Personalize Our Onstage License Plate!

In our upcoming production of A Winter’s Tale, travelling storytellers spill out of a vehicle to invite you into the story. And since we marketing folks have got connections with the props department (who are so much friendlier than the DMV), director Patricia McGregor has asked us to ask you to decide what goes on the license plate!

The entry the company likes the best gets put on the plate—and earns its creator two tickets to see A Winter’s Tale, and a photo with the vehicle.

Post your entry—no more than seven characters long—by 5pm PST on Wednesday, September 18, one of the following four ways:

Patricia and the cast would like it to have a nod to Spunk, our 2012 production that got so many of them together for the first time.  Here are some ideas that have been thrown around already; maybe they’ll get you thinking.

diddly wah diddy
D wah D

A Winter’s Tale runs September 25–October 20, 2013.



SPUNK Makes Bay Area Top Ten Lists for 2012

Patricia McGregor by Matt Holliday

Patricia McGregor by Matt Holliday

So far, so good: Patricia McGregor’s 2012 Cal Shakes production of Spunk is number four on Chad Jones’ Theater Dogs top ten, and also made Sam Hurwitt’s Idiolect 2012 round-up. In addition, Jones named Cal Shakes Associate Artist Stacy Ross his MVP of the year, giving a shot-out to her fellow AA James Carpenter along the way.

Stay tuned: We’re certain to have more to list as the lists keep coming!


Ask Philippa: SPUNK Edition

Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg for Cal Shakes and production dramaturg for Spunk, shares her thoughts on the current production, and invites your questions. Spunk runs July 4–29, 2012.

Spunk Inside Scoop by Jay Yamada

Philippa Kelly, Margo Hall, Patricia McGregor, and L. Peter Callender at the Inside Scoop event for SPUNK; photo by Jay Yamada.

To honor …  and adapt … Black southern dialect forms the living heartbeat of this musical theater piece, lovingly made by George C. Wolfe in 1982, in which the Broadway genius—already a significant star by the age of 35—adapted three of Zora Neale Hurston’s short stories to create Spunk. An anthropologist as well as an artist, Hurston used the language of her southern people—not the language of Dickens or Shakespeare or even of Richard Wright—to represent the world she came from. She saw oral culture as the key to the selves that slip down through the family tree: the spirits of parents and grandparents that live on in tongues, not texts.

Are you going to see our  production of  Spunk? Do you have questions or comments about the production’s music, cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.


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 



Spunk Cocktail Contest

Spunk will grace the Bruns stage with joyous poetic language, powerful movement, and the wailing sounds of the blues this July. What similarly flavorful and fulfilling cocktail would you wish to sip while soaking up the Spunk experience?

Invent a bourbon-based drink, name it, and tell us about it no later than Friday, July 6 one of these ways:

  • Email with the subject header “Spunk cocktail contest.”
  • Post your recipe on Twitter with the hashtag #zoracocktail.
  • Share on our Facebook wall.

The creator of the winning cocktail will be rewarded with their choice of a Spunk T-shirt or free entry to our July 12 pre-performance Cal Shakers party at the Bruns. 

Click here for more information about the party.


Meeting and Greeting the Story Inside Us All

Marketing Intern Jessica Reinhardt offers a look into the Spunk meet and greet with Director Patricia McGregor and cast.

“There is no agony like hearing the untold story inside of you.”—Spunk

Spunk Costume Photo

Spunk costume design by Callie Floor.

The rehearsal space at Cal Shakes was abuzz with laughter and smiling, eager faces. I settled into my seat within the sea of interns, all excited to see what a Meet and Greet entails. The story of Spunk unfolded as director Patricia McGregor captivated the room with her moving language and an enthusiasm that everyone could feel. A key theme in Spunk is home, and Patricia began to connect her concept of what it was like to grow up in the South to the show. She explained how her hometown inspired a sense of community by focusing on the meaning of sharing and storytelling.

 She then began to bridge the gap of time by bringing everyone in the room back to the good old days. Her vivid descriptions of drinking ice-cold lemonade on your granddaddy’s porch was accompanied by Anthony Peterson, A.K.A. Tru, (Guitar Man and musical director for Spunk) improvising bluesy rhythms on his lap steel guitar. Everyone was rapt as Tru set the mood of the story, sculpting the emotions of the Deep South right there in front of us. 

 Patricia quoted an old adage: “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” There are bumps in the road in every person’s journey and one of the things that get people through is the simple feeling that someone cares; everyone needs to feel appreciated and loved and this is one of the beautiful themes of this show. The audience even gets to feel the love by actively participating and engaging with the actors just before the show begins, at the top of the first act.

 We got to hear from Paloma McGregor, Patricia’s sister and choreographer for Spunk, who gave her perspective on how movement and dance are incorporated in the show: The lively nature and movement mixed with dynamic character roles is definitely something to look forward to. The cast themselves sure had a lot of spunk, the type of actors whose chemistry you could see just as they sat around their table. The cast was sure not afraid to laugh, and this was just part of their magnetism.

 Patricia talked about how it was important for her to honor Zora Neale Hurston’s vision of giving a voice to the voiceless. This theme is something every person can relate to, regardless of skin color or age or any of the other categories designed to divide us. Everyone has their own personal story and should embrace where they have been in order to get to where they are going. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to see these characters come to life and “git to the git with some pain n’ some spit n’ some spunk.”  

 Spunkthree tales by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by George C. Wolfe, music by Chic Street Manplays at the stunning Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA July 4-29, 2012.



Spunk Song Contest: The journey is the reward

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington rehearsing onstage at the Savoy, 1948; photo © Wayne Miller / Magnum Photos.

What song helped you along your personal journey? The dynamic characters in Spunk, stories by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by George C. Wolfe, embody the all-too-human experience of struggle, love, loss, and—perhaps most of all—finding a place to call home.

Submit songs that have inspired and fueled your journey—literally or metaphorically—no later than June 11 to, tweet it with the hashtag #spunkjourney, or post it on our Facebook wall. We’ll include a list of the most popular and our other favorites in the Spunk program, play them at our opening night post-performance party, and post the playlist online! Spunk’s characters “git to the git with some pain n’ some spit n’ some spunk.” What songs git you to the git?

Here are some songs submitted by the Cal Shakes staff to get you thinking:

Mumford & Sons “After the Storm
Simon and Garfunkel “Homeward Bound”
Cole Porter “Don’t Fence Me In”
Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney “Far Away Places”
Jolie Holland “Goodbye, California”
Genesis, “Follow You, Follow Me”
The Beatles “Blackbird”
James Taylor “Carolina In My Mind”
Pulp “Weeds”
Journey “When the Lights Go Down in the City”
Green Day “Christie”
The Goo Goo Dolls “Broadway”
The D.I.’s “Mohawk vs. D.A.”
Rusted Root “Send Me on My Way”
Coldplay ”Fix You”
Tom Petty “Learning to Fly”
Jack Penate “Pull My Heart Away”







Monday Blues – Get Outta Town!

Oh, hello there! I’d like to introduce myself: My name is Katie McGee and I’m Cal Shakes’ newest marketing intern. I’m from a distant Midwestern land known as Iowa, I love long hikes through the Orinda hills, nights out to the theater, and YES if I could have any super power it would be time travel. Why time travel? Because I’m pretty sure I am going to want to rewind and do this blast of an internship all over again.

Do you ever feel like January is just one long chronic case of the Mondays? A month where three cups of coffee just isn’t enough, socks never match, and gas tanks seem perpetually famished?

January 2012, however, appears to be turning a corner. Since moving to the Bay in December and joining the Cal Shakes crew, things have been looking up. The coffee at Cal Shakes is always hot, no one gives a hoot if my socks match, and public transportation has my gas tank and bank account a little fuller. These subtle joys sprouting in my life do not even come close to the career growth satisfaction that I have experienced since starting at Cal Shakes.

“Kid, what are you doin’ with your life?” Since graduating from Saint Louis University in May, I have been getting this A LOT. My usual response is “Building a future.” Am I getting paid for my role in glorious PIP-dom*? Nope, but unlike many of my freshly graduated peers, I am working and networking in my preferred field and getting the opportunity to shape my goals and experiences.

So far I have done social media analysis (like us on good ol’ Facebook if you haven’t already!); mapped out a season preview video; researched and created a slideshow based on the fascinating life of Zora Neale Hurston (author of the stories that inspired Spunk!, our second-slot production this summer) for the staff to study; and designed fliers and email banners for the gang—and I’m not even halfway through my internship yet!

If the Mayans’ apocalyptic predictions for 2012 are correct, I can, at least, rest assured that this year will be full of activity, good people, new skills, and generally great stuff, right up to the very end.

Next McGee blog issue: Past PIP-ians, where are they now? Have they found success in the big, bold, theatrical world? Check back next week.


*At Cal Shakes, “PIP” stands for “Professional Immersion Program.”


Ask Philippa: Off-season Edition!

Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts and answers your questions on our upcoming 2012 season programming and about productions past.

Philippa Kelly by Jay Yamada

Photo by Jay Yamada.

Throughout his 20-year writing career, Shakespeare was fascinated with metaphors of rehearsing and scripting: the very things we do in life to re-make the past and to predict and forestall the future. No matter how we might wish it, there is no rehearsal that can prepare us for, or insulate us against, the vagaries of life itself; and there are limitless possibilities for misspeaking our intentions and mishearing what we ought to understand. This is the stuff of comedy as well as tragedy, history as well as romance.

What was Shakespeare doing in the “lost years”, the period immediately prior to 1592? What were his preoccupations when the 35-year-old author wrote Hamlet, at the end of the 16th century? Why was The Tempest one of his very last plays, even though up to that time he was in still in the full vigor of his life and production schedule? Thoughts, questions, opinions about Shakespeare or about any of his plays (they need not just concern Hamlet and The Tempest), are welcome in the “comments” section below. Also welcome are questions about George C. Wolfe and Zora Neale Hurston, whose Spunk we’ll be doing next season, as well as Noël Coward, whose Blithe Spirit is third in the Main Stage line-up.