Monday, June 30, 2008

What's a Preview? (For the first-time RSF patron, and for veterans who've wondered!)

Each show needs a test audience....

The RSF opens the gates on two (2) special nights per summer show--only one in the fall-to-spring season--with reduced price tickets! While the artists are putting finishing touches on their work, they need an audience to complete the rehearsal process; after all, you're the key ingredient in everything we do. We joke about the sixth-man in our five-actor shows, but it's really true, the audience completes the performance.

With this expanded version of our downtwon season finale, "As You Like It" has increased to fourteen actors, so count yourself as the fifteenth man.

In a preview, the directors (Master of Play and Master of Verse, in RSF lingo), stage manager and designers still have the right to stop the show and fix an item, although they rarely do; they want the actors to really get a feel for the momentum of the show, of course. Similarly, if a costume or set piece isn't working, or could be damaged, the show could be briefly halted. In the festival history, it's only happened once or twice.

It's also a great opportunity for students of all ages to secure very affordable tickets to the summer festival, as well as see the show as it's coming together.

So, join us for a romantic evening under the stars at beautiful Agecroft Hall, and catch a sneak peek of "As You Like It" before anyone else! Look for July 2 and 3 on the tickets page of our website, and we'll see you out at the Festival!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Unprecedented Feet"

It's been six (6) years since last we produced The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shakspr (Abridged), and lately I've been asking myself why we waited so long. True, those six years have been blindingly fast, but this is a show that our audiences and artists alike just both seem to love.

So I hope you're ready to laugh. Because the new production is just as funny as anything we've ever done. We've assembled a terrific team under the expert guidance of Matthew Ellis (Visiting us from the University of Oklahoma where he specializes in movement and clown work: if you missed his weeklong Clown intensive last week, you missed a tremendous exercise for actors and a hilarious final performance), but after two weeks of "Compleat Wrks," I wanted to share with the Blog readers how much fun the audiences at Agecroft Hall are having. ---Heck, so am I. Even during their rehearsals, one night I laughed so hard I could no longer see straight; the tears were rolling down my face.

You know the feeling---when your eyelids close so tightly they bend backward on themselves?

What an absolute delight.

Jeff Clevenger is an actor I've long wanted to bring to the Richmond Shakespeare stage and here he leads a cast of three in the astounding feat of this show: Perform the entirety of Shakespeare's plays in a single evening. David Janosik and LeSean Green bring a terrific comedic camaraderie to the group; thus far they seem to me to be having more fun than human beings should be allowed to have.

Of course, it's also very physical---that's hard work, nailing all these laughs. But they've really hit their stride: the last two nights have been large, near-capacity crowds and both have graced the trio with standing ovations. Bring a picnic, bring your stadium cushion, bring your kleenex, bring your friends, your co-workers, your kids.

The show runs tonight and for just four more performances: Thursday through Sunday next week. It must close June 29.

Next up: Andrew Hamm's expanded cast production of As You Like It takes the stage; you don't want to miss either one.

For longtime fans, here's a quick shot of our original production in 2002; the show performed both at Agecroft Hall and on a floating stage down on the Canal Walk.

The 2008 company has earned two great reviews for their delightful production. Scroll on down to read the perspectives of Ms. Haubenstock and Mr. Timberline.

See you all out at Agecroft Hall.

-Grant Mudge

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Style Weekly: " 'Compleat Works' strips the Bard down to his funny bone"

From Style Weekly:

Broad Comedy
Silliness is sublime in Richmond Shakespeare’s "Compleat Works."
The best thing about “The Compleat Works of Wilm Shkspr (Abridged),” the giddily antic production kicking off this summer’s Richmond Shakespeare Festival, is that it takes nothing seriously, including its own concept. While the show purports to present all of the Bard’s plays in a scant two hours, it condenses all of the comedies into a single skit called “The Love Boat Goes to Verona,” tosses off the histories in a pantomime football game, and skips the tragedy “Coriolanus” entirely (the “anus” part proving too scandalous for one cast member).

But the remaining plays (mostly the tragedies) provide ample grist for comic mayhem, at least in the capable hands of this production’s three-man cast. Longtime Richmond favorite Jeffry Clevenger sets the irreverent tone, breezing through the gory “Titus Andronicus” (performed as a cooking show) and infusing “Hamlet” with hilariously overwrought diction.

He bickers with adolescent humor specialist David Janosik, who can’t seem to end a play without vomiting. LaSean Pierre Greene is the affable emcee of the evening, though his cohorts’ conflicts eventually reduce him to performing yo-yo tricks (quite well!) to fill dead time. You can tell these guys are good because they even manage to pull off an extended crowd-participation bit without completely killing the show’s momentum.

Amidst all the silliness, there’s actually real knowledge being served up (do you know what Shakespeare’s Apocrypha is? I didn’t) and some excellent acting on display (Janosik’s second-act soliloquy is splendid). Jennifer Dryden’s costumes — rife with Converse tennis shoes and silly hats — enhance every scene. “Compleat Works” strips the Bard down to his funny bone, with exceedingly entertaining results.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Times-Dispatch: "Compleat Works" is "loaded with laughs"

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Brevity is the soul of this troupe's wit
Saturday, Jun 14, 2008 - 12:08 AM Updated: 12:14 PM

You might call it an amuse bouche. It's amusing, all right, and it's a little warm-up to Richmond Shakespeare's summer festival at Agecroft Hall.

It's "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)," and it's loaded with laughs.

The 1987 comedy careens through the entire Shakespeare canon in an irreverent couple of hours, dismissing comedies and histories left and right to concentrate on the tragedies. Oh, and the sonnets are covered by having the audience pass around an index card.

Adam Long, Jess Borgeson and Daniel Singer wrote this hodgepodge, and though it may be a little dated (the rap version of "Othello" is very old-school), it's still hilarious. Three actors play themselves and most of the characters in the plays, with room left for improvisation and local color.

Matthew E. Ellis directs this production, with Jeffry Clevenger, LaSean Pierre Greene and David Janosik as the misguided actors who attempt this feat. Precise timing is as important for the combat scenes as for the jokes, and Ellis provides a good sense of fun and relentless pacing.

Each actor brings something special, too. Greene is the affable emcee, entertaining with yo-yo tricks before and after intermission, in addition to taking on roles ranging from the Nurse in "Romeo and Juliet" to Polonius in "Hamlet."

Clevenger is sort of in charge, wowing the audience with accents that range from a thick Scottish brogue for "Macbeth" to Laurence Olivier British.

And Janosik is the wild man who plays most of the girls in a motley assortment of wigs, then stuns with a low-key but moving rendition of the "What a piece of work is a man" soliloquy from "Hamlet." And he does a mean Christopher Walken, too.

Jennifer L. Dryden's costumes and James David White's lighting contribute much to the staging, and an array of silly props appears, from puppets to swords to the requisite asp for "Antony and Cleopatra."

There's a Julia Child-style cooking-show version of "Titus Andronicus" and a football version of the history plays.

The most extensive sendup is given to "Hamlet," which is done fast, faster and finally backward. "We don't have to do it justice," Clevenger reminds his colleagues; "we just have to do it."