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.