Blithely Run: Blithe Spirit Rehearsal Blog August 2

The following was written by Marketing & PR Manager Marilyn Langbehn. Stay tuned for more dispatches from inside rehearsals.

Every Cal Shakes play has benchmarks on its path to the finished production our audiences will see on the Bruns stage. Last night’s benchmark, the designer run, marks the end of a specific part of the rehearsal process; tomorrow the company decamps for the Bruns and the start of tech rehearsals.

For those of us who have not been a part of rehearsals, it’s a chance to see the journey the show has taken from the first benchmark—the Meet and Greet and first rehearsal only three short weeks ago. It’s thrilling to feel the energy in the room on designer run day.

When we arrive, the actors are congregated at the round table in the rehearsal hall, quietly reviewing their scripts, making notes, asking and answering questions of each other in that shorthand communication that develops over the course of weeks of rehearsal. “You know that moment in Act Two? I think I’ll…” “Yeah, let’s try that.”

Lighting designer York Kennedy, composer/sound designer Will McCandless, and costume designer Katherine Roth sit across the room, in front of the taped-out playing area, waiting for stage manager Corrie Bennett to call places for Act One. Although many of the designers have been around for the rehearsal process, this is the time when they will focus on how their respective work fits into the overall production. Where do the actors move during the show, and what kind of lighting is required? Does the sound cue in that spot need to be recorded or done live? Stuff to be figured out during the course of the next week; what sounds and looks good in the rehearsal hall may play quite differently when it’s outdoors at the theater.

Sometimes there’s a preamble to the run-through, a reminder of the rules of the room, but not today. Everyone knows why they’re there and are ready to begin. Corrie calls places, and we’re off.

It’s immediately apparent director Mark Rucker has cast a group of artists who are intimately comfortable with each other, the play, and the work they need to do. The story unfolds seamlessly and with the appropriate suspense, even for those of us who already know how it turns out. Noël Coward’s delicious laugh lines land and, even without the benefit of some of the ghostly tricks that will come to fruition during the tech rehearsals, it’s clear that Coward and this company are creating something magical.

Tomorrow begins the home stretch. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Blithe Spirit begins previews Wednesday, August 8; stay tuned for more blogs from rehearsal. Tickets are available at or by calling 510.548.9666.


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.”



Original Music from SPUNK

SPUNK costume sketches by designer Callie FloorHere are a couple of original musical compositions by Anthony Michael Peterson, a.k.a. Tru, who plays Guitar Man in our upcoming production of Spunk. These tracks, recorded by Will McCandless, are similar to the original music Tru is adding to Chic Street Man’s already smokin’ score.

Tru’s ukulele ditty
Tru’s acoustic number
Tru on slide guitar