Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rocket Fuel for the Office Set

Today is the last full day of business here at Cal Shakes. And in case you fear we may be getting detrimentally holidazed too early, rest easy--there's enough sugar in the Bullpen to propel my 1983 Volvo sedan straight to the moons of Jupiter.

There is:
Homemade guava and blackberry fruit jellies
A tray containing peppermint bark, nut and raisin bark, and truffles
Homemade burfis
Russel Stover marshmallow and caramel Santas

Elizabeth had to take our everyday basket of drugstore candy (currently containing Hersheys miniatures, Rolos, and mini Reese's cups) and stash it somewhere to make room for this dulcet bounty.

It's 12:08 now. By 3pm we should be doing jumping jacks in the parking lot, en masse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Q: Do you know what the worst thing about going on vacation is?

A: The two weeks leading up to the vacation.


We have been busier than a one-armed paperhanger with a case of the hives around here ... we sent the winter/spring classes brochure off to the printer, changed the name of the gala (it's now Gateway to India—lovely, no?) and secured wine of many colors for it (thank you, Wente Vineyards!), almost finished the season brochure, put up next season's production calendar online ... all while participating in the festive espionage that is the Secret Santa. Oh! And attending two (count'em, 2!) holiday parties, one with the board and one without*, and even starting auditions for next season.

It's awesome--every time you go into the kitchenette to rinse out your coffee mug, there's a man or woman pacing the Plank Stage and making strange noises, performing some strange hybrid of acting warm-up exercise and actual physical exercise (have I mentioned that the green room is as cold as a tomb this time of year?).
Here's a few of today's auditoners, accompanied by pictures of them making faces appropriate to their monologues:

Carmalita Shreve is an Equity actor who travelled here today from Vallejo; she auditioned with the Duchess of York's cursing monlogue from Richard III.

This is Mary Mims, another Equity member who performed a cursing monologue from RIII—this time Queen Margaret's. Mary came all the way from Portland to audition and to visit friends, but she didn't drive, as she's never learned. In fact, Mary thinks that "the automobile is the second-worst invention of our time." The first? "Gunpowder."

Jackson Davis has two last names. His name(s) is/are also an intersection in San Francisco, but sadly, not where he lives. This Equity actor's from the South Bay, and he performed two monlogues today: one form Richard II and one as Tregorin from The Seagull. He recently did a show at Marin Theatre Company.

And finally, the only truly local actor I spoke to today, and also the only non-AEA: Natanya Silverman, who performed one of Viola's monologues from Twelfth Night.

Best of luck, guys!

*Check out some staff holiday party photos!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cal Shakes' Favorite Sweet Young Things

Oh, how we love our interns around here. They dress up like zombies and space cowboys for our silly Shindigs, answer the audition hotline, teach us old folks about the Awkward Turtle and T.M.I. Turkey, and generally are the Scotch tape that that binds this nonprofit arts organization together.

I even heard a rumor that at least one of them actually reads this blog.

So of COURSE it's my great pleasure to point out that, this coming Monday, the Cal Shakes Intern Company will be reimagining a classic of their own:
Come see the interns of Cal Shakes as
Rough 'n Ready Players
SAVAGE/LOVE written by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin

Three shows only.
Date: 12/10/2007
Times: 5:30, 7, and 8:30 PM

Location: Oakopolis Creativity Center
447 25th St. Oakland, CA94612 in between Broadway and Telegraph

To RSVP: email Daunielle Rasmussen
(510) 548-3422x133

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Classes and Cuddly Things

So, the winter/spring classes page is live--we've got new pictures and new classes for grown-ups and kiddies alike. There's a teen class wherein they do selected scenes from Romeo and Juliet, but with some serious fight choreography. There's the adult improv class that I'm going to be taking. There's a comedy workshop for middle schoolers. There's a Literary Society wherein students sift through the texts of each of 2008 season's productions, spending two weeks on the dramaturgy of each.

I'm happy the page is live, and that the brochures for both those classes and the 2008 season will soon skip off to the printer, and not just because we've been working on them so hard for so long. (Seriously, you try finding photos that represent plays whose staging and costuming direction is barely a glimmer in their respective directors' eyes--this morning I spend an hour looking for medium shots of the Kennedys giving speeches.) It's because we're hurrying them off to the printer so we all can toddle home for the holiday break. And then when we come back, it's not long till classes start, the gala happens, and winter slides into spring. And the the spring classes happen, and then ... it's Cal Shakes season time again.

And in the meantime, today we've got the winter's first rainstorm. But I'm wearing a cuddly turtleneck, and I can easily imagine the sun of the Bruns on my face.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness of Coordination

I'm anxiously waiting final edits on our winter/spring classes web page and brochure. This is one of the things with which almost anyone who has "coordinator" in their title can sympathize; oftentimes the word "coordinate" is just a tender, palliative way of saying "nag and wait." I'm a little grumpy today, so I keep making little jokes about "turning this building around" and "firebombing," but of course it's all in fun. And coordinatin' is my game, so I shall sit (and nag) and wait just the same.

Or maybe I'll sneak out of the office and figure out where our fearless leader's off to, dressed like Elmer Fudd.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Picture Perfect Friday

So we're busy. Really busy. But here's some pictures of a few moments when we weren't.
This is graphic designer Ilsa, managing director Debbie (with Anette Bening growing out of her head in glorious black-and-white), and artistic learning programs and outreach manager (whew) Emily reacting in totally natural and unscripted comic surprise at their identical sweaters. Well, Ilsa's and Debbie's were exactly the same. I think Emily might be wearing a cheap knock-off. Shhh!

As the Star would ask: Who rocked it?

And this is Emily with marketing director/platoon captain Susie, testing out the backdrop for a photo shoot with our adult audition class. Obviously, we think it should go on the cover of a brochure, but the muckety-mucks probably won't agree.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

OK, so, this is just silly.

We're actually really busy right now ... I'm trying to coordinate copy and print deadlines for winter/spring class brochures and email blasts, plus Gala stuff and gift packages for some kind of holidays coming up or something. But I had a little time to read the RSS feed from Webware, which keeps me up on Web 2.0 developments. And one I just had to try was the new face-mapping video service from Gizmoz. Since there's no theatercentric video currently available, I chose the one with the song I liked. Yes, I look a little creepy. But this literally took less than five minutes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A little corn before your turkey, breaders?

First off, "breaders" is a term coined (we hope) by Cal Shakes Associate Artist Nancy Carlin when she was writing a production blog for the 2007 season production of Man and Superman; it's shorthand for "blog readers." And of course, it's appropriate for today, the day before most of the nation stuffs themselves with starches of many stripes.

Stuffing's my favorite.

But before I talk more about the succulent, slovenlicious joy of carbohydrates (and before I explain this entry's opening photo) I'd like to ladle out some corn; I want to give thanks to the great actors who were onstage during my first season at Cal Shakes by showing you some stuff they're doing right now.

Here's Lorri Holt (Queen Elizabeth in our Richard III) and T. Edward "T. Headdy" Webster (Hastings in Richard III and Hector Malone in Man and Superman) in The Magic Theatre's current production of The Crowd You're in With. That photo to the left is from the SF Chronicle, whose Robert Hurwitt gave an enthusiastic review to the show earlier this week, calling Holt "invaluable" and opinig that Webster "slowly, cannily emerges as the emotional and intellectual focus of the fissures gaping ever wider beneath these characters."

And to the left you'll see, front and center and wielding a shield (and some serious gams), our very own Associate Artist Andy Murray in Berkeley Rep's current prodocution of Argonautika. Andy's a pretty old-fashioned guy, in his own way--when I was gathering updated cast and crew bios for the Man and Superman program some months ago, Andy never responded to my emails, instead calling my phone and leaving a delightfully succinct, two-sentence bio on my voicemail. So he's especially suited for what a member of the Bullpen crew called his "star turn" in the Argonautika. I'm not sure yet what that means, but I'm going to see the play the first week of December, so I'll let you know. I'm pretty psyched, though. The Contra Costa Times said that the "experience of seeing the show really is like going on an adventure into some uncharted theatrical territory, and returning with memories to treasure for a long time."

Meanwhile, over at A.C.T., The Rainmaker--which, according to the San Francisco Examiner, "rocks"--is not only directed by Mark Rucker (who helmed Romeo and Juliet for us in 2001, Richard III in 2007, and will close out Cal Shakes' 2008 season with Twelfth Night) but it features Cal Shakes Associate Artists Anthony Fusco (The Fool in King Lear) and Stephen Barker Turner (second from left in the picture to the left, and most recently seen at the Bruns in As You Like It and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby) plus, as understudies, Jud Williford (who portrayed Agis in 2007's The Triumph of Love) and Marcia Pizzo (Berinthia in 2006's smash hit Restoration Comedy).

OK, so we've got Cal Shakes actors delving into modern, character-driven new works, and other ones doing fantastic flights of fancy costumery or classic American romance ... what's left? How about a new take on a sentimental favorite? One starring a Cal Shakes MVP? (I'll let you in on a little secret--the entire Bullpen squealed about this one earlier today, in unison. You can tell it's finally the holidays.)

I present to you... Dan Hiatt in This Wonderful Life.

Yep, 2007 season MVP Dan Hiatt--who portrayed Buckingham in Richard III, Straker in Man and Superman, and Hermocrates in The Triumph of Love--will be starring in the one-man adaptation of It's a Wonderful life at San Jose Rep, opening this very Saturday. Take note, mother of our resident dramaturg Laura Hope (who was famously outed as having a crush on Dan in her daughter's Man and Superman blog): The Man with the Best Hair at Cal Shakes will be playing George Bailey, Mr. Potter, Clarence, and even, one would assume, even Mary and little Zuzu.

This, of course, prompted Paul and I to do a resounding rendition of the old Dudley Do-Right "I can't pay the rent! You MUST pay the rent!" skit. I have a feeling Dan will embody the multiple characters far better.

Another holiday classic opens Dec. 5 at A.C.T., this time relatively straight-up (although there is some mention of "gang this" and "gang that" in the cast): A Christmas Carol as directed by Cal Shakes Associate Artist Domenique Lozano, last seen on our stage as Leontine in The Triumph of Love. The cast is studded with Cal Shakes lights, most notably fellow Associate Artist (and devoted, prolific blogger) James Carpenter as the old crankypants himself, Ebeneezer Scrooge.

I'm sure I could find more--Cal Shakes actors are as tireless as they are peerless. Thank you to all of you, for snoozing in the Green Room, reading my old magazines, making me laugh and gasp and think all summer long.

Oh, and about those carbs--thanks to our neighbors at Metropolis Baking, too, who gifted us with bags and bags and BAGS of bread earlier this afternoon. I snagged some sourdough for sandwiches and durum brushed with olive oil and sea salt for tomorrow's feast. It wasn't easy, as you can see that the competition (Jessica, Beth, and Liz in the picture at the top of this post) was tough.

Thanks everyone!! Have a great holiday.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dana's Leaving, Part One

These are Beth's shoes at Dana's last day luncheon.

This is (most of) the group of Bullpenners that went out for Dana's last day luncheon.

This is the crab salad sandwich that almost everybody ordered at Dana's last day luncheon.

This is the strange little restaurant, nestled between the Bay & the freeway, where we had Dana's last day luncheon.

And this is this blogger and Dana at Dana's last day luncheon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Based on a Totally True Theatrical Experience

Back in 2006, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa helmed Cal Shakes' second NewWorks /New Communities project, King of Shadows (originally known as Sweet Thunder), creating and developing a new take on A Midsummer Night's Dream, with the help of MFA students at American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) and community organizations working with homeless LGBT youth in San Francisco. This was before my time here at Cal Shakes, but this summer, I had the pleasure of going to see a workshop performance of Aquirre-Sarcasa's Good Boys and True at the Marin Theatre Company. The tense, funny tale of how a private school's legacy of secrets unravel--revealing the uneven seams of class and sexuality--really lept to life in the hands of the five actors (including Man and Superman's Hector Malone, Sr., Steve Irish, and Restoration Comedy's Berinthia, Marcia Pizzo), even though they remained seated on stools in a straight line at all times.

We went for drinks afterward, the actors and crew, Joy Meads, me, and some other assorted folks. And Aguirre-Sacasa struck me as a sweet and down-to-earth guy with a pretty deadly wit. It wasn't till after we'd left the 2AM Club in Mill Valley that Joy told me the playwright also writes comics--like, big ones. X-Men. This may not impress you, but it does me. Superhero comics ain't my bag, but underground comics are, as is certain strains of sci-fi. I've even been trying, off and on this year, to write a script for a comic book series of my own. So I was ticked off that I didn't get to pick the brain of a pro, especially since, at the time, that brain had been addled slightly by alcohol!

Lucky for me, Aguirre-Sacasa's got a show running now at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theater. And that play, Based on a Totally True Story, features a comic book writer who (and maybe I'm being too literal here) could definitely be based on a totally true playwright.

At least I can pick the actor's brain, right?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gaaa-la? Gay-la?? Gah-la?! Guh-LA?!?! Which IS it, people?

So, every March, Cal Shakes throws an elegant, elaborate fundraising fete, our annual Gala. There's dinner and dancing and two kinds of auctions and actors acting and dancers dancing ... all under the umbrella of one grand theme. Last year's theme was "Sin City," and we had showgirls and a swing band. This year's theme is ... I can't say. Not quite yet. But if you're reading this because you heard about the blog in our monthly newsletter, just hang tight and we'll announce it in December's edition. (And if you haven't subscribed to the newsletter yet, I'd strongly recommend it.) For Cal Shakes employees, the Gala means a whole lot of work.

A few weeks ago, though, I would have tacked onto that last sentence "or so I hear," because I started here in March, at the start of the week leading up to the gala. And though the office was a hive of a mess of a maelstrom of activity that week, mostly what I noticed was that I didn't have a desk for the first three days and no one knew what to do with me. So I camped out in the box office, learned Powerpoint, and put together a live auction presentation for the party. I actually kind of love Powerpoint now, although I quickly learned that spinning star wipe transitions aren't necessarily Cal Shakes' style.

When I finally did get a desk, it didn't have a computer on it. So I hung some stuff on the walls and returned to the box office to finish up my Powerpoint. The actual day of the gala, my new coworkers showed up at the beautiful Rotunda building in downtown Oakland some time in the morning to start setting up. Not me, though--it being my first week, I got a pass. I showed up at noon, checked in with Dana the Queen of All Gala Planning, and spent my Saturday afternoon driving around the Berkeley and Orinda hills to deliver bouquets to gala committee members! Then I spent the evening at a friend's birthday party, while all the other Bullpenners and Upstairsers and such got done up in tuxes and heels and spent the night checking in guests and coats and auction bids.

This year I won't be so lucky.

Dana the Queen of All Gala Planning, aka the Cal Shakes MVP, aka the Lady Who Did My Job Before Me, is leaving us after seven years in various positions. So last week and this one have been all about spreadsheets and print samples and handing off. In a little while, we'll have a meeting with the new Gala chairwoman and the committee member who's heading up the party's many publications--there are more than twenty, each with its own specifications and scheduling. And so we're planning them. In November. For an event in March.

That I've never been to. And (as indicated by this post's title) I don't even know how to pronounce.


But I'm, still and all, already kinda goofy for the gala. No matter how the heck you're supposed to say it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sorry this is so sideways.

I am also sorry that I stopped the video before Robin laughed her trademark snort. I promise I will capture the snort for this blog in the future. You do not know Robin (and you do not know The Bullpen) if you do not know the snort.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Return of Jessica ... and T. Headdy Webster

Tomorrow, Jessica comes back. Jessica used to work in our Artistic Learning Department, but she left a few months ago to pursue other opportunities. Well, the lure of Cal Shakes is strong, children, and so, shortly after the announcement of impending departure by the now-dearly departed-for-Chicago Joy Meads (whew!), Jonathan Moscone announced his own self that her replacement would be none other than Jessica Richards.

So today we set up the welcome wagon. Well, OK--the welcome desk.

Remember this guy?

Yep, T. Headdy Webster is currently sleeping soundly in Jessica's Future File Drawer, nestling his gentle Coca-Cola-colored noggin against Joy's Files From the Past.

But that's not all.
This is the My Little Pony that the Artistic Learning staff stashed in the other desk drawer.

And this is the real Welcome Wagon.
Bottle of beer? (Probably from Bison, the official beer of Cal Shakes?) Check.

Bottle of Excedrin? Check.
Candy? Check.

Bottle of vodka? (NOT Stockholm Kristal, the official vodka of Cal Shakes?) Check.

To-do list with completely outrageous list of tasks? Check.

Oh, but wait!! She might have some help with at least one of those outrageous tasks:

"Cast all four shows by Friday."

These are the casting interns!!! Yay, casting interns!

Jessica, hide the vodka--or at least check the ID of that kid on the left.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"Dad asked YOU to marry HIM when you were only FOURTEEN!"

Before I started working here, we had this Associate Artistic Director named Sean Daniels. I never met him, but from all reports, he was a nice guy. And he taught an adult improv class for Cal Shakes, which, to me, is very exciting. Because, though, I've only done improv once or twice in my life, I've been flying by the seat of my pants in everyday situations for as long as I can remember.

But Sean Daniels has moved on, so there have been no silly games for Cal Shakes adults to play. Well, we hold other adult acting classes, but none as focused on The Silly as improvisation is. And if you've been reading this blog, you must know by now that mama likes The Silly. So imagine my excitement late last week when I was invited to "Not your average Brown Bag -- Cal Shakes Sample Improv Extravaganza!" Now, usually, a "brown bag luncheon" is a nice way of saying, "Of course you can eat your lunch. But you have to do it while attending a meeting." Of course, at a theater company, brown bags can actually be fun--we usually have one on the first day of rehearsals for each show, wherein the entire staff gets to take in presentation by the director and set and costume designers; then they kick us out so the cast can do its first read-through.

While it's great to be able to see what the director's vision for the show is at the very beginning, this brown bag involved me pretending to be the 15-year-old daughter of the Artistic Administrator (who is, in fact, about a decade my junior). So there.

The purpose of the meeting--during which, strangely, no actual lunch was actually consumed--was to "audition" a new adult improv teacher for our winter/spring classes, the very accommodating Laura Derry, who has been taking improv classes for 16 years, and teaching them for 14. She's also an improv musician, and even goes down to the southerlands occasionally, to pitch and pilot improv-based television shows (a prospect which, right this very minute, seems to have a far greater chance of making the cut.) So, even if she doesn't get the gig, at least we Bullpenners (and Upstairsers) were in good hand for the moment.

Laura started out by teaching us a noise to make when we felt silly--WOOHOO!--and an accompanying hand gesture, should we so desire. We then made some silly noises to get warmed up, and soon used those silly noises to play a game of "catch," wherein we also caught the noises "thrown" at us along with an "invisible ball. I didn't quite follow the instructions, instead making up my own noises whenever the ball was tossed to me. WOOHOO!

We then paired off an gave each other invisible gifts. During the first round, the giver would designate what they were giving--for instance, I gave box office manager Robin a litter of tiny puppies--and during the second round, the receiver decided what the gift was. For some reason, Robin and I kept getting presents you can buy at Home Depot, like rope and lumber.

These gifts ended up being quite fitting for the next game: "I Am a Tree." Emily stood as a tree to start, and then one more person could join them as a related object: Beth was a bush and Tara was a koala. Emily then got to choose which object to take offstage with her; she took Tara, leaving Beth bent over as a bush. And so on. At one point, I ended up being a crumpled-up newspaper on a park bench, quite glad that no one decided to be a sleepy homeless guy.

Once that was done, four of us created random tableaux while teacher Laura narrated a slide show about her vacation in Bermuda; this was my least favorite exercise, since for some reason I really wanted to spell out letters with my arms during each "slide," "YMCA" style. Once I recognized my tendency in this regard, I started doing things like shoving my hands in my pockets for the scenes. I'm a better improviser verbally, methinks. Other people fared better. For example, in the photo above, Elizabeth acts as Laura's avatar, looking for adventure in Bermuda, while Robin cheerfully greets her daughter, Emily, just magically returned from a decade lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

Luckily for me, the next exercise featured Robin, Tara, and I sharing a brain and body, as a single guest on a talk show. She'd ask the question, and the three of us would say one word, one at a time, till we'd completed a sentence. Somehow we ended up as "Penelope Cruz, PhD," an expert on earthworms. Apparently earthworms like to get romantic to heavy metal music. Who knew?

Finally, Daunielle and I played an alphabet game--this is the one I mentioned before, where she played my mother. The first sentence started with "A," the second, "B," et cetera. I think that the game opened up with an exchange like this:
Daunielle: "Are you kidding me? You cannot date boys--you're only 15."
Me: "But mom! Lorraine's mom lets her date."
Daunielle: "Could you give me a better reason?"
Me: "Dad asked YOU to marry HIM when you were only FOURTEEN."
Daunielle: "Exactly. I should be a perfect example of why fourteen is to young to get married."
Me: "Fifteen, mom. FIFTEEN over here.
It's lucky for me that teenagers speak in single words and repeat themselves a lot. When they speak at all.

So, yeah, obviously I'm going to take this class if we end up offering it. And, all in all, this was a fine way to break up the oppressiveness that Mondays--even when the weather is unseasonably warm and and your job is unreasonably fun--can't help but deliver.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Maybe your curse and the farm's curse has mated and gone into a gopher hole like a pair of rattlesnakes.

There were actual actors roaming the halls for most of last week, starting Tuesday; once I got over the shock of it, I started asking after what was going on. I mean, I love me some Dan Hiatt, Nancy Carlin, and Catherine Castellanos, but I'm not used to seeing them just ambling about during the off-season, not to mention that Catherine (who, in my humble--oops, I mean, IMHO--stole the show as Queen Margaret in Richard III this season) was doing her ambling in a full-leg cast, thanks to an injury sustained during the San Jose Rep production of The Triumph of Love.

Tuesday afternoon the following email arrived from Associate Artistic Director Joy Meads:

"As you may have noticed from the actors and playwright walking around, we are conducting our first workshop for PASTURES OF HEAVEN this week. We’ll be working on one of the stories (number 4, the turalecito story) using exercises drawn from Word For Word’s practice and inspired by the RSC’s development of Nicholas Nickleby. We’d like to invite you to drop in and observe the workshop at any point this week."

Pastures of Heaven (or, as Joy, who has a bit of a volume control problem, puts it, PASTURES OF HEAVEN) is the latest piece our New Works/New Communities program is sinking its teeth into. With NW/NC, Cal Shakes partners up with community groups, other theater companies, and various and sundry other orgs to adapt and create new theater with roots in the classics. In 2006, we partnered with partnered with Campo Santo (the resident company at SF's Intersection for the Arts) and playwright Naomi Iizuka to create Hamlet: Blood in the Brain; and, in 2006/2007 with playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, MFA students at A.C.T., and community organizations working with homeless LGBT youth in San Francisco to reimagine A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Now, with playwright Octavio Solis, Word for Word Performing Arts Company, and community organizations still TBA, we're adapting John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven.

I am using the following method. The manuscript is made up of stories, each one complete in itself, having its rise, climax and ending. Each story deals with a family or an individual. Each story deals with a family or an idividual. They are tied together by the common locality and by the contact with the [central family].
- John Steinbeck in the introduction to The Pastures of Heaven

Pastures is an anthology of interconnected stories, stories that unfold in the farming community of early twentieth-century Salinas. It is hard to imagine a collection of short fiction being easily adaptable to the stage, even a collection so interrelated by place and persons. Because short stories vary--in their main characters, and usually in their tone--from each other. And because, any time you're adapting something written for the page to be performed on the stage, you're dealing with exposition that was not created to be spoken. Luckily, there are things like set design, sound, lighting, and costumes to add to the conversation. And even luckier is our partnership with Word for Word, a professional ensemble whose mission is to stage short stories in their entirety., and our commissioning of Octavio Solis, who has also been working on an adaptation of Don Quixote for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

And, even luckier, perhaps, is that Pastures of Heaven features dialogue like this:

Maybe your curse and the farm's curse has mated and gone into a gopher hole like a pair of rattlesnakes. Maybe there'll be a lot of baby curses crawling around the pastures the first thing we know.

Oh, yeah.

But of course, the performance is still some time away, and the adaptation's just begun. So on Friday, I sat in on a little of the workshop. And this is a little of what I saw:

Actor Dan Hiatt reading passages from a book called Grow It, by Richard W. Langer, and attempting to explain, somewhat, the difficulties of farming. (Left to right: Cal Shakes Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, the back of playwright Octavio Solis's head, Word for Word company member Patricia Silver, the back of Word for Word co-Artistic Director JoAnne Winter's head, and Hiatt.)

Octavio listening intently as a workshop participant showed pictures of a 1930s-era one-room schoolhouse, while talking about how this schoolhouse would have had no segregation, and that1930 was a watershed year for educational theory, when educational conservatives and progressives squared off over who should be educated (the most gifted or the least), and how and what to teach to them.

It's a fascinating process, and on Saturday NW/NC held rehearsals at Z Space in San Francisco. Joy told me on the phone today that "it went great!" She's usually more verbose, but she's otherwise occupied, having just finished her last week at Cal Shakes, and therefore being in the midst of packing for chillier climes. In fact, I shouldn't let you think that the Pastures workshop was all that happened last week.
Because it wasn't.

On Friday, most of us ditched work early to meet up at the Townhouse, an Emeryville bar and restaurant that (as my former coworker Vicky would say) is both hoity and toity. We drank, we ate hors d'oeuvres, and things happened.
Jon Moscone delivered a very funny, sweet toast to Joy while Daunielle moved furniture around.

Joy made a speech that I, apparently, found quite amusing.

And Cal Shakes Board Vice President Nancy Kaible presented to us a song that her daughter had written for her friends moving to Chicago, and then adapted for Joy's going-away.

She fiddled with the wee boom box a bit, and we asked the staff to turn down the nonthreatening jazz that was playing over the Townhouse's sound system.

And then? Well... the following is a bit unsafe for workplace consumption. Unless you work somewhere cool like Cal Shakes, that is.

And then we laughed.

And laughed, and laughed.

Joy may have even cried a little.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday miscellany -- with fashion shoots!

Slow news day so far, which is not that unusual since Mondays tend to be my slow day, even during the season. Plus, we’re missing some key folks in the bullpen today, like our fearless Platoon Captain (whose daughter has a day off preschool today) and Beth, who often delights us with such tales as this one, which I wrote down but didn’t put in the blog last week because I thought it would work better with an illustration, which I never managed to produce:


On Wednesday Beth got recognized by a subscriber while on line at the sandwich truck near our office. She has no idea how he recognized her, except for maybe from the curtain speeches she sometimes delivers before the show. (You know, the whole “turn off your cell phones, thanks to our sponsors” thing.)

And then this exchange occurred, right here in the bullpen:

Paul: You never know when you’re going to be recognized, when you’re gonna get …
Stefanie (in silly voice): A new fan.
Beth: (Spits Coca-Cola out of her nose.)


So yeah … slow news day here in The Bullpen. I’ve been playing around with Twitter and Twittervision, trying to figure out What They Are, Exactly, and also What They Can Do For Me. But that’s not terribly exciting unless you’re actually stalking watching us on Twitter or Twittervision. So I’m going to go wander the building in search of a story for you. Ready ... GO!


OK, I’m back. I asked what was going on in the Development honcho office, and just got a sigh, a “nose to the grindstone,” and a look of surprise when I mentioned I was “reporting for the blog.” (Oops – what, everyone doesn’t know about this?) Then I wandered into the back of the building, past the coffee machine, following the sound of a bandsaw toward the scene shop…

But wait.

What’s that open door?

The costume shop. With the light on … but nobody’s home. And what are these?

Costumes from King Lear, recently returned from the Bruns Amphitheater.

Like this one, a gorgeous dress worn by the scheming Goneril (Delia MacDougall) in Lear:

... and reinterpreted by me, as ...

... the ladies who yell at you about your alien aura when you walk through the Tenderloin on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Then there was this fantastic coat worn by the faithful Cordelia (Sarah Nealis) in the second act:

And reinterpreted by my accomplice, Paul (who really should have been working on his capital campaign reports) as ... well, I don't know.

Whoever he is, he's handy with a spray bottle, and (judging by the picture's datestamp) quite the time traveler.

And then there was the J-Lo brand jumpsuit.

The size XL, J-Lo brand jumpsuit that we found, mysteriously, hanging perilously close to the Lear costumes.

The time-traveling parrot was just as confused about it as we were.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Busy days aHEAD! Who knew?

It's Tuesday afternoon, the first Tuesday after my first Cal Shakes season has ended. The rainy grey days have started, the executive types are planning their big vacations, and ... I'm busy as all get-out. Part of it has to do with the fact that I went on a little vacation of my own late last week, spending a few days in central and north Florida with friends and family types. So now I'm playing catch-up.

Or should I say, I'm struggling to get ahead.
Ahem. This is what greeted me when I opened my drawer to put my purse away Monday morning, after my vacation. If you saw the first play of the season at our theater this year, that head may look familiar. It's the head that Reg Rogers and his right-hand man tossed around like a ghastly football, and it's made from the face of the actor who portrayed the playboy Lord Hastings -- T. Edward Webster or, as we like to call him around here now, "T. Headdy Webster," ever since that head made its triumphant return to the Bruns Amphitheater as set dressing for our "Monster Mash" big shindig. (Not Mr. Webster, though -- he'd already been back in Man and Superman.)

Yesterday (Monday) I spent catching up on emails and tsk-tsking people for not getting their newsletter copy to me in time (much of it's in now, but I'm finding this blog a little more fun to work on). This morning, Marketing folks met at the Platoon Captain's house to eat brunch, do a little post-mortem on the season, and plan some for the months to come.

When I finally rolled in this afternoon at around 1:15, i found the bullpen in a fever. A tizzy, even. Three of the fair and true and pure Development folks -- Paul, Beth, and Dana -- were frantically putting papers in a fishbowl...

What? That doesn't seem exciting? Do you realize that the Grand Prize was a pair of first-class, round-trip tickets to anywhere in Europe? Sheesh, even the fourth prize was a year's supply of coffee.

Did I mention that employees are allowed to enter?
We repaired to the rehearsal hall for the big deal drawing ... only the abovementioned Devo folks were allowed to get near the bowl, because, as also mentioned above, they were fair and true and pure, meaning that not a one of them had purchased raffle tickets for either themselves or for someone else. So Paul and Dana and Beth were allowed in the "inner circle" while the rest of us had to sit or stand a few feet away.

Well, Dana and Beth stayed near the bowl, anyway.

Paul provided the ambience.

The bad news is, not a single Cal Shakes employee won. The good news is ... a whole passel of our patrons did -- and the lady who won the grand prize also won one of our giant puppets last year!! Maybe you should go ahead and sign up for that email newsletter I'm supposed to be writing right now ... then you can find out her name, and ask her to pick your lottery numbers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Please allow me ... wait, no, that's been done before.

Hello there! My name's Stefanie Kalem, and this silly blog is my idea. I started to title this first proper entry after the opening line of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," but stopped myself for fear of being unoriginal. Also, I'm not so sure how appropriate it is, though it comes quite natural to me to quote songs for titles to things, since, long ago and in a galaxy east-coast state far, far away, I was a professional music journalist. Since then, I've published calendar blurbs, cover stories, and self-involved essays creative nonfiction. But when I was younger, I was, you know ... "into" drama.

My debut role was as the first pig in a kindergarten production of The Three Little Pigs; from there, my career took a short dip (playing the corpse in the window seat in Arsenic and Old Lace) before soaring to such star turns as Anita in West Side Story and Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, both summer camp productions.

But I grew up in suburban New York, where nearly every grade was lucky enough to have a kid among its ranks who'd appeared on Broadway (revivals of Annie, Oliver!, and The Sound of Music keep Long Island stage moms busy). So we did musicals, and nothing but. And as I got older, a shocking thing was discovered--guess who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket full of buckets?


So I was relegated to non-singing leads, like Cha-Cha in a high school production of Grease (which, having been mounted in 1987, featured a whole lot of terrifying, Dirty Dancing-inspired lifts and things). My senior year, my best friend and I tried to stage a guerilla production of Feiffer's People, but got shut down because of "adult content." It's no wonder that my interest shifted away from theater and toward writing and music -- the kind you listened to on vinyl and cassette, not the kind you sang with a handful of your classmates while dressed in period costume and dancing as one.

But now I find myself back in theater. But, thankfully not back in musical theater, although I eventually came around to rock operas and, actually, lots of folks down here in The Bullpen -- the downstairs area of Cal Shakes's West Berkeley office, which houses a mix of Marketing and Development folk -- really like musicals. And I'm sure that that will come up again on this blog in the future, either by my hand or theirs. They're going to pitch in, too, to give you a window into the off-season goings-on. Because, once the season ends, things change around here at Cal Shakes. There aren't a whole lot of actors running around, for one thing, and I don't have any glossy programs to produce (which takes up a large portion of my time between May and October). But our adult and youth classes our gearing up, as is our latest New Works/New Communities project, and planning for our big gala fundraiser in March, and a lot of other little things that are funny and fascinating and weird. As a bit of an outsider* in this world, I'm looking forward to finding out, along with you, how things run. And as a trained reporter, I'm also looking forward to bringing you juicy scoops from all over this company.

I can't promise highs and lows of Shakespearean (or even Rolling Stonesean) proportions. But I'm curious as to what happens, and I hope you are, too.

* I've actually done a dramatic thing or two in my adult life ... my friend Gabe and I wrote a play that was produced, twice, in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall (quite coincidentally), and I occasionally narrate shadow puppet shows with Teatro Penumbra.