Ruff Yeager Talks Tennessee Williams

Ruff Yeager

Ruff Yeager directs the staged reading of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore Monday August 25 at the Encinitas Library

To say that Ruff Yeager is a Tennessee Williams “enthusiast” might be an understatement. As someone who has spent most of his life studying the work of this particular playwright, “authoritative scholar” might be a more appropriate descriptor for the director of Monday evening’s staged reading of Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.

Milk Train is a very rarely seen play from a very important American playwright,” says Ruff of Tennessee Williams, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. “From 1945-1963, Williams had a play on Broadway almost every season – sometimes two. No other American playwright has ever been so produced.”

While Milk Train may be one of his more underperformed plays, the brilliance of Tennessee Williams’ stunning dialogue and hard-hitting thematic resonance is consistent with the plays that more quickly come to mind, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.

“At this point in his career [in 1963], Williams had begun to experiment with form in small ways, which was a bit ahead of his time,” says Ruff. “The American theater was still in the conservative, nuclear family, atomic age. It wouldn’t be until the late 60s when the theatre would catch up to the social revolutions that were occurring in the country and the artistic revolutions that had already occurred in Europe.”

Based on a short story that Williams wrote earlier, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore introduces Flora Goforth, a former Ziegfeld Follies girl who has retired to a private Italian island for the remainder of her days, which are waning in number. She is kept company by the Witch of Capri, a gossipy busybody, and her assistant, Blackie. The story takes a turn when Christopher Flanders, also known as the “Angel of Death,” arrives to befriend Flora. Chris is known for his relationships with older women…and for his tendency to be mentioned in their wills after they have died.

Dagmar Fields, recently seen on the Intrepid stage in I Hate Hamlet, will be portraying the juicy, layered role of Flora Goforth and Spencer Smith will take on the role of the mischievous Christopher Flanders. In “true Tennessee Williams motif,” according to Ruff, Ralph Johnson will be portraying the Witch of Capri, a role originally written for a woman, but which has been played throughout history by such famous names as Noël Coward.

Rounding out the cast are Faeren Adams as Blackie and Fred Harlow and Celeste Innocenti as the Ensemble Members.

“He casts two actors as what he calls ‘stage assistants,’” Ruff says, “They come out in a kabuki fashion and announce scenes, scene changes, comment ironically on the action. They guide us through the action unseen by the other characters. We weren’t seeing that kind of thing done here in the States. Williams knew the theatre landscape was changing.”

Aside from being ahead of its time in form, Milk Train also offers audiences a unique glimpse into Williams’ development as a writer. Whereas his previous catalogue dealt with themes of life, love and death in a very metaphorical manner, Milk Train addresses the same ideas with astonishing honesty and realism, especially as the play was written in the aftermath of the death of Frank Merlo, Williams’ longtime partner.

“This play lets us see his characters grow,” says Ruff. “Flora is much more honest and self-knowing than Blanche from Streetcar. She knows what life is about. She’s not self-deluded. As Williams grew older, his female characters really shifted.”

The language of this play reflects that honesty. Not only does it contain Williams’ beautiful poetic qualities, but it is also quite humorous in its realism.

“Williams is looking very hard into the eyes of death and dealing with it very honestly. It’s gallows humor, but there is also the idea of the ‘liberating laugh’ of absurdism – the laughter that allows us to be free for a moment. I think this play provides that moment.” — T.T.

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, August 25. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a reading series subscription.

Milk Train Home Page

Noting the ‘Nothing’: Richard Baird on ‘Much Ado’

'Much Ado About Nothing' Director Richard Baird

Director Richard Baird
Photo: D. Scott

Merriam-Webster merely defines omertà as “a code of silence,” although the cultural implications of this Sicilian term are perhaps much broader, much more Godfather-ish than that tiny definition suggests.

This unspoken cultural code, prevalently infused into aspects of Italian culture throughout history, was one of the things that inspired Richard Baird, director of Intrepid’s current production of Much Ado About Nothing, when he considered setting this production in 1931. In fact, it might be one of the reasons why it works so well there.

“Two things men were highly concerned with,” explains Richard about this period of Italian history, “were their honor and their wives’ chastity.”

Given that the play addresses both of these themes – and also places them against a militaristic backdrop – it is no wonder that the politically charged climate of the 1930s enhances this particular story.

Ruff Yeager as Leonato (L); Erin Petersen as Hero (R) Photo: D. Scott

Ruff Yeager as Leonato (L); Erin Petersen as Hero (R)
Photo: D. Scott

“Though this is not a play that delves into questions about tyranny, we thought the background of a dictatorship provided interesting parallels,” says Richard. “People often forget that Elizabeth I for all of her talents was accused by many of being or becoming a tyrant. Plays such as Richard II had to have heavy cuts – especially where he abdicates the crown – for fear of imprisonment.”

When the threat of repercussions – both spoken and unspoken – sits heavily in the air, the choice to play fast and loose with ideas such as honor and integrity must be deliberate and unwavering. It is no wonder that no one blinks an eye when young Hero’s maidenhood is questioned, considering that the accusations come from the pedigree of officers who would understand the consequences of making a mistake.

However, this wouldn’t be Much Ado About Nothing without some falsehoods flying about. The idea of conspiring, eavesdropping and gossiping is literally written into the title, after all.

'Much Ado' Dramaturge Gideon Rappaport

Dramaturge Gideon Rappaport

“The title of Much Ado about Nothing seems at first a light-hearted throwaway,” says Dramaturge Gideon Rappaport. “In reality, it conveys a deeper theme of the play. In this case, the depth lies in the multiple meanings of the word nothing. In Shakespeare’s time nothing meant what we mean by it…But also the word was pronounced exactly like the word noting, which itself had several meanings: observing, paying attention, and – a meaning we no longer use – denouncing someone in public.”

Even though Richard has worked on Much Ado About Nothing numerous times as both an actor and a director, he admits that balancing the gravity of the plot twists with the lighter love stories presents an interesting challenge.

“This time, I was reminded how dark some of the aspects of the play really are,” he explains. “Finding that balance of dark with the romcom nature of the play is challenging but very rewarding.”

Matt Thompson as Don Pedro (L); Sean Yael-Cox as Benedick (R)

Matt Thompson as Don Pedro (L); Sean Yael-Cox as Benedick (R) Photo: D. Scott

As is always the case with Shakespeare, the text provides the clues and the answers to striking this balance. With the majority of the dialogue written in prose, the love story between Beatrice and Benedick becomes more real, more honest, he says.

“They know one another and there is a trust that they have to find their way back too,” says Richard. “It isn’t sappy or intense.”

The prose also gives context to the “nothing” – in this case, the scheming and the subterfuge.

“There are many tricks and plots in Much Ado” Richard explains. ”Virtually every character spies and becomes a form of intelligencer. Many of the schemer roles are written in blunt straightforward language. For instance, Iago [from Othello] speaks in quite a bit of prose, as does Edmund [King Lear] and Falstaff.”

Shana Wride as Beatrice (L); Amanda Schaar as Ursula (R)

Shana Wride as Beatrice (L); Amanda Schaar as Ursula (R)
Photo: D. Scott

The language, then, offers a context in which both the main characters – and their love story – can flourish, while tackling both the weight and the humor of the play. After all, Beatrice and Benedick find their way to each other over the tragedy of young Hero’s nuptials and even the darkest moments are offset by the investigations of the delightfully comic Constable Dogberry.

And, of course, the main component in pulling off this tricky balance is the talent of the actors on the stage.

“I have an incredibly talented and hard working cast,” says Richard. “They have all acquitted themselves with professional excellence and helped craft a very fun and hopefully thought-provoking production.” – T.T.

Much Ado About Nothing runs through August 17. Showtimes: Thursday 8pm / Friday 8pm / Saturday 4pm & 8pm / Sunday 2pm. 
Tickets are available here
.

much ado slider

Banter, Beatrice and Benedick: Shana Wride and Sean Yael-Cox Make ‘Much Ado’

Shana Wride as Beatrice (L); Sean Yael-Cox as Benedick (L)

Shana Wride as Beatrice (L); Sean Yael-Cox as Benedick (L)

“There is a merry war betwixt them.”

Sean Yael-Cox can’t help but smile as he reflects on his recent rehearsals with leading lady Shana Wride, the Beatrice to his Benedick in Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing. 

“They love to fight,” says Sean. “They have this fantastic energy and there’s this terrific word play between the two of them. We are having a lot of fun sparring.”

Much Ado About Nothing previewed July 24 in Intrepid’s black box space, just a week after the closing of “I Hate Hamlet,” making this summer season in Encinitas a double header of comedy, romance and spicy verbal jousting.

“Not to give too much away,” confides Shana Wride, “but I think Beatrice has a crush on Benedick.”

Shana Wride as Beatrice

Shana Wride as Beatrice

One of Shakespeare’s most produced comedies, Much Ado About Nothing was written in the last years of the 16th century and although many of the story lines in this play were inspired from previous literary lore, the fireworks of elevated verbal banter between Benedick and Beatrice is quite singular among the Bard’s canon. While other Shakespearean couples may have their arguments and power struggles, Much Ado presents this duo in a very different light.

“Beatrice is not like other women,” says Shana, who describes her character as a ‘confirmed bachelor.’ “She doesn’t subscribe to the mores of the time period. She dances to her own drum.”

The balance, then, lies in how to ground the characters in their own truth, while allowing for the possibility of love. The clues to this balance might be found in the text, specifically, in the moments when the poetry kicks in.

“[Beatrice] speaks only in prose, until the point in the play where she hides in the arras, and overhears Hero and Ursula speaking of Benedick’s ‘love’ for her,” scholar Patrick Tucker writes. “This is not an insignificant moment in the play.”

Sean Yael-Cox as Benedick

Sean Yael-Cox as Benedick

Indeed, the back and forth between prose (how we regular people talk) and poetry (that flowery, rhyming stuff) in Much Ado might mirror the back and forth of the intentions of these two would-be lovers, which means the audience will sometimes have more insight into what is happening in the story than the characters themselves –  if they listen closely enough.

“The prose, like the verse, is alive, witty, rhythmic, in places lyrical, always appropriate to the character who is speaking and to the particular mood of the scene,” says Dramaturge Gideon Rappaport. “Beatrice and Benedick may be ‘too wise to woo peaceably,’ but their ‘kind of merry war’ in words scintillates with life.”

For Sean and Shana, it is these words that will help them find their way from merry war to married love, a journey punctuated by the comedy, drama and wit of Shakespeare’s dialogue.

“The thing that makes the text amazing is that when you line up with it, and with the character, and with the other people onstage, it is like nothing else you are going to experience,” says Shana. “Shakespeare is sort of a visceral, exciting ride that you can’t duplicate.”

“The comedy is incredibly smart in this play and yet it’s very fun and it’s very physical,” says Sean. “It’s the kind of play that whether you are new to Shakespeare, or you’ve been watching Shakespeare plays for years, it really offers something for everybody.”

Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Richard Baird, runs through August 16. Showtimes: Thursday 8pm / Friday 8pm / Saturday 4pm & 8pm / Sunday 2pm. 
Tickets are available here
.

much ado slider

An Act of ‘Defiance’: Francis Gercke directs John Patrick Shanley

Defiance Widget“I feel doubt is an important and valuable exercise, a hallmark of wisdom,” says playwright John Patrick Shanley. “Defiance is a necessary step in the life of an individual and in the life of a nation.”

Next week, Intrepid Shakespeare’s 12-month Staged Reading Series will feature Shanley’s 2006 play, Defiance, the second part of a three-play trilogy, beginning with the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning Doubt in 2004, and concluding with 2012’s Storefront Church. While Doubt explores themes of power and faith within the confines of a Catholic Church, Defiance tackles another hierarchical organization – the United Stated military.

fran gercke

Francis Gercke directs Shanley’s ‘Defiance’ July 28

“I like that Shanley’s writing presents life as complicated, complex, multi-faceted, never one thing only,” explains Francis Gercke, who will be directing the reading on July 28. “There are rules and regulations, there are codes and social norms of behavior, there are consequences to violating those codes and norms, and there may be legitimate reasons why it might be necessary to risk challenging those rules and regulations. But there’s always a cost.”

As with Doubt, Defiance places its characters in a situation of moral and ethical crisis, this time framed by racial tensions charged by wartime. Set on a North Carolina United States Marine Corps base in 1971, the play finds Lt. Col. Morgan Littlefield (who will be read by Matt Scott) and his reluctant protégé, Capt. Lee King, a young African-American officer (who will be read by Vimel Sephus), investigating racial crimes on the base in an attempt to diffuse these tensions. But the electricity of the play comes from the interactions between these two men and their very different ideas of military leadership and accountability.

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

John Patrick Shanley with ‘Doubt,’ the precursor for ‘Defiance’
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

According to Manhattan Theatre Club production notes, the characters are “on a collision course over race, women, and the high cost of doing the right thing. The play is about power, love, and responsibility — who has it, who wants it, and who deserves it.”

Not surprisingly, it all comes to a head in an act of defiance.

“While the play is set in 1971, it’s not a history lesson or a re-examination of the Viet Nam era,” explains Fran. “It uses that context to debate social, civic, and spiritual challenges of today. I think what remains with me each time I read it is a question about ideals — are they merely ‘idealistic’ (impractical and naive) or are they truly the standards by which we should live our lives no matter the cost?”

These explorations of doubt and defiance take place through Shanley’s intricately woven dialogue – the kind of dialogue that inspires both actor and audience, and has made Shanley extraordinarily notable as a playwright who creates gritty, passionate and fascinatingly complex characters.

“An evening with Shanley’s characters could prove brutal but definitely entertaining,” says Fran. “They are witty, stubborn, well-intentioned and undeniably screwed up in some way. In other words, they’re very human.”

Joining Matt and Vimel on Monday to complete this cast of characters will be Amanda Sitton, Cris O’Bryon and Jake Rosko.

Defiance by John Patrick Shanley, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, July 28. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a reading series subscription.

Encinitas Library

Playing Barrymore: An Interview with Ruff Yeager

Ruff Yeager as the Ghost of John Barrymore

Ruff Yeager as the Ghost of John Barrymore

If you ask Ruff Yeager how he manages to portray the larger-than-life Ghost of John Barrymore in Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s current show, “I Hate Hamlet,” without getting distracted by the audience who practically sits onstage, he will tell you that he has a very simple strategy.

“I picture them as ghosts,” says Ruff.

With the inauguration of Intrepid’s new black box space, this summer’s offerings are being produced in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting, which gives audiences the chance to be up close and personal with the action.

“We can see people in the audience,” says Ruff. “If I really look, I can see their faces.”

In an effort to incorporate this intimacy into the imagined world of the play, Ruff has figured out a way to makes sense of their presence. Because they are sitting on old-fashioned chairs and couches, a beautiful detail that expands the world of John Barrymore’s apartment further into the theater, it is not difficult.

Barrymore 6“I see the audience as all of these other ghosts in our house,” he says, and then adds in true Barrymore form, “I see them as benevolent ghosts who want me to do well.”

Leave it to the character of John Barrymore to crave applause from the afterlife. But that’s exactly what he does in “I Hate Hamlet” – and Ruff’s portrayal of the grandiose Barrymore has audiences and critics raving. It’s not every day an actor’s performance review includes words like “mercurial,” “ebullient” and “charismatic.” But Ruff wouldn’t know, of course, because he doesn’t read them. All he knows is how much fun he’s having.

“I love playing the Ghost of John Barrymore,” he says without hesitation. “Playing a character of this scope and magnitude of spirit…it’s just really joyful.”

Ruff Yeager as John Barrymore and Francis Gercke as Andrew Rally

Ruff Yeager and Francis Gercke as Andrew Rally

That joy is evident during the performances, as Ruff pounces from chaise lounge to mantelpiece to potted plant, pulling out rapiers and bottles of wine as he sees fit. One can’t help but be caught up in his lust for life, even considering his ghostly circumstances.

Even though Ruff had done quite a bit of research coming into rehearsals on this uproarious personality, there was still a lot of discussion with director Christopher Williams about bringing the Ghost of Barrymore to life – and specifically, how big is too big when it comes to this character’s personality. Surprisingly, the new theater space played a large part in that characterization.

Barrymore!“We did a lot of work on volume and articulation,” explains Ruff. “With that, comes larger physicalization, because it takes a lot of energy. In the end, I have to trust Christopher and that what I am directed to do is going to work.”

Mercurial…ebullient…charismatic…that it “works” might be an understatement.

“I Hate Hamlet” must close July 19 and Ruff is already anticipating the loss.

“I’m going to be very sad when this is going to be over because it’s been so much fun,” he admits. “But I’m looking forward to the last two weeks as a real celebration of this character and this play.” – TT

I Hate Hamlet runs through July 19, Thursday 8:00pm / Friday 8pm / Saturday 4pm & 8pm / Sunday 2pm. Purchase tickets here

Photo credits: DAREN SCOTT

i hate hamlet sliderB

The Dramatic History of the Comedy “I Hate Hamlet”

i hate hamlet sliderBWalk down any crooked street in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and you will stumble upon a variety of historical placards mounted to random townhouses celebrating their past creative inhabitants: “Edgar Allen Poe wrote ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ here” (85 W 3rd Street) or “Thomas Paine died here’” (59 Grove Street). This particular neighborhood brims with artistic ghosts, and that is exactly what inspired Paul Rudnick to write his comedic play, “I Hate Hamlet.”

AlchemistsCorner700

John Barrymore’s residence, NYC

Rudnick’s muse is legendary actor John Barrymore, who occupied the penthouse of 132 West 4th Street in 1917. The playwright leased the space 70 years later, admittedly becoming more and more fascinated by Barrymore’s history with the apartment. As he wrote in The New Yorker in 2007, “The more I absorbed, and the more months I spent under Barrymore’s bastard Jacobean roof, the more I felt moved to write something set at the address. Someone or something had led me to these quarters and would not be denied.” Enter the characters of television actor Andrew Rally and the ghost of John Barrymore.

While it is significantly Shakespearean to introduce a ghost-haunting to a story – especially one revolving around playing the role of Hamlet – the spirit of John Barrymore is not one to utter a vague command and then disappear, trusting that his charge will be carried out. No. John Barrymore will always plot to steal the spotlight, even from the afterlife. And while he does not task Andrew Rally with avenging his death, per se, he does prompt the character to carry on his legacy by playing Hamlet. Or rather, by playing Hamlet well.

John Barrymore, the play's inspiration Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

John Barrymore,
the play’s inspiration
Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

“Andrew, who is Hamlet? A star,” says John Barrymore in the play. “The role is a challenge, but far more—an opportunity. To shine. To rule. To seduce. To wit— what makes a star?”

The banter between modern day actor and acting legend ghost is endless, and one can imagine Paul Rudnick carrying out similar conversations while wandering through Barrymore’s New York apartment. For Intrepid’s part, Fran Gercke will be giving voice to Andrew Rally, while Ruff Yeager will step into the role of John Barrymore. The two will be joined by the powerhouse talents of Dagmar Fields, Brooke McCormick Paul, Gerilyn Brault and Tom Stephenson.

While Ruff Yeager adds a very specific dramatic flair to the role of Barrymore, the part of the legendary actor has historically been difficult to cast. As Rudnick explained it when discussing his own Broadway opening of the show, “The audience needed to believe that whoever played Barrymore, from the instant he stepped onstage, was an Olympian Hamlet, a devastating seducer, and everyone’s favorite scoundrel.” Unfortunately for Rudnick’s production, this meant employing a notoriously ill-behaved British actor named Nicol Williamson. Despite Williamson’s dramatic similarities to the theatrical icon he would be playing, the actor’s catastrophic temperament eventually upstaged his own acting credentials. The play closed after a one-month run in a cloud of scandal.

The New Yorker captures the rocky Broadway debut of "I Hate Hamlet"

The New Yorker captures the rocky Broadway debut of “I Hate Hamlet”

“I had never spent time around a world-class, drain-the-keg loon before,” writes Rudnick, after detailing an account of Williamson physically striking the actor playing Andrew with a sword during a sequence of onstage dueling. That actor not only immediately left the stage, but also the entire production. It was the last in a series of already unbelievable events, that included, among other things, midnight phone calls demanding script revisions and entirely missed performances.

While Intrepid anticipates that its summer season opener will no doubt be riddled with noteworthy behind-the-scenes stories, it is safe to say that the drama on the stage will be enough entertainment for any audience. – Tiffany Tang

“I Hate Hamlet” previews June 27 and runs through July 19.
Tickets on sale now.

A Public Display of “Private Lives”

Private Lives WidgetOne would assume that a “comedy of manners” written in 1930 would seem rather tame by our modern standards. However, reactions and reviews of Noël Coward’s Private Lives, which will be read on Monday night as the next installment of Intrepid Shakespeare’s Staged Reading Series, have been anything but that.

“The critics described Private Lives variously as ‘tenuous, thin, brittle, gossamer, iridescent, and delightfully daring,’ said the playwright. “All of which connoted in the public mind cocktails, repartee and irreverent allusions to copulation, thereby causing a gratifying number of respectable people to queue up at the box office.”

Private-Lives-Playbill-05-31The story of Private Lives revolves around the dissolved marriage of Elyot and Amanda, who chance upon each other while on their respective honeymoons with their new spouses. As luck would have it, they are rooming next door to each other in the same luxurious coastal French hotel, and even though they are seemingly outraged at the other’s presence, it is soon evident that the flame of their former relationship is not completely smothered, but merely smoldering. Chaos and hilarity ensue as the play moves from the Deauville shore to a Paris city apartment and Elyot and Amanda attempt to sort out both their feelings for each other and their actions with regards to their new spouses.

Jonathan Sachs as Victor

Jonathan Sachs as Victor

“What makes this script so wonderful and funny,” says Jonathan Sachs, who will be portraying Victor, “is that it touches on some truly real feelings about marriage, divorce, infidelity, remarriage, abuse (verbal and physical) and most of all whether a past love will consume the present relationship.”

The play premiered in London in 1930 to some controversy, as it was almost banned because of the romantic portrayal of characters who are divorced and married to others. Coward had to plead his case to the Lord Chamberlin to be granted permission to open in the West End. The play moved to Broadway a year later with Coward playing Elyot opposite Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda. Jill Esmond and Lawrence Olivier (who would later marry) rounded out the New York cast as Sybil and Victor. Private Lives has since enjoyed numerous revivals in both cities, with varying notoriety depending upon the cast.

colleen2

Colleen Kollar Smith as Amanda

But what reviewers have found most fascinating about the play is its dialogue. Colleen Kollar Smith, who will be playing Amanda, compares her scenes to something lifted from “The West Wing.” 

“I was trying to place my finger on what about the pace and wit of this piece felt familiar,” says Colleen. “It dawned on me later that Coward’s dialogue feels a lot like Sorkin to me. It is so intelligent and there are many layers of wit. So many, in fact, that I found myself trying to NOT laugh because I was afraid I would miss the next joke around the corner.”

Phil Johnson as Elyot

Phil Johnson as Elyot

Given that Colleen is playing opposite Phil Johnson as Elyot makes trying to maintain a straight face a bit of a challenge.

“It was a futile attempt,” she admits.

Even though the play does tackle seemingly serious themes, the levity of the piece remains unaffected – or perhaps even more enhanced – by the gravity of the situations.

“There’s a knowledge that the world is askew, and with that everything becomes humorous,” explains Phil.

Jo Anne Glover as Sybil

Jo Anne Glover as Sybil

“Reading it out loud is so fun,” says Jo Anne Glover, who will be playing Sybil, “just the rhythm he writes in and the wordplay back and forth between the characters. And, it’s fascinating how progressive this play is.”

Perhaps that is why this 84-year-old play is not only still performed, but still evokes the laughter of familiarity.

“The play takes some of the finer points of farce and weaves them into a wonderful tragic comedy,” says Jonathan. “The audience will find something very personal in what they see and that is what make this piece so special.”

Private Lives by Noël Coward, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, June 23. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a reading series subscription.

Encinitas Library

 

 

Camp Intrepid Opens for the Summer

Summer-Camp-StampWhen Intrepid Shakespeare Company launched its inaugural season of Camp Intrepid last summer, something unexpected happened.

Participants in the first session of the Young Actors Theatre Camp finished their final performance at the end of that first week with great aplomb. But, instead of continuing on with their summer activities elsewhere, they decided to sign up for another week of Camp Intrepid. And then another.

“The camp surpassed our expectations,” says Sean Yael-Cox, Intrepid’s Co-Founder and Director of Education. “We were all amazed at how much the kids could accomplish in such a short amount of time. We are going to do our best to deliver what they are asking for.”

drama camp kidsTo that end, the Young Actors Theatre Camp has expanded this summer, with more than twice the number of sessions being offered. Additionally, each of the eight weeklong Young Actors camps will focus on a new play, so that campers can repeat sessions without repeating a production. Sessions will take place at the Encinitas Community Center.  Click here for a Young Actors Theatre Camp schedule, beginning June 23.

“Kids can expect a lot of fun but also a great learning experience,” says local theatre talent Abby DeSpain, who recently received the Craig Noel Young Artist Award, and attended three sessions Camp Intrepid last summer. “I especially liked learning stage combat from Lance Arthur Smith,” she says of the local professional actor and fightmaster, who is one of a slew of guest artists invited to teach campers during their sessions.

“It is a fun-packed week,” says Rachel Kanevsky, who has attended five Camp Intrepid sessions over the last year. “Camp Intrepid is a new way for any kid to get involved with theater, gain important skills, and make new friends.”

INTO-THE-WOODS-LOGO-FINAL-1024x690In addition to the Young Actors Theatre Camp, both the Musical Theatre Camp and the Shakespeare Camp will return – each for two-week sessions held at the Performing Arts Center at San Dieguito Academy. Into the Woods and King Lear are on the docket, with sessions beginning June 30 and July 14, respectively. Registration is now open. 

While these particular selections of musical theatre and Shakespeare may seem daunting for two-week camp sessions, Sean is confident that the campers will be up to the challenge, especially those who are returning for their second summer.

“We choose plays that inspire young actors to be creative and use their imaginations,” explains Sean. “Both Into The Woods and King Lear are incredibly complex pieces, and we wanted to challenge the students and raise the bar for those who attended last year.”

Parent Heidi Maretz, whose daughter, Tess, attended the Musical Theatre Camp last year, agrees. “Tess has had lots of performing experience, and Camp Intrepid provided a great experience for both new and more experienced performers.”

While the Young Actors Theatre Camp is geared towards ages 8-14, both the Musical Theatre and Shakespeare camps focus on teenagers 13-18. Sean feels it is important to inspire the campers in both their passion and their commitment to the work, and this summer’s repertory reflects that.

Rand-Poster“These are plays that we love and are passionate about,” says Sean. “I think Into The Woods is one of the greatest musicals ever written. King Lear is a fantastic ensemble show filled with amazing characters, greed, revenge, sword fights, honor, madness, insults, a storm, betrayal and, in the end, unconditional love and forgiveness.”

In addition to honing the theatrical talents of the students, parents of previous campers have also reported that the camp sessions have strengthened other skills, including public speaking and academic collaboration. While drama camp is memorable for being fun and entertaining in the moment, its lasting advantages cannot be denied.

“Rachel’s theater classes and camps have made her a very proficient public speaker and let her do things she might be too reserved to try otherwise,” says Inna Kanevsky, Rachel’s mother. “This year, Rachel won a high level award at the County Science Fair, where she made a very good impression on the judges by her presentation skills and confidence. It was pretty much all acting, as Rachel reported being nervous the whole time.”

Sean Cox

Sean Yael-Cox, Intrepid’s Co-Founder and Director of Education

“The kids learn about everything that goes in to putting on a production, but they also learned about teamwork and being responsible to each other,” agrees Whitney DeSpain, Abby’s mother. “The teachers at Intrepid are fantastic.”

Camp Intrepid is helmed by Sean, as well as by Erin Petersen, an Intrepid Associate Artist and the company’s Internship Program Director. It is no secret that these two are the main reasons why campers are repeatedly returning to this program.

Erin Peterson

Erin Petersen, Associate Artist and Internship Program Director

“Erin is a wonderful teacher and encourager, and there is never a dull moment,” says Inna. “Intrepid is one of the very few programs with the focus on acting, as most everywhere else children do musical theater only. Even though most summer ‘shows’ will be musicals, we know that acting skills will be given attention, which is what Rachel and I want.”

Andrew Moore, a student at San Dieguito Academy, participated in the Shakespeare Camp last summer, and continued his exploration with the SDA internship program, playing the title role in the intern production of Macbeth earlier this year. Throughout this process, he was able to work side-by-side with Sean to explore one of Shakespeare’s darkest villains, applying the seeds that were planted during Camp Intrepid.

“I was surprised and amazed at the amount of knowledge I took from the camp,” says Andrew. “I went in expecting a bit of fun, and I came out with a level of self confidence I didn’t think I would ever have.”

Jennifer Moore, Andrew’s mother, appreciates that the Camp Intrepid instructors become mentors to the students they have in repeat sessions. “Andrew liked the way that Sean approached Shakespeare’s writing and seemed to gain a better understanding of the play and the author,” she says. “He also had a good time putting the play together, studying the stage fighting and working with the other teens.”

However, those hoping to take part in Camp Intrepid this summer should hurry. Returning campers are already planning their summers around Intrepid’s camp sessions and spaces are filling up quickly.

“Rachel has signed up for almost every session this summer,” says Inna. “She is super excited to be with the company all day and to be able to have a show at the end of each week.”

For Sean, it is important that the kids not only learn what a theatre experience involves, but also recognize that the skills which go into theatre production are the same skills that will be useful in other aspects of life. For this reason, campers tend to have all levels of experience and a wide variety of future ambitions outside of the world of theatre.

While Rachel confides that she loves the theatre, she is not looking to make it a career. However, she looks forward to experiencing the energy and magic that comes with pulling together a performance.

“I like the final dress rehearsal,” says Rachel, “because everybody is really energetic and excited to perform and we get to be in our makeup and costumes…it’s an unforgettable experience.”

Registration for all sessions of Camp Intrepid are now open, with limited availability. Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

2014 summer camp slider

Raise a Glass for Shakespeare on June 7 at the Encinitas Rotary Wine and Food Festival

w&f festival widgetSipping a glass of aged pinot noir while sampling a bit of “Top Chef”- worthy cuisine may not seem the most likely way to support a local theatre company. But thanks to the Encinitas Rotary Club, the official organizer of the Encinitas Wine and Food Festival on June 7 at the San Diego Botanic Garden, over 21 community nonprofits will see a significant contribution to their programming, including Intrepid Shakespeare Company.

“In furtherance of ‘service above self,’” explains Festival Co-Chair Rich Houk, referencing the Rotary Club’s mission statement, “the goal of the festival is to bring people together, community and beneficiaries, for a common cause.”

sdbgThe evening will feature representation from 20 restaurants, 14 wineries and six breweries. Guests are invited to stroll through the Hamilton Children’s Garden while sampling delicacies from local establishments, listening to live music and perusing the silent auction items, which include high-end ski trips, aged whisky, golf clubs and Hawaiian getaways.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Festival Co-Chair Sandy Houk. “There’s a lot of wonderful energy each year.”

As a festival beneficiary, Intrepid Shakespeare will be selling tickets to the event, which range from $90-$500, depending on the level of VIP access desired.

wine fest 2014The beneficiary model for the festival, which has been adopted by other Rotary Clubs because of its success, guarantees that the nonprofit organizations receive a significant portion of these ticket sales.

“It’s unique,” says Rich. “Not many events are structured they way we are. When you buy your tickets, the majority of the money is credited back directly towards the organization. It’s written in the contract. When a $90 ticket is purchased, $60 goes to beneficiary. With both the $135 and the VIP $500 levels, 100% goes directly to beneficiary.”

“The Rotary Club is supportive of anything that is going to help our neighborhood,” says Wine and Food Festival Board Member Marti Rosenberg. “We are thrilled that Intrepid Shakespeare could be involved. We love having theatre in North County.”

“We hear nothing but great things about Intrepid,” adds Sandy.

Summer-Camp-StampIntrepid will also be donating Season Five Subscriptions and Camp Intrepid summer sessions to the grand raffle, which will be held at the festival. Raffle tickets, which are $15 (3 for $40), should be purchased in advance by emailing boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com. Winners need not be present.

Last year, the sold out Encinitas Rotary Wine and Food Festival raised over $115,000 for local charities and nonprofits. The goal is to top that number this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for small groups who can’t throw big elaborate fundraisers,” says Marti. “The Rotary does all the work to help our community organizations.”

“Attendees can look forward to a beautiful setting with quality food and quality beverages,” says Rich. “But the purpose of the event is to bring people together.”

For tickets to the Encinitas Rotary Wine and Food Festival on June 7, as well as information about becoming a sponsor, click here.  

Caryl Churchill Has Our Number

A Number Page“Is love a choice or is it determined by fate? Are we who people believe us to be or who we believe ourselves to be?”

Fran Gercke, one of the actors in Intrepid’s upcoming staged reading of Caryl Churchill’s A Number, ponders the numerous themes of this multi-layered play. Taking the stage on Monday night with Old Globe Associate Artist Jim Winker, the two will tackle this dynamic piece that explores the controversy surrounding human cloning while folding it into the complexity of father/son relationships.

Written in 2002, during the height of the Dolly sheep-cloning foray, Churchill’s story revolves around a father who has cloned his son, and the potential fallout of his actions. Fran portrays the son – in the various cloned incarnations. While the premise seems dystopian at best, the central conflict of the play remains ultimately relatable.

Old Globe Literary Manager Danielle Amato directs Monday's staged reading

Old Globe Literary Manager Danielle Amato directs Monday’s staged reading

“I think of A Number as a play set against a backdrop of cloning that’s not about cloning at all,” says Old Globe Literary Manager and Dramaturg Danielle Amato, who will be directing Monday night’s staged reading. “It’s about fathers and sons, about parenthood and regret, about what we inherit and what we create for ourselves. It’s about all the same questions that have obsessed playwrights from Aeschylus to Ibsen to O’Neill. The cloning is just another context, revealing slightly new facets of an age-old story.”

Caryl Churchill is a playwright known for taking risks – both in thematic exploration as well as with her writing style. That this play revolves around a controversial issue is no surprise. However, that the writing offers opportunities for the characters to approach these issues from a diverse spectrum of emotional perspectives is a gift for the actors. This gift is inherent in Churchill’s writing style – abstract yet casual, fragmented yet thoughtful.

“The style Churchill has chosen for A Number is very elliptical,” explains Danielle. “She takes the gaps and half-sentences that mark our normal, everyday speech and heightens them into something like poetry.”

Jim Winker will portray Salter

Jim Winker will portray Salter

Jim agrees that this distinctive writing style makes this play ideal for a reading setting and the audience should be prepared for “active participation in the unfolding of a fascinating story.”

“The fragmentation of language also adds to the searching quality of the story,” he says. “There are no easy solutions or quick fixes in this plot. The humanity of the characters continues to be revealed with every reading.”

Even though the writing may seem challenging on the surface, it is apparent that the actors are quick to embrace its realistic nature. The audience will be able to navigate it as well, finding the familiarities that may seem too elusive in typical dramatic realism.

“I think Churchill is a great observer of the way in which we try to behave in any given situation,” offers Fran. “So the character is dealing with any number of vibrant reactions to the situation but is choosing to express something on the surface that is entirely different. Like we often do in life.”

Pairing this particular writing style with such sweeping themes also creates a terrific dramatic tension for the audience, say the actors, as they try to anticipate where the play will take them. The through line of this piece is anything but typical, although the ending is very powerful.

Fran Gercke will portray incarnations of Bernardo

Fran Gercke will portray incarnations of Bernardo

“Churchill leaves the audience with questions to consider, but not just as an intellectual exercise,” says Fran. “If the actors do their jobs, I think the audience is left wondering about these people, and wondering what happens next even though Churchill does a great job of ending a play just where it needs to end. It’s a complete experience that takes up residence in the back of your mind.

As happens with Intrepid’s readings, the success of the performances resides in the audience’s willingness to engage and experience theatre in a new and imaginative way. Danielle says that A Number is the perfect choice for a reading series.

“Churchill’s imagination is incredibly powerful and theatrical, and the piece is inspiring in the depth it achieves in such a short period of time,” says Danielle. “The audience can expect to be surprised, to be swept along, to puzzle out a compelling mystery. They can expect to hear two fantastic actors bring to life a unique and fascinating play.”

“If plays were coffee,” she adds, “this one would be something strong and Turkish in a tiny cup.”

A Number by Caryl Churchill, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, May 19. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a reading series subscription.

Encinitas Library