Thursday, August 21, 2008

Twelfth Night publicity photos

OK, so, not to deflect attention from Uncle Vanya (which has two weeks left to its run and is absolutely wonderful) but we've got our publicity photos for Twelfth Night back, and they're positively scintillating. I know that's a corny word, but it's the best one I can find to describe this shoot. Normally, I have very mixed feelings about publicity shoots. They usually take place too early in the rehearsal process for the actors to have the feel for their parts necessary to project onto a still shot. And these are actors, after all, not models.They have tools besides their faces and bodies--they have gestures and voices and all sorts of other tricks that don't necessarily transfer well to the inherently still life of photography.

But we've been trying harder here in the Cal Shakes Marketing Lab, trying to think outside the rehearsal hall. For Vanya, we trundled the actors off the the train tracks behind the office. And for the Twelfth Night shoot, I borrowed my neighbor's disco ball and we spirited Dana Green (Olivia), Alex Morf (Viola/Cesario/Sebastian), and Stephen Barker Turner (Orsino) away to my favorite after-work juke joint, that elegantly neighborhood dive known as The Missouri Lounge.

Here's Olivia with her Cesario.

Orsino and Cesario. This shot reminds me of one I've seen of Mick Jagger and Mikhail Baryshnikov at Studio 54 (from Anthony Haden-Guest's The Last Party).

And finally, the triangle: Count Orsino, Countess Olivia, and Viola/Cesario. Le sigh.

Twelfth Night runs September 10-October 5. Photos by Kevin Berne.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Unreasonably Excited

The title of this post refers to the general state the office staff of Cal Shakes was left in after this Tuesday's Twelfth Night Meet & Greet. The podcast of director Mark Rucker's presentation will be posted within hours (click here and look under the "Multimedia" tab; or just check back to this blog), with his idea of Orsino and Olivia as jaded, hedonistic gentry, tales of finding inspiration from our outdoor amphitheater--Rucker's last production of Twelfth Night, 12 years ago, was set in a tropical paradise, bikinis and all--and his reasons for auditioning actors of both genders for each and every role.

What's not on the podcast is Rucker and costume designer Clint Ramos' design presentations: the references to Andy Warhol's Factory and San Francisco's Cockettes and Trocadero Transfer; nightclubs after their heyday's done or even just after the night is over, lit by flouresecence and regret; the freaks lingering around the edges of a privileged party scene; mirror balls on the floor; and the element of performance that runs throughout the characters and scenarios, whether they're dressed up as other genders, other classes, or just falsifying emotion.

And Clint's Studio 54-inspired costume sketches are what really put us all over the top--Olivia as Bianca Jagger (second picture, at left), a joyous Toby Belch in pyjamas, a la the artist Julian Schnabel ...

Orsino as a tuxedoed Halston...

Malvolio as malevolent disco Goth with an Elvis pompadour...

... and Viola as Carrie-meets-Debbie Harry-meets Gwen Stefani (and, in her Cesario drag, as Marlene Dietrich-meets-Grace Jones).

This is sure to be one pretty, pretty show. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vanya: Open. Man: Leaping.

Yeah, the Chron's little man is leaping out of his chair for us. Writes critic Robert Hurwitt, "[Director Timothy] Near, the outgoing head of San Jose Repertory Theatre, delivers a beautifully orchestrated Vanya"in her California Shakespeare Theater debut. Working with a gently pruned, graceful adaptation by playwright Emily Mann and a flawless cast, she does full justice to the cosmic comedy Chekhov mined from self-involved, wasted lives without stinting the pathos of their dashed hopes."

Look below for pictures from this stunning, stirring production.

Annie Purcell as Sonya and Sarah Grace Wilson as Yelena; photo by Kevin Berne.

Andy Murray (Astrov) and Dan Hiatt (Vanya); photo by Kevin Berne.

Sarah Grace Wilson (Yelena); photo by Kevin Berne.

Joan Mankin (Maria) and Dan Hiatt (Vanya); photo by Kevin Berne.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Bad Hair Day (or: A Little Sleight of Beard)

(Once again, lifted from Associate Artist Jim Carpenter's blog.)

OK. Something is weird in my Universe.

The past 3 nights I've gone to bed very tired and very late. This morning I awoke, moaned quietly, rolled over, looked at the clock and saw its little beady LED eyes blinking exactly the same time as it has the previous two mornings.

7:49 AM

I've also had some, shall we say alarmingly vivid, erotic dreams and, while I am not opposed to erotic dreaming in any fashion, these seem rather Chekhovian in nature .... actually life in general seems to bear a faint tint of Chekhov for me these days; a sort of double vision, everything seems quite serious and somehow farcical at the same time. I won't go into the details of my dream eroticism but suffice it to say, it's fairly ridiculous ...

We finished the tech process Tuesday evening, had our first two previews Wednesday and Thursday and will have our 3rd tonight. The first show was largely uneventful with laughs in unexpected places and last night we had a full house with a lovely audience ... BUT ... my beard came off.

Yep, right at the beginning of my big scene in the 3rd act--the one that has the speech that still gives me that "deer in the headlights" kind of feeling. I'm the deer. The deer with the beard. A magnificent Patriarchal full beard built for me (I couldn't grow one like this without a good head start) and glued on with the old standby Spirit Gum, applied and aligned by yours truly.

Now I thought that sucker was on. I even gave a cursory inspection--seemed fine, but no sooner had I gotten 5 lines out of my mouth than I got a sudden and distinct sensation of non-adhesion. This was not a good thing--I had a major speech coming up and an argument with Vanya (the inestimable Dan Hyatt) and the last thing I wanted was the audience to be staring at my beard and taking bets on when my little furry would at last topple from my face instead of listening to what was being said.

So I changed my blocking, or rather wound up keeping my right bearded side facing the audience as much as possible, and when I absolutely had to face stage right would do so while scratching my temple and holding my beard pressed in place with my palm to mask it.

Clever, no? A little sleight of beard.

I was met on my brief exit by Howard Swain with spirit gum in hand, tacked the damn thing down again, blotted the glue and walked back on.


Coming up: Will Jim wake at 7:49 again? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Rake's Progress, by James Carpenter

(Lifted, once again, from Associate Artist and Uncle Vanya professor portrayer Jim Carpenter's blog):

It's been warm out at the Bruns during our last four days of Tech; our first evening was chilly, the next two sublime, and we finished out the week on Sunday with another brisk evening.

We've actually been able to do some work on scenes between the cracks of working on lighting and sound cues but didn't run the show till last night. Oddly my performance was better in the full sun with no costumes, sound or lights.... I hate it when that happens.

I find myself stumbling on internal adjustments; at the top of Chekhov's act 2 the Professor and his wife are revealed onstage asleep in their chairs--his gout has been troubling him, the pain keeping him from sleep and as a consequence he's kept the entire household awake tending to him.

But we have no curtain, hence no reveal; this means that I have to limp onstage through many bustling people who are shifting scenery and moving furniture, plop myself down, read a bit, fall asleep and then get startled awake and at present I've barely time to get to my chair and let my head drop before I suddenly jolt awake; the actress playing my wife has a full costume change (she's in the final scene in act 1) and barely makes it on in time.

This feels odd--we both go from a brief burst of energetic motion to a moment of stasis and I at least have not made my peace with the moment--it feels as if the audience is supposed to witness that silence and non activity for some time -- this is not criticism mind you, but more in the nature of dealing with the peculiarities of this particular set; I'm sure we'll find a happy medium.

The raked stage has added a few challenges but as proved fairly easy to deal with--the cast had a session with a physical therapist who gave us a full range of stretches and provided exercise balls and foam rollers to help counteract whatever adverse affects we might be feeling from the rake and we've put them to good use; I've had to do much work on my ankle (the one I sprained in Richard III last year) and am using my brace.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dan Hiatt talks Vanya to Chad Jones

“It’s almost like maybe I’m even sort of looking back on the time when I was Vanya’s age--I’m maybe a few years older than he is--from the vantage point of having gone through what he’s going through,” Hiatt says. “You get through that, and you reach a place where you’re pretty comfortable and happy. I’m there, Vanya isn’t. Looking back on all this angst, it’s better to have been through it than to have to imagine it entirely. The advantage of being older is not having to go through it in life while you’re working on the role.”

Read more on Chad Jones' Theater Dogs blog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Brush Up Your Chekhov

(This was written by Cal Shakes house staffer Carol Marshall, and is meant to be sung to the tune of the late, great, Cole Porter's "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," from the musical Kiss Me Kate.)

Living in today's society
Can cause one a lot of anxieties

We need something to cling to
That will somehow... always ring true

Feeling a little disillusioned and lost?
Reaching for a vodka and a sawn-off?

There's a certain Russian gadabout,
who will teach you what it's all about..

Brush up your Chekhov
Start quoting him soon
Brush up your Chekhov
cause life ain't no cheery show tune

There always seems to be guns,
and no one is having much fun

Just sell the damned estate already...
I am sure it would fetch a pretty penny

Sonya, you really are a hero
Even though your future may look less than zero

But forget about the doctor my dear,
His arm he will exercise I fear

And your Uncle... what's his name...
Can he just stop finding others to blame

Forests, guns and butter,
they all start to look like one anutter....

Brush up your Chekhov
it all cuts close to home
(I don't mean avenues)
Cause it all cuts close to home
(under the sun there ain't no news)
Cause it all cuts close to home

Marriage, death, and depression
And day to day life processions

Maybe the Three Sisters should finally move
and Yelena just have your little interlude

I am a Seagull ... wait ... no I'm not...
Da ... things just didn't turn out like you thought!

Remember the Czar is still in power
And the serfs aren't being paid by the hour

So even if you all still sit on your ass
A certain die has been cast...

Brush up your Chekhov
'Cause the revolution was close at hand
(I don't mean the Beatles)
'Cause the revolution was close at hand
(you know the big sickle)
'Cause the revolution was close at hand

Ivanov ... Dude!!! Don't do it
I am sure you can still pull through it

Feeling overwhelmed by what's on ya?
Remember it's nothing compared with Vanya ...

Cherry Orchard I never saw that one
But it sure sounds like a lota fun!

Brush up your Chekhov, cause there ain't no news under the sun!
just keep looking... cause there ain't no news under the sun!

(End with leg kicks and smashing a glass of vodka!!)

Jim Carpenter's Tech Week Packing List

(The following was lifted, once again, from Associate Artist and Uncle Vanya professor portrayer James Carpenter's blog):

Tech Week list
-Shaving cream & razor
-Makeup & brushes
-Contact lenses and solution
-Toothbrush and toothpaste
-Goopydoo hair gel
-Sunblock x50
-Ratty white shirt
-Dad's old cowboy hat
-Thermal socks
-Long underwear
-Shakespeare Santa Cruz sweatshirt
-Ankle brace and exercise bands
-A decent book
-Reading glasses
-Bottle of Scotch (post-show use only)
-Frozen taquitos
-Triscuits and spinach dip