Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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
Thursday, October 28, 2010
In her innocence and youth, she embodies the persistence of curiosity, the puzzled determination in finding answers, and the explosive excitement of wanting to be the first to have ever thought a specific thought. Arcadia’s budding intellectual, played so delightfully by apprentice Alex Wiles, (whose blogs on the process of creating her character have been in this space over the last month) brings wonder to all that unfolds in front of her. Though we may be older than 13, we remember Thomasina and carry her with us.
Thomasina’s tutor, Septimus Hodge inspires plenty of laughs, and in his eyes one easily sees the ebbing of youth: he is challenged and provoked by his younger pupil. We laugh because we experience ourselves, as parents or teachers or older siblings, within him.
The rigorous and independent scholar in Arcadia, (Hannah Jarvis), strongly played by Jennie Meharg, evades introspection and delightfully misses her primary subject: herself. The splashy rock-star scholar, brought to life by Adrian Rieder, makes glaring errors in his research that we find funny----his gut-reactions blind him to the facts.
And on and on. We find parts of ourselves in each of the characters.
Director Foster Solomon and his company of actors, crew, and designers have created a beautifully haunting, delicious romp between two time periods. Becky Cairns is designing in her favorite period, and it shows. The costumes reflect her brilliance and excitement. Brian Barker (Sound of Music, others) has crafted an elegant set---designing each piece to fit through a barely-six-foot-wide door into the Gottwald. Some are as high as 16’ and complete an arc across that expanse, but in sections. No mean feat. Gregg Hillmar’s lights include sunrises and sunsets, echoes of fireworks, chandeliers and wall lamps that flicker so believably you’d swear they were gas. Our volunteers gave time, effort, and (sometimes back-breaking) work. I want to say thank you to all of them. I have been (and am) thrilled with the work of every single artist on Arcadia, and proud to be associated with them.
Light, love, life and energy flow out of all their work, (and Stoppard’s) in which
…And human beings. “It’s wanting to know that makes us matter.”“…the unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is. It’s how nature creates itself, on every scale, the snowflake and the snowstorm.”
It’s for this reason that Richmond Shakespeare is performing Arcadia. It’s why I selected the play, and why our artists, staff, board and volunteers struggled to bring it to you---to our audiences. It’s the closest to Shakespeare we’re likely to find for many years to come. Daniel Hannan from the London Telegraph gives his thoughts on Shakespeare and Stoppard:
Watching Arcadia, we see how elements combine, how time periods intertwine, how people and aspects of human nature interact. Sometimes they are quiet and clear, sometimes producing tension or explosions. This play is music and gunfire. It contains Byron’s poetry, Newton’s science, sex, travel, nature, and religion. These are not what this play is about, but merely elements used to demonstrate Stoppard’s reaching out to teach the Thomasina in each of us.“I recalled, in particular, staggering out of a performance of Arcadia 15 years ago, convinced that it was the supreme theatrical work of our era. Whatever experience you bring to it, it illuminates your experience more than your experience illuminates it.” [emphasis mine]
Come see this play. Bring your experiences. Find yourself surrounded in childlike wonder at finding the meaning within.“When we have found all the mysteries, and lost all the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore.”
October 27, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
|Alex Wiles as Thomasina Coverly|
“it’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew was wrong.”
Thursday, September 16, 2010
|Alex Wiles as Thomasina Coverly|
Saturday, September 4, 2010
We wanted to invite our audiences to experience a little bit of that process we work on Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. We've asked actress Alex Wiles to share her experience with you.
For her first blog, Alex shares her experience leading up to (and at) the very first read through of Arcadia, our first show of the season, opening October 15th. (with a 1-night preview October 14) - Sarah Cole
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Several of you have been kind enough to inquire about a mid-day, luncheon series talk I gave this week at the Richmond Circuit Courts building, and to post my remarks. We began, at the request of my host, with a little overview of what it means to be an actor as well as serving full time with a theatre company. What’s it like? It’s amazing. How so, they asked? And come to think of it, why Shakespeare? What's the big deal with Shakespeare? (A frequent question, and a good one.)
A little illustration served, just then, with explanations of vested engagement in "play," by the audience, in the moments that happen when we share a common space together. (Benedick and Macbeth)
"I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behavior to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love!" and,But one main thing, you learn about people. From the plays, and in meeting so many audience members. You know inherent things about where people are from, mostly by how they sound. You know, instinctively, when you’re being lied to. Maybe not about what, but you know. Actors know acting when they see it.
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more..."
That all seemed a useful jumping-off point for a talk on acting, Shakespeare, and the courts:
Acting, Shakespeare, and the Courts
After as many performances as we've given, both locally and touring twenty-three states, you also begin to get a feel for what life must've been like for Shakespeare’s acting company: to tour, to visit towns repeatedly and see familiar faces, to be that traveling actor, is all very exciting. Perhaps we even vicariously felt a little bit of what it must've been like to be Shakespeare. A little bit.
Can you slide that understanding now, of a writer, an actor, the keenest insight of his day, perhaps, into the world of justice and the courts? Shakespeare was no stranger to the English court system. But can we know his views on justice and the courts through biographical record?
His father, John Shakespeare was bailiff or constable of Stratford—more ceremonial than we think of it, but a prominent member of the town. As bailiff, it’s possible John Shakespeare would have welcomed traveling players to town--one theory of how young William became so interested in players and playing…Were some invited to the Shakespeare's home?
….John eventually fell on tough times, some of his own making---he dealt illegally in the black market for wool, at the time highly regulated. Three courts were involved, from the Court of Common Pleas in London at Westminster, to the Court of Queen’s Bench, (representing her perhaps, but not quite as regal as it sounds) —to the Court of Record in Stratford-Upon-Avon. John once presided over the last of these, and now faced it as the accused. But I’m sure that would never happen today...
John's opponent? His brother-in-law, Edmund. Who having loaned John a bond to help him in lean times, later refused payment and kept John's inheritance. Here’s what’s interesting here: John had once so loved his brother-in-law that he named his youngest son (William’s brother)----Edmund. In William’s play of King Lear, an evil character named Edmund steals the preference, patrimony and even the love of their father. Further, he steals it of the King’s Court itself! Autobiographical? Maybe. But interesting! Bailiffs, constables, judges, witness and testimony. The Shakespeare family even had a lawyer, between 1588 and 1590, arguing one case in London. (It was settled out of court.)
By the way, Shakespeare’s siblings all together? Anne, Joan, Edmund, Richard, Margaret! …..and Gilbert. Well, five out of six isn’t bad. In fact, the plays are full of references to people William most likely knew, and who are mentioned in surviving legal documents.
The Mountjoy’s, from whom he rented an apartment, and whose father was sued by his son-in-law for not paying a dowry. Shakespeare is recorded as giving testimony. Montjoy is a reputable character in Henry V. And on and on. Familiar names from William’s life, some of whom end up legal trouble. Montjoy’s case with his fellow French? Too long to debate here.
Court references are also interesting when we recall that Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the law schools themselves, likely with the playwright in the cast.But what about the playwright’s views on justice? Many of you know “the quality of mercy is not strained.” It of course comes from The Merchant of Venice.
Which we'll turn to that most famous of legal speeches in installment two. (It was an hour-long talk)
Monday, August 16, 2010
At right is a quick image of the arriving audience.
We were carrying on a tradition that dates back to the fifties, in fact. For more than two decades, from the mid to late 1950's through the 1970's (and possibly into the early 80's), a community theatre troupe called the Richmond Shakespeare Players performed each summer at the Dell.
What's in a Name?
Richmond Shakespeare is a completely different organization, officially created by University of Richmond alumni as the Encore! Theatre Company in 1984. We created the Richmond Shakespeare Festival after another company tried for two years in the mid 1990's.
Our Director's Own History
Many of you on 8-9-10 heard me tell the story of Molly Hood, the terrific young director of Twelfth Night. For those who couldn't attend: the last time Shakespeare was performed out at Dogwood Dell it was 1996, with the same play. Cynde Liffick and I were fortune enough to be in the cast. (Just prior to joining Encore!) We recall a rainstorm bringing the audience very close to the stage. In the crowd that night, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, was a very young.......Molly Hood. It's been a privilege to help bring her splendid production of Twelfth Night back to that Dell stage. Follow the tags for other tales of Molly and her own fan club, the Hoodwinkers--whose founders were both in attendance Monday night, along with Molly and most of her family.
Many, many thanks to all involved, from the tremendous Twelfth Night company of actors, designers and crew, to the very helpful Dogwood Dell staff and volunteers. More folks participated in bringing this about than I'm able to thank here---but do know that you're a part of this adventure, and that we're grateful to be sharing it with you.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
It has come to our attention that due to a glitch in our ticketing website an "error" message has been appearing during the ticket purchasing process. We have been in continual contact with tix.com since the problem was brought to our attention want to ensure our patrons that our ticketing system is and always has been 100% secure. We apologize for the inconvenience and this glitch has been fixed. We thank you very much for your feedback and for bringing this error to our attention.
Please continue to contact us with your thoughts and concerns.
We look forward to celebrating the summer with us at Twelfth Night and Antony & Cleopatra !!
Click here to purchase tickets.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The time is now.
If you haven’t yet contacted your legislator, please, take a moment and do so now---today.
I’m writing today to ask each and every one of you who follows the work of Richmond Shakespeare to act, not on the stage, but by faxing, e-mailing, or phoning your Virginia delegate and senator a letter.
Who to write? Easy: http://legis.virginia.gov/1_cit_guide/contacting_my.html
What to say? Also easy: Virginians For the Arts talking points
The plan is simple. Communicate the support of all our many constituents who reap the benefits of the arts in the Commonwealth. In addition to the 20,000 jobs and the $300 million economic impact of the arts organizations, Virginians have, for more than thirty years, known the value of supporting the Commission.
Now, without equivocation, is the time to remind our representatives of that heartfelt belief.
If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me from the RS website, or to phone our offices at 804-232-4000. We’re happy to help in any way we can.
Friday, February 12, 2010
"A scratch, a scratch."
Monday, February 8, 2010
Tuesday, February 24, 2010 - 7:30pm
$15, includes a glass of wine/juice
Directed by Freddy Kaufman in the beautiful new Gottwald Playhouse at CenterStage. "Merchant" was first produced by RS in 2004, with Kaufman as Old Gobbo and Tubal. It was also the first Acts of Faith production in 2005 and though it's not our primary entry in the festival this year, will prove great fodder for conversation, as always. The new date will have tickets fo rsale at richmondshakespeare.com soon. Join us.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
"'Tis almost morning; I would have thee
gone:And yet no further than a wanton's bird;Who lets it hop a little from her hand…And with a silk thread plucks it back again,So loving-jealous of his liberty."
"I would I were thy bird."
Sunday, January 3, 2010
January 2, 2010
(Much was made on Facebook of the date being a palindrome.)
Went to the Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn, and there saw the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Singing its praises will hardly be an ineffable task…
It was a delightful, funny, a bit bawdy and sweet. Wait, sorry---it was delectable, effervescent without being capricious, and sweet without being saccharine. I would use sacchariferous, but that’s really reserved for chemicals containing or yielding sugar. Regardless, what this “Bee” contains (and yields) is nicely and not overly sweet.
We first meet Rona Lisa Perretti, the inimitable Debra Wagoner, and Vice Principal Branch, adorably played by Ford Flannagan, who explain “The Rules of the Bee.” Ask for a definition. Ask to have the word used in a sentence. Ask for language of origin. Audience plants are listening carefully and nervously.
“Bee” is a musical take on all our childhood experiences with spelling bees in specific and competitions in general. More, it’s an inventive look at identity, particularly the contributions thereto made by the defining experiences of childhood. Transpiring in front of an audience, some are certainly traumatic, these experiences shape us. No surprise, of course, but fun. Metaphors for a life in the theatre abound, so what at first might seem strange grist for the stage soon becomes clear.
Musically it’s rich, fun and outstandingly sung by the cast. But its ability to connect with us, while it uses the music to do so, goes beyond the score.
Partly it’s our own memories: at the start, almost immediately, the singular spelling bee moment of my life came to mind. In the 5th or 6th? Grade, my recollection is that the entire school was required to participate. Union Chapel Elementary, Parkville, MO. I didn’t make it past my very first word. The huge challenge given me? “Kindergarten.” Now, every rational adult (and child) knows that here, I’ve just spelled it correctly. But even today, even now typing it, I’m grateful for spell check; “Kindergarten” always creates a little reverberation in my head: ---shouldn’t it be spelled just like “garden?” An assortment? A safe haven for small children? An innocent array of nutritious morsels of learning? A GARDEN for, in fact, KINDERS? All these went through my 10 year-old brain, and they still do. In front of the whole school, I reached that moment of singularity, an event horizon in time and space: was it D-E-N or T-E-N?? I thought and thought---all the thoughts listed above---wanted to say D-E-N because even-if-that’s-not-how-it’s-spelled-it-should-be! But no! Both “kinder” and “garten” come from the German, of course, dating back to the Indo-European roots for “stoopid” and “GARDEN.” I said neither.
And sat down. Moron.
Always try! It might have been right! In education we stigmatize mistakes---but for the arts, students are wary of making them. Especially the ‘tweens, in front of their peers. Younger children will risk it---they’ll play, they’ll try. But older? Fill in the wrong bubble, and colleges, careers, lives are shattered. Creativity requires accepting the risk of being wrong. But I digress.
This awkward and solipsistic phase of life, for most thankfully brief, nonetheless has tremendous influence on the folks around us. And through the lens of Bee, quite enjoyably so. We’re meant to learn of course that all the phases of life exert tremendous influence on those around us. Hardly new material, but the show communicates it in a novel and not blatantly didactic manner.
It’s achieved mostly through the wit of its silly comic writing—last night’s audience laughed wholeheartedly throughout—and strong character choices. Many are especially moving, both in development, (several characters really significantly learn winning isn’t everything), and in physical and vocal distinctions (three of four main finalists have speech impediments). Their growth is palpable, especially the decisive moments stuck in a spotlight of Audra Honaker, Aly Weplo, Eric Stallings and Yvonne Same. Honaker’s leap into the caretaker’s arms—the actor also plays her father, well, one of them—was beautiful and heartbreaking, and Weplo’s main number, sung partly with Debra Wagoner and William Cortez-Statham, tear-inducing. “The I Love You Song,” saved for last, was clearly the standout of the production. All great stuff. But then, I’m a softie.
There’s quite a bit in the ‘losing victories’ of both Honaker and Same, suffering through onerous parental expectations, and overcoming a kind of cultural determinism---true too for the ‘caretaker’ role of Cortez-Statham, but for the most part, Bee is about self-determinism and life itself.
A couple of brief items: I wanted to see Matt Shofner’s “Leaf Coneybear” get more chance to dance---but Leaf fit superbly into what made each of the “children” adorable.
And I was all set to be perturbed with Matt Polson for not mentioning Richmond Shakespeare in his bio (he was Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice ’04, Lucentio in Taming of the Shrew,’06 and Ferdinand in The Tempest in ’07) but he was so committedly playful and silly (and had a kind of bumpy week), so I gladly gave the guy a break.
Richmond loves and should celebrate even more the talent of Debra Wagoner. I’ve loved her voice and actors’ intuition for that suspended moment—when we catch an emotion with an actor and share it. Debra knows these moments so well, and can use them like a laser. She sings a refrain that even describes it---“Her Favorite Moment of the Bee,” was an instant in which we process emotion on stage. We recall the emotion, and we’re brought to the moment with the actor. Sympathy. Syzygy! (Yes, it’s a word. If you’ve seen the show you know why I mention it here) Debra was also in high gear in this same fashion last month in Souvenir at the Hanover Tavern. --With the fantastic Jonathan Spivey---who juggled (jongleur!) the difficult task of accompanying and performing. Lovely performances, both. I've written a bit more on Souvenir here .
But it’s Weplo’s “Olive Ostrovsky” that the show centers on—educators (like Douglas Branch and Rona Lisa Perretti) are perennially thrilled by a stand-out gifted student discovering a talent, and the show’s repeated focus on what makes ‘a winner’ shine particularly bright in her happiness for a newfound friend, a newfound talent, and an enjoyment of recognizing that talent in her friends. Far more winning, indeed. Weplo is the perfect choice for her. What a treat.
Also lovely to see the spot-on direction of Steve Perigard. The assembled team, inexorably swift timing, particular guidance to actors in character development, and terrific use of the Marjorie Arenstein Theatre stage. I wanted to see more of the band, wonderfully led by Musical Director Sandy Dacus (clearly phenomenal work with her singers, as well), especially post curtain call--the scrim panel hiding them was so good that the audience tended to forget they were there. But that’s just being nit-picky.
A final word on some of the participatory/improvisatory elements of the show. Spoilers follow, so read these after you’ve seen the production….It’s a great device, to place adult actors playing children beside audience members. So, too to have audience members spell ludicrous words, easy and difficult, and poke fun at them even as the characters are also embarrassed. (Is there, after all, a more embarrassing thing than to misspell a word in front of hundreds of people? Well, perhaps only a physical embarrassment for males could be worse, and that’s in the show, too)
But I learned that Ford Flannagan, selects words for the audience members, writes the sentences that may be requested for each word, and improves the scenes with the ‘ringers.’ The unpredictability could have led to awkward disruptions in the flow of the show, but they were beautifully chosen, deftly handled, and tons of fun for the audience. Debra and the whole cast gets into the act.
Congratulations to the whole cast and crew---it’s flawlessly called by Rick Brandt, btw, and attractively designed by Ron Keller, Lynn Hartmann, Derek Dumais and Liz Hopper (no small task, costuming adult actors as children—here it’s a nice balance). I had a great time, and encourage you to catch the show before it closes on January 17.
Then go see RS’ first Second Tuesdays Staged Reading of 2010 on the 12th, Ben Jonson’s delicious Volpone, directed by Jeff Cole. $15 and you get a glass of wine. Jeff was of course our most recent Hamlet, and I’m eagerly awaiting Jeff’s performance as Iago in our mainstage production of Othello, beginning in February, also at CenterStage
Cheers, Happy New Year, and see you at the theatre.