Monday, June 30, 2008

Jonathan Moscone on cows

Courtesy of Jay Yamada, our man on the Ideal Husband tech weekend scene:

Jonathan Moscone on the cows on the hill beyond the stage mooing:“It’s so not An Ideal Husband. It will work with Uncle Vanya. It would work with Pericles. But not with this play.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Stop Motion of Francois Boucher

Below is a 27-second film prepared by myself (Stefanie Kalem) and Cal Shakes' ever-resourceful designer/webmaster Ilsa Brink using photos taken over the course of last week, while our talented (and also ever-resourceful) scenic charge artists cereated a massive reproduction of a Francois Boucher painting for the set of An Ideal Husband. Below the film are two photos by Jay Yamada, taken of the set in action during the first evening of tech, i.e., last night.

And here it is at the beautiful Bruns Amphitheater, helping (to paraphrase Jon Moscone) create four interiors in an outdoor theater.

A similar shot, this time with more of our lovely late-June sky.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Return/Debut of Linkmaster Smith

Hello Shakers!

I like that. Shakers. You know how most Broadway musicals have named fan bases? For example; RENT has "rent-heads," Altar Boys has “Altarholics,” and Xanadu has "the 'Du Cru?" Well I think our fan base for Cal Shakes should be named Shakers*.

Anyways, HI! I'm Derek Smith. I started at Cal Shakes as an intern for Artistic Learning, then went on to work with the New Works/New Communities Program. Now with my internship finished, I'm the official new 2-Week Camp Coordinator for Artistic Learning. You may recognize me from the Cal Shakes Intern Blog where I would discuss things like events in Musical Theatre, 80's fashion and my life as an intern at Cal Shakes. Recently I left the Intern Blog to join this new, professional blog and I feel welcomed and comfy! But this blog is going to be different. I'm movin' on up in the company so now I've gotta be professional! So I'm not gonna talk about unimportant things like Broadway or Project Runway. I'm getting serious and strictly talking about things like Shakespeare and inner company workings. Crunching numbers and Patrick Stewart kind of gig. Like Anne Hathaway to Meryl Streep type ah stuff.

For example: If this were that raggedy old intern blog, I'd talk about the fact that IN THE HEIGHTS won BEST MUSICAL at the TONYS on Sunday!!!!! And In case you were wondering: Yes, I DID call that it would be the one to watch this season at the bottom of this blog. I’d probably also talk about how much I LOVED Patti LuPone’s acceptance speech for Lead Female and how intrigued I am by Sunday in the Park With George. I also might have confessed that the RENT reunion performance may have made me shed a few tears.
I’d also talk about the fact that I picked up the cast recording of Xanadu yesterday and how I think Cheyenne Jackson is God’s gift to musical theatre.

Then I’d definitely post a video like this one:


Sweatin’ to Sondheim! A Musical Theatre Workout

Okay but in all professional seriousness, I wanted to create a list that described all the things that are different now that I’m an employee and not an intern:

1. I have my own interns which is the WEIRDEST thing in the world

2. I am in the office every day as opposed to once a week.

3. I get these weird envelopes every other week that have all these numbers on them. I stopped opening them cause I didn’t understand.

4. I have my own phone extension and email!

5. I received a fax today. That was strange.

6. I have easily doubled my espresso intake.

7. I’ve discovered the greatest invention since musical theatre. PlaybillRadio.*

Okay y’all that’s it for today!

Peace and Love,

*With complete knowledge and understanding that The Shakers are a prominent, well-respected religious group; these two "Shakers" are definitely not the same thing. But that doesn't mean that California Shakespeare Theatre doesn't love and respect the Shakers, as California Shakespeare Theatre loves all Americans and America (including Puerto Rico).

**Which is embarrassing to play in the office so I bring my earphones and tell everyone that I’m going into “internal mode” so that I can listen to Andrea McArdle sing about the day to come.

Will Dramaturg for Shoes….

(This week marks the blog return of both our favorite Intern, Derek Smith--now a full-fledged Cal Shakes employee--and our resident dramaturg Dr. Laura Hope. Derek's blog will come tomorrow. But for now, it pleases me to no end to welcome back Dr. Laura, blogger extraordinaire. --Stefanie)

I’m back. Yippeee!

Yes, I have returned, gentle reader. Although I have been languishing in a Louisiana swamp for the last ten months, I have returned home to Cal Shakes for some dramaturgical high jinks. After all, nobody wants to stay in New Orleans during the summer anyway: too hot. And who in their right mind wouldn't want to miss the first two and half months of hurricane season? So, coming to Berkeley/Orinda to dramaturg An Ideal Husband, Uncle Vanya, give Grove Talks, and write the dramaturgy pages in the programs for the season provided the promise of a very lovely escape. It’s good to be home.

It took me four days to drive from New Orleans to Berkeley. I drove through it all: thunder, lightening, pouring rain, hail, three tornado warnings, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and one small-town, Louisiana sheriff with a Napoleon complex and a sneaky-a** speed trap. I hate him. I mean I really, really hate him. A pox upon him, gentle reader.

My car was entirely loaded down with all the necessary items for a summer of dramaturgy fun for Cal Shakes. The inventory goes like this:

Shakespeare’s Collected Works
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare
Marjorie Garber’s Shakespeare After All
110 other books for research and writing purposes
2 computers
1 printer
2 boxes of paper
10 research notebooks
2 file boxes
4 research journals
3 suitcases of clothes for that unpredictable NorCal weather
4 coats of assorted thickness and length for unpredictable tech week weather at the Bruns
4 scarves
2 pairs of gloves
5 hats
1 hip scarf, veil, and zills (don’t ask)
1 yoga mat
2 sets of sheets
2 sets of towels
2 blankets
5 pillows (I can’t sleep unless my bed looks like a Turkish bordello)
2 boxes of kitchen stuff
1 bag of cleaning supplies (cleanliness truly is next to Godliness)
1 cat (my trusty Tallulah) in her kitty carrier
1 bottle of kitty Valium for the road trip. (Technically, she takes the pills, but let’s face it, they’re really for me.)
3 Cal Shakes nametags
21 shades of lipstick
32 pairs of shoes

That’s right, I said it: 32 pairs of shoes for a 12-week stay in California. And let me tell you, it took forever to narrow it down to 32. I debated. I agonized. I packed and repacked. I couldn’t bring all the shoes, but how to choose the small fraction that would travel with me to dramaturg at Cal Shakes? It was awful. And I may say, since I have been here now for 2 weeks, I dearly miss some of those shoe-friends I left behind in New Orleans. My feet weep for them. How could I have left my pointy-toed, vibrant green, straw-and-faux-gator high heels in New Orleans? Why did I leave behind my strappy, red, patent leather Isaac Mizrahi 4-inch pumps? I REALLY wanted them yesterday, and they weren’t there. What if they are blown away by a storm and I never see them again? How will I go on? It’s too awful to contemplate. I miss them more than the last three men I dated--I don’t miss those guys at all. Pining for my missing shoes for 12 weeks, however, may just kill me.

The rest of the astonishingly huge laundry list aside, why, you may ask, do I need 32 pairs of shoes to dramaturg at Cal Shakes? I maintain that it is entirely necessary.

There are those shockingly ill-informed individuals who say it is an illness--an addiction, if you must put a label on it. If so, I have no intention of getting well. I am the Imelda Marcos of Dramaturgy.

Jon Moscone actually used my shoe obsession as an example in Ideal Husband rehearsals this week. He was explaining to Sarah Nealis how it was possible for her character (Mabel Chiltern) to be in a serious conversation with her handsome boyfriend (Lord Goring, played by Elijah Alexander) and suddenly be completely distracted from him by a diamond brooch on the floor behind a divan. Jon told her, “It’s like our own Laura Hope. She’s one of the most serious people I know. But if she’s talking to you and sees a pair of shoes she likes, forget it. It’s over. She’ll forget all about you and the conversation because it’s all about the shoes. She immediately loses IQ points and it’s instantaneous dumb blonde. So, these things do happen.”

What could I say? I cannot object when it’s true. Jon knows me too well. And he’s not the only one. I looked over, and my dear friend L. Peter Callender was silently laughing so hard into his script that he had tears in his eyes. Elijah was giving me that smirk of his--he just doesn’t get it. Poor man, I pity him. But Peter gets it. He knows about the shoe thing. He’s wise enough never to question me about it, and he doesn’t judge. He also knows it took two hours to unload my car when I got here, probably due to the shoes. Like a good friend should, he accepts my shoes and me just as we are. What are friends for?

Anyway, the example worked. Sarah completely understood the point Jon was making, and the scene is really great. I wonder how many pairs of shoes she has? I mean, she really seemed to understand …

You know who else would understand? Oscar Wilde. He probably wouldn’t want any dramaturg working on one of his plays that needed less than 32 pairs of shoes to get the job done. Oscar was into Aestheticism. He believed in fashion decadence. After all, Aubrey Beardsley was his illustrator. How much more stylish can you get? Oscar was a dandy. He believed that beauty was entirely necessary and as a result, life should imitate art, not the other way around. He loved fashion, and the more outrageous it was, the better. If you read Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde, you will understand what I mean. You don’t even have to read the whole book (though you should, gentle reader), just look at the pictures. Those photos provide a veritable fashion spread of Oscar in all his glory. There he is in all his fashion-fabulousness: in short velvet pants and patent-leather ballet slippers, in a fur coat, in a white linen suit and panama hat worthy of Tennessee Williams’ “Big Daddy,” or in a silk smoking jacket reclining on a divan covered in Persian rugs and bear skins, in a tuxedo, in a Dracula-esque cape, a natty pin-stripe suit and bowler hat, and finally, in drag as Salomé (for his play by the same name), bowing in front of the severed head of John the Baptist while wearing dangly earrings and a long, flowing wig. Oh Oscar, how I love you! Would that we had lived during the same time period. He would have loved my beautiful straw and faux croc, vibrant green, pointy-toed pumps I so foolishly left back in New Orleans. He would not have let me leave the house without them. We would have been soul mates, Oscar and I. We both like pretty men and pretty shoes. We could have gone shoe shopping together! Viva Oscar!

And another thing, Oscar would totally have understood my motto: Will Dramaturg for Shoes.

Till later, gentle reader,
I am ever your,
Dr. Laura, Resident Dramaturg and Shoe Aficionado

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AN IDEAL HUSBAND costume sketches by Meg Neville

The corsetless, Klimt-inspired Viennese couture of the villainess Mrs. Cheveley. (Portrayed by Stacy Ross.)

The very epitome of Oscar Wilde's dandy: Lord Goring (portrayed by Elijah Alexander).

"An ideal husband!" exclaims the young Mabel Chiltern (played by Sarah Nealis). "Oh, I don't think I should like that. It sounds like something in the next world." And so are our spunky, truth-speaking heroine's costumes--flower-laden, like something from the next world (if the next world were a round-the-clock over-the-top garden party).

How proper can you be? Ask Sir Robert Chiltern! (Portrayed by Michael Butler.)

Oh, wait! I'm wrong! Ask Lord Caversham! (Played by L. Peter Callender.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Wit flowing like champagne"

The podcast of Jonathan Moscone's "Meet & Greet" speech is posted, from the first day of rehearsal on his production of An Ideal Husband. And it's a good one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

There's just one more day to bid on the Cal Shakes online auction!

Our third annual online auction ends June 12 at 12am; that's 33 hours from now, so get bidding! There are bargains great and small, and each prize won helps support our organization and mission.

Up for grabs are a hot air balloon ride for two; four-day Baja Mexico dream cruise vacation; six-day eastbound transatlantic cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2; Stars & Stripes sailing adventure that includes luxury hotel stay for two; House of Blues Foundation Room VIP Experience with four-night stay and airfare; a sleek, silent ride in a world-class glider; and a trip to St. Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Coming soon ... An Ideal Husband podcast

Hidey-ho... Stefanie here. Last Wednesday we had the Meet & Greet for Jonathan Moscone's production of An Ideal Husband. For those of you who don't know, the Meet & Greet happens on the first day of a show's rehearsals. The whole staff (plus a smattering of board members, donors, and other folks who rate) get together with the new show's cast and crew to hear and see presentations by the director, set designer, costume designer, and any other designers present. Then they kick all of us out and jump into their first read-through.

For An Ideal Husband, Moscone is reuniting with his award-winning Man and Superman set designer, Annie Smart, and working with Meg Neville, who captured the beautiful desperation of the pre-Depression era with her King Lear costumes last season. Jon's speech was a stunner, a fascinating examination of how the personal and political intersect in the lives of the powerful; watch this space for a podcast of it. During Meg's costume presentation, we learned that Gertrude Chiltern (Julie Eccles) will be a "Grace Kelly type" with sleek blond hair and the "Victorian version of a Chanel suit," and that the chic villainess Mrs. Cheveley will be fresh from Vienna in the latest, most avant-garde couture, which, in this case means no corset (how scandalous!) and fabrics inspired by the art of Gustav Klimt.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Great COWdecott Tunnel Incident of 2008

Cal Shakes Associate Artist Jessica Richards makes her blog debut with this tale of the news story chronicled here.

Never a dull moment at the Bruns Amphitheater! Early yesterday morning, a visitor took up residence at the bottom of our hill, working hard to clear some overgrowth from the parking lot. We at Cal Shakes always appreciate volunteers. He or she (though I prefer to think she) displaying a definite penchant for the dramatic, spotted a stage with much wider audience exposure, and mooooved on to Highway 24.

With the CA Highway Patrol and Animal Control Officers out in force, there was only one thing to do: drive her back to her pasture above the Bruns. I can’t imagine how they got that cow off the highway with no fatalities (of the bovine variety) but she definitely takes direction well. We in the Bruns lobby had heard that a shuttle was on the way up the hill from BART, so we readied ourselves to welcome a school group from Claremont Middle School in Oakland to this morning’s performance of Pericles.

No shuttle.

We waited.

No shuttle. Emily Morrison, intrepid Artistic Learning Programs and Outreach Manager, was radioing to the bottom to find out what happened to the school kids when our visiting cow appeared at the top of the shuttle road, leading a parade of two highway patrol vehicles, one animal control truck, and a Ford F350 (belonging to her owner perhaps?).

The shuttle was waiting patiently at the bottom of the hill for the cow and company to pass.

She didn’t make it to the stage (highway patrol cars herded her back to the pasture) but this cow had a nice tour of the Bruns, and will hopefully remember the brief time she was a star in the eyes of Cal Shakes staff, Claremont Middle School students, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of unfortunate commuters.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pericles opened this weekend to rave reviews!

Everyone and everything got a nod--from the set designer to the composer, the Amphitheater to the ensemble.

Contra Costa Times: Cal Shakes turn oft-dismissed Bard play into gold.

Mercury News: Theater review: Cal Shakespeare opens summer season with fantastical 'Pericles.'

SF Chronicle: Pitch-perfect 'Pericles' by Cal Shakes.

Theater Dogs: "Presented as a gorgeous fairy tale for grown-ups, California Shakespeare Theater’s first show of the season, Pericles, reminds us that in a seemingly horrible world, faith, love and integrity will receive its just reward."

Pictured: Shawn Hamilton (Gower) and Christopher Kelly (Pericles); photo by Kevin Berne.