Tag Archives: staged reading

Staging the Arts in Encinitas

Jim Gilliam is supposed to be on vacation.

However, in this moment he is at work, tying up a few things for 2013 before returning to family and year-end festivities.  As the City of Encinitas’ Arts Administrator, Jim has one thing on his mind no matter what time of year it is: how to increase the presence of the arts in his city.  Lucky for us, Intrepid has become a formidable component in that plan.

With Intrepid’s recently announced series of 12 staged readings to be held monthly at the Encinitas Library, and our ambitious Season Four program, Intrepid is helping fulfill a long term goal for Encinitas as well as for Jim – to increase the presence of live theatre in the city.

“I have my marching orders,” says Jim, based on the 2002 Arts Master Plan for the City of Encinitas, which includes the tenet that “art is an essential element in the life of Encinitas.”  A survey in this plan revealed that a whopping 72% of Encinitas residents consider live theatre one of the most preferred arts experiences.  Emboldened by that information, the city has spent the last ten years bringing Encinitas more of what it wants.

“Intrepid is helping us realize this longstanding preference of the residents to experience live theatre,” says Jim.  ”Until they showed up, we didn’t have a professional theatre company.  And now, they are the first arts organization we are working with to launch our new initiative with the library to offer more arts programming.”

With the recent hire of a full-time facility attendant, the spacious community room at the Encinitas Library is now available for use by local groups in the evening hours.  Many organizations will request the space, and Intrepid was offered the opportunity to present a staged reading series, taking place on the fourth Monday evening of every month.  The series begins January 28th with I Hate Hamlet – a humorous nod to the fact that Hamlet will open on the mainstage at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre a few days later.

“Intrepid has taken on this project with 12 evenings booked,” says Jim.  ”They are offering a terrific mix of plays.”

“Plus,” he adds, “they offer delicious, home cooked appetizers at the reception, award-winning plays, professional actors and director, in a terrific local setting, what more could one want at the very affordable price of $15.  What more could you ask for?”

For our part, we are happy to oblige.   — T.T.

Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series begins on January 28th and runs through November 25, with readings on the fourth Monday of each month.  There will also be a reading of A Christmas Carol on Saturday December 14.  For a complete list of plays or information on purchasing a subscription, click here.  

The Encinitas Library is located at 540 Cornish Drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Encounters of a Third Kind

Three ghosts. One actor. Don Pugh reflects on his multiple identities in this weekend’s A Christmas Carol.

Diplomatically, Don Pugh admits that he is not necessarily drawn to one ghost over another.  The fact that he is playing Marley’s Ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Ghost of Christmas Present in Intrepid’s upcoming staged reading of A Christmas Carol is more “a heck of a lot of fun” than anything perplexing.  Still, Don did have a few reservations in determining his interpretation of each spirit.

“I didn’t want to go too far,” says Don.  ”It’s important not to take away from Dickens’ story.”

While casting one actor as the three main ghosts helps to keep the cast size down, director Brian Mackey saw some wisdom in the choice as well.  In short, he was eager to capitalize on Don’s talents and admits that this actor has some great insights into the spirits who set the stage for Scrooge’s transformation.

“The challenge is in portraying the Ghost of Christmas Past,” says Brian, who also adapted the script, along with fellow actress Rachel van Wormer.  In truth, Dickens is a touch vague in his depiction of this particular spirit, and Brian and Rachel – in an effort to remain true to the story – tried to translate descriptions such as “like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man” and “from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light” into something workable.  Enter Don Pugh, who admittedly portrays this character “differently than anyone else.”  How exactly?  We will have to wait for the reading to find out if there will actually be a flame-head on stage.

“There are engrained and established preconceptions about Marley’s Ghost and The Ghost of Christmas Present already,” says Pugh.  ”Past is the only enigma.”

Don is happy to be able to illuminate Dickens’ words, commenting on the ability of Brian and Rachel’s adaptation to let them flow, changing them as little as possible.  He also feels that the play captures the mysticism of the time in which it was written, when the hauntings of spirits would not necessarily be a  supernatural tale, but a cautionary one.

“People thought they had these spirits about them,” says Don of his research.  ”It was a dark time, literally and figuratively.”

While he has played The Ghost of Christmas Present once before, this is the first time he has taken on these multiple roles.  It was the variety of the parts that drew him to the challenge, and is also what he has had the most fun with so far.

“But it’s the words of Dickens that are the most important,” says Don, underlining Intrepid’s mission to use the text as the primary source of inspiration and interpretation.  And what story do these particular words tell?

“The beauty of Christmas to lighten up people’s lives,” Don says simply.

With or without a flame-head remains to be seen.  – T.T.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by Brian Mackey and Rachel van Wormer, will be performed as a staged reading at the Encinitas Library, Saturday December 14, 5:30 pm reception, 6:00 pm reading.  RSVP at boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com. $15.

 

A Haunt for the Holidays

Ron Choularton as Scrooge

A conversation with Scrooge and Scribe about Intrepid’s upcoming holiday staged reading…

A Christmas Carol is absolutely a ghost story.” Brian Mackey is emphatic as he describes his new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless story, co-written with fellow San Diego actor Rachel van Wormer. Brian will also be directing.

“Even Dickens points out that fact in the introduction,” explains Brian. “He refers to it a ‘Christmas ghost story.’”

But audiences shouldn’t be worried. Revealing some of the darkness of the tale is just one of the gifts of adapting the story word for word from Dickens – a gift that develops more and more deeply throughout the play.

“The language really is beautiful,” says Brian. “And this version is literally Charles Dickens onstage.”

While Brian and Rachel’s adaptation doesn’t shy away from some of the darker moments of this tale, it is also very clear about the theme of the story: the transformative and giving spirit of the season.

Brian Mackey directs, shown above in Hamlet with Jennifer Eve Thorn. Photo: Daren Scott

“I think that’s why people come back to it again and again and why it’s appropriate for the holidays,” says Brian. “We are able to witness one man’s transformation from a curmudgeon to someone lighthearted.  It’s a touching, powerful story of a man changing his life.”

So powerful, in fact, they knew it was necessary to find the right actor to handle Scrooge – both in the dark times as well as in the light. Not everyone can be convincing at both ends of the story.

The choice turned out to be simple one. Ron Choularton has been discovering and rediscovering this tale since childhood, when English television used to air it every Christmas Eve, featuring Alastair Sim.  To date, he has played a part in 28 performances and readings of A Christmas Carol.

“There was a time when I was yearning to get old enough to play Scrooge,” says Ron of his days as Marley’s Ghost and Bob Crachit.

What keeps drawing him to this tale?

“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,” says Ron. He adds, “It’s the story of a second chance – one that most people never get.”

To that end, Ron is charged with the task of creating the horrible, penny-pnching, and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and leading the audience through this transformative journey. He feels that Dickens is right not to shy away from the darkness that weighs on Scrooge in the opening scenes.

“It’s a fable,” he says. “Everyone in Scrooge’s life has left him, so his love of money is really about his fears of abandonment.  The ghosts are teachers and their job is to scare the you-know-what out of Scrooge. Gradually, he realizes these things he’s forgotten about and forgotten to do. The transformation from darkness to light is not something that should be taken lightly.”

Brian agrees. “There is also an urgency about that journey,” he says. “Marley is basically saying, ‘You have tonight to save your soul.’”

Despite the grave themes present in the story, both Scrooge and scribe are confident that audiences of all ages will enjoy the performance. “There is some really funny stuff in there,” says Ron. “It is an amazing thing to see children who are affected by the story.”

Something tells us that Scrooge won’t be the only one transformed by the end of the night. — T.T.

A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Mackey, adapted by Brian Mackey and Rachel van Wormer, and featuring Ron Choularton as Ebenezer Scrooge, plays on Saturday, December 14 at 530 pm at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Dr.  

 

Barefoot and Banter

Jason Maddy, pictured here in Macbeth,
changes pace with Barefoot in the Park

Director Jason Maddy discusses Simon, Shakespeare, and situational comedy…

Jason Maddy pauses before he responds to the question of whether or not working on Neil Simon is similar to working on Shakespeare.

“I think there’s parallels in all great writers,” he finally says.  ”There’s always a path to the characters somewhere in the writing.  You just have to find it.”

Charged with the task of directing Intrepid’s upcoming staged reading of Barefoot in the Park, Jason is thankful that these parallels do, in fact, exist.  While he has taken a turn on stage playing the character of Paul, directing this Simon classic is another story entirely.

“It’s different viewing the story through the eyes of other characters,” he explains.  ”Because I played Paul once, he will always be a part of me.  But the story is really Corie’s.  It’s her journey.  The rest of the characters are a part of that journey.”

Barefoot in the Park is set in New York City in the new brownstone apartment of Corie and Paul, who are newlyweds.  Hilarity ensues as they manage parents, neighbors, and the challenges of their new married relationship.  While on Broadway in the 1960s, it was nominated for three Tony Awards and became Neil Simon’s longest running production, with over 1,500 performances.

Jason cites many connections between Shakespeare and Simon, and he would know, having taken the stage with Intrepid in both Macbeth and Richard II.  While his Shakespeare work here has been of a somewhat darker nature, he feels confident in his abilities to handle Simon’s somewhat lighter fare, partly because of these connections and his own past experience with the play.  He points out that most of us know Neil Simon better than we think we do, as this playwright has perhaps contributed more to our social understanding of comedy than we realize.

“He’s the father of situational humor,” he says.  ”We owe a lot of our understanding of how comedy works to his writing.”

Addressing the comedy is also part of the challenge, however, especially in a staged reading format.  ”Some actors go over the top, and some actors are too natural.  It’s exciting to help them walk that tightrope between honesty and comic timing.”

But most of all, the parallels to Shakespeare land within the text.  Just as Intrepid’s mission statement cites the importance of the playwright’s words as the main source of illumination, Jason takes this approach with Simon as well.

“The play is really in the rhythm of the words.  Once we find Simon’s pace within the situation and the text, that is when we find the story.”

Shakespeare probably wouldn’t have said it better.  – T.T.

Barefoot in the Park (a staged reading).  Wednesday, December 5.  Encinitas Library 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas. Tickets $10 – Purchase in advance here or RSVP here and pay cash at the door. Reception at 7:00 pm, reading at 7:30 pm.

Directing, Creepifying, & Casting Minions of Evil

When Jason D. Rennie was tapped to direct the upcoming staged reading of MACBETH at the Encinitas Library this Monday, he could not help but recall his first co-directing stint with Intrepid in 2009. “This particular play mixes nostalgia and significance for all of us,” he says.

How does directing a staged reading of this play differ from co-directing Intrepid’s inaugural production three years ago?

Jason D. Rennie and Danny Campbell
(RICHARD II 2011 – photo Daren Scott)
For Monday night’s MACBETH reading,
Jason directs while Danny witches it up.

Well, for one thing, the original Intrepid production ran about 90 minutes and was played with only seven actors. Monday’s staged reading allows for a little more flexibility – a few more actors have been cast, which means less doubling (or tripling) roles, and more of the text has been captured in some significant scenes.

Plus, it’s Halloween, which means that Jason was very excited to “creepify” the show, adding back in the character of Hecate as well as the witches (who were disembodied voices offstage in 2009).

“The play is psychologically horrific,” he says, “and the witches are the physical embodiment of the evil that dwells in the world, and possibly within each of us. I wanted to embrace the atmosphere of spooking and haunting that comes with this time of year by accentuating the eerie and occult nature of Hecate and the Weird Sisters.”

“The Three Witches From Macbeth”
by Alexandre-Marie Colin (1798-1873)

That shouldn’t be difficult. Shakespeare’s witches have been portrayed throughout time as various incarnations of creepy, and Monday’s reading shouldn’t be any different with Savvy Scopelleti, Steve Grawrock, and Danny Campbell stepping into the roles. Molly O’Meara will be illuminating the role of Hecate.

“These witches are more than just pointy hats,” says Savvy, commenting on the conjuring spells used by her character.  “Shakespeare wrote their language in a way that is constantly spiraling, the trochaic meter setting them apart from other characters in the play. It’s utterly fascinating.”

Is she creeped out by portraying a Weird Sister? She hesitates.

“If I believed in witches and spells, I would be creeped out, definitely,” she decided. “But this is all just pretend, right?”

Of course. But Jason’s direction sprinkles the play with ethical ponderings for those of us in the non-pretend world, as well.

“However I highlight their presence as the minions of evil, the fact is that the witches do not actually commit any evil – they merely awaken the ambition within Macbeth and stoke that flame until it consumes him. The truly unsettling spookiness of the play is that it forces us as spectators to wonder whether such dark forces lay dormant within ourselves and, if kindled, could we withstand them?”

A appropriately haunting thought, indeed.  — T.T.

Macbeth (a staged reading). Encinitas Library 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas. Tickets $10 – Purchase in advance here or RSVP here and pay cash at the door. Reception at 6:30 pm, reading at 7:00 pm.

 

 

Back to Spooky Ole Scotland

Courtesy of
“Pumpkin Patches and More”

On October 29, Intrepid will host a staged reading of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, Macbeth, just in time for Halloween festivities.  While the play was picked for its darker thematic content, this is also the first time Intrepid has revisited it since the company’s inaugural performance in 2009.

While Christy Yael and Sean Cox, co-artistic directors, will not be reprising their roles (that honor goes to the fabulous Linda Libby and awesome David Cochran Heath), they took a moment to reminisce about their first production as a company in 2009.

Macbeth was an experiment,” says Sean.  “We started the company wanting to do Shakespeare in a small space, but there was a chance that the idea of keeping it intimate might not work.”  Therefore, they brought in some Shakespeare heavyweights to help them develop their concept, including Sean’s mentor Jonathan McMurtry and Macbeth co-director Jason D. Rennie.

Christy and Sean in Macbeth 2009
Photo credit: Daren Scott

Intrepid has always been focused on the text of Shakespeare’s plays, and to Sean and Christy, the idea of performing them intimately enhances this concentration, coloring the words with layers of emotional development that might not be possible on a grander scale where production value could overwhelm communication.

“Shakespeare gives you everything,” is their mantra.  “We always try to go back to the text because he gives you all the answers – he’s there directing you throughout the play.  You just have to find it.”  Now, this seems like a no-brainer, but back in 2009, they weren’t so sure their audiences would be on board with their intimacy issues.

Thankfully, their experiment worked.  The play, then performed at the theatre space at 6th and Penn, played to full houses and even included a couple of midnight shows.

Both Christy and Sean admit that this first production was a huge learning experience that often felt like trial by fire.  Nevertheless, with the conclusion of the run, they knew they had solidified their future in producing Shakespeare.

Macbeth was huge because we had just started the company, so…it was everything.”

Admittedly for Sean, there are things he would love to try again or do differently with regards to playing the title role.  He seems open to the idea of one day tackling it again.

And would Christy every consider reprising Lady M?  “Never again,” she says definitively, with a small shudder.  Apparently, inside Lady Macbeth’s head is a very dark place to be, indeed.

Both are thrilled to pass the proverbial torch to Linda and David and witness them bring these characters to life in Monday’s reading.  Directed by Jason D. Rennie, there are chances, of course, that shadows of the original production may decide to haunt the performance…but, really, what’s Macbeth without a little shadows and haunting?  — T.T.

Macbeth (a staged reading) – starring Linda Libby and David Cochran Heath – directed by Jason D. Rennie – Encinitas Library 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas – Tickets $10 – Purchase in advance here or RSVP here and pay cash at the door.  Reception at 6:30 pm, reading at 7:00 pm.