Ask Philippa: Twelfth Night Edition

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo courtesy Philippa Kelly.

Twelfth Night is Shakespeare’s last and darkest comedy, written in 1601. Director Christopher Liam Moore calls Twelfth Night his favorite Shakespeare play, treasuring its capacity to soar to the heights of mirth and delve to the darker parts of humanity. Set on the tiny island of Illyria, the play takes its characters on a huge emotional journey, in which they question who they are, mourn losses, entertain big dreams, and discover parts of themselves that they didn’t know where there.

I’d be delighted to answer any artistic or dramaturgy questions about what’s in store for this season’s production of Twelfth Night. Curious about cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Ask Philippa! Please leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.

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Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question.

Buy tickets for Twelfth Night, or subscribe to the 2015 Season, by clicking here; or, call the Box Office at 510.548.9666.

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From Twelfth Night to Life Is a Dream: Fate Works in Mysterious Ways

Get Tangled Up In Love show art for Twelfth NightThe first two productions of our 2015 season—Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night about falling in love with mistaken identities and Life Is a Dream, Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 1635 drama, translated and adapted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Nico Cruz, which examines the relationship between fate and reality—couldn’t seem farther apart at first read. But it turns out Olivia, Viola, Orsino, and Sebastian have more in common with King Basilio, Segismundo, and Rosauro then one might think. Here our Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly explains the link between these two wildly different productions.

The question: Where character comes from and where it can lead? is at the core of both Twelfth Night and Life Is a Dream. Twelfth Night’s characters have their dreams, but they end up with fates they never dreamed of. In Life Is a Dream, Calderon’s 17th century Spanish masterpiece, translated and adapted by Nilo Cruz, the question grabs us from the very start and chills us with its development. Does a person have any real power to change the fate that’s written for him or her? And if not, why not? Malvolio struggles with this idea in Twelfth Night and we’ll see in Life Is a Dream the vengeance that is wreaked by a son who is imprisoned for the first 20 years of his life. Was his father right to lock him up? Was he wrong to release him, given that he’s done exactly the monstrous deeds that were predicted at his birth? Or is his vengeance created by his father’s actions? (Who wouldn’t want to go on a rampage after being locked away since birth?) Do we have the power to change our fates and to change the way we adapt to experience? Come judge for yourselves.

Twelfth Night starts Previews on May 17 and runs through June 21. Life Is a Dream starts Previews on July 8 and runs through August 2. Click here to learn more and buy tickets. Hear more about the link between these two shows from Philippa herself at the Life Is a Dream Inside Scoop, June 22 at the Orinda Library. Reserve your spot here.

 

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Ask Philippa: 2015 Pre-season Edition

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo by Richard Friedman.

The 2014 Season has just barely ended, and already we’re preparing for 2015. We have an incredible array of artists and plays lined up for the 2015 Season, and I can’t wait to see you all tumbling out of the grove next season with your digestibles and into our beautiful amphitheater.

While Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone has written a letter about the 2015 Season, here’s a brief overview of the Main Stage season:

Twelfth Night
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Christopher Liam Moore
May 27–June 21

Director Christopher Liam Moore (Cal Shakes’ Lady Windermere’s Fan) is renowned for being able to delve into comedy, romance, and language with humanity and élan. Now he’s opening our season with Shakespeare’s comic masterpiece of mistaken identity, in which shipwrecked twins navigate across a strange island to find love—and each other.

Life Is a Dream
By Pedro Calderón de la Barca
Translated and Adapted by Nilo Cruz
Directed by Loretta Greco
July 8–August 2

This stunning Spanish Golden Age classic that’s been called “the Spanish Hamlet” tells the tale of a prince imprisoned by his father at birth because of a prophecy. Magic Theatre’s Loretta Greco directs a brilliant translation and adaptation by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Nilo Cruz, who brings urgency and accessibility to Calderon’s mythic, poetic play, where reality and dreams collide in a story of human will battling fate.

 The Mystery of Irma Vep
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Jonathan Moscone
August 12–September 6

Lady Enid is haunted by the spirit of her husband’s ex-wife, Irma Vep—but that’s just the beginning of her problems. Mummies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other surprise guests pursue the numerous characters played frenetically by only two actors, including the fabulous Danny Scheie in a gender-bending tour-de-force performance. Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone (Pygmalion, American Night) takes on Charles Ludlam’s outrageously ingenious comedy.

King Lear
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
September 16–October 11

At the beginning of Shakespeare’s King Lear, an old king asks his daughters to deliver love in return for slices of land. A cataclysmic scene ensues, at the end of which Lear (via hubris? Naivity? The foolishness of age?) is thrust out into the world with almost nothing that’s ever had value to him—without his land, without his familiar duties and prerogatives, and, most importantly, without his most precious daughter. He goes on an epic journey to finally (and fleetingly) experience the redemption of love, and, indeed, the redemption of a self.  Nationally renowned director Amanda Dehnert—whose credits include the groundbreaking 2011 production of Julius Caesar at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival—directs two-time Tony award nominee Anthony Heald as Shakespeare’s profound tragic hero.

As 2015 draws near, I’d be delighted to answer any artistic or dramaturgy questions about what’s in store for next year. Curious about cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Ask Philippa! Please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.

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Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question.

Subscribe to the 2015 Season by clicking here, or call 510.548.9666.

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Rave “Raisin” Review Roundup

Our 40th Anniversary Summer Season has only just begun, and the buzz has been overwhelming. Since Opening Night on May 24, reviews for A Raisin in the Sun have been praising the stellar cast and inventive production.

Karen D’Souza, in her review in the San Jose Mercury News, called Cal Shakes’ Raisin a “resonant revival” that “taps into the timelessness of the characters, the way their struggles to keep their heads above water echo our own.”  D’Souza praised the “powerhouse actresses” that portray the three women. “Ryan Nicole Peters etches Lena’s daughter-in-law Ruth with great sensitivity,” wrote D’Souza. “Walter Younger’s wife doesn’t usually get a chance to speak her mind but Peters colors her glances with so much exhaustion and regret that you always feel the impact of her presence. Peters also shows us how easily Ruth blossoms in a rare moment of kindness from her husband.” Continue reading

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Life Interrupted

By Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg

On the final day of a trip I recently made to Australia, I sat with my sister-in-law, reading from one of the last diary entries that my brother wrote before his death in a mountain-climbing accident three and a half years ago. In his almost indecipherable backhand, and in between lists of equipment, two-or-three-word observations on the climate in the mountains where he was, and reminders of appointments to be made or kept on his return, John wrote a cryptic note to himself: “Enjoy new challenges. All those years at MSJ and ALLCO not for nothing.” My brother had been a high-flying lawyer for the above two firms: a wealthy man who, in his late forties, decided that he wanted to quit corporate law and devote himself to improving the lives of young people who had not had the advantages his own children enjoyed. Within six months of this decision he was dead, the years of unfulfilled promise stretching before him as a road mapped out for others, and not himself, to travel on.

As I read John’s final diary entry—and knowing how I feel about him (gone/not gone, beautiful/wasted)—I was of course, as is every person who grieves a loved one, reminded of my feelings about others who’ve passed through this inescapable human gate; in this case, Lorraine Hansberry.

Lorraine_Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry

In 1959, at the age of 29, Lorraine wrote to her mother in anticipation of the Broadway debut of A Raisin in the Sun:

…it is a play that tells the truth about people, Negroes and life and I think it will help a lot of people to understand how we are just as complicated as they are—and just as mixed up—but above all, that we have among our miserable and downtrodden ranks—people who are the very essence of human dignity. That is what, after all the laughter and tears, the play is supposed to say. I hope it will make you proud. See you soon. Love to all.

The period in which Lorraine wrote this letter to her mother was, she said, “one of the most affirmative periods in history”— a period of upcoming revolution—to which “Walter Lee Younger and his family are tied…whether they have consciousness about it or not.”

Not only did Lorraine go on to open a play on Broadway that had an initial run of 530 performances, but she was also the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. Her play—the play you will see here at Cal Shakes—helped to usher in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which would change race relations in America forever. Looking back on her play just before her death in 1964, she wrote in a letter to the New York Times:

25 years ago, [my father] spent a small personal fortune, his considerable talents, and many years of his life fighting, in association with NAACP attorneys, Chicago’s ‘restrictive covenants’ in one of this nation’s ugliest ghettos. That fight also required our family to occupy disputed property in a hellishly hostile “white neighborhood” in which literally howling mobs surrounded our house… My memories of this “correct” way of fighting white supremacy in America include being spat at, cursed and pummeled in the daily trek to and from school.

Through A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine found her own way to fight, through a war waged with words. She brought the Younger family out of the shadows of Chicago’s South side and imagined for them a different life on a different side of town; absorbing white Broadway audiences within this particular family’s struggles, compelling them to care about, and feel with, a segment of the population that had heretofore been largely faceless to them, visible for the most part only as domestic workers, chauffeurs, yardmen.

Lorraine was initially applauded by her white Broadway audiences for creating a family of “everymans”; but no, Lorraine stated in a rebuke to her enthusiastic reviewers: these were not everymen. These were the Youngers:

 What [reviewers] are trying to say is something very good; that they believe the characters transcend category. I believe that one of the most sound ideas in dramatic writing is that in order to create the universal, you must pay very great attention to the specific. Universality, I think, emerges from truthful identity of what is…. [This family] is specifically South Side Chicago. That kind of care, that kind of attention to detail, to the extent that people accept them and believe them, to the extent that they can become anybody.  [This] is definitely a Negro play before it is anything else.

Perhaps each individual is in some sense an everyman; but every “everyman” is also, in a very real sense, an individual; this is what Lorraine Hansberry believed, and she herself endures as more “individual” than most. Amongst the remnants of Lorraine’s life have flourished a field born of promises: the promise she foresaw in the decade ahead, a promise that the Youngers would not themselves fulfill because this was the 1950s, before the civil rights movement had taken full swing. And, more poignantly still, there was the promise of Lorraine‘s brilliant talent, beckoning toward future works, cut off by her cancer before these works could be written. Who knows what she’d have gone on to do? But what she did do in her brief life was amazing.

To learn more about Cal Shakes’ summer production of A Raisin in the Sun and buy tickets, click here.

Dr Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post on the ASK PHILIPPA blog to ask her a question.

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Off to Ashland! A Weekend of Theater and Discussion in Oregon

This October 3-5, Cal Shakes Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly will lead a trip to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Attendees will stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel and attend three plays during their stay, while enjoying dinners, cocktails, and conversation with Philippa and other guests. Philippa will lead discussions on each play and give her own insight. If you are interested in attending or learning more, please call or email Special Events Manager Shelly Jackson at 510.809.3297 or ashlandtour@calshakes.org no later than Monday, May 12.

The Tempest

Dennis Arndt in The Tempest. Photo courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Why perform a play at this time, in this space, and for this audience?  What kind of play are we watching? These are some of the questions that a dramaturg asks, either when beginning work with a cast and crew or when leading a tour like the one we’ll be taking to Ashland this October. We’ll be seeing The Tempest, Shakespeare’s late work that explores revenge, relinquishment, aging, deep love, and indeed, the surrender that comes with such love. What do we know about Shakespeare’s life at the time when he was writing The Tempest? He wrote the play at the age of 47, yet themes of mortality had underscored his writing from quite early in his career, as with Sonnet 73: “That time of year thou may’st in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/ Upon those boughs which shake against the cold…”

Water by the Spoonful

Daniel José Molina in Water by the Spoonful. Photo courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

We’ll also see Water By the Spoonful, whose plot pivots on a returning Iraq War veteran working in a sandwich shop in his hometown of Philadelphia. Haunted by his memories, and of one in particular, this literally crippled man interacts with various characters who have, each in a different way, been crippled within the alienating modern world. I’ve recently done a lot of research on the experience of war veterans—both in reading and by interview—and I look forward to integrating some of this knowledge into our pre-show session on Water by the Spoonful.

Kenajuan Bentley and Jack Willis in The Great Society.

Kenajuan Bentley and Jack Willis in The Great Society. Photo courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The third play we’ll see is The Great Society, the sequel to Robert Schenkkan’s remarkable play All the Way, which blew me away when I saw it in 2012. This new play is again about Lyndon Johnson, looking at the period from 1965 to 1968 when LBJ struggled to fight a “war on poverty” as the Vietnam War escalated out of control.

I love leading these tours because they challenge me to enrich the experience of play-going for all of us who meet up there in Oregon’s beautiful theater town, surrounded by lush walking trails. In addition, I bring in guest artists and dramaturges to chat with you over dinner—many of the OSF staff members have become my friends since I worked there last year, and they bring an intimate (and often humorous) knowledge to our table. I want to share it all with you.

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Additional Details on the Ashland OSF Tour with Cal Shakes Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly:

WHEN: Friday, October 3 through Sunday, October 5, 2014

LODGING: The elegant Ashland Springs Hotel in the heart of downtown, just steps away from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

DINING: Your package includes Friday night cocktail reception and dinner, and Saturday night dinner at a restaurant in town; breakfasts included with your stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel.

ENTERTAINMENT

FRIDAY EVENING: The Tempest, Shakespeare’s classic tale as reimagined by Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone. In Shakespeare’s romance, sorcery and love transmute vengeance into humility and humanity, making it possible for all to return to a world made new by the power of forgiveness.

SATURDAY MATINEE: Water by the Spoonful, directed by Shishir Kurup. In this fearless, groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize–winner, worlds virtual and real unfold onstage, challenging our notions of family, forgiveness, community, and courage. A janitor. A software mogul. A college grad. An IRS paper-pusher. Although they live thousands of miles apart, these four people share a secret: They’re recovering addicts who’ve found a safe haven in an online chat room. There, with liberal doses of jokes and bullying, they help each other navigate the broken terrain of their lives. But when an Iraq War vet’s tragedy spills over into their cyberhome, everything changes.

SATURDAY EVENING: The Great Society, directed by Bill Rauch (OSF’s Artistic Director), the tumultuous beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency that Robert Schenkkan presented in All the Way (2012) continues in part two, The Great Society. This world premiere is an unflinching examination of the morality of power.

SUNDAY MORNING: We’ll come together to reflect on our experience of all three productions this weekend, facilitated by Philippa’s illuminating insights.

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation to and from Ashland is not provided. Short distances in Ashland (from hotel to restaurant, hotel to theater) are readily walkable by people in moderate health.

COST: $1,200 per person double occupancy, or $1,350 single occupancy (includes a $500 tax-deductible contribution to Cal Shakes). A deposit of $300/per person is required to confirm your reservation.

RSVP: Please call or email Special Events Manager Shelly Jackson at 510.809.3297 or ashlandtour@calshakes.org no later than Monday, May 12.

2013 Ashland trip participants

2013 Ashland trip participants.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Joyce Weissman

Meet Joyce!

Joyce Weissman joined the Cal Shakes Volunteer Corps in 2011. Joyce commutes from the South Bay via public transit to serve as an usher at our Student Matinees, and as a raffle ticket seller at our evening performances; you may have even seen her at your picnic table at the Bruns.

When asked whose dramatic shoes she’d like to fill on our stage, she said “If I could be any character– and since I love to laugh and hear others laugh– my dream part is to play any character, in any play performed by Omozé Idehenre, Stephen Epp, Bill Irwin, and Danny Scheie.”

Read on to learn more about Joyce and her passion for theater and how she spends her time as a volunteer at Cal Shakes.

What does Cal Shakes and theater mean to you?

I am transported to a passionate place in my heart and my mind to a creative and inspirational world of storytelling at the Cal Shakes outdoor theater. The endless possibilities of learning, changing a belief, seeing something differently, sensing how a play moves inside me and moves me, being open to the magical world of theater, I am just plain PASSIONATE about theater, hands down.

What’s a typical volunteer shift like for you?

My two favorite volunteer positions at Cal Shakes include: firstly, student matinees, I love hearing the students immediate response to what happens on the stage, and being with the students, I allow myself full expression and response to happen freely. My second is raffle ticket volunteer. I indirectly help support students get to the theater and have all sorts of creative theater learning experiences in the classroom via Cal Shakes. The students become involved in the arts, and receive the bonus of expanding their creativity, imagination, and confidence building skills.

Joyce, 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.

Cal Shakes Volunteers on our Community Day of Service. Photo by Jamie Buschbaum.

Cal Shakes Volunteers on our Community Day of Service. Photo by Jamie Buschbaum.

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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Division, Harmony, and “Medical Mistakes”: Twins in Shakespeare

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly muses on twins in Shakespeare’s work and time.

Twins. Frontispiece from "Tales from Shakespeare," McLoughlin Brothers, 1890. Public domain.

Frontispiece from "Tales from Shakespeare," McLoughlin Brothers, 1890. Public domain.

This season Cal Shakes will stage Shakespeare’s two plays—The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night—the plots of which are facilitated by identical twins. In Twelfth Night, directed for us and Intersection for the Arts by Michelle Hensley (Artistic Director and founder of Minneapolis company Ten Thousand Things), there is one set of twins, a boy and a girl, who constitute Shakespeare’s famous medical “mistake.” You can’t have identical twins of different genders—we know that now—but in Shakespeare’s day this wasn’t known. There was, however, a great public interest in twins, due in no small part to the fact that twins were supposed to be engendered by an excessive female response to sperm, and also to the fact that twins were so difficult to give birth to, let alone to raise to maturity. Today twins are very common, partly because of in vitro fertilization and partly because the infant mortality rate has greatly shrunk in the western world. But in Shakespeare’s time this was not the case. Many parents did not name their children until the age of five, so great was the chance that the child would die during its early years. Shakespeare himself was not the oldest of his siblings, but was the first to live past infancy.

Imagine how even higher the stakes were for parents of twins. With twins’ added risk of a great range of nutritional and obstetric problems, as well as low birth weights and increased prematurity, they were widely thought to punish their mothers by adding to the pain borne by every pregnant woman (such pain being referred to in The Comedy of Errors as “The pleasing punishment that women bear”). Shakespeare and his wife had twins, only one of whom survived past childhood.

Perhaps because the survival of identical twins to adulthood was rare in that time, many writers before Shakespeare were intrigued by their value, not least as a plot device. There was an enormous number of twins in folk tales and ballads, court poetry and prose. For Shakespeare in both Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors, identical twins provide the basis for foils, doubles, misprised identity, and gender confusion. The playwright may have been inspired to use them in both plays by the thought of who his sponsors were. The first recorded performances of both plays were at the Inns of Court—The Comedy of Errors  in 1594 and Twelfth Night in 1602—and lawyers were at this time fascinated by identical twins because of the legal implications of mistaken identity. (Interestingly, in this context, we might note that The Comedy of Errorshas three references to “law.”)

Poster for an 1879 production on Broadway, featuring Stuart Robson and William Crane

Poster for an 1879 production on Broadway, featuring Stuart Robson and William Crane.

Twins provide a great plot engine for Shakespeare—they allow him to create complications, mockeries and new inventions. Thematically, moreover, twinning gives him an opportunity to explore the mind-body connection which is still so puzzling today, and which can be reflected in Shakespeare’s own puzzlements about the relation of the mind to the body (“Your face, my Thane, is a book/Where men may read strange matters”; “There’s no art/To find the mind’s construction in the face…”Macbeth). Conversely, twins also allowed him to explore his fascination with the “twinned” juvenile soul of friendship that is, as children mature, gateway to minds and bodies that become fatally divided in adulthood (“Two cherries on one stem,” A Midsummer Night’s Dream; “twinned lambs/That did frisk in the sun,” A Winter’s Tale). But in this season’s two plays about physical twinning, division returns to harmony. In each case, the brutal “splitting” of the ships that have carried identical twins away from each other resolves in the jubilation of togetherness, the celebration and relief that is reclaimed in a single root.

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It’s our 40th anniversary: Tell us a story.

The Tempest at John Hinkel 1980

Jane Macfie as Ariel and Julian Lopez-Morillas as Prospero in THE TEMPEST at John Hinkel Park, 1980

As you may have heard or seen us mention, 2014 is our 40th anniversary season. Yes, we’ve come a long way since our first show, of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on May 10, 1974 at the Unitarian Fellowship Hall in Berkeley. For one thing, we’ve had a lot of names: Emeryville Shakespeare Company (which is what we were called for that production of Midsummer, at least), Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater/Cal Shakes, and probably a couple more in between. For another, we’ve performed a lot of places: the Unitarian Hall, John  Hinkel Park, our current Bruns Amphitheater, and now—for the special production of Twelfth Night coming together in our rehearsal hall as I type this—at the intimate performance space of our co-presenters, Intersection for the Arts.

Howard Swain as Puck and Dan Hiatt as Bottom in MIDSUMMER

Howard Swain as Puck and Dan Hiatt as Bottom in MIDSUMMER, the first production at the Bruns, 1991; photo by David Allen.

Did I forget some names and locations? If so, I’m hoping someone will let me know. Because there are scores of folks who have been with us, if not from the very beginning, then at least for decades. Nancy Carlin, for example, was in As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream our first summer in John Hinkel Park, 1975; and she’s portraying Malvolio and Valentine in Twelfth Night next month! There are patrons who had first dates at John Hinkel, and whose children or grandchildren now attend our Summer Shakespeare Conservatories. There are generations for whom an evening or afternoon at the Bruns is a family tradition. There are actors, staff, and volunteers who have been with us for 20 or more years. Are you one of them? Because we would love to hear from you. As the year unfurls, we’ll be rolling out new initiatives, celebrating special events, and publishing historical articles in our Main Stage show programs—all honoring our decades of history, and the bright future yet to come. And we want to hear your story.

Did you meet your lifelong best friend in one of our youth programs? Were you at that first performance, in the audience or backstage? Do you remember John Hinkel Park fondly? Have you been subscribing since the Bruns opened in 1991? Have you seen every production we’ve ever done?We’re hoping to collect your stories throughout the year, for a variety of uses. If you have one, you can share it in nearly as many ways as there are Shakespeare plays:

We’re really looking forward to hearing from you, and to honoring our four decades with you all year long.

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Ask Philippa: 2014 Pre-season Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes, invites your questions about our 2014 season, which begins May 21. Subscriptions on sale now.

Headshot of Philippa Kelly

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo by Richard Friedman.

2014 brings a very exciting season for many reasons—not the least of which is that it’s Cal Shakes’ 40th anniversary.

First up is Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Patricia McGregor, who first joined us at the Bruns last in 2012 with her magnificent Spunk. A Raisin in the Sun offers a stunning portrait of a black family’s experience in racially divided Chicago, injecting domestic and racial tension into 1950s self-portraits of the post-war American Dream. Raisin made Hansberry the youngest playwright, the fifth woman, and the only black writer ever to win the New York Critics’ Circle award. (The play also inspired the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, written 60 years later and directed by our own Jonathan Moscone in an award-winning production at A.C.T. in 2011). Next is Shakespeare’s early play The Comedy of Errors, directed by Aaron Posner, a comic take on mistaken identity that offers a brilliant look at the dark side of Shakespeare as well as the light—loss, isolation, family reunion, and redemption. Third in our season director Moscone brings us Pygmalion, often seen as George Bernard Shaw’s most enduringly important play, a savagely ironic critique of the British class system. (This play, too, made such a social impact that it gave birth, 44 years later, to another masterpiece, the musical My Fair Lady.) Lastly is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare play most often described as “perfect” in its exploration of love that opens out, concertina-like, from an early threat of punishment and even death. Buoyed by perhaps the most beautifully poetic language of Shakespeare’s entire career, director Shana Cooper will take us into the “green world” of the forest—will the lovers emerge from the forest different, or more truly themselves?

Look out, too, for my free, off-season session, Reprises and Rehearsals, a look at how the plays of the 2013 and 2014 seasons connect to different works and themes in their authors’ lives. Date TBD. In the meantime, post any question or observation you like right now (and into the early spring) and I will post an answer as quickly as possible—often within 24 hours.

Dr Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at pkelly@calshakes.org, or post below to ask her a question.

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