 at Cal Shakes’ stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA. Get your tickets today!

*Dialect Coach Lynn Soffer has decided that the Condomines’ last name will be pronounced “Condo Mean.”



Dance Jamming with Traci Bartlow and the Cast of SPUNK

Artistic Intern Andrea Safar gives a report from inside the Spunk rehearsal room.


cast of Cal Shakes Spunk with director Patricia McGregor and choreographer Poloma McGregor.

Spunk rehearsals. How to even begin to describe them? They are a vortex of laughter, comfort, and warmth. The ensemble converts the chilly white-walled room into a home and there’s no way you will leave without a smile on your face! 

Luckily, I have been given the task of producing the Friday night dance parties—or Onstage Dance Jams— wherein local choreographer Traci Bartlow, will invite audience members onstage after the 90-minute show to learn a few moves and dance together. The audience will learn moves from the Lindy Hop, jazz dances, and even how to Charleston. Traci was invited to rehearsal to show the cast the same steps so that they can incorporate them in the performance.

They started their dance rehearsal with the same warm-up the cast always uses. We stood in a circle (I was lucky enough to be included) and we clapped and chanted “I am,” “I want,” “I need,” “I feel,” with all of us, one by one, completing the sentences. It was full of joy and L. Peter Callender, who plays Sykes and Slang Talk Man, finished it by saying “I feel … like I need to give everyone a hug!” and we all jumped around embracing and laughing and just being glad to be in the same room with one another.

Traci then turned on some music and had the group follow her dance steps. They barely stumbled, and were almost immediately in sync and having a good time. The jazzy and cool music—similar to the tunes in the show—filled the room and everyone felt the rhythm and flow within them. Even those of us who weren’t dancing were still moving a little in our chairs or tapping our feet. I can already envision the audience members feeling the music move them the same way when watching Tru Peterson, playing Guitar Man, make music on stage.