Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oakland Tech Takes Orinda by Storm (almost literally)

Wow! What a night! Last night we hosted our largest New Works/New Communities (NW/NC) event to date. My name is Daunielle Rasmussen and I am, among many other things here at Cal Shakes, the Community Engagement Manager for the NW/NC program. I began fulfilling the responsibilities of this job title last December and have had an amazing year of discovering what our community engagement program is.

In the last week, we have opened the "doors" of our outdoor Bruns Amphitheater to the talented young actors of Oakland Technical High School to prepare for a one-night-only performance of their much celebrated production of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain. Since March, we have become close collaborators; upon hearing that they were selected to take Blood in the Brain (the first work created through NW/NC) to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, we knew we needed to send them off in style.

The company members of OakTechRep first set foot on our grounds last Monday when they came to rehearse in the space. We were immediately blown away by their professionalism and dedication. This is no mere group of teenagers—this is a well-trained team of actors who are giving, fun, and extremely talented. The process of putting on the performance last night went insanely fast. They had one four-hour rehearsal in the theater on Monday, July 19 to reset their blocking to our space. They had to use and work around the set that we currently have on stage for Mrs. Warren’s Profession—a play as different from this one in aesthetic tone as could be.

The second rehearsal was a technical rehearsal wherein we added in sound and light cues. In between the two rehearsals, members of our tech team—composed of interns from Cal Shakes' Professional Immersion Program—and theirs feverishly worked to solidify what cues and lighting design could be done with what was already hung for Mrs. Warren’s. Sunday night, after Mrs. Warren's had ended, we tech'd Blood in the Brain from 7 to 11pm. The kids were released but we kept working on notes and adjusting the lights. Monday (yesterday) the OakTechRep cast showed up at 4pm for a speed-through of the play, took a short break for dinner, and went straight into the show at 7:30pm.

The house was almost full, which felt fantastic! We were so pleased to be able to share this special event with such a large group, many of whom were completely new to our Theater. The only disappointment was the weather. The wind was so bad it was hard to hear the actors from the back of the house, and it was sooooo cold! We were worried that the large standing mirror—one of the few props OakTechRep brought with them—would blow over. I had to run backstage at one point to ask one of the actors to stand behind it during the scene. Overall, though, the show was an amazing success: We raised $1,100 to continue and deepen the residency partnership between Cal Shakes and Oakland Tech.

This group is special, and I feel like I have gained so much just by being in their presence.

Photo of OakTechRep curtain call by Jay Yamada.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


This week at Cal Shakes is pretty amazing on the volunteer front. We’ve got ushers out at the Bruns every performance day—up to 15 of them! We’ve got two great new volunteers, Dave and Lahdan, helping out in the office on a database project and a mailing, respectively.

The big things this week in Artistic Learning are the Conservatory performance days—Friday and Saturday. We have some great mother-daughter teams from the National Charity League helping out as ushers and box office at the Bentley School in Lafayette.

Last but certainly not least, we have our Simpson Center Open House this Saturday from 10-3— we have six great people helping our patrons take a tour of our new building at the Bruns. The chance to drive the golf cart was a huge draw; we ended up turning away more volunteers than we needed for this rare behind the scenes glance at the theater.

Interested in volunteering? Click shiftboard.com/calshakes to register; once your application has been approved, you will be able to sign up for ushering dates and will be notified of other opportunities.

If you have any questions about the process, please contact Jamie Buschbaum, Volunteer Coordinator/Office Manager, at 510.548.3422 x101.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

L. Peter Callender in the News

On the occasion of his appearing in the Stanford Summer Theater’s Homeric cycle, which showcases The Wanderings of Odysseus (an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey), the Stanford blog The Book Haven has posted a lovely piece on L. Peter Callender (pictured at right with Julie Eccles and James Carpenter in our 2009 production of Romeo and Juliet).

“It’s one of my favorite types of theater when it’s done well,” the Cal Shakes Associate Artist told blogger Cynthia Haven, “because of the language, because of the history, the mythology, the depth of character and the depth of passion.”

Read the whole post here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Return of "Ask Philippa"!

Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on our 2010 productions.

"Everybody has some choice, mother. The poorest girl alive may not be able to choose between being Queen of England or Principal of Newnham; but she can choose between ragpicking and flowerselling, according to her taste. People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."

Here speaks Vivie in George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession, a play about a young woman who gets know the mother who has always been a stranger to her and who, in the process, reveals aspects of her mother in herself.

Have you seen our production of Mrs. Warren's Profession
? Do you have questions or comments about the production's themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I'll be sure to respond.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hamlet in Juvy

This past Memorial Day weekend, a special group of teens came together to perform adapted scenes from Shakespeare for their peers. It’s not a traditional summer holiday activity for kids, that’s for sure; but these kids are in Alameda County Juvenile Hall, where neither beach trips, nor barbecues, nor performing Shakespeare is an everyday occurrence.

For several years, Cal Shakes has worked closely with Write to Read, a program of the Alameda County Library; Juvenile Hall’s head librarian Amy Cheney; and Associate Artist Andy Murray to provide Shakespeare workshops in the hall’s classrooms. This May, we expanded to our first evening residency: three hours per week over four weeks in which students took on selected scenes from Hamlet. With the guidance of new teaching artists Sean Levon Nash and Jade Raybin as well as Cal Shakes Artistic Administrator Daunielle Rasmussen, students read scenes from Hamlet and Hamlet: Blood in the Brain by Naomi Iizuka, then improvised the actions of the play to create performance pieces that recast Shakespeare’s characters in modern times.

On the final night of the residency, six students performed for an audience of fifteen peers and three staff members, a first in our three years of Shakespeare at the Hall. Plans are in the works for further residencies at Alameda County Juvenile Hall and, with the help of consultant Kim Nelson, we are pursuing new partnerships with other organizations and facilities serving juvenile offenders.

Pictured above: Jade Raybin, Sean Levon Nash, Daunielle Rasmussen, and Cal Shakes Director of Artistic Learning Trish Tillman in a curriculum meeting for the Hamlet residency; photo by Brianna Regan.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer in OakTechRep

In August, Jessa Berkner's Oakland Technical High School advanced drama students will travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As American High School Theatre Winners, they will perform Naomi Iizuka's Hamlet: Blood in the Brain, which was the first development project of Cal Shakes' New Works/New Communities program. (For more information, visit our news and NW/NC pages.)

Summer's starting, and OakTechRep is full of exciting news! A few weeks before school ended, we made our fundraising goal for Scotland—suddenly, it's so much more real to all of us who are going. In addition to this exciting news for all of us, senior Marcus Thompson, who plays H, the Hamlet character in Hamlet: Blood in the Brain, won the Beach Blanket Babylon scholarship—a $10,000 scholarship that is awarded to the best actor, the best singer, and the best dancer graduating from a Bay Area high school each year. Congratulations, Marcus!

For all of us, what we have now to do is rehearse—which is going to be a journey unto itself. We have a busy summer schedule, rehearsing at school, in parks, on the steps. If you're around, maybe you'll catch us at a rehearsal somewhere. The place you can for sure catch us is at Cal Shakes on July 26, when we have our last US show before heading over the ocean to Edinburgh.

We're all really excited for everything that's coming up. Since not everyone in the original OakTechRep cast of the show could make it to Scotland, we have to change roles and reblock for the smaller space that we'll have in Scotland. Nearly everyone has changed lines and two of us have completely changed roles, which means new lines for most of us and new blocking for everyone. It's going to be hard - this is all of our first time really reblocking a show that we've already done a bunch - but it's going to be amazing in Scotland, so it'll be worth it. We're also really excited for the Cal Shakes show; it means a lot to us (thank you so much, Cal Shakes!) and it's our last chance to show everyone on this side of the world all our hard work.

Because we essentially have another show to learn, we have a lot of rehearsal to go through. Even with all the craziness, though, it's going to be an amazing summer for all of us. We all know we're incredibly lucky to have this chance—and, sure, maybe we'll have to cancel a day at the beach—but it's more than worth it. I can't think of anyone or anything I'd rather spend time on than this.