Monday, March 31, 2008

Picture proof positive!

Your old friend Stefanie here, from the Bullpen, aka the Marketing department. As I sort through the many hours of video from our Steinbeck Project road trip and second workshop--with the intention of bringing it in multiple bite-size viewing portions to YOU, our beloved theatergoing public--I wanted to take a break and show you some pictures from the workshop.


I guess I should just let the photos (by Jay Yamada) do the rest of the talking. Maybe THEY know how to punctuate better than I do today.

In the Cal Shakes parking lot, Word for Word's Patricia Silver, Nancy Shelby, JoAnne Winter, and Cal Shakes' Ron Campbell work on acting out a section of The Pastures of Heaven's "Junius Maltby" story.

Cal Shakes' Domenique Lozano directs Silver, Shelby, and Campbell.

Silver, Shelby, and Winter as The Pastures of Heaven's townspeople.

Word for Word co-Artistic Director Winter and Fox Fellowship recipient Campbell as Robbie and Junius Maltby, respectively.

Meanwhile, inside the rehearsal hall, Word for Word's Susan Harloe, Jeri Lynn Cohen, and Amy Kossow work on their interpretation of the Junius Maltby story (with Cohen as little Robbie Malby).

Cal Shakes' Catherine Castellanos and Word for Word's Cohen, Kossow, and Harloe being directed by Word for Word's Stephanie Hunt.

As the Whitmanesque Junius Maltby, Word for Word co-Artistic Director Harloe takes the plunge.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Steinbeck Project Blog: Take one...

ok. Blog virgin Amy here. Hope this is actually the site for Cal Shakes! Be embarassing to be blogging away on some poor unsuspecting soul's website...

Well, to work: we've just finished the Spring '08 worshop for Pastures of Heaven. Exhilarating conversation for three solid days circling the themes in the stories. Are the pastures cursed? what happens to people's fantasies when they brush against reality? and what was Jonathan really doing standing up there on top of the 'fridge, anyway?? The workshop ended with three attacks on a short section of story 6, Junius Maltby. What a total blast! I think we were all so excited to put something up on its feet. Ja! The question/struggle as we go forward will be how to handle the narrative -- how much to activate without overwhelming the material, which has a gorgeous lightness on the page.

I think the two companies are jelling well together; we WFW'ers are beginning the process of learning Cal Shakesepearean English: e.g. "Bowling pins" which means either a) move quickly to a v-shape configuration with your fellow actors, or b) be prepared to fall over in the near future...and then there is Word For Word Shorthand: "Let's do the 'and's...' No! let's do the "as's!"" You figure it out.

Truly, I feel incredibly blessed to have this rich and wonderful time together. We have all clearly fallen madly in love with the text of The Pastures of Heaven, which is working its magic on us, just as Steinbeck intended, no doubt. Check out the rest of this blog site for video of the workshop.


Monday, March 24, 2008

On collaboration, incorporation, and change

Stefanie Kalem here, Cal Shakes Publications Manager. First of all, you may have noticed that the name of this blog has changed from the Bullpen Blog to the Cal Shakes Blog. This is because, as the season nears, it's not just the Bullpen* that's full of bull--er, I mean, full of buzz. Almost immediately after our 13th annual gala, we swung full-bore into the next phase of our Steinbeck Project, a two-day research trip to Salinas. Along with playwright Octavio Solis, Cal Shakes Artistic honcho Jon Moscone, Word for Word company members, and sundry Cal Shakes staffers, I rode along to videotape, photograph, and otherwise record this momentous journey to the mysterious Central Valley.

So where's my blog entry, you ask?

We-ell ... about that. I was so busy videotaping and photographing, I didn't really get to take notes. And as much as I'd like to tell you about our visits to The Farm, the Firehouse Recreation Center, Black Bear Diner, Markham Ranch (the gajillion-dollar housing development that now sits on Corral de Tierra, real-life setting for The Pastures of Heaven), and the Steinbeck Center (not to mention quaint downtown Salinas' moving picture house) I've got to teach myself iMovie and FinalCutExpress this week in order to edit the seven-plus hours of video I shot.

It'll be worth the wait, I promise--where else can you see and hear myself, Octavio Solis, Jon Moscone, and Word for Word Artistic Director JoAnne Winter singing along in the car to Billy Bragg? Or video of Word for Word's other Artistic Director, Susan Harloe ... hoeing?

The good news is that you can see lots of photos from the trip on the New Works/New Communities Flickr page (and pics from the first research trip back in February as well).

The even better news is also the reason this is no longer solely the Bullpen's blog**--as the season draws nearer, there are many of Cal Shakes' other voices that cry out to be heard. Our popular Main Stage actors' blogs will return in April, as Pericles begins rehearsal. And, as we're currently right smack in the middle of our second Pastures of Heaven workshop, playwright Octavio Solis and Word for Word charter company member Amy Kossow will be blogging in this space this week, as they tease to life one of the collection's most fascinating tales, that of the filthy, charming, Whitmanesque slacker Junius Maltby.

This is a wild and unscripted process, as two very different Bay Area theater companies and one award-winning playwright grapple with how to take a collection of twelve interwoven, delicate takes on early twentieth-century farm life (told by, as Jon Moscone put it, "an omniscient narrator who is reticent to reveal") and bring it to the stage.

Already discussed, in the first day of the workshop (which featured more Word for Word folks, three Cal Shakes Associate Artists, Moscone, and Solis):

The Bracero Program
Smeltertown, TX
John Steinbeck's schoolteacher mother
Robert Louis Stevenson***
The meaning of the word "monstrous"
Junius Maltby's resemblance to Michael Jackson
Mexican Corridos
Anton Chekhov
Nonallusionistic storytelling****

Stay tuned for Octavio's and Amy's debut blog entries later in the week. And don't worry, I'll still be around, with videos of raffle drawings and poorly placed photos and stuff. But in the meantime ...he-e-eeeere's the Cal Shakes Blog!

* The Bullpen is the combined Marketing and Development departments at our Berkeley administrative office, and it's whence emanated all prior entries of this blog, begun during California Shakespeare Theater's off-season.

** As I imagine you were wondering when, exactly, I would get to the point.

*** Particularly, this passage:
"There is nothing so monstrous but we can believe it of ourselves. About ourselves, about our aspirations and delinquencies, we have dwelt by choice in a delicious vagueness from boyhood up." -- Robert Louis Stevenson, from the collection Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers

**** Which I first heard as "Nonbeaujonistic storytelling." But it's more like "naked theater." But without the nudity--no allusions, you dig?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bindis and saris and auctions, oh my.

So, yeah. I haven't blogged in a while these last few months, and when I did, it was brief, and I blamed my absence on our gala. My first gala, in fact, since I started last year in the week leading up to the gala, and Cal Shakes excused me from having to work the event in favor of delivering bouquets to the ladies on the planning committee.

Little did I know how lucky I was. For not only was I spared the months leading up to the gala (my first week I learned PowerPoint and built a presentation for the live auction--that was the entirety of my contribution) but, also, whilst my new coworkers were working from dawn till dawn prepping, s
taffing, and tearing down the event, I was driving around the Berkeley and Orinda hills on the first sunny Saturday in months, delivering flowers.

Little did I know.

We arrived at 9 a.m. at the Oakland's historic Rotunda building this past Saturday (March 8), for the set-up for our 13th annual fund-raising gala, Gateway to India. I'd been to the Rotunda before, in my former life as a journalist, so I knew how stunning an edifice it is. And then we set about making it even more stunning: We rolled out carpets, set up elaborate awnings, affixed decorative umbrellas to ten-pound decorative umbrella stands, ran lights, arranged auction items on tables swathed in exotic fabric, and otherwise made this:

Then we went home for an hour and a half, and came back around 4:30. Most staffers were already dressed to the nines, but I needed some help.

I met up with Emily to be dressed in saris, beautiful, silken things from South India, spun with real gold (bling!) and on loan from Tara's mother, Shaila. We retreated to a conference room for Shaila to dress us--to wind the dozen-plus yards of fabric around us in carefully constructed pleats. (As predicted by her daughter, she pulled my petticoat drawstring so tight that I gasped.)

When all was done, I felt sort of like a bed. Crossed with a monk. Crossed with a princess.

Then she set about dressing Emily.

The dressing room was a fun place to be, with the Bindi girls dressed to match the invitations, the entertainers from Velocity Circus applying make-up to their bodies, and all the rest of the women trying to figure out their saris.

Emily and I were selling wine bin cards--playing cards that acted as a raffle ticket toward winning nearly $1700 worth of wine. We were the "glamour," someone had said the day before, but that was hardly the case, as the guests went to town on the Indian theme--the women in saris and salwar kameez, the men in Jodphuri suits and Indian pyjamas. They all looked wonderful, which thrilled me twofold--for one thing, the crowd was as fun to look at as the candy-colored decorations; for another, when I told them they looked great I wasn't lying, which is plenty handy when you're trying to sell something!

The wine bin cards--two decks for two bins--were all sold by the time folks were all settled in for their Grace Street catered dinner, which gave Emily and me a minute to eat dinner ourselves, and help out at check-in. The front hallway was trussed up and lit to look like a Mumbai bazaar...

Here's Marilyn and Paul at check-in.

And here's Derek at check-in.

And here's Jean-Paul, Emily and I taking advantage of the down time to do a little posing ... now that Jean-Paul had finally put his suit on, after being 1/3 of the gala's superhero production team.

Doesn't that hallway look great?! I'd written a "gala travel guide" email to all of our invitees a month or so ago, giving them some hints on dressing (and parking); in the intro text I'd said something about how the Rotunda would be transformed to a faraway place... and the looks on patrons' faces when they arrived proved that I hadn't been lying. (Once again, I really like not lying!)

After dinner was the live auction, headed up by auctioneer Steve Haworth, who brought a trio of Cal Football players with him as auction spotters, and who made many references to his career as a car salesman as he auctioned off everything from rounds of golf to Italian villas, a dinner party at the Gettys, a tour of Pixar, and much more.

To the right is a blurry shot of the bleary-eyed staff, watching the auction from above.

And to the left is gala goddess Beth--who held down two jobs here at Cal Shakes during the months running up the gala, including planning the gala with the committee--offering up a little bit of cheesecake from her spot on the live auction floor.

After the live auction, Steve gave away the wine bins, and Livewire took the stage to play 80s hits. I helped out a bit at check-out, and then hid in the green room for a little while, rubbing my aching feet. And before long, it was time to strike the event ... the hall was cleared at around midnight, and we set about undoing all the exotic glory we'd done--this strike time, which unfurled into the wee hours of Sunday (made even wee-er by daylight savings) were spent coiling up extension cords, folding up yards of silk and linen, and stacking tables.

There was some goofing off to be done by Jean-Paul and Ian (with Marilyn's auction prize) while waiting for the loading dock to be free.

There was Susie trying to find her peaceful place with some help from Ganesh.

And, of course, there were rose petals to clean up.

We were exhausted, both physically and emotionally, but we were PROUD! More than 300 people came, dined, bid, danced, and generally partied most heartily. And WE MADE OUR GOAL, so we will continue to bring arts education to Bay Area schools and campers, adaptations of classic works to disparate communities, and fresh reinventions of the classics, to our beautiful home in the hills ... for years to come.

Sign up for our newsletter for a more official wrap-up of Gateway to India. And hit up my Flickr for all the candid photos I took--professional ones coming soon!