Tag Archives: Shakespeare

A Grand Night for Giving: Behind-the-Scenes of Intrepid’s First Gala Fundraising Event

Kathy Brombacher and Dr. Lynne Thrope (with assistant Willy)

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.”

Sandy Campbell, Leigh Skarritt, Kürt Norby and Jacob Caltrider

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.

Lynne agrees.

“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.

Helming Shakespeare: A Year in Review With Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox

“If you had told me ten years ago that this is what I would be doing, I would have laughed.”

Christy Yael-Cox does laugh as she checks the time and speeds down the 10 East, en route to Palm Springs and one of the closest National Theatre Live screenings of Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth.

This year in particular has given Christy a lot to reflect upon. As CEO and producing artistic director of Intrepid Shakespeare Company, she has navigated the company through one of its most diverse production years, which also saw the introduction of the year-long Encinitas Library Reading Series as well as the new summer youth program, Camp Intrepid.

2013 was also a critically acclaimed year for Intrepid: all three of the company’s mainstage productions received “Critic’s Choice” in San Diego. All three were directed or co-directed by Christy.

Now, immersed in pre-rehearsal mode for Macbeth, the Season Four finale and – perhaps not coincidentally – the 13th production on Intrepid’s roster, she propels herself forward into the next chapter of the theatre company she runs with husband Sean Yael-Cox.

Intrepid Shakespeare
in 92024 Magazine
(Soul of Photography)

What’s on tap? Among other things, there’s the announcement of the Season Five set list (“some Shakespeare, some comedy” is all she will reveal), a commitment to another year of monthly readings at the library, and an expansion of the education program to include – oh yeah – prison time.

“There are those things in your life where at a cellular level everything says yes,” says Christy. “This is one of those things.”

Back when Intrepid began, Christy and Sean had a meeting with the director of San Diego Youth Services to discuss implementing a Shakespeare curriculum into the juvenile prison system. Since the kids there are required to be in school, the idea is that part of their Language Arts learning can happen by getting up and acting out some theatre, specifically Shakespeare.

“I understand on a personal, visceral level how redemptive it is to work through your own stuff through these plays and these characters,” says Christy, who, even though she spends most of her time directing these days, started her theatre career acting. “I think it’s empowering. I do. I think it’s life-changing.”

While this was always the goal, now seems like the right time to move forward with the idea, starting in juvenile detention centers and then to one day moving into adult prisons.

“What’s amazing is how successful these programs have been across the country in reducing recidivism,” she says. “I believe in this so much.”

This program will join an overwhelming roster of programs Intrepid has already implemented over the past four years. In addition to full seasons of mainstage productions, the company now hosts a monthly staged reading series, an education tour that has performed in over 50 schools and for over 35,000 students, an internship program with the students at San Dieguito Academy, fall and spring classes for adults, and the recently created summer drama camp.

Assistant Director Bodhi

“I love creating something from nothing,” she says. “Camp Intrepid was built from nothing. The idea for the school tour happened at my kitchen table at 2 a.m. while the kids were sleeping.”

As the mother of two, Christy understands that much of Intrepid’s movement has to be accomplished on the go or in the middle of the night. She is never without her iPhone, capturing bits of creative inspiration in the notes app throughout the day and reading dramaturgy research while putting the kids to bed at night. Taeya, 8, and Bodhi, 2, are no strangers to the theater, sometimes accompanying their mother to rehearsals where they are doted on by actors before finding quiet corners for naptime or tea parties.

Taeya celebrates her doll’s birthday with some of the cast and crew of Midsummer

It is evident with speaking with Christy that ‘Mom’ is her favorite role and that the idea of forming a theatre company was so appealing because she knew it would allow her to prioritize her family time. While it may seem as though this idyllic setup was always the big picture plan, Christy’s path from her childhood in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to now helming one of San Diego’s formidable young theatre companies was not entirely a straightforward journey.

Firstly, she admits to being the black sheep in the family (“No one else does theatre”). Her theatre roots were formed at The Citadel, Edmonton’s premiere theatre house, where she was taking classes when she was barely in school and was cast as a fairy in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of six.

“I was doing it already, so my parents thought they should put me in classes,” she says and laughs. “I remember that audition for Midsummer was very rigorous.”

And even though she claims her directing work for Intrepid is her first, the truth is that there was a tragic play about a broken valentine at Glenora Elementary School, which she may or may not have written, cast, directed, costumed, and starred in.

“I was a really nerdy kid,” says Christy.

Surprisingly, some of the turns in her path also include things like leaving behind a career in investment banking (“The myopic focus on the accumulation of wealth was unhealthy for me”), an unexpected move to Los Angeles to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (“I always thought I would go to New York”), and finally discovering a shared vision of theatre with someone who would eventually become her husband.

“The thing that Sean and I both knew was that Shakespeare could be done better,” she says of their first conversations. “We knew that it was more exciting than what we were seeing everywhere else. We couldn’t understand why people weren’t making it as exciting as it was.”

In 2009, Intrepid Shakespeare Company was born. Its debut season also saw Christy’s first co-directorial outing with King John.

“The elements we were passionate about in respect to why we wanted to start the company we found in King John,” says Christy, who often circles back to the company’s mission to present Shakespeare in an accessible, immediately relevant, and meaningful way. In Intrepid code, that translates to honoring the text and keeping the plays modern.

“It’s about telling the story in the best possible way,” she says, and then recites what has become her own directorial mantra: “Keep going back to the text. Go back to the text. The answers are always in the script, which is the reassuring thing. Shakespeare is a very trustworthy playwright.”

King John inspired the critics, and not only because it had been 42 years since the play last saw light on a San Diego stage. The U-T ‘s James Hebert called it “a bracing and fast-moving thriller.” Martin Jones Westlin of SD CityBeat surmised that “as long as Intrepid stays the course, its claim to Shakespearean excellence will follow.”

Tom Hall as King John, right
with Danny Campbell
Photo credit: Daren Scott

The early critical love may have set up some lofty expectations, but Christy is more reflective when considering her first directorial foray.

“The actors did a wonderful job,” she says, “but looking back there’s probably a lot of things I would have changed. Part of my problem is that I’m a perfectionist.”

But the perfectionism follows on the heels of collaboration, and one of the things that inspires Christy when she directs is the co-creation that happens between her and the actors.

“The best thing I can do is trust my actors and the very best thing I can do is treat it as an ensemble,” she says. “Our brains together will create the best possible product.”

“I’ve worked with Christy several times now,” says Tom Hall, who played the title role in King John and has since been cast in many roles at Intrepid. “One of the things I love about her is the room she gives you as an actor. It’s always a collaboration with her. She lets you know from the very beginning that your input counts. That’s one of the most generous things a director can give an actor.”

“This is going to sound corny,” says Christy, “but the part that I like the most about directing is being of service to the actors. It’s trying to make the actors the best version of themselves. I’m literally just there to make everyone great.”

As Intrepid wraps up 2013, it is obvious that this approach has served the company well. This year, productions maneuvered seamlessly from Shakespeare to Mamet to musical – with Christy at the helm of each one.

Hamlet was the company’s fourth production in their new home in SDA’s multi-million dollar performing arts center in Encinitas. Including this play as the finale of Season Three was a decision that neither Christy nor Sean, who played the title role, took lightly.

Hamlet is hard because, first of all, it comes with way too much pressure attached to it,” Christy says. “There the, ‘Holy crap, you’re doing Hamlet! Don’t screw up Hamlet!’”

How to sidestep the pressure of producing Shakespeare’s most intimidating play?

“You’d be surprised,” says Christy, “but Sean and I tried not to talk about it beforehand.”

Sean as Hamlet
Photo credit: Daren Scott

This is not actually that surprising given the fact that Sean and Christy give little regard to anything that causes hesitation in general. “Intrepid” not only refers to the manner in which they interpret Shakespeare, but also the manner in which they approach the work: fearless, fast, and undaunted. For them, this means spending little time worrying and more time researching and making pilgrimages throughout Southern California to see screenings and productions of the Bard.

This also means always, always, going to the text for answers about which lens through which to tell the tale.

“I think the thing that I loved about Hamlet was that it’s a really accessible story,” says Christy. “Ultimately, it’s about a family. It’s also so brilliantly, brilliantly, brilliantly written. There were times when I was sitting in rehearsal thinking, ‘I can’t believe I get to sit here and listen to these words.’”

Hamlet was set in the 1930s, which is the first time Intrepid chose a particular period of history as a setting. Christy felt it was right because of how the women were treated in the play. But the decision was not made to inspire empathy for the females. The decision was made on behalf of the men.

“It changed your perception of the men if it was set today, from my very 21st century feminist perspective,” she explains. “So for me it was helpful to move to the earlier part of the 20th century, which didn’t make their actions right. It just made them more commonplace.”

Danny Campbell and Jennifer Eve Thorn
Photo credit: Daren Scott

“Christy gets the psychology right, whether it’s that of individuals, couples, families, or armies,” says Danny Campbell, who played Polonius and has also been acting with Intrepid since their inaugural production of Macbeth. “She can bring convincing life to the stage because she has that insight into the human heart and mind. She knows what makes people tick.”

Among the critical acclaim was Pam Kragen’s observation in U-T, an apt reiteration of Intrepid’s mission and probably music to Christy’s ears: “…articulate, honest and contemporary…Intrepid’s Hamlet truly honors the words of Shakespeare and, at the same time, makes sense in today’s world.”

On the heels of Hamlet were rehearsals for the Season Four opener, Oleanna, and Christy laughs as she recalls the dramatic shift that had to occur between shows, not only with the tone, but also with the physical space. While Hamlet boasted a cast of 13, Oleanna is a two-hander. Where Hamlet was done broadly on a three-sided thrust stage, Oleanna was set up intimately in the round. Of course, moving from the language of William Shakespeare to that of David Mamet also presented its own set of challenges.

“I walked into the first day of rehearsal and said ‘All I know about this play is that it’s going to feel like we’re falling down a rabbit hole, and I promise you that we’re going to make it out the other side,” says Christy of her first conversation with her Oleanna actors, Fran Gercke and Rachael VanWormer. Even though Mamet’s writing can be “tricky,” she says, it is also like discovering a code – one that she knew the three of them would have to unlock together.

Fran Gercke and Rachael VanWormer

“I think the actors who are really invested in solving the problems and who participate in the process have a better end result. They’re not robots and if I treat them like robots then we’re not going to get the best, most evolved version of the play.” She pauses. “I could be wrong,” she says. “David Mamet would probably disagree with me.”

Regardless of what Mamet might think, the product delivered. In The Reader, Jeff Smith called Intrepid’s Oleanna the “best acted” production of the play he had seen. “Gercke and VanWormer are both excellent,” he said. “Their tandem work is truly impressive.”

Fran, who played John, credits Christy with this sense of unity and co-creation.

“The most striking qualities of her direction and leadership are her patience and generosity,” he says. “She’s always willing to listen, to patiently guide, to eagerly collaborate. It’s a unique and rare combination in any director – confidence and humility.”

When Oleanna closed, Christy again teamed up with co-director Colleen Kollar Smith to remount the Season Three smash hit, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical.

We had standing room only and super full houses at the end of the run last summer. It was a brand new thing that, for all intents and purposes, I made up in my head, so I wanted to give it the chance to evolve,” says Christy.

Jacquelyn Ritz and Phil Johnson
Photo credit: Daren Scott

The show involves intertwining Shakespeare’s woodland comedy with music from the 1960s, a pairing that turned out to be tremendously successful and inspiring for both the directors and the actors.

“We learned really early on with King John how well modern music underscores Shakespeare plays,” Christy explains. “We’ve had amazing soundtracks with every Shakespeare play we’ve done which led to the evolution of the musical.”

The Examiner called it “one of the most innovative success stories of a theatre company.” Jeff Smith agreed, saying “this musical deserves a long life after this excellent production” and encouraged Intrepid to “take it on the road.”

Midsummer ran in tandem with the first appearance of Camp Intrepid, a summer camp run by Sean and Intrepid Artistic Associate Erin Petersen featuring youth programs in Shakespeare and musical theatre. By day, the theatre was filled with kids working on improvisation activities and pirate musicals. By night, audiences would stream in to enjoy a little Bard-inspired doo wop by the professionals.

Needless to say, when Midsummer closed in late August and camp sessions came to an end, Sean and Christy finally found time to do the things they had been putting off all year – like sleep.

“It’s encouraging to us when we have people who believe in what we’re doing and want to be a part of it,” says Christy. “It means the absolute world to us, because we do work ridiculously hard. We work harder than anyone could imagine.”

Sean agrees, and is quick to give props to his wife. “Intrepid’s productions have been a great success both critically and with audiences and that is specifically due to Christy’s directing, leadership, and artistic vision.”

The hard work has certainly paid off. There is already a ten-year plan in place and neither Sean nor Christy has any intention of slowing the pace of the company’s breakneck growth.

Of course, looking back on the little girl who once produced an entire valentine tragedy in grade school, it isn’t entirely that surprising.

“All the things in the past,” says Christy, “you don’t realize it at the time, but all of these things connect. You only know it when you’re looking back.”

– Tiffany Tang

Macbeth will open in January 2014. Tickets available now.

Sean and Christy in rehearsal for Hamlet

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

 

“Midsummer” Tales: Meet the Fairies!

A Fairy Trifecta:
Kevin Hafso-Koppman, Jacquelyn Ritz, David McBean

As Titania the Fairy Queen, Jacquelyn Ritz has a very clear idea of the role she plays in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Musical.

“I like to think of the fairies as Greek gods,” she says.

Her fellow magical misfits agree with her. Occupying the forest throne alongside Jacquelyn sits David McBean as Oberon the Fairy King. Kevin Hafso-Koppman rounds out the fairy trifecta with his gymnastic portrayal of Puck in this Shakespearean classic, reimagined by Intrepid through the sounds of the 60s.

“They are super human beings with super human powers,” elaborates David. “Since the fairies have such power, they seek destruction in a way that’s different from humans. These things that occur in their lives become so much more important to them. And the results of their feelings affect the entire world.”

The main source of fairy angst is Titania’s adoption of a changeling boy, which infuriates Oberon. Titania’s refusal to hand over the boy further stokes Oberon’s fury, inspiring vengeance in the form of a flowery love potion forcing Titania to fall “head over wings” for a Bottom, a Mechanical metamorphosed into a donkey.

“Oberon has no power directly over her, so he can’t change her,” David explains.

“It’s a very man/woman thing,” says Jacquelyn to David. “You’re constantly trying to tell me what to do and I’m constantly trying to work around you to get to your heart.”

And where does trickster Puck fit into this struggle?

“Puck has his foot in both camps – the real world and the fairy world,” says Kevin, elaborating on Puck’s ability to maneuver and help manipulate both the fairy royals and the lost lovers running through the forest. “The whole story and the whole dream are Puck’s flip of the world.”

From this fairy’s perspective, things are certainly topsy-turvy – the human lovers succumb to the magical spells of things supernatural, while the magical monarchs are reduced to petty humanlike spats and acts of retribution.

“I don’t think it’s petty,” chimes in Jacquelyn. “But I’m Titania, so I have to feel that way,” she adds with a smile.

Another topsy-turvy aspect of this Intrepid’s Midsummer revival is the casting. Both David and Kevin were featured in the 2012 production, but in vastly different roles: David played the Mechanical Flute and garnered rave reviews for his “play-within-a-play” Thisbe, while Kevin soared from rope swings as the lover Lysander.

Opportunely, Kevin is able to incorporate this gymnastic ability into Puck.

“This time around we are getting a lot more physical with the role because we are discovering some different things,” he says. “It’s difficult because the last person did something that was so brilliant and so funny and you want to take those little things and put them into your performance, but also create your own thing.“

For Kevin, that “thing” has translated into the construction of a trapeze atop Puck’s perch center stage, from which he is able to incorporate his athletic approach to his heart’s content.

“We’ve been working a lot with climbing and making this Puck acrobatic and supernatural,” he elaborates. “Almost like in this dream world, gravity is less for the fairies.”

For David, the return to Midsummer also included a role as musical director.

“This time around, I get to be a part of the moments where music adds to the storytelling,” says David. “It’s been a treat for me to be a part of the show in an intimate way and to help the new actors learn the songs. They are so clever and remarkable. It’s been an honor to be directing them.”

For Jacquelyn, who recently relocated from Chicago and is making her San Diego debut with Intrepid, the infusion of music into this play just makes sense.

“Music is a great bridge from this world to something higher,” she says. “When you mix that with Shakespeare, which is another way of taking this world and elevating it through poetry, it just heightens it.”

However, this “heightening” does not serve to exclude the audience from their understanding of the play. In fact, it does just the opposite.

“The music clarifies the relationships,” explains Jacquelyn. “People who maybe don’t know Shakespeare as well, still know music. We know songs, we know how we feel when we are singing to someone else or someone is singing to us. It makes more of a connection.”

These fairies are in flight through August 18. Come see them rock the forest and find your own musical connection.

– Tiffany Tang

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Musical plays through August 18 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre in Encinitas. Tickets available here.
(Photo credits: Daren Scott)

Meet the Mechanicals of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical”

Meet the Mechanicals:
(back) Savvy Scopelleti, Brian Imoto, (front) Nathan Riley, Gerilyn Brault, Phil Johnson

Dropping in on the Mechanicals during the early days of rehearsal is not unlike dropping into a cocktail party with old friends – minus the cocktails. And minus any actual history of friendship, for that matter.

It’s true. The five actors who will portray the working class players in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical, which previews this week, have bonded so quickly, one would think that they had known each other for years, when in fact they all met at the show’s first rehearsal.

“It is the first time we’ve worked as a group, but not the last,” says Phil Johnson, who will be portraying Bottom. “We’re getting a van.”

To be a Mechanical in A Midsummer Night’s Dream means that you get to be responsible for most of the humor in the play, as the band of hopeful actors gathers and rehearses in the forest, falling prey to the machinations of the Fairies.

“It was really fun for me to be a part of the group that everyone remembers as just the clowns,” says Gerilyn Brault, who will be portraying Peter Quince, the troupe’s director. “It’s been really freeing to work with this amazing group.”

This sentiment is a common one, even to Savvy Scopelleti, who will be reprising the role of Snug, which she portrayed in last summer’s production.

“It’s a different show this year,” she says. “It’s a new cast with new energy…and it really did gel so instantly.”

Thankfully this insta-bonding has created a safe environment of play and experimentation, relieving some of the stress that learning both the Shakespearean text as well as the 60s tunes which will be infused into the show can bring. Brian Imoto, who will be playing Snout and who is also fairly new to Shakespeare, takes solace in the fact that the Mechanicals are supposed to be “amateur actors.”

“It was a relief to me,” he says. “We’re off the hook!”

The group immediately dissolves into laughter, something that happens every thirty seconds or so. After spending more than five minutes with this crowd, you bring to wonder how they actually get anything done in rehearsals, with all of the gut-busting going on.

But no one seems to be worried. For now, this group of talented actors and singers are indulging themselves in their off-stage repartee. It can only come in handy once the curtains open this week. Nathan Riley, who will be playing Flute and ultimately the lovelorn Thisby, barely contains his enthusiasm for his tribe.

“If you’re going to see Midsummer this summer, which I’m pretty sure you will,” he says, “this is the one to see.” — T.T.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical runs July 11-August 18 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre in Encinitas, CA.

Purchase tickets now.

Meet the Cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical”!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical runs July 11-August 18.

Purchase tickets now.

Intrepid Announces Scholarship Funding for Summer Campers and an Additional Musical Theatre Camp!

How does a summer full of playing Shakespeare, creating stage makeup masterpieces, and mastering stage combat choreography sound? Or perhaps putting together a musical number is more your style? A little improvisation or dance? Or maybe watching your technical vision of a show come to life with one of the most state-of-the-art lighting grids in the city?

If you are between the ages of 8 and 18, your summer of theatre fun starts with Intrepid Shakespeare Company!

CAMP INTREPID lands in Encinitas this month, hosted by the San Dieguito Academy Foundation and the critically-acclaimed professional theatre company. Sessions begin June 17 in Shakespeare, Musical Theatre, Backstage, and Theatre Showcase for Young Actors. And now, Intrepid Shakespeare is pleased to announce that there are full and partial scholarships for summer campers, courtesy of City of Encinitas and Mizel Family Foundation Community Grant Program! (Interested campers should apply immediately using the CAMP INTREPID Scholarship Form, as the number of scholarships is limited.)

“We know how important it is to provide the younger generation with access to the arts,” said Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael. “We just want to be sure that we are reaching everyone who is interested and give them the opportunity to be involved.” Artistic Director Sean Cox has been equally clear about the importance of Intrepid’s mission to expose students to the arts, attributing his lifelong involvement in the theatre to interests that were nurtured at summer drama camps. “We know what kind of memories and experiences they can build,” he said.

Joining Intrepid’s core of teaching artists, visiting professionals from the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, Lamb’s Players Theatre, and other major regional theatre companies will also teach specific sessions in a variety of theatrical areas, including fight choreography, stage makeup, movement, and audition technique. Each camping session ends with a performance.

Due to popular demand, Intrepid has also announced that an additional Musical Theatre Camp has been added to the summer schedule. High school-aged drama students have the opportunity to rehearse and perform 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, while the younger drama campers (ages 8-16) can now participate in an earlier summer session which will culminate in a performance of the musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.  

Registration is now open for the following sessions:

Young Actors Theatre Camp

Hours: 9am to 3pm
Ages: 8-15
June 17-21; July 8-12; July 15-19
Cost: $225/week

In a fun and creative environment, campers develop theatre skills, gain confidence and develop social skills through collaboration and performance.  Professional teaching artists lead classes focused on acting, singing, scene study, fight choreography, dance, improv, stage makeup, and mask work.  The week will culminate in a showcase performance for friends and family.  The campers will be divided into two age groups: 8-11 & 12-15.  This is the perfect week-long camp for students with varying degrees of theatre experience, from zero to intermediate.

Early Drop-off and Extended Day Programs are available for the Young Actors theatre camp.   You may pay in person by cash or check on the first day of camp but you must pre-register for these extra services.  Campers may be dropped off as early as 8:00am and must by picked up by 5:00pm.

Early Drop-Off /  Weekly rate $40 ($8/day) or $10 drop-in

Extended Day / Weekly rate $50 ($10/day) or $15 drop-in

For more details about the early drop-off and extended day programs, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Register Here

Musical Theatre Camp:
“You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown”

Hours: 9am to 3pm
Ages: 8-16
July 22 – Aug 2
Cost: $450
Duration: Two Weeks

Campers will be cast in and rehearse a musical (You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown) that will be performed at the end of the two week session.  Throughout the rehearsal process, professional guest artists will be brought in to mentor and work with the campers on audition technique, acting a song, character movement, dance and more.  The professional guest artists hail from such organizations as La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe Theatre, Moonlight Stage Productions, Lamb’s Players Theatre, and Cygnet Theatre.

Musical Theatre Camp:
“25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Hours: 9am to 3pm
Ages: 14-18
Aug 5-16
Cost: $450
Duration: Two Weeks

Campers will be cast in and rehearse a musical (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) that will be performed at the end of the two week session.  Throughout the rehearsal process, professional guest artists will be brought in to mentor and work with the campers on audition technique, acting a song, character movement, dance and more.  The professional guest artists hail from such organizations as La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe Theatre, Moonlight Stage Productions, Lamb’s Players Theatre, and Cygnet Theatre.

Register Here

Shakespeare Camp: ”Romeo and Juliet”

Hours: 9am to 3pm
Ages: 14-18
July 22 – Aug 2
Cost: $450
Duration: Two Weeks

Campers will be cast in and rehearse a Shakespeare play (Romeo and Juliet) that will be performed at the end of the two week session.  Throughout the rehearsal process, professional guests artists will be brought in to mentor and work with the campers on fight choreography, advanced acting, voice and speech, character movement, audition technique, and more.  The professional guest artists hail from such organizations as The Old Globe Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, Texas Shakespeare Festival, and Intrepid Shakespeare Company.

Register Here

Don’t forget to apply for available scholarships!  See you all this summer!

 

CAMP INTREPID Gets Official Nod of Approval

Intrepid Co-Founder Sean Cox is no stranger to introducing kids to Shakespeare. As Intrepid’s Education Director, he takes a troupe of professional actors to perform in schools on a regular basis. No matter what level of exposure the students have had, there is always one reaction to Intrepid’s school tour performances: enthusiasm.

“For most of the students, it’s their first Shakespeare play,” says Sean. “But the students are always engaged and laughing and positive throughout the performance. It’s great for the actors, too. Everyone leaves in a good mood.”

Capitalizing on this enthusiasm, Intrepid Shakespeare has partnered with San Dieguito Academy and the City of Encinitas to create a very special selection of offerings for kids this summer – not just one day workshops, but entire weeks of theatre immersion. Sponsored by the San Dieguito Academy Foundation, CAMP INTREPID will feature four different tracks: Young Actors Theatre, Shakespeare, Musical Theatre, and Backstage Camps.

The summer offerings are a long-awaited collaboration between Intrepid and San Dieguito Academy, an extension of their already successful internship program, which has been in place since Intrepid’s residency began there in 2010. Currently, Intrepid Artists work with interns during the year to create a student version of Intrepid’s mainstage show. This gives students the chance to interact with professional actors and technical directors and put together a culminating performance at the end of the internship. Taking this into a summer program is the next step in theatre education in Encinitas.

“A lot of the kids are looking for summer opportunities, but there’s nothing really in Encinitas that is available, or the cost associated with it is really high,” says Stephanie Siers, San Dieguito Academy’s drama teacher. “Our goal is to offer something that is closer to home and affordable, but still has the same quality that some of camps that are available elsewhere in San Diego.”

“Plus,” she adds, “everyone wants to get up and work on the grid,”

The San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Center and Clayton E. Liggett Theatre

“The grid” to which she refers is a technically-advanced lighting grid which crowns the mainstage theatre space at the $9 million SDA Performing Arts Center. Aptly labeled the “centerpiece” of the San Dieguito Academy campus, the Performing Arts Center boasts both a beautiful, 200-seat indoor theater as well as a state-of-the-art rehearsal space, both designed by performance hall connoisseur architect John Sergio Fisher.

Since its opening in the fall of 2011, both SDA and the City of Encinitas have been searching for opportunities to make this space more available to the community, and Camp Intrepid has provided that outlet.

With the residency of Intrepid Shakespeare as the city’s first professional theatre company, local theatre patrons have been able to enjoy professional performances in the Performing Arts Center throughout the year. Camp Intrepid will provide even more opportunities to bring the arts into the neighborhood through this facility, and the city is eager to support that development.

“One of the 2013 Commission for the Arts goals is to have the community use the new Performing Arts Center at San Dieguito Academy in the summer, when school is not in session,” says Jim Gilliam, arts administrator for the City Manager’s Office. “The first summer arts program to be offered is by Intrepid Shakespeare—we could not be more pleased.”

Beginning June 17 and running through August 19, Intrepid Shakespeare will host a variety of summer theatre arts sessions for a wide spectrum of ages. Thus far, the camps offered will include a Young Actors Theatre Camp (ages 8-15), a Musical Theatre Camp and a Shakespeare Camp (prior experience required, ages 14-18), and a Backstage Camp (ages 14-18). All of the sessions will culminate in a performance and will feature guest artist teachers from local professional theatre companies.

Among the many performing techniques students will experience are audition coaching, movement and dance, and fight choreography, in addition to acting and textual work. Technical campers will have access to the advanced theater facilities, including the state-of-the-art tension grid used for mounting lights that hovers high over the performance space.

Mrs. Siers also hopes that students from the community will discover the opportunities available at San Dieguito Academy by participating in the Summer Theatre Camp and utilizing the facilities. “Our school is known for having an emphasis on the arts,” she explains. “This will be a great opportunity for students to be in our space, meet new people, and to work with the Intrepid Artists.”

Intrepid’s co-founders could not be happier about exposing more kids to Shakespeare and theatre through these summer sessions.

“It’s really inspiring for us who have made this our career to see the younger generation enthusiastic and passionate about theatre and performance and Shakespeare,” says Sean.

While Intrepid will run the theatre camps during the day, they will also be in full production on A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Musical, their second show of Season Four, which will rehearse and perform in the evenings. To the City, this presents the perfect marriage of encouraging and celebrating theatre arts.

“The community will participate in daytime theatre camps for children and youth, and in the evening, enjoy performances in the Liggett Theater by our professional theatre company,” says Jim Gilliam. “This new partnership could not be possible without the assistance of the San Dieguito Academy Foundation and the school administration. We hope more arts programs will come online for this summer and are working with local arts organizations.“

“This camp is really an extension of us reaching out into the community,” says Sean. “Ever since we moved to Encinitas, we knew this was something we wanted to do.”

He adds, “Most of us took some sort of drama camp when we were younger, so we know what kind of memories and experiences that can build.” — T.T.

For more information and to register for Camp Intrepid, click here.  Camps will be held on the campus of San Dieguito Academy, 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.  June 17 – August 16.  One or two week sessions, depending upon track. Ages 8-18.

 

 

 

The Content of Character: A Conversation with Twelfth Night’s Jim Winker and Ross Hellwig

Twelfth Night: A Staged Reading.
Encinitas Library.  Monday, April 22.  6:30 pm.

“If this were play’d upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”

Fabian quips this line in Act Three of Twelfth Night, and both Jim Winker and Ross Hellwig – two actors featured in Monday’s staged reading of the play – would agree that Shakespeare has a way of shedding light on the spaces where art and life overlap, imitate, and illuminate. In this play, in particular, he has created a cast of colorful characters for this purpose, characters who constantly find themselves peeling back the layers of living.

“That’s the glory of Shakespeare,” says UCSD Professor Emeritus Jim Winker who will be playing Malvolio, the “narrow-minded and mean-spirited” steward to the Lady Olivia. “We’ve all got something to bring to each part. It’s like onion layers unfolding, depending upon the actors playing the roles.”

Jim is no stranger to unpacking the Bard. In addition to his accomplished acting resume which includes numerous Shakespeare productions and an Associate Artist designation at the Old Globe, Jim taught classical texts in UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance for 25 years. He was recently approached by Christy Yael and Sean Cox, artistic directors at Intrepid, to take their actors through scansion workshops during rehearsals for their main stage productions. He is looking forward to taking the stage on Monday as an Intrepid cast member.

Jim Winker plays Malvolio

While Malvolio – whose name can be translated as “ill will” – is typically seen as somewhat of a fool, Jim stresses the importance of recognizing his complexities. “For all of his general creepiness,” says Jim, “he’s a vulnerable guy. Shakespeare has given him to us in a wonderful package where he has balanced out all sides of him.”

Even though the turn of events in the story don’t favor Malvolio for the better, Jim observes that because of these complexities of character, audiences don’t automatically dismiss him. ”We end up having some feeling for him,” he observes. “He’s got depth and feeling and complications.”

“He’s forgivable because he’s relatable,” says Ross Hellwig of his own character, Duke Orsino – the melancholy lover who’s “more in love with the idea of love” than the object of his affections. Similarly to Malvolio and many of the characters in Twelfth Night, Orsino takes a position of authority on a subject – in his case, the idea of love – but soon discovers that he is the one who has a lot to learn.

“One of the things I think is fun about Orsino,” explains Ross, “is that he imagines himself the most knowledgeable about love and women because he’s in the midst of this incredible passion for this woman. He’s in the midst of these scenes with Viola and educating her about what love is and  - he’s really wrong. It ends up being the other way around – that she was teaching him about love.”

“Spoiler alert,” he adds.

And what is it like to play these complex people onstage?

Ross Hellwig plays Duke Orsino

“Characters who have deluded images of themselves can be a lot of fun,” says Ross, who is a graduate of the Old Globe/USD MFA Program and has worked on numerous Shakespeare productions in San Diego and Los Angeles. “And these characters are all so colorful. They are unique and full of life and the fun of the piece is seeing what kind of trouble they will get into.”

Trouble is definitely not out of the question for the staged reading format.  With mere hours of rehearsal and script in hand, actors are required to perform to full production standards. While this process is not for the faint of heart, both Jim and Ross note that the “quickness” of the staged reading arena forces the company to focus on what is important: the words and each other.

“It goes fast,” says Jim. “You have to pay attention and get all of your tools ready to go. You have to be ready to improvise. It’s a wonderful challenge for an actor.”

“One of the great things about staged readings of Shakespeare is that everything you need to know in a Shakespeare play is in the text,” notes Ross. “All you need is the language. It’s the blessing and the challenge.”

To that end, Jim endorses Intrepid’s fast-paced and text-centered approach to the plays they read and produce.

“They pay great attention to the language,” says Jim. “What I love about them is that they are not afraid of it. They get on with it and they don’t play down to their audiences. They trust that they don’t have to hand it to us on a tray.”

In a time when it seems as though we are shortening our language use every day, it may seem remarkable that audiences understand Shakespeare as well as they do. But the themes and passions and logical twists are surprisingly accessible, mostly because we recognize our own lives in the machinations onstage.

“He’s the heart of our culture,” says Jim. “The plays teach us so much about what it is to be human. Each time you see one, you learn something about who you are.”

This extraordinary class will be in session on Monday evening. – T.T.

Twelfth Night: A Staged Reading. Monday, April 22. Encinitas Library. 6:30 pm wine reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please purchase tickets in advance or rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door. $15.

 

The Other Side of the Table

Sean Cox and Christy Yael

“Auditioning is the most unnatural and unrealistic job interview ever.”

Christy Yael, Producing Artistic Director for Intrepid, is quick to admit this. Having just finished two full days, approximately eleven consistent hours, of open call auditions for Intrepid’s upcoming Season Four this past weekend, she is also quick to state that she is optimistic and impressed at the skill level of those who walked through the door.

“We saw so many talented people this weekend,” she says with enthusiasm, “really talented people.”

With the company entering its fourth year, Christy is now a veteran of the rigors of the open call, an especially demanding process for both directors and actors alike. And the requirements for Intrepid’s audition were nothing short of daunting. Non-musical actors were asked for two contrasting monologues, while musical theatre auditioners were invited, in addition to performing a monologue, to sing both a selection from the 1960s as well as one from Stephen Sondheim’s repertoire, a composer traditionally regarded as one of the most complex and challenging musicians in the American songbook.

“The two required musical pieces are so drastically different,” says Christy, “that it really gives us a good idea of a person’s abilities.”

Veteran musical theatre actress Kathi Copeland was unfazed. Having performed in musicals since the age of 16, when she was cast in a pre-Broadway tour of “The Me Nobody Knows,” Kathi feels a certain comfort level with these types of requirements. Although, she admits, she would probably never recommend auditioning with a Sondheim piece unless it was specifically requested.

“Every audition is different,” says Kathi, who was attending an Intrepid open call for the first time. “It’s just important to prepare, prepare, prepare.  You  never know how it’s going to go once you get in there.”

There are many variables that could affect a singing audition – the pianist’s tempo, the acoustics of the space, and one’s level of nervousness, for instance. The singing voice, sometimes more vulnerable than the speaking voice, is likely to reflect all of these conditions, and therefore it is important to prepare as many things as one can control ahead of time. “Always take the time to talk to the accompanist about tempo,” advises Kathi. “Don’t forget that it’s your moment to shine.”

Veteran actor and accomplished theatre artist Tim West agrees that the same advice would apply to non-musical auditioners. “It was my first open call for monologues in a decade, so though I prepared I lacked that practiced feeling,” he says, although clarifying that it was perhaps for the best. “I’ve grown less concerned with choices per se and more concerned with trying to find the moment.”

It’s this type of attitude that Christy appreciates the most. Although she finds herself more often in the director’s chair these days, she was once attending the same sorts of open calls as an actor. “At the time, it helped me to think of it as an opportunity to do some work,” she says. “There are stakes involved, but it’s an invested audience with potential payoff.”

For her part as a director, Christy pays close attention to those auditioning, looking for specific elements in the presentations. “With the Shakespeare, it’s a combination of the acting ability and how the verse is handled,” she says, “and all that that entails. I could talk for hours about just that.”

Surprisingly, she says, she has found that many with musical theatre backgrounds were more adept at handling Shakespearean verse than their resumes might suggest. “They are both heightened forms of expression,” she says, noting that one’s ability to act through verse or through music can be both daunting and tricky.

“I just have a tremendous amount of respect for actors,” she says. “It’s hard work and it’s vulnerable work and that’s a heady combination.”

While being on the director’s side of the table is definitely preferably, Christy’s acting background also helps her create a safe space for potential auditioners. Both Kathi and Tim agreed that the process was painless. “Christy was one of the most gracious auditors I’ve ever performed for,” says Tim. “It’s such a difficult thing, to make people feel warmly welcomed while maintaining professional decorum. I am glad I chose this audition to return to the practice. I’ll try never to miss an opportunity at Intrepid.”

Christy maintains that the excitement of finding new talent keeps her consistently invested throughout the audition process. “The thing that maybe people don’t realize is how optimistic we are going into auditions,” she explains. “We have high hopes and expectations that everyone is going to be fantastic and incredibly talented.  We are not looking for what’s wrong – we are looking for what’s right.” — T.T.