Category Archives: Production
The San Diego Union-Tribune invited our blog writer, Tiffany Tang, to continue writing her “Macbeth Actor’s Diary” installments in the Sunday Arts Section of the paper, starting January 26 and continuing through February 16. She will be documenting a behind-the-scenes perspective on Intrepid’s 13th production and Season Four finale. Check out her first installment!
Actor’s Diary: Summoning the ‘sisters’
Intrepid Shakespeare cast member Tiffany Tang talks ‘Macbeth’
By Tiffany Tang, Special to the U-T
January 26, 2014
I peer at page one of my “Macbeth” script and realize that the notes I have scrawled in the margin are utterly undecipherable.
Do we go on the light flash or the cracking noise?
Sigh. Computers have destroyed my ability to create legible penmanship.
I am seated in the fourth row of the Liggett Theater and, as usual, I am flanked by the two other members of my newly founded triumvirate, Savvy Scopelleti and Erin Petersen. Together, we are the Weird Sisters. Like “Heathers” without the color-blocking, we roam rehearsals cackling at private jokes and creating stories about other characters in the play.
Except today. Today, we are gearing up for our first full-cast run-through, and since the witches are charged with that teeny tiny task of opening the entire show, I want to make sure we get this part right.
“So, we go on the light flash?” I ask aloud.
Savvy nods and then whispers something in my ear about a bloody pilot’s thumb. I glance at Erin. Already in witchy telepathic sync, we all smile simultaneously. Christy’s gonna love that.
Although the three of us have been friends for a few years now, the depth of this particular camaraderie still surprises me. When I last met these two on stage, it was during Intrepid’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 2010. I played Lady Capulet, and Savvy was a fierce mama bear Nurse, uber-protective of Erin, who played Juliet.
During that show, our backstage conversations consisted mostly of strategically thrown dirty looks. Now, I have been invited to “rehearsal sleepovers” and find I am part of a creepy underworld posse.
Despite the fact that I am constantly conjuring demonic deeds, things seem friendlier for me in Scotland than they were in Italy.
Christy Yael-Cox, our director, begins the rehearsal, emphasizing that tonight will be a “stumble-through,” which basically means she would like for us all to let ourselves off of our proverbial perfectionistic hooks. The collective breath of relief that ripples through the theater is audible.
Savvy and Erin and I set ourselves onstage. Until this point, the cast has been rehearsing separately in tribes of thanes, Scottish royalty, and supernatural beings, respectively. So, in this moment, we don’t really know what to expect from one another. I have no idea how Sandy Campbell will summon her murdering ministers, nor what kind of king Danny Campbell will prove to be, and I can feel curious eyes upon the witches as we find our places.
This makes sense. Historically, the three witches have been interpreted as everything from giggling schoolgirls to herbalist hags to sexy apparitions. What will our witches turn out to be?
Please let us be scary, I think to myself as I nestle my head into Erin’s shoulder blades, cursing my tendency to end-gain under pressure.
This first scene goes quick as lightning. I relax a bit, confident in what we have brought to the table.
We reappear a few scenes later for our first Macbeth meet and greet. Let’s just say this scene is a more humbling experience. Some staging needs to be reset, and intentions need to be clarified. It will be back to the drawing board at our next rehearsal with Christy.
Act One ends and Monica Perfetto, our stage manager, calls for a break. Erin and Savvy and I lean into each other, conspiring, plotting, wondering if we should include militaristic combat rolls in our blocking.
Andrew Moore, a San Dieguito Academy intern who will be playing Young Siward, approaches our trio.
“You guys are terrifying!” he announces.
We resist the urge to do a group high five and instead smile graciously.
If you ask the cast of Charles Busch’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, which will open Intrepid’s 2014 Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library this evening, how rehearsals have been going, you will find that they’ve all had a similar experience.
“I’m just trying to get through the scenes without laughing,” says Linda Libby, who will be playing Marjorie Taub, the title character of the play. “It’s very unprofessional.”
Linda joins a stellar cast this evening in this story about an Upper West Side socialite who craves the richness of a life filled with culture and substance, yet finds herself paralyzed by her own neurosis. Trina Kaplan portrays Marjorie’s mother, Frieda, and Gabriel Mario Cornejo, will break from his stage direction duties to step in as Mohammed, the doorman. Jill Drexler will play Lee Green, a childhood friend who arrives on Marjorie’s doorstep. Ruff Yeager rounds out the cast as Dr. Ira Taub, Marjorie’s allergist husband.
While most of these actors are veterans of Intrepid’s Reading Series, this marks Jill and Gabriel’s debut.
“We’ve all been wanting to work together for a long time,” says Jill with a smile.
Ruff Yeager, who also sits on Intrepid’s Staged Reading Committee and will direct tonight’s reading, says that picking this play to open this year’s series was not a difficult choice.
“It’s a funny play with a lot of surprises,” he says. “I think audiences will be comforted by the familiarity of the family dynamics. The fun of this script is watching this family, who thinks they are very balanced, become completely unbalanced.”
“We get to watch characters go places that most people would never go, even though they might entertain the idea,” says Linda. “Then we get to watch them work out how life continues after that. There’s a passionate neurosis about each of these characters.”
Passion is the name of the game in this “tale,” and even though the issues at hand may seem trifling to an outside audience, the ferocity with which these characters pursue their needs inspires both awe as well as humor.
This can be both great fun and a great challenge for an actor, however.
“The lines are familiar, ones you would hear in your own home,” says Trina. “But one thing you don’t want to do is play the comedy.”
“Charles Busch is a master,” says Ruff. “You have to play the reality of the situation and the high stakes that are written in. The comedy takes care of itself.”
With a note of warning, the cast also clarifies that the humor can lean towards mature audiences. Trina is frank about how many “F-bombs” she uses during the course of the play.
“That’s Yiddish, right?” Gabriel jokes.
“Also,” chimes in Ruff, “clothing will be removed. We can’t tell you what clothing, though.”
With all of these laughs, it’s hard to imagine this cast having more fun performing this reading than they are having in rehearsals. But if there’s one thing aside from the humor that we can expect from this play, they say, it’s the surprises.
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife by Charles Busch, a staged reading, will be held at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, January 27. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please rsvp to email@example.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets in advance. $15.
Macbeth. Macbeth. Macbeth.
Chat with anyone in theatre about “The Scottish Play,” and inevitably there will be some hesitation in saying the actual name aloud.
After all, that is how curses tend to go.
Once upon a time in 1606, the actor who played the first Lady Macbeth died of a fever backstage and a curse was born. Since that time, there have been records of ill-fated actors and production crew with each incarnation of the play, the bad luck often attributed to the “authentic” witches’ chants, the general bloody mayhem of this dark and twisted play, and low lighting.
The cast of Intrepid’s upcoming Macbeth has been dealing in darkness and magic for weeks now as they navigate the swamps of Scotland, sorting out the political intrigue and wiping blood from their hands. But, how did they manage to overcome the curse?
The modern day translation of the superstition goes something like this: You are not allowed to say the word in a theater. If you do, you are required to leave the theatre, turn around three times, spit, swear, and knock to be let back in.
If you are not an actor this may sound ludicrous. If you are an actor, you most likely have one or two or five stories of undertaking these actions yourself or forcing someone else to do so.
There is a loophole. Superstition also says that there are major curse-exceptions if a company is actually performing the play.
Director Christy Yael-Cox was never hesitant about dropping the “M”-bomb from the beginning of the process, and while the rest of the cast seemed relieved to follow suit, that hesitancy to utter the word still remained for some.
What to do? There was only one answer.
Meet the cast of Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth:
“They’re still in there,” she says to me, motioning towards the theater. I nod.
For once, it seems that I am a few minutes early, and while we wait the three of us chat about “American Horror Story: Coven” and whether or not we should schedule a viewing for research purposes. We are interrupted when the theater door opens and Brian Rickel, the actor playing Malcolm, steps into the lobby, packing his script into his bag and calling out thank yous behind him. Savvy and Erin and I look at each other.
Even though my fellow witches and I are eager to get down to spell casting, there is one important bridge we must cross before we can begin any cauldron-circling rehearsals: Table work with the dramaturge.
Table work is a highly technical term used in the theatre to refer to the intricate script analysis work that takes place…while sitting at a table. Literally. We all sit down and go over the script together.
While this may seem like a superfluous step in the rehearsal process, it is actually one of the most important elements of putting together a play – especially when working with Shakespeare. It is crucial that all of the actors exist in the same world when they hit the stage for rehearsals, and the development of that world starts with the words.
Dr. Gideon Rappaport, our passionate dramaturge with more Shakespearean research accomplishments on his CV than I can wrap my head around, is already in place at said table when I arrive. He sits on one side with Director Christy Yael-Cox, and, as if we are about to compete in our own mini academic decathlon, Erin Petersen, Savvy Scopelleti, and I take the seats opposite them.
I pull my Macbeth script out of my bag, along with a Bevington edition of the play and, lastly, my First Folio edition of the complete works.
This last is by far my favorite Shakespeare reference book. It’s a worthy tome, hefty in weight as it is in substance, and was edited by my grad school Shakespeare professor, the late Doug Moston. Its cornflower blue cover is worn at the edges, a testament to years of transport and love. From this book, I have learned to unlock the directorial notes Shakespeare has buried in the lines of his characters. Yes, that capital letter is there for a reason. Yes, the discrepancies in spelling are purposeful. No, I can’t always read the 1623 typeset, but it gives me comfort to have it nearby.
I sharpen my pencil. Since the Weird Sisters open the play, we all turn to page one of our scripts.
The key to the witches, says Gideon immediately, is their specific rhythm and meter. Whereas the “normal” speech pattern for most of the characters in the Shakespeare canon is iambic pentameter (think heartbeat rhythm), the witches experiment with an incomplete trochaic tetrameter (think the opposite of a heartbeat rhythm) and accents of iambic trimeter. What all of that basically means is that the witches are going to sound unnatural without us having to do anything but say the words.
Surprisingly, Shakespeare often makes an actor’s job pretty easy.
Before too long, the three of us are finding our voices, and after some stops and starts and corrections, we begin to recite the lines in unison, overemphasizing the rhythm and meter, ensuring that our eventual memorization incorporates the spine-chilling cadence of this specific chant.
After lengthy discussions about our lines, the multi-layered meanings of certain expressions and word choices, and the breakdown of our sentence structures, the three witches spend the balance of the time peppering Gideon and Christy with questions about everything from the nature of our corporeal existence to the political structure of the demonic underworld we serve. We also spend a lot of time on one question in particular that may or may not have a clear answer in this moment: what are we here to accomplish and why?
I look at my script at the end of our hour-long session and review the hastily scribbled marginal notes: “falsehood,” “anti-trinity,” “conduit,” “this toad is very demanding.”
Erin and Savvy and I take deep breaths as we leave the table, slightly overwhelmed by how we are going to translate all of this information into our expression of this dark trio. It is immediately clear that there is only one thing to do between now and our next rehearsal.
We must have a witchy research slumber party.
We agree on a date and time, but before we depart I make one request, “American Horror Story” on my mind.
“No scary movies, okay?” I call to them across the parking lot, and the irony is not lost on me when I explain. “They freak me out.”
– Tiffany Tang
Look for further installments of Tiffany’s “Actor’s Diary” in the Arts Section of this Sunday’s edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune, beginning January 26 and continuing on Sundays through February 16. Macbeth previews begin January 31. Tickets can be purchased here.
I’m late, I think as I delicately barrel down the Santa Fe off ramp in Encinitas. The first rehearsal of Intrepid Shakespeare’s Macbeth begins in five minutes and even though I am three minutes away, there is one cardinal rule of the theatre world: Early is on time. On time is late.
I semi-screech into the parking lot at San Dieguito Academy, with whom Intrepid shares the multi-million dollar performing arts venue. I park. I make a new year’s resolution to leave earlier. I take a deep breath.
I don’t care how experienced of an actor you are, there is a certain weight of anticipation that accompanies the first full cast read-through of a script. This is the first time the entire company is assembled. This is the moment when you meet your fellow colleagues, designers, directors. And as an actor, this is your first opportunity to “shine,” even though, in truth, absolutely nothing is expected from you.
My head races with the inevitable paranoia: Will they like me? Will they think me talented? Prepared enough? Too prepared? Is my scansion correct? Will they be able to tell? Wait, I can’t remember if I am supposed to pronounce the “t” in “fillet.”
I have an MFA in Acting, and yet tonight I am absurdly concerned that my potentially unimpressive delivery of what is basically a recipe for really gnarly jambalaya is going to blacklist me from the San Diego acting community as an untalented fraud.
Welcome to the headspace of an actor.
Today, I am a witch. Witch #2, to be exact, thank you very much, get it right. I have performed in seven Shakespeare productions in my lifetime, one of which has been Macbeth. This last performance was in 2000 on the Lower East Side of New York City with the Cry Havoc Company. In this incarnation, I was also a witch, although technically a “witch familiar,” which basically meant I was a sex-tainted surrogate-witch who would handle all of the human interaction, leaving the “real witches” to do the behind-the-scenes spell casting stuff. In short, I got to vamp around the stage in shiny silver pants and red lipstick. I expect this production of Macbeth to be…different from that.
This time, I am a full-fledged witch in the company of two formidable actors: Savvy Scopelleti and Erin Petersen. I know these women. I know these women well. The first play I was cast in upon my return to San Diego in 2010 was Intrepid’s Romeo and Juliet, where I played Lady Capulet to Erin’s Juliet, with Savvy holding ranks as her maternal nurse confidante.
Needless to say, this time I am looking forward to being on the inside of the inside jokes.
I enter the theater. The space is bare except for a few long tables center stage and a plethora of chairs. Everyone is here: actors, production crew, interns. A diverse mix of these factions mill about, chatting and hugging. Dramaturge Gideon Rappaport sits at the table, surrounded by his own copies of Macbeth, pouring over the Intrepid script, his pencil moving quickly. Monica Perfetto, stage manager extraordinaire, is passing out scripts.
The production crew is settling at one end of the table. The San Dieguito Academy interns are starting to fill in the house seats. I notice that Savvy is already seated at the table and has marked out chairs next to her for Erin and me. This is indeed going to be different, I think, taking my place with the same glow I would display had my seventh grade BFF saved me a spot at the popular kids’ cafeteria lunch table.
I peruse the gang, waving hellos. I know a few people in this cast, I realize. Tyler, who will play Lennox, did a production of New Play Café’s Simply Sci Fi with me at Big Kitchen this summer. Danny Campbell, who will play Duncan, and Dr. Robert Biter, who will play Ross, both worked with me on Terra Nova, an Intrepid staged reading, in 2011. Others, I am not familiar with, but I know that inevitably by the end of this process, we will be best buds. People wonder why I have so many Facebook friends. This is why.
Sandy Campbell, who will play the coveted role of Lady Macbeth, seats herself a few places down from me. I watch her stalker-like for a moment as she settles into her chair. Was anyone ever so graceful?
Savvy turns to me suddenly and launches into a summary of her current witch-related research. I hesitate, glancing furtively around the room. Having this conversation would be the geekdom equivalent of showing up with my lines memorized. No one likes an overachiever. But soon, we are bandying about demonology, 16th century herbalist, dissonant musical interval, and Greek mythological figure factoids. My inner nerd gains a little confidence. I start talking animatedly about Furies. Two chairs down, Tyler eyes us with curiosity. So much for operating on the geeky down low.
Christy steps up to the table, now strewn with script and reference book and water bottle accouterment, and announces the plan for the evening. I settle in. I let go of my expectations for this evening, for myself. My nerves begin to dissipate, the same way that I know they will in that moment before I step onstage for opening night in a few weeks’ time. Because, after all, tonight is just another kind of beginning.
Macbeth previews January 31. Tickets can be purchased here. Look for further installments of Tiffany’s rehearsal chronicle in the Sunday Arts Section of the San Diego Union-Tribune, beginning January 26.
When someone says “theatre camp,” there are certain ideas that immediately spring to mind: fun, friendship, laughter, marshmallows. Erin Petersen, however, one of the main teachers of last summer’s inaugural sessions of Camp Intrepid, offers a different idea.
“Drama camp is a safe sanctuary where kids will be praised for thinking outside of the box,” Erin says. “Kids can be super hard on themselves about their performance and how they feel, especially now with everyone being bullied. The theatre is a creative place to go to escape from that pressure.”
Camp Intrepid represents the evolution of Intrepid Shakespeare’s Education Department, which currently includes year-round school tours and seasonal adult classes taught by local theatre professionals, including Intrepid Artistic Directors Sean and Christy Yael-Cox and special guest artists, like comedic actor Phil Johnson.
Last summer, Sean and Christy were overwhelmed by the positive response from both campers and parents to the first camp sessions of the summer. Some kids even enrolled in multiple sessions in order to continue their theatre experience.
“She’s addicted,” said Whitney DeSpain, of her daughter Abby’s interest in theatre, which grew even more during her multiple camp sessions. Abby was recently invited to perform in A Christmas Carol, Intrepid’s 2013 Staged Reading Series finale at the Encinitas Library.
Because of the wild popularity of the summer camp, Intrepid has created a winter incarnation of Camp Intrepid’s Young Actors Theatre Camp, with sessions starting January 10 and February 21 at the Encinitas Community Center. The winter camp will meet Friday afternoons and will run for five weeks. As with the summer camp, each session will culminate in a performance. (Click here for registration information.)
While it may seem daunting, putting together an entire show in such a short amount of time is exhilarating for campers, says Erin.
“The kids almost seem surprised at how good their shows go. There is always that moment of wondering if it’s going to be a train wreck and then realizing that, no, they’re actually really good at it.”
“It goes to show how much these kids care,” she continues. “This summer, the campers really took it upon themselves to know their character, their lines, and have it all motivated to make their end product the best it could be.”
While the admiration in Erin’s voice is clear, she is also adamant that it is not the performance that is the most important part of the theatre camp experience. It is the tools the campers learn to use while rehearsing and performing that matter.
“Everything we work on shows up in all different aspects of life,” she says. “For instance, public speaking, teamwork, confidence-building are all tools you can use even if you don’t choose to do theatre in the future.”
For that reason, kids of all theatre experience levels are welcome, and the balance of the newcomers with the more seasoned actors provide a chance for campers to learn from each other as well as from their professional teachers. This diversity made the summer productions sing – both literally and metaphorically.
“A lot of the campers had done some musical theatre, but in every camp there was at least one or two kids who had never done it before,” explains Erin. “There was always one or two who were terrified on the first day. Eventually, they rose to every challenge that we threw at them, and there was a lot – costumes, sets, tech. We try not to take away the magic of the theatre, but rather show them what’s behind the curtain, and how we use these tools to put it together.”
In turn, Intrepid also learned about its own ability to run a theatre camp, which – just like theatre – came with its own set of surprises.
“No matter how much you prepare, you are never prepared,” laughs Erin. “The unthinkable will always happen – for instance, bee stings. But we were able to roll with everything.”
Now Intrepid is eager to take their summer offering a step further, perhaps inspired by one young camper who announced he would be starting a petition for year-round drama camp.
“The camp surpassed our expectations,” says Sean, who is also Intrepid’s Director of Education. “We were all amazed at how much the kids could accomplish in such a short amount of time. Now we see that people are asking for it so we will do our best to deliver.”
– Tiffany Tang
Located at the Encinitas Community Center, 1140 Oakcrest Park Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024. Fridays 3:30p – 5:00p, Session One: Jan 10 – Feb 7; Session Two: Feb 21 – Mar 21; Cost: $190/session. Register here.
“As sad as Scrooge is in the beginning of his journey, there is just as much joy at the end. It’s a joyful thing to see someone really change and change for the better. It’s one of the most uplifting things to see in your life.”
Ron Choularton, who has played the character of Ebenezer Scrooge over 25 times, never tires of delving into the true meaning of Dickens’ oft-performed ghost story. He will again be gracing the stage at the Encinitas Library this Saturday evening as Intrepid presents its 2013 Staged Reading Series finale, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by local actors Brian Mackey and Rachael van Wormer.
“It’s the story of a second chance,” adds Ron.
Read more about Ron’s Scrooge and Brian Mackey’s direction here.
In addition to enjoying the last staged reading of 2013, please explore the shows on the docket for Intrepid Shakespeare’s Season Five. Subscriptions to our mainstage productions make the perfect holiday gift! Additionally, we will have subscriptions to the 2014 Staged Reading Series available, as well as gift certificates for our adult classes in Shakespeare and scene study. Bring home some theatre this holiday season and help support our growing programs which bring Shakespeare into the classroom. Thank you and happy holidays!
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens will be read on Saturday, December 14, at the Encinitas Library (540 Cornish Drive). 530 pm holiday reception, 600 pm reading. $15. Please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org
From the moment Gala Chair Dr. Lynne Thrope and Intrepid Board Member Kathy Brombacher enter the room, it is obvious why Intrepid picked these two to help create its first major fundraising event – a grand gala at a luxurious private residence in La Costa. In between checking off lists and fielding phone calls, the two chat easily about their own history of theatre memories – shows they’ve seen together, actors they love, critics they disagree with, and even the road trips they’ve taken in the name of art (ask them about their evening with Stephen Sondheim!). But aside from the fact that they are longtime theatre-going companions, both Kathy and Lynne are also notable names in the creation and support of San Diego’s vibrant theatre community.
When asked to bring Intrepid’s vision of a gala event to life, they both avidly voiced their support of the theatre company’s critically-acclaimed performances and youth-inspiring programming. Their efforts will culminate on Sunday evening amid glamorous dresses, glitzy auction items, and swanky musical fanfare.
“It is going to be fabulous,” says Lynne. “I love the planning and collaboration and we have such seasoned people on the committee. It’s coming together beautifully.”
Lynne and Kathy meet in Lynne’s office, which is lined with local theatre memorabilia – statements of her unwavering support of the San Diego stages. As an education and language arts specialist, Lynne has been working with students in the community for decades, developing techniques to open their minds to the world of words. It is not surprising that Lynne is so supportive of Intrepid’s educational programs – all of which will benefit from this weekend’s gala auction – since Shakespeare so often makes an appearance in her office.
“I think Sean and Christy recognize that they are reaching the next generation of theatre-goer and how important it is to expose them to the possibilities of theatre to help us understand who we are in a complex world,” says Lynne. ”Kids need to be exposed to the arts because it really defines us as a culture and a civilization.”
“Intrepid kind of shakes up Shakespeare and delivers it for a contemporary audience,” says Kathy, who recently wrapped her 30+-year stint running Moonlight Stage Productions. “I’ve seen lots of Hamlets. But the most memorable one – visually and textually and emotionally – was the Hamlet at Intrepid. It was astounding.”
So, what’s in store for festive theatre patrons on Sunday?
The evening will begin with a tasty culinary spread as guests are welcomed into the gala. In lieu of a silent auction, a handful of items that will be available for a raffle “opportunity,” including an elusive gift card to the San Diego-based Cohn Restaurant Group, as well as gift certificates to other local dining establishments like the scenic Top of the Market and Del Mar’s decadent Pamplemousse Grill.
A definite highlight of the evening will be the live auction, hosted by local actor and photographer Daren Scott, and featuring items such as a private makeup intensive with Peter Herman and Kathleen Kenna (complete with wine and cheese), an elegant dinner party prepared by local actor Jim Chovick (who knew he was a gourmet?) and a coveted walk-on role in Intrepid’s Season Four finale, Macbeth.
The evening will culminate with a singing performance featuring the sensational Four Divas: Leigh Skarritt, Kürt Norby, Jacob Caltrider, and Sandy Campbell with Taylor Peckham tickling the ivories on the residence’s grand piano (and perhaps throwing in some of his own surprise musical treats). Lastly, Intrepid will reveal the much-anticipated Season Five lineup.
The gala committee has also enlisted the help of local designer Julie Ustin to infuse the venue with festive decor. “That was a coup,” says Lynne. “She is going to make everything look beautiful.”
Julie’s inspiration for the gala decor? Intrepid’s upcoming production of Macbeth. Expect adult beverages in the form of a fancy witch’s brew.
The gala promises to be nothing short of celebratory, for both what Intrepid has accomplished on stage and in schools – as well as for what the company will become. Both Kathy and Lynne are excited to be a part of that.
“This is the first of many events we will work on for Intrepid,” says Kathy, clearly settling into her new position on the Intrepid Board of Directors.
“And I’m hoping to get the walk-on for Macbeth,” she adds with a wink.
– Tiffany Tang
To purchase tickets for Sunday’s Gala Fundraiser, click here or call (760) 295-7541. $50 per person, $80 per couple, $150 for a special “Music Maker” ticket.
Fran Gercke, Brian Mackey, Shana Wride, and Ruff Yeager sit at a table. No, they are not planning world domination via the theatre, although given the breadth and depth of their collective experience, that task would not be too far out of their reach.
Instead, they are thoughtfully pondering a lengthy list of plays, both classical and contemporary, written by a wide range of playwrights. They have been tasked with one simple challenge.
When Intrepid first opened its doors in 2009, along with the mainstage productions came the idea of staged readings – opportunities to hear plays in an intimate setting, presented by accomplished actors, lead by passionate directors, and accented with flavorful wine and tasty hors d’oeuvres.
The success of these sporadic readings was so much that, this time last year, the City of Encinitas offered Intrepid a standing spot in the ocean-view community reading room at the Encinitas Library in which to present an yearlong season of staged readings.
“Intrepid is helping us realize this longstanding preference of the residents to experience live theatre,” said City of Encinitas Arts Administrator Jim Gilliam of the city’s first and only professional theatre company.
Now, one year later, as 2013 and the inaugural season of the Staged Reading Series winds to a close, Intrepid and the City can see a plethora of accomplishments in the creative wake of this communal endeavor.
Among the playwrights featured this year were the likes of Moisés Kaufman, Jane Anderson, John Patrick Shanley, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, and, of course, William Shakespeare. The monthly readings on the whole hired more than 80 talented local actors, as well as eight directors culled from the most influential players across San Diego’s ever-expanding theatre scene.
For many, participation in a staged reading marked a debut with the company. Other faces were more recognizable to the subscribers who regularly attended the readings as well as the mainstage productions. Audiences embraced the readings, returned month after month, and were rarely hesitant to offer standing ovations at the conclusion of any given evening.
With this success of the series, the City was eager to renew the staged reading series contract with Intrepid for 2014. However, Artistic Directors Sean and Christy Yael-Cox knew that if Intrepid was to commit to another year, they had to harness and build upon the sense of community involvement the readings had inspired.
That’s when the idea of a Staged Reading Committee came into being. Instead of Sean and Christy deciding the playlist for a year, the reading series would be handled by a team of respected actors and directors who, from the benefit of their varied perspectives, would create, direct, and cast the 2014 season of staged readings for Intrepid.
Cut to the lengthy list of plays. While these four San Diego theatre notables may be scratching their heads about the 2014 compilation, one thing is certain. They are all excited to be at the table.
“I love the idea of committee-based theatre,” says Shana Wride, who directed the reading of Yasmina Reza’s “Life(x)3” this year. “To be part of a group of like-minded talented people and be allowed such a wonderful creative outlet is a real treat.”
In addition to choosing plays that are favorites, the team has endeavored to pick selections that are new to them and, hopefully, to audiences. This is one of the advantages of working as an ensemble and acquainting fellow committee-members with unfamiliar plays.
Fran Gercke, most recently seen as John in Intrepid’s mainstage production of “Oleanna,” says this is one of the best parts of the process.
“I am excited about the ability to read new work and hopefully introduce the audience to a whole host of characters and a whole world they’ve not known before, about which they’ve no ideas, no preconceptions,” says Fran, who directed the reading of Sam Shepard’s “Geography of a Horse-Dreamer” this past year. “It’s always fun when there’s a thriller aspect, a who-done-it quality to every story so that you’re always wondering where is this going and how is this going to end. New stories provide that.”
While a staged reading is rehearsed, it is comparatively easier to present than a mainstage show. Therefore, the opportunity to perform big budget plays in this simplified environment – leaving much to the imagination – is also appealing.
“It is amazing to me how just listening to a play can, and has, elicited such strong, positive responses from audience members,” says Brian Mackey, who directs the yearly reading of “A Christmas Carol,” the reading series season finale.
Fran agrees. “I get caught up in staged readings because they invite me, almost magically and with little effort, to imagine much of what is happening,” he says. “That’s not so common anymore.”
From collaboration to imagination, the staged reading series is ultimately an opportunity to do the thing that everyone loves to do.
Ruff Yeager, who portrayed John Barrymore in this year’s reading of Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet,” says it simply. “I am looking forward to working with incredible actors on a play I really love.”
Add in a little wine and cheese, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a successful 2014 Staged Reading Series.
– Tiffany Tang
Intrepid’s 2014 Staged Reading Series
presented at the Encinitas Library
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife by Charles Busch
Abundance by Beth Henley
In a Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute
Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
A Number by Caryl Churchill
Private Lives by Noel Coward
Defiance by John Patrick Shanley
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by Tennessee Williams
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
Seminar by Theresa Rebeck
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”
Julius Caesar utters this famous line in Act One of Shakespeare’s tragedy, blissfully unaware that fault and fate would soon play large parts in his own destiny. In this Monday’s staged reading of Julius Caesar, fault and fate are two questions Director Jason Rennie knows better than to tackle directly.
“I have always been very intrigued by the play and it took a while to figure out why I was drawn to it,” says Jason. “I think it’s mostly because the ambiguity is so appealing to me.”
That ambiguity is what has made this particular tragedy so memorable for audiences, and at the same time so challenging for actors and directors. Even though acts of savagery abound, the clarity of right and wrong in this political arena is not so absolute. Sympathy, surprisingly, falls on the backs of unexpected characters. The lines in the sand are blurry.
While this is Jason’s first foray into directing Julius Caesar, he has been through this story as an actor more than once.
“My drive to want to do this play stems from the frustration I’ve had as an actor,” he explains, citing the questions the story raises about politics, patriotism, and power. “The play itself doesn’t take one side or the other as far as the central conflict is concerned. All these characters, even the antagonists or the minor functionaries, are all drawn with ambiguity. It’s plausible to see them on one side or the other of that conflict, and you can easily sympathize one way or the other.”
In fact, he states, a more accurate title would probably be The Tragedy of Marcus Brutus, the character on whom most of the moral ambiguity falls during the course of the story.
“Brutus feels patriotic and wants to combat tyranny,” explains Jason, “but at the same time he’s thinking of committing murder. Can you ever truly justify and sanctify murder? I think none of those questions are actually answered within the play.”
Shakespeare plays his political cards close to the vest on this one, which makes sense, given that the play is perceived as a veiled critique of the Elizabethan monarchy. The fascination with Rome in the late 1500s provided an apt backdrop to the perceived overreaching power of Queen Elizabeth’s self-proclaimed deific reign.
“Elizabeth was starting to equate herself with that divinity and an immortal type of ruler, which was extremely hubristic,” says Jason. “It was a very hot political issue at the time.”
For us in modern times, the play still carries a critique – not of monarchy, necessarily, but of patriotism and the lengths to which it will be cited as justification for untoward acts.
“What is the motive when you invoke patriotism?” Jason asks. “Is it to justify an act that you personally don’t feel you can stand behind without it? And who’s to judge?”
Indeed, many of these questions have arisen within our current political climate, not just domestically, but globally. While Shakespeare writes sympathetic characters on both sides of the issue in Julius Caesar, the dialogue is the same as the one we are currently having around the world.
“A lot of the political issues that have been front page issues over the last few years can be boiled down to the same types of things,” says Jason, commenting that Julius Caesar could be performed against a backdrop of the current political landscapes of Egypt or Syria. “It’s a question of who has more power and do they deserve it?”
And with complicated questions come complicated answers. Once power is taken, what is left of the political state? It’s fine to depose a king, says Jason, but what happens afterwards? In this light, he says, Julius Caesar becomes not only a tragedy, but also a cautionary tale.
Hopefully, he and his actors can shed some light on this subject, but Jason is just as wary as Shakespeare was of actually picking sides.
“Shakespeare isn’t condoning or condemning a political assassination in Julius Caesar, but instead asking whether or not it is within the public’s power to make the decision,” clarifies Jason with a statement that, like the nature of both art and politics, perhaps generates more questions than it does answers.
– Tiffany Tang
Julius Caesar, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, November 18. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please rsvp to email@example.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets in advance. $15.