Tag Archives: Sean Yael-Cox

Meet the Macbeths

Macbeth is our 13th production and Season Four finale, running January 31-February 2. In this behind-the-scenes peek, Sandy Campbell and Sean Yael-Cox, our Scottish power couple, discuss the secrets to pulling off dark deeds.

Meet the Macbeths:

Tickets available here. Showtimes are Wednesdays-Thursdays at 730 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 and 7 pm.

macbeth page

A Year of Choosing Wisely: Intrepid Announces Its 2014 Staged Reading Series

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.

Pick 12.

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.

Fran Gercke

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.

Brian Mackey

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.

Shana Wride

“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.”

Ruff Yeager

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

Intrepid Goes Academic: Fall Classes Start Tomorrow

Fall is upon us – the chill is in the air, the holiday preparation is underway, the scarves are out of their summer hiding spots. While Intrepid Shakespeare finds itself between shows at this time of year, that doesn’t mean that Artistic Directors Sean and Christy Yael-Cox are taking extended vacations. Far from it. Beginning tomorrow, both will start teaching fall classes at the theater.

“It’s a nice time of year,” says Sean, who is also Intrepid’s Director of Education. “We are in pre-production for Macbeth and gearing up to announce our fifth season and our 2014 reading series.” Believe it or not, in the land of Intrepid, this is what qualifies as “downtime.” Fortunately for experienced actors in need of a tune up or new faces needing a landing place, this is also the perfect time for Intrepid to offer a selection of classes revolving around Shakespeare, public speaking, comedy, and scene study.

Christy with actor Kevin Hafso Koppman during Midsummer rehearsals. Photo: Tiffany Tang

While Sean will helm two of the classes, The Play’s the Thing: Intermediate Scene Study will be taught by Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox. “It’s a great opportunity for people to work with Christy,” says Sean of the woman who has directed or co-directred the entirety of Intrepid’s productions this year, all of which were honored with Critics’ Choice. “She rarely has time to teach classes, so those who are signed up for this one are really lucky.”

In order to register for Christy’s class, at least one year of training is required, or experience acting in at least one production. Christy will be tackling both Shakespeare and modern scenes with her actors, and describes the class as ideal for those who want to work on their craft.

“It’s like a mini-rehearsal session with her,” says Sean.

If a more intensive Shakespeare experience is the goal, Sean will be teaching a class on approaching and acting the Bard for new and experienced actors.

“It’s amazing when I talk to seasoned actors in town and mention our upcoming Shakespeare auditions,” says Sean, who played the title role in Hamlet earlier this year. “Even the most experienced actors have said that they would love to audition, but Shakespeare scares them.”

Sean as Hamlet, Season Three
Photo: Daren Scott

In light of this, Sean feels it is important to bring Shakespeare down from its unreachable, scholarly pedestal and tap into its origins.

“When he was alive, his plays were popular with everybody,” explains Sean. “People forget that Shakespeare wrote for everyone.”

If there’s any fear that four weeks of Shakespeare will be entirely lecture-based, Sean is quick to dispel that. “We’ll be discovering the material by doing,” he says. In other words, be prepared to get on your feet.

Sean’s Shakespeare session is open to new and experienced actors, and he is quick to assure participants that both are necessary to the process of unpacking this playwright.

“Everyone learns so much by watching other actors in class,” he says. “It’s actually really nice when there’s different levels.”

Both The Play’s the Thing: Intermediate Scene Study and Willpower: A Shakespeare Class will commence this weekend and run on Sundays for four weeks. There is still time to register for limited available spots.

Also on the fall docket is Phil Johnson’s A Master Class on Comedy, which will take place November 24. Public Speaking with Sean will begin November 3 for two sessions.

Classes will be held on Intrepid’s mainstage theatre, the Clayton E. Liggett, on the campus of San Dieguito Academy. For more information on fall classes, click here.

– Tiffany Tang

 

Phil Johnson, Master of the Comedi-verse

Phil Johnson to teach a master class on comedy

“I think about comedy all day and all night.”

Phil Johnson, most recently seen this summer as Bottom in Intrepid Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical,” admits this obsession without hesitation.

“I probably need a twelve step group for my love of it,” he adds.

In lieu of addiction therapy, Phil Johnson will instead be putting this passion to good use by sharing it with others. Along with Artistic Directors Christy and Sean Yael-Cox, Phil will be an instructor in Intrepid’s brand new offering of fall classes.

What will he be teaching? A master class on comedy, of course.

A comedic stage veteran, Phil has shone on the San Diego stage for more than 15 years, racking up starring turns on the city’s major stages, and receiving a Craig Noel Award this year from the San Diego Critics’ Circle for his rendition of Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came To Dinner.” Aside from his stints in Los Angeles writing with the Acme Comedy Theatre, his grant from the San Diego Foundation for the Arts to develop his comedy solo show version of “Hound of Baskervilles,” and his comedy/cabaret fellowship with the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, his most impressive comedic credit is probably his run as the tavern-owning criminal Thérnardier in the Broadway production and the national tour of “Les Misérables.”

While continuing to develop projects in town, Phil is also eager to share the tips and pointers that his own comedic gurus have taught him over the years. A master class for Intrepid Shakespeare seems the perfect fit.

Phil as Bottom
Photo credit: Daren Scott

“I have a great enthusiasm for good actors who are also good comedians,” he says. “It’s thrilling and exciting to go to the theatre and be impressed by someone who can do both sides of the coin. Plus, I love Sean and Christy, and I would love for there to be a whole bunch of good, funny actors in San Diego for me to play with all the time.”

The three-hour master class will be geared towards professional working actors; however, theatre lovers are also welcome to enroll. While some actors may shy away from comedic training, Phil maintains that the funny bits are completely accessible to even the most dramatic of thespians.

“So many people think it’s separate from them, so they’re not using all the tools in their toolbox,” he says. “Almost any good actor can be a good comedian. It’s about details and intention and thinking things through.”

To that end, he plans to organize the class around a checklist – particulars that the actor can pay attention to in order to achieve the maximum comedic effect from his or her scenes.

“If the audience is laughing, then they are following your story,” explains Phil. “If they aren’t, then you need to shake things up.”

This is why he loves previews, he says, which is that time during the run of a show when things can still be adjusted after receiving input from the audience’s reaction each evening.  “I get to see what works and what doesn’t before opening.”

Phil Johnson with Jacqueline Ritz
Photo credit: Daren Scott

This willingness to continually pursue the perfection of comedic timing is part of paying attention to the details. This is something Phil learned from his comedic stints in theatre, his own teachers, and also from a childhood spent watching the greats: Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, and Jonathan Winters. Honoring the legacy of comedy is something he feels is fundamental to its study.

“I think one thing that young people don’t do often enough is watch the old stuff. They don’t know who Bette Davis or Rock Hudson are,” says Phil. ”Comedy is so much an homage to what’s come before.”

Studying the legends is one way to keep one’s skills polished and in tune, but nothing beats the experience of a class. “I wish I had had someone to give me a tune up every once in a while,” he says. “You can always be funnier.”

And what if you are rather nervous about taking a master class in comedy?

“Don’t worry,” says Phil. “Nervous people are almost always funny.”

– Tiffany Tang

A Master Class on Comedy with Phil Johnson. November 24, 6-9 pm. Clayton E. Liggett Theatre at Intrepid Shakespeare (SDA Campus). $60. Enroll here.

Wilde Ideas: A Conversation with Sean Yael-Cox, Tom Hall, and Jim Chovick

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”  – Oscar Wilde

As Sean Yael-Cox, Artistic Director of Intrepid Shakespeare, prepares to direct the company’s upcoming staged reading on Monday evening at the Encinitas Library, one question keeps reverberating in his mind:

“Why isn’t this play performed more often?”

The play in question is Moisés Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, which will be presented by a stellar cast of San Diego heavies, among them Tom Hall as Oscar Wilde and Jim Chovick as the Marquess of Queensberry.

“It feels incredibly timely and appropriate to look at this play now because it’s about human rights,” says Sean, citing the recent waves of political change with regards to equality. “It’s a strong play to do now.”

Wilde and Douglas, 1893

Kaufman’s play, assembled in a docu-drama style which lifts direct quotations from historical documents, personal letters, and creative work, follows the later years of playwright Oscar Wilde as he undergoes three lawsuits in England – one which he initiates in order to rebuke a slanderous statement made against him by the Marquess of Queensberry, and two others initiated by the government on the charges of “gross indecency” between Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, the Marquess’ son.

“A lot of people don’t know what happened to Wilde and how it ended for him,” comments Sean. “I think it says something about his writing that he is known for his wit and his charm and not remembered for the trials.”

Charged with the task of portraying Oscar Wilde is Tom Hall, most recently seen in Intrepid’s production of Hamlet as Horatio. Even though Tom describes the role as “very challenging and very daunting,” he is thankful that the authentic words of Wilde are there to provide a foundation for his real life character.

Tom Hall in Hamlet
Photo: Daren Scott

“You get a strong sense of who he was and how he carried himself through his writing,” says Tom. “Wilde wasn’t just a person. He’s a personality.”

Also recreating an historical figure is Jim Chovick, who will be portraying the Marquess as well as two different prosecuting attorneys in the reading.

“The Marquess of Queensbury is the nemesis,” says Jim, also last seen in Intrepid’s Hamlet as the Ghost. “He’s rather rough and strong arms his way through life.”

What lends credibility to these characters is that their conversations are almost entirely created from historical record, and Kaufman manages to investigate the trials with a modern perspective while maintaining the integrity of the people involved.

“It’s like a crash course history lesson, but it’s incredibly theatrical,” says Sean, who will also take a turn on stage during the reading. “It’s almost like doing an Oscar Wilde play because there are so many excerpts from his writing. It’s the beautiful poetry and a ton of humor.”

Sean Yael-Cox and Jim Chovick in Hamlet
Photo: Daren Scott

Sadly, it is the creative writings of Wilde that are also used as evidence against him when he is put on trial for his “illegal” activities with Douglas. Tom notes that because of this, it is not the actual relationship between the men that ends up under the microscope. It is Wilde’s struggle for artistic expression.

“He was really being tried for his subversive views on art, morality, and Victorian society,” says Tom. “Wilde believed in the power of art to transform man. He believed that art could change the world, could bring about peace, and all of these ideas that were revolutionary for his time.”

Jim agrees. “The playwright knew what he was doing,” he says. “Wilde isn’t defending his actions, he’s saying I’m an artist and art rises above these petty little rules.”

1895 newspaper
(c) The British Library Board

This “rule” that Wilde was ultimately found guilty of was “gross indecency” between males, and while the term was never clearly defined by Parliament, it was used to criminalize homosexuality in Victorian England. It was not repealed until 1967.

The somewhat didactic nature of this play should not be intimidating, however. Anyone familiar with Kaufman’s The Laramie Project will understand his unique ability to take facts and weave them into a compelling narrative.

“The best kind of play is one that will move you emotionally and educate you,” says Jim. “Anything that is well-written will resonate. It’s human nature.”

Rounding out the cast of historical figures is Brian Rickel, Danny Campbell (most recently seen as Polonius in Hamlet), as well as John Tessmer, Ben Cole, and Edred Utomi who are all currently acting in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the musical, which closes on Intrepid’s mainstage on Sunday.

– Tiffany Tang

Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moisés Kaufman, a staged reading, will be held at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, August 19. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets in advance. $15.