How many goodly creatures are there here!

Stage Management PIP Alex Kimmel offers a window into the Tempest rehearsal hall.

interns at Haight-Ashbury

Interns Katie, Jessica, Erin, and Alex at Haight-Ashbury.

I’m Alex and I’ve just completed my first week as an SM intern at Cal Shakes! Three cheers to Erin, Andrea, Katie, Jess, Kendall, and Jessica—all the other interns—for completing their successful first weeks!

And it has been such a fantastic first week. Just yesterday, we stumbled through all of Act I, and it looks fantastic. This comes as no surprise, but I am just overwhelmed by the talent and hard work everyone has thrown into this play. The play goes by quickly and is packed full of beautiful movement pieces, moving language, and lots and lots of charm and wit.

Since internships are about learning I thought I would use this blog to share the lessons I have learned at Cal Shakes so far.

Lesson 1: Cal Shakes folks are friendly folks! Smiling seems to be part of the dress code and everyone is extremely helpful (especially explaining how to properly use “Big Ricoh,” the printer).

Lesson 2: Percolators make weak coffee… I have yet to discover the ideal coffee- to-water ratio in a percolator, and for that I apologize to everyone who drinks the coffee I make. I’m working on it, and it’s getting better (I promise)!

Lesson 3: The nanosecond you take your eyes off the prompter’s script is the nanosecond that someone calls for line.

Lesson 4: Glitter is fun but it’s a bear to pick up. Folding the glitter makes it easier and faster to pick up (thanks, Corrie Bennett!).

Lesson 5: The universe—and Cal Shakes folks—are generous. If you mention that you are looking into buying a bike, someone may give you one for free (thanks again to Corrie!). That being said, the intern house would benefit from a vacuum …

Lesson 6: The songs in the play will get stuck in your head for three days straight. Singing Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” is an effective if unpleasant way to get the songs of the play out of your head (Thanks Catherine Castellanos!)

Lesson 7: Actors are creative, witty people (see Lesson 6), and if you give them a prop of a roasted rabbit on a spit, they will do creative, witty things with it … primarily when they are on their breaks.

Lesson 8: Scamels are delicious if you know how to cook them correctly.

I hope you have found these lessons as valuable as I have; if there are any that you don’t understand, I hope you take it as incentive to come see The Tempest opening in just two short weeks! It’s going to be a magical show!

Share

Candy in the Wardrobe Room: Behind the Scenes of THE VERONA PROJECT

By Stage Management intern Julia Van Broek

 

 

Stage management intern Julia Van Broek. Julia studies theater, with a concentration in lighting and scenic design, at UC Santa Barbara

“It’s like American Idiot the Musical meets Alice in Wonderland . . . oh yeah . . . and Shakespeare.”  This is how I described The Verona Project to my mother after the first few days of working as a stage management intern  for the show. A few days later I changed my description to “If the Princess Bride were a rock concert . . .” It didn’t take me much longer to realize that The Verona Project can’t be compared to anything because it is entirely original.

As an intern and a member of the run crew, I have seen the show countless times (or at least listened to it from backstage). It seems that no matter how many times I see it, I never tire of the whimsical atmosphere, hilarious comedic elements, and the music . . . the MUSIC!

Arwen Anderson singing "Julia's Story." Photo by Kevin Berne.

Since I began my involvement with the Project, neither I, nor any of my colleagues, have stopped singing, humming, or whistling the songs from the show. Everyone has his or her favorite.

Mine is “The Quiet” which is a beautiful and haunting song performed primarily by the three infinitely skilled actresses in the show: Marisa Duchowny, Elena Wright, and Arwen Anderson. Quite a few people on the crew say that “Julia’s Story” is their favorite. It is an upbeat rock song with enchanting lyrics that tell the entire back story of “Julia” played by the fabulously talented Arwen Anderson. “The City,” with its charming lyrics and reggae-esque rhythm, is another very popular tune among the crew and is performed by the nicest guy on Earth, Nate Trinrud (who knows every crew member’s name and always has a smile on his face).

Production Assistant Christina Hogan and Wardrobe Associate Courtney Flores often chuckle when they find me with my face pressed up against the wall that separates the offstage-left area from the house. I always try to peek through a hole in the wood or a crack of space between the wall and the weapons cabinet that is used as set dressing (and extends the sightline for those of us who are short enough to hide behind it). I am a true fan of the entire production, but I have a few favorite parts that I try to watch from backstage every night. Most of these are moments that are ad-libbed and therefore change every night. There are also a few lines that were improvised by Harold Pierce for one show, but were so good that they were unofficially added to the script. All the actors have added their own signature touches to the show that was largely written after they were cast. (The show was written by playwright-composer-director Amanda Dehnert).

Harold Pierce, Dan Clegg, Arwen Anderson, and Elena Wright jam during a performance. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Now that I have talked your ears off (or actually, your eyes out?) about how much I love The Verona Project, here are some things that go on behind the scenes while the show is happening. Once the performance begins,  I head downstairs to the undercroft to pick up a very special prop that is kept in the fridge. It is a glass jar filled with real peaches that “magically” lights up with a golden glow that looks enchanting in the misty darkness of the Bruns Ampitheater. Some serious recognition is owed to the two spectacularly brilliant ladies who built all the whimsical and clever properties that appear onstage: Prop Master Seren Helday and Prop Artisan Sarah Spero. My favorite job is the big shift we do at the end of “The City” when we transition into The Poetry and Fiction Shop in which the character Valentine works. A lot of things happen at once, and therefore a lot of things can go wrong. When I hear my cue in the song, I cross behind the set to stage right and wait with Deck Manager Sam Schwemberger and fellow Stage Management Intern Katy Adcox. When Sam hears his cue on his headset he says, “Shift . . . go!”  and I jog onstage. Christina sends a writing desk on casters rolling towards me; I catch it and roll it backwards to its spot onstage. At the same time, Sam and Katy roll on a doorframe and Sam tosses a can at me, which I catch and place on the writing desk before jogging offstage.

Adam Yazbeck ("the Duke") and Dan Clegg ("Proteus") in The Poetry and Fiction Shop. Photo by Kevin Berne.

1. “Julia’s Story” is the best time for crew to head to the bathroom

2. The cast goes through over thirty Ricola cough drops per show. (It helps their voices, especially in cold weather.)

3. There is usually candy in the wardrobe room if you look hard enough

4. Although they don’t have a lot of super funny moments on stage, Phil Mills (who plays Sylvio) and Adam Yazbeck (who plays the Duke) are extremely hilarious offstage, and often improvise their own renditions of songs from the show by adding silly lyrics that they think of on the spot (most of these cannot be repeated).

5.  Working on The Verona Project has been and will continue to be a wonderful learning experience for me, but most of all it is just a great show that I am lucky enough to see almost every night!


Share

Dancing Doors and Gossiping Trees at Two Week Summer Shakespeare Conservatory

By Katherine Goldman, Education Management Intern
Hello everybody! I’m Katherine, one of two education management interns in the Artistic Learning department of the California Shakespeare Theater. Working at Cal Shakes has been an amazing experience so far. Because I’m an arts administration intern, I spend most of my time working in our main offices, learning how to make all of our education programs run. We have  a bunch of programs, mostly for students (Summer Shakespeare Conservatories, Student Discovery Matinees, assemblies, and classes), but also a few for the life-long learners in our audience, such as Inside Scoops and pre-show Grove Talks.  With so many different programs, I’m always working on different projects, like running tech for an assembly or talking to parents about our summer conservatories. One of my toughest (yet most fun) projects was cutting The Taming of the Shrew down to a one-page version to be performed by our students before Student Matinees. It’s one of the ways we introduce the Main Stage plays to students—they perform the miniature version as fast as they can, get the gist of the major plot points, and then see the professionals do the show. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy to fit an entire play into one page, but  I can’t wait to see how the students react when they attend the play in the fall.

Even though I’m working in the office most of the time, sometimes I get to attend our educational programs. And the highlight of the summer so far has been working as a group leader at the Holy Names Conservatory. For two weeks, I escorted a group of 18 10- and 11-year-olds (known as the Riotous Knights) through busy days of classes and rehearsals. Although the camp was only two weeks long, the students were taught many acting fundamentals: improvisation, movement, voice/text, acting, Shakespeare history, and even some stage combat. They had a blast in the stage combat class—after all, what kid doesn’t love pretending to attack their peers? Especially when the fights were dropped into the wackiest scenarios:  stolen cookies, lost shoes, even a few ninjas who can only move in slow motion.

A good theater camp wouldn’t be complete without some crazy costume days. And crazy costume days we had, with Dress Like a Celebrity Day and Pajama Day. I loved Celebrity Day—of course we had several Justin Biebers (including a member of our staff), and a group of the eldest students came in full make-up as members of the band KISS. We had historical figures, musicians, even a cartoon character or two.

On our Master Class Monday, the Riotous Knights had some brand-new classes: They learned about the art of storytelling and they practiced applying some specialty stage makeup. My group of 11-year-olds aged before my eyes when they put on old-age makeup. It was surprisingly effective; an hour after that class, I spotted one of the Riotous Knights down the hall and had to do a double-take. She truly looked like she was in her 70s! But the surprise of the morning was the class about Professionalism, when L. Peter Callender came in and discussed with my students how to pursue acting as a career. Some of the Riotous Knights just wanted to do theater for fun, but others had really intelligent questions about the business of acting. I was impressed by how seriously they took the class. Having just graduated from an acting school myself, I’ve been asking many of the same questions that they asked. But don’t worry, parents: The number one point they learned was that school has to be the first priority.

After mornings of training, the afternoons were spent in rehearsals. Each of the five groups at Holy Names was working on a different play; the Riotous Knights were working on The Merchant of Venice with the amazing director Cat Thompson. Cat’s enthusiasm was contagious, and every Riotous Knight fell in love with her energy and love for the show. This production of Merchant was all about the ensemble, and every student was invested in the show and the story. The students came up with a bunch of innovative ideas for staging, and no ideas were impossible: We had doors that danced offstage, trees that giggled and gossiped, and caskets that sparkled with personality. The best part? The kids loved

Education management intern Katherine Goldman

playing those doors, trees, and caskets. The play was a complete success, and every student played a major role in the telling of the story. Our final performance went swimmingly and they had a ball being actors on the lovely stage at Holy Names High School.

Absolutely, without a doubt, the most amazing part of working with the Riotous Knights over the last two weeks was watching them grow. I saw the shyest kids become social butterflies. I saw how their work as an ensemble transferred to all their classes and break-time conversations. I saw them make interesting choices, collaborate, and produce a piece of theater that they understood and wanted to perform. And best of all, it was fun! Learning, growing, and having fun: It just doesn’t get better than that.

Share

It’s Summer Camp Time and the Living is Easy

By Anna Kritikos, Marketing intern.

After learning about stage combat, students line up at the door, ready for thier next class.

I spent last Tuesday at the Five-Week Summer Shakespeare Conservatory, wandering around and observing the multitude of activities; it made me realize how much I miss summer camps. I had a bast just moseying around the conservatory. In addition to appreciating the fun atmosphere that was ever-present at the camp, I was really impressed by the sophistication and the higher standard to which the teaching staff held the campers, while still maintaining that fun summer camp atmosphere.

The teaching staff at the conservatories—currently there are two sessions running, Five-Week at Bentley Upper School and Two-Week  at Holy Names—is composed of working professionals assisted by interns from the Professional Immersion Program and the Teaching Artist Fellowship. I met all of the Bentley staff and observed them at work, and their passion and energy was unyielding. It was absolutely wonderful to watch such excellent teachers.

I really appreciated the structure of the conservatory as well. It was like a theater kid’s heaven. I wish I could enroll in the conservatory simply to attend all the classes the teaching staff provides the kids. In the morning, all of the campers attend classes: one-hour sessions in stage combat, improv, Shakespeare history, movement, or text/voice. That’s what was on the agenda the day I attended, but other days include storytelling, a master class on hip-hop Shakespeare, and so on. Before listening in on a Shakespeare history class I thought it would be a bit of an uphill battle—trying to get kids to listen to history during the summer months seemed to me to be a very tough mountain to climb—but with the skills and larger-than-life personalities of the faculty, it was not at all the losing battle I had predicted. It was actually fun.

The second half of the day, after lunch, is rehearsal time, with the five different groups all retreating to separate classrooms to rehearse the plays they were working on. I was impressed by the young kids tackling Shakespearean language with tenacity, laughing and joking and having a blast. The interns and TAFS got to teach and exercise their directorial skills by working with small groups within the casts—simultaneously providing one-on-one attention for the campers and hands-on experience for the TAFs and PIPS who are pursuing careers in theater education.

“You really pick up a different part of your craft when you are able to articulate it, rather than just do it,” Teaching Artist Fellow Vince Rodriguez said. “And so not only do I teach the kids, they also teach me. Also, to be able to see how one goes about teaching abstract concepts like movement  to such young kids is wonderful, and I’m learning a lot.”

Students play an improv game in Heidi's class.

Heidi Abbott ran a wonderful improv class that all of the kids (myself included!) loved. She didn’t play down to the kids, no matter how young they were, which in turn helped spur the kids to play on a level higher than perhaps they usually would do.

It was fascinating to watch the movement classes as well. Susannah Martin really challenged the kids to just plunge into the exploration of movement—to enter a “private laboratory” where you just experiment with the space. Susannah asked her students to feel the space with their muscles, feel the space with their skin, as a fluid, and so on. She was asking them to completely abandon the ever present fear of looking foolish, and the students (the Queen’s Own group, grades  10-12) rose easily to the challenge. They moved across the auditorium with complete abandon, focusing solely on their movements, how their bodies felt, not on the other kids around them. This summer camp obviously pushes kids to step outside of their comfort zones, and in the very safe and fun environment that is present, the kids are willing and even eager to do so.

It was very cool also to talk to the PIPs and the TAFs about their seemingly endless passion for theater education.

Actress and Cal Shakes Associate Artist Catherine Castellanos discusses the script of TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA with her students.

“I’m going to sound completely cliché, but when you are teaching theater you are not just teaching ‘ok this is upstage and downstage.’ You aren’t just putting on a play, you are teaching these kids skills,” said Teaching Artist Fellow Jenna Goodman. “You are building confidence; they are learning how to be an individual as well as to be part of something greater. The kids are being challenged to make bold choices, and to sort of stretch and grow. There is something about it, there is a kind of freedom that comes with teaching theater that you don’t really see anywhere else.”

Share

Internpalooza 2011!

By Sloane Henry, Artistic Learning intern

Internpalooza delivered on everything its name promised. Lots of interns. Lots of paloozing. The only things more gorgeous than the weather were the bright and smiley faces of eager young interns who, of course, always look that happy when asked to get up at 7am to hear lectures all day.

audition workshop

But seriously, I enjoyed listening to all of our guest speakers at this second annual event, which Cal Shakes organized as a professional development opportunity for its own interns as well as those from Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Rep, Berkeley Rep, and Livermore Shakespeare. This year’s event took place at our own Bruns Amphitheater and featured presentations from experts in casting, fundraising, and other areas of the theater world.

interns in the groveThe highlight of my day was watching a staged reading of Toil and/or Trouble. The author, Lauren Gunderson, was present along with the director, Josh Costello. The cast included Michael Barrett Austin, who I had seen just days earlier in the Hapgood Theatre’s Imaginary Love. The show was a hilarious and modern take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The language used in the show bounced between very modern slang like “totes” to traditional original Shakespearean text. It was really incredible to be able to ask the author about her process and choices in the piece while examining the purpose and techniques for staging and performing a new work. As the actor who played Adam (Banquo/Macduff) said: “We cannot walk and talk at the same time. We have to choose one or the other.” The actors communicated the script beautifully despite the hassle of having a script in their hand.

interns tweeting in the green roomThe takeaway points from the staged reading were: 1. You don’t have to justify anything. “Just because” is good enough. 2. Staged readings are a great way to get calls for jobs in full productions for actors. 3. Don’t fall into the trap of giving the actors too much blocking. 4. When you do readings you get to meet more people than you would doing a full production = connections = phone calls = paying jobs.

I think I speak for all the interns when I say we were exhausted by the end of the day. We ate burritos and quesadillas in the grove and many of the interns stayed for that night’s performance of Titus. It was really nice to meet interns from other theaters and have a chance to network and make connections.

Photos by Laura Neill.

Share

Don’t miss Stephen Barker Turner performing with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra!

Thursday, February 5 through Sunday, February 8, Cal Shakes Associate Artist Stephen Barker Turner—who has portrayed, among others, Orsino in 2008’s Twelfth Night, Nicholas in Nicholas Nickleby, Orlando in As You Like It, and Posthumous in Cymbeline on the Bruns stage—narrates A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra as part of their “Midwinter Magic” concert. Music Director Nicholas McGegan will direct the period-instrument orchestra in celebration of the 200th birthday of Mendelssohn. The orchestra will be joined by the San Francisco Girls Chorus and other speical guests.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra presents “Midwinter Magic” on:

Thursday, February 5, 8pm at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco

Friday, February 6, 8pm at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto

Saturday, February 7, 8pm at First Congregational Church in Berkeley

Sunday, February 8, 7:30pm at First Congregational Church in Berkeley

Buy your tickets today! Visit www.philharmonia.org or call City Box Office at 415.392.4400.

Photos, top to bottom: Stephen Barker Turner in Twelfth Night by Kevin Berne; The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra by Randi Beach.
Share