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.


Anonymous said...

Hello Philippa,
I enjoyed your "Grove Talk" Tuesday night, you really helped me get some insight before viewing "Mrs. Warren's Profession". I was wondering if you could give me the source of this productions very first review, I remember you quoting something from the review. I'm writing an essay about this production for my drama class and I wanted to compare and contrast the first review from that time era with a recent review. Thank you very much for your time! -Brittaniy

Philippa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Philippa said...

Hello Deeman,

What does a dramaturg do? Well, it depends on what the director wants, so each show is different. For instance, I wasn't assigned as the official dramaturg for Mrs Warren's Profession, as I was finishing my book in order to ship it off to the press on June 30th. But I ended up having a lot to do with the production anyway, as I loved talking with Timothy and sifting ideas with her in the early stages of rehearsal. She would email or phone and ask questions about what, for example, the word, 'character' means in the play; or about the use of the sun dial - things like this.I also did up a gloassary for the actors.

With other plays - for example, the Macbeth show that has just started in rehearsal - I do the whole gamut. I write a lengthy actors' packet; I have talks with the director (the brilliant Joel Sass) on the phone about ideas; I help prepare the text, suggesting cuts or suggesting inconsistencies in
the director's suggested adaptation (and we liased a lot with our fabulous voice coach, Lynne Soffer, on this); I attend rehearsals. And for all of the shows, whether I dramaturg them or not, I provide much of the dramaturgy material you read in the program. Laura Hope shares the program writing with me - she is the ex-resident dramaturg (who now lives in New Orleans but who came back to work on Pastures of Heaven as its dramaturg. And then, as you know, I also host all of the talk-backs, and I also join in many of the Inside Scoops.

So... this is what I do as a dramaturg. Thanks for your interest.

Philippa said...

Hello Brittaniy,
The review I quoted was by an anonymous reviewer (they all were then), from the New York Herald in 1905. It reviewed Mrs Warren’s Profession at the Garrick Theatre. The review runs as follows:

‘… the play is morally rotten. It makes no difference that some of the lines may have been omitted and others toned down; there was superabundance of foulness left. The whole story of the play, the atmosphere surrounding it, the incidents, the personalities of the characters are wholly immoral and degenerate. The only way to successfully expurgate Mrs. Warren’s Profession is to cut the whole play out. You cannot have a clean pig stye. The play is an insult to decency because
It defends immprality
It glorifies debauchery
It besmirches the sacredness of a clergyman’s calling.
It pictures children and parents living in calm observance of most unholy relations….If New York’s sense of shame is not aroused to hot indignation at this theatrical insult, it is indeed a sad plight.’

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for taking that time to reply promptly, it's very helpful! I hope i will be able to come and see more of you and Cal. Shakes. soon! :) -Brittaniy

Alan said...


Had I jumped into the fray at Sunday's talkback, I would have asked this: What WERE the two words that Vivie wrote, but would not say aloud, to describe her mother's profession to the two gents?

Alan in Walnut Creek

Philippa said...

Dear Alan,

We don't find out what the two words are - but they would be something like 'Brothel Manager' or 'Brothel Madam'


Anonymous said...

Philippa, I'm hoping you can share this comment with the director and cast. I went to the Saturday afternoon show. Between Shaw's wonderful writing and the cast's terrific interpretation, seeing it with my soon-to-be in college daughter was a powerful experience to say the least. So there I was, sitting, devastated by the ending, needing terribly to think about what had just happened between the onstage mother and daughter, and whether it had to happen that way, going so fast from arm and arm and joyfully at peace with each other to the opposite. And suddenly, it was over and we were supposed to clap. Well, I did, some, but it was the last thing I wanted to do at that point.

Have you ever heard music so wonderful that when it's over, you just want the silence to go on for a minute or two to help with the transition? It was like that. So there I was, glued to my seat, clapping sort of pathetically, wanting to be quiet, and at the same time thinking, we all should be standing up and roaring our ovation but I just couldn't.

So that's what I want the cast and director to know, dear dramaturg. There is a response even better than a standing ovation and the play you all created together got me there. Thanks to all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Phillipa
Last night was my first ever Grove Talk after years of attending CalShakes and I loved it. You were right: this production of Macbeth is fantastic! Could you please send me the actors packet you've mentioned? I'd love to read it. My e-mail is mportella@hotmail.com. Thanks! Mariana

Philippa said...

Thank you for your lovely response, Mariana. I've sent the actor packet to your email address.

Anonymous said...

Hello Philippa --

Thank you so much for a wonderful introductory talk before last night's preview of Macbeth. I was extremely impressed with the concept and creative vision of the show -- all of the production elements really harmonized beautifully. Very cinematic, film noir-ish -- a true visual feast. And a very interesting and well-executed choice to defer Macbeth's "tomorrow" speech and to share it with Lady Macbeth -- a brilliant, terrifying and unforgettable epilogue. Strong acting all around -- and I found Craig Marker's performance especially moving, having previously enjoyed him in both Macbeth (title role) and Equivocation. Hope to see more of him at Cal Shakes.

Thank you for all the high-quality writing and speaking you do for Cal Shakes -- we are very lucky to have you!

Best regards,
Rachel Kayhan

Philippa said...

Dear Rachel,

What a beautiful comment! Thank you so much for sharing this with our blog.

best wishes, and see you soon.