Friday, January 4, 2013

Richmond Shakespeare is off and running in 2013!

Richmond Shakespeare finished 2012 with a BANG and is off and running in 2013

2012 saw great critical acclaim for Richmond Shakespeare productions, closing the year with A Child's Christmas in Wales at Theatre Gym. Reviewer comments included:

"Powell offers a production that rises into the realm of true theater magic." (Click to read entire review.)
--David Timberline, Style Weekly

"A Child’s Christmas in Wales is that perfect snowflake falling down to the tip of your tongue. Catch it before it’s gone." (Click to read entire review.)
--Tony Farrell, Richmond Family Magazine

Powell, of course, is Jan Powell, Ph.D., Interim Artistic Director and recipient of Best Director honors by the Richmond Theatre Critics' Circle for her direction of Richmond Shakespeare's 2012 production of MacBeth.

Wasting no time in 2013, Powell and Richmond Shakespeare actors were at Agecroft Hall today filming local introductions for the Community Ideas Stations/WCVE-TV broadcasts of the BBC production, Shakespeare Uncovered that will begin airing later this month.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Three posts are in order on fourteen (14) years of history with A Christmas Carol for Two Actors. At Richmond Shakespeare, we’ve loved theatre of the imagination, storytelling, and the craft and profession of acting. Performing this story of an old miser presented with a last chance at reclamation every year has certainly been a labor of love, and it’s thrilling to see veterans and “newbies” in the audience. The veterans always amaze me; by now they know the piece almost as well as we. I think they partly love watching the reaction of newbies, and the return to a familiar piece--- yielding new insights every year---that makes the trip worthwhile.

Many of you know I began performing the story as a solo show for family and friends in 1996.

In 1998, the first year of this two-actor adaptation, Cynde and I opened the show for a rural bank Christmas party in far southwest Virginia. It was a longer show then; admittedly we were still working out the kinks. I was panicky--- forgetting the ever-present, and ever-vital, “Scrooge glasses” in the dressing room. (Much of the story centers on what he can---and cannot---see.) In fact, apart from a couple of experimental years it’s been the same pair of glasses and has always been the same outer-coat: it was donated by Trustee Rita Mattia.). I don’t know if the character exists without that coat.

 Some weren't---but some of the bankers were a bit tipsy, and for a Christmas party, this longer version (which we weren’t sure would work), was all a bit much.

But it's the nearly disastrous transition Cynde never lets me forget.

Picture a raised platform in a large conference room, wider by far than it was deep. Dinner all around on three sides, and we’d just finished with the Ghost of Christmas Past. The transition language is quite similar, and maybe I didn’t quite have it down just yet:
“Scrooge glanced about him for the ghost, but saw it not, and then, as the last strokes of twelve ceased to vibrate, lifted up his eyes, and beheld-----“

From some early days, with Liffick, '02

Cynde’s voice echoed from behind me “Come in, Ebenezer!! Come in and know me better, man!” (It was her next line, I’d nearly skipped the entirety of Christmas Present.) “A solemn phantom” follows the line above, and the draped and hooded Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, itself as clearly an image of the Grim Reaper, Charon, take your pick, glides into the room and finishes the appearance of Spirits influencing Scrooge.

She'd made a great save, and for once I instantly knew what she meant, switching into
“the room was filled with a ghostly light that seemed to come from the adjoining room…”

We learned quite a bit that night, and apart from the glasses and the near time-travel skip of the here and now, the audience was kind and seemed to enjoy themselves.
Next time: perhaps I’ll describe touring the show to the wild winter of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or Scrooge in a private Carriage House---in front of a roaring fire, complete with pig on a rotating spit.

Both, however, are stories from Christmases Past, (Click the title label below for older posts on this show) and I’m now thinking very much about Christmas Present. To you and yours, Merry Christmas----we hope you can join us at one of the three final performances, but if not, fond wishes for a happy holiday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Audition Turnout Challenge!

Hello Friends & Colleagues,
"I feel the need.  The need for Speed!!"   
No, not Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards in Top Gun----nor Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper in...well, Speed.  No, "SPEED" is one of the great clowns in Shakespeare's arsenal, exceeded only by his counterpart in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Launce---with a live dog to steal the scene.

They're the stuff of comic legend.  And we need 'em!

The play bears some of the richest linguistic fruit an actor will speak, and an audience will devour in a year.....
O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!


What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?
What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?
Unless it be to think that she is by,
And feed upon the shadow of perfection.
Except I be by Silvia in the night,
There is no music in the nightingale;
Unless I look on Silvia in the day,
There is no day for me to look upon;

In order for director Molly Hood to have a great turnout for this coming weekend's auditions on Two Gentlemen of Verona, our goal is for her to see 125 people; we're on our way, but we could use your help. To reserve a slot, they e-mail or phone 804-232-4000.

May I ask you to please share the
Facebook event?

We need great women in the show, every bit as much as we need men-------However, do please think of 
men, especially, with whom you'd like to work, see on stage, or whom you think would enjoy summer at Agecroft.

Molly has a particularly terrific direction in which to take the show, and it's going to be a real treat for the summer.  Most of you know how exquisite it is to do perform---or see a show as part of the
Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall.

Finally, please do invite several friends to the audition, tweet it----and ask friends to share it on their walls and/or tweet.  FB has recently made it difficult to invite a large group at a time, so I am asking for you to help.  The aud's are this Sat and Sun, April 9 & 10 during convenient actor hours.  Can't go Sat?  go Sunday 1230-430.    Can't make the weekend?  Join us at callbacks Wed night, April 13.  Do make an appointment.

Full audition notice is below, and of course is on the RS

Thank you,

Grant Mudge
Artistic Director
Richmond Shakespeare

Friday, March 25, 2011

Changing How Young We Teach Shakespeare

We often post advisories about plays: good for all audiences, good for children aged 10 & up, or good for children aged 13 & up, "adult language" advisories, etc.  But it's almost always above age 7.   Children aged five have loved the plays, but we hardly think of them speaking the text.  So too, in Richmond Shakespeare's Education offerings, we often start at 5th grade (age 10), 4th grade (age 9), and occasionally even younger, but over the two+ decades of the company's existence, these age groupings were pretty well set.  

Max Cole may have changed how we think about kids and Shakespeare.  Now it's true, Max's parents are both associate artists with the company, between them they've performed Beatrice, Romeo, Iago, Hamlet, Princess Katherine and this summer Max's Mom will be a daughter of King Lear.  But take a look at Max's work on the Romeo & Juliet prologue and tell us your thoughts.  Here's a link to Mom Sarah's blog about preparing Max to see the show---they talked about its violence and (eek) the kissing---Dad Jeff was Romeo---but Max's own interest and enthusiasm led to learning the prologue.   Heck, he only calls for line twice.  Have a great weekend, and send us your thoughts!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

R&J Acts of Faith Discussion - THIS SAT (2/19/11)

Rev. Donna Holder
For Richmond Shakes' AOF discussion this year, following Saturday evening's show (2/19), we're prvilieged to host Donna Holder, Pastor of Westover Hills UMC, and Dr. Craig Kinsley, professor of Psychology (neurobiology and neurochemistry, among other things!) at UR.  Pastor Holder will focus on the interaction the young lovers have with the church, God, sin and the afterlife----as well as the recent theory likening Juliet to Jesus and Romeo to the Roman Catholic Church. 

Dr. Kinsley will tell us about the areas of the brain that light up when we're thinking about religion or God.  Both fascinate me greatly.

Dr. Criag Kinsley
Finally, I'll likely chime in on Shakespeare's references to fate, fortune and the stars---they're "star-crossed lovers," after all.  And, you'll have a chance to meet and interact with members of the acting company. I hope you'll join us for the production and for this discussion, which is sure to be a lively one.

-Grant Mudge

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

David Timberline Reviews "Arcadia"

I've said before that David Timberline serves as a kind of senior voice among Richmond's theatre critics.  In an ideal world, the theatre-going public could also have heard from John Porter on Arcadia, or Joan Tupponce in addition to Susan Haubenstock's review, and Rich Griset's less favorable take, but John was handling personal concerns and we were not able to get ahold of Joan.

However, David has also known Richmond Shakespeare's work since the earliest years of my tenure, in the first year of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival and our touring programs. He's seen the company grow over the years, and brings that perspective to everything he writes.

Here's a link to David's review of Arcadia.  I'm grateful for his thoughtful review.

I'm reminded that our goal remains to impart an appreciation of outstanding language as it reflects, proclaims and examines human ideas with the resonating power of the human voice. Arcadia fits securely within that mission.

Thank you to all who came out to give Arcadia your thought, time and energy.  I hope you'll join us for Scott Wichmann's turn as Tartuffe in our next Second Tuesday Staged Reading on November 9.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Rehearsal Process: Arcadia (Postscript)

My assignment was to write on the rehearsal process. Three weeks ago, rehearsals ended and we opened the show.
But that doesn’t mean the production has stopped evolving. Circumstance comes into play--perhaps even more so than in rehearsal--during the performance. A charcoal stick that’s rolled just out of reach offers the opportunity to actually let Thomasina become truly exasperated with the day’s lesson. A glance that, for whatever reason, is held a little longer makes a realization of the end of an education that much more poignant. An audience member viscerally and audibly reacts to the challenge to a duel heightening the seriousness of the otherwise quite comic scene.
And when Thomasina stumbles a little more in the final waltz than even the actor herself is accustomed to, she finds that Septimus is there to steady her.
There is a joy in realizing that this cast in particular truly embodies that spirit - we steady each other, make each other laugh, attempt to teach each other to play cribbage (long story), warm up together, walk to our cars together. Maybe it sounds a little too Brady Bunch, but there is a sense of play, and a sense of family that perhaps is the truest treasure of this production--especially since I think it really shows in the performance. Even on the nights when one or another of us feels that we’ve had a bumpy performance, I don’t think there’s been a moment when any of us hasn’t wanted to be there. How can it feel like work when you get to spend a few hours with people about whom you care so much?
As we close Arcadia tonight, that joy is mingled with an impending sense of loss. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with myself next Thursday night when I don’t need to drive down to the theater, get my hot rollers plugged in, and play with this wonderful group of people who now seem more like family than anything else.
It is a testament to this cast that this sense of family even exists. We spent most of the rehearsal period segregated from one time period’s cast or the other. Maybe it’s just that this is a really incredible group of individuals. Maybe it’s the magic of this play--that “everything is mixing together, irreversibly...”
I’m inclined to think that it’s both. That thought is the only thing keeping me from being an absolute mess right now. Even though everything must tend toward chaos--in 12 hours, it may be that this group is never fully assembled ever again--but that there is at least one bond that can’t be broken, and it’s built on the six weeks we’ve spent together.
Perhaps I am showing an extreme lack of professionalism by confessing all of this, but it’s all true--and I’ve always been accused of being a terrible liar. I hope that you’ll join us tonight or tomorrow before “the heat goes into the mix,” irretrievable and irreversible. The audience is often said to be the last member of the cast in any production, but here I hope you’ll find that you’re actually the last member of a talented, hilarious, giving, wonderful family. I know I have.
With love and gratitude,