Friday, August 27, 2010

The Good Fortune Artists

The following blog was written by Martie Ogle (pictured center in the photo at right), a member of the Fortune Artists group of the 2010 Summer Shakespeare Conservatory.

Six months after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, residents are still struggling to recover in their demolished country. Since the media has moved onto different stories, donations have slowed; many Haitians aren’t getting the relief they need. Among those who need the most aid are small children, from infants to teens, who are living in ruins of their homes, in under-funded orphanages, or on the streets. Orphans as young as five are now living on their own and have resorted to stealing food for survival. Over a million children are estimated to be orphaned, twice the amount prior to the earthquake.

After reading an article in the paper about Haiti and telling the cast about it, the Fortune Artists decided to hold a fundraiser to benefit children in Haiti. The Fortune Artists are the second-oldest group at Five-Week Conservatory, with most of us entering our freshman or sophomore years of high school. By spending a month in a theater camp with about a hundred other children, we saw how smaller kids really needed help and guidance on a daily basis, and that’s just in a Shakespeare Camp! We recognized that kids the same age as our younger thespians weren’t getting the help they needed in Haiti. So we decided to do something about it.

Our show this year was a punk version of Henry IV set in 1970s England (see partial cast photo at right), highlighting the tension between young rebels and the government. After watching the oldest group—the Queen’s Own—hold multiple successful fundraisers, we decided to use the all-Conservatory performance days as our chance to generate revenue by holding a bake sale to benefit Haiti. So what if none of us had organized a fundraiser before? Phooey on that! We proposed the idea to our director, who gave us a couple of minutes of rehearsal time to divide and conquer. We eventually ended up with two committees (set-up/clean-up and publicity), three different shifts to work, and everyone pledged to bring in some form of sugary deliciousness.

After two days of confusion, chaos and mega-long Facebook messages, we made it to Friday. Performance Day. Bake Sale Day. D-day. For sale, we had cookies, brownies, rice crispies, scones, muffins, English toffee-chocolate bars, cheesecake, water, lemonade, punch, and only about 60 or so cupcakes. The youngest kids were our first major rush, and we made about 40 dollars in the fifteen minutes after their show. The day continued with dashes between last-minute rehearsals, bake sale, costume changes, bake sale, makeup application, back sale, fight call, and bake sale. By the end of the day, we were too tired to count up the money, and left it at the theater overnight.

But first thing the next morning, I was too excited to wait, and quickly tallied the money to come to (drum roll please) ... $225.64! From a BAKE SALE! And to make things even better, Matson Navigation Co. has matched our profit to make a grand total of $451.28! That’s amazing. I personally feel proud and honored to have been part of such a wonderful team effort.

Till next time,
Martie Ogle (King Henry IV), Fortune Artist

The Fortune Artists who assisted in the preparation of this bake sale were: Myself, Julia Hershey and Mother, Remy Behrendt, Mariah Neurge, Noah St. John, Eliana Fujita, Madison O’Connor, Alex Jonasse, Miranda Taylor, Stephanie Brannon, Jonathan Bianchini, Lauren McCaffrey, Ariel Coronado, Madeline Clark, Ariel Adair, Alex Shankland, and Katya Walch. We’d also like to thank intern Mirabelle Korn, Teaching Artist Fellow Carrie Foster, and director Dylan Russell. All profits were donated to Save the Children, a nonprofit organization helping children around the world and in Haiti.

Photos by Jay Yamada.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

OakTechRep blogs from Scotland!

Below is a series of blog entries sent to us by several of Jessa Berkner's Advanced Drama Students, currently in the U.K. to perform Hamlet: Blood in the Brain at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, thanks to their winning the American High School Theatre Festival, and the support of Cal Shakes and many other friends.

Hey everyone, it’s Naomi Zingman-Daniels. I’m typing this from Pollock Halls all the way over in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s been amazing! It feels like we’ve been here three weeks, not six days, and pretty much everyone wants to stay for a long time more. We’ve seen so much good theater, and we’ve started our run of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain off fantastically. When we got in, it was hectic—we went straight from the airport to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to see Henry IV, Part 1. It was awesome! The Globe is unlike any theater that I’ve ever seen before—for one thing, no roof. It was totally different to see a play in daylight like that. The show was amazing—the actors were brilliant (and the stage combat was so cool—I want to learn how to do that!). We returned there the next day for a workshop and a tour, learning lots of facts and even getting to work with one of the actors from Henry. It was so wonderful, I can’t even think of words for it (amazing keeps coming to mind, but it gets redundant to describe everything that way). To sum it all up: Thank you so much for making this possible! We love you!

Hey it’s G-MONEY! And I’m going to describe how opening night of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain went on August 18, 2010. “Are you listening, can you hear me? I said LISTEN UP!” A'ight then. Opening night was full of energy, ensemble flubs, and some damn heavy guns. We stepped down from the coach and sauntered in through the alleyway that led to our venue at the Church Hill Theatre in full costume. DAMN we looked bad-ass. The bystanders outside of the theater stole perplexed glances at our braids and baggy pants. When we got onside the theater, a black box with oversize curtains, we set up the blocks and the three Mylar flats we had constructed the day before. It takes two people to stand them up, but once we set them up they looked really good. Then we were given the prop guns that they let us borrow. The guns supposedly could be loaded to make a real noise, so they were legit. But they were entirely metal, so they were extremely heavy. When I tried to stash my prop gun in my jeans, my pants sagged down even lower than normal. During my big scene with Marcus, my arm was trembling from holding the gun up to his head for so long. The ensemble scenes went a little rough, but we had each other's backs. We have rehearsed this play for so long that we know each other's lines almost as well as our own, so when someone forgets their line, the brief silence is only due to everyone else deciding who should cover for them and say the line. But we got through it, and other than the curtains being too long for us to enter and exit smoothly, the show was fantastic. The AHSTF group that came to see us was very supportive. They cheered when we stepped outside like we were movie stars. I’m glad that the groups are so enthusiastic to see each others’ shows as well as performing their own. Well, thanks for everything. See you around!

Hello everyone! Marcus Thompson here! I’m having a blast here in the UK. Going to London was a fantastic experience. In a way it reminds me of New York City—many lights many people, very busy, always alive and quite inspirational. Now we are in Edinburgh, Scotland, taking advantage of the wonderful and priceless opportunity given to us. Every single day feels like two days in one, the reason being that we are always doing something, from going to see a show, to rehearsal, to enjoying the gorgeous and culturally abundant environment. It can get difficult to keep track of what we have done over the past six days. However, to be able to make that statement is an amazing thing to have the privilege to do. Thank you so much to all of the people that helped us get here, and thank you to everyone who has believed in us. I want everyone out there to remember that we couldn’t have gotten here with out you and that every one of us are very grateful for the love and support. You are all in our hearts during this journey. Well my time is up; we have to go to a show. So, until next time...

What’s up everyone??? This place is so utterly awesome like beyond words, but I’ll try anyway. We have been in Edinburgh for six days and it already feels like I live here. Everyone is so friendly and hospitable. Everything seems so familiar here for some strange reason even though the buildings look like they’ve been here for hundreds of years. It’s a very interesting mix of today and history. Because America is so young a country you don’t get to experience this there yet. The clothes people wear here are awesome too; everyone looks like they’ve stepped out of a magazine or something. You’d think it would be weird seeing a whole bunch of grown men walking around in skirts but it just makes them look more dignified. Kind of trippy. Anyway we’ve been able to embrace the culture here in many ways. This is made easier by the fact that it isn’t hidden in museums and monuments, it’s EVERYWHERE. A few nights ago we went to a Celidgh (pronounced keltay), which is basically a party, and it was so hard to keep up with the dancing. We learned many Scottish dances and about clothes and whatnot, while at the same time working off all the heavy food. You could eat very little here at breakfast and be full until around dinner. And haggis was not that bad. I expected it to look like someone had stuffed a stomach with a load of chopped meat and cut it up, but it just looked like a veggie burger the size of a hockey puck. It tasted kind of good too…for the first couple of seconds and then something about it hits you and you almost gag. It's amazing here and I wish everyone back home could see and feel what we’re feeling. Thanks so much!

Hi everybody, this is Hong Ho. Here we are in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it’s beautiful. We went to a lot of terrific and amazing shows, especially No Child, an excellent show featuring a talented actress, Nilaja Sun, from New York, who portrays all the students she taught in New York. Her show presents her amazing acting skills that capture the audience, and the best thing was the comedy However, I laughed at the wrong moments. Is that weird? Oh, well. Thank you for this experience.

Hello everybody, it’s Rafa Moraga. I am in Scotland and having a wonderful time. I have met people here that are from so many different backgrounds and walks of life. I feel that all of the groups that we have met, the group from Savannah, Georgia has had the most in common with us. They have that same level of high energy and spiritedness that we have. This was first apparent when Marcus, Tyree. and I passed by them playing gigolo; they invited us with such open arms and kind hearts that it was hard to refuse them. Having had an encounter with them, we were so excited to see their show, The Katrina Project: Hell in High Waters. It was a wonderful and moving show that really gave me a different perspective on Hurricane Katrina and people's struggles through the disaster. It is great to see people like us doing works of art on their own.

Hey hey hey! It’s Keyera Lucas and, man, I am having the GREATEST time on this trip. Edinburgh is an extremely beautiful place. I have never seen anything like it. Every day we do so much. We have seen so many great plays. Yesterday, we went to see On the Verge or the Geography of Yearning, performed by the only other group from California, a group of five girls from Marin County. They represented the Bay Area very well. Their show was hilarious. Those ladies were amazing. COOL FACT: We actually met this group for the first time at the San Francisco Airport. We boarded the same flight to London. How crazy is that? Just know that the Bay Area is doing well! Signing off, Keyera.

Greetings from Gareth across the pond! This whole trip has been so much fun! I have really enjoyed spending time with the rest of the Tech students, as well as Ms. Sabella, Ms. J, and Scott. I’m really glad we all get along really well, because the trip wouldn’t have been as meaningful to me if I didn’t have friends to share the experience with. We like seeing the sights and meeting the other AHSTF groups. We especially enjoy seeing performances together and talking about what we liked and disliked about the show. One of the shows we saw in London was a play called War Horse. It was set during World War II, and it followed the close relationship between a young boy and his horse, Joey. The boy’s father ends up selling Joey to the Army, and the boy sets out to look for him. It was a very touching story. However, the most incredible part about the play was the fantastic puppetry. The horses were wood and wire puppets that were controlled by two to three people each. The puppeteers moved the horse puppets in such synchronized, animalistic movements, it really looked like a real horse was on stage. It was a very sad play, but with a happy ending.
Another play that we all saw together was a hilarious show in Edinburgh called the Beat Box Action Comedy Chef. The show consisted of about eight Korean men and two women, all of whom had their own special talent. The women could sing and dance; a couple guys were amazing beat boxers (they had a battle—coolest beats I’ve ever heard without using a drum machine!); and some other guys could break-dance really well! It was a tremendously funny and exciting show, and I was breathless by the end.

Hey, hey, it's Tenecia. The trip has been full of excitement so far, and every day has been a fun a new experience. Last night, however, was truly a treat. The cast of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain had the chance to be on the Scotland radio station, Fresh Air. The station was just a walk away from the school, so as we walked we got to site-see and be in a whole different vibe. It was around 9:30 when we left so we got a slight look at the night life, which was very friendly. The interview went great. They mostly interviewed Marcus and Keyera, and then the other rappers and I did our rap. It was great publicity and I'm hoping that we get a full house because of it

What’s really good with it? Alright so let it be known this is the one and only Tyree on the mic for the time being. You know the kid that’s oh so FLY. But yeah, man, I am loving it out here in Edinburgh. I love the sights and I am really digging how different it is out here. We've performed three shows so far and today is our last day to perform; every show has been a full house. I used to feel like I wasn’t a good actor and that I shouldn’t waste my time with this or anything in that nature, but man, Ms. Sabella helped me out and I feel a little more confident each time.

Hey guys. This is Krystal and on August 19 I saw the most amazing theater I have ever seen, Beat Box Action Comedy. It took my breath away I could not believe that I was actually watching all of it live because the play seemed like a movie filled with special effects. They beat boxed, danced, and did stage combat—the even had real food onstage, which they called somebody from the audience to try. And all the sounds effects were done by mouth. It was just amazing—such a great experience. I cannot thank you guys enough for making this experience possible, and your support of this adventure. Thanks again.

"Ask Philippa": MACKERS edition

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

It's not about evil, but about what evil feels like; it's not about a sociopath, but about a character who is appalled at the thought of himself as a sociopath. This is Shakespeare's Macbeth, brought into stunning focus through Joel Sass's adaptation for our Cal Shakes stage. Through their actions, Macbeth and his wife experience a horrifying diminishment, as Macbeth feels the clawing of scorpions in his mind and his wife labors to wash the blood from her hands. In this stunning show, a pared-down cast of characters follows the arc of the couple's decline.

Have you seen our production of
Macbeth yet? 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.

Friday, August 6, 2010

OakTechRep on performing on the Cal Shakes stage

So you've read Cal Shakes' thoughts on the OakTechRep performance of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain at the Bruns; now here's a representative from the cast (Naomi Zingman-Daniels) telling their side of the story.

So all along, we at OakTechRep have been sort of going "Woo! We're going to Scotland!" as we performed on various schools' stages. Every rehearsal we'd done was at a school, and every performance, too. We'd done a few excerpts in public, but actually performing on a big public stage—that was just insane. So when we went on a tour of the Bruns Amphitheater less than a week before we performed there, it started to hit us.

We were performing at Cal Shakes.

I mean, it wasn't new news. We'd known about it for months. But when we were walking the stage, going over blocking, figuring out how to set the stage—it was actually real. We were really going to perform on the Bruns Amphitheater stage. People—about 500 of them—were really going to come see us perform. This was really happening. It was also really, really cold, and on the night of the show, incredibly windy.

In the hours before we got called for the start of the show, the backstage area was buzzing. People in their dressing rooms were taking pictures with their mirrors (we have slightly modified bathrooms at school and get rather overly excited anytime there are professional dressing rooms), resting, frantically going over lines, and—in my case—figuring out which costume I was going to wear. Everyone was talking and yelling about everything under the sun, finding props, and doing last minute runs of blocking.

And then came the call for places.

By 7pm, it was already pretty cold out. We stood at the entrances to the amphitheater, in character, for about half an hour before we moved to the stage. Personally, I think it was the best show we've done yet. We seemed to find new dimensions to our characters throughout the show. Throughout the show, we had to make a few emergency changes—one being me standing behind the mirror we use for one scene, so the winds wouldn't knock it over onto one of the characters—but in the end, everything worked out great.

We were down one actor, Rafa Moraga (Fate/Funeral Home Employee), who was out of town, and I was playing his part, so I had rehearsed it before plenty of times, but just for me, performing that scene was a whole different experience. The show was unlike any we'd ever performed before, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was absolutely amazing (thank you so much, Cal Shakes!) and it just made it even more excited (if that's possible) for Scotland!